Thursday, May 17, 2007

Salar de Uyuni

Republic of Bolivia .... V

Salar de Uyuni

The far southwest: the Salar de Uyuni and Reserva de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa One of Bolivia's most extraordinary attractions, the Salar de Uyuni, covering some 9000 square kilometres of the Altiplano west of Uyuni, is by far the largest salt lake in the world. The Salar is not a lake in any conventional sense of the word – though below the surface it is largely saturated by water, its uppermost layer consists of a thick, hard crust of salt, easily capable of supporting the weight of a car. The surface is mostly covered by water between December and April, but even then it's rarely more than a metre deep, and usually much less. Driving across the perfectly flat white expanse of the Salar, with the unbroken chains of snowcapped mountains lining the far horizon, it's easy to believe you're on another planet, so harsh and inhospitable is the terrain. The southwesternmost corner of Bolivia is covered by the Reserva de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa, a 7147-square-kilometre wildlife reserve, ranging between 4000m and 6000m in altitude and encompassing some of the most startling scenery in Bolivia. Like the Salar de Uyuni, the desolate landscapes of this remote region possess an otherworldly beauty. This is a land of glacial salt lakes whose icy waters are stained bright red or emerald green by micro-organisms or mineral deposits. It features snowcapped volcanic peaks and frozen, high-altitude deserts; rock outcrops scoured by the unremitting wind into strange, Dalí-esque formations; and a wide range of rare Andean wildlife, including the world's largest population of the James flamingo, the elusive Andean fox and herds of graceful vicuñas.

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