Friday, July 3, 2009

Below Zero, Wow.

(Potosi, Bolivia - Uyuni, Bolivia)

Well, gee. We are spending our third night in Uyuni (nights composed of sub-zero temperatures, literally) due to some unforeseen and not-quite-understood engine problems with Peter the Girl. Poor little motorcycle.
We arrived on Wednesday and as we hit the central road into town, there was Woody coming back from a little jaunt out onto the Salt Flats of the Salar de Uyuni! Dinner was burgers at a local pub whose floors are 5 inches thick with salt and fun to crunch around on. Also, their walls are covered with photos from other visitors to the Flats, taking surreal and funny shots, playing with perspective.
The next morning we had a list of things to take care of, including washing the bikes and covering them in WD40 to help shield their parts from the highly corrosive Bike Killer Salt. Woody was having anti-freeze issues (due to a sneaky mechanic in Colombia) which meant taking apart his KTM 950 and draining then re-draining the fluids, and replacing them with a proper ratio of water to anti-freeze. I feel like we had some problems with Peter, too, but I can 't remember what they were. More on that later, I guess. Finally, around 3pm, we headed out to see the Train Graveyard just outside of town. We ate sandwiches on top of an old cargo car, and then headed out toward the white. It is amazing. You can see things far off in the distance as if they are rather close. Driving toward the Salt Hotel (made nearly entirely out of blocks of salt) we could see it from the moment our tires hit the salt, but it would be another 45 minutes before we 'd reach it. Woody camped out in the freezingness, testing his hardiness. We were very impressed, but chose to return to Uyuni to sleep at the hotel.

This morning we woke up around 7am, packed the bike, ordered some takeout egg sandwiches for our breakfast (and Woody 's) and planned to head to the little town of Colchani about 40 minutes away meeting Woody at 9am. The bike 's been having a hard time starting in the freezing cold air of morning, so Adam parked her out in the sunshine hoping it would warm her up. Nope. Trying and trying to start her ended in a dead battery, and apparently no one in town has jumper cables. Finally a guy rolled up, took out his battery and held it up to our so we could try and charge it. Unfortunately, his battery went dead too. Two hours after we were meant to meet Woody, he came rolling up. Just as his tire went flat, having been pierced by a FOUR inch nail. Crazy! Adam changed our spark plug, charged up the battery at a nearby mechanic shop (which took 1 1/2 hours), Woody changed his tire, and it was 3pm. Finally, we loaded up and put our helmets on, ready at last. It was then that we found out Woody 's battery had died. Sadly, his bike won 't jumpstart going less than 15-20 miles an hour, and his battery was now strapped in under a whole lot of gear. They tried to push with Peter, then by just running behind and pushing, and finally he unloaded all of his gear and they jumped it. Woody has jumper cables.
So! After all of this we were at last under way. We headed along a little sandy road and were within about 1/2 a mile of the salt 's edge, when Peter 's engine shut down. We couldn 't get it started. Luckily, we were only 9km from town, but after about an hour of trying everything they could think of (I watched and took photos, of course) and with the sun heading downward we decided to head back to Uyuni. Again. Woody had a few lengths of rope and straps and towed us back to the hotel.

Now they are outside on a sidewalk somewhere, getting help from a mechanic who thinks it has something to do with the carborator. It is after 7pm, dark, really extremely cold, and getting colder. Night temperatures are below zero, and I just hope they figure it out soon!

As for me, I am heading to the pub with the salt floor. They have heaters and boozie beverages, and since I can 't help with the motorcycle stuff, it sounds like the best place for me.

If all goes well we 'll finally head out tomorrow and continue South. It 'll be an exciting and rugged road, as we head for the border with Chile at San Pedro de Atacama. I 'll let you know how it works out.

Cheers! Grace (and Adam from his icy little workspace on the sidewalk)


  1. To my Boozy Blonde Daughter in Bolivia and her Boyfriend....Aloha from Maui with all your siblings in tow....Happy 4th of July...Was it a frozen fuel line that was your problem a little alcohol will solve that quickly especially after the condensation from the tropics... Good luck and we are sympathetic to your plight but giggling from your perspective being so cheerful. Love Papa

  2. I'll sure miss you guys when you get home! Love, Auntie P