The moon during daylight, and science fiction adventures on distant planets, where the terrain is harsh, desolate, yet beautiful and earth-like. While such scenes typically belong in the realms of fiction, if you venture into south-west Bolivia to Salar de Uyuni, you might find yourself describing your day in a similar fashion.
Essentially the place is a gigantic salt flat, the world’s largest, which sits close to 4,000 metres above sea level on average. It’s also a place you’ll never forget if you’re fortunate enough to venture there – a magnificent part of the world that reminds you how utterly incredible earth is.
Being such a large, flat area with clear skies, Salar de Uyuni is an ideal place for satellite calibration. It’s also this vastness that lends it such an etheric quality, making you feel you’re in another world. For miles the salt flat, which is a few metres thick, spreads across the plains, hiding a pool of lithium where lies approximately 60% of the world’s supply.
The place is also a breeding ground for pink flamingoes, which strut around salt lakes in front of lofty mountains, creating quite a scene. I saw some rabbits here too, darting throughout the rocks that exist in clusters in the middle of the immense salt flats.
You might have trouble getting here on your own, although there’s plenty of tours running from nearby Uyuni (where I left from) and San Pedro de Atacama, in Chile, that’ll take you across the lunar landscapes in a 4WD. They’ll also take you to fiery geysers and natural hot springs – translucent, hot, steam ridden pools smack in the middle of the salt desert.
Interestingly, the name Uyuni comes from the Aymara language (traditional Andean) and means pen or enclosure. Maybe because there’s no place like it on earth, or perhaps because Salar de Uyuni is so hard to leave.