Mysterious Sights: Salar De Uyuni, Bolivia

April 13, 2012 by staff 

Mysterious Sights: Salar De Uyuni, Bolivia, Salar de Uyuni: the largest salt flat on earth. And a showcase of Bolivia at its most barren and uninhabitable. It is enchanting.  South of the salar too exists a dream landscape of lagoons, volcanoes and dry harsh desert. What you see is incredible, bleak and vibrant, pastel and hard. Forces of nature, awesome, eerie. Man wouldn’t stand a chance.

To access the flats and the other sights in the area, most people begin their tours in Uyuni, a dusty remote hamlet in the middle of the altiplano in southwest Bolivia. It’s harsh living out here, desolate, cold. The town’s main industry is tourism, and the main plaza is lined with tour companies and restaurants that are geared towards travelers.

Our salar excursion began midmorning at the office of our tour company. The scene was frantic. An Israeli group had just arrived from La Paz on the overnight bus and were hastily packing for the trip. The entire office was filled with hiking boots, wrinkled clothes, tired backpacks and lots of bickering in Hebrew. Outside, large SUVs were being loaded with food and supplies and given last-minute maintenance checks. We were finally ushered into our car, where met our car-mates — there were six of us plus our driver/cook/guide — and we were off.

Among our stops was a train graveyard close to town. It’s exactly what you would imagine: corpses of trains strewn over desert sand, carnage from the days when Uyuni was a thriving railroad town. They’d been left there to rust, were covered with graffiti and are now quite a sight to see. After monkeying around in the wreckage, we drove to the salt flat.

The salar, brittle and dry, is blinding to the nkd eye. It’s about 10,000 square kilometers in area and is normally driven through on the first day. The salt was so compact that it could cut through skin. A favorite activity of visitors is to take forced perspective shots because the surface is so perfectly white and flat, unchanging and shadowless, stretching all the way to the horizon.

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