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The Gualicho Flats Exploration

Las Grutas, Río Negro, Argentina

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THE GUALICHO SALT FLATS EXPLORATION

They are the largest salt flats in Argentina, the second largest in South America and the third largest in the world. It has 430 square kilometers. Buenos Aires would enter more than twice in this depression that, at 72 meters under the sea level, promises an unforgettable dinner under the stars.

 

Today we can take advantage of the day, go to the beach and in the afternoon visit “Salinas del Gualicho”. Located 60kms west of Las Grutas, the access is restricted, only tourists arriving on excursions are allowed. They are 40kms of asphalt and only 20 of good gravel. The excursion leaves at 4pm (winter time) and 6pm (summer time), and we plan to return at midnight. We go by 4x4 or air-conditioned vans.  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 Las Grutas, 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: 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 de la 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 - the 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. of salt! 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 of Jujuy and slightly smaller than Uyuni in Bolivia, the sunsets are a unique spectacle.

Inside the salt flat, it seems that we are on the moon. It is getting dark. In the heart of the Gualicho, we stop after traveling several kilometers and get out of the vehicle. 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 glance one can see the main celestial bodies that dominate the sky: Mars, Venus, Sirius, Orion and the Southern Cross. There are 15 billion heavenly 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, the crackling of the fire and the aroma invite us to start dinner. Tables, chairs and a first-class catering were set up in the middle of nowhere and the main protagonist will be the Desert Tracks famous chicken, cooked in a traditional farmer´s plow disc. Accompanied by good bread, Patagonian red wines and water for those who want to rust a little, it is always served well done. Afterwards, there will be dessert and a good coffee to tell the "scary stories" of the Gualicho Salt Flats, his curses and legends.       

For now we are only enchanted by the natural scenery, the stars and an unforgettable dinner. It's almost midnight, but nobody wants to leave. The return to Las Grutas is in silence and meditating on so many good experiences shared with nice people.

 

BROWSER TAB

CLOTHING

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!

PROTECTION

Sun protection, cream and hydration lipstick.

OTHER RECOMMENDATIONS

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.

 

INDISPENSABLE!

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

Apt minors

Up to 60 passengers

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