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A few years in North, Central & South America
By Jeff Kruys - (contact)

Apr. 4, 2009: near Hito Cajón to Salar de Chalviri

Saturday April 4, 2009, 56 km (35 miles) - Total so far: 55,841 km (34,698 miles)

I packed up camp at dawn (which occurs around 6:45am these days) and rode the remaining 2km to the Bolivian border post. Arriving at 8am, it was nice to beat the tourist bus traffic, who wouldn't be arriving here for another couple of hours from San Pedro de Atacama. There was just one man working here, a jovial guy in his 50s, who told me that he was only allowed to give anybody 30 days on their stamp at this crossing, and that it costs B$21 (about 3 bucks) for everyone. He also said it would be free to extend it to 90 days at the immigration office in Uyuni. But I knew from last year that I, being Canadian, would have to pay B$198 for each extra 30 days that I wanted. But that's life.

The road mercifully headed gradually downhill from here, to another pay point, this time B$30 to enter the national park that occupies this whole corner of Bolivia. I got a little map and a little lecture about not throwing garbage around and not taking plants or rocks out of the park, and then I could continue down the slope to Laguna Blanca and Laguna Verde. These are supposed to be beautiful lakes, but I guess I'd seen plenty of similar lakes over the last couple of months because they weren't blowing me away. There was a campamento near the shore of Laguna Blanca, where you could get a room for the night and possible a bit of food. I filled my water bottles from the big tank outside, with permission from the old lady who lived inside, and moved on. The "main" road goes around the east side of Laguna Blanca, but there was another road that most people opt for that goes along the south side and then cuts between the two lakes, and this is the only way you get to see Laguna Verde (named for its green colour which is due to its contamination with arsenic from the nearby volcano). The road was utterly horrible, sandy and washboardy and stony, and it really didn't seem worth the trouble of traversing this road when I got to a viewpoint over the lake, which I didn't find terribly remarkable. I didn't linger long here, just pushed on through the creek that connects the two lakes, and onwards before the cold west wind fired up around lunchtime.

It took me another hour to get back to the main road, which was in better shape, but offered another irritation: the dust from the dozens of tour jeeps speeding past me with little or no consideration for my respiratory well-being. Anyway, the road began climbing from a few hundred meters up to what seems to be named Paso Cóndor, up around 4700m elevation. From the descent, you could see the next landmark in the distance, the "Dali Desert", so named because of the random boulders sticking up out of the sand to resemble a Dali painting. Mostly I had to keep my eyes focused on the rocky surface I was riding on.

At the end of the descent was another salar, the Salar de Chalviri, whose basin is also occupied by a couple of very wet lakes, and some geothermal activity in the form of hotsprings. Also, improbably, is a "community center", operated by the municipality of Quetena Grande (which is actually some 100km from this location), where it looks like you could get a meal and a room if you wanted. I filled my water bottles in the kitchen, and bought a 2L bottle of Sprite. Just down the hill was a little hot pool where you could bathe, probably for a small fee. I continued on, more concerned about where I could camp without paying anybody anything (my supply of Bolivianos was pretty low after paying to enter the country and then to enter the park). And I happened upon a more informal little hotspring pool down on the shore of the salar. The access road had been kind of blocked off by a ridge of sand left by a road grader, and there were no recent tire tracks going down the trail, so it looked like the place would be all mine tonight. And it was. I set up the tent, then went in the pool for a not-terribly-hot bath after dark. You really had to lie down in the shallow water, because any part of you that was above water was exposed to the cold wind. But it was better than nothing.

End coordinates: -67.64562,-22.52070

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Heading towards Lagunas Blanca & Verde (the road is still good here)

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Laguna Verde... not sure what the big deal is. Volcán Licancábur behind it.

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Dust from the dozens of tour Jeeps

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Starts getting very sandy as you climb to Paso Cóndor

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And rocky as you descend (I couldn't get going faster than 8km/h downhill) with the Dali Desert in the distance

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It does remind you of a Dali painting, just like they say.

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Little hotspring pool where I camped

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South to north.

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Minimum elevation: 4326 m.s.l.
Maximum elevation: 4732 m.s.l.
Total climbing: 714 m
Total descent: 803 m
Graphic and stats from http://utrack.crempa.net


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"A few years in North, Central & South America" Copyright © 2006-2014 By Jeff Kruys - (contact). All rights reserved.
Page was created on April 10, 2009 12:36 PDT, last updated on May 24, 2009 07:43 PDT
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