16 July 2011

bolivian flamingos in a martian landscape


Leaving the salt flat area, you still see an accumulation of salt that resembles that first dusting of snow on the ground.

We passed a military compound that seemed so quaint and earthy:




Not exactly the toughest security:


And like any true South American community, it wouldn't be complete without a soccer (fĂștbol) field:


We passed more salt that resembled snow on the ground:


And then went into desert tundra.  You can still see what now looks like a sea of salt in the distance:


The mountains had beautiful reddish hues that reminded me of my childhood imagined version of Mars:


The rocks were reddish and had a coral-like texture.  There were also random areas with moss-like growth.


We climbed and jumped around for a while.


It all just seemed unreal.  This one looked like a mini-version of reality, like those scaled-down architectural models:


To our surprise, we then saw a snow-covered mountain.

 
And then, to my even greater surprise, flamingos:


As we approached the snow-covered mountains and one of the colored lakes (laguna colorada), we finally saw other trekkers and travelers.  We'd had the luxury of being pretty alone in our exploration until then.


Our Argentinean buddy went off to explore, and I loved his bright red shirt in the distance:



I had never seen grey flamingos before.


The lakes were not quite as colored as they advertised, but this one was more obviously yellow because of the sulfur (stinky, too).


We drove through big open spaces where there were no roads, no lanes, no separation of any kind.



We drove through some pretty tight spaces between rocks, too:



And got to see one of the neatest mountains I'd ever seen, in terms of color.  It was misty, and I was still blown away.


We got to see this rock formation that resembles a tree.


It's even more impressive when you see how big it is up close.


Here's an example of the advertising used to get travelers to come to the "colored lakes."  Hmm.


It was neat to learn there were three different kinds of pink flamingos there-- Andean, Austral/Chilean and James.


We had to fill out paperwork, and I still don't know why they wanted our information.


We stayed in this little place for a night:



And each person in our group got a little bed.  It felt like we were at summer camp.  Our three Argentinean sibling travel mates got out their flashlights when we turned out the lights and gave us a little light show with beatbox techno beats before we went to bed, completing the experience.  :-)


We explored the area a bit before dinner.  Also true to the South American standard, there was a little church nearby.


Really little:


We decided to walk up the nearby hill to see what was around, and we weren't sure why there were so many signs around.



(We didn't really go where the sign told us not to go.  We just thought it was kind of funny.)

Anyway, it was beautiful in a strange barren-but-green way.



Well, green in some directions and yellow in others.



It was neat to see the changing landscape.  This one made me think of New Zealand and The Lord of the Rings, for some reason:



And as we squinted a bit, we realized there were more flamingos here, too:


It was vast --seemingly endless-- and otherworldly.  It made me think of early earth, post-Big-Bang or early creation (wherever you lean), before animals or trees or people came into existence, and it also was the kind of place, complete with a layer of mist, where zombies or aliens or other strange beings would seem to belong.

The wind whipped our faces, and I just couldn't reconcile seeing the flamingos, which I associate with places like Florida, in this eerie landscape.

But it also felt like the beginning of a great story, where the protagonist looks out and sees infinite possibility.