Salar de Uyuni – Bolivia, South America
Holiday on Salt
In the southwest corner of Bolivia there's a salt flat, the size of Holland, which in this context, is a lot of salt. There has been rain, the clouds are reflected in the still water from the salt, which in this quanity, resembles ice – it crunches, it sparkles, it rips into your feet and it's all you can see far into the horizon. There's salt, sky and clouds – why would you need more than that.
I went to Uyuni, in the southwest corner of Bolivia, a town dedicated to tours of the salt flats. This should not be understated, everything in Uyuni is related to these tours. Most people go for two or three nights to see salt, huge rocks, colored lakes, flamingos, volcanoes, geysers and the desolate border with Chile.
I fear and loathe package tours, never go on them, but this was worth it.
There are eight people in the van: two Spanish women who speak Basque, Euskara, a Dutch woman who is living in Peru, a Dutch/Bolivian couple, who met online, giving hope to us all and a Danish man whom I met in Sucre, a wise nineteen-year-old. Besides Augustine, the driver/cook and I, the average age is twenty two. There are many discussions on the relative difference between being nineteen and twenty two. There's a front seat, a back seat, you can both cross your legs and breathe and there's a back back seat where you can do neither. We develop a complicated seat rotation not easily understood.
We drive on salt, water and clouds, sleep in a hovel. At dinner, local Bolivian boys sing and play instruments off key. A herd of llamas listen outside.
There are enormous mountains and lines etched into the flat yellow ground. The lines are parallel – five in a row, sometimes they curve around a mountain. Future archaeologists will wonder what caused the lines (tire tracks). We see colored lakes with flamingos (smoking, drinking, carrying on.) We see a volcano and then we sleep in a barrack. No showers again – hair is getting matted, doesn't matter. At dinner we tell jokes and lots of trivia.
It starts early. We see geysers, hot springs before light, then pass the desolate border with Chile, where I get off and everyone else returns to Uyuni.
The Information Man
This man collects questionnaires from tourists. Let's just say he has a lot of them, broken down into numerous categories, yet I'm not sure how different the groups really are, since everyone goes to the exact same places in the same order. It looks as though the paparazzi is in town – vans and tourists packed together, cameras clicking. The information office is half a block from the clock tower at the end of Arce. Tell the information man I said hi.