Pisiga – Pisiga

Salar de Coipasa

From Pisiga we intended to cross Salar de Coipasa straight to the south, things did not turn out as intended however. While buying the upcoming week’s worth of food, we were told that the salar is knee deep in water, that’s not too unusual in rainy season, even though the past few days have been rather dry. In any case we wanted to go and have a look ourselves. We cycled on a sandy trail for some 20 km until we came close to the salar, sure from a distance, it looked like a mirror and I was convinced it was indeed stuffed with water. (We didn’t go closer so I’ll never know if it was just a mirage.) By some lines on the map I saw it should be possible to skirt the salar to the west, illegally crossing over into Chile for some 10 km. We even found a car trail going in that direction. It didn’t take long for us to find out that the nice flat area north of the salar is probably even harder to cross than a watertopped saltlake. The white spots are not solid salt, but soft mud with some light dusting on top. As water in some way had to reach the saltlake, it seemed to be by rivers through this mudflat. After pushing the bikes for 3 km through ankle deep mud, we gave up. The car trail turned more and more in the wrong direction, the headwind became harsher and harsher. So in the end we had a nice roll, wind in the back to the east of the salar, the start of a detour which probably turns 3 days into 7.

Attempt one, skirting the salar. No water, but mud!
Sunset and backwind, recovering from the mud.
Tasty food! Eggs, pasta and veggies.

Scratch that, we did go back to have a look. When approaching the salar, the water which we thought we saw kept disappearing, hopeful we pushed on, until at one point it stopped moving.the center of the salar indeed seemed to be topped up with ankle deep salty water. We got some crazy plans of crossing it anyway, but when we saw even cars had turned around, we decided for the detour. We don’t want to destroy the bikes, and they would definitely not like the salty water. Glad we had a look though. Now we know it’s not possible, and it was so beautiful!

The more salt, the more solid. Would have been nice cycling if it wasn’t flooded.
Contemplating life on the only stone in sight.

We camped a bit further in some ruins by the lake, while a monstrous cloud front slowly approached us. It seems the fun is over and we can unpack our raingear again, or spend a day in the tent…

So beautiful when the cloud is still far away.

The next day we did indeed spend in the tent, first sitting and and expecting the lightning to hit us at any moment, later laying around and discussing improvements in the gear setup. We spent most of the day discussing what to do, just cycle on, take a bus to Uyuni or roll down to the Chilean coastline. Some extra counting brought us the conclusion that if we continue at this speed, we will never make it in time… the next morning however, it was nice and sunny again. Where shall we go? A coin toss ended vertically in the mud, stressing our indecision.

Salar de Coipasa, adios!

A short time later, the stormclouds reappeared and we finally decided to head to the sea. A newsreport in a restaurant showed lots of rain and even snow by La Paz, high time to get out of here.

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