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South to Laguna Colorada

Written on: Monday August 6th, 2007

A journal entry from: Bolivia, Peru, and the Galapagos!

Next we inched south over some very rough land with volcanos and all sides. We also encountered a few mineral rich lakes which were home to three varieties of flamingos. Some of the lakes were partially frozen, yet the flamingos thrived there. It definitely confuses the typical image of the flamingo on a warm tropical beach.

We stopped for lunch at Ecolodge de los Flamencos, a small lodge overlooking a flamingo filled lake. It was a nice shelter from the chilling wind outside. Once again, the meal was very delicious.

We continued on our journey and encountered a lone Landcruiser with a flat tire in the middle of the Desierto Siloli. They had a spare tire, but it wasn't mounted on a rim, so our group of drivers helped them swap the tire. While we were stopped, a few other Landcruisers also stopped to offer help. It was really nice to see how well they looked after one another out there in the middle of nowhere.

After viewing some nice rock formations at the edge of the desert, we entered Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa (Eduardo Avaroa National Reserve for Andean Fauna). The goal of the park is to protect a green mossy plant called llareta (pronounced yuh-ray-ta). The llareta grows on rocks at a rate of about 2 millimeters a year. The locals like to use it in fires, so it has become very rare. It is now illegal to damage the llareta in Bolivia. The only way to enter this park is by road (and most likely by a Landcruiser via the route we had taken) and it gets about 50,000 visitors per year (up from 5,000 just 10 years ago).

Shortly after entering the park, we arrived at Laguna Colorada (Red Lake) and our shelter for the night at Huayllajara Hostal Altiplano (elevation 14,035 ft, just 400 ft shy of the top of Mt Rainier). I call this a shelter because it was really nothing more than that. We slept in rooms of six beds, which each had two llama wool blankets, but because it was so cold, we also used sleeping bags to keep warm. The electricity for the shelter comes from solar panels and it is stored all day so that the lights could be on for a few hours in the evening. There was absolutely no heating in the building, except for a small wood burning stove which didn't work well at all (partially because they don't have real wood to burn, but instead they burn desert shrubs). We all wore hats and gloves at dinner and to bed. The temperature reached -20C that night (-4F) not including the wind chill. In the morning, all of our bottles of water were frozen as well as the pipes in the bathrooms. They gave us fresh water to pour into the toilets to clear them after they had been used, but it did not work so well. You can imagine how disgusting the two toilets in our wing were after 30 people had used them.