This is my land... Bolivia. Welcome!
1 Dec 2009
Bolivia's Altiplano is a world of contrasts. It's a world of superior heights where fire, wind, ice and salt coexist. The journey began in the Atacama desert in Chile and from there we travelled over to the Bolivian border in a Dakar style rally over every terrain imaginable.
The Border crossing is marked by a colourful yet weathered down sign and a small concrete building where we got our documents checked and stamped. Then we proceeded over one of the world's highest mountain ranges. We crossed weird prickly moss patches and huge expanses of openness.
We passed a variety of coloured lakes, some where flamingos feed on small shrimp like crustations to Sol de Mamama - a family of hissing and smoking geysers of boiling mud. The surrounding volcanoes seemed still but under the surface things are still brewing. We ventured away from the geysers to drive to Termas de Polques, thermal springs which are 4200m above sea level. The temperature was icy and wind caressed our bodies like the hands of the wicked witch of the west so dipping into 30 degC water was a welcomed treat.
However, that was the last of any relative heat. Onto Salar de Uyuni - the largest salt flat in the world; 25 times larger than the Bonneville Salt Flats in the USA. We spend two days crossing it and all exposed skin becomes creased and chapped from the extreme dryness. As night fell upon us the blue sky and white ground was replaced with shades of moon grey and we all felt that we had left Earth.
We made a move in the early morning and by midday we came upon a small island of cacti, which broke the spectacular monotony of the landscape. Edging on towards the far end of the flats, salt cones began to appear as here it is harvested for national consumption and soon the Lithium rich brine under the salt crust will be extracted to feed the world's demand of laptop and mobile phone batteries.
Now out of the flat the land remained rather barren with the occasional llama drinking at a watering hole. Eventual we drive over the final hill and La Paz lays in front - seeming as surreal and vast as the salt flat.