Figure 4Canyons on the way to Potosi
And we actually found gas along the way. I marked out a hostel and it took a little time to find it. When we did, they had an excellent place to park and a room for about $30. We went and had dinner, and settled in for the night. Potosi is somewhat a tourist destination, so there was a little walking mall, movie theaters and generally felt very safe. We had breakfast early and left. We left town, again without filling up because we could not find a gas station.
We paid a toll for a brand new road from Potosi to Uyuni. It had only been open a month, very little traffic, smooth and about of 120 miles of nothing but twisty road…. It was a blast. But at about 80 miles the reserve light came on and there were NO stations, nothing, nada. Chuck actually had about 46 miles on his reserve when we finally pulled into Uyuni.
We ran into some Germans just outside Uyuni and asked if they could follow us to make sure we made it. They had some extra gas, in water bottles held on back with bungees. Saftey third!
New friends from Germany
The line of cars at the station in Uyuni was at least a half mile long. But, we have found out that usually in Bolivia there is a “moto” only line. I kinda snuck around until one of the attendents finally motioned me in. And we were now traveling with the five Germans on BMWs, so there were seven of us in total.
I sometimes wonder why others don’t get pissed off because of our cutting in line. I have never had an issue, if fact many of those in line will get out of their cars to come ask us about our bikes. This time seven bikes filled up but there were no complaints. The gas truck just arrived to fill up the tanks in the station and I heard later that some in that line had been waiting since the day before. We followed the Germans to the hostel they were looking for. Talking a few weeks later with others who were there, we were told that the gas truck had been days in arriving and they had to find gasoline on the black market from people with drums. (see later note about Ollangue)
After getting a room at the hostel, we removed our luggage, left it in the room and decided to ride out to Luna Salada (the Salt Hotel). We had tried to get a reservation but they had indicated that they were fully booked. But we decided to go anyway, see the hotel and have a beer. When we got there, they said there had a problem with one of the tours and they had some open rooms. We went ahead and took a room; how many times do you get to stay in a hotel made of salt.
The road to the hotel was brutal though, entirely wash boarded, some sand but totally beating up the bikes. It had taken over an hour to travel about 20 miles. We decided to not go back that night, and just rough it without our luggage. However, someone was coming out to work and agreed to stop and pick up our luggage. They cut off the lock on the Hostel room, got our luggage, paid our Hostel bill, bought a new lock and brought our luggage for their cost only. Nice!
We stayed at the Luna Salada for three days. The second day we traveled onto the salt, which is the largest lake deposited salt in the world. NASA usebs the surface of the Salar de Uyuni to calibrate their satellite instruments, as it is much more accurate than the surface of the ocean. The elevation on our GPS (approximately 12,050 feet) did not vary over ten feet during the entire crossing of about 40 miles.
The Salt as far as you could see
The outside edge of the salt is actually wet. It rains on the land surrounding the salt then drains into the salt. You must be careful not to drive into the wet salt and become stuck.
We had lunch at the isle de Incahuas. Pretty much a tourist destination, but still worthwhile. Chuck had a young admirer, the daughter of one of the workers in the kitchen. She has apparently never seen a giant with a gray beard.
She was not camera shy
On the way back, due to the vibration on the salt, the gas can bracket had cracked and broken. The tanks were lying flat on my side cases. We pulled it up and held it in place with a bungy. At the hotel we asked about a welder in town, who could reweld the bracket. Turns out the hotel had someone employed, who welded. He came out in front of the hotel, ran a couple wires to the electrical outlet and welded up a fix.
Welding the gas holder back together
He welded a brace on Chucks as well. But he ran out of welding rod before he could add a brace to my second side. He asked for nothing but we gave him what amounted to about $20 each. I must say, as he started to weld he did not have welding goggles on, and we told him we would not let him weld on our bikes without goggles, so he went and put on his safety gear.
On the second day they moved us to a suite, because the tour that missed the previous day, was now expected. The suite was huge, a large living room and two bedrooms, one with two doubles and the other with a king size bed. Unfortunately, we would have gladly traded the upgrade for a few steps closer to the front door and the bikes. As it was, the suite was literally the furthest room away at 300 steps (Chuck counted). Carrying our luggage out was a workout at over 12,000 feet elevation.
That's loose salt on the floor
Grotto's outside the rooms along the main hall
As we left the hotel on the final day, we asked about the roads on the opposite side of the salt. We were told that it was a pretty good road. Here is some advice, never trust free advice. J
Here's the map, simple right?
Chuck had programmed an intercept from the previous days track. So as we got close he took the lead. I became concerned when we crossed our track but kept going. We were getting closer and closer to the edge and the wet salt. What was worse was that Chuck had taken an angle away from the direction we needed to go. As he stopped to look at his GPS, I caught up and convinced him we needed to back track. He said he would follow me. I turned but as we headed back I crossed tracks from vehicles coming from shore. I stopped to make Chuck aware of the bumps and my bike sank into the salt, getting stuck. I waved Chuck across the tracks to the other side and he came back and helped me get my bike unstuck.
Stuck in the salt. It looks like Snow.
We made it to the dirt road on the other side of the salt. It was about 30 miles to San Juan, but the road was brutal. Sand, rocks, dust and again, the worst wash boards. Along with all the questions about which way to go, it took us at least three hours to get to San Juan.