What Lauca National Park lacked in oxygen it made up for in wildlife.
The first llama I saw in South America looked dejected despite its bright little hat and Aymaran drapery. It reminded me of a sad clown. It was being led around by an old man selling photos with it, in Parque Quinta Normal in Santiago. My sympathy for this undignified creature made me all the more eager to see proud llamas in their natural environment.
In Lauca wildlife clearly have an edge. While our lungs struggled to extract oxygen from the thin climate, baby vicuñas galloped comically alongside their more gracious parents.
Vizcacha among the rocks groomed nonchalantly as we took photos, pulling their bunny-like ears over their eyes.
Alpacas and llamas intermingled amicably in the bofedales, as the highland swamps are called. They nibbled at tender vegetation emerging from the shallow water, distancing themselves if we got too close, but otherwise unperterbed.
There were some exceptions, such as a llama which spends most of its time with the Carabineros, the police, who have a strong presence near the borders of Bolivia and Peru.
Her name is Loli. You can meet her in this video.