A Travellerspoint blog

Uyuni to Sucre

Via Potosi

Leaving Uyuni was slightly problematic as Beaky's bike lock wouldn't open, so after a morning spent roaming the market looking for some clippers, we cut the lock and got on our way.

WE FOUND TARMAC! The road from Uyuni to Potosi was incredible and by far the most enjoyable we've ridden. The road was new and barely ever straight. Potosi is one the highest cities in the world which meant a lot of climbing. Hills and high altitude for our little 125's did result in some quite slow driving. This, however, did give us more time to enjoy the stunning landscape Bolivia has to offer.

Arriving in Potosi, another maze of one way streets, we found our hostel. It was the cheapest one we had stayed in yet and as we found out the next morning, had the best breakfast. Still worried about our bikes we thought that getting them serviced after the salt flats should be top priority so we missed out on the much recommended mine tour. In the evening we went and got a view of Potosi, with dark clouds looming in the distance. When we got back the heavens opened and it was some of the heaviest rainfall I've seen.

Bikes freshly serviced by some man on the street, we set off for Sucre. Getting out of Potosi was slow and my bike seemed reluctant to go more than 20kp/h. We pulled over to find smoke coming from the back wheel, not good. It turned out the mechanic had tightened my back brake too much so it was constantly on. We took out the spanner, loosened the break and set off again, both quite happy with our first 'mechanical solution.' Another enjoyable ride of bendy roads led us to Sucre where we were planning to stop for a considerable time.

Below is a short clip of us riding through the mountains. It has been edited on a free software, so don't judge!

Road through the mountains

Road through the mountains

Llamas in the mountains

Llamas in the mountains

View of Potosi

View of Potosi

Road through the mountains

Road through the mountains

Dark clouds over Potosi

Dark clouds over Potosi

Rain running down the road

Rain running down the road

Breaking the lock

Breaking the lock

Posted by Kmoz7 13:46 Archived in Bolivia Tagged bolivia potosí gopro motorbiking_in_south_america Comments (0)

Uyuni

Our first impressions of Uyuni had not changed. The town was rather run down, with very little to offer other than 8 pizzerias on one road - hardly a true taste of Bolivian cuisine (although we've been told not to expect much). So we decided to go and see the reason everyone comes here - the world's largest salt flats.

The salt flats themselves were worth the visit and the incredibly bumpy road from Uyuni (still no Tarmac in sight). En route we bumped into the family we had met at the El Tatio Geysers (the aforementioned family in the very cool jeep). It was great to catch up, pose for more photos and hear of their progress.

The outskirts of the flats had flooded. This made for a pretty hairy ride through large puddles - unaware of depth. Eventually we made it to drier land and spent a good couple of hours riding the bikes on the flats. This was made more fun by a number of people videoing us and even a couple of Middle-aged, Paraguayan women asking for photos with us - celeb status in Uyuni secured (even if they may have mistook us for a couple of Dakar Rally stragglers).

Unfortunately, by the time we came to leave the flooding had got worse. With little choice we headed into the water. We got soaked. The bikes and ourselves were equally covered in a thick layer of salt - not helped by Beaky dropping his bike.

Heading back to the town, covered in salt and a little embarrassed, we were both extremely worried about the salt damage to the bikes. It was here that we met our new hero - José. We waved a jeep down to ask where we could wash the bikes. We must have seemed desperate, or he noticed the severity of the salt, as José told us to follow him and lead us to his house. Here he gave both bikes a thorough hosing. A massive relief to both of us and incredibly kind of him.

Salar de Uyuni

Salar de Uyuni

Salar de Uyuni

Salar de Uyuni

Salar de Uyuni

Salar de Uyuni

Salt stained

Salt stained

Getting the bikes washed

Getting the bikes washed

Posted by Kmoz7 10:37 Archived in Bolivia Tagged salt_flats uyuni salar_de_uyuni Comments (1)

Crossing into Bolivia

With the papers we had (and fingers tightly crossed) we set off for Bolivia.

The road the Chilean side of the border was pretty consistent with what we had been experiencing; paved roads with beautiful landscape. It was 100km from the border when the road became unpaved and a more interesting ride. It was here we discovered a lorry, jack-knifed on a corner and blocking the road. Fortunately, we managed to fit underneath the connection between the cab and trailer, leaving behind a queue of rather unimpressed cars.

As this was the only road to the border, we arrived at a very empty border crossing. After a few laughs at both our passports photos, the Chilean officers asked to see our bike documents. This was the moment we were very nervous about, knowing full well that our Padrons were stuck somewhere deep in the Chilean system.

It came as a great relief that the document they wanted was the homoglacian - which we had!! 'Boys you are free to leave Chile.' We both laughed nervously and left quickly. Success.

The Bolivian side was slightly more hassle as we had to wait for them to finish their lunch break, before visiting three different offices. They too were happy with our bike documents and within an hour we had left Chile with Bolivian stamps in our passports. Quick and relatively pain-free.

Our introduction to Bolivia was a severe lack of road signs and even less Tarmac. The country side in Bolivia was pretty similar to Chile, but a lot greener. It was a shame that we didn't have the same opportunity to enjoy it as eyes had to be on the road to avoid the potholes, bumps and llamas. We arrived at Uyuni after 250 slow kilometres on unpaved roads, 14 hours after leaving San Pedro - a very long day.

We had wondered if we were in the right town. Uyuni does not seem to offer too much and was slightly rundown - a surprise for such a popular tourist stop. All the hostels were fully booked so after a very long day we had the much-needed and thoroughly deserved luxury of one night in a hotel.

Leaving Chile

Leaving Chile

Lory in the road

Lory in the road

Only way through

Only way through

Welcome to Bolivia

Welcome to Bolivia

Welcome to Bolivia

Welcome to Bolivia

Llamas crossing the road

Llamas crossing the road

Posted by Kmoz7 10:28 Archived in Bolivia Tagged bolivian_chile_border_crossing Comments (1)

San Pedro de Atacama

We had decided to go to the El Tatio Geysers the next morning, requiring a 4:30am departure. We got kitted up and ready to go only to find out that there was a car parked in the drive of the hostel and we couldn't get our bikes round it. There was nothing we could but go back to bed and try again tomorrow.

Petrol stations in San Pedro did not sell engine oil and our bikes were clearly running dry so we had to make the 3 hour round trip back to our favourite Calama to pick some up. On the way back we stopped off at the Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon), one of the driest places in the world with some areas not receiving a drop of rain in hundreds of years. Our first stop we got off the bikes and followed signs for the caverns. We did not realise that this would require us to make our way through small dark tunnels and we were lucky enough to catch up to a tour group who had torches to help us get out. Not great fun with helmets in hand and bike jackets on. At the next stop we got to see the full extent of this spectacular landscape of various sand and stone formations in the valley. We then stayed to watch the sunset over the hills in the background. We can't say that we agree that this valley resembles the moon, but it was very impressive and well worth the trip.

We left our bikes in front of the car and this time our 4:30 departure was successful. We had been told by many people in our hostel that the Geysers were cold but neither of us could have expected what was to come. A drive up to 4,320 meters above sea level at -5 with wind chill left our hands unable to operate the clutch properly, which was problematic as the steep climbs and altitude required first gear more than once. When we arrived and our hands stuck in 'the claw' position we spotted a thermos' of tea. Unfortunately these were for the organised tours but one friendly tour guide saw our pain and offered us one while telling us we should not have come up on our bikes.

Fortunately, the geysers themselves were very impressive and well worth the 90kms of pain. As the sun finally rose, we were greeted with hot water spraying out of holes in the ground all around us and vapour trails that covered the entire field. We used this hot steam to warm up our hands while admiring the natural phenomenon. The bubbling pools of water were too hot to swim in so we swam in a more controlled natural spring, finally getting all our joints working again.

Whilst at the geysers, we were caught admiring a very cool Jeep. Both extremely jealous of the well-kitted out jeep, we eventually made friends with its owner and were thoroughly impressed by his story. Travelling from Brazil to New York, homeschooling his two kids and their friend en route. Very cool and extremely nice and well-spoken kids. Maybe one day, when our budget allows, we may upgrade the 125s and do something equally cool.

The drive back to San Pedro was an unbelievable ride. The sun revealed everything we had driven passed in the darkness that morning. There were huge fields of llamas and pink flamingos in flats of water around every corner. We even stopped off in a small town en route for barbecued llama, which we would both recommend.

Another early start awaits as we try for the Bolivian border tomorrow. So another chorrillana and an early night was in order. San Pedro de Atacama has been the most touristy town we've been too but was not over the top and still had some charm about it.

180_5FD8EA6AD82ADA7C927A69ECF333AE40.jpg270_5FDD0110075067DFCA2DBB257B31DDF9.jpg180_5FD8EA6AD82ADA7C927A69ECF333AE40.jpgValle De Luna

Valle De Luna

180_5FD8EA6AD82ADA7C927A69ECF333AE40.jpg180_5FD8EA6AD82ADA7C927A69ECF333AE40.jpg180_5FD8EA6AD82ADA7C927A69ECF333AE40.jpgValle De Luna

Valle De Luna

Valle De Luna

Valle De Luna

180_5FD8EA6AD82ADA7C927A69ECF333AE40.jpg270_5FDD0110075067DFCA2DBB257B31DDF9.jpgValle De Luna

Valle De Luna

Valle De Luna

Valle De Luna

Geysers El Tatio

Geysers El Tatio

Geysers El Tatio

Geysers El Tatio

Hot spring

Hot spring

Brazilian jeep

Brazilian jeep

San Pedro de Atacama

Posted by Kmoz7 11:52 Archived in Chile Tagged san_pedro_de_atacama valle_de_luna geysers_el_tatio Comments (2)

Elqui Valley to San Pedro De Atacama

Long days of desert riding

We left Vicuña early and had planned a scenic route along much quieter roads. However, an hour into our journey, and half way up a very gravelly hill, we were greeted by a locked gate. With the gate impossible to pass and both agreeing there must be a solid reason for the road being closed, we headed back to La Serena and on to Copiapo along the pan-am highway.
This turned out to be a good decision as this quicker route still took ages and had a number of petrol stations en route - we are still without a Jerry can.
Copiapo itself was as the guide book promised - very quiet on the tourist front. This meant that there was very little to do and even fewer places to stay. Eventually we found a room at a '3 star' (dubious) hotel and were joined only by a number of local miners.

After our night in Copiapo, we had a second all day ride in as many days. Again we took the pan-am highway and again we arrived knackered and rather unimpressed with the town. Fortunately there was more to see en route to Antofagasta - namely the giant hand which very randomly appears in the Atacama desert. This was spoilt only by a freak sandstorm - not much fun on our little bikes.
Antofagasta offered similarly little to us, but was far larger than Copiapo. Our hostel was basic but also expensive - not a great combo. A rather greasy Chorrillana and a pint at a local bar was a well-deserved reward after another long day.
Antofagasta also marked the last time we will see the coast for a while.

After another quick one night stop, we headed for our third and final long drive in a row. The first stop was Calama. The plan was to stop at Calama's Registro Civil en route and either collect the final bike document (Padron) or at least hurry the process along and pick it up in a few days.

Things did not go to plan. In fact, things couldn't have gone worse. We parked the bikes in a seemingly busy road, round the corner from the Registro Civil. The first blow came as the man at the office told us our Padron would not be ready for 20 working days AND there was no speeding this process up.
This was seriously bad news - not only was Chile proving to be very expensive but we also had little left to see and had booked Spanish lessons in Sucre. Basically we could not afford to stay another 20 days in Chile and nor did we want to.

On returning to the bikes we were greeted with even worse news - one half of the panniers on BOTH bikes had been ripped off and stolen. We were both already pretty gutted following the Padron news, so this was a pretty low moment. The panniers were padlocked and tied to the bike - there was little more we could do. Bad news and terrible timing.

Feeling pretty low and not Calama's biggest fans, we decided to head straight for San Pedro de Atacama. This proved to be a good decision. After a bit of trouble finding a hostel, we decided a beer and some decent food was well overdue. San Pedro was an incredible little town - very tourist-friendly with plenty of very nice restaurants. We finally ate very well and for a decent price. Feeling a little happier, we decided to head for the border in a few days with the documents we had and chance it - we both agreed we had little to lose.

Our scenic route road

Our scenic route road


Gate that blocked our route

Gate that blocked our route


Where the desert meets the ocean

Where the desert meets the ocean

Where the desert meets the ocean

Where the desert meets the ocean

Atacama desert

Atacama desert

World's driest desert

World's driest desert

304E76CBDFDDFFD232489A3DF0D9F913.jpg3056BBAE09F98BC74AFC1B4D9A62CA53.jpgGiant hand in Atacama Desert

Giant hand in Atacama Desert

Posted by Kmoz7 14:45 Archived in Chile Tagged desert chile antofagasta san_pedro_de_atacama pan_american_highway calama copiapo motorbiking_in_south_america Comments (0)

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