La Paz sits at 3500m in a huge canyon with the dramatic snow-capped backdrop of Mt. Illimani and buildings that just cling to the side! We come down a “nightmarishly” steep and busy road into the city and have two days off while the bikes get some routine maintenance – it is good to rest!! As we leave the city, we remark once more on the contrast between the “urban” and the “rural” – as soon as you leave the city limits the people live a more peasant-style existence! The road climbs out of the canyon and levels out on a huge plateau – still at over 3000m. From Challapatta to Potosi it takes on a new level and is highly rateable with wonderful views.
The llamas and alpacas roam freely and are often on the roads – with one mother llama right near the centre line feeding her baby as we come past – and even with a truck hurtling at her from the other direction, she does not move an inch!!
Because we are technically still in the wet season, we have planned our route through Bolivia on paved roads and they are definitely a worthy treat! From Potosi to Uyuni (pronounced oo-you-nee) the RN5 road seems very new and takes us through ever-changing desert scenery – no traffic and just blissful riding!
We arrive in Uyuni and head out to the salt flats – the world’s largest at 10,500 square kilometres – but the wet season is still evident so we can only take the bikes to the water’s edge!
Uyuni is another “tourist” town and there are lots of them about but it is good to have some “normal” food and some cold beers!
We return to the magnificent salt flats on a one day 4WD tour – with the first stop on the outskirts of town.
The Salar de Uyuni is the star attraction – a place of uncommon beauty – in a country that is recognised as the poorest in Latin America. The brilliant whiteness and absolute vastness are breathtaking – it’s like a white ocean with no waves!!
The Uyuni to Potosi road is just as enjoyable in reverse – such a spectacular piece of riding – then it’s a smooth run to Tupiza where we spend our last night in Bolivia. The border crossing takes several hours at Villazon and then we are sailing down the Panamerican in Argentina! The scenery keeps changing and so does the weather as we hit a “front” which lasts all the way to our overnight stop!
We find it interesting how the geography changes at a border – but it’s more this time as we head south and feel like we’ve been “transported” – as suddenly there are “shops” at the fuel stations and toilets that actually flush, have paper and soap…!!
Tip of the Day
If you’re really wanting the “deeds” to the ranch – make sure the track is still operational!
On Two Wheels
Just before Potosi we meet Rolph at the “gasolina” station – he has shipped his bike from Germany to Paraguay – been down to Ushuaia and is on his way up to Panama. He tells us he has “the best bike” – and he also has “the best tyres” – and that he’s been to Africa before this and in six years he’s done 65,000 kilometres!! After 20-25 minutes of listening to “the world according to Rolph” we say adios and head off – and realise he never asked us one question – not one!!
Story of the Week
It is March and we are on the Salar de Uyuni – our last “big ticket” attraction on our epic journey across the world on our KTM’s – and it just happens to be one year exactly since we set off in Malaysia!! We continually “pinch” ourselves and have moments of “awe” – reflecting on what we have done and what we have seen!
And we laugh at how much is “just holding together” – our computer leads, our clothes, bags, zips, riding gear, teeth, bodies – let alone two bikes that have nearly been around the clock!!