Tuesday, February 14, 2012

open desert house

three days ago we left the sandy, hot desert (and rather uninspirational) expanse of arica, and started rising up through the pre-andes into the Chilean altiplano (high planes, i guess above 4000m altitude). the alitplano is shared by Chile, Bolivia and Peru, and indeed where we are now is a stones throw to both the borders of Peru and Bolivia. As much as we'd love to go back into Bolivia, our passports say we've been there more than our allowed 3 months, which is a bummer as carnival is happening soon in Oruro, meant to be a good place after Rio to see the festivities.

The valley out of Arica.. going upwards and towards the dark rainclouds...
Sunset in the fog where we ended up stopping to camp

after about 60kms, the hot air gave way to crisp winds, and finally we ascended into fog and rain. of course this region has perfect sunny weather from March to December, and now, in their wet summer season, we decide to visit! this year there has been a lot of rain, la nina, which i guess is linked to the heavy snows and winter season in the northern hemisphere.

we decided to stop around 3100m at a little restaurant called Thaki. to acclimatise also it is best to do so before 3500m and as we've been out of high altitudes for many months, decided to play it safe. what a wonderful stop it was! the restaurant was run by Alexi and Andrea - Alexi is about 60, and Andrea just over 50. both have worked and travelled around the world - Alexi in some sort of geographic survey/seismic analysis and Andrea trained in medicine but seemed to be a professional runner. They now live there with their 4 children (not sure if they are all theirs...) between about 8 years and 20 years old. And of course there's Thomas, the son of a friend of theirs from a town about 200kms away who is visiting for a month. the restaurant / house was built by them bit by bit - it's a bit of a mish mash of adobe and timber construction, with a caravan and other sort of harem like tents... complete with wind and solar power too.

they have very interesting views about the relationship to humans and the earth (some that resulted in quite long tellings..- one that stayed with me, was Andrea telling me about how the children of the city only can see as far as the front door, and as soon as they try to step outside, they are yanked back and put in front of the television. but out in the desert, her children run outside and what they can see is the horizon... a huge expanse that allows them to open their own perspectives and generate a true understanding of what pachamama (mother earth) gives to them, and their role in the chain.

Out tent pitched next to their bedrooms and bathrooms - it sort of resembled a harem! complete with persian carpets and tents inside also
A very young condor that had been found by Marco - the son of Andrea. Although big to me.. this was just a couple of years old as the fully grown condors have a wingspan of about 3m
Close up of the condor

Chatting with Alexi and Andrea in their kitchen - behind Alexi is a large adobe oven where Andrea bakes bread every day
Playing dominoes with 3 of the kids (Thomas is in the middle)
it was chaotic and disorganised, but full of warmness and openness - wonderful souls! it seemed like in the afternoons the house would swell as people dropped by - literally their house is on the highway, about 25kms from the next town, and the people coming were a mix of travellers stopping for tea, friends on their way back to Arica, friends of the son who would come for a chat after work. yesterday i made lunch with Andrea - i thought for 9 of us, but that turned into 13, then 15 and finally 19 people by 5pm. (when lunch actually happened!) a wonderful demonstration of an open house with a community converging around it.

it reminded me a lot of my brothers house in northern NSW in Australia - he chose to leave the conventional life and career in Sydney as a computer programmer and built up his house literally room by room for his family in the bush. From the same bamboo ceilings, to slightly chaotic but always open and welcoming house, it was lovely to chance upon this reminder of how you can choose to execute your life. and what makes it so? the people; open, warm, friendly who have forged their own path in a sort of middle way... neither in the city or 'burbs, or either lost hermits in the woods.

today we chanced leaving our new family as the weather had opened up, and indeed we enjoyed seeing where we were driving for about 20kms until the fog closed in again. the rain is pattering down on the tent now, and tomorrow we're going to head up even higher into the Parque Nacional Lauca; a unique biosphere with high altitude lakes, many animals and the largest variety of bird life in Chile.
With the sun out for a bit we finally said goodbye to everyone
Our new campground in Putre - hello fog again!
ps. rain rain rain. constant rain. i guess this is what a wet season is! instead of gungho-ing it up further, instead we chickened out and after a delish breakfast of carmelised onions, zucchini and scrambled egg 'bap' in the dryness of the tent, we decided to just head to some termas (hot springs) nearby. But... oh of joys... the lodge next to where we've set up tent (in someone's backyard..) has REAL expresso thanks to their italian owners! so am now downing a couple while sending off these belated blog updates

1 comment:

  1. It is exciting to experience different weather, I would like to know how it is to live in the desert or a place where there is snow and constant rain.