Lakes And Volcanoes

Trip Start Jan 03, 2012
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107
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Trip End May 02, 2013


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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Thursday, August 30, 2012

With a big day ahead we were up at 5:30 for a 6:00 breakfast and 6:30 departure. The two new recruits needed a couple of extra knocks on the door, but before we knew it we were flying down rocky dirt roads frequented by llamas and vicunas.  'Bongo Bong' by Manu Chao became the theme song of the tour.

Soon enough volcanic cones started to appear on all sides. The scenery rivalled New Zealand's Tongariro Alpine Crossing, our favourite day hike, except that we were on four wheels and the peaks multiplied faster than we could photograph them.

First on the agenda was the Ollague volcano lookout.  A geyser was spurting out the shoulder of the mountain.  We cragged over creepy reddish rocks that looked like they'd been poured as liquid over the white stone underneath.  Lunch was served at Laguna Capana where flamingos frolicked and the surrounding peaks were dusted with icing sugar snow.

From there we moved on to Laguna Hedionda, the sulfur smell of which for some reason attracted thousands of pink flamingos.  Then we breezed past the similar looking Laguna Chiarkota before stopping at a viewing point overlooking Laguna Honda.  The afternoon ride was hot, dusty and bumpy as we gained higher elevation.

The landscape around the tight squeeze of the Inca Pass looked just like the scene from Star Wars where Luke gets attacked by Sand People.  We half expected to see their heads bobbing up and down above the cliffs.

The 5,000 metre mark continued to elude us as we topped out at 4,963.  We parked at the top and eyeballed the magnificent Mountain Of Seven Colours.  All evidence of civilization had vanished and the parrallel tracks were our only way out of the barren desert.

Over the next ridge we spotted a lone biker inching his way through the endless wasteland. He seemed to be attempting the impossible.  A mirage held our eyes in a trance while the road provided the body massage.  By mid-afternoon we'd only walked for a short while at a couple of stops.  The extended time in the truck took its toll.

We visited the famous Stone Tree and other fabulous rock formations jutting up from the sand.  Shortly thereafter we saw a second cyclist slowly pedalling through the sand in the opposite direction. 

At Laguna Colorada we checked into our final hostel on the tour.  We had one dorm room for all six of us.  The basic bathroom was out of service so we went out for a walk to the nearby lookout instead.

The lake was mostly red with some blue and a few salty white islands.  We took in the view from high above and soon the wind began to blow.

Back at the hostel we exchanged music for photos with our guide and photos with Meg and Mat.  Teo was very passionate about providing us with unique experiences.  Aside from eating lunch away from the crowds, that also meant waking up and getting on the road before all the other groups.

We rose at 5:00 am and breakfasted at 5:30 as a group of four.  Unfortunately Meg and Mat had both suffered a little gastrointestinal distress overnight so they didn't join us at the table.  We all boarded the truck and hit the road at 6:00.

Sunrise exposed several geysers spewing hot air high into the sky from deep inside the Earth.  We drove on past a few more lovely lagoons surrounded by brownish mountains.

At the hot springs pool the four Canadians didn't feel like going in but the other two travellers did.  In yet another bit of bad luck someone stole Totsuo's small bag with valuables in it.  Events like that made us all feel a little sick inside.

At Valle De Dali our vantage point was too distant to appreciate the rocks named after master surrealist Salvador.  Just beyond our first look at Laguna Blanca lay Laguna Verde and Vulcan Lincancabur rising high above in perfect triangular form.  We parked one last time on the other side of Laguna Blanca and took our final group photos.

A little further on we came to the crossroads where had to bid our guide and half of the group farewell.  The transition was relatively smooth as we hopped on a modern medium-sized Mercedes bus bound for Chile.
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