Day 119 - November 29th

We got on the road at a reasonable hour this morning - about 8:30 - because we had a long travel day ahead of us. No real issues getting the bikes out of the hotel or finding our way... Everything seemed to be working out for us. Nice start to the day.

Driving through the rolling hillsides and long, straight valleys, we saw more llamas and alpacas than probably the entire rest of our lives. And that's saying something, after the last few months! They seemed to be roaming free for what seemed like forever, but upon closer inspection we noticed tags on their ears. So somehow, somebody somewhere manages to keep track of the herd of animals that rules the Bolivian plains. I don't understand how. It was also fun to come around a corner at 100km/h and be greeted by a 5' tall furry animal in the middle of the road that couldn't care less about the impending death that is my motorcycle. On the other hand, some were super skittish and even a quick horn boop sent them scattering. Silly llamas (or alpacas... How can you tell?)

After we got to Challapata (about 1/3 of the day) we had to get money from the ATM. It was almost a slam dunk - one ATM in town, open on Sundays, and easy to find. Perfect. But I tell ya, I have never in my life used a crappier looking ATM, and I probably never will. The screen was shattered and you could barely make out the words on the screen... But it still dispensed cash, somehow. And it had this annoying little "Banco Union" song that was stuck in my head for hours... Overall a negative ATM experience. Hilarious, though.

By far the most intense part of our day happened shortly after Challapata. We came up to a blind corner and saw some cars parked in the middle of the lane. This isn't such a weird occurrence, as people tend to be oblivious all the time, so we proceeded to just drive around them. Right then, we realised why they were parked there. Not 10 minutes before, a semi truck towing gasoline had rolled, taken out the guard rail, and fallen to the valley below.

Immediately we pull over to help out however we can, but with the language barrier we were all but useless. Since it had happened so recently, nobody had made it down to the truck yet to see if he was okay. We could see people going down the valley side, but they were clearly hesitant because of the trailer full of gasoline that could explode at any minute. Finally, a group of two or three younger guys made it, and nearly immediately turned back up the valley side. Apparently the driver had died immediately in the crash and there was nothing anybody could do. Very sad and very intense.

The next three hours of riding was, needless to say, much more cautious. After more ups and downs, we rolled into Uyuni, the home of the Bolivian salt flats. Because we were running low on gas, we pulled up to the station... Only to be in line behind a dozen or so expedition vehicles preparing for the morning drive on the salt flats. They were filling jerry cans and everything too, so it took forever. We also ran into a husband, wife, and baby combo who were travelling overland in a car, who we already met in Boquete, Panama. Crazy small world!

After gassing up, we found a hostel (first try!) that would take us and our bikes: Piedra Blanca. Seems pretty chill so far. The evening was spent planning the last few weeks here in South America, and trying to figure out the best way to get to Chile and see the salt flats and everything. Logistics! What a rush!

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