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...two travellers in search of the world's wildlife

26 June 2011

Amiable viscachas

24th June 2011

Today we drove higher still, up onto the altiplano above Putre which is mostly over 4,500m. Like being back in Tibet, although instead of the distant white Himalayas we were overlooked by the vast bulk of the volcano Parinacota. As far as I’m aware it has no plans to erupt this week.

It feels like we’re really in the back of beyond here. The only things we have to share the road with are huge trucks blasting along in enormous clouds of dust, heading to or from Bolivia. The landscape is complete wilderness except for the very occasional pueblo, nothing but a handful of tiny tumble-down stone cottages with a quirky little church in the middle. It’s also very windy and dazzlingly sunny, which meant that we were baked in the car and chilled whenever we got out. Interesting though it is to visit, this isn’t a place I could ever imagine living.

We did well for wildlife today, seeing Vicuna, Guanaco, Viscacha, and a big-eared mouse we have identified as the Bolivian Greater Mouse. Quite a surprising variety of birdlife as well, considering how high we are. These included the Giant Coot which is massively more bulky than our coots back home but every bit as bad-tempered and aggressive to other birds. We also saw Rheas, so along with the ostrich in South Africa and the emu in Australia we’ve ticked off most of the world’s giant flightless birds – just the cassowary missing.

My absolute favourites were the Viscachas, though. With their half-lidded eyes and placid expressions they look as though they spend most of their time meditating, and they are relaxed enough that they weren’t bothered by us approaching within just a couple of metres of them.

I definitely want one.


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