Day 9. 15km. San Pedro – Laguna Colorada

Posted: September 6, 2019 in Bolivia, Cycling
Tags: , , ,

Today I had Chilean law sternly read to me at the border. Today I had a hectic run to change money. I was told it was better to do it at the border. It isn’t. Today I was dropped off on a sandy plain in the howling wind. Just as I’d planned.

Drop off near Laguna Colorada

Drop off near Laguna Colorada

Not only is my passport damaged, but I’ve lost the magic white slip of paper from the Chilean immigration. To get it replaced would have involved travelling 100km from San Pedro, and I was told I didn’t really need it.

The stern border guard, his dark hair pasted to his head with a severe part to one side, slapped his hand on the Chilean law book he had on the counter, opened it up with conviction, and read me a passage in Spanish loudly so all could hear. He then said (in Spanish) he could send me back.

Border guards like grovelling, so I grovelled.

‘I’m so terribly sorry. I really don’t know where I put the slip. I’ll be sure not to lose it next time.’

With a commanding stare he stamped my passport and waved me out. Luckily he didn’t notice the photo page was loose.

I was told the exchange rate was much better at the border so I only had changed a small amount of Bolivian currency in San Pedro. No one had any money to change and in the end I exchanged all their Bolivian money at the hostel at Laguna Blanca. I got a terrible exchange rate, of course.

But, I was through and I was getting a lift to Laguna Colorada. It turned out my jeep wasn’t a jeep of tourists and stopped absolutely nowhere except to let me pee.

Ruta de Lagunas from the car

Ruta de Lagunas from the car

When Laguna Colorada was in sight, the driver asked if I want to go left or right. I wanted to go left – going right misses a lot of the beautiful landscape.

So be stopped the car. In the middle of the sand flats in the howling wind. The bike was taken off the roof rack, my bags placed next to the bike, and off he went. I stood there. He had taken me to where I wanted to go. Not to a refugio, but I’d never asked for that. I changed into my cycling gear, making sure nothing blew away when I opened my bags, and off I went.

Drop off near Laguna Colorada

Drop off near Laguna Colorada

Cycling alongside Laguna Colorada

Cycling alongside Laguna Colorada

The descriptions of the road surface I had read were correct. Sandy, corrugated and rocky. The galeforce headwind made for a stark contrast to minutes before in the car. I thought my speedo may register more distance than what I actually covered as the wheels were spinning in the deep sand. I saw the first refugio about a kilometre directly into the wind. The place I was headed was a further 10km, so I pushed on. At a certain point the road changed direction somewhat, and I had a side wind and even a tail wind for a short while.

When I came to a stop in deep sand I looked around. This is such a beautiful place. Stretching away below me was a bright pink lake, dotted with flamingos. Behind the lake and all around were mountains. Jeep tracks crisscrossed the rocky, sandy landscape. The clouds were incredible. One was a perfect regular blob, another was a perfect oval.

Laguna Colorada

Laguna Colorada

The road was a bit sandy in parts

The road was a bit sandy in parts

After 15km of cycling I pulled in to the hostel at Laguna Colorada. Yes. They had a bed for $7. Lunch for $3. Dinner for $3. So much cheaper than Chile. I wheeled in my bike out of the howling wind and polished off a lunch of rice, hot chips and salad (tomato and cucumber).

Hostel at Laguna Colorada

Hostel at Laguna Colorada

I went for a walk along the lake to a lookout. On the lake’s edge were hundreds of flamingos. Just so many. There were also a few jeeps of tourists there.

Spot the flamingos on Laguna Colorada

Spot the flamingos on Laguna Colorada

Comments
  1. Eliza Waters says:

    Very beautiful, but so desolate. That wind must be brutal!

  2. valerievolk says:

    What a day! Glad you managed to cope with the border personnel!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.