Salar de Uyuni

In the day, it’s a crusty hot expanse of blazing white. Nothing but that blinding white. It’s unwelcoming. Life is hard-pressed to find a home here, in this lithium legacy of a prehistoric lake. Cacti, as prickly as their salty abode, bristle an unfriendly warning. In a brackish lagoon, a noisy flamboyance of flamingos strut. They bring a startling burst of colour to this otherworldly monochrome.

So flat, so far, stretched out beneath the unforgiving sun. Crystalline hexagons form as briny water evaporates, lucky molecules escaping their salty incarceration to find freedom drifting with a sparse wisp of cloud. Blue above, white below, and a jagged shadow line away off in the distance. There are mountains there, somewhere, far beyond the white. The tenuous breath of fugitive vapors heads that way, borne along on some invisible air current to rendezvous with a gentle rain shower over the distant jungle.

But I stay here, left behind. My birthplace, as harsh and stingy as the tourists I drive across the salty surface to catch their Insta-worthy snaps. They flock here, as noisy as the flamingos, and as flamboyant. Influencers whose world exists inside their phone, hurrying to digitalize and monetize the starkness and the greatness. They pose for the same clichéd optical illusion shots, each group thinking their selfies more original than the last.

But nothing is new here. The salt has seen it all.

That is the reality of the daytime. White and flat, shining and crispy. But the night, oh but the night.

The fiery ball of sun disappears, dipping down below that rigid far-off line. The blackness comes, the darkness comes. A brief sprinkle of rain kisses the salt with its magical layer of water. As the moon and stars appear, blinking their way into the night, the Salar transforms before me. Glassy smooth, perfectly clear, my saline home opens itself to the sky and reflects the universe back to me. A billion galaxies glimmer just for me, from above and below, the horizon line now blurred until up and down are the same. This is my moment of freedom. This is my escape.

And here, as I stand on the edge of eternity, face to face with infinity, a single salty tear slides down, drips down to join the brine and let the whole hopeful circle begin again.

This piece was first published in print as part of the Writers of Tomorrow anthology by Wingless Dreamer.

Published by Aly Writes

I bake. I write. What goes better together than a good story and a delicious fresh-baked pastry? Nothing. And I can give you both. Grab a hot cuppa and join me.

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