|nothing but the bluest skies and miles and miles of empty space|
|evidence of water in the desert- often below ground|
The region contains most of the world's known supply of lithium, but political concerns and lack of infrastructure prevents 40km away Bolivia (whose reserves are far and away the world's largest) from reaping the economic benefits of mining this element at present time. Chile on the other-hand is the world's second leading producer of lithium, trailing slightly Australia despite having 5 times the known reserves.
|white ground= salt|
|flamingos taking flight in the clear skies|
The Chilean flamingo is generally more white than the pink normally depicted in most of my known sources (cartoons.) While other species of this omnivorous bird grow more pink in color as they age. This is due to the algae they consume being loaded with beta carotene, an organic chemical that contains a reddish-orange pigment (literally, you are what you eat,) but alas, virtually no algae grows in the salt laden bodies of water here, and witnessing the white flamingos makes me question whether my world view is truly enhanced by continuing to watch Saturday morning cartoons.
|Chilean flamingo wading n the salt flats|
|20,000 foot volcanos rising in the distance|
|salty lagoon in the Atacama|
The water of Salar de Atacama here has a salt concentration which ranges from 5 to 28% (where the flamingos feed the level is at the lower end) but at the higher end of the range produces an effect of floating like the Dead Sea.
You can pay a ridiculous amount to the local indigenous peoples for access to a floating pool of water. With the high elevation (2500 meters) and the wind howling in the pre-winter atmosphere, combined with the massive amount of fresh water needed to clean oneself off of the salt covered 90% of one's pores once you emerge from the water, and the limited time one wishes to spend in the cold water.
video: the "Dead Sea" of Atacama- floating on water
But beyond that, the desert is positively a uniquely beautiful place in color and landscape, and the sunset over the volcanoes will simply take your breath away.
video: highlights of Sala de Atacama
|Atacama sunset over the salt flats|
|all that white on my shorts- salt residue from the Chilean "Dead Sea" flotation experiment|