The Altiplano region of South America, running from southern Peru and Bolivia into Chile and northwestern Argentina, has long lured admirers with its vast geographic wonders such as Bolivia's Salar de Uyunithe largest salt pan in the worldand the windswept dunes of the Atacama desert. For the feature "Just Keep Paddling!" in the February 2005 issue, photographer Peter McBride joined forces with travel writer Jon Bowermaster, former kayak champ Alex Nicks, and Kiwi native Wendy Madgwick to explore the region using a unique mode of desert transport: the sea kayak. And here, in the driest place on Earth according to NASA, each paddler would pull his or her own kayak over the dusty terrain between high-country lakes using a special harness.
Photographing the area proved to be an ambitious challenge even for the seasoned McBride. "The entire region of the Altiplano is breathtakingly beautiful," says McBride. "It offers such variety in terms of landscape and light, and an incredible kaleidoscope of color. At the same time, the salty, mineral-rich lake waters and sometimes icy cold weather proved to be a danger to my camera equipment."
Besides the physical magnificence of the Altiplano, McBride was struck by the innate connection the indigenous people have to the landscape. "The region is widely considered the cradle of South American civilization," says McBride. "The people have such a pride in their land and communities, as well as a great passion for the mountains."