Monday, January 30, 2017

Vicuñas and Laguna Tuyato.


After seeing the beautiful flamingos and having breakfast, we continued our trip towards the altiplanic lagoons.  As we journeyed on, we got higher and higher up in elevation and so far, I was okay.

We had left the flat desert behind and we were surrounded by mountains.  The scenery here is simply stunning!

The ground was no longer salt crusted.  Instead the ground was dotted with tufts of Peruvian feathergrass, (Jarava ichu) which remarkably only grows on nutrient poor soils and also in high altitudes.  Along the way, we stopped for a photo op.  Could you blame us when the view is this stunning?  It was bright blue skies and bright yellow grass for as far as the eyes could see!





Here, we also spotted vicuñas which exclusively feed on the feathergrass.  The vicuña  is one of two wild South American camelids which live in the altiplano region, the other being the guanaco. Vicuñas live at altitudes of 3,200 to 4,800 meters (10,500 to 15,750 feet) while guanacos live at a lower altitude.  Given the elevation that we would be at all day today, we would not see any guanacos.


When I first saw the animal, I assumed it was a llama but Pedro explained to use that wild vicuñas and guanacos are relatives of the domesticated llama and alpaca.  I think alpacas are primarily raised for their coats whereas llamas are raised primarily to be meat and pack animals.


Vicuñas are protected by law so we saw quite a few herds roaming and grazing freely in the wild.  The environment here is so pristine that food is plentiful for these beautiful creatures. They most certainly looked well fed!




Next, we arrived at Laguna (lagoon) Tuyato.  Pedro also explained the difference between a lake and a lagoon - a lake is freshwater; a logoon is saltwater.  There may be a more complicated description but the simple one worked for me.

As we approached the lagoon, all I could do was stare at the incredibly beautiful view.  I'm quickly coming to the conclusion that the scenery here is so spectacular, there is no way to take a bad photo.

The water was all shades of light blue, interspersed with sections of white.  There was a softness to the look of the landscape that make the scene look like a water color painting.  I couldn't wait to get out the van and have a closer look.








Even though the land is barren except for the tufts of grass, there is incredible color here.  I love it!


As we got out of the van to walk towards the shore of the lagoon, we noticed people walking on the salt crusted land but Pedro instructed us to NOT to do so as the land is delicate and we don't want damage it in any way.  It truly does need to be preserved so everyone can experience seeing it.  In all honesty, you don't need to have to walk on it to admire it.   Pedro kept a close watch on all of us; shouting out anyone who was trodding dangerously close to the edge of the salt crust. 



Our guide, Pedro, on the left and the man with the headscarf is Patricio (aka Pato).

By the time we reached this lagoon, I was beginning to feel the effects of the altitude.  I was starting to feel a headache coming on.  I swallowed a Tylenol pill in hopes that it would stave off the headache from getting worse.  Thankfully, it wasn't such a bad headache that the striking scenery all around me could not distract me from.


More dramatic scenery to come as we continue our trip through the altiplano!