Monday, 12 March 2012
Nieve en la Ruta
Yesterday was spent chilling in San Pedro and sorting out food, spare fuel and the route for today's foray into the Salar de Uyuni.
This is a massive salt plane at about 400om altitude and apparently truly stunning. Google it and check out the photos. An early start and a hassle free departure with heavily laden bikes saw us passing through Chilean border requirements without a hitch.
It was then a steep climb towards the Bolivian Border and the inevitable customs. We had ridden this portion of road, in the opposite direction, hacer dos dias and I did not remember seeing so much snow in the hills ahead. Then we saw a broken down lorry covered in fresh snow and soon the snow was creeping from just off the road into the middle. For those of you unused to riding motorbikes, a heavily laden bike and snow on the road makes for dangerous conditions.
We stopped had a quick discussion and decided that in order to preserve life we should turn around and find another way onto the Salar further north soI set Calama into the GPS and we headed back through the Chilean border control post. Our route took us deep into the Atacama Desert and past the Valle del Luna which we went to see down 6km of ripio (dirt track). About 2km from the valley our way was barred by a gate clearly
designed to stop people driving into the park. No problem a couple of fit guys could walk there in no time until having passed through the gate and wearing our 100SPF c
lothing we realised that it was a seriously steep climb. So for the second occasion in the day that we failed to achieve our goal :-(
Undaunted we proceede north towards Calama and reached it in good time. A quick spot of lunch in the Petrobras petrol station and we headed for Ollague about 180km away. Lovely smooth tarmac soon gave way to ripio but good ripio and we rode
on for 45km climbing into the Andes and hopefully another way into Bolivia. There was loads of snow in the mountains ahead that nestled beneath very very dark storm clouds.
Another quick conflab and again sense prevailed and we retraced our steps to Calama with Ollague still 130km away. Calama was reached not long before dark. Just north of Calama is Chuquicamata one of the largest copper mines in the world. Consequently Calama is toppers with miners many of which come here to work during the week and so available accommodation is like the proverbial rocking horse stuff. So where am I writing the blog? In the same 24hr Petrobras petrol station where we had lunch. I suspect that we will not get much sleep!!
We are 140km from San Pedro having ridden 370km. A trying day and for the second bike trip I have failed to ride the Salar de Uyuni :-((