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|Uyuni To Tupiza
|JULY 24, 2006 MONDAY|
|KOLOB IS FEARLESS LEADER – UYUNI TO TUPIZA|
First a couple of things I have forgotten to mention. . . When we first arrived in Uyuni and started looking for a salt flat tour, Michael stayed at the Unimog and Stephen was going to help him figure out why we had no heat or hot water. When they turned each on to see if it was getting fuel, THEY ALL WORKED!!! Our altimeter showed just under 12,000 ft. I guess this was enough of an elevation drop to make things work. That is a relief. Now the only thing not working is the engine block heater.
This morning it is our FIRST TIME AS DAY LEADER!! The entire trip would be Uyuni to Tupiza, but as this is 200k, I am sure we won’t make it that far on these dirt roads. It is 16 degrees F this morning. Not only does Mel not have heat or hot water, but she barely started, and does not want to run. Mog and K-9 have trouble warming up, too. (We started Kolob 45 minutes before we were to leave, so the engine is nice and warm.) Mike moves the truck to where there is rumored to be WiFi on the street. I get connected for about 3 minutes before we move, but I am able to send some Travel Logs.
While we watch the other 3 driving up a block, U-turn, down the block, U-turn, up the block . . . Michael steps into the Minuteman restaurant to see if we can buy some rolls/bread. The selection at Potosi was slim, as it was late in the day when we went. Although bread is one of the easiest things to buy, it doesn’t seem to be around at convenient times to carry it. Nothing like taking your bread purchase on a mine tour, shopping spree, salt flat ride . . . Chris sells us some FRESHLY BAKED REAL LOAF BREAD!!! This is a treat. The sliced loaf breads have been very hard and dry. So Judy told me to buy these little 4″ round 1″ thick hockey puck breads to use for sandwiches, which when they get too hard you use as individual pizza crusts. So this is special, and it tastes almost like Grandma Marten’s homemade bread!
Another thing was that Chris was going to sell us water for our tanks at 8:00 this morning, when the City turns the water on! There is only water service here for 3 hours per day. We thought this was possible because it was a salt desert and water was very precious. We learn from Chris, when he comes to tell us that the water is still not one yet, that the reason is that when the village did get public water, that the people would just leave the taps running and water would just pour out on the street. The municipality did not want to put the money into installing individual meters, so the people would be responsible for their actual usage, so they chose to regulate it by only allowing 3 hours of water. The businesses fill their tanks and use from it during the day.
One detour before we actually head off to Tupiza, the Train Cemetery. It is about 5 miles outside of town. Since Mel is having problems, we stay with the vehicles to see if we can help. Mick climbs up on Mel and WASHES THE SOLAR PANELS!! Mike decides this is a good thing. He uses our WARM water though and washes ours. He likes the warm water in the freezing cold temp with the blowing wind so much that he decides to wash our windshield, then Mogs, then K-9’s, then Mel’s. We will all appreciate it. That is his service project for the day.
Off we go on the unpaved, unnamed road, but only road to Tupiza. The trip seems very straightforward for the “newbie” day leaders. Stay on this road all day long; find a place to wild camp. Well, it could not be that easy!!! The road is very rough and washboard. After a couple of hours of this, we decide to try the alternate track that we feel that the locals probably drive, BESIDE the road. Yes, much smoother. The only problem is that the entrance and exit are a pretty good dip. Mel and K-9 cannot make the jump. Mog and Kolob use the secondary path whenever we can. We are making 15-20 mph at max!!! (Sometimes only 5-10 mph) Understand why it takes all day to get anywhere??
The Train Cemetery – 24 July 2007
All is fine, then Kolob opts to drive in the riverbed. Why I ask? It”s because there were no new tire tracks in the dirt of the “road”! Michael says that for some reason all traffic had diverted to driving in the riverbed. (I started to ask what the tire tread pattern was of the vehicles, but I thought best not. How does he notice these things?) So we CB to all that we are now diverted to the riverbed “road”. At least it was smoother. We do a few creek crossings. The river is just a trickle this time of winter-dry season. This works fine for a while. Then the tracks leave the river bed and head up the hill/mountain, but paralleling the road we had left. We think that it would eventually dump into the main road, by-passing whatever it was that everyone else was trying to miss. I can see the train tracks to the left, which is how it shows it on the map, so I know we are ok. Then we lose sight of the main road, then the train tracks. Where are we going? Michael is our fearless leader today, and he says his instincts tell him we are still doing right. Up and up we go. Then down and down we go. Now we are in a riverbed again, but where are we? We continue, but tell the group to wait, as we may need to figure out a detour. We see a mining camp or village or something and go to check it out. Just as we leave the riverbed and hit a “road”, on our right we see the REASON FOR THE RIVERBED ROAD . . . the bridge is washed out, IN A BIG WAY!!! There would have been a 20 foot jump to make had Michael not noticed that the traffic had left the road. I don’t think Kolob or Mog could have made the jump, let alone K-9 and Mel!
Up and Up and Up . . . Down and Down and Down . . . into Atocha. Well, what a surprise, the road dumps us onto the train tracks!! and no where to drive!! (a big drop off embankment on 1 side and the town sidewalk on the other.) We tell everyone to stop while we figure it out. We are told that we are correct and that we drive on the sidewalk, through a little slit in the fence, then through VERY narrow streets through a very poor village, and dumps us back out onto beautiful asphalt pavement, WAIT — wrong, that was just a dream — it dumps out into the riverbed!! What a surprise. It is crazy. There are several trucks and 4×4’s just driving through the riverbed like they had good sense. We cannot imagine that this is really the way to Tupiza. Something has got to be wrong, so we confirm with 3 different sources, coming and going, that this is the MAIN road to Tupiza. Directions: follow the riverbed until it splits. Great! We tell Mel that she is going to have to do more riverbeds. She is worried about getting stuck.
OOPS — I forgot to write something. On the 1st day out of Potosi going to Uyuni, we had to tow Mel up a steep hill. We were told to go down a little side area with a flat spot to see if it would be adequate for “parking up” for the night. We think it is level enough, but very dusty and windy. K-9 follows us, then Mel. We all decide it is too windy and miserable with the dust. K-9 does ok out, but Mel just doesn’t have the power at 12,000 feet and a pretty steep grade on soft stuff. So we get to use our tow rope for the 1st time — and it’s not to pull us out, which is good. Because of the altitude, Kolob uses working gears to do the tow to get enough power. No big deal. We didn’t even know Mel was back there, but she was appreciative. She doesn’t like being stuck.
OK, back to the story . . . we are blazing trail on our bumpy dirt road when Stephen calls on the CB asking who sees the water trail being left by someone. Everyone sees it, except us. So, it must be us LEAVING the trail. It does not take much inspection to figure out that the WATER is really DIESEL. Our backup 40 gallon tank has busted a seam. The guys all put on overalls and dive in to help. They salvage what they can in our gas cans. (First time they have been used.) Off we go again.
The scenery becomes very beautiful. There are colorful rock formations all around, something like the US West with white and red sandstones and their windswept shapes, the eroded hills of a rainbow of colors of clay: white, red, brown, gray, purple. We find a place to stay for the night in the shadow of a beautiful rock formation. A great setting for our “mobile garage” which figures out that our empty 40 gallon tank is siphoning from the big tank, and that is why we continued to leave a trail even after we emptied the tank. It is a little like Hansel and Gretel . . . when we pulled off to park for the evening, we were quite a ways ahead of Mel, who just CB’d us to say that they would just follow the trail we left to find where we had parked!
Tomorrow it will be Mel’s turn to lead the gang. We go to the back of the line tomorrow. Good!
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