The Uyuni Salt Flats to Chile Pt. 1

Preparing to leave Uyuni I feel like we’re setting out on a mission to mars. We being myself, Warren and Sara in their Toyota 4Runner and Rob riding a Harley Davidson.
No, that’s not a typo. Harley Davidson. Street tires. 10cm of ground clearance.
I ask all the guides I can find exactly which tracks we want to take (the biggest ones), how far we need to cover gasoline-wise (500km, 600km to be safe) and if we’re going to make it (maybe).
Still unsure of what to expect we pack food for three nights, fill our drinking water and for the first time I carry a jerry can with 20 extra liters of gas.

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The three vehicles almost on the flats

En route to our entrance point of Colchani I’m stunned to see an Emu & chicks.
Again, that is not a typo. Emu. In bolivia. More bizarre.
We’ve heard over and over the most dangerous part of the salt flats are the entrance points – sometimes with heavy rain they can turn to muddy salt water where a vehicle will sink up to it’s axles. We follow the heavily used track and after navigating a few small puddles, we’re happily rolling on solid salt. Bizarre is now normal.
The surface is extremely hard, though not perfectly flat due to the salt forming hexagon like shapes on the surface.

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The amigos elated to be on the salt flats

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Salt Cairn

There are heavily used ‘roads’ where black tire tread makes it easy to follow, or it’s perfectly OK to veer off in any direction and go wherever I want. We’re constantly stopping to take photos and it’s hard not to drive a little crazy with the other guys so close by. Some guides point to the tracks we want to follow and we set off, grinning from ear to ear on our way to Incahuasi Island – A piece of land jutting up from the flats where we camp for the night.

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Rob & Warren on the flats

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The views go on in every direction

In the morning we all smile and laugh while experimenting with ‘perspective’ photos with all the props we can find. Because there is nothing to give perspective, it’s easy to make objects look extremely small or big, just like being on the moon.

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Rolling on the salt flats

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Our campsite at Incahuasi Island

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Sunset over the salt flats

It’s great to have so many hours to really soak in the alien landscape and every few minutes we all go silent and just stare around us, still disbelieving.

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Sunrise over the salt flat from Incahuasi Island

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The views in every direction

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That's one GIANT Jeep

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Warren fishing

Throwing the frisbee out here is great fun simple smile

Reluctantly, we move South, and safely off the salt flat, beginning the next part of the adventure…


8 Responses

  1. jclaudii (Jason N) says:

    Looks like great fun Dan! “The Amigos” picture of all you posing on your rigs looks like an opening scene for a “end of the world” movie like Mad Maxx or Resident Evil!

    So how fast did you get the Jeep up too?

    • Dan says:

      Funny you should say that, I kept saying over and over that Rob looked very Mad Mad esq on his Harley!
      It really did feel like the world had come to an end out there, a whole lot of nothingness.

      I didn’t really try to get the Jeep moving.. at one point I thought about it, and right around 100km/h I figured it was pointless and rolled back down to 80.
      Rob was really keen to see what the Harley would do, and I’m pretty sure he hit 105 Miles/h, actually a fraction less than his previous best.

  2. Brian from New Jersey says:

    I’ve enjoyed reading all of your post but this one definitely ranks up as one of my favorites. These photos are incredible! I think I’m going to have to add this to my life’s to-do list! Thanks for sharing!

    • Dan says:

      Glad to hear it Brian – it rates up there in my favorite places of the entire trip for sure, so I’m glad my writing and photos can convey that.
      Make sure you start ticking items off that to-do list too!

  3. Ania says:

    Hello Dan,

    Than you for this post – I enjoyed reading it. I plan a trip from Calama, Chile to Uyuni. Can ou tell me where exactly you crossed the boarder – was it route 21 Chile- route 5 Bolivia?

    • Dan says:

      Hi Ania,

      You will have an amazing drive. Looking at google maps, I took Chile 27 into San Pedro de Atamcama. If you look at this map you’ll see the “little” road going off into Bolivia – you can cross there, I think I remember a sign off the 27 saying it’s the road into Bolivia.
      Looks like Google have very little for maps in that area for Bolivia – try to get yourself a good map (or look on the web for GPS tracks from others that have done it ) for the salt flats area. Have a look at for a link to a place where you will find really good GPS tracks of other people. Have fun!

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