Week 75 - Uyuni & Tupiza
We got back to Uyuni after our Lagunas Route adventure thoroughly shattered and with bikes covered in dirt. Fortunately the guy who ran the hostal was quite happy for us to wash our bikes which was great as we wanted to hose down all of the bags and stuff as well. It was also because some of the routes have salt on them and we didn't want to risk the salt corroding any of the electrical parts or anything else for that matter. Although we don't mind having the bikes dirty and them looking like they've been well used, it was good to have them clean as I needed to calibrate my valves again and also we could inspect the bikes a little better for any issues. We put all of our stuff through the laundry as most of it had dust ingrained into it, especially our bike undergarments, buffs and such like.
After having a good catch up on some sleep I decided it was time to actually do my valve calibration. We took the tank off and got everything ready, however this is where I discovered the next big problem. There was little room for movement. The valves were down to the collets and the feeler gauge was hitting the top of the collets, especially on the intakes. I was not happy. I felt gutted because I knew where the problem lay. This had to be due to the place where I got the valves changed in Lima, Documoto. Later when we got to Sucre my fears would be confirmed, but it looked like the valves had been wearing down because they were weak. This is why I'd had to calibrate them every 800-1000km!!!! People on forums told me it was ok and gave me lots of potential reasons for this however my heart sank when I realised that it wasn't my bike that had been the problem all along and some odd issue, it looked more likely that it was the mechanic who had replaced the valves. They assured me the valves were for the DR650 and even better than OEM! It also started to dawn on me that I'd recommended the mechanic to others and although a lot of the work they did was good, I was worried about people who had any engine work done or anything more than just a general service. Gutted doesn't come close to how I felt but I will talk more about this in the next blog from Sucre!
The next thing to do was to ask anyone if they could get me parts. We had started a group called Overlander Mules with our friends Michnus and Elsebie about a year beforehand. We hadn't actually used it ourselves, however now we would put it to the test! We put out a request for help; for someone who was travelling from anywhere where we could buy Suzuki OEM parts and bring them to Bolivia with them. A couple of people answered our plea, however a guy called Dan was actually flying from Bolivia to Santiago (Chile) and back in 2 weeks, so he offered to look for parts. It was just what we needed and we sent him our wish list over the next few days.
It came to the time when Kirsi needed to get back on the road, so we said a sad farewell and she set back off on her travels with Jack. It was almost coming to the end of our stay in Uyuni, however we needed one more visit to minuteman pizza for some tasty pizza and hot cider! We got the bikes loaded up again, I'd recalibrated the valves as best I could and hoped they would get me to Sucre where I'd been recommended a mechanic.
On the day we left Uyuni we decided to go out via the 'Train Cemetery'. It's a large area where all of the old trains were just left to rust. It was kind of interesting and something different. There was a couple of people in camper vans there and a few tourists, but other than that it was quite quiet which was nice.
It was then back on the road and this time in the direction of Tupiza. We didn't want to just go back via Potosi as we'd already done that route, and our friends Neake and Paul as well as Kirsi had said that the route to Tupiza was really nice. It's also near where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid saw their last days. The rock formations on the way there were really grand and stunning, and there were a few places where the road had been destroyed by landslides so the only option was to ride through the river beds. It was ok for us, however some of the large lorries had got stuck and there was a JCB trying to dig them out of the soft river bed which seemed to be just mud and sand. If it had been raining I think the route would have been very different!
Finally we made it to Tupiza and the Butch Cassidy hotel, which was recommended by Neake and Paul. It was a really great place. It wasn't too expensive and included breakfast, which turned out to be one of the best breakfasts we'd had. That and the hostel Liliana in Uyuni had served the best buffet breakfasts we'd had in a long time. There we also met two couples from the UK; Diane and her husband then later another couple called Dawn and Paul who were super lovely. We decided to stay two nights so that we could have a wander around the town the next day. The two English couples were going horse riding, however the cost for one person was more than our total daily budget so we decided to give it a miss. Also, I'm a bit scared of riding horses so I'd rather go exploring on the bike! It was an interesting little authentic Bolivian town with a very evident cowboy theme, quite prudent given its history. The town was surrounded by big red rock and it had a good, sleepy vibe.
After 2 nights we headed North towards Sucre after filling up the tyres with air. We wanted to avoid having to go through the city of Potosi so I managed to work out a back road route. There were two options, one dirt and one paved so we decided to try the dirt option. We were very glad of this in the end because it was beautiful and went through some real working Bolivian countryside. As we started the route Kelvin complained of his bike not feeling right. He'd mentioned it while we were on the tarmac but I couldn't see anything wrong, however he felt he was losing grip on the corners. We decided to check the tyre pressure from when the guy filled them and discovered his rear tyre was 80 PSI!!!!!! Jeez! We took out some air and after that he felt much better. We passed through a lot of farming territory and the people gave us a little wave if we waved at them. They looked at us in a way which told us they were wondering why the hell we were there! Once we came out the other side of the route we hit the tarmac again, and it was a simple ride all the way to Sucre. We went back to Wasi Masi as we knew it had parking and was quite pleasant on our last visit. We quickly settled in and it was the start of a very looooooooooong stay in Sucre!