Friday Lens Affair 183

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.

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24 thoughts on “Friday Lens Affair 183

  1. Wow, what an ordeal you had cycling across. Definitely not a leisurely adventure, but one I’d like to take nonetheless; loved your post!

  2. What an interesting place – the largest swath of salty surface! Who knew? Not me… what a cool photo.

  3. The dog is so adorable, Maria. It must be great to meet so many inspiring people.

  4. Jacob [TWL]

    A beautiful yet tough place. Not a place you want to get stranded :) Gotta love that picture :)

  5. What an eye-opening and moving post! I love to travel and I was really touched by their attitudes and experiences. Thank you so much for sharing Jen Sotolongo and Dave Hoch’s experiences biking the Bolivian Salt Flats at the Healthy Happy Green and Natural Party Blog Hop. I’m pinning and sharing. Wishing you a healthy, happy year ahead!

  6. Very funny and interesting photo! However, the recount of life in the salt flats is way more interesting to me. I am glad locals have the opportunity to make the most out of life with family and friends. #TPThursday

  7. That photo sure does tell a story! I love it!

  8. OH MY GOODNESS! This is the cutest, Marysia! I’m glad the difficult ride was worth it. :)

  9. Jen & Dave’s ride over the salt flats sounds grueling but also gives them exposure to a completely different type of existence. A very interesting view.

  10. What an amazing story. I have read about those salt flats, have even seen them on TV, but have never had the desire to visit such a stark landscape at such a high elevation, but I can imagine how the combination of stark landscape and thin air would affect a rider.
    Congratulations to you. Intrepid, indeed.
    But as a dog owner, I must say I enjoyed the photo of the dog in goggles — such a good idea on salt flats.
    Kay
    An Unfittie’s Guide to Adventurous Travel

  11. What a thoughtful and beautiful post…

  12. Thanks for linking up at Monday WRites

    Best Wishes for the New Year

    much love…

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