November 14, 2005 GMT
Uyuni to Iguašu

The most fascinating place up to now in South America is the Salar de Uyuni, the largest and highest Salt Lake on Earth. Crossing it you spend hours and hours in a sea of white and blue, just driving straight in one direction. Despite the crystal clear air you can't see the other shore, only some islands and the majestic vulcano Tunupa. Fascinating also to know that the salt layer is 200m thick. It's the remnants of an ocean that had been trapped between the eastern and western cordillera of the Bolivian highlands (during the crash of the asian and american tectonical plates).

Btw: the Titicaca lake is another relict of this "incident". However, although they also have the highest and largest shippable lake on earth this does not give Bolivia the long-desired access to the sea - Bolivia is the only south american state that does not have any direct or indirect ocean access - the've lost the access to the pacific in a war against Chile and lost another war against Paraguay when trying to gain indirect access via the rio Paraguay.

The day after having returned to Tupiza, I continued the journey south, heading towards Salta again, closing the big loop. From Tupiza to the Argentinian border it's ripio (gravel) road again. The mean aspect of this road is that it declines to both sides, so if you are not 100% concentrated you might get too close to the ditch. Actually this is what happened to me. I went at some 60 km per hour and had to reckonize that I could not turn back to the center of the street without skidding and falling immediately. So I opted for carefully slowing down and headed towards the ditch. When I entered the ditch I still had some 30-40 km speed and subsequently lost control of the bike - which looks like a stupid slalom but is no nice feeling at all. Finally the bike and me fell down - but at so little speed that nothing happened - neither to me nor to the bike. I quickly got up, removed my helmet, gloves and jacket and put the bike on its stand. Luckily I was (again) alone on the road, so when the next truck came along I was already ready to resume the journey.

After it had been rather hot the last days, after crossing the border with Argentina at la Quiaca, the wheather became rather November-in-Germany like: Grey, cold and rainy. Actually it was the first time I could remember that I got a little wet on the bike. However, before entering Salta, the rain had stopped and the clouds vanished. Some 100 km before Salta I got to know a professional tourist guide while having a cup of coffee at a service station. He recommended a different route than the normal highway to me. It tourned out to be a marvellous twisted narrow motorcycle road with hardly any traffic, along a lake and through subtropical jungle - a perfect recommendation!

In Salta I took just a quick intermediate stay to do my laundry, finish the 2nd newsletter and try to cure my cough. The hotel does not have breakfeast facilities but a good cafeteria just 2 minutes away. However when I did not get up in the morning - since the cough had held me awake for some time during the night - my lovely caring landlady knocked at the door at around 11 a.m., bringing breakfast and camomilla tea. She really loves me like a son: I had lived there during my last stay in Salta - when leaving in the morning she had blessed me, looking worried about the dangers that were awaiting me in Bolivia and Peru.

Next day I got up early, heading almost 900 km southeast through the Chaco towards Resistencia (which is actually the next city - there's just tiny villages in between). The Chaco is a vast green, hot, humid and fertile flatland at low altitude, including parts of Bolivia, Paraguay and Argentina. Vast means that approx 700 of the 850-900 km that I travelled that day were a straight line through the Chaco - without any curves at all. However I like the Chaco: It's green, silent, endless and sunny - and every once in a while a dead cow is gazing at you from the ditch. The only drawback in the Chaco was a policemen that stopped me in "Pampa de Guanacos" and wanted "money for beer" - him poor me rich. I did not like his attitude at all - neither his beerbelly, so I gave him a peso (0,30Ç) and told him that's all I had. Although disappointed he finally had to let me go.

I spent the night in Resistencia, the capital of the Chaco. The only nice thing about this city are the few parks it has. It seems to be an important center for the shopping needs of the people of the province, since there are really huge amounts of shops, pharmacies etc. with big, colourful advertising billboards all over the streets. So I left it quickly and went to the capital of Paraguay, Asunciˇn.

I wanted to spend two nights here. After spending the evening in the city, I quickly decided to leave the country as quickly as possible. Despite being the capital city - and despite walking through the entire city centre with a good guide book - I could not find a single decent restaurant. There was just one fast-food restaurant (with waitresses in orange dresses, who seemed to have jumped out of a Walt Disney movie) and a Bistro-like place that did not look too bad but I found too late. There were no other restaurants, just five or six Karaoke bars and a kind of Pub. Although it was saturday night between nine and ten, the city was virtually empty, no people, only a few families with children, some guards and workers - but not at all what you would expect from a major city in south america. So I decided that any european town with more than say 50.000 inhabitants has a more interesting nightlife - and that Asuncion must be the city of the living dead - and fled as fast as I could. However - to be fair - all the people I met in Paraguay and Asunciˇn were extremely friendly, open-minded, warm, funny and affectionate. Even the truck drivers stopped, winded there window down, smiled at me and showed the typical thump-up sign. Car drivers shouted "where you're from?" and "good luck!". I decided to me that Paraguay seems to be an extremely family friendly but extremely boring country. Just to make sure, I visited a student city called Villarica and a german colony called Independencia - both was nothing special and could not hold me from leaving the country after just one day.

So I left Paraguay, entered Brazil at Foz do Iguašu, left Brazil and entered Argentina the same day (my passport is really filling up with stamps). The Iguašu falls are absolutely impressive. Unfortunately large groups of tourists make it difficult to really enjoy the place. Another drawback is the fact that the walkway to the major attraction, the "garganta del diablo" is inundated and therefore closed. But that's life - anyway the Iguašu falls are a beautiful sight.

Tomorrow I will go to Curitiba in Brazil and try to find a BMW agency for a thorough inspection of my little bike.

Posted by Winfried Lichtblau at November 14, 2005 09:07 PM GMT
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