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  Colchane to Lago Chungara [an error occurred while processing this directive]
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The situation in October 2002. 

From Pisiga / Colchane to Lago Chungara


198 km


2130 m



Main difficulty


Pisiga (Bolivia) has several alojamientos (20 bolivianos per person). On the other site of the border Colchane (Chile) has (I think) non. Both villages are limited in supplies. We left our bikes in Pisiga and took a bus (about 6000 pesos chilenos one-way) to Iquique (Chile) and did shopping over there, and went to the beach! On the way back we left our shopping's at the Chile border to avoid problems when entering Chile the next morning. The villages on the road are or abonded or to small to sell any real supply. Not all the water in this area is drinkable. Many rivers are containing arsenic (deadly) and other strange minerals. Some rivers are declared drinkable by the Conaf guardaparques and are mentioned in the text. The route goes through several national parks (Isluga, Surire, Las Vicuņas, Lauca), but no entrance fee is raised. 

Note: March 2006, Ivo and Brigitte, Switserland
Visit Iquique was the best we can do after a month in Bolivia. Here some helpful directions: Backpackers youth hostel, Corner Amunategui-Av. Arturo Prat, close to the beach and the shopping mall!
Bicicleteria with shimano parts up to XTR, Cycles Redolfi, Bulnes 485.
City map, Sernatur, Anibal Pinto 436.
Passing through Colchane we saw that there's now a simply hospedaje next to the road. We don't now how good it is, but with a stay on chilean side you can avoid to pass tree times the border.

Day 1
From Pisiga (3800) border post  it is 2 km to the Colchane (3800) border post. Then the paved road continues for 5 km to a right signpost turnoff, Isluga. The road becomes unpaved and after 5 km it reached the ghost village Isluga (3890). The road goes through the village and climbs for 10 km to a left signpost turnoff, camping / thermal (3980). After 0.5 km is a thermal swimming pool and some places to camp (barbeque spot, table). The site is for free and the water from the swimming pool is drinkable.

Day 2
Back to the main road, it is another kilometer to the village of Enquelga where a Conaf refugio (sleeping places) is situated on the left side. The road climbs 3.5 km further to the left signpost turnoff, Mauque. This left turn road leads to the geyser fields of Puchuldiza. The road straight on leads further north and meets the shortcut road from Mauque after 16.7 km. Straight on is after 0.7 steep km (4323) a right turnoff (a little bit further is another signposted right turnoff, Chinchillani, which is also good) which leads to a warm water river after 3.1 km (4287). There is a disinfections coral and the water from the river is drinkable.  

Note: October 2002, Jan from Germany. 
Here a description to the geyser fields of Puchuldiza. After the left turnoff, cross a small river. Another 5 km on this road, there is another left turnoff signposted Mizque (Mauque?). From here you already see the geyser field Puchuldiza up above. Follow this very sandy road to Mizque, a small village with a nice church. About 2 km beyond the village a track turns off the right, leading up to the geysers (maybe 15 rough kms). Head back until about 1 km before the Mizque-signposted turnoff, where a shortcut (about 2 km) heads north to another track leading to the east and west (turn left here!). After another 5 km turn off to the right, following a track leading around a hill to the north. After 15 km you reach a river, where the track joins with the main road coming directly from Enquelga. Head left here. 

Day 3
Back to the main road, which is continuing north for 7.0 km  (4298) to a signpost turnoff, Parajalla. Straight on, to a river with drinkable water after 3.5 km (4290). The road crosses the river and reaches a left signpost turnoff (4322) after 6.8 km, Chilcaya. The left road is longer, goes higher and misses the thermal pool. The road straight on reaches the Bolivian border (4355) after 3 km (no customs). After 0.7 km is a left turnoff (4356). This road leads steep up a hill and joins the road straight on (little bit longer but more gradually climb) after 2.9 km at the Chile border (4517). The road crosses a minefield and descends to the very hot and beautiful thermal de Polloquere in the Salar the Surire, 6.3 km (4325). Campsite with table, but no drinkable water!!! 

Day 4
Continuing the road meets the Chilcaya road (4315) after 10.7 km. Straight on is the guardaparque of Salar de Surire (4322) after 8.8 km, with water, a refuge (5500 pesos chilenos per person, negotiations are possible) and a parking place to camp (free). 

Note: March 2006, Ivo and Brigitte, Switserland
The refuge of the guardaparque from Salar de Surire was closed out of season. If you even want to stay there try the window next the door from the container house. Maybe it's open and you can get in.

Day 5
The road now is used and maintained by the Borax company who mine the Salar and becomes much better. Ones at the time there are about 100 Borax trucks driving from the Salar to Arica for 1 week long, so a better road but not always quite. The Borax campamento is reached after 7.6 km (4295) and can provide maybe water and a sleeping place. The road climbs for 5.9 km to a pass (4377) and descend for 4.10 km (4235). After 16.5 km of climbing and descending a real descend for 4.6 km goes to Puente Lauca (4124). After 3.9 km are some houses on the left (dogs!) and after 7.3 km the road goes through Guallatiri (4294). Where a guardaparque is situated with a refugio (5500 pesos chilenos per person, negotiations are possible) and water.

Day 6
The road continues climbing for 2.6 km (4334) and the descends to some houses (4277) for 6 km and 1.8 km more to a bridge (4250). Then climbs steep up the side of the riverbank  for 2.5 km en stays high (4331) above the river for 6.7 km (4386). The borax road goes here to the left (20 km more to the international road) and a small road leads for 11.3 km to the right to the thermal of Churiquaya (4491). The thermal is situated on the road site and is pointed out by a signpost. To fill the tube build out of stones, a stone has to be sticked in the outlet pipe. A cold river with drinking water is streaming besides the thermal spring.

Note: March 2006, Ivo and Brigitte, Switserland
By the thermal of Churiquaya is now a very simple cottage with a concret basin inside. It's also possible to stay there over night.

Day 7 
The road continues climbing for 4.2 km to a pass (4707) before descending for 6 km to the international road (4500) from Arica (Chile) to La Paz / Oruro (Bolivia). The Chile border post is to the left and 7 km beyond is the guardaparque of Chungara, with refugio (4000 pesos chileno per person) and campsites (5500 pesos chilenos per tent). The border post of Bolivia is to the right, 7 km after a high pass. There is alojamiento and several restaurants nearby. 

Tips and tricks
-Altitudes can be different from shown on maps, because the altitudes are measured values. The altitude differences dough should be more or less correct.

-We came from Bolovia and where already quite good acclimated before we started. This is a big advantage above coming from Chile (Arica).  

-Don't underestimate the altitude !!!! It kills you.

-The map we used (Altiplano number 5, Mapas, Chile) showed some wrong roads.

-In the high season every day about 3 touring cars are passing. 


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This page was last updated on Friday July 29, 2011