Wednesday 18 June 2014

Day 39: The Stone Cathedral and the Hidden Lagoon

The Stone Cathedral and the Hidden Lagoon
A warm night (a statement without irony).  I didn't even fully zip up my sleeping bag or wear my down jacket in bed.  This is the life!  Guy did a quick temperature check in the middle of the night to find out just how balmy the conditions were.  The result: -5 degrees!  How have we reached the point where we consider camping in -5 degrees to be a warm and luxurious night?  Something's gone wrong with this travelling lark; badly wrong!

But there was nothing wrong with the location.  Our rocky sculpture park emerged from the darkness but remained silent except for the porridge bubbling on our stove. (I will shortly be giving up porridge for life.  As a life-long vegetarian, even the prospect of a dead cow on my plate is becoming almost as appealing.)  Then the noise of a motor took us by surprise.  Another 4x4 was paying us a visit, skirting the rock pinnacles and taking an interesting course towards the hills.  What's around there, we wondered?  There was only one way to find out.

After about an hour and a half's off-road driving, with the car in 4x4 mode and both of us in tense mode (the further we went, the longer the walk out if we broke down), we began to descend through an aisle of rock to another lagoon.  This one was special: deserted (except for the landrover that had passed our campsite earlier), encircled by shapely summits, stocked with a wide colour palette (white salt, green algae, various blues of water and sky, every shade of desert between yellow and brown, pink flamingos, grey flamingos, grey-pink flamingos, black-and-white Andean avocets, and one very red 4x4).  We sat at the edge of the lake watching the flamingos eat their dinner, then settled to our own avocado-based meal.  I want to live in a country with this many avocados.

It was a wrench to leave the lagoon but making it back to the main road without incident was a relief.  Having a shower and sleeping in temperatures above zero, back in San Pedro, was a bigger one.  Zzzzzzz.

Approaching the Salar de Tara
Our trusty mining truck. I'm running the risk of wanting to buy a Hilux now!
Flamingos on the Salar de Tara
The beauty of the Salar de Tara
It's a long, long way to drive through the Puna!
(I think the tour agencies we saw thought that we were mad for doing this ourselves).

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