Starkly dichotomous, the scenery that surrounds me is divided into flawless blue sky and cracked, white, hexagonal salt formations, as far as the eye can see. I gather up my night bags and prepare to settle in to my accommodation, surveying the unlikely location we have selected to set up camp for the night. It is one of the most inhospitable places on earth. The barren 12,000 sq km Salar de Uyuni salt flat is incredibly beautiful, but undeniably harsh. The salt shines brightly enough to temporarily blind me, and there’s not a plant or living creature in sight. We’re at an altitude of 3,656m, and the temperatures are capable of freezing or frying in equal measure, depending on the time of day.
And yet here I am, setting up a deckchair in the middle of it all, equipped with all the conveniences of home. A stainless steel cooker, memory foam mattress and flatscreen TV are tucked away in my accommodation, a stylish Globetrotter Airstream camper. This sleek silver bullet of retro cool is where I will spend the night, under a dazzling cover of stars. Luxury and comfort, even in a place most animals don’t dare to roam.
It is the feeling of isolation within such an endless space that I find most appealing. Hundreds of tourists visit this, the world’s largest salt flat, each day, driving into its centre to take photos with hilariously- distorted perspectives, and to visit the ‘islands’ where cacti grow and rabbit-like viscachas somehow survive. Some folk stop off on their way to Chile’s Atacama desert, others on the trail of outlaws Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, who fled here and ended their days, legend has it, in San Vicente, after robbing the payroll of a Bolivian silver mine.