March 01, 2009

Chile Atacama Salar Flats & Laguna Chaxa

Oscar led us through the vast Salar Flats (3rd largest in the world). Locals who appreciated the opportunity to work close to home built smooth walking trails through the jagged white crystals.

I am not an avid birder but my parents are, and I am required to take careful notes on any interesting bird I see for their vicarious birding pleasure. One highlight of a visit to the Salar Flats is to admire the flocks of Chilean and Andean flamingoes in Laguna Chaxa. We saw Andean avocets, Baird’s sandpipers, and Wilson’s Phalaropes. The phalaropes swim in circles to create a whirlpool to trap brine shrimp.

Toconao is a tiny village we visited enroute. Pragmatic Catholicism emphasizes Mary (mother nature) with little attention to Jesus. The Bell Tower represents the "masculine", the Church represents the "feminine", and together (although they are separate buildings) they represent the "whole".

In addition to the church, this village has a wild-straw roofed school and irrigation.

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