Weekend Warm-Up: Atoms

The lifeless yet wondrous Bolivian Salt Desert, Salar de Uyuni, draws in those who live their lives on the edge. For Polish explorer Mateusz Waligóra, it is the epitome of the human experience — a journey of pain, joy, failure and acceptance. From the rural village of Isla Incahuasi, he traverses the barren plains hauling a cart of equipment, a traditional mode of transport that carries us back to not only our humble beginnings but also humankind’s unbreakable determination and spirit. 

Photo: Alina Kondrat

At 3,500m above sea level, along a 150km trail far from anything resembling civilization, Waligóra’s journey across the salty wilderness is only matched by the mental beatings. Despite an unexpected case of salmonella poisoning paired with altitude sickness, he keeps moving forward through the white, otherworldly landscape.

Now, you would think that this was a story about victory, about taming nature and defying the odds. But sometimes, doors close and life gives you a clear and resounding no. No one knows why some dreams do not come into fruition. But what we do know is that when they don’t, the lesson learned is always victory enough.