I took a trip to the Salar de Uyuni this weekend–the largest salt flat in the world. It is a 4,000+ sq. mile expanse of white. It looks like a thin layer of snow… made out of salt. Kind of like you’re standing on the moon. A big, flat, white, optical-illusion-y moon.
We made it to the Salar from Cochabamba by 4-hr bus to Oruro, then a 7-hour, totally bitchin’ train to Uyuni. We traveled along the altiplano of Bolivia, which is a dry wild west of a place that randomly includes a huge lagoon full of pink flamingos. The train was fantastic. My Polish travel companion mentioned that it was nicer than in Poland and I had to agree. The tickets were cheap and it ran so smoothly. And you knew when it was coming and it was on time and you had a seat and… man, it felt great to be riding one again.
I’d heard a great deal about how the altitude of La Paz will get ya, but I wasn’t really expecting it in Uyuni. Turns out, the pueblo and the flats are at an elevation of 16,500 ft. That’s face-tingling, short-breath, headache elevation. And as it happens, I am one of those people who don’t take to it very well. So despite buying a huge bag of coca immediately in Oruro and consuming a good deal of it on the train, taking altitude medicine and a lot of water, I still felt pretty weird most of the trip. Alas, it was worth it. Because I got to see things like this:
Notes on returning to Cbba after the Salar:
-Haven’t written about daily life here as most days I spend a lot of time treading water. I listen to a lot of folk music, am awaiting word on grad school, and am still trying to learn Spanish.
-Spanish is going really well. I feel confident doing whatever I need to do in town, and have fluid conversations all day long with locals. Today, for the first time in a big group class I spoke up. The subject was Dia de los Muertos, and similar traditions in our countries. I ended up weirdly arguing with a Polish priest about how halloween wasn’t evil. Afterword, a professor said I’d done well, which was a much-needed confidence builder. I was confused at what he was talking about until I got home a read this crazy shit: Halloween is Evil, says Church in Poland
-I came to the conclusion that perhaps my pent-up anger living here regarding machisimo culture, rabid dogs on every corner, and a general uneasiness has perhaps manifested itself in giving me a spunkier personality. Debating in Spanish is FUN.
-Anyway, I have 3 weeks or so left here and then I’m going to Peru and Chile. Where I plan to visit Triz, cafe-sit, train-ride, beach-lay, explore and listen to music like this. I am determined to find romantic South America.