Beyond Thunderdome… to Ayuni.

San Juan de Rosario – Julaca – Rio Grande – Vinto – Uyuni

There are Mad Maxian echoes around pockets of South West Bolivia… at least for those with an overactive, celluloidic imagination like my own. Indeed, the ride from San Juan de Rosario to Ayuni, is almost post-apocalyptic in feel; it follows an old mining company railway line built in the 19th century, back when Bolivia bordered the Pacific.

Under bottle blue skies, the faintest of dirt roads traverses crunchy salt flats; empty, sparse, bleached canvases, where any direction goes. It crosses the frigid waters of the Rio Grande, swirling in icy slow-motion. It runs alongside forlorn railway tracks; hardened strips of shiny metal scything across the plateaux. It weaves through powdery borax mines, painting tyre tracks a sugary white. It flanks daisy chains of stencilled train carriages; empty, quiet and still. It skirts even an abandoned train cemetery, sprawling out beyond the sandy fringes of Uyuni, where hollowed out locomotives lie dull and corroded by the restless, salty winds of the Andean altiplano.

It’s a surreal, cinematic, dilapidated and sad setting… one in which our fat bikes, and the eery, electronic soundscapes of Boards of Canada, feel right at home…

If you would like to keep up with where I am between blog entries, I try and keep my While Out Riding Facebook page regularly updated – along with posting extra photos and gear ponderings. You can find it here. Occasionally, I pop some pictures up on Instagram too. 

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18 thoughts on “Beyond Thunderdome… to Ayuni.

    1. Dan Celis

      Hey!
      You are just showing us, what a good photographer you are. The trains have been documented quite a lot. But you look at a different creative way and make some very good shots. Keep moving! Hope that our bike-trails will cross again in some time.
      Dan

      Reply
    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      We rode through the mining settlement of San Vincente, where the deed is said to have taken place. But that’s for the next blog post…

      Reply
  1. Tom

    As always, you’ve given me a nice escape from my workday world. thanks so much – i especially like the photo of the two of you headed off into oblivion while riding along the rail line. Looking forward to more!

    Reply
  2. Myles & Miles

    I thinky I may well have a celluloidic imagination, whatever that may entail. However, I didnt need to use it here as the madmaxyness was fairly clear. Some cracking shots indeed. You even made the graveyard seem a whole lot more interesting than when i was there. I may hang up the pedals and just read your blog. Keep it up, you three!

    Reply
    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      Don’t do that Myles – I’m looking forward to your wry observations and witticisms on the Peruvian Divide (-:

      Reply
  3. Jeff Dible

    I’m taken aback by how stark the landscape is. I’ve yet to see much growing there. If that is the case, then, what pray tell do the denizens of this dramatic landscape eat?

    Reply
    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      Traditionally, I think it’s always been the superfood quinoa, a whole grain laden with goodness and protein – which seems to grow very well on the altiplano. Recently, however, quinoa’s growing popularity in Europe and the US have pushed up prices locally, so a lot of people rely on rice and pasta now. Llama is the meat staple, and there’s no shortage of that.

      Reply
  4. Oliver

    A mind-boggling place indeed, justifying the term “dead end” quite well… Amazing shots as usual Cass! I quite like the message on the train wreck as well, quite fitting… :)

    Reply
  5. Jeff New York LON

    Hi Cass great write up as usual ,how much slower is a fat tyre bike on the road .Do you feel like you need different wheels on tarmac . Keep up the good work .

    Jeff

    Reply
    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      hey Jeff. The Pugs is definitely a pretty slovenly on the road. But pumped up to 30psi, it’s surprisingly bearable, once you get used to it. Apart from Northern Argentina, I’ve managed to keep predominantly to dirt, so the ratio has been fine.

      Reply
  6. Nick

    Cass, when I first learned about your adventures you were doing ‘normal’ things like riding through Magdalena or out to Glorieta Mesa and then back home, things I could look forward to doing on the weekend myself. But you’re way beyond that now; it seems that you’ve been off the reservation so long that you really are Mad Max by now. I guess your adventures really are life changing. I still really like reading about your travels, but before they sounded like something I could/should/would do. Now they sound like fiction or adventure books and I can only dream about them. Good luck to you. Hey, I’ll lift a glass to you when they set fire to Zozobra tomorrow night!

    Reply
    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      Thanks for the message, Nick. As it happens, I’m bound for Santa Fe in the next few weeks… so will be hoping to return to adventures with more of a New Mexican flavour shortly!

      Reply

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