Bolivia – (Running into the Military)

Posted by on Jun 1, 2012 in Travel Blog | 0 comments

Bolivia – (Running into the Military)

We reached the Bolivian boarder, only noticeable by 3 truck drivers waiting on the side of the road. They directed us to a small building and indicated we need to knock. We walked over to the building stepping over 3 skinny dogs on the way. We knocked twice before we heard movements.

Bolivian/Paraguay boarder crossing

It was the customs office living quarters. He escorted us to a computer. I watched him walk outside and start a generator, lights flickered as we heard the computer start up. With everything in correct order we set off into the Bolivian jungle.  It was only 20 minutes later that we found ourselves in the wrong place. I said to Dale “Hey don’t you think it looks like a shooting range over there”. 50 meters later military jumped onto the road with guns. I think he was asking what the hell we were doing here. And that´s when we realized we had entered a Bolivian military camp. I pointed north and said we were travelling to Bolivia. When we explained what we were doing, where we had come from and where we were going they escorted us outside their training facilities. I think this was the main problem with Paraguay and Bolivia. The lack of direction.  For eg, 50 kilometers down the road there was a diversion. We could have possibly ridden around the pile of dirt that blocked the road but choose not to. We saw a muddy 2 lane track with a small sign stating ¨ Desvío ¨. 2 hours passed and we had only travelled 58 kilometers.

Bolivian roads

The conditions were the worst we had ridden on. Mud stuck to our tyres, creating it near impossible to steer. It was like skating on ice. We initially dodged the puddles but within 2 minutes we were wet and muddy so we took the opportunity to be teenagers again and tried to make the biggest splash we could. Massive cliffs surrounded the edge of the road. It was very dangerous for trucks as the road was so thin in places that on 2 occasions one was forced to reverse to allow the other to pass. There was no guard rail so placing a wheel over the edge would be deadly. It was sad to pass so many crosses where people had lost their lives. Thankfully we found the sealed road again and a small hotel to stay for the night. Locals stare alot as we drive through little towns. We must be an unusual sight with our gear strapped down to the bikes and helmet cameras.

Heading north we pushed our small motorbikes to extreme conditions. We reached one of the highest towns in the world. Potosi sits at 4100 meters above sea level.  The town sits at the base of a mountain which was mined for silver during the period of the Spanish Empire. It still operates today so went on a tour of the mine. The sound of dynamite exploding echoed through the shafts.

Potosi Silver Mine

The tight tunnels meant we constantly had to jump into holes in the wall to allow the trolleys to be pushed through. The air is so thin that you lose your breath walking up only a small incline. For this reason our fuel air mixture was unbalanced and caused the bikes to cough and splutter. At times our maximum speed was 50kms per hour. Travelling through Bolivia would take alot of time. Heading west we visited one of the best tourist attractions in Bolivia. Salar Du Uyuni is the largest salt flat in the world covering 10582 square kilometers. We visited Cactus Island, a hotel made from salt blocks and had fun making small objects look big or big objects look small. Will let you decide. We reached La Paz, the capital of Bolivia after 5 days of travelling north through the country. We stopped off at small towns along the way, meeting locals who were so intrigued in what we were doing and where we were going. We visited the local Honda dealership and replaced the jetting in the carburetor. This allowed our bikes to perform alot better. We would now reach 80kms per hour. A massive difference. To test out the bikes performance, I rode  the Death Road or as the locals call it, North Yungas Road. It´s 61 kilometers of narrow winding roads along the cliffs of the Amazon jungle. The road has claimed the lives of many. Tour agencies in La Paz take tourists on mountain bike trips. The road was made famous when it featured in the series Top Gear. The road starts at 4650m and descends to 1200m. I can only imagine what it’s like catching a bus along this road, it would be terrifying. I felt for the first time on the trip that it was safer to be riding a motorbike as opposed to a bus.

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