Reserva Nacional Los Flamencos / Lagunas Altiplanicas.
My last day in San Pedro was reserved for the flamingos, salt flats, and Lagunas Miscanti and Mineques; all are found at about 4000 meters above sea level. The lagunas were hands down my favorite part of San Pedro, as they were absolutely stunning. The water is so vibrant next to the browns, tans, and greys of the tierra and the cordillera.
What struck me most, besides the vistas (and why bother writing more about them when the image, even with my crappy photography skills, speaks quite well for itself), was how perfectly peaceful it was up there. Not a sound, not even from birds or insects or the shy vicuna. Just the wind, the sun, the earth, and the water - as elemental as it gets.
Which is pretty much applicable to the desert as a whole, I suppose. The Atacama Desert, the driest place on earth, is undeniably beautiful and majestic; I had a clearer impression of the passage of time in centuries, as opposed to years. You feel swallowed up in the vastness of it all, almost to the point of irrelevance. But it is also desolate and stagnant. And it’s that feeling that there could be more, that growth has stalled or that life has been reduced to the bare minimum that could scrap it out in the harsh sunlight… it’s that feeling that ultimately drives me away from the desert, I think.