Sunrise Over Laguna Colorada


Back in 2010 I ended up in southwest Bolivia on a brief trip that changed my appreciation of the environment. The southwestern region of Bolivia lies high up in the northern Andes at an altitude between 4,200 and 4,800 metres. Its a barren, volcanic region, desolate and undeveloped. There’s no electicity; the only water in in the form of the lakes which are so heavily laden with volcanic minerals that the only life that survives in them is microbial extremophiles; there’s no roads, no cell coverage. Nothing. I fell in love with it immediately.

I was sharing a Toyota Landcruiser with five others and we arrived at the refuge that we were to spend the first night in. We were all surprisingly tired after a dinner consisting of a delicious vegetable soup and, er, less delicious fried spam. It also gets pretty cold at this altitude – we were expecting something in the region of -15°C and so we were all in the dorm and safely tucked up by 9PM  It was a rough night – the first day at high altitude and that’s when it hit me: All day I had been active and so my heartrate was nice and high, pumping those little oxygen molecules around. But as I slept and my heart rate slowed, my poor brain was slowly being starved in the oxygen-deprived high-altitude air. Consequently I woke up the mother of all headaches! Still, all thoughts of tiredness and pain were forgotten as I peeked outside and saw the pre-dawn morning light reflecting off Laguna Colorada…

The problem is that most of southwest Bolivia is a mineral, natural gas and rare element goldmine, primarily due to in being in a volcano belt. As a result the Bolivian government is under extreme pressure to allow mining rights which would greatly aid the impoverished country. If that happens, scenes such as the one here will soon be impossible.


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