ACROSS THE ALTIPLANO

The weather meant we had to quickly grab our bikes and gear from our basecamp, where Tina had been looking after it, and descend down to the nearest town.  I quickly set about finding someone at the local school and we were soon led once again to a classroom to spend the night!  They make excellent places to stay – a roof,  power sockets, water and toilets for free!  Thomas took the opportunity to play a bit of basketball with the pupils too…

I had been planning to head back into Chile for a 5-day loop on that side of the border but, with my knee as it was and not having the energy to contemplate the climb back over the border, I decided to ride with Thomas and Tina on the Bolivian side.

The next day, with everyone fairly weary, we set off at a gentle pace, our conquest visible over our right shoulders…

Rob was on a tight schedule so headed off on the direct route, whilst the three of us were following another AndesByBike route closer to the border.

That afternoon offered up some lovely views and then some river crossings…

…whilst dodging some ominous-looking storms, taking refuge briefly in a school classroom and then an abandoned building…

We were following Neil and Vicky’s tracks through the, at times, deep sand. I swear one of them was drunk… 😉

The next two days were thankfully on slightly harder-packed roads, albeit with a fair smattering of washboard, until we finally emerged at the highway, shortly before Sabaya.

Rolling into Sabaya, we finally caught up with Neil and Vicky, who had just finished cooking up their usual feast of a lunch by the roadside!  They were heading on towards the Salars, whilst we had a long-awaited rest day planned at a hospedaje in Sabaya.

At dinner that night at the local polleria, we were introduced to the effects of mobile phones on the local teenagers…

We laughed – it’s an even more extreme effect here than back home!

After a day of extreme (but absolutely necessary) laziness, we hit the road again to take on the first of the two major salt flats, the Salar de Coipasa.  It’s mucky to begin with but slowly flattens out and becomes whiter…

On our way past, we stopped into Coipasa town to pick up some supplies. In a frankly terrible mis-allocation of funds, they had an astroturf football pitch but clearly poor sanitary infrastructure and no waste management.  The outskirts were something of a rubbish dump…

Leaving town, we skirted round the island and headed out onto the Salar proper…

The reflected UV from the salt requires covering up thoroughly…

Cruising across the flat salt, we got a little over-confident and decided to try and more direct route (to our eventual destination).  If we’d read the comments on the AndesByBike site properly, we would have known that the salt gets pretty sketchy in places.

It got nigh-on unrideable before we realised our mistake and changed direction 90 degrees to re-join the original route.  Once through the crud, the road got much smoother again but, surprise surprise, we had a headwind to contend with!

Turning the corner for the last kilometre into the small town of Tres Cruces, I thought we’d just be able to roll in with a tailwind.  Instead, however, we faced a track of deep sand which required pushing.  After being offered a campsite in someone’s backyard, I eventually got us into the village hall, which offered much better protection from the fierce wind and ensuing dust.

6 Comments

  1. Incredible pictures – can’t wait to see them on a big screen. And the nights on the Salar must have been extraordinary. Hope the few days’ rest has helped your knee Xxx

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