The border crossing today was time consuming but easy. At Peru immigration there was a queue up the street. I patiently waited and after an hour and 15 minutes I was stamped out of Peru. Next was customs. I was a bit concerned as I had problems getting my carnet stamped when I arrived into Peru. The carnet has expired but I have an accompanying letter from the AA in New Zealand to say it had been extended and is valid until August 2016. To my surprise it all went well I showed them my extension letter and they stamped the carnet.
I then went to the Bolivian immigration office. If I thought the queue at the Peru Immigration Office was long then this one seemed to go forever. I had to queue only for a couple of minutes to get my green entry form. I then went to the back of the queue and two hours later it was my turn to get stamped into Bolivia. Then it was off to customs to get a limited import license which required copies of your passport, your stamp in, bike registration papers and the green stamped entry ticket.
This only took half an hour.
I was then free to head for La Paz through the thunder and lightning. I pulled into the first hotel I spotted which actually took a while and walked in dripping water all over the floor.
The altitude here is around 4000 metres and the air is thin. You really start to puff walking up hill or carrying loads.
Day 502 Tuesday 19th January 2016.
It was a wet day and I had a bit of a dodgy stomach so I decided to stay put for the day. I did manage to plan the rest of my route through Chile and Argentina.
Day 503 Wednesday 20th January 2016.
I woke early this morning around 5am. There were lots of car horns beeping down below on the street. I looked out the window and it looked like it was going to be a fine day.
I felt a bit light headed and shaky, a combination of altitude and a dodgy stomach but I have to ignore that as today is the day I will ride the most dangerous road in the world, the Yungas Road or commonly known as Death Road.
Death road is located north East of La Paz and is a single gravel lane carved into the side of the hills. It was built in the early 1900’s and is known as the most dangerous road in the world because of the huge drops and a high fatality rate, over 200 per year.
I headed off out of La Paz through heavy traffic and the usual bad air. It was slow going heading up through the suburbs. I broke free of the city and travelled higher and higher along nice twisting, smooth roads. The air was getting very cold and before long I was above the clouds. I was at the same height as the snow line. I checked to see what the altitude was on my GPS; it read 4653 metres that’s 15265 feet above sea level, that’s definitely the highest I’ve ever been.
I finally got to the turn off for the Death Road. Down I went on the single gravel road. I rode past some mountain bikers (they do mountain bike tours down this road) then around some corners with big drops, then through some waterfalls and a couple of streams. Before long I had completed the Death Road.
There is hardly any traffic on this road now. They have a newer alternative route. For me this road was nowhere near as bad as the road in Columbia. That road was full of traffic, the surface was really bad and the river crossings were deep, sandy and pebbly, there were huge drops.
It was raining, windy and muddy when I completed that trip.
It’s nice to have finally completed the ride along the Death Road. It was one of the must do things I had planned for the trip. Often when you fear the worst the reality is normally better.
I headed back through La Paz and south to Collana Tolar where I had no problem finding a place to stay. The cost, NZ$11, US$7, but no wifi.
Day 504 Thursday 21st January 2016.
It was a 500km day today heading south to the largest Salt Lake in the world, Lake Uyuni. Lake Uyuni also hosts a leg of the Dakar Rally. I was a couple of weeks late.
The trip today was a really pleasant ride on very good roads I’ve been impressed how good the South American roads have been.
It was cold and windy for part of the way but the whole day had lots of different things to see from the green hills, deserts, mud brick houses, dusts storms, the mighty Lake Uyuni and finally a demonstration and road block stopping getting to Uyuni town.
I managed to ride down a bank and through deep sand which was a real work out and finally into Uyuni. I tried to find somewhere to stay. I checked out four places before a couple of Bolivian motorcyclists came over to me and took me to the place they are staying. Its clean and a good price.
In the evening I patched up my front mud guard it had totally broken. I ridden plenty of corrugated gravel today and that finally broke the other side of the mudguard.
I headed south East to Chile. I took the highway 3 which was an unsealed road. It passed through scenery that resembled Mars. Red soils, volcanoes and salt lakes. It was a landscape that was new to me.
The road I travelled was not without its challenges. In parts it was corrugated and in others loose sand and gravel that at times was deep enough to make the front end of the bike wonder. The solution twist the throttle and you straighten up and skip across the top. I had got into a good flow along the straights and corners and was travelling around a 100km per hour when I saw a white covering on the top of the hills. I imagined it was salt so I slowed down to 80km per hour. When I neared the salt, I could see lots of tyre tracks through them in different direction some as deep as roadside kerbs. When my front tyre finally hit them, the tracks were solid and Winston front end almost washed out as the wheel was pushed in many directions before breaking through the salt. It was a lucky escape and I was glad to still be vertical. It was something to watch out for later on. There were a few more of these traps along the way but now I was onto them.
When I finally arrived at the border there was hardly anyone there. Getting through immigration was as easy as waiting for the one person in front of me to get stamped out and then it was my turn. It was then a walk over to customs to get my temporary import license stamped and I was done. That was the end of my Bolivian experience.