Day Four Tuesday 27 April 2010
Only interesting for Bikers
Today consisted of a day of firsts. It was our first border crossing, first time riding over the tropic of Capricorn, first time above 3,000 metres first sight of Lamas, first ride on sand, first ride on rough gravel roads, our first fall and first ride at night.
Leaving tilcara we have a 125 mile ride on routa 9 to the border town of Iquita. First of the firsts though is the crossing of the tropic of Capricorn and the chance for a photo shot. As always now we have fallen into a group of four bikes. Hedley and Selena on “Billy” a GS 1100, Neil the odd one out from the rest of the group as he is the only person not on a BMW. Instead he’s chosen to fly the flag for Britain and travel on a Triumph Tiger. Then there is Dennis who is on a GS 1200 and of course us. We have become the slow riding group as we are more interested in seeing the sights and taking photographs. The pay off for this is that we leave earlier than the rest and let them catch us up and pass us. By the time they do this we are usually on out fourth photo stop. So it was that we paused for the photo on the tropic of Capricorn and everyone else missed it!
Next of our first was the riding on sand. This was an unintended adventure caused by a demonstration blocking the road on the outskirts of Iquitos resulting in a detour of about one mile on sand and then another mile on gravel road. April travelled in the back up van thankfully which allowed me to complete it without falling off although a couple of cars coming in the opposite direction had near misses from a number of us as we passed them. The drivers didn’t bat an eyelid! Two of the couples came off in the sand which is hardly surprising and was an ill omen for us just a few miles down the road.
The next first was the border crossing into Bolivia involving lots of queuing and waiting. The process goes that we first have to export out bikes involving looking at V5, stamps we had collected in our passports when the bikes entered Argentina, then some form handing over. We had collected a form when the bikes entered the country which we now had to exchange for a form as they left. After the bike had been sorted we had to get ourselves out of Argentina. This meant going to another window where at the back of the building where we handed over our V5 registration document, our passport and went through the whole process again.
Eventually everyone was out of Argentina but now we had to travel 50 metres down the road to get into Bolivia. Needless to say the whole process started again. First we entered. We showed our passports to a very bored Police Officer who gave us a green form to fill in (the usual things such as name occupation etc etc. Then we gave that form to someone behind another window and then gave us another form which we took to another man in another office who demanded 10Bolivian for no good reason and let us into the country with our bike. WE WERE IN!
First time in Bolivia. Straight to a café to celebrate. What a contrast from Argentina. The bikes as always attracted a massive amount of attention. The place itself was buzzing with people.
Then we headed out of the town towards Tilcara our overnight stay in Bolivia and where we were to spend our much needed rest day tomorrow. First though we needed to negotiate 40 to 50 miles of gravel road.
Heading out of the town we were soon stopped by a Police Road block where we had to pay 5 Bolivanos (about threepence) for the privilege of passing a piece of rope strung across the road. Then we entered the supposed gravel section. Unfortunately for us the Bolivians are in the process of building a paved version of Routa 14 to Potosi. They were very busy with this and many sections of the road have been completed. The problem for us was they didn’t want anyone driving on it. Consequently we were diverted onto a very rough sand and gravel road where we promptly hit some deep sand and fell off. The only advantage of this was that falling onto sand is very painless and we both came away unscathed. Unfortunately for the bike one of the panniers took the full brunt of the fall and was badly knocked out of shape.
After some help with getting the bike back up by Alan the van man in the support vehicle it was decided that discretion is the better part of valour and all the pillion passengers got in the van to ride what was going to be a very demanding section.
The next forty miles was some of the most demanding riding I’ve ever done. I’m not an off roader and have usually preferred the comfort of solid asphalt. The road threaded between partially paved sections of a few hundred metres, long sections of rough gravel, and small bits of sand that connected the two. Standing on the footrests was the only way to keep any stability which after a few miles for a confirmed tarmac person like me became very tiring.
The forty miles were also the best riding I’ve ever done. Three of us decided to keep together. Neil who is an experienced trials rider had to take it steady on his Tiger which didn’t have off road tyres on and Hedley and I who wanted to play it safe. Others in the larger group who were very quick and experienced flew away at 50 or 60 miles an hour while we kept it down to 30 to 40 miles.
Interestingly we also had some river crossings to make and some interesting rides around Lorries, buses and cars all of which kicked up enormous quantities of dust. This meant riding through an impenetrable cloud when you passed anything or anything came in the opposite direction or indeed when you were overtaken which usually involved some large truck.
All of this riding took place at over 3000 metres which makes you very breathless and can mean suffering from altitude sickness. The bonus was the brilliant scenery that looked like something out of a western movie. Cactus trees and red rocks.
By the time we got to Tupiza it was dark and although there is no planned riding in the dark it was inevitable because of the road conditions. Neil, Hedley and I rode into Tupiza trying to find the hotel and promptly got split up. Hedley managed to find it at the first attempt while Neil and I were left roaming a strange town until eventually stumbling over it. The experience is not recommended when you are in a strange town after a long ride in the dark when the locals have no traffic sense..
Discretion is the better part of Valerie( although all of her is nice)
A brilliant day