Gualicho Flats to plow disc
Las Grutas, Rio Negro, Argentina
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SALINAS 4x4 on A FARMER´S PLOW DISC
EXPLORATION TO THE SALINAS DEL GUALICHO 4x4 in private
They are the largest salt mines in Argentina, the second largest in South America and the third largest in the world. They are very close to Las Grutas. It is a salt pampas of 430 square kilometers. Buenos Aires would enter more than twice in this depression that, at 72 meters under the sea level, promises a toast at sunset and an unforgettable dinner under the stars.
This is a private excursion and therefore we do not travel more than 4 people. We organize it every day of the year. In autumn-winter-spring we leave at 4 pm while in summer we start at 6 pm. It is the ideal excursion to rest in the morning, visit the centre or take advantage of the day, go to the beach and in the afternoon visit the Salinas el Gualicho.
They are just 60kms west of Las Grutas and access is restricted, as only tourists arriving on excursions are allowed. They are 40kms of asphalt and only 20 of good gravel. The excursion leaves at 4pm and we plan to return at midnight. We will go by 4x4 with air conditioning. In couple, with children and family. Groups of young people or grandparents. It does not matter the ages because it is the most spectacular of all the excursions. The adventure has just begun.
A tour by route takes us to know the history of the Spa, the botanical species of the steppe and the legend of the railway that, thanks to the province of Río Negro, today Argentina has one of the eight most exotic trains in the world: the Patagonian Train (www.trenpatagonico-sa.com.ar).
The cell phone signal is lost and it seems unbelievable that there is still some paradise in the world where you can't hear the phones. The guide takes advantage and explains what is that white silhouette that appears next to San Antonio. It is Alpat (Alcalis dela Patagonia), the only sodium carbonate factory in Argentina and one of the two in Latin America.
What is the purpose of sodium carbonate, how is it made?... The guide leaves the answer for after the visit to the facilities of the mining company that we will visit and that currently harvests the sodium chloride - salt - in the open air.
A few salt piles the size of small plateaus, as high as a three-storey building and as wide as a football pitch invite you to take the first pictures. They are up to 450,000 tons. Surrounded by machinery, bulldozers, moving trucks and company personnel, the group of tourists moves to the place where the salt is packaged and the guide explains how sodium chloride is formed and harvested. Coarse and fine salt. For industrial and household use.
A nightmare for the hypertensive, a solution for industries, salt is part of the history of mankind. It is curious to know now so much about this mineral that used to go unnoticed on every household table.
Between one and three million tons of salt are harvested from the Salinas del Gualicho every year. The movement of harvesters, trucks and personnel is impressive. We are in an open-pit mine, a non-polluting and renewable exploitation. This is the mining tourism that Las Grutas offers today.
EXPLORE THE SALT FLATS
In this infinite blanket of salt, much larger than the Salinas Grandes de Jujuy and slightly smaller than Uyuni in Bolivia, the sunsets are a unique spectacle.
Inside the salt flats, it feels like we're on the moon. It's getting dark. In the heart of the Gualicho we stop after several kilometers and get off the 4x4 truck. The guide invites us to feel the salt under our feet. Barefoot, we walk towards the West, our eyes get lost in the horizon, the sky turns yellow, then red and finally the violet invades the firmament. The sun, the pictures... We could not miss a good toast to celebrate this moment that will remain forever in our cameras and in our hearts. How nice it is to remember that hug... That afternoon... This place!...
UNDER A BLANKET OF STARS
No other place in Argentina offers a firmament as rich in stars, planets and constellations as that of the Salinas del Gualicho. At first sight, one can guess the main celestial bodies that dominate the sky: Mars, Venus, Sirius, Orion and the Southern Cross. The Milky Way is even aggressive. There are 15 billion celestial bodies to observe with binoculars or infrared lenses. "The ideal night is during the New Moon," says the guide who organizes a competition to see who can count the most shooting stars.
Meanwhile, we're preparing dinner. In the middle of nowhere we set up tables, chairs and a first-class catering where the main protagonist will be the famous chicken at the disco of Desert Tracks. Accompanied by good bread, red wine from Patagonia and water for those who want to rust a little, it is always served very hot. Afterwards, there will be dessert and a good coffee to tell the "scary stories" of the Gualicho, his curses and legends.
For now, we are only buzzing
Short/Pants, trekking shoes, espadrilles or sneakers; hat and glasses.
For the return, in case the wind picks up, we recommend a polar jacket, hooded sweatshirt or jacket and long pants; scarf for the neck and headband for the girls' hair!
Sun protection, cream and hydration lipstick.
Mineral water, coffee or “mate” equipment and cookies. Also the camera and always check the charge of the batteries before leaving. If you are travelling with children, check that you will be back at midnight. Take a small blanket to keep the children warm, in case they fall asleep.
Toilets: the toilets are in the field.
Good vibes! We're on vacation
The starting time changes throughout each season and ranges from 4 to 6 pm to make the most of the sunset over the salt flats. Please consult us.
CONSULT FOR PRIVATE EXCURSIONS, 4X4 TRUCK, MAXIMUM 4 PAX WITH TOAST OR DINNER
Available in summer: Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays
Duration: Winter and autumn, from 4pm to 10pm; spring 5 pm, summer 5pm or 6 pm to 11pm