An overlander's account of South and Central America by motorbike - the trusty Suzuki DR650. Within are great travel tips and hints (2011).

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Beautiful BOLIVIA! March 31- April 8 2011

After donning a new front tyre I was ready to tackle Bolivia.  One of the most stunning countries I´ve seen yet.  It was here that I really started feeling like I was in South America.  Big markets, animals, jungle, traditional women in traditional clothing.  Amazing!  Here is the tale...

31 March 2011 (97 km) - Tupiza (Camp)
After finally ridding myself (fitting it) of the spare front tyre I´d been carrying since Buenos Aires I made my way to the border for Bolivia!  WOOHOO!  People were running from one side to the other with all sorts of goods on their backs, heads and shoulders!  It was surreal!  My first deal was tucker...and I bought 3 saltenas (deep fried pasties) and a glass of juice for about a buck!  LOVE IT!  I made my way to Tupiza, near were Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were killed (outlaws from the US back in the day).  If there was anywhere to take a horse ride it was here, and at about 15 bucks, well worth it!  Time for a celebratory cigar!  The landscape here is exactly like what you would see in the wild wild west!  I dropped my bike in to get some welding done on the frame as one of the brackets for the pannier racks had cracked...I returned at about 7pm and it was done for about 6 bucks...and done well!!!

A donkey road block...

Amazing landformations!

Cigar Celebration Time!

1April 2011 (284 km) - Salar de Uyuni (Camp)
After leaving Potosi I beelined it straight for the great Salar de Uyuni! A massive salt flat, which at certain times of year you can ride across! On the way was beautiful wild west scenery with cactuses ready to catch any motorbiking crashes! On the way apparently there is fuel in Atocha (bikers note) and after searching for a long time I finally found it about 3km up the river in the middle of nowhere!  

Eventually arriving at the salar I decided to give riding a dry patch a go as people had told me its rock hard...I found out quite soon that despite the crusty look on top, it was MUDDY AS SHIT in some spots and had gone a distance in and had to return out.  I was a little upset at myself for being so foolish as experience from Aus says I know better.  I figured the safest way out was the way I came in...but I slipped up and dropped the bike!  After spending 5 mins huffing and puffing at 3000+ m, and the bike sliding everywhere, I finally stood her back up.  Some pics were taken near the salar which at this time was full of water!  Trucks and tour vehicles still run as the salar is mined for salt.  Current projects are looking at mining Uranium there, but all are companies from outside Bolivia!!!  I camped in an incomplete salt hotel.  Sweet as!  There was also an old train cemetery here which is reallllly neat!

On the way to Uyuni

The fuel station in the middle of nowhere!


Dogs hangin out in Atocha

Nessie is a model...

Its a much waste and it all gets caught by the bushes.

The train cemetery at Uyuni.  COOL with capitals...on purpose!  Somewhere to take the kids!


Something is wrong here...Not so fun.

The typical Uyuni photo...

This guy got towed out of the Salar.  A good reason not to take a motorbike in!  The salt was peeling off the panels!

This is a hotel made of salt a click away from the previous photos.  I camped inside an unfinished one next to it!  Perfect.

2 April 2011 (217 km) - Potosi (Copacabana hostel)
Upon asking how long it took to Potosi from Uyuni, people will say 6 hrs.  I then pester and say, "and on a moto?".  Maybe one hour less.  Turns out it takes about 3hrs, and most often you can take about 2/3 of the time people will say for a dirt road for a car.  Motos float over bumps!  Its lovely!  This road currently is being worked on and turned into bitumen.  FOr those who arent savvy...Bolivian roads arent the best...loads of dirt roads connecting major towns and cities!  A bit of new bitumen recently!  In Potosi I checked out the silver mine there.  Amazing.  The miners worship a Spanish deity/devil.  Very interesting.  The expected life for a miner is late fifties...mostly due to silicosis (from breathing to much dust).  Inside the mines some run dry and some wet.  Wet means no dust, but cold and wet.  Its a catch 20.  Different companies also mine and there have been fights between groups for veins of minerals!  In the 90s some people died when one group attacked another with dynamiteby sending it down the ventilation pipes!  Currently many tours run here and its great to see.  Many tourists take miners gifts such as ciggies, gloves, dynamite or coca leaves to chew on (helps you breathe).

I find a hostel with good parking for the bike a few blocks back from the centre.  Potosi is also the worlds highest city (3967m)!

Thats a nice ass! really gotta watch out for llamas!

Building a new bridge here.  I´m on the old road

Navigating the tunnels in the silver mine.  It was tight.  Sometimes cold.  Sometimes hot.  And occasionaly very dusty!  And sometimes just a puddle!

The mountain on the left is the mined mountain above the city of Potosi.  They say with the amount of new tunnels being made each day...eventually some part of it will collapse.

3 April 2011 (485 km) - Mataral (Camp)
The hostel I was at was had parking!!  The only problem was, the next morn more cars had boxed my bike in.  After a few moved out one was still in the it was broken into and moved, just for me...I said i´d wait but these guys were adamant.  Now thats customer service!  I headed off in the direction of Santa Maria in the jungle to visit Inter Wara Yasi, a wildlife reserve for cats and other animals.  I´d met a bloke on Valdes Peninsula who told me about it and I decided to go check it out.  I headed up through Sucre and turned east at Aiquile for a shortcut that was spose to save time.  I guess it did but man was I a clay statue when I got out!  More trucks were headed the same way as me, which meant mega dust driving!  I donned me Gunners bandanna and headed on out. 

I didn´t get the quite warm feeling from Bolivians as Chile and Peru while on the road, however, I think its just a showing of wealth with the motorbike and not a reflection on their personality.  The areas I felt this were mostly the indigenous areas and we certainly have invaded their land.  When you take a moment to talk to the people though, they were most heart warming!  Today was another long, mental testing day where I missed home, family and friends a bit.  I finally found camp on dark at a carpark next to a police checkpoint/weighstation on the road.  I rode past a school bus crash and a public bus crash again today.  Its amazing how often you see this, but when you see how they drive...unfortunately its bound to happen.

El Fuerte de Samaipata.  You can just see a Jaguar in the bottom left where the circle is.

4 April 2011 (554 km) - Inter Wara Yasi (Bed with mozzie net, mmmmm the amazon!!!)
After leaving around 8, I visited a nearby archeological site called "El Fuerte de Samapaita".  The site was a religious site built by the pre-Incan Chanes.  It was abound with carvings of jaguars and snakes and other animals.  There was one great hole down the back...which was filled with bottles and rubbish by kind tourists.  (

After visiting the ruins I headed on through Santa Cruz and north then East and was suddenly stopped at Puerto Banegas by...a wildly flowing river with no road or bridge.  After talking for a while it turned out I could get the bike across on a raft pushed by a boat!  Going downstream was a breeze but upstream was like barely moving.  After finally crossing with some local fertilizers salespersons, I headed through some thick rain to the jungle towards Santa Maria and Trinidad.  Here I would find the park!  It was great riding although I´d timed the day a little wrong and ended up riding a little in the night.  I rocked up at the park at about 1930h and asked if I could stay and help with contruction for a day or 2 and check things out.  I also asked where Sam was...the bloke I met in the Valdes Peninsula.  Some kind chaps were taking me to the dorms down the road when we spotted Sam walked down.  Theres nothing like suprising the crap out of someone when they dont expect it.  The visit was worth it just for that! 

After setting up bed and what not I went out to the moto and spotted a snake next to it with black, red and yellow bands! COOL!  Later on I identified to be an Coral Snake (Micrurus spp.) of some sort.  There was also a bat in the shack I was sleeping in and a tarantula hanging about.  And wicked glowing caterpillars outside!  LOVE the Amazon!
The river crossing...


The Coral Snake next to my moto.

The little guy in my room.

The little guy outside my room!

5 April 2011 (50 km) - Inter Wara Yasi (Bed with mozzie net, mmmmm the amazon!!!)
The park is aimed at rehabilitating wild cats which once were pets (and sometimes abused) or other and are mostly unable to be returned to the wild.  The volunteers spend about a month here working with the cats, walking, feeding and tending to their needs.  Taking the cat for a walk takes a couple of people and they call it "airwalking" as the cat runs and the rope around your body pulls you swiftly through the jungle.  I was allowed to see the big cats, as unfortunately they react a little strangely to...strangers! 

Instead I got to see a variety of insects, birds, monkeys and other critters while helping build a door and transport sand on Nessie!  The day was a continuous on and off of bucketing rain!  But it was GREAT!  I ended up finding a crack on a piece of metal used as a brace for the subframe (which is also where my top rack bolts to).  So I took the arvy off to find a "taller mechanico" (workshop) to weld the bike.  I found a cosy place down a slick clay road with a German family.  The guy checked it out and fixed it in 10 minutes.  Amazing the resourcefulnes of people here!

6 April 2011 (700 km) - Cochabamba (Camp)
I was planning on continuing west through to Trinidad and Rurrenabaque, but it turns out rain had washed the roads out and I had to backtrack about 500km...gotta LOVE backtracking!  Nonetheless it was a nice ride and I had to cross the same river again by boat.  This time I stacked the bike getting onto the boat as I had no where to place my feet inside.  And when leaving, there was a boghole of mud with a truck inside!  I tracked up on the high and dry ground only to flick up a log with my rear wheel and knock me over and INTO the bog with the truck.  Luckily some lads were there to help out!  I pushed on to Cochabamba and was hoping to get past into the woods when darkness hit so I pushed off the highway into the suburbs and some lovely ladies let me camp in their old rice paddock.  I started pulling out my gear to cook a fine stew when they brought me out some juice and rice with potatoes and meat!  This is quite a big deal!  The next morning they gave me brekky...bread with an egg as well and wouldnt take any money I offered!  This is the moment when a gift of 10c and a photocard with a message comes handy. 

Camp in a rice field!

Near the border to Peru.

In the old days the used these to crush the hands of thieves and the penises of rapists.

(Just kidding)

My farewell present from Bolivia!  A close call!  No puncture.

7 April 2011 (400 km) - Near Timanaku (Camp in sheepshed)
I was going to head to do the death road today but met a couple on motorbikes that said better roads are in northern Peru.  At this stage I was still pressed for time so decided to head for the border as well...and considering my horn and starter button weren´t working, it was probably the safe choice!  Some passes at 4000m slowed Nessie down as her carbie gasped for air (and me when I had to push start her at 4000m!).  I pushed out and camped near the border of Peru in a sheepshed...fantastic place! Cosy and out of the wind and rain! 



  1. That is one good looking front tire - Ha

  2. Best tyre I´ve ridden with yet mate!! Cheers! It still looks new and I think I´ve done bout 10000 km with it ?