Imagine a flat solid sea that reflects the mountains that frame it. Islands in that sea stand small but tall, with thousand year-old cacti raising their bristly arms towards the sky. Waves would wash over the island banks if only the ripples were not already frozen in crystallized patterns of white and bronze.

Driving from Bolivia’s town of Uyuni though this sea of salt, one can’t imagine that the sparkling surface, sending what looks like diamond spray from under your wheels, will ever end, but beyond it are red rocks shaped by wind into the strangest of shapes, made only more surreal by the bright green llareta plants that look like soft moss but actually are very hard to the touch.

llaretaIt might feel like everything here has had its saturation pumped up in Photoshop, but seeing it with my own two eyes I can attest that all these colors are true. Never have I seen flamingos so neon-salmon. The queen of hearts wouldn’t hesitate beheading a subject of hers for one of these. It would be easy to loose your sense of reality here, among pink and turquoise lagoons, tree-like rocks, and geysers which bubble up and spew sulfur, obliterating the sun and sky in clouds of steam, fogging up everything from eye glasses to camera lenses.