The first of the lakes that make up the chain is known as Laguna Blanca, because it’s very shallow and the bed is bright white sand. By first I mean that as the river flows through the area this is the first one it fills. It’s different from the others, which are mostly karstic formations, widenings and deepenings in the river created by erosion of the limestone it flows over. Laguna Blanca is just a shallow basin in the countryside, surrounded by earth and reeds. It’s also a long way from the nearest village, and there are no trees to give a bit of shade nor a bar to provide some civilized relaxation. Even so, there are people who know about it and go there to escape the crowds.
The lakes are lower than they have been the last few years. They are filled not by the river itself but by the water table in the mountains to the northeast, and it’s been falling because of the lack of rain. Some drain more quickly than others, because some are little more than pools holding the runoff from the larger ones, and they dry up sooner.
The other day I passed by on the bike, and stopped to have a look. The water was very low, exposing what would be a serviceable beach if it weren’t for the lack of shade. As it is, there was just a bit of very shallow water in the middle with some puzzled fish swimming around in circles. If I’d had a net they would have been dinner. As it is, they’ll be eaten by eagles in a few days.
Such is the life cycle of these lakes. Last for the last three years Laguna Blanca has been a place teeming with life, dragonflies of many colours fluttering through the towering reeds and grasses while being chased by crazed Englishmen with cameras; large and varied waterfowl nesting and feeding on the succulent algae; birds of prey circling confidently; tiny flowers dotted all about, breaking the symmetry of the green and white; toads and frogs splashing in the shallows avoiding children with nets and jam jars. Now all this is gone, and it’s nearly a desert. It could be several years before it rises again.