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Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by bikerooter, Feb 24, 2017.
Great read n pics
Tucked in behind the pile of gravel out of the wind
Mist lay on the mountains in the morning folling the stormy night
Lightening lit our tents up like light bulbs while the thunder bounced of the hills during the night but only a few drops of rain falling on our camp. The storms left a cool breeze behind as we had our usually cup of tea for breakfast before heading into Santa Maria. Five kilometers up the road water lay across the flats reveiling just how lucky we were not to be soaking wet this morning having just avoided one of the storms.
We made some enquieries in town and found a bike shop to make repairs to Tomeks bike. A new rubber brake line and new buckets in the master cylinder but we couldn't get the air out of the caliper. An old bloke brought us a suringe to help clear the system but still not much of a brake. After three and a half hours I was pretty tired of the thing as it was not getting any better so we dicided this would be how it was going to be and to deal with it more further up the track.
Tight little fun dirt roads lead out of Santa Maria and tar after that for 80 kms to Cafayate where we would meet Krzysztof waiting for us at a cafe.
Krzysztof had a rough night riding in storms for two hours with masses of water across the roads and having his life saved by lightening when a flash illuminated a car he was about to run into. He looked a bit tired from the ordeal.
We had a rough plan to travel to Salta to see the dakar bivouac but the brake repairs ate the day so our option now was to back track 120km past Santa Maria and wait for tomorrows stage to run past us. We changed some money and purchased some toothpaste at the pharmacy and had a feed and filled the bikes ready for the run back just as a huge storm hit town.
The storm flooded the streets in Cafayate bringing out our wet weather gear. Russ's wet gear consisted of his pack cover.
Taking off in the rain from Cafayate
Cracking the fitting at the MC may help
Yep for sure...we cracked everything....wait for the next bit <:)
Back down the road to Santa Maria with the first 20 kms in pouring rain and then nothing but dust. Krrzysztof found another bike shop for a second opinion on the issues with Tomeks brake. Tomek and Bishek and Kryzysztof stayed at the bike shop while the rest of us gathered some food and headed west to find a camp in a position to see the dakar race past in the morning. There were plenty of pick ups heading our way loaded with deck chairs and camping gear all with the same destination in mind. By dark the spectators were lined up as though the stage was about to be run. We were unsure if Krzysztof would find our camp but well after dark we heard the bikes coming along the road so Homer raced across the flat to guide them to our sandy camp on top of a ridge not far from the intended race course. The bike mechanic replaced Tomeks entire master cyclinder saying that the original one did not have enough stroke and flow to allow for the expansion of the "new" rubber brake line. The brake was still not much good. One could only imagine in a country where parts for a DRZ were available Tomek could have purchased an entire front brake system for what he had forked out for dodgy repairs. Anyway he was riding it regardless.
Camped under a big moon waiting for the race
By morning all the specataters had dissapeared!! Krzysztof went to investigate only to come back with the news that the stage we were waiting to see had been cancelled due to a landslide further north. The competitors did not reach Salta until late therefore requiering this stage to be cancelled. At the end of this dakar the bikes had only done 33 hours of competive stuff compared to dakars in africa where they competed for 70 hours or more. The weather in South America definitely affects this race reducing alot of sections to transports. We waited for 20 minutes to perhaps see the caravan roll along the road then took off back to Cafayate passing a few bikes and trucks on the tar on their way to the following stage at Belen.
Ironically on the way north Dave and Dudley collected Krzysztofs tent and sleeping mattress as they had worked themselves free from his bike. The mattress must have made a slow get away crawling past the exhaust which burnt a hole straight through it, same as Daves. Lunch back at the same cafe in Cafayate ( like deja vu ) then hit the road the north toward the small town of Molinos passing fields of onions and lucerne all irrigated with a dark brown water aquaducted off the main river stream. A twisty gravel road cut through ridge lines obviously out of reach of the rivers high water level. We stopped for a big tub of icecream and a break in the shade.
These dirt cuttings were a highlight of the run up the valley
The chocolate brown river feeds many farms along the way
Late in the afternoon we caught up with the first sections of road that had received the recent rains in Argentina leaving a grippy red surface just made for holding ya line against ya mates. Homer and Russ had a pretty good run spraying me with roost until they left a hole just big enough to squeeze through slingshotting me to the lead only to be confronted by two quite large spoon drains aacross the road and about 10 meters apart. At 100km/h there was nothing else to do but ride it out shooting from the base of the first dip right into the base of the second and a huge flat landing a fair way down the road. I turned my head in time to see Russ a little sideways washing speed while Homer was already in the dip, we should have gone back to make a few pictures but clearly the race was still on.
Exiting the valley we came upon Krzysztof stopped with a loacal guy on the side of the road with a flat tyre on his bike. Krzysztof asked if we could help the guy repair his tyre which we agreed to ofcourse. When the tube came out of the wheel we were amaised to find 11 patches on the tube, big fat vulcanised patches to they were. We found a hole, stuck a patch on, found another hole, another patch. Put the tube back in...still leaking. Pulled the tube out and long grassed it and added one of our 'new Chile " tubes only to find the holes as previously described from the valve stem. We patched it and stuck it in to find the wire was breaking on the tyre bead each time we repaired the tube. Too hard so we explained to the guy he would need a new tyre. We left them there in the last light of the day to make our way to La Poma about 10km up the track.
Steak and rice for dinner at 10pm was very welcomed along with a warm shower and a bed from the small hostel type place we stayed at wedged into the side the mountain. Mud brick walls lined the roads or streets with odd shaped paddocks making up the farms surrounding the village at 3050 meters above sea level. In the morning we would cross yet another high pass on our way to Bolivia.
High pressure bum washer that actually washed the ceiling as well when ya cracked the red valve open
Dudley slow to rise and all rugged up
Stuck right up the valley is the town of La Poma
A good collection of old stuff hanging on the wall, goats bells, rabbit traps........
Krzysztof heading up the hill to the 4932 meter pass
I can't imagine a better place to grow snow peas than where it snows. Perhaps. These were higher than 4000 meters
The road up to the top of the pass was smooth and twisty just being graded
After crossing the highest pass in Argentina we lunched in San Antonia, fueled the bikes and grabbed some more bottles of oil. Lunch was our usual sit down affair with lama steak and salad and a few empanadas and of course some coke to keep our stomachs in check. There was a alot of traffic coming through town as this was the route to avoid the landslide damaged city to the east.
Having a play in the park while Dudley was up town finding drinking water
Not more than 10km up the gravel road following lunch my little DRZ started to free rev in top gear. I looked down at my left boot to see heaps of oil first and then the front sprocket and chain all the way out to the end of the countershaft. I locked her up and skidded to a hault imediately laying it on it right hand side so the oil didn't keep flowing . Homer saw what was happening and took my bike while I scooted off to find the nut!!! Well there was an oil trail for at least one and a half kilometers up the road so the little engine would need a drink for sure. Homer found the lock washer not far from the stopping position but i could not find the countershaft nut despite walking a huge section of road. I did find a bigger nut off some other vehicle. The lock washer was rooted at the start so it wasn't really helping the lock tight we used on the nut earlier. Homer pushed the spacer/seal bush back in along the counter shaft and stuck the lock washer on so we knew where it was and took the front axil nut off and used it to secure the sprocket now. Russ had come back along the busy road to see if we were ok and help look for our missing bits. Krzysztofs business had a group of BMW's also in Argentina with his partener Ola and a guide who had to use this same section of gravel due to the landslide road clossures. One of those guys stopped to see if things were ok so we asked him to pass the message that we would sort it out. Somehwere in the translation Krzysztof received the message that the DRZ needed to be collected by their BMW support vehicle.
There was oil over everything even right up my back pack
Homer poured a litre of oil down its neck and luckily that left a mark on the dip stick so we were off after being stopped for an hour or more at 3050 meters. Homer had left his headlight on so I had to push start him in the heavy gravel, I was glad it fired on the third clutch. I was so done I had to take my helmet off and catch my breath. As I did a rider with a hi vis vest flew past with a big FAT bmw in its dust. Homer was waiting 500 meters up the road to make sure I was coming. He asked if I knew who the pilot was with the vest. No. It was Ola. Full of oil I pinned the thing and caught up to Ola to find out why she didn't recognise her own bike on the side of the road. Then it was flat from there to the salt lake and the rest of group except for Tomek and Krzysztof and Bishek who went ahead to the next cross section 100km ahead.
We rounded up the bunch of bmw guys on the wide road not long after the Noroeste salt lake. Some were in the middle of the 30 meter wide road clearly not used to the gravel unlike Dudley who seemed clearly bored with the pace on the long straight transport. We met Krzysztof at the cross road resting in the shade against an old building, to his surprise my bike was not requirering rescure by truck. He now had to ride south west toward Purmamarca to catch the support truck and send it to the border instead. If only things worked out that simple. One of the bmw guys following us binned his bike on the gravel and was in bad shape so the truck had to come and collect the bike and the guy had to go and spend some quality time in hospital.
Krzysztof and Ola would be tied up with this injured guy and trying to transport his damaged bike out of there. This would plague them for the remainder of the trip.
The rest of us made our way to La Quiaca on the border between Argentina and Bolivia. The hostel Casablanca was our destination but first we had to make some fuel transfers as Dudley's bike was empty first this time with his paper filter blocked from heavy traffic on the dusty gravel.
Hostel Casablanca, clean and tidy until we turned up and dripped oil on the tiles.
BMW riders Derek and Tomaz were already in La Quiaca as they we a little bit better on the gravel than their tour mates clearly demonstated when Derek rode his 1200 into the hostel through the foyer. There was going to be some time to killl here as we could not go further without some documents from Krzysztof and Ola. Everybody eats late here so we hit the town well after dark to get a feed of sort of meat smothered with cheese and marched the streets in the cold wind.
Friday the 13th was living up to its reputation with Krzysztof still held up in a hospital somewhere to the south so making the most of the city and sorting some bike maintenance was the natural thing to do. Eventually finding a bike mechanic who also had a wife that spoke perfect english we arranged for him to cross the boarder in search of bike parts, filter oil and sprockets and chains and meet us back at his joint at 4. High hopes of parts tumbled down the street when he turned up with nothing so we borrowed some containers off him and washed our air filters in petrol and oiled them with engine oil.
Russ and Homer ...team mechanics
Dudley was up all night at the hostel spewing the street tucker out and washing his clothes that he had messed up so he wasn't to keen to get going in the morning. We were on the street and ready to roll when Krzysztof and Ola arrived just before lunch to make a date with the border staff. Everything was going well until one of the guys realised we had not really entered Argentina on paper. He spoke good english and explained they could confuscate our bikes and demand a large sum of money to go with it. Ola wrote a stat dec so I could continue to ride her bike which was pretty handy as I wasn't too keen on walking. We entered the border at midday and exited at 3 minutes past, losing an hour on the clock as we charged into Bolivia.
Tupiza was about 90km up the tar sealed road where we would have lunch and fill with fuel before the long run through the mounatins to Atocha. Dudley spewed four times in his helmet leaving the border. Poor bugger had it dripping down his jacket but he didn't stop till the service station and he was looking a big crook. No lunch for him nor me as there was something also rumbleing in my belly in the warm resturant that seemed to compound the illness. Fresh air and long skids through the mountains seemed to cure my illness until I felt something rising in my throat. Swollowing hard for a few kilometers I finally gave up skidding to a halt just past a group of bridge builders working on the new road. Peeled the helmet off and jammed my head against the bike and let rip. Felt like my belly was coming out!!! About 2 litres of nothing but fluid which dug a divet in the soft dirt. Felt better straight away after the purging.
Dave and Dudley with a small inquisitive kid
Russ, Dudley and I shared a coke to settle our guts at a small cafe in Atocha while the rest had an afternoon smoko leaving Dave to fend a small local off the bikes outside. I made a few pictures and got hammered in the back by an old lady screeming something about something....who knows; she was propper wound up. This entire area was full of silver mines in the past and there is a huge network or train tracks running in all directions with the unused one partially covered so crossing them takes some care. Flowing tracks at 4100 meters in cool clean air put us on the high level flats to Uyuni.
Some pigs in the foreground as we left Atocha
These routes are very well used by all sorts of traffic including plenty of tourists like us but with different camels
Stunning views at 4100 meters with red linings on the ridges
There was plenty of prickly foliage on the way up the mountain
Dave kept stopping to look around so I kept shooting him
When sand dunes pop up not far from the road ofcourse they must to be tested for ridability
Chasing the train to Uyuni through what seemed like a see of water
Arriving in Uyuni just on dark we rounded up a motel through the wide flooded streets using dull headlights. A quick shower and up town leaving Dudley asleep on his bed to manage his upset belly. Before reaching the Lithium bar tiny hail rattled down on our heads from a passing storm destined for the mountains. Uyuni had received a bunch of rain leaving the place looking similar to a lake with just the exiting roads holding the high ground over the vast sea.
There is a huge metal graveyard at Uyuni consisting of serval trains and associated steam engines parked up on tracks which creates a very popular tourist attraction.
We spent some quality time inspecting the steel relics in the nice warm sunshine.
Some pieces have been scavenged over time from the graveyard
After attaching the fuel tank to Bisheks bike with some slip straps we rolled to the north 30km of Uyuni to the famous salt lake that has a series of roads ploughing straight across it in all directions. There is just one catch and that is the 200 meters of salt water a touch over a foot and half deep at the beginning of the lake that must be crossed to reach the smooth flat salt. Krzysztof said the last time they crossed this lake the bikes suffered tremendiuosly from the salt. I wasn't about to cross this salt water....not even on Krzysztofs bike and know the guys with me felt the same way.
Bishek and Tomek peeled off their pants and waded the water to see the dakar monument a little way out on the salt flat where the stages of the dakar are started from. Daves bike recieved a carby clean on the nice clean bed of salt so none of the parts were lost in mud. Dudley made a bare foot wander on the salt lake and soon returned with sore feet so we were eager to see how the Poles feet would fare after their journey. Much to our surprise they hitched a ride back in a ute questioning Krzysztofs distance estimate of a kilometer or more to the monument when it was in fact 6 kilometers. Krzysztofs reply was that it feels like a kilometer when you ride it on a bike.
These guys in for a world of hurt once that salt water sets in.
There were dozens of vehicles that crossed the salt water bath while we were pulled up there. Flashy toyotas covered with
white salt through to the people moving vans all carting tourist across the lake.
Another good feed In Uyuni and a bunch more petrol to head out of town on a flat smooth hard pack road into what looked like a huge storm and sure enough we passed through fat rain about 30 minutes in. Three wide clinching the seats and hoping for the best as the hard pack shifted to slippery red poo under ya tyres. The storm was short lived thankfully as passing other vehicles on the red stuff was pretty messy leaving the bikes dripping with what looked like tomatoe soup.
The small village of San Cristobal was the last fuel for how we didn't know and the guy dishing it out also knew that and charged an inflated amount for the fuel. The old style bazzar type shop was awesome with maccoroni from a sack bag and tubs of fresh onions and tomatoes to stock our packs for a camp in the hills.
Dudleys first touch of snow was on his goggle lenses. We have some snow country in Australia but as Dudley lives in
the tropics and hardly owns a jacket he had never made it to the snow until now.
At 4200 meters Krzysztof was looking for a gravel pit on the left side if the road as the misty rain was starting to hide the snow on the mountain tops. Eventually he found the correct pit which had a little track crawling over a rocky ridge and down into a huge valley with multiples of tracks all going in the same general direction. Homers bike was missing and farting so he offered it to me to see what I thought......I knew it was running poorly just by the sound it was making. What Homer didn't realise was that my front forks were almost frozen stiff as the compression adjuster had some salt water loctite from a previous adventure in the salt. After about 400 meters Homer almost binned it in the gravel and instanly had respect for the harshness of the front end. While his bike spluttered it would cross rut the gravel with confidence and cut through the loose corners with ease leaving Homer to work out a technique to ride mine.
With the rain growing heavier Krzysztof dragged us to a small hotel type place at the edge of lake Hedionda just on dark. I don't think anyone was worried about not camping as the snow line slid down the moumtains dropping the temperature consideralby. Green tea followed by a huge candle lit dinner including a propper waiter and flowers foldeed from serviets. The night was very pleasent in the motel while the rain pelted the tin roof most of the night with a few drops sneaking through to drown Daves boots and pants, we tried not to laugh too much.
Rain left puddles by the lake but that didn't worry the flamingoes out on the lake looking for breakfast
Being chilly at 4100 meters at 6 in the morning wasn't going to stop up performing some tuning work on Homer and Daves 400's as both were running poorly in the altitude along with gobbling a heap of fuel. We strippped Homers bike first to find a #60 pilot jet which helped it start but flooded way too much fuel at over 3000 meters. A few strands of electrical plugged into the jet and stuck back in the bike for Homer to test. It was pretty good and a vast improvement having 4 strands of copper down its throat. Daves received the same treatment with a couple of strands in the main as it was pretty big as well which earned the thumbs up from homer who did the test riding in the frosty air. He just wanted to rip a few skids before breakfast I reckon.
Fine copper wire down the jets before breakfast
Weaving through the high altitude lakes on well worn tracks only about 10km from the Chilean boarder over the mountains
The rocks gave way to course sandy tracks on wide open flats where there could be 50 different lines or tracks in a straight line across the high plains through a national park that went for more than 100kms. The high sand dunes had some valley type routes where you could ride the walls flat out picking any line you wanted to. Krzysztofs XT600 was pretty sluggish at 4600 meters and probably the heaviest on fuel also so when he took a short cut near the national park check point and didn't show up I sent Russ back along the mountain line and sure enough he was out of fuel. We paid 23 bucks to traverse the park but it was well worth it. At the check point we sort fuel from a local who emerged running from his fuel shed with a 10 litre plastic drum of petrol with fuel flooding from serval holes despite his best efforts to cover the holes with his hands. The fuel went in and over Krzysztofs bike as the guy sent his wife to find anothe drum without too many holes and gave us all fuel to perhaps carry us to San Pedro in Chile
Pick a line...there are plenty to choose from
About 2 feet deep and 28 degrees and what seems like the middle of no where
Very cool. Great writing too.
We found the customs check point out of Bolivia which is a few kilometers off the main route on a dead end track sitting at 5000 meters under a snow storm. Gladly waiting in the building to take care of the paper work while the cold white spots flew around outside. There were a few snow balls thrown on the way off the mountain though.
Heading for the boarder conserving fuel
Dave and Dudley ran out of fuel within 200 yards of each other about 5km before the last checkpoint out of Bolivia at 4200meters. My bike was really beginning to get low on fuel as it was leaving the tank in 600ml lots. The rain was closing in pretty fast and it was getting really cold fast as we gathered some more stamps on top of the mountain. Homer and I were last but caught Dave at the start of the asphalt and the top of hill just as the rain started to dump down. Daves bike drank its last drop of fuel so he was coasting, Dudley and Russ were already coasting well ahead down the hill. After 10km I slipped in behind Dave and pushed him as our coasting race was no fun as his bike was dragging the rear brakes while mine had shot rotors so coasted pretty good. The downhill was about 20km top to bottom and dropped 2000 meters to the town of San Pedro. Krzysztof was stopped at the bottom needing some fuel and vapours from my bike so he got the few hundred millilitres from the stove bottle as well to get him into town.
The last post hanging on the mountain top, this was the exit of the national park
San Predro felt barmy in the late afternoon with the storm passing close to the town as we stumbled into the quarranteen checkpoint. Dave had some desperate and very pressing paperwork to take care of before he emptied his pack for the offical fruit and vegie searcher. Dudly gave up the two big onions he had been carting and I gave up some quality semi pulped tomatoes but somehow left one in my pack to be found later on.
Most of the streets are one way in these towns which can make finding some essential stuff a little difficult especially when you have five bikes running on vapours and the route to the service station seems to circumnavigate the entire town. We managed to loose Dudley somehwere in the maize or corners and people filled allyways so after I had fuel I went searching for him only to find he had left his corner to crawl against the flow of people on the one way streets. While doing laps of the dirt streets in the dark looking for Dudley I managed to find Ola and her BMW group already held up in a little motel. The GPS had a mess of lines of the streets and we had recieved plenty of waving fingers after using the one way streets incorrectly before bedding down for the night. San Pedro seems like a tourist hub with the streets packed with foreigners like ourselves all looking for a good feed. Dave and Russ had some serious stomach work going on so stayed flat on their beds while Dave and Dudley and I rounded up a great burger from up town just before 10pm.
Krzysztof still had a mission planned to retreive a broken BMW from Argentina so we would have a lay/play day in and around San Pedro so we had a long breakfast of about 4 hours waiting for the sun to gain max temperature. Three of us went exploring up a river bed to the north until the trail ran out and we found ourselves axil deep in red sloppy mud and sensibly retreated.
We found a tunnel on the way home that led over the top of the Death Valley which is a park reserve that can be entered from closer to San Pedro but we like to come in the back door normally. Some brilliant little tracks crossed the red escarpments while the sun blazed down on the slippery rocks. We met a guy on a bicycle with a wake board on his back looking for some water and somewhere to launch off the top of the cliff and surf the fine sand down the valley. Ofcourse he was from Germany and this was his first time ever on a wake board let alone on the sand with a wake board. We perched on the edge of the cliff for the show but it was pretty uneventful with a few tumbles. We rode right down into the valley and picked him up with Dudley and Homer taking turns doubleing him back to the top to collect his bicycle.
Ready to slide!!! The sand was pretty slicky.
The 300 meter long tunnel leading to play valley
We left San Pedro in a heat haze through the Moon Valley which has some pinnicles and sculpture type formation made over many year from the soft white dirt. The slow run through the valley was soon forgotten on the 320km of straight road to the coast and Antafagusta. Fuel was going to be a real issue as to was boredom on the long straight sections at 85km/h