February 15, 2011 GMT
Pass the salt please

Uyuni, the worlds largest salt flat.

We had written it off the route, due to its possible inaccessibility during the wet season (dirt roads only), but Jean decided she would brave it.

So, we selected the straightest and flattest route, and hoped for no rain.

The tarmac turned to hard pack, the hard pack turned to muddy sand. And in the distance we saw rain.

At times the road disappeared due to being washed out and we had to re-orientate ourselves or ask other passing vehicles (they criss cross every where out here) for the correct track.

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Along the route we passed many small teams smoothing out the ruts, one team stopped us to ask if we had a pump to blow up the tyre on their wheel barrow. Time was our enemy but it would have been wrong to not help, they were intrigued when I connected the electric pump to the bike. And they all ran shy when the camera appeared, so no photo.

The mud and sand was ok, until we hit the wet stuff, our tyres are more on road than off road and the going got tricky.

I had just ridden along side Jean and complimented her on a good skid recovery, when my front end took a life of its own and to Jean in her mirror it looked like I was enacting the scene from "The Great Escape" as Steve McQueen tried to leap to freedom over a fence (but I had a wall of sand). Like Mr McQueen I handled the first obstacle, but lost it in a ditch.

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It was a soft, slow tumble, so nothing serious. Nice slide tracks though.

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Jean must have got a bit cocky, as a few minutes later it was my turn to help her pick the bike up.

uyunicrash3.jpg

We pressed on, slower now, and finally made it to Uyuni just after 18:00, 160 kms (100 miles) of dirt later.

I am proud of all my girls - Jean (especially) and the bikes which are still in 1 piece after their good shake out.

As we are in the wet season, the salt flat is in fact a lake, so we did not take the bikes on to it but chose a day tour in a 4 by 4 instead.

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It is a surreal place, the horizon does not seem to exist. The sky and mountains (and the hoards of tourists) were all reflected in the water.

It is somewhere we will have to revisit in the dry season, one day, but first we need to plot our escape from here.

Posted by Bruce Porter at February 15, 2011 11:01 PM GMT
 


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