As the largest salt flat in the world, encompassing an area greater than 4,000 square miles (larger than the combined areas of Rhode Island and Delaware -- thank you successful Google search for "what is 4000 square miles large?"), the Salar de Uyuni is one of those places that words are truly unable to describe. A never-ending landscape of blinding salty whiteness, stretching as far as the eye can see, this once prehistoric lake is now one of the most popular tourist attractions in all of South America. A tourist attraction that nearly passed me by due to several unfortunate situations.
Thanks to Global Warming, El Niño, Al Gore, Manbearpig, and whatever other aspect you would like to blame for "unseasonable weather," almost all Salar de Uyuni tours had been cancelled for the prior month due to a freak winter storm that left more than 1/2 of the area covered in dangerous ice, snow and unrelenting wind. As one of the first groups to complete the full 4-day tour (less a few detours here and there), I consider myself quite lucky to have had such fortunate timing (especially since my initial group was cancelled due to a "sick jeep," thus leaving me stranded and searching for a new group only minutes before departure).
Nevertheless (which I now have discovered is my favorite "blog transition" word), before I leave with you this primarily photo-only post, I must provide a bit of summary in regard to the tour along the Salar de Uyuni:
Trip Background = 4 days/3 nights, 1 jeep, 5 passengers (myself, 2 Kiwi's and 2 Brit's) and 2 "guides" (i.e. driver and chef) that provided us with extensive knowledge of the areas which we passed through (i.e. Extensive knowledge = Spanish descriptions of town names as well as an estimate of the # of families residing there). Being the only "Spanish speaker" in the group, I was responsible for translating all the information to the group, and thus, I am now pretty much an expert in Spanish numerology.
Trip Summary = Lots of driving (if the schedule above did not provide an indicator of such), repetitive iPod playlists, more driving, freezing cold nights (I believe we hit 5 degrees at one point), a bit more driving, freezing cold mornings, just a bit more driving, and then basically everything else depicted in the photos below.
Weirdest Moment = Driving at about 40MPH within a smaller salt flat, and having the wind completely die on us. You could stick your hand out the window and feel absolutely nothing... quite possibly the strangest feeling of my life. Even our trusty flags on the front of the jeep were completely still. Very "The Day After Tomorrow" esque.
Fun Fact = The Salar de Uyuni is estimated to contain 10 billion tons of salt, of which less than 25,000 tons is extracted annually. Thank you Wikipedia.
Not So Fun Fact = Due to an overwhelming number of providers that supply tourists with lead-footed drunken drivers, almost a dozen people die every year along the Salar, making it quite possibly the most dangerous tour in all of South America. (I've included a photo of an extremely lucky group -- of which a friend of mine was a part -- that survived a near disaster).
Onto the pics:
Next Week: Chile - No Me Gusta