Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Tire shopping and a visit to the Black Market

11:42 p.m.

My injuries are kind of like getting hurt in the final game before the World Series. For us riders, the Salar de Uyuni in southwestern Bolivia is one of the big events, the World Series (or World Cup, if you prefer) of South American riding.

Finally overcame my aversion to the bathroom and attempted a shower. There is a small electric heater and shower head unit rigged over the bath tub. There is no curtain, so the water splashes all over the bathroom, puddling on the old linoleum floor. But the water was hot, and felt good.

Afterward, washed laundry in the sink and strung a clothes line across the bathroom.

I was about to head out on another motorcycle shop search, when I checked the rear tire and found it flat again. This time I looked closely and found a tiny hole. Probing it with a knife, I discovered a very thin two-inch nail.

Tried plugging the hole but after destroying one insertion tool and 5 plugs, I gave up. These Metzler tires are tough! But the failure of the BMW tire repair kit is concerning. I’m left with only one plug. (Fortunately, I had brought two kits along...or maybe not, if they don’t work!)

Taxied over to the stadium area. We finally located a shop, "Daci S.R.L. Custom & Chopper”! Signs indicate they work on Honda, Suzuki, Kawasaki, Harley Davidson, Yamaha and BMW. That was encouraging. But they were closed (at 1:00 p.m.) Both the taxi driver and a woman who lives upstairs from the shop assured me they would reopen around 2:00 or 2:30.

Looked for a place to have some lunch, finding “El Motacú Restaurant” a few blocks away. It looked safe, as they were doing a healthy lunch business. Ordered the “Picante de Gallina”. Turned down the yucca and fried banana plate that came out first, opting for bread instead. The chicken was long-simmered, creole-style with rice, potatoes and chuños, smaller, harder, purple-colored dehydrated potatoes. Way too much food, and, with drink and tip, amounted to only $3.

Killed a bit of time at an internet café, then returned to Daci. They were now open. “Edgar” pulled out a Pirelli catalog and identified my only options, then he checked an inventory list for the local distributor. He then called to confirm availability. The only tire they had is a 140/80 R17 (instead of the standard 150/70 R17), which should nevertheless work on my bike. The price, $65. He asked that I place a deposit (100 Bolivianos). He would have the tire tomorrow. It all seemed so refreshingly efficient!

Taxied back to the hotel in the typical circa-1990 Toyota with between 250 and 350,000 miles on the odometer. And I got to enjoy the mindless honking from inside. Less than a dollar for the 15 to 20-minute ride.

Feeling that the "wheels were turning" (pardon the pun), I went out to take some photos; not much else I could do, and I thought it would help take my mind off my truly insubstantial "problems". It was a welcome diversion.

I learned that my neighborhood bordered the hugely-popular Mercado Negro, La Paz's "Black Market" district. A walking tour follows:

This market is NOT earthquake-proofed

Typical La Paz street encounter. The bus is moving; you just have to watch your toes.

Imagine being an electrician here! This is La Paz's Mercado Negro, Black Market district.

Forget carrying extra gasoline. You can carry rum and vodka by the jerry can! (Note the security chain snaked through the handles.)

The Plaza Equino right outside my hotel. The picture is not complete without the sounds and smells.

Shopping for toys at the street marke

Street vendors

Later on, returned to the "Hotel Rosario" to plug in. Advised other riders in the area of my thoughts to head for Arica, Chile, then Santiago. For me it would be unwise to attempt the Salar de Uyuni at this time, and Brad Houghton has told us the window of opportunity there has closed.

Issa Eismont at BMW of SF wrote to say the repair parts I'll need are on their way via DHL. Good news! Issa has helped rescue a number of us in our time of need. (He's planning a round-the-world ride with his wife in a year or so.) Thanks, buddy!

Remained at "Rosario" until closing again. Walking back to the hotel, bought some bottled water (at less than 30 cents for 600ml, this is more like it!)

Returning to the hotel, the couple managing the hotel suggested I bring the bike into the lobby. It’s very dangerous outside, they said. With the rear tire flattened, I crawled it up a step and into lobby.

A rainy, chilly night.

As my energies lately have been sucked up by motorcycle-related issues, I realize the need to re-focus my attention, and avoid this being just a motorcycling exercise. Drew reminded me tonight to contact Doug and Kris, the founders of "Northface" and "Espirit" who have established an 800,000-acre nature preserve near Puerto Montt, Chile.


Drew Kampion said...

So, bro, what exactly ARE your injuries at this point (a period of evaluation having passed)?

Bummer you can't do the Salar de Uyuni, but Arica is a must-see coastal pit, si?

timtraveler said...

Calf muscle is still a major pain. Going downhill it cramps up after 20 steps or so.

I have to be careful with the ribs too. Can't do any serious exertion. It was already a bit difficult breathing at this altitude (10k). Sore ribs just exascerbates the problem.

I understand the ride to Arica from here is wonderful. I don't know about the city. It's in the middle of a desert!

Genevieve said...

Taxied back to the hotel in the typical circa-1990 Toyota with between 250 and 350,000 miles on the odometer.

I remember the taxis well -- and the experience of sharing the taxi with others headed in the same direction -- actually, a sensible way of doing things. One nice thing about taxis in La Paz in the winter was that they had heat (unlike the little hotel rooms we stayed in!)

Anonymous said...

7 comments (relocated here due to post consolidation):

Genevieve said...

The lady who is getting out her money is wearing the typical La Paz bowler hat, but the merchant lady has one that's a little different in style. I hope she's from some other area and I just don't recognize the hat style. I hope they're not starting to wear some sort of cheap Chinese hats or something instead of the traditional bowlers! I would be sorry to see the ladies abandon their jaunty little bowlers.

timtraveler said...


I think it's time for you to visit Bolivia once again! With Evo Morales newly-elected, change is in the air.

Genevieve said...

I don't know if it's a good time to be a Gringo there or not!

timtraveler said...

Just don't be blowing anything up.

Genevieve said...

Isn't it just incredible how they walk around with those huge, heavy loads on their backs -- and the gringos get breathless just carrying our own bodies around?! The native people of the altiplano have larger lungs, hearts, and spleens and more red corpuscles in their blood!

Dicky Neely said...

Ay Chihuahua! Estos photografias son muy buenas! Que fantastico!
Unfortunately I don't have the correct punctuation marks on my computer for Spanish! No upside down exclamation points!...or question marks!..tildes....wavy lines!
Pues, buena suerte y un buen ano nuevo!

timtraveler said...

You crack me up, Dicky!

Happy New Ano to you too!!!