A trip to the mysterious Cono de Arita

by Felisa Sánchez

 

A trip to the mysterious Cono de Arita

by Felisa Sánchez

We arrived in the province of Salta, Argentina, with the illusion of knowing a mysterious place, little mentioned in the tours and difficult to access. We left the city, in a 4x4 with a guide, and after traveling 380 km and doing 200 km of pure gravel, mainly saw, sand, stones, earth and a lot of dust, we arrived at Tolar Grande. Almost 6 hours of very slow travel between 30km/h and 50km/h, passing through San Antonio de los Cobres. Tolar Grande, is a town in the Puna de Atacama with around 300 inhabitants. When the La Casualidad Mine was active, it transported the sulfur shipments to the Tolar Grande railway station, from there to be sent to their final destination. Now it is almost a ghost town, where we spent the night to restart the march the next day.
From there, along a red dirt road, totally arid and uninhabited, we traveled 86 km with only truck traffic to finally reach the Arizaro salt flat. The immensity of the landscape allowed us to be immediately ecstatic with the sight of the Cono de Arita and the salt flat that surrounds it, located at 3,460 meters above sea level and with an area of ​​more than 1,500 meters.
Undoubtedly, the protagonist of the site is the Cono de Arita, a geoform of volcanic origin 200 meters high, which rises at the southern end of the salt flat and resembles a pyramid. Some studies mention that this formation is nothing more than a volcano that was not strong enough to explode. But, there are also mystical stories, it was thought that it was a mound that hid a mausoleum, that is, like a pyramid. However, geology has denied this. Some remains found at the site indicate that the cone was a ceremonial center for those who inhabited the area before the arrival of the Incas. Even today, residents of the area carry out multiple celebrations related to the Pachamama.
Our amazement at the incredible landscapes of the Salar had not ended when we went to see the Ojos de Mar. It consists of three lagoons of volcanic origin in the middle of a white salt flat, whose color varies depending on the sunlight between turquoise and green. A curiosity is that Conicet researchers found living stromatolites in these water wells, microorganisms that created oxygen from carbon dioxide by photosynthesis, in the origins of the planet.
We returned again through dusty roads, but we were no longer the same, days later the loneliness, immensity and beauty of those familiar places were still in the retina, luckily the photos remained.
"Casi un pueblo fantasma"
Ahora es casi un pueblo fantasma, único lugar par hacer noche y reiniciar la marcha al día siguiente.

"Vias de mina La Casualidad"
Cuando la Mina La Casualidad estaba activa, se transportaban los cargamentos de azufre hasta la estación ferroviaria de Tolar Grande, para desde allí ser enviados a su destino final.

"Camino al Salar de Arizaro"
De allí por un camino de tierra roja, totalmente árido y deshabitado, recorrimos 86 km con un tránsito solo de camiones para llegar finalmente al Salar de Arizaro.

"Salar de Arizaro"
El salar de Arizaro se encuentra entre las poblaciones de Caipe y Tolar Grande. Es un salar del centro de la Puna de Atacama que está ubicado en la provincia de Salta, Argentina. El mismo posee una superficie de 1600 km².

"Llegando al Cono de Arita"
Hicimos 70 km más de ripio, lento, unas 2 hs en 4x4, hasta llegar al Cono de Arita. Es una geo forma de origen volcánico de 200 metros de altura, que se eleva en el extremo sur del salar (25°01′05″S 67°43′44″O).


"El Cono de Arita"
Algunos estudios mencionan que esta formación no es más que un volcán que no tuvo la fuerza suficiente para estallar. Los restos hallados en el lugar, indican que el cono fue un centro de ceremonial de quienes habitaron la zona antes de la llegada de los incas.

"Figura piramidal"
La formación se asemeja a una pirámide. Aún hoy, pobladores de la zona realizan allí múltiples festejos relacionados con la Pachamama.