Thursday, October 25, 2012

Traveling in Peru [Part 2]: The Altiplano

Also know as the “high plain” in spanish, the Altiplano is exactly that: An arid plateau that is part of the Andes mountain range. 

In short, its high, dry, and desolate. 

Parts of the Altiplano are home to the vicuna, a species of camelid that is related to the llama and alpaca. Unlike it’s relations, the vicuna is not domesticated although they are corralled every year and shorn, so that the fiber may be collected and used in textile productions. 

Several hours into our drive we pulled into a rest stop and met this baby llama. 

We were instantly smitten. 

Especially the Bambino.

Later we stopped at a stock trading market. Here are the animals available for sale:

The seller:

We also passed massive herds of both llamas and alpacas throughout the day, frequently accompanied by a shepard and a few dogs. 

It looks like a lonely life.

There are a few wet spots, mostly where snowmelt from the (many) active volcanos pools. 

The highlight of the day was heading over a 4,910 meter pass. For those of us on the English conversion system, that’s a massively high 16,108 feet above sea level. 

That’s definitely the highest I’ve ever been. By a looong shot. Our own Mt. Rainier is only 14,450 feet and Mt. McKinley (the tallest mountain in the US) is only a measly 4,000 feet taller. 

On a side note, the new ‘panarama’ feature on the iphone’s OS6 is pretty cool, no?

One of the higher marketplaces in the world, I’d bet. 

Once over the pass, we descended into Chivay. The Inca terraces were clearly evident:

As were farming practices that didn’t seem much more advanced:

The area is devoted mostly to subsistence farming although massive mines in the area are rolling right along. Tourism is also a growing part of the economy as people come to see the Andean condor, the canyon, and lounge in the hot springs. 

Most women carried goods on their back, wrapped in a colorful blanket. Babies were also carried in the same fashion. 

llama herds from afar. 

Chris and Ben make a new friend. 

We stopped to observe some non-pink flamingos.