Road to heaven

Ollague Travel Blog

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Altiplano near vulcano San Pablo

After a good night sleep in Chiuchiu we had another adventurious day ahead. Direction north to the Bolivian border! The entire road was dirth road. The first part after leaving the village was in good condition and our Bakliner did well over 100 km/h (don't try this with a economy rental car!). The road went straight and was well prepared. But soon there was a river bed to cross with a U bend and after this passage the road was in much worse condition. Washboards,  big holes and bumps increased the concentration and decreased the velocity a lot. In the middle of a desolate landscape there was a railroad crossing.  And yes we spotted a train!

As we were driving north the landscape turened rougher and rougher. The road lead through vaste salt plains.

Salar Ascotan, vicuna
 At last we saw some people: they were collecting the salt from the plains and were watched by a group of vicuna (together with guanaco and alpaca related to the lama).

In the meanwhile we were passing diverse vulcanoes. Our goal was the Aucanquilcha. This vulcano has a kind of path which is a challenge for 4x4 cars. The path ends on the top of the vulcano at an altitude of 6,200 meters. An easy and drugless way to get so high, many alpinists/mountaineers will envy you telling you've been that high. It wasn't that easy. To gain so much height in so little time asks for problems. By the time we reached the deserted mine at 5,300 m the body was already protesting with bad feelings in the stomache and head. The smell of petrol became penetrating. The engine was lacking oxygene and couldn't burn all the fuel anymore.

Snow on Aucanquilchia
Car and passengers were extricated from this situation by some boulders blocking the path. We had to stop and turn the car on a small path at an altitude of 5,800 m. We suffered a major headache and felt very sick, also because we could see the crater top in front of us, but it was out of reach. Going back was much easier. Soon we were released from the symptomes of altitude sickness. Looking down on Mount Ollague we were not tempted by the path leading to its top...

We reached the valley without further difficulty and turned left going further north. After a few kilometers we entered the small village of Ollague at the border of Bolivia. A few streets with primative houses, a church and a school fell into nothing compared to the barracks of the miltary and the big shunting-yard of cross-border trains. Still, it was impressive to be in this part of the world.

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Altiplano near vulcano San Pablo
Altiplano near vulcano San Pablo
Salar Ascotan, vicuna
Salar Ascotan, vicuna
Snow on Aucanquilchia
Snow on Aucanquilchia
Salar Ascotan, salt making
Salar Ascotan, salt making
Driving up Aucanquilcha
Driving up Aucanquilcha
Aucanquilchia, mine on 5,300 m alt…
Aucanquilchia, mine on 5,300 m al…
Deserted Ollague
Deserted Ollague
Trains in Ollague
Trains in Ollague
Ollague
photo by: wendermilliken