Day 12: Pastores & Pukara
As somewhat expected, Bolivian Airlines changed our flight times (again) for tomorrow (Friday) affecting our plans to arrive in São Paulo. To be fair, our connection times were already pretty comical, but not negative five minutes. Therefore, we spent some time this morning on the phone with Bolivian Airlines to change our flights and arrive in São Paulo by Saturday afternoon.
Despite the delay, we were able to modify the explorations to do a number of really cool things. First up on the agenda was stopping by a church in a nearby town, then continuing to walk on the pasture to see the animals.
As we approached the church, we saw that some sort of celebration was going on. Oscar asked what was happening and if we could take some pictures. They explained they were celebrating a religious holiday and welcomed us to stay.
Some of the traditions included killing and cooking a llama on a grill made out of rocks. Also there was a lot of drinking and apparently the custom is to drink whatever someone hands you as a sign of respect. We were quickly handed beers, then shots, then more beers. Pachamama got a few extra blessings today. They also made sure we stayed to eat the llama, which was served with rice. Oscar explained that this type of party lasts not only all day, but goes on for a few days. He let the community leaders know that we had to leave and we were able to make our escape without offending the elders.
When we left, we continued on the walk we started and passed llamas and sheep. When we reached the end of the pasture, we met Abel and drove up a mountain to a short hike. Along the way, we had to stop to let the sheep pass.
We climbed up a hill to Pukara de Chillema, a pre-Incan fortress. There were still remnants of food silos, eating tables, and bedrooms. After walking around, we found a path back down and drove to the salt flats.
During the rainy season, the entire salt flat is covered in a couple of inches of water. But, this time of year, the flats are almost entirely dry and solid. Since there is water under the salt layers, there are some spots that are more wet and slushy that we avoided. However, there is an area that has been dug out to reveal the water underneath. We donned rain boots and had time to play in the water and with the reflections it created.
We headed back to the lodge to figure out the last flight change. Did you know it takes about 15 minutes to spell ‘Mittelstadt” over the phone with a bad connection? It seems that Bolivia makes it just as hard to leave as it does to get in. After a couple hours of internetting and calling, we finally got everything sorted out and enjoyed our final Explora dinner.
P.S. In case you’re wondering, Bolivian airlines significantly changed our itinerary four times within a month of the trip (some within 48 hours). As a result, we will be taking two flights on Friday, staying in Santa Cruz, then taking two more flights on Saturday to arrive at Iguazu Falls in the evening. Fingers crossed!