Uyuni - Salar de Uyuni

Trip Start Jan 2003
Trip End Dec 2003

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Day 294 - Uyuni - Salar de Uyuni

With two Australians and an Irishman for company, Kirsty and I set off in our thankfully sturdy-looking Jeep on our excursion through the Southwest of Bolivia. the final person was the hopefully multi-talented Augustino - our guide, driver and chef. An hour out of Uyuni and we made it to the Salar.

I've heard people say that the salar de Uyuni is the greatest nothing imaginable. While this is reasonably accurate, the Salar is something. It's salt. It is in fact over 12,00 square kilometres of salt up to 8 metres deep. Words can't describe the sight but it looks something like a freak snowfall has landed on a dessert. unsurprisingly, practically all the people who live in the hamlets on the outskirts of the Salar work in one field of employment - salt extraction and refinery. Those who don't, make crafts ou of - yes, you guessed it - salt.

I didn't think there was much of a market for salt artesania but our first stop on the Salar was a salt hotel. Everything here from the beds to the tables and chairs to the ashtrays is constructed of salt. While this kept us entertained for five minutes, the novelty of sitting or sleeping on something as solid as salt would soon wear off. Coupled with the isolation of the place, there can't be many worse hotels around. Even in Bolivia.

The only other punctuation in the blinding whiteness is the Isla de los Pescadores (Fish Island). Tenuously named for its shape rather than its contents, this 'oasis' is home to nothing other than thousands of cacti. The salt around the island is a bizarre jigsaw of hexagons caused by oxygen forcing its way through fissures in the rocks underneath.

The Salar is without doubt the most unreal sight I've encountered all year but it also has one other distinct plus point. Being uncharacteristically for this part of the world, it is unquestionably the best road in Bolivia.

Day one of the trip - the Salar lives up to all the hype.
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