These last two days in Parinacota have been great fun, and we’ve had a ton of adventures. I think Putre, although small, has been my favorite part of Chile so far because of all the mountains and the hiking we’ve been able to do here. Yesterday, we travelled two hours in the bus to a small pueblo called Belén that has 53 residents.
When we first got there, we were welcomed by the President of the Society of Joined-Together Neighbors. (This doesn’t really translate; I’m not sure how to say this in English. But he was “el presidente de los vecinos juntos,” and these groups have meetings to talk about important issues such as local policies to protect the environment.) After we learned a little about the city of Belén, we visited the school there. There are only seven students (mixed ages) and one or two teachers for all of them. After we met the kids, we went outside to play a little soccer (Chile’s favorite sport). Although I thought I was going to die from overexertion at high altitude, it was super fun and definitely worth it to play with these kids who must have been about 10 years old. We had a blast.
After the school, we got to tour the “posta rual” where the people of Belén receive medical care. Since the town is so small and far away, a real doctor comes around only once a month, with a medical team that includes a physical therapist, psychologist, doctor, etc. The posta rual is where the medical team is based out of for the one day each month. On the other 29 or 30 days, there is a paramedic on duty who can call the ambulance from Putre (about 2 hours away) or Arica (about 4 or 5 hours away) if needed.
Then in the afternoon, we got some free time before going back to Putre. Instead of exploring the town, some friends and I decided to climb one of the mountains that surrounded the city.
The view was incredible, and definitely worth the climb (both up and down). Climbing down was harder, but luckily there were little cliffs with sand on the bottom, so we ended up jumping down the mountain.
Then today we visited Lake Chungará, the highest non-navigable lake in the world to wrap up our trip in the mountains of Parinacota Province. The highest point we reached this trip was 4,500 meters above sea level (just under 15,000 feet) at the lake: quite an accomplishment. Here are some pictures from the trip: