Where to start with Boliva……my lasting memories will be of rubble, mud, trash, people kicking dogs…..rain, more rain, more rain…….I rode through all of Bolivia with someone else and I don’t think we went through one town without getting to the other end, looking at each other and going ‘that was a dump, huh?’. Seriously people, put the rubble in the holes in the road, it will help with the mud pits and solve the rubble pile problem all in one go.
To get into Bolivia you pay if you’re American, it’s the $135 gringa tax…..OK, we do it to them so fair is fair. The newest thing is gas pricing – foreigners pay 3x at the pump because fuel is cheap in Boliva (and fucking crappy, low octane and leaded) so people load up and go over the border – i’m even OK with that – Bolivia’s a poor country with a socialist president (former campiseno and cocoa farmer) but what’s hard is you can’t buy gas just anywhere which means sometimes you just can’t get gas in a pueblo at all – if there are no camera’s at the station you may get gas with an informal gringo tax or you may get it for local prices……not being able to buy gas though is a pain if you’re on a bike so it’s like mexico, fill up at every station you can.
Here’s a picture you see everywhere, the man himself – he’s quite popular in Bolivia, the guy I was traveling with was livid about the gas and kept complaining to people about the government – last election he got almost 70%…….
a bolivian gas station sign (that would be the containers of fuel stacked in the road), you use this in a pinch…….god only knows what you’re actually buying – gas here is about 2X at the pump, the informal gringo tax at the pump is best, I never paid more than a couple extra bucks.
bolivian gas station sign......
so i had high hopes for Bolivia, the mountains (hidden in rain and clouds) the road of death (didn’t do it, it was in fog when i got there) – the town at the end of the road of death was like out of a fellini film or the bad people town in a western scored by serggio leone – everyone was in the town square and drunk at 2 in the afternoon – we left…..the southwest of the country is supposed to be one of the most beautiful places on earth with the salar de uyuni and desert – after days of driving south staying in some of the weirdest places i’ve stayed – places with tiny doors, weird drying animal parts, mattresses made of plastic bags and grass….
Tyler modeling the hobbit door into our room for the nite, this would be the place with grass box springs....
we bumped over the worst washboarded road i’ve ever been on for 3 hours, got 1/2 way to salar and realized it was 5 o’clock and we weren’t gonna make it and actually found a hotel in this lovely hamlet (this would be the one with drying meat – we won’t discuss the toilets….)
next day it was back on the road for another 3 hours of taking a thumping – on the pegs the whole time before we hit the town next to the salar to find out that the salar was closed and under water……the roads south were either mud or closed due to snow……so any hope of driving across the salar and south to chile was dashed……Tyler went south anyway with some overlanders in a landcruiser, I headed back north and east to a town called Potosi – a “quaint colonial town” according to lonely planet – do NOT believe anything lonely planet says……the place was a dump, and under water as it was pouring but a day’s ride south from it on good road and i was in argentina, land of steak, wine, and HOT WATER!!!!!!!!!!! After 10 or 11 days i actually washed my hair…..
Argentina is stunning, i actually pulled out the good camera and have it on me when riding because it’s been so nice…..this area is dessert with a rainy season (now) so you ride on a combination of gravel, dirt road, mud, washouts, and stream beds – my off asphalt skills are starting to come back a bit thank god – the week riding with Tyler was good for me because we had to go through/over some shit that I’m not sure I would have done on my own but rather than appear a pussy of course i did it…..now it’s becoming fun to go through scary shit (when it’s not too scary)
So here are some pics of the countryside i’ve been going thru….
going south before heading east for Ruta 40
the plush stripped hills
gas station at the junction of Ruta 40 - just a few overlanders coming through here
the start (for me) of Ruta 40 - this is the wide gravel part where I was still under the illusion I would make good time
Ruta 40 mountains
you come around a corner and it's just red hills and there is bright green from the plants because of all the rain
the road is getting narrower and narrower - this is just a car wide and after this it continues to narrow and turn into as much stream bed as road......i think 20K took me an hour....can't wait 'til i do this enough that I don't have to stop and think at the hard parts...
so this is a little out of order but on the way to Ruta 40 were some salt flats, sort of a poor man’s salar de uyani……when covered with water they reflect everything around them
salt flats on the way to R40
dry salt flats - this is what we would have been driving on had the Salar de Uyuani been dry - the salt there is feet thick
mountain along Ruta 40
this little guy ran across my path - it's sort of like a rabbit but with long bushy tail, and it ran straight up a rock super fast......right along this bit of road i also saw a big bright green lizard and a bird that was so iradescent green it made a parrot look drab
my goal was to go there......
this guy did NOT appreciate me stopping to take pics - he's standing there braying at me
when i got to the fork in the road - cerrado......snow - there were some national guard troops manning a checkpoint at the other branch, usually in Latin America when you ask about something people are like 'oh, for a motorcycle no problem, go through' but even they said the road was closed so big detour around the pass (4970m, it would have been my highest i think, one road in ecuador came close)
the view from the detour down wasn't too bad
climbing back up the next morning
look mom - twisties!
I cut all my hair off today, couldn’t stand it anymore – the girl started in but was leaving it really long so I told her she could go a little shorter – things went a little Mia Farrow from there but boy I gotta say rinse and go is nice…….and it will grow back out…..now it’s on thru the valley of the moon and some more desert before hitting Chile and starting south along the coast. Ruta 40 goes all the way south to Ushuaia just about (eventually everything becomes the same road) so the whole time I’ve been on it there has been this countdown – km 4978, km 4868……it’s like 3000 miles is far, but then again nothing compared to the 17,000 I’ve put on the bike since I started. Can’t wait to see what mile (or km) marker I’m at when I join back up with R40 way down south. OK, time to hit the maps and figure out the next move…..