Joined a tour group to the high Andes yesterday and explored Lauca National Park. The splendid park covers about 550 sq. miles and is a protected reserve. Altitudes we experienced varied from 10,500 to over 15,000 ft.
Our group included 9 tourists, a driver, and a guide. Except for me, everyone was from South America, and little English was spoken. The others were incredibly sweet and tried to translate parts of the narrative for me, since the guide spoke very fast.
Chilean Castellano Spanish is full of slang and linguistic nuances. Even native Spanish speakers struggle with it. Like me, the others didn’t understand dialects in some of the small villages.
Although the skies were cloudy and it wasn’t a great day for taking photos, the mountains and volcanoes were magnificent! We experienced drastic changes in temperature. Arica was mild and balmy but it snowed in the Andes at the highest point we visited. We saw alpacas, llamas, guanacos, vicuñas, Chilean flamingos, ducks, and Andean condors.
The park is known for its magnificent volcanoes that are 20,000 ft. above sea level and higher. They didn’t disappoint. Some of the most prominent volcanoes in the area include Parinacota, Pomerape, and Acotando. We hiked a few short trails but even with stops for coca tea, it was difficult at the highest altitudes.
Flora in the ravines and slopes is exotic, including candelabro cactus, llareta, guacara, queñoa, puscaya, and chilca forests. The Lauca and Lluta Rivers are part of the park, as are the Cotacotani Lagoons and Chungara Lake.
During a viewpoint stop at Chungara Lake outside the small town of Putre I met an interesting Danish writer, Benedicte Riis, and her South American friend and companion Edison. She has published many books including a recent one about Karen Von Blixen and her father. Some of you may recall the movie Out of Africa where actress Meryl Streep played Karen Von Blixen.
Benedicte has visited the US West Coast and is familiar with Oregon. Karen Von Blixen’s father moved to the US and lived in the Cascade Mountains. She plans to be in the Pacific Northwest this fall, and I hope we can meet up for a visit.
It was a full day and afterwards I was reminded of the need to stay at sea level a little longer before venturing back up into the Andes for any length of time. Can’t help myself. The Andes are fascinating!