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Motoventure Day 23: Random Location to Uyuni

P1050780 (written 11/12 @ 7:30pm)  I cried today for the first time in over thirteen years.  Literally wept.  When I arrived at the salt flats and started blasting away towards the horizon on my little jaumoto all the emotions and stresses and joys of the past few months crashed in on me while I was completely overwhelmed at the unreal beauty and intensity of the Salar de Uyuni.  Unhappiness with my job, my friend with cancer, the insanity of the motoventure, the last few days of wondering if I could make it, and so many other things…  there I was driving jaumoto 70kmh at 8000RPM in 5th just bawling my eyes out.


It was so intense, but then today was an epic day.  From intense lows to massive highs and back to intense lows, I can't imagine I'll experience anything like this again for quite a long time.


P1050584 It started waking up in a quarry for construction, after getting well lost in the dark the night before.  I watched the sunrise, then got my gear packed in the freezing cold, checked my coordinates against the map and set off.  Within 30min I finally seemed to be back on the right road, but the inconsistency of this road continued to burn.  For some stretches it would be flat, compact, and fast (though dirt) – yet it was constantly interrupted by "desvios" (detours) that took me through horrid terrain, and it was nearly impossible to follow at times.  At one point I got stuck in the sand on a farmer's tractor road and had a great time getting out and back to the real road…


P1050677 Eventually I got to the town that signaled the turn towards Tahua – and they had a gas station!  This was good because I am constantly low on gas due to my leak (I basically keep it under 1/4 tank and refill from my gas can).  This time I just filled the tank and took off towards Tahua…  augh.  I went down this sandy side road for a bit then finally asked a local – he told me this would get me to Tahua and that it was better than the main road because the main road was bumpy.  I hate bumps, so off I went…


Through fields, through mud flats, through all sorts of craziness I wound about this mountain heading south.  A few times I got stuck in sand and had to slowly dig my way out, then suddenly I found myself embedded in a solid patch of six inch sand at least thirty yards long…   I wished I wasn't alone then, heh.  It took me a good hour to get out, slowly digging and pushing the moto about five feet at a time.  Eventually I had the bright idea of taking off all my gear, and with about a hundred pounds less I was able to get it the last third really fast. 


I immediately turned off onto another more solid looking side path, but this one ended up super bumpy – I actually almost rolled the jaumoto a couple times on this trail, thank goodness it has independent suspension in the rear.  As I continued to bounce down this road, I saw white off ahead and began to get very very excited…  a few minutes later I pulled onto a bumpy one lane gravel road that headed directly towards this white, and the salt plains unfolded before me.


P1050741 The road turned right, hugging the mountains, but the salt plains beckoned and I took off towards them, bumping my way offroad for a few meters until suddenly I was on salt!  It was so smooth and beautiful, I could see the crystals shining and watch them kicking up behind me.  I pointed the jaumoto towards this huge gap in the horizon ahead – with mountains to my left, right, and behind I knew I had to break free.  As I ripped along at full speed I became completely overwhelmed.


P1050679  I just sped along for at least half an hour towards the center of the plains, then it started to get a little more rough.  The salt was less smooth and noticeable cracks started to mar its surface, then it changed into weird hexagonal shaped plates of interlocking salt.  The jaumoto handled this fine and I continued to just buzz along for what felt like forever.


P1050749 I stopped for lunch after awhile and pulled my my GPS coordinates – I thought I had been heading generally towards where the fish isle was, but it turned out I was headed more towards Uyuni.  Changed my angle a bit and ran across the most amazing thing…  this huge ten+ lane wide highway through the salt flats.  Not of concrete or anything so complex, just smooth salt smashed flat by thousands of cars and buses.  I followed this to fish isle, then headed back towards Uyuni.


P1050788 I was so high on emotion at this point that I started to get reckless.  I just drove around at full speed, spurning roads and trails as I had in the morning – but the flats here were rougher.  At about 1PM with a huge CRUUNK my rear chain snapped and went flying off.  I rapidly replaced it with my "heavy duty" spare that was awaiting this occasion, then immediately hared off again.  Around 30min later, my heavy duty chain came off after a huge series of bumps and rammed itself into the bolts on the sprocket – the same problem Rob and Will had.


P1050786 After a bunch of prying and banging I managed to get the heavy duty chain sorted, but it looked a bit bent.  I figured I'd try it out and carefully headed back towards where I knew there was a mashed-flat trail.  Only a few meters later it popped off again, wedged even worse.  I had to destroy the chain to get it off, though it was already fairly mangled.  Then I discovered that the other two spare chains I had (pillaged from the moto death yard) were too short!  I didn't have enough bits to lengthen them, so I finally took the master link from the heavy duty chain and used it to re-attach my original chain.


P1050790 I then very very carefully moved off towards Uyuni, finding a trail and sticking to it.  The rebuilt original chain seemed to hold up well (though it desperately needs oil) and I was able to limp into town for the last 15km on this horrible horrible road.  I rolled into Uyuni and bounced around until I found what appeared to be the center and grabbed a hostal and some food.


P1050785 Now I need to figure out what to do next…  Head towards Potosi then back to La Paz?  I'm not sure if I can do that in two days anymore, I've heard horrible things about the road to Potosi…  ugh.   How to get out of here on time?  Losing that flex day really sucks, as I'd like to have someone check my chain and get some spare bits in case it breaks again…


Either way, today was awesome and I'm done now!  I'd leave the moto here if I could and just bus back to La Paz, I've had my fun.  Now I just want to go home!


Alex said…
Fuck yeah, you made it. :) Beautiful. Those pictures are surreal.

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