Today I’m featuring this cute shot from Bolivian salt flats taken by Jen Sotolongo from Long Haul Trekkers Blog.
Jen along with her partner Dave Hoch, and their Australian shepherd, Sora, have been travelling the world together, mostly by bicycle, since April 2015. They are currently in Colombia. Do follow their adventure on Instagram and Facebook.
Photo Story: Bolivian salt flats
A pair of neighbouring salt flats in Bolivia—the Coipasa and the Uyuni makes up the world’s largest swath of salty surface. So flat and expansive, what seems just a few pedal strokes away, takes hours to reach. Cars zooming across in the distance look like marbles rolling along the hexagonal surface.
So much of our bike set up was not ideal for a raw and rugged place like the Bolivian salt flats. In between the two, villages consisting of perhaps six streets are connected by sand.
The “good roads” are made from rocks pressed into the ground from years of motorised vehicles. And those “good roads?” They’re always uphill. Food is limited, especially for two travellers on a vegan diet. From the basic selection in the tiendas, which more often than not, are storage areas in the back of someone’s home, we had our choice of chips, soda, pasta, and rice. Sometimes we could proffer a vegetable or two. And bathrooms? Many of these towns have no running water. The trick is to wake early each morning to find a secluded spot to do your business.
All this at an elevation of 3,656 meters (11,995 feet) under an unforgiving and relentless sun.
For a week, we spent hours dragging our bicycles through sand and up and over rocks, some days only advancing 15 kilometres, unable to go further on account of pure exhaustion. We pedalled over mud-like surfaces, at times directly into a constant wind, which burned our faces and numbed our fingers and toes.
As we travelled through one of the poorest regions in one of the poorest countries in the world, we learned what poverty is and is not. While the communities lacked many basic needs like running water and a variety of nutritional foods, they did not lack in life.
Each family produced what they needed on the large swaths of land in the hills on which they cultivated their food. Friends gathered in the town plaza each afternoon to catch up on the day and drink a beer together. Children swarmed us after school let out to ask about our adventure and learn where photos go once snapped with a digital camera. Dave played soccer with the local schoolchildren, whose extra room would be our home for the evening, while I educated the teacher about my camp stove and the strange concoction I prepared for dinner. Yes, life is hard in the Bolivian high desert, but the people who live here make do with what they have and exude the type of happiness for which so many of us spend our lives searching.
By far, the Bolivian salt flats provided some of our most difficult riding of our journey, and our experience also opened our eyes to the world previously unknown. Where we learn that poverty means living without, the people we met in these tiny altiplano villages showed us how to live happily with all that we have.