What better way to start a day than a good breakfast and lively conversations with a group of people from diverse backgrounds almost unanimously hating on cilantro 🙂
We ended up talking about the types of herbs we didn’t like which seemed to trigger our local guide. I guess for him we probably looked like a bunch of spoiled privileged tourists who never gone through a phase in their lives when there’s no option to choose what food will be served on their plates.
In one way I understood where he was coming from. Growing up in a third world country in a less privileged family, you don’t get to be ‘maarte’ (picky), you eat whatever it is that your parents can provide. If it’s about meat, rice or vegetables, I can understand, but I’m pretty sure you can be picky with herbs added to your food. They’re not necessary ingredients and if my parents put cilantro on our viands when I was young, I’d choose to eat rice with soy sauce any day.
Today, we continued our journey going even farther from visible traces of civilization.
Our first stop was a former seabed filled with rock formations made from dead corals. The locals call it ‘nature’s toilet’ due to the rocks being big enough for travelers to have their own privacy for releasing some of their breakfast liquids back to nature. It was pretty convenient after couple of hours on the road.
From remnants of the old sea, to an abandoned railway, to a distinct landscape formed by former active volcanoes. We saw some abstract hills of dried up lava and we had the best sausage sandwich I’ve tasted in a long time– made from meat of alpaca, or llama (I’m still confused between the two ’till now).
There were few moments in my life that I question my right to be a witness of some of the most beautiful imagery of nature. When we arrived at Cañapa, I again asked myself what I did in life to deserve to be in that place, in that moment, marveling the image of the most serene scenery I’ve ever seen.
Maybe it’s the spotless blue sky or the mild ripples in the lake. Maybe it’s the accent of white borax, the stillness of the nearby mountain, or the gentle movements of the pink flamingos. Maybe it’s the absence of human civilization or the humility of the plants that didn’t dare to grow higher that made this place the epitome of calmness and beauty.
It was the perfect opportunity to borrow Carl Sagan’s line ‘They should have sent a poet’.
We ate our lunch overlooking another lake, Laguna Hedionda. This one is a lot bigger with hundreds or even thousands of flamingos thriving in their undisturbed habitat. It makes you ponder on a world where humans live in harmony with nature.
The final stretch for the day was towards Eduardo Avaroa National Reserve, aparently the highest (4,550 meters) and the driest desert in the world. On our way we encountered partially domesticated animals like viscachas, the rodents who love apples; and desert foxes, which seemed to abandon their wild nature because there are tourists who willingly feed them.
I wonder if Covid19 can survive at 4,500 meters above sea level, because I barely did. It was wintertime, with super low oxygen level, freezing temperature, windy as hell… but seeing this multi-coloured lake before the sun went down was worth all the pain. You don’t often see a body of water painted in red, white and blue (which reminds me of the Philippine and Dutch flag).
The name Laguna Colorada speaks for itself. Its striking mix of vibrance from red algae, white borax, pink flamingos and partial reflection of the clear blue sky. It was an otherworldly spectacle, like we were in a tourist destination in another planet. My scifi fangirl heart was genuinely happy to be here. Definitely my ‘close encounters to the third kind’ moment.
We spent our evening in a nearby accommodation. (Smart tip: if you join the tour with another person, just tell the guide that you’re a couple so you will have your own room). It was already a difficult evening when temperature reached below zero and the sleeping bag and comforter were not as helpful as they should be. And since there were 5 of us in one room, I was more conscious of producing noises from slight movements, and I was more aware theirs.