Travelin' Light - Riding 2up through the Americas

Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by csustewy, May 5, 2011.

  1. csustewy

    csustewy Motojero

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2009
    Oddometer:
    551
    Location:
    back in Denver
    The ride from Desaguadero into La Paz is easy and fast along a pretty good road aside from the (Colca) canyon-sized (it ain't that deep) wheel troughs worn into the soft asphalt by heavy trucks. There was 1 military stop just leaving Desaguadero that charged us 5 Bs each to pass. The next toll, where we thought we'd have to pay again based on the policemen's info, we were just waved through.

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    Entering La Paz at El Alto is a hectic intro to the city. There are cars and buses driving crazy Latin American style combined with a string of pedestrians at varying levels of encroachment into the lanes of traffic, mostly trying to catch the buses.

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    (and the smog and emissions were nice, too)

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    (we only witnessed one loud crash, but thankfully weren't directly involved. Then we found the turn off to drop into the centro, a wide, almost empty road that provided some great views of the city)

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    (overlooking La Paz)

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    We ended up fighting our way through the downtown traffic and one way streets to get to a cluster of hostels. La Blanquita had space for us and our bikes, so to La Blanquita we went. It's located right near the witches market on Santa Cruz and provided a good starting point to explore La Paz.

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    (the bikes didn't stay in the lobby the entire time, there was a back hallway where they lived)

    The downtown area of La Paz is a great place to walk around and explore. There are beautiful buildings on one block, followed by a very dilapidated block with interesting shops and restaurants to be followed by an amazing park with greenery or another nice plaza, followed by some other random site. You just never know, and that's fun.

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    (witches market, now more of a tourist attraction than purpose based market, but still interesting)

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    (one of the witches markets most well known features - llama fetuses. Burying one underneath a new house brings good luck. Jill was interested in using one as a good luck charm on the Transalp, but that was quickly vetoed.)

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    (They're hard to look at, especially cause llamas are just so damn cute. But the stands do all sell other teas, herbs, tonics and such)

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    (back to less offensive pictures now. This is Plaza Murillo)

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    (a nice mural near the comedor popular)

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    (Jill found some KC BBQ!! (but sadly they were closed))

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    We toured the coca museum while there and it was well worth the 10 Bs (~US$1.50) entry. They had a ton of information on the history of coca production, its use over the past millenia, how processing coca into cocaine changes its uses and chemical structure, etc. They also have a tasting room upstairs where you can try different drinks infused with coca. Jill and I tried a liquor distilled from coca leaves and it was fantastic. Too bad we're never going to be able to find that in the states...

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    Old school short buses dominate the downtown streets of La Paz (see example below). Except for the day they were on strike. Then Mike got to dominate the streets (man, it was so nice to run moto errands without traffic!) We found a new rear tire for a good price through some shopping around. the first quote for an MT-60 was 770 Bs (US$110), which isn't a great price, but comparable to a quote received in Lima of S/270 (US$100). Since we were in auto/moto/tire district (not unlike hammock district), we asked in a couple of other shops.

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    Hank Scorpio: Uh, hi, Homer. What can I do for you?
    Homer: Sir, I need to know where I can get some business hammocks.
    Hank Scorpio: Hammocks? My goodness, what an idea. Why didn't I think of that? Hammocks! Homer, there's four places. There's the Hammock Hut, that's on third.
    Homer: Uh-huh.
    Hank Scorpio: There's Hammocks-R-Us, that's on third too. You got Put-Your-Butt-There.
    Homer: Mm-Hmm.
    Hank Scorpio: That's on third. Swing Low, Sweet Chariot... Matter of fact, they're all in the same complex; it's the hammock complex on third.
    Homer: Oh, the hammock district!
    Hank Scorpio: That's right. ​

    Next quote was right around 700 Bs, then 580 Bs, or US$83. I told them I'd be back at 2 for it (after their, and my, lunch). The place is Tufimotores, dropped in based on Guillaume's info provided HERE (incl GPS coords: S16°30.239' W68°08.241' - intersection of Colombia and Boqueron). Turns out I showed back up at 3 because we never changed our clocks forward, but thankfully they were still happy to help me out. Then the fun began.

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    They directed me to a street where moto mechanics and tire shops were (as opposed to parts and supplies, more mechanics) just a few streets away, on Calle Landaeta. I found it pretty quick thanks to the complete lack of traffic and the GPS. But I couldn't find a place to help me throw the new tire on. In most places in Latin America, US$2 will have this job done in minutes, wherever you are. I had to coerce a tire shop guy to do it. He would've rather sat there and talked to his friend than make that bit extra. I was even the one pulling the wheel off, leaving him just the tire swap itself. Eventually he did it, but man that new rubber didn't want to seat well. It took him about 4 times of high pressure fills before it was in the round (some soapy water would've certainly helped, but apparently he's against it). Next stop was an oil change. I had bought oil with the tire and just needed a place with a new filter and catch pan. after asking at a number of places I was sent back to the original parts street that I was on earlier that day. An auto filter store got me what I needed, and back over to the mechanic street, since no one on this street had a catch pan I could use for the old oil.

    I found a shop that would let me drop my old oil. And the guy even let me borrow his filter wrench and funnel, too. Turns out he had all the oil and filters I needed as well, but it was too late for that. No charge for him helping out. When we were riding on the hills of La Paz, I noticed just how rich the bike was running. Some of that from a mostly clogged air filter, but also figuring that the air-fuel mixture setting was on the rich side given the elevation of La Paz (3700 m give or take). So I screwed the setting in, hitting a (temporary) sweet spot somewhere around 1/2 of a turn out. That's not much fuel. She'd been running happy at around 2 turns at elevation, closer to 3 at sea level. Knowing that chances were about 0 of finding an air filter that would fit this bike's specific set up, I just went for it and figured I'd sort it out in Cochabamba, where we will stay for a month. Not the best idea ever. Stay tuned for upcoming details on that one...

    Also, I noticed that not only did we have a longstanding exhaust leak where our header pipes joined the muffler extension, but that the muffler was no longer bolted to the bike. So it was just dangling by about 1 cm of exhaust tube overlap. Across the street was a general welder, but he didn't have the capability to weld aluminum, which the muffler and bracket are. thankfully he sent me to a tornería (=machine shop) not too far away, but without specific directions. With only 2 questions I pulled up in front of it and they were able to help me out. They were great! This part of town isn't the best part of town, but it wasn't so bad either. The owner did warn me to keep an eye on all my parts as I took them off, and even offered space inside to work, but it wasn't that big of a deal, so I stayed on the street out of their way. They even have an employee who speaks pretty good English and likes to practice it. Within an hour and half they had welded the aluminum bracket back on the silencer and closed up the exhaust leak with a nice fat bead. I didn't have the camera with me so no photos of the shop, but if you need it, it's near the Estadio Simon Bolívar at Calle Landaeta and Av Jaimes Freyre:

    Tornería Gonzales
    Zona Tembladerani
    Calle José Saravia No 225
    La Paz, Bolivia
    Tel: 2 414914
    GPS: S 16 deg 30.807 min / W 068 deg 08.474 min​

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    (Aluminum mounting bracket after being welded, then ground down to fit under the luggage rack (black part). Both welds have held up through a few days of off roading in the Yungas and elsewhere in Bolivia, so seems to be good work.)

    After a successful afternoon of driving back and forth between a few very specific parts of town, I finally made it back to meet Jill and Mark at the hostel at 7 pm, or so we thought...it was really 8pm. We figured that whole time change thing out that evening. And drank a beer. Paceña is cheap, easy to find, and drinkable. Huari made by the same brewery is usually about 3Bs more and actually does taste about that much better.

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    (as is our custom, we'll leave you with some street art from La Paz)
  2. yokesman

    yokesman Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2008
    Oddometer:
    557
    looking at the mascot on your fellow riders bike seems to be facing the wrong direction ,for safety sake,as during a forward off ,sharp objects unattended have a way of biting you ,eventually.
  3. csustewy

    csustewy Motojero

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2009
    Oddometer:
    551
    Location:
    back in Denver
    Good point on both. Sadly, the mascot has been retired, finding permanent home 140km north of Uyuni.

    (And I bet you were happier not knowing that the mascot is actually a knife, too (... it was bolted sheathed/closed). Thankfully, all except for the mascot have survived unharmed.)
  4. Caymen8

    Caymen8 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2009
    Oddometer:
    128
    Location:
    Rocky Mountain High
    Hello from a fellow Denverite! After a couple of months of lunchtime reading, I've finally gotten current with your ride report. It has been a lot of fun following along with your trip! Entertaining writing, great pictures, and loads of terrific stories. Well done! :clap

    I've also been following Radioman, and it was fun to have your paths cross with his. I am always amazed at how often ADV riders run across each other all over the world. Keep up the good work, and ride safe!
  5. Radioman

    Radioman Moto rider

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2005
    Oddometer:
    5,212
    Location:
    HOME (at least for now)
    WOW. You guys are really catching up on your RR. :clap :clap Hope you are having a great time in Cochabamba!!
  6. csustewy

    csustewy Motojero

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2009
    Oddometer:
    551
    Location:
    back in Denver
    Hey Caymen8 - always good to hear from a Denverite! I'm glad you've enjoyed following along with our ride and thanks for the compliments. It makes me happy to know that you are enjoying the posts.

    It is a pretty small world of ADV riders, given how many times paths cross either directly or indirectly (I feel like there's often less than 3 degrees or less between us and other riders. What's Kevin bacon got to say about that!?!).

    Additionally, I like your signature line: "ride what makes you happy". I couldn't agree more.
  7. csustewy

    csustewy Motojero

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2009
    Oddometer:
    551
    Location:
    back in Denver
    Hey Mark! Yeah, we're working through it...finally. A couple more posts and we'll be back up to speed. It's been fun watching your progress south through Argentina. Wine country looks amazing (and tasty!). And I see that you may have some new jeans - there are finally taller people sizes, huh? We will keep taking notes from your route through Patagonia. Hope to see you that way in 2013!
  8. csustewy

    csustewy Motojero

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2009
    Oddometer:
    551
    Location:
    back in Denver
    One of the primary stops in Bolivia for moto travelers is the North Yungas Road, aka the Bolivian Death Road. The funny part is that most moto travelers who ride the road go on to say that it is about the same as many other Andean roads, if not a bit less scary, but it still makes it on to most people's to-do list. In general, we agree with the review - that it isn't necessarily the scariest stretch of road we've seen - but are extremely glad we took that route because the few days we spent riding through the Yungas region after that were well worth it!

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    (back on the bike in La Paz)

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    (some light traffic)

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    (checkpoint on the way out of La Paz. Mark showed his driver's license and it was good enough for us, too. Then the toll booth (background) waved us on through, just as they had been doing on the way into La Paz. In fact, all toll booths did the same until we were between uyuni and Potosi, but more on that next post...)

    As we were climbing out of La Paz, the TA was running rough. Symptoms pointed to a very rich condition, especially at wide open throttle. The fuel/air mixture adjustments made in La Paz (and once already on the way out of town) weren't going to help that. And neither was the elevation:

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    So the air filter was the next spot to check. Woowwweeee! That sucker was clogged. Mike knew that it was nearing the end of its life, but the panty hose prefilters had been doing alright as long as they were replaced frequently. Mike had blown out the air filter with compressed air in Arequipa and put on a new prefilter. The prefilter was a different stock than what we had been running before (they don't label pantyhose in any way that makes sense for motorcycle applications - feel free to discuss the airflow capabilities of sheer vs nude at your next dinner party. And people in the store look at you like you're a nut job when you hold the sample pantyhose pieces up to your mouth to breathe through them) and did not do as hot. I heckled Mark then too, saying that he kicked up too much dust. Whatever the background, the air filter was clogged. At least without the prefilter on, she could keep up fairly well (although Mark would likely disagree with this point also ;).

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    (taking out the panty hose prefilter)

    Back moving again, the major highway was in great condition and was a fun ride!

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    (a quick stop at the anti-Narcotrafficking Control point, but basically waved through. They don't care about coca leaves here. They would have to stop 95% of the traffic. It's other stuff that they're looking for.)

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    (last stop before turning off on the North Yungas Road. She gave us a price somewhere in the middle of the gas prices. It wasn't 3.74 Bs/L as shown, nor was it 9.22 Bs/L as it's supposed to be for foreigners. So we got a good deal, and she got a good tip)

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    (Warning sign at the entrance to the Death Road. The rule of the road was to yield way to the fully loaded mining trucks heading up the hill, also letting them have the hillside-line. So you were supposed to stay on the cliff side heading this direction (down). Rumor is also that that lets the driver side of the vehicle be on the cliff edge so the driver can see the exact moment in time when his wheel has just gone off the cliff)

    The North Yungas Road, or Death Road, got its name back when there was a lot of traffic on the road and accidents were common. It was even named the World's Most Dangerous Road by the Inter American Development Bank back in the mid-90's (wikipedia taught me that). But now there is a paved highway that parallels this road on the other side of the valley. So it's not nearly so death-y after all. especially without any traffic. But there are a ton of mountain bikers. It's a huge tourist attraction promoted in La Paz.

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    (on the Death Road)

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    (lots of groups of bikers, but usually fairly easy to get around...)

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    (...unless they fall over. Then it's harder)

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    (Mark on the Road of Death)

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    (Mark with a thumbs up on top of a cliff)

    After the 60km stretch of the Death Road, we ended up pulling into Coroico. That little town was a sweet spot, with a couple of really nice hostel options, and a pleasant plaza. Oh yeah, before we got all the way down the valley, there was a lady collecting money to pass. She wanted 30Bs (US$4) per bike. That's excessive! So Mike argued with her, causing a machista tour guide to come over and add to the discussion, eventually having Jill ready to just drop the rope and go on through. Mark is much more polite than us, and offered to pay the 30Bs since she said it was for the maintenance workers on the road (which there were a few of, it would have been nice to stop and ask who paid them...). We asked her to let us both go for 30 Bs since we had 4 wheels, same as a car. She didn't want to do it, but had already dropped the rope so we went, owing Mark 15Bs. We hadn't heard of others having to pay this toll, it may have had to do with our bad timing. A casual departure and stops for the TA caused us to arrive at this point right when all of the bike tours did too. Whatever. It happened. Back to Coroico now, which was much cooler than that stop...

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    We grabbed a quick lunch - a menu del dia - for 15Bs per person and decided to stay in Coroico, heading up to a hostel that a friend of Mark's had recommended.

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    (still on our way to Hostal Sol y Luna, an incredible, chill, getaway that sits on the hill above town. Their food is kinda pricey, but good, and you can cook your own meals there. They had comfy beds and a ton of options of cabins, private rooms or dorms ranging from 50 Bs and up. You can camp for less. Definitely recommended.)

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    (sunset from the Hostal Sol y Luna GPS: S16 deg 11.891 min / W67 deg 43.430 min)

    The plaza in Coroico was a great place. People were happy, friendly and generally in good spirits. And they had some amazing breakfast options at the vendors for 4-5Bs.

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    (We saw a few black women wearing traditional Bolivian indigenous clothing, which was a first for us. I wonder the history behind that...)

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    (Bolivian OSHA approved touch up painting)

    The riding through the the Yungas region was incredible! We spent about 3 more days wandering through the valley on dirt roads that were in good shape and didn't have much traffic.

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    (Our bikes taking in the scenic view while at a construction stop)

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    (Buying coca leaves in Coripata, Yungas region. They claim to have the sweetest coca leaves around. Even more impressive is that neighboring communities also claim that Coripata has the sweetest coca leaves around)

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    (Yolanda with Mike (and about US$0.50 worth of coca leaves) in Coripata. She was a sweet old lady, who is excited to visit relatives in the states later this year)

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    (thankfully there wasn't too much traffic, cause it could get dusty!)

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    (as seen from our perspective)

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    (and some places were easier to pass than others)

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    (coca fields in the Yungas region. This whole area is known for its coca production. You can literally smell it in the air)

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    (drying coca on the roadside)

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    (the road got pretty small and little traveled in some places. Here checking to see if we're on the right track)

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    (Relaxing in Chulumani after a day of riding. Mark was a saint and bought the first round of Paceña)

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    (our hotel room in the garage. Chulumani was having a party that weekend, so the (one) hotel was full)


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    (Shopping in Chulumani)

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    (when in Rome... well, the locals usually don't disco at the same time, but the roadside stop is absolutely acceptable)

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    (Mark got this pic of the kids watching a TV set up outside)

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    (at breakfast)

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    (us with Marta, she was a really nice hostess, letting us use her private bath and shower, which was much nicer than the alternative. She was also very educated and worldy, throwing in random English words now and again, as well as showing a solid command of geography. 2 things you don't find that often in towns this size.)

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    (Getting the TA out of parking)

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    (the parting shot)

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    (we literally had to ride through the Sunday market to get out of town)

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    (keep in mind we are on our motorcycle here)

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    (another beautiful day for riding through the Yungas!)

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    (Mark kicking up some dust, Yungas)

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    (kid playing with a moto wheel, Quime, Yungas (Mark took this shot, we're not fast enough on the draw to get stuff like this))

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    (another day full of scenic views)

    The next night we stayed in Quime, at the Quime hotel which has secure parking. It also has a pet monkey. We were scolded by the owner for taking pictures since he usually charges, but Mark was able to sneak a couple of shots anyways.

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    (the monkey and Jill got along)

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    (when Mark got closer the monkey was less happy)

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    (Beautiful high altitude riding towards Caracollo on the way to Oruro)

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    (trying to keep the fuel/air mixture reasonable at these high altitudes ... and with a clogged air filter. Limited success, but the TA kept truckin!)

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    We stopped to get gas at the edge of Oruro. They were happy to fill our tank, but the car in front of us wouldn't start, and for some reason the driver was insistent against pushing the car out of the way to figure it out. Even when 3 people were pushing, and the driver was full well aware they were, he kept the transmission engaged, or on the brake, or both. We eventually got waved to another pump.

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    (waiting for the car to move. Then drunk people started coming out of the station. We think they worked there)

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    (This guy kept saying he liked Mike's head, and insisted on sharing his beer. Mike did not inhale)


    <a href="http://motojeros.smugmug.com/Travel/Motojeros-Bolivia/26379508_F8f4Dm#!i=2209782318&k=QPBXFT3&lb=1&s=A" title="Mining is clearly important to Oruro"><img src="http://motojeros.smugmug.com/Travel/Motojeros-Bolivia/i-QPBXFT3/0/M/P1030460-M.jpg" title="Mining is clearly important to Oruro" alt="Mining is clearly important to Oruro"></a>
    (you can tell what's important to Oruro)

    <a href="http://motojeros.smugmug.com/Travel/Motojeros-Bolivia/26379508_F8f4Dm#!i=2209782278&k=cGQNfFX&lb=1&s=A" title="Lunch stop on the outskirts of Oruro"><img src="http://motojeros.smugmug.com/Travel/Motojeros-Bolivia/i-cGQNfFX/0/M/P1030461-M.jpg" title="Lunch stop on the outskirts of Oruro" alt="Lunch stop on the outskirts of Oruro"></a>
    (a good quick lunch stop on the outskirts of Oruro)

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    Arriving in Challapata we decided we were going to take the road straight south to Uyuni, but the afternoon was getting late, so we stayed put. It's a bit of a crappy town, but does have a few restaurants, hotels and the like. It also has a guy driving a pick up truck who felt the need to slow down beside as we were walking on the sidewalk and flip us off. Quite the welcome! (And no, it was most definitely not an ADVrider salute)

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    (the green hotel, with moto parking in their defunct restaurant, of Challapata)
  9. lakota

    lakota Geeser

    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2007
    Oddometer:
    3,254
    Location:
    Annapolis MD
    Jill and Mike
    This is a most enjoyable report. Very well done and a welcome addition to my bucket list.
    Thanks for sharing
  10. csustewy

    csustewy Motojero

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2009
    Oddometer:
    551
    Location:
    back in Denver
    We had just under 200km to make Uyuni from Challapata on the direct road, which sounded much better than the paved, roundabout direction. Turns out the direct road is full of mean washboards and patches of sand that make it a little less enjoyable (especially fully loaded 2 up) than some other dirt riding (including the Yungas). Funny part is we knew that we wanted to get to Uyuni, not really investigating much about the entrance to the salt flats, but we ended up passing the entrance about 20km before Uyuni. So we got to ride that stretch 3 times, but somehow it is much worse heading south. And it was nice to stock up on food and have a pizza in Uyuni before heading out to the Salar. But we shoulda checked in advance. We even saw the sign in Colchani that said "Salar 5 km ->" but figured there was another entrance by Uyuni. There kind of is, but you run the risk of sinking in, and no one wants that). But I'm getting ahead of myself...

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    (none of our pics do the 164 km of washboard justice, so just take our word for it)

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    (Radioman wondering why his F800GS got so sleepy all of a sudden. It definitely had something to do with a deep sand patch and a fully loaded bike. He'll have to explain the rest)

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    (an F800GS taking a nap at the end of some deep sand)

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    (the aftermath)

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    (These fellas stopped to warn us about the deep sand stretches, with broken Spanish, a bit of Quechua, and lots of hand gestures. It was just after Mark's sand mishap, however)

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    (sho' 'nuff - this whole town exists in a sand box)

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    (us trying to stay off the washboard, but going slow 'cause it got deep over there in places)

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    (Radioman's Peruvian mascot's resting place, 140km N of Uyuni)

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    We don't have any pictures from Uyuni, but it's a fine little city to spend a night. Off the 2 main tourist blocks, it's much like any other small Bolivian town, but the tourist blocks have more hotels, pizza shops (they know what gringos love), artesanal shops, and tour compaines. Mark ended up staying in a nicer hotel with wifi (he does stay much better connected than us). We found a nice little hostel right over the market for 60Bs total. It had a shared bath, but hot water, very clean, and Gustavo the owner was super nice. Parking is in the locked hallway at night, and the market area is safe by day. (GPS S20 deg 27.837 min / W66 deg 49.468 min)

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    (mounds o' salt - part of the process of salt mining. At the entrance to the Salar)

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    (heavily traveled tracks form roads in the Salar)

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    (just about 20km in is a hotel built of salt. You can stay there for US$20/ppn. It actually looked pretty nice)

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    (inside the salt hotel)

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    (who's the salty one now?)

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    (it was a strange experience riding out there in such a foreign environment. It somehow warps your perception of time, distance, and speed)

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    (Jill making a salt angel)

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    (this is how Mark stays so current with his ride report)

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    (taking a break)

    And it's fun to play with the strange perspective of the Salar

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    (Mike in the Transalp hamster wheel)

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    (Jill about to get rolled over)

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    (Mark climbing onto the knobbies)

    However, when you are playing with perspective and only capture a piece of it, it can look pretty ridiculous:

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    (Jill taste-testing the salt. "tastes fine")

    At first we traveled on stable salt, found on basically any line between the entrance, salt hotel, and the Isla Incahuasi. From that island, Mike really wanted to check out the Galaxia caves and nearby museum. We had the GPS coords for them, and some people who came from there told us that it was worth it and not rough to get to. So we paralleled a "road" for awhile, then made straight for the caves. That turn away from any other tracks was exhilarating. But that feeling wore off, changing more into a worry - soon the salt was softening up substantially. Our tires were sinking in and that soft salt is really grabby, even only with the sidewalls sunk in. We gave up on the caves idea (also not wanting to push our limits of gasoline, as we had already ridden nearly 150km on the Salar), and went back to find a place to camp.

    [​IMG]

    That night we camped next to Isla del Pescado, which is an island without any infrastructure about 10km north of the island that does have infrastructure, Isla Incahuasi (aka Isla del Pescador, which is why these 2 islands are often mixed up). It was a beautiful, surreal place to camp. It was also incredibly hot, with the sun reflecting from all different directions. After even just 45 min - with sunscreen on - Mike's skin wanted to be covered. Another interesting weather pattern hit around 3:52 in the afternoon. All of a sudden, as in immediately, a strong wind picked up, blasting us from the west for a couple of hours. At least by nightfall it had calmed, or else it would have been much colder (and noisier in our tent).

    [​IMG]
    (camp as seen from the rocks above)

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    (Camp at lower right, with Mark closer to the middle of the frame. The Salar is expansive)

    [​IMG]
    (Cactus on Isla del Pescado)

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    (Mike on the summit of Isla del Pescado. Sunscreen wasn't enough, so the classy t-shirt bandana combo came out. But it was nice to not turn into a lobster)

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    (Amazingly, there was some wildlife on the Isla del Pescado. There were a dozen or so (2 pictured here) of these furry critters living the boulders. They made noise like pikas, were the size of marmots, and moved like jackrabbits, but better with rocks. I called them Ja-mar-kas. I think that's what they are.)


    [​IMG]
    (Cactus flower)

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    (cooking up a pasta dinner in the windbreak of the Isla del Pescado)

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    (campsite on the Salar)

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    (strange shoreline features near land)

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    (more strange shoreline features near land caused by runoff. Here the salt is only a few inches thick. What's staggering is that the average thickness is 110 meters! There's generally 11 stages of about 10 meters each. That's a whole lot of salt.)

    [​IMG]

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    (the TA at dusk)

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    (nice sunset over the Salar)

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    (playing with headlamp illumination)

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    (Mike and Mark took a short midnight ride on the salar. The salar sensations of warped distance and speed were amplified. Mike couldn't stop smiling the whole time.)

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    (dawn on the Salar)

    That next morning we broke camp and rode over to the Isla Incahuasi for a cup of coffee. It was 10Bs well spent. Thankfully we didn't have to pay the 30Bs / person entry fee to the island that is usually charged. Although Jill did have to find a spot in the naturaleza to pee because she didn't want to pay the Bathroom Nazi the 30 Bs required to use the bathrooms on the island. Then we rode the 80 km back to Colchani, and washboarded our way into Uyuni.

    [​IMG]
    (llama crossing on the way)

    While in Uyuni we had a couple of specific tasks - one was to wash all the salt of our encrusted motorcycle before it began corroding parts away. The other was to email our contacts in Cochabamba to let them know we'd be arriving in a couple of days (basically on schedule). And then we had to fill up on gas and hit the road towards Potosí. There was only 1 station that would fill us (given foreign plates), and that happened to be the only station with gas. The first day (before the Salar) we were told by a nice taxista to get in the shorter line for right hand side fuel door vehicles, then brought to the front by an attendant pumping gas so that we could work in between vehicles, Venezuelan style. The second day I asked the (different) attendant if we could work in like that and he responded with attitude that he didn't even have to give us gas at all. After some ass kissing we eventually got gas and got out of there, after only waiting for ~5 cars. Keep in mind some of these trucks are filling up 500 liters and more.

    [​IMG]
    (long gas line every day in Uyuni)

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    (this Llama crosses where he's supposed to)

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    (Beautiful "fast" ride to Potosi that we had to pay for, 5Bs each. Not so fast, however, because the TA couldn't breathe. About 60km/h and she limped along, but we weren't going to make Cochabamba like that...)

    Our plan was to make Sucre that day, but given the need to work out a solution for our motorcycle's asthmatic condition, we decided to stop short in Potosi. Thanks to another recommendation from Mark's friend we worked our way into town to a nice little hostel with good bike parking, right in the lobby. Potosi was fine and all, but on our way into town we had another bird flipped our way for absolutely no reason - it seems like we run into personalities in Bolivia that are at either end of the spectrum, less often in the middle. The main thing Potosi is known to tourists for is its mine tours, which let you witness first hand the horrible conditions of the miners. It seems kind of twisted to make money on it without making improvements. None of the 3 of us had any desire to participate in what must be an awkward, difficult to stomach tour. So we just did some moto work and got ready to head to Cochabamba (or Sucre in Mark's case, we parted ways the next day as he was heading south from Sucre).

    [​IMG]
    (here Mike performs surgery on the air filter to take out some clogged paper and replace with filter foam.)

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    (Mike only had a small sheet of thin, large pore foam, so just made 2 regions of foam to get us through the next 2 days. Test results the next day - SUCCESS! The TA was back!)

    There was some more fantastic riding on the way to Sucre:

    [​IMG]

    with surprisingly good roads:

    [​IMG]

    Sadly, in Sucre we said our good byes to Mark. We ended up touring much of Bolivia together and had a great time! But at this point we each had different plans - us to Cochabamba for a month, and him to continue on south to Argentina and Chile after a day or two in Sucre. It was a good time, Mark! Hope to catch you again down the road somewhere...

    Heading north from Sucre took us from good pavement, to broken pavement, to some washboard with loose gravel covering (why doesn't the gravel fill in the holes???). There were also a few detours:

    [​IMG]
    (this detour kept us in a riverbed for about 20km. Not sure what happens when the rains come...)

    [​IMG]
    (we unfortunately picked up a huge nail in our new rear tire, coming to a loosey-goosey stop about 10km short of Aiquile. It took 45 min to get that inflexible (tubeless-type) rubber to cooperate and come off the wheel. One previously patchable tube was lost to the process. Thankfully we were only 10km from Aiquile, where we could get some air pressure to seat the tire correctly again, too. The hand pump just doesn't cut it. Pumping alone took about an hour, and only gave us 24psi)

    [​IMG]
    (getting the rear tire round again in Aiquile)

    That hold up caused us to stay in Aiquile, rather than push for Cochabamba that afternoon. It was a nice little town, that also happens to be the world headquarters (in that region) of charango. Well, it really is the National Capital of charango, and starting the day we got there was an annual charango fest. Mostly what we saw was the band members walking around with their sweet matching bowling shirt uni's. And a few shops that custom make the little guitar like charangos. But I guess they were playing music somewhere too. We missed that.

    The next day we rolled into Cochabamba on what turned out to be a national holiday, so the streets were empty. It was a bit strange, but we were able to get in touch with our contact at Mano a Mano and get settled in their building. They are taking care of us - we are staying on the 6th floor of their building in a nice little apartment right in the heart of downtown. It's great! And we are looking forward to lending them a hand with their work while here. More on that later...
  11. csustewy

    csustewy Motojero

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2009
    Oddometer:
    551
    Location:
    back in Denver
    Hey Lakota - thanks for letting us know that you've been enjoying our RR. We consider ourselves very lucky to have been (and continue) seeing such amazing places. Well worth keeping so many of them in mind as you have time available and plan your next trip.

    Cheers,
    Mike & Jill
  12. wdeTA

    wdeTA TransAlp Adv

    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2006
    Oddometer:
    483
    Location:
    Boulder, CO

    Thanks for taking us along on your trip. The reports and photos have been great. I've been following since the start, since as a fellow Colorado Transalp rider I had to see where you were taking your TA. Looks like It's been holding up well which is great to know (with the exception of some breathing issues lately). How many miles do you have on the clock now. I've got ~85K on mine and still loving it.

    I worked with Cigar Mike on prototyping the TA center stand, but mine hasn't seen the miles yours has. I know he had to make some slight alterations from the one on mine for you since I have an aftermarket rear shock. From the pic above it is obviously still in place and working. Has it been holding up well?

    Thanks,
  13. sgio

    sgio Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2011
    Oddometer:
    118
    Location:
    Upstate NY
    I just got caught up on your excellent report. I started following along when you showed up in Radioman's adventure. It's great to see a 2 up adventure. :clap
    My wife and I have only been on a couple of short trips so far. We thought we wouldn't be able to fit camping gear and luggage for 2 on the bike, but you guys are showing us that its certainly possible.
    Good luck and thanks for sharing!
  14. csustewy

    csustewy Motojero

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2009
    Oddometer:
    551
    Location:
    back in Denver
    Hey Dale - it's always fun to hear from a Colorodoan, especially one with an affinity towards such an amazing bike! Has the snow started falling already this year, or are you able to get some rides in yet?

    Cigar Mike spoke highly of the time you both spent working through the prototype center stands, and honestly, without that, the stand we have would likely not have been as great as it is. I owe you for that! (and I know that Cigar Mike is looking to fine tune the design some, but you two really did get it to a great point.) He made some minor modifications to the retractable press down leg and the only modification after that was to grind out some of the top plate that was contacting the HyperPro progressive spring when the rear wheel was unweighted. An easy fix (shown HERE).

    The center stand has been holding up exceptionally well! It's bounced off more than it's share of rocks and speed bumps (especially speed bumps...), and supported our fully loaded bike on many occasions, yet it's still doing exactly what it's supposed to. I couldn't be happier (or luckier that I was able to drop by to work with Cigar Mike).

    Our TA is still fairly young with just about 50k miles on the clock. Well...the odo actually shows around 39000, with the remaining 11k tracked by GPS. Someday we'll have a working speedometer/odometer again. And I am still extremely pleased with her, as well. There aren't too many ADV style bikes out there where the 2 most common failures are the CDI boxes and the speedo unit. What a great all around tourer!
  15. csustewy

    csustewy Motojero

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2009
    Oddometer:
    551
    Location:
    back in Denver
    Hey sgio - glad that you have enjoyed following along. I hope that you and your wife are able to get in some longer trips - it's very possible! Really, once you have the gear that you want for a few day trip, you have about the same gear that you will need for a longer trip than that. (You just get to wear the same thing over and over again.)

    A ride report that we enjoyed from a couple of years ago was by 2uprtw, and currently ferretface is riding 2 up (on a transalp, to boot!) in Central America. Beyond stunning photos and good stories, they both have excellent packing lists and logistical details that may help your thought process too. Check out their blogs for more info:

    http://www.2uprtw.com/
    http://heyivegotanidea.wordpress.com/
  16. wdeTA

    wdeTA TransAlp Adv

    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2006
    Oddometer:
    483
    Location:
    Boulder, CO
    Thanks for taking the time to reply back.

    There's been some snow, but we are still way behind both in the Front range and up in the mountains. Local riding is OK, but the planned ride out to Utah last month for a river trip got changed to using my Jeep when it was clear it was going to snow on the way over.

    I haven't touched base with Mike in way to long. Gonna have to give him a call and see how he's doing. We put in way more hours on the stand than anticipated trying to figure out all the gotchas. Didn't occur to us until late in the game that my Wilbers shock would line up differently than the OEM one, or the other after market ones like you have. So glad it is working out for you.

    My TA is missing some miles on the odo as well from two different breaks on long trips. I didn't have the standard plastic/nylon gear break inside the wheel housing, but instead I ended up breaking off the little tab in the wheel sensor housing that actually turns the cable. After the second one I realized it was because when I was re-installing the front wheel I was pushing the right fork leg in a bit before clamping it down and that apparently changed the angle of the cable to the tab inside the housing and it would fatigue and break. Unfortunately the only way to fix it is to by a whole new housing, but now that I understand the problem, it hasn't happened again. Can't remember what caused your failure and too lazy to go back and look. I've had to replace both CDIs over time. Need to pick up some more spares :D.

    Thanks again for letting us follow along on your trip and if/when you ever get your TA back to Colorado we'll have to get them together for a play date.
  17. csustewy

    csustewy Motojero

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2009
    Oddometer:
    551
    Location:
    back in Denver
    It's a pleasure to hear from you; likewise, thanks for taking the time to drop me a line! Hope you guys get some snow for the water side of it, but have plenty of days without to be able to ride.

    I know that Mike has been trying to slow down on centerstand production, with what used to be a hobby turning into a business. I'm sure he'd be happy to hear from you whenever you get the chance.

    This is the first time I've posted anything to this effect, so I guess it's finally sinking in for me, but I doubt the TA will make it back to the states with us. Not that she couldn't, it's just that it won't make sense economically. The way I see it is that riding back is out of the question (we will still have the time, what we won't have is the money). Shipping her back would likely cost about US$2000 all said and done. Then I would end up spending a lot of time and money fixing her up, which would be enjoyable, but costly on a bike that wouldn't be worth much more than US$2000 once improved. So... I am starting to consider options of how to sell her somewhat legally down here in South America. Bikes are worth a lot down here (for instance, a low mileage 89 TA was listed for around US$7000 recently in Argentina, however, this is one of the most strict countries for imports...). It will be a sad day to part with our trusty TA, but it's what's most likely to happen. Let me know if you know if any potential buyers in the southern cone...
  18. csustewy

    csustewy Motojero

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2009
    Oddometer:
    551
    Location:
    back in Denver
    While we are hanging out in Cochabamba for a month, we had to take advantage and explore the area a bit, so a long weekend to Torotoro National Park was in order. Torotoro is a gem of a national park for its natural beauty, as well as its small number of visitors per year - right up our alley! All we knew in advance was that it had dinosaur tracks in the area, had a huge cave to explore, and some nice waterfalls in a scenic canyon. All of that turned out to be true. And accessing the site by moto was a lot of fun!

    [​IMG]
    (we had heard that the road to Torotoro can be rough, but quickly learned that about 3-4 years ago it had been cobblestoned. At least about 60 of the 90 km after the turn off)

    [​IMG]
    (there was still some nice dirt riding through the valley)

    [​IMG]
    (luckily it's been dry, I'm not sure what happens to a couple segments of road during rainy season)

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    (you haven't really arrived until you've seen the dinosaur)

    That first afternoon we got checked into a nice little hostal with parking (Las Charcas, 30 Bs/ppn (~US$4)) and asked a few questions of guides hanging around the plaza. One was nice, Luis Zola (IIRC), and wasn't pushy at all, so we were happy to join a group that he already had planned for the next morning. That afternoon we figured we'd register and pay our 30 Bs each park entrance fee (good for multiple days), but then just wander towards some closer in sites. Guides are recommended for all sites, even strongly encouraged, but for the hike to El Vergel and surrounding sites (4km from the plaza) we were very glad that we weren't suckered into that. It was all extremely well marked. We also lucked out because the park office was closed, so no entrance fee...but we figured we'd settle up the next morning when we met Luis...

    [​IMG]
    (El Vergel canyon)

    [​IMG]
    (Jill walking down the nice stone trail to the waterfalls at El Vergel)

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    (Mike taking a dip in the canyon)

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    (the water was that cold)

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    (Jill finding her way to the base of the waterfall)

    [​IMG]
    (voila!)

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The next morning the plaza was sleepy, including the park office, which was most definitely closed. We met up with Luis, our driver, and 3 Israelis. This was a way to split costs up - each tour leg that the guide went on cost 100 Bs, and we had signed up for 2. The car was 300 Bs for the day. So we each paid 100 Bs (US$14) to have a full day guided tour of a couple of amazing sites. The first stop was the Ciudad de Itas, where we hiked along some amazing canyons to reach a wind and water formed cave with stone arches.

    [​IMG]
    (hortiga. This stuff will mess your skin up. Apparently it was used in schools to punish ornery kids, by basically whipping them with it)

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    (Ciudad de Itas)

    [​IMG]
    (turtle rock)

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    (Jill avoiding the waist deep marsh)

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    (it's sturdier than it looks)

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    (The rock centered in the frame has a (very) loose resemblance to a wild cat and is traditionally used in ceremonies by the surrounding farmers to protect their herds and flocks from wolves and pumas. The cave in the background was used to hide cattle in the pre-revolution days (rural poor were abused, cattle stolen, etc) and then used to hide fighters during the civil war)

    After hiking for a few hours, we returned to the car to see a tour bus of 30 people unloading. It was apparently a huge advantage starting at 7am! Even though not many visitors come to the park, the weekends can be busy and this weekend was full of kids in town for a school conference. We moved on towards la Caverna de Umajalanta, a cave that extends some 7km in and that you can explore more of over a few day day cave trek. We were just going to see the first few hundred meters of it, but even just that was sweet!

    [​IMG]
    (3 toed dinosaur walked here. There are a number of prints visible in the region (some less distinguishable than others), but interestingly not many bones have been found. Maybe they were just passing through...)

    [​IMG]
    (wildlife that acutally let us take its picture!)

    [​IMG]
    (Jill crawling through the first section of the Caverna de Umajalanta. Luis told us that if you can stay dry through this stretch, you'll come out of the cave clean, but if you get wet here, you will be dirty. We both basically stayed dry)

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    (Jill rappelling her way down a steep section. She's getting good at this!)

    [​IMG]
    (one more shot of Jill with a huge smile on her face. She found a new love - caving)

    On our way back to town that afternoon the mountains were getting hammered with rain, lots of lightning. The passengers in the car didn't know what that meant, but the driver had some idea. He was sliding around switchbacks - and not just S American driving style, but the next level...he showed us his normal S American moves on the way up, and this was a step beyond - and throwing the passengers (especially the ones in the way back of the wagon) around. After he crossed a drainage, he stopped.

    [​IMG]
    (first picture immediately after stopping...)

    [​IMG]
    (...and second picture. It still would have been easily crossable, but with that type of flash flood it could go either way)

    That afternoon we wandered around the small town of Torotoro a bit. There's not much. The nice hotel in town serves food, a couple of households open their doors to serve food (but not on any schedule), and there is the comedor popular, which serves up traditional meals 3 times a day, for 10Bs each. that's our kinda place. But there is a decent feel to the small town, with people still staring at us because we're different, but not harshly. They seem to be getting quite used to tourists.

    A man, David, pulled us into his sitting room to have a chat when we were just wandering around town. He talked to us for about 30 min. His house is also a museum that he's had open for 25 years but is now selling to move on (maybe England, maybe Mexico). He's been driven out of Torotoro by the hostility of the town, claiming that they don't want to work and they have no culture to show to tourists. I think he means that the townspeople were jealous of his money making enterprise, but he never went so far as to say that. He was a nice man, though, and just seemed happy to have someone to talk to. But eventually we wondered on in search of food (and Mike dropped in the next morning to check out the museum)

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    (ol' David had been collecting rocks and fossils for the past 50 years, having now stuck them to any vertical surface that can support the weight. He likes to show off the ones that he thinks look like other objects, some religious, some animals, some I never got)

    That morning we decided to walk back up towards El Vergel and see some more of the sites around that area, rather than drop into the canyon. We were glad we did!

    [​IMG]
    (I know public urination happens against any standing wall in Latin America, but apparently they had to warn people about #2 too)

    [​IMG]
    (this dog befriended Jill. It was mesmerized by her heals, coming really close with his nose, than backing away again, then coming really close with his nose,... He followed us for our entire ~4 hr hike near El Vergel)

    [​IMG]
    (el mirador del cañon, with a scary tall, straight down drop directly underneath Mike's feet)

    [​IMG]
    (we even got to see some condors)

    [​IMG]

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    ( Man, Colca Canyon got nuthin' on this place!)

    The ~3.5 hr ride back into Cochabamba was enjoyable again, with good weather and no traffic. We ended up buying gas in Anzaldo for 6Bs/liter, which at a mark up for them (~3.75Bs at the pump), a discount for us (9.25 Bs at the pump). So we bought about a tank full. That was a mistake. That stuff was cut with paint thinner or something similar. Riding back through city traffic of Cocha you could smell the volatiles coming out of the tank, and the gas cap was venting in ways that it normally wouldn't. Additionally, the bike was running sluggish. Well, we made it to town just fine at least, and that gave Mike something to do the next day (drain the tank and carbs, refill with automobile gasoline).

    [​IMG]
    (one other task was to get the front tire flipped around to start to wear down the other side of the knobbies, hopefully giving us a few more kilometers in total.)

    [​IMG]
    (We might as well have stopped here to fill up - white flags like this mean they have chicha for sale (in this region, it can also mean fresh bread). Chicha is a fermented corn drink that tastes pretty awful unless you're used to it. And the fermentation process is started with spit. Gross. And you can tell whose been drinking chicha - that stuff is potent.)
  19. wdeTA

    wdeTA TransAlp Adv

    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2006
    Oddometer:
    483
    Location:
    Boulder, CO
    Certainly understand the economics of trying to bring the TA home vs selling it there, just hate to see another one leave the US for good since there are so few here to begin with :D. I would think maybe selling it to some other traveler who wanted to come over and take possession and do a south to north trip might be an option. The HUBB might be a better place to find someone like that.

    I suspect you're going to be in SA for quite a bit longer so this wouldn't work, but The Two Kiwis (http://advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=789269&page=34) just had a bad crash and it sounds like Ellen has no plans to ride again (they each had their own bike), so they are now contemplating trying to find a bigger bike in Mexico to continue their ride. If the timing worked, maybe they could finish up CA on their current one bike and then fly down to SA and continue on your TA. Just a thought.
  20. csustewy

    csustewy Motojero

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2009
    Oddometer:
    551
    Location:
    back in Denver
    I had seen a bit about their crash, and am glad to see everyone is ok (sucks about their insurance nightmares, though). It's understandable that they're going 2up from here on. Not sure if the timing will work out, but your thought is a good one. I will let the dust settle for them to see what path they decide to take before mentioning much else. Thanks for passing that along to both of us.

    I will likely post our TA on the HUBB (and maybe here in Latin America), but am unsure of how to price it, locate it, all that. I would much rather see her on the road, even potentially back in the states. The last thing I want to do is part out a fine machine. I will keep kicking around ideas, and am definitely open to any further thoughts you (or anyone else) may have...