Cycling The Uyuni Salt Flats
Salta, Argentina. Now we can breathe again…
It is a strange feeling returning to the more forgiving altitude of 1,152 meters in the northern Argentine city. Each lung-full of air feels easier, everyone has more energy, there is moisture in the air, walking upstairs is no longer a struggle. To go on about how happy the South American Epic riders and staff are to reach a lower altitude would do a great disservice to the Cycling the Salt Flats section that we just completed. Easily one of the most challenging and spectacular of the trip so far and a distant change from the jungles of Colombia and Ecuador. The high altitude Bolivian plateau is something other-worldly. From the seemingly impossible capital city of La Paz, and the neighbouring sprawl of El Alto at over 4,000 meters, to the beautiful tree lined streets of Salta in Argentina, it was an epic ride through deserts, riverbeds, and salt flats.
Even though riding through the legendary Uyuni Salt Flats only takes up two stages of this section, the anticipation can be felt immediately leaving La Paz. Glimpses of flat salty plains of dried out lakes gives a taster of what is to come. But nothing can match the first glimpse of pure vast whiteness as far as the eye can see, or the crunching sound of riding across thick slabs of salt. Tourists pose for famous perspective photos, and vehicles drive race across the flats in any direction they please. Cyclists can be seen for kilometres in the distance – tiny little dots on the horizon slowly growing bigger. The vastness of the Uyuni Salt Flats is really incomparable and without any reference points it feels like being lost in an ocean of salt. Luckily for the riders, the wind was mercifully calm, which made riding across the salt even more enjoyable, and truly an unforgettable experience.
Shortly after departing the tourist town of Uyuni itself, the riders crossed into Argentina – sad to say goodbye to Bolivia but happy for more familiar comforts and conditions that await. Now in country number five of the tour and over half-way through, it feels like we are gaining momentum towards the vastness of Patagonia. The legendary wine and beef of Argentina are high on many riders lists of things to experience as we work our way south towards Santiago in Chile