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ABOUT THIS BLOG

In the summer of 2009, Nicolas Rapp decided to take a break from his Art Director job at The Associated Press to attempt a one-year overland travel around the world in a 1996 Toyota Land Cruiser. He was back in New York in February 2011 after traveling 15 months and 37,000 miles.

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  • Beautiful roads of Bolivia

    Posted on March 11th, 2010 Nicolas No comments
    At the Salar de Uyuni

    At the Salar de Uyuni

    When we arrived in Uyuni, I was relieved to be done with the long 250km dirt road coming from Potosi. Little did I know the Bolivian roads kept more surprises from me.
    We stopped in the town to get lunch and immediately after, went to get the truck ready for our trip to the saline.

    Spraying oil and diesel under the truck to counter the salt and water effects

    Spraying oil and diesel under the truck to counter the salt and water effects

    Before you enter this super salty area, you are supposed to get the engine and the lower part of the truck sprayed with a mixture of oil and diesel to avoid electrical shortcuts and rust, which we did.
    We planned on staying few days in the saline, and got all the drinking water we could. We wanted to go 100 km deep in, and spend at least two nights there.

    Entrance of the saline

    Entrance of the saline

    The dirt road to the saline entrance was even worst than the ones we previously used. It sounded like the truck could brake in parts at any moments. Frankly, at this point, driving was not relaxing. There was a last military checkpoint at the entrance where we let our plate numbers and names, in case we disappeared, I gather.
    At first, the road was a bit higher than the water and salt level, but after five kilometers, we were driving on the salt, and there was 30-centimeters of water on top.

    Nadia enters the saline to see how deep is the water

    Nadia enters the saline to see how deep is the water

    It was pretty scary to drive on this unknown material, as at first, you can’t help but be afraid you will get stuck in the soft white substance. But salt is pretty hard, and we gained confidence quickly. Toward the entrance, some people with trucks were collecting salt, and watching us go by.

    Pyramids of salt get ready before arriving on your tables

    Pyramids of salt get ready before arriving on your tables

    The only annoying thing is that there was way too much water on this saline. It probably rained a lot in the previous day, and as we were advancing, water level was going higher. We could not go faster than 30km/h (20mph), and even at this speed, we got salty water splashing above the rooftop. We knew that it is better to visit the saline when there is water, to witness the reflection of clouds and mountains, but how could it be an enjoyable experience in these driving conditions?

    Checking what could possibly be wrong. Everything?

    Checking what could possibly be wrong. Everything?

    Finally, I noticed my oil pressure was going dangerously high. I stopped to check the engine and fluid levels. Under the hood, it was salty as salami. The engine was lacking oil, which was strange, as I was checking the levels almost every morning.

    Driving there is no different than piloting an aircraft

    Driving there is no different than piloting an aircraft

    I topped off the fluid with what was necessary and started again the truck. This time, the pressure was at the lowest possible. I really started to not like the situation. I drove a bit more, and soon, the dashboard began to look like a Christmas tree. Now there was a light on for the automatic transmission oil temperature, a blinking ‘overdrive off’, and the oil level was stubbornly at its lowest level.

    Surprising landscape

    Surprising landscape

    At this point, the electronic was driving loco. I would not care much about it, except it looked like the systems was sending erroneous messages to the engine, which was burning too much oil. So after 20 km on the saline, I decided to turn back to Uyuni, get an engine wash, and see what was up.

    The only way I can go is down

    The only way I can go is down

    Taking back the bad dust road to town and checking the oil level every kilometer, I made it back without problem. The engine temperature was stable, which somewhat helped me trust that the way the engine was working was fine. It was night now, and we took a room in a depressing and dark hotel.
    The following day, I got an engine and car wash, which didn’t change the way my dashboard was acting. To date, it still has the problem, and I am still trying to troubleshoot it.
    The previous night, I spoke to a guy whose work it was too bring tourists to the saline, and he told me what everybody, including the military failed to let us know. There was way too much water on the saline, and all the popular tourist tours there were canceled, or replaced by a simple visit of the site entrance.
    Discouraged, we decided to not go back on planet salt. What we imagined we would do next was to visit the colored lagoon southwest of the town, on the road to Chile. From Chile, we would have reach Argentina and continued our trip. But the guide also told us the road there was simply terrible, worst than the ones we used until now.

    Back on dirt roads

    Back on dirt roads

    That would have been three days of terrible roads, in a truck I was not sure was working well.
    So we opted for another solution. Going southeast by a dirt road that was supposed to be in better shape, and in two days we would be in Argentina, via the Villazon border crossing. The only other solution we rejected would have been to go back to Potosi, and do something I hate and never did so far. Backtrack.
    So after our car wash, we were on our way to Argentina. Always careful, of course, I kept checking the oil level and engine temperature, promising myself to stop in a Toyota garage in Argentina.

    Getting ready for the night

    Getting ready for the night

    After driving few hours, we spent the night in front of a hospital in Atocha. In the morning, we continued our trip on the long dirt road. Altogether, when I will reach the Argentinean border, I would have been on dirt roads for 500km.

    You can still be surprised after thousands of miles

    You can still be surprised after thousands of miles

    But the scenery along the way from Potosi to where we were now had been exceptional. At the end, I was not too sad I spent so little time on the saline, and didn’t see the colored lagunas. It was still a great time to have.

    Driving toward the border

    Driving toward the border

    The goal was now to arrive to the border before night. There, we will replenish in water, gasoline and everything we could, as Bolivia was certainly cheaper than Argentina.

    Hoping that nobody will come from the other side

    Hoping that nobody will come from the other side

    It was still daytime when we arrived there. I rushed to buy some cigarettes (US$ 0.70 a pack!) and we were in line for some paperwork action.  Checking out of Bolivia, canceling vehicle importation, migration in Argentina, and everything looked good for us while we were walking toward the Argentina customs.
    Unfortunately, it was written we would not be able to enjoy the legendary steaks on the night of March 7.
    As we were traveling across all Central and South-American countries, we got used to not worrying about car insurance and other papers that are so important back in Europe or in the U.S. We were driving down the road with no worries, and cops along were satisfied with whatever papers we would show them. Down there, a New York City library card would become a life insurance card, and a subway card and international car insurance.
    In Argentina, it was different. Welcome back to more rigorous laws. They would not let us through without a paper stating we were covered in the country. It was not looking good for my steak.
    Because it was Sunday, there was no way of getting this insurance proof before the following day. So at the end, they just kicked us out of the country. Only for few minutes. On the Bolivian side, the law was stating that to re-enter the country you have to spend at least 24-hours outside. It looked like we would have to spend the night on the bridge between the two countries.

    Back on the Bolivian side for the night

    Back on the Bolivian side for the night

    Bolivia was the first country to make a move to solve what was taking the direction of an international dispute, and allowed us to sleep on the custom parking on their side. I was glad we had a solution before Argentina sent the artillery. The parking was attracting some dubious characters, so we slept in the truck. To avoid being stabbed in the face.
    In the morning, I crossed the border by foot, and went in an insurance office where I purchased liability coverage for US$40. I went back at the border, and an hour after, we were able to go through.

    Never seen such roads since the U.S.

    Never seen such roads since the U.S.

    And there, as soon as we passed the border, we were back on exceptional roads. Good-bye cheap gasoline, we are now back in the modern world, with its good and bad sides…

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51 Responses to “Beautiful roads of Bolivia”

  1. Love your trip! You’re living hard on behalf of all of us.

  2. Marti-Nashville, TN

    Geez.. How in the world could you tell the road from the sky? I believe your ole friend was telling you to turn back, which you heeded. Our old friends take care of when we don’t know any better. Being in stressful situations like that just aren’t worth it, it does get in the way of the fun. At least you got to experience the saline for a short bit. Smokes for US 0.70? I would have bought a whole carton or more. Bet they taste like dirt, but who cares when you want a smoke and a beer. LOL Looks like you will be close to a Toyota garage or in an area where you can get help easier. Be safe and keep the pics and stories coming!

    Marti

  3. This is by far one of the best post in a long time. Also the photos are amazing!! I love the stuff about the car, go landcruiser.

  4. This is so cool what your doing, my teacher is letting us use our class time to see you doig all this. You seem very sharp and smart. My class is wondering on ur first picture, what are you driving on? Is it ice?

  5. Sorry to hear that there was an enormous amount of water on the salar. And that you have opted out on the south route trough Sud Lipez… You simply have to come back to do that route… We´ll make a date someday…

    Keep the rubber side down. And good luck on the perfect tarmac to Buenos Aires..

    Coen

  6. Harvey (Naples, FL)

    Interesting… Seems like you’re going out of your way to make this adventure as challenging (to say the least) as possible on your body, mind and vehicle. It’ll make the book and story telling more lively. No guts no glory!

  7. Harvey (Naples, FL)

    Nick,

    4 months ago you stated on your blog:

    “Nadia… is an old friend from childhood, and decided a few days ago to come with me across South America, or until she runs out of money.”

    Is it asking too much for those of us who are following you with great intensity… For an update on Nadia’s status for the balance of the trip? You know we WANT HER TO GO ALL THE WAY. Some insight please.

  8. Harvey,
    I will elaborate more in my upcoming post, but unfortunately, Nadia will leave the expedition and go spend few month in Rio de Janeiro while I continue my trip to Africa. I will miss her a lot, and hope to be up to the challenge alone.

  9. Oh, one link for Nadia if in Buenos Aires:

    http://www.argentinepost.com/2010/03/the-ny-times-on-vegetarian-food-in-ba.html

    and this then links to this nice site [works world wide]: http://www.happycow.net/

    Adventurous greetings,
    Coen

  10. Loving your updates and the chance to learn about such amazing places. I think I’ve learned more about the world from your posts so far than I ever did in school. Looking forward to Argentina!!

  11. Harvey (Naples, FL)

    Back in 2003, CNN producers, video journalists and correspondents used the a Hummer (the real kind) when they were embedded with the First Battalion, 7th Marines in the war in Iraq. The vehicle came under heavy fire near Baghdad in April 2003. After the war the vehicle was brought back to the US and put on display in CNN Center in downtown Atlanta almost exactly as it was used in the war.

    CNN’s Warrior One, as it has now been dubbed, was refurbished by the crew of TLC’s Overhaulin’ program and is now on a tour of the US.

    This summer, Overhaulin’ took the Hummer to the show’s workshop in Irvine, Calif. Crews overhauled the Hummer’s engine and body. Airbrush artists painted images of journalists and military men onto the vehicle as a tribute to those who served during the war in Iraq or covered the war.

    http://trucks.about.com/od/conceptcars/ig/Warrior-One-HUMMER-Photos/

    You’re going to have to do something with your SUV at the conclusion of the trip and this might be the right place to start… Overhaulin’, Pimp my Ride or Trick My Truck! Something in this area could be the ticket. I’d have my people back in NYC getting in touch with the producers of the show so they can follow along as the trip progresses and have the opportunity to tell your story and preserve the vehicle.

    Just a suggestion!

  12. Hi guys
    I’m proud of you
    Bises

  13. Hey Nick,

    I travelled around the world for a year too and it was the best thing I ever did in my life. I’m really happy to read about your adventures.

    Please write if you want some tips or help, I made a lot of friends from all over the world that can help you out.

    Best of luck!

  14. Harvey (Naples, FL)

    Your picks are GREAT ! but you’re not alone…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eZjDzCDaNtc

  15. Incroyable ces paysages ! C’est toujours un plaisir de te suivre.
    Lucio est en Argentine lui aussi.
    Bonne continuation Le Punk !

  16. Can’t wait to read about the steaks!

  17. So I just wanted to say that I think what your doing is incredible! Just the fact that you have the opportunity to say that you have seen the world first hand is an amazing accomplishment! My sister went back packing through Europe but it was NOTHING compared to this! I hope one day that I will be able to take such an adventure! Keep the pictures coming and make sure to keep yourselves safe! Hope the rest of your journey has any more surprises in store!

    – Jamie (Houston, TX)

  18. Wow! What a trip! I’ve taken the liberty of posting a link to you on our website. (See CuriousChristian’s Favorite Finds on left menu.) I’m a chaplain and devotional writer, so I’ve also started praying for your safety (and provision.) We have readers in over 150 countries, so I’ll be telling them to look out for you, and to help you, where they’re able. We don’t have many in South America, but we’re well-represented in Africa, Asia and Europe. Here’s hoping our readers make a fitting and helpful impression on you as you go! God bless you both. Was sorry to hear Nadia’s dropping off in Rio, but I’m confident you can press on, Nick.

  19. Debbie Johnson Roig

    Hello,
    I have been following your trip since you started. I am totally amazed at what you are doing..What made me interested in this, is that my son lives in New York City and when I read this is where you are from…it just caught my eye. Now I cannot stop reading about your trip. I love the pictures and look for new ones all the time. Please be safe..This is an incredible trip that you are doing.
    Debbie

  20. Good luck with going it alone! As much as you have been through I am sure it was great to have someone along to share the burden! Are you going to post all of your pictures you gave taken somewhere once you get back? I am sure there have been more taken then what you get to post on here!

  21. Read an article about your trip on msn a while ago and have been looking forward to your posts. Good luck, hopefully one day I can see some of the beautiful places that you have seen on this journey.

  22. Bon chance! Stay safe. Have the time of your life!

  23. I think it’s awesome on what you are doing! I acctually am in a World Languages class in college, and I stumbled upon your story, and I was hoping to ask you some questions, because I was wanting to write a paper about what you are doing. If you could please e-mail me, I want to ask you some questions about the linguistic encounters throughout your trip so far, and what cultural ecounters you’ve had so far. Thank you!

    Rachel

  24. Finally a blog that is worth reading and keeping up with. I find your trip fascinating. However, this is a trip that I am not sure I have the balls to take. However, it seems like you have done a great job at preparing for the trip. And it also, seem as if luck has been on your side. Bottom line, keep up the great job of blogging and I will pray that your luck continue for you on this trip.

  25. Love the blog, Nick! I’ve read everyone so far and am always looking forward to reading about more of your adventures on the road. I’m extremely envious and wish I could embark on such a trip. You and Nadia take care and be safe!

  26. To Nadia and Nick

    Welcome to Argentina.From Vicente Lopez ,Buenos Aires ,my best wishes for the rest of your expedition.You have nearly 2000 Km until Buenos Aires a lot of nice places to visit are waiting for you.Will you drive up to the “end of the World” , Ushuaia ?
    Let me know anything I can help you.
    Waiting for your answer I remain with the best regards.
    Post data, be carefull with your things at Tucuman ( specially) , the People is very nice and they will not do anithing that can damage you, but keep both eyes on your car, your camera, etc,etc, I remember a couple of French on a motorcycle ( doing a trip as you are doing right now )that lost all the photos they took because a thieve at Tucuman City.It was not an armed robbery.Just keep your eyes open wide….

  27. Nick and Nadia,

    Hope all is well. I’m a big fan and have been following since you started. One of these days I will donate some gas money! Can’t wait for the next update.

    Mike

  28. I happened upon your story in our local paper and have been following you and Nadia all the way. I am sorry that Nadia is leaving. I will be praying for your safety. You are living a lot of peoples dream! Have fun, stay safe, and God speed.

  29. keep up the good work. you are doing a amazing thing. i hope everything works out for the best. i cant wait to see how Africa goes. good luck nick!!

  30. Because you were not in venezuela

  31. love your blog and adventures .take good care and enjoy. best wishes!

  32. Nick,
    I read your story in our local newspaper this morning. I admired your courage and strong determination. I’m very sure with your positive attitude and perseverance, you will make it a success! All the best to you and looking forward to your next post!

  33. Great story and beautiful pictures as usual. Let me know when you can talk to us. We have Coen scheduled for this Sunday.

  34. I’m from Argentina and live in California right now… Never knew you could drive to Argentina from NYC.
    This is amazing! You know how to live your life to the fullest and I’m happy for you!
    I will keep enjoying your nice stories and good luck in your trip!
    Have fun =)

  35. Hola Valerie, Hola Nick, les cuento que en el 2003 , un Citroen con dos tripulants uno Argentino , viajó desde La Plata ( Buenos Aires -Argentina )hasta Canada.

    http://www.doscaballos.org/article270.html

  36. Hola Nick, en honor a un par de Argentinos que llegaron en un viejo Citroen hasta USA saliendo de Argentina y murieron en un camino interestatal atropellados por un camion.

    http://www.lanacion.com.ar/nota.asp?nota_id=142200

  37. Hello Nick, let me post this message in memorial of two Argentinians (Julio Bolde y Alejandro

    Domínguez) who died on june 1999 on USA after driving their old Citroen from Argentina .

    They died on the Highway I-95 -South Carolina.

    Photo of Julio Bolde and Alejandro Dominguez and their old Citroen 3CV model 1971.

    http://www.lanacion.com.ar/nota.asp?nota_id=142200

  38. Nicolas, you are doing something that many of us dream about but don’t have the guts to do. You are doing good work with your photos and your writing. I have been following your story from the start and look forward to each posting you make. Good luck ! Keep on trucking !

  39. Joanne in New Jersey

    Following you since the beginning – admire your guts! Keep going and be safe!

  40. Hi! I am getting worried! No entries on the blog for more than a week. Are you OK?

  41. I love what you have set out to do. Good Luck on your trip and God speed to each of your destinations! Love the pictures and the stories. I hope one day you will write a book about your travels. Keep the good stories and the wonderful pictures coming and best of luck to your adventure!

  42. I found you blogg while surfing the net wondering what it would be like to drive around the world….and i found you. What a great adventure your’e doing something that a lot of people would like to do but there’s always something or someone that stops you….Good luck and I’ll be following you all the way….albeit from my office chair… By the way why didn’t you include Australia in you trip??…..your going to be so close its a pity you won’t get to see our part of the world…Keep safe

  43. Hi Nick: I read about your need for a ship from Buenos Aires to Africa. Maybe we might be able to assist. We own a ship. You can reach me at opsmarine@gap.ca .

  44. I have been following you since before you left NY and I always look forward to your blogs and pictures. I use goggle earth to follow where you’ve been and have learned alot about other countries. My grandson asks “are you still stalking the guy on the computer?” Ha, Ha. Good-bye to Nadia and you take care now that you will be traveling alone.

  45. Hi nick, i’m really happy that u have changed u r route and used east africa route instead. I’m from Kenya and trust me , u’ll enjoy the route.I’m folllowing u r blogs since day 1. nice pics. have a wonderful trip

  46. Hi Nick, glad to see you are passing through Nairobi. Like Abdi said you will enjoy Kenya. Safe Travel!

  47. Driving on the salt I bet was hairy- so glade you didn’t get stuck. You did a great job in this bog so we can experiance the thrill of it all. So glade you both are safe and bcak on the road.

  48. Hi there Nicolas- what a great trip you are attempting to do- and have covered alot already. We lived in S. Africa (Empangeni), Zululand, 20 miles west of Richards Bay,and are from Zimbabwe originally. We reside in the USA now in TN.

    I would hope you might try and go to a game reserve while you are going through S. Africa or there are a couple in Zululand-they are well worth the visit, and you can drive through yourself.
    There are hippos, lions, elephant, buck (deer), cheetahs, wildebeast. You can even spend a night there.
    You will find the trip through S. Africa very pretty. Enjoy! Keep us posted, wish you well.
    Gill Vosloo

  49. Great article and beautiful pictures! I see you have an amazing trip! Wish you Good luck and all the best in your journeys!

  50. […] while we’re on the subject of salt, have you been following the Trans World Expedition blog I posted about in November? Well, he recently drove his now-decrepit Land Cruiser through the […]

  51. I’m very entertained by this blog, and envious of Nick for having the courage (or maybe youthful crassness) to take this voyage. I have two questions that are burning in my mind; 1. Why would you consider to undertake a journey for your own satisfaction without sufficient funds of your own to complete it, relying instead on begging for gasoline handout money? 2. Why, then do you not demonstrate the courtesy of taking time to personally reply to at least some of your supporters’ questions and comments on your blog?