The salt lakes of Atacama

Laguna Piedra

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The salt concentration ranges from 5-28 %, producing an effect of floating like the Dead Sea at the higher end of the range. We were floating without any problems, and sitting in the water our shoulders would be above the waterline.

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The water was a little bit cold, but the floating experience was amazing. One tip! Go there before 2 pm to beat the tourist busses. We were there in the morning, and almost had the lake to ourselves,which made the experience even better.

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Laguna Cejar and Piedra are sinkholes in the Salar (salt flat) de Atacama, which makes it very deep in the middle

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Chile is located in the area with the most seismic and volcanic activity in the world, also called the “Ring of Fire”. It has more than 150 active volcanoes, which is 10 % of all existing on the earth. The Andes mountains, the high Andean Plateau and the volcanoes that are here, where created when two of the Earths plates collided (the Nazca plate and the South American plate) 35 million years ago. The Atacama Salt Flat is located in a depression formed by the rising of the Andes mountains. Over the years (lots of years!) a salt deposit with a maximum depth of 1,450 meters was formed on this sunken area. The saline deposit was created when salt and minerals were washed from the mountains, and ended up in the depression. As the water evaporated the salts precipitated to the bottom and in the end the salt would crystallize on the surface.

We are pretty sure, that it is volcan Licancabur (5920 meters) in the picture

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One of the most active volcano is “Láscar” (5,592 meters), that during the last 30 years have had more than 30 explosive eruption. The last big eruption was in April 1993, where the could of ash reached the coast of Brazil due to the wind.

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The salt lakes are also home to three different kinds of flamingoes

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The Andean, Chilean and James flamingo, which live in the same colonies and shared nesting areas. The Andean flamingo:

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The Chilean Flamingo, which is characterized by the pinker plumage (especially on the rear), and the grey legs with pink joints

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Here you can compare the Andean flamingo (to the left) with the Chilean flamingo (to the right)

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We don’t know, if we have seen the Jamens flamingo, which is smaller than the Chilean and Andean flamingoes. It is characterized by a long neck together with long and thin legs. Its plumage is very pale pink, with bright carmine streaks around the neck and on the back. When perched, a small amount of black can be seen in the wings; these are the flight feathers. We didn’t get any close up photos of it, but it is probably out there.

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Fossil evidence shows, that the origin of the flamingos dates back 130 million years to the beginning of the Cretacic period

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During the sunset the flamingos where flying to relocated for the night

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A flying flamingo and the Fabian lizard, that can easily be seen at the shores of the lagoons wlEmoticon-camera The salt lakes of Atacama

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Our plan was to to meet up with our friends in the “campulance” here in Atacama. They are now driving the Lagunas Route in Bolivia, and will come to Atacama from the north. So far we haven’t heard anything from them, due to no cell connection on the Lagunas Route. So we decided to get back on the road to visit the third largest geyser field in the world “El Tatio” 80 km to the north of San Pedro de Atacama.

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Check out the next post where we are visiting “El Tatio”, and still waiting to hear from our friends in the “campulance” – when would they reach San Pedro de Atacama?

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