Sajama had been on my list for a long time.. It does have the draw back that reaching is a bit of a pain. After my night in the bus in Mairana I was not eager to experiment with local transport anymore. So instead I tried to get an organized tour from La Paz. As so often, though, tours only leave with a minimum of two people and I am only one person (though I might be as tall as two Bolivians >.>) So after a couple of fruitless efforts (I did find an agency that would’ve taken me by myself, but they had no guide available. I did also find an agency that was taking a group around the dates I wanted to go, but the group changed their mind and shifted the tour back by a week, making it impossible for me to attend), I decided to just risk it and do it the “backpacker” way.
Many blogs tell you how to reach Sajama: Take the bus from La Paz to Oruro at 8am, get off in Patacamaya and there find the one collectivo daily that leaves for Sajama between 10am and 12pm. Due to some timing issues I only managed to catch the 9am bus and I was sitting on hot coals the entire way to Patacamaya (roughly two hours). Would I make it? Will the collectivo have left? I arrived in Patacamaya and my worries were confirmed: The local taxi driver told me to catch the bus to Arica which will drop me off at the road fork and I’d need to walk the lost couple of kilometers. Now, according to the Bolivians it was a matter of 2-3km easily done in an hour. According to my map and the reports I’d read online it was about 12km at 4200m elevation, with a good 20kg of luggage on my back. So more 3 hours of walking than one.
As I was sitting there waiting for the bus to Arica, pondering how I could avoid walking in the dark, out of the blue, the collectivo to Sajama appeared. It was 2pm and I had long given up hope to find it. You just never know. Even better, the only free spot in the mini van was in the front: Perfect view AND a working seat belt. Score!
And the views were absolutely amazing. Maybe even more amazing than in the Sajama National Park. It was as if I was getting a summary of all that I had seen so far in Bolivia. The curled mountains, the canyons, the red stone, the lamas, the golden grass and all of it while riding a bus on a perfectly tarred road! After about two hours we reached the fork where we left the main road to drive towards Sajama village. Sajama itself is absolutely tiny and, of course, as we arrived, party preparations were being held. This time it didn’t come as a surprise, the next day was Bolivian Independence day!
My original plan had been to climb one of the numerous 6000m high mountains in Sajama, however a number of circumstances, including the fact that I ended up being slightly sick, made me change my plans. So, instead, I went to the “laguna de los alturas” with a pair of Belgian guys. Apart from the fact that it was quite a steep climb, it was absolutely amazing. I ended up being so happy that I did the hike instead of climbing Acotango. The views were absolutely stunning, the country side varied quite drastically between the individual lagunas and we saw a bunch of Vizcachas.. These animals that are somehow half mouse, half squirrel and half kangaroo.
The hike itself took us a good eight hours to complete, because we enjoyed the view at the third laguna so much. After climbing towards the first (of three) lagunas you lose the view onto Sajama, Bolivias highest mountain. You end up walking in a somewhat narrow valley, where the surrounding mountains hide much of the view. As you get higher you can see Parinacota and Pomerape reappear and when you reach the third laguna, there’s a break in the wall and you have a free view onto Sajama, which is even reflecting in the lake. We couldn’t get enough of the view and spent almost two hours there, just sitting and admiring.
This however meant that the final part of our hike ended up being a bit short. The hike, as we had organised it, started and ended at the geysers. (You can walk to the geysers from town, but this adds another 7km each way to your hike) The geysers are really just pods of boiling water appearing in the ground. They flow into a nearby river making for some lovely temperated pools in the river where one can bath. In a country that has chronic difficulties with providing hot showers, this soaking hot bath was an absolute dream. We didn’t want to leave. Luckily our driver was very understanding and didn’t even comment on the fact that we made him wait 45min just to take a bath.
And of course in the evening, I tried for the mandatory night time pictures. This time with moon!