Altiplano: Birds, Bunnies with attitude, and other creatures

While the Vicuñas, Llamas and Alpacas tend to show up on most tourist photos, there is actually a large amount of other creatures living in the Altiplano.

Most of the birds are found in the wetlands.  There are two types of wetlands: Hydric and Mesic:

  • Hydric – has water permanently
  • Mesic – has water sporadically and salinity can be observed

The smallish birds that are most often seen are: buff-winged cinclodes, slender-beaked finch,  black-hooded sierra finch and Puna ground-tyrant.

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I think these two are moor-hens


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Taking off


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Flamingo in the Altiplano Wetlands


I managed to spot a small group of 4 or so of these large ostrich-like birds on the side of the road.  Had to use my zoom lens to capture this photo.  They are very skittish and we had to be super quiet.

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What do you call a group of flightless birds?  Still a Flock?


Vizchacha = Bunny Rabbits with attitude.

They eat vegetation mainly from the wetlands.  We found a huge amount of Vizchacha in the “Las Cueves / Chañacaca” area which is made up of a collection of several overhanging rock caves located in the middle of a wetland area.

In this area, people have found evidence of occupation of small groups of humans from 9000 to 1000  years ago.    Evidence such as stone, wooden, and bone tools.  This may have been a resting place for people traveling to/from the coast.

They have a comical facial expression as if to say “I am sitting here and I don’t care who knows it”


Our bird guide:

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Smallish Birds:

This guy visited us at one of the rest stops, but I am not sure on the species.

These two were busy making a nest – maybe Moor-hens?

Another bird-spotting:

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I did see a bumble bee on this flower, but didn’t get my camera out in time so you can just take my word for it.  The bee was huge (width of my thumb).

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Didn’t see any condors this time – another good reason to return some day in the future.


#IBMCSC Chile #CSCChile8




Altiplano; llamas and their cousins

It took a lot of planning and confirmation before we were able to confirm our trip to the Altiplano, mostly because of the danger of visiting high altitudes, but we finally made it.

We spent the first day driving (very slowly) up to Putre, with lots of stops in-between.  The stops enabled us to acclimatize more slowly, but also gave amazing opportunities for photography.

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At first we were calling every 4-legged animal a llama, but we quickly learned the difference.


They are beautiful graceful creatures.

They look like deer – and have a much smaller head.  These ones are not tamed and are much harder to get closer too than the llamas and alpacas.

I sat at the front of the bus, as I often get car-sick, and so I had the opportunity to spot groups of creatures as we traveled (sometimes even before our driver and our guide spotted them).

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People have been taming and farming llamas in South America for over 6000 years. Baby llamas are especially cute.  The llamas are larger than the alpacas, have longer necks, and also have ears shaped like a banana.


These ones are smaller than llamas and have a big fuzzy head, and a much shorter neck.  They often hang-out with the llamas and have been known to inter-breed.  There were three too-friendly alpacas at one stop that have been eating people food from tourists for years.  I didn’t give them anything as I know how harmful processed food can be for animals at home.

The llamas and alpaca sometimes have colourful earrings which are used to tell one farmer’s animal from another.

Learning Aricaños Spanish

Our host client today complimented us on our improving Spanish.  He says we are saying “Buenos Dias” more like the way the locals say it, which pleased us.

We had shared that we were not used to the hugging and the kissing as part of the greetings and goodbyes, and they responded with “we noticed”  🙂

Duolingo is great, and really helped us understand a base layer of Spanish, but we are noticing multiple local differences which Duolingo did not cover.  For example, “permiso” is used for “excuse me”, while “disculpe” is not used very often.

I also love when Chileans answer the phone with “digame” which means “talk-to-me”.  I remember my sister Katy and I finding that strange when we traveled together to Ecuador many years ago.

Some important phrases:

  • Hola = hello (along with a hug and a kiss)
  • Buenos Dias = good day  (but only in the morning) – (along with a hug and a kiss)
  • Agua sin gas = water without carbonation
  • Mas lento por favor = slow down please
  • Tiene ….. =  do you have …
  • Es Claro?   = is it clear?
  • Chao = good bye
  • Cuanto cuesta? = how much does it cost?
  • La cuenta por favor = restaurant bill please


#IBMCSC Chile #CSCChile8


Heading up to the Altiplano

I am sitting here drinking my tea and getting ready to depart on our bus.

We are finally getting ready to head up to the altiplano.  I have a small overnight bag packed;

Ok, yes my bag is huge but it gets really cold up on the Altiplano and people tend to feel the cold more when bodies are adjusting to high altitude.  Sweaters and coats take up a lot of room!

I have heard about the wonder of the landscape and the wildlife and the stars.  Fingers crossed that we get reasonable weather and a clear night for star gazing.  I will post again when we get back.

Fellowship of the 12 Comes Together

Years in the planning, all twelve members of the Chile 8 Corporate Service Corps team finally meet in person. It has been a long wait, with a lot of hopes and wondering about who I will be working with over these four weeks.  I’m so excited as we will soon begin our work with community groups in Arica, leveraging our technical and consulting skills to affect positive change in the local community.

I am going to start at the beginning  (a very good place to start…).

It was back in 2014 when I applied to the Corporate Service Corps and was so thrilled to be accepted.  I was also really nervous about leaving my family as my kids were 5 and 7 at the time.   Then in 2016 I was assigned to a team, but had to postpone due to other things happening at work (which were also fulfilling and great).

And then again at the start of 2017 I was assigned to a project and was so happy that it was to be in Chile.  I had visited Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador on previous excursions, and I loved the people and the experiences.  I gladly accepted to return once again to South America.

The team then spent 3 months of prep-work.  We talked on the phone weekly and shared with each other, and started to get to know our team.

Debbie and I ran into most of the team at the left-luggage/baggage storage at Santiago International and then headed up to our gate where we met our twelfth and final member of our team.  The fellowship united.  Most of whom had been traveling for 1-3 days to get to this point, from 10 different countries.  It is fair to say that many brains were scattered at this point and excitement was high as we navigated the airport process and got to our seats on the plane.


We flew the 2,000km to Arica together (remember Chile is the longest country in the world) and every single bag made it.  We were picked up at the airport and headed to Hotel Diego de Almagro Arica where we got to meet Carolina, our Regional Program Coordinator from Pyxera Global, and were very quickly assigned to rooms, our new homes for the next month.  Exhausted from the travel, but enthused greatly for the journey that lays before us.  I look forward to sharing this adventure with you.


#IBMCSC Chile #CSCChile8