The Ten

The Ten

Monday, 26 October 2015

High altiplano south to Uyuni.

I got lost, several times, trying to climb out of La Paz. Took me a long while to find a road which actually left the city and not dead end or become a one way street going the wrong way. When I did finally escape the clutches of the city; it was time for petrol. Easy enough you would think? Bolivia has a dual pricing policy on fuel: it is heavily subsided and thus very cheap........IF you have Bolivian number plates. To stop motorists from neighbouring countries exploiting this cheap fuel, all vehicles with foreign plates pay about 3 times what the locals pay. Fair enough; but the paperwork and hassle involved means many petrol stations outright refuse to sell petrol to foreigners. At one petrol station, they initially told me that they didn't have the correct forms, I stood my ground (as the previous petrol station had sent me to this one) insisting I didn't have enough fuel to get to another station. After a lot of to-ing and fro-ing, the attendant disappeared to an office and returned having mysteriously found the necessary forms. He then spent an age logging all my vehicles details as well as my passport information (UK wasn't on his system, the closest we got was EU), he told me to turn the bike around so the security camera could see my number plate. I can see why they don't like doing it, what should be a 2 minute process of filling your tank becomes a half hour plus farce.

So, it was highway 1 south over the high altiplano. Long, straight roads at first, even dual carriageway as far as Oruro where I stopped for the night before continuing to the silver mining town of Potosi (lying at an altitude of almost 2 and 1/2 miles high). The road climbed even higher for the last 100 miles or so to Potosi through stunning scenery, with vast plains and Lamas dotting the landscape. A few miles short of the town, I was on the tail of a group of Brazilian bikers (they had a flag); even though we didn't stop or speak; I felt I was riding with a group for a while. Potosi is a nice town, but just one night here as I wanted to keep riding; the best days are always on the bike and after being in La Paz for too long, I wanted to make progress.

I stopped at the edge of Potosi for the daily battle to get petrol. As I was waiting as the attendant went through the usual pantomime; a Brazilian biker (not one from the previous day), Paulo, arrived. For whatever reason, they would not sell us petrol through the legitimate route. Eventually, a 10 litre barrel was filled in another (local) customers car and we were told to follow this car. Around the corner and out of sight of the petrol station in a dusty side road, we filled our tanks from this barrel using an old 2 litre coke bottle as a funnel. We were still charged the foreigners rate; which, no doubt, went straight into the attendants pocket. But our tanks were full and we set off for Uyuni. Another fantastic road with lots of curves and several overland cyclists heading the same way. I've seen more cyclists than bikers on this trip.

As we crested the final hill we were rewarded with magnificent views over Salar de Uyuni; the worlds largest salt flats and the odd town of Uyuni itself. The next day, Paulo and I rode to the salt flats to ride in this surreal landscape; an endless expanse of flat white as far as the eye could see. A memorable day in one of the worlds natural wonders. Back in Uyuni, I met another biker (George from Sark) on an old Africa twin. Suddenly, there are a lot of bikers around: none of them going in my direction, but still it was good to catch up on other bikers tales from the road and the riding conditions where I was headed.


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