Sajama and Lauca National Parks

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South America » Bolivia
November 9th 2009
Published: November 10th 2009
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The next stop on our journey west through Bolivia, was Sajama National Park, home of the eponymous volcano, Bolivia’s highest peak. For some reason this beautiful area receives relatively few visitors and therefore has no public transport links. Or perhaps more likely, the lack of transport explains the lack of visitors. Either way, we’ll be surprised if this situation continues for much longer. To get there, we needed to board a La Paz bound bus from Santa Cruz and ask to be let off at the small town Patacamaya, from where we could charter a taxi for an hour or so to the village of Sajama.

Our arrival in Sajama signalled our arrival on the Altiplano and the beginning of life at high altitude. We were delighted to find out, from the owner of the only open hostel we could find, that the sights in the national park could be visited on foot, without the help of a guide. The first of these was a point which provided spectacular views for the volcano. Climbing up from the village at 4200m to the viewpoint at 4550m, having recently come from sea level, proved to be one of the hardest things we have ever done. We had to take it slowly, very slowly, taking literally only ten steps before resting for several minutes. However, the views made it worthwhile and it certainly helped towards our acclimatisation.

The next morning we went to visit a nearby geyser field. Having been told that they are best viewed at first light, we set off at 4:30am by torchlight. We followed the vague instruction to, “follow the path to the left of church“, with our only form of navigation being that wrong turns were swiftly heralded by irate farm dogs. Against the odds, we made it successfully to the geysers for sunrise. We were rewarded for the long cold walk, by having the place to ourselves. The geysers themselves were fairly impressive, although more steaming and bubbling than spurting.

That afternoon, we took another long walk, again cold, to some thermal baths. Once again we were had the place to ourselves and relaxed in the almost improbably hot water, whilst enjoying spectacular views. Our enjoyment was further enhanced due to our rustic accommodation having nothing in the way of bathing facilities. This was our first experience of thermal baths and one that we felt was unlikely to be equalled.

Next we travelled a short distance across the border to Chile. This was a fairly smooth border crossing, save for the thorough bag searches which accompany Chilean paranoia about fresh produce being brought into the country. From here we visited Sajama’s equally impressive sister national park on the other side of the volcanoes, Lauca. Once again we paid the price for being away from the beaten track and the lack of transport that seems to accompany this. This time we were dropped by a bus a the turning for the small town of Putre. Our plan had been to hitchhike from here, but a lack of suitable/willing vehicles rendered this impossible. Therefore, we walked the 4km, uphill with all our bags, at over 4000m above sea level. Again we consoled ourselves by reminding ourselves it would no doubt assist in our acclimatisation.

Unlike Sajama, Lauca is not particularly conducive to visiting independently. Therefore, we had little choice but to take a tour. Although very much a tour, the lack of tourists meant it was just the two of us and our guide/driver. We spent the day viewing some spectacular scenery and a surprising array of wildlife. The tour concluded with a visit to another thermal baths. Although very pleasant, as predicted, it wasn’t a patch on our previous such experience. From Putre, we continued west to the Pacific port of Arica, to briefly return to sea level before heading up into Peru.

Additional photos below
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Viscacha- Lauca National ParkViscacha- Lauca National Park
Viscacha- Lauca National Park


10th November 2009

super story, great pictures, see you soon. safe travells Love and hugs Me
10th November 2009

Hey guys, just had a read o your blog and was trying to work out if we went there - four and a half years on and all the names of places have been forgotten. Really looking forward to seeing you both at the end of the month - we are already planning what to cook! Will be great to catch up and find out what random things have happened here that you don't know about - oh and to hear some of your stories! xx
10th November 2009

to conquer the world! looks like your having the most amazing time. Are you ever returning to england or do you think you will be circumnavigating the world over and over again?! xx

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