to Uyuni 2

The day’s track
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Still high
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Sometimes it’s nice to fill up with gas when you arrive so you have a clean getaway the next day. Sometimes, when you don’t know where you’re staying and the town looks lousy you don’t have time for it. So this morning it’s off for gas in the funniest place in South America to do this – Bolivia. Into a muddy line-up we go
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We don’t get turned down. There’s about a 20% chance of this. The rest of the time you just pay about a 150% premium over the pump price. They’re supposed to fill out an invoice when they sell to a non-native, but occasionally they don’t and the attendant just pockets the premium. No biggee. And we’re off
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If you have any concerns about your future health, don’t ride a moto around South America. Sometimes you get stuck behind multiple smoky trucks, like today. I seem to have developed a strange sense of humor because day-starts in Bolivia make me laugh
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Into the country. Trucks and cars get charged a toll even if it’s a goat track. They also serve as a check-point for police who keep very busy looking into the back of trucks. We’ve only been stopped once and that was just for a bike chat
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The road south is very different from the previous day. It’s habitable. Not that that’s a requisite, but the previous day was just grey
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We passed over an enormous flood plain
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Where this fellow was fishing stuff out of the river and putting them on tarps to dry. No idea what it was but he was getting lots of it
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After a couple of hours we were beside the huge Lago Poopo. Evo Morales was born here and went to high school back in Oruro
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We were pleased to see vicuna
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Stopped for lunch at a pretty and very quiet small town
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No roadside offerings on this track, so we do the fruit-and-juice thing here
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I think I’ve arrived in paradise. Really well stocked. And as usual the presentation is fantastic. After a hard morning you just want to dive in.
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Back on the road we pass another of these small buildings. They’re outside most small towns south of La Paz. I should stop and look closer
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A school and church. Very pretty
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Back onto the high plains for another 100 miles
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Into the hills, as the elevation profile above shows. Cattle high up
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A small alpine flower, no more than 5mm across
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It turns into a beautiful ride through valleys
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And then a funny thing – coming the other way is a solo rider. I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen anyone and by the looks of things he can’t either because we stop, pull the maps out and de-brief each other on what’s ahead of each other for an hour
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He’s Stephan from Germany on a 6 week tour of Bolivia and Peru. He’s come from the Salar and has bad news for me (although not wholly), but not for him – he’s made it through the Lagunas route but the rains have started down there. He’s a very experienced long distance rider. More on this tomorrow.

Back onto very green plains. Plenty of llama, no vicuna. Raining further down
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Now getting serious. The winds pick up and we ride through the storm for a while
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On the other side of the hills it’s better
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They’ve got the whole engine out of this bus. A very good chance it’ll be back in and running by the end of the day. They’re really really good at this
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As we top out the hills become red sandstone
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Dogs and sheep
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Farmland, old and new
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Through a terrific canyon
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And into Potosi. The picture shows mining tailings because that’s what Potosi is all about and has been for hundreds of years.

A video of riding into the town to the left (click, enlarge, click HD). A tour of what was once for a moment the biggest and wealthiest town in the world (really, Potosi), lots of Bolivians, a statue of a local famous futbol player and Lucinda wisely backing off a shoving match with a couple of punks in a rice-rocket at the end.
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