The climb out of San Pedro was steep and unrelenting leaving me unable to surpass second gear. As we rose higher and higher into the mountains snow began to appear at the side of the road and the thin air left us breathless. We had gone from 2400m above sea level in San Pedro to around 4300m before we left the asphalt to wind its way to Argentina and rumbled towards the Bolivian border, which consisted of a shack with a fat official inside.

immigration

It took some convincing but we found a 4×4 driver to carry our spare fuel for us, lightening the load somewhat. We arranged a place to meet and watched his Land cruiser roar off into the distance, we would never see him again.

We were riding on a hardened mud surface that went from bad to worse then back to bad again until we reached Laguna Verde, our first major landmark. It was an ironic perfect blue and reflected the volcanoes and mountains that towered around us in its utterly still surface. Skirting around its northern edge we followed one of many tracks until it eventually took us to a dead end. So early on and we were already lost, our map seemed almost useless in such a mess of options and tempers were almost lost as we disagreed on which way to go, Franklin favouring the “make your own track” theory and me wanting to backtrack and search for more options. Our decision was made as a 4×4 rounded the corner just behind us, indicating the way, those vehicles would soon become our best ally and our worst enemy at the same time.

Snowcapped reflections

overlooking Laguna verda

Following another steep climb, with the bikes gasping for air as much as we were, we stopped for a break and admired the beauty that surrounded us. Moments later, as a roar of engines got louder, three BMW’s joined us on our lookout point. They were Lenny, Marshall and Megan all the way from the states and they greeted us with a warm “howdy”. Each swapping advice an what lay ahead, we found that our map was completely wrong but with a few corrections by Marshall we were back on track. They warned us of wet weather to come and a few river crossings before donating some spare fuel they didn’t need. It was almost a turning point, in my head at least, so many doubts were put at ease with that chance meeting and I continued on with Frank, a lot happier.

descending towards Laguna Colorada

We were headed for Laguna Colorada where a tiny collection of bunkhouses that serviced the 4×4 tours could be found and after a days rattling through the bumpy trail, with the sun almost disappearing behind snowy peaks, its rusty red waters appeared below us, tiny dots of pink that were wild flamingo’s grazing on its surface. So vast an environment we were in, it was the glimmer of tinned roofs that eventually led us to the bunkhouses, with the dust kicked up from distant vehicles confirming our suspicions. The sandy banks of the lagoon proved difficult to traverse, throwing Frank from his bike on more than one occasion but as sand turned to stone we arrived at the buildings, later wangling a bed for the night and even a hot meal.

the red waters of laguna Colorada

wildlife on Laguna Colorada

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