Tupiza: El Cañon | Home | Salt Plains: Sent to Siberia

16 April 2006

Salt Plains: Mechanical Problems

Day 193 - Friday 31st March 2006

After nipping into Tupiza town to get some breakfast (a pastie type thing named a Salteña) we loaded our packs onto the waiting 4×4 whichwould be our transport for the next 4 days for our trip to the Salt Plains. Things started slowly. The driver made a few stops picking up last minute provisions and obtaining our tickets for the National Parks which we would be visiting. We left town via a track on yet another dried up river bed, bumping our way along the gravelly surface.

el sillar

Only 10 minutes after leaving town our driver wasn’t happy with the way the jeep was running so made some roadside repairs thereby delaying us a little more. Once we were back up and running we continued along the riverbed before climbing out onto a dirt track (there are no paved roads in the south of Bolivia) and steadily climbing the hills that lead us out of the valley. Tupiza lay 2,950m ASL and we climbed way above that as were snaked backand forth along the trail. As we reached a gorge named El Sillar we stopped for the first photo opportunity of the day - the rocks rose like pillars out of the ground and the valley dropped sharply below us.

As we left the gorge behind we reached the Altiplano and the landscape completely altered, from rocky valleys to grassy plains. In the distance lay other mountain ranges climbing to around 5,000m ASL. By the time we had crossed the altiplano and decended a little it was time to stop for lunch on another great grassy plain in a valley.

From this point on the day turned into a nightmare. We broke down again just after lunch, the wheel went wrong and we had to wait for a part frok the next 4×4 to pass. All in it took about 90 minutes to get back up and running. About 20 minutes after that we reached a mirador and realised that one of the other trucks wasn’t with us and that it had also broken down, so someone went back to help them out.

By this time it was getting pretty chilly up on the plains and instead of wandering around outside we all bundled into the jeep out of the biting wind to wait for the other jeep. By the time we got started we were making bets on how long it would be before we broke down again. 45 minutes was the winner, although it wasn’t us and it was only a short stop of 20 minutes. By this time it was getting a bit beyond a joke and as it got dark and colder, the worst was yet to come.

Just after dusk was were chugging along nicely when KAPOW (technical term), huge bang from underneath our jeep and we ground to a shuddering halt. We looked at each other timidly and there were mutterings of ‘here-we-go-again’ . When we tried to get moving agian therewas no response and it was clear something major had gone wrong. We couldn’t get above 10mph without the huge grinding noise and shuddering and we thought the clutch had gone. Never a good thing when we were 80 miles from our bed in a jeep on the freezing altiplano where temperatures can drop to -30 Celcius.

Earlier in the day we had treated the breakdowns as a bit of a joke but now they were just tiresome and getting more and more problematic. The prospect of spending anight in the jeep didn’t really excite anyone as we plundered along at less than 10mph. After an hour we reached a small settlement and the drivers of the jeeps went of to have a conference with the locals to decide the best course of action.

with nothing to do but sit and wait it out we sat in the car and tried to be upbeat. The other two carscontinually came andspeculated to us about what was going to happen which annoyed me as they were just stirring shit. Not wanting to get involved in the speculation we shut and locked the doors and ignored the rumours that were flying about.

A good while later the driver returnedand we were informed we would be staying the night in this village, and the locals were preparing beds for us at that moment. Relieved and most of all grateful for the local hospitality we began chatting to the locals who had begun to hang around us.

Absolutely exhausted and eternally grateful for the warmth of welcome from the village (they even opened the local hospital for our cook to use as a makeshift kitchen) the weight of not knowing was lifted and with it so were our spirits. It was an amazing gesture and it was not complusory for them to offer us a room and a bed each, but as we thanked them profusely we knew we had struck lucky once again.

7 Comments on 'Salt Plains: Mechanical Problems'

  1. Still in La Paz, had a few nights out and been trekking, going up to Lake Titicaca tomorrow then into Peru in the middle of the week.

    Hope everyone is well. Ciao.

    Posted by Roy on:
  2. Wednesday 19 May 2006

    Dear Roy

    Your Dad popped in earlier today and is looking very well and is as bright and chirpy as he has ever been. Hopefully the recent health scare is nothing but that and will become a distant memory.
    He told us about your world trip and we are all envious as it is a cold and overcast day here in Newmarket and thousands are paying to watch horses run across the glorious heath.

    My son Todd finishes his A levels in June and is taking a gap year as he didn’t get into the Guildhall School of Music and Drama (only 24 places available and thousands apply)so I might just pack him off to meet up with you somewhere if he intends to travel as he says he would like to do.

    Keep well and we look forward to following your progress on the web site.


    Newmarket, Suffolk.

    Posted by Rick Bridgland (Rapido Horse Services) on:
  3. Hi Mate,

    Simone & I are at Roz and Ian’s at the moment. Roz told us about your passport and stuff. Hope you can get it sorted and you don’t have to bring your ugly mug home too early!!! Keep safe.

    Love Chris & Simone

    Posted by Flan on:

    has he lost his passport or something

    Posted by SMITHY on:
  5. royster59, good to hear your still kicking it-bolivia is the best country i reckon, you’d best be off to ride the most dangerous road in the world soon…i’m back home now, the rats are all wondering how the devil you are doing so please oblige us with a little something something on the email. ta mate…have a good trip amigo

    Posted by EL MONG on:
  6. Heard what happened mate, hope you sort things and don’t have to call time and disapoint all those chicks in Rio!!!!!

    Posted by OC on:
  7. Realy? That’s 74854 crazy!!

    Posted by Kroov Hamuts on:

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