jueves, 26 de abril de 2012

Without Title

There are many new happenings to report.  I have been neglectful as of late...however for good reason.  I went to (what felt like) the end of the earth and back.  It's called the Altiplano of Bolivia which borders Chile and Argentina.  In order to get there I first took a night bus from Huaraz to Lima (7 hours).  Then, the following evening took an another overnighter to Arequipa in the south of Peru (18 hours).  Here, we watched the Semana Santa festivities and went on an amazing hike into the Colca Canyon, observing Condors in their natural habitat as well as Alpaca.  From Arequipa we took another night bus to Puno on Lake Titicaca (the Peruvian side).  Here, we descended into Bolivia, first with a bus that took us over the border to the funny named border town of Copacabana, a quick ferry across the lake, and another bus that took us to our destination of La Paz.  La Paz is the highest capital city in the world at 3,800 meters.  It is a very interesting place surrounded by mountains, but with a charm to it that is very unique.  It's a large bustling city, sky scrapers and all, but surprisingly gentle.
From here, the real adventure began through the Altiplano of Bolivia.  We decided to visit the salt flats in the south of the country.  To get here we took yet another overnight bus to Uyuni.  The ride is 12 hours normally, but due to the rains we got there in 15.  On arrival we were met by a lovely woman who runs a tour operation with her husband.  He was waiting with a Toyota Landcruiser Jeep to take us on an epic 980 kilometer excursion through breathtaking scenery at some amazing altitudes.  Our first stop were the salt flats of Uyuni, which truly is a wonder.  The expanse is over 10,000 sq. kilometers, and is estimated to contain over 10 billion tons of salt.  Underneath the flats is a lake of brine which contains over 50% of the worlds lithium and is high in magnesium and potassium.  In addition to the geological significance, and the big business of mineral extraction, this place is optimal for funny photos that play with perspective due to the surreal landscape and severe flatness.
From here we visited several fresh water lakes, witnessing Pink Flamingos and other bird species, surrounded by snow capped mountains and volcanoes.  We stopped at a few rock forests which were formed when lava from volcanic explosions came into contact with glacial ice, forming spectacular spiraling formations.  On our last day, tired, but still in awe we passed some geysers at over 5,000 meters and got to relax in some thermal baths with about 50 other tourists.  Yes, this is a route hot on the gringo trail, however, I felt the experience was one of a kind.  Our guide Christobal, an expert in the local geology, and a very good cook, was full of information and made us feel comfortable the whole way through.
I have never been in such an environment.  Most of it is well above 4,000 meters and there is not a tree, let alone a plant in site.  The sun is hot but the air frigid with sometimes strong winds.  At our second camp we arrived to snow as a sunset pink lake sprawled out before us, pink flamingos feeding on the algae, mountains in the distance.
I think I'll stop there.

Next up, photos:)

P.S.  Oh yeah, then I went all the way back to Peru.