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Mar. 13 - 16, Day 155 - 158, BOLIVIA SOUTH

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DAY 155 - 156, Mar.13 - 14, 2012, Potosi, Temp 12-6C Rain (700/21,140 km)

After only one night in Coroico (me sad) I was back on the road pushing South to Argentina with a couple key stops still to do in Bolivia; the Potosi Mines, Salar de Uyuni and a challenging road to Tupiza.

A long 700km to Potosi, the highest city in South America, that began at 8am.  I had debated going to Potosi to do the Silver Mine experience as I had heard it was an experience, but not fun and more a test of endurance.  I was on the fence as this didn't appeal to me, nor did being 100+m below the earth with few escape routes (it turned out to be one entrance, same exit and had I know that before I would not have gone).  Path of least resistance.

From Coroico to La Paz I enjoyed the newly made Hwy 3 in the sun C7R4-7T2V8/9 spectacular views, tunnels, nice road and elevation.

Happy to be getting gas at this great vista.

I'm cobble stone, I'm pavement?

That's curvy

Why not a video of a Bolivian tunnel and the magical scenery after.

Hellraiser looking tunnel

Climbing to 4760m, just beautiful...

Lots of Mountain bike companies taking groups
down the Death Road starting at the 4670m mark.

Top of the world, 4670m.

It took about 35 minutes to fight my way through La Paz seeking relief at the end only to be destroyed by the jammed traffic in El Alto for another 20 minutes which covered only 8 or 9 km.  With the traffic in my mirrors I really began to enjoy the day as I took in the flat, farmlands C1/2R6/7T2V6/7 to Challata.  After that the day got a lot colder as I climbed up to 4300m C5R7T2V8 and eventually entered Potosi after incredible riding in sporadic rain C7/8R7T2V8.

Incredibly tight traffic through El Alto


Wide open road out of El Alto.

Paria, Bolivia looked like a good spot.  Is there a hotel? 

Oruro did not look like a good spot

Water and trash all over Oruro

The notification from the Governent
stating the non-Bolivian fuel price

Vast, great views aside Lake Poopo

Locals walking the highway as usual

100km to Potosi, cold yes, but a smooth road can still warm the heart

Adobe brick builds

Looks like rain ???

A Bolivian commented he was very impressed with this
road with its lines like a airport runway.

Love the look of rock made animal pens lining the hills


Alive reddish browns in the wet

Are these rocks good for mining?

Potosi, ok...

Not too warm, about 8C with sprinkles of rain

Tight streets

Potosi was not as lovely as I expected, but I didn't come here for lovely, I was here to survive a Silver Mine tour.  And that's what I did damn it.  Initially I wasn't doing the tour, but enough people convinced me that I had to.  It is always easier to face a mountain in a group than alone.  Luckily my group "Sexy Dynamite" was full of great internationals (no local would be dumb enough to pay for this tour!).  I would RECOMMEND a tour of one of the mines (likely Candaleria), but I will tell you right now you probably won't enjoy it.  I'll let the photos and videos do the talking...

This guy looks normal.  But he's not.  I met Robyn at
breakfast and almost fell over when he told me he was
working in the mines for fun.  3 weeks at $50/wk! Nuts!

Here we go!

Learning how to blow ourselves up

Who's going first, how about the Aussie, they do anything

Days I wish I was 170cm instead 182.

Ok, I'm in the mine, Level 1 with 2 more levels to go...down

Favourite shot from the tour

The trolleys don't move too fast, but when there's no space you want to be sure you are out of the way of the 2000kg bin on wheels.

Watch those toes!

Going down to Level 2 we lost one of the group due to claustrophobia.  I was very close to going with him!

WTF, the miners do this everyday!

1000kg to 2000kg depending
on the trolley

Level 3, 30 C plus and hard to breathe

Getting out and why hard hats are so important!

El Tio is the god the workers pray
to hoping for fortune

Life expectancy of a miner 15-20 working years.  They
never eat during their shift and live just outside the mine

The mountain holding the
Candelaria Mines

Potosi taken near the mine

Processing plant

Safety?  I wouldn't walk there!

Pay dirt!  This amount worth less
 then a $1

The team "Sexy Dynamite" (- Maya) and Guide Ronaldo

A well earned beer or 5 at the end!

DAY 157, Mar.15, 2012, Uyuni, Temp 8-18 C (210/21,350 km)

Potosi to Uyuni where you will find the Salar de Uyuni (Salt flats of Uyuni) was supposed to be a great new paved road and will be when they finish it!  A fantastic first 100km on this road C6-8R6-8T1-3V8/9 mountains, badlands, cacti, red rock and sweeps.  Took a good break to hang with the cacti and have a snack.

The access I had to deal with to park the bike in the hostel.
 No, not straight ahead, but up to the left.

A church...

The Potosi Tower in the distance

I'm sorry gentlemen, is the highway this way?

More adobe mud housing

Good section of road out of Potosi with great corners.

Sad side story just out of Potosi: Unfortunately with a good road comes higher speeds not only for the bikes, but all traffic.  About 2 weeks after my ride through this exact section of road our good friend Kevin Irvine from the Darien Gap Boat suffered fatal injuries in a collision with a truck.  RIP (
Memorial to Kevin, please stop by if you are going from Uyuni to Potosi

Train tracks and other stuff on the road, Pare?

Colours and depth

On and on forever

Locals and local housing

So diverse

I love this cactus

Maybe too much cactus love?

Pleased Brad not aware of the construction and dirt road ahead.  Just hanging with Cacti.

After a nice break and conversation with a cactus the road became less attractive.  I found myself in 10km of dirt and construction, a bit of pavement and another 30km of dirt to finish the day to Uyuni C4R3T3V8 bad road, but great views.  Riding up to and in to Uyuni I was taken back by how rough it was considering (at least I thought) it's a major tourist destination.  It looked like a ghost town on my arrival.

RECOMMEND: Hotel Darison.  NOT RECOMMENDED: Hotel Julia or Hotel Avenida.

Um, can I have the pavement back?

Pavement please

Check the ribbons in the hair

A hunters dream!

The construction I was talking about

Wonderful colour surrounding this town

A lone outpost wanting money.
"Sorry I don't understand", I said
and drove off.

A 180 degree valley view, wow.

Salt Flats and Train Cemetery the must sees.  Get a tour?  Due to the rainy season the only good way to see the Salt Flats is by 4 x 4 tour which only go around 11am and cost $80 or so.  Unfortunately it was 2pm so I would have to wait for the next day for a tour and staying in Uyuni for only this was not enough so no tour for Brad.  Instead I jumped on the bike and went for my own tour hoping to get close enough to see something.  Oh, I saw something, enough for me in the time I had anyway.  Check the photos and the photos of the Hotel made of salt!

On the outskirts of Uyuni

Main street Uyuni

A couple of attractions

Access road to the Salar de Uyuni

Incredible, like if the ocean and beach were reversed.

Got my feet a bit salty imagine what
the salt would do to the bike!


Huge amounts of salt trucking out

I think I was missing the ocean...

 Salt Hotel Cristal Samana 1 of 4 here

Yes, made of Salt


Rough road, beautiful view

The second leg of my self guided tour was at the Train Cemetery which I smartly planned for sunset.  Only 1km out of town, if you don't pass it, you will find a bunch of units past their prime just begging to be photographed.  Enjoy.  *Note: If you haven't been on a swing in 10 years or more, don't, you may throw up.

Well here's the Train Cemetery, tell us more Brad

Great light for sunset

Shiny vs Rusty

Looks cool as long as you don't


Oh the reds in the rust!


DAY 158, Mar.16, 2012, Tupiza, Temp 10-14 C (210/21,560 km)

Getting a taste of the Salar de Uyuni and really wanting to get to Argentina I decided that was enough Uyuni.  I was hoping to push to Tupiza for one night and then in to Argentina for St. Paddy's day.  Only 210km to Tupiza, but the road was one of the worst of the trip.  Of course the views on this day were spectacular and the ride experience well worth it!

I started around 10am planning to take it slow hoping the 200km would only take 4 hours, which was close enough.  Uyuni to 80km mark was mostly quick dirt (smooth enough road) and dead straight C1R2/3T1V8, but this doesn't mean I didn't have a bit of slippage going through the mud and river spots.  80km mark to Atochi C7R3T1V8 river bed riding and lots of colour change.  The last leg was Atochi to Tupiza and equally great with more colour-filled mountains and wildlife C5-7R2-4T1/2V8/9.  Once again, like Santa Teresa in Peru, I was very happy to see beautiful pavement thinking to myself that would be the last dirt of the trip as Argentina is supposed to have great paved roads (yeah right!).

That damn chain guard again!  How does it keep breaking?

Uyuni in my rear view

Secondary highway?

More river action

When the road was good
Great video of curves ending on the discovery of a tiny little settlement in the valley before Atochi.

360 view after the quick climb out of Atochi


It felt like I was driving around this mountain for days

Another isolated town

In Canada this rock would probably
be famous by now.

Looks twisty to me, wish it was paved

Seems a bit unrealistic?

Incredible texture in the surrounding rock faces

Usually this would be a horse

Down to Butch Cassidy and
Sundance territory

Amazing how the two different rocks
blended over the years

PAVEMENT!  2 km out of Tupiza the end of the dirt 4.5hrs.

Tupiza was a much nicer location than Uyuni and from my experience a much friendlier attitude especially at the hotels.  It's not a bad town and less than 1 hour from Argentina (I would have pushed on if Bolivia wasn't so cheap and I didn't have so many bolivianos to spend)

Side Note - Chain guard repair: Friendly William from the neighbouring tour place took me to buy an aluminium welding rod, which we brought to his friend Orlando who in turn welded my chain guard back on the bike for a total cost of $6USD (cheap yes, but I did do all the tire removal myself, I'm cheap labour too).

Missed: The Death Site of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid which is about 20km out of Tupiza on a different rough road than the one I arrived on.  Next time.


William helping a fellow Moto
rider to get a welding rod

Orlando putting Bumble back together

Orlando and son

Bike parking in the cafe of the hotel

The Argentina Quilmes beer in this shot letting me know
I'm just around the corner from my goal! 

Other Stuff

Major length on the tight streets of Coroico

A common site in Latin America

Aussies Brett and Dave on Chinese
125cc going to Mexico!

Worst shower position, directly over the toilet!

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