Since I saw a documentary about Salar de Uyuni a few years ago, my interest in latin America was awakened. It is the largest Salt desert in the world its area covers 10’000 km2. It is located on 3600 m in the south of Bolivia. Underneath its salt crust lies a huge amout of lithium, the extraction has only begun recently This material, used for cellphones, could finally make the region rich after the silver and gold mining all over the country has only made first Spain rich and after the foreign investors. President Morales passed laws which limit foreign investment and property owning (the laws are quite controversial as the economy of the country has failed to catch up with its neighbours).
I booked one of the tousands of tours offered in the town Uyuni, which lives off the herds of tourists. We are a group of 2 Dutch, 1 French, and a Brazilian/Belgian couple. Over the three days we all get to know and like each other, I travelled evn further to la Paz with Vera and Clint, the two Dutchs. Gabriel our driver lead us with a calm driving and a friendly reserved mood during the three days desert.
Our first stop lead us to a street with tourist shop and a couple of houses, I assum the people live off the tours which all stop there. I became a total victim of the souveniers like a magpie is atracted to shiny objects, I can’t resist colourfull things which lead to my hiddeous gringa look of the lama earrings and the headband. After we visited an old trainstations with trains that were left there to rotten. When we reached the Salar, we all were speachless, the nothingness, the silence it all seamed like another planet, totally surreal. Of course we all could not resist to take a couple of silly pictures. We slept in a hotel which had the whole interrior equipped with salt, even the walls.
The second day led us further into the altaplano platform, the area between Chile, Argentinia and Bolivia is full of deserts, volcanos and colored mountains (they contain various minerals which gives them a look of being painted). The landscape was breathtakinh beautiful, the only life we saw all day were the flamingos, which populate the by alga colored lagunes and every now and then some lamas. It is the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen, the mountains mirrored in the lagunes, it seemed like the perfect piece of art created by the universe or god just to entertain itself. The railroad tracks were built by chile, as an agreement after Bolivia lost it’s costal region in the war. A fact Gabriel points out in a tone that lets us know that this national trauma isn’t quite forgotten yet.
After a cold night on 4200 m we get up at 4:30 to see the geyzirs, which are located in a volcanic region on 5000 m. Yet again we are out of breath not because pf the low oxigen on this altitude but by the sheer beauty of this place. The landscape makes me dream of dragons flying around the corner or the little prince appearing in the scenery with his tamed fox. We are all cold to the bones (temperture -10) me in a riddicolous outfit, wearing layers off all my clothes I carry, through the mostly tropical regions on my initianary. When we reache the last highlight of the trip, hot springs in the amazing scenery, it is reliving to sit in the warm water and heating up while the sun makes it’s way on the horizon.