Thursday, 5 August 2010

Salt, salt and more salt...

Leaving the hotel in the morning, we finally came to the pinnacle of the trip – the salt flats. Although they exist in other areas of the world, this one is the largest, and with the salt reaching depths of 130 metres in the deepest parts, definitely spectacular. The salt is used for a number of purposes, and as we stopped at an area where salt bricks are cut out of the plain for building houses, our guide explained how the different layers are formed.

After this it was off to a clear white spot where we spent some time taking the classic photos without perspective – the white stretches so far in every direction that is no horizon (even the mountains edging the flats show mirages). It was a bit tricky to get the pictures right with all the glare from the sun, but I managed to use my little llama prop to some effect! The pictures certainly look impressive at the end but take a long time (and some frustration…) to set up.

We stopped at ‘fish island’ for lunch (oddly named as it holds no resemblance whatsoever to a fish), and climbed to the peak of the island to experience the amazing panorama across the flats, passing hundreds of cacti on the way up – some over 800 years old and metres tall.

After lunch we drove across the flats until we came to some holes which went metres deep, filled with milky water as the underlying pressure from trapped liquid had become too great in some areas and had broken through the surface. Within the holes were beautiful regular salt crystals, large and slowly formed.
We then headed to a small town which processes salt for selling – either as salt grain, (untreated) or table salt, and saw the triangular mounds drying out in the warm sun.

Our final stop was at the ‘train cemetery’, an area alongside the track just outside of Uyuni, our stop for the night, where out of use trains are stored and later stripped of materials, leaving an eerie line of old steam trains echoing and abandoned. Although trains aren’t really my thing, it was still interesting to walk among the rusty shells.

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