In salt we trust
Let’s pretend that I am not completely hopeless and that a slow but noticeable improvement of my behaviour could be registered by a person with especially keen eyes. I decided and succeeded to stick to the decision of a project a day. It is true that each of my last two expeditions began very early in the morning, what didn’t leave too much opportunity to misbehave. Now that I am thinking again I realize that so much auto-control was a mistake and because this exaggerate precaution I got into I missed a night walk under one of the most beautiful starry sky in the world in which the Crux or Southern Cross gives the replica to the northern Big Dipper or Ursa Major. If you are a warrior you have to live by the sword, as the ancients said, especially if you have one what with all this gun control became a quite complicate matter… Being the things what they were at four o’clock in the morning we (that means the young people and me) boarded a car and drove for an hour or more on a flat and wide plains enormously contrasting with the narrow and undulating terrain we harrowed yesterday. The guide, a young slim, eventually willowy German girl, was undulating somehow also while speaking probably under the caress of a inner breeze. I liked her very much and when we met the next day on some different tracks we kissed repeatedly and behaved like old friends. The friendship of a guide, of a good guide, is priceless for a traveller, the only thing you have to spend is time, and for the God’ sake, not to run the trip on a tight flying schedule. I even don’t know her name….So after that we honoured the cashier, each desert slice has a cashier, in the middle of nowhere and some honoured also the utilities we continued for some kilometres on the featureless road until we come nose to nose with an enormous tree. There are not trees in the desert as a rule, but this was a mighty exception and lead immediately to general enthusiasm and some interjections. An elephant herd could take a nap under its shadow. Better not, elephants are deadly for the trees! With my wild imagination that often runs out of control I have seen the herd members already rubbing their enormous wrinkled backs infested with vermin of sorts upon the stout, royal gnarled trunk. They were accompanying this illegal activity with inarticulate grunts and horrid trumpeting. Strange enough nobody seem to pay much attention to this mayhem. Then I realized that the only thing to do was to follow what the lovely girl had to say namely that if you have enormously deep roots and if you are also located in a strategic position where the water table is scarcely but continuously supplied from underground rivulets coming down the mountain slope you are in business and nobody, hurricane or elephants can harm you. There is a little problem. This giant vegetal, 20 meters high, called Prosopis chilensis or mesquite or Chilean algarrobo, or to be more exact thornless mesquite, what it is very important in an area where some plants develop killer thorns, with all its plenty of names, is alas, much more related to the families of peas and beans than to the family of the royal oak. Great provider of shade the Prosopis produces some big pods whose very nutrient seeds are used to feed cattle and the local camelids. After some routine research I still wonder why this acromegalic legume which is also a tree, decided to thrive in the middle of the driest desert on earth. Last but not the least for those who decide to plant the would-be giant in their garden it seems that still has some two curved very strong thorns at the emergence of each whorl of leaves. Mimetics and dimorphism in natural world of which I give an example underneath have always fascinated me. Please check the similarity between a fighting rooster and Hector Camacho, a very much beloved Porto Rican lightweight, shoot in his fifty by other pushers, boxing and cocaine going often together, On the other hand I recognize that botanists have to clean up their house and make up their mind regarding the prosopis nature and attributes and zoologists to analyse better the taxonomic connection between humans and ANIMALS and pick some grains from the great Desmond Morris who argues that there is very little if any.. I am really exhausted.
And before hitting the main target of our trip,our gracious guide brought us to a place were two perfectly circular pools of some 30 meters of diameter, called Ojos de Salar, were filled with clean water, much less salted than the lagoons nearby and deep enough to permit to some young bucks of the company to execute a couple impressive dives in the middle of the driest desert on earth. It seems that these kind of unplanned refreshment cum swimming facilities were the remnants of some oil drilling attempts which punctured the water table. It is only later that I felt that our the charming guide built a progression into a approach while the the Ojos de Salar were not more that an antipasti.
After, she kindly led us to “primo piato” read probably Laguna Piedra located at some 22 kilometers of San Pedro. This was already simply splendid Try to imagine a smooth elliptic emerald, I have seen it green, other people speak of sapphire wide enough that you couldn’t see the both ends with one glance. This fascinating mirror, reflecting the solar photons one by one, was encircled, like the neck of the duke of Buckingum, the hypothetical lover of the queen Anne d’Autriche who fancied an impressive “fraise”, ruff in British, by a gorgeous, immaculate wide collar of white sand. The paradisiac look was such that two very young Brazilian hotties got on the spot into a minimal bikini outfit displaying to the world their scrawny buttocks while trotting gaily and ungainly towards the pristine mirror. It didn’t work out. The laguna was protected by tourist enforcers who for some mysterious reasons forbid an immersion whose magic was second ( I say second by respect) only to the one the Saviour had in the meagre Jourdan waters. Myself I was more than happy to sunk in bliss some 1500 meters far away from the miraculous pool getting mentally ready for “il secondo piato” that being the Salar of .Atacama, itself, the third by importance in the world.
To be more exact I felt ready to flood (??) with admiration and rapture the Laguna Cejar which lies in the Salar of Atacama like a gem inserted in royal crown. There was not any danger of overflow. There, at the altitude of 2300 meters a mass of water is trapped in a kind of impermeable giant saucepan, an enormous endorheich basin. Under the fiery rain of scorching sun rays, a hit parade of sorts, the water evaporates constantly and increases god day bad day an immense bumpy blanket, 100 km long now, of glorious white greyish salt Bordered at east by a high range of towering violent volcanoes with names coming from Tolkien’s Middle earth vocabulary such as Licancabur, Acamarachi, Aguas Calientes and at the west by a subsidiary Andine lower chain the Salar offers a peerless performance of tectonic drama with a dynamic encounter of elements, forces and materials such as fire, water, steam, sand, minerals and wind in a continuously changing chromatic set. Its reserves of lithium and borax are enough to quiet down the whole mankind with the exception of some ISIS congregations that nothing can calm. I was pulled out of my fusional mood and meditation by some faint sequences of chirps, pips, chirrs whistles and yelps, without to know not exactly know what was what but enough disting to make me remark a couple of birds pecking highly agitated on the border of the salt field. They are after some agglomerations of bacteria thriving in the salt told me the gracious guide.
It seems that not only people can handle extreme conditions. What could be the motivation to create a niche in such a place and with a staple food that does not interest anybody else is everybody guess. Its seems that people are taking the most unbelievable odds to make a living would they be human or birds! After that I recently learned that other fowl such as flamingos are indulging themselves in the area my excitement cooled a little bit. An amazing sunset, a rich palette, fan like of saturated colours began to rise from the depth of the sky, wrapped the company in silky shadows, appeased the souls, brought the tired soles to rest and planted the seeds of a never forgetting souvenir.