Following up from my previous blog from South America, here are some more pictures to add to the pot. This part of the trip differs from the first leg. Moving away from the towns the people were sparse and the landscape was the star. The roads were long now, traveling up to 12 hours a day in our sturdy truck. Still at altitude, moving from La Paz to Uyuni (the entrance to the salt flats), the air consistently dry and the view baron. The Salt flats are so vast, being the worlds largest stretching to 4000 sq miles. I was looking forward to the seeing ‘mirrored effect’ seen so often in pictures of the flats but it hadn’t rained recently so I saw the flats in their dry state. This wasn’t a disappointment as the lack of rain revealed a carpet of hexagonal shapes formed by a salt crust. Our guide offered little insight into why these tessellations form, which is probably down to my limited Spanish, and its something I am still researching. Salar de Uyuni was formed as a result of transformations of several prehistoric lakes. It is a few meters deep in salt and has a massive store of lithium or ‘happy salt.’ It’s basically just very, very cool.
The trip moved on and another highlight was met at the Altiplano. This is the most extensive high plateau on Earth. We stopped occasionally to admire the view. It may be the effect of the thin air and my music selection (some of which featuring swooping string arrangements) but the landscape blew me away. It felt as if we were on another planet. The earth seemed scorched, volcanic. Vast jets of Sulphur steam pushed out of crusty ground. The light was blinding, yet it was cold and the wind bitter. Surrounded by volcanoes and vivid coloured lakes, the only life I could see were flamingos and a skinny pale fox. The flamingos were bathing in the red lake (Laguna Colorada). The alge in the lake is supposed to be what makes the flamingos pink. This is when I blasted myself for coming all this way and not bringing a zoom lens, I couldn’t get close. However these were the limitations of the kit. On this trip I went as sparse as I could due to camping and the need for backpack space. It was also a little bit of a ‘getting to know you’ with my film camera. Apart from little Fuji xpro1 for street style work I took a Hassleblad 500 c/m medium format film camera. On this camera just a 80mm lens.. not long enough for flamingos!
Crossing boarders we moved on to San Padro, Chile. We visited Valle de la Luna in the Atacama Desert. Aptly named due to it’s moon like surface formed from various stones, wind and water over the ages. It is considered to be one of the driest places on Earth (my lips were still suffering at this point from the altitudes) and it was here they tested a Mars Rover prototype. This is also near the famous observatory, which we missed out on due to a full moon. But I did see an incredible sunset setting over a near by volcano made holy with a cool South American beer!
Another boarder crossing took us to Argentina, we traveled huge distances to Salta and Mendoza, viewing more incredible rock formations but breathing considerably less dry air. The landscape eventually peeled into green. I didn’t realize how much I would appreciate the sight of a tree. This inevitably increased the populations and animals, especially cattle and dogs. In Argentina we lucked out with the weather having an unusual for this time of year downpour of rain. In the city’s I suddenly felt like I was back into civilization, which is good and bad after so much vast space to look at, it was a little jarring as pretty as these cities are. However another highlight of this trip was in the vast land surrounding the cities. We stayed at an Estancia owned by an Englishman but run by Gaucho’s. It featured stunning farmland and I relieved my cameras of it’s duty to ride horses in the rain. Oh the romance.