Published: August 30th 2006August 17th 2006
The Salt Lakes of Bolivia have definitely been a highlight for the both of us. The scenery is unusually beautiful and the surroundings surreal.
The Uyuni Salt Pan is located on the Bolivian high plateau at altitudes of over 3,600 meters above sea level. This salt pan processes a large part of the salt consumed in Bolivia and it is considered a source of national pride. We watched the extraction of salt by traditional methods and visited a hotel made entirely out of salt. The total area is 10,580 km2, it feels like you are surrounded by a brilliant white desert or ginormous ice rink. As the sun sets you can see the hexagon shapes in the salt lakes more clearly. The forming shadows lend themselves to the camera positively and some of the photos we took we expect to be in National Geographic next year (joking). We enjoyed using the white backdrop of the lakes as a natural photographic studio. The brightness of the ground enabled us to create illusions, as you will see from our pictures.
We stopped off at a small island named Del Pescado Island (Fish Island), named because at a distance the shape of
the island resembles a fish. The island is covered with Cactus up to 13 metres high. The oldest Cacti was over 1300 years old and they grow 1 cm each year. We had time to wonder around, take photos and enjoy a spot of lunch.
In the afternoon we continued via jeep across the vast lake of white crystals to an island where we camped overnight and enjoyed a tremendous sunset and sunrise. From the photos you can see how spectacular the scenery was. We watched the flamingoes and although really, really cold, endured our time outside in the lakes untíl it was dark as the sunset was just so breathtaking and not worth missing. We awoke the next morning at 6am and went outside to again, take in the sunrise.
After some breakfast the following day, we walked up the mountain and towards the rim of the volcano (ínactive) and saw some cave mummies. The mummies are thought to be there because thousands and thousands of years ago, the sun rose and the caves people had previously only ever lived by the light of the moon and so, in apprehension they awaited the suns disappearance in the caves
to no avail. They consequently starved. This is one of a few stories we were told and one which we both found a bit confusing and unbelievable but you never know. We never heard any other explanations.
The altitude made it yet another tough climb so we were pretty relieved to know we wouldnt be trekking all the way up the volcano. We wandered around the small village after lunch and even stumbed upon a local school which (because some of the 8 pupils had colds) had a grand total of 4 pupils in attendance. It was great to see how much effort the teacher had gone to so the classroom was as modern as possible and we watched as the youngest (probably about 4 or 5) wrote out the alphabet and the elders tackled some fractions. It must be quite strange to be the only teacher in a school with 8 pupils, all in one class and of different ages.
Uyuni was our main base for visiting the salt lakes, apart from our one night sleeping out on them. The little town of Uyuni, was built as a place of commerce for the surrounding mineral deposits but since
the inauguration of a railroad complex (heading to both Chile and Argentina) was abandoned all that remains is a really eerie train cemetery and a few hotels and hostels aimed at those seeking adventure on the Uyuni salt pan.
Next stop Argentina...
There are more photos below