When heaven and earth become one – then you have arrived in the largest salt desert in the world: The Salar de Uyuni at 3,000 metres above sea level. If you visit this place at the right time, you will experience the perfect reflection in the few centimetres high water. In this article I take you on a short trip through this bizzare landscape.
Our trip through the most southwestern part of Bolivia had already started 3 days ago. Now we had finally reached the edge of the Salar de Uyuni just in time for sunrise. Here, in the very south, the first reflecting water areas lay in front of us – unfortunately, we didn’t really get to see a sunrise that morning, because thick clouds were crowding the horizon. But this whole landscape was so new and fascinating that it didn’t bother me much – so after a while I turned around 180 degrees and found a new scenery. A picture, almost dichromatic: white salt crystals in front of dramatically dark mountains.
WHEN TIME ALMOST STOPS
Then the journey continued – calmly and evenly. Clearly, we had finally left the stone and gravel roads of the Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa behind us through which we had bumped the last days. Next destination: The island Incahuasi. First speedy, then slower and slower we approached the island, until we chugged along at 20km/h. Hmm. Did Juan Carlos, our driver, want us to enjoy the landscape? Was the reason fear of aquaplaning (because we were driving through water)? Or did we simply have too much time and hurry was not necessary? Later we found the answer: When driving faster, too much salt water splashes on and can damage the electronics of the car. And we really did not want to get stranded on the eternal mirror.
CACTI ON CORALS
Finally we reached the island Incahuasi. Like a mountain it rose out of the white sea, and from the water we went ashore by car. A crazy feeling! Since the Salar de Uyuni was originally a sea, the island is formed by old petrified corals, whose structures are still clearly visible today. Like walking through a reef… A reef with huge cacti on it and a 360 degree panoramic view into the endless white.
After a short, windy breakfast we continued and around noon we finally reached our accommodation for the night at the foot of the volcano Tunupa. Surrounded by dozens of llamas and beautiful red flowering quinoa, the accommodation was once again simple but functional. In the meantime a tap with running water had become luxury.
A SURPRISING INTERRUPTION OF THE JOURNEY
After a short hike towards the volcano we finally got the message that border closures and cancellation of flights to Europe had to be expected in the next days. So Corona had caught up with us after all.. Suddenly the illusion of the fantastic place was shattered – we only had half an eye for the sunset while we were feverishly looking for flights home for the next day on our mobile phones – and finally booked with a heavy heart.
Also on the last morning we were denied a spectacular sunrise. But the return journey, which took many hours thanks to 20km/h, left us enough time to say goodbye. While we drove through the bizarre salt structures a picture formed in my head… But for that I had to get out, into the cold and into the water. Barefoot and in my dress. Brrr. So change clothes, take a deep breath, open the door and dive in. The water was about 1.5cm high and cool, but not cold, the ground smooth and hard, almost like asphalt. Walked a little forward, huu the wind, fresh… Click. A moment, a place for eternity, captured in bits & bytes.
On the last few kilometres, the view again wandered endlessly out of the window. Accompanied by the song Live it in endless loop I tried to take everything even deeper into myself, with the utopian wish to be able to store all the fascination and diversity. Minutes blurred to hours in which we glided over this endless mirror, the sky dissolved into the ground, everything became the moment and at the same time infinity. Finally I looked back: the car had left no traces at all. Were we ever really here?