Like the city of Zacatas, Mexico, Potosi is a major silver producing city with a 500 year history. It sits at an elevation of 12,800 feet, making it Bolivia’s highest city.
As I arrived in Potosi a heavy rain started falling. The city had cobblestone streets and water raged down the streets as if a river. As I searched for a place to stay for a couple of days I tried not to stress over the fact that the cobblestones can become very slippery when wet and very difficult to maneuver.
As soon as the rain stopped the city came to life once more. I needed to replace the street tires with the knobby tires because from this point on I would travel on gravel, dirt, and sand. I need to locate a Llantero (tire shop) to do that job. The normal routine was that I would remove the tires from the GS and the tire shop would swap the tires and I would reinstall them.
When I arrived at the hostel where I was staying, I started to unload the GS when I heard a sound that only a BMW person recognizes. That was the sound of another Boxer motor!! I walked out onto the street to investigate and rediscovered my lost German friends Frank and Gaby whom I had lost track off a week earlier.
After cleaning up and relaxing in my room for a while I decided to wonder the streets of Potosi. I met up with Frank and Gaby for dinner. We traded stories of bad roads and the side adventures we took. At dinner we were joined by another German traveler named Silke.
For some time I had been studying a road that ran from Potosi to Uyuni and from Uyuni to San Pedro de Atacama. From the information that I had gathered this road would be a very tough ride on a heavy GS like mine. The road is located in the middle of nowhere, with no real maps, no road signs, no fuel, and no help if needed. It, however, has some of the most beautiful and spectacular landscapes in the world. For many years I have been dreaming of riding this area. I knew my limits and the conditions that I would encounter. Frank and Gaby had ridden the Potosi to the Uyuni section of road. They fell off their bike a couple of times and their comment was “never again.” Silke had just crossed the Atacama Desert in a 4X4 with a tour company and was very honest about the conditions as well. Her comments were “not easy,” “very easy area to get lost,” and “no one out there to assist you should you need help.” So with those words of encouragement I told myself that I would study the course and the matter a bit longer.
My dilemma was that coming to and riding this area of Bolivia was one the main factors for me making this journey. I really did not want to pass up the opportunity now that I was so close. Besides I had just put the knobbies on the GS and I needed to ride on dirt somewhere.
Adventure traveler, Silke