Salar de Uyuni: Pushing on
Cycling on the Mars

October 8, 2017

After spending one last night in Bolivia with our friend Charles, we all headed out to new countries. Andrew and I were destined for Chile and Charles was headed for Argentina.

What happened…

Andrew writes: Friends can make such a huge difference in the ride. Just having Charles around for 15km today was such a boost. He looks adversity straight on and spits in its’ face. It’s amazing and inspirational. Then, he headed off towards some God-forsaken off-road route through the lagunas San Pedro, a 10-day trek without food or water, and we beelined it for the border with Chile, the land of milk and honey.

The day was spent on a gravel road, which at times would get so rutted and bumpy that it seemed easier to just cycle off-piste. Sometimes cycling off the road, we would end up in ankle-deep sand again, which was still better pushing than being on the road itself. The landscape was very moonlike, just a lot of rock, and desolation, and a smoking volcano ahead in the distance. In the early afternoon the wind picked up and was a super-strong headwind. We reached the border just before 2’pm, and we were just in the nick of time as the Immigration office had been closed for lunch and was set to reopen shortly. We ended up having the whole of “no mans land” to ourself because all of the car traffic had to go through customs, which was still closed for lunch. I swear, the section between Bolivia and Chile, maintained by no-one, was a horrible chunk of road. Oddly enough, there is a soccer pitch in middle of the frontera, with half of the field in Bolivia and half in Chile. And then, there is pavement. Sweet, sweet, asphalt.

Clearing customs and immigration on the Chilean side took awhile, and they confiscated my newly purchased bottle of cooking alcohol. Cyclists, take note! It’s not allowed to bring 96′ alcohol across the border, but you can buy the exact same bottle from the corner store once you get into Chile. Then we ran into some money problems. We had read about this in other blogs, namely, that there is nowhere to get Chilean Pesos. No ATMs, no money exchange. Fortunately, we were able to use our VISA card at one of the stores in town, and someone exchanged our bolivianos for pesos, but things would be tight until we could find a bank. Here’s hoping that’s sometime soon!

Amanda writes: I was so excited today! Not just because we got to ride with Chuck for a while but because we were entering another new Country. It’s not that I didn’t like Bolivia, it’s just there’s not too much going on here. It’s what I expected; flat and desolate. It’s very quiet and not like any other country we have been too. Time will tell if there are others like it. As we continued West toward Chile the massive volcanoes got bigger and more amazing. There was one really large one on our left that was particularly interesting as it occasionally puffed smoke. The terrain was hard and as Andrew said involved some pushing, but we weren’t in too much of a rush, so no worries.

The border crossing was simple and we were pleasantly surprised that we didn’t have to pay an exit fee. We had read on some other blog people had to pay a fee. And it’s a good thing we didn’t because we needed the cash! Remember a few days ago in Uyuni when we were trying to buy Chilean pesos and couldn’t get many. Well that became an issue today. The store that took VISA was such a saving grace and we took full advantage of it, but after paying for the hotel, we were left with only a few dollars for basically bread and we had 2-3 days of riding yet. So when we were making some purchases at the store that accepted VISA I reminded Andrew we were in Chile and had heard that we should enjoy the wine and steak here. So we asked the lady if she had any wine. She said yes and went into the back and came out with a 1.5 litre bottle of red! Andrew and I burst out laughing … for 2 reasons. First it was only $2 for the bottle and second that the woman thought we could polish that off. After we collected ourselves we declined and informed her that we couldn’t possibly drink it all and that carrying it on a bike wasn’t feasible.

The aerial view of our rides:

Today’s Photographs

Salar de Uyuni: Pushing on
Cycling on the Mars