November 18, 2005
We got up early this morning, had a small breakfast, and started driving. Our first stop of the day was Volcan Ollague, an active volcano looming in the distance across the Chilean border. Next, we went to a series of lagoons. Every lagoon we saw was home to hundreds of flamingos. I was very happy to see them because I was told that there would be flamingos on my Islas Ballestas tour, but I didn't see any. Each lagoon seemed more beautiful than the last with their colorful algae, blue skies, and mountains in the background.
After doing a few hours of sightseeing, we stopped for lunch. The area we stopped at was inhabited by dozens of "scrabbits," animals with heads of rabbits and tails of squirrels. I couldn't quite figure out how the scrabbits could survive at nearly 5000 meters without any food in sight, but then I saw some other tourists throwing their leftovers to them. I guess that explained it.
We drove for another hour after lunch through some very bumpy terrain and arrived at the "Arbol de Piedra," or tree of rock. It was a giant rock that barely seemed to be able to stand up on its small base. There were also some other big rocks nearby that provided some much-needed exercise for me when I climbed them after being in a truck for the last two days straight.
Our final stop of the day was at Laguna Colorada, a large lagoon that was part ice, part salt, part mud, and all flamingo terrain. I walked with my group to the Mirador, a lookout point at the top of a hill about halfway across the lagoon, where I was treated to even more spectacular views.
The place we stayed at was not nearly as nice as last night's. There was no running water, the bathroom smelled horribly, it was much colder than last night, and all six of us had to sleep in the same room together. The only consolation was that we had to get up the next day at 4:00 AM, so we basically just ate supper and went to bed very early. One good thing about being at high altitude is that is makes you very sleepy, which comes in handy when there's nothing to do because it's pitch black due to a lack of electricity.
The photo album for this entry is here.