Braving the Alitudes in Bolivia
Trip Start Aug 26, 2007
40Trip End Jan 05, 2008
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It wasnīt until I arrived in the desert, that I realized how close we were to the Bolivian border. 40 kms was just too close to be and not go, so I drank plenty of coca tea, brought some chocolate for the road and prepared to brave the high altitudes of the country next door!!
As I creamed up my desert dry hands with Berts Bees Aloe and Buttermilk lotion, it struck me that my foray into the backpacking world started and ended with my self-proclaimed semi-backpacker status! No offense, but some of these backpackers looked like they needed another go at the communal showers. Especially the men, which looked unshaven and disheveled and like theyīd stone me if they knew I was claiming to be even a semi-backpacker with my freshly ironed hair and Avene thermal water spritzer!
Another interesting note about this group, is that they were all French. We had to pull out our passports at the immigration checkpoint and I received 12 disapproving glares. What is it with the lack of love from the French to the US? Even though I omitted that detail to Richard, the desert tour guide a few days earlier, I wasnīt going to get in the habit of lying about my home in order to make the French folks feel more comfortable. Get over it already, whatever this beef is.
In less than an hour we climbed to 4,600 meters in altitude and entered the beautiful lagoon land of Bolivia. The road change was dramatic. The second we crossed into Bolivia, the road turned unpaved and extremely bumpy. It seemed like the kind of road you only run into when you get severely lost, not the entry point to a major South American country.
The immigration experience was extremely smooth. Since I was only going for 1/2 day, I didnīt need to complete all the paperwork that the rest of the backpacking folk did, so I was whisked to the office by myself, where I proceeded to crack jokes with the Bolivian immigration officials. Being deprived from human contact on that damn French bus, made me even more social and charming than usual with my new Bolivian buddies!! Suffice it to say, I was thrilled when a 4x4 came to meet me and I learned I would have my own separate tour of the park. The others were on a longer tour and would be going elsewhere first. I was not sad to part from that group.
Edwin explained that the Green Lagoon, or Laguna Verde, as itīs called, gets its color from oxygenated copper found in the area. Apparently this type of copper is typically either the red that we are used to seeing or green. At this point, the altitude started to get to me. In a matter of seconds, I felt faint, my head started pounding and I found it hard to breathe. I went back to the car, took some aspirin, and laid my head on the dashboard for a few minutes. That awful sensation didnīt really go away fully, until the drive back to Chile once we started to descend. 2,000 meters lower in altitude later and I felt perfectly fine again!