Friday, November 1, 2013

Salar de Uyuni and the Most Brutal Road In Bolivia

I rested in Sucre for a few days after the hard riding I did with Martin, in the mean time waiting for my friends we met at Machu Picchu, Ben and Maddie.  They arrived with one of their friends they met in Mexico.  We hung out that evening planning our ride through the Salar and the Laguna route south out of the Salar into Chile.   This was a group effort because it is the most brutal, rugged, remote hard core  riding in Bolivia.   300 miles of sand, gravel, rocks, water crossings, and washboard.  I had absolutely no sense taking an 800+ lb Harley Davidson on that road,  but that's me.  After beating the bikes to death and ourselves, we all came out the other side alive and elated.  That was the worst road we have been on to date and it was fantastic.  I would love to ride through there again on the right bike, never again on a Harley.  Unfortunately, this was remote and we camped out so I didn't have electricity for several days and of course my camera battery died the last day of riding so you won't get to see some of the magnificent scenery from the Nationl Reserve in southern Bolivia.  Picture riding on the moon, or riding on Mars.  This was one landscape that everybody should experience.  There are many four wheel drive tours that go through here so you wont have to ride a motorcycle.  Ok let's get on with the show.

    This is Rob,  from Melbourne, Australia.  He bought this Kawasaki KLR 650 in San Diego 
California and rode through the Baja with another Aussie.  Then over to Mazatlan, mexico and rode their way to Sourh America   They have a website  The second Aussie crashed in Quito and is back in Australia.  Rob is another fantastic person I've met on this trip as well as Ben and Maddie.  We knew this ride was going to be tough and pulled together to get through.  Rob is the only one that didn't crash multiple times on this leg of the journey.

We arrived in Uyuni to get ready for our adventure onto the Salar de Uyuni, which is the worlds largest salt flat.  This is obviously a railroad town as you can tell by these main street monuments

There is a graveyard of old trains located just outside of town.  Of course it was loaded with tourons the day we were there, but to be expected,  this circuit is the reason people come to Uyuni.
             The Dakar Race is coming to Bolivia for the first time in 2014 .  The race is supposed to cross the Salar during rainy season, so it will be flooded with about four inches of water.

After the train graveyard we headed for the salt flat.  The road there was just a preview of what we were in for.  I hit a sandy section which grabbed my front wheel and crashed me.  I was even on the Salar yet and my shifter peg was broke off.  I thought I was done already but I didn't give up that easy. It was tough but I shifted using my foot on the linkage arm.  We made it onto the salt and headed for this salt block shack.

   I think this is 17,000 miles since I left, not counting the 400 mile across Yucatan without odometer because of wiring I had to repair.

This island-Incahuasi is where all of the tours stop
        There is a restaurant and hotel and other tourist trap stuff here, as well as an entry fee.

Being the budget minded type (read cheap), we rode around to the back of the island and found this
         Our own private, FREE, cave to camp in.  Views from our humble abode.

My riding friends got the buzz on from the bottles in their saddlebags then we decided to ride into the sunset and raise a little hell.   It's flat, wide open and no speed limit.  We had a blast.

         Next day I had to get my pose on for some photographic memories

On our way off of the Salar we came across this.  Don't have a clue what it is or will be but it happens to be salt blocks stacked up.

Away we go.  The black mark are from all of the four wheel drive tours taking tourorrists on the salt.  It also has a brown tint from all of the dust and sand blowing across.  After riding on bad roads all afternoon, crashing in sand or gravel several times we saw the cliffs in the photo below and agreed to see if we could camp there.  It turned out to be a meadow with herds of llamas or alpacas roaming around us.  

We went a close to the cliffs as we could but this stream stopped us.

Hiking over to this canyon to check it out,  this is what is behind the boulders blocking the entrance.

 Pretty neat erosion inside

This is where we set up camp for the night.

the Bolivian lady was rounding up her herd when we rode into the middle of them and interrupted.  She wouldn't come near us o she just sat around for an hour waiting for the animals to move.  Realizing this and the fact that the animals had no intention of moving along,  I went John Wayne on them and rounded up her animals for her.  She waved thanks as I headed back to camp.

          M. M stone formation from wind and water

Since I was sleeping under the stars I saw the most magnificent view of th milky way and night sky ever.  There is absolutely no light source to interfere with the darkness.  I also woke up with the sunrise and took these pics as it lit up the cliffs.

After breaking camp and not looking forward to our third rigorous day of high altitude, hard riding we headed out.   

   Two hundred miles from anywhere, on a sandy, washboard road there is a sign warning of a curve ahead.

                 Rocky road
        Washboard road
              Sandy road
        More sandy road, with a lake ahead
    More sandy road
  And finally a black gravel road, check out the ruts fom all of the four wheel drives.  This was our destination for the day, Laguna Colorada.  It is red from the photo plankton in the water, reacting to the sun.  This was the last picture i took before my camera battery died. Sorry about that, because the scenery seemed lunar and Mars like.   The guy at the reserve entrance told us about a town two hours from this lake, about 40 miles, so we figured we had enough daylight to get there.  With visions of hotels and restaurants we rolled so we wouldn't have to camp out after another grueling day on the road.  We pulled into town and what a site.  Three buildings.  One was a  changing room for the hot spring.  The other was a private residence.  The third was a hotel of four rooms with about 5 or 6 beds in each room.  The hot springs happens to be a stop for the tours out this way so of course the hotel was full.  Well it turns out thy had two beds left so Ben and Maddie doubled up, Rob snagged the other one and let me pull up a spot on the concrete floor.  I took a dip in the hot springs and was talking to a couple there who then offered to double up and let me sleep in the open bed. At first I declined but he insisted o I ok them up on the offer.  Later, back inside people were playing cards and asked if I was the biker sleeping in the open bed in their room.  Turns out it was in a different room so it ll worked out, the couple didn't have to ouble up and I still had an open be to sleep in.    The proprietors saw how ragged we all looked from the past three days and hooked us all up with coffee, soup and lasagne for dinner.  I think the bill was $10 each when we left.  We rode about another two hours on the sand and gravel when we came to the Bolivia/Chile border. It turns out that customs building was back about 50 miles on that same road near the red lake,  on the other side from  where we rode in.  Imigration wouldnt stamp our passports because none of us had our bikes stamped out of the country by customs.  NOW WHAT?  Ride all the way back and forth for a stamped piece of paper, pay another park entry fee, hope to have a room again and lose the whole day.  That's what the immigration official was adamant about.  After an hour or so of him huffing and puffing,  the sum of 50 bolivianos( about $7) each was agreed to for them to drop the paperwork off for us.  Here's your cash, here's your passport, see you later goodbye.  We are all in San Pedro de Atacama in northern Chile, resting for a couple of days and celebrating our successful adventure through the Bolivian Altiplano. the thing is, it's a national holiday this weekend, s of course all the hostals and hotels are full and e are in a campsite, once agin sleeping under the stars.  At least it is the driest desert in the world so I don't expect rain.  Goodbye and goodnight from Chile.

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