Lauca National Park
August 3, 2010, 5:33 pm
Filed under: chile, environment, nature, south america, travel, video

Lauca National Park

Originally uploaded by cobismith.

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.


Arriba! (up!)
May 23, 2010, 3:50 am
Filed under: chile, environment, mountains, nature, south america, travel, video, water

On our first weekend in South America we departed Santiago to head into the foothills (footmountains?) of the Andes. It was a stunningly clear blue-sky day, as if the continent had washed its natural wonders in preparation for our visit.

This might horrify some readers who enjoy building a romantic picture of my travels in your mind, but rather than give you a detailed account of the day in writing I’m going to share a couple of videos.

I ate some fresh ginger before we departed upwards; my remedy of choice for motion sickness. Why pay money for a dried, powdered form of something you can get fresher and more potent from the market?

I find it easier going upwards than downwards for some reason, but for me the killer is going side to side.

Thankfully perhaps, my friend Emma who preserved some of my ABC broadcasts in Port Lincoln didn’t preserve the one in which I did a live cross from a tuna boat. It was all I could manage not to throw up on the microphone.

Either thanks to the ginger or the lack of sideways motion, or both, I was fine on the bus ride into the Andes. So fine in fact that I filmed some of it. Thanks to Sony’s image stabilisation technology it doesn’t actually look as horrific as it was, so if you’re game you can watch here:

Once we arrived Tim and I departed the group for a bit of a hike in the fresh morning air. It was such a relief to get some fresh air after a week in smoggy Santiago. Pine-scented air accompanied by the sound of cascading water was even better.

We had a fantastic lunch with some Chilean red wine organised by Expats in Chile, who even managed to cater for the vegan despite no prior notice. Then we ventured off again, the two of us, up a different trail.

The trails were divided by a river, so you needed to choose early on which side of the river you wanted to spend your trekking time. We tried both sides, but after starting our afternoon trek on the opposite side to the morning we realised the trail was now entirely in shadows.

The Andes looming over us meant that although it was 3 in the afternoon our walk of choice would have no more sunshine. So we decided to turn back and return to the river crossing, where we could opt instead to trek on a higher path that caught the afternoon sun.

On our way back we came across a smaller point in the river were a group of Chileans were crossing with children:

It was an impressive operation, but one I wasn’t game to try.

South Americans give brazen Aussies a run for their money.