DESERT'S DIFFERENT FACES
Before we came to Atacama the connotations I’d had with a desert were sand and camels’ caravans. I saw such images when I visited Egypt many years ago and in the movies. On Atacama it turned out that sand is only one of the faces the desert has to show us. There are many more!
The sand is of course everywhere and there’s a lot of it. Huge piles of dark sand look like tones of cocoa powder scattered around. However, the landscape is much more differentiated. Some parts of the desert look like a surface of the Moon. Other, covered with rocks, reminded me of a big canyon. In some places you will find small ponds filled with a sweet water powered by the underground rivers. Few kilometers further you come to a small lagoon where you can float in without moving your arms or legs like in the Dead Sea, because the water is few times as salty (up to 35%) as that in a normal sea. There are also areas fully covered with salt only. In Spanish they are called salinas (saltworks). It’s hard to believe but all these you will find at the same desert.
We managed to experience it all from up close. We climbed the ridge of a rocky hill in the Moon Valley (Valle de la Luna). Łukasz floated in the salty Cejar Lagoon experiencing something close to walking in the water. We admired gorgeous flamingos in the Chaxa Lagoon. Finally, we saw a beautiful palette of colours during the sunset in one of the desert’s valley. It looked like a postcard modified by Photoshop but all the colors were purely natural!
Talking about flamingos: did you know that they are born white? The intense pink colour comes as they grow up as result of their diet. They eat algae, which are rich in carotenoids and therefore their feathers turn pink after years of such a consumption.
All this diversity in the desert has one thing in common. It is the vast space that surrounds you. The nature comes to you from all directions. It’s a very relaxing environment. Quite a contrast to crowded cities with one building next to another we’re used to back home.