OF THE FLOWERING OF THE DESERT
Wild flowers of
the "Small North"
are made upon confirmation of the occurrence of the phenomenon
tour starts along the Pan American highway towards the North
from La Serena crossing the Elqui River. The road
follows the coast allowing the tour to stop at the deep
gorges which are covered with white rushes and yellow flowers
called "alcaparras" (caper bushes), together with
the first signs of desert flowering. From the small inlet
of "Hornos" with its beautiful view across the
ocean to the horizon, you can see the "Pájaros"
island inhabited by seagulls, pelicans, penguins and sea
wolves, which are of great scientific interest.
From here the tour continues uphill for 11 kilometres
climbing the Buenos Aires section which has important engineering
features cut into the mountain until the summit is reached.
This is a sector where there are hectares of mountains covered
by bulbous plants of white flowers which resembles recent
snowfalls. From the summit the wide plain surrounded by
high hills and to the right is the small town of "La
Higuera" which is famous for its mining activity in
the past related to the "El Tofo" mine, between
1914 and 1960 it was the major iron ore mine in the world
at that time.
In the same place there exists the "Camanchacaca
Project", which captures the fog water along the coast
in enormous nylon nets can be seen from the road.. The collected
water supplies the needs of the village. The normally arid
desert lands approaching Vallenar are coloured with thick
carpets of "campanillas" (bell flowers)
covering the hillsides of the transversal mountain ranges.
Near to Incahuasi enormous heaps are left discarded from
the exhausted iron ore mine of Santa Fe. At the crossroads
of this small mining town, the church rises above the highway
from where it can be seen. At this point we leave
the greenness of the north to get into the true desert which
flourishes with the "chaņares" trees resembling
yellow ochre swathes along the roadside. To the east and
over the mountains can be seen two peaks full of observation
domes of the La Silla Observatory to the south, and Las
Campanas Observatory to the north, these together with the
El Tololo Observatory in the Elqui Valley form the most
important trilogy of observatories in the Southern hemisphere.
Following the Route 5 (the Pan American highway)
which neatly cuts through the middle of the desert and emerges
at the town of Cachiyuyo which is important for a
plan to reforest the desert with trees for firewood.
Much further is the small town of Domeyko, where the old
mine and railroad station sit with the eucalyptus
and pepper trees, the mining plant, the organised streets
together with the church and cemetery. Leaving the
highway to make a small diversion to see the modest huts
of the goatherds surrounded by fences made of stones and
mud and varied vegetation. It is in this sector where the
full appreciation of the marvel of the flowering of the
desert comes to fruition.
As the tour descends to the west of the "Huasco"
Valley ,up to the coast ,on the route of the northern coast
there are found flowers attributed to the flourishing of
the desert such as:- azulillos, huillis, aņaņucas, alcaparra,
suspiro de campo, etc to which can be added a huge
amount of cacti, some in full flower. The tour
returns to La Serena as dusk falls and the spectacularly
the sun sets into the Pacific Ocean.