This was Karina’s experience, one of the members of the GoChile team that ventured for the first time to the altiplanic desert.
At GoChile we like to get to know in-depth the destinations that we offer and the tour operators with whom we work with, so every now and then we leave the city to travel to some of the most hidden parts of Chile. In this instance, Karina Pires, CEO GoChile, traveled to Putre, Lauca National Park and Chungará Lake in the Chilean Altiplano.
Karina Pires arrived at the airport in Arica, located at 100 meters above sea level, a Monday in August at 9:30 in the morning. Ready for adventure, she boarded a van from Trekking Aymara, the tour operator greeted her and the rest of the travelers with a small lunch box with a brownie, cereal, juice, cookies and a lot of water. Hydration was fundamental for the touristic program that was about to experiment during the next three days. Karina and the rest of the group would rise to the 3.500 meters above sea level to visit the Chilean altiplano.
Karina, a brasilian born in Sao Paulo, knew quite well what her guide was talking about. The first time she visited the Atacama desert, in the Tatio geysers, she got so sick from the altitude that she ended up returning her breakfast. But this time this would not happen. The guide was very cautious about the precautions to avoid altitude sickness, reminding Karina and the group to constantly hidrate the entire journey to Putre. Another measure the tour operator realized for the acclimation of the high altitude was to stop along the way at attractive areas located at different altitudes and take short walks so that that group could acclimatize to the altitude.
The first stop that Trekking Aymara made with the group was in Poconchile, a small town where there is a church and cemetery that Karina found extremely interesting. During the walk they stopped to observe the candelabra cactus, named for their peculiar form.
Karina, who had never been to this area of Chile, looked in amazement at the desert landscape from the van window until she saw some houses. They had arrived at the smallest village in Chile, a community of two habitants named Mallku.
Mallku was built by Don Alexis and Doña Andrea, a couple that after traveling the world, decided to live 3.100 meters above sea level in the middle of nowhere. Alexis offered the group homemade bread, freshly baked, and Andrea gave each member of the tour a cup of the marvelous coca tea, perfect protection from altitude sickness and to warm up after feeling the cold wind of the altiplano.
The friendly couple told the story of why they made the decision to live in a place so inhospitable and how it taught them how to connect with nature and reconnect with the soul. Karina, enamored by these two mythical people decide that it should be an obligatory stop for everyone that decides to visit Arica and its surroundings in the future.
The group, the guide, the driver and our representative from GoChile said goodbye to only inhabitants of Mallku and continued on their way towards Putre, stopping once in the village of Socoroma to try “tumbo” a typical local fruit.
Once arrived in Putre, located at 3500 meters above sea level, the travelers checked in at the hotel Chakana Mountain Lodge, that consists of a few simple but comfortable cabins, and then had dinner at Cafe & Restaurant Putre, where it is possible to eat delicious typical food of the area like quinoa, maíz, alpaca, tumbo ice cream, and a tumbo sour, among other dishes.
The second day of the tour, Karina and the rest of the group began the day with a delicious breakfast of toasted bread, avocado, eggs, ham, cheese, yogurt, cereal, jams, butter, milk, coffee, tea and juice, shared on a table for all of the guests. Once everyone was ready, the van left with the group to head to Lauca National Park.
In route to one of the most beautiful national parks in Chile, the group stopped at a lookout, Chucuyo Lake, an impressive place with a 360 degree view of the Parinacota and Pomerape volcanoes known as the “Payachatas”, which means two brothers. After taking some photos and watching the flamingos that live in the lake, they continued their journey until the Conaf center in Lauca where they were greeted by Mallku (Cóndor), the son of Don Alexis.
Mallku guided the group through the park in a mini trekking during which they could see some examples of the native wildlife like the vicuñas and vizcachas. While they walked along the Chungará lake and to the Parinacota volcano, Mallku explained about the plants and wildlife of the area. Once in the picnic spot, the group ate a delicious snack while enjoying the songs of the birds, ducks swimming and the overall peace and tranquility of this place. Karina was amazed by the mix of landscapes and could have stayed there for hours.
The last day, the group headed towards Suriplaza, spectacular colorful mountains located 4.800 meters above sea level, the highest spot that the group arrived at during the entire trip. A unique place in the world with incredible views that created the perfect ending of the tour.
Interview with Karina:
What did you think of the lodging?
“It was small cabins accommodating 2 and 3 people, simple, with comfortable twin beds, hot water, good wi-fi and an electric stove. It’s 5 minutes to the center of town in a car. The breakfast was very filling.”
What did you think of the tours?
“The places that we visited are incredible, truthfully I am amazed with the destination and would love to go back and visit more and more places in the area. They are spots of pure contact with nature, peace and tranquility. On the trails, it is difficult to get internet so you can completely disconnect. You achieve connection with yourself and the wildlife and plants that surround you, the behavior of natural life. Even more so, all of the guides are locals and teach you a lot about the plant and animal world. They definitely charmed us with their knowledge and history.
“What did you think of the service?”
Excellent. They are always thinking of the travelers and taking care of us so that no one suffers from altitude sickness, trying to get to know each of our preferences. The driver and guide were always attentive to show us the animals that we found along the way, and they go at the pace of the group. Impeccable service and prepared in case of any emergency.
“What did you like most about the tour?”
Without a doubt the visit to the village Mallku was unforgettable. Don Alexi’s teaching touched my heart. The natural landscapes without a doubt, the 360 lookout of the Laguna de Chucuyo, Chungará Lake and Parinacota Volcano.
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