Gone was the tropical climate of Rurre and out came the thermal undies and llama jumpers. It was great to be back on the road, and this time it really was a road.
Tarmac all 230km of the way to Oruro. The scenery had changed it was now flat open plains with the occassional scrubby bush.
Low rounded hills formed in the background.
Llamas, alpacas, donkeys, cows and sheep were all being herded together and grazed the nonexistant grass. It was cold and we had set off late, by the time we got to Oruro it was dark and we were both shivering. One of the joys of the bikes is unloading everything once we finally arrive at our destination. Ropes, strings and bunge cords have to be undone and then redone in the morning. We are actually getting quite good at knots and nothing´s fallen off the bikes in ages! The hotel we stayed in had a telly!! But by the time we had unloaded everything and eaten we were too tired to watch it.
The following day we set off and added our i pods to the enjoyment of the riding. We passed houses made of mud and there seemed to be more villages and people here than north of La Paz. We stopped at an abandoned tin mine and followed a sign pointing to Lake Poopo leaving tarmac and going off road. It was a bikers
dream, flat open plain, nothing for miles around, barely a track to follow. We never actually made it to the lake, we were having too much fun and it was too far away so we decided to try and rejoin the road and found out that our bikes can quite easily ride up and over railway tracks. We stopped briefly in Huari
where they make the national beer and took the road out of town that we thought was towards Quillacas. It did go to Quillacas but it was not the main road and it certainly didn´t turn into a short cut! We had to ride, or should i say wiggle our way through deep sand. Loads deeper than anything we´d ridden through before. You are supposed to relax, let the bike do its thing and maintain a constant speed. I tensed up, fought the bike and slowed down. It was all so alien, tom was loving it. We crossed a river and the locals told us we were an hour from Quilliacas but it was about 4pm so we decided to camp out on the plains.
As far as the eye could see stretched this open grassland, hills were on one side and the occasional farm hut. We rode round for a bit and decided to set up next to the local watering hole, which was really just a muddy puddle. As we set up the tent a lady appeared, she was at least 50 and the nearest farm was at least an hours walk away. She had come to check if there was any water, but was probably actually seeing what we were doing. It was nice to be able to get somebody to say it was ok for us to camp there and we decided any unsavoury types would never be bothered to walk out this far and we would hear a vehicle approaching...not that we were paranoid or anything! Off the lady went after telling us the rain wouldnt arrive until February, we watched her walk for at least an hour, until we couldnt make out her shape anymore. We cooked up some packet noodle soup with some green beans we had bought from Huari and watched the sunset. The sky turned every shade of red and the only noise was us watching episodes of the simpsons we had downloaded onto our i pod.
It got cold that night, i slept almost fully clothed mainly down to laziness rather than intelligence. Tom got really cold though even our -15 degree sleeping bags didnt stop the chill for him.
A new day brought a whole new set of challenges! Tom woke at 6 and I finally got up at 7 it was still cold but by 8.30am we were packed up and ready to go as it was getting warm. Back into the tic sand and I finally thought I was getting the hang of it. Changing direction was really tough and my bike was heading the wrong way. I hit a bank and down came the bike. I wasnt going fast and it was nice deep sand so I got away with bruised legs.
I was more worried about the 10L of petrol on the back of my bike, it was fine, the bike had suffered a broken hand guard, that was useless anyway! My confidence was shot and I practically walked the bike through some deep bits. The shallower sand was fun though and I enjoyed those bit! We hit dirt road and wound up a hill towards the village stopping to talk to 2 Aussies on pushbikes. They had started in Peru! Put our route to shame! Quilliacas was a village like so many others, deserted. A lovely church and square. Houses surrounding them but just no people!
We found one lady and bought some water. We carried on south and hit a new road that was under construction. At times nicely built up flat and level, then we would have to veer off down near vertical slopes to go around earth works and then back up onto the road. Sometimes it was easier to ride the old road, until it turned to thick sand. It really was desert country with cacti and the wind was whipping up mini tornadoes, some we had to drive through. We passed 2 other vehicles, one was stuck in the sand.
Although the road was under construction nobody was working on it! We wound up a hill and looked out across the plain (the altiplano). Toms bike hit a rock and he was over, he was going slow enough to only hurt his thumb....no haematoma´s parents, dont worry! So we decided it was time to stop for lunch. Looking out over that scenery, not a soul for miles, llamas grazing nearby. I know my siser said it wasnt her idea of a holiday, but I dont think you could beat that. We could see
Vulcan Tunapa, a dormant volcano in the distance and knew that was our destination and the start of the salt flats. We rode for a couple more hours and hit Salinas. On the hill behind the village was an amazing new hostal. Hot showers, good food, cheap (but nice) wine, a comfy bed and all that for 115B...about 8 quid.
So we were heading south.