After a harrowing eve in the cave hostel was exaserbated by equal amounts of caffinated coke as well as alcohol it was a sleepless night to be had by all. Still, we were onward by 8am.
The Altiplano tours second through forth days consist of driving around in some pretty amazing scenery. Most of it is actually quite ´otherworldly´, and I imagine some great star wars type movies could be filmed here, just due to the oddness of the landscape. One of the biggest obstacles for all involved, including us, is the very high altitude. Most of the area is well above 14k feet, and the highest point we reached was above 16k feet. On humans, the most noticable effects are supreme out of breathness at the slightest exertion, and headaches. I was pretty lucky because I really had the slightest of the symptoms, only getting a headache the 3rd day, while we were at the highest points. Anyhow, on plants, the altitude creates a world where it rains , but still very little grows. I´d say nothing above 1 foot tall, and even that is scrubby and desert looking. Very few animals live up there, but aside from humans, you have llamas, vicunas (look like tiny camels without humps), bush rabbits, a few lizards, 3 types of flamingos and zorros. Zorro, for those of you who grew up watching him along with Tonto, is actually the word for fox. Learn something new every day.
Speaking of which, my spanish vocab has moved from 10 words to approximately 13. I can now say ´in your dreams´, to leary gringo coveters. And I still can manage yo quiero taco bell.
Okay, back to the trip. Mark and Aaron were very taken with the various rock formations that seem to have dropped from Mars onto the red desert pan ground. Some look like massive donut stacks, some like something you might find underwater. The two of them managed to climb anything they could, and Hannah and I tried not to watch. Well, we climbed a few of the safe ones too, I´ll admit. Safety first does not seem to be in the vernacular of Bolivia. Nothing stupid, dangerous, or even fatal is off limits.
The desert area that the donut rocks, and some of the other dali-esque stones live is called the SaLoLi (this is phoenetical, folks), again very pretty and absolutely impossible to catch on camera.
Along with the rock formations, the area is known for large lakes with snow peaked Andes Mountains in the background. One of these lakes, called Laguna Colorado, is a brilliant shade of red. While here I have struggled to come up with good adjectives for the place. We are seeing so much unusual and breathtaking stuff that I´m beginning to take all these sites for granted, and I´ve tired of saying ´amazing´´awesome` etc.
For you biology/geology inspired people, the Laguna Colorado is a relatively shallow, but large crimson colored lake. It is home to nearly 10,000 flamingos. Their little pink selves show up in stark contrast to the salt rings, red water, and looming volcano just behind the water. The reason the lake is red is due to the microorganisms that live in the lake waters and respond to the wind. The windier the redder, and let me tell you we were not short on wind. It is blanky blank freezing on the altiplano. Despite the fact that Bolivia is an equatorial country surrounded by jungle, the thin air, high altitude and galeforce winds result in below freezing temps as soon as the sun sets. It is an odd sight to see a desert coated in ice in the mornings. Sleeping bags are an absolute must on this trip.
Another lagoon, which is colored a brilliant teal, is aptly named Laguna Verde. It is basically filled with arsenic and copper. My guess is nothing lives there. We are about 3 miles from Argentina and Chile (Atacama Desert), and the entire area is a Mars red color.
To round up the trip of otherworldly sites we visited a field of geysers and a nice hot spring where we got to wash off some of the grime. Its like Iceland but with absolutely nobody there, no stairs, guards or orders to take a shower before you enter. Hannah and I basically stripped off and got dry clothes on in front of any and all watching. But, after several days of peeing roadside, this was no biggie.
Nights 2 and 3 of our tour were spent in hostels which improved each night, with the third night spent in a little government sponsered ´model´town. They have showers there! I´ll post the name as soon as I remember, just in case you want to avoid cave hostels if you are ever in the Andean highlands. Some authentic experiences should never be experienced.
BTW our driver, Saoul, has notified us that their are no Alpacas in the altiplano, but only after an entire day of me scrutinizing every single herd of cameloid beings. People keep telling me they are different, but a) they all look the same and b)they all look the same. I think Alpaca´s are a myth. No seriously, apparently they can´t live up that high and are found in areas more like La Paz or Sucre. We will see. I still bet they are just the llama´s that take showers and therefore their hair is softer. Oh, and you can buy an entire llama for 20 bucks, so think twice when you are purchasing spiffy llama socks for 24.99 at REI.
So, tomorrow, Day 4 consists of getting up outrageously early, driving for 2 hours, getting snacks and hopping on a 7 hour bus ride. This will more than likely suck, as their are no paved roads around here, and you´ve noted how successful we have been with the buses thus far.Tags: Altiplano, Bolivia, Pans, Salt Flats, Uyuni, Tag Index