You may know Bolivia for having the highest capital in the world: La Paz at 3,650 m or 11,975 ft above sea level. Or perhaps you remember it as one of two countries bordering Titicaca, the largest and highest navigable lake in South America. Indeed, the lake is home to Bolivia’s fleet (Don’t laugh. They do have one, and what’s a country to do once it looses its sea access to a bellicose neighbour?).
There are many wonders about this country that I could impart with you, but the one I want to share today is the story of its salt planes: Salar de Uyuni. You’ve guessed it. At 10,582 square kilometres or 4,086 square miles, they are the largest salt flats in the world.
The Salar is a desert of salt, virtually devoid of wildlife and vegetation. Only the giant cacti survive in its inauspicious planes amongst a few sturdier shrubs. First impressions can be deceptive however, and it may surprise you to know is that this seemingly desolate place is – for the length of a month at least – the home of several species of pink flamingos. Their bright plumage is believed to derive its colour from that of the algae they feed on, rich in carotene. I would’ve never suspected flamingoes of being fond of carrots, but it would seem they have found the next best thing.
When the Bolivian mining industry collapsed in the 1940s, the Salar became the retreat to a more unusual group of residents. Located only a mile or so outside Uyuni, is a collection of antique trains. They look rather desolate against the backdrop of yellowing salt, abandoned… once upon a time their wagons filled with mineral treasures journeying to some distant seaport. For British engineering and train enthusiasts however, the place has a charm of its own.
About this image: Set apart from its locomotive fellows, this specimen caught my attention. I set my camera at an angle to create the elusion of motion. Using film rather than digital photography had the added advantage of giving the image an “antique feel” in keeping with the age of its subject.