Salar De Uyuni – Salt Flats, Bolivia (part 2)
Continuing on my journey through the Bolivian Altiplano, the surrealistic rawness of this untouched landscape extends beyond my belief. http://vanessaohanlon.com/travel/salar-de-uyuni-salt-flats-bolivia-part-1-2/
Volcanoes dominate the skyline and mixtures of colours swirl in lagoons. Apart from its lonely vastness and the odd four wheel drive carrying a load of tourists, the dusty landscape in between, offers very little in the way of form. That is until we stumble across extroadinary rock formations. Like fine art, Siloi Desert is as picturesque as a Salvador Dali painting. So, it’s no surprise that it’s acquired the nickname Dali desert. In an extremely barren part of southwestern Bolivia lays a painting of nature. Despite appearing like they have been carefully placed for tourists amusement these scattered rock formations are the result of erosion. Over thousands or perhaps even millions of years the bashing of wind and sand against the rock has removed the softer surface leaving a trail of unusually shaped sculptures. The highlight and commonly published ‘Stone tree’ is the highlight for any passerby. A widely photographed subject this particular rock is about seven metres high and resembles an old stunted tree, the surrounding landscape lends itself to a dry, hot, desert but it’s deceiving, the open space and strong cold winds blow specks of dust across the valley.
Most of the day is spent in the four-wheel drive, although there are others sites along the way including Laguna Honda where we stop for a picnic lunch. At the base of a mountain this shallow lake has a pungent smell of sulphury minerals. Despite seeing flamingos yesterday, here we witness a larger group. They are fascinating to watch as they peck the ground for food and take up off in small groups. The pinkish red feathers reflect from the glassy iced water.
Late in the afternoon we arrive at the Salt Hotel in San Juan. I am amazed by the structure of the building, the walls comprising of large brick blocks are made out of salt, and grains of salt have been scattered across the floors. I assume they would have to rake them daily. As the afternoon sun bounces off the building the salt crystals glisten. Within walking distance is Cueva Galaxia (Galaxy cave). This relatively new and small cave was discovered in 2003. It’s aptly named after the two men who discovered the site whilst trying to locate mummies. Instead they discovered ceilings filled with stalagmites and stalactites. With a mandatory hard hat it’s fairly easy to navigate your way around the few small chambers, just mind your head for inverted coral like hangings.
We head back to our salt abode for a much anticipated hot shower, although in this case it doesn’t pay to be first, mine is cold but refreshing nonetheless. After the coldness of the previous night I snuggle up with a double hot water bottle, fortunately with a little less altitude it’s a much warmer night.
In Vanessa’s next and final instalment of Salar de Uyuni, the grand finale, the hallucinogenic white landscape of the world’s largest salt lake.