Lauca reflections

Published: May 20th 2010
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May 10th

Another sleepless night, regardless of beer and wine the previous evening, neither of us slept, the altitude was kicking our arises, Got up and had another lovely breakfast, so nice to have good coffee in a warm homely kitchen.

Today we decided to take a look at Parque Lauca, one of the highest national parks in the world, we certainly weren't disappointed……….

Franklin our guide picked us up about 9am, we packed a lunch and took off in a little 4wd. We entered the park and stopped at some caves, They were used for many years by some travelers as a rest stop as they are situated on the side of the road that leads from Bolivia to Chile. Further along Volcan Parinacota came into view, Majestic and enormous it dwarfs everything around it, stopping to take a walk we were surprised to see the abundance of wildlife, Vacunas graze happily everywhere, they stay in family herds and look like a cross between a camel and a llama, Suris, like an ostrich, little mice with huge ears called Laconons, A a large rabbit with whiskers almost the length of itself called a vischaca a relation of the chinchilla, so many species contently living together.

The ground was marshy and small streams flowed semi frozen over the mossy ground, everything seemed to be thriving. Our guide, the very helpful Franklin, a native Aymara an indigenous group from this area explained to us that to endanger or harm in any way any of these animal came with strict penalties including incarceration. Birds are in abundance here including Andean geese, speckled ducks, hummingbirds of various varieties, yellow finches, coots and many more.

Delving further into the park, the peaks come clearly into view, The lake named Lago Chungara lies nestled among the peaks, reflecting their faces on its crystal blue waters. The climate here too is dry so the weather is constant, 16-22 degrees in the day and a chilly 8-minus 15 when the sun falls, we had blue skies all day and the views where amazing, every bend in the road bringing more ohhs and ahhs from us to the delight of Franklin who so obviously loved this place.
Various birds played and alpaca and llama grazed lazily along the banks of the lake, looking up at us though showing no fear as we approached.

Franklin got his guitar and sang some traditional songs as we gazed in awe at the perfect reflection of the volcano Parinacota on the calm blue waters.

The village of Parinacota lies in the middle of the park, Its as though time stood still here, it is home to 21 people and we saw 4 of them, it is also home to the second oldest church in Chile, a 400 year old whitewashed building with an odd decor inside, the walls are adorned with colorful murals of religious nature but sculls are also in crevasses on the walls, odd statues and other bricabrac sit around the alter.
We had a cup of coca tea to stave off the altitude sickness and chewed on some alpaca jerky known locally as Charki, good stuff once your jaws got used to it.

We turned around at the Bolivian border and doubled back to the hot springs in the village of Putre, dinner a glass of wine and bed, surely there will be sleep tonight.

Additional photos below
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