Saturday, March 26, 2011

Bolivia to Chile. $3 a night hostel, Dead battery, no gas, no money, big problem! Flamingos, Laguna Colorada, Laguna Verde, loneliest immigration office in the world!

The following day I set off to reach the border with Chile to the south of Bolivia.

From Uyuni I went to San Cristobol. This was the last gas station until the border with Chile.

The pump had to manually be switched on as it kept getting stuck, the guy couldn't get it to work for a while and I had no gas, I was sure I would be spending another night there. But eventually he fixed it.

I love the little kids hat, serves as a Bolivian moto helmet

I headed off to find the border.

On the map it shows these roads are normal and ok. Truth is that they are horrible.

They are mud and dirt paths with bumps, holes and issues. I felt like I was driving my motorcycle through a test track of some sort for cars that test there durability and how long a vehicle will last until it falls apart from all the vibration. It was like driving across uneven brick paths and giant boulders endlessly just to see how long it will take for something to break or fall apart. I felt like a crash test dummy, I just needed the yellow and black triangle stamped on my fore head.

After some hours of driving I stopped for a great picture.

No sooner than 10 minutes later I see a bike off in the distance. I was near nothing and nowhere, so I thought it was a local or something. As it got closer, I saw two bikes, then finally three motorcycles.

I saw a familiar bike and said to myself; no way can’t it be him!

And yes it was, it was Lenny, the gentlemen I met near Machu Pichu in Peru on the road that also had a GoPro camera on his helmet that took a picture of me.

I couldn’t believe it, out in the middle of nowhere in southern Bolivia and I see him on the road along with his new friends. It’s getting crazy running into people.

We all laughed at the desolate isolation of the place and our meeting point, shared some stories and the frustration of the horrible roads, information and were on our way.

I was going to do a lake route and they headed directly on the way to Chile. I should have joined them, but adventure was calling my name…again…

We were greeted by a random dog that had an air freshener hanging by his collar with the American flag on it. It was pretty hilarious, I guess he was the American ambassador to the region.

We said farewell never to see each other again…or so I thought as always!... and were off!

my adventure road

I headed towards the lake region. I got pretty lost for about 4 hours and ended up at the Chilean border to the west at Ollague, and I was trying to go south.

I could have just entered Chile and called it quite for Bolivia, but no! No fear, don’t back down, Alex fighting the world yet again.

So found some local guys to show me the road to the lakes. So I drove back the way I came for some hours.

The horrible thing about southern Bolivia, besides the bad road conditions is the fact that there are no road signs what so ever to anywhere. So you have literally  no idea which dirt road goes where. This is where not having a GPS is kicking my butt. I’ve been so lost it was no longer fun or funny.

As I drove again for a while I was greeted by an impassable river…again.

So I had to turn around and go back a few hours to where I met the other bikers heading straight down.

But I had no gas, so I had to go back further another 2 hours to get gas in San Cristobol, where I started out in the morning. By the time I got there it was already 8pm and the day was over. So I spent 12 hours getting lost and achieving nothing! Just to end up back where I started!

So I slept away the night in what is now the cheapest place I’ve stay at. $2.90 US this place cost me. A new personal record!

there was even great parking!

The next day I tried my luck at once again getting lost in the endless dirt road trails to find my way to Chile.

If navigating my way around southern Bolivia isn’t an adventure without a GPS, I don’t know what is.

I’ve acquired the innate ability to guide myself by the landscape and mountain peaks I decipher from the map.

As well as crazy directions from locals like “go down this road until you see a green patch of dirt, then turn right, and go down, cross 4 rivers, then take the dirt road to the left, don’t take the right because you’ll go on for hours and not know you’re going the wrong way, then cross another river and take the dirt road that has a lots of holes”. It’s been extremely frustrating, but a huge adventure none the less. Gotta look on the bright side of things so I don’t go crazy right?

My day started with having to be dug a path to drive through safely around this stuck vehicle.

So I’ll save writing about 20 some hours of crazy riding and driving thought crazy roads and conditions and just put up the pictures.

Passed through the valley of rocks.

Had some more crazy river crossings

Could actually go around this one
So lucky me found some tour groups. So I followed them through the mazes of dirt roads for a while.

Then I was stopped by this very deep river. So I had to cross a crazy bridge made of what looked like twigs.

On my way, I got stuck

This is what I was trying to avoid and it cost me dearly

Finally out I continued onward

Saw some more great scenery

Finally hit some cool stuff like the Laguna Colorada that was red colored with flamingos.

And if there's one thing I've learned on this trip, is that flamingos make funny sounds

and there poop

Then saw the most random soccer field in the middle of nowhere for what I assume was for the miners of a mine somewhere nearby.

Then passed by what looked like the surface of the moon.

All through these crazy days driving not only where there is no phone services, little food, no gas, no people, it was quite enchanting to be so far away from anything and everything.

Despite the fact that the altitude was around 16,000 ft. And I couldn’t drive more than 20 mph or go over 3 RMPS because there was so little oxygen in the air that the motor would drown in gasoline if I gas it too much throttle. It felt like the moto was dying, and the crappy gas of 85 octane didn’t help either. (A small future note: a few days later I found out that the issue was some electrical issues that did this)

Then hit the green lagoon.

Then some thermal baths.

Thats a pretty small fine

Then a crazy valley.

Then made it out to the entrance of the park near the border with Chile where I was lucky to find a toll booth and a hostel. Civilization finally! And good timing as off in the distance was an ice storm, so I called it a day.

But as soon as I hopped back on the bike, lucky me the battery seemed that have died, and now I couldn’t start my engine. So lucky me at least was near some people. I was debating on camping for free that night in one of the valleys really far away from people, and realized I would have had serious survival issues with an ice  storm and not having a working motorcycle. It seems fate or destiny pushed me to the ranger station to get stuck there and not miles away from help or civilization. Adventure Alex at his best as always.

I was so tired I didn’t worry about the battery until the next morning.

So after a good night’s sleep I woke up to the battery issue. As tour vehicles drove by I kept asking for jumper cables or distilled water, as I had almost no water left in the battery and that was the issue to the batter., but I had no luck.

Lucky me the ranger station had a large solar panel. So we stripped some wires and connected the battery to it to charge for a while just to have enough juice to start it up.

Finally it was ready and I was good to go after an hour or so, me and my now minimal gas of less than 2 liters had to travel 10 miles to the border with Chile, then another 40 miles to the nearest town. That was 30 miles more than I had in gas, but I had no choice, I couldn’t turn back so I pushed on forward.

I arrived in what has to be the most remote immigration office in the world.

I got stamped out of Bolivia and headed to Chile. But not before I asked where the customs office was for my bike. They said it was 80 km back on the road.

I had driven by and saw a sign but didn’t see any building. I had no gas, no money and wasn’t going back another 4 hours there and 4 hours back to do it, and was just about to say screw it, the government can punish me when I come back to Bolivia some day with heavy fines for not exporting the bike “legally”

Luckily the guy saw my frustration and explained I couldn’t make it back and decided to through me a helping hand and said he would deliver it to them next time he was around the area. Thank goodness he helped out, otherwise I would have just kept going. Hopefully he did turn it in, I won’t know until I come back to Bolivia, but I trust he did, our Latin bond helped confirm that.

Finally in Chile


  1. Hello Alex,

    I've stumbled on your blog from a google search. I'm from Motnreal Canada and I'm going on a 13 months round the world motorcycle adventure leaving next october, I'm on a KLR as well.. I'll probably be retracing a lot of your steps (or wheel trace really). Reading your blog has been very entertaining and very very useful in planning and collecting information. I will keep following your adventures closely and wish you good luck for the rest of your journey.

    - Guillaume (I'm french canadian)

  2. Hi Alex, I just want to echo Guillaume's words above. I also found this blog by chance. Am currently riding Northern Argentina and will cross to San Pedro de Atacama, Chile in a few days, then Bolivia, so also researching. I have my wife on the back and I haven't got the biggest machine (Falcon 400) so no doubt this will be interesting. Really enjoyed your story. Adios!


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