|The road to Uyuni|
After three days in Potosi, we were off to one of the most highly anticipated destinations on the trip, the Salar de Uyuni, the largest salt flat on Earth. It was a five hour ride on a mix of asphalt and gravel, and we got into the town of Uyuni in the afternoon, covered in dust and thoroughly worn out.
|Jill finding us a place to stay in Uyuni. The poor bike had a rough day.|
There are around a dozen locomotives sitting in the desert a few miles from Uyuni, all of which had split boilers or other terminal damage. They were originally brought in from North America and Europe to haul out the minerals from various Bolivian mines. In most places they would be scrapped, but the nearest city, Potosi, is a mountainous 120 miles away. The scrap value isn't high enough to warrant hauling a disabled locomotive that far, so they were left here, rusting in the desert for the last 100 years. It's quite a sight.
|View from the top of one of the boilers|
|Some of them have been raided and the good sheets of steel cut out|
The last section of the road from Potosi was badly washboarded gravel, and had slowed us down to about 20 mph for the last 10 miles. I had already read that the roads around the Salar were horrible, and that there are no real roads on the Salar, so I was having doubts about taking the bike. An e-mail to Cory put me in touch with his friend Sergio, who is a photography expedition leader and an expert on Bolivia. He told me, in no uncertain terms, that taking the bike out into the wilds of southern Bolivia was a very bad idea. At best we would take years off of the life of the bike, and at worst we would get lost in the desert forever.
A quick look around Uyuni revealed about 30 different companies offering three-day tours of the Salar and surrounding areas, all for around $90US each - "meals" and "lodging" included. At Andes Tours we met Gonzalo, a Bolivian who had spent much of his life in the U.S., and, consequently, spoke perfect English. We settled on a tour leaving at 10AM the next day, and set about packing up what we would take, and storing the bike and the other stuff. I had always wanted to ride the bike on the salt, so that afternoon we rode the horrible 20 mile dirt road to the Salar. The white, featureless landscape of the Salar was really strange; once you are out a few miles from the edge it is pure white in every direction. The lack of reference points robs you of perspective, so you can take some pretty interesting photos...
|A "road" on the Salar. These would go for a while, and then just fade out, leaving you in the middle of the salt. Oh, and compasses don't work here because of magnetic mineral deposits. Good luck!|
|No camera tricks on those last two, just good, old fashion irresponsibility!|