Up Into the Andes

Published: March 11th 2014
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Today was a daylong tour up into the Andes to see the high plains salt lagoons. There is a series of them and some have the right conditions for flamingoes to thrive. (See photo.) We didn't see many other animals, partly because there are not many who live at these altitudes, but one species that does is the vicuña. It is a relative of the llama, but runs wild in herds in the Andes and we saw quite a few of them today. (See photo.) One of the lakes we visited is Lake Miscanti which is located at 14,270 feet above sea level. That is as high as I have been without a pressurized airplane cabin around me. I think I experienced some altitude sickness - intermittent shortness of breath, mild headache, slightly queasy stomach. I was still able to do most of the activities with the tour, so if that is what it was, then it was a mild case. The symptoms gradually lessened as we descended in the tour bus and I felt back to normal by the time I arrived at the hotel in San Pedro which is "only" at 7,900 ft. One of the interesting things we did on the tour was to stop at a pair of picturesque villages which subsist on small scale agriculture. One of the crops is quinoa (See photo) and that is the main ingredient of the dish I had for dinner tonight. (See photo.) Quinoa is a small spherical grain that grows at high altitudes and is rich in protein and nutrients. It has a slightly nutty taste and goes with lots of different foods. (By the way, it is pronounced "KEEN-wah".) I have one more day here in San Pedro, so I will write more tomorrow to let you know what I got up to.

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