Monday, September 24, 2012

Doubling Down on the Dirt

From Samaipata I continued down the road to Sucre.

I usually do not like to ride the same route twice, but my options were somewhat limited. I wanted to make my way to Sucre. There was a southern route, which I estimated would take three or four days to arrive in Sucre. So, I elected to take the northern route, which I estimated would take two days or as little as one day. But it meant that I would be traveling a route which I had ridden previously... a route that I knew was mostly gravel, dirt and loose sand. So I doubled down on the dirt and hoped that I would have a little luck.
The ride started out along a nice twisty asphalt road.
But then it soon turned to gravel. I knew what to expect. After many days of riding on gravel and sand, I felt comfortable tackling the terrain. I just needed to stand up and move with my motorcycle.
So I relaxed and enjoyed the beautiful scenery.
Mountains beyond mountains.
Then I came upon this. Outside of the town of Saipina, there was a bloqueo (road block) due to construction. This was the same bloqueo that I came across before. I was told that the construction crew would let traffic through between 12-2pm and after 6pm. It was about 3pm... I had missed the window of opportunity... so I was in for a wait.
So, I pulled back away from all the dust created by the construction and waited. The dirt digger kept digging and I kept waiting. Eventually, two other motorcyclists on small bikes arrived on the scene. We assessed the situation. We debated if we could ride over the mound of dirt and gravel. To the right (uphill) of the dirt digger there was not any space. To the left (downhill) of the dirt digger there was about one foot of space... then a cliff with a drop-off of 100 feet. Risky. As we were discussing the issue, the head construction engineer approached us and interjected that he would not allow us to ride over the mound. Oh...well...time to relax.
So, I decided to do a little checkup on my motorcycle. This is what my motorcycle setup looks like now. I have a Giant Loop Great Basin bag, GL Fandango tank bag, Pelican case, tent, empty extra gas tank and the orange bag holds my rain gear. And depending on the road conditions... dirt. All good.
Then something strange was happening near the construction area. I was off at a distance and could not quite determine what was going on. So I approached the construction area to obtain a better view. It appeared that one of the motorcyclists had crossed over to the other side of the dirt digger. I did not see him crossover, so I did not understand how he accomplished it. But then the other motorcyclist was attempting to cross. This is what they did.

The motorcyclists had negotiated with the operator of the dirt digger. The operator placed the shovel of the machine on the ground. Then the motorcyclist backed his bike into the shovel. The operator lifted the moto and motorcyclist with the shovel, swung them around the edge of the cliff and deposited them on the other side. I would not have believed it if I had not seen it with my own eyes. Ingenious. The Bolivians are geniuses at creative solutions for everyday obstacles. Unfortunately, I was not quick enough to get out my camera and take a video or photo. Equally unfortunate, my motorcycle was too large and would not fit inside the shovel of the dirt digger, so I would have to continue to wait.

I waited until about 6pm... and then like Bolivian clock work...ha ha... the road was opened.
I rode on for about an hour and then it turned dark. It is always a little precarious riding in sand, but riding in sand and at night was a little crazy. There was no moonlight... there was just black (see the picture above). I road on for about 30 minutes and came across a faint light. The light led me to a small cafe. I could not really say that the cafe was part of a village, because there really were no other structures around. It was just one small cafe in the middle of darkness. An old man at the cafe told me that I should ride for 30 minutes more to the next village of Perez. There I should ask for Dona Juana. She sometimes offered travelers a room in her house. So, off into the darkness I rode. I arrived in the village of Perez and asked for Dona Juana. Either I had the wrong name, wrong village or Dona Juana was hiding from this gringo. I could not find her. Anyways, I asked if there was a place that I could stay. 
The consensus among the good people of Perez was that I could pop up my tent in front of this business that was closed. The owner was not around and was not expected to return for a number of days. I asked if it was safe. Everyone said that I "should" be okay.
And as it turned out.., everything was okay. I woke early the next morning to complete the journey to Sucre. Before I left Perez, a gentleman told me that the road ahead would be closed starting at 8am for a motocross race. I thought that was cool... they close an entire road...the only road... for a motocross race. I decided that I should ride quickly with the hopes of surpassing the road closure. I wanted to see the motocross race, but I wanted to reach Sucre as well. So, off I rode. At one point there was a small bloqueo. A man at the bloqueo said that the road was closed for the motorcycle race. I said that I just wanted to go a little further to watch the race. It was not a lie. I wanted to see the race, but I really wanted to get ahead of the race. He let me ride pass. The family waiting at the bloqueo did not look happy. I rode quickly.
I arrived in the town of Aiquile at about 10am. The race had started earlier in a town up the road called Mizque. There were reports on the radio that the racers would be passing through Aiquile soon. After waiting a while, the first racer passed by. It looked like he was riding a Honda CRF450.
And then other riders started passing.
A crowd had formed along the side of road to watch.
The organizers pulled some guy from the audience, gave him a yellow flag and told him to waive it whenever a rider passed by to notify the racers that they were approaching a sharp corner.


I was just waiting for one of the riders to miss the signal and slide into the crowd standing along the corner. Fortunately, all went well.

Tip... when watching any type of motorcycle race it is usually safer to stand on the inside corner than on the outside corner. If a rider looses it... he is usually going to slide into the outside corner.
I watched the race for about an hour. There were a number of motorcycle classes running the race... 125cc, 250cc and 450cc. And there were various skill levels. I was really tempted to dump my bags and join the race. I'm pretty sure that I would be the only rider on a 650cc motorcycle... thus guaranteeing that I would win my class! 
But alas, I had somewhere to go... Sucre. Ciao!
From Aiquile, the dirt road ended and the asphalt road began. I picked up the pace... but when passing these goats I slowed down.
Luckily the goats were pretty skillful at climbing the mountainside.
I eventually arrived in Sucre. I was welcomed by traffic.

And I saw this... a boy about six years old acting like a ayudante (helper) hanging off the back of a truck while we moved through traffic. If you look closely you can see his little brother, probably no more than 3 years old, hanging off the front of the cargo area of the truck.

Ahhhh....Bolivia!

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