Time on the road

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Dakar to Trevelin Argentina

When we left The Dakar in La Serana, Chile, we basicly screemed down to Santiago and then on to Osorno in the south of Chile and sometimes you just dont take any pictures, so be it. However leaving Osorno, a medium sized town where some people thought I looked like Sting!!!! of all people, no amount of convincing would change there minds so they took their took picture of me with them and whatever, Sting in Osorno, I dont think so.From there to Bariloche in Argentina was a great ride, scenic, curvy and really fast. Now I am starting to see more and more bikers on the road doing the same sort of thing, the more the merrier.I had to stop for this one, the famous Ruta 40 in Argentina, only did about 50 kms on Tarmac, but later will do about 1000kms on nasty gravel with 100kph cross winds, the real challenge.Now this is what I hunt for, I hit those corners like Im riding my CRF450, sidewys.Like my bad hair day?My new buddy Jerry in Trevelin, He rides a XR650, and took me on a little ride into the mountains,for some reason, Big Betty wanted to keep going to sleep, maybe she was tired of being treated like a 650, the truth, wet, wet clay, deap ruts and a steep hill, altogether I went down 5 times, now there is a differnce between dropping the bike and crashing. The first is when you know its going to happen and you get out of the way, something I am very good at doing. Now crashing I dont do very often, but this next pic, Oh yea I went flyingThe front wheel went into a deep hole hidden by the water, Yes I know, why go through the water, there might be a deep hole in it you cant see. I was doing about 10kph and the bike came to an abrupt stop and sent me flying. I laughed my ass off afterwards.

I actually filled my water bottle up in this lake. I could very easy spend alot of time in this place, just absolutely stunning. I dont know the name of the lake, dont care really, I just know how to get there. With a bit of luck Ill go back there one day.
If I keep posting like this, I might actually catch up, this was 3 days ago.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Uyuni to San Pedro de Atacama part 2

The sunsets and the colors of the sun on the mountains and rocks were jaw dropping. A very difficult road to ride because you have every type of terrain and you are a long way from help, so you cant take unessessary chances.We were so high up that all the plants, animals and landscape was like a differnt planet and then thousands of Flamingos on this lake.One day I will take a bunch of camping gear and go spend some real time here.Its official, I have now taken my bike higher than 5000 meters above sea level and in true BMW fashion, it didnt miss a beat.And after 2 days of hard riding, we reached the border of Chile and back onto tarmac.This is us crossing the Tropic of Capricorn. Right now we are on 35,000 kilometers, another 10,000 to go.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Potosi to Uyuni Salar

These are a couple of pics of Potosi and you alreadt know what this place is all about.

On the way to Sucre we passed this bridge in the middle of nowhere for no reason other than the obvious, to cross the river, but why the masive castle on each side. They always have a reason and we didnt stop to find out.
Sucre is a town that looks like it has a bunch of cash, but alas, it just looks like it. This is a pic from our balcony, a nice clean Bolivian town (oxymoron).
Next was a 160km dirt road through rivers, rain and nasty gravel to get to Uyuni. My riding talents got tested when we hidt a river crossing and halfway through I lost my balance, so I hit the gas in the low gear I was in and fully loaded, did a 180 degree turn on the spot and ended up going back the way we came, how we didnt fall beats me, second time was an easy shot.
Uyuni is an amazing place, not the dusty, dirty little town but the Salar, salt flats. These tables and chairs, made out of salt (good for my BP). The hotel, made out of salt, even the salt in the salt shaker was salt, unbelievable
Melissa is always down my throat about something. You know what they say about guys with big feet ha ha.
I am just a tiny little man next to Melissa.
Why did the Cockerell jump over the Dinosour?
With enough time and toys anyone could spend months here going nuts with ther imagination.
Nowe are off on a 2 day journey from Uyuini to San Pedro de Atecama in Chile. The boys on the bikes and the ladies in a rented 4x4 with a guide.
The average height here is about 4500 meters above sea level and the scenery is lunar, a photographers dream world, I plan to go back with food and a tent and zen out, absolutely amazing up here.
More on the second half of this trip soon.

Monday, January 4, 2010

January 3, 2010: Bolivia...Fear Factor

The days after Christmas brought some adrenaline-filled experiences, some that we enjoyed, and some that we could have lived without.

Leaving Copacabana, Bolivia, after taking a small, rickety boat to cross Lake Titicaca with the motorcycles, we headed east to La Paz. Approaching the city, we hit the usual traffic, with buses and trucks spewing black smoke, and then got caught in a rainstorm which turned into nickel-sized chunks of hail. Seeking refuge under a bridge, we eventually got out and found our way to a hotel in the Plaza San Pedro section of the city. The big goal in our stop at La Paz was to ride the infamous Death Road.

This road, about an hour from La Paz, goes from La Cumbra to Coroico It is a narrow dirt and gravel road just over 3.2 meters wide which has cliffs and drop-offs (no guardrails)with a 3600 meter vertical drop.

The road winds around the mountain, and we found that we had to ride through waterfalls, avoiding mountain bikers on our way…these bikers are part of a tour that offers a van ride up the mountain with the mountain bikers then careening down. This road is so famous due to the fact that in the past, buses, trucks and other traffic were also allowed, and many a time buses would miss the turn and just hurtle off of the cliffs.

Crazy. The scenery was spectacular, and riding from the freezing cold, high altitude, down to the hot and steamy jungle climate was a thrill.

We were rewarded with some great photos and an “I survived Death Road” t-shirt.
After a few days in La Paz, we were on our way to Potosi, where we planned to spend one or two nights, then to celebrate New Years Eve in Sucre, where our Dutch friend Gert had organized some serious revelry. On the way to Potosi, a long day’s riding, we got an email from some of the group who had gone ahead telling us that they had found a great hacienda just outside of Potosi, a charming and interesting place which was about 15 minutes off of the main road.

We decided to spend the night there and then continue on to Potosi the next day.

 Somewhere along the way we got separated from Gino, Judy and Johannes, figuring that we would meet them at the hacienda. We arrived, checked in, and waited…and waited…and they still didn’t arrive. Chris decided to go back to look for them. Just after he left, a fierce rainstorm started, turning the dirt roads leading to the hacienda to slimy, slippery clay mud. After 3 hours Chris still hadn’t returned. Waiting outside of the gates, we finally heard his motorcycle and saw his headlight coming up the drive. He didn’t have happy news. Gino had an accident. His front rim had a dent which caused his front tire to separate just as he was coming around a corner, causing the bike to skid and Gino to fly off. His helmet, which he had fastened while wearing his gloves, came off when he fell. Judy and Johannes found him on the side of the highway when they came around the same corner. Chris got them to Potosi and then headed back to the hacienda in the dark, where he fell in the slippery mud. What a night. Thankfully, he had only a bruised rib and some aches and pains, but was OK.

The next morning we checked out of the hacienda and headed for the mining town of Potosi.

This town, the world’s highest city at 4060 meters, is a Unesco World Heritage site. The economy of the town is based on silver mining, with a checkered history of indigenous people imported to work in horrific conditions in the mines. The thing to do here is the Cooperative Mine Tour, which…..the only way to describe it……is indescribable.

You go to the tour company’s ‘changing room’ where you are given pants and a jacket to go over your clothes, and a hard hat with a light. You then go to the miner’s street market where you are told to buy gifts for the miners, things that they use every day…dynamite, coca leaves, 98% proof grain alcohol and cigarettes. These gifts help them deal with the deplorable conditions underground. The dynamite is used for blasting, to open up new veins of minerals. The coca leaves help them deal with the lack of oxygen due to the altitude and the lack of air in the mines. The alcohol, I think, just helps them overall to cope……and I guess that ingesting silica dust every day gives you a ‘what the hell’ attitude about smoking.

We began the descent into the mines. Following our guide single file, it got more and more difficult to walk and to breathe. Dust in the air coated our eyes, and breathing got more and more difficult. Some people turned back, unable to get enough oxygen causing them to struggle. We had to bend down, avoiding hitting our heads on the rock which protruded above us. We got to a place where our guide started explaining that the life expectancy of the miners is about 55 years, where no women are allowed to work in the mines due to superstitions……the miners think that if women are allowed, the minerals will be depleted and they will find no more value. The next step was to go to see “Tio” a statue that was erected down in the mine; the miners ‘worship’ this statue, bringing cigarettes and gifts to lay at it’s feet. The next phase of the tour involved climbing, crawling and scrambling down to the next level, tight spaces with even less air. Chris (a.k.a. “Safety Guy”) looked at me and said “I’m outta here.” How glad I was to hear that statement. Not wanting to show fear, I was prepared to do it, but happily escorted him out of the mine. On to phase 2.

Once outside, the guide then does a demo of setting off the dynamite. 2 of the guys in our group took the small bag filled with accelerant and dynamite, a long white fuse sticking out, and ran down a hill to set it off. 3 big bangs, lots of screaming and commotion, and our mine experience was over. Thank God. This was New Years Eve, after all. Our plan to go to Sucre was abandoned due to Gino’s accident, his bike needing repairs, and his injuries rendering him unable to ride. We set about finding a place to spend New Year’s Eve in this small mining town. Finally we settled upon the “Club Internacional” a private social club that was fully booked, but that was able to provide a table to accommodate the 12 of us. The invitation said “9pm, dinner, drinks, live music.” This being Bolivia, we got smart and decided to go late…10:30 pm. When we arrived, full of vigor and ready to party, the band was still setting up. We sat at our table and began to work on the 3 bottles of liquor that our cover charge provided. By 11:30 we were still the only ones there. As midnight approached, we waited for some kind of countdown, and tried to agree amongst the 12 of us who really had the correct time on their watch. With no band involvement, at 12 (on Johannes’ watch) we toasted, celebrated and rang in 2010. Finally the local folk started to arrive. The band kicked in, and we danced salsa, meringue, and our own brand of Gringo-Latin hip shakin’…all in motorcycle boots.

So here we were, 12 early-bird gringos, dressed in jeans and biker clothes, alongside the well-dressed cream of Bolivian society, ringing in 2010 together. An interesting tapestry, indeed.!!

We are now in Sucre, leaving Gino behind in Potosi for a few days to recuperate. Next on to Uyuni, Salt Flats which are supposed to be amazing. The adventure continues….