<b>Klokhuis Adventures</b> in Bolivia

Klokhuis Adventures in Bolivia

Dutch tv content creators, Bart Meijer & Erik den Boer, traveled through Bolivia to record episodes for an educational kid’s show. They survived the aptly named “Death Road,” crossed the surrealistic Uyuni salt flats, traversed insanely high motorcycle roads in the Chacaltaya mountains and more.
03-13-2019
Adventure

Article

Bart MEIJER &
Erik den Boer
#REVITRIDERs

Bart Meijer, 36, director/presenter of Het Klokhuis and Erik den Boer, 52, director/cameraman, have the same passions: TV-making, traveling and motorcycling. When they met at a pub quiz, an exceptional plan was quickly forged. They tied their cameras and sleeping bags to the back of their motorcycles and traveled through Bolivia. From the deepest jungle up to the highest mountains. This resulted in eight episodes for the Dutch children's program Het Klokhuis.

WEBSITE | INSTAGRAM BART

BART MEIJER & ERIK DEN BOER

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PICKING UP THE AMIGOS

Initially, we wanted to ship our own motorcycles to Bolivia. But that turned out to be too complicated and way too expensive. Just the shipping alone worked out to be almost two month’s rent. Nope! In the end, we found a much more economical solution; a company that rented two Suzuki DR650s to us at a reasonable price. We found it in Cochabamba, in the center of Bolivia, at an altitude of 2,500 meters.

It wasn’t high enough to cause breathlessness due to the lack of oxygen, but it was close. We prepped for our adventure by having the shop owner show us how to change a tire. It was invaluable information. After that, we slowly rode into the really high altitudes – we went up to 5,200 meters. Riding felt good right away and these motorcycles would become our “amigos” for the next 2 months. Vamos!

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Amigos

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DANGER JUST AROUND THE CORNER

Driving in Bolivia is dangerous, in particular, on the highways. Overtaking drivers can cause some dangerous situations. For example, if they overtake you while you are overtaking someone else. And if there is not one but two trucks side by side in a corner. Yikes. It’s especially important to keep your cool and don’t look at the trucks, but to look at the side of the road. And then take a break at a rest stop to let the adrenaline drop.

Bart: After a day of riding in the jungle, we headed back to La Paz. We found some fresh asphalt and clear roads, which made for a great day. But then, completely out of nowhere, I got unpleasantly surprised. In a slight bend to the right, even with good visibility, I could see that the upcoming situation was not good. Not at all.

There was not one, but two trucks that were driving side by side. One of which was completely on my side of the road. In a curve. Luckily, I was on high alert, but even that wasn’t a salvation here. I slammed on my brakes and I could feel my rear wheel slip and sliding out. Because I didn’t want to go down in the corner, I let go of the brake again. The motorcycle went straight and the truck was coming straight at me.

The only possible exit strategy that I still had was to steer around it. With a pull on the bars, I aligned the bike in the right direction, but was it on time? I’m telling you this story, so yes! I made it.

But it was close, very close. Too close for comfort.

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Klokhuis Bolivia 1
Klokhuis Bolivia 2
Klokhuis Bolivia 3

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DANGER RIGHT IN FRONT

The next day, things took a turn for the worse. Though luckily we weren’t riding at highway speeds as we were with our first close encounter.

Erik: The car in front of me suddenly stopped at a crossing. It happened so fast that I didn’t see any other option than to headbutt the rear window of our guide's car. Not my best moment in life. The safety glass went into my beard and into my chin. Bart immediately asked me if I spotted some a delicious snack in the trunk of the car in front of me, and if I had to have it right then! Very funny, Bart.

Promptly thereafter, he morphed into a nurse and put pressure on my chin with a handkerchief. Unfortunately, the bleeding was a little more intense than we had expected. Bart then tried to mummify me, but in the end, I really had to get some stitches. A cheerful doctor fixed me up for a mere 15 euros. Not bad, I thought. But it turned out to be cheap for a reason. Within 10 minutes, all the stitches fell out and we had to return to the doctor.

Now, all the stops were pulled out and my chin was fortified like an impenetrable fortress. With a stretched face and looking ten years younger, I could happily continue the journey. I was told that after a week the stitches could be removed. Fun fact: a power outage is no obstacle in Bolivia. The light of a telephone also works well in times of need!

Highlights

Salt Flats
The infinite salt flats of Uyuni must be the most surreal place in the world to ride across with your motorcycle. A white area as big as the northern part of the Netherlands. Infinitely large and endlessly far.

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BART TO ETERNITY - THE MONEYSHOT

By far, the most beautiful drone shot that we made during the trip happened by chance. It was almost dark and, in our opinion, already a little bit late, but we still wanted to attempt it. We thought that Bart would ride toward the sun on the immeasurable salt flats of Uyuni. Our drone had an option that we hadn’t used before. Auto track with a “circle option” to the indicated target. This meant the drone would fly with Bart and I would manually circle around him. Worth a shot, right? No pun intended.

Without realizing it, we got lucky. Bart was riding so fast that the drone could barely keep up with him. In addition, on that huge, bare plain 4,000 meters up, the drone was having difficulties keeping up. Whether it was caused by the thin air or lack of reference to the ground, I do not know. So, when I passed the drone in front of Bart, I also saw in the distance that the drone was too close to the ground. I quickly pulled the drone up and turned it at the same time. We didn’t realize how this would look in the footage. Only back in the hotel had we discovered how it magically all worked out. We had to blink our eyes a few times, it was just that good.

See for yourself!

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DEATH ROAD BUSTED

Long before we left for this journey, we often talked about the famous “Death Road.” An incredibly dangerous road, famous from the TV program of the same name and, of course, from one hilarious scene from Top Gear. There we were, in thick mist and rain. Erik had a lot of doubt.

Luckily, Bart sent his Suzuki onto the narrow gravel road without hesitation. It was certainly one of the most beautiful roads we have ever ridden, but our weak knees remained. "When does it start?" We actually kept thinking that until we suddenly stood at the end of the road. Two days later, we did it again with better weather. We thoroughly enjoyed the crazy cliffs and beautiful surroundings. If you happen to be in the area, you should definitely ride it back and forth. But we experienced our own “Death Road” a week later…

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Death Road

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CHACALTAYA'S INFINITE HEIGHT

We happened to be at one of the highest places in the world where you can ride a motorcycle. Of course, we had to include this in the trip. And because we made an episode about altitude, we decided to do a test there with a boiled egg. Well, we were that boiled egg ourselves. It started with a narrow gravel road, but it was already pretty slippery because of the snow meltwater that flowed down over the red clay. At around 4,000 meters altitude, breathing became harder and harder and the snow had not yet melted. Hairpin bends with a combination of ice and half melted snow made us weak in the knees.

Erik: At more than 5,200 meters elevation, it was difficult to concentrate and record this tough climb. On top of that, the weather forecast showed more snow and rain. On the way down, we made some fantastic drone shots of the unforgettable Chacaltaya. And with the Chacaltaya, we had reached the highest point of our journey for an episode that covered the influence of altitude on the body. For that episode, we watched the World Cup qualification match Bolivia - Brazil and Bart joined a football match with a women's team at almost 4,000 meters altitude. Pretty tough.

After experiencing Chacaltaya, we traveled down to sea-level to record an episode about piranhas. It took a while but after a long search, we found the piranhas, along with a few capybaras and caimans. Next up were the tropics of Bolivia to record episodes about reforestation and avocados. As motorcyclists, the salt flats of Uyuni were a bizarre experience. In that area we recorded the episodes about salt and lithium which is used in batteries. The visit to the silver mines of Potosi was also very memorable.

The privilege of traveling for your work is that you come close to the personal lives of people. The team of men who took us inside the mine will never be forgotten. For the episode about alpacas, we just slept in our motorcycle jackets to keep warm. But we also laughed terribly hard about the silly heads of the alpacas. Especially after we had shaved one.

We highly recommend traveling through Bolivia, it is such a rich and varied country.

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Alpaca shaving

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Klokhuis Bolivia 4
Klokhuis Bolivia 5
Klokhuis Bolivia 6

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CHECK IT OUT!

All eight episodes of this incredible journey were broadcast, in Dutch, and can be viewed on their website.

Highlights