On Your Doorstep Issue 4 - Page 66

DAVID FOSTER THE WONDERS OF CHILE David loves Chile. He had the great fortune of living there for almost 6 month at the end of 2015, arriving in winter and leaving in early summer. As a nature photographer it was a wonderful adventure, filled with amazing new experiences of landscape, flora and fauna, and water – all woven together in a glorious tapestry. You can see more of David’s work here www.davidfosterimages.net. All images in this article (c) David Foster I had the opportunity to visit and photograph in the far north llamas and a small 500 year-old stone and thatch church of the country, in view of Peru and Bolivia – and in the far scaled to its diminutive parishioners (I had to be on my knees south in sight of Argentina and the Straits of Magellan – and to look in). It seemed to be precisely as it had been centuries numerous interesting places in between. The array of eco- before (except for the addition of a protective lightening rod). zones was astounding: from among the driest places on the It was a special place of humans living fully in harmony with planet to lush green areas of rivers and lakes – from the long nature. Pacific coastline to the high elevations of the Andes. The Dry Country: San Pedro de Atacama environs Far North: The Altiplano Some 600km south of Arica is an area that was even more On my trip to the far north, we started in Arica at sea level, other-worldly to me. The Calama desert around San Pedro and gradually worked our way up to Putre at 3000 meters de Atacama is so dry it can go years without measurable (10,000 feet) to get acclimatized. This is a region of small rainfall. It was so intensely dry that every day had cloudless villages sited along the Lluta and other river fed by the snows crystal blue skies with humidity in single digits. Most of the Andes, oases of green in a world of brown. Largely it everywhere you looked seemed to be cast in fifty shades of survives on subsistence farming with a few crops and herds brown. It was strangely beautiful, while feeling like being of llamas. Finding the water also brought us the chance to on another planet. In the midst of this, we visited Laguna see an array of beautiful, interesting birds. We also had a real Chaxa, a briny lake with water arriving from the Andean rain treat when we came upon a colony of vizcachas (chinchillas and snowmelt and departing primarily through evaporation. that look like giant rabbits). The highlight for me was Fortunately there are tiny briny shrimp that can thrive in spending a long time watching and photographing a mother these harsh conditions and they afford the resident flamingo with a nursing baby. They were remarkably unperturbed by populations a principle food source. I was mesmerized by the human intrusion, and I was in no hurry to leave. the hundreds of these birds scattered about the Laguna - watching them sleeping, feeding, preening, dancing (perhaps) One morning as we were headed for higher ground before against the distant backdrop of desert and mountains. sun up, we came upon two snow-capped volcanic peaks with eerie cloud formations around them. We stopped to admire Coastal botanical sanctuary – Los Molles them and were treated to the whole scene becoming bathed Further south along the coast is a small community of Los in the sunrise. Molles. It is home to a wonderful private botanical park that we visited. While serenaded by the sounds of sea lions below 66 By midday we had made our way to a pass at 4800 meters on the rocks, I immersed myself in the abundance of unusual (16,000 feet), beyond which we could see into Bolivia. Being plant life and flowers. A variety of cacti in bloom spoke to at this altitude for the first time, reinforced for me the lesson its basic arid character, but there were many other kinds of of moving slowly, deliberately, aware of my breathing – plants, including the exotic one in the “Los Molles Marvel” something I strive to do when I am photographing even at image, that seemed to thrive with the moisture coming from sea level, but was forced to do here. Just beyond the pass, the wind-carried ocean spray. It seems a perfect habitat for we came to a tiny settlement with a few people, a herd of this refuge of flora.