Oregon to Ushuaia on an XR650L

Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by Ulyses, Oct 29, 2012.

  1. Ulyses

    Ulyses Long timer

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    Day 104 (January 27, 2013)
    La Paz, Bolivia to Potosi, Bolivia
    Day's Ride: 336 Miles

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    Our Hotel last night was the Hilton of Bolivian Hotels. It was called Hotel Oberlander and was run by some swiss guy. They have a camping spot in the back that you can get for 50 Bolivianos; however, since it was raining, we elected to split a room ($33 apiece, yikes!). It was well worth it though. Immaculate room with heating, hot water, solid wifi. And breakfast this morning (which is included) was incredible! Great place to stay. They even have a working jaccuzzi, pool, and sauna.

    In any event, we were late leaving. The road out of the area where we had to stayed the night to the Panamerican Highway went through some interesting dirt spires.

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    However, it soon turned into a giant straightaway across the altiplano.

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    All of the riding today was done at elevations above 12,000 feet. Most of it was above 13,000 feet. Consequently, my bike struggled and wheezed all day. I really should just get down and adjust the mixture screw on the carb; unfortunately, you never know when you are suddenly going to drop down below 5,000 feet so it almost seems like a waste of time.

    I'm jealous of people with fuel injection. Yesterday when we did the Road of Death, we started at 11,000 feet, climbed to over 15,000 feet, then dropped all the way down to 3,000 feet! And that was all in the space of 60 miles. The drastic altitude changes down here really play havoc with carb settings.

    Halfway through the day, we decided to push all the way to Potosi in one day. It's easy for Mike on his massive BMW. He can cruise down these roads at 85 MPH while I putter along at 65 MPH. Consequently, he plays the hare and usually rides ahead of me and stops to take lots of pictures while I play the tortoise and keep my slow, steady pace. Of course, the tables turn whenever we get into a city, or in the dirt, or have to move our bikes in a parking situation. Then I'm the one getting the last laugh.

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    There are lots of domesticated Llama and Alpaca herds grazing out on the Altiplano. There aren't really any fences so it's more of an open range situation. Today as I was cruising along, a couple of Llamas (or maybe they were Alpacas) got spooked and decided to cross the road in front of me. Unfortunately, they weren't very smart and decided to freeze up right in front of me! I locked up my brakes and skidded right for them. At the last minute, they decided to get out of my way and I narrowly avoided running them down and getting pitched off my bike. I almost got taken out by a Llama today, how odd is that?

    Obviously, I had to stop and take a picture of these dumb beasts:

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    Eventually the road turned off the plain and started heading up into the hills. I saw a lot of stone fences on the hillside and wondered why they didn't keep the damn llamas in there.

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    Soon the road began cutting through some more picturesque country:

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    Some of it even reminded me of the Painted Hills in Oregon.

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    After a long day of riding, we finally reached Potosi. The small mountain behind the city was the chief source of funding for the Spanish Empire back in the day.

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    It's called "Cerro Rico" and was the location of the famous silver mine of Potosi. Silver was discovered here in 1545 and the town eventually reached a population of over 200,000 people, making it one of the largest cities in the world at the time. Thousands of people died working in the mines which were in operation for hundreds of years. In fact, they are still being mined by locals.

    We found a Hostel in the colonial section of town that let us put our bikes in their courtyard.

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    Hostal Compania de Jesus; they have solid wifi and charge 90 Bolivianos for a "doble" (room with double beds) which works out to 45 Boliviano or about $6 apiece for Mike and I.

    In other news, I just started noticing an odd scratching sound coming from what I think is my transmission when I down shift into second gear. It only happens when there is a moderate amount of compression on the engine and I'm not giving it any gas. It has me a little worried, but I'm hoping it doesn't present too big of a problem as I only have about 3,000 miles left. Hopefully it holds out until I finish or at least make it to Santiago where I can get it checked out. Hopefully it's just my chain making strange sounds.

    Tomorrow I'm going to change my oil and maybe go check out the mines. I'm not sure if I want to go into the mines as I'm not a fan of being exposed to mercury, arsenic, asbestos, and silica dust, but I do want to at least see them.
  2. Mossy-Back

    Mossy-Back Brown Falcon

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    Yep, that scenery does look very much like the Painted Hills. Hope the bike is okay.
  3. ONandOFF

    ONandOFF ¿to post or to ride?

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    I wish I knew how to advise you on the scratching noise :scratch. I pray it's nothing of consequence to you this trip. Hopefully you'll be able to tell by how fast it came up and at what rate it gets worse, just what level of attention to give it. Dios lo acompañe.
  4. Kedgi

    Kedgi Banned

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    Hi Bryce

    I'm way behind you, hanging out in Cusco. Altitude really kicked the crap out of me but I'm feeling better now. If the weather is good tomorrow I'll be riding up into the Sacred Valley

    I am hearing stories of difficulties buying gas in Bolivia. I must confess I haven't had the time to read every page of your Bolivia experience, can you tell me if you had any trouble getting fuel.

    Glad to see you're still headed south successfully, ride safe.

    Kedgi

    Dwight

    your readers can check out my rr here

    http://advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=832336
  5. Super Dave Hawaii

    Super Dave Hawaii Ain't Dead Yet!

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    Aloha Ulyses,
    Check your chain adjustment and make sure it's not too tight. Also lube it up good and ride to see if noise goes away. I've got 97,000 on my XRL and the chains will make noise if not lubed and adjusted. properly. If too tight there is a chance of bearing failure, but you don't have enough mileage on it for that. Great report and photos.
    Ride On!
  6. Novice Adv

    Novice Adv n00b

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    Great to see that its not just us Canadians that are happy the NHL strike is over and the teams are back on the ice. One of these Bolivians is proud to wear his team colors. Go Habs Go! It's probably a gift from a canadian mining contractor or from a retired canadian couple doing the adventure tourism thing.

    Great pics! Always looking forward to your daily posts.:clap
  7. Ulyses

    Ulyses Long timer

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    Thanks Dave! I have been checking my chain every day and I measure the play with a ruler. I thought that surely that wasn't the problem until I took off my luggage this evening, went for a ride, and found that it wasn't making the noise anymore. So, I guess that the chain is looser without the luggage, meaning that my chain was too tight to begin with! Thanks!

    Bryce
  8. Ulyses

    Ulyses Long timer

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    Well, I'm in Uyuni, home of the famous Salar de Uyuni. We went out and rode in the salt and mud and water today and now I have some amazing pictures to share, probably some of the best of the trip.....but the internet refuses to cooperate, so I may have to postpone my update until tomorrow. :cry

    Sorry folks.
  9. Ulyses

    Ulyses Long timer

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    Dwight, good to hear from you! Before I get into Bolivia, make sure that you take the Santa Theresa route if you are going to Machu Picchu.

    Here's the skinny on fuel: Bolivians pay about 3 Bolivianos per liter; all forigheners pay three times that amount! The Bolivian government doesn't want people crossing into Bolivia, buying a bunch of gas on the cheap, then heading into Peru or somehwere else and selling it for profit on the black market.

    Now, there's a pretty easy way to get around this. You won't get it as cheap as the Bolivians do, but it won't cost three times as much either. To make this work, you kind of need to be able to speak a little bit of Spanish.

    Pull into the gas station (make sure it's a small less devolped one) and ask them how much the gas is. If you are lucky, they'll just give it to you at the normal price. Most likely they won't. If they tell you it's three times as much, just laugh and tell them that you paid 5 Bolivianos at the last gas station.

    If they point at the survaillance camera, just tell them it's okay and that nobody will know. Also, tell them they don't have to do all the paperwork and give you a recipt. At this point, they should be in the barganing mood. They may want you to pull out of site of the camera and fill up your bike using a jerry can or even empty coke bottles, but that's a small price to pay for the money you are saving.

    Essentially, you're bribing them. You get gas cheaper than you normally would, and they get to skip the hassle of filling out paperwork, plus they get to pocket the difference in price. I'd say that's pretty win win. This little proccess has worked every time with me so far.
  10. purpledrake

    purpledrake No Pretensions

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    Ummmm. Is your poor Mother following this thread?:eek1

    You are quite the resourceful fellow, and that is a good thing. I only wonder what other tricks you have up your sleeve that have not yet been reported. So much to look forward to these last 3,000 miles.

    Stay safe.
  11. Ulyses

    Ulyses Long timer

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    Day 105 (January 29, 2013)
    Potosi, Bolivia to Unuyi, Bolivia
    Day's Ride: 170 Miles

    No map today as the internet is horrible here and I can't get on Google Maps.

    We struck out from Potosi today for the relatively short ride to the town of Unuyi which is perched on the edge of the largest salt flat in the world, the Salar de Unuyi.

    We had planned on staying in Potosi for the morning to take a tour of the famous mines, but decided that we more interested in getting to the Salar. On the way out of town I stopped an changed my oil at a small motorcycle shop. No mess this time, and they even took the old oil from me; how they dispose of it is anyone's guess.

    Riding out of Potosi, the taillings from the mine had formed a huge strangely colored hill alongside the road. It stretched for nearly a mile along the road.

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    We were soon back on the Altiplano and the evidence of the presence of livestock was everywhere.

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    Eventually we came across a massive meadow that was totally covered by the tiny little black, brown, and white specks of Llamas and Alpacas. It reminded me of a ranch back in the states.

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    Eventually I saw this sign and wondered if I somehow hadn't crossed over into Africa:

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    After a few short hours of riding, we popped out above the Salar on a low hill. If you look closely above the bike, you can see the salt flats stretching out to the horizon.

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    We rolled down into Unuyi and had lunch at a pizza joint which ironically served the largest and best hamburger that I've had on this trip.

    After lunch we found a hotel, stashed our gear, and went about making preparations for riding on the Salar and doing the desert crossing into Chile. I went off in search of a motorcycle shop to see if I could find some dirt tires. Mike had already purchased a set of knobbies in Lima, so he went in search of a "llanteria" (tire shop) to see if they could help him put his tires on.

    I eventually found the bike shop and purchased a cheap Chinese made knobby rear tire for $50. I then hunted down a llanteria and had them do a vulcanized patch on the tube that I had pinched outside of Cusco before putting on my new dirt tire. I chose to only buy a rear tire for a few reason:

    First, my front tire still has a bit of tread and I feel that it will do okay in the dirt.

    Second, my Pirrelli Scorpions still have about 3,000 miles left in them and I don't want to discard them which means I have to carry them. So, instead of carrying two extra tires, I'll only have to carry one.

    I'm going to call this configuration the "Skullet". Bald in the front, long in the back. With this setup I'll have plenty of traction and zero control. Just the way I like it: fast and out of control! :evil

    After swapping out my tire, I went back to the Hotel and swapped out my front sprocket for my smaller 14 tooth version to provide a little more low end for the dirt riding.

    Eventually mike showed up with his new tires on and we headed out to see the Salar.

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    Normally the Salar is a huge barren expanse of crusted salt that stretches to the horizon. People generally jump up on the Salar and ride all the way across then down into Chile. Unfortunately, it's currently the rainy season and the Salar is flooded. :cry

    Still, we figured that we should at least go and see it. As we approached the main entrance, we began to see large piles of salt.

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    Mike ventured off the main road into what appeared to be a relatively dry portion of the flats. I got a little excited with my new tire and lower gearing and decided to get a little squirrelly. Unfortunately, what I thought was dry crusted sand ended up being foot thick mud. Trying to do a counterbalanced turn at 40 mph into the mud doesn't work so well....

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    This stuff was especially nasty. It had a thick, viscous clay like consistency and set up like concrete in a matter of seconds. It also had the added bonus of containing loads of corrosive salt. I spent about 15 min trying to clean it out of my chain and rear tire.

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    After cleaning everything up, we got back on the road and headed for the main entrance. As we came upon the Salar, I was totally blown away by the beauty of the scene.

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    Since it's rainy season, hundreds of square miles of the Salar are covered in a shallow salt lake which can be anywhere from a few inches to several feet deep. The raised road bed lead out into the Salar, which was at this point a shallow lake. About a quarter of a mile out into the water, the road bed disappeared and the water stretched out to the horizon. There were several land cruisers full of Japanese tourists at the end of the road waiting for the sunset.

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    We rode out into the water a little ways beyond the tourists and just sat on our bikes and surveyed the scene. There were several vehicles further out into the water; the water and the light created strange apparitions and the vehicles and people appeared to be floating on the surface of same vast, tranquil sea.

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    As the sun began to go down, Mike and I began to take pictures....

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    The last few minutes of the sunset were beautiful beyond words. I had one of the Japanese tourists snap a picture of Mike and I on our bikes. This is an Adventure Rider Sunset.....

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    I was lucky to get a few amazing shots of the last few minutes of light....

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    I just don't think I possess words potent enough to describe how beautiful, surreal, and incredible the whole experience was, so I won't even try.

    We rode back to Unuyi in the dark, blasting down the dirt track at 55mph with our headlights barely illuminating the path and the last vestiges of light fading in the darkness.

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    Upon reaching the Hotel, I spent about an hour splashing water all over my bike trying unsuccessfully to wash off the mud and salt. Eventually I gave up, threw a bunch of oil on my chain, and decided to go hunt down the car wash in the morning.

    Today Mike and I are going to be making preparations to do the crossing through the desert into Chile. I'm not sure when we will leave, but I probably will be off the grid for a few days as we have about 300 miles of fairly intense desert roads and tracks to cross before we reach proper civilization. If anyone is interested in seeing where we are, just click on the link to my blog and check out my SPOT tracker website.

    Cheers,

    Bryce
  12. jaredwilson

    jaredwilson n00b

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    Wow! Those pictures are truly beautiful. Must have been quite a sight in person. Thanks for sharing.
  13. DRRambler

    DRRambler AKA Albertastrom

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    What an incredible experience! During the rainy season are there any dry parts of the Salar that you can open her up?
  14. ONandOFF

    ONandOFF ¿to post or to ride?

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    I don't know why the chain would make noise only when downshifting into second... but anyway...

    Forget the ruler, Set the chain to barely slack when the suspension is compressed so that the centerlines of the front sprocket, swingarm pivot, and rear sprocket centerline form a straight line.

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  15. Spud Rider

    Spud Rider Long timer

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    As usual, your photographs are amazing, Bryce. :thumb You are becoming quite a photographer. :clap

    Spud :beer
  16. alvincullumyork

    alvincullumyork I wish I was cool

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    Either one of these could go on the front page of this site.
  17. Spud Rider

    Spud Rider Long timer

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    Amen! :thumb

    What's really amazing is this; photographs never do justice to the actual scenery. :eek1 Thanks for taking the time to share your beautiful photographs with us, Bryce. :clap

    Spud :beer
  18. JWhitmore44

    JWhitmore44 pistolero

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    Hope no one minds, I posted the first in the front page photo candidates. I thought the shot deserved a chance at it.
  19. lorenxonunex

    lorenxonunex BajaXplorer

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    amaizing images my amigo...........
  20. Ulyses

    Ulyses Long timer

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    I don't know....but I'm about to find out. I'm pretty sure that even when it is dry you need to stay on the tracks unless you want to end up axle deep in the mud. I'm leaving tomorrow for a few days to go out and cross through some of the southern portions. I'll let you know how it goes.