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Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Hewby, Sep 10, 2012.
Thanks Sara, and yeah, it was great to show him a little of where I am.
Great trip, too bad Bolivian law enforcement are so corrupt, seems just part of the police culture there. They never realize how self defeating it can be in the long run by harassing away tourists (and potential tourists who read stuff like this). Was it that your chain just needed tightening up? New chain?
Thanks for taking us along.
The next morning we walk down to the market for breakfast, and wandering down through the witches market where one could buy dried up baby llamas and such. For what purpose I did not ask!
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It had been a while since we both had been in shopping mode, but it was a fun change.
We then headed off on the road north to Coroico hoping to ride the death road. Alison’s bike started to over heat in the traffic, and then in an effort to escape the crazy line ups of cars we headed into the hilly back streets. Bad plan. Packs of dogs ran at us. And the streets narrowed out to unpaved dead ends or walkways. We turned round back into the traffic.
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On the way we tried stopping for gas, and the first two stations looked at our plates and refused to sell us any, as we were foreigners. We were starting to get worried and frustrated. We had heard getting gas in Bolivia required foreign plates to pay up to 3 times more for gas but to be totally refused. That was tough. We were starting to wander how long we would actually be able to stay in Bolivia.
We head over the freezing pass in fog mist and rain and wonder what we are doing. We queried whether to head back to La Paz but neither of us could face the traffic again. So we plowed on, agreeing that attempting the death road in these conditions so late in the day is madness.
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Thankfully the freezing mist stops and we stop at a gas station just before we hit the entrance to the death road and the lady didn’t look twice and fills us up with fuel at the local price. Our moods start to lift. We plan to stop here again on the way back.
We pull up to the turn off for the death road and the clouds have lifted.
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Just as we decide 'yes we will ride it', air down our tires and I take off my last fragile BMW mirror, the clouds roll in over the mountains and totally envelope the mountain and the valley. We decide to give the route a miss and see how it looks in the morning on our way back.
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So we head over the ‘good’ road to Coroico down into the Amazon.
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Its amazing to see rivers and green, green valleys. At the base of the decent the road drops out, and the road turns to dirt, and my favorite cobblestones. We are getting tired. We wind our way up the hill to the town. Traffic and our slow speeds start to take their toll on Alison’s bike. She stops as she is over heating. We get directions to the hostel where we have been told we can find camping and it’s further up the hill and far out of town. We stock up on food while the bike is cooling and tackle the steep, slippery cobblestone slopes. I go first, struggling, my back slipping, but manage to hold her. Some locals stand by in amusement watching our struggle. I make it up the hill and find the path out of town. I stop at the turn off and look behind me. No sign of Alison. Not having mirrors on I didn’t see what happened. I wait a few minutes knowing me returning down the slope would lead to further problems at this point, reasoning if she was having problems there were plenty of people around to help her. She arrives not long later, having gone down on the wet stones. We push on over the wet muddy track to the hostel. Each sign for the hostel leading us to think 'Is this it? Please let it be it!' I am so glad we didn’t choose to ride the death road today. Finally we pull into the hostel at 7pm and the camping is closed for the season. We get the cheapest room, and decide to eat at the restaurant and have a glass of wine instead of cooking in the rain as we are surprisingly exhausted.
In the morning Alison needs to sort out her bike. She had been having trouble with her front end since Peru Motors changed her front tire. She pulls it apart to find they had left a bolt on the inside of the tube, and then added another bolt to the outside. No wonder she was having a hard time.
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She starts to research her overheating issues but decides against pulling the bike apart in such a remote place. We decide to get back to La Paz where we can at least get parts if needed.
We decide the bike will not make the slow speeds of the death road uphill and return on the same path back to La Paz.
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As we hit the city traffic her bike starts struggling. We try to stop in to get SOAT insurance, as we were told they were all closed when we were here the other day. The street SOAT lady tells us she cannot sell us international insurance but we might get it at the head office. She points to it on the map and we head there. The traffic is mad but at least it is all downhill. Alison starts rolling the bike. Starting it only when necessary. We pass the place where we were told to go, the one way streets splitting off and taking us way out of the way. There is nothing that we can do but go with the flow of traffic. Finally we get to turn around and start going up a hill. Its then Alison hits trouble. Her bike decided not to start again, the poor KLR battery depleted with all her stop starting. I leave her there for her bike to cool down and walk up to find the insurance. I see nothing. I ask around and no one seems to know. They give me many directions, in far off locations. I walk back to Alison and tell her the bad news. Its almost 6pm and I want to head to the motorcycle shops to get a new mirror, and find her some coolant. She starts she could jump start her bike and try and head back to the hotel. I arge she would be better witing for the traffic to cool off and me to return from the shops so I can jump start her when she needs to stop along the way. I leave her saying I will return in an hour.
The traffic is terrible. I crawl around to get to the motorbike shops, get my goods then as I finally return Alison is not there. The traffic seems to have not changed, and I head down the hill that I believe Alison jump-started trying to find her. The road then splits off and I find myself in the maze of the one-way backstreets of La Paz. It’s horrid. In the slow moving traffic I hear the click of my chain again. Crap. Finally I make my way back to the main road near the hostel after an hour of negotiating the joys of La Paz traffic and streets. I pull into the hostel at 8pm and Alison opens the gates for me. I am thrilled to see her, and not have to return to the streets looking for her broken bike.
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Dinner on the streets
We decide to spend the next day on bike repairs. We wake up and Alison is sick. Lucky I have a packed medical cabinet thanks to mother who is an RN, set Alison up with an antibiotic regime. I head down to BMW taking Alison battery with me. Alison decides she is not going to let another mechanic touch her bike and starts to pull hers apart. Amazing girl.
BMW politely tell me in English that they cannot help me today as they have 4 bikes from Venezuela pull in and they only have one mechanic on. I ask about chains and sprockets and they have none in stock. They point me down to the Honda store, where they also tell me (in English!) they don’t have any but they take a look at my bike and tell me not to worry. The mechanic tightens the chain, with my luggage and me on the bike (I had been following the manual that said tighten it unloaded), and states I will easily make it another 3-4000km. I get Alison’s battery charged and finally have my front tire installed that I had been carrying since Bogotá. I feel good. My bike feels good and my worrying is lessened. The problem with not knowing much about bike mechanics is if anything goes wrong I worry, when most people would just fix it. I am getting better and better with managing the bike myself, but I look at Alison and am impressed by her mechanical ability. I ‘spose its just not something I am really interested in. But on a trip like this it would sure help!
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A lovely part of La Paz where the Posh people hang out
I go out for a nice lunch with great wifi. Pick some healthy looking Yarrow in the street to make a tonic for Alison, and return via the SOAT (where they state it is not possible to buy international insurance). Poor Alison had been in bed most of the day feeling awful. But has slowly started to work on her bike. I make her some Yarrow tea, great for healing the blood, and cook up some dinner. She needs some time to get better and get her bike better, but I am chewing at the bit to get out of traffic-choked La Paz. We talk it through and I decide to leave in the morning and head to Potosi where I plan to meet her in a few days.
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Here's some info about the witches market. from Kedgi's RR:
Use witchcraft to your advantage: have a talisman made up to put a curse on anyone who touches the bike. This is done in Africa for a variety of things people don't want stolen, and it works. Hang some powerful symbology around where it can be seen and watch the reaction.
When I started riding almost NO ONE supported me. I had one colleague, who I didn't know very well, and who I didn't work with all that often, take the time to mail me an encouraging and supportive card. To this day, I keep it under my seat as my own "talisman."
I think I already have some sort of protection around the bike. People have been amazing everywhere I go. Except for the fact they don't like the stickers on. My panniers and they keep disappearing!
Love reading your posts and the pictures are wonderful. Amazing journey!
Great pics as always and even more fascinating stories...
Youe experience with gas station not selling you any gas for being a "gringa" reminded me when I was down there for the first time in 1979 and people in the market refused to sell me food because I was a "gringo".
As far as corrupt cops , I'm not surprised . Their supreme boss is a puppet of Venezuelan madman Hugo Chavez
Well, both Chavez and Morales were democratically elected with good pluralities. IMHO, the disconnect between Gringos and Bolivians is mostly cultural with a healthy dose of repression by American Corps and the CIA in the 1960s- Just sayin...........
Wrong,wrong,wrong !!! They both committed fraude .
Chavez puts his political opponents in prison,exile or graveyards!! He steals their properties , he destroyed the economy of his own country, he is starving his people to death .
He established a regime of terror and spies, like in the darkest times of Stalinism ...
Anyway, I apologize for having made a comment , that has taken somebodies focus away from this great RR.
give bubbletron a prob and tell her to up date here RR and use your as a templete for excellence ...that should get her fingers typing once she gets the grease off them
glad to see you two hooked up again, enjoying your views, keep it coming
Thanks Paul. That brought a smile - laughing as we sit in a cafe in northern Chile with grease stained fingers. And now I am taking a call from her, and are still way behind in my RR too. But it looks like we might be riding together for a while more. Lots of fun and remote camping.
Glad to hear you have a buddy to share the ride with. We have just arrived in Nicaragua. resting up in Leon after a action packed week at Casa Lecha.
Hola Debbie !! gracias por este RR , excelente !!
keep on riding amiga !!
I ride the long day to Potosi. Getting out of La Paz took forever, the mounds of collectivos (or minivan busses) pilling up and stopping wherever they please to pick up and let off passengers, whether this be in the middle of a three lane road or not! I shudder to think how bad these roads were if these multitudes of fully loaded busses were in-fact people driving their own cars.
I pass a couple on an older BMW from London who have stopped with a flat. They say they don’t need help but give me pointers on a hostel called the Koala’s den in Potosi, where I am to meet them again a few days later.
Finally I am out of La Paz proper and the road is straight and fast, until I am pulled over by the police again for speeding! They show me my speed on their laser guns and I apologies profusely. They ask me about my travels and peruse my international drivers license. They ask me about my travels solo and start pointing at things on the bike asking questions about my iphone, and then they point at the speedo on my bike, impressed that it goes up to 200km per hour. They let me go with a warning and I head on my way, trying to keep below 80km!
I pass through Oruo which is setting up for carnival and head on, finally the road gets a little more interesting as I start to head into the mountains.
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It starts to rain, and then hail for good measure. I stop with a break in the weather for a quick lunch of soup at a roadside stand, but further rains leads me to abandon my meal and jump back on the bike and hide under my helmet and heated gloves. It’s sad when you actually get on the bike to escape the weather!
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I keep thinking I might stop for the day, but there is nowhere really to stop. I arrive on dusk into Potosi, and spend a while going round and round in circles on the strangely uneven one way streets until I pull into the hostel at 8pm. The entry is horrible, five Argentineans try and help but I am exhausted, cold, and they keep trying to get me to sit on the bike and ride it up a slope while its on a precarious wooden ramp that keeps getting caught in the bottom of my bike. I know its not going to work, but they don’t want to listen to me. I drop the bike shattering the corner of the windscreen. I am in tears. It’s just one of those days. I check into a cheap dorm, but it crowed and horrible, so I change my mind and get a private room. I need space and time for me.
For the first time in ages I have fast wifi, a blessing when I need to hide from the world for a bit. I spend the next day tuning out as the rain pounds down overhead. The hostels bathrooms are horrendous, and I don’t really want to stay longer, but the thought of getting my bike out, and the brilliant wifi keeps me another night.
I venture out only briefly; the town is starting to celebrate with parades and water bombs and shaving cream.
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One old lady starts decorating the side walks with flower petals. She hands some to me and tries to explain what she is doing but sadly I cannot understand enough. I spread the flowers along the wall like she shows me, and then she heads on her way, brightening the sidewalk as she went.
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The town is one of the highest cities in the world at 4090m , and the altitude is making me breathless.
Alison’s bike is taking its time to get better and I decide to head to Sucre. It’s only a few hours away on a good road, but the drop in altitude is brilliant, both for my body and for the climate.
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The weather brightens up and I feel sun on my back for the first time in ages. I pull the bike into the San Francisco hotel’s lovely courtyard, and head across the market over the street.
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I love markets and this one is wonderful. I peruse the rows of beautiful fruits and vegetables and talk to the sellers. I cannot cook at the hotel, but I am surprised how happy this place makes me.
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The dogs seem to always find their way to the food
Sucre is also enjoying the festivities of the carnival, bands and dancers continuously passing the hotel, drowsing out any other sound in a cacophony of cymbals, drums and brass. I am bombarded with water bombs and shaving cream attacks each time I step out the door of the hotel, drunken people wander the streets struggling at times to stand, and lots of things are closed.
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People love to drop water bombs on unsuspecting passersby
So I decide to take it easy, studding the route that Alison and plan to take in the Salar de Uyuni and lagoons route, fix my camping gear, enjoy the sun on the balcony, and occasionally nipping down to the market. Finally I get the all clear from Alison that she and the bike are better, so I head to Potosi to me her again.
I feel so bad for the damage to your windshield but the main thing is that you are okay. You were also lucky to not get that speeding ticket.
It's nice to have company and I am glad you are going to meet up with Alison for a while. You are so brave for riding solo without knowing the language
Thanks Bob, I spose the windshield is just a windshield, I have broken three now, totally - not counting the shattered sides I glued back. But when I am exhausted and pushed beyond what I think I can do those times are tough. Traveling brings so much joy so many awesome things but there are also times of feeling so stretched its time to take time out. Just how it goes for me. And yes. Loving traveling with Alison now. Love solo travel, but to find a good travel buddy is also fun.
Just a little update fron Bariloche, as I leave to head south. Moving rapidly as my time is ticking by, with long days, little internet, camping, ripo roads of routa 40, high winds and cold expected ahead. Traveling with the lovely Bubbletron and trying to tag Ushuaia before I have to be in BA in 2 weeks. So for all those following along at home, I am excited to see the goal insight, and enjoying the company of a good friend! 'Till later....