Flamingos. Bolivia. Yes, those two words do actually go together like a duck in water. Well, actually a flamingo hidden away in the Bolivian mountains. It certainly wasn’t a country-bird pairing that I was expecting. No matter how often we came across these long legged flamingo beauties I was still excited, amazed and fell in love with these goofy birds.
Bolivia may not necessarily be famous for flamingos. Actually, let’s be honest here Bolivia, and certainly, La Paz, is more famous for that fun white powder, really big mountains, and cheap outdoor gear. Oh and that silly road that people kept falling off and dying. As we had decided not to spend the huge wad of cash that you had to sacrifice to ride on Death Road, our Bolivia trip was looking a little bland. Most of the time we were in the truck going from A-B. We’d done a trail walk, seen some Inca ruins and learnt all about how you get sexy time when you live on a floating island ( hint it involves booking a boat). We were looking at another administration cluster fuck when we were advised that the “office” (local or head we weren’t told) couldn’t get our truck the correct paperwork to enter a national park. Instead, we were to collect a local guide, head out into the Bolivia Altiplano and stay in a mountain refuge. In which the highlight of the village was a small plane crash, still in it’s crash site, and the remains of the passengers from the plane. Never one to waste the local community were using the plane remains as animal shelters and fencing.
Bolivia offers some very unique accommodation options.
There’s really not much more to say about our overnight mountain refuge. We found ourselves in a mud brick hostel. In typical and hilarious Bolivian style things had been done oh so well and oh so bad at the same time. It was a real hit and miss with the rooms – some had bathrooms and others didn’t. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason as to why the rooms were like this. It may seem trivial, and at the time caused no issues, but in all honesty, it was hilarious. Another TISA moment. Without this unique detour, we wouldn’t have gotten up at ridiculously early o’clock, frozen our bits off hopped into the Gus truck and found ourselves eating lunch at one of the most beautiful lakes I’ve ever seen.
Complete with flocks of flamingos.
And then there were FLAMINGOS
Hidden away in the hills of the Bolivian Altiplano are two species of flamingo. The Andean Flamingo and the James’s Flamingo. The raw nature of this area, the arid water, volcanoes and arid landscapes has kept these birds hidden away from the modern world. So much so that up until 1960 it was thought that the James’s Flamingo may be extinct. Nope, not extinct just smarter than the average explorer and hiding where all the good food is. Which just happens to be at around 4,500mtrs above sea level.
Telling the difference between the two types of pretty pink birds is fairly easy. The James’s Flamingo has a black bottom. If you are a super keen bird watcher you’ll notice up to three types of flamingos in the area, with the Chilean flamingo joining in the fun times. Despite their political differences, flamingos are more than willing to share space including their breeding colonies.
How do you get to find the flamingos?
Well, the easiest way is via a tour company. There are plenty who offer trips between San Pedro, Chile and La Paz. As well as the surrounding areas. You’ll want to find a company that offers a tour via the Sajama National Park and who take into their itinerary a stop via the Laguna Colorada (Red Lagoon), and the Laguna Verde (Green Lagoon). There are a few eco-lodges being built in the area to accommodate guests. Now you know we don’t usually push for people to take organised tours BUT this area is harsh. It’s vicious, barren and does require a 4WD vehicle. There are very few road signs and it’s an area that locals know exceptionally well.
Is it worth the hassle of high altitude, cold weather and crappy roads?
Yes. 110% yes don’t hesitate, get yourself here now. In so many ways I didn’t actually want to share with y’all my love of flamingos and how much joy I got from seeing this hilarious birds in the wild. In so many ways I still can’t put into words how this experience was for me. Despite the freezing cold weather, gale force winds and sand in my salad I loved every moment of getting here and seeing the flamingos.
And I don’t actually want you to go there. I don’t want you to have such an amazing time like what I did. Well once we got there. As I really want these birds to continue their lives in peace and harmony as they have done so for hundreds of years.
But alas tourism doesn’t work this way.
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