One of the most famous attractions in Bolivia is the Salar de Uyuni, most people do this as part of a 4 day tour also covering the Southern Altiplano, normally this is done from the North, but we were arriving from the South. After a quick stop in Tarija where we spent a couple of days buying food supplies and setting up the bike as well as arranging for one of the tours to take two 20l cannisters of petrol for us to pick up en route as it’s impossible to buy petrol out on the Altiplano. We set off fully loaded and spent the next 5 hours largely climbing over mountains surrounded by some of the most incredible scenery. We were gaining altitude so despite the blue sky and sunshine the temperature was dropping, we dropped the bike a couple of times. The final time we realised it was because we’d actually managed to snap two of the four bolts holding together the frame of the bike, there was no way we could go on in such a remote area like this, so what to do!! Not many cars come past here so all we could do was hope that someone would come by and help us out, we sat down and ate lunch while thinking through our options. As luck would have it just as we finished locals came past in a car, we flagged them down and they agreed, very reluctantly, to take me and the luggage back to town leaving Aiden to limp the bike back on his own.
Back in Tarija we spent a couple more days sourcing new bolts, we decided that it would be better to have less weight on the bike so we arranged to have a lot of our bags shipped to Potosi. We set off for take 2, it was a lot easier to get the bike around with less weight and the scenery was so pretty we didn’t mind that we were driving the same roads again. We decided to take the longer and more scenic route over las lagunas, a series of pretty lakes. We spent longer than planned and finally ended up arriving into the first town after dark and so after a bit of looking around we managed to find the guesthouse where our spare petrol had been stored and after talking round to a few groups we found someone who would feed us.
The next day we decided to attempt to cross the highest motorable road at 6000m. We set off and started climbing again, after a while we came to a river crossing. We got off and had a better look, the main problems were we didn’t know quite how deep it was and it also went round a small bend, I stood on some soft ground and thought it was a bad idea but Aiden was undeterred and set off, almost immediately he sank the front half of the bike so were there in almost knee deep freezing cold water attempting to drag the bike back out of the water when a local came by, understandably he looked pretty surprised to see crazy foreigners trying to get a motorbike out of the river but undeterred he hopped in and helped us. Between the 3 of us we got it out and he set off shaking his head. Wet and cold we decided not to try again and headed back and on to the next town.
Over the next 3 days we drove across he most incredible landscapes, snow capped mountains, impossibly blue lakes with beautiful flamingos, sandy deserts, smoking geysers. The organised tours take in some of this but if you have your own transport there are bits you can take slightly different routes, we took advantage and only saw the tours in the evenings when we stayed in the villages. The combination of altitude and wind meant we were cold almost all the time, so even for pictures we rarely took our helmets off!!