One of the primary stops in Bolivia for moto travelers is the North Yungas Road, aka the Bolivian Death Road. The funny part is that most moto travelers who ride the road go on to say that it is about the same as many other Andean roads, if not a bit less scary, but it still makes it on to most people's to-do list. In general, we agree with the review - that it isn't necessarily the scariest stretch of road we've seen - but are extremely glad we took that route because the few days we spent riding through the Yungas region after that were well worth it!
(back on the bike in La Paz)
(some light traffic)
(checkpoint on the way out of La Paz. Mark showed his driver's license and it was good enough for us, too. Then the toll booth (background) waved us on through, just as they had been doing on the way into La Paz. In fact, all toll booths did the same until we were between uyuni and Potosi, but more on that next post...)
As we were climbing out of La Paz, the TA was running rough. Symptoms pointed to a very rich condition, especially at wide open throttle. The fuel/air mixture adjustments made in La Paz (and once already on the way out of town) weren't going to help that. And neither was the elevation:
So the air filter was the next spot to check. Woowwweeee! That sucker was clogged. Mike knew that it was nearing the end of its life, but the panty hose prefilters had been doing alright as long as they were replaced frequently. Mike had blown out the air filter with compressed air in Arequipa and put on a new prefilter. The prefilter was a different stock than what we had been running before (they don't label pantyhose in any way that makes sense for motorcycle applications - feel free to discuss the airflow capabilities of sheer vs nude at your next dinner party. And people in the store look at you like you're a nut job when you hold the sample pantyhose pieces up to your mouth to breathe through them) and did not do as hot. I heckled Mark then too, saying that he kicked up too much dust. Whatever the background, the air filter was clogged. At least without the prefilter on, she could keep up fairly well (although Mark would likely disagree with this point also ;).
(taking out the panty hose prefilter)
Back moving again, the major highway was in great condition and was a fun ride!
(a quick stop at the anti-Narcotrafficking Control point, but basically waved through. They don't care about coca leaves here. They would have to stop 95% of the traffic. It's other stuff that they're looking for.)
(last stop before turning off on the North Yungas Road. She gave us a price somewhere in the middle of the gas prices. It wasn't 3.74 Bs/L as shown, nor was it 9.22 Bs/L as it's supposed to be for foreigners. So we got a good deal, and she got a good tip)
(Warning sign at the entrance to the Death Road. The rule of the road was to yield way to the fully loaded mining trucks heading up the hill, also letting them have the hillside-line. So you were supposed to stay on the cliff side heading this direction (down). Rumor is also that that lets the driver side of the vehicle be on the cliff edge so the driver can see the exact moment in time when his wheel has just gone off the cliff)
The North Yungas Road, or Death Road, got its name back when there was a lot of traffic on the road and accidents were common. It was even named the World's Most Dangerous Road by the Inter American Development Bank back in the mid-90's (wikipedia taught me that). But now there is a paved highway that parallels this road on the other side of the valley. So it's not nearly so death-y after all. especially without any traffic. But there are a ton of mountain bikers. It's a huge tourist attraction promoted in La Paz.
(on the Death Road)
(lots of groups of bikers, but usually fairly easy to get around...)
(...unless they fall over. Then it's harder)
(Mark on the Road of Death)
(Mark with a thumbs up on top of a cliff)
After the 60km stretch of the Death Road, we ended up pulling into Coroico. That little town was a sweet spot, with a couple of really nice hostel options, and a pleasant plaza. Oh yeah, before we got all the way down the valley, there was a lady collecting money to pass. She wanted 30Bs (US$4) per bike. That's excessive! So Mike argued with her, causing a machista tour guide to come over and add to the discussion, eventually having Jill ready to just drop the rope and go on through. Mark is much more polite than us, and offered to pay the 30Bs since she said it was for the maintenance workers on the road (which there were a few of, it would have been nice to stop and ask who paid them...). We asked her to let us both go for 30 Bs since we had 4 wheels, same as a car. She didn't want to do it, but had already dropped the rope so we went, owing Mark 15Bs. We hadn't heard of others having to pay this toll, it may have had to do with our bad timing. A casual departure and stops for the TA caused us to arrive at this point right when all of the bike tours did too. Whatever. It happened. Back to Coroico now, which was much cooler than that stop...
We grabbed a quick lunch - a menu del dia - for 15Bs per person and decided to stay in Coroico, heading up to a hostel that a friend of Mark's had recommended.
(still on our way to Hostal Sol y Luna, an incredible, chill, getaway that sits on the hill above town. Their food is kinda pricey, but good, and you can cook your own meals there. They had comfy beds and a ton of options of cabins, private rooms or dorms ranging from 50 Bs and up. You can camp for less. Definitely recommended.)
(sunset from the Hostal Sol y Luna GPS: S16 deg 11.891 min / W67 deg 43.430 min)
The plaza in Coroico was a great place. People were happy, friendly and generally in good spirits. And they had some amazing breakfast options at the vendors for 4-5Bs.
(We saw a few black women wearing traditional Bolivian indigenous clothing, which was a first for us. I wonder the history behind that...)
(Bolivian OSHA approved touch up painting)
The riding through the the Yungas region was incredible! We spent about 3 more days wandering through the valley on dirt roads that were in good shape and didn't have much traffic.
(Our bikes taking in the scenic view while at a construction stop)
(Buying coca leaves in Coripata, Yungas region. They claim to have the sweetest coca leaves around. Even more impressive is that neighboring communities also claim that Coripata has the sweetest coca leaves around)
(Yolanda with Mike (and about US$0.50 worth of coca leaves) in Coripata. She was a sweet old lady, who is excited to visit relatives in the states later this year)
(thankfully there wasn't too much traffic, cause it could get dusty!)
(as seen from our perspective)
(and some places were easier to pass than others)
(coca fields in the Yungas region. This whole area is known for its coca production. You can literally smell it in the air)
(drying coca on the roadside)
(the road got pretty small and little traveled in some places. Here checking to see if we're on the right track)
(Relaxing in Chulumani after a day of riding. Mark was a saint and bought the first round of Paceņa)
(our hotel room in the garage. Chulumani was having a party that weekend, so the (one) hotel was full)
(Shopping in Chulumani)
(when in Rome... well, the locals usually don't disco at the same time, but the roadside stop is absolutely acceptable)
(Mark got this pic of the kids watching a TV set up outside)
(us with Marta, she was a really nice hostess, letting us use her private bath and shower, which was much nicer than the alternative. She was also very educated and worldy, throwing in random English words now and again, as well as showing a solid command of geography. 2 things you don't find that often in towns this size.)
(Getting the TA out of parking)
(the parting shot)
(we literally had to ride through the Sunday market to get out of town)
(keep in mind we are on our motorcycle here)
(another beautiful day for riding through the Yungas!)
(Mark kicking up some dust, Yungas)
(kid playing with a moto wheel, Quime, Yungas (Mark took this shot, we're not fast enough on the draw to get stuff like this))
(another day full of scenic views)
The next night we stayed in Quime, at the Quime hotel which has secure parking. It also has a pet monkey. We were scolded by the owner for taking pictures since he usually charges, but Mark was able to sneak a couple of shots anyways.
(the monkey and Jill got along)
(when Mark got closer the monkey was less happy)
(Beautiful high altitude riding towards Caracollo on the way to Oruro)
(trying to keep the fuel/air mixture reasonable at these high altitudes ... and with a clogged air filter. Limited success, but the TA kept truckin!)
We stopped to get gas at the edge of Oruro. They were happy to fill our tank, but the car in front of us wouldn't start, and for some reason the driver was insistent against pushing the car out of the way to figure it out. Even when 3 people were pushing, and the driver was full well aware they were, he kept the transmission engaged, or on the brake, or both. We eventually got waved to another pump.
(waiting for the car to move. Then drunk people started coming out of the station. We think they worked there)
(This guy kept saying he liked Mike's head, and insisted on sharing his beer. Mike did not inhale)
(you can tell what's important to Oruro)
(a good quick lunch stop on the outskirts of Oruro)
Arriving in Challapata we decided we were going to take the road straight south to Uyuni, but the afternoon was getting late, so we stayed put. It's a bit of a crappy town, but does have a few restaurants, hotels and the like. It also has a guy driving a pick up truck who felt the need to slow down beside as we were walking on the sidewalk and flip us off. Quite the welcome! (And no, it was most definitely not an ADVrider salute)
(the green hotel, with moto parking in their defunct restaurant, of Challapata)