I met up with Steve, Andy and Jurgen this morning in Potosi. After making a few adjustments on some of the bikes, we all rode out together towards Uyuni and the salt flats.
Within a few short hours on a nice road, we were in the small town of Uyuni which sits right on the edge of a gigantic salar.
This year, the Dakar Rally passed through Uyuni, so obviously lots of signs that it had come through here:
After finding a hotel and dropping our stuff off, we jumped on our bikes. Along the way, we came across Taylor, another american, who was in Uyuni to see the salt flats and is also riding his motorbike through South America. Now rolling 5 deep, we headed off into the Salar. Make way silly tourists, wannabe Dakar racers coming through!
We got onto the main Salar de Uyuni road and after a few kilometers we came to where the road ended..sort of.. January in Bolivia is the rainy month, so every year the Salar is completely flooded. It is usually covered in a few inches of water until it dries out around April-May. There’s no way any of us were driving our bikes through inches (and in some spots feet) of super saline water, so we stopped at the roads end.
We got a few cool photos but weren’t satisfied.. we wanted to go out much further. We decided that tomorrow morning we would hire a truck to take us out.
Back in Uyuni, we hang out and drank a few Bolivian beers. In the morning, we’d head out into the salar in the back of a Toyota 4×4.
Up early for our 0800 tour into the salt flats. We had a cool expedition spec Toyota Landcruiser.
The few inches of water on the surface makes for a near mirror like appearance across the flats. Lots of cool photos. Sometimes it’s actually difficult to see where the horizon is since the glass like reflection blends together so well.
Nothing but salt under out feet.. The salar isn’t entirely solid.. it’s actually on a few inches thick. Underneath is a lake which holds over half of the worlds lithium supply. There’s also a few holes in the salt which makes for an eerie uneasy feeling. 😯
After checking out the Salar for a few hours, we headed back to Uyuni to pack up our bikes and ride out of town. The plan was to cross into Chile via a remote Southwestern border crossing. Steve had started his ride in Chile and was riding North, so we said our goodbyes and he took off for La Paz.
By 1700, we had already ridden over 200 kilometers of dirt through some very remote parts of Bolivia.. only another 15-20km to go to the border. However, Bolivia wasn’t done with us yet..
We were blasting down a fairly straight section of the road which had an occasional minor sandy spot. Jurgen was ahead of me on his BMW F650GS Dakar moto and Taylor was behind me on his BMW G650GS. I saw Jurgen hit a sandy spot and kick up a lot of dust. I immediately knew it was going to be more interesting than the last few spots, so I made sure to gas’er and power through while keeping my body weight low on the foot pegs. I had a fair amount of steering head-shake as the sand tossed me about but managed to make it through without any issues.. Taylor on the other hand had a pretty good wipe out. We were all going about 100kph (60mph), so his crash wasn’t just a small tip over.
Taylor was fine after the crash albeit a little sore and maybe some bruises.. Good thing he was wearing full gear! The moto suffered some cosmetic damage and his left side pannier was obliterated. As Andy said: “it looks like a plane crash!” Lots of small gear and a few broken parts scattered about. Overall, it could have been much worse.
After getting Taylor’s bike rolling again, we made it to the Bolivian-Chilean border and just in time for the windiest conditions I have ever experienced. It must have been blowing a steady 50+ mph here.