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Old 10-13-2012, 06:47 PM   #1
artia OP
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Wicked Bolivia trip so far ... one month in!

Hey all! My amigo and I are now a month into our Bolivia adventure on motorbikes and loving it so far. Haven't loaded pics on the computer yet but plan to do it in a week to share with you all, looking really forward to going through them all!

So far we've put 2500km on the bikes (chinese motos - Pegasus 250cc - treated us pretty well so far except the throttle has a bit of a delay these days). Started in La Paz, hit Coroico, Rurrenabaque, Trinidad, Santa Cruz, Vallegrande, Sucre, and are now in Potosi. About to leave for Uyuni tomorrow to see the salt flats and lagunas. Fingers crossed that the bikes hold up while we're there! Also, had a couple questions for you guys as to the best route and best places to go.

- We will arrive in Uyuni tomorrow from Potosi and will start our tour of Uyuni / the Lagunas the day after. We don't have a good route yet (or a good map for that matter, the Info Tur office is closed here! hopefully we can find one in Uyuni). Do you guys have a solid route we can use (gps waypoints possibly) or recommendation for us to see the Salar de Uyuni and Lagunas in 3-4 days?
- We'd love to find a hot spring to camp by one night if possible. Do you guys have gps coords for a great hot spring for us to spend the night nearby? Also,
- Are there places to refill on gas in the small town between the salar and the Lagunas? Our bikes only have 170km range unfortunately and we're carrying an extra 6L fuel on us. Not sure if this is enough.
- What did you guys do for meals? We have a Jetboil but we dont have a gas canister for it. Any other options for dinner that we buy beforehand?

Here's to hoping the bikes hold up! Can't wait to give you all an update!
Kevin

P.S. I've read a couple accounts of people having trouble buying bikes and getting legal plates for them in Bolivia. I can tell you that my friend and I have had a very easy time getting all the paperwork necessary, much easier than expected. Will post a longer account of this shortly - exactly where we bought the bikes and where we got all the legal docs. The only thing left to be seen is how difficult it is to cross into Peru (and Ecuador and Colombia)
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Old 10-14-2012, 08:33 AM   #2
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Hi Kevin, glad your trip is going well and the bikes are holding up for you. I dont know what elevation those bikes are jetted for when you bought them, but if they were jetted for La Paz elevations, when you get into the lowlands you might want to check that out so you dont burn up the motors from running too lean once you get down. Just a thought.


Hopefully, you can find a map in Uyuni, bummer that the info tur office was closed because that is a damned fine map of the area.

However, Mark posted some hi-res jpegs of that map on your other Bolivia thread when you were doing your planning. So if you cant find maps, print these up....


Here are those maps: Salar area: http://photos.smugmug.com/photos/118...4_ut3Tn-X3.jpg

South of the Salar area: http://photos.smugmug.com/photos/118...3_fRJt6-X3.jpg

The rough route:

Uyuni - Isla Incahuasi - Isla Pescado (camp for the night.)
Isla Pescado - Isla Incahuasi - follow tracks to the south exit off the Salar
South exit - San Juan
San Juan - Chinguana
Chinguana - 3 little lakes Go south from Chinguana not west!
3 little lakes - Laguna Colorado
Laguna Colorado - Hot springs
Hot Springs - Laguna Verde
Laguna Verde - San Pedro de Atacama

Follow along. go onto the Salar. Camp at Isla Pescado. In the morning, back track to Incahuasi, then south following the tracks all the way to the south end of the Salar where you will find the proper exit and stay out of the mud.

Here is the south exit off the Salar de Uyuni:



Next, follow the exit off the Salar then follow the road to San Juan, and from San Juan to Chinguana.

From Chinguana cross the RR track and go south along the road, (do not take the road west to Ollague!) continue south keeping volcan Ollague on your right and make your way to the three little lakes where you will find some nice camping spots. Go further south to Laguna Colorado, further south along the same road to Salar de Chilviri, then to Laguna Verde at the bottom of the map and exit Bolivia near San Pedro de Atacama, Chile. Should be easy to print up this map.

As far as GPS is concerned, if you can get some decent internet bandwidth (which is tough in Bolivia I realize) there is a free map, ConoSur Geored: http://www.gps.com.ar/ that has the roads on the Lagunas route. You would have to upload them to an SD card, or to a computer with Mapsource installed then install in the GPS. I had the tracks of my route after I rode it, but that computer got stolen in Colombia unfortunately. If that doesnt work for you, go to this site http://garmin.openstreetmap.nl/ and build yourself a GPS map for the regions you need. They will compile the maps you selected and let you know via email when its available for download. Once you get the email, it will have the download link and will offer several formats if you are using Mapsource, Basecamp, or just putting it on an SD card to put in the GPS. Its also free.

Gas. Well, it might be a problem but you can work it out. The entire route from Uyuni to San Pedro de Atacama is about 600 kms. 170 km range is pretty thin, carry as much extra gas as you possibly can leaving Uyuni. Once you exit the Salar off the south end, after quite a few miles, the next village you come to is called San Juan. Looks like something out of a Spaghetti Western.





There is a lady there a few buildings down from the town tienda that sells barrel gas. She may tell you that she doesnt have enough fuel to sell you, but once you explain how little you need and how badly you need it, she will sell you fuel. Once again, get as much as you can carry because its still well over 100 miles to Laguna Colorado IIRC.

Next place for fuel will be at Laguna Colorado, but you could possibly flag down a Cruiser along the way and beg for fuel. When the Land Cruiser tours come into Laguna Colorado in the afternoon, they will be carrying fuel and will be happy to sell you whatever you need.

After that, next fuel will be in San Pedro de Atacama, but the funny old guy running the restaurant at the hot springs past Colorado might have a little fuel to sell you. The tours also come through there and like I mentioned, they always carry fuel and dont mind selling a few liters. If for some reason you run out of fuel, if you are on the main route, you should be able to flag down a passing Land Cruiser and get some fuel from them. The drivers are all pretty nice and glad to help. However, they drive like complete mad men, so when you are on the route keep a good eye on your 6 as some of these guys will come up on you at close to 100 mph in some sections.

As far as a stove, I made a beer can stove and burned the 96% alcohol (also drinkable ) that you can buy just about anywhere for 7 Bs/liter. At those elevations it will heat up water if you build a nice windscreen for it, but as far as any real cooking, it will take a long time.





I carried food from Uyuni, then bought some junk food at the tienda in San Juan. At Laguna Colorado I was out of food, but the folks there that cater to the tours took pity on me and made me dinner.

All of this is along the main tour route and its pretty easy to navigate in most section. An easy place to get a little turned around and messed up is after leaving San Juan and crossing the salar Chinguana. At the end of town in San Juan, get on the salar Chinguana.






It may involve a little cross country riding to find the main tracks again, but my memory is getting a little fuzzy on that now. If all else fails, follow the tire tracks in the sand, they will go somewhere. However some tracks will lead west into Chile at Ollague, but you dont want to do that, you want to continue south into the lagunas. You want to follow the RR track for a while after leaving San Juan then cross the railroad tracks and head south. It should be fairly obvious where to do this. The RR tracks themselves actually go to Ollague, Chile I think. You will see various tracks going off in different directions, but oftentimes, they will rejoin the main route, however sometimes not, so stay frosty and pay attention because of your limited fuel range. There are places where you will be confused about which way to go. Take your time and work it out because it is very remote country. Make sure you have plenty of water.

Take as much fuel as you can carry at each stop because if you get lost, you could burn through that before you are able to rejoin the main route.

I rode from the Salar de Uyuni to Laguna Colorado in a day, but its about 200 miles and I was moving pretty good. You could plan to camp in between San Juan and Colorado at one of the small lakes. There is one lake, the one before Laguna Honda IIRC, that had a full restaurant set up that catered to the tours as well, and you could probably talk them into sleeping inside on the floor if you need to get out of the cold.

Also, just before Laguna Colorado is a park entrance office. They will charge you a fee to go through the park and its not cheap, around 150 Bs if I remember correctly, so make sure you plan to have enough money for that entrance fee.

After Laguna Colorado, you will come to the hot springs.



Like I mentioned, there is a family there that runs a restaurant, which of course has food. They will also let you camp on the restaurant floor for the night if you want to get out of the wind and cold.

One other thing I would like to mention is that when you are on the salar, stay on the tracks. Once you get off of those tracks you could break through the crust and wind up buried in axle deep wet, salty mud, which would be very bad for the bike's electronics. Avoid any damp or wet areas on that salar, very important for the bikes to keep running. Also, camping on the salar, I would recommend Isla Pescado, about 10 km NW of Isla Incahuasi.

I dont know what you are planning after the Lagunas. But, when you get into Chile and San Pedro de Atacama you will not be stopped by migracion or aduana. The offices are on your right as you ride into town, you cant miss them. You process yourself and your bikes into Chile there. Then, before you leave San Pedro for Argentina you need to go to that same office and check yourself and bikes out of Chile as well as there are no options to do that at Paso de Jama or Paso Sico. They will ask you what way you are taking into Argentina. Once into Argentina, you can pick up Ruta 40 and Ruta 9 northeast to re-enter Bolivia at Villazon. At the Argentina migracion and aduana office/checkpoint at Paso de Jama there is a YPF and you can get fuel there. The route from Villazon to the north back into Bolivia is very nice.

Alternatively, from San Pedro, you can stay in Chile and continue north through the Atacama if you are wanting a quick way to get to Peru, all depends on what you want to do. In any case, you will need to check in with migracion and aduana in San Pedro.

This is an epic, epic route in SW Bolivia and will no doubt be the highlight of your trip. Hope this info helps you out.

buen viaje!
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crashmaster screwed with this post 10-14-2012 at 12:08 PM
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Old 10-14-2012, 03:05 PM   #3
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hello kevinballa,

We were going the oposite way, a few days ago. Was it you at the road after La Higuera, heading for Sucre, when we stopped and talked? we were 2-up on a grey F800GS.

We did the eastern route from Lag. Colorada to Uyuni, instead of the western route that crashmaster describes because it is supposed to be easier on a heavy 2-up bike. Seeing it from your way, from Uyuni you go to San Cristobal where is the only place to get gas on the eastern route. Then is Villa Alota, then Villa Mar, then start the lagunas.

If you decide to follow the eastern route, I can send you the gpx file with the track.
Also you can always ask for info and/or gas from the 4x4 jeeps that do the tours, along the way. I did it twice and they gave me gas.
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Old 10-14-2012, 03:34 PM   #4
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Regarding meals, our experience was that at all hospedajes that we slept, at villa mar, at lag. colorada (the last hospedaje at the south end of the establishment), and at lag. blanca (right oposite to the rangers spot) they offered us meals for 30, 20, and 40 bolivianos respectively, including mate, soup, and main dishes. The cheapest one, at lag. colorada, was the biggest of all, and included breakfast as well for no extra charge.
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Old 10-14-2012, 07:48 PM   #5
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Ahh thanks for the quick responses! Just arrived in Uyuni - gotta say not what I expected but had some fun tonight in the town.

Crashmaster - you're the man, this is super helpful and hits all the spots I've heard about for the most part. To be clear, we're not planning on entering Chile so I'll be following that route up until San Pedro. Any recommendations for taking a different route back up to Oruro or should we just backtrack and play it safe? Also, is there only one hot springs we can visit? The one you mention, is it commercialized (i.e., is the restaurant right next door or is it a legit natural hot springs with nobody capitalizing on it .. we'd of course prefer the latter :) Also, just spotted an Info Tur office in Uyuni, hopefully they open tomorrow morning. I downloaded Mark's maps on my phone (thx again Mark!) but the resolution isn't very good, would love to have the map printed for us to use.

Roadspirit - Yes that was us! Small world on advrider :) Gotta say, you're carrying a lot of shit, really impressive. I can barely hold my bike up at red lights. Did you ever make it to La Higuera? It was pretty empty by the time we got there but it was a damn fun ride. We'll be heading back to La Paz after the Salar / Lagunas then into Peru, Ecuador, Colombia if the bikes permit. Any chance you'll be going to these countries too?

Look forward to giving you guys an update ... should be a fun 3-4 days :)
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Old 10-14-2012, 09:00 PM   #6
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To be clear, we're not planning on entering Chile so I'll be following that route up until San Pedro. :)
You're most likely going to need to go to San Pedro to get fuel unless the guys at the park exit can hook you up with fuel or you can scrounge off the cruiser tours.

Besides backtracking your other option is to go into Chile. From there you can head north into Peru, or go over Paso de Jama into Argentina, pick up Ruta 40 to Ruta 9 and cross back into Bolivia at Villazon. That's a really nice ride as well.

Similarly, once you get to San Pedro, you can head north up the Atacama then cross back into Bolivia again a short distance from Oruro.

Or you can back track and take the eastern route up to Uyuni north of Laguna Colorado. Not as scenic as the western route though. Its an amazing area so its worth riding twice. But if its cold and blowing like hell or if you have a hard time with the route, you probably wont want to backtrack.

Those are your options. Dont sweat the border crossings into Chile or Argentina, they are very chill. Just make sure you have all your paperwork. Might be a good idea to pick up a map of the whole Bolivia/Chile/Argentina corner so you have a better idea of your options.

The hot springs have Cruiser tours coming through all day. Its right on the main road and the restaurant is there. There are some other springs not far away that are more secluded. Just ask the old man at the restaurant.

Uyuni not what you expected eh?

Did you kind of feel like this when you pulled into Uyuni?..........




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Old 10-15-2012, 08:42 AM   #7
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Awesome, thanks again. We were planning on backtracking but to be honest going through Chile sounds like a better option. The only rub is that we have to return to La Paz for a day to pick up our plates and buy some spare parts / do some maintenance. Looks like there's a route up to Arica, Chile that heads east into Bolivia straight to La Paz. Do you know anything about this drive? Is it nice and mostly paved? Would it save us time vs backtracking through the Lagunas or going through Villazon?

As for timing, we'll have another month and a week to head to Colombia by the time we're in La Paz. I know it's really tight, but we've taken our time in Bolivia (done it right, been incredible so far). My thought is we truck through Peru for a week (only visiting Macchu Picchu) to give us more time in Ecuador/Colombia. What are your thoughts on this? Could we ride through Peru in a week using the Panamerican highway, spend a week in Ecuador, and the remainder of our time in Colombia (we're looking really forward to seeing it).

P.S. the main hot springs you mentioned near the road - are you referring to Polques Hot Springs? Only ask because we have the gps coords from a prior post :) Also, hilarious video, exactly how we felt!

Thanks! Kev
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Old 10-15-2012, 09:18 AM   #8
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I dont know if not having plates will be an issue, but you could always give it a try in San Pedro and ask right there at aduana. Shoudnt be an issue because the Chilenos seem to have their shit together.

The ride up Chile is good pavement at least to the border, but I havent crossed there so dont know what its like in Bolivia. Its probably paved though and I think it would be the quickest way back to La Paz since the 5 in Chile is straight and fast, though a bit boring.

You are doing Bolivia right. Its time well spent. But, I gotta say, the next most spectacular riding after the SW Altiplano is in the Andes of Peru.

I'll give you a recommendation, FWIW

Once you get back to La Paz to get your plates head over to Copacabana and cross into Peru there. After you cross the border, blow through Puno and Juliaca and head to Cuzco. By all means see MP, but its super, super, super, super gringoized and touristy, but still one of those places that you have to see, but dont need to linger there. After that, the real fun begins.

Download some openstreet maps for Peru and upload them to you GPS.

From Cuzco, stay in the Andes. Follow along on google maps if you can:

Cuzco - Abancay - Andahuaylas - Ayacucho - Huancayo - Junin - Huanuco.

From Huanuco you will head west to La Union. From La Union there are several ways to get to Chavin de Huantar. From Chavin go right to Huaraz and explore some of the absolutely spectacualar roads into the Cordillera Blanca.

After leaving Huaraz head north to a spot on google maps called Yuracmarca District. That is the entrance to the Cañon del Pato that will take you to Santa just north of Chimbote on the coast. Absolutely stunning and a do not miss ride in Peru.

From the coast at Santa, head north up the PanAm to Pacasmayo, then east to Cajamarca. I nice beach town to stay at along the way on the PanAm section is called Huanchaco.

From Cajamarca take the road to Celendin, then Chachapoyas. Another do not miss Andean ride from Celendin to Chachapoyas. Awesome.

From Chachapoyas that sets you up to get into Ecuador. Head northwest on 5N then 3N to Jaen, north to San Ignacio then straight north to the super mellow Ecuador border crossing at La Balsa.

From La Balsa proceed north into Ecuador all the way to Vilcabamba where there is a really nice German run hostel right off the main road before you get into town called Izhcayluma.

This route through Peru is spectacular. The PanAm is a complete boring waste of time by comparison. This route will be about 50/50 dirt pavement, but the dirt is good dirt road and takes you through stunning scenery and I would highly recommend it.

Over 2 years on the road I have to say that my favorite riding was in Bolivia, then in Peru.

This route will take you about 13 days. I would much rather spend the time here and blow through Ecuador. The beauty is that if you find yourself pressed for time on this route, you can bail out to the coast and the PanAm in many places, but I think once youre on it, you'll want to continue. The cordillera blanca and cañon del pato should not be missed though, as well as the Celendin - Chachapoyas route.

These are a few pages of my website that start with an interactive google map that will outline the route for you. I of course went north to south.

From Lake Titicaca: http://www.rattlesnakeobservatory.co...chu-and-south/

To Cañon del Pato, Huaraz, and the coast: http://www.rattlesnakeobservatory.co...eruvian-andes/

From the coast to the Ecuador border at La Balsa: http://www.rattlesnakeobservatory.co...northern-peru/

Hope this will give you some good ideas.

saludos, Vin
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Old 10-15-2012, 09:22 AM   #9
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If you're not going to Chile you can go to Laguna Verde then head north on the main jeep route past the East side of Chivalri to Quetena/Uturuncu, this is supposed to be a cool park and Volcan Uturuncu is 6KM.

From there you can stay on the main jeep route to Tupiza with lots of options off the main route, San Vicente is a neat excursion.
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Old 10-15-2012, 09:39 AM   #10
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If you're not going to Chile you can go to Laguna Verde then head north on the main jeep route past the East side of Chivalri to Quetena/Uturuncu, this is supposed to be a cool park and Volcan Uturuncu is 6KM.

From there you can stay on the main jeep route to Tupiza with lots of options off the main route, San Vicente is a neat excursion.
Good option as well.
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Old 10-15-2012, 03:57 PM   #11
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Hey Kevin,

Was nice meeting both of you at the Peruvian border. How are things going, did you manage to get checked-in into Peru?

Ride safe,
Guillaume
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Old 10-16-2012, 07:57 AM   #12
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...
Roadspirit - Yes that was us! Small world on advrider :) Gotta say, you're carrying a lot of shit, really impressive. I can barely hold my bike up at red lights. Did you ever make it to La Higuera? It was pretty empty by the time we got there but it was a damn fun ride. We'll be heading back to La Paz after the Salar / Lagunas then into Peru, Ecuador, Colombia if the bikes permit. Any chance you'll be going to these countries too?

Look forward to giving you guys an update ... should be a fun 3-4 days :)
Hello Kevin, nice talking to you!

Yes, It's hard sometimes with all this load, considering that my offroad riding experience prior the trip was not that much! I've already dropped the bike 3 times

We made it to La Higuera and it was great, very tranquil.
Currently we are at Coroico, probably tomorrow we will leave heading to Ticicaca lake. We will cross into Peru where we will do pretty much all the route that crashmaster suggests. Then it is Ecuador. I don't know if we will make it to Colombia, I know by reading other people's reports that it is a gem, but maybe our time won't be enough for it. Will see, plans always change.

Hope to see you again, if not, wishing you a great and safe trip!
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Old 10-16-2012, 08:20 AM   #13
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Good option as well.
Camping at Uturuncu would be kick ass.

PS- I didn't realize you plan on going beyond Bolivia, if you do, Vinnie's route advice above is worth the effort. Epic stuff.
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Old 10-16-2012, 09:08 AM   #14
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PS- I didn't realize you plan on going beyond Bolivia, if you do, Vinnie's route advice above is worth the effort. Epic stuff.
This ought to get them stoked about the Andes route in Peru:



















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Old 10-17-2012, 06:44 PM   #15
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This ought to get them stoked about the Andes route in Peru:
I don't know about them, but it got me stoked.
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