Salar de Surire
December 6, 2016
We left Colchane early in the morning, visited the deserted villages of Isluga, Enquelga and Santa Flor de Parajalla in Isluga National Park and finally reached the banks of the Salar de Surire by the southeast in the middle of the afternoon. The sky had turned blue, contrasting with the white cumulus, after a rather overcast day. Perfect to admire the turquoise hot springs. Vicuñas were grazing around and white stretches of salt were visible in the distance. A salt mist was floating over parts of the salar.
Salar de Surire is a Natural Monument in Chile. Surire comes from suri, which means nandu in Quechua. The salar consists mainly of a salt flat and a number of small salt lakes. Borax is extracted from a mine located in the northern part.
Our next priority was to find a place to sleep. No one was really keen spending the night under a tent at an altitude of 4,250 meters. Fortunately, our drivers were acquainted with the CONAF Rangers (Park Rangers in Chile) and they could negotiate the use of underutilized barracks that were standing next to the Ranger station. Not much comfort but at least we had beds and showers. We unloaded the cars, stored our bags in the barracks and left the CONAF station to find a suitable place to capture the sunset. We drove back and forth on the southern bank of the salar but could not really find a great spot. The sun finally disappeared behind the mountains, it was a miss! We returned to the CONAF station and enjoyed a warm dinner.
After a disappointing photo session at dusk, we could not miss sunrise and carefully planned for the next morning!
December 7, 2016
We woke-up very early and left the camp driving to the north then east. It was pitch dark when we bypassed the mine buildings and a bit further the camp of Carabineros de Chile. Their job is to watch for all sorts of smugglers who operate between Bolivia and Chile. Then we reached a small belvedere at 5.30am, right in the middle of the northern bank of Surire. We stayed in the vehicules, waiting for the first lights of the day.
It was definitely worth the effort and I let you admire the various colors and reflections on the salt lake, also home to large colonies of flamingos. After two hours we returned to the CONAF station to have breakfast.