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This is how we find out if our motorcycle soft luggage saddlebags survives

This is how we find out if our motorcycle soft luggage saddlebags survives

Turkana HippoHips 30L motorbike saddlebag prototypes on the Lagunas Route, Bolivia.

We had piled enough food, water and other necessities on board to keep us going for the next five-six days, and it was a great way to truly give our prototype Turkana Hippo Hips 30L pannier bags a run for their money! It’s amazing how much you can get in them.

The morning of our Lagunas Route adventures had arrived and we headed off to get some bottled water from a local shop before rocking up at the fuel station and filling multiple cans full of fuel, fortunately, most of it on the roof of our friend 4×4, and others being strapped on top of our panniers.

The panniers were held in place by a hook and loop system, which meant they could be adapted to any pannier frames, which was great for our Suzuki DR650 aftermarket frames. The thin backing plates also meant that the bags had some support on the inner side so didn’t collapse into the frames too much. It was then time to set off South towards the famous Lagunas Route.

The road quickly turned to loose, powder-like sand as we headed down to Villa Mar.

Turkana Luggage on the Lagunas route in Bolivia. UV is extreme, everything fades in days and the environment is hard on gear.
Turkana Luggage on the Lagunas route in Bolivia. UV is extreme, everything fades in days and the environment is hard on gear.

Expedition – Turkana Prototypes on the Lagunas Route, Bolivia

Bolivia is a land of extremes. Altitude, Amazon, heat, extreme cold. It is a perfect testing lab for motorcycle soft luggage like Turkana gear
Bolivia is a land of extremes. Altitude, Amazon, heat, extreme cold. It is a perfect testing lab for motorcycle soft luggage like Turkana gear

I struggled a little in some places where the sand suddenly became deeper and on one occasion, I ended up going down. Unfortunately, it was right next to a solid bank and as I fell, I hit my head hard on the side.

My brain shook and my earpiece dug into my ear and the side of my head. I think that I may have had a concussion for the first time in my life and for the rest of the evening my head was pounding.

Tackling terrain like this was one of the reasons why we chose to use rugged soft luggage..

Suzie, AvvidaCyril having a small moment riding sand with the Suzuki DR650.
Suzie waits for her DR650 to wake up from its quick dirt nap..

Much more friendly for your legs when you have an off and no having to bang it back int shape after, and when made properly like these bags, there was no sewing back together in the wilderness required, not like our previous bags.

The day was drawing to an end. We found a large area that dipped down out of view of the road, so we tried it out and decided it was hidden and sheltered enough for one night so we all got tents up and started cooking. My head was still banging but luckily with a few painkillers, it settled down. We didn’t sleep too badly, even at 4250m and -9 degrees Celsius outside.

Kelvin thought he heard footsteps in the night, however, upon naked investigation with just biking boots for protection, there was nothing there. We thought it was maybe just animals because the next morning a whole herd of Llama’s were grazing near our camp spot.

We packed everything away, and once we got going again we followed the stony road to the official park entrance. We followed the dusty road along and soon came to deep water crossing with soft sand, however, we were able to cross where it was a little shallower and fortunately, neither of us hit any super-soft patches on our way through and the bikes remained un-drowned. We continued on and the views were truly amazing.

Beautiful landscape of Bolivia Altiplano. It is adventure riding to the best.
Bolivia Altiplano with the beautiful pink flamingos

There were wide, flat open spaces, some cool red-brown rocks, and a backdrop of mountains in the distance.

The dirt road was really rideable even with all the weight, and the sun was shining bright and warm, which made a huge difference to our comfort.

We pulled into a small village called Quetena Chico, and a tiny hostel managed to squeeze us all into a shared dorm. Once the sun started disappearing the temperature dropped dramatically and in the morning the temperature was -11 degrees Celsius before the sun really came up. We paid 10 Bolivianos for a pancake breakfast and check-out was about 7.30am or something crazy so it was an early start; not fantastic for a sleepy sloth like me

Volcanos on the Lagunas route in Bolivia. At 4000m altitude the air is clear.
Volcanos on the Lagunas route in Bolivia. At 4000m altitude, the air is clear.

The lakes we started passing, namely Laguna Hedionda and Laguna Kollpa, were truly stunning, the latter being particularly beautiful with an abundance of white salt and pretty pink flamingos. Some of the birds were still imprisoned by the frozen water it was still that cold.

Lake Chalviri was a treat due to the Polques hot springs, and after a couple of days without a shower, it was very welcome. We then continued along the same route down to Laguna Blanca and Laguna Verde. The road was so corrugated but the amazing landscapes made up for it, and everything on the bikes stayed in place; we were quite impressed. Laguna Verde was overlooked by Volcán Licancabur, and that together with the bright green-blue lake was really spectacular in the desolate landscape.

Camping on the surface of the moon
Camping on the surface of the moon

The following day the first stop of the morning was the incredible Sol de Mañana geysers.

I had been impressed by the one small Geyser id seen in Peru near Colca Canyon but this was something else! There were large holes full of bubbling mud, steam, and lots of different colours and the landscape was just other-worldly. We spent so much time there, just taking it all in.

It was one of the true highlights of the Lagunas Route adventure. We then continued on to Laguna Colorada which is one of the most famous lakes with its red tinge and three species of Flamingos.

We could see it in the distance with a vast area of barren landscape between us and the lake, and it also marked the end of the National Park! I had made it! The bikes and the luggage once again had done their job and survived some of the toughest challenges of this two-year trip. We’ll definitely be using the Turkana bags again!

Words and photos: Suzie and Kelvin Prevett.


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