The salt of the earth

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We headed south from La Paz for a dusty settlement in the middle of nowhere called Uyuni. Uyuni is distinguished by having the best pizza in Bolivia, and its proximity to Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt lake. In Uyuni we organised I three day jeep tour of Bolivia’s south west. The Salar turned out to be just one of many highlights as we toured as dramatic, majestic and elemental combination of landscapes as we’ve seen anywhere.

Many gazillions of years ago much of modern Bolivia was covered by oceans. As the lands changed, some of this sea area became lakes fed by rivers (like Lake Titicaca) but the Salar wasn’t connected to any fresh water sources. And so, as water evaporated it left a vast plain of salt. Every year the salt is replenished by a reaction with February rains, but otherwise it remains dry, and flat as a pancake.

The salt plains are pretty mesmerising. Walking on them gives the illusion of being in snow as the granules crunch under your feet and they’re very, very white. They were the first of many otherworldly landscapes we saw in three days.

Our drive across the seemingly limitless horizons of salt was interrupted only by a kind of ‘island’ in the middle. The Island is made of coral rock that survived the evaporation of the seas and is now covered in cacti. The absurdity of being about 4,000 metres high, crossing kilometers of salt and then climbing on a coral garden was not lost on us.

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