Thursday, March 15, 2007

Salar de Uyuni

The Salar is incredible - because of the rain the whole thing is sitting under about six inches of water and when the air is still the horizon line disappears and you feel like you just stepped into something out of Salvador Dali's frontal lobe. We had originally planned on riding it but all the water makes that practically impossible - we did what any committed group of cyclists do when faced with adversity and hired a jeep. The landscape made up for our guilt. Once you stop rubbing sunscreen onto the underside of your nose you can take some of those weird perspective photos where your friend is standing in the palm of your hand, or maybe just swish your toes around in the sand and pretend you are on the ice world of Hoth where the Rebel Forces had their secret base, only to be destroyed by Impèrial ATAT Forces that bear a striking resemblance to the shipping cranes in Oakland. The surface of the salar is entirely salt, lots of little crystals that feel and look exactly like sand. It is Bolivia's only source of salt and the jeeps full of gawking gringos intermingle freely with the teams of workers that fill dumptrucks by the ton. The gringos all look like devils with their sunburns and mirrored shades and the workers look like something our of Star Wars with their ski masks and long sleeves to protect themselves from the sun. Some of you may never have seen Star Wars and should probably be ashamed. At the end of the day our guide took us to a hotel on the edge of the salar that was entirely made out of salt - floors, walls, tables, chairs, everything except the beds and toilets. The entire hotel appeared to be deserted and we wandered around feeling somewhere between Goldilocks and The Shining. All the ping pong and foosball almost made us forget what a creep-town the whole place was, though something about the half-eaten breakfast in the kitchen and the laundry on the line outside might have tipped us off that we weren't alone. Luckily it wasn't until we had all stepped outside to snap some photos of the sunset that the proprietor emerged. Suddenly by some strange force everyone forgot how to speak Spanish and we high-tailed it for the jeep. Neither the Three Bears nor Johnny ever arrived.


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