Imagine, if you can, over 10,000 km² (4,000 mi²) of empty, open, flat space. Visibility is clear for as far as the eye can see over the pristine, white ground. In the distance, you see a small land form. Is that a mirage? Not today—it’s the Geocache of the Week on Isla Incahuasi amidst the Bolivian salt flats.
Salar de Uyuni (Spanish for “salt flat of Uyuani”) is the largest salt flat and flattest place on Earth! It is part of the Altiplano (“high plain”) of Bolivia in South America. Some 30,000 to 42,000 years ago, the area was part of a giant prehistoric lake, Lake Minchin, which hosted a variety of islands before largely drying up after the Incahuasi wet phase. However, the islands remained. Adjacent to the Andes mountains at 3,656 m (11,995 ft) above sea level, it’s not the elevation that leaves you breathless!
Isla Incahuasi (“Island of Inca houses” derived from Spanish and Quechua) is the hilly and rocky remains of an ancient submerged volcano and former island situated in the middle of the salar. Incahuasi has a total area of ~25 hectares (61 acres) and hosts enormous cacti, colonies of rabbit-like animals called viscachas, a tourist center, and a Traditional Cache! It is a popular destination and resting place for tourists and geocachers alike.
The geocache has been in place since 2010 and has never needed maintenance. Cache owner, thesaurus, has experience as a guide through the salar and brought that knowledge when he decided where to hide his next cache. Since rainfall is low—so low that its ~5 rainy days per month are measured in millimeters—the cache’s location preserves the integrity of the container and its logbook.
Before you strap on your hiking shoes and jump in your geo-vehicle, keep in mind that, unless you can fly, it takes several days over bumpy, salted roads in a 4×4 vehicle to get to Uyuni. Once you get to the island, there is a fairly steep climb to get to the top, complete with a rock scramble over sharp volcanic rock to get to the cache. Come prepared for these scenarios and you’ll be rewarded with an unforgettable experience!