SALAR DE UYUNI and TUPIZA
The next morning, I set out for Uyuni, another 200 km of wonderful curves. After arriving in Uyuni and seeing to the usual practicalities of finding a hotel, I hired a tour operator for a visit to the salt flat. Departure was at 9 a.m., along with a group of 6 North Koreans. I wore my motorcycle jacket, as I had no others with me; temperatures on the salt flat are very changeable and it gets cold in the evenings. The Salar de Uyuni is not just an attraction which draws thousands of tourists, but is also a site for the harvesting of salt and lithium. It is a genuine marvel, unlike anything else of its kind. A perfect, white expanse, not a ripple on its surface, which turns blindingly bright in the sun even with dark glasses and where streams of water take on bright colours: pink, light blue, rust-red. It stretches far away to meet the mountains on the horizon, towards Chile. Until 2018 it played host to the Dakar Rally, which is commemorated by the Tuareg monument. Swapping sun cream for a snug jacket, evenings on the salt flat offer another magnificent spectacle: the reflections in the water. In another area, where the water is no deeper than one centimetre, it was like walking on a mirror, with land and sky blending together to form an uninterrupted landscape. A unique and wonderful sight.
Then it was back to town, for refreshments and to turn my thoughts to the next day, when I would make the approximately 200 km journey to Tupiza.
DESCENDING FROM THE ANDES
There was still a long way (around 1,700 kilometres) to travel from Tupiza to Iguaçu, and after a day’s rest I set out the following morning for the border at La Quiaca, where I would renew an old friendship: Ruta 40. This road, which I had followed to Tierra del Fuego 5 years earlier, ends right at the Bolivian border. Over the border, I concentrated on enjoying my final kilometres in the Andes: the colours, the roads, that mild temperature. As I descended, the climate rapidly became hotter (over 30 degrees). In the late afternoon I arrived in San Salvador de Jujuy, where I took the opportunity to carry out a little motorcycle maintenance. The following morning I would take Ruta 81 to the border with Paraguay and then keep going for around 600 km, as far as Asunción. Paraguay was just a stepping stone on my journey, so in the morning I got back on my bike and headed for Foz do Iguaçu, on the Brazilian side of the Iguazu Falls.
I arrived in the Brazilian city of Foz do Iguaçu in the early afternoon, and after finding accommodation I went to visit the falls themselves. They made a natural spectacle like nothing I had ever seen before, with their unstoppable power. The Brazilian side is very small, and after crossing the walkway to get close to the falls, the tour was at an end. This is not to say it was any less fascinating, it’s just a question of how much land lies on each side of the border: Brazil has just a little, while Argentina has more.
The following morning, I crossed the border into Argentina at Puerto Iguazú. I immediately went to visit the falls again, which provide an astonishing spectacle from this perspective. 3 different routes are on offer on the Argentinian side, with the longest leading to the Garganta del Diablo or “Devil’s Throat”, the largest and most spectacular of the falls. You arrive practically on top of it, a heart-stopping experience given the force with which the water hurtles over the edge, creating a deafening maelstrom and blocking the bottom from view. The visit to the Argentinian side took up the entire morning, leaving me eager to get back in the saddle. I wanted to cover as much ground as possible, even without knowing where I would stop; after all, I had almost 1,300 km more ahead of me to get to Colonia del Sacramento in Uruguay.