A Travellerspoint blog

Bolivian Salt Flats

overcast -5 °C

After the coldest bus journies we have ever taken we arrived in the town of Uyuni. The start of the 3 day trip through Bolivias salt planes. We were meant to take a train but due to some political activity further afield they put a blockade on the track we were due to take. Exactly why, we still don-t know.
Uyuni is very much a frontier town. Dusty, cold and with only one purpous, to get you to the Salt plains although it did have a good line in exporting minerals but only when the trains were runing. We found an ok tour into the planes and set off in an old 4x4 with two Danes an English couple and one guy who was Swiss who could speak Spanish. The first stop was a train grave yard. a surreal place on the edge of the plains. Giant rusty old steam engines left for dead, huddled in a long line of neglect. Once great locomotives now piles of rust left for tourists to clamber over. After that we headed straight into the worlds largest salt plains. Miles and Miles of flat white salt. crouch.jpgWe all had to wear sunglasses becuse there was a real risk of going snow blind. They still collect salt from these flats. They just scrape it from the ground, crush it a little bit more, bag it and it ends on the dinner tables of South Americans. ry_3D300.jpgThey only life to be found is on the small volcanic rock islands dotted in the plains. they are covered with tall cactus and some very dry looking grass. isalnd.jpgDue to the flat nature of the place we spent ages taking photos with trick perspectives. A bit cheesy but a lot of fun.stamp.jpg
The next few days were spent driving higher into altitude to see barron lakes of different colours. One was even red another bright green. red_lake.jpgIt was to do with a type of algae that lives in the water.The green one also had large amounts of arsenic in it so we were not advised to fill our water bottles Flamingos and mountain foxes and a few different types of Llama all living in and round these bizzare lakes at the top of the world.flamingos.jpg
The scenery was still amazing but the weather this high is always cold. Especially at night. On the last night of the trip the temperature went down to about -15c. We also had to get up early to see some amazing volcanic geezers. spurt.jpgAs the sun rose we were greeted with the amazing sight of huge clouds of steam bellowing from the ground. It was the most dramatic sights I have seen. It was as if we were transported back to the dawn of time. fog.jpg
I was the last day so, after the geezers and a very early cold start, we were treated to time in a thermal pool. At first we were reluctant to get into our swimmers as the air temp was still below freezing but once we did it was all worth it. After that we only had to think about getting back out.hotpools.jpg
From there we went straight to the Chilian Bourder to start our adventures in yet another country.

Posted by DanSue 12:58 Archived in Bolivia Comments (1)

Lake Titikaka and into Bolivia

semi-overcast 14 °C

After spending the last couple of weeks at altitude we decided we might as well continue and headed from Cuzco to Puno, where Lake Titikaka is. Some say Lake Titikaka is the highest navigable lake in the world...Others say it´s not, there´s higher. Either way it´s very beautiful with bright blue/green waters.

We took a boat trip onto the lake to see the floating reed islands where people live. lake.jpgIt´s amazing that they´re made out of reed and as the reeds rot with contact with the water they literally have to pick up their houses and put more reeds under every 15 days.

From Puno we crossed the border into Bolivia. border.jpgThis involved a bus and ferry journey across the lake. Our bus took one ´ferry´ and us another. How the bus made it over on the flat wooden ´ferry´ without toppling over was a marvel.
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We stayed on the Bolivian side of Lake Titikaka for a night, in a town called Copacobana. Much more attractive and less poluted than the Peruvian side. laket.jpg
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From here we went to La Paz, the crazy capital. It´s built in a canyon (and still at altitude) with houses on all the hills surrounding it.
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Peruvians and Bolivians love their parades and demos.parade.jpg Nearly everyday we´ve seen them. There was a huge demo in La Paz, literally thousands and thousands of people marching through town, letting of fireworks and bangers. Ended up shut inside an internet cafe at one point and sounded like gun warfare outside. All noise though. It was a very peaceful demo!

It was explained to us in Brazil that ´compared to Brazil, Bolivia is for free´. Very true, it is sooo cheap here that we´re living it up, staying in posh hotels, eating out, drinking bottles of wine. It´s going to be hard when we get into Chile and the price goes up again.

We´re heading down Bolivia to visit the salt lakes, which sound very interesting, and still at altitude. When we return to sea level, we´re hoping we´re going to be very fit from all this altitude!

In case anyone´s interested we´ve been charting all our travels on a travel map on this blog, which shows exactly where we´ve been and when.

Posted by DanSue 11:47 Archived in Peru Comments (2)

Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail

Dan and Sues aching legs

19 °C

More bus journeys but this time to altitude. Cuzco, the ancient city greeted us with thin air and steep slopes. The Inca city stands at over 3000 meters above sea level making you run out of breath when taking on even the mildest of slopes and giving you a real fear of altitude sickness.47b8db09b3..sge3nwQ.jpg We had arrived to acclimatise before we took on the famous Inca trail, a 4 day hike of mountains steep passes and glaciers.
We had to book months in advance to get a place as it fill up pretty quickly due to the fact that there are only a limited amount of people allowed throughout the year.
We soon realised that our meagre sleeping bags would not withstand the cold of the second nights trek so we had to hire some which did the required job adequately.
The first day, we were told, was the easy day. We met our group of 13 people and took a bus to the start of the trek. “Easy” wasn’t the fist word that sprang to mind when faced with the first climb. The paths were steep and the air was thin but we got through it with good humour and the group bonded very quickly. We were all in the same boat so their were many helping hands when things got tough.team.jpggrass_montain.jpgmountain.jpg
The next day we all soon realised why they called the first day easy. Our wake up call was 4:45am, starting the walk well before 6. Were warned about this day but the toll of 4 hours up hill to a mountain pass called the, “Dead Woman’s Pass” was a lot to take. The pass was 4200m above sea level. The going tough. Every footstep was laboured and every meter higher we went seemed to take just that little bit more air out of your lungs. Sue, to her credit and defying her asthma, made it with out any problems. We all did. It was hard but the surrounding views of vast mountain ranges and our own sense of accomplishment made this one of the most memorable moments in Peru. And that was all just before lunch. We walked one hour down hill and ate a hearty lunch only to discover we had another full day of walking all up hill!
The next day was shorter, stopping after more lunch. It also gave us a chance to thank our porters. These men are truly supermen. The walk the same trail as we do but carrying all of our tents, food, our clothes ect and there own equipment, setting off after us and arriving before us (they would pass us on the trail during the day) to make lunch and the campsite ready for us. Tipping them at the end of the trek was essential.
Photos cannot come close to how beautiful the Inca trail is. Nor can my words for that matter. Just trust us to say it is one of the most incredible, awe inspiring places that anyone is likely to visit. Mind bending vistas, cloud forests and hills whose heads touch the heavens. Nature showing off.cloud_ruins.jpg
We passed many incredible ruins on the trek but nothing prepares you for the spectacle at the end. The great Machu Picchu city. The last day we woke even earlier 3.45 am and started a 1and half hike to the Sun Gate. A place overlooking the city ruins that catches the first rays sun. We did it 45 minuets. I don’t know what happened to the group but we steamed through the last trek. Stripping off layers (but not stopping!) as the sun appeared on what seemed like a race to the end. The group even left our guides behind! They turned up 10 minutes later confused onto what just happened.
Again, words and photos fail to describe just how wonderful Machu Picchu is.dansue_mac2.jpgmachu.jpg I can just tell you that we spent half the day there wallowing in its beauty. We were fatigued and our legs ached but we all had a great time.
The group we trekked with, two couples being honeymooners (!), all met up for a drink the day after to recall how tired, smelly and out of breath we all were over the last 4 days. An experience we all will not forget.

Posted by DanSue 16:23 Archived in Peru Comments (1)

Nazca Lines and river Rapids.

sunny 20 °C

We made to Nazca to view the incredible lines. We booked a small 3 seater light aircraft to fly over the lines. You go up at about 300 feet so you get a very good view of these ancient lines. The pilot also liked to tip the plane on it´s side to get a beter view. We were told that a lot of people didn´t hold on to their lunch during the flights.
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The lines them selves are a real spectacle. Massive triangles dug into the ground looking just like runways and massive images of animals that could only really be seen from about 300 feet. Dogs, monkeys, birds and even a astronaught all etched into the desert ground. spider.jpg

Sue and I made it without revealing our breakfast to the pilot, although Sue did admit that she had a funny five minutes half way through the flight. We only spent the one night in Nasca and then made our way into high altitude. The first stop being Arequipa. At a mere 2500 metres, surrounded by mountains and on the foot of a active volcano Arequipa is something to behold. We didn´t have time to see the second deepest canyon in the word, the first being just next door and only 100 metres deeper, so we went wight water rafting. Neither of us had done this before but were very excited at the prospect. The guide said that we would be running 1 to 4 graded rapids. 5 being the highest and 6 being unrunnable. He also told us that if you run a grade 6 rapid and come out alive then it goes down to a 5!boat.jpg

The experience was very exciting and a lot more dangerous than we first thought. We were on the raft with three americans. You really have to work hard to get down rapids, paddling hard when the guide shouts you orders and diving from one side of the raft to the other to avoid flipping the raft. We were told that there was only one place that it was likely we would flip but it hadn´t happened to anyone for about 4 months....Guess what. We flipped the raft. We came careering into what looked like a smallish boulder sending the nose of the boat up and to it´s side. I held on for as long as possible and watched the American, who was up front with me, fall in followed by me on top of him. Sue and the other two swiftly followed into the freezing, rocky, mountain rapids. I saw the American kick free just as the raft fell back on top of me trapping me between a rock and it´s hull for what seemed like a eternity. It was only a matter of seconds before I was free but the a headline “four tragically die in Peruvian rapids” did flash through my mind . The fun wasn´t over yet. We were still in the rapids. The river swept us on. Sue, managing to find most of the rocks and boulders, in the river bounced down to calmer waters where we were rescued by another raft and the safety kayaker. I got off lightly regarding hitting rocks on the way down but Sue was covered in bruises the next day.rver.jpg

We still had more river to run and we completed it bruised and drenched. It was still very fun and I would like to do it again but without the near drowning.

Posted by DanSue 09:18 Comments (0)

Peru

overcast 14 °C

We arrived in Peru via a couple of bus journies to the boarder town with Brazil, only to find that there were no buses into Peru from here (or so the taxi driver and his mates told us). So we ended up getting into his taxi and after 5 hours driving on roads that were being built as we drove on them and a boat crossing, we ended up in Puerto Maldonado, a smallish town in the Peruvian Amazon. The route we chose to cross from Brazil into Peru, is not an obvious one and not one that we´ve met anyone else who´s tried.

From here we flew to Lima, where we were surprised to find that it´s cold and have had to get used to the feel of socks and boots after 2 months of flip flops. In Lima our hotel was a converted old colonial house and was like staying in a mansion, with marble statues and elaborate decorations along the corridors. Our room wasn´t so grand - probably the servant quarters.hotel.jpg

Didn´t get to see much in Lima as the Presidents of all the South American countries were in town and when the streets surrounding their offices weren´t closed preventing us from getting anywhere, they were visiting the local museums and sights and so they were closed. We did get to see round the catacombes beneath one of the churches, where the archaeologists who excavated them have arranged them in strange circle shapes, with the skulls in the middle??
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From Lima we got the bus to Pisco, where we were served hot coffee on board by the poor hostess who had to carry them down the isle while the bus continued to bounce along the bumpy roads. In Pisco we took a boat trip to a nearby island and saw Penguins - the first time we´ve seen penguins in the wild and very exciting. penguin.jpgThere were lots of other birds too, including boobies (tee hee) and seals and we were advised to wear hats to protect ourselves from the white bombs they were dropping. Dan got hit twice! We saw bottlenosed dolphins on the way back, who came right out of the water to have a look at us. They also make Pisco (a white grape brandy) round here, which we treated ourselves to a bottle of and goes quite well with sprite.seals.jpg

One of the most popular drinks here is Inca cola, which is Perus take on cola, but bright yellow!

From Pisco we took another bus to Huacachina, a small desert oasis town where we´ve been sand boarding.sue_dunes.jpgsand_board.jpg We took a dune buggy (driver included) which raced up and down the dunes and was far from the sedate drive we were expecting to our sand boarding site. Dan got the hang of it quite quickly and managed quite a steep slope until he stacked it right at the end and got a face full of sand. I stuck to the safer belly and bottom strategies, which was a lot of fun. Some of the most fun we´ve had!

This afternoon we get a bus to Nazca, where wé plan to fly over the Nazca lines.

We´ve hired a camper van to spend our three weeks in New Zealand in and are hoping the heater works as it´ll be winter there.

Posted by DanSue 07:53 Archived in Peru Comments (1)

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