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BOLIVIA Uyuni and Chinguana Salt Flats

12 Mar 2014

Everyone knows that riding the Uyuni Salt Flats is a must but there’s more, much more…

Dist: ≈100 km on the Uyuni Salt Flats and ≈150 km after ; Date: Mar 2014

There is no defined route across the Uyuni Salt Flats, which is part of the fun, so, once you’ve accessed the salt flat via Colchani, find the bearing for the Isla Incuahuasi (here), point your bike towards it, and ride as fast as you comfortably (and safely) can. Enjoy!

 

From the small, rocky island, most riders head back to Uyuni to power was the salt off their bikes. Much better, though, is to head south to the small village of Chuvica – just make sure you’ve brought plenty of water. Here you leave the salt and pick up a dirt road, going south. At this point check your radiators because Jess’s G650GS overheated around here because the radiator was caked with salt. We washed it off with some water and carried right on.

 

About 21 km south of Chuvica is the town of Villa Martin. Just outside is the Tambo Loma Salt Hotel. Yes, much of the hotel is made of salt and, so, staying the night here is a great experience. You should also be able to arrange with the hotel to use their hose to wash down your bike at least well enough to staunch the bleeding.

 

The small settlement of Juliaca is about 25 km to the south of Villa Martin. Before that you can veer right, rather than continue straight, onto RN 5 towards San Juan. However, from Julaca there is a reasonably discernable route though the Chinguana Salt Flat that essentially continues straight along the RN 5’s east-west trajectory into Juliaca. This route takes you through the less salty but still otherworldly Chinguana Salt Flat that snakes among surrounding and desolate hills and mountains. After maybe 50 km or so you reach the tiny settlement of Chinguana, which consists of just a handful of structures.

 

Continue on your current heading or else, if you’re ready to depart the salt, veer right to catch unpaved RN 5, which skirts the salt flat along the surrounding hillsides just a couple kilometers to the north. From Chinguana it’s about 45 km to the Chilean border at Estación Avaroa. There is an immigration post here and even a place to order alpaca if, like us, you arrive at lunch time and the immigration office is on his lunch break.

 

There’s not much at Ollague and you certainly won’t find a place to power wash your filthy bike so, if you’ve got the stamina and daylight, continue south on Ruta 21 through beautiful, desolate landscapes to the city of Calama amost 200 km away.

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