DAY SIXTY SIX
Rest day in Uyuni
A unexpected rest day after spending all morning trying to prepare for our next adventure - to cross the Salar de Uyuni! We spent all morning searching for gas, unfortunately with no luck. The one store which apparently stock gas was shut all day so when 3 o’clock came we decided we wouldn’t make it to the salt flats before the sun went down so decided to head off in the morning, preferring to be fully prepared for the crossing.
As a bonus though we were able to visit the famous train graveyard that sits a few miles outside of Uyuni, dozens of steam engines abandoned after the mining industry collapsed in the 1940s.
Despite the graffiti the old relics were hugely impressive, an eerie reminder of yonder year and the perfect place to enjoy the sunset with Yerba in our hands. The perfect place to contemplate the exciting few days ahead.
DAY SIXTY SEVEN
Uyuni to Salt flats camp spot!
Distance: 27.5 miles
Av speed: 9 miles
Moving time: 3 hours
Door to door: 6 hours 50
After speaking to various people in Uyuni about crossing the salt flats on a bike the general consensus was that it was still too early in the year to do so. The salt flats become a lake during December to March and as its early April it seemed not enough water had drained off evaporated. We were even warned against it by an English speaking tour guide who told us a story of two cyclists dying in April a few years back!
We decided at the very least to at least try, and if the going got too tough we could always turn back. To cross the salt flats by bike was such a once in a lifetime opportunity we couldn’t say no, plus we were pretty sure our trusty Rä bikes would handle the surface much better than other cyclists who had tried this year already.
Not sure what to expect then we donned our waterproof socks, loaded up the bikes with enough water and food for two days, leaving Uyuni after a breakfast of chicken and rice (the only food they seem to eat!) for the village of Colchani that sits on the eastern edge of the Salar.
Passing the hundreds of tourist jeeps that had stopped in the village we rode out into the unknown, just praying that everyone we had spoken to were mistaken and it had dried and faster than expected. Our hopes were crushed pretty much straight away however as it was clear the Salar was covered in water when we reached its edge. Jeeps laboured slowly through the bumpy tracks and in places you couldn’t see the bottom so it was impossible to gauge any idea of depth.
Tentatively we followed the jeep tracks, struggling through the underwater rutted road, made much harder by the fact our bikes were so much heavier than normal. After about an hour, a few near capsizes and lots of pushing we weren’t sure if there was much point in carrying on. After two hours however our efforts were finally rewarded as the water subsided and our wheels touched solid salt!
It was the best feeling in the world. White as far as the eye could see and it was if we had been transported to a different planet. After thinking we weren’t even going to be able to cycle onto the salt flats we were over the moon and leaving the tourist jeeps behind us set off for the Volcan Tunupa, 80 miles away and the only landmark we could see in a sea of white.
Conscious that as soon as the sun set it would be freezing on the salt flats we set up camp early, playing a game of cricket as the sun set. With the horizon stretching for miles and miles it was a sunset like no other as it just kept on going. Words can’t do it justice but hopefully the pictures can!
An incredible incredible day and one we will remember for the rest of our lives.
DAY SIXTY EIGHT
Salar camping to Jirira
Average speed: 8.5mph
Moving time: 5h02
Door to door: 8h45
We were a little disappointed when we woke up early to watch the sun rise but it was cloudy! Roo kept very optimistic saying “it will get sunny in the afternoon, it will get sunny in the afternoon.” After such a grey morning it didn’t look like this would be the case.
To our amazement Roo was right! As we kept pedalling over the damp salt heading towards the volcano, which didn’t seem to be getting any bigger, the clouds did part and the blue sky appeared! It became the most beautiful afternoon, perfect for us to get some pictures with our Biscuteers Jolly Ginger. After playing around for an hour or so with some photos we had to get moving as it was now too wet to put up the tent and it was going to get dark quickly. The final 15k of the salt flats were amazing. Almost like biking on a lake. As the water got deeper and deeper the reflections of the clouds and mountains were breathtaking. The cycling wasn’t easy but to be honest our minds were so distracted but just how incredible the past few days had been we didn’t mind. As we reached the end of the salt flats, both us and our bikes completely covered in salt we stopped and just realised how awesome that had been. So many people said it was impossible to do at the time of year on bikes but we had done it! This is something which we know will stay with us forever, an amazing achievement we are both so proud to say we completed.
DAY SIXTY NINE
Rest day in Jirira
As pretty much everything we owned was covered in salt we were forced to take the day off at the lovely hostel we were staying in.
Although it took the whole day the sun was shining and the family cooked us breakfast, lunch and dinner - all based around quinoa - and so we couldn’t complain.
Batteries recharged for our next stint to La Paz.
Jirira to Quinsuyo