We're in the Andes Now!
Trip Start Jan 30, 2010
43Trip End Sep 12, 2010
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Back in Chile...On day four, we left Arica, heading right uphill – sea level to 12,000’ in two hours – to our first destination in the Andes, the Reserva de Biosfera Lauca Parque National. We based ourselves in Putre, Chile, an agricultural hamlet where sheep and llamas outnumber human residents by at least 4-1. Here we encountered our first indigenous community, the Aymara, generations removed from the Incas, whose empire extended down to southern Chile, where the fierce Mapucha of Patagonia kept them at bay
One of our hosts at our hostel in Putre was a resident baby llama. The llama, Patricio, became buddies with Oliver, who was soon feeding him from a bottle and leading him around the courtyard. The little llama’s baaaing and nuzzling was heartwarming (though potty training was definitely an issue).
Using Putre as our base, we embarked upon a two day tour of the Andean altiplano, visiting Lauca Parque National, La Reserva National Las Vicunas, and Monumento Natural Salar de Surire. This region abuts Bolivia, and Lauca’s highest peak, Parinacota, at 6,340, or 21,000’, borders both countries.
Rolling hills and pastoral river valleys are home to the protected vicuna, alpaca, llama, nandu, foxes, flamingos, Andean condors and the rabbit-like, and endangered, vizkotca. A few small pueblos appear out of nowhere on the shrubby pampas. One of the larger, Guallatire, seemed absolutely deserted. We freely explored the streets, empty but for a few hens, and peeked over walls of warren-like ¾ scale mud houses. Oliver and Michael climbed the colonial church tower. They refrained from ringing the bell, as this would definitely have confused the locals.
After bidding goodbye to our new-found friends at the hostel, including Patricio the llama, we hoisted our packs on our back, caught a ride from town to the main carreterra, and awaited our bus for the five hour trip across the border and on to La Paz, Bolivia.