Chris' 1994  R100GS/PDChris' new bike, a 1996 F650 ULTIMATE JOURNEY Erin's 1997  F650
Living a Dream . . . 2 Live-N-Ride

May 28, 2002.-- Day 1,104 in Bolivia, our 41st country

Credit to ride to Uyuni

-- Story by Chris --

Sunday, May 26th: After an early breakfast, Liam and I went back to the site of Annet’s crash to retrieve her bike in a old pickup truck we hired. The bike was safely where we hid it and we loaded into the truck pretty easily. When we eventually (it was an old truck) got back to town, Liam and Annet spent the day at a metal shop pulling and pushing the major bent components back in to shape. The worker spent most of his Sunday working on her bike, and only charged her 50 BOBs ($7.50).

Monday, May 27th: We left Villazón after some more repairs (we found and installed a second-hand handlebar) and a huge 4-course lunch ($1 each). We needed to ride 95km to Tupiza, which took us the better part of the afternoon as Annet fought to regain her confidence on the gravel. We arrived in Tupiza just before sunset, found a great little hosteria for 20 BOBs each ($3), and after we all had a great shower (lots of hot water and pressure) Liam made a terrific meal for us.

Tuesday, May 28:   Happy Birthday Mom!
We pulled out of Tupiza (3,500 meters) around 9am to begin our 200km trek to Uyuni. We knew the road would be all dirt and gravel, with several sandy bits thrown in for good measure. After paying the 5 BOB toll, we headed out of town. Even with the GPS, it was difficult to determine which route to follow, as there were no signs and dirt roads veering off in several different directions. On the plus side, the views of this area were fantastic, as red dirt gave way to gray sand, large cacti popped up everywhere, and rugged mountains colored deep maroon forced there way out of the earth.

The road (for lack of a better word) was quite challenging, as there were several sand drifts that we had to cross, followed by muddy river crossings and rocky assents of 1,000 meters. Liam and I had a bit of a race up one such mountain against a 4x4, I eating Liam’s dust the whole way as I said to myself – "it’s not a race, but no truck is going to pass me climbing up a hill!"

Liam and I would stop frequently to admire the view, drink lots of water, pee, and partake in the local custom of chewing coca leaves. You take a small handful of the dry leaves, break off the stems, add some baking powder (Alkaline), and jam the packet in your cheek like a wad of chewing tobacco. It is supposed to help avoid altitude sickness, and the numbing feeling in your gums is not an unpleasant side effect. 

Throughout the day the inhabitants in the small villages stared at us in awe as we road through, which leads us to believe not many bikers take this route. It is incredible that people actually live in this area, as the nights are cold, the houses simple clay bricks, and there are no trees to burn for fires – how do they do it?

As we approached Atoche, the halfway point and a actual town, we realized we had to cross a riverbed of mud and sand to reach the town. We stopped in front of the old run-down church just after 1:30pm and ate a quick lunch of bread, cheese, and paté we had purchased the night before. Although the town was of decent size, it didn’t seem to have much happening. We asked for directions out of town, and spent literally 5 minutes riding up and down through the train yard (crossing the many tracks several times). Eventually, we backtracked to the church and were told to follow the river. So we did.

They didn’t mean to follow a road that parallels the river, they meant we had to ride in the riverbed. We had less than 4 hours of daylight to make the following 98kms, and we were having trouble riding faster than second gear with all the sand, blinding sandstorms, mud, and deep water.  I had to stop several times to clean the water off my sunglasses, as it had cascaded over my windscreen when crossing deep water.   Nervous that we would not make Uyuni, with the knowledge it would be quite cold at 4,000 meters with winter one month away, we forced ourselves to plod through and increase speed.

Eventually, we rose out of the river and just had to contend with sand dunes and other obstacles in the middle of the route, every few kilometers. Several bikes stopped to rest (I was lucky) at various points in the deeper sand. The ride, as you may imagine, was quite challenging, yet the scenery was splendid – this was Adventure Motorbiking at it’s finest!

We reached the town of Uyuni – at the edge of the Salar de Uyuni at 5:40pm, just as the sky began to change colors, giving way to a beautiful sunset of rich orange against a deep sea blue. Later, after zigzagging through town in search of shelter, we discovered the Hotel Avenida, which provided good parking and clean rooms for 20 BOB each. Everyone washed up and we went out for a celebration dinner – it was Day 1,000 for Liam, and a memorable one at that!


Just north of Tupiza, in the land where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid ended their days...

Annet's bike with shortened suspension gave her lots of trouble in the deep sand

The truck was stuck, so Erin tried to go around.  She got stuck too, and had to lay the bike down to wait for help.

It's a race with Liam to see if he can lift the bike before I can get the camera out and record his fall...

Entering the riverbed to Atocha

Llama's with red-feathered earings were constantly crossing the road.

Bol.Atoche.Llama.JPG (39865 bytes)


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