We arrived in Putre and went for a wander to look for accommodation. The LP had recommended a place but as always we were happy to have a look around and see what was on offer
. We were walking towards the main square when someone asked us what we looking for in German accented English. "Accommodation" we said. “Anywhere in particular?” he said. I threw out the name of the LP place, Chakana, “that's me!” he replied, “do you want a lift?”. We hoped straight in his van and after a short trip out of town ended up in one of the best places we’ve stayed so far. Chakana is run by George and his Chilean wife Marysol and the place is very clean, modern, comfortable, relaxing, has amazing views and the best included breakfast around. Warm duvets, little space heaters in the dorm and he’ll even throw Monty Python on the tv for you if you want! Brilliant. That evening we went for a little wander in the hills around town, got a bit lost, but eventually made it back home. We made use of the kitchen and cooked ourselves some cheap pasta and sauce and made plans to do a tour of Parque Nacional Lauca with Mary the following day.
After breakfast (eggs, sliced meats, cheese, cereal, juices, bread, coffee, fruit..!!) we jumped in the 4X4 with Mary and headed into the Parque. Within no time we had seen our first heard of Llamas and very soon we had seen alpacas, vicuna and guanaco. We visited the small village of Parinacota, apparently the 4th highest inhabited village in the world at 4,400m, and had a cup of coca tea in the small square
. The rest of the park is dominated by the twin Payachata volcanoes, Parinacota (6350m) and Pomerap (6240m). Both snow covered and cone shaped if Peter Jackson had been Chilean we’d have seen at least one of them in the movies. We also stopped at Lago Chungara (4500m) for some nice pics of llamas in the foreground and the volcanoes in the back. On the way back we stopped at some thermal springs and lounged for a while in the outdoor hot pools looking at the mountains and thinking about how tough life can be.
The next morning we took another walk down the valley to see some cave paintings. Not sure how old they are but some of the “Andy woz ere” graffiti is easy to date to the exact day. Don’t understand what goes on in people’s heads to feel they have to do that. We walked back to Putre and jumped on the bus to Arica after a few really relaxing days and would definitely add Putre and especially Chakana to your 'things to do’ list if you’re in the area.
As we pulled into Arica bus station a quick look at the lonely planet and we decided to change plans and head to Putre. Snap decision but turned out to be well worth it. Getting there was a fun. We got a taxi outside the bus station to take us to the place where the buses to Putre left from and we were a bit worried when he dropped us, still in the dark, outside some shut up office in the middle of a dodgy looking neighbourhood with no-one around and the bus apparently due to leave in half an hour. We huddled around our bags and were glad when finally another taxi pulled up with a bunch of Chileans one of which opened up the office and started selling tickets. We jumped on the bus and went straight back to sleep. I was woken only by the slight pain in my ears that signalled our return to +3000ms. Our red blood cell count must be through the roof by now.