From the banks of the Titicaca Lake to the South of Lipez – 15 days – 3000 metres above sea level

Version française disponible ici. 

At the end of an afternoon, we crossed the border post in Kasani with no troubles. In this hamlet, there are only five little houses including a mini “Mercado”, plus the offices of migration and customs which were empty when we arrived. We woke up the customs officer for the administrative formalities. 

Then, we had only a few kilometres left alongside the lake to reach the first Bolivian city. The orange nuances of the sky at the sunset time offer a beautiful purple tint over the water of the Copacabana bay. 

The city is the main seaside city alongside the lake in Bolivia. Its dynamism is mainly due to the pedestrian street, its pontoon (where the excursions go for the Sun Islands) and its beach. When we started to look for a place for the night, we met Ron, a rider travelling who left Canada with the aim to reach Ushuaia with an Ural sidecar. Finally, he changed of vehicle in USA after some mechanical issues and the wish to travel lighter to enjoy more the “off-road” sessions. 

We left the enclave of Manco-Kapac, isolated between the Peruvian border and the Tiquina strait. To cross the lake, we used a small boat to reach the rest of the country. 

After a few days on the road, we allowed ourselves a break in Pampa alongside the Titicaca lake. We spent three days with the feet in the water, surrounded by the mountains of the Cordillera Real (Royal Mountains). These snowy summits have their reflects in the blue of the lake, offering beautiful and peaceful surroundings. 

The place is isolated from the tourists from Copacabana who are not going to this kind of little villages, in spite of the high season starting this month (December). But we needed to admit that the infrastructures are basic. We needed to do 80kms to find a bank to withdraw Bolivian Pesos. On the main square there was no one. Only three kids were playing by going down a little hill with their skateboards. We went to the only shop open to find something to eat. The nice old grandad presented his shop and showed us all the products he had available. We left with his best paté (we must admit that he had a strong flavour of anchovies), two of the best lagers of the country and, according to him, enough ingredients to make good sandwiches. 

After these peaceful days in this unique village, we went back on the road towards La Paz, the first urban area of the country and the administrative capital (the constitutional capital being Sucre). 

La Paz is full of people. Upon our arrival by the avenue of Juan Pablo II, we were stuck in the trafic of the city. We moved forward depending on the traffic lights and we weaved between the “colectivo” buses to manage our insertion on the highway serving the town center. Once the sidecars parked and the backpacks dropped at the hotel, we left to find some engine oil in the area of mechanics. Then, we walked in the town center and saw its National Congress, its Nossa Senhora da Paz Cathedral and its San Francisco Basilica. The city will not be kept in our memories for its architecture but for the Bolivian people. Indeed, in the mechanical shops, they helped us to find everything we needed for the service after the 10,000kms done. 

After crossing La Paz, we went straight to reach Uyuni, entry of the desert of the same name. The city is living almost only from the welcoming of tourists coming before or after the Salar. We need to admit there is nothing around this village except the desert and it seems hard to develop an economical activity not linked to the tourism. There is a little market with fresh produce where we bought some food for our sandwiches. But in the rest of the city, there are mainly travel agencies, hotels, bars, restaurants and souvenirs shops. 

For our visit in the Salar of Uyuni, we opted for a cheap option. We used a “collectivo” bus to reach the main island of the desert (which is a little hill with a few plants and two buildings), the island of Incahuasi. We spent the night there before to go back to Uyuni the following day at the end of the morning. The Salar of Uyuni is an impressive area of salt dried by the sunshine. Being in the middle of a desert, going as far as we can see, was the first time for each one of us. Only the Tunupa volcano came to break the regularity of the skyline. 

When we came back from Uyuni, we walked up to the train cemetery. At a few hundreds of metres away from the city, alongside the railways going towards the desert, there are old wagons and old locomotives! Time seems to have stopped. Little by little, tags decorate these steal beasts! The place is a true playground for tourists. We were back to our childhood, having fun to climb up the trains, imagining ourselves as train drivers with an arm through the window looking towards the desert like Buster Keaton driving the General.

Then, we went towards the South of Lipez for our last days in Bolivia. To discover the treasures of this area, we swapped our three-wheel vehicles for a 4×4. Previous travellers told us about the conditions of the path of this area, so we made the choice to preserve our bikes. 

Indeed, the South of Lipez is beautiful but you need to deserve it! Five hours on an uneven path in bad conditions and this is the least we can say. After this, what a show! Hundreds of pink flamingos at the Laguna Colorada were eating in the red water being rich of sediments and planktons. The column of smoke from the geysers of the Sol Manana are impressive. Under the smoke, there are boiling basins where the sulfur is escaping. Around, the ground has an intense orange colour. 

Then, we went towards the Laguna Verde having a turquoise colour. On te other side of the Licancabur volcano facing us, there is Chile but this country will be for tomorrow. Before this, we went back to Uyuni by crossing the Siloli desert, known as the desert of Dali where we could imagine a few melting clocks between these massive rocks in the middle of this large sandy area. 

We went back to Uyuni with the rain. The clay of the path became mud and the road was almost impracticable. We went back to the city very slowly, unlike some big lorries stuck on the path. 

For our last day in Bolivia, we rode over 300 kilometres on a nice path to reach Chile. Just after crossing the line separating both countries, we were back on the asphalte. But for how long? The adventure continues… 

Where to eat? 

Vegetarian Restaurant
Calle Tarija, La Paz

Here nothing fancy, but a relaxing atmosphère in this little and simple restaurant. We like the kindness of the grandma and her daughter serving us tasty vegan burgers. 


Turkiri Restaurant
Route 701, after the small village of Alota towards the Chilean border

By going towards Ollagüe, the first Chilean city, ten kilometers away from the border, there is a restaurant offering almuerzo for an affordable price in the middle of nowhere. The cuisine is simple but good. You can enjoy the dishes with a view over a small lagoon where lamas and alpagas keep hydrated. Ideal for a break on your Bolivian adventure before to go back on the path to Chile. 

Where to have a drink ?
Extreme Fun Pub
Av. Potosi 9, Uyuni

A nice address to enjoy a local veer. The deco highlights the best friend of Captain Haddock, the lama, in a muted atmosphere with softened lights.