The Salar de Uyuni is an exceptionally strange place. It is the largest salt flat in the world at over 4,000 square miles and is unbelievably flat. We were told that across the entire Salar, the altitude does not vary more than a meter! Salt is obviously harvested, but perhaps even more importantly to Bolivias economic future, the area is home to almost half of the worlds lithium reserves; an estimated 9.5 million tons.
We left the humble town of Uyuni and made our way down several miles of washboarding as 4x4s flew by. After coming through one last settlement where we were forced to pay 2 Bolivianos to a Police Officer at a check point, we arrived at one of the entrances to the salt flats. Before we entered, however, we decided to run through a couple of the salt hotels that line the Salar.
Seeing as salt is the most economic choice for building materials, these hotels are literally constructed of salt blocks. We decided to splurge (how often can you stay in a place made of salt?) and stay at the Luna Salada Hotel. We came to find that we were one of two couples in the entire place.
After dropping our stuff off and lounging a bit, we headed down to experience the Salar. The edge is guarded by a load of sand:
The Salar has a pretty serious seasonal change. For part of the year, a shallow layer of water covers the entire area; we were there during the dry, winter season and only the worn edges had a few puddles.
Riding along the Salar is a very surreal experience. There are no obstacles and very few visual points of reference. It feels a bit like flying...
We, of course, had to take the unusual opportunity for the photos that everyone takes here...
For awhile, we just rode the bike around and I can honestly say that it was unlike anything I've ever experienced.
We floated along somewhere between the deep blues of the sky and the colorless ground and for just a moment, I closed my eyes as we raced across the empty landscape. The wind gently rushed past my ears. The engine whirred pleasantly. And the light, perhaps especially because my eyes were closed, filled every last bit of my being. For just a moment, my mind matched the void that is the Salar de Uyuni and for the first time, I truly understood what it is to be enveloped in shadowless peace.
I opened my eyes upon Kristen, a wonderfully content smile spread across her face, and I once again felt the warmth of unhindered blessing that I am not meant to understand, only to receive.
Before I could even suggest it, Kristen asked to ride the bike as the salt flats are an amazing place to learn. I'm so proud.
While we waited for the magic hour to arrive, we chipped a little salt to take back to Meda, Kristens mom who is a bit of a salt fanatic...
...rode around some more...
...played a little uke...
...and generally jacked around.
After playing around for most of the day, the time came and the Salar became a living canvas.
Although we had previously spoken of camping out on the Salar, our suspicions were confirmed when the sun went down. It fell way below freezing and I was glad we had a hotel to go back to.
All in all, if you have the chance to go ride out on the Salar, do it. I know everyone that comes down here does it, but it's honestly worth it. It's the closest I'll ever come to flying on a motorcycle.