I was pleasantly surprised by the Bolivian people. We had nice talks and did not hear any "gringo."

On the "road"
As we had seen on the map that there was the Salar de Coipasa North of Salar de Uyuni as kind of a natural road we thought to be smart and ride on it as a short cut. I knew the conditions of Salar de Uyuni and thought every Salar would be the same. Error - when we entered we found unridable conditions: It was humid and soft. We got stuck all the time and could hardly advance. Finally it took one and a half day to cross it and we almost ran out of water.
Dinner's pasta water served for a soup and to clean the dishes we could not allow to use more water. While we went along the Western side sometimes we crossed the green border to Chile as a local farmer confirmed us.

To our relief we reached the gap between the salt lakes at Tres Cruzes, a dry place, but we luckily got water from a 22m deep cistern and could even buy supplies. This was a characteristic and funny story:
Two gentlemen served me. There was only one problem: One man’s eyes were very weak and the other could hardly calculate. I had to make my bill myself. 

Crossing Salar de Uyuni

The first thing we observed was a truck that got stuck while trying to leave the salt surface. This year there was much more water than in regular years. Probably because it was an "el niņo"- year. Both of the salt lakes were not dry yet and that's why in some areas they were not hard enough.

Camping on the salt is a unique experience I will never forget. The salt flats are that wide you just stop anywhere and make your camp.

In comparison to Chile where the salt mining is done by excavator and huge trucks in big style, in Bolivia it is done by shovel and old trucks. Often I felt pity for the workers, but not only for them. It is sad to see how countries with such abundance yet remain poor.

In Uyuni we took only two days of rest after having ridden for 11 days in succession. This was not enough but as Dimitri's sister was expected for a visit, it was his desire to do so. With pleasure we met some other cyclists (the Dutch Bambooriders and Siska, their Belgium mate, Jürgen, German and the Belgium recumbent rider couple) and enjoyed to be in good companion.
Uyuni became much more expensive since I visited it three years ago. The tourists are the main income. It is a city with an unnatural center everything is dimensioned for tourists: The restaurants, the shops and even more so their prices. It appeared to be even more expensive than Peru's tourist metropolis Cuzco.

Allow me to describe Bolivian people with the following saying I remember from Alaska:  "Alaska, where men can still be men and women can too." To me it seems this fits better to Bolivia as here the Aymara women really wear the pants.

I always had a great respect for the Lipez and I intended to ride this route only with somebody else. Luckily I had Dimitri with me. We prepared this distance seriously, bought plenty of food, printed the google satellite photos, and we also had a GPS with us. To save time we decided to skip the first part and approached the main track from Alota.

The third day when we entered the real Lipez with its bad sandy roads Dimitri could not advance anymore on his trike. With the three wheels he was not able to escape the worst areas of the roads and was hindered to advance. Sometimes I pushed him while he tried to ride or we pushed together.
In the morning of day number four he decided to return to Uyuni which I could understand perfectly. I was attracted to go on alone although the situation caused me a stomach ache. I knew that what I intended to do could be ending fatal. There had been other people who lost their way out in this desert because it looks always very similar and there are few water spots. Nonetheless I was confident since I had maps, GPS and satellite photos.

The seven days alone along the lagoons
The first day brought me through a deep stony sand field between several volcanoes in the midst of the desert. I had to push many kilometres which made me extremely tired on an altitude of 4500m. During that day I met nobody at all. Totally alone I ran out of water and had to leave the bike to climb a volcano where I found snow. I could win 5l water of it. In the evening I was completely exhausted, it was the hardest day since Alaska.

The day after I reached the main track I was very happy and felt a lot of relief. From now on, it was still hard to advance but at least I met every day many 4x4s with excited tourists and got water in several refuges. It was an encouraging section although I fell innumerable times and was pushing many kilometres through deep sand and gravel.

Unfortunately, as if Lipez was not hard enough on day number two my Rohloff gear change cable tore and got stuck in the tube. An attempt to repair it, did not succeed as it got stuck again and again. I saw only one solution: Change the gear with a pincer and ride almost single speed.

After I visited the tree of stone I reached in the evening Laguna Colorada with its amazing red and blue colours and all the thousands of flamingos. I was allowed to sleep in the restaurant of the refuge and a nice tourist group invited me for dinner which I enjoyed a lot.

Climbing Paso Sol de Maņana an orientation error brought me up to 5020m where I was advised by a worker at a borax mine to turn back. As there was only little time left before the sun set I asked at the local cargo tool station if they could give me an opportunity to sleep inside as I feared a very cold night. Well, the boss to whom the employee took me did not even look into my eyes and did not want to give me any opportunity although there would have been. He rather let me freeze to death than to give me a chance to sleep in a dirty corner. I did not see an other way than to run down as far as I could. The road was not bad but the wind was very strong up there. Finally I found the correct way and reached the geysers on 4900m where about one kilometre further I found an abandoned house for water intake. This was a shelter for the wind and I could put my tent up. I froze a little towards the morning but it was not too bad.
As I was that close to the geysers I took the chance to observe them the next day which was very interesting.

In the afternoon I arrived at Laguna Chalviri again a very beautiful place with soft colours. A thermal bath beside is visited daily by plenty of tourists where I rested for some two hours. Unfortunately I lost my camera as a blast threw my pullover with it into the water.

The following two days I saved myself over the border to Chile on which way I had to experience a last awkward situation in the refuge beside Laguna Blanca:
I arrived totally exhausted and of course smelled not after perfume, rather after everything else. I took a seat at the end of a table where already other tourists were waiting for dinner. While I was talking with them I wondered why the Bolivian waiter did not serve me with them. Instead some minutes later he tipped on my shoulder and put me to an isolated table that he even put as far away into a corner as possible. That's where he served me. I lacked words and deeds; felt just in the wrong movie and can only shake my head now.