Salinas Grandes in Northwest Argentina

Salinas Grandes in northwest Argentina

Total Miles Traveled: 13,268

Salinas Grandes is a huge salt flat northwest of Salta.  Above is an example of a salt pool that is used to harvest salt.  The water is just below the surface, so they dig these pools to expose the water.  The water then evaporates from exposure to sun and wind, and what’s left is clean salt.   Not sure how these salt flats were created though – probably part of prehistoric saltwater lakes?

Since salt flats are almost perfectly, well, flat – they allow for some fun with photography and perspective.   Some of you may have already seen these on Facebook, but here they are again, with a little how to.
Fortunately, our driver has taken a few of these photos before, so he was able to compose some of these for us.  If I remember correctly, Lisa’s standing about 20-30 yards away, and I’m about 15 yards away from the camera.

Symbolism?  Just kidding!

The following, of course, would NEVER happen.   Lisa was pretty far away for this one and the camera was on the ground.   In hindsight, I would have used a wide angle lens.

This would never happen...

Whispering sweet nothings…


Balancing on a wine bottle

Salinas Grandes in northwest Argentina

Doing the Karate Kid crane kick!

Karate Kid Crane Kick

And some yoga poses…

Doing Yoga on the salt flats

Here Lisa’s riding the world’s only giant stuffed llama:

Lisa rides Andy, the world's only giant stuffed llama

Salinas Grandes in northwest Argentina

Getting the perspective down does take a little thought and practice.  There were many other photos that didn’t make the cut.   For example, here’s one where it didn’t quite work out:

But… we’ll end on one that did work out…

Lisa about to squish Tony

Ruta a los Nubes and San Antonio de los Cobres

Total Miles Traveled: 13,208

If you’re visiting Salta, you’ve probably heard of the “Train to the Clouds”, where you ride an old steam train from Salta up, up, up to a town called San Antonio de los Cobres, and beyond, crossing a series of viaducts, bridges, and tunnels, and reaching heights above 4,000 meters or 12,000 feet – prime territory for a little altitude sickness.  The whole trip takes 14 hours round trip(!), leaving at 7AM and returning around 11PM!

Sounded like a little too much time on a train, so we opted to take a tour that drives up along the same route as the railroad and in less time.   We were glad that we did.   Here are some photos from the journey…

We started out from Salta beneath a chilly, rainy cloud layer, so we couldn’t see much of the mountains.  But we saw a heck of a lot of cacti.  These guys take over 50 years to mature and can be cut down to use as lumber – the wood is very porous, yet very strong.

Ruta a los Nubes, Salta, Argentina

We stopped at a tiny town called Tastil, where it’s basically a restroom and shopping stop.  Here’s one of the few street vendors.  Buy your goods here or in other towns as opposed to Salta where the markup could be 50% higher!

Vendors at Tastil, Argentina

In the local kiosco (convenience store), we saw this machine – can you guess what it is?

An early ana-digital jukebox

That’s right, it’s a jukebox.  A different kind of old school…  Speaking of old school, here’s a guy sharpening his knife by cranking a wheel that acts as a sharpening stone.

Sharpening a knife, the old fashioned way, Tastil, Argentina

There are also the ruins of Tastil.  Below is the ruins of an Incan village abandoned many moons ago.  It’s unknown what happened to these people (there are no mass graves), but all that is left are rock walls that outline where the homes used to be.

Ruins of Tastil, Argentina

At about 4,000 meters, we reach the small copper mining town of San Antonio de los Cobres.  It’s one of the poorer towns we’ve seen – the women and kids here are more insistent in selling their woven llamas, quartz rocks, and other trinkets.  If you’re traveling here, you probably don’t want to stay overnight as there didn’t seem to be many lodging or dining options.   Here’s a view as you drive in – the houses that all look the same is public housing built by the government.

San Antonio de los Cobres, Argentina

Here are some photos of kids headed home from school:

Children in San Antonio de los Cobres

Children in San Antonio de los Cobres

Here’s our favorite photo of this batch – a shy boy ran in to his yard and shut the door, peeping through the hole to see what we were doing:

Shy eyes

Children in San Antonio de los Cobres

After lunch in San Antonio de los Cobres, we headed out on to the high plateau toward the Salinas Grandes salt flats, another major attraction in the area.  Along the way, you see herds of domesticated llamas – they’re marked with bows on necklaces or ribbon earrings.

Llamas in the high plateau, Salta, Argentina

For more photos, check out the slideshow: