Nate Hills on his most memorable biking experience of his life, when he and 3 friends travelled to Bolivia to ride the Cordillera Real route.
I can say with absolute certainty, that this was the most memorable cycling experience of my life. One for which I am eternally thankful for, and one that changed all of us, and created lifelong friends. I am pleased to be able to share this with everyone. My life has been chaos for the last 6 years, producing weekly videos. I am certainly not complaining but this somehow slipped through the cracks and can finally see the light of day.
In 2016, myself, Carston Oliver, Thomas Woodson, and Joey Schusler traveled to Bolivia to attempt a nine day, self-supported traverse of the Cordillera Real. This had never been attempted by bicycle, and details were sparse at best. As my first and only bikepacking adventure, this seemed like an ambitious endeavor. We were dropped off at the northern end of the range and made a plan to be picked up on the southern end, nine days later. Without communication to the outside world, and days from medical care or help of any sort, our timing was crucial for success. We carried all of our own food and gear, totaling roughly 75 lbs each, including bikes, tents, cameras, and enough calories to sustain life. The average elevation of the traverse was roughly 16’000ft. This is days 1-6. If I am being honest, we spent as much time pushing and carrying our bikes as we did riding them over the first few days, but as we traveled further south, the trails became slightly less faint, but remained every bit as rugged. We climbed numerous passes over 17K and even tried to bail at one point, only to make a navigational error that would send us back into the thick of it. As we set up camp on the sixth night, exhausted and starting to run out of food, our hardest day lay ahead of us. In the morning we would attempt to summit and ride Pico Austria at just over 17,500 ft. This was higher than any of us had ever been on foot, let alone with a bike.
In the first 6 days, we ran into less than 5 people. All farmers, tending llama, and living life as they had for generations. How out of place we must have looked, riding amongst their llama heard. We specifically chose this route because we could not find any information on google. In these times of instagram geo tagging and technology allowing access to anything your heart desires, it is comforting to know that unspoiled, natural places still exist to challenge the inquisitive. We don’t have a GPX file of this route, and you really don’t want to do this anyway. We used paper maps, spoke with local guides and followed llama trails, and were never certain if things would work out. We carried our bikes down mountains too rough to ride and suffered for 10 hours a day. Type 2 fun, so they call it. Nothing worth doing is easy, and this experience was unparalleled to any other I have had in my life. So thankful. I still get goosebumps just thinking about it. This is part 1 of 3. Stay tuned amigos! #followcamfriday