by Sara Dykman
If you are what you eat, then for the five days between Salar de Coipasa and Oruro, I was mostly crackers. And while five days doesn't seem like a lot, when you are eating mostly crackers it can be. Food is an integral part of bike touring. Five days is worth writing about.
In the United States just about where ever you go you are going to find a nice grocery store every week and gas stations are going to be able to fill in the rest. Here in Bolivia, we rely on markets, corner stores, street vendors, and road side farmers. For the most part, we can find what we need.
In the larger villages and cities we pass every week or so the only thing holding us back is our common sense and space on our bikes. We've been known to leave a city with dozens of rolls, disgustingly large containers of mayo, and enough bananas to last until they are more like mush than fruit. For the rest of the time we are relying on small villages with one tiny corner store to keep us fed. These stores vary widely and have made planning a bit more of a guessing game than anything else.
The first few weeks, when we were in the mountains, people grew potatoes and corn and it was easy enough to, if nothing else, buy potatoes and corn. Now on the Altiplano, people grow llama. It is surprisingly different. The stores now are small and usually filled with one or two shelves of plastic two liters of soda, canned sardines, crackers, ageing sweets, and- if you are lucky- llama heads. We couldn't have guessed when we left the town on the edge of Salar de Uyuni that we wouldn't see fruit or vegetables for the next week. But so it goes. We made due.
Nia and I, after some trial and error, have landed on something of a food routine. We cook dinner on my small, homemade alcohol stove, and our specialties don't require much cooking. Ramen with loads of veggies is our most popular dish. Our stove at 12,000 ft limits how edible we can make rice and pasta. We keep trying and we keep eating kinda mushy pasta. Breakfasts range from crackers to sandwiches to fruit. It is not really a planned meal and more like a what-can-we-do-with-the-extras meal.
Lunch is the most steady, and filled with sandwiches. In big villages or cities we buy and boil eggs, and are careful to keep our ketchup and mayonnaise stash plentiful. On a good day our sandwiches are good bread with cheese, a boiled egg, tomato, pepper, avocado, and assorted condiments. On a less good day our sandwiches are bread, tomato, and assorted condiments. On a even less good day or sandwiches are crackers with assorted condiments.
For five days we really explored the cracker with condiments world. We discovered it to be very big. The possibilities seemingly endless. Here is something of a menu:
We recommend that these crackers be served with tepid water or milk. Luckily for us we had both. In one small town the army's Major gave us three cartons of milk and some juice. We quickly realized that a little juice mixed into the milk made a delicious smoothie like drink. In a world of crackers, it was a real jem of a find.
When we arrived in Oruro, after five days of less that top notch eating, we celebrated with a shopping spree and a few stops at a few restaurants. After a few days of better eating, we were ready to take to the road once again. And leaving town we were ready to really up the anty on our cracker feasts. Provecho!
cookies - biscuits