We woke up with the sun and when we crawled out of our tents, we found that during the night it had snowed in the mountains above us! It was so pretty! We got packed up an eventually got around to discussing what to do about the road ahead. There were a few questions floating around. Was this really the Lagunas Route? What about the other road about 30k down the road? Maybe that was the actual way to go? Drew and I were not super keen on driving up steep hills with roads covered in big rocks and sand. In the end Linus and Rich prevailed, convincing the group that we would drive up there with the option of turning around and trying the other route if it got too rough. I was having a hard time staying positive and enthusiastic because I kept focusing on the thought that my skills were not anywhere near the other’s skills. The others assured me it would be fine, just take it slow and steady, and even if I fell they would all be there to help and pick up the bike.
We went with the plan that Linus would go in front of me and I would follow his line. It was pretty bumpy and rough, but I just kept telling myself not to hesitate once I picked a line. Stay committed and don’t stop! Everyone was cheering me on and once I got to the top I felt a little silly. All pumped full of adrenalin and shaking a bit, everyone congratulating me, I couldn’t help but feel a bit silly because it really wasn’t that big of a deal! The road continued to be rough like this and strewn with big rocks for another few miles or so, and I did take a spill coming down a hill because I hit a rock and then got hung up in a rut. But it was fine! Rich helped me pick the bike up and encouraged me on down the road. I am so glad to have such an awesome husband and friends!
As we continued down the route I was amazed at how vast everything was. The mountains were so big and colorful, and the skies were huge. Eventually we rounded a big bend and descended to the first Laguna. And there were flamingos! I squeaked with excitement. We parked the bikes and took some time to take it all in. I found a nice spot by the lake and sat down to unwind a bit after all of the morning’s excitement. It was pretty overwhelming to be so high up in these remote desert mountains and to remind myself that we drove all the way there. From Utah. Sheesh.
On down the road we found a hostel/refuge by the second laguna. We bought a few bottles of water and settled at a picnic table to make our lunch and recharge some more. By this point we noticed more and more 4×4 (mostly land cruisers) bringing tourists through the route to see the lakes. We all agreed that we were thrilled to be on bikes and that it sounded pretty miserable to experience this bumpy route as a passenger in an SUV. After lunch and making sure we had enough water for camping we continued down the route. We followed the sandy foothills of the mountains for a while and then the path climbed up, turned left and opened up into a ginormous expanse of sand. The “road” we were following pretty much disappeared into all these small tracks and it was choose your own adventure riding. Everyone took off in a different direction, it was an adventure motorcyclists playground.
After a while of riding alone through endless sandy tracks and wondering what was over the next horizon (more sand) Linus came zooming past and let out a loud woop! I think it was his best day yet.
Pretty soon we met up with Drew and Sam. Drew was sitting in the dirt and Sam was pushing Drew’s bike upright. I guess he was having a little too much fun and took a spill. On inspection, they found that a rubber piece from the gas tank had worked itself loose and flown off on impact. Linus and Sam fixed that while Drew took a rest. We then jumped back on the bikes and attempted to pick our ways to the main track, or at least a better one. Things had become very bumpy, and in between the big bumps were loose sand. It was a good challenge for everyone. As we trucked on the wind picked up, the clouds rolled in and the rain started. It was cold!! I think I forgot to mention that by this point we were over 16,ooo feet or almost 5000 meters above sea level. The road got even bumpier, like driving over endless washboards for giants. The biggest ones I’ve seen yet. Poor motorcycles! The rain turned to hail and the hail soon turned to snow.
After about an hour of driving in this, Linus and I caught up with the others taking a warm up break by some cool rock formations.
As we were discussing the plan for the evening I noticed something by Linus move. It was a very large rodent. It looked like a big rabbit but had a very long tail, and it was not shy! It just stood there and looked at Linus. Then we noticed there were four more scattered about on the rocks, all just sort of staring at us and slowly moving a little closer… I’m sure they were harmless, but Sam and I decided it was time to move on. I don’t think they wanted us camping on their turf!
We decided to ride for another hour or so and look for a good spot to set up camp for the night. And holy crap, did we find a good one. All of the sudden there were all these martian looking rock formations that just popped out of the massive expanse of sand! It was amazing. We drove around the rocks and found a sheltered spot to set up camp. There were some 4×4 tourists around, but as soon as the wind picked up and it started spitting hail and snow again, everyone miraculously disappeared. I can’t imagine why!
As we set up our tents we could see lightning and hear thunder in the distance. Experiencing thunder and snow was a first for all of us. The dark clouds were gathering over the colorful mountains to the east and it was one of the most dramatic sights I have ever seen! Even though it was freezing cold and windy, we all agreed there was no other place we would rather be. We bundled up with all the layers we had, made some tea, and enjoyed the craziness of our surroundings.
After an hour or so the weather had blown around us and things calmed down. We fired up the stoves and made dinner. Ramen, spaghetti, tuna… Yum! I think we MAYBE made it to 8:00 before retiring to the warmth of our tents and down sleeping bags for the rest of the night. I was totally fine with this as I had finished my book on pandemics and started in on a new one about the history of Doctors Without Borders. I tried not to bug Linus too much with sharing the epic stories from this new book…