Salt Flats Bolivia
The salt flats (Salar De Uyuni) in Bolivia contained the most unique and breathtaking landscapes that I have witnessed to date. Even in my own imagination I could never have come up with the combination of giant cactus growing on islands surrounded by salt flats that exists here. It kind of reminded me of an episode of Rick and Morty where the scenes are just so obscure you’d think someone on acid created them.
I’m pretty sure the people of Latin America are getting sick of seeing my bare ass but I still decided to take the opportunity to disrobe and bare all to the universe. Our guide was more than happy to take some photos of me whilst the rest of the group pretended to occupy themselves with other things whilst cheekily looking on.
honeycomb salt flats
The one thing that stands out about the never ending white dessert is the hexagonal salt shapes that look like they have been laid down by council workers. At first I didn’t notice this because of the shear blinding nature of the white reflective surface. However, once I put on some sunglasses the beehive pattern came into focus. This is the one time you do not want to forget your sunglasses! My eyes were watering more than an Italian washing his concrete driveway with a hose! Our Bolivian guide told us that once she had forgot to wear her sunglasses and that the next day her eyes were redder then “el diablo”. It kind of felt like someone was frying your retinas with a magnifying glass like when the kids at my primary school used to scorch ants on the ground with one.
These hexagonal shapes are formed due to the freezing and thawing processes of water which creates a type of natural convection. If you want to know more about the process you can read about Rayleigh–Bénard convection which explains the process in much greater detail than I care to go into.
your Table is ready sir
There’s no booking required for a seat at this restaurant! Our gracious guide and driver/cook created a fantastic, scenic dining experience right in the heart of the salt flats. Finding a spot inside the 10,582 square kilometres of the world’s largest salt flat was a fairly easy task as you can imagine. In case of fire well the emergency exists where here, there and everywhere. The obligatory, “Can someone please pass the salt?” joke was made. I’m sure the guide has heard this every time she takes a tour but she still laughed anyway.
Sol de Mañana
We had to get up around 4am to witness the sunset at Sol de Mañana but it was completely worth it. Our guide informed us that this area is characterised by a sulphur spring field. Up until she pointed that out I was trying to work out whether our driver was suffering from an upset stomach from our very bland breakfast. Breakfast usually consists of some odd shaped looking white bread and if that didn’t already contain enough sugar there is always dulche de leche, a condensed milk condiment to spread all over it. The Sol de Mañana reminded me a little of the Lord of The Rings, it looked evil and sinister with its mud lakes and steam pools.
If someone had described this island to me before I had seen it for myself I would have thought that it was a figment of their imagination. Huge cactus, some 10 meters tall, litter the small island in the middle of the salt flats.
The view from the top of the island is pretty spectacular, a 360 degree panoramic view of majestical mountain peaks laying on the perimeter of an ocean of white salt.
Isla de los Pescados
There’s an island called Isla de Pescados (Island of the Fish) that apparently looks like the shape of a fish from a distance. I guess if you take off your sunglasses and let your eyes water enough from the salt glare then it does look a little fishy. According to our guide they don’t take people there very often but I guess they say that to all the groups to make them feel special.
There was a large cave on one side of the island I referred to as the mouth of the fish. We sat around inside seeking shelter from the blazing sun outside.
Colchani salt production
A small village that exists purely due to salt processing in which the residents have been bestowed the honour of zero income tax on salt production by the government. It’s similar to how Monaco doesn’t charge its residents income tax but that’s about where the similarities end. I think salt production has to be one of the simplest processes I have ever seen, dig up, dry and bag. You don’t even need to dry or bag it like they do you can basically just scoop some off the ground and sprinkle it in over your meal.
I watched an old man mind numbingly fill small plastic bags with salt and then seal in the contents with a flame. If someone gave me the option of doing his job for a day or stabbing myself with a 2B lead pencil, then I’d rather thrust the pencil into my thigh! The highlight of the town for me was pretending to watch a sounder of swine playing a match of football. The black team eventually went on to win the entire league!
mirror mirror on the salt flats
Just when you think the tour has reached its climatic end with the sun setting, things get turned up to eleven after the sun disappears over the horizon! The landscape transforms into a huge mirror if there is water present on the surface of the salt flats. It felt like I was in space looking out over the salt flats, I couldn’t tell what was up or down!
The mirror surface of the salt flats really plays tricks on your eyes but the pink hue that is generated from the combination of the salt and sun is extraordinary!
This was probably one of the most spectacular things I have ever seen, it’s one of those images that will be etched in my mind for eternity. When I am laying on my death bed, I hope that this magical mirror image of the salt flats will return. My family surrounding me in my last hours will see my last smile, thinking it was because of them, but only I will know it was inspired by the salt flats.
The Termas de Polques nestled in the hot springs are a great way to start the morning. The only problem is that the twenty other tour companies on the route share the same idea. Unless you want to share a warm bath with dozens of other individuals who haven’t showered in days then I suggest you wait until the afternoon to slide in.
I can’t even remember the names of half the lagoons that we saw but most of them are named after the colour that they appear. The only issue when I look back at my photos is that the lagoons don’t look the same colour as their name. There is always some magical combination of ingredients or conditions that need to be present in order for the lake to appear the colour it’s meant to be. Even the guides’ disclaimer that green lake might not appear green before we got to there reaffirmed my observations that I don’t think these lakes ever appear these colours.
other salt flats comments
Feel free to comment below if you had any other great experiences on the Bolivian salt flats!!