Day 1 - The Salar

We set off in the morning rain at 10:30 a.m. We drove for about an hour and reached the salt flats. They have a gate on the road - I assume they only let a certain number of people drive on the flats, and probably only people that know what they are doing. There were some salt houses and some salt bricks there and the kids thought they were pretty cool.

We drove to a part of the salt flats that has large patched of area covered in water. We all took off our shoes and socks and waded around and took a lot of pictures.

Next we went to a dry part and we took some photos. Then on to a place where the top of the salt is geometric. The driver showed the boys that if they dug down, they could get to water - the salt is only about 15 cm thick. Below the salt, depending where you are on the flats, the lake can be up to 5 metres deep. It is a little nerve wracking to think we are driving on a thin salt crust!

We visited Isla Incahuasi, the island in the middle of the salt flats. It is a very strange place, covered in cactus. We climbed to the top and got some great pictures of the flats. There was an animal there that is similar to a rabbit, but is called a viscacasha. Our lovely cook, Daisy, cooked our lunch of quinoa and llama.

After lunch we drove more on the salt and took (of course) more photos. We tried to take some of the cool perspective shots. Hilary was able to take some, but the digital screen on my camera just looked like a mirror because of the sunlight, and it was difficult to line things up.

The view was amazing across the salt flats. The salt flats were formed here when a giant salt lake dried up. I have included some links if you want to know the history.

Our final visit of the day was to a cave on the salt flats. It was one large open cavern with a window overlooking the salt flats. You could really see the shore of the salt flats at the edge of these islands. Ciaran built an inukshuk. There were many stone figures and piled stones on our route, to tell people the routes to take and where things were unsafe to drive etc.

We drove to the edge of the salar and through a tiny village and up the hill a bit to our desolate looking salt hotel. It was a haphazard shack with pieces of tin on the pretty thatched roof, built with bits and pieces of everything. The walls, tables, chairs and even many of the beds were built from salt blocks. The floor was covered in a layer of salt, which had been raked neatly. The tables were covered in brightly coloured Andean fabric. We settled in to our room and then had a cup of tea and some crackers. There is one big kitchen where all the cooks (women) set up their little cooking areas with their camp stoves and propane. They also sleep in that room, and the drivers (men) have a little building beside the main building. I went for a walk out to the shrine overlooking the pueblo. We would have had a stunning view of the sunset over the salt flats, but it rained with thunder and lightning and was very cloudy, so the day just got mistier and darker and greyer, until the salar and quinoa fields and the village dissolved into the gloom. It gave the place an eerie sadness.

We ate our supper, which was a fantastic homemade soup and a homemade pizza which was quite tasty. We find that we are not so hungry in the evenings, since it is the norm here to eat the big meal at lunch and just have a small supper. We crawled into our cozy beds with lots of warm blankets and slept soundly in the misty silence.