All About Altitude (Charquini and Chacaltaya)

I thought we were going to the jungle. Turns out we went to a glacier.

On the road

Emerging from La Paz, we drove a couple of hours through the desolate, windswept Bolivian altiplano. Our first stop was a miners’ graveyard – popular with tourists, judging by the busloads that had arrived before us. I don’t blame them. The quaint tombs (like mini cottages … or kennels) sit right by a lagoon, with the imposing Huayna Potosí looming large in the distance.

Charquini

Our second stop was Charquini, a glacier a couple of hours out of La Paz, so called because it supposedly has the appearance of beef jerky. Charqueqan is a popular Bolivian dish, but I’m no fan, to be honest.

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The trek involves a path with a wire cord (rather than a handrail) and is mostly flat so not a difficult walk. It is, however, very narrow.
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Oh, but then our guide (known affectionately as Papa Phil) took us off the track and on a steep climb up the rocky mountainside. Whereupon snow began to fall.
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After a quick lunch in a marshy spot that made me think of English moors, we hiked up a little more and reached this spectacular lake.
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We’d been told that with climate change, the glacier was melting and there might not be any snow. Guess we were lucky that day.
2014-11-22 Charquini y Chacaltaya 93e
And then back down the glacier.
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So apparently an Israeli motorcyclist tried to ride the whole route and fell to his death on the return leg, not too far from base camp.

Chacaltaya

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On the road to our next mountain for the day, some llamas got in the way. This is Bolivia, after all.
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This abandoned lodge on Chacaltaya is a bizarre fusion of Scandinavian architecture and American advertising.
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5272 metres above sea level – and we weren’t even at the summit.
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A stunning view from Chacaltaya, even on an overcast evening. You can see El Alto in the distance, and beyond that, the sliver of Lake Titicaca.

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