Week 29 - The toughest week yet as we tackle the infamous Lagunas route in to Bolivia
Through the Atacama and in to the Andes
2 countries. 780 miles. 38 hours on the road..
This week we pushed the ourselves and the sidecar (quite literally) further than we have ever been before on the incredibly tough Lagunas Route from Chile to Bolivia.
The week kicked off with some really easy, great driving from Caldera to San Pedro de Atacama. We still had our fuel problems on route which after much trial and error we finally fixed. It turned out to be a clogged up fuel filter as many of you had thought - huge thanks for all of the advice. We cleaned out the filter in San Pedro de Atacama and embarked on what would be the toughest ride of our lives North to Bolivia.
The first day was just a short crawl for 25km as we climbed from 2,400m above sea level to 3,500m where we pitched the tent for a night of acclimatisation looking over the incredible Salar de Atacama. It was a freezing cold night with sub zero temperatures and sub standard camping kit but it wasn't a bad view for some morning porridge.
From here we drove another 40km to the Lagunas route where the tarmac disappeared and was replaced by 300km's of thick gravel, rocky road and absolutely unrelenting washboard. We thought it would be a relatively straight forward journey as we planned to miss the high altitude sights and take the best bit of road through to Uyuni. Unfortunately, it didn't prove that easy as the Bolivian customs check point is at the top of the national park, over 5000m above sea level! We had to check our vehicle in to Bolivia so this meant we had to take one of the toughest routes the park has to offer.
Still in high spirits we figured that it couldn't be that bad so we kicked off our drive with a detour to see the Laguna Verde. It wasn't worth it. The track was designed for 4x4s and we found ourselves getting off and running alongside the bike on the uphill and standing on the side of the sidecar, clinging on for dear life, on the down hill. In fact, it was so bad that Reece was thrown from the sidecar at one point. He took a full tumble along the road but fortunately was wearing all of the right gear and didn't get a scratch. The lake was green though to be fair - it's well worth a visit but take a 4x4 not a scooter and sidecar.
After the Green Lake debacle, we vowed not to go off the main track again and for about 30km it was plain sailing right up to our next checkpoint, the thermal baths at the Laguna Salada. These were complete and utter bliss. Chilled to the absolute core the night before and battered by high winds all morning, these pools could not have been more welcome. They cost just a dollar to jump in and we stayed there for about an hour, toasty warm and watching the local wildlife over the lake.
But the pools were where the fun stopped and the biggest challenge of our lives began. We turned off the main track to head to the customs check point and had to climb another 1500m or more up a really bad stretch of road. We spent the next few hours running and hiking alongside the scooter as it just managed to pull itself and the bags up the road. This, with no acclimatisation and awful fitness levels, was absolutely shattering. We arrived at the checkpoint at 17:30 which was surely too late and we were convinced we'd be attempting to camp in gale force winds at over 5000m where temperatures would drop to something like -15. Amazingly, they were open and we were welcomed inside to sign in to Bolivia.
Next we had a decision to make, we could go back the way we came to the main road, camp at the pools and then continue on, or we could press on to the Laguna Colorada - the Red Lake. The Red Lake was a new thing to see and although it meant taking a worse road, it meant getting physically closer to Uyuni, so we took the risk. We raced down hill to 4300m above sea level and found a kind of hostel/local persons house to seek shelter. This was very welcome, we arrived there just after dark and it was well below zero outside. We had a bowl of hot broth, got our heads down and tried to sleep off the nausea and the headaches the altitude were causing.
The following morning we faced the worst road imaginable. A mixture of deep gravel, inclines and brutal washboard. We pushed, ran and cursed our way through 200km of hell before finally reaching the main road to Uyuni. We drove the last 100km down the road to Uyuni, riding pillion because the sidecar was basically dragging along the floor having taken so many knocks in the morning.
We got to Uyuni, checked in to an okay hostel, ate a massive meal and sat and thought about how much of a mistake that trip was. - we had cracked our sidecar wheel, snapped 2 out of 5 sidecar joints, lost a panel of the scooter, ripped off the underside of the bike, broke the radiator guard and worst of all lost all of our pictures of the amazing landscapes as Reece had his phone stolen.
Thankfully we've found a couple of guys who know a thing or two about fixing stuff and should be back on the road tomorrow, heading North towards Peru.
Enjoy this weeks video - it's ridiculous.
Week 29 - the Lagunas Route by scooter and sidecar
The Motorcycle Action Group is launching a campaign to persuade the media to stop referring to those committing crime on motorcycles or scooters as 'bikers'.
How often do we see news reports describing dangerous "biker" gangs doing wheelies down residential roads, terrorising local residents, snatching mobile phones or robbing jewellery stores? The reports come out daily. The reality, as any biker knows, is that the individuals carrying out these acts are normally on stolen machines and often have no licence, no insurance, and no understanding of what a biker really is.
Lazy media coverage and poor editorial rigour is reinforcing all the negative stereotypes with which motorcyclists have always been branded to a point where it seems that the mainstream press see the terms "biker" and "criminal" as interchangeable.
"Legitimate law-abiding bikers are fed up with being associated with criminal behaviour" says Colin Brown, MAG's Director of Campaigns & Political Engagement. "We have to work extremely hard to improve the public and political perception of bikers; the last thing we need is to be branded as, or associated with, the criminal elements of society. Lazy use of language has an enormous and subconscious detrimental impact on public perception. We are often viewed as intimidating faceless people because we have to wear helmets and safety gear, but the vast majority of us are friendly, warm, caring members of society."
MAG has begun its campaign to educate and edify news editors and reporters by writing a formal letter to the Director General of the BBC, Tony Hall. In the letter signed by National Chairman, Selina Lavender, it was explained that not all bikers are criminals, and therefore the term should not be used to describe criminals. In his response, the DG said: "You make some important points …. I will let our News and programme teams know of the work that you and the Motorcycle Action Group are doing"
MAG will be formally writing to the editors of any news media, be they local or national, online, newspapers, radio or television stations, pointing out examples of poor use of terminology and requesting that they refrain from referring to these "crims" as bikers. Any publication responding and cleaning up their act will then be recognised, celebrated and may be nominated for MAG's Media Award.
Week 28 | Countries | Miles 560 | Hours on the road 17
Were back on the road and for the first time on the trip were heading north!
After two weeks of waiting for the bike in Santiago we managed to fit a new clutch and get the roof welded back on in a day. Everything went nicely to plan and we were a couple of hundred kilometres north of Santiago before we hit our first bump in the long road to Alaska. Fuel problems again!
The bike was dying as we were going along just as it did in South Africa. We knew that the problem was probably dirty fuel as it had been before so we set about siphoning the existing fuel out and replacing it with nice new stuff. Having never siphoned anything before we spent 3 hours or so drinking petrol before saying it'll do. It didn't. Another 100km's in to the next days drive and it happened again. We were in the middle of the desert so we just pulled in and tried to fix it again. This time we left no stone unturned and even took out the fuel pump to siphon the last few puddles out. We then wiped out the bottom of the tank with an old As Seen From The Sidecar T-shirt (they're incredibly multi-functional) and found a load of dirt and even a piece of wire. We thought that had done the trick but sadly our petrol drinking days aren't over yet...
That night, after spending a while on fixing the bike we decided to just wild camp in the desert and set off again the following morning. It was a fantastic spot for a wild camp. Completely in the middle of nowhere, behind a massive dune that sheltered us from the wind. We should have spent the night asking each other what that noise was but instead, we spent it trying to get cooking oil off most of our kit after the bottle split in the sidecar during the ride. It had been a fairly unsuccessful day but tomorrow would be a new one - it wasn't...
We woke up in the clouds which ruined the sunrise but was kind of cool and we decided to do some drive by shots. They went fairly well but then just as we were packing away we realised that there was petrol pouring out of the bottom of the scooter. We rushed to grab the tools to try and save the petrol and in our hurry knocked the camera off the roof and broke our best lens. We pressed on to try and save the fuel regardless and found it pouring out of the fuel pump. We must have broken a seal when we tried to fix the power problem!
We quickly used our new siphoning skills to save most of the fuel, only filled the tank up half way so it wouldn't reach the seal and drove 70kms to the nearest town to find a mechanic. It was a Sunday. Everything was closed. So we drove a bit further up the coast to a hostel and sat down to wait for it all to blow over. Yesterday we went to a mechanic who, after much trial and error (and more siphoning), managed to get our seal to hold...for now.
As soon as it was on we set off North again and managed to get four hours of incredible driving through the Atacama desert in before.... the bike lost power again... All of that for nothing!
Here's this week's update video, catch you next week as we attempt to hobble over the Andes with a scooter in need of some real TLC just four days in to our South American trip...
Well. That's the end of an era. Arsène Wenger has managed his last Arsenal home game the the Emirates Stadium.
After 22 years he has decided to leave the club.
For some fans the #wengerout hashtag has been their main cause. Why support the club you profess to love and then constantly want to see games lost so that the manager/coach is sacked or leaves?
Admittedly the decade since we last won the Premier League hasn't been the success that fans got used to. many of these "fans" only came to Arsenal because along with Manchester United we won trophies year in year out.
In 22 years Arsène Wenger led us to 7 FA Cups, two doubles (FA Cup & League Championship) as well as the 2003/04 season when we became the only club in the modern era to go a whole season unbeaten - a total in the end of 49 league games without loss. There are 38 games in the Premier League season!
Photo by Neill Devall - my phone locked up at this moment!!!
"The Invincibles". Only one other club has done this and that was Preston North End in 1888!!!
Over the years Arsène has acted as the buffer between the outside world and the players. Even at their worst he always tried to be positive and that along with the same protection he gave to the board of directors, headed by US billionaire Stan Kroenke, is his downfall. Kroenke is seen by many fans as nothing more than a carpetbagger. He came along and bought a majority share holding as the rats with shares saw the $ signs flash up in the eyes.....
Everyone expected the kind of spending madness that Abramovich brought to Chelsea and Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan has undoubtedly done at Manchester City. Instead the business plan is to make money not spend it.
Both the aforementioned clubs were mediocre performers. Simply Google what silverware was in the trophy cabinets before and after billionaire buy-outs? Chelsea went 50 years between league wins, but then the money poured in and the club suddenly started winning trophies almost every year since. Coincidence?
So all that has added up to the glory hunters wanting rid of Arsène Wenger. Now they have their wish and we will never see the like again.
Let's hope we don't have the same problems that Manchester United had when Sir Alex Ferguson, undoubtedly the greatest and most successful manager in English football, retired.
"Free" t-shirt at home!
Selfie. Me and Helen
What of the game itself? Arsenal sitting in 6th place (out of 20) in the table were at home to the team in 7th place. A win for the visitors, Burnley FC, would see them equal on points but still behind on goal difference. In the end a vastly changed Arsenal side from the one that lost 1-0 in the Europa League to (favourites) Atletico Madrid on Thursday evening played like the Arsenal we have all (even the #wengerout tossers) come to see and even to expect. Running out 5-0 winners. Why did they perform on the day? For Wenger? For us? Or for the pride that beating a rival will bring? Who knows. But 5-0 was a decent score to end the home season.
Almost forgot. We all got a "free" t-shirt on our seats. We went down early to get ours in case they disappeared. In the end the guy and his lad that sit next to us didn't show up and so we purloined their's too. Neill and I have two shirts each....