April 30, 2010

Ruta 34

If one were to place an unguided missile on the center line of highway 34 outside of Tucuman and light the fuse, it would take out these bulk tankers 1300 km down at the other end of ruta 34 in Rosario on the Rio Paraña, at least that's the way it seemed to me.  If there were any curves, I missed them trying to avoid getting run off the road by crazy Argentinian drivers.

Ruta 34 may be the straightest road I have ever been on, the only one that comes close is the Trans Canada from Calgary to Winnipeg, and that one falls short by about 400 klicks.

 Ruta 34 is two lane all the way, what makes it 'interesting' is that it is used by big trucks with a speed limit of 80 kmh ordinary traffic with a speed limit of 120 (!!!) along with motos of the 125 cc variety and everything else in between.  It confirms my prejudice that the straighter a road the more dangerous it is.  For Edmonton area folks, imagine the stretch of 2A highway between Wetaskiwin and Ponoka being 1300 km long and you will get the idea of what the last two days have been like.  At least three times I have been hard on the brakes and aiming for the ditch because some nitwit decided he needed to pass 4 or 5 long trucks at once.   I need  to know whether driving an SUV makes you stupid, or do you need to prove you are stupid before they will sell you one?

I suspect there are more than a few drunks on the road as well.  'No maneje con bebia' signs are all over the place.   There are frequent police 'check stops' or something as well.  They randomly choose who they are going to pull over, and want to know where you are from and where you are going.  At one, the policeman asks me if I have been drinking, he is in a really jovial mood, when I say no, he asks me if I think he has been drinking,  I smile and indicate I don't speak Español, but he seemed in a really good mood for a cop ta me.

Oh, for those who have been wondering, thanks to Tucuman KTM's Ing. Raul A. Becker and his technicians, the KTM has new oil, filters and a non leaking fork and is ready for more new adventures.

I stop for lunch in a small town,  it is definitely fall in Argentina.  They seem to have the same green ash trees we have all over Edmonton, but these ones go yellow in Mayo instead of Octubre.  (its the day length ya know). 

It is siesta naturally, so everything is closed except the restaurant at the bus terminal.   It turns out to be an excellent choice.  I sit down and the young man running it tells me his rode his 50 cc bike to Ushaia, and hauls out the pictures to prove it.  We have as good a converstation as my poor Spanish permits and soon are joined by a crowd of regulars.   It seems that everybody really likes motos in Argentina, so I had a lot of questions to answer.

I order something that turns out to be a steak, which is your basic staple food item in Argentina.  Steak is served on a plate by itself, bread and your choice of fritas or ensalada is served separately.  Let me just say that you have not had a steak until you have had it here in Argentina,  Alberta beef notwithstanding.


Ruta 34 is straight for the same reason the Trans Canada in the prairies is straight.  This part of Argentina is billiard table flat.  It is also an area of large farms and tractors bigger than houses, making it look just like the prairies or more like the midwestern US, as the crops are corn and soybeans that I can recognize.  The towns look like midwestern towns as well with large leafy trees lining wide downtown streets of substantial stone buildings that look to be about 1920's vintage.  The bus stop cafe where I had lunch could also be the 'cafe' or chinese restaurant where everybody who is everybody in town hangs out.

I am holed up for the night in San Nicolas, a large city about 200 klicks from Buenos Aires.  I find an excellent hotel for 110 pesos, which is about 30 bucks, so to celebrate I go to El Centro and find a good restaurant and let the waiter order for me.  Naturally I end up with a steak, but what a steak,  the waiter asks if I want wine, but of course!  Red wine, Argentinian, excellent, the whole bottle is a bit much so my fellow diners get some too.  Check it out, that is not a birthday cake under those two eggs, that is the steak.  To die for,  it all came to less than 20 cdn. bucks.

April 28, 2010

¡regla motos!

Being in Argentina is almost like being back in Canada.  Gas stations that have coffee and premium gas (and premium prices, about a canuck buck for a liter of regular).  So far the roads here are great, I was able to make about 600 km without effort yesterday.  I am in a new eco-zone, what would be called parkland in Alberta, grass, trees and bushes, here it is called savanna.  

At first I was driving through sugar cane country.  It appears that the Cañeros  have a beef with someone, which, of course, means they must set up road blocks to  prevent cars and trucks from using the road.  I was trying to find out what was going on from the guy ahead of me (in a car) and he told me to ride on through the roadblock, as whatever grievance they had did not involve motos.  Sure enough, they let me pass with a nod and a wave.  I came across at least four more of these demonstrations and each time I just rode past on the shoulder with no problems.  The protests, if that is what they were, were peaceful and ended when a cop showed up.

My destination was Tucuman and the KTM dealer there.  I needed some fixing done and my aceite has to be cambio-ed.  I found a nice hotel in Tucuman's centro which by good luck triumphing over no planning, happened to be only a few blocks from the KTM dealer.   I was able to lust over the showroom's 990 Adventure, Randy had let me ride his 990 from Camiri to Villa Montes, and I liked it very much.  Mucho dolares though, we will see, after this trip it may be a while before I have any discretionary funds.  On my way to the taller de motos  the following AM, there was another street protest blocking morning commuter traffic in el centro (I think this one had something to do with Jesus and singing).  Taking my lead from the other moto pilots, we just pushed our bikes up onto the sidewalk and walked them around the parade.  Motos rule!

The deja vue thing about Argentina grew even stronger as I went for a walk after lunch.  Tell me this isn't Calgary's 8th Avenue Mall on a late Sunday afternoon instead of Tucuman during siesta?
There are a few differences, for example I have never seen two men greet each other by kissing each other on the cheek in broad daylight in Calgary, and I expect I never shall.

Argentinians like good food and good cooking, and their french bread is as good or better as can  be found anywhere, I have missed good bread since entering Latin America, welcome back!  Argentinians apparently like French plumbing as well, which is, eh, not like ours, but bidets make excellent urinals. A drinking glass in the WC probably means the water is OK for tomar as well.

If all goes well at the dealership I should be in Buenos Aires in a few days, and then I will have to start vuelva al norte otra vez.

Last word on Bolivia

Bolivia, love it or leave it.  I did both.   Bolivia was the most fascinating and the most frustrating of all the countries I have visited so far.

Imagine a world with no stores, no Safeway, Sears, Walmart, Kmart, Canadian Tire, Home hardware, not so much as a 7-11 not even a 3 aisle IGA.   No real restaurants either, no fast food franchises, no upscale steak houses, no Earls no Appleby's and no Starbucks.  Their long vacant premises have been turned into flea markets where you can buy all the ladies shoes, cell phone accessories, belts, dollar store items and pirated DVDs you might want.  You buy all your food in  bulk from the same place, rows and rows of dead chickens and pieces of cow and pig that have never seen a refrigerator, potatoes, corn and rice from independent vendors.  Bring exact change, because the seller won't have any.

That is a typical small town in Bolivia.  Things are only marginally better in the large cities I visited, La Paz, Oruro, Potosi or Sucre.  Don't forget your roll of toilet paper when you go out.

Bolivia is also where you can drive on the worlds largest and highest salt flats, find near Everest height mountain peaks, see toucans and parrots in the wild, scare yourself silly on single lane roads that are the highest anywhere, visit rain forests, alpine tundra, high dry plains, see incredible vistas, encounter snow in the altiplano just a few hundred kilometers from the steaming amazon jungle, Bolivia has it all.

Most will never experience it, not even Bolivianos.  Travel is difficult, and it will wear you and your vehicle out.  I got very bad advice when asking about roads and directions.  I later realize that the people who are telling me where to go and what to do, have never been there.  Oh yes that is a good paved road (no, it isn't, it would break your car in half).

Bolivia and Bolivianos are unique, they do things their own way, without much  thought about how things might be done elsewhere.  People who think taxes are nothing but a ripoff need to spend a month or two in Bolivia.  I am told that nobody pays taxes, which may or not be true.  What is definitely true is that Bolivianos enjoys very few of the benefits that we Norte Americanos expect from our tax dollars, and the ineffective government neither know or cares which of its laws and regulations are being broken or followed. 

Unpaved major highways (with tolls!), no road signs, no street name signs or numbers, water that is not safe to drink, a police force that does little more than look natty in their sharply creased uniforms, zero public transportation, no zoning, no building codes or inspectors,  kids running around in the streets when they should be in school, beggars with no legs peeing on the sidewalks, pigs, chickens, goats, cows, goats, horses running loose everywhere, horrible bus accidents on unpatrolled unsafe roads, life in Bolivia is never boring.

What is really ironic, the people who cry the loudest about taxation and regulation in North America, entrepreneurs, small business operators and the middle middle classes, are not reaping any of the benefits from zero taxation and zero government regulation in Bolivia.  Because they, as a class, don't exist.   In Canada and the US, this economic class provides most of the jobs and wealth for ordinary people.  In Bolivia, there are very few jobs because there are few businesses.

What employers there are, are mostly large business and government, and a handful of people in the hospitality industry catering to the tourist trade.   What supports most people is hand to mouth one person 'micro business', stall vendors, small (one person) construction contracting, one person mechanical repair and service shops, taxis and independently owned buses, family run one menu item restaurants and the tiendas, little stores that sell liquor, cigarrettes, pop, cookies and a few food items through a barred door in their homes.  Drugstores (Farmacias) are about the only type of business that thrives.   Miners, (minerals are a major source of Bolivia's wealth) are self employed members of cooperativos, choose to work under appalling conditions that recall the worst of the 19th Century mining industry.  Farmers still farm the way farmers farmed before machinery, all muscle power, theirs and animals, oxen teams, horses and burros.  About the only machine power in agriculture is transportation to market by truck and bus.  Textiles are spun and woven by hand.  Ladies walk down the street making yarn on a spindle as they go.

I saw a bit of the same in Peru and some of the Central American countries.  What became clear to me after Bolivia, is that the part of the population that is responsible for the most growth in an economy is very dependent on the infrastructure provided by competent government, particularly at the local level.  In Bolivia a brand new multimilion dollar drilling rig sits beside the only 2 km stretch of paved road for 100 or so km each way on highway six, there are also signs telling the crew where everything is. It is clear that the drilling rig contractor either provided paving and signs on the roads they used, or insisted that somebody else provided it.  A small business does not have that kind of ability or clout.  Small and medium businesses need a dependable, stable infrastructure that will enable their goods and services to reach the it and its markets, in other words, reliable transportation with minimal delays, security, communication networks,  a stable finance industry, fair and enabling regulation of commerce, plus the education and training that provides a labor pool that will provides businesses with competent employees.

Large business will create its own infrastructure if it is profitable to do so, and depart when profitability does.  Micro-business makes do with what is available but is unable to grow to the next stage if conditions are poor.  Large businesses make their owners and shareholders wealthy, wherever they might be, usually nowhere near the grubby source of wealth creation, micro businesses feed only their operators. Small and medium businesses feed the community and the nation as well as keep their owners in luxury well beyond the average, despite bearing the brunt of the tax burden.  To grow prosperous, small and medium businesses need a stable environment with the infrastructure and long term stability for supporting small and medium enterprise, because this egg must come before this chicken.

Bolivians would not have it any other way than how it is, supposedly.  Landlocked, isolated by their geography, few seem to care how the rest of the world does stuff.  I don't want to judge, if they are happy, I am happy they are happy, but I will say that the way things are in Bolivia would not be my choice, and I would be miserable if I had to live here permanently under present conditions.

Some (many) blame President Evo and his MAS (socialist) party.  The Honorable Evo does not impress.  MAS have been in power since 2005, but the decay in Bolivia is more than 5 years old.  The previous government went down the Thatcher  - Reagan, less government private sector is best path.  But what troubles Bolivia is not which hue of the political spectrum is pulling the strings, it is that no one is pulling the strings, because there are no strings to pull.

So, anarchists, tea partyers, libertarians, Fraser Institute think tankers, buy yourselves a  one way ticket to Bolivia and experience the regulation free, tax free utopia of your dreams.  Lemme know how it works out.

re the lead picture, what you are looking at are sidewalk vendors selling hardware items.  What you can't see is that behind them is a hardware store whose owner presumably has invested in a store, shelving, inventory, probably pays some form or business tax as well as rent or invested capital in a building in order to sell his or her goods.  How long do you suppose this situation would last in the community you live in?

April 26, 2010

So Long Bolivia


Well I am finally out of Bolivia and in a real country again (Argentina), although it was touch and go.  Randy wanted to accompany me to the border to help me out with the no transit papers for el moto.  We left on Sunday and got as far as Villa Montes (160 km) when we came to a long line of trucks stopped beside the road. 

Investigating, we found that Villa Montes was having an election so naturally all passage through town was blocked.  Of course! What were we thinking! An election!  Nothing moves until 6 PM and I won't ride after dark, so it was find a hotel for me and Randy headed home to nurse an uncoming fever. 

Villa Montes was actually a pretty town, they had this really great church building or maybe a monastery that looks kinda art nouveau-ish to me.

When I got back to mi hotel I found that I had a toilet frog.  It looks like a tree frog but lives in the toilet.  You should see it shoot around when you flush.  Fortunately el frog is a strong swimmer, last time I saw him he was under the sink.

The border was fun, first they sent me from piller to post, back to piller, and finally to post.  This border has Bolivia and Argentina in the same building so they can tag team.  When they found out I had no papella for the moto they wanted to send me back to La Paz where I could straighten everything out and come back, (La Paz is only a few miles from the Peru border where I entered nearly a month ago), but with the help of a kind lady translator I managed to persuade Bolivia to issue me the transit document 23 days late, without which Argentina was not going to let me in.

I went to Argentina instead of Paraguay because it is time to visit a KTM dealer, and there are none in Paraguay. 

I saw these all over the fields.  Wikipedia tells me they are Rheas.  From a distance they look as big as an ostrich but behave like an Alberta mule deer, foraging in fields, travelling in groups, in sight of the highway, but not very close and very alert.  So far I have seen very little wildlife other than birds, and I suppose these are birds too, but they can't fly.

April 24, 2010

Partytime

Great party, lotsa beer, lotsa food, lotsa people.  It was also a club meeting, the host of the track is the military base, so even El Coronel showed up.  Everybody had a fine time and I even acquired some new relatives (nephews) yo soy 'tio' (uncle).  That would be a dutch uncle of course.

We had a Bolivian style barbecue, not all that different from the Canadian version,
The kids had a fine time as well.

There may have been a few headaches in the AM.

April 23, 2010

Camiri


Camiri must be the Leduc of Bolivia.  The oil industry is commemorized in most of the parks. 

Randy's house, where I have been staying, was originally built for the people who came here to work in the Bolivian 'patch'.  There is not much sign of oil related activity now, other than the statues, apparently all that is left to find is natural gas.  Speaking of gas(oline), it is very cheap, about 50 cents a liter, but it is not very good.

I have been relaxing at Randy's all week, along with Randy, Valentino, and Christina enjoying Yvonne and Christina's cooking.
Tonight (Friday) Randy has scheduled a huge party for the local bike club (motocross competition), which should make for an interesting post tomorrow, if I survive.

April 22, 2010


One thing I may have mentoned before is 'siesta', in many of the countries I have visited, and particularly in South America, some businesses, all schools and most work will shut down at one O'clock and not start again until three.  

When Randy and I arrived in Carmiri after our perilous adventures on carreterra 6, Randy asked me if I wanted to go for a beer, '¡sure!' I said.  We drove all around in Randy{s truck looking for a place, but of course it was siesta time and just about all the bars restaurants are closed.  We finally found a place by the river just outside of town.


 

April 21, 2010

Mas Perdito

After some pretty rough country I hit Padilla about 3, saw that it had a hotel and that the next town of similar size, Monteaguido,  was another 125 k or so away.  It had taken me all day to make about 200 km so Padilla it was.  This was my most basic hotel yet,  no bathroom, no tv.  The local cibercafe said internet only on mardi (tuesday) if I understood right. 

Padilla is very nice little town, with a well kept central square, around which everybody parades at night.  The food looked a bit scary after my food poisoning bout, but I had a sort of hamburger made with egg, lettuce tomato and french fries.  The restaurants were all closed when I wanted to eat, the usual story, but they were booming around 8 pm.

I made an early start the next day, the next town of any consequence was 125 km down the atrocious road, aka Bolivia highway 6, my average speed would be about 35 kmh, so 4 hours give or take.  The next picture shows a typical river crossing on the highway.  They are actually pretty fun if you hit them hard, a shower and a bike wash all in one.

All this time I have been descending from the Altiplano, and it is getting warmer, the vegetation is becoming more tropical, the Heli Hansons and the Joe Rocket jacket liner have been packed away, clothes are coming off every few miles.  I reach Monteaguido around noon, my map tells me that after another 130 km or so I will reach pavement.  I took a quick peak at the hotel and it looks like last night's, so I push on.

I ask one of the locals if I am on the right road, and he says yes.  It looks just as bad as the road that took me into town, so it must be right.  Two hours and 70 km later I realize that I have seen no buses, one or two taxis and not much else.  My map shows all these towns I should have passed.  A guy is walking down the road, so I check with him, and sure enough, I am on the wrong road again.  I can either continue on for another ocho (8) or so horas, and reach Tarjifa, or go back.  I choose the cowardly way out and retreat.  Other than being supremely pissed at myself and all of Bolivia in general it was not a total loss, as I had seen all kinds of parrots and three toucans, which I learned later was very unusual (to see a toucan).

The hotel in Monteguido turned out to be much nicer than the one in Padilla, so I got a good nights rest and a decent shower.  In the morning I got an early start, this time on the right road.  Not too far ahead I see a KTM 530 partially disassembled by the side of the road and a guy in full MX gear working on it.  Naturally I stop to see if I can participate.

The bike had a flat tire, without introducing himself the rider says, you are not going to believe this, but I am a Canadian too, and I heard about you getting lost last night.  So I am curious about how word about me got around, Randy (the guy on the KTM) tells me he got lost on the same road and talked to the same guy I did.  Only Randy ran out of gas and slept in the ditch that night.  He had been returning to his home in Carmiri, a town on the ´right´road we both needed to be on.  Randy invited me to stay with him and his wife Yvonne and three year old Valentino for a few days, so that is what I will do. 

April 20, 2010

Perdito en Los Andes


Did I ever mention how easy it is to get lost in Bolivia? No damn street signs, no speaka da Spanish, nobody knows nothing anyway?  Getting out of Sucre I knew I had to go south and up. Navigating cities in Bolivia is a three dimensional problem. Your directions are the points of the compass or left and right, plus up and down. This is actually easier than finding your way in a flat city, as the heights give you an overview on where you are supposed to be but ain't, but not much help on how to get there. Part of the problem is that a route is not always obvious, it could look like a bad logging road. Anyway, with much frustration I managed to put myself on the road that would take me from Sucre to the border where I could exitar Bolivia. I took the picture of mama piggy just on the outskirts of Sucre. For the next few days porkers and every other kind of domesticated creature would be a common road hazard whenever I was near farms or towns.
While taking the pig picture, Roger and Jose came up and asked me if they could take MY picture!  That was a first for me, so we traded, they got me, and I got them.  Jose is the little guy.


After about 60 or so kilometers the Pan American Highway turns into a narrow dirt road clinging to the side of the Andes. Much of it was single lane as well. This is the type of road I imagined I would encounter in South America, just like that top gear episode, but I did not think that it would be the Pan American Highway to Paraguay. 
Check out  the oncoming traffic in the picture above! Also along the way I encountered a couple from Washington in a full size motor home(!) heading for Paraguay. Their map said this road was paved (mine actually indicated it as dirt, but this was way beyond just an unpaved road). All in all it was a good day as now I was descending into a different eco-zone complete with heat and tropical forest, streams and interesting stuff to look at. When you are averaging 30 kph you see quite a bit. 


April 16, 2010

Potosi

Potosi was the major source of Spanish wealth during the colonial era. The mountain in the picture "Cerro Rico" held tons of silver, which was removed by slave labor, and made the city, and Spain extremely rich.  Silver was mined, refined, and minted as 8 Reale coins, (pieces of eight) the original dollar, which became the basis of today's US dollar.

The mines are still open, and can be toured, I passed, the conditions are nearly as primitive, but the mines are operated by 'coopertivo' a cooperative that essentially that allows each miner to mine his own claim and sell the proceeds.  Safety is non-existent, miners still suffer from the usual mining maladies and much reduced lifespan. 


Potosi also claims to be the highest city in the world at just over 4,000 meters.  The height does not bother me much unless I have to pack all my stuff up four flights of stairs to get to my hotel room.  The hotel was very nice, but did not have an elevator, very few hotels do in Bolivia and the rooms are always a few floors up.  The local solution for everything that ails you is mate, tea made from coca leaves.  It looks and tastes like green tea a bit, and is not addictive.  When I was struggling for breath at the top of the stairs the reception lady immediately brought me a cup of mate.

Potosi and Sucre do not resemble any place I have visited to date.  The old part of town is distinctly medieval, narrow streets overhung with balconies, cobblestones, it all looks like it came out of an Anton Pieck illustration (look him up if ya never heard of him), with the exception of the light, which is so very hard this close to the equator.  You would not know that by the temperature, though as Potosi is literally very cool, and requires a sweater and a jacket.

Somewhere in Potosi I ate something that disagreed me and I had a miserable next day to Sucre.  Sucre is considerably lower than Potosi and warmer.  It has the same medieval character as Potosi, and an even greater evidence of past wealth.  Apparently the management preferred Sucre as a place to live over chilly Potosi. 

The statue below is of Antonio Jose de Sucre, the revolutionary leader the city has been named after.  

April 15, 2010

The Road to Potosi


Before I left Uyuni for Potosi, (these names just don't roll off the tongue, like say, Saskatoon or Tuktoyatuk), I was trying to find a railroad locomotive graveyard that was supposed to be somewhere in Uyuni.  What I did find was the 'works', and they looked enough like the CPR Ogden Shops in Calgary, where I started my sheet metal apprenticeship.  Right across the street was this building (above) no points for translation, it even resembled the old apprentice classroom at Ogden.  I never did find the dead locos, but I found the road to Potosi, always a challenge in Bolivia.  They should start a road sign technician apprenticeship.

The road to Potosi was unpaved except for the last 40 kilometers, but that was being changed as I was riding.  More road construction, but this time not so bad, as the route is a major bus route, so the desvios were not impassable.  I did have to ford some shallow creeks, fun, but my feet got soaked and it was cold.

An unpaved road in Bolivia is  like riding between the rails on railroad tracks.  My speedometer rarely saw 50 kmh, mostly around 30.  But this time it was OK, because I would not have wanted to go any faster, the views were simply fantastic.  Bolivia has badlands too, just like Drumheller, only not like Drumheller, Bolivia's are simply incredible.  I have posted pictures on Picasa,  click here

Here is a taste.

April 14, 2010

The Bolivian Salt Flats

Fernando of Madness Adventures and the lady who runs the Cafe Bistro Boliviano in Copacabana both said that I must see the Salar Uyuni Salt Flats.  OK, from Coroico go to Oruro, then Oruro to Challapata, Challapata to Salinas Garcia Mendoza, and ride the salt 125 km give or take to Uyuni, ¡No problemo! 

The ride to Oruro was long but straightforward.  This is the first thing I saw entering the City.  Any guesses what Oruro's claim to fame is?  a hint, it ain't oil.

Somebody should send this to Fort Mac, very cool.   The next picture was taken in the central square in Oruro, look carefully at the trees, yup, the leaves are turning.
It is fall south of the Equator, and it definitely feels like early September in Alberta here in the Alto Plano.  Oruro was a nice place to spend the night. My next destination would be Salinas de Garcia Mendoza, via Challapata and Huari.  And that is where the fun began. 

Unbeknownst to me Bolivia has embarked on a massive road upgrading program.  Challapata to Salinas was supposed to be unpaved, but it was even worse than that.  Desvios (detours) veer me off in the desert in loose sand, the road is torn up by trucks and equipment, the 'dirt' roads are paved with sharp rocks.  Up till now the only time the KTM had been on its side was when the sidestand broke in Vegas.  Between Challapata and Salinas I must have dumped it about 5 times, and I got stuck in sand, which required me to unload the bike, pull it out and put everything back on again. 

Needless to say I was not in a cheery mood when I pulled into Salinas at sundown, having travelled a whole 250 kilometers in about 9 hours. Fortunately there was a nice hotel when I got there, all made out of mud bricks, a whole cabin with two bedrooms and six beds and a bathroom all to myself for 45 Bolivianos (about 7 dollars), continental breakfast included.

The next day I was looking at another 38 kilometers of atrocious road to the salt flats and about 125 km on the flats to Uyuni.  I checked the bike, patched up some damage to the luggage and left about 11 AM.  The road in is on the short list of most horrible roads I have encountered in my Northern Canada trips, mostly first and second gear, 16 to 30 kph.  I took a wrong turn and ended up looking at a huge salt lago (lake), S**T, it's all flooded, now I gotta go back all the way to Challapata!  Fortunately a local Jawa owner pointed me to the right road and about 10 klicks later I was looking at what could have been Slave Lake in February. 

Now my job was to navigate the world's largest salt flats and somehow find Uyuni.  No vehicles, no sign of life.  Sur! were my instructions.  Fortunately I am wearing a watch for the first time in 30 years, as I was losing track of time, days of the week, months, everything.  My watch has a calendar and a compass (old school GPS), so I could keep track of where Sur was, but I did get side tracked a few times following old tire tracks to nowhere.  At least the salt flats were billiard table smooth, allowing me to go any speed I cared to go.  Don't think I set any records though, I was too worried about not being able to find Uyuni to enjoy the ride. 

Bolivians and tourists from hot countries may be impressed with the salt flats, but for this Canadian it was an all too familiar sight he had taken this trip to get away from.

Keeping the 'coast' to my left and heading 'Sur' I eventually came across the tourist SUVs out of Uyuni to where I exited the flats, to another 20 klicks of primitive track to Uyuni.  By now the KTM was encrusted in salt, so job one was find a car wash.  It turned out to be truck wash.

April 13, 2010

Email Update

As of April 13, 7:30 Bolivia time (same as eastern) all is well. I am
in Uyuni, having spent two days struggling with the Bolivian ´roads´
and navigating the salt flats. No wifi (weefee en español) and an
ancient computer that does not recognize my USB, so no pictures. I am
heading for Potosi and Paraguay hopefully in Potosi I will be able to
post some pix.

April 11, 2010

Coroico to Oruro


Oroico, a popular vacation spot for Paceñas (La Paz-ians), is reached by the Yungas road, also known as el Camino de la Muerte or Death Road.  Death road has been tamed, this is the road that was featured on Top Gear, but since 2006, it is an excellent safe, road.  Portions of the old road are still used by mountain bikers.  I was going to try it, but there are no signs in Bolivia, and I ended up on the new section.  Very spectacular nevertheless, but not scary.

Coroico was out of my way, my next destination was to be Oruro, on my way to the Paraguayan border but it was worth the side trip.  It is definitely a tourist town, but tourism has not wrecked it's character.  From what I could tell, the tourists were Bolivians and Brazilians, and there were some French Backpackers as well.

I arrived around noon which gave me plenty of time to look around and be able to make an early start the next day.  I had to backtrack down Death Road, ever notice how roads always look completely different going the other way? Double bonus.  Back through La Paz and on to Oruro.  Along the way I ran into a group of Argentinian Bikers going the other way, lotsa pictures later they went north and I carred on south.

I have a list of sights and destinations to visit in Bolivia provided by Fernando Jordan,
who is the Bolivian KTM dealer as well as El Presidente of Madness Adventures in Bolivia, who among other things, run mountain bike tours on El Camion de la Muerta.  It was also Fernando who persuaded me to take in Coroico.  I have posted a link to his site on top of this page, as well as a link to KTM of Ecuador, who re-tired my KTM.

Corioco and it's surroundings are all about what is to be  seen, so make sure you click here.  Oh, and add Bolivia, La Paz and Coroico to the list of places you must visit.