SALT EXTRACTION: from Flats to Containment Ponds to Underground Tunnels

Salt – sodium chloride – is a mineral everyone is familiar with, it is essential for human life and is one of basic human tastes. Before our travel to South America, we knew salt came from various places (think Black Hawaiian Sea Salt, Pink Himalayan Salt, etc.); however, we had very little understanding of the different methods used to extract it from the earth. As it turns out, mining salt is a huge industry with sodium chloride being one of the largest inorganic raw materials used in the world by volume (and its manufacture is one of the oldest). Today, we use almost 70% of the salt extracted from the earth for manufacturing and industrial processes while only 6% is used in food (the remainder being used for water conditioning, de-icing highways and agriculture). Continue reading

#SnailLife (Copacabana)

IMG_4899 (768x1024)After the polluted air of La Paz and busy city feel, we were ready to relax for a couple days. We found a hostel in Copacabana, a small town on Lake Titicaca, that offered entire suites with lake views – and each one was uniquely designed. We opted for ‘The Snail’. The Snail is a two and half story building with no straight walls, windows or floors. Everything is rounded, circular and flowing. The small windows in the upper levels spiral up getting smaller and smaller. From the windows you get a great view of the night sky and in our case, a phenomenal lighting show every night.

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Breathtaking Cities of Bolivia

Breathtaking. Not in the awe-inspiring or beautiful way though.

La Paz, a city perched high in the Andes in a preposterously steep valley at an average elevation of 3660m, houses clinging to its slopes, world class views of snow covered peaks – it sounds beautiful and majestic. In reality, you can barely breath in the filthy city due to a combination of the high altitude, constant fumes and the wretched smells of the streets. The pollution appears to be partially from the poor mechanical condition of the vehicles and partially from the fact that many of the vehicles can’t burn fuel properly at these high altitudes, causing a constant cloud of fumes on the streets. Mix that in with the already low oxygen content in the air (from the altitude) and the fact that in every direction you walk there are steep hills; just carrying groceries back from the supermarket feels like an intense workout. Continue reading

Our Salty, High-Altitude 4×4 Adventure (Salar de Uyuni)

One the better-known highlights in Bolivia is the Salar de Uyuni – the world’s largest salt flat at 10,582 square kilometers. The options for tours are either a one-day tour into the salt flats and back or a three-day/two-night tour through the slat flats into the Siloli Desert and around the altiplano lagunas. We of course opted for the longer tour to see more of the beautiful area. We used TripAdvisor to check which tour operators were recommended. After checking prices with three tour operators we settled on the cheapest of the three which was rated #2 of TripAdvisor. The tours start in Uyuni, a desolate and isolated town in Southwestern Bolivia (altitude: 3700m). The town seemingly has more Toyota Land Cruisers than locals and has become an even greater tourist attraction after the Dakar Rally has gone through the Salar de Uyuni the past two years. Continue reading

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It’s the Journey, not the Destination…Right? (Brazil to Bolivia)

Previously we had done lots of research on how to get from Brazil to Bolivia and came to the conclusion that other than flying – which was very expensive and involved long layover times – there was no easy way to get to our next destination. To bus the whole way would take days. We considered choosing some towns in between to stop at but nothing popped out at us. We checked for flights daily and one day caught a sale from Rio de Janeiro to Campo Grande which is just over half way to the Brazilian/Bolivian border (it seems like only domestic flights are cheap in South America). Continue reading