The Salars: Salty Serenity

The Salars in Bolivia (Salar de Uyuni and Salar de Coipasa) are the land of Judd, Heisemen, Serra and Turrel – hardcore abstraction.  Sky melds into a white expanse of salt hezagonals stretching out in all directions. Spectacular

The scale shift on the Salar de Uyuni from comprehendible distances to the unknown happens almost immediately past Colchani. Out here there are no birds chirping, no dogs barking, no people, no pop-music blasting, nothing. Nothing other than a mellow breeze ruffling my tent fly.  This is not just a place to cross. It one of the most spatial natural environments I have ever experienced.  As light fades from the sky I sit in my tent in awe.

Morning bakes salty whiteness under harsh high altitude Altiplano skies while jeep tracks leave their mark on the abstract canvas.  

Before I leave Uyuni, a last glance through Instagram reveals that Cass, Nancy and Sage are on the Salar. I message Cass to say thanks again for being such an inspirational figure in my decision to do this journey.  A quick response arrives and we hatch plans to see if we can cross paths for a quick hello around Isla Incahuasi.

A quick hello turns into lunch, a hike up to the top of the Island and camping together for the night.  We happily oscillate between talking rides and gear and enjoying the salty solitude.  I chuckle at my rookiness while watching the last rays of light wash the salar as I can practically sleep in Cass's framebag while I can barely get a toothbrush in mine. 

They are a great young family and inspiring for everyone coming within their orbit.  Ever the clever three year old, Sage has decided he's already done with photos and Instagram...

Morning brings hearty goodbyes as they head southeast towards Uyuni and I head northwest across the final stretch of the salar.  I pedal slowly savoring every moment.

A bit sad to leave the Uyuni, behind, I arrive in Llica where kids fill the streets after school playing marbles on the main street or just silently scooping up and depositing tiny piles of dirt on pant legs.

The short bit of land linking to Salar Coipasa is marked with tiny churches

and a host of llama's with their brightly colored bits of ear fabric.

I cross several gated fields of quinoa

before sand and dirt give way to round two of salty goodness on Salar de Coipasa.  Smaller to its neighboring big brother, but no less amazing, Salar de Coipasa is nearly devoid of people. 

Parallel tracks of salt slicing the salar in two. Magical.

A late morning of mesmerizing clouds turns into an afternoon headwind tack towards shelter along the spongy edge of the salar.

Even with noodling around the outskirts of Coipasa by the salt ponds, I arrive too early to experience the increasingly famous Petrolina and her way with food and generosity towards cyclists. Disappointed, I head back out under perfectly clear skies.

As the salar changes from salt to salty-mud to dirt, the outline of Sabaya becomes clearer and clearer.  I buenos tardes my way down mainstreet and head for the main plaza and church for lunch and fatbike hour with the local kids. Aldo Rossi would be proud.

Afternoon hours disappear with a desalinization bath and looking for fruit and veggies.  As a cold evening wind whips down main street it’s time to trade stories and laughter and beers with three other cyclists in town over one of the Bolivian specialties (pollo, arroz, y papas fritas) 

The salars are truly magical in all of their harshness and surreal beauty.  I don't think there's any better way to experience them then from the saddle where the entire abstract canvas encompasses you.