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BOLIVIA is ADVENTURE

Written on: Sunday June 15th, 2008

 

So I left San Pedro De Atacama, with new Tyre, Chain and 2new sprockets. I crossed north on a good road and began the easy road into Bolivia, the road was actually great, They had recently opened or increased the excavation at San Cristobal.. so mineral excavation means good roads. The good dirt road brought me through a valley of strangely shaped rocks, camera out..then on to the minimal town of Villa Alota where I decided to send my first night. Basic accommodation for 2 euro, electricity from 7 to 9, then lights out. The next day I went on to Uyuni, the stopover town for Expeditions onto the biggest salt lake in the world, Salar Uyuni. I was informed that as it was lunch it would be too late to start out on the Salt flats as all the 4x4s start in the morning and it would be better to follow them toward the Island in the middle, a quick internet session then for some lunch in the Extreme fun pub, where i got info from the main man there saying it would be easy to get to the island, just enter the salar 20ks north of Uyuni, and follow the many tracks. "Easy" you say ..so change of plan and I was off. By the time I got petrol and tried to head 20ks north on the heavily corrugated road to Colchani, it was getting late in the day and after I went a bit onto the salt flats and looked at the endless expanses of white I decided to check into a hotel by the side of the salar and wait to head off in the morning. Just safer I thought. The road from Uyuni to Colchani was por and I had to ride to the side of the road because of the heavy corrugation, the sandy tracks created by 4x4 tours beside the "main" road were infinitely better and they seemed to go everywhere and Criss Cross over each other. There were lazy flowing weaving tracks all over the place and the bike just glided along smoothly.
That night I had a look at two salt hotels being built, one was a ridiculous 120dollars per night so I went back to town and ended up finding a salt hotel for 3 euro (walls, ground, tables and bed frames all salt), it included parking for my bike inside my room, about 8 beds and a fireplace. I was delighted. The lady who rented it to me even let me have another room as well, solely for the purpose of charging my camera battery. She went into town while I settled in and came back with a bag of firewood and the veg I had ordered from her for a ridiculously low price. Her and her son joined me while the firewood burned then soon after i went to sleep. The next morning, cold as usual I needed to jump start the bike. I got it going myself on completely flat ground at 3650meters above sea level it is quite tough, not as much air as one would like for pushing as heavy bike, but I have the technique down.. Run it but dont try to throw the leg over when you jump on, just jump onto the side ur running on cos you dont loose any speed then..
In - t - resting, Im sure... Anyway onto the faithful day, the day that started like a dream and ended like a nightmare.
Salar de Uyuni is the world's largest salt flat at 10,582 km² (4,085 square miles).
I entered the Salar to Bon Jovi - Living on a prayer (Ive only got the one tune from them it was faiths decision to dish it up on shuffle)... As I headed out and began to be surrounded on all sides by white salt I had one of those face cramping smiles on. I was delighted to be cruising along, a magical place. I followed the 4x4 tracks west by north west. All the tracks seemed to converge here or there and it was obvious i was on the right course. There were 4x4s in the distance and I could always follow them when I wasnt stoping to take photos. I crossed the place where months ago there had been a tragic and unavoidable head on crash between two tour jeeps, Alot of Isrealis and Japs lost their lives, there were no survivers and there is a small memorial for them, It just seems so crazy that this could have happened. I kept well wide of oncoming vehicles. Soon I had crossed the 80 or so ks on the salt to get to the Island, it is covered with coral from the times when the pacific came through here as far in as Lake Titicaca. I had lunch here, took some cliched photos and headed on to the next small Island, trekked to the top and when I came down started off to my intended exit on the north side of the salar, easily marked by a huge volcano. I got up to speeds of 140kmph on the flats and I kinda wish I had unloaded my luggage and really checked the top speed. The surface in these parts of the salar are perfect for such tests. I got the north end of the Salar and exited the Salar. Mission accomplished. Without GPS, no worries. I drove around the base of the volcano on rocky roads and was only going at 30 or 40 ks an hour, I decided to go back on the salar and hug the base of the volcano and exit the salar further to the north east in the direction I had intended going.
This was to be where my great day on the Salar turned into a nightmare. I asked a 4x4 driver could I exit at the further town to the northeast : "Sure". The salar so far had been so perfect that I didnt think to ask about the quality of this route and he never though to tell me. I was now back cruising at about 100, I hugged the base of the volcano. The ground started to become wet and soon I was in the middle of salt lakes, the ground was still hard but there was a layer of salt water spraying up and all over the bike and my legs. PANIC! I tried to go further from the side of the salar but the salt water seemed to stretch quite far out, so I turned the bike around and headed back for where I came off the salar. Once out of the wet section I stopped the bike and thought how linden is probably feeling the hairs stand up on the back of his neck right now. "Something is wrong in the world" ; ) A bike covered in salt water, thick thick layers of salt everywhere! I decided to go back to Uyuni Immediately, although I had planned on heading north I knew I had to get back to the Powersprayers to get the salt off. The sun was going down in the West(as it generally does) and i decided to head south by south east, using my shadow to guide me back to Uyuni. That was the plan. So off I set and I kept going in the direction I believed was correct. Uyuni was about 40ks due south and then turn east for 80ks, if I went back the way I came and thats what I should have done in hindsight. I had though I need to get there quickly and Ill head Diagonally. Hopefully I´ll cross some tracks or even see a 4x4 going back to Uyuni. I saw neither. I stopped many times to recalculate the direction and distance and where I thought I should be, there isnt much to orientate yourself with and soon I was close to the east coast of the salar and had started heading due south. I was sure I was still north of uyuni, but of course kinda unsure aswell. I went on and on, stopped put in the reserve fuel, I would have plenty left, I was sure. So on and on I went and it was getting toward sunset, still confident, out of the salt water on solid ground, fears of Sink wholes had mostly gone away, but I still feared for the state of my bike. Then to compound the bad feelings the ground started to get soft and the bike was slowed by the mud... I had to drop down a gear to keep her "lit", then I came to a section where the bike swerved wildly from right to left. I carved deep tracks in this mud and I was sure I was gonna come off, but I held on, the bike stabilised and I dropped another gear and drove slower. Soon I came to a few dried up salt river beds, I crossed a few of these without any trouble but then one of them grabbed my rear wheel in the deep wet mud. I was stuck, and stuck in deep. Exactly where I didnt wanna be. Unload the bags and try to rev it out, no chance at all. So I went in behind the pannier racks and lifted the bike out from the back, heaving an pushing with every shred of energy I had. I heard a crack.........   My Ipod was in my chest pocket and the screen was now broken(it hurts just to type this). Normally a nightmare situation like this would have me in a really bad mood but I was too focused on freeing my bike. It took ages but eventually after pushing it out of the mud I freed it, I made a few vids but not a chance of uploading them in Bolivia. Mud was all over the place and once I had the bike packed up again and started off I realised that it was just too dark to continue even with headlights. I setup camp. I buried the snow flaps on the tent under mud and salt, I was expecting a cold night and I got it. Up at 4 am to get the stove going..
Soon it was light and the cold night was over. I tried to wake my bike, it wouldnt start on the button, so I had to try and jump it, no joy. The ground was too soft to get any speed and of course I am a few thousand meters above sea level, so not great air for heavy work. I was lucky (well relatively anyway) there was a group of houses by the side of the salar. I hoped there was someone there. It took 10 minutes to get there, the smoke coming from the chimney was a god sign and soon I was back at the bike being pushed by the lads from town. The bike started and I was packing my stuff. I gave them a load of money by Bolivian standards and other stuff I had with me, I was so happy to not have to push start the bike myself. I was delighted to be on my way on a track they showed me. I asked was it soft ahead and was there only one track .. All good. I had made it close to Uyuni.. well I was 50ks north, I was cruising along when the ground started to turn to sand, the drama wasnt over yet, the tracks split in many directions, I went closer to the mountains to avoid the deep sand, the bike and I fell a few times, then I realised that when I headed into the mountains a bit I had been cut off from the track south by a raised bed. I had to backtrack, I just gunned it over the sand and I was flying along, for a while I felt like I had conquered sand. I met up with the track again and was heading south. It got better and worse but I was over the bad stuff. I passed through abandoned mud walled villages and with the sand all around I felt like I was in Africa. After one or two more falls I was back cruising along better tracks beside the main road. Once back in town I saw Arthurs bike. A Dublin lad with a 94 Kawasaki KLR which he bough over here, he turned up stared at the muddy sandy salt covered mess in front of him, and we both went to the powersprayer place (was told not great for motos but compared to salt, its a No Contest). Once clean, burgered and chipped, we headed toward Potosi together. We drove till it was dark and the road that started off terribly got better and soon we were cruising over mountains and rolling down into the Valleys, but we had to take a pitstop in a nowhere town called Porco. It has a mine and not much else.
The next day was spent waiting at the blockade. Before we went there though we decided to try the "road" beside the railway tracks, it lead to potosi and we were advised that it was wide and hard ground... one word :  Bullshit. Soft ground, big rocks in the middle of the track and not wide enough really, and then hter was a river aswell, and we found out that the river crosses the track many times, so back we went. I think people see our big bikes and think we can drive on anything. The miners were on strike because their wages have been taxed or lowered by the companies that control the mines, and they were poor enough before this. The day was spent going back and forth between the two blockades and eventually after listening to lots of ...ITS OVER!!, Finito, 1 hour now, news at 2.30, we are listening to the radio for news of government intervention, maybe later, we eventually decided to head back to town. As sunset approached Arthur and I were stuck between the two roadblocks, trucks were going over the steep edge of the road and down onto a lower road to get free, I can believe they all made it. We sized up a steep but consistent slope to drive off to get free. Adrenaline was high, blood pumping and Arthur went first, he did it!, now for my turn..but a minute later I was advised that I could go back through the roadblock, easy ; )  ... That was funny
On Saturday the roadblocks were called off for the weekend and we got through to Potosi and then on to meet up with Peadar, Lily, and many others we had met along the way in Sucre.

 

 

From Miguel on Nov 27th, 2012

Dancing Creek Farm is a wonderful place to board a dog when you have to be away. Tamara trates our English Setter, Sadie, the same way she trates her own dogs, and we can go out of town with full confidence that Sadie is being cared for the same way we care for her.Until we found Tamara we boarded Sadie at the vetâ??s. After the first time boarding her with the vet, not only did she not want to go back when we left town, she still has trouble getting herself out of the car when we have to go to get check-ups and shots. The people at the vet are excellent and the boarding is acceptable, but with the choice of leaving her there, where she stays most of the time in a crate or leaving her with Tamara where she can run with other dogs and enjoy the air-conditioned dog house (with TV and futon), there is no question which we choose.We call the kennel â??doggie camp,â?? and Sadie gets all excited when we head up the road to Tamaraâ??s house. And when she sees Tamara, it is all we can do to hold her on the leash. This is truly a wonderful place to board dogs at the same rate our vet charges. Tamaraâ??s love for animals and her concern for the welfare of her boarders is wonderful. Itâ??s a great facility run by a great animal lover. We greatly appreciate the services she offers.

From Leandra on Nov 28th, 2012

Where do we begin , just the fact that Casper and Bullet were allowed to roam wiuohtt being locked in a cage for 12 hours a day was worth the money right there, also knowing they were actually being looked after ,walked and allowed to adjust to their new surroundings was wonderful We will definitely use Dancing Creek again, knowing that Casper,Bullet and our family will all have a stress free vacation