7. Jan, 2017

06.01.17 Potosi, Bolivia, to Tupiza, Bolivia

Oh My Goodness, what a day!


This is what adventures are made of…….


A short day ahead, we thought to ourselves, an easy ride along a road that looks nice, we should be there by early afternoon.


Little did we know: remember yesterday, when I mentioned that the Dakar Rally had booked all the rooms in Tupiza the town we wanted to head for?  No matter, we waited until today, and have a room booked for tonight….


Our first port of call was the ATM to withdraw a bit more cash to carry us through to the border. We followed the maps.me directions and found the ATM easily enough. There were two queues, one for the ATM and one to go into the bank.  Luckily, the ATM was shorter, and so only took 15 minutes or so.  We’ve discovered that the Bolivians enjoy a queue nearly as much as the British!


So, that was it, we navigated our way through the rabbit warren of streets, until hitting Highway 1, I settled into my chair, thinking that’s it we’ve cracked it, and then, all of a sudden we were in a traffic jam. Oddly, a very excited couple ran over for photos of us and the sidecar whilst we were queueing. The queue was actually just a mass of vehicles all at different angles.  Once the photos were over, we rode around the jam, and saw cones in the road. Is the road shut we thought? We edged further along and then saw tape across both exits to the road, both up and down.


We parked along the side of the road, and with that, we had an immediate audience of 15 or more people around us chatting excitedly and wanting to take our photo. Paul went off to ask a policeman what was happening, and I fended off all the people wanting to sit on the bike, touch it, photograph it.  Paul came back with the news that the road was shut to allow the service trucks of the Dakar to pass through en route from Tupiza to Oruro. The time then was 9.30 am and the road would be open again at 3pm!


We asked a few people if there was another route, but no, this was defintely the only one.  So what to do? Well, the only thing we could do, I got out my chair, and Paul perched on the bike, and we sat back to enjoy the show.  


It actually made for some great people and dog watching, whilst I think we also provided some interesting distraction inbetween trucks (all that staring). We looked out for any team trucks we might know, and saw a few, including one of Desert Rose’s customers, Dave Watson’s, service van. Paul ran over for a quick hello to them. We also spent a bit of time chatting to a really nice Bolivian guy who was following the Rally along all of its route, using the collectivo buses.  He had a Bolivian flag that he requested a photograph of us with. I heard people talking about us being German, and Paul was asked if we were Mexicans!


All was well, the atmosphere was good, people were enjoying the fun of the tooting and waving, and the various refreshments brought around by ladies carrying their treats.


After a while, we noticed that everyone was bundling their blankets around them, and picking up their possessions, and huddling into the sides of buildings.  By this time it had got pretty cold, and we had put on a few extra layers of hats and jackets.  I asked Paul, ‘what do they know that we don’t?’, to which he replied, ‘oh, it’s probably going to rain’.


Eventually even all the policemen ran to their cars or into the nearby cafe, and so we were the only two silly sods left out, exposed when the hail storm arrived! I sat resolutely in my chair, and Paul had a bag on top of his head as well as his hat.  Needless to say, being totally unprotected within minutes we were absolutely drenched, whilst the hailstones pelted our faces. The road was awash with snow, and water running everywhere.


One policeman asked if we wanted to get in the car, but we are reluctant to leave the bike, so said no, thankyou (always polite), but 5 minutes later a woman across the road (in shelter) and a policeman at the cafe door were both shouting for us to enter the cafe.  So we did, it was at least dry, and Paul could view the bike through the glass sliding door.  This door caused us alot of amusement as no one seemed to be able to work out how to open it, or if they did, they didn’t open it wide enough and became wedged in it sideways.  The local dogs didn’t seem to have a problem slipping through though.


At about 1.30 pm, the hail had gone, it was only a mild rain left over, and people looked like they were getting ready to move off up the road. We hovered a little further inside the cafe, and then made a dash for the bike. The seat of the sidecar was full of hailstones! Paul and I scooped them out with our hands.  Our hands immediately turned to ice. But there was movement, so we quickly put our helmets on top of hats, I jumped in, and we were off.  There had already been a number of vehicles let onto the road ahead of us, but we were luckily enough to get past these at the peaje station around the corner, where we do not have to pay, so they let us through on the wrong side.


The journey was to be 4 hours, however, we actually managed it in less time, arriving about 5.15pm.  Throughout the journey, the temperature ranged from 3 degrees celsius to 17.5 degrees celsius, and we kept riding in and out of huge rain pockets.


The time passed quickly, especially because there were still many Dakar Rally service trucks heading the other way.  We also saw another motorbike and sidecar, although the rider of their bike appeared to be wearing a gas mask on his face!