Today (January 25th) we visited the Atacama Salt Flats (Salar de Atacama) and the altiplano lagoons of Miscanti and Miñiques; a seven hour tour south of San Pedro. Our first stop was the small village of Toconao which was heavily damaged by the extraordinary floods of February, 2012. The quaint church bell tower was one of the main attractions along with the small artisan shops. The skeleton of a 1923 Ford pickup truck attracted all the gear heads in the group. I had forgotten how much wood was used in the frame work of these old vehicles.
|Cactus wood door of the church bell tower in Toconao|
|1923 Ford pick up in Toconao|
Our next stop was the Salar de Atacama, the largest salt flat in Chile and one of the largest in the world. This is where we got our best views of the Chilean and Andean flamingoes and other water fowl.
|Chilean flamingo (l) and Andean flamingo at Salar de Atacama|
|Salar de Atacama|
Back in the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter with our small international group, we headed toward the string of volcanoes that presented a constant backdrop for our visit to this part of Chile. Our destination was the altiplano lagoons of Miscanti and Miñiques at 13500'+ msl. At one time there was one larger lake, but it was cut in two when the Miñiques Volcano erupted and sent a lava flow through the lake. Overhead we were presented an amazing sight with impressive clouds against the deep blue sky.
We stopped for lunch in the small village of Socaire on our way back to San Pedro; the small church there presented an interesting sight.