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Published: January 22nd 2014
The next day, Sergio offered to take us exploring the Antiplanos Lagunas (high altitude lagoons/lakes) located south of San Pedro. Elodie (my roommate) and I jumped at the chance, but Sergi & Miri decided to give it a miss. So, generous as he is, Sergio offered the spare seats to Ashley and Claudia, two American girls staying at his hostel.
So, with a full car, we headed out for another day of adventure. First stop was Toconao, a tiny colonial village 38km south of San Pedro, noted for it's buildings made of volcanic rock (in particular the 1750 built church) and alpaca woolcrafts. Nobody much about at this hour, we spent a pleasant half hour or so wandering the side streets and getting a feel for the local way of life. Stocked up on some homemade cheese rolls from a local panaderia/cum mini mart and went on our way.
Not much further along the road we entered the Soncor Section of the Salar de Atacama, part of the Nacional Reserva los Flamencos (National Flamingos Reserve). Here we were to visit our first laguna for the day, Chaxa. Even managed to get my first senior's discount! Whoo! Hoo! Amazing, salt
First stop the village of Toconao
Colonial village about 38km south of San Pedro. This is the simple church, built in the mid 1700s from local volcanic rock. Unfortunately, they were doing renovation work & we couldn't go inside.
encrusted pathways lead out of the well-resourced information centre in all directions. There wasn't much water around, but it was still pretty impressive. A downside was we had to view the flamingos from quite a distance, so it was a challenge to get good shots- especially with the glare from all the salt.
After an hour or so, it was time to move on, so we ate a quick lunch and continued south through the village of Socaire to yet another section of the reserve: Lagunas Miscanti and Miniques, located about 115km south-east of San Pedro. As we drove along, the scenery changed dramatically from the dry salt pan to the green & gold of yellow straw grass and clumps of what I think were sedge plants of some sort (not a gardener, I'm afraid!). As well as this, there were fantastic views of the surrounding volcanos, still partially snow clad, and a number of wild vicuna. This was the true altiplano!
As we approached the second entry station, it was obvious that it was unattended, so free entry! Yahoo! Parked the car and realized that we were the only ones there. How lucky were we? Walked about
Exploring the side streets
Basic housing, again constructed from local volcanic rock, hacked into house bricks of sorts. The volcano in the background is the Lascar Volcano.
1km to the lagoons and it was here we felt the change in altitude. San Pedro is at about 2300m, with Laguna Chaxa a bit more, but here we were at over 4000m! Even going downhill, it was really noticeable. Something else took our breath away- the sight of Laguna Miscanti- how magnificent it was! (check out the panoramic shots and also the video on you-tube, link below?)
After exploring further to Laguna Miniques and taking a series of silly photos we plodded on back up to the car and headed back to San Pedro as the sun was setting. Another fun day out with great company. Thanks, guys!!!
Don't forget to click on separate pictures for a better look!
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