Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did.
So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. --- Mark Twain

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Salinas Grandes

Day 1087 continues,
Route: Purmamarca – Salinas Grandes – San Antonio de Los Cobres – Polvorilla – Salta (400 km).

In Argentina there are actually four salt lakes, and all of them are called Salinas Grandes. At the moment the story is about that salt lake which is located in north-west of Argentina,in the provinces of Salta and Jujuy. The lake has an area of 211 km ² and the altitude is 3450 m. from the sea level.



Across the lake a roadway runs in the direction of Chile. Ruta 52. Large trucks with Paraguay plates.

On the left the salt field is snow-white.

On the right there is dry land.

Further on the salt field is under a few dozen centimeters of deep water, so it is still a body of water.


This house is also made of salt blocks.

Lama – made out of salt.

And a blue- black-and- white sticker will be added here too.


On the counter - souvenirs made of salt and visitors can buy packs of salt.

Here a diner will be built. Tables and benches are of local material.






The Salt Lake has been looked over and the journey will continue southwards.

Tres Morros.

What the passanger seat looks like. Usually there are maps but this time there are grapes too.

The main street of the village of El Moreno.


A very typical Ruta 40, and very corrugated. I let the tire pressure down to 2.5 (usually three) that it would be a little less shaky to drive, but that this is not a very big help.

Ruta 40 is a kind of a legend. Long, parallel to the Andes, almost endless road through Argentine down up to the Magalheas strait. The total length is of over 5,000 kilometers.

The corrugated Ruta 40 is such an experience that will be remembered for years to come. In Patagonia one can experience this kind of roads for hundreds of kilometers.

Meanwhile, the road disappears under the water, the last week has been rainy. Then again it is going to rain, meanwhile, heavier, and then lighter again.

Reaching the small town of Cobres everything around is gray. It is half past five. Here in a gas station I can have a full tank. And decide what to do next. Next - there are two options, the first is to drive straight downhill up to Salta. The distance is 150 kilometers, and the greater part of the road will covered in daylight.

Another option is to drive down the hill to Salta as well, but also go and see the Polvorilla viaduct. It is 18 kilometers to the place, so it is sensible to consider the time – an hour for covering the distance, some time for spending in the place and another hour for returning back.

Polvorilla viaduct belongs to my list – “Must See”. So the second option will be taken into use. Rain around here in general should be taken into consideration because the rain could cause, for example, the vanishing of half of the road and as bigger roads are being repaired quickly,as a priority, than it takes more time to reach the smaller roads and make the renovations.

For the first 5 kilometers the gravel road is very decent.

Then you need to turn right. The following 13 kilometers is actually a road as well but narrower and in some places rougher. There is even one car coming from afar.


Some of the higher parts are perfectly ok.

Almost there. It is not raining yet.

The next sign introduces: the 64 -meter -high viaduct is located 4,200 meters above sea level and is 224 m long.


The real feeling of the height of the construction is experienced after coming out of the car and looking up at the viaduct.

Next it is necessary to reach up. Or is it really necessary? Maybe it is not even so necessary, but somehow strange to drive away without getting up. The view from the top is definitely interesting. The viaduct is only 74m high, so – no big thing to climb up there.

Neither staircase nor lift - but a footpath is leading upwards. Like an official trail. There is no sign of prohibiting climbing in sight.

Anyway, the handrail is strong and decent, made of railroad rails. It will not rust out soon.

The handrail is generally a good thing, because the 4200 –meter- altitude -climbing is something else than driving in a bus on the flat land. The walking with long steps will soon turn over into walking with much shorter steps.

Climbing higher and higher.

And the parking lot remains farther and farther.

On and on and then it begins to rain something. At first - large drops of water, and soon it is hail mixed with rain. There's no sense to turn back as almost half of the road has been covered already.

More higher. The parking lot is nearly empty now. The other visitors have left just in time. The rain gets heavier and heavier.

Finally at the top. Heavy raining continues. My umbrella, of course, remained in the car. And so did the waterproof clothes.

A magnificent construction it really is. No more pictures, the camera cannot stand the rain very well, and I do not want it to be soaked through. Just one more look around, and then – back-climbing. On nice weather I would have spent more time.

Salta is in that direction.

The climbing down is still easier. It still keeps raining on. For getting back I choose another route hoping that the previous week's rain has not carried some of the road away. There are some of the recent wheel traces on the road which can mean that the road is driveable, but it can also mean that the road is driveable only partially, and then one has drive back along the same road. This time the road is still there and only for some time the distance of about 50-meters must be driven along the river named - Rio San Antonie de Los Cobres, and then I'm back on the bigger road again.

It is 7 pm already and it is still white outside, of course, the sky is gray. It is 175 kilometers to Salta but the route takes over the mountains. An hour can be driven in the so-called " white time ". I arrive at 22:50, which is not a bad result.


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