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Sunday, 29 May 2016

PART 6: SOUTH AMERICA (BOLIVIA, CHILE)

BOLIVIA (18 JAN – 23 JAN 2016)



After saying goodbye to the nice lady at the hostal in Puno who gave me a very nice room with discounted price and even invited me for breakfast, I started riding south to the border. Hardly 15mins, it started to rain again. It was cold and Lake Titicaca was not as blue. Arriving Desaguadero, there was a looong line of people at the Immigration. The line was about 40m outside the office. It took me 1 hour to line up and only 1min to get the exit stamp. Cancelling my permisso took just 5 mins. Then I crossed the bridge and entered Bolivia. To my surprise, the line at the Immigration here was longer, about 70m!!! It took me 2 hours to line up and just 1 min to get the entry stamp. Its not difficult to get my permisso at the aduana to bring GD into Bolivia. Perhaps I'm already used to how the system worked here in the Latin American countries. Overall, it took me 3.40 hours to cross both borders, the longest time for all 13 countries so far.


Once done, I had to ride on gravels for 1km with 3 dogs chasing me before I hit the paved road. The weather did improved, so I managed to enjoy beautiful blue Lake Titicaca. The road to La Paz was so-so, with some badly sunken road and pot holes in places. There were lots of stray dogs and I wonder why, Bolivian dogs seemed not to like me very much. They always chased me!!!
Arriving here, the traffic were quite crazy but not as bad as in Lima. Its not very easy to find accommodation with secure parking here, unless at the more expensive hotels. In the first place, if you are searching for hostal or hospedaje (spanish word for 'lodge'), u will end up frustrated bcos in Bolivia, the term used was 'alojamiento'. I did found a good place anyway, Hostal Internacional, which charged unbelievable B50 (RM25) for a really comfy room. 

The road in El Alto, La Paz was sooo bad with pot holes, puddles, construction and piles of construction sands or gravels in the middle of the road, making it difficult for me to exit to the highway. Pedestrians here were crazy too. They crossed the road as they liked without looking left and right. I saw a dead man lying on the road with pools of blood. Euwwww...I tried not to look more than I should. I kept reminding myself to go slow and be extra careful. I put up at Oruro for 1 night and continued towards Uyuni. The weather was fine. There were good and bad roads. The houses here were made from mud bricks, meaning the SES was lower. The view was sooo different here. As a matter of fact, the landscape between all SA countries - Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia differed even though they were neighbours. I saw lots of llamas and amazing sand twisters spiralling into the sky...which also meant that I had to fight strong side wind for 2 hours today. After riding for 600kms from El Alto, La Paz, I reached Uyuni, the heart of salar – the famous salt flats.




I took a one day tour to the Salar. It was amazing. I had no word to describe the beauty, so I will let the pics do the talking.








CHILE (23 JAN – 5 FEB 2016)


Previously, I was doubting whether or not I can afford to do the famous route 701 from Uyuni to the Bolivian – Chilean border as it was a looonggg offroad but offered spectacular views along the way. However, after thinking deeply, I decided that I will give it a try. I left Uyuni at 7.40am. The view was indeed amazing and the offroad was not as crazy as I thought it would be. Well, the harder part was yet to come. It took me 4 hours to reach Avaroa, the border town.The border was in the middle of nowhere. It was 12pm then and the officers were gone. I had to wait to get my exit stamp and cancelled my permisso. Then, I rode approx 3kms in no mans land into Ollague, Chile. I stamped my passport and get my permisso. No fees or mandatory insurance required to bring in my bike into this country. However, there was an inspection done on GD as animals @ plant products were not permitted to be taken in. But the nice officer just took 2 secs check on my top box. Overall, it took me about 2 hours to clear both borders.






I then continued my ride to Calama via route 21, passing amazing salt lake and beautiful volcanic mountains. It was unbelievable that all SA countries that I had been to were sooo contrast in views and landscapes. All were unique and beautiful. However, the road was not. It was worse than route 701 in Bolivia. There were many stretches of soft sands and loose gravels which I need to ascend and descend. The wind was stronger here too. I almost fell not less than 10 times, but luckily I managed to handle GD even though I was already off balance. I'm sure my mom back home can hear me screaming for her. It was a big relief when I finally met paved road again. Ohhh...I loved paved road, and who ever made them. In total, I rode 450kms today on ripio - dirt, gravels and soft sands. Only less than a quarter of the distance I rode today were paved. The most km of offroad in a day that I had ever done!!!





My next destination in Chile was San Pedro de Atacama, which was only 110km via route 23 from Calama. The road was good, but it was a bit windy bcos I was crossing a vast desert. Tourist from all over the world came to San Pedro de Atacama not for the sake of the town. Theres nothing in the rustic town except dust. However the surroundings were soooo spectacular. There were lots to see, the desert, geysers, lagunas, salt flats etc. Due to my tight budget, I could only managed to visit Valle de la Luna, or Moon Valley. Its not far from the town. The view was incredible. All this while, when talking about desert, what we had in mind will be sands, dunes and perhaps one or two barren mountain. However here, you can see a mountain range, Cordilerra de la Sal, which was made from salt, and the amazing rock formation was formed by wind erosion. Another god's creation which left me speechless... 








Northern Chile was dominated by the Atacama Desert, so it was very dry and windy. My skin and lips were peeling by now due to the dryness. Even my lip balm didnt help. Anyway, after 2 days, I left San Pedro de Atacama, heading back to Calama and then south via route 25. I started early as to avoid strong wind in the desert which normally will blow hard at 12pm onwards. I made a good time to Antofagasta within 4 hours (had to brave the morning chill though). Upon reaching Antofagasta, I started to look for a cheap place to stay. From my research, I knew theres nothing cheap in this city, but I just tried. Normally there're cheaper places which were not listed in the internet. Unfortunately, after wasting 2 hours going around the city, and the cheapest room I could find was USD35, which was waayy too much for my wallet, I decided to continue riding to the next town, in hope that my luck will change. However, it was 2pm by then and the wind was blowing like SUPER CRAZY!!! I never face such strong wind before, not even in Peru. From a distance, I saw HUGEEE cloud of sands being blown away. It was really scary and my poor GD was zig-zagging helplessly. Theres one time that the wind gust shoved me to the opposite direction in a mere 2 seconds and theres a lorry approaching from the opposite direction!!! Luckily I managed to get back on my lane. I was sooo stressed out and its very unsafe to continue riding in this condition. However, where must I go? Where must I go? WHERE??? The next town was few hundred kms away and all around me was nothingness but desert and sands. I was praying real hard in my heart while riding slowly and gripping the handle firmly. Thank god I saw a Shell station next to the highway. I pulled over and begged the owner to let me camp behind the station. He was reluctant in the beginning, but agreed when he saw tears started to pool in my eyes...


The next day was not easy for me either. Ever since I entered Chile 6 days ago, almost everyday I will get surprises. The offroad, the crazy wind, the high price on everything...and now, another surprise. A country which was said amongst the most developed and expensive in SA, but the gas stations were very far apart. Its hundreds of kms before you found one!!! I made a big mistake which I learnt well and will never repeat. I didn't refuel at the gas station which I camped last night because they no longer have the cheaper gas. Since I still had half tank of gas, I asked the attendant, wheres the next station? He was talking so fast and I thought he said "dos" "tres". So using fingers, I pointed two and three and he nodded. I thought its 23kms away, so I proceeded. After 50kms, theres no gas station in sight. I checked my GPS, it said theres one 150kms away. I started to get worried as GD didn't have much gas left. I asked the locals but everyone was giving me different answers. And what scared me most was, yesterday, the gas station listed in my GPS was of non existence. How if the one which my GPS said was 150km away didn't exist too? Only god knows how I felt. I had to ride very slowly, about 50 - 60kmh only. And all the while praying hard that GD could make it.

Finally, after almost 3 hours of really slow ride of 160kms, there it is...the gas station. And GD almost reached blinking level, but not yet blinking. Approx 450km was done since its last refuel. A new record set. Phewwwww...

Anyway, even though the experience of almost running out of gas was scary, I achieved a remarkable victory today when I reached Mano Del Desierto, or 'Hand of the Desert'. This sculpture was in my wish list ever since I got into adv riding, and it was only today that I rolled my wheels here. I also managed to locate the landmark for Tropic of Capricorn.




The next few days, I continued riding further south via route 5, passing towns such as Chanaral, La Serena and Valparaiso. Chile's landscape was very unique. There were times that I'm surrounded with reddish mountain, at other times, brownish or yellowish. I felt like in a different planet. The wind was still strong at certain stretches, but the beautiful blue Pacific Ocean view down the cliff compensate the unpleasantness of having to fight the wind. As I rode further south in Chile, I could see more colours and more cactus & bushes in the pampas, compared to sands, dunes and barren mountains in northern Chile. 



The houses in the bigger towns in Chile were similar to in Msia. Road was good, but motorbikes had to pay tolls :( Along my way to Valparaiso, I could see locals waving and flagging white flags to attract people to buy cheese which they sold by the road side. View got greener later on. I stayed 2 nights in Valparaiso and explored the historical city which was also a sister city to Malacca.




My last destination in Chile was Santiago. I rode straight to Malaysian Embassy and was given a very warm welcome by Dato Dr Rameez, the ambassador, and all the staff. Lots of delicious food being served such as nasi lemak with chicken rendang, rojak and Malay delicacies. Dato Rameez even invited me to stay at Malaysia House. I felt so honoured and happy. I spent 3 nights and managed to send my bike for maintenance service at a Yamaha HQ here and attended a tea meet with the Perwakilan Ladies. I wished to thank Dato Rameez, lovely Datin Noor Zulaikha , Malaysian Embassy in Santiago and Yamamotor Santiago for the hospitality.







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