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Monday, June 30, 2014

Snow Storms, Final Border Crossing, Crazy Parties | Bienvenidos a Argentina!!!

Monday, June 30th, 2014

Friday morning I woke up and made my usual trip to the border police station to see what the conditions were on Jama Pass into Argentina.  To my surprise, the police and truckers told me it was open and that I should "go now!" as another storm was predicted the next day.  I'd spent a few days longer than expected in San Pedro de Atacama, so didn't hesitate, bolted back to the hotel, packed, and headed out at 10am sharp.  That town is great, and the riding around is spectacular, but expensive.  

The ride up and out of SPdA was cold, but not horrible.  However, by the time I made the border I was really feeling it.  The wind was brutal and the temps hovered around 30F.  Everything at the Jama border into Argentina is seemingly efficient.  Migracion and aduana for both countries are lined up all next to each other in four windows.  The only frustrating part was that two gringo cattle buses arrived just before me, so the wait was around an hour before reaching the first window.  I asked if I could go ahead of them, as it wouldn't delay them more than a few seconds, but the Argentinian border police dude wasn't havin' it.  He made me get in the back of the line.  Fokker.  Anyway, I wasn't too fussed as there was heat in the building.  

After the border it was flat, cold, and windy.  However, I was smiling in my helmet as I'd just crossed the 14th, and final border of my journey.  Nice to see new places, but entering and exiting countries with a vehicle is a pain in the arse.  Whatever, just a CODB (cost of doing business) I guess.  I was headed for Purmamarca as I'd heard it was a nice little town.  Just before Purma there is a mountain you need to climb up and over.  It's beautiful, you ride through the salt flats, and then the mountain appears out of nowhere.  Problem was, about halfway up a snowstorm was blanketing the entirety.  My GPS showed 22 miles remaining for Purma.  That was the absolute WORST 22 miles of riding I've had on this trip, and in my entire life.  Fog, wet snow, and temps dropped to 5F!  My visor froze over so I had to ride with it open.  It was slow going around 10mph and I couldn't see $hit.  The tears rolling out of my eyes were freezing so I had to reach in and pry my eyelids open every 15 or 20 seconds.  Really, really brutal.  To make matters worse, there was ice on the road and a truck jackknifed directly in front of me.  I stopped to make sure he was fine, and continued on.  Once I dropped down the other side, the storm cleared and I was in Purma.  Thank God!  

Purma was nice for a night.  I met two young American birds at the hostel and we chatted for a bit.  I ended up having dinner and a few glasses of decent wine with Maggie, from Wisconsin, but studying in Buenos Aires at present.  I'll link up with her when I arrive there in a couple of weeks.  From Purma I took Rte 9 to Salta, which was amazing!  The road was the width of a sidewalk, but is heavily trafficked so can get a bit sketchy around bends.  I decided to stay at Loki Hostel here.  For those who don't know, Loki, Wild Rover, and The Point are all party hostel chains/brands.  I was hesitant to stay, but they have a promotion at present where you stay for free (FREE!).  That, plus ample bike parking made me decide to check it out, and am really glad I did.  There is a great group of 15 - 20 of us that all get on really well.  The past two nights were massive parties w/ beer pong, dancing, loud music, and general misbehavior (oh, and a LOT of Blood Bomb shots).  I met a nice girl named Raquel from Brazil on break from studying medicine, we hung out and enjoyed each other's company.  

This morning I made the short trip over to the BMW dealership in town.  I picked up a filter and three liters of oil and the fokkers charged me almost $70USD!  Seriously, what's up with BMW dealerships?  I've grown to despise the majority of em (some are great, don't get me wrong).  Anyway, I was hungover from the Beer Pong World Cup last night, so just bent over, handed over my credit card, and took it gently up the arse. Couldn't be bothered to track down the supplies elsewhere.  When I got back to the hotel I wrenched on the bike for a bit, changed the oil/filter, and made sure everything is buttoned up.  The bike just turned over 20k miles, so I figured it was in need of some 'love'.  The only thing that's bothering me a bit is an engine rattling noise that's come up as of late.  Only lasts for a few seconds.  A quick roll of the throttle seems to level it out and everything goes back to normal.  Cam chain?  No clue...  Hoping it's nothing. 

I'll be here for one more night, then plan to head south with a general plan to get to Cordoba.  My buddy Andrew Palmer, a strapping Brit I met in Cartagena doing several years on a bike, has linked me up with a group of riders there.  I'll hang in Cordoba for a few days riding, exploring, drinking wine, and getting in trouble with Andy's mates.  I have a nice route planned with some great riding and scenery, with the help of Andrew and John Hill (Andy's buddy in Cordoba).  From there I'll take it slow and easy to BA.  

I guess that's it for now...  Enjoy the pics.  I'll post up more soon.  

~ D

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Exploring Atacama, Stuck in San Pedro, & Planning My Return 'Home'...

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Stuck in San Pedro you ask?  Well, I plan to take Paso Jama east up and over the Andes into Argentina, but it has been closed for the past few days due to snow, wind, extreme cold, and limited visibility.  So yeah, I'm stuck...  The pass is gonna be absolutely freezing, so quite honestly I'm in no rush to bundle up and make the trek.  There really aren't any other options.  Paso Sico is closed at present as well, and it is a more difficult (dirt) route.  So, I wait.  Today I checked with the police and several truckers at aduana and they tell me that it may be open tomorrow.  I'm going to check again tomorrow, and will target Saturday for departure.  

I have cold weather gear, but not 'extreme' cold weather gear.  Today I bought a thick balaclava and some gloves to help (two pairs rubber surgeon gloves, one pair thin wool gloves - both of which will go under my riding gloves).  I'll wear thermal underwear, Under Armour pants, jeans, and my Klim riding pants.  On top I'll wear two long sleeve shirts, a fleece, and my Klim riding jacket.  That leaves only my toes and neck, which I'll try to keep warm with two pairs of SmartWool socks, and a Freeze-Out neck gaiter respectively.  I'll probably look like the Michelin man with all that $hit on, but hopefully I'll stay (relatively) warm.  I've grown to absolutely detest riding in freezing weather.  I guess I should have planned seasons/routes a bit better eh?  :/

So while I'm stuck I guess I'll put together a short post.  Yesterday I explored Valle de la Luna, Laguna Cejar, and Laguna Tebinquinche.  Valle de la Luna is absolutely stunning, and provides some great riding.  I had the entire park to myself and didn't see anyone else the entire time I was there.  The weather was great (70F and sunny), and the day was perfect.  Per usual, the rangers asked me kindly to stay on the marked roads, but I ended up venturing all through the park and making it my personal moto playground of sorts.  Can't help it!  At one point I was riding along and noticed the path/road below me was shimmering.  I stopped and realized that under a layer of dirt I was riding on a path almost entirely made of quartz crystal.  It looked like something out of The Wizard of Oz.  I ended up snapping off a crystal and putting it in my breast pocket for good juju.  Again sorry, couldn't help it...  

After exploring Valle de la Luna I blasted on dirt roads SE to Laguna Tebinquinche, which was a bit of a let down.  The lake is supposed to provide beautiful mirror views, but since it's the dry season, the water levels were really low.  I whipped the bike around and blasted back to Laguna Cejar, which was really neat.  First off, the lake, vegetation, and sky clashed colors to create a beautiful, almost unreal scene.  Also, the lake has an incredibly high salt content, so I had read you can float on the surface of the water.  Again, nobody around so I tore off all my clothing and jumped in without thinking.  Yowza!  Freezing, severe shrinkage inducing cold!  I floated for a few minutes and climbed out.  The combination of the salty water, dry air, and wind meant I didn't need a towel.  I was bone dry within seconds.  Anyway, it was quite the experience.  I don't consider myself a nudist, but walking around out there with my tackle flailing in the wind felt quite liberating.  Maybe I'll shed my clothing and go 'renegade' more often.  :)

I'd met a few people around town yesterday so we all went out for dinner and drinks last night.  That meant that I slept in a bit and had a lazy day today.  I ran a few errands, and took care of some business.  I also booked my flight 'home' using miles on United (still have a quite a few left from the biz travel days).  When I clicked submit I couldn't believe I had an actual date in sight for my return.  I'm shipping the bike to LA, and will land to meet it on August 6th.  From there I'll ride the PCH, and will check off one or two nat'l parks headed east towards Denver.  That means this journey will come to an end somewhere around August 16th, and everyone will be invited to the party!   

I can't believe it...  I have mixed emotions about the whole thing coming to a close.  I've grown and seen a LOT.  I've visited a ton of amazing places.  I've dodged death on numerous occasions.  I've met a countless number of amazing people.  I found love.  I misbehaved more times and in more ways than I can count.  I witnessed two volcano eruptions, was almost swept away by two bloated raging rivers, and crashed my bike on multiple occasions.  I showered, slept, and lived in conditions I never thought I would.  I shocked myself on suicide shower heaters hundreds of times.  I will have ridden my motorcycle close to 25k miles in the end.  I laughed, I cried, and found myself smiling a LOT.  Most importantly, I feel like I discovered myself, and really 'lived' life.  It has been an amazing ride.  Don't get me wrong, I'm gonna live for the moment and enjoy every remaining second of this adventure.  Staring at that date on the computer screen was just a wake up call that this chapter is nearing an end.  I'm not sad about it.  I'm more confident than I've ever been and am looking forward to seeing what the next chapter will uncover.  I spent an hour or so earlier today revisiting pictures from early on in the trip.  I'm really happy and proud that I accomplished this.

Oh, and I also watched the US fold to Germany today at a bar filled with Germans.  But, we still advance to the next round, so that's good.  Watching the Cup down here in South America, in places filled with travelers from around the world, has been a really cool experience.  Every single game is interesting, regardless of teams, because people from all over fill the bars, paint their faces, drink heavily, cheer loudly, and celebrate together.  Regardless of the outcome, this will be a World Cup that I'll remember forever.  I'm typically not a footie fan (moto racing is my sport of choice in case you haven't noticed), but I've really gotten into it as of late.  

Finally, through a friend of a friend I've linked up with a famous tattoo studio/artist in Buenos Aires.  One night in Oaxaca I was out drinking with new friends.  In the pisser, and through blurred vision, I saw a funny drawing on the wall.  It stuck with me throughout the trip, and I think it is a good representation of this journey.  Dodging death in Latin America, drinking too much booze, with absolute beauty mixed in between.  Anyway, the guy is drawing up a better sketch as we speak, and I think I'll celebrate my bday on July 19th getting it inked somewhere on my body.  After that, a big party in BA for the night.  The big 3 - 6!  

I think that's enough for now.  Cross your fingers that Jama Pass is open tomorrow and that the sun is shining on me Saturday.  If so, I'll post an update from Jujuy or Salta in Argentina, which marks my 14th and final country.  

Ciao for now amigos...  Hasta pronto, 

~ D

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Salar de Uyuni & Ruta Lagunillas | Bolivia to Chile...

June 22, 2014 - Uyuni / Salar de Uyuni

……  I met Juan (his self professed LatAm name - pronounced ‘Yern’ - not sure where the ‘o’ with two dots is on my keyboard) in Sucre, and we decided to ride south to Uyuni together.  Him and his friend Stephan are from Germany and bought two brand new beautiful BMW 650 Sertao special edition motos in San Diego and have been riding them south for approx 10 months.  Stephan got a stomach bug in Sucre, so it ended up being just Juan and me riding south to Uyuni.  I’m glad we rode and spent time together.  It’s interesting, I don’t think we have much in common.  He loves heavy metal, and I dig jazz from time to time.  He has long hair, I have short.  Etc…  But, we have a shared passion for travel and motorbikes, which was enough to have us laughing together and enjoying each other’s company over cervezas, shite food, and long conversations.  Juan, I wish you the best on the remainder of your journey, and hope that everything works out well with Mita and the job search.  Stay in touch amigo!  Maybe we can scoot around India on Enfields someday.  

The ride from Sucre to Potosi wasn't anything special, but the ride from Potosi to Uyuni is idyllic.  On a side note, if you want to buy dynamite from street vendors, the stop in Potosi is necessary however.  Down to Uyuni had us riding freshly paved roads and groomed dirt (if you choose to partake), along with absolutely stunning scenery in/around the desert, which made for a stellar ride.  We arrived around sundown and pulled the bikes directly into Hotel Avenida.  I’d recommend the place as there is decent wifi (for Bolivian standards), hot showers, and adequate/safe bike parking inside the courtyard.  Private rooms are 40 Bolivianos (~$5.50 USD) w/ shared bath and 60B for private bath.  

After crashing that first night we woke up refreshed and ready for two things.  First, we wanted to ride to and check out the train graveyard, and after that we planned to hit the Salar.  After breakfast we decided to gas up for the day, but quickly realized the entire town was out of petrol (‘no hay gasolina’ - an ugly sentence).  That said, we rode to the train graveyard and spent several hours there.  After that, we rode to the gas station and realized that the estimation that gas would arrive around 12pm was waaaay off (typical Bolivian time foul-up).  We rode back to the hotel, and I quickly realized that we weren’t going to the Salar that day, due to the gas situation, but also because of the huge nail I found in my rear tire.  So, I spent the remainder of the day swapping out the rear tube, spooning on the Pirelli MT21 front that I bought in Sucre, and giving the bike a once over.  

After getting the bike put back together we decided to grab dinner and a few drinks, since it was Juan’s birthday.  We ended up at Extreme Fun Pub w/ two young German girls that I met in Sucre (their names escape me), and essentially drank the place dry.  It was a really fun night, but the next morning I woke up with one of the most epic hangovers in the history of mankind.  That said, there would be no exploration of the Salar that day either.

On day three we were set to explore the Salar.  We headed out around 9am and touched rubber to salt an hour later.  What can I say?  Salar de Uyuni was/is everything it’s cracked up to be.  Absolute beauty and weirdness all wrapped in one.  I’ve wanted to visit for around 10 years, so it was surreal to be there in person, on the bike.  We ended up riding all over the place making the flats our own personal playground.  When we pulled the bikes back into the hotel (after a quick squirt at the car wash) my odo showed that we had clocked over 130 miles for the day.  It’s easy when you’re blasting along the flats at 100mph!  Not much else I can say.  The Salar is a must for anyone passing through.  Watch a short video of our day on the salt HERE.

After all that, I was ready for a big night of sleep, and would start my two day journey to San Pedro de Atacama via Ruta Lagunillas the next morning (note, lights out didn’t happen until after we watched the US sink against Portugal in the final 10 seconds - amazing match, but what a bummer!).  I could hardly sleep as I was nervous about the next few days riding.  My plans were to ride from Uyuni approx 130 miles south to Laguna Colorada (the red lake).  I planned to stay the night there and then continue the journey farther south across the border into Chile, and then ultimately San Pedro.  At night in the Altiplano it can get incredibly windy and well below zero, so I was really nervous that I would have a bike issue, get lost, or have something else happen that would stick me in between lodging.  Staying overnight in those temps without adequate shelter can be painful, if not fatal.  Needless to say, I was nervous and didn’t get the rest that I had planned for…

June 23, 2014 - Ruta Lagunillas

This morning I woke up at 6:30am as planned, and hit the road at 8am.  I wanted to get an early start to ensure I made Laguna Colorada, where I’d heard there are multiple hospedaje options, and even reugios scattered nearby for hikers/bicyclists.  The first hour and 50 miles out of Uyuni were absolutely brutal!  I can’t explain how cold I was.  I’ve run a marathon, hiked some wicked treks, climbed mountains, and made it almost 17k miles so far on this journey, and that first portion had to be one of the toughest things I’ve ever done.  I’m not sure why, it doesn’t even look that cold on paper, but my bike showed 13F for the majority.  I couldn’t feel my fingers and toes, and had to stop three times before San Cristobal just to warm my hands on the exhaust and do some jumping jacks.  

After topping up with fuel in San Cristobal, I began Ruta Lagunillas.  This is a famous route that passes well over 16k feet, and showcases many stunning vistas, multi-colored lakes, steaming geysers, and the best the Altiplano has to offer.  However, it’s infamous for its difficulty.  The entire route is dirt, and the majority is sand, which is a bikers worst enemy.  Not to mention, there are literally hundreds of paths and offshoots, which make the actual route difficult to find and follow.  I used a combo of Google Maps for placement, my Garmin 660 running OSM (which was actually fairly spot on), paper maps, and a handful of stops to ask for directions.  

Once getting into the thick of the route, I had to navigate past several water crossings.  Water is one thing, deep water is another.  Couple that with freezing temps and I couldn’t be bothered to forge my way through.  I wound all through the route finding makeshift bridges.  Some were rock/cobblestone and were hardly wide enough for a person, much less my loaded and heavy GS.  Others were rickety old wooden crossings that I was certain wouldn’t hold up.  Somehow I made it across the seven or eight crossings with no issue (aside from my heart rate bumping due to the adrenaline).  

After the water came the beauty.  I honestly can’t describe some of the scenery.  In my life and on this trip I’ve experienced some amazing things, but some of the scenery out here is more spectacular than anything I’ve ever witnessed.  I couldn’t help but smile and think of how lucky I am to experience it…  on a bike no less!  Finally at around 1:30pm I crested a hill and was heading down towards Laguna Colorada.  Again, I can’t even begin to put the beauty in words.  The juxtaposition of the red lake against the ice covered mountains, bright green vegetation, and wildlife roaming around (llamas, foxes, etc) was unreal.  A quick note about the difficulty of the route…  It isn’t really that difficult.  Sure there is sand in parts, but it’s got some gravel in it, and not as deep as everyone leads on.  I’m really glad that I spooned on the MT21 onto the front as it was cutting, slicing, and forging a perfect path through the sand for me and the rest of the bike to follow.  Not sure it would have been as easy with the Heidenau front.  I’d say it’s sand 30%, packed dirt 30%, rocky path 30%, and blasted smooth rock 10% (rough estimates).

After spending almost 30mins at the ‘red lake’, I decided to track down this hospedaje everyone speaks of.  Well, like everything else in Bolivia, it’s hard to find.  Apparently I missed my turn off and ended up accelerating upwards to 16k+ feet in the middle of freaking nowhere.  I began to backtrack when I saw a tour truck/group off in the distance.  I pinned it across the Altiplano nothingness towards them and caught them off guard.  I must have looked like a spaceman coming towards them, standing on the pegs blasting across the landscape with my obnoxious/loud neon goggles.  When I arrived I asked the tour leader where I could find shelter, a hotel, or hospedaje.  He pointed back towards Colorada, but said there was another up ahead “cerca” (close).  I heard that and went tearing off up the trail…  Big mistake!  

Here is the deal.  If you do this route, track down the hospedaje at Laguna Colorada.  There was nothing between it and Laguna Blanca (at the border), which is where I’m writing this post.  That means I plowed through 200+ miles of sand, dirt, and nothingness.  It was amazingly beautiful, but by the time I made it to my stopping point, I was racing sunset.  Anyway, it was an amazing ride today and I can’t complain about my accommodations.  I just had one of the best meals I’ve consumed in Bolivia, and have a private room for 50B.  A bit on the pricey side in-country, but if you could feel the cold outside, and hear the wind howling, you would be willing to pay anything to get out of the harsh conditions too.  Seriously, it is F’ing freezing out there, and it’s only 7pm!  I’m guessing it will hit close to 0F tonight, with a windchill much lower.  I’m hoping the bike fires up just fine in the morning.  :/  

I’ve noticed/learned two things about myself over the past few weeks, months, and rides.  I’ve been worrying about things going wrong before they happen.  I’m worrying myself silly about bike issues that haven’t occurred, route problems, finding shelter, etc, etc, etc.  Don’t get me wrong, in the middle of the Altiplano one should worry.  However, planning appropriately and worrying yourself silly are two different things.  As I was riding today, experiencing one of the best days of this entire adventure, I made a pact that I’ll try to only worry when an issue presents itself.  I know that will be incredibly hard (for me at least), but I’m going to do my best.  I’m going to remember all the days and rides that I was concerned would go awry… but didn't.  I’ll remember all the bike issues that didn’t happen.  I’ll remember the ones that did, and how I simply worked my way through them.  Trusting that things will simply work out in the end is hard, but something that I’m doing my best to understand and sit with.  If I can do it on this trip, it will be easier to apply to larger concerns moving forward (i.e. future career, where to live, who to be with, etc, etc, etc).  You’d think I would have understood this already…  I never said I was a quick learner!

The second thing I’ve known, but has become painfully obvious recently, is that I SUCK when it comes to communication and staying in touch with others/loved ones.  Janina (my beautiful German girlfriend, who I had plans to visit directly after this trip) has gotten fed up with it and all but written me off.  We’ve agreed to link back up after I emerge from Bolivia and Chile, where connections can be hard to find.  We’ll see where things lead from there.  It’s a tough juggle in situations like this; the ever-present long term travelers struggle.  Spend your time experiencing places, cultures, rides, new friendships that don’t exist elsewhere…  or, pull away to communicate with loved ones, update the blog, update the ride report, post photos/videos, etc???  I guess I’ve found it difficult to fit both in.  Anyway, for those reading this back home.  I’m sorry!  I am absolute shit at staying in touch.  I know it, you know it, and now everyone reading this knows it.  It’s who I am…  I can’t help it.  BUT, I’m going to use this experience and learn from it.  I really need to carve out more time to communicate with loved ones back home, or wherever they reside.  Picking up new experiences and friends along the way is amazing, but at what expense?  Losing existing ones from home??? 

I guess that’s it for now.  I’m wrapping up my third cup of coffee here at the hospedaje.  The sign here in the kitchen says 'Albergue Ecoturistico de Alta Montaña “VC Licancabuc” Q.G.’  I’m guessing that is a combo name of the ecotourism company that operates out of here and the refuge/hotel itself.  Anyway, it’s a nice place nestled near the banks of Laguna Blanca (the white lake - not to be confused with the red or green one!).  The southern exit of Reserva Nactional de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa is directly outside, and the frontera (border) into Chile a short ride further.  

Barring any issues, today will put me past 17k miles, and into my 13th country.  I have mixed emotions as this whole thing is coming to an end.  Yesterday as I parked the bike, I realized that Ruta Lagunillas will probably be my last difficult, isolated, multi-day dirt ride (although Jama Pass into Argentina will be interesting).  I know I’ll have some day trips in Atacama, with San Pedro as my base, but it felt like yesterday wrapped up the most difficult riding (Peru/Bolivia) sections of the journey.  On one hand, I’ll be glad to be back into civilization.  On the other hand, I miss it already and yearn for more isolation and challenging riding/navigating/exploring...  "Travel, especially solo travel, is more than the seeing of sights; it's a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living."

So that’s it…  I’m going to brave the incessant wind outside to load the bike.  Then I’m off!  If there is internet in San Pedro, which I’m guessing there will be, I’ll update more from there.  

June 24, 2014 - Chile!!!

Well, the bike started...  Thank God.  The wind was unreal last night.  The cold was even more unrealer (?).  I finally got motivated to load the bike and set off around 9am.  Since I'd made such progress yesterday, I only had 10 miles or so to the Bolivia/Chile border.  I'd missed aduana near Laguna Colorada, so was pleasantly surprised to see an aduana officer who gladly checked the bike out of Bolivia.  I was stamped out of country just as quick and was into Chile before I knew it. 

The route out of the park and onto Chile 27 was uneventful, but cold.  Then the winding route down the highway to San Pedro de Atacama happened so fast I didn't even know I was there.  A short 35 mile day, and next thing I knew I was sitting at the Chile aduana/immigration office in San Pedro.  Immigration was relatively quick, except for the tourist cattle bus that arrived just before me.  Aduana was fairly quick as well, but a nasty police officer threatened to arrest me for the huge knife I carry on my side.  Anyway, I put it away, and he calmed down.  After that he insisted on checking inside every one of my bags, which was a hassle, but I didn't mind.  I complied with his orders and opened up everything.  After a quick search he was satisfied and I was on my way.  Funny, after 12 countries I haven't had anyone care about the knife or check the bags once.  

Anyway, I'm here in San Pedro de Atacama and plan to be here for three or four nights.  I'll take day trips on the bike from here to explore the area, and will then bump over Jama Pass into Argentina.  It's a bit surreal being here, and it hasn't sunk in yet after the crazy week I've just had.  The riding and scenery was absolutely stunning.  In fact in retrospect, I think Lagunillas was probably the best ride I've done on the entire trip, and I've done a TON of notable routes thus far.  

I guess that's it...  I've just showered and shaved, and feel like a new man.  Need to go grab some food, and will check out the town a bit.  Any recommendations for San Pedro and/or rides around the area are much appreciated.  

Buen viaje, buen dia, buen vida…  

~ D

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Bolivia... Beauty, Isolation, Roadblocks, Landslides, Dirt, Dirt, Dirt!!!

Saturday, June 21st, 2014

I've a LOT to catch up here, so this post will be a bit different.  I'll paste up some photos with captions to get caught up (if you'd prefer a short video hit this link).  Sorry, internet in this region is spotty at best. Plus, I'd made a commitment to make Bolivia a 'dry' country (from a connection perspective).  Solo travel is special, but with the advent of Facebook, e-mail, Skype, etc, it's easy to forget what it's all about...  That said, greetings from south Bolivia and enjoy!

The general outline from the last couple of weeks is as follows... 

  •   Day 1 - La Paz (through the Death Road and Coroico) to Chulumani
  •   Day 2 - Chulumani to Inquisivi (wanted Independencia, but a landslide had me backtrack to Inquisivi
  •   Day 3 - Inquisivi to Cochabamba
  •   Days 4 through 6 - Cochabamba to/through ToroToro
  •   Day 7 - ToroToro to Mizque
  •   Day 8 - Mizque to Sucre (three nights in Sucre w/ my friend Caroline)
  •   Day 11 - Sucre (through Potosi) to Uyuni (three days in Uyuni exploring)
Wrapping up my time in Valle de la Luna La Paz, Bolivia.
This looked like a Dr. Seuss landscape to me.  Very surreal...  
Bolivia is the land of roadblocks...  Both natural (landslides) and manmade.
Like this example just outside of Chulumani.  The protesters weren't very happy when
I gassed it directly over top of their 'creation'.  I was quite proud of myself however. :)
Typical scene on the Ruta de la Muerte (Death Road) in Bolivia...
Seriously...  How is this considered a main road???  Ruta de la Muerte, Bolivia

Perched precariously on top of a cliff somewhere along the Death Road.  The burned remains of a
bus carcass lays beneath this photo about 2k feet down.  Seems they weren't quite as lucky.  :( 
Whenever people see the bike (and in this case find out I race back home) they
want me to be involved in their culture and festivities.  Here I was asked to be
a co-pilot during a life-size pinewood derby race in Chulumani.  This dude was
the current champion, but I caught him after boozing all day, so his cornering skills
weren't the best...  at all.  We tipped over headed into turn 1.  No trophy that day!
One of the magical dirt roads between Chulumani and Inquisivi...  
And another...  
The first of MANY fairly deep and sketch water crossings...  
Somewhere between Inquisivi and Cochabamba.  The roads were desolate, wild, and stunning in this area. 
Another fine example of the Bolivian countryside...  
Drink it in!!!  
Due to a massive landslide, I was forced to backtrack to Inquisivi.  My original plan was Independencia
to Cochabamba, but ended up being Inquisivi to Cocha.  Amazing riding nonetheless.  
16k+ feet...  Cold as ice!  Literally...  
The only roadblock in almost eight months that has forced me to turn back.  The rest I've found a way
around, or up and over!  I felt deflated, but the alternative route provided equally great roads/scenery
To/through ToroToro Nat'l Park.  This 'main' road somehow turned into a railroad line.  After
scooting along this for approx 25km, a toothless dude stopped me and told me that a
train would be arriving the other direction soon, so I should get the hell off the tracks! 
Interestingly, that was AFTER another toothless dude told me the tracks weren't in use. 
Needless to say, I never saw a train, and the ride was spectacular.  :)
Cerca ToroToro... 
Easy to get lost out here as this is considered a main highway.  ToroToro is one of the
most undiscovered places in all of Bolivia.  I definitely felt that when I was there.   
There is the official Death Road, then there are the thousands of 
other 'death roads' in Bolivia.  This a prime example... 
Selfie @ 16k+ feet!  Can't feel my freaking nose here...  Brrr!!! 
Random road headed from Mizque (beautiful small town north of Sucre)...
Yet another roadblock en route to Sucre.  Six of em in all.  All of which I blasted right through.
Ain't nobody got time fa dat!!!
The road from Mizque to Sucre.  200km of cobblestone.  Rattled my fillings loose,
but provided spectacular scenery and interesting riding conditions.  
TwoMotoKiwis (ADVrider) and my new Aussie, and German friends from Sucre...  
My new Italian friend Enrico.  Been pedaling for four years, and plans on three more!  Wowza...  
Riding with my new German mate Juan (this from Sucre to Uyuni)...
I have grown to LOVE the desert, and the ethereal isolation it provides.  This nearing Uyuni...
Ummm...  no comment.  
The 'other' less visited train graveyard approx 25k north of Uyuni... 
I can see it!  Crested a hill from a dirt road and caught a glimpse of Salar de Uyuni
for the first time.  Something I've wanted to visit for 10+ years...  Trés cool. 
Pondering life behind those obnoxious goggles.  Either that or trying to slip one out without sharting.
Sorry, I know that's gross, but the food and water in Bolivia aren't the cleanest. 
'Rippin Farts & Breakin Hearts'...  Tour of the Americas 2014' 
Seriously, and I wonder why my tires don't last longer...  :/
Goofing off outside of Uyuni w/ my new amigo Juan.   
Train graveyard just outside of Uyuni... 

Celebrating Juan's bday @ Extreme Fun Pub in Uyuni.  Hope he had a good time.
I did, but had one of the worst hangovers of my entire life this morning. 
Dehydration + 12k altitude + waaaay too many drinks = Ugly

Plans from here are fairly simple, tomorrow we plan to explore the salt all day.  We were going to do that yesterday, but the entire town of Uyuni had run out of petrol until around 4pm.  Plus, I got my third rear puncture of the trip, so spent the remainder of the day repairing that, tinkering with the bike, and spooning on my new front Pirelli MT21.  

In two days, I'll wake up and head out early.  The plan is to head south via Ruta Lagunillas in one day to Laguna Colorada (the red lake).  It will be tough going, but there aren't any hotels before that, and it is incredibly cold at night...  like below zero temps!  From there I continue south into Chile, ultimately parking the bike in San Pedro de Atacama for several days of exploration in/around the Atacama Desert.  

I think that's it for now.  Juan is pressuring me to go grab a beer.  Chat soon amigos!  

~ D