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Amazing Uyuni

sunny 15 °C

We must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky, And all we ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by; And we watch our vessel's bow wave as it fans out towards the horizon and we follow it until it dissolves into the blue yonder...
For hour after hour, as we scud serenely over the mirror-like waters, we marvel at the everchanging sky and its perfect reflection as the mirage of an island appears sandwiched between the clouds..,
And then a bus speeds by at 25 knots and shatters our illusion...
O.K., So we are obviosly not on a boat, but we are on the ocean. A hundred million years or more ago the biggest salt lake in the world was part of the Pacific. When the Andes were pushed high into the sky by the movement of the tectonic plates this great lake was marooned more than 12,000 feet above sea level. As the lake slowly evaporated the salinity level increased until a thick crust of salt formed on its surface. In the Southern Hemisphere's winter from April to September the lake is dry and the salt shimmers pure white, but now the summer rains lay on the surface and turn it into the most incredible reflecting pool...
We have driven some 20 kilometres out onto the lake and as we picnic with our guide, Johnny from Bolivian Salt tours, we are sitting on a sheet of salt a few metres thick with a hundred metres of water beneath us. But we are not entirely alone. However, with more than 10,000 square kilometres of salt lake to choose from our neighbours are quite distant...
All around us are scenes of such beauty that we simply cannot believe our luck. While we often revel in clear blue skies, here on the Uyuni salinas it is the constantly evolving clouds and their reflections that turns nature into works of art...
The brine on the lake's surface is 70% saline and when we put in our hands and lift them into the air the water evaporates almost instantly leaving our fingers encrusted in salt. The salt bed that lies a few inches beneath the clear water is naturally laid like paving slabs...
The Uyuni salina is the flattest place on earth. The bus that passed us as we picnicked was travelling nearly 250 kilometres to its next stop at the opposite end of the lake and during that 5 hour journey the salt surface would never vary by more than a metre. Since 2009 the Dakar Rally has crossed the salinas and here we are at the start point where the flags of participating nations are flown...
The Dakar Rally start point is located next to a hotel built entirely of salt some 5 kilometres out onto the lake...
The hotel was closed a few years ago due to it causing pollution, but there are hotels, museums and houses, built entirely of salt on the lakeshore. With an estimated 10 billion tons of accessible salt on offer it is obvious that the major industry here would be in its production. However, silver mining is a more lucrative enterprise and a century ago was a major industry. When the industry collapsed in the 1950s dozens of steam locomotives were abandoned in the desert and are slowly rusting into the sand...
The Uyuni salina contains half of the world's known lithium deposits. This mineral is in very high demand for batteries but the Bolivian government refuses to allow foreign companies to exploit its resources and wants to develop it itself – judging by the state of much of what we have seen here we are not holding our breath. However, whatever happens to lithium mining, nothing will change the fact that the Uyuni salt flats are one of the wonders of the natural world.

Posted by Hawkson 05:44 Archived in Bolivia

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Great set of photos!

by Abigail Gossage

Wow!Amazing.Our new car was tested there. Renault Dakar.?

by Kelly Waugh

Astounding! Physics/chemistry of that is way above my head. Certainly doesn't look like Watrous, Saskatchewan salt lake.

by R and B

Wonderful photos!

by Sue Fitzwilson

What an incredible place. Spectacular views of sea and sky. Thank you for your ongoing generosity in publishing these posts for us to enjoy.

by Trudy

Good to see pictures of a salty lake.

by Janet Vickers

Spectacular!! Great images; much appreciated!

by Gottfried Mitteregger

What a spectacular place Uyuni is. Love the cloud formations.x

by Christine Lloyd

What a spectacular place Uyuni is. Love the cloud formations reflecting on the salinas.
Back from London after a busy and fun time with the twins and their mother. Xxx

by Christine Lloyd

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