The morning ride started quickly with a fairly long and deep water crossing. HP2 pushed his bike through since we didn’t know how deep it would get, but after he got across I was able to just power through on his same line since I knew there weren’t any sudden drops.
The other guys, with their smaller bikes, decided to take the shorter, more slippery crossing. They’d get through quickly and wouldn’t drown their bikes, but both side were steep and covered with wet moss…
Don’t worry- I’ll catch you!
Thanks- I wasn’t quite wet enough yet…
At the end of it I was a little worse for wear, but that crossing and another one later managed to cemented my crown as the master of the river crossings (thanks again Iceland!).
Back on the road things started to get harder, with the deep patches of sand getting longer and the 4×4 drivers getting more aggressive. We’d all heard that the 4×4 tour drivers were notorious for being drunk and unpleasant, but it actually felt like they were trying to knock us off our bikes. And it wasn’t long before we had our first accident.
Georgia (in the yellow- cool guy), was knocked off the road by two 4x4s taking up the whole track trying to keep out of each others dust. He was unlucky enough to be on the apex of a turn when they came by and so he went into the sandy berm. His windscreen got smashed and his pannier rack was ripped apart, but luckily he was fine. After checking everything, distributing his luggage, and laughing at the well placed cross, we were off again. No, neither truck stopped to check on him.
A short while later we hit a small town where HP2 proved himself to be a great welder and was able to get Georgias bike back in shape. It also made for a perfect excuse to spend a fun night in town drinking amazingly decent Bolivian wine, enjoying Georgias cooking, and generally behaving like 5 single guys away from any kind of responsible supervision. But, the next day we all awoke to the call of the road and were off at a decent hour.
The landscape was always changing and always interesting- from cool rock formations,
to snowy tracks down to geysers,
to flamingos doing their thing, it was all there.
We didn’t make great time, partially since the views were so amazing that we didn’t want to rush through them, but mostly because it was such hard work. Track riding on a loaded bike is always a pretty physical activity, doing it in sand ups the ante, and doing it in sand at 5,000 meters drains you like nothing else. You can never quite catch your breath- you always feel just one breath behind what you need. So, when the riding gets hard you can’t just breath faster to get more oxygen since your already looking for extra normally. You’ve got to stop and take a break, let your body catch up, and then plow on.
That night we stopped at some hot springs and were able to convince the owners of the the rest stop to let us sleep on the restaurant floor since the nights got down to -20c and we just weren’t in the mood for it. The next morning it was time to part ways- the guys headed towards the border while I back tracked a couple of km to an even smaller road that would take me along the Argentinian border and then into the low lands.