After we crossed into Chile we entered the stunning Lauca National Park. We hitched across the borders no mans land then walked into the park along the quiet road. After about 10km we reached the park guards on the side of lake Chunguara. The view across the lake to the volcanoes was spectacular despite the high altitude taking its toll on us we found the hike wonderful.
We called into the park wardens hut by the lake where there was also a refuge to stay the night. A nice spot to stay but Parinacota village sounded more appealing.
With the altitude we were tired out so hitched a ride. After about 10 minutes we got picked up by huge white lorry. He was carrying Quinoa from near LaPaz to Arica on the coast for export to satisfy the growing western demand. We were dropped off in the middle of nowhere but the Garmin etrex30 GPS I had showed a short cut to Parinacota village. I gave the friendly driver some cash and jumped out of the high cab.
We arrived in the village and the place was empty, tumble weed rolling through the streets and an old man asleep at a small drink stall. We found the park office and refugio but it was locked up. We sat for a while waiting, then visited the old man for some water. It appeared the refuge was permenantly closed despite the park truck outside. Another truck had pulled up and the man was chatting to the other old man. I asked where we could stay and it appeared nowhere was the answer. We hitched a ride out with the other chap who was in a new pickup truck down the valley to the bigger town of Putre. He went way too fast and nearly killed us but was super friendly. Putre was a nice little town on the edge of Lauca National Park with a stunning restaurant serving Alpaca loin, which I enjoyed I lot!