The air shimmies like boiling jello, the sun falls sharp. The rocks have a tired glint. This valley can give you altitude sickness at the bottom, and it just goes up from here. We draw closer to space and more tumbling radiation. Even the sky grows darker, and that thin firmament before the great blackness, thinner. Its wind is cold despite all the mirage. Plains slope steeply and mountains loom, their snows are high as clouds, remote as water. There are deserts and there are deserts. There are some mineral places where a bare planet can be sensed. It stretches onward, not a sprig, a spine or a blade to suggest life. The craving comes as you struggle for scale. Some vague fear lies in vastness. Its corollary is a promise. Then one guanaco. An astronaut. Such a creature might break the desolation. But maybe he just makes it complete. .
We are in the Altiplano of Chile and Bolivia searching for the carancho cordillerano - the mountain caracara - one of a group of falcons renowned for resilience and intelligence. They can be found all over South America, but not always as expected. If the birds can survive a place like this, maybe they have other secrets. @shearwaterband#chile#featheredpeople#desert#atacama#guanaco#gondwana#altiplano#andes