Plover, Piper, Finch

First, some more birds. I think I’ve id’d them correctly.
Andean geese (They have such small beaks!):

Plumbeous sierra finch – a lovely grey male:

And then: spot the Viscacha(s)! They are kind of dead centre.
Zoomed in:
 An unlikely encounter:
Continents, divided
Dassies hang out somewhere else. They are special (to me of course) because they are relatively closely related to elephants and seacows.
And here’s a (not) silly (giant)coot:
Lastly: A huge rock that resembles an eagle head:

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Foxes, Flamingoes, Coots, Ducks and a Lizard

Puna teal with lovely blue beak.

We saw both Chilean– and Andean flamingoes. They were showing off their wings and mate-bobbing in the shallows.
The flamingoes eat brine shrimp (Artemia salina) which contain carotenoids that turn them pink.

Fox petroglyph on left, flamingo on right.

Two baby foxes! I think they were South American grey foxes. Another one was killed by a tourist’s car.

Giant coot. On the first drive-by they had their heads and feet tucked away and were sleeping on their little raised mounds, the water still frozen. On the second pass they were foraging and big-stepping.

Franklin’s gull: they prey on the flamingo’s eggs. Also on your early-morning breakfast if you don’t watch out.

Salt lake lizard! We made some meaningful eye-contact. There were many, in all sizes.

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Neddy Burrito

Burro foal
Too cute! 

Graceful Vicuñas

El Tatio: Highest, third largest collection of geysers in the world! A most excellent spot for an early-morning cup of espresso. Sadly, I saw no frogs, snails, or tardigrades. I did see some leaping, long-tailed viscachas scampering on the rocks nearby, as well as Chilean geese and giant coots in some frozen ponds as we descended. A flock of fat flamingoes were gathered on the opposite shore, still perfecting their mating dances.

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The Rica-Rica shrub smells heavenly. It is used to flavour many drinks, like in a variation of Pisco sour, or in food.

This one grows in the Valle Arcoiris (Rainbow Valley)
Some cacti (now getting fewer, as they are over-exploited):
And, of course, llamas! A human-created domestic animal.

Nearby is a petroglyph site (Yerbas Buenas) I especially liked the cat – maybe a Leopardus colocolo

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Stars in her Eyes

From Wikitravel San Pedro de Atacama:

Atacama desert is one of the best place on Earth to see the sky. Many tours offer a unique experience in watching them. They start with an explanation of the naked eye sky. What is a constellation, how to learn them, how to read a sky map and recognize the main stars. They explain to you why there are differently coloured skies etc. Then you look through the telescopes. So it is possible to see Saturn, other galaxies and a lot of other phenomenons out there. The tours ends with a warm drink. The tours depart between 20:30 and 23:15 and last 2-4 hours. As you are in the desert and the nights are pretty cold, take warm clothes with you. Go within a week of the new moon (moon phases), otherwise most stars are drowned.

 Here’s looking at you!

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Kari Canyon Walk

The Kari Canyon lies in La Cordillera de la Sal, Valle de la Luna, near San Pedro de Atacama: stunning scenery. A cool walk best done in the morning, before it gets hot. The salt crystals (Calcium sulphate) vary in size and colour, looking almost like snow sometimes. We were careful to stay on the path, lest we damage the dust-dry formations. We had to empty out our shoes after the first sand dune descent. The different rock colours are inspiring: like being on Mars or the moon perhaps. I had a slight headache from the altitude, but it’s an easy walk, two hours, with taking pictures, passing along the ancient dry river bed and through a few arches and caves. If you stand quietly, you can hear the salt whispering as it expands and cracks. 
Palpitations only on the last incline!

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