Days 169-170: Salar de Uyuni

Days: 169-170  -   Date: 9-10FEB14  -   Itinerary: Potosi to Uyuni to Ollague, CL  -   Miles: 309

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.

BO_09Feb14_001 BO_09Feb14_002 BO_09Feb14_003Within 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.
BO_09Feb14_009 BO_09Feb14_010 BO_09Feb14_Panorama_2Back 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.

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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. BO_10Feb14_005


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. 😯BO_10Feb14_007 BO_10Feb14_008 BO_10Feb14_009 BO_10Feb14_010 BO_10Feb14_011 BO_10Feb14_012 BO_10Feb14_013 BO_10Feb14_023

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.BO_10Feb14_014 BO_10Feb14_016 BO_10Feb14_015 BO_10Feb14_017 BO_10Feb14_018 DCIM100GOPRO

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.BO_10Feb14_024 BO_10Feb14_025

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.

It was however a beautiful place for a crash: 😉

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.

Remote border outpost


Into Chile! Country # 15

In the super tiny frontier town of Ollague, we enjoyed dinner and well deserved cold beer.

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