One Day at a time - Riding the Americas

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by RangeRoad, Sep 5, 2017.

  1. RangeRoad

    RangeRoad Been here awhile

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    Day 126 – Dakar day 2

    With the competitors taking a rest day in La Paz we made our way into town in search of the bivouac. We weren’t allowed into the site, but we could get close enough to see a lot of the vehicles and even talk to some of the crews. My Czech friends waved their flag proudly, which grabbed the attention of some of the Czech teams. They talked to us for quite a while telling us about the conditions in the bivouac and sharing some of the crazy untold stories that happen during the race. Unfortunately I couldn’t understand a word of it, but my friends translated afterwards.

    La Paz also has a great new system of gondola’s that are used for public transit. We rode the gondola over the city, which was an awesome stress free way to see the town. For a city built on so many levels, gondola’s are a perfect public transit solution. Fast, quite, clean and able to climb up and down all of the hills with ease. The system they are building will be amazing when it is completed and should be a model for other cities around the world.

    Overall I have really liked La Paz. Many people seem to speak ill of it claiming heavy traffic, filth and poverty. I have a very different opinion. The city I saw was proud, relatively clean (by S.A. standards) and full of warm and wonderful people.
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  2. RangeRoad

    RangeRoad Been here awhile

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    Day 127 & 128 – The Death Road

    I woke up the next day felling like death. Paul, Lucie and I played a game that involves opening a bottle of rum and throwing away the lid. Riding the death road would have to wait. It was pouring rain anyway.

    My Czech friends packed up, they were off towards Uyuni and will be returning home soon. As one group of friends left, a new friend appeared. Tim, also a Tiger 800 rider, showed up to camp. Tim and I had been messaging back an forth for a while, but we had never actually met in person.

    We planned to ride the death road the next day, we both needed a day to recover.

    Our trip to the death road started out more eventful than expected. Tim’s bike was running hot and coolant was boiling over. The same symptoms I had experienced a few weeks earlier. We checked the coolant, sure enough it was very low even after topping it up the previous day. Being Sunday in La Paz, all the major moto shops were closed. It took a while but we eventually found a shop with coolant compatible with aluminum engines. The original plan to just top it up was thrown out when we opened the rad cap to find dirt in the radiator. The cap on the reservoir had come off the day before and all the riding in the rain and mud must have gotten some dirt in the system. We had to drain the whole system just to be safe.
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    We carefully collected all the coolant in an oil pan. We were working in the street and didn’t want to have coolant drain into the gutters. It was a relatively quick job and soon we were packed up and ready to roll again. We headed back on the road just in time to watch the mechanic dump the oil pan in the gutter. Well at least we tried to do the right thing.

    It was sunny in La Paz, overcast and cold at the top of the pass, foggy on the other side and pouring rain by the time we reached the top of the death road. For those that don’t know, this fabled stretch of road was the deadliest “highway” on earth. Now that trucks and buses can take the paved bypass it no longer sees such a high mortality rate, but it is a piece of driving history and a bucket list road for many motorcyclists.
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    The road is a single lane, dirt and rock track carved into the side of the mountains. On one side is mountain and on the other is cliff. On a moto there is enough room to pass oncoming traffic, but when two cars meet, often one will have to backup in order to find a place wide enough to pass.

    By the time we reached the bottom the rain had let up, the sun was out and it was 20 degrees warmer than an hour earlier. We rested, turned around and rolled the dice for round two on the death road, back to La Paz. We arrived back in camp, happy that the road hadn’t lived up to it’s name.
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  3. RangeRoad

    RangeRoad Been here awhile

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    Day 129 – Altiplano

    It was raining again in the morning, which meant packing up my tent soaked and muddy. Not a good start. We moved out of La Paz cautiously, having been told that road blocks were expected due to a doctor’s protest. Yes you read that right, doctor’s protesting. The reason in this case was a protest against how malpractice is treated in the country. Since malpractice insurance isn't really a thing, I guess doctors go to prison if they make a mistake. Sounds like some pretty strong incentives to do your job right.

    We made it out of town only to see the remnants of smoking tires pushed to the side of the road. The police had cleared the road block.

    We crossed the altiplano towards Salar de Uyuni. The high plains lived up to their name. Not much to look at and a bit chilly. We made good time to Uyuni on the high and flat plains. About 120 kms out of town we pulled over for a snack and to stretch. As I touched the rear brake I felt something move, and then heard and felt a strange clunking as I came to a stop. I thought I had hit a patch of gravel and the ABS system was behaving strange. After our break I got back on the bike, and immediately realized it wasn’t the ABS. The right rear wheel bearing had collapsed.

    After the sinking feeling had subsided my first reaction was to try and fix it. I had the spare parts since I was planning to change them in Santiago anyway. Tim and I did our best, but a lack of a proper hammer and punch meant we had no chance of fixing it on the highway. My Mcgyver solutions also didn’t stand a chance. The only other options were to ride on it and hope, or wait for a truck. I rolled the dice.

    I watched as every km ticked down towards Uyuni. Each time the wind hit me wrong or I hit a bump in the road, the bearing would growl with anger. I could feel it moving around, hear it grinding and all I could do was hold a consistent speed and hope. 120 km to go, come on Lola, don't let me down. Then 80, 60… lots of grinding, now 40 to go. 20, 10… we could walk it from here… 5… we can see the lights of Uyuni… 2, 1. Relief. Lola made it. The cobbled town streets weren’t doing me any favours, but we made it. Fixing it sounded like a problem for tomorrow.

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  4. RangeRoad

    RangeRoad Been here awhile

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    Day 130 – Salar de Uyuni

    First task, figure out how to replace the bearing. I found a shop on the ioverlander app (great app btw) that had apparently done bearings before. I showed up to the shop and asked if he could help, my broken Spanish and hand gestures getting the point across. I pulled the rear wheel off in the street and showed him. He didn’t have proper tools, but he had a welder. He touched the bare wires from the welder to the live bare wires hanging on the wall, sparks falling to the ground as the wires connected. He grabbed my wheel, cut a small piece of steel rod and began to weld.

    It wasn’t a comfortable feeling knowing that my high performance, aluminum wheel was a quarter inch mistake away from being wrecked… 2000 kms form the nearest Triumph dealer. First try, no luck. Second try, same result. Third try I stopped him after the weld, waiting for it to set up properly and to let the bearing cool down so that it wasn’t expanded in the hub. This time the mechanic put his hands together as if to pray before hitting it with the hammer. Success!

    15 minutes later I had bother bearing replaced and the bike back together. Tim got us all ice cream. The day was looking up.

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    We tried to book a “tour” out to the salt flats, knowing the salt was wet and not wanting to wreck our bikes. The tour agencies were far too expensive, so we went direct and made a deal with a driver. Our driver had other plans though and stood us up when it was time to go. Oh well, we packed a dinner of crackers and pate and headed out to the flats on the bikes. What was a bit of a disappointment at first turned out to be a great decision. The photos speak for themselves. This is a spectacular place.

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  5. RangeRoad

    RangeRoad Been here awhile

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    Day 131 – The driest place on earth, with flamingos

    We left Uyuni destined for the Chilean border. The road was hard packed dirt, until it wasn’t. The last 30 kms were dusty, sandy and potholed. Trucks kicked up so much dust we were forced to pull over each time we met oncoming traffic. One section was the softest sand I have ever ridden trough. It was like riding through talc. I could feel the powder flying off the front wheel and hitting my boots as it passed by the underside of the bike. The front tire danced and wobbled, but we both made it through unscathed.

    The border was a breeze. Chile was the fastest and most organized border by far. Less than one hour and we were cruising along the smooth pavement of Chile towards the famous Atacama. What a difference a fictional line on a map makes.

    As we rode past another small salt flat, Tim pulled over for a photo. Pink Andean flamingos covered the flats with alpacas prancing along the shores. The large snow capped volcanoes in the background set the scene perfectly.
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    The day did have one down side. My Odometer hadn’t been working properly since the wheel bearing incident. When riding over 60 km/h the abs and traction control would shut, the check engine light would come on and the odometer would stop working. After a few confused attempts to solve the problem I pulled off the abs sensor to see that it had been damaged. The wheel rattling around with the broken bearing caused the tone ring to hit the sensor and damage it. I have managed to find a way to trick the system so that at least the odometer continues to work until I can get parts in Santiago.



    Day 132 – Hand in the sand

    The last stop together for Tim and I would be the Mano del Desierto, a famous overlanders stop on the highway south of Antofogasta. I giant hand sculpted from sand reaches out of the desert, preserved by the extremely dry, although windy, conditions.

    Our ride was mostly two lane, fast pavement but it did have some intrigue when we stopped at a desert ghost town. After messing about and taking some photos we finished the journey to the hand. Riding with Tim has meant a lot more photos. I have to give credit where it is due, they are almost all his shots. That being said, the resolution isn't great because I don't have the original files. Tim is going to send them when he has time and I will post some of his excellent work when he does.
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    It is an impressive sculpture that has been unfortunately vandalized. One spray painted tag on the front side is an obvious mark, and the countless people who have urinated on the back side (I guess because it’s shelter from the wind?) leaves a more subtle mark I guess. What are we, dogs now? We have to mark out territory? There is a whole desert, why pee on the one piece of art in the whole desolate place?

    The Atacama itself is simply out of this world. Since it almost never rains the landscape from over 3500 meters elevation all the way to sea level is almost completely devoid of plants. I thought the deserts in Baja and Peru were dry, but this place cranks it up to 11.

    I ended my day in the modern and beautiful coastal city of Antofogasta, with Tim continuing on south towards Santiago. Chile day 2 continues to impress me with it’s unique blend of wild countryside and modern amenities.





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  6. dano619

    dano619 Been here awhile

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    All caught up.......great LIFE report, you have a gift with telling a story and I like your short rants on people being rude and clueless......this pic is the best....thanks again!!

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  7. bp68

    bp68 Adventurer

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    I think we crossed paths last week, I was in Uyuni watching the Dakar then rode to La Paz and then the death road. We rented an old flat deck truck, and had it drive us 2 hours into the Salar to watch the sunset, which was amazing with the water on the salt flats.

    Attached Files:

  8. RangeRoad

    RangeRoad Been here awhile

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    I have another rant coming... backpacker hostels are a great place to meet clueless people!

    Tim is the photographer, I can't take any credit. I am celebrating the sunset and making it to the salt flats... but what you can't see is that from here I could see the lights of Uyuni which meant my wheel bearing only had to make it a few more miles.

    Thanks for following along.
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  9. RangeRoad

    RangeRoad Been here awhile

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    Awesome photos! We really wanted to rent a truck to take us out but it just didn't work out.

    Where are you now? i am hanging out in Salta for a few days and will be around northern Argentina for the next couple weeks.
  10. RangeRoad

    RangeRoad Been here awhile

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    Days 133 & 134 – The Moon on Earth

    Back on my own and riding the same two lane highway to Calama wasn’t a lot of fun. At least the wind was at my back this time. Once the backtracking was out of the way the scenery really started to change as I approached San Pedro de Atacama.

    Red rock mountains and valleys appeared in front of me, signs that at one point water graced this landscape. The road takes a steep downturn and drops 1000 meters to the valley floor, where the first signs of trees and life appear. San Pedro de Atacama is a dusty and surprisingly touristy town with a maze of one way roads organized in no particular pattern. It also has only one gas station, which means when the tanker truck is there to refill the pumps… you sit and wait for an hour to get gas. At least they sell ice cream.

    My camp was just out of town, a bit hard to find through the maze of red dirt roads, but a really nice place once I tracked it down. The valley made me think I was in Africa, or at least how I imagine Africa to look. I was expecting to come around a corner and see zebras, giraffes and buffalo roaming the savanna. As the sun went down, the stars came out. With so few people, relatively high elevation and perpetually clear skies this is a fantastic place to watch the stars.
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    The next morning I took the drive up to the El Tatio geyser field. It is the largest geyser field in the southern hemisphere, and I think the third largest in the world. It was way more expensive than I expected to get through the gate, probably to maintain the natural hot pool and change rooms. Too bad I forgot my towel and swim suit.

    I like geysers. They are always weird places with extremely unique features. I like Everything from the bubbling pools of water and the multicoloured algae’s that grow in the warm runoff. To the domed stacks and the strange pools of boiling mud the break the earths crust. The only thing that I really didn’t like was that I kept comparing El Tatio to Yellowstone park in Wyoming. Yellowstone is in a league of its own, both in entry fees and amazing scenery.
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    I made my way back to the city in good time, so I went and toured the valley of the moon. The price for this short drive and self guided sightseeing tour through the valley is a much better value. With salt caverns, abandoned salt mines and some of the strangest and most unique landscapes on the planet, this is worth the price of admission. Another place that can’t be truly described, or even photographed. It made me feel like I was in Star Wars, walking through the valleys on Tatooine, hoping not to be ambushed by sand people.

    I especially liked the salt caverns. As I walked and crawled through the caverns I could hear the walls creaking and cracking as the structure expands in the heat of the day. Very eerie.
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  11. RangeRoad

    RangeRoad Been here awhile

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  12. bp68

    bp68 Adventurer

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    You are more fortunate than I, I was only riding Bolivia for 10 days, on rental bikes with a friend, I am back home in Alberta, work.....
  13. RangeRoad

    RangeRoad Been here awhile

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    Uyuni and the Dakar are two of my all time moments so you picked a great 10 days
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  14. RangeRoad

    RangeRoad Been here awhile

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    Day 135 – A little of Everything

    My plan was to get to Salta in Argentina almost 600 kms away, including a border crossing. This day had a little bit of everything. High plains, desert, huge cacti, Salt flats, green valleys, rainbow rock valleys, lakes, farms and cities. A bit of a sensory overload really. By the time I made it to Salta I was exhausted, and the first 3 hostels were full. I found a backpackers hostel that didn’t have parking, but they had 24 hour reception and I could park the bike right on the sidewalk in view of the reception. It would have to work, I was tired.

    I didn’t have a great feeling about this place, it seemed like a bit of a party hostel. It wasn’t terribly dirty or anything, but it wasn’t clean either. When I went to bed I opened the door to find a group of young guys sitting around the floor, smoking pot and cigarettes. They had removed the mattresses from the beds and were using them on the floor. There was a separate “room” where my bed was, but this didn’t stop the smoke and noise entering and preventing me and one other guy from sleeping. In the morning, once they had checked out, they left ashes all over the beds and floor, garbage all over the room, paper all over the bathroom and the lingering smell of smoke and weed. I don’t understand how these guys can be so ignorant of other people. Absolutely no respect for anyone else, including the hostel staff. It was arrogant, ignorant and disrespectful. These privileged young men are lucky enough to have the means to get out and see the world, but they don’t deserve it. Would you treat your own homes like that? Better yet, would you treat your mother’s home like that? Grow up gentlemen. Make the world around you better than you left it. It’s not yours to do whatever you like with.
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  15. mac w b

    mac w b Adventurer

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    Hey Derrick, just caught up on your RR, when you get to Santiago I would recommend Casa Matte. Safe Travels :ricky
  16. gt750

    gt750 Adventurer

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    I think this one road in your picture has more curves than all of Alberta! Nice find! Do you see people on pure street bikes from Canada or U.S. there?
  17. RangeRoad

    RangeRoad Been here awhile

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    I absolutely will be checking out Casa Matte. I have a bunch of service work that I want to get done on the bike and I hear that is the perfect place to do it.
  18. RangeRoad

    RangeRoad Been here awhile

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    I have met a lot of different riders, from all over the world and on all kinds of bikes. you don't need a dual sport or big bmw touring rig to travel. Sticking to the main highways, you can make it all the way to Ushuai without having to ride any dirt at all... of course what fun would that be.

    Here are some of the people and their bikes that I have hung out with.

    Bas - Netherlands - 1994 Moto Guzzi California
    Paul & Lucie - Czech Republic - 1998 Honda Valkyrie
    Martina & Petr - Czech Republic - 2013 KLR 650's
    Mac, Lior, Dana, Charlie, Peter - from various countries all on BMW GS 1200's
    Ben - USA - DR650
    Lyndsey - USA - WR250R
    Tim - USA - 2017 Tiger 800
    Riccardo - Italy - GS 1150
    Eke - Austria - KTM 1290 Adventure

    I am missing many more. Vstrom 650's and 1000's, Tenere 1200's and 660's, GS 1100's etc. All bikes of all shapes and sizes.

    I have also come across a lot of locals who use their bikes to travel, usually small bikes under 300 CC's. They strap some bags to the back and go out and see the world. No need for a big, expensive "adventure" bike.
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  19. Parcero

    Parcero Mundial

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    You could probably make it down to Ushuaia on all pavement, if you cut out Bolivia. Pretty hard to cross that country without hitting dirt, and lots of it.
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  20. danielc

    danielc n00b

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    Hi Derrick! I am enjoying you stories, sense of humor and pictures. I really hope you will write a book! I cannot wait to read about your new adventures. Safe travels!
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