After completing my Uyuni tour, I passed through La Paz for a few days. There, I caught up on cataloguing photos, video chats with my family, and blogging. I did, however, have one day leftover to explore. I had hoped to have two days exploring, so one of them could be biking the famous Death Road, but upon seeing the prices of those tours, I opted to skip it. I instead settled upon a two-part tour to La Paz's Valle de la Luna (Moon Valley), and the recently closed, high altitude ski resort of Chacaltaya. I hadn't done a lot of research, and to my delight, it turned out to be a highlight of my trip!
Of course, what day can begin without me making a new friend. I met this sweet, gentle soul outside our refreshment stop after the bus had been loaded. I dubbed him Rover, and he thoroughly enjoyed a few solid minutes of scratching before we reboarded the bus and headed off.
|Meet Rover, a sweet, tender spirit who blessed my trip from the start with a warm, loving reception.|
|Found his sweet spot. Can you guess where he loved to be scratched?|
From the pictures I had seen, I was most excited to visit Bolivia's Moon Valley (not to be confused with the Moon Valley I saw a couple weeks before in San Pedro de Atacama). It is an expanse of volcanic formations that is so surreal and unusual that Neil Armstrong thusly named it Valle de la Luna after his historic moon landing years before.
Here, an entire valley is full of tan protrusions, almost like the earth had been turned upside down and you are walking on the stalactite-ridden ceiling of an enormous cavern. It definitely captured the imagination.
|Who knew the moon would have such nicely constructed bridges and stairs.....|
|This guy had climbed up onto one of the pinnacles, serenading the valley with a smattering of songs.|
|The obligatory selfie on the moon.....|
The part of the trip that I knew the least about, turned out to be my favorite: the morning's visit to Chacaltaya. Sitting just outside La Paz, until recently this was the highest elevation ski resort in the world, at 5,421 meters (17,785 ft)! Sadly, the glacier the resort depended on melted completely away by the end of 2009, so now the site is merely a skeleton. But, Bolivia has repurposed the site now, bringing tourists there daily to walk to the peak and admire 360 degrees of incredible views of mountains, valleys and lagoons.
|Even driving up to the mountain was a treat, with views out the windows of spectacular peaks.|
|The ground is covered with this beautiful, flaky rock. It is heavy in iron, so the exposure to air and |
water creates a beautiful mix of browns, reds, and purples.
There still remain some trappings of the once luxurious ski resort. There are lodges, the remains of a ski lift, cables and cottages.
|Here was our first view of the lodge from the access road.|
|This was the most complete remnant of the only lift here, a rope tow, now long fallen into disrepair.|
We drove the pin-tight switchbacks up the side of the mountain to the base lodge. From there, I hiked up as far as I could. The whole time I was remembering the second week of my trip when I attempted to hike up to the Pastoruri Glacier in Huaraz, Peru. I remember a similar drop off at altitude, walking a path up the hill, and how hard the altitude was for me. I was heaving, lightheaded, and exhausted. That was at 5,250 meters/17,200 ft.
In stark contrast, this time, not only did I summit without having to stop every 3 feet, but I was one of the only ones to keep going further, also summiting a second, taller, peak a further down the path! I was filled with pride, joy, and thankfulness at being able to accomplish something that had been such a struggle a few months before. Mind you, I'm not saying it was easy. I still did have to stop every so often and concentrate on breathing slowly and evenly so as to maximize the amount of oxygen I was getting out the the thin air, but I did it, and felt fine afterwards! The last time I had tried it, I came down with altitude sickness that affected me for 2 days afterwards!
|A view from the path, looking back at the old ski lodge.|
|Despite it being hot and steamy back in La Paz, at this altitude it was pretty chilly, |
and I was thankful for all the extra warming items of clothing I had brought with me.
|A view of another lodge from the parking lot|
|As I walked on to the next, tallest, peak, our guide sat near the trail waiting for me, making sure I made it back ok|
|I was rewarded with spectacular views when I reached the top. It was only an hour of walking, |
but I still felt like I had accomplished something.
|This nearby mountain in the same chain is rumored to be the inspiration for the Paramount Pictures logo|
|This is the view from the first peak, looking on to the next peak. |
I climbed from this spot, all the way to that high point you can see in the upper right corner.
|Looking back to the first peak from the path up to the second.|
|Jess the mountain climber|
All in all, it was a full and satisfying day. I saw some spectacular sights, and found out I was capable of more than I realized. This was definitely one of my favorite days from my trip!