Sabaya – Tunapa – Negrillos – Julo – Macaya – Chachacomani – Sajama – Tomarapi – Paved Highway
A nice and rarely cycled route through western Oruro province, connecting the Salar de Coipasa to Sajama National Park. The road is often in quite bad condition with sand and corrugations, but if you stick to the main road it is easy enough to follow and very rarely bad enough that pushing is required. There is scarcely any traffic on this route, but plenty of villages, so you don’t need to carry much water. The road goes through all the villages mentioned above, but not through Sacobaya or Khotasi as shown on some of our maps. Going south to north as we did you are always heading for the big volcanoes in Sajama National Park. The area around Macaya with its lake and chullpas is especially scenic.
Leaving Sabaya we headed anticlockwise around Cerro Pumari – the volcano to the north of town – to get to the village of Cruz de Huayllas. With hindsight it is probably better to go clockwise round the volcano – the two routes meet up at a junction (GPS01 in the description). If anyone cycles this clockwise route please let us know what it’s like.
Between Chachacomani and Tambo Quemado it is possible to do a side trip up the mine road on Acotango, to climb this 6,059m volcano.
|Total dist.||Stage dist.||Description|
|0km||Sabaya (3,700m). Town with accommodation, restaurants, shops, but no internet.|
|7km||(This describes the route going anticlockwise round Cerro Pumari – it is probably better to go clockwise to get to the junction at GPS01.) Take the main road to the east end of Sabaya. At the police barrier go L and join the road that skirts Cerro Pumari (the mountain to the north of Sabaya) and passes between the football pitch and the mountain. Road carries on round the mountain and after 7 kms you reach the top of a short climb and your first views of Sajama, Pomerape, Parinacota and Acotango.|
|7km||Top of short climb.|
|11km||Continue on track, passing a few small villages. Plenty of washboard. After 5kms stay on the main track which becomes sandy and climbs a few metres – don’t go R on a smaller track (we got lost on this for half a day). In about 6kms you get to another junction.|
|18km||Junction (GPS01). Routes round Cerro Pumari meet. Go northwest on this track in the direction of Cruz de Huayllas.|
|4km||Washboard to the Rio Sabaya crossing.|
|22km||Rio Sabaya crossing (GPS02). A bridge is under construction here, but in the meantime you have to ford it. Could be tricky to cross if the river is icy or there has been recent rain.|
|2km||Washboard to Cruz de Huayllas.|
|24km||Cruz de Huayllas (GPS03). Small village where you can get water, but we saw no shops on the main street.|
|3km||Ok surface to junction.|
|27km||Junction (GPS04). The main road goes L, through 2 small villages on the way to Tunapa. Go this way. We went R/straight, which was a mistake.|
|6km||Very sandy ‘shortcut’. The 6kms took an hour and a half of mostly pushing.|
|33km||Rejoined main road.|
|3km||Corrugated surface to Tunapa.|
|36km||Tunapa (GPS05). Village looked inhabited, but there was no one there when we camped.at GPS05, next to a house with a water tap.|
|11km||Plenty of washboard.|
|47km||Negrillos (GPS06). Large village, possible to get water. We didn’t investigate but it looked big enough to have a shop. Turn R and leave the village heading in an easterly direction.|
|5km||Climb for 3.5km to 3,920m, then descend 1.5km to Tunari.|
|52km||Tunari (GPS07). Small but inhabited village. Possible to get water. Leave the village heading north.|
|6km||Plenty of washboard to Khea Kheani.|
|58km||Khea Kheani (GPS08). Small but inhabited village. Pass through, sticking to main road.|
|17km||Stay on main road which heads just north of west. Road climbs steadily.|
|75km||Highest point (3,990m) on road until after Macaya.|
|13km||Continue heading west, ignoring the small tracks heading off R (north). Head for the mast in Julo which can be seen a long time before you get to it.|
|88km||Julo (GPS09). This and Negrillos are the biggest villages until you hit the main highway at Tambo Quemado. Water available and there’s a small shop. Leave the village heading north (if you went any further west you’d be in Chile).|
|5kms||Road becomes a bit sandy.|
|93km||Houses. No people around.|
|4km||Cycle on the edge of a salar.|
|97km||Cruzani (GPS10). Cross a small stream just before arriving at these few houses. No one around when we camped here – lots of bits of old bikes though.|
|8km||Continue heading north from Cruzani. After just under a kilometre get to a junction and stay L on the main road. Arrive at some houses 4 km from Cruzani. There are a number of junctions, but most are signposted (follow signs for Macaya, not Sacobaya) and it is reasonably obvious which is the track to follow. 7 km from Cruzani turn R at a junction and in 0.5 km reach the Rio Lauca. Surface from Cruzani to Rio Lauca is sandy in places, but always rideable.|
|105km||Rio Lauca (GPS11). This is the biggest river to cross on this route. Difficult to cross early on winter mornings when big slabs of ice are flowing downstream. The river is about 25m wide at the ford and deep enough to require the hanging of low-riding front panniers from handlebars.|
|8km||1 km after river, get to a junction (GPS12). Turn R and go round the north shore of pretty Lago Macaya (flamingos when we passed) to arrive at the village of Macaya.|
|113km||Macaya village (GPS13). Small village, but is the centre for the nascent Circuito Ecoturistico Rio Lauca (email@example.com). Information centre by the army base/road barrier at the north end of town. Guides can be hired to go to the stunning Pukara and Wila Chullpas (which are signposted off the main road before you get to Macaya). Leave Macaya on the main road which runs past the info centre and army base.|
|9km||Climb to junction at 4,000m. Climb is gentle but surface is sandy with washboard. A bit of pushing required.|
|122km||Junction at 4,000m (GPS14). Turn R (downhill) for the main road to Mogachi, or carry straight on for the direct road to Chachacomani. We went R, but this was a longer route and the road was bad. Not sure if the direct, smaller, road is worth gambling on.|
|5km||Descend to Mogachi on a bad road. Cross a river just before town.|
|127km||Mogachi (GPS15). Medium-sized, inhabited village. Head through the village and just after crossing the stream at the end of the village turn L (north) to begin climbing to Chachacomani.|
|12km||Climb to Chachacomani.|
|139km||Chachacomani. Large village with 2 basic shops but no accommodation. Continue heading north out of town.|
|1km||Descend to a junction.|
|140km||Junction (GPS16). We went L to Tambo Quemado. Go R for Turco, straight on for a road signposted to Lagunas.|
|3km||Climb gently to the Abra de Chachacomani. (If heading for Acotango, see the ‘Side trip to Acotango’ tab. Coming from the signposted junction at GPS16, the turn-off is after 0.8kms at GPS26. If coming from Tambo Quemado, the turn-off is at GPS25, 1km south of the Abra de Chachacomani).|
|143km||Abra de Chachacomani (4,365m – GPS17).|
|8km||Descend 100m, then climb back 50m to reach main paved Tambo Quemado – Patacamaya highway.|
|151km||Junction with paved highway (GPS18). The village of Tambo Quemado is 1km away uphill. Go R and descend to Lagunas and the main turn off to Sajama.|
|11km||Descend to Rio Sajama, then climb to Lagunas 9 kms from where you join the paving. In 2 further kms arrive at the signposted junction to Sajama. Turn L. (Later, however we tried cycling to Sajama from the much smaller track that heads off the highway from (GPS19) 0.5kms east of the bridge over the Rio Sajama, near an army post. This was a much better way to get to Sajama, with less sand.)|
|162km||Main junction to Sajama (GPS20).|
|11km||Sandy road to Sajama.|
|173km||Sajama village (GPS21). Village with pretty church and some tourist facilities. Many accommodation options, a couple of restaurants, shops and a new internet cafe. Possible to rent mountaineering kit and hire guides to climb Acotango, Parinacota, Pomerape and Sajama.|
|9km||Leave Sajama heading north east. After 3.5 km come to a junction for Termales Manasaya (L), but carry on straight for Tomarapi. Arrive at another junction.|
|182km||Junction. Carry on straight for Tomarapi.|
|6km||2 km from junction reach Laguna Huayñacota (dry when we passed), then 4 km more of climbing to Alto Tomarapi.|
|188km||Alto Tomarapi (4,398m – GPS22).|
|192km||Tomarapi (GPS23). Small village with lovely old church, and a nice but very expensive Albergue to stay in.
Leaving Tomarapi you can take the main track which initially heads east (and is the shortest way back to the paved highway), or carry on heading north-east to go through Ojsani before rejoining the paved highway. We took the shorter route and headed east.
|21km||Descend for 5 km to houses at 4,200m. before climbing for 2 km. Then mostly descent to the main paved highway.|
|213km||Reach main road (GPS24). If heading towards Tambo Quemado, this (signposted) junction is at KM145.
From KM145 it is 89 km to the turn off to Curahuara de Carangas (town 5 km south of the main highway with accommodation options), a further 40 km to the bridge over the Rio Desaguadero, and then 57 km more to the hole of a junction town that is Patacamaya (plenty of cheap accommodation and pollo al spiedo).
|Time taken – 4 days and amount climbed 1,800m||3 hours: Sabaya – Tunapa (280m climb).
6 hours: Tunapa – Cruzani (450m climb).
6 hours: Cruzani – Chachacomani (500m climb).
4 hours: Chachacomani – Tambo Quemado – Sajama (370m climb).
3 hours: Sajama – Tomarapi – Junction with paved highway (200m climb).
|Traffic||8 vehicles in 3 days from Sabaya to Chachacomani. Some tourist jeeps on the sandy road to Sajama. 1 vehicle (an ambulance!) from Sajama to paved highway.|
|When we cycled||Mid July 2010.|
|How much we had to push on this route||It would be < 1km if the route suggestions above are followed.|
|GPS01||Junction where routes meet||18.9981 S, 68.4792 W, 3,750m.|
|GPS02||Rio Sabaya crossing||18.9829 S, 68.5111 W, 3,750m.|
|GPS03||Cruz de Huayllas||18.9666 S, 68.5198 W, 3,750m.|
|GPS04||Junction||18.9409 S, 68.5219 W, 3,740m.|
|GPS05||Tunapa||18.8659 S, 68.5215 W, 3,770m.|
|GPS06||Negrillos||18.8271 S, 68.6115 W, 3,840m.|
|GPS07||Tunari||18.7905 S, 68.6105 W, 3,860m.|
|GPS08||Khea Kheani||18.7413 S, 68.6358 W, 3,860m.|
|GPS09||Julo||18.7005 S, 68.8908 W, 3,920m.|
|GPS10||Cruzani||18.6365 S, 68.9235 W, 3,870m.|
|GPS11||Rio Lauca||18.5935 S, 68.9703 W, 3,890m.|
|GPS12||Junction (go R)||18.5850 S, 68.9724 W, 3,900m.|
|GPS13||Macaya||18.5377 S, 68.9463 W, 3,880m.|
|GPS14||Junction at 4,000m||18.4697 S, 68.9133 W, 4,000m.|
|GPS15||Mogachi||18.4313 S, 68.8886 W, 3,960m.|
|GPS16||Junction (go L)||18.3500 S, 68.9459 W, 4,240m.|
|GPS17||Abra de Chachacomani||18.3254 S, 68.9554 W, 4,365m.|
|GPS18||Junction with paved highway||18.2733 S, 68.9979 W, 4,320m.|
|GPS19||Junction to Sajama (smaller road, better surface)||18.2208 S, 68.9437 W, 4,150m.|
|GPS20||Junction to Sajama (main, sandy road)||18.2144 S, 68.9167 W, 4,180m.|
|GPS21||Sajama||18.1365 S, 68.9746 W, 4,250m.|
|GPS22||Alto Tomarapi||18.0355 S, 68.9015 W, 4,398m.|
|GPS23||Tomarapi||18.0240 S, 68.8696 W, 4,280m.|
|GPS24||Junction with paved highway||18.0961 S, 68.7430 W, 4,030m.|
View Sabaya – Sajama in a larger map
This side trip from the Chachacomani – Tambo Quemado road heads off up the steep mine road on Acotango. The route is used by 4x4s up to 4,900m as the sulphur mine on the mountain is due to be reopened and work is being carried out to erect some buildings at this height.
The road becomes steep above 4,800m but the surface is in ok condition to 5,250m, above which it deteriorates. Strong cyclists might be able to ride most of the time to nearly 5,500m, and though the road continues a bit higher it is unrideable above this altitude. If you want to climb the volcano it makes more sense to stop and make a base camp at around 5,100m then hike up to the 6,059m summit from there.
When we were on the mountain there was no snow below 5,500m so we had to take all water with us from Chachacomani. There are 2 very basic (of the crackers and biscuit variety) shops in Chachacomani, so if you can it is best to bring supplies from better stocked villages like Sajama or Tambo Quemado.
|Total dist.||Stage dist.||Description|
|0km||Turn-off to Acotango (GPS25) from the Chachacomani to Tambo Quemado road. Only turn off here (turn R 1km south of the Abra de Chachacomani) – if coming from TQ. (If coming from the other direction, it is possible to take the turn-off at (GPS26), 0.8km from the junction (GPS16) below Chachacomani. The two tracks meet after a few kms.)|
|10.6km||From GPS25 climb not too steeply for 9kms. Here the road leaves a riverbed at 4,800m and the climb becomes much steeper.|
|10.6km||Junction (4,900m – GPS27). Go R. Straight goes to new mine buildings.|
|6.4km||Road continues steeply. Best to make base camp for climbing the mountain after about 2 kms. Vehicle tracks continue a couple of kms further to 5,250m. Above this the road is much worse, but continues for about 3kms to over 5,500m.|
|17km||Our high point (5,500m – GPS28), slightly above the point at which the road becomes unrideable.|
|Time taken||4 hours: Turn-off to Acotango – High Point at 5,500m (1,200m climb).|
|Traffic||Some mine vehicles up to the mine buildings at 4,900m. Nothing above this.|
|When we cycled||Late August 2010.|
|How much we had to push on this route||6kms (sand, steep)|
|GPS25||Turn-off to Acotango (if coming from TQ)||18.3340 S, 68.9544 W, 4,330m.|
|GPS26||Alternative turn-off (if coming from Chachacomani)||18.3443 S, 68.9507 W, 4,280m.|
|GPS27||Junction (go R)||18.3632 S, 69.0157 W, 4,900m.|
|GPS28||High point||18.3648 S, 69.0465 W, 5,509m.|