Saturday, June 1st: We woke up in the cold, ate
our continental breakfast, and headed outside to re-fuel the bikes. This took a little
longer than expected, as we had to siphon from the 65-liter drums into smaller containers,
then into each of our fuel tanks. The other problem was that a few of the ignition
locks were frozen, and could only work after pouring hot water around the locks -- yikes
The Aussies, with lighter bikes and a desire to play, drove the gang to racing speeds
across the open plains. Tracks went off in a multitude of directions, but usually would
come together at some confluence before separating again. The tracks would get quite soft,
and you could feel the power drain away as the sand struggled to grab hold of the tires.
When the track wasnt sand, it usually turned quite rocky and the bikes bounced
and jolted as we pushed them up and down the mountains. We didnt see much of the
truck in the morning, only when we werent sure of which way to go. We stopped for
lunch next to a lake filled with pink flamingos. The lake is filled with some kind of
minerals that the flamingos eat, which turns their feathers pink. It was quite surprising
to see these birds against a backdrop of snow covered mountains, as I tend to think of
pink flamingos (plastic) outside hotels in Florida.
In mid-afternoon, we stopped below a small mountain. We were far ahead of the
truck and had some time to kill. The Aussies had some dynamite they purchased at a
mine in Potosi, and were anxious to discharge it before they crossed into Chile.
After a rather dull performance the day before in the salar, they decided to double their
efforts, and put two sticks under a large boulder. When the truck arrived everything
was set and the crowd stood a good 30 meters away. We waited in anticipation until
there was a loud bang combined with a force of air that knocked us all back a step.
When the smoke cleared, the boulder was no longer there, but was replaced by smaller rocks
scattered about. For an amateur demonstration, it was quite interesting.
After reaching an altitude of 4,555meters/14,900feet, we began to descend through
beautiful red/green mountains until we reached the famous Arbor de Piedra (Rock Tree) in
the middle of the pampas. After the obligatory photo shoot in front of the formation, I
jumped on Jamies KTM and tried some hill climbing. Its amazing how nimble the
bike was, and maneuvering the bike in the soft terrain was easy and fun definitely
need a dirt bike when we (eventually) settle down.
We arrived at Laguna Colorada just before sunset (5:45pm). There was a bit of a delay
as the guide tried to get us to pay 30 BOBs each (US$4.50) for the National Park entrance,
and we argued that it was included. The park ranger said this is a typical problem with
most agencies, and that Uyuni Tours was particularly bad. The ranger eventually let us
through, and demanded the money from the driver.
As the sun went down, so did the temperature. Twelve of us piled into yet another
un-heated room. Everyone was exhausted, but the bikers were especially tired after the
long day of pounding over rocks. After an early dinner, we returned to our bunks as
the electricity was shut off at 9pm.