During our stay in Santiago de Chile, we've heard and seen many stories about the blooming desert in Atacama. Since we were kind of in the area (as we explained to a few friends, 1700km is not really that close), we decided to have a look ourselves. Luckily, Ivan found out that it was much closer to us than expected - instead of going all the way up to San Pedro de Atacama, it was only a few hundred kilometers. Let's go then! :)
After a pretty long and eventful drive, the surroundings started to change. The soil was dry, sun high up and very strong. We were slowly entering Huasco region, where the blooming desert was supposed to be. In the evening, we saw some first flowers on the hills. At first, we weren't even sure if those are really flowers, or it's just red soil. :)
But before I'll show you pictures, I want to talk a bit about the blooming desert itself, and why it happens. Normally, the Atacama desert is one of the driest places on Earth with only 4 mm of rainfall per year. During the dry years, strong wind would carry seeds of various flowers and plants, which would rest in the desert, unable to grow because the lack of water. But every +- 5-7 years, there are strong rains, which bring the "sleeping" seeds alive.
We've made it to the place Ivan found, we even saw the flowers, but we could not help ourselves to feel a bit underwhelmed. Instead of pink-violet-ish looking heaven, we found a red looking desert. I mean, it was nice, but we expected something else. :) We found a place to camp (in the middle of the desert) and Ivan started taking a few pictures, happy that we are there during the sunset.
The next morning, we woke up thinking that we've probably arrived too late and the show already ended. To be honest, just Ivan woke up. Evidence shown below. :)
But as we quickly discovered, the blooming desert was still at it's best. During the sunset, the light was shining more on the bottom part of the flowers, which were red - so the whole desert looked red. But as we were watching the desert in the morning and the sun was rising, the desert around us was becoming more and more pink/violet. I guess this is the only thing that does look worse during the sunset. :)
We were on the right place during the right time - last year, because of strongest El Niňo effect ever measured, the rainfall was really high. Around 1800 species were growing on the Atacama desert. It was incredible to see, how they grow from basically nowhere, dry-looking ground around you and thousands of flowers and plants.
Well, that's about it. :) If you want to see more of our pictures, be sure to subscribe to our blog :) See you soon!