Sunday, May 26th: After an early breakfast, Liam
and I went back to the site of Annets 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
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
Liams dust the whole way as I said to myself "its 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 didnt 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 didnt 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
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!