Full Day Trip
Today we were headed off on a full day trip to the lakes. We stopped to have a look at the Tropic of Capricorn. I have to admit I didn't know what this was at the time. John did being a navigator did, but I had to do a bit of web research for the info on this blog. The white mast marks the southerly latitude at which the sun can appear directly overhead. It is one of the five major circles of latitude that mark maps of the earth. It currently lies 23degress, 16' 16" south of the equator. Apparently this point is currently drifting north by about 15 metres per year, so I am not sure how accurate this marker still is.
As we headed out on our long drive to the lakes we started to pass small villages that JP said he used to teach English in. He asked us whether we would like to take the children to one of the schools to meet pupils there age. We thought it was a wonderful idea so we headed into Camar. JP asked me again not to take photos of the villagers as they are not used to tourism invading their lives. I had no problem with this but it would have been rather neat to take a picture of the school building and its 6 students.
The village itself is small with only a few buildings made out of modern materials. The school house was two rooms with breeze block style buildings. The teacher had split the class into two, with three students being in each room. He asked one of the children to do a rather hard sum on the board infront of us which they agreed to. I am not sure our children would have been as happy to do this in front of strangers. None of the children were in uniform but they were very proud to show us what things they had been making and doing. Each set of kids (mine and theirs) asked a few questions but were rather shy!
You can just see the school building in the middle of this photo below.
We said our thank yous and goodbyes and headed back on our way. The school teacher seemed very touched that JP had remembered him and come to say hello with visitors. I hope mine remember how lucky they are with all their modern technology, creature comforts and supplies which these children had none of.
As we left the village I was drawn again to the network of water systems which ran along side of the road.
Heading up to the lakes you started to see the floral and fauna change, more colour came onto the ground and signs of old settlements could be seen from years ago now left abandoned. JP talked quite alot about this but unfortunately I didn't write it down and my poor brain cells have now let it slide away. You could see the terraced planting still in the areas around the rivers. Apparently this is the way the Incas used to plant before modern cities drew people into them.
We arrived up at the lakes and JP asked us all to get out of the vehicle before we reached the crest of the hill. It was certainly a wonderful view of Lake Miscanti with its bright blue waters and mountains surrounding it.
There were two lakes to view very close to each other but not within walking distance. We were already very high here and both Euan and I were struggling slightly with fuzzy heads. Thankfully my asthma was under control but each movement seemed to almost wipe you out.
We stopped at the entrance hut for bathroom breaks and to drink in the view. The lady who was taking the entrance fees was fascinated with Ellie and she kept asking alsorts of questions about her. We had found this in previous locations to, I guess a blonde haired, blue eyed girls is rather rare in these parts.
A quick height check on John's watch to find out how high we can come. A piece of info worth knowing is that when John is flying they are to wear oxygen masks as soon as they go above 10,000 feet. As you can see we were already up to 12,598ft!!
Down on the lake side there was a herd of Vicunas grazing around the lake side. Even with my long lens on sadly they were too far away to get a decent shot of.
We piled back into the car and stopped again at Lake Meniques where we got a slightly closer but still shakey picture of another camel. You can see the white salt deposits on the edge of the lake. I must admit I was slightly disappointed with these, when you talk about viewing a salt lake I was expecting to see nothing but large salt encrusted shores. I was told to hold my horses as this would come later.
We clambered back into the car again and drank copious amounts of water to try and combat the now strengthening headache that both Euan and I were suffering.
As we drove along I asked Pablo to stop when I saw some movement in the grasses to the side of the road. There was what I thought were Emus but JP told me they are called Rheas and that we were lucky to see them as they were very shy animals not usually near the roadside.
As we got closer to Lake Agua Calientes JP asked us once again to close our eyes as we crested the hill. To me this was more spectacular than the two previous lakes as it's sheer size alone was awe inspiring. The waters were the brightest turquoise blue and the mountains looked like a painter had taken a soft brush and marked them in.
Doesn't this just look like a painting?
JP and Pablo dropped us off at the top of the road and told us to take a slow walk down to the bottom where they would have lunch prepared for us. The kids strode ahead while John and I took our time drinking in the view.
About half way down the road up on the hillside I spotted a lone Vicuna up on the hillside. He definitely didn't like the look of us and soon scarpered off to find his mates.
When we reached the bottom of the road the kids were already seated and tucking into the delicious lunch that had been provided.
The food was just simple chicken breasts with a marinade, pasta salad, fresh tomatoes and bread but it tasted oh so good washed down with fresh lemon juice (wine was available but I didn't need to add to my already banging head!).
Our view out ranked any restaurant I have ever eaten in or seen advertised. How could you possibly ask for a more spectacular scene.
We took a slow wander down the road a bit further where Pablo picked us up after he had packed up the lunch bits and drove us onto Lake Tuyajto. This was completely off the beaten track as it is an old road used to get to the mining fields. JP explain that most tourist trips didn't come up here as it was that hour further along from the other lakes and made it not cost effective for them. All the better for us I say as we had the whole place to ourselves and didn't see another sole on the road at all.
This was the type of salt lake that I had imaged with a crisp thick border of white salt deposits that formed the most amazing patterns around the edge of the turquoise lake.
I was as happy as a sand boy here taking picture after picture of the salt formations and surrounding scenery. J even managed to capture me in action.
The salt simply shone like crystals in the mid day sun.
The sign we are holding up is the one Pablo used to greet us with in the airport, it reads the hotel's name, our name and family of 5 underneath. It had blown out of the car as we opened the door at the top of the hill. JP had gone running down the hill after it and we thought it made a rather unique sign for this photo.
We had also climbed even higher, now up to 13,196 feet. Euan was really starting to struggle and I had to give him some calpol before tucking him up in the car for a sleep. Thankfully my head seemed to have eased off and I wonder whether mine was caused by lack of food?
All rather tired now with all the fresh, very clean and very thin air we piled back into the car for the long journey back to the lodge. The girls listened to ipods and played nintendos while Euan took a nap. I kept a busy eye out looking for anymore wildlife and was rewarded with some more camels at the side of the road.
We got back to the lodge in time for a siesta before dinner and a nice bath to wash away the dust. My head had got rather burnt today due to being the only one without a sun hat. We think the sunrays are strong in the Falklands but up here they are incredibly fierce.
After supper JP came back and gave the whole lodge a talk about Star gazing. We went outside and he pointed out red stars, the milky way, subaru (known as the seven sisters) and lots of other wonderful constellations. We got to look at the stars with his small but powerful hand held telescope while he marked them for us with his super cool lazer pen. All in all a very enjoyable day and night.