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September 2017: Learning To Become A Mechanic

September 2017: Learning to Become a Mechanic

I basically spend the whole month of September in Uyuni getting my van fixed. I only left town three times: I drove out to San Christobal one day thinking the van was fixed, but I had to hurry back quickly because I was using more oil than diesel; I had to spend 8 hours in a bus to get my import permit extended; and I booked a three day excursion to the Lagunas while waiting for my dad to save me with spare parts from the Netherlands. When September started I had only been in Uyuni for a couple of days expecting to need two maybe three days more. I’m not sure what I would have done if I would have known that I would still not be able to leave by the end of September…

The Good

  •  Meeting heaps of other travelers at the hostel, the second mechanic and the restaurants. They were great to distract me from my problems and listen to my complaining
  • The locals (at least some of them). The whole family at my hostel was extremely helpful and friendly and my breakfast kept getting larger by the day. The second mechanic (Walter) and his family were so friendly to let me stay in their workshop and use everything I need. They even let me use a bicycle which gave me back a bit of my freedom.

The Bad

  • Everything taking way longer than planned
  • The first mechanic being impossible to communicate with
  • Being able to drive 20 meters from the car wash, before the engine dies again, right after the first engine rebuild
  • Losing 7 liters of oil in 300 km after just spending loads of money on a full engine rebuild
  • The first mechanic and parts guy just pointing at each other and me as the cause for all the problems
  • Finding out the cylinder head was “repaired” beyond repair
  • Noticing that a decent amount of the bolts were missing

The Unforgettable

  • Sitting in a hot spring at 6:30 in the morning at 5000m (Lagunas route)
  • Enjoying the views of the most amazing landscapes full of colorful lakes, volcanoes, rock formations and salt flats (Lagunas route)
  • Picking up my dad at the airport after he flew all the way from the Netherlands with spare parts for my van

The Stats

  • No days: 30 (589 total)
  • No. km: 598 (56460 total)
  • Countries: Bolivia
  • No. Border crossings: 0
  • No. of places stayed at: 5 (1 mechanic, 1 campsite, 3 hostels)
  • Hikes: 10 km
  • Books: 3
  • Movies: 10
  • New Beers: 5
  • Photos: 639
  • Weather:
    • Days: warmest 23, coldest 18, average 18
    • Nights: warmest 5, coldest -9, average -1

All the time at the mechanic meant barely any driving or changing places to stay at. So also not many photos or hikes. The long cold evenings were perfect for watching some movies. The number is only this low because the WiFi was often too slow to watch something. Also the weather was extreme, freezing almost every night and evaporating me during the day.

Daily costs for September

  • Camp sites: 5 Euro per night (plan was 7)
  • Food: 10 Euro per day (plan was 7)
  • Fun: 5 Euro per day (plan was 4)

Total: 20 Euro per day (plan was 18)

I spend quite some time at a hostel (my engine had to stay in my van at the first mechanic to try minimize the amount of lost parts). But I could sleep in my van at the second mechanic so that kind of equaled out perfectly. I went out for dinner and lunch almost every day because the hostel didn’t have a common kitchen and the town didn’t have much for groceries either. That being said, 10 euros isn’t half that bad. I guess I had enough 1 euro burger+fries combos from the street vendors. The fun costs are mostly in the lagunas tour. The rest went into drinking away my problems.

Overall driving (18 months):

  • Distance: 56460 km (plan was 58313 km)
  • Fuel costs: 67 cents/l (plan was 68 cents/l)
  • Efficiency:  11.2 km/l (plan was  11.0 km/l)

Well, now I definitely didn’t go over planned kilometers, but that doesn’t really help much. I had planned to be in Santiago by now, so I’ll end up driving the same distance, just in less time.

Extra costs:

  • 600 euro: for the first engine rebuild, this is not including what I already paid in August or what I have to pay for the second rebuild in October
  • 100 euro: Salar de Uyuni/Laguna Route tour. Not that terrible for a three day tour including transport, hostel and all food.


I started in Uyuyni, tried to get to Chile, failed just past San Cristobal and headed back to Uyuni again.


A nicely symmetrical altitude map for my driving this month. That’s a whole month at over 3600 m. Even though you get a bit used to it, it is still rough. Hopefully I’ll drive this road once more, next month on my way out of town.

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