In April 2016, I met my friends Alfred Schreilechner and Wily Onofre in Bolivia to visit some mines together. These are some snapshots of the Halites from the Salar de Uyuni and the El Desierto sulfur mine near San Pablo de Napa.
But before there were minerals to be seen, these vicuñas (inhabitants of the Andes belonging to the camel family) crossed our path.
In Colchani, near Uyuni, we then went to the Salar de Uyuni, with 10,582 km2 the largest salt lake in the world!
This huge salt pan was formed around 10,000 years ago when the Paleo Tauca dried up on the Altiplano, at an altitude of 3653 meters.
Due to the huge flat surface, however, you completely forget that you are at an altitude of almost 4000 meters and that there is a lake up to 220 meters deep under you.
However, the salt crust is sometimes up to 120 meters thick, so that it is not a problem to even drive on the lake with buses. But there are also regions where the salt is only 30-40 cm thick. More on that later…
In the rainy season, this fascinating plain can be up to 20 cm under water and driving on it is then not entirely safe, especially in the bank regions.
But we were lucky enough to cross the Salar in wonderful weather. It was an absolute highlight of my previous trips to Bolivia
Halite crystals. They form at the bottom of the salt crust in the saturated brine.
In places where the salt crust is only 30-40 cm thick, it is relatively easy to punch a hole in it, into which you have to reach with your hand until you can reach the halite crystals under the crust and then brush and pull them out.
Wonderful aggregates of white-gray halite crystals, the edge lengths of which can reach up to 5 centimeters.
To get to such fantastic levels, of course, you need much larger holes and more time than we had that day. So our journey continued from the Salar, upwards ...