Still trying to catch up on South America.
Our trip into the Salar (or Salt Flat) began true to our South American RottenLuck(TM). The first "site" on our tour is a visit to a train cemetery. "You have 8 minutes," the driver tells us as we pile out of the 4WD in front of a line of decrepit, rusting train engines and gutted train cars. Liar (the lady from the dreaded To-Be-Avoided Blue Line Services) said that there were very few tourists at the moment and we wouldn't see more than three or four cars at any given site. There were closer to 30 Toyota Land Cruisers there at the dump site. I stopped counting after 24.
Julien muttered that he hoped we weren't going to be treated like children for the whole tour as we meandered over to watch swarms of tourists getting their picture taken with the rusted carcasses. Trash blew around our feet escaping the piles where it had been dumped on the surrounding plain.
More like ten minutes later--eight too many for me--we climbed back in the car and raced off in a streak of dust for the entrance to the salt flat. We stopped in a little po-dunk town that was supposed to have a museum where they explain the process of gathering and preparing the salt. The museum was a store selling sweaters, bags, and hats where they charge you to take pics of statues carved out of salt blocks.
And then you had all this waiting outside for you:
We were granted a whole 15 minutes there. Julien had the sense to wander off "behind the scenes" with his video camera and got some good shots of people cleaning and bagging the salt. (Thinking about all the little irksome details is making me cross, so here are some pictures and basic commentary to keep me from having to rehash all the things that chapped my hide about what should have been a beautiful, blissful visit.)
Then it was back into the Land Cruiser for what we really came to see, the giant salt pan. Our first stop was a ten-minute photo break near the edge of the pan where workers shovel the salt into mounds so it can dry:
The scenery was gorgeous once we started to leave the town and plains behind us.
We stopped to see the* Salt Hotel. No one is allowed to stay there because it would pollute the salt, but they do allow you to enter and look around for a fee. I did an about face when I read the sign about the fee and took a pic of the salt furniture instead.
We stopped for lunch at Isla de Pescadores where amazing, 1000-yr cacti grow on an island of ancient coral. This forked one here is about 6 meters tall, the tallest was over 9m:
We then did a shoot of silly perspective photos, a seeming must on the incredibly flat salt pan:
We finished up the 3 (two) day trip with visits to volcanos:
and "lagoons" with pink flamingos:
Sorry for the boring commentary, but I don't feel like getting my blood boiling again. More volcano talk--and possibly more pics--later.
* There were actually several Salt Hotels, and we slept in one on the first night.