Real World Inspiration: Salar de Uyuni

Photo by Ezequiel Cabrera

 The Salar de Uyuni is the largest salt flat in the world. It’s located in Bolivia, nestled into the Andes mountains. It’s large enough to be seen from space. It’s known as a salt desert because the climate is very dry. During the brief periods of rain, the surface of the flats becomes reflective, like a mirror and creates the illusion of walking in the sky. The salt flats also contain the world’s largest reserve of Lithium—more than 50% of the world’s supply— and many corporations hope the salt flats will be opened for mining operations. Read past the break to learn how to use this unique location in your game!

The Legend of Tunupa


Image by Luca Galuzzi –

According to Aymaran legend, the mountains that surround the Salar—Tunupa, Kusku and Kusina—were once giant people. Kusku married Tunupa, but left her to run away with Kusina. Abandoned with her infant son, Tunupa wept. Her tears, mixed with breast milk from feeding her son, formed the salt flats.

In a fantasy setting, a party can encounter the salt flats. They might be growing each year and threatening to destroy farm lands of a nearby town. Or maybe they have existed for centuries and are “haunted” by a wailing Tunupa.  Perhaps her son is now grown and seeking revenge on his father, Kusku.

Tunupa can be an extra planer being, a powerful magic user or even a dragon. Alternatively, the legend could be made up by a mage who is leeching the area of life to fund his arcane experiments.

Prehistoric Lake

Photo by Anouchka Unel

Photo by Anouchka Unel

The salt flats are formed from a series of dried up, prehistoric lakes. The oldest of them is called Lake Minchin and is estimated to be up to 42,000 years old. For your game, topographical surveys of the area done as part of the recent mining effort can discover a strange, dense formation in the halite rock below the salt flats.

Further investigation can determine that this formation is the remains of an alien space craft that crash landed in Lake Minchin 30-40,000 years ago. It become lodged in the mud and silt at the bottom of the lake and remained there as the lake dried up and the silt turned to rock. The craft is still intact and has not been opened in thousands of years.

The country of Bolivia is hostile to the west. It has claimed the ship, it’s contents and all technology aboard as a Bolivian resource and is refusing to release it for study.

That’s two ideas of how to use the the Salar de Uyuni in your game, but I’m sure there are more. Can you think of any supernatural ideas? Any ideas for the antique train cemetary?  Any other ideas I haven’t thought of?

Posted on by Ophelia Posted in Inspiration

About Ophelia

Ophelia has been gaming since 2003 and writing for even longer. She has played a variety of systems but started with D&D 3.0. Her first experience as a tabletop gamer was in high school when, lacking money for dice, she and the other players had to roll by picking numbered strips of paper out of a cup. She works as a photo retoucher and hopes to one day publish a novel.

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