Thursday, April 3, 2008

Salar de Uyuni - Bolivia

Salar de Uyuni is located between parallels 20° and 21° South latitudes and 68° West longitude. It holds an estimated total reserve of 9 million tons of lithium as well as other evaporative minerals. The Salt Lake is formed in a series of stratum-saline layers, most of which are highly pure and with an approximate depth of 6 meters each. It was caused 13,000 years ago by the disappearance of an inland ocean that covered most of what is now known as the Altiplano and which extended all the way to Titicaca Lake. In the middle of this large extension of salt, there appears what seem to be two “eyes”. These are basically two holes, each 10 to 15 centimeters in diameter and 120 meters in depth. Patches of Tussock Grass are scattered throughout the area and in places of a bit higher humidity, one can find “Tholares” scrubland and “Keñuas” dwarf trees. It is an extraordinary experience to cross the salt lake by car, especially during the winter. During that time the sky is completely clear and the bright blue contrasts brilliantly with the white of the salt. On rare cloudy days, there is a white-out effect. The horizon blends with the sky in such a way that one can hardly tell where the lake ends and the heavens begin. Also, amid this shiny white desert there are idle, polyhedral figures formed by nature that seem to rise up mysteriously from the ground.

The islands located in the center of the Salar are also attractions for visitors to marvel at. Cujiri Island, better known as Fish Island, is situated 74 kilometers from Colchani in the exact middle of the salt expanse. It has a total extension of 100 hectares and provides beautifully picturesque scenery. The layers of granite and fossil have yielded a strange breed of giant cactus, 6 meters in height, which have developed from this interesting ecological system. On the island’s summit there is a cave in which the walls present a geological cut providing information about the various ground layers. The view from the mouth of the cave is perhaps one of the best sites to take wonderful photos of the island and of the salt lake as well.

The Incahuasi Island, known as the Fisherman’s Island, was formed on top of the remains of a volcano and rises 150 meters above the surface of the salt lake. Upon this island, there are archeological sites that remain from the Tiwanaku and Inca cultures along with 30 caves, 12 natural tunnels and a cacti forest. One can find a variety of plant life including wankara, pasakana, llawsa, ayrampu, sankallu, puscallu and an assortment of useful plants like thulo, huajraguaya, añaquaya, etc. Alfredo Lazaro, a resident Aymara from Llica, has been living on the island since 1987 as a protector of this natural wonder. He has personally counted 4030 types of mature cacti, 5000 cacti which are still developing and 16 which are either burnt or dry. The island is also a nesting ground to many species of birds and to viscocha, an American species of rodent, similar in size and form to gophers. This island is the perfect place to contemplate an amazing sunset and to take exceptional pictures.

credited to flickr users: szeke, carlescerulla, twellsingtol, alix & gerard, odradek78, Daniela de Moraes, stephenk1977, LeoKoolhoven, South Spirit Proyect, untermensch

8 comments:

Neo said...

It's funny that you mention that the region has two "eyes", since if you pronounce "Uyuni" in Arabic, it means "My eyes" or "My two eyes". Who knows huh?

Brodie said...

I have been there it is pretty insane. The guys that make the salt piles get paid 40 bolivianos a day (8 bolivianos in one dollar). Not a pleasant job, GO GLOBALIZATION!!

Prof.Muthandi said...

beautiful cacti-landscape!

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