Salar de Coipasa and Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia


Pisiga town is a hectic land crossing between Chile and Bolivia and has that border town feel that everyone wants to be somewhere else. And rightly so. Trucks, more trucks and squalid little hotel rooms and to put not too fine a point on it, it just pongs a bit. Bolivia has taken to insisting on all manner of document for entry (in theory at least), for accommodation, insurance, COVID inoculation etc. In reality while the immigration building is only slightly organised chaos, the officials are only interested in ticking a minimum number of boxes and a few documents and a grin appears to do the trick. Once through the queues, stamped and out on the Bolivian side of the building currency exchange booths and fried chicken stands line the street and one can exchange the tens of thousands of Chilean pesos for a much more manageable currency of Bolivianos. Life is suddenly cheaper and more easily calculable. Best to regroup after the bureaucratic trial of the morning, stock up on sugar-wafer things and get ready for the salt plain crossing. The jail cell (below) was my accommodation for the night.

A vast expanses of flat salt is a wonderful sight. These plains are just as compelling as they were the first time I rode them in 2012. Salar de Coipasa sits to the north, near where I cross the border from Chile is huge. Its larger sister to the south is the largest salt plain on earth. In the middle of the Coipasa salt lies a ‘land-island’ and the village of Coipasa and there I meet the lady who hosted my stay ten years ago, Mrs Pronto Castro (pictured below). Such a lovely lady, she and her husband have some small rooms in a courtyard that many bike riders seem to find. A$5 and a comfortable bed for the night. Then it is off to the salt for the time-honoured tradition of nude-bike-riding on salt plains

Between the salars my gambling to find a track through a barrier of foothills that never existed turns out to just waste a morning of riding and I somehow eventually find the main route again and head towards the small town of Salinas which leads to a rather large volcano Tunupa which dominates the landscape for some miles. At the edge of the salar I find a ‘salt hotel room hidden away for some reason that robustly defies explanation.

A lovely little tailwind and some friendly 4WD tracks makes the ride across Salar de Ayuni from Coquesa to the western edge near Uyuni a lot easier than it could have been. So there are a few days of pizza, coffee and beer in the tourist and railway town of Uyuni.

WARNING: The video this time has a health warning: Not to be shown to the faint of heart nor any who get excited too easily! It may be too attractive for some viewers. Is it art? Is it pornography? You be the judge!

7 thoughts on “Salar de Coipasa and Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia

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