Bob’s (not) Your Uncle

Simon

Uyuni – Bolivia

The road to Uyuni

We were on our way to Uyuni to see the Salar de Uyuni, the largest salt lake in the world.  The day started with a few small hills (by Bolivian standards anyway) then the road turned onto a huge open plain. The road was very rutted, with large rocks and loose sand, indeed, in some areas, it was better to venture off into the adjacent scrubland. We had taken 55km off what we expected to be a 100km day. It was around 3:00, the sun was very hot and the land around was arid and desolate.

Ferg shouted up to me, “big problem!”. One of the steel members on his Bob trailer had snapped. It was indeed a big problem, the break had occured at the main  pivot, a critical point on the trailer, which meant that the trailer was unusable.

Marina offered to get a lift to Uyuni with the broken trailer so Fearghal could finish off the leg, and keep our pedalled line around the World intact (for our circumnavigation, we need to cycle continuously across the lands). Grand I thought, we’ll just wait for the next car, van, truck or bus to come along. But this is Bolivia, and so, despite the fact that this was a relatively major road, between two pretty big towns there was not a sinner on the road, barring a few laamas. We waited and waited in the searing heat with no shade and feeling very isolated. Two hours, a few crosswords and lots of sunburn later, a bus came along, and with much luggage relocation, we managed to get Marinas bike and the damaged trailer into a slightly too small luggage compartment.

We sped off, keen to finish the last 45km before sunset. We passed sand dunes, wierd mushy green plains and a huge herd of llamas. With only 10 km to go, we were knackered, the rutted roads and sun exposure had taken their toll and our speed was dropping, at last though, we saw Uyuni. With renewed strength we pedalled on, until I suddenly felt the back end of the bike go loose. To my amazement and horror, I found that I had snapped my trailer in exactly the same place as Fearghal. After 5000km, both trailers had broken within 30km of each other.

Fearghal cycled into Uyuni with the aim of getting a taxi to collect me. As I was lying by the road in complete darkness, a van came along, passed me, then screeched on the brakes. The guys jumped out, they thought I was in an accident. I tried to explain what happened, they offered to give me a lift, so we lashed the bike and trailer onto ther already overloaded pickup van, then headed to Uyuni.

Our welder at work

After a couple of days getting over the dreaded stomach monsters, Marina and I went to get the trailers welded. The guys there make stalls and mend ancient cars so it wasn´t exactly precision engineering. The teenager who welded our precious trailers was in shorts, wore no safaty goggles, even while welding or grinding (when hot sparks fly about the place) and their young kids were wondering around, playing among the various tools and bits of scrap metal. He inadvertantly melted the main bearings on Fearghals trailer, but after a lot of searching and a bit of adjustment, we got two skateboard wheels to fit nicely. It took 3 hours and a lot of nervous energy, but we finally got the joints repaired and strengthened, by adding a steel gusset plate to each joint.

With both trailers sorted, I went out to where mine broke and cycled the 10km back into town. On the way in I stopped for a burger and salchipapas (frankfurter and chips). I sat by the side of the road, safe in the knowledge that I have a continuous tyre track across the lands, all the way from Ireland.

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3 thoughts on “Bob’s (not) Your Uncle

  1. Great report. I must say that there is nothing like a broken bit of equipment to make you realise that you are just a pair of underpants away from disaster! Have you invested in any duct tape yet! I have a tee-shirt that shows an empty loo roll and the caption reads: ‘what would Mcgyver do?’ – I’ll post it out to you if you want!

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