Bolivia: Uyuni - Laguna Verde, exit question

Discussion in 'Latin America' started by crashmaster, Sep 13, 2010.

  1. everlast30

    everlast30 Bs.As - Machu Picchu 2010

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    AMAZING!!! i did that route a few months ago! with another 3 friends! those where the hardest roads/desert/sandthingi i had ever ride a bike through! but it was worth it!
    I felt 7 times from the bike during the 7 days that took us that part of the trip! those 7 times where on the first two days! after that i learned how to ride the bike through that kind of terrain on such a heavy bike! ( Vstrom DL1K fully loaded )

    enjoy the rest of your trp and if you are in BsAS send me a message i will pay for the bears in exchange for some road tales! or histories don't know how you say this jajaja


    saludos
    Toto
    #81
  2. crashmaster

    crashmaster ow, my balls!

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    Well, I did wait 3 weeks for that GPS, and I jumped through quite a few hoops to get it in my hands.. :D But in the end, I didnt need it, but I was happy that I had it. I hit some two tracks that I had no idea where they went. After a while, it was apparant that they went nowhere. Actually, they went to the middle of fucking nowhere. Well, more accurately, the ass end of the middle of f'ing nowhere. I had to back track a bit, then find a route, cross country bushwhack line to the nearest "main road" where I was able to get back in the game.


    I could have done it without a GPS, but then again, if I didnt have the GPS, I would not have known that I was headed into a place where I would run out of fuel and be stuck off the main jeep route, sleeping in -20 temps with little water and no food. I guess I'm such a whimp that way that its pathetic. :rofl

    Even with the GPS, it was still a great experience.
    #82
  3. cu260r6

    cu260r6 Been here awhile

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    #83
  4. Misery Goat

    Misery Goat Positating the negative Super Moderator

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    Man, I don't know about all that sand, I've been on pavement so long I think I forgot how to ride in it. :D
    #84
  5. bananaman

    bananaman transcontimental

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    #85
  6. crashmaster

    crashmaster ow, my balls!

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    Well, riding on the salar in the wet season is probably not the smartest thing to do, but it sure made for a good story and a nice adventure. :thumb

    There are muddy spots even in the dry the season, although probably not as many. Once in a while you will feel the bike starting to get sucked in and you just have to pin it and hope you dont sink it up the axle.
    #86
  7. Zibou

    Zibou Been here awhile

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    is there any road to laguna colorada and laguna verde ridable with not so much durt / sand experience? any "main" route?

    I will be there by january so it's the beginning of the wet season if I'm right
    My plan was to ride from San pedro de Atcama to laguna Verde, then colorada then Uyuni.

    I won't take the KTm, I'll buy a bike in chile, so depending on what I can find, I might be on a KLR, an Africa twin or a DL650...
    I will go solo, so I am not confidente enough to get into so much trouble as you did, I would rather stay on durt by hard roads (hard not in the meaning of hard to ride...)
    #87
  8. markharf

    markharf Been here awhile

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    The guy reporting acted stooooopid and got lucky in the end. In fact, considering the condition of his rear sprocket, he's damn lucky he crashed (although "full speed" sure looks like a stretch based on the photos) sooner rather than later, while he could still walk out. It's not even at all clear that he learned anything appreciable in the process. I expect better of myself and those with whom I ride.

    It's also not at all clear just how much of a trial he actually had. Reference to walking "120 km" doesn't add up to leaving the bike at sunrise and meeting up with a bus at 5 pm....or am I missing something crucial in the narrative?

    Crankily yours,

    Mark
    #88
  9. Lone Rider

    Lone Rider Registered User

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    I'm thinking an ice-cold 12-pack of Carta Blanca and it'll be fine. :D

    He coulda been been kidnapped, put into slavery on the Isla de Pesca, carving and sawing blocks of salt used in construction, and then escaped one night, under the cover of darkness....along with some other stuff, and have written a book about what never actually happened....
    #89
  10. crashmaster

    crashmaster ow, my balls!

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    Shit, that's exactly what happened to me. How did you know? :rofl
    #90
  11. Lone Rider

    Lone Rider Registered User

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    I hope you have pics taken from high passes.
    At 16k, I'd be hard pressed to even put my sandals on. :D

    Did you experience any need for acclimation for high elevations along the way, or did it not affect you?
    #91
  12. crashmaster

    crashmaster ow, my balls!

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    Eventhough I am generally a fat out of shape dough boy. I generally do well with altitude. However being acclimatized is the key for most people, including myself. In Peru, I was never much below 10,000 feet doing the Andes route.

    In Bolivia, I was well over 10,000 feet until Sucre, which was a low 9500 feet. So, after months at near 10,000 feet and above, I was in pretty good shape for 16,000 feet. But, even though you dont get sick, you can still feel it, big time, no matter how well you are acclimatized.
    #92
  13. bananaman

    bananaman transcontimental

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    This is WAY my favorite thread for a long time. It's like eating in the kitchen at a fancy chef's place. I wonder if I should add it to the RRLT... Of course it belongs there. Good job, Chef V.
    #93
  14. Lone Rider

    Lone Rider Registered User

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    Makes sense.
    For me, it's another added dimension.

    Post some pics when it's convenient.
    #94
  15. crashmaster

    crashmaster ow, my balls!

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    This is a re-post from my Ride Report, but I will try to add some more practical information to the post than merely, "it was f'ing epic." :roflI figured that since I started this thread by asking questions, I might as well provide some useful information.

    I remember first reading about this route when I read striking viking's book and knew that I had to ride it if I ever got to Bolivia.

    Best ride of the trip so far, and probably the most scenic ride I have ever done.

    The Salar de Uyuni at over 4000 square miles is the largest salt flat in the world and contains around 50% to 70% of the worlds lithium reserves. It is roughly 25 times the size of the Bonneville salt flats in the U.S. It sits in the Bolivian altiplano at over 12,000 feet. The average altitude of the salar varies only one meter over its entire expanse. Because of this, the large area, and clear skies, orbiting satellites use the salar to calibrate their laser altimeters.

    I learned all this from Wikipedia, so I have no idea if its true or not, but it sure sounds good.

    But, the absolute coolest thing about the salar, is that its a great place to ride a motorcycle.

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    In the foreground in the above photo you notice what looks like a hole in the salt. It is a hole, and you have to look out for these when you are riding. They call them Ojos de Sal, or Eyes of Salt.




    There are numerous islands on the salar. I visited a couple, then settled down at the main island, Incahuasi to camp for the night. There are some indigenous people that live here and cater to the Land Cruiser tours coming through. I was going to go camp at Isla Pescado a little further northwest on the salar but it was starting to get dark and I wanted to take some pics and get camp set up before darkness fell.

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    Its a good idea to set up camp at one of the islands, as the wind blows hard all night long so it provides some shelter. Also, as remote as the chance my be, you dont want to get run over by a passing Land Cruiser in the middle of the night. So, its good to stick to the islands.

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    The sun is going down and it is just starting to get cold. And as if on cue, the wind starts to kick up to around 40 mph. It is quite pleasant during the day before the wind picks up. However nights are typically around -10 to -20 degrees Celsius.

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    The next day I got up and headed south across the salar. The feeling you get riding the salar is hard to describe. It really feels as if you flying in an airplane, or riding in the middle of a perfectly smooth ocean because eventhough you are clipping along at 80 mph+ you dont have a sense of motion. Its a very strange feeling on a motorcycle.

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    This is one of the southern exits off of the salar. It is a wise idea to know where these exits are, and use them, or you could wind up stuck in the mud up to your axles.

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    After the exit, it was a couple of hours to the little village of San Juan, where I was able to buy some barrel gas and stock up on water for the day. Many tours pass through here, so the little village is pretty well stocked with things you might need.

    This village really reminds me of something out of a Clint Eastwood spaghetti western. The whole experience of coming off the salar and into this village was quite surreal. I half expected to see Lee Van Cleef and Eastwood come riding out of town as I heard the tune from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, playing in my head.

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    They had everything in this little tienda in the MOFN

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    After San Juan, you can cross another small salar, Chinguana, I believe it is called. Its not small by any means, but not nearly the size of the Salar de Uyuni.

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    The wind is blowing again and is sometimes so strong its downright spooky. In fact just after I took this photo, the bike blew over.

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    High speed run down the Salar Chinguana. Epic.

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    There seemed to be only a few good exits off of this salar, but it was relatively dry, even off of the tracks. I picked up a little two track headed to the Volcan Ollague that you can see in the distance.

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    Slowly but surely getting closer. I live for this stuff. The riding and scenery was mind blowing.

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    That two track I took wrapped around the back side of the volcan off the main tracks. I'm not sure but I think that I might have crossed into Chile at a couple of points along the track.

    Is this Mars? I know I have ridden a long way, but I had no idea that I crossed 50 million miles of interplanetary space. This is a good buzz.

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    Behind the volcan I picked up a wide graded road for a few miles. I think the Martians might have some big trucks they use to get around.

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    Then made a turn off onto another two track.

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    It brought me to the first of a series of small lakes that were stunning. This was the first place I saw people. Sadly they were humans and not Martians. For a while, I thought I might have been the first motorcyclist to ride on Mars.

    There were a couple of tours having lunch here. I was moving pretty quickly so I started to gather up the Land Crusiers once on the main route.

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    I contemplated just stopping here for the night, but it was freaking cold an the wind was howling at sand blaster velocity. No sense in sitting in the wind behind a rock, being cold and miserable all day. Since it was only about 1 pm, I pushed on.

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    And the trail meanders down the valley, revealing more impressive scenery.

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    Crossing sections like this is fantastic. Make your own tracks in the sand and gravel wherever the hell you please.

    Mars, this is definitely Mars. Its butt freezing cold, the wind is howling and blowing little rocks around, and its difficult to breath. Its Mars, no doubt about it.

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    Then I head off the main track again to a two track that I decided to explore, and things started to turn green.

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    I re-joined the main route after a while and had fun throwing the bike around the curves going through this narrow wash.

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    Then back into the wide open lonesome. Moonscape. Impressive.

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    Then back to Mars.

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    About mid afternoon I wound up at the famous Arbol de Piedra. I took my helmet off and immediately got pelted in the face by small pebbles blown by the relentless wind.

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    As the afternoon wore on and wind got even more relentless, I started to approach Laguna Colorado.

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    By the time you are nearing Laguna Colorado, you are up around 15,000 feet or more, and you can feel it getting colder and harder to breath. I figured that I would stop here for the night as they actually have rooms you can stay in since the Land Cruiser tours come through here. A lumpy bed out of the wind sounds really good to me about right now.

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    I pull into Camp Ende and see two very familiar looking F650's. Holger and Anja! I put in 200 miles of sand, rocks and washboard this day from the salar to laguna Colorado. It was a big day for me, so I was tired and ready for a break. Holger and Anja had a bit of a slower pace. Their goal was to go about 50 miles a day in this terrain. They had left the salar 4 days ago. On loaded F650's with street tires, I can understand that.

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    The next morning I was up and on the road again. That stuff below is not salt, its ice. Yeah, it gets a little chilly around here.......

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    Now these guys really like suffering. They figured two weeks from the salar to San Pedro de Atacama. They had camped well over 15,000 feet for many cold and windy nights.

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    I went on riding on Mars.

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    Then, seemingly in the MOFN, you see a sign for Bolivian Aduana. It turns out that there is a mine close by, hence the aduana office.

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    As I checked the bike out of Bolivia, I found it was a little hard to breath and was winded after only saying a few words to the aduana dude. I wonder why?

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    After dropping a little elevation, I found myself at the Geyser Sol de la ManaƱa.

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    It didnt put on a show at all. Just a bunch of steam and bubbling mud. I think it spouts off early in the morning.

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    Shortly after the geyser, I found myself headed down to yet another lake with some hot springs. Good place to spend the night. That is salt blowing off a dry lake near the springs. The winds were cranked up yet again, and would almost blow you right off the bike.

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    The next day proved to be yet more spectacular scenery, and of course more sand and rocks blowing in your face.

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    I dare say that this is the most spectacular desert I have ever seen. Well, it is Mars after all.

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    Again on the big wide open lonesome. I never get tired of this stuff. This has by far been the most epic stage of my South America trip.

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    Heaven on a motorcycle.

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    It never seems to end. I am overdosed on spectacular desert scenery.

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    Some people beg for it to end. I dont want it to end.

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    The exit to the national park. Buzzkill.

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    And on to the migracion office and out of Bolivia........

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    And into Chile where the pavement starts and the buzz is almost gone. As you descend over 8000 feet into the Atacama the scenery starts to change, and Mars becomes a distant memory, like a dream that you are having difficulty recalling. You are back on Earth, in just another plain old common desert.

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    OK, just a few words about this route. Its epic desert riding at its best. In my opinion, if you have the skills, this is a must do route. You dont need great skills as in my opinion, nothing is remotely technical, even on a big loaded bike, but you better be comfortable riding hours and hours of sand, some of which can be deep and rutted. This route is not for those that are not confident riding in sand.

    Its remote. Its 380 miles from Uyuni to San Pedro de Atacama, Chile along the route that I took. Except for the passing tours, you will not see another human except for the folks at Laguna Colorado, and the hot springs and a few small stuctures inhabited by folks that cater to the tour groups.

    If you stay on the main tour route you will at least see several vehicles pass by a day, and probably many more during the high season, so you can get help if you need it. If you wander off the tour route as I did in sections, you are really on your own. You might not see a vehicle for many days, if at all.

    Prepare for scorching sun that will burn you lobster red just minutes of uncovering your skin, -20 degrees C temps, brutally strong and cold winds, and thin air. You want to be well acclimated to altitude before taking off on this route.

    Another thing about the altitude. When you drop your bike, picking it up can be quite taxing. I remember picking up my bike one time at around 15,500 feet, and I had to go sit down and rest for a few minutes. Dont underestimate how much the cold, wind, and altitude will zap your strength.

    This was the best segment of my trip, hands down, no contest. Totally epic.

    Saludos.

    Here is a little more information that I responded with on my RR.........

    Get ready to ride some sand.:D I dont want to scare anyone away from this route, but if you are not comfortable riding sand, I would not do this route.

    You can get a very nice map of the area at a tourist office in Sucre. A block off the main plaza is a tourist office called InfoTur (that is the correct spelling). They have the free map which is very nice and outlines multiple routes in the area. Just ask around.

    I didnt need heated gear, and I dont think I turned my grip heaters on. But I dont get cold very easily.

    You should be OK with a 200 mile range, just make sure that you get gas in San Juan, and can get gas off the one of the Land Crusier tours at Laguna Colorado. If you cant get it, you might be waiting around for a couple of days to get it. The old lady at the Tienda in San Juan did not want to sell gas to me. They were running low. But after begging and pleading, and telling her I only needed 15 liters, she relented, but I paid dearly, a buck a liter. But, I needed it.

    You should for sure spend a night on the salar. I recommend Isla Pescado, about 10 miles northwest of Incahuasi. There will be a few other overlanders camping there most likely. Incahuasi is fine as well but they have the park office and the people living there, so Pescado is a better choice I think.

    I think you would be a little unwise to do this route without a tent and a warm sleeping bag (-20), but its doable, but I wouldnt do it.

    I like to be prepared for multiple nights out in the cold, and it gets really freaking cold, big time. You can find anything you need to camp relatively cheaply in La Paz. At least spend a hundred bucks to get a warm down sleeping bag and a pad. But you will still freeze your ass of without a tent. You can get a cheap tent in La Paz as well. All of the outdoor shops are in the tourist area there, just ask around, and bargain hard because you will wind up paying about 1/2 of the starting price for a nice North Face knock off down bag, good to -20 so they say. It will leak feathers everywhere and tear a bit too easily, but its warm.

    At one of the small lakes south of Volcan Ollague, on the way to Laguna Colorado, there are some people living there in a few structures. They had a restaurant IIRC and get supplied by the passing Land Cruisers. I dont know if you can stay there for the night, but its Bolivia, so for a few Bolivianos, I'm sure they would be happy to let you sleep on the floor of the restaurant in your sleeping bag if you just ask. The few folks that live out on this altiplano cater to the tours, so it shouldn't be a problem and they are all very friendly folks.

    Once again, If you have a break down, you want to be able to survive a couple of nights out. If you get off the main route, you might have to wait for quite a while. Just something to keep in mind. Its typical remote desert riding in less than ideal conditions. Be prepared with warm stuff and plenty of water.
    #95
  16. Throttlemeister

    Throttlemeister Long timer Super Supporter

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    Hell yeah Vincent, I'm ready for that stuff:thumb

    Viva Bolivia and Vinny:clap :clap :clap
    #96
  17. Zibou

    Zibou Been here awhile

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    Amaising feed-back, thanks very much!!!
    Is the main route as technical or is it doable with not so much deep sand experience?
    Thinking for example of these two GS650 with street tires, were they heading to the same route?

    Staying in the main route, is a GPS mandatory or not. So far I was planning on doing my trip without one, but riding in such remote locations might need one...
    #97
  18. Lone Rider

    Lone Rider Registered User

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    Very nice. :thumb

    Find some more cool stuff, please.
    #98
  19. bananaman

    bananaman transcontimental

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    When you're coming out of San Pedro after a long ways and a climb of 8000 more feet up to 16000 there's a little sign and an arrow, "Bolivia." If I had known what was down that road... but...

    The lakes are flooded when? January-July?
    #99
  20. crashmaster

    crashmaster ow, my balls!

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    Gracias. When are you headed south?

    There is plenty of deep sand (deeper and more rutted than in any of the photos) so you need to be comfortable in that, because there are miles of it, and the worst is the rutted stuff on the main tour route.

    Ont he plus side, I only saw one silt bed on the entire route. It was only 100 meters long and could have been avoided if I had been paying attention. Silt is the same stuff that the Aussies call "bulldust."

    Just go get comfortable riding in sand. Its all technique, and with a little instruction, practice and following very basic off road riding technique, you should become comfortable with it quite quickly.

    If you want to ride this route, you have to be able to ride in sand. Its not a big deal, get out and learn how to do it.

    The Germans on the F650's learned how to ride sand in the Simpson Desert in Australia. They had no choice. Even though they are competent riding sand, they go slowly because they dont want to hurt themselves. If you have the right gear, and you dont go through the sand at the speed of heat, crashes should not be a show stopping event, just an annoyance because you have to pick up the bike. Also, if you do ride this route, you better be damned sure that you can pick up your bike by yourself, and be able to dig it out when you sink the rear wheel up to the axle in loose sand.

    I would take a GPS for this route, unless you can get a hold of the cold war era Russian military topo maps of the area, and you are very good with a compass and map. thos Russian maps are cool, and accurate. I wish I would have copied them from the guy that showed them to me.

    I will try to, but I really think that might have been the highlight of the coolest stuff in South America. I cant imagine anything better, or even equally awesome.

    Yes, that is where you hit the pavement. Why didnt you go to Bolivia? Simply time constraints, or were you just on a mission to get to Ushuaia? I hate to tell you that you missed out on some really cool shit, but..........

    They tell me that the salars typically get flooded around January, sometimes as early as December.

    Actually, you should have taken that road because you could have ridden up to Laguna Colorado from there and that is about the easiest part of the route. The road is sandy, but its big and wide the whole way from Laguna Colorado to the Paso Jama pavement. In addition, that sections of the road apparently gets graded a few times a year from the mining company, so if you hit it right, you will have wide hardpack with just a dusting of sand. It all depends.