Andrew Evans explores Bolivia’s vast salt flats.
I can’t think of a worse torture than coming to Bolivia for the first time and then having to rush across the country in under a week. It’s like taking a kid to Disney World for the first time and then telling him he has 10 minutes before it closes forever.
Bolivia’s sights and culture were both brilliant and constant and yet much of my time was spent arranging buses, overcoming altitude sickness, and avoiding the pitfalls of rainy season . . . which is exactly why I was so happy to discover that my path to Antarctica happened to pass right through the Uyuni.
Uyuni is home to the largest salt flats in the world– 25 times larger than the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. Formed by a gigantic, dried out prehistoric lake, the salt flats offer the odd sensation of standing on a blank piece of paper. It’s that wide-open feeling of nothingness that attracts thousands of tourists from around the world, me included.
What I didn’t realize was that the heavy rains of rainy season had turned the salt flats into saltwater flats. Instead of a huge blank piece of white nothingness, I found myself walking through 6-inch deep lukewarm brine that crystallized all the way up my leg. To see liquid turn to solid so quickly was curious and captivating. The way the light reflected of the forever horizon of saltwater was equally fascinating–so fascinating I got burned to a crisp trying to take it all in.
Now the must-do tourist cliché at the salt flats is to take photos that play with the perspective offered by the vast white 360º view. Lacking a true National Geographic photographer to do the exercise justice, I had to settle for some amateurs I recruited on site. Nevertheless, I did try to add added an appropriate National Geographic twist to the generic tourist photo with me atop the iconic
National Geographic flag.