Sunday, June 17, 2018

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia: Heaven’s Mirror on Earth

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In our own limitations, we dreamt of reaching the heavens by flying the skies, only to fall short of the endeavor due to the vastness of space. As unreachable as this place we can only view from afar is, there is one location in Bolivia which reflects the heavens, it almost feels like you are walking on the heaven itself—the Salar de Uyuni. [Read: Copacabana to Isla del Sol : Pilgrimage to the Ancient Inca Holy Site]


Salar de Uyuni is not necessarily a giant mirror meant to imitate the one place which we could not reach. Nothing in it is even remotely human manipulated as everything in it are as natural as they come. In a simple description, Salar de Uyuni is just a rather expansive salt flat, the largest even in all corners of the globe.


But as awesome as this place is, the salt flat as we know it today may actually have taken different form back in the years now long gone. Specifically, it was believed that this place was once a massive lake but has gotten dried out throughout time. Yet, dried in this context does not mean that the place is devoid of natural water.


At its dry state, this salt flat is a landscape of mostly white resulting from the large deposition of salt on the ground that itself easily gives focus on the surrounding expanse and the amazing sky. 


At its wet state, however, things make for a different turn as the ground shifts itself into a mirror which inevitably reflects the image of the sky and the domineering features of the surrounding land. Yet, while it mimics, the real breath-taking views about the place is not seeing one’s reflection on the mirroring ground but rather are the duplicating panorama formed by viewing a place being mirrored from afar.


Although we have the science and the knowledge why this phenomenon happens—albeit quite exclusively to this land—the experience is nonetheless surreal which evokes a child-like wonder and being mesmerized, all while basking in all its magnificence. For a heightened encounter, however, traversing the shiny ground mirror is a must as it gives the impression of you traversing the sky and its clouds.



But, while tourists indeed frequent this place for its jaw-dropping mirages, Salar de Uyuni is still a salt flat. Meaning, another good reason why this place is so significant is due to its rich deposits of salt. 



In fact, for the people of the nearby town of Colchani, the Salar de Uyuni is a treasure trove of salt which is responsible to the 20,000 tons of produced salt in the country annually. Although massive, a large portion of this produce is still relatively consumed.


On the other hand, it is not just the salt that are abundant in this place, part of Bolivia’s economy is fueled by this place’s rich concentration of lithium which is an element in-demand for developing electronic gadgets. Current estimate suggests that Salar de Uyuni’s stock of lithium is still good for extraction in the next 100 years.

How to Go to Salar de Uyuni?


From La Paz, you can take a 45-minute flight to Uyuni or you can also opt to take an overnight bus. A number of bus companies operate this route but it is highly recommended that you book online because seats might not be available when you buy a ticket on the same day of your departure.[Read: La Paz - Uyuni - La Paz Bus Schedule and Fare]

I also advise that you book a tour in advance so someone can pick you up when you arrive in Uyuni. This is ideal if you are taking a tour upon arrival in Uyuni. 
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