If I said that Bath was yellow, Chester was red and Edinburgh was grey, would you think I was speaking in some sort of code or referring to rugby shirt colours or something similar? Or perhaps you have visited the cities in question and would recognise the predominant colour in much of the architecture due to use of local stone. Yellow sandstone is used in Bath for many of the historical buildings on the main Union Street / Stall Street, including the Roman baths and the cathedral. In contrast, moving from Bath in 1995 to Chester in 1996, I was instead surrounded by red sandstone including the cathedral and the Roman and medieval city wall. Later still I moved to the city of Edinburgh where grey sandstone, granite and basalt give an overall grey impression, even if it is a rather majestic grey.
Living in any of these cities you might get the impression that all rock was the same. Using local stone obviously makes sense when it weighs so much and costs so much to transport. But if my trip to Bolivia taught me anything, it was that rocks can be so much more varied and strikingly beautiful.
Taking the journey from Uyuni to Potosí I encountered a vast range of rocks and colours, starting with the amazing white of the salt flats (Salar de Uyuni).
Over 12,000 square kilometres of salt, in places over 100 metres thick. While it shone rather pink in the sunset it was actually very white.
As may be obvious, I’m not really a geologist. I had to look up the different types of rock in the cities where I’ve lived before and I don’t know all the science of the rocks I saw in Bolivia. I was mainly blown away by the colours and kept photographing.
In the months before I went to Bolivia I’d returned a few times to the theme of God being our rock. The main appeal to me was the fact that God never changes, even though I change and my feelings and experiences change. David sang:
My friend led some children’s work on the story of the wise and foolish builders while I was at church in Bolivia and the importance of relying on God as our firm foundation comes across clearly in this story from the Sermon on the Mount. The previous evening I’d tried to explain to a group of people that although a rock seems a bit of a boring thing to compare God to, he is constant and reliable, and we have only had glimpses of what he is really like.
And then on my travels around some of the Bolivian countryside I was able to glimpse a bit more of the amazing variety of God’s creation, from flamingos to vicuñas to the rocks and hills. These are remote parts of the country and no-one had tried to promote Bolivia to me for the geological features or wildlife. But it was amazing, and it spoke to me of an amazing God of such variety and depth and riches that I can barely begin to comprehend.