Interaction with other human beings had been limited for the past eight days. We were going south on isolated roads alongside the chilean/bolivian border. We passed few trucks carrying their heavy loads, blowing huge clouds of black smoke and some of their drivers raising their hands to greet us. We bought coca leaves from an old woman selling goods on the plazas of otherwise lifeless pueblos high in the Andes. And we handed worn bills to men selling fuel from big blue barrels in the backyards of their small houses. Only few words were exchanged. The Altiplano is a quiet place.

After more than a week in solitude and isolation, we arrived in San Pedro de Atacama. The small streets were alive with tourists, many of them wearing knitted hats with lamas. Most seemed busy, rushing in and out of souvenir shops or looking for restaurants. The atmosphere was posh and we were clearly sticking out. We were wandering around slowly and without destination. Our clothes were dirty and our bodies smelled of sulfur from a bath in muddy thermal waters two days ago.

Moonrise at Piedras Rojas

Breathing Space

It was on the corner of one of the adobe buildings that I spotted a poster pinned to a wooden board belonging to a tour agency. The sunfaded paper was wrinkled around its borders. It showed a bright sky, turqoise and unreal, above what seemed to be a field of red rocks. The sign next to it read: Piedras Rojas – ½ Day. I took a mental note and looked it up later – the next morning we restocked supplies and left the town behind.

Two nights in the Atacama Desert later: It was a quiet evening after a dry and windy day. The last tourists had left a while ago, making sure they would reach San Pedro de Atacama before dinner. The remaining footprints in the dry gravel were the only proof that they had ever been here. The land around us had fallen quiet, and finally we had Piedras Rojas to ourselves. The air we breathed was thin and crisp. We watched the setting sun paint long shadows on the landscape until they eventually faded out. For a while the familiar hiss of our gas stoves was the last remaining acoustic reminder of the civilized world. With a turn of a knob it disappeared. We sat and ate, watching the moonrise above Piedras Rojas. Once again, in silence.

Moonrise at Piedras Rojas

Canon EOS 5D Mark III
Nikon 14-24mm AFS f/2.8 G ED @ 20mm
ISO 100, f/5.6, 13 seconds

05. March 2015 @ 20:19

A few exposures blended for dynamic range and depth of field. Processed in LR and PS.

Memorial María Luisa Edition 2016 XXVI
“Finalist” in Natural Landscapes