San Pedro de Atacama
We arrived in SPDA (as I like to call it) on New Years eve and checked into a hostel. This town is a base for the many tour companies entering Bolivia and going up to the Sala de Uyuni. Its a small town with about 5,000 inhabitants with narrow dirt streets with dozens of resaurants, tour companies and tourist shops. Like all these places, there is a square with a nice little church though this one is lined with pepper trees, so something to go with the salt lakes then.
All the restaurants were doing a set meal for New Years eve so we booked up at one but it was so warm in there we ended up back at the hostel before midnight which we toasted with one or our bottles of pisco sour. We did however wander into the streets to watch the locals,all dressed up in their sunday best, setting fire to effigies of what looked like back packers on street corners.
On New Years day, we booked up a 4 day jeep tour to the Uyuni salt lake and then rode south to Laguna Miscanti, which sits at about 4,200m. On the way, the corrugations on the dirt road vibrated Michelle's chain off so we had to spend a bit of time sorting that out though I was a bit surprised none of the busses going passed had stopped to ask if she needed any help before I found her. I had seen an overland bike and a landrover parked by a canyon before I turned back to look for Michelle but by the time we came passed again, they had set off. I caught up with the biker as the landy was driving a bit slower and we stopped to chat. The biker turned out to be Martina, a german woman who Michelle had emailed months ago about buying her DR650, a small world indeed. She has beed travelling around the Americas for the last 5 years, while her boyfriend in the landy was half german, half scottish and had been travelling around the world for the last 9 years, the first 4 on a bike and the rest in the landy which was kitted out to sleep in. As I previously mentioned, plans can change on a daily basis while travelling, as we looked at the grimaces on their faces after telling them of our plan to do a jeep tour of the Uyuni, we knew that we would be changing our plan. I was buzzing with enthusiasm after speaking with these guys as they had so much good information and were so positive about doing it, we pretty much had no choice.
The next couple of days were spent doing some bike maintenance. I got round to replacing my fork seals while we did Michelle's valve clearances. That turned out to be not so simple as it needed smaller shims, which aren't too available in these parts. We ended up geeting the old ones ground down in Calama and worked till 11pm getting the KLR put back together. There was a big cheer from our new dutch friends at the hostel as it fired up first time and sounded great. We finished so late that we will put off heading into bolivia until saturday and will spend a day just catching up on diarys and laundry as I expect it will be some time till we see one again.