Incident-free, apart from riot

Salt please . . . Mosgiel District Motorcycle Club members (from left) Craig Gerken, Carl Hollands and Niven Hyslop in the world's largest salt flat, the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

Three Taieri men have returned home after a 38-day South American sojourn on motorbikes.

Mosgiel District Motorcycle Club members Carl Hollands and Craig Gerken, both of East Taieri, and Niven Hyslop, of Outram, put their 650cc motorbikes on a ship to Chile on February 6.

The men flew to Chile capital Santiago on May 11 and picked up their bikes in port city Valparaiso.

Mr Hollands said the bikes – two Husqvarnas and a Suzuki – were “perfect” for the trip because they could handle travelling about 800km a day with a heavy load and also performed well at altitude and in hot and cold temperatures.

The temperatures reached up to 43degC in Chile, Mr Hollands said.

The men camped in tents in the week travelling to the Peruvian border.

However, in the eight days spent in Peru, as the men reached higher altitudes and the mercury dipped to -14degC.

When ice began to form on their tents, they decided to stay in hotels.

“The highest we got was just on 6000m above sea level – Maungatua [is] 1000m, so it’s 5km above them,” Mr Hollands said.

Mr Hyslop said a highlight in Peru was visiting Machu Picchu, a 15th-century Inca citadel.

Mr Hollands agreed.

“It was awesome.”

Mosgiel District Motorcycle Club members (from left) Carl Hollands, of East Taieri, Niven Hyslop, of Outram, and Graig Gerken, of East Taieri. PHOTO: SHAWN MCAVINUE

The 10 days spent in Bolivia included travelling on the North Yungas Rd, nicknamed the “Death Road”, in reference to hundreds of motorists who had plummeted to their death there.

Another highlight in Bolivia was riding across the world’s largest salt flat, the Salar de Uyuni.

Mr Hyslop said the more than 10,000sqkm of salt “killed a circuit”on his bike and required a running repair.

Mr Gerken said the ability to repair the bikes allowed the men to ride on back roads and see sights including the “extremely colourful” traditional costumes worn by the Incas.

“We try to go to the most remote places you can go,” Mr Gerken said.

Mr Hollands said the trip was incident free, but they encountered a group of “angry” people rioting in Bolivian capital La Paz and had to ride on footpaths to avoid the turmoil.

“They were burning cars and tyres and the whole place was gridlocked,” Mr Hollands said.

Mr Hyslop said a lack of Spanish created some funny moments ordering food.

He ordered a coffee in Bolivia and was served noodle soup.

It was impossible to get a coffee in Bolivia so they drank Coca-Cola for caffeine, Mr Hyslop said.

Mr Gerken said the cola was in glass bottles which were recycled, rather than dumped.

Mr Hyslop said the amount of rubbish dumped on the roadside on the countries they visited was ‘disgusting’, except in Argentina, where they spent their final seven days of their trip.

The three bikes were returning to Dunedin on a ship, and the men returned home on June 16.

Mr Gerken said he estimated the trip, including the shipping, cost the men about $10,500 each.

They had never travelled together before but there was “never a cross word the whole trip”.

“We’re all easy-going,” Mr Hyslop said.