05.01.17. Potosi, Bolivia
On leaving the Salt Hotel yesterday morning we bumped our way back down the 5 km of dirt road, over the famous ‘Ripio’ the South American name for a gravel road, corrugated with a washboard effect.
At the end of the 5km stretch which took us over a railway line, and up what looked like a completely vertical climb back onto tarmac, we stopped to check over the bolts that attach the sidecar to the bike. Already, the one little devil had come loose, despite Paul tightening it as we arrived at the hotel. The bolt is one of the major ones from the bike, holding the sidecar in place. We would be in difficulty if it came out altogether. This, is one of the biggest reasons that we have decided against riding gravel roads as much as possible. The other reasons are because the combination of the bike and sidecar is very rigid, and therefore unforgiving when bumping up and down these roads. Very uncomfortable for both of us. We shall have to pick our routes with care, as the further South we go the more of these gravel roads there are, used as major routes. Whilst a shame in some respects, we’re already compiling a list of places and rides to return to South America for (oh, and North America).
The 5 km stretch took us across a plain that was covered with Llamas with great woolly coats on. This was their territory, and they roamed freely, but didn’t take to kindly to our engine noise, so would leap out of the way with their spindly front legs galloping off in all directions. Like the reindeer we encountered in Norway & Finland they don’t seem blessed by intelligence when it comes to their safety!
The route took us through Uyuni, before taking us onto road number 5, another astounding piece of tarmac running through a geological wonderland. Once again, we were riding mainly alone for hours, overtaking only two cars over the entire journey. This is our idea of bliss, riding through this great earth, full of natural wonder, accompanied by only Llama, and surely what must be the hardiest of people to live in the tiny villages that appear occasionally on the roadside.
Once again, we saw many references to the Dakar Rally, and also this time the roads and roadside rocks were painted with reference to the Bolivian President Evo Morales, for whom there is a great respect and love. President Morales is the first Indigenous President for Bolivia, and appears to be doing his very best to make it a better place for his people to live.
To us, the local people look as though they have very little, but the sheer joy of receiving a wave in return to my own raised hand shows that they probably have everything they need. They are not chasing a new car, house, hairdo etc- they have what they have, and that’s enough, thank you.
We arrived in Potosi, and our aparthotel was a little bit out of town. The nice lady receptionist gave us a map and an idea of where to head for something to eat. We were pretty hungry, so headed off about 4.30pm, we took her directions and walked the six blocks downhill to the restaurant to find it closed. We tried the Chinese opposite, but they could not give us a menu, and told us to go up the road. Tired and hungry, we settled on a restaurant with a board outside advertising lunch. We walked to the door to be greeted by an elderly couple practically blocking the doorway sitting in their chairs. ‘Yes, come in, we are open’ they insisted. There followed a very entertaining hour, where we were fed a great dinner of rice soup, followed by spicy chicken for me, and ‘blanco’ chicken for Paul. We have become a bit more daring lately about where we will eat (out of necessity), and feel we may be running the gauntlet of food poisoning, but undoubtedly these very basic types of places, with plastic tables and chairs make the tastiest food. The gent and his wife bombarded us with endless questions, he was fascinated that we were from Inglaterra, Ingleses from Italy! He wanted to know what time it was there, while his wife was more interested in why we don’t have children (they told us 10-15 children is normal in Bolivia), what age do people retire, is it cold, what are the salaries of people there, that kind of thing.
We thought it best to dash quickly back to the hotel, but there were no repercussions from the delicious food, thankfully. We spent the rest of the evening trying to book a hotel in Tupiza, only to discover that the peoples of the Dakar Rally had booked all 32 places to stay for tonight. We have therefore stayed another day in Potosi, but will cook our own dinner tonight!