After a leg killing climb from San Pedro up to a 4600m pass, it went down to Bolivia. The border control wasn’t quite that what you would expect. There was just little shed – Welcome to Bolivia. After getting two stamps for a 60 day visa I could start the infamous lagoon route.
I heard all those stories about the worst roads on the world and kilometers of pushing through sand. So of course I was excited, how it would really be. From the border a tailwind pushed me to the first of the many lagoons Laguna Blanca. The road was still alright, but soon after the turnoff to Laguna Verde the road didn’t deserve to be called road anymore. Instead there was a choice of jeep tracks, some better than the others.
Some ruins near the lagoons and the volcano Licancábur gave me shelter for the first night in Bolivia. The next day started as the previous one ended and thanks to tailwind and I cycled quickly over a 4700m pass before rolling down to the hot springs at Laguna Chalviri. After a long relaxing dip in the perfectly warm water I decided to call it a day. The friendly owners of the restaurant let me sleep on the floor, what saved me another cold night in the tent.
Watching the sunrise while lying again in the hot water can’t be a better start in the day, although the rest of the day was probably the toughest on that route. I was battling an ice cold headwind on the climb up the high point of the lagoon route at 4930m. At the top the steaming geyser of Sol de Manana rewarded the effort though.
no road, just jeep tracks
The great hot springs
I didn’t want to camp that high and hoped to get down a few hundred meters before it was getting dark, but it didn’t work out. The road now was as bad as I heard it from stories before. But the worst was that there were no sheltered place to camp and the wind made it quite impossible to pitch my tent just anywhere. Finally just before sunset I found a suitable place and after pitching my tent I fell just super exhausted asleep.
The mornings on the Altiplano aren’t very enjoyable. If you wake up and all your water bottles – even inside the tent – are solid ice blocks, you know it was a cold night. Though once the sun came out it was fortunately warming up quickly.
On the way to Laguna Colorada the road got finally pretty sandy. Quite often my front wheel got stuck in a sandy patch and I had to push it out again until the road got more solid again. But unlike other cyclists I’ve never had to push my bike for a long distance.
And so it went on and on for the next days. Due to the sandy roads I just made around 30km in a day again, but I loved to be alone in this incredible landscape. Some people might find it boring to be alone for that long time in a desert, but for me it was a very special feeling. Just a few jeeps loaded with tourist were passing me, usually all at the same time and after that I was alone again. It was like being on another planet.
In one day I passed a couple of lagoons until I ended up camping at Laguna Cañapa. The lagoon was crowded with flamincos. It was great to watch some life after being surrounded just by dead rock for a few days. Amazing that they can survive in this extreme environment.
Arbol de Piedra – Stone tree
another ruin, which served as camp spot for a night
One of the few trucks passing me
pushing was necessary sometimes
In Chiguana the friendly guys at military camp let me sleep inside for a night. I actually just asked for water and if it’s alright to camp inside the ruins next to the camp. But the latter wasn’t alright, instead I got a bed in one of their weird camouflaged concrete domes. Interestingly I’ve never met a real soldier. The only people I saw were 18 year olds doing their military service there.
The next day I reached San Juan, the first village in ten days and the first time that I could buy food again. The lagoon route was finished.
The Salar de Uyuni is the world’s biggest salt flat. Around 10,000 years ago the lake dried out and left about 10 Billion tons of salt on an area of 10,500 km2 behind. I could hardly believe it that I’m there, it had always been a dream of me to get to this place. After a few kilometers of cycling I stopped and looked around. 360 degrees just white salt, countless polygons and the blue sky at the horizon. It was just awesome to ride over the endless flat and crushing the edges of the polygons, so easy compare to the weeks before. Definitely the craziest place, where I’ve ever cycled. Just incredible.
Isla Incahuasi, the island in the middle of the Salar