Monday, March 15, 2010

Uyuni to Oruro - March 12

We were on the road just after 7am for a couple of reasons.  First, as we ride north the hours of daylight are diminishing, and second, we wanted to ride the Salar and still make it to Oruro for the night.

The Salar is incredible, a vast salt flat remnant to a prehistoric sea and at over 10,500 square kilometres, the largest in the world.
Portions of the Salar near the Colchan access point were flooded with up to 8 inches of water but about one kilometre in, the salt bed was fairly dry.
Given the long views and flat consistent ground, the Salar is a fun place to play with perspective.
Petra has been complaining that her bike is too big... we had some adjustments made!

From the Salar we headed to Rio Mullatos for lunch in a local cocina - more delicioous soup of the same variety as in Uyuni.
Comparing maps and GPS.

The road from Rio Mullatos north was ripio with a lot of sandy sections to keep us on our toes, in addition to the occasional stream crossing and washout.
Petra tackling a couple of crossings.
At Sevaruyo the road came to a halt at the Rio Sevaruyo.

The river was running 4 to 12 inches deep so I waded in on foot a few metres to see what the condition of the riverbed was.  Tire tracks were clearly visible 200m away on the opposite bank, so I walked the adjacent railway bridge to inspect the length of the river crossing, and also to determine if the bridge itself was an option for crossing.  The riverbed looked consistent and the bridge was not an option as the spars were too far apart and missing in sections - so into the river I rode!
The plan was to ride my bike across, walk back across the bridge and ride Petra's bike across, or if necessary first unload Petra's bike (panniers and baggage) as it has less ground clearance.
About half way across, my rear tire dug in as I rode up on a sandbar.

I tried to throttle my way out, worsening the problem, and so removed the panniers to lighten the bike but to no avail.  By now the front tire was in the air, and the rear had sunk in the sand below the swingarm.  I spent a few minutes digging out the rear and underside of the bike, during which time a local boy and his mother offered to help us out.  With Petra and the two locals lifting the suspension and me throttling forward and pushing with feet on the riverbed the bike gained momentum and I span to the opposite shore.

As we slowly walked across the bridge collecting my panniers (at 3900m above sea level everything is slow!) another Bolivian woman told us the locals walk their bikes across the bridge.  I explained why that wouldn't work and she said the missing spars were not a problem because the trick was to walk the bikes along the rail!  Clearly the locals don't ride 600lb bikes.
That's me on the far side of the bridge carrying a pannier.

My next thought was to find two planks of wood or sheet metal to roll Petra's bike across the bridge.  As I tried to talk to the woman about this option she basically said, "you could do that, or you could just ride down river to the concrete pad where the buses cross! Hilarious.
As I sheepishly reattached the panniers to my bike, Petra rode off to find the bus crossing and joined me on the opposite shore just as I was ready to ride.  I gave 20 Bolivianos to the lady and the boy who had helped us out as a "poco regalo" (small gift), and we were on our way again.

After a few tough kilometres of desvio, we returned to pavimente at Huari and made the last 100km run to Oruro.

Oruro was more chaos and insane driving behaviour, but we quickly found a hostal with  garaga for the motos and set in for the night.  It will take all night for our feet to dry out, and a lot longer for our boots!

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