Thursday, May 31, 2012

Uyuni Salt Flats, Bolivia

After days and days of freezing rain and torential hail storms freezing us to the bone, the sky opened up and gave us a sun we had long forgotten.  It was the day we entered Uyuni.
A bird flew into Mike's spokes leaving some of itself.

The entrance into the town of Uyuni was a joy in the blazing sun.  It was a gift for pushing through and reaching our last destination.
Rolling into town was surreal.  Knowing we had reached an end brought mixed feelings trumped by deep feelings of pride.

We taped a handmade sign onto our motos announcing that they were for sale for $200 each.  A lady bought them within 5 minutes with the stipulation that we were going to ride the salt flats.  All the locals cringed when they heard this, saying that we had "given" them away.  This is the road to the flats from the town of Uyuni.
Finding the salt
  We got to the edge of the flats and found it to be flooded.  Many motorcycle travelers skipped this place.  They made a huge mistake.  With everything we owned strapped to the bike, we rolled up our pant legs and eased into the salty water.  Mike went first.  We sunk half way to our crankcases and prayed that we would not stall.  We made it past the dip and rose to the consistant 6 inches or so that continued into a reflecting blue eternity.
We laughed for hours in total disbelief, for this place is beyond the imagination.  The human eye, nor the brain, can handle the spectical.

The clouded blue sky disappears into the reflection of itself and swallows you whole.  The image is randomly broken, yet enhanced, by flocks of pink flamingos flying in formation until they too disappear into the vastness.   I've never before known where on the planet flamingos live...its here.
A faint trail lingers in the wake of the bike.
Islands jutting out of the flatness add perspective, yet confuse it.

1974 Honda XL250

Salt is harvested from the these flats.  Piles sit at random like ice upon a calm arctic sea.

The slat is hard as a rock

1974 Honda XL350
Salt was everywhere, it covered our legs like we were wearing a cast.


Salt Pile
Somewhere in the middle of the flats stands a salt hotel.  We rode at least 2km out and were told by a passing tour guide that we still had another hour to ride before we would reach it.  Riding all the way across it, Chile and Argentina lay in wait.  We stood and faced an eternity laughing, knowing we tried our best. 

We definitely won...

...and then turned around.

Building made of salt blocks.

We said our farewells to the long road at the shores of the end of our worlds.  Satnding there were 4 Chileans whom had walked the 25km from town.  We gave the two girls a ride back.  It was the last ride on this XLint adventure, through the sunset.

Before turning our bikes over to their new owner, we gave them their first bath.  They were encased in a salted crust.  The guy that washed Mike's bike wore Mike's helmet the whole time, for about 45 minutes...we're not sure why.

Their new home, a new place to leak oil.

The next day, the reality hit us that we no longer had our somewhat trusty friends with us.  It was very disorienting.  In the fading sun, we walked to Uyuni's train cemetary.

Later, we caught our first bus to the capital city of La Paz to bumb around for a week till the day of our flight.  We quickly realized the freedom we had with our bikes as we bounced down the long dirt road through the dark night.  The trip could no longer be the same.  The motorcycles had taken us far from the reaches of a common journey and placed us in the hands of the gods of adventure and the mercy of the random.  They had opened up the doors to all the places inbetween that to most are just a passing blur through the window of a big metal box.  Without seperation, we faced all that there was for us to encounter.  Exposed and vulnerable, open and accepting, we found the dream that hides under all the layers of our secret fears and noblest ideas.

We have moved on from that moment of the fading sunset from atop a dying train.  We have found color and life, people and their work, and thoughts of our next steps.  There is a lot more to come.  We have found courage throughout these hapless wanderings and found the strength that comes from an idea coming to fruition.  There is not much one cannot accomplish. 

Stay with us as we move on to the next adventures.  I promise, this trip is not the last thing up our sleeves!