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Old 01-30-2014, 05:41 AM   #151
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Thanks for the update!
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Old 01-30-2014, 10:19 AM   #152
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Keep it up!

Love the RR
Roads. Where we're going we don't need roads...
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Old 01-30-2014, 11:17 PM   #153
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There is more heart in this ride report than there is in most novels. Thanks again for doing it.
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Old 01-31-2014, 07:22 AM   #154
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Originally Posted by boatpuller View Post
There is more heart in this ride report than there is in most novels. Thanks again for doing it.
Glad you're enjoying it! Stay tuned for a rush of updates. I've been busy typing away... Soon you'll find out how I made it through rainy Bolivia, rode in the Dakar, and had lunch with a KLR motorcycle club in Chile... Phil might even do some updates from Peru too!
Arctic Circle to Patagonia - on the road - started July 25, 2012

2007 Yamaha YBR125 with L plates! (UK)
2006 KLR650 (Canada)
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Old 01-31-2014, 07:25 AM   #155
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Location: Calgary, Alberta
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Cry The Trials of Leaving: Cusco, Peru

The morning I left Cusco I was up early. I carried my bags downstairs, careful not to wake Phil who had been up late that night on the internet, I assumed copying things he wanted off the laptop, which I was taking with me.

When I went to start Cricket, her battery was dead. While annoying, this wasn't a huge surprise, as the same thing had happened when I left her alone for two weeks while we sailed the San Blas in Panama.

However the solution was much more difficult this time, as Jugs was parked with the chickens, and not at all easy to use to jump start Cricket.

This hill just isn't steep enough!

Philippe and I tried to bump start her by riding her down the slight hill beside their house, but her gears were welded together and we couldn't get her into second gear.

I was now going to be late to meet Ryan and Arun, and started flagging down passing cars to see if any of them had a set of jumper cables. None of them did. Philippe went to a neighbour who drives a bus and borrowed the bus battery. With some wire and a lot of fiddling, we tried to charge Cricket's battery. It charged a little, but not enough. Finally a passing cabbie pulled over to help, and with his stronger battery, we finally got Cricket started.

Phil had slept through this whole thing, and came sauntering out of the house after Cricket was started, saying, “I thought you were leaving tomorrow”. I couldn't have been more shocked.

Had he not noticed me spending the whole previous day packing? Did he think I was asking him to find things I wanted just to be extra prepared? Had he not read my facebook status?

By this time I had managed to contact Ryan and they had agreed to come meet me, rather than me backtracking to the hostel. They made it to a nearby gas station and then called me and suggested I meet them there.
I was distraught. The saga of Cricket not starting, my feelings of guilt and unease about leaving Phil, him not realising I was leaving that day, Tania and Philippe and all their family being so incredible; it all just added up to me being in tears and totally unsure of what I was doing.

However I was in too far. My bike was packed and running, and my new travelling companions were waiting for me. It was time to finally leave Cusco.

The most wonderful family in Peru. Marilu, Tania, Maddai, Jatniel and Philippe.

Philippe and Tania, her sister Marilu, her mother, the kids – they were all amazing. This family who we had never met before, who had adopted me and Phil as their own, fed us, helped us, supported us and housed us for nearly a month, were now continuing their support as I disintegrated in front of them. Marilu gave me a scarf and Tania told me not to worry about Phil, that they would look after him for me.

I said goodbye to my new Peruvian family, to my brother who I was abandoning, and to the Red House that had been such an amazing place to spend the past few difficult weeks. With great sadness and uncertainty, I got on Cricket, and rode away from them all.
Arctic Circle to Patagonia - on the road - started July 25, 2012

2007 Yamaha YBR125 with L plates! (UK)
2006 KLR650 (Canada)
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Old 01-31-2014, 08:01 AM   #156
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Location: Calgary, Alberta
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Cool2 On the Road Again: Puno, Peru

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: there is nothing quite like riding a motorcycle long distances.

You become part of your surroundings, experiencing the changes in road surfaces, air temperature, weather and wind in a way you don't when in a bus or other vehicle.

Like a turtle, everything you need is with you, compactly put away with little room for anything extra.

When you decide to stop, finding a safe place for your bike is as important as finding a place for yourself to sleep.

It was amazing to be back on the road. It got very cold for part of the ride, but I was so happy to be moving on finally that I didn't mind.

Ryan and Arun waiting for me to join them at the gas station in Cusco.

That first day back on the road Ryan, Arun and I rode to Puno, on the shore of Lake Titicaca. Cricket ran great, as long as I didn't push her too much in the thin air.

Arun and Cricket, taking a break on the road to Puno.

We stopped for lunch in a small town where all the restaurants were closed because it was 3pm, in between lunch and dinner. We rode on and found lunch in a bigger town. Went we reached the hotel that had been suggested to Arun by some other bikers, they let us park right in the hotel lobby.

Cricket settled in for the night with the sofa.

I was still feeling bad for leaving Phil, but the joy of being somewhere new, of seeing the huge expanse of Lake Titicaca, of being with new people, was helping make me feel better about my decision.

Lake Titicaca

Allow me to introduce my new riding buddies:

Ryan on the shore of Lake Titicaca

Ryan is 31 years old, from Massachusetts, and has been riding his 2011 KLR for the past seven months. He rode up to Alaska and has made his way down a lot quicker than Phil and I. In his previous career he built lasers. One day he might open a hostel for motorcycle travellers somewhere exotic.

Arun playing his cool clarinet

Arun is 39 years old. He was born in India, but most recently lived in London, England. He is a photographer. He is filming his trip to make a documentary. He is riding a 2005 BMW 1150GS Adventure. He also went up to Alaska and is making his way down to Ushuaia. Arun plays the clarinet, and has a bamboo clarinet with him on his bike. In Cusco he had a map of the world tattooed on his back. Previously he has ridden motorcycles from London to India. He owns land in Italy.

People are endlessly fascinating, and I am incredibly lucky to have found some particularly great ones to travel with.

The next morning I wanted to go see Lake Titicaca's floating islands where the Uros people live. Ryan and Arun came with me to investigate tickets, but in the end Ryan wasn't feeling very well and so decided not to take the boat trip out to the islands.

On the way to buy tickets we found some pigs on the railroad tracks

At lunch before the boat ride, I was entranced by this elegant Peruvian lady.

Visiting the islands is very touristy, and there is some debate whether any of the people actually still live on them, but I still enjoyed myself.

The boat we took to the floating islands

Me and Arun standing on top of the boat

The reeds they make the floating islands with

A house on a floating island

Uros handiwork (available for purchase of course) To the left you can see a section of the roots the islands float on.

Near Puno part of the traditional dress is for women to have their hair in two braids with pom poms on the end.

Me and my new "friend" Linda. She basically forced me to dress up like her, bit of a hard sell.

Inside Linda's house

This is what our guide called "the Mercedes Benz" of reed boats.

After our boat trip, I wanted cake, so we took a bicycle rickshaw to a bakery.

That evening Josh, Jordon and Alan arrived from Cusco. Arun and I met them for dinner. They decided to go see the islands the next morning, so we planned to rendezvous across the border in Bolivia.
Arctic Circle to Patagonia - on the road - started July 25, 2012

2007 Yamaha YBR125 with L plates! (UK)
2006 KLR650 (Canada)
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Old 01-31-2014, 08:14 AM   #157
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Thank you for the wonderful ride!
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Old 02-01-2014, 06:29 AM   #158
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Cool2 Titicaca Motorcycle Gang: Copacabana, Bolivia

Lake Titicaca is beautiful. So big that you can not see across to the other side, it was hard to keep my eyes on the road as Ryan, Arun and I rode away from Puno towards the Copacabana crossing into Bolivia.

The bikes and boys on the shore of the Lake

For lunch we stopped at roadside restaurant for trucha frita (fried trout) from the lake. Three other motorcycle travelers rode by and turned around and stopped. It was Bart and Renate from Holland and Eran from Israel who we'd met in Cusco briefly. We formed a gang and headed to the border.

The bikes outside the restaurant

Great place for trout fresh from the lake. Renate, Ryan and Eran

When we got to the border, the BMWs wanted gas, and went back to find some. Ryan and I had enough gas, so we started the crossing process. I offered to do the paperwork as I always did with Phil, while Ryan guarded the bikes.

Getting out of Peru was pretty easy. First to the office building on the right, where they stamp the bikes out, then cross the road to the immigration office. They wanted me to have a stamp from the Policia next door, but there was no one there so the immigration man just stamped our passports out and we were free to go. Well that was until I got back to the bikes and suddenly some other officials wanted me to go into another building to show our insurance.

I had bought a month long insurance policy when we entered Peru on the 31st of October. The six weeks I spent in Cusco waiting for Phil's bones to heal meant that my insurance had expired a month earlier. Oops.

I went into the building with a big smile on my face, convinced that it couldn't be necessary for me to have Peruvian insurance to LEAVE Peru.

There were two men in the office, and they asked to see my insurance papers. I handed them my insurance documents from Colombia and Ecuador (one to each of them). I then deployed my distraction techniques of asking how far it was to Copacabana, if they lived nearby, and if they thought Bolivia was nice.

The more senior man told me that my insurance was from the wrong country. I told him no, it was correct. I smiled and laughed and asked about the weather. He said to his friend that “This gringa doesn't understand us, just let her go.” Sometimes having a terrible Spanish accent works on my side. I understood them perfectly, but happily gathered my papers, sauntered out to the bikes, and said to Ryan under my breath that we had to get to Bolivia right away before they decided they wanted to see his insurance too!

They lowered the chain barrier and we were off. There was another chain at the abandoned Police office, so Ryan just got off his bike and lowered it himself for us to cross. We were out of Peru!

We rode across the bridge to Bolivia, and Ryan gave me his paperwork so I could go start the process of entering Bolivia.

Welcome to Bolivia

Americans have to pay $135 to enter Bolivia. I wasn't sure what Canadians were going to have to pay, but it didn't matter, because in no man's land between leaving Peru as a Canadian, I took my British passport out of my bag, and magically transformed into a Brit. One of the great benefits of having two passports is that you can choose which to use. It seems Europeans generally are free of the reciprocity charges that other nationalities have to pay.

Aduana on the left, immigration on the right

I went down to the immigration office, they gave me a few forms for Ryan to fill out, and then started flipping through my passport to find the exit stamp from Peru. Of course, there wasn't one. Changing nationalities in no man's land turned out not to be as easy as I had hoped. I explained the situation, and they said they would only stamp me in if I had an exit stamp from Peru.

Back I went to the nice man in the Peruvian immigration office. I explained the situation and asked him to stamp my British passport as well. He said he could only do that if I had an exit stamp from Bolivia.

Caught in no man's land, I was unable to do anything. However this was just a matter of a couple of stamps. Surely a simple policy could be circumvented and he could just do me a favour and stamp my passport?
By this time his two colleagues had taken an interest in the frustrated gringa. One of the said that it was possible but only if I went to the bank across the road and paid a $40 fee. However as it was Sunday, the bank was closed, so I couldn't do that today. I saw where this was going.

I have managed 17 months without paying any bribes, I didn't want to start now, but they were not budging, and even if I wasn't going to have to pay to enter Bolivia, I knew for certain that it would cost me $100 to enter Argentina as a Canadian. When one of the officials said I could pay them the fee, and they would give it to the bank when it opened, I pulled an American $20 bill out of my bag, and told them that was all I had. It disappeared very quickly, and in no time I had Peruvian entry and exit stamps in my British passport.

My sad face after having to pay $20 for an extra set of stamps.

When I returned to Bolivia, Ryan had finished filling out his forms, and so back I went to immigration with my newly stamped passport. Two buses full of tourists had arrived in the meantime, now there was a long queue. Part of the joy of border crossings. Luckily one of the staff noticed that I had filled out paperwork in my hand, and ushered me to the start of the queue.

What two bus loads of people standing in a line looks like...

After carefully inspecting Ryan's US dollars for even the tiniest tears, Ryan's passport was stamped in, and so was my UK one, no questions asked.

By this time the others had caught up with us, and we all waited at the customs office for our bike paperwork together.

Other than my self-created insurance and passport issues, crossing the Peru-Bolivia border was one of the easiest and most straightforward of Latin America.

We rode the few kilometers to the town of Copacabana and found a hostel that had been recommended on the shore of Lake Titicaca. For the equivalent of $3.75 I got my own room with a double bed.

Our hostel on the shore of Lake Copacabana, Bolivia style.

Ryan was smarting from the border fee, so he chose to camp even though it only saved him a dollar or so. Arun also wanted to camp, and while they were setting up their tents, the Alaskans and Alan pulled up.

We now had nine motorcycles hanging out together.

All of the bikes at the hostel

Bart and Renate's bikes look so sweet locked together

I felt great. Back on the road, new friends, and new country. If only Phil had been there too, everything would have been perfect.
Arctic Circle to Patagonia - on the road - started July 25, 2012

2007 Yamaha YBR125 with L plates! (UK)
2006 KLR650 (Canada)
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Old 02-01-2014, 04:25 PM   #159
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Location: Calgary, Alberta
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Dutchbags and Gasoline: Copacabana to La Paz

Once everyone had arrived in Copacabana, beers were acquired, and there was a lot of motorcycle talk and a bit of maintenance going on. Bart helped me adjust my rear brake pedal so that the brake comes on sooner, and I borrowed some silicon from Alan to try to get my homemade tool tube to seal better, keeping out rain and stopping my tools from further rusting. Bart pointed out that it was somewhat wrong that a BMW rider was helping the KLR, when there were so many other KLR riders there.

Once everyone was settled in, we went out for dinner, which ended up being a bit of an ordeal. The first restaurant we chose had a greedy owner, who wouldn't let us order the cheaper set meal, and then reneged on a promise to give us happy hour prices on drinks. We became annoyed with his attitude and cancelled our order.

Hungry and back on the street, we suffered greatly from groupthink. While a few of the others were looking at various menus, Alan pointed out to me that the Alaskans had disappeared into a pizzeria. We broke ranks and went to join them. Soon the rest of the group showed up, and we all ended up eating together.

As the evening progressed, more wine and beer was consumed, and Bart started to get a little overbearing. A few comments about Americans rubbed the Alaskans up the wrong way, resulting in one of them calling him a “Dutchbag”.

Despite this being a once off occurrence, and Bart and Renate being very nice people, the name stuck, and ever since we've been referring to them as “the Dutchbags” (sorry guys).

It had started to rain, and we all headed back to the hostel. Someone had bought a bottle of rum and the night progressed as expected, well except that one of the gang had been flirting with me and decided to kiss me! (I'll leave it to your imagination which one.) While unexpected, it wasn't at all unpleasant.

I was determined that I would not let anything ruin the dynamic of my new traveling gang, and so thinking about that kiss, along with the torrential rain pounding on the rooftop, kept me from sleeping very well that night.
In the morning it was still raining. Poor Ryan had not been able to stay dry in his tent, and everything was wet. We headed out for breakfast without the Dutchbags, as they had not yet emerged from their room.

The rain intensified as we discussed our options. It was the 29th of December, and we all wanted to be in La Paz for New Year's Eve, but we didn't much fancy riding in the pouring rain. In the end we decided to see if there were any hotels available with good internet and perhaps a TV to watch movies on, and give the weather a bit of time to see if it improved.

By the time we got back to the hostel, the rain had stopped, and everyone seemed to burst into action. Soon the Alaskans and Alan were packed and decided to head off towards La Paz. Ryan and I followed soon behind them, and the rest of the gang seemed to also be packing up.

I liked that the group seemed happy to split up, because keeping nine people together would have been extremely difficult.

Ryan and I found the Alaskans at the only gas station in town. I'd been warned that getting gas in Bolivia is a pain, and they confirmed this by telling us that the attendant had just stolen 50 Bolivianos from them (claiming he didn't have change).

Ryan and I decided not to give our business to thieves, and that we would just stop at the next gas station we found. This turned out to be a risky decision.

We rode ahead, along a very pleasant route. The rain did not return, and the road was in good repair, something I had been concerned about, as tales of the poor state of Bolivian roads abound.

We arrived at a ferry, which goes across a short expanse of the lake. The Alaskans and Alan turned up shortly after we arrived, and I negotiated a cheap fare across (10 BOB each – about $1.50).

A ferry making its way across the lake

Josh and Ryan on the ferry

Alan making sure his bike, Blue, doesn't fall over.

Jordon loads on to the ferry

Riding Cricket over the lake

To this day I am not convinced the ferry was seaworthy (or lake-worthy) but a bus and us five bikes made it safely across.

The rest of the gang got their own ferry

Lots of people watching us push the bikes backwards off down the ramp

The last bikes off before the bus can finally move

Safe on tierra firma

After we had unloaded, we saw the others loading their bikes on the other side, so we waited for them to get across.

At this point my gas situation was becoming a bit of a worry. There hadn't been another gas station since Copacabana, I hadn't hit reserve yet, but I knew I would be fairly soon.

We headed up the hill, away from the lake, and towards La Paz, which is one of the highest cities in the world.

No gas here

We passed a few gas stations, however they had no gas.

Another gas station with no gas. Thank goodness for Alaskans!

As predicted I hit reserve shortly later. Luckily for me, the Alaskans had a big jerrycan on the back of Josh's bike, and when I pulled up at yet another gas station with no gas they let Ryan and I have some of theirs.

The next gas station had gas, but wouldn't sell it to us. The attendant told me he didn't have any receipts for foreign license plates, and pointed to the cameras directed at the pumps, saying that they could only sell us gas (at a rate 3 times higher than what locals pay) if they give us official receipts.

I explained that if I didn't buy gas I was going to be stranded on the side of the highway and he assured me that there was a gas station two minutes down the road which didn't have cameras where we would definitely be able to buy gas.

Fortunately he was right, and we all filled up for 5 BOB a litre, about halfway between the local price and the official rate for foreigners. Gas proved to be a frustrating experience the whole time I was in Bolivia, even though the official rate for foreigners (around 9BOB or $1.30 per litre) isn't that expensive compared to other countries, it grated on me to have to pay so much more than the locals, and the need to beg for gas at most gas stations and then negotiate for a lower rate grew tiring very fast.

It is symptomatic of the Bolivian attitude to foreigners, which I found indifferent at best, and outright hostile at worst. When I asked for help I often wouldn't get it, or was given completely incorrect information. A big change from what I have grown used to, and made my time in Bolivia less enjoyable. There were of course some wonderful Bolivians, but they were few and far between.

We made it to La Paz with no further issues. The nine of us must have made quite a sight. Arun became official leader due to having a reliable GPS (mine works some of the time, but likes to restart repeatedly when I need it most). We pulled into the main hostel area, and found a room with six beds.

The Dutchbags and Eran had some other options so they went to investigate those, while the rest of us prepared to ride our bikes up a very thin plank into the hotel courtyard. Luckily Ryan agreed to ride Cricket up for me, because I really didn't fancy the challenge!

This is how to ride up stairs

Well... Maybe not like that...

All the bikes settled in for the night

Aussie Alan celebrates making it to La Paz

The rest of the gang chills out at the hotel. Ryan, Arun, Jordon and Josh
Arctic Circle to Patagonia - on the road - started July 25, 2012

2007 Yamaha YBR125 with L plates! (UK)
2006 KLR650 (Canada)
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Old 02-02-2014, 01:52 PM   #160
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Sister on a KLR
Joined: Mar 2012
Location: Calgary, Alberta
Oddometer: 74
Cool2 New Year's Eve at 4000m: La Paz, Bolivia

There is a strange custom in Bolivia of burying llama foetuses under a new house. You can buy these shrivelled up creatures in most markets.

Shriveled up and creepy...

Fluffy, but no less creepy

Our first day in La Paz was spent exploring the city, looking for GPSs, new motorcycle boots for Alan, shoes for Josh (he'd somehow lost his previous pair in a hostel in Cusco), and checking out the witches' market. We didn't end up buying any GPSs, boots or shoes, but we did explore the extensive markets packed into thin steep streets, and see the potions and ingredients for sale in the witches market, among all the tourist tat that was also for sale.

We ran into Jacquie, a Canadian girl we'd met in Cusco, and she joined our group for the rest of our stay in La Paz.

A Northern Canadian and two Canadians. Jordon, Jacquie and I

Alan, Josh and I enjoy the bar at the Wild Rover hostel

New Year's Eve was really fun, the Alaskans and Alan really know how to party. It's difficult to believe that Alan is 64 years old. He acts as though he's in his 20s and tells hilarious stories and jokes that many people would find too raunchy. A true Australian bloke, he's macho and opinionated, and I got on with him really well. His trip report is a series of emails to his friends and family, and they make me laugh until I cry. Unfortunately for you all, they are not available on the internet. Hopefully he'll write a book.

Alan and I on NYE

Our hotel was across the road from the Wild Rover hostel, who threw a Black and White Masked ball for New Year's Eve. It was great fun, even if none of us had masks!

No mask, but Josh had a stellar white furry hat.

Ryan and I

Jordon with Jacquie and her friend (with masks)

New Years day I was feeling quite fragile, and some of the boys decided to go ride the Death Road. Also known as the most dangerous road in the world, I decided to opt out. Jordon also wasn't feeling up to it, so he, Jacquie and I stayed behind.

The boys came back jubilant, having really enjoyed the death road (only one of them dropped their bike, and not over the cliff).

All the bikes lined up ready to go

That done, it was time to move on. The next day we packed up and headed South.
Arctic Circle to Patagonia - on the road - started July 25, 2012

2007 Yamaha YBR125 with L plates! (UK)
2006 KLR650 (Canada)
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Old 02-02-2014, 01:57 PM   #161
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Sister on a KLR
Joined: Mar 2012
Location: Calgary, Alberta
Oddometer: 74
Cool2 The Day I Exploded Dynamite: Oruro and Potosi, Bolivia

It rains a lot in Bolivia. The rain started in Copacabana and really didn't ever stop. Also it was cold.

This weather didn't help improve my impressions of the country. Bolivia is the country I have liked the least in the whole trip. There seems to be a culture of disliking foreigners and until we reached Oruro, I did not meet any Bolivians that I really liked.

Cricket and I hanging out at the side of a Bolivian highway during a rare non-rainy moment.

This changed when we went for dinner in Oruro. We'd arrived into town pretty soaked, and found a hotel using my Footprints guide, which helpfully lists places which have parking. The Hotel Repostero delivered, and recommended that we go to Najama restaurant. We met up with Mark, another motorcyclist who we had met in Cusco. A firefighter from Idaho also riding a KLR, he decided to join us for dinner.

When we found the restaurant it looked closed but we went around the corner as the sign on the door suggested, and found that there was a restaurant upstairs that was open. We were warmly welcomed by the owner, Roberto, who spoke English, and was absolutely thrilled to find that we had two Alaskans in the group.

Me and Roberto

Roberto had spent a few years in Anchorage as head chef of a hotel there, and he regaled us with stories of his time travelling the world. He pulled out newspaper and magazine articles, which featured him in various stages of his career, including when he was cooking for playboy bunnies! We asked him if he ever dated a bunny, and his reply was that not only did he date them, he married one!

We ate a delicious meal of lamb and accompaniments, one of the best meals (but certainly not the cheapest) I ate in Bolivia. Roberto showed us pictures of his daughter, now a model in the USA, and the guys all drooled over her. Roberto was incredibly friendly, interested in our journey, and insisted on giving us shots of the local liquor and sweet treats at the end of our meal.

Roberto cleansing Josh's soul... Or something like that.

It was a delight to meet Roberto, who ended up being one of the few genuinely friendly and nice Bolivians I met.

We'd all heard that the direct route to Uyuni was washboard dirt road, and so after much debate, everyone decided to take the longer paved route via Potosi, which the Lonely Planet claims to be the highest city in the world (Google tells us differently however).

In Potosi we found the Koala Annex hostel, which allowed us to park our bikes in the main living area. Once again we were soaking wet. One of my boots, previously waterproof, had developed a leak, and so my left foot was swimming in freezing water for most of the ride. Once we'd dried out and bought some beers, we decided that instead of heading out in the rain, we'd order pizza to the hostel.

Parked in the hostel

The pizzeria said it would be about 20 minutes, which I took to mean at least 45 minutes given the lax attitude Latinos have to time. An hour and 15 minutes later, we were starving, and the pizza still hadn't appeared. We called the pizzeria and they promised it would be there in two minutes. Twenty minutes later we decided to forget about the pizza and go out to find something to eat.

As we were walking out the door the delivery driver called, saying he was in the plaza and would be there very soon. I told him to forget it, as we had given up and were heading out to find something else.

After finding the two places we'd looked up were closed, we ended up eating very unhealthy, but delicious, fried meat sandwiches from street stalls and headed to bed.

I had decided to go and see the local mines the next morning. To my great surprise, none of the guys wanted to come with me, some saying they'd already seen mines, and others expressing a degree of claustrophobia. Therefore it was decided that I would go on the mine tour by myself and they would head off on the three hour ride to Uyuni. I'd catch up in the afternoon when I got back from the tour.

The tour was very interesting. It was to an operating mine, where they extract silver, iron, zinc and lead using very old fashioned techniques.

First we were taken to dress in our miner gear.

My small pile of street clothes once I'd changed into my miner outfit

The latest in miner fashion

Then we stopped at the processing plant, which was not operating at the time because it was just after Christmas.

One of these containers contained cyanide...

Our friendly guide explaining the processing plant

A view of grey, uninspiring Potosi.

Then we stopped at the miner's market, where I bought some dynamite for about $3, because I could, and because our tour guide said he'd help me explode it in the mine.

Our guide shows us the lamp that is the Peruvian equivalent of a canary. If the fire goes out, you're in trouble!

This is almost pure alcohol, a favourite drink of the miners. I tried it and it almost blew my head off!

My new friend Keli, trying the moonshine.

Also for sale? Dynamite. With fuse, detonator and phosphorous. $3.

We then went off to the mine itself. There weren't a lot of miners working because they had all worked very hard before Christmas, and so were still having a bit of a break before returning back to work.

A close up of the mine wall. The white is arsenic, the yellow sulfur. Take a deep breath!

The walls of the mine were lined with sulphur and arsenic, and I didn't feel that the handkerchief I had wrapped around my face was really good enough to save my lungs from harm. In fact I got quite a bad cold the next day that lasted for weeks. (This all happened on the 3rd of January, and it's the end of January as I type this and I still cough at night.)

A break for our guide to explain about the mine. A lot of people die down there!

Just hanging out in the mine.

One of the few workers we saw. Working the winch that hauls rocks out of the lower level.

After the rock is winched up, it is dumped down a different chute.

We met this miner, who was drunk on almost pure alcohol. He'd been in the mine for over 30 hours. Usually his kids come and help him, but this time he'd gone in alone. (Our guide told us that despite it being illegal, children as young as 12 work in the mines. The average lifespan of a miner is 42 years old.)

Drunk miner, who's poor family were probably worried that he'd been gone over 30 hours!

The grand finale of the tour was getting to set off the dynamite we'd bought.

The miners worship these demon gods, to keep them safe. This is where we exploded our dynamite.

The dynamite, phosphorous and detonator go together in a plastic bag...

Then you light it, and take a picture!

It was very interesting touring the mine, but involved crawling on my belly through some very narrow passages, and breathing in some pretty dodgy things. I certainly would not ever want to work in there!

Pleased to emerge unscathed from the mine.

It was raining again as the bus took us back to change out of our mining outfits and back into our own clothes.

Washing the miner outfits, wine style!

I was less than enthusiastic as I made my way back to the hostel to get my bike and head to Uyuni in the rain. However, as I walked into the hostel, I noticed that one of the guys had forgotten some things in the doorway. As I rounded the corner, I was greeted by the Alaskans, Josh and Jordon, who were in the process of pulling Jordon's bike apart.

Working on Frank

It turned out that Jordon had ridden his KLR (called Frank) out the door, and as he parked it on the road, it stalled and wouldn't start again. Nothing any of the gang did made it start again. Eventually after it started to rain they pushed it back inside, the others finally left, and that is how I found Josh and Jordon. They had established that it wasn't a problem with fuel or air, and all that left was spark.

After my problems in Alaska with the CDI, and Phil's problems all the way down to Arizona, I consider myself to know a thing or two about the KLR's electrical system. I pulled out my tools and joined in with the diagnosing.

Unfortunately it wasn't anything easy. We changed the spark plug, the cap and cable, checked all the connections, and then started swapping parts from Josh's bike to Jordon's. I posted on a few forums to get advice, and emailed Chuck in Flagstaff who had helped finally solve Phil's electrical problems.

Chuck got back to me right away, and said it was probably the pulse generator or the stator, both of which are located inside the engine case. I was willing to open up the cover, but Jordon rightly pointed out that even if we found the problem, we didn't have replacement parts, and the risks of opening the cover and wrecking the gasket were too high, with no recourse to actually fix the problem.

We did discover that one of the battery cables had worn through, but that wasn't the problem either!

We spent the whole afternoon and into the evening, but in the end, it became clear that we weren't going to be able to start Frank. We went out for a nice dinner, and decided that Jordon was going to have to find a truck or a bus to get Frank out of Potosi (which only has one moto mechanic, who is known to be incompetent) and down towards Salta, which was our next main destination.

In the morning, the lady who ran the hostel had contacted a friend who promised that it was possible to put both Jordon and Frank on a bus to the border that evening. Rather worryingly, Cricket had decided to gush oil out of her left fork, and there was a big puddle on the floor. To this day I have no idea why the oil came out after the bike had been sitting there for two days, but my decision to just change the fork oil and clean the seals rather than replacing them in Lima now seemed foolish.

Cricket's fork was crying - hard!

I still really wanted to see the salt flats, and so decided to ride to Uyuni, Josh was going to come with me, right up until the last minute, when he decided he just couldn't abandon his riding partner in his time of need. So off I went on my own.
Arctic Circle to Patagonia - on the road - started July 25, 2012

2007 Yamaha YBR125 with L plates! (UK)
2006 KLR650 (Canada)

UltiJayne screwed with this post 02-03-2014 at 04:40 AM Reason: typo
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Old 02-02-2014, 08:57 PM   #162
the famous james
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Location: Villa Maria Sanitarium, Claremont, CA.
Oddometer: 12,197
great stuff!

we did some of the same things recently.

we left our bikes in Ushuaia in a shipping container, if you or anyone you know want to share the container from Ushuaia to Long Beach California this feb/march/april or when it's us. Container is $4500...we already take two spots...looking to split the cost some more.

We have a shipping agent in Ushuaia you have to pay $280, he takes the bikes and that's it...your work is done.
James and Colleen Tucker.
Aut viam inveniam aut faciam
DMV work/insurance/registration/titles/address use/room rental/motorbike&vehicle buying/travelers help/problems solved
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Old 02-03-2014, 09:20 AM   #163
Joined: May 2011
Location: Rancho Cucamonger, CA
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Originally Posted by UltiJayne View Post

Then you light it, and take a picture!
very cool update, but you didn't mention what the explosion was like?! where's the video.....?
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Old 02-04-2014, 09:48 AM   #164
UltiJayne OP
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Joined: Mar 2012
Location: Calgary, Alberta
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Originally Posted by vintagespeed View Post
very cool update, but you didn't mention what the explosion was like?! where's the video.....?
Ha ha - apologies for the oversight. It was really dark in the mine, not ideal video lighting. The explosion wasn't nearly as loud as I thought it was going to be (no need to cover my ears). Due to the very real danger of the tunnel collapsing near the explosion, we ran around the corner before the fuse reached the detonator. The explosion was more of a deep BOOM than a loud bang. Very cool experience!
Arctic Circle to Patagonia - on the road - started July 25, 2012

2007 Yamaha YBR125 with L plates! (UK)
2006 KLR650 (Canada)
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Old 02-04-2014, 09:51 AM   #165
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Location: Calgary, Alberta
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Cool2 A Sky of Salt: Uyuni, Bolivia

The ride to Uyuni was fantastic. A newly paved road that winds down through the mountains and it didn't rain for once. (Well it did, but only a little.) It did however start tipping it down as I arrived in Uyuni. I found the rest of the gang in their hotel.

They were staying in a hotel that was a lot more expensive than I was willing to pay, so I went down the street and found myself a single room in Hotel Avenida for 40BOB a night ($5). The room didn't have any power points, but a girl can't have everything.

When wandering through town I saw this nice Dakar statue carved out of salt

Unfortunately it didn't last long!

Earlier that day before I arrived, the guys had attempted to ride to the salt flats. They told me that the road was muddy and slippery, and that they had ended up turning around before they got to the salt flats because the road conditions were so bad and the weather was looking ominous.

I didn't like the sound of that! If those four experienced, much braver riders than I, couldn't make it to the salt flats on their bikes, then I would have no chance.

They told me that they weren't going to bother going at all. If the weather was good in the morning, Ryan and Mark were going to attempt the dirt road to Chile, and Arun and Alan were heading back to Potosi.

I was not going to be dissuaded. Everything I had seen and heard about the salt flats was good, and I didn't want to not see the one thing that had convinced me to go through Bolivia in the first place! I decided to take a 4x4 tour in the morning and go see the salt flats come hell or high water.

It really is a pity that none of the gang other than me ended up seeing either the mines or the salt flats. It's no wonder the Alaskans have nothing at all good to say about Bolivia!

I ended up on a tour with a group of Bolivians from Santa Cruz, two lifelong friends and their children. These were the only other really nice Bolivians I met in Bolivia.

My tour group. All the girls were called Ana in some form or another.

First we went to a train graveyard.

The Europeans used to use trains to move crops. Now the trains don't go anywhere.

The Dakar was coming through town very soon - unlike this train!

Inside the engine of an old train

Tracks to nowhere

An abandoned train

Then we drove to the Salt Flats themselves. The road really was not nearly as bad as I had been led to believe. Although there were a few sections like this:

Very muddy!

I think I could have made it on my bike without much trouble, and there were many many times I wished I had Cricket with me for the photos. Given the information I had beforehand, I still think I made the right decision.

The Salt Flats were magical. You could not tell where the sky ended and the ground began.

The little white mountains are piles of salt

Salty sky

Another group having lunch in the sky

One of the many 4x4s taking touring the salt flats

A house made of salt

Our driver preparing lunch

Close up of the salt - it was all in patterns like honeycomb!

I really missed having Phil and his excellent photography skills. I tried to get my new Bolivian friends to take good, creative, in focus pictures of me, with varying degrees of success. It didn't help that my camera has died, so all pictures are now being taken with my phone.

The best of many, many attempts at a jumping picture

There are tiny Bolivians in my hat!

I found a Canadian flag outside of the "Salt Hotel" (It wasn't really a hotel, just a falling down building)

Salt Yoga in the sky

Chilling out on a pile of salt

After our tour of the Salar, the Bolivians wanted to go see the “real” salt hotel. It's not part of the tour, because the upscale hotel does not want hordes of tourists wandering around their posh premises, but one of the ladies knew the owner and wanted to see it. She convinced our driver to take us, despite him being incredibly reluctant. She negotiated a tour with the manager. I am so pleased she did, because it was really special.

At the entrance to a REAL salt hotel

Everything in this fancy hotel is made of salt

The walls, the floors, even the art!

The two friends who have been friends for many years

New friends, sitting in salt chairs

The ceiling in one of the bedrooms

A bed made of salt

I was very happy that I had stayed to see the salt flats, and I was also pleased to have decided to stay in Uyuni for another night, because as I stepped into the hostel it started to rain with lightning and thunder, and then it started to hail! I thought it would stop, but for the rest of the day and evening the skies stayed open.

The people who worked at the hostel were shovelling hail out of the drains so all the water had somewhere to go!

Any remaining ideas I was flirting with of riding the dirt to Chile were firmly erased by the intense storm, and the next day I headed directly to Argentina by the paved route. I had had enough of rainy, cold Bolivia!
Arctic Circle to Patagonia - on the road - started July 25, 2012

2007 Yamaha YBR125 with L plates! (UK)
2006 KLR650 (Canada)
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