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18 November 2012 / leggypeggy

The eyes of the salt flat are upon you

Eyes of the Salar

Eyes of the Uyuni de Salar

Bolivia’s huge salt flat—Salar de Uyuni—sits near the crest of the Andes. Created as a result of a transformation over time of prehistoric saline lakes (including the gigantic Lake Minchin), the flat is covered in most places by a few metres of salt crust.

This crust is much thinner at the edges and, according to our driver, up to seven metres thick in the centre (where we’d reach later in the day).

The flat was dry when we visited, but during the wet season, it is covered with a layer of water, which is overflow from nearby lakes. I’d love to see it then because it supposedly becomes the world’s largest mirror.

I’ve already written about the salt-processing village we visited at the beginning of our tour. The next stop was the Eyes of the Salar—where the flats look back at you.

Eyes of the Salar

Lots of colours and lots of layers at the Eyes of the Salar

The eyes, which appear year-round, gave us a chance to see first hand the layer of brine that lies beneath the crust. I’ve read this brine can vary in depth from two to 20 metres.

We stopped for 10 minutes or so to see it bubble and ooze around us. It was interesting to see the array of colours and the layers of crust peeping through to the surface. The brine is rich in lithium. In fact, Bolivia has about 43 per cent of the world’s lithium reserves and most of these are in the salt flat.

I asked our driver if anyone ever drove into the Eyes of the Salar by mistake, but he wasn’t confessing anything. 🙂

Then we were speeding on to centre of the flat for lunch and to see the cactus island. We considered ourselves lucky to have the tour cook in our 4WD.

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