Visiting the Salar de Uyuni was incredible, and one of my favorite experiences of all time. But in all that time of taking pictures and seeing amazing things, the one place that sticks most in my mind is Colchani. Colchani was probably the most run down of the places we saw. Vendors hawk their mostly cheap plastic wares to tourists and the other main industry is salt production. Outside of that street is what looks like an abandoned town. There was no running water as far as I could tell. So in the midst of one of the most impressive places on Earth is a struggling town.
The contrast is especially noticeable when you visit somewhere like San Cristobal. San Cristobal is inhabited mostly by silver miners and their families. The roads are nicer, the town is cleaner, and they have amenities. The main road from San Cristobal to Uyuni was built by the mining company. It reminded me somewhat of the coal industry in West Virginia in the past, where the company develops the area and pays for most things. People without a degree can get a well-paying job. But reliance on a company is a double edged sword because what happens when the industry starts dying, like coal? The town becomes rundown and abandoned, like has happened in Appalachia.