On our second day out of San Pedro we continued to work our way north along the southwestern edge of Bolivia. The roads were still rutted and rocky and there was too much driving relative to too little hiking, but the scenery was great, too.Enroute we happened across a couple rheas, large ostrich-like flightless birds that run around this part of Bolivia. We never got any decent pictures, but they’re a fun bird to watch. And to read about. They’re polygamous, with males courting up to a dozen female birds. Even more interesting, though, is that it’s the males, not the females, who protect the nest, incubate the eggs, and even tend the chicks. And then on one lagoon we hiked around we watched Giant Coots – another bird that, while relatively big is “giant” only in the context of other coots – fighting over territory. Our guide Danilo told how once he absentmindedly got too close to a giant coot nest and the birds went straight at him. Ain’t nature interesting?
At the same time, the human life could be confusing. We went into one tiny little village; just tiny, maybe a few dozen people living there. The Bolivian government had recently invested in building some new housing in this remote, isolated location and you could only wonder what life must be like in such a tiny, remote, isolated location.
We’re here in what is supposed to be the end of the rainy season, but the rains failed pretty significantly. One result is that some of the quinoa fields are just devastated. From afar, quinoa fields in this part of Bolivia can be beautiful, big red squares in an otherwise colorless region. Without water, though, there were some really sad-looking plots. You can only imagine the impact it must have on local farmers who are already poor beyond most anything I can imagine.What else was interesting about Day Two? We walked the last mile or two to our lodgings, mostly just because walking is more interesting than bumping along the gravel roads. While we were walking you could hear big thunder rumbling across the landscape. Ultimately there was no rain, but the thunder was impressive.
And speaking of impressive, we went out after dinner that night to view the stars. Danilo had a laser pointer to show us some of the constellations, after which for the first time I could easily identify the Southern Cross, the southern hemisphere’s answer to the Big Dipper and North Star. Orion, Castor & Pollux, Jupiter – we saw them all, along with billions and billions of other stars.
The trip brought us right to the very edge of the Uyuni Salt Flats; tomorrow we cross in for two days. I’ll just add in anticipation that the experience was amazing.