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21st December 2001 - 10.15 GMT

Pozo Almonte - Mining Camp Collahuasi - Ollague



Pozo Almonte - Sta Laura - C4





C4 - Pozo Almonte - Km 20 - C5





C5 - Km 45 - C6





C6 - Km 90 - C7





C7 - Mine Camp Collahuasi





Collahuasi - Estacion Yuma - C8





C8 - Coska - C9





C9 - Ollague - Chiguana - C10



Left Pozo after some shopping including three "Savoy Crazy" Ice creams and set out in a very moderate pace to the ghost town of Humblestone and the near industrial monument Santa Laura, an old fabric to concentrate sulphur. The wind was very strong and once more I felt satisfied not to ride along the coast.

The dawn was extremely spooky, because there were a lot of very strange sounds I couldn't find any explanation for. Anyway, after some time I felt asleep and the next morning I was still alive.

Back in Pozo same more "Crazys" and then on the road, the mountain range seemed near, but it took almost 50 km to reach the beginning of the climb.

Near Collahuasi, Salar Michincha - (C) Victor Arenas

As expected the road was first class with some traffic to the mine, only trucks and 4WDs. The altitude was only around 1000 m on the first 50 km and consequently it was real hot, the support by the wind was less than I had hoped for.

Around afternoon finally the climb began, I was already worried about my drinks as I consumed more then calculated. Around 16:30 there was an advise for a parking lot 500 m away, which seemed to be rather redicouless; if there was anything plentiful, it was parking space. Than another sign for the lot, only 200 m away and there was also a container visible with a banner flying in the wind. Hope was rising, should there be an ice cream stand. Getting closer I realised, that it was the banner of the telephone company Enetel, but still there was hope. And then, really, the container was a Coke-Stand. Refuelled 1,5 litres of Fanta and got another big Coke for the way and made another few kms until I find a great place in some dunes to make camp C5.

After some fun in the dunes the next morning the climb continued, not too hard with constant 5 to 7 % gradient. Progress was slow, but constant. 

Got up early and as I knew that there wasn't much missing I took it easy, continued slowly with the hard climb and made some nice pauses, having a cigarette, a coke and another chapter of my beloved Lansing-Shackleton. Around midday I reached the last passed with a great view down to the Salar Coipsa, along downhill followed, which left me rather concerned as I thought that I had to climb it up again. Made another stop at the very nice rest area at the salar and after some easy kilometres I reached the entrance of the Collahuasi mine. I presented myself in the guardhouse, which looked more like the waiting area of a modern hospital.  As I waited for the arrival of my friend Victor, I took advantage of the nice bathroom to change clothes and wash away the strong smell of several days of hard biking.

Pozo Almonte Profile Pozo - Collahuasi

When Victor arrived, we put my bike on his jeep and drove the last miles to the residents area of the mine, a brand-new complex with hotel, casino, health centre, labs etc. After a fast medical check I got my room at the splendid hotel, took a shower and then we went for lunch. Oh boy, a great buffet with everything I was dreaming about the last days and nights and a fantastic view over the altiplano. As I regained immediately my strengths we combined for later that evening a sightseeing of the mine. Really impressing, the huge Caterpillar-Trucks with their  wheels three metres high, the ultra modern plants and at least, "the pit".

During the day I could get some glimpses of the near volcanos including Miņo and Aucanquilcha, the last one on my list as a potential biking destination. But I had to realize that both were still under a big cover of snow and I estimated, that it should be the same with Ollague. So I saw the main challenges of my trip now farer away then ever and I started to make plans about alternatives. Right in front of the hotel was a nice volcano, for sure over 5000 m with a good road up and definetly never climbed before by bike. Just perfect, but there was a big problem; could I get the permission ? Still that evening I visted Victor in his office and presented my idea, but he also had big doubts about it. At least I could use his laptop to write some e-mails to friends and family.   

The day ended with dinner and some of the newest arcade games.

As expected we couldn't get the permission to ride the volcano so Victor was so nice to do me a last favour. He drove me out of the mine and dropped me at the Salar Michincha, where we had a very nice, last talk a combined to stay in touch, a last handshack and then he left.

Gracias & Thanks & Danke, Victor !

Due to the wind I felt rather lazy and progress was slow, made a long rest at a power station and then began a long push on bad track up to the Estacion Yuma, another very unreal place with great views to Aucanquilcha and Miņo. It was already late, but I set out to make camp at the next estacion. It was getting dark very soon and couldn't find the station, after one hour riding in absolute darkness I made camp in the middle of nowhere.

The next morning I was surrounded by 20 Lamas, which watched me with great interest. After taking some pictures and some kilometres I arrived at the old church of Coska - smaller then a garage - and soon Ollague was visible in the distance. As I didn't wanted to arrive at the late afternoon, I made camp 10 km before Ollague on the Salar.

Pozo Almonte Profile Collahuasi/Salar Michincha - Est. Yuma - Ollague

Analysing my timetable I figured out, that I was almost a week in front of my schedule. The decision was taken rapidly to give a ride to Uyuni a try.

Ollague - Uyuni - Ollague



C10 - San Juan - Julaca - C11





C11 - Rio Grande - C12





C12 - Uyuni





Uyuni - Colchane - Salar de Uyuni - Uyuni





Train Uyuni - Ollague



Soon I arrived in Ollague, made some shopping and passed the border procedure, at midday I was in Bolivia. As there was no train from Uyuni coming this day the bolivian border post was closed and I continued without stamp.

Riding to Chiguana was pure pleasure, an extreme wind in the back and most of the time a rock hard surface of the Salar let me make a real good progress. The great wide/white open pace permitted to ride with eyes closed and no hands on direction bar. The only sound were the small salt crystals moved by the tires.

A99-M08-32.jpg (75967 bytes)

After Chiguna, a frustrating small military post at the crossing San Juan/Laguna Colorada the conditions changed a bit. Now it was obvious, that there heavy rains only a few weeks ago. The track was dry and driveable, but deep carvings of jeep and truck tyres in the surface were witnesses of the mud battles, which had taken place only a short time ago.

  After a good night

After a quiet night in one of the several ruines along the railway, I continued the next morning to San Juan and further on. The railway vanished in the distance and during the next hours I passed dried fields on bad, sandy tracks, covered by hundreds of disgusting caterpillars and bugs. As I thought I had lost the right track I finally spotted an indication to Uyuni, the track turned around 90 degrees and for 7 kms I crossed the salar, which was under one inch of water. Just behind Julaca I made camp.

The next continued with a rather ugly trackand only around midday the situation changed, when I arrived in Rio Grande and there I was told, that along the railway was a small track only for bikes. Useing this one going became better and so on the next day I reached Uyuni.

My restday in Uyuni I used for eating and a visit to Chiguana and the salar, which reminded me strongly of the packice, Shackleton had to face in the Antarctic. 

The train left perfectly in time Uyuni and 4 hours later we arrived at the bolivian border station. Got the bike and the exit stamp and hit the road to arrive in Ollague before the connection train. I made it and past the customs as first, had a look at the very detailed check of the train and the passengers by a special force, who searched for drugs.

Pozo Almonte Profile Ollague - Uyuni - As the trip is almost flat on a constant elevation of 3600 m, there is no need fo a profile

Volcano Ollague



Ollague - Volcano Ollague/"The Ritz"





"The Ritz" - Ros' Viewpoint - "The Ritz"





"The Ritz" - Ollague, Bus Calama



Checked in the Brin Bran Restaurant, which also offers a very basic room with a cold shower outside. As I tried to get some more information at the town hall, the dog of the health post bit in the arm, I was getting nervous about infections, but I was assured that the dog was clean. The day finished with a good dinner and a fresh Cristal-beer.

After informing the Police I started around 9:30 with the goal to establish a "base camp" at 4500 m at the end of the day. So I wouldn't gain to much altitude and could adopt me a little bit during the night.

After 6 km of rather easy track I reached "3-friend-junction", where after crossing a deep wash out I had to decide whether to take the "Messner-Directissima" or "Easy street".

The directissima for sure was not the right choice, because it was not only incredible steep, but also terrible outwashed so it took a very long time to carry the bike up to "Point Blank".

Here I found between 20 and 30 abandoned houses, which were witnesses of a wealthier past. Here I started counting the turns. At turn 3 began the short, but horrifying "Shackleton Trek", a 150 m long waiste deep outwash, then followed by two good straights, "Flat out" and the "Schumacher Straight". At 4500 m was another house called "The Ritz", were I made the camp.    

Early the next morning it was getting serious, as I had only this one chance to make it to the top. But soon it became rather tricky, boulders, outwashes and rather steep. So I continued, where I had stopped the day before. Pushing instead of riding, very slowly. Progress was really slow, by foot undoubtfully faster. Around 16:00 I faced the end of my attempt. At around 5400 m, after crossing several snowslopes an iced slope of 100 m blocked the track. A wrong step would have provoked an unpleasant slide of 200 m downhill so I decided to stop here, as it was also rather late.

Took some more pics and started the ride back to "The Ritz", where I arrived at the last light of the day. 

Ollague  Profile of the Ollague

Part 3

- I