Hi Kevin, glad your trip is going well and the bikes are holding up for you. I dont know what elevation those bikes are jetted for when you bought them, but if they were jetted for La Paz elevations, when you get into the lowlands you might want to check that out so you dont burn up the motors from running too lean once you get down. Just a thought.
Hopefully, you can find a map in Uyuni, bummer that the info tur office was closed because that is a damned fine map of the area.
However, Mark posted some hi-res jpegs of that map on your other Bolivia thread when you were doing your planning. So if you cant find maps, print these up....
Here are those maps: Salar area: http://photos.smugmug.com/photos/118...4_ut3Tn-X3.jpg
South of the Salar area: http://photos.smugmug.com/photos/118...3_fRJt6-X3.jpg
The rough route:
Uyuni - Isla Incahuasi - Isla Pescado (camp for the night.)
Isla Pescado - Isla Incahuasi - follow tracks to the south exit off the Salar
South exit - San Juan
San Juan - Chinguana
Chinguana - 3 little lakes Go south from Chinguana not west!
3 little lakes - Laguna Colorado
Laguna Colorado - Hot springs
Hot Springs - Laguna Verde
Laguna Verde - San Pedro de Atacama
Follow along. go onto the Salar. Camp at Isla Pescado. In the morning, back track to Incahuasi, then south following the tracks
all the way to the south end of the Salar where you will find the proper exit and stay out of the mud.
Here is the south exit off the Salar de Uyuni:
Next, follow the exit off the Salar then follow the road to San Juan, and from San Juan to Chinguana.
From Chinguana cross the RR track and go south along the road, (do not take the road west to Ollague!) continue south keeping volcan Ollague on your right and make your way to the three little lakes where you will find some nice camping spots. Go further south to Laguna Colorado, further south along the same road to Salar de Chilviri, then to Laguna Verde at the bottom of the map and exit Bolivia near San Pedro de Atacama, Chile. Should be easy to print up this map.
As far as GPS is concerned, if you can get some decent internet bandwidth (which is tough in Bolivia I realize) there is a free map, ConoSur Geored: http://www.gps.com.ar/
that has the roads on the Lagunas route. You would have to upload them to an SD card, or to a computer with Mapsource installed then install in the GPS. I had the tracks of my route after I rode it, but that computer got stolen in Colombia unfortunately. If that doesnt work for you, go to this site http://garmin.openstreetmap.nl/
and build yourself a GPS map for the regions you need. They will compile the maps you selected and let you know via email when its available for download. Once you get the email, it will have the download link and will offer several formats if you are using Mapsource, Basecamp, or just putting it on an SD card to put in the GPS. Its also free.
Gas. Well, it might be a problem but you can work it out. The entire route from Uyuni to San Pedro de Atacama is about 600 kms. 170 km range is pretty thin, carry as much extra gas as you possibly can leaving Uyuni. Once you exit the Salar off the south end, after quite a few miles, the next village you come to is called San Juan. Looks like something out of a Spaghetti Western.
There is a lady there a few buildings down from the town tienda that sells barrel gas. She may tell you that she doesnt have enough fuel to sell you, but once you explain how little you need and how badly you need it, she will sell you fuel. Once again, get as much as you can carry because its still well over 100 miles to Laguna Colorado IIRC.
Next place for fuel will be at Laguna Colorado, but you could possibly flag down a Cruiser along the way and beg for fuel. When the Land Cruiser tours come into Laguna Colorado in the afternoon, they will be carrying fuel and will be happy to sell you whatever you need.
After that, next fuel will be in San Pedro de Atacama, but the funny old guy running the restaurant at the hot springs past Colorado might have a little fuel to sell you. The tours also come through there and like I mentioned, they always carry fuel and dont mind selling a few liters. If for some reason you run out of fuel, if you are on the main route, you should be able to flag down a passing Land Cruiser and get some fuel from them. The drivers are all pretty nice and glad to help. However, they drive like complete mad men, so when you are on the route keep a good eye on your 6 as some of these guys will come up on you at close to 100 mph in some sections.
As far as a stove, I made a beer can stove and burned the 96% alcohol (also drinkable
) that you can buy just about anywhere for 7 Bs/liter. At those elevations it will heat up water if you build a nice windscreen for it, but as far as any real cooking, it will take a long time.
I carried food from Uyuni, then bought some junk food at the tienda in San Juan. At Laguna Colorado I was out of food, but the folks there that cater to the tours took pity on me and made me dinner.
All of this is along the main tour route and its pretty easy to navigate in most section. An easy place to get a little turned around and messed up is after leaving San Juan and crossing the salar Chinguana. At the end of town in San Juan, get on the salar Chinguana.
It may involve a little cross country riding to find the main tracks again, but my memory is getting a little fuzzy on that now. If all else fails, follow the tire tracks in the sand, they will go somewhere. However some tracks will lead west into Chile at Ollague, but you dont want to do that, you want to continue south into the lagunas. You want to follow the RR track for a while after leaving San Juan then cross the railroad tracks and head south. It should be fairly obvious where to do this. The RR tracks themselves actually go to Ollague, Chile I think. You will see various tracks going off in different directions, but oftentimes, they will rejoin the main route, however sometimes not, so stay frosty and pay attention because of your limited fuel range. There are places where you will be confused about which way to go. Take your time and work it out because it is very remote country. Make sure you have plenty of water.
Take as much fuel as you can carry at each stop because if you get lost, you could burn through that before you are able to rejoin the main route.
I rode from the Salar de Uyuni to Laguna Colorado in a day, but its about 200 miles and I was moving pretty good. You could plan to camp in between San Juan and Colorado at one of the small lakes. There is one lake, the one before Laguna Honda IIRC, that had a full restaurant set up that catered to the tours as well, and you could probably talk them into sleeping inside on the floor if you need to get out of the cold.
Also, just before Laguna Colorado is a park entrance office. They will charge you a fee to go through the park and its not cheap, around 150 Bs if I remember correctly, so make sure you plan to have enough money for that entrance fee.
After Laguna Colorado, you will come to the hot springs.
Like I mentioned, there is a family there that runs a restaurant, which of course has food. They will also let you camp on the restaurant floor for the night if you want to get out of the wind and cold.
One other thing I would like to mention is that when you are on the salar, stay on the tracks. Once you get off of those tracks you could break through the crust and wind up buried in axle deep wet, salty mud, which would be very bad for the bike's electronics. Avoid any damp or wet areas on that salar, very important for the bikes to keep running. Also, camping on the salar, I would recommend Isla Pescado, about 10 km NW of Isla Incahuasi.
I dont know what you are planning after the Lagunas. But, when you get into Chile and San Pedro de Atacama you will not be stopped by migracion or aduana. The offices are on your right as you ride into town, you cant miss them. You process yourself and your bikes into Chile there. Then, before you leave San Pedro for Argentina you need to go to that same office and check yourself and bikes out of Chile as well as there are no options to do that at Paso de Jama or Paso Sico. They will ask you what way you are taking into Argentina. Once into Argentina, you can pick up Ruta 40 and Ruta 9 northeast to re-enter Bolivia at Villazon. At the Argentina migracion and aduana office/checkpoint at Paso de Jama there is a YPF and you can get fuel there. The route from Villazon to the north back into Bolivia is very nice.
Alternatively, from San Pedro, you can stay in Chile and continue north through the Atacama if you are wanting a quick way to get to Peru, all depends on what you want to do. In any case, you will need to check in with migracion and aduana in San Pedro.
This is an epic, epic route in SW Bolivia and will no doubt be the highlight of your trip. Hope this info helps you out.