Bolivia is a South American country, landlocked by Chile, Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil. It is famous for the Salar de Uyuni – a giant salt flat in the middle of the desert that turns into a giant mirror during the rainy season. The salt from the surface of the flat combines with the water to create a lithium rich salt solution known as brine. Lithium is a soft, silvery metal symbolized by the letter combination “LI”. Interestingly, the Bolivian Salt Plains contain 70% of the world’s lithium reserves and an extraction process is currently underway. Lithium has many important uses in modern day society. For example, lithium is used in rechargeable batteries and cell phones. Additionally, lithium salts are used to treat bipolar disorder.
Salar de Uyuni is a popular tourist attraction. The salt plain offers fabulous photo opportunities and the hotels located nearby each offer uniquely fascinating views. The best time to see Salar de Uyuni is between 11am and 2pm when the sun is highest in the sky. If you choose to visit the Uyuni Salt Flat during the rainy season, then you will have the advantage of seeing about 25 thousand flamingos! These magnificent pink birds along with a variety of other stunning species descend upon the Laguna Colorada (Red Lagoon) between the months of November and March. The Red Lagoon is a shallow saltwater lake located in Bolivia close to the border of Chile. The reddish color is caused by the red sediments and the pigments of some algae beneath the surface of the water. One of the disadvantages of travelling during the rainy season is that the roads are really muddy.
Cochabamba, the fourth largest city in Bolivia, is known as the “City of Eternal Spring” due to its Spring-like temperatures that last all year round. In the past, Cochabamba has been inhabited by various groups of pottery experts. This is evident due to the uncountable number of pottery pieces that have been stumbled upon over the years. We know very little about these people, one of the few things we do know however is that they belonged to distinct groups or tribes. This is clear from the differences in their earthenware. For example, one type of pottery is two-tone with geometric designs while another is pinkish with spiral designs.
All of the cultures that inhabited the region of Cochabamba were conquered by the Quechuas (the collective term for several Indigenous Groups in South America). The Quechuas advanced beyond Cochabamba and into the valleys of Santa Cruz where they were forced to turn back. Due to the fact that this area of rolling green hills used to be covered with water, the Quechuas created a name for it out of the words: “Qocha” (meaning shallow body of water) and “Pampa” (meaning grassland). Overtime, the Spanish adapted the term “Qochapampa” to be the word “Cochabamba” that we know and use today.
photo by Juan del Pozo