18 December 2004

Of waltzing and monogamous flamingoes

ATACAMA SALT LAKE - A nearly sleepless night in Santiago because of all that noisy partying in the hostel but that all seems so far away sitting on a stone bench in the middle of the Atacama salt lake, watching brilliantly pink flamingoes fly by. The wind is blowing my hair wild (ahh, La Chascona!) and at some points, the noisiness of the wind reminded me of when I was skydiving.
It is impossible to look at this landscape and not feel little. I recall The Japanese Story, the sense of being alive and mortal at the same time. Can one go through life just watching flamingoes take flight around the world? Set against the salt lake landscape and the Andes, these beautiful waltzing flamingoes must have one of the most carefree lives in the world.

Three types of flamingoes are found here: Chilean (pink without black tails), Andean (with black tails) and the James ones which are smaller. Three of the five types in the world. Apparently the minerals (potassium, lithium? I couldn't figure out the heavy Spanish accent) and iodine help them in their pinkness.

So the guide says flamingoes are monogamous and have a sex life lasting 5 glorious seconds* and producing one glorious egg. Is it true? I sometimes wonder if humans invent monogamous stories about animals because they find so little faith in their own species now...

* At one point, we thought we might have spotted that ethereal 5 seconds of love-making between them but it was so fleeting we could not be sure!

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