Argentina, Salta Prov, Night Sky Near Pueblo Cobres, 2010, IMG 5505r2
Argentina, Salta Prov, Night Sky Near Pueblo Cobres, 2010, IMG 5505r2

Argentina, Salta Prov, Night Sky Near Pueblo Cobres, 2010 - Here is the story of how I got to this place where this photo was taken. I was walking across the South American Altiplano.... An epic day, starting before dawn at the old houses below the cliff. I marveled at the cliffs of red with white tops and the white hill. The walk to “Quebrada Nest” – I came to a sort of pass, the road was blocked off. With my humble block of cheese and bread and what little amenities I could pull out of my cart, I sat and had a repast. I filmed and photographed. Then I headed down to the left. I simply descended down into the canyon. I was told to follow the playa, the beach! “Do you know what I mean?” the man had asked. “Ah, yeah, I know.“ He meant the riverbed. (There was sand and so forth.) The road now became worse, with some portions washed out, as I was on a slope headed down to the 'playa', as far as I could tell, which wound south in a canyon not yet visible to me. As I neared the altitude of the canyon head, I stopped to take photographs of the tiny flowers in a tiny shrub, then noticing a little beautiful beetle feeding on the nectar, holding the flower cup with both front legs. What a wondrous world this is when we take the time to view it through a microscope. (In this case, the viewing port was my macro lens.) The day was wearing on and I knew I must hurry. I made time along the riverbed. It was not exactly straightforward. The tire tracks and remnants of road wound right and left, split, hugged little walls of rock on one side or another, became invisible and reappeared, and sometimes I was required to roll my cart over little heaps of rock. This all seemed fine, but then I came to an area where to me it seemed impossible for a four-wheeled vehicle to pass. I studied the ground and could not quite figure 'the route', so I just dragged my cart as best I could over rough ground, over stumps of pampas grass, etc. There was some water as well in the streambed. I also came to a place where there was a big rock to my right, and I had to pull my cart to the left. I stopped, looked back, took photos, then rolled over some ground too precarious for my cart, but got back down to the stream level again. I was now on the right side of the stream. The rocks became so difficult to pass that I filmed myself as best as I could maneuvering the cart, as I thought it was interesting and illustrative of the difficulties I faced. As I continued, the going got so difficult, I was afraid that I was on the wrong path. I walked and I walked. It was beautiful. Now there was cactus, cactus just like in the cartoons or in the movies, a beautiful cactus. Somehow, the stature of a cactus gives it the appearance of a human being. I began to see cactus everywhere. This 'tree' as it is quite tall, was all over, starting just in this gully. Prior to this I had not really seen it. I am not sure it is a cactus in reality. I say this because later on one man told me that there is no water in it. The cordón (the name of "cactus" I was referring to) occasionally had flowers, and I stopped to photograph one such specimen, balancing my way up above it on a slope in order to secure a photo, quite fascinated with its beauty. (I was told later that the cordón is not a cactus. They actually use the wood of it for building things like doors.) The shadows grew long. I was hoping that I would come out upon Cobres, but this gully was going south and the mountain range I was trying to pass was above me to my east, meaning that I had not yet gotten to the side of the salar. I got past the difficult part of the gully and now moved quite quickly on relatively flat ground, but having to negotiate sand and the easiest way along the riverbed. The sky slowly became less light, then dark. Night closed in. I came to some black donkeys. This signified there were probably humans in the vicinity. I continued, wondering which way I was going, and when I finally turned left I decided I would wait until that wall of the mountain in front of me and I met. When I finally checked my compass-point, I was going southeast or south, which meant that earlier in the canyon, I was going south, or even southwest a bit. This concerned me. This concerned me because Cobres was supposed to be southeast. Actually, the trail all day had changed directions. At first it went north, which kind of bothered me. But I realized that paths sometimes meander, just like my life. Sometimes, when I want to go someplace, I end up going in the opposite direction for a while. Funny, how that is. By the time I got to the mountain in front of me, it was dark. Indeed the road went to the left. I managed by headlamp for a little while. As twilight descended I continued to walk, trying to hurry, hoping I could make it to Pueblo Cobres. But alas, that was not to be. When the road went into a sandy depression, surrounded on both sides by tall grasses, I became less confident I was on the right path. I came to a sandy area with a little wall of sand and rock on the right. I decided this was time to call it a day. I made a simple camp. There were insects. I hadn’t really seen insects, except for little tiny beetles holding on to flowers earlier today. It was also warmer. I felt like I had gotten to some kind of a new climate. And like most nights, I had little energy to do anything else. I just threw my bag down, opened it up, crawled inside. I did cook a little bit. I wanted to make a photograph, so I set up my camera on a rock and did time exposures. I got cozy in my new sleeping bag. I had a simple meal. And then I just went off to sleep.

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