The Atacama desert provided the perfect way to cap-off some crazy months riding and hitch hiking through Patagonia and southern & northern Chile/Argentina. With relatively smooth roads and some-what responsible road users thus far, it was time to see how Bolivia defined roads and health and safety. To find out, we set of with the Italian Bitches (See vlog 3) from the Atacama up towards Paso Hito Cajon, a 400 km route 4000-4500 above sea level which weaves through-out the Andes towards Uyuni. Coming from a perfect asphalt road and a large modern building at the Chilean border, we we’re then greeted by a fella in straw like shack, who claimed he was a Bolivian official in an official border crossing. He also exclaimed it was lunch time, he was hungry, and for us to hurry the f*** up. This warm welcome paralleled with a exquisite building set our hopes high for the riding we’d face in the coming days. With Lachie already half broken from a fall in a sand patch a few weeks earlier, he, out of all us, was the most delighted to confront the first stretch of road which was either more corrugated than a tin roof or as sandy as a beach.
The definition of Bolivian roads became clear. With this excitement, we also had to pay a $30 ‘park fee’, totalling $90 for the three of us, we then we’re left with $5 for the next three days until we could make it to Uyuni. What made this prospect more exciting is that the first 10km of riding took us two hours, and with 70 km to cover that day, we knew we were in for a big one.
The sun was starting to set and the only shelter was three hours away, and with the nights dropping to -15 degrees, it was a race that couldn’t be won to try get to some warmth by nightfall. Witnessing some epic stacks and heartfelt anger, the common-thought amongst all of us was thinking why we voluntarily put ourselves in these situations. The advice we received from other moto travellers, telling us that this road was too hard for bikes to cross, became reasonable.
What the afternoon lacked in quality roads and enjoyment, it made up for in spectacular mountains and Lagunas relished by flamingos. The progress made over the next four hours was dismal, though at least it was more than Pat’s sexual life. The sun set below the horizon and we were left half in awe at the purple/pink sky backdropped behind the mountains and half pissed off that we still probably had 2 more hours of riding through what may as well have been a huge sand pit.
We made it to the shelter, broken but fully stoked. The only thing that could wipe the smiles away was the fact we’d have to do it all again the next day, only with more km’s to cover. Having no money and little reason, we didn’t stay in the accommodation and threw our mats and bags outside, prepping for the -15 night. Being told by the locals we we’re a bunch of spastics, we rugged up and tried to sleep. Turns out it’s pretty hard to sleep in an industrial freezer.
Fuelled from a three hour snooze and frozen bananas for breaky, we set off early to get started on a killer day. I’m not sure how bats use echolocation to precisely detect bugs flying through the air and catch them, but, I’m even more unsure on how the roads that day could get even worse to the previous day. Mind-bogglingly, we charged through, dropping the bikes a bullshit number times. Podcasts, music, flamigos and mountians kept us sane through-out the next 8 hours of challenging riding, but we finally made it to a small town with semi-asphalt roads. The relief was huge as we checked in to a hostel costing us a whopping 4 bucks. Gucci bitch (Roberto), the rider of the Italian team, is a chef back home, and hooley dooley can he whip up food that’ll have a sick rave on ya taste buds. Exhausted, that night Roberto made some magic with pasta, chilli, garlic and olive oil. We shared cervezas, bang-on food and a special little connection between us for getting through some of the hardest riding we’ll probably ever experience.
During the most frustrating points of the ride, it was super important to remember that one day you’ll look back on the experience knowing how damn epic it was. We choose what we want to make of the experience. It’s pretty hard to hold that truth when you’re in the shit out in the sticks somewhere, but if you can, the experience becomes a whole lot more gratifying.
Anyhoo, we made it the city of Uyuni, and the largest salt flat in world is nervously waiting for three stupid Aussie blokes and their ruthless moto’s to hit the ground. More to come.