Showing posts from April, 2010

Ruta 34

If one were to place an unguided missile on the center line of highway 34 outside of Tucuman and light the fuse, it would take out these bulk tankers 1300 km down at the other end of ruta 34 in Rosario on the Rio Paraña, at least that's the way it seemed to me.  If there were any curves, I missed them trying to avoid getting run off the road by crazy Argentinian drivers. Ruta 34 may be the straightest road I have ever been on, the only one that comes close is the Trans Canada from Calgary to Winnipeg, and that one falls short by about 400 klicks.  Ruta 34 is two lane all the way, what makes it 'interesting' is that it is used by big trucks with a speed limit of 80 kmh ordinary traffic with a speed limit of 120 (!!!) along with motos of the 125 cc variety and everything else in between.  It confirms my prejudice that the straighter a road the more dangerous it is.  For Edmonton area folks, imagine the stretch of 2A highway between Wetaskiwin and Ponoka being 1300 km long

¡regla motos!

Being in Argentina is almost like being back in Canada.  Gas stations that have coffee and premium gas (and premium prices, about a canuck buck for a liter of regular).  So far the roads here are great, I was able to make about 600 km without effort yesterday.  I am in a new eco-zone, what would be called parkland in Alberta, grass, trees and bushes, here it is called savanna.   At first I was driving through sugar cane country.  It appears that the Cañeros  have a beef with someone, which, of course, means they must set up road blocks to  prevent cars and trucks from using the road.  I was trying to find out what was going on from the guy ahead of me (in a car) and he told me to ride on through the roadblock, as whatever grievance they had did not involve motos.  Sure enough, they let me pass with a nod and a wave.  I came across at least four more of these demonstrations and each time I just rode past on the shoulder with no problems.  The protests, if that is what they were, were

Last word on Bolivia

Bolivia, love it or leave it.  I did both.   Bolivia was the most fascinating and the most frustrating of all the countries I have visited so far. Imagine a world with no stores, no Safeway, Sears, Walmart, Kmart, Canadian Tire, Home hardware, not so much as a 7-11 not even a 3 aisle IGA.   No real restaurants either, no fast food franchises, no upscale steak houses, no Earls no Appleby's and no Starbucks.  Their long vacant premises have been turned into flea markets where you can buy all the ladies shoes, cell phone accessories, belts, dollar store items and pirated DVDs you might want.  You buy all your food in  bulk from the same place, rows and rows of dead chickens and pieces of cow and pig that have never seen a refrigerator, potatoes, corn and rice from independent vendors.  Bring exact change, because the seller won't have any. That is a typical small town in Bolivia.  Things are only marginally better in the large cities I visited, La Paz, Oruro, Potosi or Sucre. 

So Long Bolivia

Well I am finally out of Bolivia and in a real country again (Argentina), although it was touch and go.  Randy wanted to accompany me to the border to help me out with the no transit papers for el moto.  We left on Sunday and got as far as Villa Montes (160 km) when we came to a long line of trucks stopped beside the road.  Investigating, we found that Villa Montes was having an election so naturally all passage through town was blocked.  Of course! What were we thinking! An election!  Nothing moves until 6 PM and I won't ride after dark, so it was find a hotel for me and Randy headed home to nurse an uncoming fever.  Villa Montes was actually a pretty town, they had this really great church building or maybe a monastery that looks kinda art nouveau-ish to me. When I got back to mi hotel I found that I had a toilet frog.  It looks like a tree frog but lives in the toilet.  You should see it shoot around when you flush.  Fortunately el frog is a strong swimmer, last time I s


Great party, lotsa beer, lotsa food, lotsa people.  It was also a club meeting, the host of the track is the military base, so even El Coronel showed up.  Everybody had a fine time and I even acquired some new relatives (nephews) yo soy 'tio' (uncle).  That would be a dutch uncle of course. We had a Bolivian style barbecue, not all that different from the Canadian version, The kids had a fine time as well. There may have been a few headaches in the AM.


Camiri must be the Leduc of Bolivia.  The oil industry is commemorized in most of the parks.  Randy's house, where I have been staying, was originally built for the people who came here to work in the Bolivian 'patch'.  There is not much sign of oil related activity now, other than the statues, apparently all that is left to find is natural gas.  Speaking of gas(oline), it is very cheap, about 50 cents a liter, but it is not very good. I have been relaxing at Randy's all week, along with Randy, Valentino, and Christina enjoying Yvonne and Christina's cooking. Tonight (Friday) Randy has scheduled a huge party for the local bike club (motocross competition), which should make for an interesting post tomorrow, if I survive.
One thing I may have mentoned before is 'siesta', in many of the countries I have visited, and particularly in South America, some businesses, all schools and most work will shut down at one O'clock and not start again until three.   When Randy and I arrived in Carmiri after our perilous adventures on carreterra 6, Randy asked me if I wanted to go for a beer, '¡sure!' I said.  We drove all around in Randy{s truck looking for a place, but of course it was siesta time and just about all the bars restaurants are closed.  We finally found a place by the river just outside of town .  

Mas Perdito

After some pretty rough country I hit Padilla about 3, saw that it had a hotel and that the next town of similar size, Monteaguido,   was another 125 k or so away.  It had taken me all day to make about 200 km so Padilla it was.   This was my most basic hotel yet,   no bathroom, no tv.   The local cibercafe said internet only on mardi (tuesday) if I understood right.   Padilla is very nice little town, with a well kept central square, around which everybody parades at night.   The food looked a bit scary after my food poisoning bout, but I had a sort of hamburger made with egg, lettuce tomato and french fries.   The restaurants were all closed when I wanted to eat, the usual story, but they were booming around 8 pm. I made an early start the next day, the next town of any consequence was 125 km down the atrocious road, aka Bolivia highway 6, my average speed would be about 35 kmh, so 4 hours give or take.  The next picture shows a typical river crossing on the highway.  They are act

Perdito en Los Andes

Did I ever mention how easy it is to get lost in Bolivia? No damn street signs, no speaka da Spanish, nobody knows nothing anyway?  Getting out of Sucre I knew I had to go south and up. Navigating cities in Bolivia is a three dimensional problem. Your directions are the points of the compass or left and right, plus up and down. This is actually easier than finding your way in a flat city, as the heights give you an overview on where you are supposed to be but ain't, but not much help on how to get there. Part of the problem is that a route is not always obvious, it could look like a bad logging road. Anyway, with much frustration I managed to put myself on the road that would take me from Sucre to the border where I could exitar Bolivia. I took the picture of mama piggy just on the outskirts of Sucre. For the next few days porkers and every other kind of domesticated creature would be a common road hazard whenever I was near farms or towns. While taking the pig picture, Roger and


Potosi was the major source of Spanish wealth during the colonial era. The mountain in the picture "Cerro Rico" held tons of silver, which was removed by slave labor, and made the city, and Spain extremely rich.  Silver was mined, refined, and minted as 8 Reale coins, (pieces of eight) the original dollar, which became the basis of today's US dollar. The mines are still open, and can be toured, I passed, the conditions are nearly as primitive, but the mines are operated by 'coopertivo' a cooperative that essentially that allows each miner to mine his own claim and sell the proceeds.  Safety is non-existent, miners still suffer from the usual mining maladies and much reduced lifespan.  Potosi also claims to be the highest city in the world at just over 4,000 meters.  The height does not bother me much unless I have to pack all my stuff up four flights of stairs to get to my hotel room.  The hotel was very nice, but did not have an elevator, very few hotels do

The Road to Potosi

Image Before I left Uyuni for Potosi, (these names just don't roll off the tongue, like say, Saskatoon or Tuktoyatuk), I was trying to find a railroad locomotive graveyard that was supposed to be somewhere in Uyuni.  What I did find was the 'works', and they looked enough like the CPR Ogden Shops in Calgary, where I started my sheet metal apprenticeship.  Right across the street was this building (above) no points for translation, it even resembled the old apprentice classroom at Ogden.  I never did find the dead locos, but I found the road to Potosi, always a challenge in Bolivia.  They should start a road sign technician apprenticeship. The road to Potosi was unpaved except for the last 40 kilometers, but that was being changed as I was riding.  More road construction, but this time not so bad, as the route is a major bus route, so the desvios were not impassable.  I did have to ford some shallow creeks, fun, but my feet got

The Bolivian Salt Flats

Fernando of Madness Adventures and the lady who runs the Cafe Bistro Boliviano in Copacabana both said that I must see the Salar Uyuni Salt Flats.  OK, from Coroico go to Oruro, then Oruro to Challapata, Challapata to Salinas Garcia Mendoza, and ride the salt 125 km give or take to Uyuni, ¡No problemo!  The ride to Oruro was long but straightforward.  This is the first thing I saw entering the City.  Any guesses what Oruro's claim to fame is?  a hint, it ain't oil. Somebody should send this to Fort Mac, very cool.   The next picture was taken in the central square in Oruro, look carefully at the trees, yup, the leaves are turning. It is fall south of the Equator, and it definitely feels like early September in Alberta here in the Alto Plano.  Oruro was a nice place to spend the night. My next destination would be Salinas de Garcia Mendoza, via Challapata and Huari.  And that is where the fun began.  Unbeknownst to me Bolivia has embarked on a massive road upgrading progr

Email Update

As of April 13, 7:30 Bolivia time (same as eastern) all is well. I am in Uyuni, having spent two days struggling with the Bolivian ´roads´ and navigating the salt flats. No wifi (weefee en español) and an ancient computer that does not recognize my USB, so no pictures. I am heading for Potosi and Paraguay hopefully in Potosi I will be able to post some pix.

Coroico to Oruro

Oroico, a popular vacation spot for Paceñas (La Paz-ians), is reached by the Yungas road, also known as el Camino de la Muerte or Death Road.  Death road has been tamed, this is the road that was featured on Top Gear, but since 2006, it is an excellent safe, road.  Portions of the old road are still used by mountain bikers.  I was going to try it, but there are no signs in Bolivia, and I ended up on the new section.  Very spectacular nevertheless, but not scary. Coroico was out of my way, my next destination was to be Oruro, on my way to the Paraguayan border but it was worth the side trip.  It is definitely a tourist town, but tourism has not wrecked it's character.  From what I could tell, the tourists were Bolivians and Brazilians, and there were some French Backpackers as well. I arrived around noon which gave me plenty of time to look around and be able to make an early start the next day.  I had to backtrack down Death Road, ever notice how roads always look completely d