Monday, March 15, 2010

Potosi to Uyuni - March 11

Potosi is a maze in three dimensions due to its extreme topography.  Even with clear directions from hotel staff it was a challenge to exit the city on the Carreterra Uyuni given the absence of street signs.  We got the job done with a balance of intuition and confirmation from helpful bystanders.
Just outside of town we were stopped at a Policia checkpoint and charged a toll for the use of the road.  I want my money back!  After only 36km's of pavement we were back into a construction zone that lasted for more than 100km's.  The construction occurs without any apparent regard to the travelling public - with long sections od "solo carril" (single lane) where equipment operates without flagmen, meaning vehicles often meet head-on in areas where passing is not possible.  In some instances, the construction methodology makes the roads impassable to all but the larger trucks and buses with raised suspensions.
In one area, the crews had dumped loads of soft earth onto the road surface and were in the process of plowing the dirt into soft 14 inch deep rows - as though they were about to plant corn.  I tried to ride through it (as directed by the crew) but it was impossible as the heavy bike would continually bog down or twist violently.  Eventually I had to ride both bikes 1km along a 6 inch ledge at the edge of the road above a steep embankment.

Later on we encountered a 2km section of road where they had loosely spread 18 inches of tennis ball size gravel that had become so deeply rutted we couldn't maneuver the bikes safely.
In fact, Petra dropped her bike twice in the first 100m.  I had to ride both bikes along a precarious edge, sometimes 50 feet above a riverbed, leapfrogging them for the 2km stretch in 38 degree C heat until we reached an unused desvio road where we could safely ride until the next obstacle.

Walking back to ride Petra's bike ahead.

The final stretch into Uyuni was on the original ripio road, a welcome respite from the construction.

Furry cactus with fruit on the road to Uyuni.

We reached Uyuni by 4:30pm after seven hours of riding to cover just over 200km's.

Dinner in Uyuni was at a small cocina catering to locals - a hardy and delicious potato broth with peppers and other vegetables followed by vicuna stew with tomato, onion and rice, and a cinnamon tea for postres - all for 10 Bolivianos per person ( about $1.35CDN).

Tomorrow, the Salar...but I've said that before, haven't I!?

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