After lunch we headed out on the ‘monster truck’ to Salinas Grandes. Somewhere en route we passed from the Salta province to the Jujuy province of Argentina. We were heading toward Puna.
The temperature here was quite warm, but very windy, and we passed several handfuls of cows, donkeys, llamas, and vicuña along the way.
The truck had these hatch/sunroof type things over the seats that you could open a then stand up on your seat for an unobstructed view of the landscape. We were like meerkats or “whack-a-moles” popping up and out of these things! The truck also came equipped with fleece panchos to keep us cozy at the cooler elevations/locations.
On our way to the salt flats, the road was pretty even (for a change) so a couple of us decided to sit up on the roof with our legs dangling down into the truck! We were in the first row of seats so there was a sort of hand rail up top that we could hang onto as we drove along. Sometimes I look back on these type of things and know it is terribly dangerous and it is amazing what kind of stuff you can do in foreign countries without concerns about liability or having to sign any waivers!
We drove along like this for a while, right onto the flats, and then we pulled up to a sort of road stop place in the middle of this vast sea of salt where some guys were selling carvings.
There were a couple of other cars on the flats, too, and they all stared at us as we pulled up. After being in the monster truck for a while you forget that you are in it and how huge and strange it must look to everyone else!
We all lathered up with sunscreen and hopped out to check the place out. If you have never been on a salt flat, it is really hard, just like a dry, compacted dirt road, but obviously it is really white so it sort of looks like you are on packed snow.
The flats went on for miles! They measure about 82 square miles and are at an altitude of 11,320 feet.
Salt can be obtained by evaporation. There were several shallow pools in the area that are warmed by the sun. The water dissolves the salt and and it rises to the surface where the salt is collected. If you dip your hand in one of these pools it is amazing to see how much salt is left on your skin after the water evaporates. After the raw salt is obtained, it is further refined before it arrives on your table!
When I was in San Pedro de Atacama (Chile) three years ago I went swimming in a lagoon that has the second highest concentration of salt after The Dead Sea. We all had to be doused off with buckets of clean water after we finished swimming in the lagoon as we were encrusted with salt!