A lazy start the next morning saw us at the Train Cemetary on the outskirts of Uyuni. Skeletons of old steam locomotives lie rusting in the salty desert, stripped of all usable or saleable metal…it’s really sad to think that all the effort put into building and running the locos (some made in England!) is now wasted…I wonder what the engineers would think?
Photos taken, we rode to Colchani and turned left onto the Salar de Uyuni. The Salar is a giant salt flat – the biggest in the world (another tick in the book!) – and looks amazing. Once past the Hotel of Salt – built, predictably, entirely of salt…beds, tables, chairs, the lot – you’re into a vast expanse of whiteness…distant (as in 180km distant) mountains ring the desert – but apart from their far, brooding shapes there’s nothing else to see apart from blue sky and white desert. A truly incredible place…probably the most dramatic and fantastic sight we’ve yet seen. The weirdest thing is not having to look ahead all the time for cars, junctions, edges of road etc…it’s possible to ride in whichever direction you choose for pretty much as long as you want! Entrance points to the Salar plotted in the GPS, and mindful of limited petrol, we rode in large curving lines and random circles towards Isla de Pescado, a island in the middle of the Salar with tourist (spit) facilities. 50 miles of riding into nothing later, the island shimmered into existence ahead and we pulled up on the shore – very weird feeling, much like circling an island in a boat…except you’re on a bike…bizarre.
Curious locals clambered on and off the bikes, snapping photos almost continuously – it’s great to see "local" tourists as well as the obligatory all-gringo "adventure tour" groups – as we packed in a giant hamburger each. Deciding against camping on the salt flats – apparently coaches hurtle across them during the night – we drove out into the desert for a photo session and got some brilliant photos!
Unfortunately, disaster struck on the way back to the island…Will lost the front wheel on a patch of loose salt, or a lump of salt or something…not sure what…and came off his bike, losing his helmet in the process. One rapid van ride later, Will was comfortably ensconced in the Uyuni hospital, doctors and nurses fussing over the cuts and abrasions he’d sustained to his hands and face.
Latest news is that Will is fine and is recuperating in a very nice hospital in Cochabamba, probably flying home in the next week or so. Looks like the bike will need some repair work, and as both of us have constraints on the remaining time we’ve decided to take a "commerical break" to fix Will’s bike and improve our Spanish, and come back early next year to finish the ride through Bolivia, into Chile and Argentina. This is probaby the last update to the blog for a while – so until next time…adios!