The greatest salar of them all is the Salar de Uyuni. East to west it is 150km and approx the same north to south. It is on everyones hit list on a visit to Bolivia and every cyclist wants to ride the sparkling white pristine flats. All the tourist towns within cooee of the Salar offer 4WD tours of 1-3 days and that is how most people experience the salar.
After our rest day in Uyuni we had a short day to the town on the edge of the salt flats.It was an easy 20km, cheekily riding the road under construction, so we could avoid the multitudes of 4WDs heading the same direction. We had the afternoon to hang our in Colchani after we moved into our salt block accommodation. Yes the whole building was constructed in salt blocks stuck together with what must have been a salt slurry that then sets like concrete.
Seems like the 2 businesses in town are tourism and processing salt. We were told the purest salt in the world is extracted from the salar. Seems like labour is not an issue as it looked like the salt was trucked off the salar and dumped in piles, only to be pickaxed up again once it had got solid and put back on trucks to be taken to the factory to be crushed. Didn´t make sense to us.
We cooked up dinner in our salty room and had a comfy night (first use of the pee bottle!). The next day we were riding at 7.45 am in the maybe -15 degree temps. This was in case a westerly picked up later as we had 75km of due west cycling to ge tus to the Isla Incahausi. The vast whiteness was amazing – I could truly believe I was back in Antarctica cruising the sea ice. Sadly the surface was pretty bumpy and our visión of fast smooth riding was not happening..until 30km along when things picked up dramatically and we could enjoy fast riding.
The island was amazing, covered in thousands of tall cactii. Aparently they grow 1m every 100 years so some were 900 years old. Senor Alfredo set up the island to cater for visitors and he has done it very well. There is a great walk to the top of the island, and all the buildings on the western side of the island were tastefully built. Even saw recycling bins. We had only had 3 biscuits and tea for breakfast and 2 snickers on the ride so we arrived famished. Not long later we were sitting down to a 3 course lunch – creme of quinoa soup, chicken, rice, chips and veges, followed by chocolate pancake. Yes we are doing it hard – well we thought we deserved it.
The only people who stay on the island seem to be the people who run the show and cyclists. The multitude of 4WD that are parked out the front disappear at 5pm and we are left to enjoy the sunset with Alfredo and his family. Very special. Our accommodation was in a room that looked like it was used for talks, so mattresses on the floor. It had many windows that looked out onto the salar.
Today we again started early and it was fantastic riding all 70km to the western edge – 20km an hour, just cruising. We were also lucky to have a wee easterly to help us along. Like yesterday it seemed we had the salar to ourselves as we were out of sinc with the tourist trade. No hay nadie (there was no-one)
We are staying in Llica, hostel with little water (seems to be a common theme) but there is internet and there are places to fill our bellies. We are leaving the tourist route tomorrow and it may be a while to the next computer or hot shower.. but we are not complaining as this is continuing to be the most amazing journey