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20.9. Sun (438) Mercedes Mendoza, Argentina

Kilometres eating. It was a surprise for me, how long distances there could be and also long distances between gas stations...

I made a mistake and run out of gas. Luckily there wasn't more distance to go to the next one than a couple of kms. I started to push the almost 300 kg bike, as I didn't want to leave her alone on the road. Hard work... Then a truck driver stopped and gave me some gas. Very friendly done, and also a good lesson for me.

Mendoza seemed to be a very beautiful town near the Andes. In the center of the city were many parks.

21.9. Mon (439) Argentina Chile

Klick to hear the national anthem of Chile
General information about Chile.
As I rode towards the west (& the Andes), the sceneries became more and more beautiful. Blue & white high mountains... Woooow! Great!

About 100 kms before the Chilean border, sceneries were like from a painting, or even better.

The Chilean border crossing was 'a piece of cake'. It took just a moment with all formalities.

The road went on some 3000 metres above sea level and therefore the air pressure was also lower. In the air there wasn't so much oxygen, as on the sea level. The carburation became richer on the mountains and the bike lost some power. I had also lots of luggage added with two spare tyres, so lots of weight too. I had to use fully open throttle in the steep uphills. Luckily there wasn't any snow on the road.

And then: a sign to Cerro Aconcagua! It is the highest peak (6959 m) of the continents of Americas. Just 14 kms from the Mendoza - Los Andes highway. Lots of beautiful, snow-covered mountains nearby! But: BOTH of my cameras (a Minolta 115 pocket camera and an old Konica FT-1) refused to work!!! Sigh. "I'll be back".

22.9. Tue (440) Viña del Mar, Chile

I tried to repair the faulty cameras, the Konica came into condition again (jammed shutter).

23.9. Wed (441) Chile Argentina Chile

I decided to make a day tour back to the Andes. From Viña there was more than 200 kms. Just before the Chilean border there was a special part on the way: in 11.5 kms distance the height difference of the road was some 1000 metres and there were 32 numbered, nearly 180 degrees curves! A real serpentine road indeed!

Near the Cerro Aconcagua mountain I met a German guy, who was going to the peak alone! Crazy! It is minimum one week tour. Many dangers on the way. Definetely a tour like that should be done with a group.

452 kms photographing trip, but it was worth of it!

25.9. Fri (443) Viña del Mar

On the last two nights I had parked my bike outside the hostel. It wasn't good place and I considered it to be unsafe for my bike. And: one night some people had tried to use/steal it!!!

I had used all the locks: two locks through the brake discs' holes (total 4 locks), a big cryptonite U-lock in the rear tyre and a hardened chain too. ...The thiefs' attempt was unsuccessful!

In the morning I told to the hostel staff about it and they let me put my bike into a room!!! Very friendly! ;-)

26.9. Sat (444) Viña del Mar/Valparaiso

Viña del Mar was built on many hills, as much as 44 of them, the locals said. Valparaiso seemed to be very similar to Viña. The 'touristic life': fast food restaurants, cinemas, cafés and banks were located in the valley, but houses and more poor areas were on the hills.

28.9. Mon (446) Viña del Mar

For trying to secure the continuation of the trip in the next months - as long as possible - I started to search for computing jobs. Internet is a suitable means for this kind of remote job search, that way I thought. There can be found lots of recruiting companies, that search engineers for telecomms & computing jobs in the States... I sent my applications and was optimistic for the best.

29.9. Tue (447) Vallenar towards North

Also in Vallenar (a small town) the people were friendly. Some 700 kms to go to Antofagasta. In Chile the distances were vast, I could learn it. From Viña to North Chile about 2,000 kms!

I did some 700 kms trip today, but the road had been excellent and almost with no traffic, so I could ride some 100 km/h safely. The sceneries north of La Serena were just dead desert. What it comes to sceneries, they were a bit like in Sahara, but here was a good road to ride...
Photo from the way

I could park my bike at the staircase of the youth hostel again :)

1.10. Thu (449) Antofagasta

Near the city there was a sight that reminds the Rouchi at West Beirut. It is a big rock where is a big hole. (In Beirut it is 45 metres high)

3.10. Sat (451) Antofagasta Calama

A famous place, Valle de la Luna (Moon Valley) was near, so I moved closer there.
On the way, the exhausts seemed to be black... Carburation just had become too rich in the altitudes. That meant of adjusting the carburetors for higher altitudes in near future.

At Calama people confirmed my theory: we were at 2400 metres above sea level. That is not much, but seemed to be enough to enrich the carburation.

4.10. Sun (452) Calama

Calama was a small, tranquil town with a warm and dry desert climate. In the town there were many Bolivians, working in Chile.

The carburetors had to be adjusted (part indexes 6 & 28) for higher altitudes. Bike tech comes even more familiar on the tour :)
Work is easily and quickly done. I did it the first time and succesfully. When returning back to sea level, the settings have to be restored, otherwise the engine will overheat.

So, the 'Amfibio X-Globe Machine' was set to operate in the altitudes of the Andes now! Adjustment worked! The engine got LESS gasoline, but gave out MORE power.

5.10. Mon (453) Calama San Pedro de Atacama Calama

My intention was to visit Valle de la Luna and also to go higher and test the carburetors better. I set the GPS on the tank. Yes, it displayed: altitude was 2400 metres indeed.

Valle de la Luna, 100 kms from Calama, was like a moon valley! Dry, dead desert and mountains. I was told that NASA did some tests there for the equipment to be sent to Mars, a few years ago.

Center of San Pedro de Atacama
Village of San Pedro de Atacama was a small, but touristic village. Mostly there are restaurants and travel agencies. They arrange tours to natural sights nearby. There are agencies that rent 'beach bugs' for the tourists to visit the Valle de la Luna. A five star hotel was to be built too.

I continued testing the carburetors more. The road went higher and higher near the volcano Licancabur. GPS displayed 4000 m... 4400 m... the road just continued higher and higher. Bike didn't show practically any signs of weakness. ...5000 metres. On the peaks was snow.
...5150 metres!!!

There was a hut. I met a somebody there, the hut was a measuring station of the University of Pennsylvania. They were measuring some microwaves coming from the space and they were researching the birth of the Universe and what was before the Big Bang...

The altitude was more than 5 kilometres above sea level. In 5500 metres the air pressure is half of what it is at the sea level. I had ascended very quickly. I really could feel it: I had a weird feeling in my head, my heart was beating hard and I could feel the pulses in the arteries! Time to get back and soon!

Anyway, visiting that high was an interesting experience. Air was so thin there. In San Pedro de Atacama there was a restaurant owned by a Finn. Unfortunately I didn't meet him now.

8.10. Thu (456) Calama San Pedro de Atacama

Before heading to Bolivia, I wanted to meet the Finnish guy in San Pedro first. This time we met. His name was Reijo Pasanen. He had a restaurant together with his Chilean wife, Meybol. Reijo and Meybol

The cuisine was excellent in their restaurant. Reijo had travelled 1.5 years in South America and met his wife there.

9.10. Fri (457) Chile Bolivia

Klick to hear the national anthem of Bolivia
As there was plenty of tour agencies, I made a contract with one of them. They take tourists from Chile to Bolivia through the Uyuni desert with jeep. I could put my heavy luggage into their jeep. So I got help in transportation, guide services (as in the desert it's difficult to orienteer), cooking services - and good travel company.

My travel mates consisted of a British couple Satnam and Alka (originally from from India), Adrian from Australia, Heidi and Ralph (USA/Switzerland).

We travelled some 50 kms and arrived to the Bolivian border. I could follow the jeep. Actually in the desert there was practically no border.
"Tshau Chile, Viva Bolivia" :)

General information about Bolivia.

The sceneries were magnificent. Mountains, a frozen lake and flamingos! They changed the vehicle to another one, to a Toyota Land Cruiser 4x4. The driver loaded almost all my luggage on the jeep. Great.

The next sight to admire was Laguna Verde (Green Lagoon). Photos tell more...

The lagoon was green. But: after a moment it changed its colour!!! The place was 4400 metres above sea level. Small ponds were frozen.

Most of the other tourists started to feel ill soon. The altitude was the problem. If the ascending is done too quickly and at too high altitudes, the symptoms can be at the mildest diarrhea and headache. If more severe, it is called AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness). At the worst, it can lead to lung and brain edema which is serious.

The main point is to ascend slowly enough to let the body acclimatize (to get used to the altitude). This time there wasn't chance for that. I had visited a high place at Volcano Licancabur a couple of days before, that was my luck. I was a bit used to the altitudes by now. I could follow the jeep without any problems.

The sceneries were all the time - I would say - breath-taking. Very lifeless, but so beautiful. The area was volcanic, there was a stream of warm water. Some 40°C. Nice.

After 160 kms of travelling we had an accomodation at a hostel. It was filthy. Altitude was at 4400 metres. High up at the mountains, in the nights temperature will go some 10 degrees below zero. The hostel was in a very isolated place, but we had nice time. We played some games :)

10.10. Sat (458) Somewhere in Uyuni desert

We continued the desert trip. We saw some geysirs too. The boiling sound of the water sounded aggressive. The air stank rotten, as there was lots of sulphur in it. The place was the highest on the way in the Uyuni desert, at 5000 metres. Others suffered from diarrhea.

This day we saw many lakes and ponds, where were flamingos. One excuisite sight was Laguna Colorado (Colourful Lagoon).
It was a red, big lagoon.

Some pictures:
Geysirs!
One Lagoon.
Flamingoes
Laguna Colorado
Crossing the Uyuni desert
The 'Mushroom'
The 'good road'
'A bit' worn-out tyres

11.10. Sun (459) Uyuni desert Salar de Uyuni Uyuni

This was to be the last day in the desert. We had gone 340 kms, some 200 to go to Uyuni. Soon the dusty desert ended and a white salt lake spread in front of us!
Riding at Salar de Uyuni
Incredible. It seemed to be larger than eye could see. It was like riding on the ice of a sea, where is hard snow on it. But is was just salt. Pure white enormous field. We travelled some 120 km/h, but the mountains far away didn't 'come any closer'. The Salar de Uyuni salt lake is the biggest salt lake in the world, 12,000 sq.kms at 3650 m above sea level.

Riding there was fun! Lots of space!

After a half's hour riding, we arrived to an 'isle'. There grew giant cactuses. Really weird. In the middle of a salt lake there is an isle, where grows something! The name of the isle was Isla de Pescadores (Fishermens' Isle).
Some pictures:
Salt lake.
Lamas at Isla des Pescadores
Giant cactus

The needles of the cactuses were long, some 15 centimeters (6 inches). Very sharp and strong like steel.

Cactuses and me
General view
With the tourists

As we continued, the jeep driver decided to leave me. I was alone in the middle of desert! He had sometimes been 'racing' with me (not seriously) in the desert as in his group there had been bikers never before. Now I started a bit late and it took 15 minutes for me to catch the small dot (the jeep) in the horizon :)

At the almost end of our three-day trip, in a village named Colchani there was a fiesta!!! We were extremely lucky. Timing was perfect. The fiesta started just when we had arrived.


"The youngest dancer"
There were two brass orchestras and many, many dancers on colourful dresses. GREAT!!!

Some pictures:
Colchani fiesta
Colourful dresses
Brass band
Separate dancing

12.10. Mon (460) Uyuni

Uyuni was a small town in the desert. Basically OK and touristic too, but there wasn't anything special. Just tourists, restaurants and travel agencies. As there is no proper border between North Chile and Bolivia, we took stamps to passports in the Uyuni immigration.

Next town, Potosi was about 200 kms away. But people said it's five hours trip. Filling tank full of gas, as there are no gas stations between cities. On the desert, during 535 kms my bike had consumed ridiculously little, only 26 litres of gas. In the high altitudes fuel consumption reduces.

The road to Potosi was a bumpy earth track. One stream crossing too. Sceneries were beautiful. I became convinced that Bolivia is a very beautiful country.

Some pictures taken between the way from Uyuni to Potosi:
Bike under burden
Desert view
Andes road
A sign of sponsorship of European Union for Tica Tica village.
Colourful rocks.
El Viaje continues...

Potosi is the world's highest city in the world of that size, at altitude of 4070 metres. In Bolivia, the accommodations are cheap. In Potosi I paid 25 Bolivianos of a hostel room, less than 5 USD. There one can feel the altitude: you have to sometimes *breathe* as the air is so thin.

Time to change tyres. I had carried them from Buenos Aires, 5,500 kms. The old ones were 'slicks'. Totally worn out. Changing work cost 8 Bs. of both (1.4 USD). Incredible, work is really cheap in Bolivia. The workman deserved a tip.

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