Arica and the trip to Nacional Parque Nacional Lauca
Arica Travel Blog› entry 10 of 34 › view all entries
We arrived safely at our Hostel in Arica. Our first impressions of the Jardin Del Sol was that it was a bit like the rooms out of the hit BBC "comedy" Hi-Di-Hi, but it is fine! Our first impressions of Arica are a bit like a cross between Torquay and Porthcawl - a bit of a scruffy seaside town, but it does have some very nice looking apartments and is very more "European" in appearance than anywhere we visited in Peru (not that is necessarily a good thing!).
We booked our tour to Lauca, opting for the 2 night / 3 day trip. This is something that we had been looking at since we began looking at Chile months ago.
The first day was pretty-much a gentle introduction to the altitude. We visited the Arica museum and leaned a bit about human life in the area, which seemed to have been around for 9,000 years (so not a huge time by anthropological measurements). We also stopped at each identifiable geological level (so we were told!) on the way up the first valley - which was an amazingly green valley nestling in the most barren desert, famous (in Chile) for the production of olives and olive-oil, although all sorts of tropical fruit is grown here. We did the visit to the Arica City Museum (not out of choice, although it was fairly interesting) which had a good grounding of human activity in the area of Arica and the mountains, which has been since about 7,000 years BCE.
We visited the "Geogliphs" - stone shapes made over 1000 years ago on the sides of the hills, although this wasn´t that spectaular. The candelabra cactus grows by the side of the road, which has a very peculiar shape and is like a very solid and dry wood.
Eventually, after some walking around a spectaular canyon and a trip to Socorama, a tiny hamlet with only ten families (although they must have been very big families, because there were about 50 houses there!) we arrived at Putre, where our stop-off point would before we went to visit Lauca the next day (which couldn´t be done in one go because of the altitude change that can be very problematic and can cause "Soroche" - altitude sickness).
The next day we drove further up Ruta 11 towards Bolivia to get to Lauca itself and the serence Lago Chungara (which is supposed to be the "highest lake in the world" at 4,500m above sea level). The graceful Vicuna and peculiar looking alpaca graced upon the Altiplano and virtually ignored us (until we came too close!) and the birdlife was beautiful. We visited the white-washed village of Parinacota (also the name of our excellent tour agency and of the imposing mountain, which imposed itself just a few miles from Lake Chungara). We also went for a swim in the hot springs about 15 miles from Putre, which were indeed very hot in some places! Jeremy made the mistake of plastering himself in mud and had to wash it off using very hot water (unfortunately it wouldn´t have been acceptable for him to jump into the pool as he was!).
The next dmorning, we set-off to the Salar de Surire - a salt flat and lake. The "road" (it was more like a stone track) was very bumpy and the sun hammered-down through the windows of our mini-van. We stopped several times - to visit the tiny hamlets on the way and to admire the Volcan Guallatire, which still gently coughs-out it sulpherous smoke, although hasn´t erupted for centuries (so we were told!). We eventually reached the Salar itself (there are many such "Salars" around this part of the Andes and the Bolivia-Chile border), greeted by Flamingoes feeding and a large expanse of white in contrast against the Altiplano with its arrid sand and small prickly plants.
Photos to be posted ASAP - but not from this slow internet computer!!