How to Pass a Llama on a Trail

Published: May 11th 2015
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Titicaca Titicaca Titicaca

The view from our cabin on Isla del Sol
The view from our cabin on Isla del Sol was superb! The mighty Lake Titicaca (titi and caca in the same word – hee hee!), the snow-capped peaks of the Cordillera and incredible skies surrounded us. The surface of the lake is over 3800 metres above sea level and our cabin was a very challenging hike up another hill. Dave’s GPS showed our cabin just shy of 4000 metres! We spent most of our four day stay wandering around exploring the trails and beautiful landscapes of the traffic-free island. The island is dotted with Inca ruins and small villages. We loved the terraced gardens and we enjoyed the exquisite tranquility.

Everywhere we looked there were burros (donkeys) and llamas. Sheep, cats and dogs were also a lesser part of the domesticated animal population and we may have witnessed a cat fight or two. It was a different world. Un otro mundo. So to answer the question, how does one pass a llama on a trail... you don't. They pass you! So you'd better be ready to jump off the trail and let them pass you. They are on a mission.

Our cabin had electricity, but no heat. This meant

Community on the east coast of Isla del Sol
sub-zero temps at night under very heavy wool blankets. Our shower was heated by the “heat on demand” electric setups one often sees in these parts of the world. Once the sun rose, the temps became hot for the day. Due to the fact that we were 4km closer to the sun, sunscreen kept us from burning off our skin.

Donkeys and llamas play an integral part of local people’s lifestyle. Having trekked up the steep hills once or twice in the thin air (oh yes, we were gasping for that ever-adored oxygen molecule), we could understand why donkeys and llamas are used for transporting heavy goods up to la casa (the house) as even our beloved locals were huffing and puffing.

We often feel that it’s important to experience some of the lesser known and unattractive places in some of the countries we visit. Although not entirely planned, we had to overnight it in the dusty, bustling and unkempt town of Patacamaya due to bus times not connecting. We found a pokey little place to stay which had its own charm. Firstly, we had to pass through a tattered restaurant, then a construction zone. Then up the

The community on the north coast of Isla del Sol
stairs we found a nicely tiled hallway, nice door, nice key… and upon opening the door we swear the last creature to sleep in the bed was a rhinoceros. There were lumps and bumps in the mattress for no rhyme or reason. We also deemed the shower as being haunted as there was no rational explanation for its behavior. Needless to say, Theresa was the first to try it. And because of the amount of cursing and swearing, Dave decided to forego his shower for the day. (Good idea, Dave).

Patacamaya showed us the hard working people of Bolivia. Since we were probably the only gringo tourists in town, we served merely as a distraction to their work-focussed lives. A must-see when one is a gringo doing the gringo-thing most of the time. We walked along the aromatic streets whilst avoiding dogs (and their excrement) and garbage. There were no fancy streets, no street cleaner, etc. There was just enough time in the day to get one’s work done, go to sleep, then do it all again the next day. It was an interesting stay and we certainly saw a different side of the country. We had some laughs,
Inca RuinsInca RuinsInca Ruins

The Temple of the Sun, near Yumani Village on Isla del sol
met some nice locals and had some good food.

Our bus left ‘on time’ the following afternoon and took us to the tiny and sleepy village of Sajama in the awe-inspiring national park of the same name. We were surrounded by massive volcanos and vast grassy plains (bofedales), incredible sky and countless llamas. We hiked out to the edge of the ancient queñoa (Polylepis tarapacana) forest, the highest forest in the world which sprawls up the steep slopes of Volcán Sajama to an elevation of over 5000 metres. We also spent several hours hiking out to a natural thermal pool, which we had all to ourselves in this off-the-beaten-track national park. Due to the low numbers of tourists that visit this place, if you need food, just go into the place marked ‘restaurant’ and let them know you’ll show up for a meal. Negotiate a time, and the family-run business will make it happen for you! One great memorable thing – we got a heater in our room! We paid a bit extra, but it was worth it in the sub-zero nights.

At seven in the morning, we got off the once-a-day bus from Sajama to
Yumani VillageYumani VillageYumani Village

Isla del Sol
the wee little town of Lagunas. Seeing as 7 am is not at all a time for locals to be awake, we waited for another bus to drive by us so that we could make our way to the Bolivian/Chilean border. Tambo Quemado is a cold and dusty truck-stop border town. We found some breakfast and hot drinks at a small café as we warmed up and waited for an onward ride. Upon asking if there were any public toilets we could use, the man replied, “Si, hay servicios publicos!” Then in Spanish, he continued to explain: “Just go through the construction site. Climb over the large pile of bricks, walk under the crane, continue past the excavator, sneak by the loader and dump truck and then walk down that steep dusty hill with the sharp scraps of rusty metal on it, then go underneath the building.” Something like that anyway… We did eventually find the facilities – and they were pleasantly clean… But he forgot to tell us to turn left at the cement mixer!

Stamped out of Bolivia – stamped in to Chile…

D and T…

Additional photos below
Photos: 29, Displayed: 25


Titicaca CoastTiticaca Coast
Titicaca Coast

View from the mirador.
The TerracesThe Terraces
The Terraces

Isla del Sol. Gardens of fresh produce.
Water SpoutWater Spout
Water Spout

Amazing clouds over Lago Titicaca
Lago TiticacaLago Titicaca
Lago Titicaca

South America's largest lake
The Cordillera RealThe Cordillera Real
The Cordillera Real

The view from our Cabin
The Llama IncidentThe Llama Incident
The Llama Incident

Llama on a mission. Theresa being still as it ran past.
Isla del SolIsla del Sol
Isla del Sol

Pretty light and rain clouds.
Donkey Traffic JamDonkey Traffic Jam
Donkey Traffic Jam

On the trafficless island
The North EndThe North End
The North End

Yampupata on Isla del Sol
Buying CheeseBuying Cheese
Buying Cheese

A typical vendor on Isla del Sol
The Main HighwayThe Main Highway
The Main Highway

The only way to get around was on foot

Town on the mainland. We caught a ferry from here to Isla del Sol.
Sajama VillageSajama Village
Sajama Village

With its impressive backdrop
Sajama ChurchSajama Church
Sajama Church

Sajama Village

11th May 2015

Shower time.
I have laughed out loud to myself imagining this shower carry on. So funny. The rhinos must have managed.
11th May 2015

Thanks for your story and wonderful pictures of this very remote area. Gorgeous and fascinating.
11th May 2015
The Llama Incident

Don't pass a cow on a trail.
Wise Teresa letting the llama pass while I was kicked down a cliff by a cow. A couple of months ago, I was on my daily walk in the mountains behind Arequipa when I tried to pass cows grazing on a narrow, 2/3 meter trail (steep sides and no place to jump off to let them pass as I usually do). The cow didn't want to share the trail and kicked me down the cliff. I lost consciousness for 1/2 hour, lost my new glasses, stumbled a couple of hours back to town and ended up with massive casts on both arms, and I'm still in a sling. So glad your llama passed you without incident! I'll not try passing a cow again.
12th May 2015
The Llama Incident

Dangerous wildlife
Wow! That's quite the story about the cow Tara! Glad you're OK! We had a friend who hiked the Colca Canyon a couple of years ago and he got squashed between a donkey and a cactus on the trail. He ended up with only a few scratches and a funny story! Next time you should just MOOve out the way!
11th May 2015

Wise adventurers!
How fabulous that you spent several days exploring my beloved huff and puff Isla del Sol and its many trails, treasures and tranquility! And what a way to get to Chile--certainly the road less traveled. On my next exit from Bolivia to Chile, I had been planning to go through Park Lauca, but this stop off in Sajama Park sounds fabulous--I may follow your footsteps, intrepid explorers. However, I must admit I chuckled hearing you polar explorers talk of the (very real) cold in Bolivia. Enjoy your return to the land of polar bears, Churchill, Canada.
19th May 2015

The very real cold in Bolivia...
Hi Tara! Hee hee. Yes, indeed! We are so used to having our specialized warm clothes and heated houses in Canada, that when confronted with the same temps in Bolivia, without our special clothes and heated housing, the challenge becomes apparent! We love hearing from you as always! Theresa :)
11th May 2015

How to pass a Llama on a trail
Thanks for the laugh guys, and as always a pleasure to read about your adventures. Thanks for letting us all know where you are, how you are doing and that you are still ticking and tickling our funny bones. Miss yous lots, keep on trecking, love Pammie :)
16th May 2015

Llama on a Trail
I can't imagine how cold your cabin was at night. It is always good to keep a close eye and a bit of distance on those llamas. As you say they have their own agenda. Your hiking and the thermal pool sounds great.

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