Kevin and I left Uyuni and started our adventurous ride. Believe me, an adventure it was! The road was wide and fairly well maintained for the first 100 miles.
We arrived in the small village of San Cristobal which was the last place on our route with a gas station. From San Cristobal we traveled toward the southwest for approximately 40 miles. There we took what looked like a dirt track, and according to our GPS waypoints, this was where we where to turn. Keeping in mind that waypoints are only guides so we were not sure if this was the actually place to turn. We spotted a cloud of dust in the distance that was coming our way. So we decided to wait for them to arrive where we where and ask them if this was the correct track/road. As the 4x4 approached I flagged them down and asked the driver if this was the way to Laguna Colorado. He said it was. “Great,” I said, and we rode off. The road turned bad almost immediately. For a 4x4 vehicle the road is not bad to travel on; however, for my GS, which had a full load of gear weighting about 800 pounds, it was completely different.
We traveled on this road slowly and easy, having to focus on the road with no glance at sightseeing. From the top of a hill we could see the first of many lakes. This lake had flamingos hanging out feeding on the microorganisms found in it.
Very small pebbles covered the area around most of the lakes. Each lake seemed to have a different color pebble. When I first saw the pebbles I thought that they were packed tightly, but in fact, they were very loose and the tires on the GS would just sink into them making it very difficult to maneuver. Since it was early and I was still full of energy I said to myself, ‘no problem.’
A few miles later we came to an amazing valley to see from a distance. The valley was mostly loose black pebbles. I tried to travel on top of the 4x4 tracks; however, the tracks at times had center humps that were as high as 12 to 15 inches. Sometimes the rear tire would hit solid ground causing my GS to fishtail. At one point I got into a fishtail that seemed to last forever. I have been told that if you get into a fishtail situation, stay on the throttle. In this case, I was gaining speed and bouncing from rut to rut. I came very close to having a serious crash.
By late morning the 15,000 foot elevation started to have an effect on both of us. It becomes very difficult to breathe, and we were just plain exhausted.
15000 Feet Above Sea Level
While traveling slowly I experienced my first tip-over (fall). The front tire of my GS got caught in a tall center hump. With some effort, Kevin and I uprighted the GS. There was no way that I could have uprighted the GS had I been traveling solo.
At mid-day we took a lunch and water break. We were very close to a landmark that I always wanted to see – “El Arbol de Pierda” (the tree of stone). I had seen photographs of this rock in magazines many years earlier, and when I learned that it was in Bolivia it became a must-see site on my list. To me, it was like seeing the Grand Canyon in person.
After our break we headed out to locate the Arbol de Pierdra. In actual distance we were less than ten miles from the arbol, but in reality it might as well have been 100
miles away. The ten mile section of road had deep sand and very loose gravel. It took us over two hours to travel those ten miles. In addition, I had another tip-over. I was traveling a bit faster than the previous time that I fell. As before, the front tire got stuck in deep sand causing the GS to come to a sudden stop. OVER I WENT! As before, it took both of us a lot of effort to upright the GS.
Arbol de Piedra
We arrived at the Arbol de Piedra and I finally get to see and touch the wonderful landmark.
We were only 6 kilometers from the location we were going to spend the night; however, those last 6 kilometers challenged us hard. The wind picked up and got stronger and colder as the day ended.