Some of wife’s and my greatest memories (and stories) come from our travels in Bolivia. Today’s NY Times has a really good article that focuses mostly on the salt flats near Uyuni and “The Death Road” from La Paz to Coroico.
The Salar de Uyuni is so bizarre that I have always found it difficult to explain well to others. Ethan Todras-Whitehill does a really nice job of capturing the essence of the Salar, though. It’s a bit overwhelming to stand on a 4,000 square mile plain of crunchy salt, with tall mountains barely visible on the horizon in most directions. The mountains look deceptively small, because the terrain is so flat and unchanging for so far that you can’t quite tell how far away they really are.
The slideshow accompanying the article has a photo of a room in one of the hotels made from salt blocks, but I prefer my photo of the dining room at Palacio de Sal.
Ethan also writes about doing a downhill bike ride on the Death Road, which a friend of a co-worker is also doing soon, though on a motorcycle. I can hardly wait to hear about her experience after she returns. I was shocked at first to hear about the ride, but then I learned that a new road for cars and trucks opened in March 2007, so the dangerous, narrow road is now shared only with a small amount of local traffic. During our trips in 1993 and 1999 on that road, the risk of collision with another car or truck was very high. I doubt my heart rate dropped much below 120 during those drives. I’m sure that it’s still a white-knuckle descent, though. Even if you’re not on a ridiculously narrow gravel road (which supported two-way car and truck traffic when we did it!), winding around hairpin turns, driving through waterfalls that wash across the road, and staring over the edge down multi-thousand feet sheer cliffs, a 12 thousand foot drop over 40 miles is pretty steep.
This photo shows the view from Coroico back to the road. The part of the road you see is probably the safest, least scary, segment. The road twists around the corner and then hugs the mountainside as it twists up and around into the clouds.