We leave Chile on a 4,300 meter high border crossing. To customs for the vehicle import we have to drive another 80 km to the highest customs post worldwide with 5,033 meters.
Our altitude acclimatization works quite well, as we have spent the past week always at over 2,500 meters and tried, so it our itinerary allowed, to successively increase the altitude of our overnight places. Even Shujaa does not have any problems (many other overlander vehicles do) – just the two turbos whistle a bit louder than usual.
The so-called lagoon route leads about 200 km through absolute solitude along the Bolivian / Chilean border on small and rough tracks – only a few tour jeeps can be seen from time to time. We drive past countless lagoons, which are called Laguna Verde, sometimes Laguna Blanca or Laguna Colorada depending on their dominant color. We feel that there are a hundred thousand flamingos and Karin does not get out of the permanent photography – the more work we have to sort them out in the evening. The golden yellow grass steppes, the bizarre rock formations and the snowy surrounding volcanoes complete this unique atmosphere.
However, the heavy rains of the rainy season have washed out the already bad slopes and we have to master the first real technical driving challenges of our trip around the world. As we descend from the lagoon route into the Altiplano “lowland” to only 3,800 meters and look forward to the initially good dirt road, heavy thunderstorms set in with continuous rain, which make progress only possible with the greatest possible concentration. The road gets muddy and feels like ice. Exhausted, we get a night spot right next to the soggy piste where we can be halfway safe from flooding.
At one o’clock in the morning, the military police pass by, knock loudly on our door and want to see our papers in the pouring rain, but then let us stay again unmolested. Nevertheless, we need some time to fall asleep again. The drive to Uyuni the next morning is a challenge on the completely soaked dirt roads. We are glad when we arrive safely: There are purchases and a few topics to do to Shujaa.
After extensive cleansing of Shujaa we drive to the actual Salar de Uyuni – with an extension of 160 km x 100 km it is the largest salt lake in the world in which 75% of the silicon reserves are suspected. Unfortunately, the entire salar is flooded by the heavy rains, so my dream to drive with Shujaa on the salar cannot be fulfilled. After our experience in the Laguna Llancanelo in northern Argentina, we are also sensitized to sink into bottomless lagoons. With Shujoo, our quad, we drive along the salt lake, consider several times whether we should go with it across the lake, but rational thinking finally wins so that we a long hike on the lake instead: despite rubber boots, the water often spills into our boots in, but the scenery is just beautiful. Two days we spend on a dream location on elevated rocks overlooking the salar and experience all different types of weather conditions.