Lynn & David travelling in South America travel blog

Geoglyphs, near Arica, Chile

Candelabra Cactus, near Arica, Chile

Lynn's latest hat

Vicuna, Lauca National Park, Chile

Vicunas, Lauca National Park, Chile

Alpacas, Lauca National Park, Chile

Andean Geese, Lauca National Park, Chile

Vizcacha, Lauca National Park, Chile

Vizcacha, Lauca National Park, Chile

Church, Parinacota, Lauca National Park, Chile

Bell Tower, Church, Parinacota, Lauca National Park, Chile

"Lovely" childrens' playground, Parinacota, Lauca National Park, Chile

Parinacota Volcano (6310m), Lauca National Park, Chile

Parinacota Volcano (6310m), Lauca National Park, Chile

David, Parinacota Volcano, Lauca National Park, Chile

Tagua Andina on nest, Lake Chungara, Lauca National Park, Chile

Panorama of Volcanoes and Lake Chungara, Lauca National Park, Chile

Sajama Volcano (6500m) in Bolivia and Lake Chungara, Lauca National Park, Chile...

Lynn and David with Parinacota Volcano in background, Lauca National Park, Chile

Lynn and Parinacota Volcano, Lauca National Park, Chile

Lagunas Cotacotani, Lauca National Park, Chile

Lagunas Cotacotani, Lauca National Park, Chile

Friday 4th July 2014

Day trip from Arica to Lauca National Park and Chungara Lake, Chile

Today we woke up at 6:30am to go on our (spanish speaking) day trip to Lauca National Park and Chungara Lake which are quite close to the Bolivian border. We were too early for breakfast in the hostal so we took some bread rolls and vegemite to eat on the bus as well as a couple of yoghurts and bananas. Once we had picked up all the other people at their various hotels and houses, we set off from the town and drove east on the road into the mountains towards Bolivia (La Paz is 500km from Arica by road). The first attraction we saw were geogliphs that are archeological features on the sandy hillsides. Then we stopped at Poconchile, a village with a church from the 17th Century and not much else. After driving further we reached Cordones Gorge, a zone of candelabra cacti that only grow 1cm per year and live for upwards of 400 years. These cacti only grow in the zone of 1800m to 2400m above sea level and are very interesting as they don't really need any water to survive. They have adapted to getting enough moisture from the fog and mist that is here in this area in winter. Just before we pulled over to take photos of the cacti, they demonstrated a weird magnetic phenomena that occurs at that place: the driver put the bus into neutral and it started to move backwards. Also, once off the bus, if you placed your water bottle on the road, it rolled backwards down the flat road. Very funny and quite odd. We then drove a little further and stopped to look at the Pukara (fortress) of Copaquilla used by the ancient Pre-Incan cultures and a tambo (storage/rest centre - stone building actually) used by the Incas. We then drove on and stopped at a small restaurant for breakfast - it was now 10.00am. For breakfast we had a cup of tea and the choice of 2 bread rolls with margarine, or with jam, or with both margarine and jam! We continued the drive and reached the lookout for Socorama where they grow the most aromatic oregano on terraces and Lynn bought a very nice hat there. We were already at 3,000 metres above sea level and some of the passengers had started to feel decidely sick due to the altitude, especially one family with three children. We then reached an area about 175km from Arica where we saw a number of birds, also vizchacas (like rabbits but with long curly tails and that are endemic to the area) and groups of vicunas and alpacas. We then visited the town of Parinacota (almost a ghost town as only 6 or 7 people live there permanently) about 4,400 meters above sea level. Even we felt a bit slightly dizzy at this altitude, but the views were stupendous - extremely cold here though. By now several people were vomiting - the 3 children plus their mother and even one more lady - in fact, a quarter of the passengers were vomiting... Just beyond Parinacota is the area of volcanoes and Lake Chungara. The Parinacota Volcano (6,310m) and Pomerape Volcano (6,280m) were visible all the way from Parinacota town and were across Lake Chungara, along with more groups of alpacas walking on tufty grass and frozen puddles, and many wading birds. A beautiful magical place. (The poor vomiters all stayed on the bus..) The other volcano you can see from here is Sajama Volcano, the highest mountain in Bolivia at 6,500m. The air was clear and it was very cold. The lake is 22.5 sq.kms and is the highest large lake in the world (no boats are on it though - it is up to 37 metres deep. We then had to leave this beautiful place to head back down to Putre, the main town in this area, reputedly becoming a popular place to visit by backpackers (we didn't see any), but at 3,500 metres, a little lower than the surrounding mountains, a crop growing area where the Aymara people have lived for many centuries. We had a rather late 3.30pm lunch in Putre - soup followed by a choice of chicken/alpaca/meat with potatoes and rice, followed by jelly (yummy) and then drove straight back to Arica, arriving back to the hostel at about 7:30pm. It was a very interesting and scenic day and our guide (who did tell us a few things in English) and companions were very pleasant. We then had a snack and a rum for dinner in our room, and packed our bags ready to move on to Santiago first thing tomorrow. To bed around 11:30pm.

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