Monday, January 17, 2011

Day 2 in Chile

Morning Walk
We awoke to another beautiful day in the desert. We had a lovely fresh contintental breakfast with homemade yoghurt, fruit, toast and cereal. After which we packed ourselves up for a car ride to Punta Del Inca, where we were going on a 2 hour valley walk. I wasn't sure what to expect with this as we had been warned to wear long pants, windbreakers and a sun hat! In actual fact this turned out to be one of our favourite walks of the week.
We started to the walk up on the dry desert where Pablo dropped us off. Our guide talked to us about the plants that we could find around us which was interesting. The bushes you can see below are called "Rica-Rica" and are a medicinal plant that is used to treat the stomach and they smell lovely. There was also "Pingo - Pingo" which could be used for a headaches.

As we rounded the corner we could hear water and the landscape quickly turned lush and green.
It was certainly alot cooler down by the water which was rather nice as the sun already was pounding down on us heating everything in its reach.

The large cactus are called Cardones and there are also some on the rocks called Angels Beard.

We steadily made our walk down into the valley criss crossing over the stream here and there to avoid the large groups of thorny cactus and grasses.

Ellie as usual was at the front of the group leading the way! Mum was as usual dawdling behind taking a million and one photos!

In several of the places we had to scramble around tricky rock formations but the kids seemed to relish these bits, I suppose it is a lot more fun for them than a straight walk.

We even got to climb down waterfalls which was interesting, above you can see me making my way down the one below.
I kept forgetting to look back behind us where we had come which held some really wonderful views. I think I might have been a bit busy watching for the snakes that JP had said lived down there, thankfully we didn't see any on this trip only a little lizard sunning himself.

John kept us informed of the height we were at with his snazzy new watch, which much to my dismay actually came in really useful on this holiday.

JP tried to help us all across the river using a bobbing log and a few stones. Sadly I think it would have been better for J and I to try to get across on our own as we were the only two who ended up with wet feet :( much to the kids amusement.

There were some very sizeable caves looking down from the top of the canyon which Euan and I agreed would be really cool to investigate. We reckon they must have at least a few bats in there.
The cactus were just coming into flower and they were stunning. This bloom was about 5 inches across but didn't have a scent.

Pretty soon it was time to start climbing back out of the canyon, (the bit Mum always hates!) and we made our way up the cliff sides towards the clear blue skies and ........

saying goodbye to that cooler air and the little green oasis we had been walking in.

Looking back you can only just see a small patch of where we had been it was so well hidden.

Soon there was no sign of plant life at all as we walked over rocky ground towards out waiting lift.

We had to climb still higher and passed an area which natives had used to rest and coral their livestock overnight. It had a small coral with closed in accomodation areas. many had natural seats and fireplaces worn into them.

In distance you could make out the mountain ranges all glowing orange in the late morning sun.

I think the kids began to disbelieve JP when he said we were nearly there as the path seemed to go on and on forever in the distance.

Pretty soon though we could make out the car and see Licancabur which of course John had to have a shot in front off. It was at this stage he was wittering on about how he wanted to bag a Volcano while he was here. On you go mate was my response, just don't expect us to go with you!

Little mounds of cactus started to spring up around our path and I asked JP what type they were, apparently they are called mother in laws tongue!

Pretty soon Pablo was greeting us with his usual high five of victory for completing another walk which we think was about 4.8km.

Rather tired and dusty we started to head back to the lodge. On the way though we took a slight detour to visit San Pedro's Cemetery which had just been celebrating the festival Day of the Dead.

There were small graves that had very little adornment and then these great big shrines which held memorabilia, photos and bright plastic flowers. It seemed in some that the whole family had a space prepared for them.

Bright flowers, flags and wreaths decorated the whole grave yard.

We then headed in to have a wash up and some lunch. We had salad again to start, a lovely pasta dish with fresh fruit Kebabs.

Over the main dining table is a mezzanine level where you can lounge about on cushions and look out through a round window and watch Lincancabur in the distance. It is also good for spying on those wandering through downstairs.

We tried to persuade the kids to have another siesta but this time they weren't up for it. We left them happily geeking out with laptops and nintendos while we snored away the next few hours.

PM Visit and Walk

At around 5pm we climbed back in the car again and headed out to visit one of the local villages called Toconao pronouced Toe can noah . It is the next oasis up from San Pedro and again seems to pop up out of no where. We passed wild donkeys and goats on our way there in the car but the photos were just too blurry.

Toconao, is located 138km from Calama at an elevation of 2485 metres above sea level. Its first inhabitants are from the year 11000 B.C. Its curent population is around 700 villagers who practice ancient traditions and customs as well as their own activies which they carry out with conviction. JP asked me not to take any pictures of the people which I respected but oooh I so desperately wanted to do. They have such lived in faces with warm eyes and a calm nature.

Blink and you would miss the village which is sat down in the gorge that carrys the waters which is its life blood. It sustains a wonderful eco system and they grow, figs, grapes and all sorts of amazing plants. These cactus reminded me of the colour of my downstairs toilet back home.

The town itself is characterized for being built entirely by Liparita stone of volcanic origin which has been taken out from the quarry. There is now alot of corrugated iron, pallets and plastic holding many of the structures up which is a real shame. JP assured us that most of the residents of Toconao had a very good standard of living with Satellite tv and running water. J and I are not sure how much we believed as it certainly didn't look affluent. It is worth noting though that all throughout San Pedro many of the places looked really run down and almost slum like, yet the residents were happy go lucky people who didn't seem to be bother by our modernistic views of wealth and materialism. Maybe it is us that have our value structure wrong.

We headed down all sorts of side streets and passed over these irrigation tracks which had little trap doors that could be lifted in and out to direct water to the crops and gardens. These systems absolutely fascinated me. Some were so beautifully constructed with intricate stone work and finishes.

There were enticing hand made gateways which lead off to private gardens with fruit over hanging the pathways above us.

We made our way back into the centre of town and visited the bell tower which was built in 1750. It is formed by three bodies of stone which gives the town square a great aesthetic and architectural value. We also visited the local church and spoke to the nuns who know JP very well.
From here we headed back to the car and out onto the main road again. You can only just see the town in this picture below in the middle right corner. The expanse of the place is just undescribable.

We arrived at Laguna de Chaxa on the Reserva Nacional "Los Flamencos". We were going to visit the Flamingos on the Salt Lake which has a surface area of approx. 320,000 hectares. It is situated 2,300 metres above sea level.
In its surface salt, crusts are visible that were caused by the constant accumulation of crystals produced by the underground water evaporation of heavy saline load. The process of evaporation creates different morphologies: chlorine crusts form a great toughness with flowers of up to 70cm high, transition from crust of chloride produce polygonal structures and sulphate crusts giving birth to plain and dry surfaces.

Still with me, not sure I understood either! but it looked pretty.

The particular type of Flamingos that live here are called Chilean Flamingos and they feed on unicelular algae and microinvertebrates. Euan found it fascinating to watch them dance and wiggle about in the tank they had on display.

They were really spectacular as they flew over and the colours in their plummage just shone in the low light and blue skies.

Ever present was Licancabur in the background fading to a subtle pink colour.

Euan is very kindly helping you locate it in this shot.

We only had a few flamingos for company so I asked Euan to do his magical bird dance which brought so many birds flying overhead in Asi. Unfortunately it didn't really seem to work, but the girls had fun joining in.

and then John got hold of the camera and the usual hero shot had to be taken!

In fact there was alot of camera swapping going on during this time. Ellie took the following two of Maddie which I absolutely love. Normally Ellie has a habit of shaking the camera as she presses the button but these are outstandingly good.

Just look at the golden glow on their faces, it makes me smile and just relax when I think back to those rays on our faces.

The girls were comparing notes and it reminded me of them back on Broughty Ferry beach in Scotland so many years ago now doing the same thing.

Euan didn't want to be left out and pinched my long lens to take some head shots of the feeding birds. As alway, what one has the other one wants and Maddie wanted a go with the longer lens to. Love the hands in this shot I can just hear her saying "come on it's my turn".

Pretty soon Mum got fed up with the bickering and cameras were returned to the adults.

The closest group of flamingos decided to take flight and I got rather excited, the sun was just starting to get very low in the sky and I grabbed my chance to get some flight pictures.

They look so surreal against the sky. It almost looks like someone has photoshopped them in.

some of my favourites of the afternoon though are these few that follow.

There is just something about silhouettes that I love, especially with that golden sunshine in the background.
So that is it for Day 2, thank god I hear you say, how many photos!! Right I shall endeavour to edit Day 3's photos tonight but now I must find some lunch before I head off to school for my afternoon shift and then after school art club. We are going to be decorating chocolate bar wrappers for Valentines tonight!

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