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Old 29 Dec 2004
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Best post-Salar crossing from Bolivia to Chile?

Hi,

In Cusco Peru with four others and heading to La Paz, Coroico, Potosi, and Salar de Uyuni (weather permitting but looks good).

Plan on heading west from Uyuni across Salar to Isla de Pescadores and south to San Juan ... from there, which is the best route to Chile?

It´s either due west to Ollague at the Bolivia-Chile border, about 70 kms, or south to Laguna Colorada and San Pedro Atacama, Chile, several hundred KMs.

Researching the site I see many more travelers choose the latter option ... but looks like Ollague would be faster and we´ll be in the mood for Chilean pavement by then. Both routes will be gnarly, I´m sure...

From Ollague, in Chile, the route would be southwesterly (route 21) to Calama Chile ... any info on conditions on that road?

Thanks for any insights on which route to choose!




[This message has been edited by Ride Far (edited 28 December 2004).]
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Old 20 Jan 2005
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Hi Joseph. Not sure where you guys are at the moment but maybe this is of some help.

Following arecent visit I have some news on the condition of both routes from 12th January. I was told that the salt flats were wet and impassable and took a jeep tour. It soon became clear that it would have been possible to ride on the salt flats from Uyuni out to Fish Island and back. The southern part of the flats were under a few cms of water and I would not have wished to ride across. The jeep tour then continued south through San Juan and down to Laguna Colorada, Laguna verde and back to Uyuni. There was heavy rain after we left the salt flats and the roads became quagmires. I decided that I would not ride along route 5 to the border at Ollague. Simply too much mud. However, the alternatives (routes south to Laguna Verde and the border near San Pedro De Atacama) were looking very bad too.

Ultimately I chose a route from Uyuni to San Cristobal to Alota to Ollague. This route (from Alota to Ollague) was not marked on my map. The surface was generally hard (with very little sand) all the way to the border. It is gradually being improved though and shopyuld in future be a good road. However, just outside Uyuni you need to cross 2 rivers. They are currently building the bridges. The first one (Rio Colorado) had to be crossed by truck. The second was just over boot height. Lovely. If anyone is facing a choice between routes during the wet season I would recommend this one. But it is not nearly as scenic.

At Ollague (150 miles from Uyuni), I could not even find the place to exit Bolivia. Rolled into Chilean customs and they promptly confiscated my sheepskin seat cover. If you have one stash it in your bag!

The road to Calama was terrible. Corrugations and loose sand but probably still better than the route through southern Bolivia. The road was unpaved for the first 120kms then badly paved for the last 80 kms to Calama.

PS Last fuel is at Alota - available at the general store. Then it is 280kms to Calama. There is no fuel or money changing at the border.

Hope this gives you some clues.

Matt
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