From Uyuni we wanted to head to Chile, the most direct route was 500 kilometres of dirt, with at least one stretch of 400 kilometres with no fuel.
So, to be fair to the bikes and ourselves we decided to head back to Oruro via Potosi which had much more tarmac, and then head into Chile at its most northerly border with Bolivia. A detour of about 1500 kilometres.
The road to Potosi still had stretches of dirt, however this was made enjoyable by some fantastic canyons and gorges. One section, soon to be bypassed and cut off for ever was idyllic.
After Potosi, which unusually had no road blocks, the road surface and vistas improved, I was having a bonus "Big Sky" day in the Andes.
As we approached in Oruro, despite a ten hour riding day, we were relaxed, until we saw the long line of trucks, buses and cars.
We filtered past them, but they started to fill both sides of the road, and as we approached the front some buses were attempting to turn around and it was getting a little dangerous stuck between them and the trucks.
It soon became apparent that we had encountered a classic Bolivian road block. When they want to protest about something (usually transport or tax related) they seal off all roads in and out of a city (there are usually only a maximum of 4, so not a big task).
Suddenly there were some load bangs and people started running away form the blockade shouting "Gas gas".
The military had launched tear gas in an attempt to disperse people.
We then tried to follow the local car drivers over some dirt track back roads, but a deep river with an already sinking car blocked that route.
The gas cleared and people started to get off buses and walk around the blockade.
We contemplated going back down the road about an hour to the last town we had seen an hotel in, but talking to some locals they reckoned we would be able to cross the blockade with the walkers.
So we rode along behind people on the dirt track around the blockade, and as other locals were concerned for us getting caught between the army and protesters they directed us to use the foot path following disused railway line, which eventually brought us out at the main barrier. Here the people just smiled at us, said hello, and encouraged us to pass through.
Once in the city, all was normal, but it was late and Jean had damaged her side stand cut out sensor crossing the rails, we decided to stop for two nights so that I could attempt to repair it.
Chile would have to wait.
Every one says that the best beef is in Argentina, I'll judge that when I get there. I have had a few steaks here, and they have been of the highest quality. Better than the USA. Melt in your mouth. Succulent.
The people know how to have fun, on our first visit to Oruro it was a city wide fiesta, on the second they were getting ready for another. If they had kept it going all week, I don't think anyone would have be bothered to have a protest.
The Bolivians have found a solution to the coke bottle/straw length issue. It is simple, sell coke in smaller bottles. The normal size here is 190ml.
Effects of altitude
Apart from the headache at first, the loss of appetite and the excess fluid loss, it appears that I also get wind. I have been a fart machine these last 2 weeks.
I don't think I will ever manage to breath properly at altitude.
Drinking Cocoa has helped, but only in the morning as it seems to induce weird dreams.Posted by Bruce Porter at February 18, 2011 11:44 PM GMT
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