Falling in love with Latin America again!
12 April, 2011
After finally leaving the border, we headed towards La Paz, only to be stopped by a huge lighting storm. After finding shelter under the eve off a house for 30 min, we headed back onto the road. We made it to a small town 30 km away at Tiwanaku and stayed the night.
The next morning we decided to bypass the crazy city and took some off the back roads south. These slowly dwindled in size and eventually we were riding small farm tracks south. But after an hour, we had made our way back onto the main road south without any headaches of strikes and blockades. But much to our horror, we discovered that Al's suspension was leaking again after arriving in Oruro.
After some quick research, we discovered a mechanic in Sucre and headed there. We were riding into the dark just before Potosi, we camped at the side of the road at a nice 4,200 m. While cold while cooking up some popcorn for tea, we were warm in the tent. We made it to Sucre the next day, only to get lost trying to locate the mechanic for 4 hours. By phone we discovered that we had driven down his street, but there were no signs and he was going to be away on Sunday (we never seem to keep track of the days and end up trying to buy stuff on Sat/Sun when the shops are often closed). So we stayed and had a look around. Sucre must be the nicest small Latin American city that we have seen yet.
After getting the bike in on Monday, the mechanic laughs at the simple rubber values that come standard on the shock. He decides to replace them with some more meaty ones with springs, and to insert 3 in total rather than the single seal. The next day, we pick up Alan's bike and head back to the hotel, ready for an early start to the trip to Uyuni, via Potosi.
15 April, 2011
After leaving Sucre, we headed west for Uyuni, only to get lost for two hours in Potosi trying to find the turn off. Damn GPS is only showing the cities as dots on the map and Potosi is a maze of one ways and dead ends....
We finally find the road and have the shock of paying a $3 USD toll on the road, the first and only time in Bolivia. The road is mainly new with a few gravel bits to keep us interested. We stop short of Uyuni and camp on the side of the road again.
When we arrived in Uyuni, a local mechanic called us over to join them for breakfast. We discover that he is in the process of setting up a motorcycle tour operation. We end up talking all day and we get heaps of info about the roads around. We repay his info with a bit of work, fitting the tyre that Alan got in Sucre and adding a wire to Chris carb. jet. We head off to have a play in the Salar, and get back at dusk to find a hotel and to get ready for tomorrow's trip south to Chile. If only someone told us about the strike....
We head off to the petrol station early, only to be met by 30 protesters blocking the pumps. We discover that all three stations are closed. Low on gas and having none spare, we start looking around for some black market fuel. In the process, we ran into a nice Californian guy Danny. We spend the next four or so hours looking for more gas. Finally, we got some but it was too late to head off, so we headed back to the hotel for another night.
With black market fuel and good advice from the boys at Moto tours Bolivia, we headed out for some of the nicest riding of the trip so far: the 500 km sand track from Uyuni to San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.
16 April, 2011
After being held up over another petrol delay around 100 km down the road. We just missed the petrol station as they went for lunch. We managed to find the black market dealer, a tyre place, but that guy wasn't in. So we had to wait till 2pm before heading off.
The navigation was fairly easy, we just followed the jeeps. The main turn off was onto a tiny jeep track, not what we were expecting. We watched a jeep head out that way and decided to follow. Lucky for us, this was the right track. American Danny decided against this plan (riding separately) and headed out towards the Chile border before regressing and running out of gas on the side of the road. We managed to camp next to Laguna Helondia to see pink flamingos and mountains. Time on bikes: ca. 5hrs
17 April, 2011
Time on bike: 4ish hours. We found the nasty sand corrugations the guys warned us about, and as a consequence Chris spent as much time off the bike winging about crumpet munching as she did on the bike - but it's not hard to spend time off the bike here - it was some of the most stunning scenery we've ever seen - like we were on another planet. Deep sand saw Al drop his bike, but no problems as we arranged to have panniers carried to avoid broken legs. We spent a couple of hours watching flamingos on the stunning Laguna Colorado before heading to the southern end of the lake to do a gear (and food) sort in preparation for Chilean customs.
18 April, 2011
Our bikes made the climb to 5,050 m no problems - thanks to Chris's jet fix, she was getting seal level mileage from her little bike, and it was running sweet. We then had a pleasant dip in the hot springs where Danny caught us up. After a feed (lama, yummy) we headed off to Laguna Verde to collect Al's panniers, and then dropped 2,000 m to San Pedro Atacama. Time on bikes: 5 hours.
Overall, this was the most stunning ride of the trip. Chris was stoked as she finally learnt how to ride sand (easy, carry 12 L of fuel as well as a normal load to weigh the back down and let the front float) and managed a *hard* (supposedly) track without dropping the bike. This place is like another world.... it was unreal, heavenly, and so worth it. A “do not miss” ride or tour for anyone in South America.