Daily Archives: November 18, 2009

Just Add Salt

Congratulations Sarah Z. and Missy (Rob, you were close!). Last week’s mystery snapshot was of the salt flats (Salinas Grandes) near Purmamarca in the Jujuy province of Argentina, very close to the Bolivian border.

As you can see, coming across the salt flats makes for a very striking site. Argentineans LOVE their salt, but this is a bit much, don’t ya think? Imagine a floor of salt as far as you can see, surrounded by mountains. The salt has crystallized into hexagonal blocks, making the floor appear like a kaleidoscope of white so bright you can’t look right at it.

Approaching the salt flats

Here, you can see how the salt cracks into sections:

Cracking of the salt flats

We arrived by van. You can also rent a car and make the trek yourself, but it was a family vacation, so hey 🙂 Plus, with seven Tavels, we pretty much need our own bus. Here are my sisters stepping foot on the salt flat for the first time. As you can see, there is no real road, you just sort of drive right from the highway onto the salt, which looks like ice. It took me a few seconds to trust that we wouldn’t break through.

Hi Sarah and Amanda! Lookin’ GOOD!

Sisters arriving at the salt flats

The layer of salt that you walk on is actually only 10 cm thick, but feels very solid under your feet. The surface is scratchy, and you can smell the salt in the air. Rectangular pools for harvesting the salt sit with salt mounds nearby. The pools are an incredibly pure and striking blue.

Salt pools and mounds

Because of the vastness of the white salt flat, we discovered the fun you can have with optical illusions. Here are some photos of me and my family playing. Please notice how cute my parents are (mom – you get a shout out for being such a loyal reader):

My mom and dad, playing with optical illusions on the salt flats of Argentina

Robo and me, playing with optical illusions on the salt flats of Argentina

Here are some sculptures made purely out of salt. Cacti and alpacas are abundant in the region just beyond the flats.

Salt sculptures

Salt table and benches

As you can see, the flats are a really unique site and a lot of fun to experience. The surrounding view of mountains and a perfectly blue sky don’t make the experience any worse. That said, if you ever have opportunity to visit the salt flats (either in Argentina or Bolivia), I have three words of advice for you:

1) Sunscreen (especially for all you gringos)

2) Sunglasses (white salt + sunshine and NO shade = very, very bright)

3) Water (not just because of the SALT, but because of the altitude, not to mention the distance from civilization… The last thing you want is to end up on a salt flat really thirsty, with nothing but mountain air and salty pools of undrinkable water)

Feel free to comment on your own experience with salt flats! And get excited, because the next mystery snapshot is going to come from a mystery contributor!



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