Beauty at High Altitude

In my last blog post I talked a bit about my trip up to the northern Chilean town of Putre, and I’m going to take this opportunity to share a little bit more about the trip with you because, honestly, it was beautiful and I loved every minute of it.

A photo of the Chilean high altitude wetlands with the Lago Chungará and the volcano Parinacota in the background.
The high altitude wetlands that surround the lake (the closest translation I can find from Spanish is cushion bog), el Lago Chungará, and the volcano Parinacota (it’s twin volcano, Pomerape, is hidden behind it) as seen at 15,000 ft.

During the trip, we got the opportunity to visit Lago Chungará, the highest altitude non-navigable lake in the world! It’s located in the altiplano of the Andes, which is the largest high plateau outside of Tibet (which is so crazy to think about!). At the highest point of our journey, we made it to 15,000 feet above sea level — higher than any point in the continental United States! All of the flora and fauna was different from anything I have ever seen before. Vizcachas, vicuñas, 9,000 year old moss (who even knew it could be that old?), alpacas, really everything you could ever dream of would be there.

A whole herd of alpacas crossing the road!!!

The only downside was altitude sickness. I was extremely lucky that the altitude didn’t really affect me, apart from being a little lightheaded. Other people in my program were not so lucky. Many of them had headaches and stomachaches or needed supplemental oxygen because of trouble breathing. Despite their discomfort, all I heard from them was how beautiful the area was and how glad they were to be able to visit the lake. They acknowledged that they felt absolutely terrible, but every single one of them said it was totally worth it to be able to look across the lake and see the mountains and Bolivia. 

A photo of me standing in front of the Lago Chungará with a mountain that's part of Bolivia visible in the background.
Me, with Bolivia in the background!!! That snow covered mountain in the background is part of Bolivia!

Their attitude got me thinking, and honestly, that’s just how studying abroad goes sometimes. You may be uncomfortable, out of your element, or upset sometimes, but in the end it is absolutely worth it for the experience!

Published by Jamie Breyfogle

Class of 2021 SIT Valparaíso, Chile International Studies, Philosophy, Spanish

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