Could you pass me the...

Trip Start Mar 01, 2006
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Trip End Dec 01, 2007


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Where I stayed
Salinas Grande

Flag of Argentina  ,
Wednesday, June 20, 2007

After the pass at around 4000m, we quickly reached Salinas Grande. My first salt flat, surrounded by mountains, with a blue sky overhead...

The air was pure, with a strong wind. Feeling like at 4000 meters in other cicumstances, ready to fall!

A bit dizzy, from the low oxygen and the sun and the wind all combined I guess. We drove on the salinas to the piletas (pools). A few souvenirs stands, a (salt) house under construction. We walked around, and I went to see the workers who were harvesting other piletas.

At first I was afraid that they were living there, but they stay in the nearby villages and come there to work. A hard life, all surrounded by salt. Even the water in their villages is salty (not too much). From what I was told, the salinas result from water from the ocean trapped when the Andes lifted, but I have not checked that.

The water is just under the ground, the shapes come naturally from the salt and water filtering through the mix of salt and soil. Now about the piletas:
- Dig half a meter into the salt soil
- Water level is 10cm below the surface, so you have a pool (pileta)
- On contact with the wind, the water crystalises into salt
- Salt crystals fall to the bottom of the pileta
- Four months later, the salts have piled up to the surface
- Harvest the clean salt
- The Pileta is ready again

I picked ud two types of crystals: the one that forms naturally on the ground (on the geometrical shapes), and another one from a pileta harvest: crystalising under the wind, or on a pool, definitely makes a difference.

I loved my time up there, really looking forward to the Salar de Uyuni.
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