Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Someone Called the Cops

We left Potosi headed for Uyuni. The road had stretches of pavement and shorter stretches of gravel and sand. We went through several valleys with lots of cacti with bright pink flowers. The valleys allowed us to see the upcoming road and we noticed four motorcycles ahead of us. Fifteen minutes later, coming downhill on a sandy bend, we met up with a family of three from Canmore and a Guy from Colorado (Canmore is only 20 minutes away from our home town in Canada). We had heard about this family of three travelling on DR650’s before we left Canada,  Michael, Jing and Sean. They were joined in Peru by Aaron from Colorado, riding a well prepared BMW F650. Jing had dropped her bike in some sand, which allowed us to catch up to them. Jing had broken her hand guard, ripped off her metal pannier and bent the skid plate, so Grif helped Mike and the guys with some roadside repairs. She also hurt her wrist but was okay to keep going. We also stopped later for a break, before Uyuni, and noticed we had picked up a construction road marker (3 inch nail with red metal tab) in our back tire. Grif hesitated to pull it out and decided to wait until we got to Uyuni.

Just after Jing's accident
We saw our first sight of the Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat, from the mountains next to Uyuni. A bright white that stretched to the horizon.  Uyuni was dusty and windy, so we pulled into the first hotel we saw that had parking. We got ourselves settled in and Grif pulled out the nail. Thank goodness it went in sideways and did not puncture the tube.  All of us got cleaned up and went out for dinner. Dinner was great, a good feast with beer and stories from our new found friends! After dinner we booked a tour to the Salar de Uyuni for the next day. We would be in a Land Cruiser, just the six of us.
After we arrived back in the hotel, Grif was not feeling well. I went to sleep, but Grif did not! He was up all night… food poisoning. I quickly treated him with Cipro at midnight when he woke me up. Obviously he wouldn’t be able to do the tour.
In the morning the rest of set off on the tour, leaving Grif to rest and drink lots of fluids. The tour was spectacular. Our first stop was the train graveyard. An eerie place of rusted train cars and were told this is where Butch Cassidy fled. He was killed and supposedly buried 50 km away. We stopped at a small town on the outskirts of the Salar de Uyuni, Colchani. This is where the salt is extracted and processed, then sold to refineries or traded for foodstuffs and material goods. The Salar de Uyuni  is 12,000 km2 and 180 km wide. We saw hotels made of salt and a rock island, Isla Incahuasi, which is 80km from Colchani, across the Salar. We had lunch of fried chicken, pasta salad, and vegetables then toured the island and saw Trichoreus cactiUpon leaving the Salar, we also visited Ojos de Salar, which is an area where gases bubble to the surface of the large salt flat.
A balancing act!
Lisa on the Salar de Uyuni
We arrived back in Uyuni, and stopped at the tour office so I could pay (we didn’t the night before as we didn’t have enough cash with us). The tour agent wanted me to pay for both Grif and myself, but I refused, and only paid for my tour. After a long discussion, I exited the office and went back to the Land Cruiser, leaving money only for myself, on the desk of the tour office. I was followed shortly after by the daughter of the owner, asking me to go back in and pay for Grif. I refused again and exited the Land Cruiser and walked back to the hotel.
Grif was feeling better but was still pretty weak. Shortly after I arrived someone from the tour company was at the hotel. Grif went down to reception on my behalf knowing something was up! Sure enough, he was met by the police and the daughter from the tour company!! In the meantime, the Madill’s and Aaron had pulled up outside of the hotel and noticed the police wagon. They made jokes while still in the Land Cruiser, about the police possibly coming for Lisa! They were right as they soon discovered when they arrived inside the hotel.
Luckily Aaron, fluent in Spanish, was already speaking with the police when Grif got there. After explaining our story, that Grif did not go on the tour and should not have to pay, everything was okay.
After breakfast the following day, Grif decided to spend another day recuperating. During the afternoon, Jing and Aaron looked into taking a train back to Oruro, and putting the motorbikes in a rail car. Since it would save us a day of travelling, Grif and I decided to join the Madill’s and Aaron on this crazy adventure! The train was to leave at 01:22 am and arrive at 9:30 am! We had the bikes loaded by 6:30 pm, after finding a ramp in the worst of places. Then the bikes were roped and straw mattresses were used as cushions. We had a quick bite of pizza and went back to the hotel to rest. Awaking at 11:45 pm, we headed to the train station for 12:30 am and paid for the transport of the bikes.
The train was late by over an hour... good grief! It was the bumpiest, worst ride ever!! Back and forth and up and down for hours! We were also squished like sardines, three people to a bench seat made for two, rubbing shoulders and nodding heads! There were even people sleeping on the floor and kids sleeping under the benches wrapped up in blankets! This was one of the longest nights ever, as I got little sleep, maybe half an hour, and Grif not much more.
Tired and hungry we got off the train, eagerly waiting for the rail car door to be opened so we could see the condition of the bikes. We knew the train ride was extremely rough and Grif said we would be lucky if the bike was still standing! When the door opened, it wasn’t. The train tracks were so terrible it moved the bike from under the straps and it was lying partially on its side on the straw mattress, which luckily prevented any damage. Although, we lost about 10 litres of gas. Sean’s front wheel of the motorbike had bounced 5 feet across the floor All the other bikes were still standing up.
Sorting the bikes out after the train ride
So, after sorting out a flooded carburetor and air box on Sean’s bike, we were off for lunch as it was close to noon. We all decided to stay in Oruro as we were so tired from the train ride. Grif found some Castrol Syntec and did an oil change, while I did laundry and had a nap! In the evening we went out for a few beers and went to bed early.
We left the hotel at 8 am, after having breakfast. Shortly after leaving town, Sean was still having problems with his bike, so we stopped and did repairs for an hour. The spark plugs were dirty as his bike was running too rich. The spark plugs were changed and adjustments were made to the carberator. We stopped again shortly after as his bike was still misfiring and removed the air box cover. He now had a very loud and powerful bike, which made him ecstatic!

Group photo!
We reached Patacamaya, where Michael and Jing removed their air box covers as well. This is also where the Madill’s and Aaron left us and headed west into Chile and we continued north to La Paz. They were funny, quirky, wonderful company, kind and helpful - we miss you all Guys!!!
We arrived in La Paz, a city at 3660 m and population of almost a million, in a valley with high canyon walls; breathtaking and big! We booked into a hotel that the guys recommended and went out for pizza!

No comments:

Post a Comment