Travel Diaries: Cycling The Uyuni Salt Flats

June 10, 2017

 

 

Pierre here! 

2012, 2014, and now 2017. Another year, another cycling trip. After Paris to Australia and Paris to Morocco, I felt ready for the desert landscapes and high dirt roads of South America, to discover myself once again. My route would start in Lima and end in Santiago 3 months later, accompanied by my loyal bicycle and a new friend: a drone! At the heart of this trip I would cross the largest salt desert in the world: Uyuni.

 

 

April 4, 2017

I've finally made it to Bolivia, the country of my dreams, with only one objective in mind: Salar de Uyuni and the desert regions of the south. It's time to study my maps, and take the advice of fellow cyclist travelers; it's time to choose my route. From there, the real adventure begins!

 

 Salinas Garci de Mendoza, the last village before the salt flats. Only 30 km of rough terrain to pass, and a majestic volcano that separates me from the salt flats. At the end of my last ascent, I finally see it from a distance. All white, as far as the eye can see. Emotion overcomes me. I'm completely, utterly excited, but I have to finish my last route, filled with rocks, and I'm furious at having to descend so slowly and patiently, as if the Salar would disappear! 

 

Then the magic begins. I hear the sound of salt, cracking underneath the weight of my wheels. I feel like I'm a sailor, needing to chart a direction. The road has only two dimensions and I'm cycling in the immense, all-encompassing white landscape. I take the time to rest often, to soak it all in. When I stop pedaling, the silence overwhelms me. I sit down on the salt, and think about the white void in front of me. These are moments of exceptional solitude. Purity surrounds me. 

 

That night, I set up my tent on one of the islands of the Salar, sleeping next to cacti giants. Before dawn the next morning, I leave early to enjoy the sunrise while cycling. As I start to approach the exit that evening, a wave of nostalgia overwhelms me — the feeling of leaving a dream, leaving the purity and the silence, to find reality again.





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