Can’t say it was actually my first time “diving” into a Dorito’s bag, but it was the first time I didn’t come out with artificial cheese smeared on my fingers. Lining up the camera angle, Danny yelled to me to diving head first… it was certainly going to be a long day. There’s one reason and one reason only we came to the Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia, the pictures. A huge flat expanse of salt (surprisingly called the salt flats), in fact the largest in the world, the Salar is probably one of the only places in the world that you can stand on top of a coke bottle without crushing it. And that’s because you’re not actually standing on it. The great expanse of whiteness makes it difficult for the viewer to perceive depth, giving the photographer a great opportunity to do some pretty crazy things. Or a husband and wife to do some pretty crazy things… like eat each other or stand on the other’s head.
If that wasn’t enough, altiplano of Bolivia, including the Salar has incredibly clear weather, which means… incredible star gazing. Unlike neighboring Chile, Bolivia has yet to cash in on the potential for international astronomic researchers, so no telescopes for viewing, but plenty of open sky. In fact, the flatness, whiteness and openness of the Salar is so perfect that according to our guide satellites use it to calibrate their instruments.
Actually Bolivia is really big into not cashing in on what they have. Besides salt, the Salar also holds more than half the worlds reserve of lithium, thats a whole lot of batteries, but the government won’t open lithium mining up to foreign corporations. The only mining is done by hand. Locals pay a fee to a cooperative in order to gather, refine and sell the salt. The lithium in other words, stays behind. And not to pour salt on an open wound (had to work that into the post somehow), but the salt would provide great profits for the impoverished locals except that they can’t export it because they have no sea access and their neighbors have their own salt. Ouch, talk about a cut that stings.
Unfortunately the coolest part of the tour, the Salar was only one day. The other two days were spent jumping in and out of our jeep to look at crazy high altitude flamingos (and you thought they were tropical birds), volcanic lakes (green, red and white) and early morning unstable geysers. The flamingos were out of place enough, but add to that some strange fossilized algae caves, a pre-incan cemetery with mummies, rusted out trains and galloping llamas and vicuñas, and well it was a very surreal experience.
Arriving in Uyuni we happened upon two other English speaking, married couples. Let me repeat that again, because this is truly rare- two other English speaking married couples! This has NEVER happened to us in 6 months of travel. We’re a rare breed out here, so of course we joined forces. Put 4 brits, 2 yanks, three married couples together with a collective 4 years of travel stories and 6 bottles of wine and well you can imagine the hilarity that ensued.