21 June 2011

the world's largest salt flat, bolivia's salar de uyuni (with lots of funny photos)

In all of my travels, Salar de Uyuni stands out as one of the most incredible things I've seen.  To say it's the world's largest salt flat at over 4000 square miles just doesn't mean much.  It's kind of neat to see it from space:

But to bring the numbers to a more human level and give the Salar de Uyuni a more apt description, it looks like a never-ending plain of perfectly flat, perfectly white snow.  And like much of Bolivia, it's around 12,000 feet above sea level.

There's so much salt, even the buildings are made of salt bricks, like this little one:

They also make salt tables:

And salt shrines:

But it was the nature that I was blown away by.  It had rained recently, so we got to see some of this beautiful milky turquoise water over parts of the salar:

If you go right after it rains, you get the perfect reflection of clouds and sky seen in the opening of this lovely video:

(It's the precursor to my favorite video of all time, which you can find here.)

But back to the Salar.  We were joined by an awesome sibling trio from Argentina and a Brazilian in this Toyota, and at first, it felt like we were gliding across water.

Here are the salt piles, in perfect cones:

To my surprise, there were also naturally bubbling springs-- but cool to the touch (I had to test it):

We stopped at the famous salt hotel (comprised entirely of salt bricks) in the middle of the salt flats, but it's been closed because it didn't have proper draining and sewer facilities for its guests.  And who wants that in their salt?

Then, we drove out into the middle of the Salar and got to play around and just enjoy the openness:

I didn't know that taking funny pictures was a highlight of many visits here, but because the white ground goes on forever, and there are no reference points to gauge distance or size, it's easy to take some pretty silly and fun photos.

Here are some of our group:

This one always makes me smile:

Here's our awesome group and our SUV:

We stopped for lunch, drove around and explored some more of the area and then got to play around again at sunset:

It looked like we were walking on clouds:

Our Argentine mate, on his harmonica with a little moon above and sun setting behind the mountains in the distance:

Kind of makes you want to dance and jump around...

Up next: more amazing photos of the Salar de Uyuni.