Road Markings in Potosi, Bolivia


Route Uyuni, Bolivia – Potosi, Bolivia (RN5)
Distance 211Km
Travel Time 3.5 hours (some night driving)
Road Conditions Awesome Tarmac
Weather Clear, Cold
Terrain Altiplano, very curvy
Food and Petrol Uyuni, Chaquilla, several other villages if lucky, Potosi
Accommodation La Casona, Potosi

Next morning I need to get the tyre fixed. I inquire about mechanical/tyre repair services and they’re all quite a few blocks away. To make it easier I decide to dismount the tyre myself and take it with me in a taxi – luckily the landlady doesn’t have a problem with me doing it in her reception area. The tyre chap has a hard job changing the tube; the tyre seems to be pretty tough. We remove a spine of thin metal metal from the tyre and install my spare tube. Then I get the guy to patch the old one as a spare. 15 Bolivanos and a couple of hours later I’m back at the lodge mounting up the tyre and we’re good to go. Potosi here we come.


We leave at about 4PM, which is late, but we have only around 200Km to go. An old man nearby watches us saddle up and advises us to go “tranquilo” and we’ll be there at 8PM. Don’t forget your gloves, he says in his language as he wipes clean my rear view mirrors with a handkerchief. Just to be sure I connect the tyre pump I have and ensure the tyres are properly inflated. We add in the remaining 8 litres from the spare tanks and head off with a tank about two thirds full. Should be fine for 200Km.

He even gives my mirrors a wipe. Thanks.


We inquire at a petrol station in Uyuni where the Potosi exit road is. A guy points us in the direction and adds, “todo asfalto”, which seems to be important information. When we get on to the Potosi road I want to stop the bike and kiss it. I haven’t seen asphalt like this in… a long time! The scenery is great and the perfect road curves back and forth over the mountainous terrain. An enjoyable ride indeed!




A couple of hours later near sunset, I look at the fuel gauge and it’s looking near empty. Uh-oh! I seem to have been burning it faster than expected – altitude? We stop at a few small villages, houses and shops by the road side. All of them point us onward to another house, shop or village in one or other direction, but nobody has any. We eventually find some at a small town called Chaquilla, about 20km ahead. An old lady sells 5 litre canisters from her corner convenience store. Whew, another close one! From here on we enforce a rule to always carry 5 litres extra in the spare tanks just in case.


By 8PM we arrive at Potosi. In the dark the city lights crowning the mountain to our right look impressive. Navigating the crowded one-way streets on steep slopes is a pain. We’ve already earmarked a few hostels in the Lonely Planet and set off to find them. This takes us another hour or two. At one point we’re at a little plaza, driving uphill. I have to stop at the junction. There’s a one way where cars are travelling from my right across to the left passing the plaza. The arrow road markings on the ground show me I can turn left or go straight, up the hill, so I head straight on. Soon after, there’s a big range rover coming towards me. I flash my lights and so does he. He comes right up in front of me and starts blowing his horn at me, which I do in reply. He wants me to turn around but I’m heavily loaded and on a narrow, steep road so I’m not budging and shake my head. He gets pissed off and starts revving up at me and inching his car closer, but I hold my ground. Eventually Ebru gets off and has a go at the driver, but standers-by are telling her this is a one way, DOWNhill! And by now there’s a queue of cars behind, honking and flashing their lights. I submit, somehow manage to U-turn without dropping the bike and head towards the plaza.

Back at the Junction I see that indeed I was in the wrong: on the wall at the corner there’s a road-name sign, with the arrow pointing downhill. Only it is upside down! The road must have flowed in the other direction before and then they just turned the sign around when they changed it, not eliminating the road markings at the junction either… welcome to Bolivia! 😉

We stay at the Hostel La Casona (40BOB/dbl, separate washrooms). The place is on a steep slope and to drive up the curb would be risky at this angle, so we unload outside and carry the luggage in.


When I try to start the bike again it doesn’t – the battery’s drained. You have got to be joking!!! I push-start and park inside. I take out the fuse for the cigarette lighter adapter which I reconnected in Uyuni in the morning. I can’t think about this any further now; I’m tired. We head straight out to a restaurant for a couple of beers and something to eat. We’re exhausted. Lucky for us they have some English language film running there and we have something to take our minds off the exhaustion.


The next day we walk around town a bit. We don’t think we’re interested in sticking around in Potosi. From the little we’ve seen we’ve not really had much joy. There is an old colonial style cafe/restaurant at the corner of one of the Plazas though, where we spend a few hours and enjoy ourselves. Can’t remember the name but their coffee is good and their lasagne is a very pleasant surprise. Service is snail’s pace though.


The next morning we saddle up to leave and a few young French lads come over and talk to us, curious about our trip on the bike. It’s nice to have a talk with fellow European travellers again for a change and they give us the name of a hostel they liked in Sucre, our next destination.


Luckily there’s barely enough juice in the battery to start up the bike and we hit the road for Sucre. From that point on there’s no further sign of battery problems…. interesting. Must be a short circuit in the cable for the cigarette lighter adapter. Better leave that disconnected.