Hey cyclistas! Question for anyone who's traveled South America -- I'm planning on riding around South America --Peru, maybe Bolivia (bikepacking the andes, salar de uyuni) from 9/20-12/20. I'm worried about being there during rainy season. To avoid the worst of the rain should I head south/inland/higher altitudes? Are there parts of S.America that are more recommended that time of year?
Also - what the best way to navigate - does everyone have gps devices? Where is a good place to get maps?
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I spent quiet a long time pedalig throug south america - argentina / chile / bolivia / peru.
NORMALY the rain in peru and bolivia starts in december, but past years are very different and unpredictable.. i think your dates are perfect for bikepacking there. Not too cold, not too warm, low rain probability.
To navigte at the beginning of my trip I used paper maps, but now I navigate with my phone. There is a SUPERB Iphone app called MapOut (it is offline and has contour lines). For Android there are MapsMe (it is offline and without contour lines) and OruxMaps ( with contour lines). Its very comfortable and save to ride wiht it, especially if you like backcountry riding.
I have crossed uyuni salt lake 3 times, always by different ways, navigating with my phone. I liked it a lot. First time I crossed it mid november, I had first rainshower of the season, no problem.
Have a nice trip!
I think you'll be OK - however you should definifely be prepared for rain, thunder and snow at higher elevations. I was in Peru/Bolivia towards the end of December and experienced a few days of heavy rainfall which meant snow on the higher passes and pretty big/scary thunderstorms but it was clear mostly. Even in September, we caught a big rain over the Salar which flooded significant segments of it with 2-3 inches of water. I rode a motorcycle in those days so it wasn't an issue, not sure how it would have been with a bicycle but the salt is very corrosive and ruined my electronics.
On the second trip I rode in Bolivia and Peru between October and December; judging from memory and photos the weather tended to be clear; with warmish sunny days and cold nights. I remember Boliva (La Paz region) getting daily understorms in the late afternoons, which dampened my spirits somewhat, however once I got into Peru the weather improved. Afternoon storms can be common in the mountains though, so plan for them accordingly.
As for naviation; personally when cycling solo I will always take a dedicated GPS (Garmin eTrex 30) plus a smartphone with maps.me, Google Maps and OsmAnd Maps. This is because if one fails and you are out in the middle of the Salar or the desert, etc, you still have a lineline out. If you are to cycle across the Salar I would suggest you take precautions. It's really salty and dry! I would also highly suggest the app iOverlander which is available for both iOS and Andriod. This is a fantastic resource aimed at travelers in vans, motorcycles, but is still very useful for a cyclist.
Generally, in terms of climate and weather, things are becoming increasingly disrupted by climate change; making for unpredictable and unseasonable weather. This means you need to be prepared. While the warmer months in the Andes are generally warmer, at elevation snow, sleet and and freezing rain can make conditions very unpleasant, whereas in summer you are dealing with low temps at night but very low humidity. I would definitely take a high-end tent, capable of withstanding storms and a sleeping bag rated to at least -7c. Waterproofs, warm gloves and good boots would also be prudent.
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For more information; please email for anything else @ rossotoole at mykolab dot com
Best of luck