Out of breath, we reached the top of Incahuasi. It wasn’t a very steep climb to the island’s peak, but the light-on-oxygen altitude made flatland lungs work harder.
Like a darkly dressed sentinel standing conspicuously in a seemingly endless expanse of snow, Incahuasi juts toward the sky, watching over one of Earth’s most breathtaking beauties – the mystical Salar de Uyuni. At more than 11,000 feet above sea level, Incahuasi – which in the Quechua language of the ancient Incas means “Inca House” – is but one of several islands in the middle of the Uyuni salt flats, the largest salt lake in the world. Not many outside of Bolivia realize that the Uyuni salt flats is actually a lake, because it’s dry for much of the year. Under that sea of salt, however, rivers run year-round and in places bubble to the surface, creating circular patterns in the otherwise smooth terrain.
But come summer in the Southern Hemisphere, the Uyuni salt flats is under water, rendering Incahuasi unreachable by the fleet of four-wheel drive vehicles that otherwise normally speed along the blindingly white-as-snow salt bed. Even submerged – perhaps more so because of the mirror-like effect the water creates – Uyuni takes your breath away. Any air I had left from that climb up Incahuasi was knocked right out of me by the stunning landscape before me. At the top of the island, I found a spot away from the other mesmerized tourists and sat to catch my breath. But instead, if only for a brief moment, I unwittingly held my breath as I caught my first glimpse of Uyuni from this amazing vantage point on Incahuasi.
Posts Tagged With: Southern Hemisphere
I arrived in Cuzco, Peru, after 22 hours on a bus. I never got off the bus once. Twenty-two hours that were rather grueling. At least the last four hours. I’ll try not to ever do that again, even if the bus had some comforts such as reclining seats, attendants and food service – and two bathrooms. Spending almost a whole day on a bus is no fun, especially for a guy like me who gets cabin fever. And yet, the getting to Cuzco was worth every hour. I am in my element here in Cuzco. This is a place packed with centuries of history, of cultures, of human drama.
Ever since I can remember I have wanted to visit Cuzco and Machu Picchu. It’s been right up there with the Egyptian pyramids. I intend to stay in Cuzco and explore for several weeks. My stay here will culminate on June 24 with the Inti Raymi – festival of the sun – an Inca religious ceremony in honor of the god Inti in observance of the winter solstice. Yes, it’s winter here in Cuzco and the rest of the Southern Hemisphere, but the sun shines bright and the mornings and afternoons are still warm. Bundle up at night.
So I arrived at the right time in Cuzco because it’s the 100th anniversary observance of the “discovery” of Machu Picchu. The celebrations have already begun. The photos you see are part of that grand celebration. Much has been happening in Cuzco and the place is teeming with even more tourists than usual. It’s high season, too, and of course all this means higher prices for everything, including lodging. I am still in the planning stages of my ascent to Machu Picchu. By whatever means I get there, it will be just a real high being there.