Wednesday, December 12, 2012

San Juan

We stopped at this small town called San Juan.  Initially, we were thinking a coke and some cookies, but as we talked to the store owner, we found out they actually had a hotel/hostel.  We were pretty beat up by the road, it was probably 2:00p or 2:30p and we decided to see if there was a room at the inn. 
The Hostel at San Juan

The hotel was very clean and a lot larger than we expected in this tiny little town.  There were absolutely no guests, so we were surprised when the woman said she had only one single room with double beds.  We weren’t equipped to argue with her, so we took it.  It also was fairly expensive at around $60 US.  But we found out later this included dinner and breakfast.  Eventually a whole group of German tourist arrived to take all the rest of the rooms and we found out they had actually given us the room they had reserved for the four tour drivers.  We very much enjoyed our stay at the hostel in San Juan.

The next day we asked the proprietor about directions to Ollanguy (O’ ya wee) the town on the Chilean border.  He said the roads were good and all we had to do was to stay to the right and we would be ok.  These directions lacked clarity and in some cases they were just absolutely wrong.  And the road was a mess.  Lots of rocks, pot holes, sand, salt and again the thing I was learning to love the most, wash boards.  Never, never trust free advice.
My front tire caught the loose sand and spun up into the berm

The distance to Ollangue was probably 40 or 50 miles.  But given the misdirection and the quality of the roads, we didn’t arrive at the border until the afternoon.  This included a ride off I had where I had avoided a rock on a very sandy track and then followed the sand up the side where the bike stayed until Chuck arrived to help me pull it out.  The sand had also pulled of one of my saddlebags that needed a little “adjustment” to make it fit right again.  This route also included a railway crossing but not like most.  The road just led up to the rails and we had to cross the rails without the benefit of any lead up, just bare rails.  This is the MAIN road from Bolivia to Chile????

Directions at most border crossings are unclear.  This border was no different.  We looked for the passport processing office (usually the Police office) but could see nothing.  We saw the Aduna for processing vehicles, we drove the a small pedestrian opening and went in.  He asked for our paperwork and was very efficient in processing our vehicles out of Bolivia.  When we asked about processing our passport, he just shook his head and pointed in the direction of the Chile office. 

So the Chilean imagracion is about 3 or 4 miles across the border.  We were thinking he meant the Bolivian passport office was there.  We rode across the divide and of course found no Bolivian office, so we rode back.  This time there was another person in the Aduna office who pointed to a small Bolivian flag, across the tracks sticking up from behind a train.  There we found the police officer who processed our passports.  Nothing is ever easy!

Aduna at the Bolivia side of the border

Policia on the other side of the tracks

Chile was very much more efficient.  After going in the wrong door, I met a receiving agent.  She asked for all our information and processed our passports and motorcycles.  Afterwards we noticed that she had put down Honda’s instead of KTM’s for our motorcycles.  I guess it’s because we bought our bikes at Wild West Honda … hmmm.

We did not have enough gas to make it to the next major town Calama, but we had been told that Ollangue had a gas station.  So we went into town looking for gas.  It turns out the station had closed a long time before, but we were told that a Hostel in town sold gasoline out of the back.  When we found the hostel we were told they would have gas in a hour to come back after lunch.  When we returned we decided to stay for the night.

Gasoline from a barrel

Here we met Pedro.  Pedro was from Santiago and owns a trucking company specializing in the transport of copper ore from Bolivia to Chile to be processed.  One of the nicest guys, one could ever hope to meet.  He let us tie into his cell phone wireless to use the internet and then spent an enormous amount of time giving us advice, directions and descriptions of different places to visit in Chile.  We had dinner and breakfast with Pedro and his crew.


We also met a group of five bikers traveling from Brazil.  They were riding BMW’s and an Africa Twin.  It looked like a couple of them had had a get off or two as the bikes were scraped up and pieces missing.  They had ridden from Uyuni to Ollyangue in one day, what had taken us two.  We didn’t speak the same language but we did speak motorcycle!  We took pictures before we left the next morning.

Leoes o' oeste (Lions of the West) with Pedro and us.

On to Calama.

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