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Offline Three Dawg

Mr and Mrs Three Dawg's South American Adventure
« on: April 25, 2020, 10:12:18 pm »
As you may know, me and Mrs Three Dawg have taken a few trips abroad with the long suffering 1997 1100GS, fllying or shipping the bike to some interesting destinations south of the equator. This is because we are very busy during our summer, and because we both hate the Scottish winter. This time we decided to try South America as neither of us had been there and we could be sure of some spectacular scenery and a decent amount of gravel roads, which I really enjoy riding. Much planning took place over the preceeding year to make the most of our six weeks, along with some prep for the bike, including refitting my 'Africa' spring for the rear shock and fixing the gear position indicator and a full service.  Not much really, but my 1997 1100GS is a reliable old girl.  I should have replaced the electrical connector for my Garmin - this would come back to irritate me later.

Shipping the bike from Inverness is a bit of a mission - van to London, then plane to Santiago.  Happily The Bike Bus in Aberdeen and Motofreight in Feltham are easy to deal with and take care of everything. 

Off she goes, again...

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We work on the basis that we can do about 300km a day even on gravel without having to push too hard, and it seemed like a route from Santiago in Chile north to the Atacama Desert, then into Bolivia to the Uyuni Salt Flats then down Argentina's famous Ruta 40 to Patagonia and back up to Santiago would be do-able. We were joined on the ride by my mate from the world of Laverda, Rob, and his missus Nicky. They're noobs at this adventure riding lark, but were fully kitted out with a nice 1200 Triple Black. All good to go then at the beginning of November, 15 hours on a 787 to Chile's capital, Santiago. Where the sun is warm and the people are mellow.

Well we nearly didn't make the starting gate - fog at Inveness had grounded everything for most of the day, but fortunately things were beginning to move a bit by the time we arrived at the airport.  Wouild have been bad news if we had to leave the next day - the bike was already in Santiago and the next flight was two days later.

Fog, receding.

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Once safely on board Boeing's finest (?)  from LHR, Mrs 3D seemed happy enough ready for the longest non-stop flight BA operate.

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Did I say l say mellow?  You may remember that back in late 2019 (we were due to arrive on November 1st) Chile was having a fair bit of civil unrest.  So to wind up our travelling companions I mocked up a couple of scenarios.

Tourist Couple in Santiago

GS war zone

Well it amused me anyway. :biggrin:
« Last Edit: April 26, 2020, 07:45:01 pm by Three Dawg »
 

Offline katana

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Re: Mr and Mrs Three Dawg's South American Adventure
« Reply #1 on: April 26, 2020, 10:56:17 am »
Sub.   :ricky:
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Re: Mr and Mrs Three Dawg's South American Adventure
« Reply #2 on: April 26, 2020, 11:36:29 am »
Cannot wait for the rest!! :thumleft: :drif:
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Offline Three Dawg

Re: Mr and Mrs Three Dawg's South American Adventure
« Reply #3 on: April 26, 2020, 01:26:09 pm »
Anyway, in view of the ongoing aggro in downtown Santago we organised a quick change of hotel away from the city centre and a slight reshuffling of the route meant we should avoid any trouble - not that foreigners often get caught up in stuff like this unless they're stupid, and in fact it worked out quite well as we didn't have much time to get the bikes out of customs as we arrived on a Friday so being near the airport was quite handy.

Rob and Nicky arrived a day or two earlier than we did and had already got the 1200 out of the airport so I just followed him around to various offices and the bike was mine in about four hours or so. Easy, especially if you ask for a Black and Decker to undo all the screws holding the crate together.  I have to mention the freight agent in Santiago here, Julio Harboe, who made it all super easy and also stored the bags we couldn't take with us.  What a guy. 

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Screen, mirrors and rack extension plate back on and we are good to go. Clean as!  This bike is ancient, but it's paid for and it is stone dead reliable.  Just what you need for this kind of thing.

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After a good night's kip (we'll gloss over the horror of me finding prawns in my tomato soup at dinnner), the following day we headed north out of Santiago towards Salamanca, a straightforward 300km or so. However, after approximately 100 yards I took a wrong turn down a one-way street and lost Rob. We didn't see them again until we got to Salamanca.  Literally lost 'em within sight of the hotel.  Sheesh...

Ready to rock and roll.  Looking forward to adding a few more countries to the beak.

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Getting off the superb but dull blacktop once we cleared the city, heading up into the hills we passed through quite a few rough-hewn tunnels like this. Only wide onough for a car you set off down one hoping that some maniac wasn't coming the other way, especially in the ones that had a curve in the middle.

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Regrouping in Salamanca we headed out for a beer. We found a nice wee place, but couldn't help noticing the VERY drunk guy at a table nearby who was clutching on to a screwdriver like his life depended on it. Attempts to shift him by the staff failed, but eventually he left of his own accord. We later spotted him in the town square, slumped on a bench still holding his screwdriver.

The follwing day gave us our first proper taste of gravel to Vicuna. We were both getting to grips with the bikes and stopped occasionally to play with tyre pressures. We also used our Desert Fox fuel bags for the first time. I managed to spill some fuel inside Rob's crash helmet, which was an unbelievably dumb thing to do.

Just before filling Rob's lid with unleaded.

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Vicuna is a charming town at the bottom of the Elqui Valley with an excellent craft brewery (they had one of the best new world IPA's I've ever had the pleasure of supping). Rob and I were by the bikes in the hostal's back yard when the ground shook fairly violently. Turned out it was a magnitude 6 earthquake!

Slightly disturbing public art in Vicuna's square.

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Most towns showed some evidence of the protests, but it seemed like this all took place in the evening and then they cleared all the crap away the following morning.  Very civilised.

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There are a great many stray dogs around. They DO NOT like the noise a 1200 makes - Rob was often chased while me, on my purring 1100 was left alone. :ricky:

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We had two days in Vicuna, so headed up the Elqui Valley to Pisco de Elqui. Pisco is a popular spirit in Chile and originated here. A cocktail called a Pisco Sour is very popular, as is Pisco and Coke. We developed a liking for Pisco Sours which are a bit like a Margarita.

Cuatro Pisco Sours por favor!

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Even in the back of beyond, Chilean towns often have very pleasant squares, this is Pisco's.  The road up the valley from Vicuna was cracking snaking along beside heavily irrigated valleys full of vines.

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« Last Edit: April 26, 2020, 01:28:09 pm by Three Dawg »
 

Online RobD

Re: Mr and Mrs Three Dawg's South American Adventure
« Reply #4 on: April 26, 2020, 03:59:50 pm »
 :sip:  :thumleft: :thumleft: :thumleft:
 

Offline Amsterdam

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Re: Mr and Mrs Three Dawg's South American Adventure
« Reply #5 on: April 26, 2020, 04:58:03 pm »
So many places to explore still.  And a smart idea to go with the reliable bike you have rather than the newest shiniest thing you want.
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Offline Tom van Brits

Re: Mr and Mrs Three Dawg's South American Adventure
« Reply #6 on: April 26, 2020, 05:13:03 pm »
 :sip: :thumleft:
 

Offline Ri

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Re: Mr and Mrs Three Dawg's South American Adventure
« Reply #7 on: April 26, 2020, 05:19:02 pm »
 :sip:
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Offline Three Dawg

Re: Mr and Mrs Three Dawg's South American Adventure
« Reply #8 on: April 26, 2020, 05:33:24 pm »
Quote
So many places to explore still.  And a smart idea to go with the reliable bike you have rather than the newest shiniest thing you want.

I'm sure the latest hot poop from BMW would be a marvellous thing, but I'm not rich enough to have a new bike and do these trips. 8)    I would always take my own bike if it is economically sensiible. Shipping to Chile was expensive, but then renting a GS is very spendy there too - I think about $US210 per day, and I'm not sure if you can take a rental out of Chile.  I usually figure on breaking even after about 4 weeks, but it can be sooner - shipping to New Zealand was a lot cheaper as the bike went by sea both ways and we have friends there who looked after it before we arrived..  Of course you have the thing set up the way you want it, and you don't have to worry about every little scratch you put on it.


Offline Three Dawg

Re: Mr and Mrs Three Dawg's South American Adventure
« Reply #9 on: April 26, 2020, 06:39:07 pm »
OK, let's see if we can get to our first major stop: San Pedro de Atacama. The next couple of days out of Vicuna were basically slabbing it up to SPdeA. Plenty of it was done on the Pan American Highway (Ruta 5), but it wasn't all bad. Coming down to the coast at La Serena we saw plenty of evidence of unrest around the university, and we had to weave our way through quite a lot of debris on the road from the previous night's protests. 



We were able to duck inland and find more interesting roads north, almost completely devoid of traffic. This took us right into the Atacama Desert which I believe is the driest on earth. Any water that is there has come down from the mountains.

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Oiled mine road.

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We overnighted in Copiapo, where those Chilean miners got stuck underground for a month or so. The hotel was all boarded up, clearly there had been some trouble, but any aggro was directed at the police barracks oposite and the bikes were safely in the underground car park.  It was faintly bizarre to sit there enjoying a steak and some wine with all hell breaking loose just down the road in the main square..

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More tarmac down to Taltal the folowing day.  There was so little traffic.

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Taltal was a nice little place, and we had booked a simple hotel right on the shoreline.  "Yes yes, bring them up to the door and park them in everyone's way."  At least I think that was what the receptionist said, my Spanish ain't that hot. ;D

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Again, the shady pleasant square that they do so well.

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The next day were were heading for Antofagasta (a fairly short day) and would be able to visit  'La Mano del Desierto' the Hand in the Desert, pretty much a must see around there. I've seen lots of pictures of it defaced with graffiti, but they seem to be keeping it clean now.  There was a steady stream of people heading up from the road to get their pics, but we managed some without anyone else in them.

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The run down to the coast at Antofagasta was grim - definitely not a place to linger unless you look good in a hard hat. Checking in to the hotel was a farce - they wouldn't start the process until 3pm (we arrived at abot 2), and then lost my booking while seemingly having three for Rob. Hopeless. Anyway, they did redeem themselves by providing an excelent barbecued meal that evening.  I mention the meal because by and large the food we had was pretty indifferent - don't believe everything you hear about Argentinian steaks.  We eventually worked out that sharing a bunch of starters tapas style worked best.

The next day the fog was down when we left.  This is the same phenomenon with a cold sea current that makes Swakopmund such a chilly place to be in the morning, but once we moved away from the coast normal (sunny) service was resumed.

Coming down to San Pedro De Atacama after refuelling in Calama.  We were starting to gain height - 8000 feet (2500m)  or so in one day so started to take our altitude sickness pills - we expected to top 14000 feet (4300 m) and didn't want to take any chances of getting ill.  Wimps?  Maybe, but we soon noticed the weight of the bikes manoevering them round later in the day - made our heads swim and left us breathless.

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At the excellent Hostal Desert.

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Just enough room to bet the bikes into the courtyard....

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San Pedro is full of springy young things backpacking around and travelling on busses.  It's lively in the evening and great fun, but the reason it's popular is what is around the town.  More on that later.

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All tucked up while their owners go foraging for beer.

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« Last Edit: April 26, 2020, 06:52:03 pm by Three Dawg »
 

Offline BMWPE

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Re: Mr and Mrs Three Dawg's South American Adventure
« Reply #10 on: April 26, 2020, 07:02:17 pm »
Sub
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Offline alli

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Re: Mr and Mrs Three Dawg's South American Adventure
« Reply #11 on: April 27, 2020, 11:34:13 am »
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Online RobD

Re: Mr and Mrs Three Dawg's South American Adventure
« Reply #12 on: April 27, 2020, 11:44:28 am »
Epic trip indeed guys!!

Must have taken careful planning around fuel stops etc?

Why the blacked out section of headlight?
 

Offline Three Dawg

Re: Mr and Mrs Three Dawg's South American Adventure
« Reply #13 on: April 27, 2020, 12:06:22 pm »
Yeah, some planning was needed for sure - I don't want to arrive with no ideawhat to see and do (this happens fairly often at my B&B, so much so that we had to put a crib sheet together for bewildered guests) but also because I'm aware of my limitations with a big GS two up and loaded - you won't find me tackling many D roads in Namibia fr'instance.  I tend to do the route and Mrs 3D finds the accommodation and researches what to see, but there is a fair bit of crossover.

You're right about fuel, we both carried Desert Fox fuel bags and used them on three occasions.  Unfortunately there is no South American version of Tracks4Africa, but an app called iOverlander is pretty helpful for up to date info on petrol etc.  At the pace we travel I'm looking at 350km on a tank though, so carrying extra fuel is more for peace of mind.

The black tape on the headlight is to deflect the dipped headlight beam as we were travelling on the 'wrong' side of the road.  Quite a common thing to do here for travelling on the continent.  Probably not really necessary as we never travel after dark, but you can't be sure if some cop might pull you up on it.
« Last Edit: April 27, 2020, 12:10:51 pm by Three Dawg »
 

Online RobD

Re: Mr and Mrs Three Dawg's South American Adventure
« Reply #14 on: April 27, 2020, 12:11:06 pm »
Yeah, some planning was needed for sure - I don't want to arrive with no ideawhat to see and do (this happens fairly often at my B&B, so much so that we had to put a crib sheet together for bewildered guests) but also because I'm aware of my limitations with a big GS two up and loaded - you won't find me tackling many D roads in Namibia fr'instance.  I tend to do the route and Mrs 3D finds the accommodation and researches what to see, but there is a fair bit of crossover.

You're right about fuel, we both carried Desert Fox fuel bags and used them on three occasions.  Unfortunately there is no South American version of Tracks4Africa, but an app called iOverlander is pretty helpful for up to date info on petrol etc.  At the pace we travel I'm looking at 350km on a tank though, so carrying extra fuel is more for peace of mind.

The black thing on the headlight is to deflect the headlight beam as we were travelling on the 'wrong' side of the road.  Quite a common thing to do here for travelling on the continent.  Probably not really necessary as we never travel after dark, but you can't be sure if some cop might pull you up on it.

Thanks for the reply!! Valid points I had not considered.... :thumleft: :thumleft: :thumleft:
 

Offline NoRush

Re: Mr and Mrs Three Dawg's South American Adventure
« Reply #15 on: April 28, 2020, 06:31:40 pm »
 :sip:
 

Offline Three Dawg

Re: Mr and Mrs Three Dawg's South American Adventure
« Reply #16 on: April 28, 2020, 06:34:18 pm »
San Pedro de Atacama - great little place, but it's what is around it that is the draw. I'll just let the pictures do the talking.

Tebinquiche lagoon (and flamingos!) You have to pay a small fee to enter these places, but they seem to be run by the indiginous people, who were extremely helpful. We were able to dump our riding gear with the ladies manning the office while we walked out to where the birds were, just as well as it was bloody hot.

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Moon Valley.  Notice the bicycles - madness, don't these people know about engines?

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After three pleasant nights in SPDA it was time to head north to Ollague and the Bolivian Border. I was looking forward to this - borders and border towns are interesting places, and we would really be travelling in some remote areas to get through to Uyuni in Bolivia.

I wasn't at all sure if we could get fuel in Ollague as from what I had read it was a real one horse town (our booking at the hostal there looked a bit shaky, bad news if we arrived and they has mislaid our booking) so we brimmed the tanks in Calama and filled up our Desert Fox fuel bags. This should be at least enough to get us to San Christobal where there should be fuel.

SPDA to UYUNI

The road to Ollague is tarmaced now, but the weather gradually closed in until it became clear that we were heading into a storm, complete with thunder and lightning, which up on the altiplano was very very frightning me! At one point we stopped to see which way it was moving, because i was genuinely worried about our safety. Fortunately it seemed to be movin to the right as we looked at it while the road headed to the left, but we still got pretty wet.

Before the weather closed in Mrs 3D managed to capture some spectacular colours on the mountains.

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Looking less lovely now. And the temperature was dropping like a stone.  Lonely place even with our friends riding along.

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Anyway, we rode through about a half hour of rain to reach Ollague. The hostal weren't expecting us (!) but had rooms anyway. It was a surprisingly comfortable little place considering the location. Ollague is a rail head and border and nothing else, huddled under a large and smoking volcano. Altitude? over 12000 feet (3650 m ). 

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Offline Three Dawg

Re: Mr and Mrs Three Dawg's South American Adventure
« Reply #17 on: April 29, 2020, 05:29:39 pm »
The following morning the border was quiet and we got through without a delay. We'd been warned that we may be asked for a 'tip' but weren't. The guys on the Bolivian side did however warn us about the protests that were ongoing, caused by President Evo Morales trying to seek and third term in office - something the constitution doesn't allow. This means roadblocks and petrol shortages, but he reckoned way out here we'd be OK. You hear about people being delayed for days and days at big roadblocks near Sucre and La Paz, fingers crossed we wouldn't encounter anything. I stashed a few dollar bills in an outside pocket just in case the local plod decided their beer fund needed topping up by some travelling gringos...

Welcome to Bolivia!  Mighty happy to be here, gracias.

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Ah, now this is more like it!  We had a whole day of gravel ahead of us, happy happy. The scenery was stunning. If we were at 12000 feet, how tall were those mountains?

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A few from the Altiplano.  The going was generally very good with only a few sandy sections where work was being done to slow us down.  But it was very remote.

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Some wildlife - lamas

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It was here that Rob couldn't restart his bike after a rest stop. Turned out he had his spare key in the front of his tank bag and the signal from it was confusing the immobilizer. Sorted by banishing it to the top box. Technology eh?

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Anyway, it was a great day's riding in brilliant weather, and presently we rocked up in Uyuni (not needing fuel at San Christobal as the bikes were so economical at our 50mph gravel road cruising speed) to check in to a hotel made entirely from salt.

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Unusual place, reminded us of a plush prison with the arched roof, but it was a decent place to stay with a receptionist who could speak excellent English. She remarked how sad she was at the latest trouble, as it was impacting on business and in fact we witnessed one American guest checking out early because she was worried about the protests. Yanks are such pussies, no wonder they need all those guns.

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Anyway, time for a beer as it's off to the world's largest salt flat tomorrow; the Salar de Uyuni.  For me this was one off the bucket list and I was buzzing - litterally - as the altitude was making my extremeties tingle something rotten.  But did I spray enough ACF50 on my aged machine I wonder?

Offline Three Dawg

Re: Mr and Mrs Three Dawg's South American Adventure
« Reply #18 on: April 30, 2020, 06:28:12 pm »
Uyuni. Right on the doorstep of the biggest salt flats in the world. Waaay bigger than Bonneville, the Salar de Uyuni 10500 km2 of white stuff and something I had wanted to see and ride for a very long time. And boy, I was not disappointed. It is an amazing place. But first, a cup of coca tea to steady ourselves and a short run out to the edge of town to see the steam engine graveyard.

Might have over done it on the leaves, but at least I would be alert... ::)

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Back into town then out the other side to try to find the entrance to the flats.

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Nope, ain't gonna happen.

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We found a way onto the pan after riding about 20km out of Uyuni at Colchani.  I had a vague idea about what to see - the flags and the Dakar monument, but no idea where they were.  Fortunately the 4 x 4s lay down plenty of rubber so there is an obvious track to follow.  GPS useless, of course.

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I seemed to remember (maybe from Top Gear) that there was an island with a cafe on it somewhere in the middle of the Salar. Following a promising looking track we set of in search of it. Bearing in mind that it's ten thousand square kilometers of flat whiteness...

Found it !  It's called Isla Incahuasi, it's in the centre of the pan, maybe 50 km from the entrance at Colchani.

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I thought at first that my final drive bearing had shat itself, but it was just salt.

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 We mucked around a bit, rode round the island and got lost. The salt got softer and softer until it was like riding on firm sand. We had to basically do some dead reckoning and eventually we found a track that lead us back to where the flags were. Phew!

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There ain't a lot of money going spare in Bolivia - this is Colchani.  We got back to Uyuni and managed to find a jetwash open to remove the worst of the salt.  It was absolutely caked on, gawd knows what it must be like when the salar is wet.  Probably dissolves the bike in front of you.

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« Last Edit: April 30, 2020, 06:30:17 pm by Three Dawg »
 

Offline Three Dawg

Re: Mr and Mrs Three Dawg's South American Adventure
« Reply #19 on: May 01, 2020, 06:38:50 pm »
As we headed out that evening for another indifferent meal, we noticed the army was on the street.  Not something I would normally photograph, but the women both did.  We seemed to be in a lull in the action in Bolivia (there is actually a 'live' map showing where the roadblocks are) and I was hoping that the following day we could make it to the Argentinian border without any hassle.  Note the 'Dakar' monument in the background - would have been a big deal I guess.

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The following morning there was a colourful market in full swing outside the hotel.

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No cocaine for sale, but plenty of pot...  The girls bought some fruit for the journey - we generally ate by the road.

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Heading south there was evidence of roadblocks - we rode through several, all abandoned, happily - this toll plaza was trashed.

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Diversions. These started to fill me with dread and fear when we came upon them. They basically buldoze a track around where the work is going on in a way you will be familiar with, and the trucks trash it. Rob had already lost it on one section (not this one, we got through here fine) , and I had come bloody close, bucking over a berm so violently that it set off Mrs 3D's electric toothbrush inside the pannier.Very happy I was running a TKC up front!

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A pretty starightforward day down to the border at Villazon/La Quiaca.  For some reason you have to produce insurance here and can't buy it nearby.  I was aware of this, and the  iOverlander app threw up a contact in Salta, Argentina, who would arrange cover.  This was all done over Watsapp for very reasonable cost.  OK, it's fun to chase round at a border sometimes sorting the paperwork out, but not at the end of the day.  The border was very staraightforward, just the temporary import permits to sort really - no carnet needed in South Americ - on the Bolivian side they didn't even bother to stamp us out of the country.

Not far to go after the border, we were staying in La Quaca.  I was delighted to be asked to ride (not push) my bike through reception to the courtyard, another ADV box ticked.

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We were looking forward to the next day - 300 km of gravel on Argentina's famous Ruta 40.  This should have it all, I was stoked!