Salar De Uyuni, Lost and Found again

Gepubliceerd op 18 juli 2023 om 21:21

What already a new blog?! The last awesome blog was only five days ago. Yes, we’re already back with some new reading material. We can’t ride over the largest salt flat in the world and not write a blog about it!


From the small town of Challapata we hit the road again. It feels so good to be moving again! The road takes us along a flat, barren landscape but we enjoy it anyway. Because it’s so flat and the pavement is pretty good we make good progress. But it wouldn’t be a Fien and Jesse adventure if we didn’t take a wrong turn somewhere.


It wasn’t so much of “wrong turn” because it was what our GPS app said we should do, so like the slaves to technology that we are, we blindly follow it. We went over a very sandy road, which turned into a very sandy nothing, where we had to push our bikes through a dried river bed. Only to find out we could have followed the road a kilometer more and turn there. Life is funny like that sometimes!


A couple of hours later we find a perfect camp spot in some sort of quarry. Good protection from the wind and Oli could run around and dig all the holes she wanted. After setting up camp we still have some hours of sunlight left. THIS is what we really missed (besides being on the road again of course), after a good day of cycling, sitting in your chair beside the tent reading a book or enjoy the setting sun on your face and just relax. This is what it’s all about!


After a cold, but not too cold, night we get moving again. It quickly became clear that Jesse wasn’t feeling well. He had stabbing pain in his stomach and had these weird kind of burps that taste like eggs… After a lot of breaks, some very relieving farts and burps we reach the town of Salinas de Garci Mendoza! Jesse felt a lot better somehow, ready to tackle the (in)famous Salar De Uyuni the day after!


We had read a little bit about cycling the Salar, we learned that it could be quite disorienting sometimes. But that there are tire tracks from the jeeps most of the time that you could follow. Our plan was to go from Jirira to the island “Incahuasi” where we knew we could resupply on water and snacks if necessary.


From Jirira there went a tire track onto the salt flat. We happily followed it, but after a while we noticed that it wasn’t going in the right direction. So we looked at our GPS app on our phone, we should’ve been going a little more to the right. That’s what we did. “A little” is a key word in that phrase. After a couple of hours on the bumpiest salt plane we’ve ever been on we decided that this wasn’t right. We had deviated from the road we had to follow by a lot. We weren’t even going in the right direction anymore. It’s a pretty weird feeling finding out about it afterwards, because while you’re riding you think “oh yeah, it’ll be fine, we are going in the right direction” when that’s actually far from true… because of the sheer vastness, the intense white surroundings and no reference points to base yourself onto it’s very easy to lose your bearings


We want to emphasize a little more how bumpy the first part was, it was so bumpy… so bumpy. The Salar really tested our physical and emotional endurance as well as our sanity in those first hours on the salt. Imagine riding you bike over a giant  sheet bubble wrap, only the bubble aren’t made of soft playful plastic, but are unforgivingly hard like rocks. Or like salt… your bike is shaking like crazy, this slows you down significantly so you take longer to get over this horrible surface of salty nightmares! After a while you’ll start to get tired of the shaking and the bumping, but you continue. Then you’re mental reserves start to deplete and you’ll get into an uncomfortable shaking trance, all the while your destination doesn’t seem to get any closer, no matter how hard you pedal. And ultimately you’ll go insane…


In these kinds of situations, the choice you don’t want to make is usually the right one. So we decide to head back to the mainland, find a hostel, some food and a beer and try again the next day.


A quick side note to other cyclists who might be reading this: if you’re not following tire tracks while cycling on Salar De Uyuni, you are going the wrong way! It’s better to go back and find the tracks again then to think you’re going in the right direction, because you probably aren’t.


From Tahua, the town we stranded in right before we were going insane, we found a clear track in the right direction towards “Isla Incahuasi”. It turned out that we were riding towards “Isla del Pescado” the day before… Oops.


Once on the right tracks, we sailed pretty smoothly over this sea of whiteness. We reached the island around lunchtime. Here we ate some really good rice and lentils made by Aurelia, an old woman of around 80 (we estimate) who permanently lives on the otherwise uninhabited island. Thats pretty impressive, right? She also really welcomes cyclists, she has a whole book where all the cyclists who pass on the island can write something. So if you ever pass on the island and find us in her book, send us a picture!


After spending the night inside the maintenance building on a thick pile of mattresses we got on our bikes again and started towards the edge of the Salar. For this part we weren’t really worried about finding the right way. This was the route all the jeeps with tourists take to visit the island. So without a doubt about the direction, the tailwind took us to Colchani. From there it was only 20km to the town of Uyuni. There we permitted ourselves a rest day, mostly to shower and do laundry. It’s been seven days without a shower and all our clothes our dirty. You can probably picture a certain kind of smell radiating from us…


Cycling the Salar De Uyuni has been a once in a lifetime experience, despite the unfortunate events of the first day, it has been a wonderful experience. Just riding over kilometers and kilometers of salt with nothing else around you really makes you feel small. We’re really only a tiny part in this giant and beautiful world!


From here, in Uyuni, it’s only four or five more days to the Argentinian border. We can already start to feel that our adventure is starting to get shorter. We’re not sure how we’re feeling about that for now, maybe it’ll take another salt flat to figure that out?

Reactie plaatsen


een jaar geleden

Woohoo tis gelukt, moet echt prachtig zijn daar.

Jo Torbeyns
een jaar geleden

hahaha, die noodzakelijke blote foto's ;-) vaste prik voor de fietsers op de salar...