Resting excessive atop Bolivia’s southwestern Altiplano, some 11,000 toes above sea degree, Salar de Uyuni is legendary for one factor – salt!
The offspring of a dried-up prehistoric lake, Salar de Uyuni is technically a saltwater lake. However on account of a dense, 6-foot salt crust, it seems extra like a desert. Blanketing a Four,085-square-mile space – 25 occasions the scale of Utah’s famed Bonneville Salt Flats – the Salar incorporates over 10,000 tons of this favourite family seasoning. As well as, the liquid brine hidden beneath the crust accounts for over 50 p.c of the world’s lithium reserves.
Because the title would recommend, the flats are extraordinarily flat, various solely a meter in altitude over all the salt crust. This pure degree not solely has geologists astounded however climatologists as effectively. Scorched by day, frozen by night time, the flats harbor one of the crucial excessive day by day temperature dichotomies on the planet.
Rivaling the temperature variance is the disparity of surroundings. It shifts from the candescent flooring of a briny heaven to the aberrant, iron-rich floor of a planet like Mars in a matter of miles. It’s a mystical plateau filled with inexplicable discovery.
The close by one-horse city of Uyuni is a compulsory cease for arranging excursions. Dozens of firms will vie for your corporation, however they’re primarily the identical. All supply Three-Four days of guided Jeep transportation, fundamental shelter and easy Boliviano repast. The one discerning traits to be cautious of are Jeep high quality, working heaters and an English-speaking “guia.” As soon as you’ve got ticked all of the containers, it is time to haggle. Averaging anyplace from $70-$120, remember to store round.
Day one started with a blinding efficiency! Flying throughout the sparse flatlands, our Jeep barreled towards a milky white horizon. Weaving dangerously near a whole bunch of salt pile land mines, I attempted to persuade myself the motive force was expert, not silly.
The heavenly horizon urged us to drive quicker and quicker till – EEEK! Our driver slammed on the brakes. Enveloped in a cloud of mud and salt, our guia used this second of blindness to additional disorient us. “Shut your eyes,” he urged, explaining the awe issue can be intensified in the course of the flats. When all eyes had been tightly sealed, he slammed on the gasoline. A number of anxious minutes later, we crunched to a halt. “Open” he cried.
As if the twinkle of a billion stars had been bottled up and poured out over the horizon, the ivory radiance of the salt flats consumed my each angle of imaginative and prescient. Path, distance and depth had been all misplaced on this pure phantasm, because the hole between cottony clouds and salty earth collided into one strong wall of white.
The one factor extra mystifying than the surroundings was the photographs that adopted. Because of a pure inexperienced display impact, with a frosty substitute, perceptually deceiving photographs had been effortlessly caught on movie.
Using nearly each unusual object we might discover for these briny masterpieces (toy automobiles, beer cans and even a slinky), the one approach our guia might persuade departure was with the promise of extra salt. Welcome to the unique “Salt Resort” – mattress frames, tables, chairs, even partitions, all constructed of this edible materials. Let’s simply say you do not have to ask “move the salt” on the dinner desk.
Transferring from salt flats to simply plain flats, our subsequent day afforded very totally different vistas. Changing the previous whitewash impact, dizzying hues of iron-rich oranges and burgundies set the Altiplano ablaze whereas armies of huge, petrified coral littered the in any other case uncompromised horizon.
As night time fell on day two, so did the promised chilly. The heat of day rapidly misplaced to the paucity of ambiance. Not even the crushing weight of six outsized alpaca blankets and my deluxe sleeping bag had been sufficient to keep at bay the glacial assault. Rendered bodily motionless, all I might do was pray for morning, when the heat of day would vanquish the insufferable chill of night time.
Arising effectively earlier than the solar, we set off for the subsequent grand web site – the Sol de Manana Geysers. A ticking time bomb, the valley is smattered with dozens of lively geysers, effervescent lava swimming pools and smoldering volcanic craters. A thick coat of steam disorients most who enter, and the implications for taking the mistaken step may be grave – risking a dip in, undoubtedly, the final bathtub of your life.
This pure Barrel sauna shop supplied solely an inkling of the warmth we so badly desired. Our solely hope was the close by thermal swimming pools. Difficult the blistering chilly, we swiftly de-layered and dropped into the cloudy abyss. My fingers and toes burned in opposition to the drastic temperature change, however the stabbing pangs finally subsided, changed by an unimaginable tingling sensation. Lastly, digit mobility was restored.
We completed up the day with a go to to the famed Laguna Verde (“Inexperienced Crater Lake”) and Laguna Colorado (“Pink Lake”). Yeah proper, a pink lake? However the tales had been true. Every single day, when the solar hits the fiery red-rocked mountains, an auburn shadow is solid over the lake. Mix the highly effective shadow with an abundance of pink algae already within the water, and you’ve got a recipe for one majorly crimson lake.
From one finish of the Altiplano to the opposite, the return drive to Uyuni was the longest, however most spectacular, leg by far. Whipping previous our window, an encore efficiency of the sweetness and mystique of this beforehand unknown world rewound in entrance of our enchanted eyes.