All week I was looking forward to running the 20,000th kilometre of the run. It was a bit surreal as I approached km marker 251, I just couldn´t believe that this was happening, after all the years dreaming and planning. And then as I finally approached it I even forgot to jump for joy and celebrate, instead I just took off my pack and shot a video!
I had promised myself a big steak and immediately laughed as the food has been terrible since leaving Colombia last February. Yes the food in Ecuador, Peru and here in Bolivia is appalling peasant food which is cold about 90 percent of the time. Amazingly the locals think its hot and think I am mad! Many times there is just a scrap of meat, ice cubed sized or chicken claws in the soup or rings of the claw mushed into rice.
Imagine French fries left on a plate for an hour, well that’s what they call hot here and a kettle of once hot water left on a chair all day in a restaurant is called hot too!
In Peru I went the whole country without seeing an electric kettle being boiled, I was later told that is due to the expense, an electric kettle is used only as a last resort, most of the time I had to wait about 15 minutes for my coffee, I missed the great North American service of being greeted at the door with a coffee! Here everything is boiled on gas stoves in huge saucepans of water when you just want a cup!
I ran another 10km and finished earlier than expected in the village of Machacamarca, only a lazy 34km today out of the 20,010km run so far!
This may sound corny, and I am not very religious but I have often felt that something is guiding me through this run, like I am meant to do this run. I have not had a single setback and things always seem to work out, no matter how grim they look, I don’t worry about things anymore, they work out.
In this village I was told that the re was just one hospedaje and I had a tough job tracking it down to a restaurant called Parador Restaurant. I banged on the locked garage gate and two maids came out. They phoned the owner, a grey-haired lady with the unlatino sounding name of Donna Tallon.
When Donna came over she assured me that her family were 100 percent Bolivian.
Then she showed me the menu and I couldn’t believe it, llama steaks were on it and big steaks there were too! Not surprisingly llama tastes like tender lamb.
DELICIOUS LLAMA STEAK, AND ALL FOR ONLY $4
What luck! As I said, I longed for that steak and I got it, its amazing how these things are working out for me, sometimes I feel I am the luckiest person in the world.
After dinner I went down the lane to Donna’s shop and she showed me my room. I was sure it was a room in her house and a boys room as there were WWF posters on the wall and clothes everywhere, did I care – no not at all – another night safe off the road as lately accommodations are getting harder and harder to get.
MY ROOM ON THE 20,000KM NIGHT! MY BED WAS ON THE LEFT AND THATS NOT MY GEAR!
Next day out on the road I am running happily towards Poopo when I get stopped by a cyclist whose father hails from England but he lives in Barcelona as his mother is Spanish. His name is Mateo and we stop for lunch in town. He is an English language teacher in Barcelona and every year goes off on a 2 month cycle, this year it is Bolivia.
On I run and a couple of hours later I get stopped by Italian cyclist Pablo.
Later that day after a 49km canter I stop for the night in a village called Pazna. Pablo is in the room next to me. I tease him by saying 4 nil! He thinks I am referring to the drubbing the Italians gave Ireland in the Euro 2012 soccer championships, in fact I am referring to the hammering Italy got by the same score in the final to Spain! We laugh and he cooks pasta, tuna, egg bread and coffee for dinner.
PABLO COOKS DINNER
Next morning he makes me coffee and bread and jam. That tasted so good, it´s a long time since I had bread and jam. Foods I miss are an Irish fry up with rashers,sausages, drippy eggs, black and white pudding, mushrooms, tomatoes, beans and heavily buttered toast with a nice strong cup of Irish tea!
I run about 14km and stop for a snack in a village with the embarrassing name of Huancane.
I go down a laneway
And get a nice greeting from the Huancers.
I think these bowler hats age the women… I often wonder if they wear them in bed!
Inside the shop a man shakes my hand and asks me why my hand is cold. I tell him my left isn’t as I was running with the sun at that side but the whole right side of my body is cold in that early morning cold spell.
YOU GOT A COLD HANDSHAKE! HE SAYS... WELL IT´S BECAUSE I AM RUNNING WITH THE SUN TO MY LEFT SIDE!
In the shop I spot my first non-alcohol beer in over a year in Latin America. I guess Latinos are too macho for this. I don´t drink regular alcohol but enjoy the taste of non-alcohol beers. I can´t resist it, so I polish it off quickly.
Many people here are amazed that I am not interested in the world famous salt mine here. It seems tourists come from all over to view the largest salt mine in the world. I tell them I have no interest, that I am not a tourist and besides I have never heard of Bolivian salt before.
I have heard of 2 million year old sea salt with a best before date. So what will happen if you take a pinch of it a day after it´s expiration and after 2 million years!
The salt fields ran along the highway and attracted many llamas. All hunters know how game is attracted to illegal salt blocks.
SALT FIELDS ATTRACTING LLAMAS
It took a bit of an effort to get going again but eventually I did, only to be stopped by three men who gave me a 2 litre bottle of cola. I fill up my almost empty water bottle and give them a world jog business card. I haven´t been giving many out in the last few months, it´s best to keep a low profile, well as best as I can!
Approaching the small town of Challapata I suddenly realised that something was amiss.
There was a protest on the road, in fact it was a traffic blockade. Some of the protesters told me it was a protest for better roads. At first I applauded them and then was horrified to see that some of the protesters had catapults and were slinging rocks at vehicles that had broken the blockade.
PROTESTERS WITH CATAPULTS
I was horrified and told them so after I took a risk of taking a photo. I was a bit frightened I would be attacked and robbed in the mayhem and ran on. It seemed that many buses just turned around and dumped their passengers, invalids and all with heavy loads on the road. The innocent suffering it seemed to me and not the smartest of protests.
The protesters had blocked the road with rocks as traffic took dirt roads around the blockade.
AND NOT A COP IN SIGHT!
I got so many people to thank. It is not possible for me to draw up a list of all the wonderful supportive people that have helped in their own way by either giving me just water or a roof over my head for the night. You know who you are, thanks so much for helping and continuing to share this dream with me.