We made it out of Santa Rosalia on the “Grade to Hell” highway, at the mock chicken speed of 10 MPH! It was the perfect travel day, overcast and cold (only 20C). Guerrero Negro was THE place to do whale watching and so that was our destination. We pulled into Mario’s RV park around 5, and it reminded us of Canadian Prairie camping – wide open gravel lot, not a single tree, and open land as far as you can see. This place also came highly recommended for whale watching tours, which we signed up for on day 2. The other claim to fame in this city was the salt mine. We had been encouraged by a few people that it should not be missed, so we dropped off our laundry and went looking for the salt mine tour stop. The English tour was at 11 am and it was “free” but you had to tip your guide.
We pulled up at 11 and Roberto (showed up at 11:20 – Mexican time) introduced himself as our guide for the day and instructed us to meet him at the gatehouse, with our car. So we did, and he said to Todd, “move over, I drive”. And away we went, wit Roberto in the drivers seat, touring through 55 sq km of salt ponds (here’s a video: salt ponds ), at various different stages of the evaporation and crystallization. We also saw the washing conveyors, and loading bulk salt onto a barge. Here’s what we know about salt from Guerrero Negro:
- This salt mine is the largest surface salt mine in the world and it’s a renewable resource (from the ocean).
- Roberto was a retired Chemical engineer that worked for the company for almost 30 years.
- Salt water is canaled from the pacific ocean into evaporation ponds. There are 72 ponds, all at various stages of evaporation. As the brine concentration rises, they channel the concentrate into crystallization ponds. The last stage of the crystallization process, you can see big, clear crystals and brilliant like diamonds in the salt, as a result from the wind. The ponds have a 1 meter thick salt base, in order to hold the heavy equipment, required to harvest the salt. They use graders with rippers that break the surface salt up to 30 cm deep and then a specialized scoop shovel/auger loads it onto a specialized (Fort Mac size), mining wagons – the wagons each hold up to 140 tonnes. Some of the trucks have 2 wagons and some have 3.
- The wagons take the salt to the washing plant (which is all outside). They use a “special wash solution” to clean the impurities from the salt. The clean salt pile is approx.. 1 MIL metric tonnes
- In watching the process, it seems that salt is not really that clean (food safety Jill took a video:clean salt ). But in retrospect, the amount of salt processed in ratio to impurities, is quite low. For example – heavy machines are driving/working on top of the salt and any oils/fluids/etc leak onto the salt bed and into your saltshaker!
- 100% of the food grade salt in US & Canada is from here
- Salt is also used and exported to 37 countries all over the world for making road de-icing, water treatment, plastics, glass and a lot of high-tech items including fiber optic. Who knew!
Once our time with Roberto came to an end, we drove around town to check out side roads and see if we could find any other jems. Following the road back out to the coast, towards the lighthouse – google maps didn’t think we were on land …..
And I guess technically we weren’t on land, the salt company had originally built this road out to the lighthouse, to load boats, but no longer use this sandspit. One the way back into town, I saw this giant thing in the ditch, which I originally thought was a log, but NOPE – you may not want to look at this dead whale! (EEK, sorry, I couldn’t resist!) When would we EVER see the carcass of a dead whale again, I had to put it here!