Santa Claus is very late, but he has a surprise in his boot.
The Stone Tree
The night under tent sheltered by the some buildings of the hotel Del Desierto was rather cold, for proof, the frozen water bottles that we find in the morning.
We set out ready to cross another desert without ideas on how many kilometers we will have to push the bikes.
Several sandy passages require us to get off the saddle and push our steeds but there are several well-rolling kilometers. The terrain is rather flat, the heat overwhelming but the colors of the surrounding mountains are astounding.
We arrive at the stone tree after about twenty kilometers. This natural rock formation was gradually formed by the violent winds and the sand present here.
No tourist, no 4×4, we decide to satisfy himself close to the stone in question with a pack of noodles and a box of corn. A 4×4 makes its appearance and two European tourists are very impressed to see cyclists.
The afternoon track is even more sandy, the wind arrives quickly as usual. We are therefore rather slow, despite the negative difference.
We arrive at the Laguna Colorada and therefore the entrance of the nature reserve or full of 4×4 and tourists arrive from Uyuni. We must pay 150 Bolivianos for the reserve Eduardo Avaroa which occupies all the rest of the region up to the border with Chile. There are French and many other nationalities that go so far as to applaud us and our bikes. However, we still have a lot of kilometers and passes to go through.
The park rangers accept that we plant our tents not too far from their homes, a little bit sheltered from the wind. But they tell us that it is normally forbidden to camp near the Laguna and so we must wait until the sun sets… We wait for the sunset and put our tents in the wind.
The evening is icy, we warm up as we can with a nice dish of pasta with tuna.
Let's go camping above the Mont Blanc!
I think I spent the coldest night of my life, my sleeping bag is not made for temperatures like this. I plan to follow the sun for a year, it's not necessarily synonymous with following the mild temperatures.
We start the day by bypassing the Laguna and then climbing a pass, obviously the wind makes its appearance from 11am in the morning.
Once this pass reaches we still have to make a little twenty kilometers to the geysers. This passage was the hardest for me: wind, sand and especially corrugated steel track all along. It hurts the back, the buttocks and the mind.
As well as bad we come to the ground of Mañana, the plateau to the geysers in the middle of the afternoon. We discover the fumaroles and the sick of bubbling mud. We are now just below the 4900 meters above sea level: higher than the Mont Blanc!
We are preparing to camp in the corner because these 36 kilometers have rinsed us (finally me at least). The endless wind does not help, but Alex decides to improve the rock that is used as a makeshift shelter.
In the evening it will be pasta with tuna (to change), the thermometers indicate-5 ° in the tent despite the pasta dishes, the stoves and US inside.
Tonight I sleep with a long sleeve T-shirt, a sweater, a fleece and my jacket; All in the sleeping bag obviously. The violent wind is raging all night, but with all these layers of clothing I am not too cold.
The alarm clock is obviously icy, it certainly did-15 ° in the night. The sun takes time to warm us because of the altitude we are in. A nice descent awaits us this morning, so we quickly motivate to pack our things and travel the last kilometers before the pass at 4900 meters.
Fortunately after the pass, the descending track rolls rather well one exceeds even the 20km/h at times!!!
We enjoy the best that we can from this descent to the Laguna Chalviri because we know that we are not at the end of our surprises.
After a long break in Polques, small tourist place where there are hot baths for tourists and a small grocery we go back on our two wheels to attack another collar.
On the way, we pass by the desert of Salvador Dali, thus naming by the curious rocks that are there and thus giving a surreal aspect.
The path is long towards the pass and the wind is increasingly violent as we advance, however the colors of the mountains take me totally: Would I dream?
The wind slows down our progression to the pass, once at the top it's even worse! Sanded track and ultra-violent wind. A caravan with a German family asks us if we need anything.
On the other side of the pass we see the volcano Licancabur which marks the border with Chile: so we are not very far.
We pass next to the Laguna Blanca to reach the hut/hotel/restaurant of the corner. They accept that we camp in a room next to the reception. Yay, we'll have no wind and a warm night. In addition to that we order sausage with potatoes, it will change us pasta with tuna. 🙂
We meet two other Frenchmen with a group that is about to climb the Licancabur the next day.
We spend a great evening (without wind!) after a good day of crazy 66 km.
Bye bye Bolivia
The next day we have less than ten kilometers left to reach the end of the reserve and the border with Chile.
It goes up, but we know that it is soon the end of this sublime hell of sand.
As the guide warned us to meet the night before, the customsmen still want us to withdraw 15 bolivianos for nothing. They say they ask everyone but just talk about administration or call the embassy to change the subject very quickly.
Once in good standing to leave Bolivia, we pass the border and happily find the asphalt. A steep descent to the first small town awaits, but I would say no more at the moment.
As a gift for this year's end: the video.
Santa Claus arrives late because I unfortunately lost a lot of videos of South Lipe (SD card that crash…).
The installation does not transcribe too much the weather and the difficulty of this region. I also embed photos to replace lost videos… 🙁
If you want another point of view on the area, I advise you to see the video of the biketrippers that have well morflés: here
I wish you all a happy New Year's holiday, next year!