A road of hell

Trip Start Mar 20, 2011
Trip End Jun 05, 2011

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Monday, April 11, 2011

Well it is now 11th of April and after such a disastrous  day yesterday we are having a great relaxing time here in Uyuni, Bolivia.

Yesterday we started out of Ticara just after 8am and as usual before long I was taking photos of the wonderful scenery along the road. The road was tar and was just a race track and as usual before long all the rest of the gang had passed me and were racing their way to the border crossing to Bolivia.

The scenery along this road was fantastic for the first 50 or so miles then it became rather bleak. However there was a old disused railway yet again which ran alongside the road the entire 125miles or so to the border. I stopped several times to take a look at the old stations which were still quite well intact and still had their old signals etc all still standing.

Nick & Caroline caught up with me and after me chasing them along the wonderful winding road under the cliffs we all stopped at a wonderful country cafe which made the best chocolate cake in Argentina. After that I left on my own to see what lay ahead. Unfortunately it was bleak all the way to the town on the border where I found all the others standing at a petrol station.

We then headed off to the border crossing itself and simply waited forever. It took these slow people 3 whole hours to get us through customs and not a single person even looked at the bikes. In true terms anyone could simply walk right across the border just like the many street dogs we seen doing it.

From the customs office, we could see into a high street of the town of Quiaca in Bolivia, it did not look good!! Although saying that the Argentinean side of  Quiaca was also a tip. We were heading down a main road following the signs for "border" only to suddenly find the road was blocked by a massive pile of stones the size of a house simply tipped by a truck. We hammered on brakes and then realized that cars were going around it through the grass. It was just madness.

Finally we got through customs and headed into Bolivia. My first impression of Bolivia was "what a dump this place is" and sure enough it is. The good news was that the horrible dirt road we were meant to follow had been tarred and was now a race track with only a few diversions on it where bridges etc were not yet in place. We flew along and soon we were into the mountains. There was 3 toll gates along this new road and we had to pay a fee of 20 pence a bike. On the 3rd toll there was the grand hi speed road going straight ahead and to the side there was a small stony dirt road.....this was our road to Uyuni...............all 200 miles of it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This road was a beautifully scenic road but by the evening it had become the road of hell!!! We first passed through a wonderful mountain pass made of all colors of rock and sand. I must have stopped about 20 times in this wonderful natural place simply to take photos and just take in how beautiful this world really is. Soon Nick caught me up and later Jim in the support truck so I knew I better get a move on. I finally came to a massive cutting between two cliffs with walls of about 400 ft at each side. It appeared that the road was going to head right through between the cliffs but as I got closer I noticed a tiny hole at the base of one of the cliffs. This tiny hole was a tunnel where the road made its way right through this mountain.

The scenery got better and better as we went but the road just got worse and worse. Sand and stones all the way, but the main problem was the amount of corrugations was just terrible!!! The road began to climb the side of a mountain and simply climbed and climbed for mile upon mile. Half way up the mountain a car stopped me and was trying to tell me something in Spanish. I understood he had hit one of the bikes and began to worry. Finally at about 10 000ft the road came to the top of this one mountain and simply ran along the ridge of the two mountains. There was massive cliffs at ach side of this narrow road and not a single barrier or fence between to prevent anything going over the edge, it was just magnificent. My biggest worry was a truck or 4X4 comes racing along towards me and knocks me off. Lucky it never happened!!

Off the ridge and the road goes on climbing ever more and finally I reach the summit at 13800ft. Here I met two

local bikers who were just out for a days ride on their Honda 125.

From then it was downhill one minute and uphill the next for mile upon mile. Nick and I stopped in this valley for photos where there was about 100 wild goats. We went passed theM a few times on our bikes and they never even lifted their heads from the grass.

It was now getting late and we had to push on as darkness would be coming in shortly. No ways was I wanting to ride this terrible road in the dark!!

After going almost non stop for about 30 miles I stopped and took photos of the wonderful mountains and massive yellow rocks and then headed as fast as possible towards Atocha. 

Here at Atocha I was hoping for a rest and some grub but when I arrived it simply looked just as much a dump as the border town. Here also the road went into two and I had no idea what road to take. Nick finally arrived and pointed to the right road and we headed up this dusty road and there was a sign saying Uyuni 101km. I just about fainted when I saw that. We had just taken hours to do the last 100kms and now another 101km.

Nick and I headed on at about 40mph until we finally found a few of the gang at the side of the road. Paul had fallen off his bike and injured his ankle.

Nick and Caroline stayed with Paul and the rest of us headed on before it got dark. The road was now getting really terrible and it was getting dangerous riding in the dark also.

There was now 5 of us going along at abut 30mph but even that felt too fast for me. The road would change from stone to sand instantly and the bikes would be all over the place. While plodding along this terrible road we suddenly found ourselves in a terrible river crossing with loads of mud and sand. Eric on Paul's 600 managed to get through but the rest of us got stuck. We could not even leave our bikes as they simply would not stand in the mud. It was now about 9pm and here we are trying to get bikes out of a sandy river in the middle of the desert!! Finally we managed to get them out but there was another problem and that was Jim on our recovery truck. He was behind us but was now nowhere to be seen. While Eric waited behind just to make sure Jim was ok the rest of us headed off into the night in the desert. It was now getting very stormy and lightning was all around. How the rains had not yet come was amazing.

We made our way onwards and had many near misses in the sand until Cas and Michelle came off and slipped down the bank. They were both fine and so was the bike but being high up at about 12000ft did not help. While we struggled to get the bike out we saw someone ahead flashing a torch at us. Once back on the road we headed towards the torch and there were more of our gang on their bikes. One of the riders had injured himself when a bungee strap fired up and hit him right in the eye. While the rest all went on I stayed in the cold desert with Beckie and the one bike. The sky was now clear and the storms had blown away but there was a terrible cold wind and since I had not eaten food for about 24 hours I was freezing and as hungry as hell. Finally Eric arrived and then Jim with the truck. The bike trailer had broken and so Jim had to go slow. With enough of us here to get all the bikes and truck on to Uyuni we left but with strict rules that the max speed was 25mph max. Paul who had earlier injured his ankle was now having to ride his bike in this condition as Beckie does not have a license to ride a bike and so she was in the truck with Jim.

It was about 20 more miles on this terrible road to Uyuni and it must have been the longest 20 miles of our lives. It was sheer hell to say the least.

Finally at about midnight we arrived into the town of Uyuni and this must be the most dirt ridden town I have ever set my eyes on. In the middle of the road was a monument and it had litter piled about 6 meters high around it. There was dogs all around it looking for food. The main street was impossible to pass along as there was just so much rubbish in the street. I did later find out there had been a party earlier that afternoon.

As soon as we arrived at the hotel, Caroline stuffed a large piece of pizza into my mouth and it together with about 4 other pieces was scoffed within minutes although that was not before I scoffed a large piece of chocolate cake down my gob.

After that it was unload my bike, shower and sleep!!! I was totally exhausted after about 15 hours of very tough riding along those terrible roads of Bolivia.

Tomorrow its a rest day here in Uyuni and oh boy it will be welcome!
Catch you all later
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Mark C on

Sounds hellish !! Take care mate !

martin on

Keep on going,
Your strength and determination will see you through.

adventurescot on

Martin, this trip has been magical!! That road yesterday to Nasca was magical with all the curves but oh boy was it hard work.
Still running a few days behind but should be in Alaska on time. No longer going to Lima........I wonder why???

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