Day 130 and 131 The Lagunas Route. Uyuni to San Pedro de Atacama Chile January 12 & 13
What an exciting day for me. This route was one of the first things I plotted when I started my plan more than three years ago. I read a great ride report on ADVRider called Jammin Through the Global South which documented this route and I wanted to do it.
We started our day by filling up our spare fuel bottles (old vegetable oil bottles and 2L water bottles) because the distance without gas was potentially 430km. We were told that there is a gas station in San Cristobal 90km away but we didn’t want to chance it and took 10 spare litres each. I also filled my 3 MSR Camp stove bottles.
The road to San Cristobal was hard packed dirt and fast.
We did find fuel there so topped up and headed to Vila Alota another 80km of hard pack dirt.
The next 110km was either washboard, loose sand, or both.
This is the northern Park Gate 150 Bolivianos each please
The last section around the south side of Laguna Colorada was soft sand and very challenging in a strong cross wind.
Eran’s KLR is much heavier than my DR and it sank a few times into the sand requiring a push to get moving again.
We reached the spot where I thought there should be some sort of structure but nothing. The sun was almost behind the mountains so we had to make a decision fast. We moved north along the west side of the lake and after a few km we found a little settlement with a lodge. We asked if we could camp and they said yes, why don’t you use this building? So we set up our sleeping bags inside this perfect shelter. The best part is they wanted no money. A good thing considering that we had only 36 Bolivianos between us. This because we were surprised at the national park entrance expecting to pay 50B each but discovered the tourist price is 150B each. By the way, keep your receipt!
The wind died down and we settled into our shelter with a dinner of black beans and bread.
To Bean or not to Bean
During the night a man tried to enter the building. He seemed quite annoyed that we had locked the door but when I let him in he walked right past us and looked in all four rooms off our area and left, weird.
We awoke to a beautiful morning and had a breakfast of yoghurt and granola with a spot of tea. With a total of 150km to ride today we wanted a good start in case the roads were similar to yesterday.
The first stop would be the Bolivian Aduana (Customs) 33km away.
This building is on the site of a borax plant at least 70km from the border. You must have your vehicle import permit cancelled here or you will be making a long return trip. When we arrived the guard at the gate told us that the official was not there and would return by noon (more or less).
The guard post….Aduana cerrado
The time was 10:15 so we decided to ride to the geysers nearby which was on our list of things to do anyway.
The geysers are more like thermal steam vents but the landscape is pretty cool.
We spent an hour there and returned to the Aduana but had to wait another 90 minutes for the guy to return.
Waiting in the wind at 16,500 feet
He quickly stamped and returned a copy of our papers then we set off for the actual border some 70km away.
The roads were better than yesterday but still tremendous amounts of washboard. Just when you thought you could get going fast, a deep sand section would throw you around.
We passed a cyclist who’s tracks we had been following for two days. He had been on the route for a week already and was pushing his bike much of the way.
About 5km before the border there is a set of buildings that you must stop at. It is the southern park gate and they want to see proof you paid to get in from the north. There is also a little lodge and store there so we spent the last of our Bolivianos on Coca Cola and chocolate bars.
At the border the official wants to see your cancelled vehicle permit, your passport, and the green slip you fill in when entering the country. Very easy and fast.
The catch here is that there are no Chilean border offices. One must travel to San Pedro de Atacama to formally cross into Chile.
The location of the Aduana and migracion (called PDI in Chile) is clearly marked with road signs as you enter the town.
San Pedro is a cool little tourist town and it was full of people following the Dakar. There were many motorcycle tour groups and big bikes galore. After finding a very expensive hotel ($76) I was able to extract cash from an ATM but Eran was not. Fortunately his Visa card worked at the hotel so no big problem but he was naturally quite concerned.
Both of us were exhausted from the past two days and we had a great sleep.