We awoke to a great view and the Sun rise of the Bolivian Salar. There had been a lot of debate over night regarding the much needed diesel and oil mix that we needed to apply to our bikes. Jo and Gareth had relayed their stories 8 years ago on riding across the Salar on trail bikes, and the stories of the damage that occurred to the bikes as the salt found its way into the electrical connections. In those days it was hire bikes that were used. The thought of completing a similar trip on our own bikes was not favoured by the group and maybe a 4WD excursion out to the Cactus island was the more prudent answer?
After packing up all the bikes we followed our guide into the local village once more on the hunt for this diesel protective mixture. With no luck we pushed on by the lure of wanting to drive across the famous salt flats. “We had come all this way and not to ride it would be a sin”
We arrived at the access point to the Salar, the entry and exit point to the Salar being the most tricky part as it often requires the tricky navigation through salted Mud or salted soft sand and water. In Gareth and Jo’s previous trip this was where they had the most difficulty. We stopped at the edge of the salted water watching the 4WD’s as they came toward us, (Photo below) in the distance we could see a truck stuck in the unforgiving salted mud. There was no question in my mind that this was not an appropriate environment to take any vehicle especially not your own.
The lure of wanting to ride these flats was too great and common sense was pushed aside. Soon we were wading through salt water as we moved slowly on to the famous salt flats. The first 10 kms was a mixture of salted water and soft base. This soon changed to a hard packed salt base which was amazing to drive on, we travelled in a straight line to cactus island our speed increasing with the firmness on the ground. With the increased speed came an increased salt build up and by lunch time we had one of bikes already overheating.
After lunch we headed due south looking for our exit point off the Salar. Our speed was now a constant 100Km and we blasted across the last section of the Salar some performing various tricks. (Refer photo’s) The salt continued to build on the bikes and as we exited the Salar we soon found that most of the bikes were now suffering from overheating as the salt providing a firm packed base around the exhaust and headers of the bikes. We all stopped to remove as much of the salt as possible then pushed on to our accommodation in San Juan.
On arrival we spent the next 3 hours cleaning our bikes and trying to remove the salt before its corrosive effects took hold. We had driven the famous Bolivian Salar a truly amazing experience but at what cost ?