Up on the Altiplano

We’ve been out in the wilderness for the last three days, using 4x4s to cross the Altiplano from Bolivia into Chile. No words can do justice to how beautiful it has been up there, and I doubt photos will either (though Val will still put some on the blog). The scale of it is just awesome, and the colours of the mountains and lakes hard to believe. For example Laguna Colorada is burgundy red for the most part, with vivid blue and white salt depòsits to offset it (not to mention three types of flamingo). The Salar be Uyuni (a salt flat) is a crazy paving of purest white, in the middle of which is an “island” covered in extraordinary cacti (900 years old, 9 metres high, said one sign), and a smoking volcano in the distance. This morning we were in a thermal area with bubbling mud pools, sulphorous gas seeping out of holes all over the place, and a fumerole constantly pumping out steam at high speed. We had a go at jumping through the fumerole – very smelly (rotten eggs) and very warm and I didn’t even notice my hat had been blasted off my head until someone returned it to me. Then we had a dip in a thermal pool.

The accommodation has been “interesting”. Two nights ago we were in a salt hotel – the walls are made of salt, as were the bases of the beds, 3 hours of electricity a day, and all the facilities were shared. But that was luxury compared to last night – 3 rooms for the 16 of us, and only a couple of toilets for the whole place (unless you count the two with no doors!), and no showers at all. We took our own cooks with us too (and they did a pretty good job). It was the same height as the top of Mont Blanc), we had to rent sleeping bags, but at least we got 4 blankets each (though I didn’t get a pillow). We certainly were roughing it, but if you want to see somewhere this beautiful, it’s the only way…



5 thoughts on “Up on the Altiplano

  1. Antonia says:

    Can’t imagine you roughing it that much! Hope the back is holding up x

  2. David Bassett says:

    The Laguna Colorada (‘red lagoon’) contains borax islands, whose white color contrasts with the reddish color of its waters, which is caused by red sediments and pigmentation of some algae.

  3. David Bassett says:

    James’s Flamingos abound in the area. Also it is possible to find Andean and Chilean flamingos, but in a minor quantity.

  4. Eileen Burt says:

    David. I’m really enjoying your informed comments

  5. David Bassett says:

    Glad I’m appreciated!

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