National Geographic : 1961 Jul
Beyond Chuquicamata, the needle of Lucho's pocket altimeter neared 12,000 feet. "The puna begins here," he said. The puna is the high desolate area of the central Andes, where sparse tola bushes and stipa grass are the only vegetation (above). Snow-crowned peaks loomed ever higher and closer as we pushed into the barren region homeland of vicufias, of herdsmen descended from the Incas, and -we were virtually cer tain - of the James's flamingo. Thunder and lightning bombarded the passes ahead as we reached Inacaliri near the Bolivian frontier. While we waited for sleet and chilling rain to move from our path, the high, thin air imposed a further delay: altitude sickness. Bates took to his bed, and the least exertion caused Jorge to suffer severe KODACHROMES() NATIONAL GEOGRAPHICSOCIETY nosebleed. Others of us endured splitting headaches and nausea. It took us and the weather two days to re cover. Then we set out again to drive the remaining 30 miles to our goal. Lake Alive With Brilliant Birds Now the lake lay before us, its red water ruffled under a cold wind (page 90). Or was it the wind? Suddenly the red waves turned into reddish objects, the objects into wings, feathers, and bodies. Before our eyes the lake came alive with James's flamingos--hundreds of them! Wherever we looked they were feeding, bath ing, strolling in stilt-legged dignity, their watery reflections seeming to double their numbers and redden their plumage.