With a dash of salt please

Trip Start May 05, 2009
Trip End Sep 03, 2009

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Sunday, July 12, 2009

After visiting the salt plains of Uyuni, known locally as Salar de Uyuni (pronounced saw-LAR day oo-YOO-nee), I would rank it among the must-visit attractions of South America.  The city of Uyuni is a small town situated on the edge of the salt flats and serves as a good starting point for a tour.  Nearly every tour is headed up by an agency sporting a four wheel drive Toyota Landcruiser, and you will see plenty of them in town and out on the plains.  We first stopped at the "Train Cemetery" where a now defunct railroad cars lie rusting in place, a testament to the history of Uyuni, once a major commerce center for the mining trade.  Most interesting (amusing actually) to me however were the colorful spray-paintings on the trains, things like "Mechanic needed"... see the pics for a full understanding.
The salt flats cover a vast area, reflecting a blinding bright white much like snow.  I recommend wearing sunglasses (which I lacked), as you might where when snow skiing.  Beneath the salt is a table of water that seeps to the surface creating repeating geometric patterns above.  There is an endless tessalation of pentagons and hexagons that I found fascinating from a physics/mathematics standpoint.  As the sun begins to set, the starkness of the harsh freezing environment stands juxtaposed against the magnificent beauty of the pure natural white beauty of the plains.  While I trembled in my knit cap and alpaca gloves, I thought about what a popsicle I would become if I were stranded on those vast unforgiving plains overnight.
Did I mention the coldness of Bolivia yet?  Well, if you are coming from the north this time of year, then don't wait to buy a beanie and some gloves.  I was being very cheap and hesitated, but there is no reason to delay: I picked up some Alpaca (probably fake) gloves and hat for less than $5... and they were totally worth it.  The hotel rooms are absolutely arctic and none that I've stayed at had a heater.
Southward I go next, toward Argentina.... adios para ahora!

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