My first volcanos!
Lauca Travel Blog› entry 18 of 30 › view all entries
From La paz to Arica
We had to catch our plane again from Lima in three weeks time and there was so much left to see in Peru that we slowly had to make our way back. I desperately wanted to continue southeast into Bolivia but it will have to wait for another time. So basically we had two options to go back. We could go back the way we came through Puno and on to Arequipa, or we could venture into north Chile and to Arequipa along the coast. The second way was far more exciting, so we took the bus to Arica, Chile.
It is a
wild trip from La Paz to Arica. We had to leave very early and Aart still
wasn’t feeling well.
There isn’t much to see on the Altiplano for the first few hours, but when we approached the Bolivia-Chile border, the bus began to circle past an enormous mountain (volcano?) called the Nevado Sajama. If you look it up in Google Earth it is a very big white speck. I guess it was a volcano and it rose above the landscape of shrubs magnificently with its crown of snow. Sajama wasn’t the only volcano. This was a true volcano country we entered and there were lonely snowcapped peaks all around us. As we approached the border, I even saw smoke coming out of one of them.
I can’t remember ever having seen a volcano, but I came to the right place! The Chile customs house is located at an expecially spectacular place, because right over the border there is the Chile National Park Lauca, with its beautiful twin volcanos. What a place! I was standing there at 4600 m. high (a new personal record!) and behind me were two of the most beautiful volcanos in the world! The awesomest of all, the Parinacota, in full view. At their feet was also one of the highest lakes in the world, Laguna Chungara, which lies almost a kilometer higher as Lake Titicaca! Parts of lake Chungara were frozen.
Now comes the environmentally most extreme trip of the vacation. In three hours time, we plunged from 4600m, with its snowcapped volcanos and frozen lakes, down right through the Atacama desert, the driest and one of the hottest places of the world, and ended up next to the Pacific Ocean. A descent of 4600m from frozen lakes through the driest desert to the biggest ocean of the world! Every time I took out my water bottle, it was squeezed by the air.
There was another big contrast. Bolivia is South America’s poorest country and Chile its richest. La Paz is a sprawling city with visible poverty while Arica is a luxurious beach community made for shopping. What a mind-boggling change in a single day.