Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Salar de Uyuni y El Altiplano, Bolivia (2/16/04 - 2/19/04)

"Have you beauty, that leads the heart from the things fashioned of wood and stone to the holy mountain?" –Gibran, from The Prophet

WARNING: If you were turned off by Fat Bastard's monologue on flatulence in Goldmember, be forewarned that the next paragraph talks about poop. If you are easily offended you may want to skip it.

As I'm searching for rocks to cover the "hot sick" I just excreted behind a boulder that wasn't quite big enough to offer the privacy I had hoped for, I can't tell if it's the altitude, something I ate, or the medicine I'm taking for my inflamed inner ear that's made my bowel movement the bright orange/yellowish color and consistency of a thick calabash soup, but I am certain that this incident (and the bus ride to Uyuni) is a small price to pay for the wonders that I am experiencing.

Flamingoes, El Altiplano, Bolivia Posted by Picasa

Yes, it's cold at 16,000 feet, but the beauty of thousands upon thousands of flamingoes strutting in a fiery red lake and flashing their brilliantly colored wings is enough to make this summer baby from steamy Charleston, SC forget about the cold and lose himself in the scene.

Dali Landscape, Altiplano, Bolivia Posted by Picasa

Stone Tree, Altiplanao, Bolovia Posted by Picasa

The Altiplano is another world reminiscent of landscapes you've scene in Star Wars and Star Trek movies: miles and miles of desert with snow capped mountains and volcanoes in the distance, strange rock formations that remind you of Salvador Dali paintings... I can NOT do it justice here (you may want to do a Google search to find pictorials)... We saw thousands of domesticated llamas grazing the plains. Their tagging (red yarn attached to their ears and neck) and fluffy appearance makes one want to personify them. You get the impression that they think they're better than their distant cousins, the wild vicunas that also roam these plains. The viscachas, which are somewhat tame due to the amount of tourists who stop by their rocky hiding places to offer them food remind you of rabbits, but they have shorter ears, longer tails, and are much more agile due to their environment.

Tagged Llama, Altiplano, Bolivia Posted by Picasa

Viscacha, Altiplano, Bolivia Posted by Picasa

We arrived at Laguna Verde after visiting the geysers and hot springs. It appeared to be more brown than green, but our guide informed us that the water only turned green when the wind picked up and stirred the copper and other sediments resting at the bottom of the lagoon. We waited for about 30 minutes and you could actually see the water begin to change at the far side of the lake. It was like magic the way the murky lagoon transformed into a bright aqua marine blue-green Caribbean sea right before our eyes!

YI Group, Laguna Verde, Bolivia Posted by Picasa

And I have NEVER seen as many stars as I did from the dormitory at Laguna Colorada. I was impressed by those I saw while camping in the big sky states of New Mexico and Colorado as an AmeriCorps-NCCC Team Leader back in '95, but here the sky was FULL of stars. They were so bright and brilliant that they seemed close enough to touch... Made me wish I had studied astronomy at some point so I could tell what was what. It's no wonder that ancient civilizations were more in touch with the universe, one can't help be intrigued and enticed to interact with celestial bodies when you see them so clearly night after night.

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia Posted by Picasa

But the salt flats, and in particular La Isla Pescado, took the cake for me. I only had 3 shots left on my disposable camera, and I wanted to save at least one of them for the hotel made out of salt that we would be visiting later. So I was hiking this island of 30 foot cacti looking for the perfect shot to capture the beauty of oasis in the middle of hundreds of miles of bright white salt, when I was moved to sit and meditate. I was overwhelmed by a sense of awe and appreciation for the Creator and creation... There were no words, but God was speaking to me. It was a sensation that I doubt I will ever forget.

Summit of Isla Pescado, Bolivia Posted by Picasa

"If you would know God, be therefore not a solver of riddles. Rather look about you and you shall see Him playing with your children… You shall see Him walking in the cloud... You shall see Him smiling in the flowers, then rising and waving his hands in the trees... Beauty is life when life unveils her holy face." –Gibran

Isla Pescado, Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia Posted by Picasa


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