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Entries about sajama

I got so high, my body started to eat itself.

Unfortunately, I couldn't select the parts I wanted it to eat first.

all seasons in one day 20 °F


SAJAMA, altitude 21,546 feet or 6547 meters. Around 18000 feet, the body no longer heals. Around 20,000 or 21,000 the body starts to eat itself for fuel, because you just can't consume enough oxygen in the air to engage in aerobic metabolism. So muscle and fat breaks down, hopefully the fat first.

Some guy I ran in to said he was going to climb Sajama. Everyone around here plans to climb Huayna Potosi, it's like a high mountain road that you can pay to walk up and say you're a mountaineer, even if you might stab yourself with the ice ax. But Sajama is the tallest mountain in Bolivia, and if this guy was going to do it, why shouldn't I? So Jared and I meandered to the town of Sajama, located Ignacio who doesn't speak any English, one of the 4 guides in the town, and planned for the hike.

It was a 3 day tour, usually done in 5 days. Hike up to base camp, eat and sleep, hike up to High camp, eat and think about sleeping, then hike to the top. The third day, if you do it in 3, is literally planned as 12-14 hours above 18000 feet, before descending from camp, another 6-7 hours, 10 miles and a total of 7000 vertical feet decent. That's a lot.

But we climbed Sajama. And it was hard. There's no air up there! And Bolivia has these penitenties, which are like these icicle stalagmites 6 feet tall that stick up from the ground which you have to hack your way through hoping not to fall between the icicles. 196.jpg
It's tedious and breathtaking. That's why 500 meters takes over 2 hours. It's ridiculous and some sick joke at 21000 feet where there's no air to walk, let alone meander on these icicles. 221.jpg

But we celebrated with canned tuna and crackers for dinner, the only food you can find in that small town, and maybe a banana. Then decided to head down... way down into the jungle of Rurrenbaque for a 4 day hike around the Amazon. We ended up on this guided jungle 'tour' where it feels like we went to Israeli summer camp and the counselors were... if you've ever been in the Grand Canyon and know the guides as River Rats, these are Jungle junkies. 30-40 year old Bolivianos, most married with their wife in town, most looking to date some 3 day chic visiting, with large wads of coca in their mouths, prancing around half naked with teeth hanging from their necks as the Mogli character from the jungle book. 073.jpg

Some highlights included monkeys, 040.jpg
and wild pigs, but more importantly, Jared caught a fish. A really really big fish. 270.jpg

It all started when I needed to go for a swim. Imagine in the movies a young gringa chic, me, has no bathing suit and smells a lot. I head down to the river to hide behind a corner and clean off a bit. As I am unbuttoning my shirt, I see this eye in the water moving slowly pass me. 151.jpg"Wait a minute, that's an alligator. Hmm, it's only 7 feet away. It's looking at me," I thought to myself. As I back away, it becomes startled and ducks into the water. I run back up to my friends.... dirty and smelly. The guide and a girl decide to go swimming. To keep the alligator at bay, they continually throw rocks in every direction around them, hoping one will hit it on the head. I watch from above as the alligator slowly creeps closer to them, eye sticking out. I'm debating when I should tell them the alligator is too close, imagining in my head different movie scenarios. Then I decide to join them as I need a bath, tossing rocks at the alligator as well.

An hour passes, and Jared comes back with the ginormous fish. The guide said in the stores, the fish would go for about 50 dollars in the market. A better perspective is the local trout I saw fresh on the streets... goes for 30 cents near the lake. No lie. This fish weighed over 25 pounds. No lie. And we had to eat it.

So the guide and the cook on the trip have to gut the fish in the river, and as soon as they start guttin, the Alligator moves from 50 feet away to about 10 feet away. Within seconds, it's mouth opens and closes in the river as it eats the guts, and it slowly lunges toward the guys as they are running into the water, out of the water, trying to clean the fish. One guy continually throws rocks while the other guys runs back and forth with the fish, washing then running from the alligator mouth, back and forth. Eventually. the fish is clean enough and they bring it back up the hill, still throwing rocks. It was cooked over a low fire for over 16 hours, and tasted amazing. 294.jpg

Our little clan was fed yet again, and we invited the neighboring tribes over for lunch too. Jared has a big head now, and every time he goes fishing, he will be sadly disappointed.

and more pics....

Posted by risajs 20:18 Archived in Bolivia Tagged sajama Comments (6)

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