Bolivia: Making do and getting by – the wonder of being able to fix things properly at last

While we may not feel as we’re doing anything particularly special or difficult, we’ve been going for a canny time now.

Keeping the kit going has been an insidiously growing task for a few months now.  It’s perfectly possible to start a shorter trip (6 months for example) with well thought out and (relatively) new kit and expect it to last.  Of course unforeseen problems crop up – things break however well they are designed and no matter what thought and planning has gone into things.  Longer trips bring an inevitable confrontation with fading function and predictable calamity.  Our desire to carry as little as possible battles with a growing yearning to wear something that makes us look good and maybe even to have a choice of clothing!  Especially wandering around places with a higher than normal percentage of tourists (more than zero!) we see all these fresh, well dressed people – we feel drab, faded and baggy by comparison.  Markets full of beautiful crafts are passed by – post is expensive and how can we carry something we’ll not use?

We’ve had a number of pit-stops along our path – Silver City (NM/USA), Oaxaca (México) and Bógota (Colombia).  La Paz has been one of the better organised of these – I have finally realised that you need to allow about 2 months to be sure of something there waiting for you!  Poor Cristian and Luisa had a pile of 6 packages waiting for us at the Casa de Ciclista.  Knowing what I do now about how long things last when we do another trip of this magnitude I’ll plan ahead better – possibly even from home.  Warmshowers and the Casa de Ciclista list are a good place to start to find places to send things.

Here’re a few reasons why we’re going to feel better on leaving La Paz.

Water Filter – what a difference a new o-ring or two makes

Since Costa Rica the o-ring that seals the main pumping piston in our MSR water filter (MiniWorks EX Microfilter) has been shedding little bits of itself.  These flecks of black rubber get into the valves and are the cause of much frustration.  Not to mention leading to water leaking – joy!  Progressive layers of supportive electrical tape under the dissolving o-ring have kept the filter just about functional.  It is only when I discard the gunged-up tape and old o-ring – fitting the fat and juicy new one – that a new page is turned.  Clean water is abruptly an easy, not-messy non-chore.  Much happiness!  The daily imperative – water – a perceived, but underestimated weight is gone.

Bar Bags and a new mount for me

We both carry our personal essentials and electronic gadgets in semi-rigid bags that mount on our handlebars.  Sarah’s has never really been all that weather-proof, but lately there’s been an increasing hole in the bottom and the map-case has been disintegrating.  Christmas arrived early with a snazzy new Ortlieb one.  Somewhat coincidentally a couple of days before La Paz the mounting system that attaches mine (with the camera, so heavier) to the handlebars broke in an unfixable way.  A dodgy jury-rig was concocted.  Thankfully Sarah’s new bag fits on her old mount (Klick-fix), so I can use the new mount on my bike :-)

A broken mounting wire requires a jury-rig. Not a long-term solution as now my bar bag flips towards me if I go over big bumps too fast! Thankfully a problem solved by Sarah's secret early Christmas present from me...

General servicing – cables, housing and a proper clean-up

Stripped down, cleaned and ready for new cables, housing, chain....
In progress. The bare bones of the Big Dummy - cable ties are a wonderful thing.

I’ve also used taken the opportunity offered by a need to give Sarah the potential carrying capacity to continue solo to get her some more of Scott’s Porcelain Rocket goodness.  Her frame bag has been much abused over the last year, and finally the zip gave up the ghost – Scott sent us a replacement and only asked the cost of materials!  Since riding with Joe and having seen Cass’s version we’ve both been yearning after a ‘Rocket Pack’.  This almost infinitely expandable quasi-saddle bag offers great carrying capacity for clothes, sleeping bag, mat etc. (pictures to come)

We’ve been sharing the Casa with a few other cyclists, other than a glorious afternoon when we had the place to ourselves (will being back in our own home be this good?!).  A Japanese couple who have already cycled in Europe, NZ and many other places headed on to meet friends elsewhere in La Paz.  Getting all their stuff onto their bikes was a lengthy jigsaw puzzle.

4 Ortlieb panniers and a bar bag per bike is only the beginning - every conceivable space has something attached - string, bungies and foam padding
The 'official' shot - ready for the off
slow going at first - she has a bad back - no wonder, given that the bike is likely several times her body weight!

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