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Old 03-10-2013, 08:10 PM   #131
porkandcorn OP
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Joined: Jan 2011
Location: Portland, Oregon
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purmamarca, argentina to tarija, bolivia

sunday, march 10, 2013

chile on friday. argentina on saturday. today, bolivia. always happy to be back on the road. and bolivia's first day did not disappoint. i wandered into another marathon off-road session of hair-raising mountain roads.

i was a bit nervous about the villazon border crossing. i'd heard mixed reviews from other travelers. but actually, it was very calm, organized and more or less efficient. i actually had my argentine moto import documents this time… so getting the ok to leave argentina was a 5-minute process. the bolivian customs officials were in love with my moto, and wanted to talk a lot about it. that's the only thing that slowed down the import/immigration process. i was through the border in an hour, and into bolivia.

the border, villazon, bolivia by porkandcorn, on Flickr

muchos documentos, villazon, bolivia by porkandcorn, on Flickr

right away, it's apparent that bolivia is not swimming in money. the border town was a stark contrast, even to the cash-strapped north of argentina. the roads in the town were in complete disarray. piles of dirt and mud on the south bound lane crunched traffic to one lane, and even then you are driving over trash, and through deep mud puddles. i got completely covered in red-brown sludge up to my knees within the first 5 minutes of being in bolivia.

but i was very excited to be there. i'd been traipsing all over chile, argentina, uruguay and brazil for 2 months. i was ready for something new. and i got it.

north of villazon, bolivia by porkandcorn, on Flickr

after about 20km of pavement, the road east that led to tarija, bolivia was a disaster. you've heard the description previously - of dirt, big rocks, sand. this one was worse. and i learned a lesson about googling my route the night before. the lesson is: do it. the paper map showed a relatively straight, meandering road through what i thought were gentle foothills. very wrong.

google ruta 20, bolivia by porkandcorn, on Flickr

mas curvas, ruta 20, bolivia by porkandcorn, on Flickr

ruta 20, bolivia by porkandcorn, on Flickr

muchas montañas, ruta 20, bolivia by porkandcorn, on Flickr

bolivia lived up to it's reputation for carved-out, mountain-side roads that put the fear of jebus in your if you look over the edge. one mistake, one lapse of concentration, and no more fritz.

long way down, ruta 20, bolivia by porkandcorn, on Flickr

it's just as steep going down, ruta 20, bolivia by porkandcorn, on Flickr

another bus, ruta 20, bolivia by porkandcorn, on Flickr

the photos really don't put the depth into perspective. it's far, far down. if you look very close at the photos, or click on them to pull up the larger originals, you can see the little tiny roads above and below the spots the photos were taken. it's amazing to think that these roads twist all over this country, through all the mountains… and they have a lot of mountains here. seems like that's about it, until you get to the amazon basin.

i never think i am going to make it to my goal/destination, but so far i seem to be good or lucky. route 20 was about 3 hours ride. very exhausting, both mentally and physically. but absolutely beautiful.

muchas mas curvas, ruta 20, bolivia by porkandcorn, on Flickr

river at halfway point, ruta 20, bolivia by porkandcorn, on Flickr

mountains and river, ruta 20, bolivia by porkandcorn, on Flickr

tiger in the wild, ruta 20, bolivia by porkandcorn, on Flickr

ominous clouds at the river, ruta 20, bolivia by porkandcorn, on Flickr

i also dropped the bike again - trying to get another photo, which follows the tip-over shot... unbelievable. very stupid. and very heavy to lift by myself. i had to take off the duffle bag, the rear case, and even then had to summon the superman in me. (hence, i had time to take a quick photo to remind myself to be more careful next time.) as you can see, i did use the kickstand.

another photo related spill, ruta 20, bolivia by porkandcorn, on Flickr

climbing up again, ruta 20, bolivia by porkandcorn, on Flickr

route 1 was turning out to be a bit easier, until a thunderstorm formed above me on the way down into tarija. there is a gap in photos from this time. that is because i was getting hammered with rain and lightning. at one point, lightning struck so close to me, and scared me so much, that i almost ran into the rising wall on the right of the road thinking that i was swerving to avoid the strike. the air was thick with ozone from the bolt. adrenaline was coursing through my body. i might be an idiot, but i was enjoying the terror. i was sticking to the wall, as visibility was not amazing, and the run-off from the rain was causing wash-outs in the road on the "cliff" side. you'd stick close to the wall too…

another set of mountains to climb, ruta 1, bolivia by porkandcorn, on Flickr

clouds over tarija, ruta 20, bolivia by porkandcorn, on Flickr

i rolled into tarija just as it got dark. i had researched places to stay with a trip advisor app on my iphone, but the idiots that designed the app don't allow you to cache data so that you can pull up the info when you are not on wifi. so again, i looked for the central square, or in this case, squares. i picked one. turned out to be good. i saw motorcycle parking right next to a restaurant with outdoor seating. i hadn't eaten since breakfast, because i forgot to pack some snacks for the road. not a lot of food options in bolivia on the road like there are in chile, argentina. another lesson learned: pack snacks. always.

so i held off on looking for a hotel, and snuggled up to a filet mignon with rich, mushroom cream sauce and papas fritas. also the requisite glass of regional wine, which tarija specializes in. the waiter said the best hotel in town was across the street. i got a bit lucky with my landing in this town.

i wish everything was this clean, tarija, bolivia by porkandcorn, on Flickr

porkandcorn screwed with this post 04-20-2013 at 09:18 PM
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