Feb 13, 2008
10 Billion Tons of Salt
Salar De Uyuni is the largest salt flat in the world. For more than 7500 sq mi, all one can see is salt. Except in our case, all we could see is water – about 4” deep covering the vast plane as it does every year during the rainy season.
It was the first stop on our three day tour of the high deserts of southwestern Bolivia. Our Land Cruiser drove about 10km onto the flat to a hotel built entirely of - you guessed it, salt. We drove past many miners who work the flats for a living – shipping salt around the world. Who knows, the rim of that margarita you enjoyed the other day may have been salted with the famous white stuff from Bolivia. It made for some absolutely surreal photos.
Our venerable Land Cruiser and its driver then took us to numerous spots of memorable beauty. The Dali Desert was aptly named as its strange rock formations, endless vistas, colorful mountains, and lifeless beauty were plucked straight from the background of the strangest Salvador Dali painting. We saw thousands of pink flamingos living in the Red Lakes of the high desert. We climbed to about 16,500 ft to see geysers and boiling water noisily churning below our feet. We saw rocks shaped like trees and birds, and witnessed thousands of llamas and vicunas, a relative of the camel. We listened to the same Michael Bolton songs over and over as this was our driver’s only CD. Who knew anyone willingly listened to Michael Bolton?
On the final day we cooked our frozen bodies in some very hot springs at about 15000 ft with dozens of other tourists. We then motored over to the green lake – made this way from the borax and copper deposits within. We saw dozens of snow capped volcanoes – some over 22,000 ft high – an eerie sight in an otherwise dry, treeless, summer desert.
Overall, it was some of the most magnificently strange scenery we have ever seen. Even the hoards of tourists and Land Cruisers following the exact same path - and the hours of Michael Bolton blasting through one sad speaker, could not deter from the captivating beauty of these barren landscapes. It was oddly similar to our home in Arizona, yet unlike anything we have ever seen.
Uyuni, the small salt mining town were we now are waiting for a train, is our last stop in Bolivia. Today, we will head back to La Paz to catch a flight to Santiago, Chile. We are happy to have visited this confusing country called Bolivia. However, we are also happy to be leaving. We are excited to be heading towards a developed country with safe drinking water, paved roads, and western comforts. Believe it or not, we have not run across a single McDonalds or Starbucks in the last 50 days – its strange the things you start to miss when you are living so far from home.