We were warned about the difficulty of camping on the salars. The strong wind and hard salt a bad combination for tent setup.
The key to camping on a salar is to bring your own rock, so you can hammer the stakes into the salt. Fortunately, we thought of this right before entering the salar. It’s the only time Scott has intentionally rode around with a big rock in his pannier. The wind was wicked but the tent held tight, securely fastened to the salt.
Last night we were treated to the most amazing show of stars. When we woke everything was still, the wind had calmed and the sun was just coming up over the mountains. We marveled at the stunning quiet solitude of the salar, feeling very fortunate to have such an experience.
But this is where the magic ended.
Today, we only managed to go 24 miles in 6 hours, averaging 3.9mph. We had to push the bikes at least 13 of those miles.
The surface of the salar became soft as we neared the edge. We pushed the last 7 miles to get off the salar, only to find the road was a sand pit. It was the soft, powdery type of sand that swallows the wheels making it impassable by bicycle.
Pushing doesn’t accurately describe what we did today. When the sand is soft and deep the wheels won’t roll, so we have to drag the bikes by grabbing the back of the saddle and pulling them through.
It sucked. We dragged 100lb bikes through salt and sand the distance of a half-marathon in the hot, high-altitude sun.
I thought it would never end.
When we finally arrived in the tiny town of Llica we were looking forward to a cold beer and a snack before heading off to camp. A small gift to ourselves, something to enjoy for a moment after the miserable day. But by the time we arrived, the wind was so strong that the dirt streets were turned into sand funneling wind tunnels, stinging our eyes and windburned skin. We just wanted to get out of there STAT.
This is how it is with bicycle travel. The best and worst days can be back-to-back or even in the same day. There’s little predictability. We are at the mercy of our environment. We can only cherish the good times and endure the bad, knowing neither will last forever.