The Salar is incredible, a vast salt flat remnant to a prehistoric sea and at over 10,500 square kilometres, the largest in the world.
From the Salar we headed to Rio Mullatos for lunch in a local cocina - more delicioous soup of the same variety as in Uyuni.
Comparing maps and GPS.
The road from Rio Mullatos north was ripio with a lot of sandy sections to keep us on our toes, in addition to the occasional stream crossing and washout.
Petra tackling a couple of crossings.
At Sevaruyo the road came to a halt at the Rio Sevaruyo.
The river was running 4 to 12 inches deep so I waded in on foot a few metres to see what the condition of the riverbed was. Tire tracks were clearly visible 200m away on the opposite bank, so I walked the adjacent railway bridge to inspect the length of the river crossing, and also to determine if the bridge itself was an option for crossing. The riverbed looked consistent and the bridge was not an option as the spars were too far apart and missing in sections - so into the river I rode!
About half way across, my rear tire dug in as I rode up on a sandbar.
I tried to throttle my way out, worsening the problem, and so removed the panniers to lighten the bike but to no avail. By now the front tire was in the air, and the rear had sunk in the sand below the swingarm. I spent a few minutes digging out the rear and underside of the bike, during which time a local boy and his mother offered to help us out. With Petra and the two locals lifting the suspension and me throttling forward and pushing with feet on the riverbed the bike gained momentum and I span to the opposite shore.
As we slowly walked across the bridge collecting my panniers (at 3900m above sea level everything is slow!) another Bolivian woman told us the locals walk their bikes across the bridge. I explained why that wouldn't work and she said the missing spars were not a problem because the trick was to walk the bikes along the rail! Clearly the locals don't ride 600lb bikes.
That's me on the far side of the bridge carrying a pannier.
My next thought was to find two planks of wood or sheet metal to roll Petra's bike across the bridge. As I tried to talk to the woman about this option she basically said, "you could do that, or you could just ride down river to the concrete pad where the buses cross! Hilarious.
After a few tough kilometres of desvio, we returned to pavimente at Huari and made the last 100km run to Oruro.
Oruro was more chaos and insane driving behaviour, but we quickly found a hostal with garaga for the motos and set in for the night. It will take all night for our feet to dry out, and a lot longer for our boots!