Ride The Flavour (en)

Bolivia, from the Laguna Route to the Salar de Uyuni

Dec. 20th | 1 comments

Thursday, November 28. 6 am. When our alarm clock rings, our eyes are already wide open. In Bolivia, dawn does not exist. A dazzling light has already flooded our dormitory. Our mind is immediately operational and an hour later, we’re ready…

It is 7 am. We are in front of the refuge. Eyes towards the Laguna Road. The handlebar between our hands. One foot on the ground, the other on the pedal. In a few moments, we will launch ourselves!.. “We will launch ourselves?” Say rather that in a few moments, we will try to set in motion the 65kg which we use as mean of transport. Never before our bikes have been so heavy… and still without battery! (in addition to the two weeks of food, we have now 9 L of water, so 6 more than usual, for 2 days of self-sufficiency) And never before we have riden on such a difficult path as the one that is waiting for us. During the next 10 days, the asphalt will remain the attribute of dreams…

The challenge is electrifying. And especially as we will certainly ride in the most beautiful landscapes we’ve ever seen until then. So beautiful that they will suffice to justify all our efforts? There is no more time to waste, it is only by throwing ourselves in the adventure that we will have the answer…


The first turns of the pedals are amply rewarded: 2 km away from the shelter, we are greeted by the Laguna Blanca… We are facing THE most beautiful panorama of the trip! And if this is only the beginning, what does the next kilometers hold for us?

Right next to Laguna Blanca, the show continues with the Laguna Verde

A gentle slope then brings us to a steep one, which brings us to 4726 m. The path carved by the 4×4 is pretty much solid, and we dismount only rarely. We then cross the desert of Dali, which owes its name to the rocks (of volcanic origin, ejected by the surrounding volcanoes) that scatter it and evoke the landscapes painted by the painter Salvador Dalí. Nothing incredible.

We understand quickly that the Laguna Route is above all a question of strategy : we have to switch constantly from one path to another (a path = the trace of a 4×4 wheel) to avoid sandbanks and bumps (like wavelets). But sometimes, there is no escape, no third option: we must choose between the sand and the bumps…

We arrive at the Laguna Chalviri in early afternoon and discover with surprise that a gift was waiting for us. It’s Christmas before time: just in front of the refuge, a pool built around a natural hot spring is opening its arms for us! We spend 5 h in the water, relaxing and talking with two other cyclists (arrived the day before but trapped by the hot spring), until the sun dies and stars rise.

When the water is at 38 ° C, it is pretty difficult to leave it!

The next day, we reach what will certainly be the highest point of our world tour: 4926 m. The path is still ridable but riding is yet not easy. We are so focused to avoid sand and bumps that we do not even pay attention to the head wind that shakes us violently. Our worst enemy has been erased by an even greater difficulty: a chaotic terrain. From Laguna Chalviri to the top, there are only 20km and a 500m-difference in height, but the climb seems endless. Sand, bumps, wind and lack of oxygen make a tough cocktail.

But what a pride when the summit is finally under our feet! 4926 m! And yet, higher mountains are still surrounding us. A bit of humility crosses our mind for an instant… but the pride quickly reclaims its place: if we could see the Mont-Blanc at this time, we would look down on it! We did it!

And this day was actually still saving us a few unknowns. After 2km of descent, we then discover the geysers Sol de Mañana. We pitch the tent 50 m from the bubbling pools, wolf down 500g of pasta and fall asleep. It is 7:30 pm…

The next day, our awakening is simply supernatural. The geysers has regained strength during the night and now inundate the morning air with a dense smoke, obscuring even the light of the young sun.

The descent leads us to the Laguna Colorada. The last 15 km before the refuge are intermittently sandy and rather difficult to manage. But once again, the landscape is here to motivate our efforts: the laguna is magnificent!

Before arriving at the refuge, we sit at the edge of water, in the company of the flamigos.

Unfortunately, the Laguna Colorada was also the end of the Laguna Route for Leo . His pain in the Achilles tendon came back on the 1st day, and the increasing pain he felt during these sandy last 15 km convinced him of the seriousness of the situation. For the second time, we splited up: Leo hitchhiked and went to rest in Uyuni, and Damien kept riding on the Laguna Route. Meeting was planned: “in one week on Incahuasi island, in the middle of the Salar of Uyuni!”


Damien: “A few words to sum up my experience on the Laguna Route. Never before I had riden on such difficult pathes. Sand, bumps, rocks made me crazy more than once. It took me 7 days to ride the 300km from the Laguna Blanca to the San Juan… And in 7 days, I have dismounted and pushed my bike more than I had in my entire life before. Few unexpected events added some more difficulties: my left rear bag for example breaks in the middle of nowhere under the repeated impacts of a long series of bumps. And Leo had the sewing kit…

But clearly, it was worth the efforts. Before starting the Laguna Route, I had heard many people regreting taking this way, cursing the conditions of the paths. Me too I have cursed sand, bumps, and rocks (especially bumps), but as soon as I raised my eyes, my rage evaporated, burned by wonder. The secret of this route is simple : take your time, do not ride to add more kilometers to your bike counter… but instead ride to admire the landscape and breathe its atmosphere.


7 days later, we met as planned, on Incahuasi island, in the middle of the Salar of Uyuni. Great, isn’t it?

Unfortunately, Leo’s tendon has not had enough time to forget his tendonitis: pain is stable, but still present. We therefore decide to join La Paz without any detour. We cross the salar towards its northern limit, sleep in Tahua, and cycle the next day until Salinas de Garci Mendoza. Then two buses bring us successively to Oruro and La Paz. After 3 weeks in a world both limited by our 5 senses and enhanced by the only possession of our 5 senses, city life reopens its doors. A life with a roof, an internet connection… and paved roads!

The Salar de Uyuni, most vast desert of salt in the world, allows funny optical illusions… It would have been a shame to not play with it, and why not illustrating this well-known tradition: cyclotourists riding on the Salar are supposed to ride naked at some point…

A tradition that we have honored of course! 🙂

1 comment Add a comment

  1. Super ! A lesson for life !…
    Thank you to share with us all these impressions…

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