Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Touring Tuesday - Salt & Sand: Cycling Across the Bolivian Salares

Cycling across the world's largest salt flat (photo courtesy of Long Haul Trekkers)
This week's touring story comes from the Long Haul Trekkers, which consists of Dave, Jen (who does most of the writing) and Sora (the dog who goes everywhere with them). Last year they were cycling across the salt flat of Bolivia, which is known as Salar de Uyuni. This is the largest salt flat in the world, covering over 4,000 square miles (roughly equal to 10 Indiana counties). It is high in the Andes, at nearly 12,000 feet. It is extremely flat, with only about three feet of variation in elevation. So flat in fact, that it is sometimes used to calibrate the altimeters of satellites. The photos of the area bring to mind Buzz Aldrin's "Magnificent desolation" description of the moon. There are a few volcanic outcroppings in the salt flat, and these are called "islands" by the locals.

Naturally, there were a number of challenges in riding across this terrain. You can see the goggles on Sora to protect her eyes from the blowing salt and sand. In some places, it was necessary for Dave and Jen to push their bikes through loose sand.  The few villages in the area had very limited food options, and water was always an issue. The wind was strong (There's nothing to block it) and because of the high altitude it dropped below freezing at night.

When they were traveling through the salt flat, Dave and Jen were planning to ride from South America up to their home in Portland, Oregon. After making it through the Andes, they decided to take a flight out of Colombia to get back home. For additional information about their trip and more magnificent photos, please visit their website.

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