The day begins at 5 AM, it's a long way through the desert to Piedras Rojas.
We begin an already lofty elevation of 2400 meters and the highest elevation we'll attain is in excess of 4,200 meters (which approaches 14,000 feet and is on par with the highest points in the continental United States.)
The scenery is spectacular, with 20,000 foot plus volcanoes sides laced with snow, tower above us in a foreboding manner.
|passing the Tropic of Capricorn|
Our guide drives us in a Toyota 4x4 through the virtually uninhabited desert passing the Tropic of Capricorn; the temperature immediately dips. We continue to rise in elevation until we hit a series of mountain lakes, whose color changes depending on surface dispersement of the howling wind, which blows so strongly its virtually impossible to hear each other from more than a couple feet away.
|different colors of the desert|
|Lakes and volcanoes- simply beautiful against that sky backdrop|
|the desert road- the only road|
|several different lakes in the area|
|looks like a painting|
|a herd of wild vicuna|
|near Piedras Rojas|
We leave lakes and drive two hours deeper to what might be the highlight of Atacama Desert, Piedras Rojas, which translates to "Red Rock." The desert here looks as though it has been painted. The wind screams, making the oversize humongous jacket below a necessity, not a luxury.
Yet, again, the wind blowing has an affect on the visual, as it churns the minerals in the water, sending, in this case, arsenic to the surface which accounts for the turquoise color of the lake. Yes, this is not exactly potable water, unless you're trying to get rid of Napoleon.
|Piedras Rojas- you can see why|
|note turquoise water color is created by arsenic (poison)|
|volcano- Piedras Rojas|
|just look at those colors!|
|Piedras Rojas- amazing no?|
|believe it or not with the wind blowing s strongly- it was a precarious moment to sit there|
|Jefferson hangs his legs over the edge- nice shot|
|tough to overstate the beauty|
|last shot of Piedras Rojas|
|the one tiny town on the road to Piedras|
Eventually the wind blows us away, and we start heading back to San Pedro, stopping in a tiny town for a late lunch. It's very safe to cross the road here, heck, it would be safe to sleep in the road.
|tiny Chilean town in Atacama desert|