A Travellerspoint blog

Blog 5 - Bolivia to Iguazu, Ushuaia and back to Peru


We arrived in Bolivia on the 19th of November. Bolivia has the highest percentage of indigenous people in Latin America and is also one of the poorest and cheapest countries to visit. However, we saw much development at the micro level. Many new houses were being built almost everywhere we went. And tractors were replacing the bullock for ploughing some of the fields. Still much of the agriculture is primitive. All the areas we pasted through now had electricity and like Peru toilets and laundry troughs had been built outside. Probably still cold showers but progress.

Our crossing was through the Yunguyo route and a small village called Kasani and on to Copacabana. We waited one and a half hours in Copacabana before hoping on another bus to take us on to La Pas. This was considered the easiest and safest route to take, however it did cost a little more. We then travelled to the little town of San Pablo de Tiquina where we all had to get off the bus and hop on a small boat while our bus was ferried across the lake on a barge. We had to pay 2 bolivianos each to get across to rejoin our bus. We arrived in La Paz and then took the advice of a fellow traveller and found our hotel. It was called the Majestic but was basic for the B150 we paid but it was close and central. Being close was good as we had to walk along the busy, unevenly paved, narrow and hilly streets to get there.

The next few days were busy visiting the French Consulate sorting out issues back in France and checking out the tourist shops to buy Christmas presents for Valerie’s family and getting our bearings and getting accustomed to a new currency. We then booked a bus back to Copacabana where we took a trip on Lake Titicaca to the Island of the Sun.

This was an enjoyable day but I found it a bit boring and ordinary compared with Cusco and Machu Piccu. But the weather was good the both ride good once the fumes of the motor were blown out of the cabin.

We then travelled back to La Paz where Valerie finished her Christmas shopping and posted it to France. My Net book computer had been working very slow for some time so we found a computer repair place and had all programs removed and reloaded and put in an extra Giga-bite of RAM hopefully to speed things up a bit. Paid our money and got a different version of XP so hasn’t worked as good as the original since. Bit it is working a little faster just with a lot of fixes necessary way too often.

Saturday the 30th of November we headed to Sucre. This is the official capital of Bolivia. We enrolled in a week of Spanish lessons here. I managed to learn a bit more but as soon as I am out of the classroom I quickly seem to forget it again!

Sunday the 8th of December we caught a bus to Santa Cruz, Bolivia, our departure point for Paraguay. Most of our time here was just spent looking around the city, which was very nice; taking in the latest movie releases and getting my visa for Paraguay. Originally we were going to depart from here by train but as I was required to present a ticket all the way to Asuncion, the capital of Paraguay, we changed it and travelled all the way by bus – again. Getting the visa took a few days back and forth travel – originally by taxi and eventually we discovered the bus numbers and took the much cheaper option.

On the 12th of December the night came when we had to depart Santa Cruz. With my passport with my newly issued visa therein, we departed for the bus terminal. Departure time was scheduled for 7pm but we left at 8:10pm. Not too late for a bus in South America! They immediately served our dinner – Chicken and rice and a bottle of soft drink. Valerie got her vegetarian meal (salad, eggs and rice) as requested. The bus was an old one and although a “semi cama”, meaning the seats reclined, they were closer together and lower so no room for my long legs under them and when the seat in front was put back, the only place for my long legs so it was into isle.

At 4am we arrived at the exit point of Bolivia so had to disembark and get our passports stamped out of the country. We changed the remainder of our surplus currency here into Guarani, Paraguayan money.


About 2 hours later we were required to get off the bus again as we had arrived at the Paraguayan immigration luggage inspection station. After the highly trained drug sniffing dog had sniffed our entire luggage it was time for a physical inspection of every piece of luggage. Naturally, being tired and having to open everything up was just the tip of the iceberg! Getting my very full backpack closed again was an issue but I managed. Back on the bus and a few kilometres on and we are stopped again and several customs officials come on board looking under the seats and at items of hand luggage while two other re-examine the contents of the luggage compartments. Two people are taken off to open their luggage again. Again nothing appears to be wrong and we head off again. An hour latter we arrive at the official immigration centre where our entire luggage is again removed from the bus and we have it examined again. We also go to the immigration centre and get our passports stamped into country.

On our way again; and seven more times the bus is stopped and a customs officials and or policeman board the bus and examine one or two items of luggage and then the bus is allowed to continue. We finally arrive at our destination of Asuncion at 9pm after 25 hours of travel. We get a taxi to a hotel and a good night’s sleep is had.

Paraguay is a little known land-locked county in the centre of South America and very few tourists visit it but as it is on our direct route to Iguaçu so we decided to make the effort to travel through it and see for ourselves. Asuncion is bloody hot this time of the year so I was very pleased we had an air-conditioned room. We didn’t really do much here. Just enjoyed the city, the food, managed to withdraw some US dollars and change them for Argentinean pesos at a better rate (we think) and drink a few nice local and real cold beers. Caught up with a few emails and cooked a few tasty vegetarian meals in the kitchen. Our accommodation is central and near the Plaza de los Heros, is where a military guard protects the remains of Mariscal Francisco Solano Lopez and other key figures from Paraguay’s catastrophic wars. Again we took advantage of some good local wines available and also enjoyed a few Argentinean wines.

Our departure was on another bus and via the eastern most city of Paraguay, Ciudad del Este thought Brazil (Foz do Iguaçu) and into Puerto Iguazu, Argentina. Here, I obtained my visa for Brazil and then we could travel back into Brazil to officially visit their side of the falls.

We visited the falls on the Argentinean side on the first day (Saturday the 21st of December) and took a tour which included a truck ride through 5.5 km of jungle to the river where we boarded a speedboat to take up right up to the Garganta del Diablo (Devil’s throat) Canyon and the very wet close-up to the Argentine side approaching the San Martin Waterfall, the 2nd biggest one. We got very wet from the spray. They don’t actually take you under the falls otherwise the boat would fill with water in seconds. That would be no good as I wouldn’t be able to tell you that we had a wonderful day… We concluded our day with walks taking hundreds of photos from the tops of many of the falls. The number of falls varies depending on the season up stream but reaching 270 during the very “wet” months and a minimum of 150 during the dry days. During flood seasons the volume of water exceeds 6,500 cubic metres per second flowing over the area.

We planned a bit more of our trip and rested on the Sunday and arranged for our first activity on the Monday morning would be to be a visit to the Brazilian Consulate to try for a visa to Brazil. I copied my latest bank statement and tax assessment onto a memory stick which were needed and I tried in vain to be able to find and print out a visa application in our Hostel. The hostel’s printer did not work!

We arrived at the Consulate and were given instructions and told where we could go to print out the required information. However, a power outage was to prevent us doing anything – even getting a visa if we had all the documents necessary. We went back to our hostel and had our breakfast. Great, just finishing breakfast and power returned. We went the address as instructed but only to find it closed; but typical of South Americans, a man seeing our disappointment directed us to another one where I completed my application and printed out the required documents. Then I had to buy a return bus ticket to Brazil and back to the Consulate - on the way visiting a backpacker hostel to use their glue-stick to paste my photo to the application. Handed it over to the Consulate official at 10am, paid the required fee and told to come back at 12 noon. Arrived at noon only to find the internet was down so nothing could be done but wait. We waited an extra hour and walked out with my visa. I had a 90 day multi-entry visa issue from today.

So back to the bus station, change the ticket to the following day and buy one for Valerie and ready to go visit the Brazilian side of the falls.

That night we shared some nibbles and two bottles of red with a young couple from England ( Fred and Emily), then they purchased two more bottles and as we had arranged to cook steamed veggies for our dinner, so we shared it too as there was plenty! A great night!

Christmas Eve, the 24th of December we went into Brazil and saw the other side. Not as good as the Argentine side but you do get to see more of the bigger picture. After arriving we discovered all the ATMs we tried and we tried all three cards we had with us and none of them worked. So this meant we had to actually use our credit cards and not just withdraw cash which is our preferred way of paying for things. No problem I have a 28 degrees debit/credit card so shouldn’t be any fees so I used that to get us into the park. After the park visit it was time to take a helicopter ride over the falls. This time my 28 Degrees card was rejected so I had to use my ANZ visa card! It worked so up and away we went over the falls. Unfortunately we both got stuck in the inside seats so a little difficult to take photos as good as we should have been able too. But we both saw and experienced it from the air. We had had a bird’s eye view! Now we have seen as much as we could it was back on the bus and over the border again and back into Argentina.

Upon arrival at our hostel we had a nice cold beer (left in the fridge for us by Fred and Emily) and started to prepare our dinner and we were invited to join the manager and other guests for a communal dinner by the empty pool. We agreed but they were not to start till 10:30pm. Normally way past my bedtime! We shared a few bottles of Champers and I was the first to say goodnight “buenas noches” at just after midnight. Valerie kicked on for at least another hour and several went to bed about 5am.

Christmas day was just a quite day. A little reading, chats on Skype to friends around the world and lunch cold meats and Ice-cream with banana shared with other guests and the manager.

Boxing Day was just another nice day walking around the town and checking out the border of the three countries – Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay.

We shifted to another Hotel on the 28th of December as it had a pool that actually had water in it and we would be able to swim each day for the next 5 days. Would you believe it rained and was cloudy for each of those 5 days! However, it was still hot and so I did enjoy a swim or 4.

New Years Eve was had at the hostel with the owners and other guests and was a great evening but if more of the owners and guest spoke English or if my Spanish was better I would have enjoyed the night a lot better.

On Friday the 2nd of January, at 12 noon, we took a taxi over the border into Brazil to the main bus terminal to catch our bus to Florianopolis on the Brazilian coast
Brazil – bus ride

The bus departed Foz do Iguaçu at 5:30pm and as it was only a Semi Cama with seats too close together for my long legs so only a little sleep was had - again. Again the temperature was set at 19 or 20 degrees so it was cold. When we arrived in Florianopolis at 9:30am and it was raining! So we decided to jump on the next bus to Porto Alegre. This didn’t departed at 10:30am, so just a quick stop and we were on our way again.

When we arrived in Porto Alegre, it was still raining! We spoke with another couple who had booked their accommodation and said it was an expensive city; and as it was a large industrial port city we decided not to stay here either. We went and found out when the next bus left towards Uruguay. We purchased a ticket and waited at the bus terminal till 23:30. Then, we were on our way again, this time, over night to the border town of Chui.

Uruguay – more bus travelling

We arrived there at 7am. We visited the immigration office and had our passports stamped and followed two fellow passengers through the town across the actual border which ran through the main street, till we found the bus station where we purchased our ticket to La Paloma! We were going to go to the little beach town of Punta del Diablo but one of our new friends said it would be very, very busy and expensive and difficult to find accommodation this time of the year if we hadn’t booked. He suggested we take the bus a bit further to his little beach side village - so La Paloma it was! We had to wait till 9:30am for the bus to depart so time to get some Uruguayan pesos from the magical ATM. A little breakfast and we were on the road again! We finally arrived in La Paloma! At last it was going to be time to stop and relax in a small seaside village and enjoy a bit of Uruguay.

There were tents under all the forested areas opposite the bus terminal! Not a real good sign. Our young friend said goodbye as he was home and wanted to go for a swim. We checked with the tourist office and they marked on the map where to find the nearest back-packers! We put on our packs and walk there, only to find it almost full but for two bunk beds in the smallest six bed dorm I have ever seen! It had a tiny window, in a very hot room; and with the four packs already on the floor, no room to more with ours on the floor too! And this was available at the small price of US$25 each! This would be the worst room and most expensive we had to sleep in since arriving in South America.

My research had shown this country not to be so expensive but it was Christmas holidays and all the Uni kids and as many people as possible flock to the coast to relax and party or maybe just to party! We didn’t find it relaxing so we left our packs there and walked the town trying to find anything better. No luck, so we had an early dinner and walked a bit more and didn’t find the beach came up to my standards. Waves would be good for surfers but lots of rocks in the area we saw. We went back to the bus terminal and booked our tickets to Montevideo. Back to the hostel and one beer and we went to managed to get a pedestal fan into the doorway of the room and went to bed at about 9pm! This was the 4th of January, the first time we had been in an actual bed for 60 hours!. The three boys in the room partied late and then when they finally came to bed, were noisy as drunken blokes are and stumbled over the packs in the dark! But being tired we both still managed to catch up on some well needed sleep!

We breakfasted, and caught the bus on to Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay. We arrived and took a taxi to the Hotel Ideal. After checking out our room options we booked in went for our dinner. Next day we checked out Montevideo we found the city to be very old and tired and many of the buildings in various stages of crumbling down and the city very dirty. Nothing impressed us so we decided we would move onto Colonia Del Sacramento for two days.

After talking with the tourist office at the bus terminal we walked to the ferry terminal and booked our tickets to Buenos Aires, Argentina. We then walked the 4 blocks to the Hostel el Espanol as recommended by the tourist office. The Hostel was expensive again and not good value for money at A$53 per night but our choice was limited so we stayed.

We dined out again and had one of our worst meals ever. Also, we waited for more than 40 minutes to get our poor meal. Then still to charged an added table fee we were much less than satisfied.

Previously I had read that this was city not to be missed. I don’t agree. This is also an old city still with cobbled streets with a few old buildings dating back to 1745. The city was founded by the Portuguese in 1680 to smuggle goods across the Rio de la Plata into Buenos Aires. Again, I was un-impressed but we lunched in the tourist area and enjoyed a nice meal. One rip-off custom of Uruguay was that they would charge you a fee for the use of their table, and cutlery over and above the cost of the meal on the menu and then add on their non obligatory 10% tip! Naturally, this still does not go down well with me. Why don’t they just all agree to include all costs in the price of the meal? Then those tourists on budgets don’t get an unexpected shock at the end of the meal.

Back to Argentina

Next day we left Uruguay and went back to Argentina. We took a taxi to our apartment. It was nice but again they missed the plot as there were no breakfast bowls, toaster, wine glasses, salt and pepper shakers, sugar bowl, knife for cutting veggies, toilet brush, etc. Just missed so many basic items that you need when staying in a self contained apartment for a week. But still better than a back=packers for a week.

We walked around some of Buenos Aires, took a hop on – hop off bus trip and saw some tango dancing, and all we wanted to see. We even took in a movie. The most enjoyable sight I enjoyed was the area known as La Boca. It is an old colourful, roughhousing area which is now a tourist Mecca by day.

However, everywhere there were cracked footpaths, graffiti and large rubbish bins on the inner city streets. The bins were due to the large number of inner city apartments. There were also many beggars and a lot of poverty existed which was evident by the number of garbage “recyclers” climbing into the big bins trying to edge out an existence. Then the many huge palaces or mansions around the city highlight the wealth that also exists in the city.

When walking down the Street of Florida there were many people calling out “cambio - cambio”. These were money changes who would change US$ for a rate much better than you could change in the official cambio. We got 10.3 pesos for each US$. The official rate was 6.7. Since then the Argentine pesos has dived further and I was told 11 pesos was being paid for a US$. (When we first arrived the A$ was worth 5.89 pesos but by the 10th of February it had fallen further and A$1 was buying 7 pesos.)

We booked our bus and headed south down the east coast of Argentina to Puerto Madryn. Here, Valerie wanted to see some seals, penguins and dolphins in the wild. This area is also visited by whales during their breeding season but not now. I caught up with some emails, visited the doctors as I had caught a cough that wouldn’t go away and Valerie did her tours. It was a pleasant seaside town where you could retire if you liked the cold. It was the middle of a southern hemisphere summer but only just warm. Too cold for me and we were still travelling south.

Next stop was Rio Gallegos, where would change buses again and go over through Chile and cross over the Strait of Magellan by ferry and back into Argentina again. Sometimes the current runs too fast for the ferry and by the time we arrived this was the case. So we waited about 1.5 hours and then it was all- aboard. Bus and passengers! It took about 30 minutes to cross. Then, it was back on the bus and on to Ushuaia. We took a bus out to the Tierra del Fuego national park and walked around the most southerly Argentine National Park for a day. It was very beautiful in a rugged manner and most enjoyable and if equipped would have been great for us to camp there. There were many campers in the region.

The next day we enjoyed a boat trip on the Beagle Channel to check out some islands, rock cormorants, some sea lions and fur seals, the Les Eclaireurs light-house which was build in 1919. We get off on Bridges Island and are shown two archaeological sites of the Yamanas people. These aborigines wore no clothing. Bloody tough I say, as this was as warm as it gets and it was somewhat cool. It was a pleasant, interesting and relaxing day.

Now we have been there and done that, it was now time to head north back through Chile and to Argentina, through Rio Gallegos to change onto another bus and on to El Calafate.

El Calafate was a small town on Lake Argentina into which the ‘Perito Moreno Glaciar’ flows. This glacier is in the southern part of the “Los Glaciares National Park”. It is a reserve of some 600,000 hectares created in 1937 and recognised by UNESCO as a world heritage site in 1981. We bussed it the 50 kilometres to the reserve and walked around the board-walks and then took boat to the face of the Glacier. Well up to about 100 metres from the face as it keeps dropping large pieces of ice the size of houses and they considered it not safe. One of the signs reads that 32 people have been killed by the ice between 1968 and 1988 and on witnessing the size of some of the pieces, if a boat was near the wake would surely rock it. This glacier has a front of 5 kilometres and rises 60 metres above the water level. The brochure mentions the Andean (huemul) deer, the Patagonian skunk, the guina wild cat, grisson, red foxes and pumas the Torrent duck and Upland geese but we don’t see any of these. We did see the magellanic woodpecker and watch one of them hammer on the trunks of trees and quite a few guanacos from the window of the bus. After four nights it was on the road again.

This time it was up Ruta 40 with an over night stay in the Hotel Belgrano to Bariloche (25hours on a bus). The road we took is a bit of a rough road which many bus companies don’t take due to its condition. It is the longest road in Argentina and is akin to Route 66 in the US or travelling the Nullarbor in Australia. However, it is no longer all dirt and is just a different way to go other than to go back up the way we came down. But the scenery was nothing to write home about. Much like the route going down to Ushuaia only we went north now instead of south but a bit slower due to road conditions!

San Carlos de Bariloche

I was last here 22 years ago and in that time it has grown into a very touristy town with prices to match. Bloody tourist – they ruin everything! Every thing was busy and I didn’t feel relaxed. We arrived about 8pm and it was still light so after getting a map from a tourist office we walked to our hostel. Only to discover that I had got my dates wrong and we were not booked in until the following night. However, the chap there rang another place and they had two beds left so we walked further up the hill to this place.

That night we cooked a half packet of noodles we had with us and put two large beers in the freezer to consume after. While enjoying our beers some young ones came in with enough pizza mixture for about 8 pizzas. Valerie managed to offer some beer for a bit of pizza so we shared their pizza and shouted three additional bottles of beer to share. We only stayed four days, we did a volcano tour into another National park and this time we saw a black glacier. However, it was raining again so no real good photos. We took a local bus out to a high point called Cerro Campanario and took a chair lift to the top. Had lunch there and came back down after taking lots of photos of the surrounding lakes and mountains. We walked around the lake and tasted a bit of the local chocolate and planned to cross back over the Andes into Chile again.

Back into Chile for a quick trip – 1st to the 12th of Feb, 14

So the border run was on again, caught the bus as usual up and over the Andes into Chile and down to a place called Puerto Montt. It was rained most of the time we were there but this was only two days. The place looked tired and it just was not as interesting as I had remembered it from some 22 years ago. The train doesn’t run to here anymore, there is a disjointed collection of the old and new buildings and the old really looks just old and with little maintenance done on the houses and the dismal rainy weather the place had no appeal at all.

So we jumped on another bus after just two days and went north to Chillan with the hope also of some warmer weather. Unfortunately with the cloudy skies most of the way we didn’t see the snow capped mountains but otherwise it was a pleasant ride through the countryside.

When we arrived we took a taxi straight to the train station to book our train ticket to Santiago as we had tried the night before to book our tickets on the internet but couldn’t finalise it and we knew there were only a few seats left.

After getting our tickets we went to our accommodation that we had booked. It didn’t sound too good from the internet but when we got there it was great and so was the owner. We found it a nice place but as we had already booked our train ticket we had to go the next morning. You can never believe all you read on the internet!

Next day we took the train from Chillan to Santiago. We would have liked to take one from Puerto Montt but it is no longer running. It was a good and comfortable ride. We arrived at an outer suburb and caught the subway into the centre of Santiago where we had booked our hostal. It was dirty, had no towels, the mattress was too soft and the receptionist refused to give us our 10% discount for carrying and presenting our “Get South” book on arrival so we checked the internet and found a furnished and equipped serviced apartment for just a few dollars more and moved the next morning after getting to complain to the management and getting our 10% discount.

Caught up with our friends Federico and Barbara for drinks and just relaxed for the week before we were on the road again. Having an equipped kitchen was great as we were able to buy curry paste and coconut milk and enjoyed some great curry dinners. Also, there were plenty of nice wines, champagnes and chocolates to enjoy. Just because we are backpacking, we can still take a break every now and then and enjoy a bit of the good life….

Back into Argentina 12 Feb 14

Well time to try the Argentine wines so back into our chauffeured driven vehicle (bus) with reclining seats and back over the Andes into the wine regions of Argentina and the city of Mendoza. Would you believe it was also raining here so we only stayed for four days and also our accommodation was really crappy? The rain leaked trough the roof onto the fridge in the tiny kitchen and covered the path to get there. The only dry place to eat was in there lounge room and our bedroom had no windows so was dark and smelly. We were pleased to be on our way again.

Next stop was Salta. Here again we chose to book into a service apartment as it was almost my birthday and we would like to enjoy more wines and good food. Again, as we had stocked up on Curry paste and coconut milk we were able to enjoy another curry and Valerie blew the budget and purchased a very nice “Chandon” champagne to celebrate. From here we toured (11 hrs) the nearby (390 kms round trip) region of Cafayate, viewing the mountainous scenery, visiting a few small villages, a winery and enjoyed a small sample of their wine, enjoyed a traditional lunch (an on table BBQ) and experienced a bit of local Carnival culture. This is in part, besides the wonderful costumes, dancing and music the great playful spraying of water, flour and white foam onto all who walk by. I must be getting old as I don’t find it fun anymore but I’m sure I did when I was younger…..

Back to Bolivia

On the 24th of February we took another bus to La Quiaca and walked across the border back into Bolivia into the town of Villazon and immediately caught a bus to Uyuni to see the world's largest salt flats at 10,582 square kilometres. It is located in the south-west Bolivia, near the crest of the Andes and is at an elevation of 3,653 or 3,656 metres above sea level (Depends on which brochure is correct). We took a tour out for the day to ‘Incahuasi Island’ where we checked out a pub made from salt(Not operating when we were there), had a picnic lunch on the Island and took some more photos and then came back again. Check out the photos on the blog.

We then took the overnight train from Uyuni to Oruro as we were informed it was Carnival time and it was one of the best in Bolivia and was on during the coming weekend. A very noisy train but it was comfortable. We arrived early in the morning and we needed to find accommodation. We teamed up with a Spanish – Chilean couple and checked out several places – none very good but we booked into the best of what we could find at a very high price as it was Carnival that weekend and most places were full and all charged double or more for the Carnival period.

We purchased our Carnival tickets – had to buy for the two days even though we were leaving to go on to La Paz the following morning. Again some great costumes, music and dancing some as good as that you would find in Rio and again many young ones with that bloody foam spray to drench you. Gringos are a preferred target. Hugh water pistols were also being used to help get you in the mood…….. The (po) “not happy” mood….. Unfortunately, that afternoon a bridge which the people danced and paraded under collapsed and killed 5 people and injured about 60 others. It was packed with onlookers wanting a free advantage point. This meant the show stopped for the rest of the evening.

We left early the next morning and when in La Paz checked into a younger set hostal (Pirwa Hostel) near the bus terminal. Saved on the taxi fare to our previous hostel and this one did have a king size bed and En-suite.

Unfortunately they didn’t advise us of the all night parties. We managed to last through the first one by joining in but the second night we only lasted till midnight and thankfully being tired managed to get some sleep.

Again the Carnival was happening here. This time we were just trying to cross the road to get back to our hostal and we were set upon by about 6 or so sprayers. This time Valerie wanted revenge so we hassled with a young sprayer taking his spray can. I stupidly gave it to Valerie (while I retreated to clean my glasses as I couldn’t see anything) who proceeded to seek her revenge on everybody with a water pistol or foam spray. She was out numbered about 1,000 to 1 but she fought a fantastic battle and got totally soaked. When I recovered I noticed the spray can she was using had almost no spray left. I purchased a new can and swapped it with her now almost useless can. She continued to get drenched and fight back with everyone while we headed back to the safety of our room. I followed on quietly behind.

We stayed just a few days to check out and buy a Samsung 10.1 Tablet so we could keep in touch better and as the battery in my net-book computer was failing and it was going to be hard to buy a new one till we get to Lima.

Back to Peru 7-Mar-2014

We left La Paz and returned to Peru and when we arrived in Puno we were immediately approached by a keen salesman and we purchased our tickets to the Floating Islands of Lake Titicaca. This is the highest navigable lake on earth, which is more than 3,800 meters above sea level. It is 196 kilometres long, extending from western Bolivia to south-eastern Peru.

We then took a taxi to our accommodation, which we were sold while we were at the bus terminal. We needed more Peruvian Soles so a quick trip down to the main Plaza informed us that Carnival was still alive and well here and that they also had the mighty water pistols and foam spray cans. The ATM didn’t work so it was a quick dinner and a retreat to our accommodation. Naturally we did manage to take a few more photos before our retreat.

Our next destination was Colca Canyon. This is some 4,000 metres deep and Andean Condors, which have a wingspan of up to 3.2 and are usually seen flying or gliding every morning up the canyon on the thermal currents. They are claimed to be the world’s 4th largest flying bird.

The bus picked us up at 8am next morning to take us to the wharf for our trip to the Floating Islands on Lake Titicaca. It was a good trip and we enjoyed it.
The people who live on the Islands are called Uros. The purpose of the island settlements was originally defensive, and if a threat arose they could be moved. The largest island retains a watchtower almost entirely constructed of reeds. About 500 years ago they lost their original language. When conquered by the Incan empire, they had to pay taxes to them, and often were made slaves.
The Uros use bundles of dried totora reeds to make reed boats (balsas mats), and to make the islands themselves. The larger islands house about ten families, while smaller ones, only about thirty meters wide, house only two or three.
The islets are made of totora reeds, which grow in the lake. The dense roots that the plants develop and interweave form a natural layer called Khili (about one to two meters thick) that support the islands. They are anchored with ropes attached to sticks driven into the bottom of the lake. The reeds at the bottoms of the islands rot away fairly quickly, so new reeds are added to the top constantly, about every three months; this is what makes it exciting for tourists when walking on the island. This is especially important in the rainy season when the reeds rot much faster.
Tourism provides financial opportunities for the natives, while simultaneously challenging their traditional lifestyle. The Uros islands at 3810 meters above sea level are just five kilometers west from Puno port
It was and interesting tour.

We booked our bus for our next destination – Colca Canyon on the internet that afternoon and it was a most efficient service. They collected us at the Hostal at 6am the next morning and on the way stopped at several sites for us to take photos. The area we travelled through is call the Patapampa and is about 4,800 mtrs above sea level. So were able to see lots of vicunas in the wild and some high altitude lakes (4,174 mtrs) with flamingos. We were also able to see a series of volcanoes and snow-covered mountains such as Sabancaya, Ampato, and El Misti, where the origin of the Amazon River is located, which has a length of around 6,800 km to its mouth on the Atlantic Ocean.

We also booked our accommodation online too, so when we arrived in Chivay (3,600 mtrs) our host was there with a taxi to meet the bus. Talk about “Fantastic service”! She took us to our accommodation and informed us of the tour and transport options in the area. We booked what we wanted and went for a walk around the village.

Next morning bright and early we enjoyed a tour to view the Canyon (It is Peru's third most-visited tourist destination with about 120,000 visitors annually, with a depth of 4,160 m, it is more than twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in the United States.) and the Condors. There was a lot of cloud in the canyon so actually seeing the condors was easier with the white background. Still getting a photo was difficult but not impossible. You just had to have a bit of patience. One of the mountains in the area (Mt Nevado Ampato) is 6,265 high. I wouldn’t have wanted to climb it. But in my younger days I may have taken on the challenge.

The following morning we took a bus to the village of Cabanaconde (3,287 mtrs), where we proceeded to walk down to a small village of Sangalle (2,180 mtrs) at the bottom where we had arranged to spend the night. It was a long and hard walk down. Thankfully we didn’t walk down the full 4,160 mtrs. That’s the distance from the highest peak to the lowest point. Still we had very sore legs. Next morning we rode mules back up to the top. Not easy (As the stirrups we had on attached to our saddles were made for people with very small feet) as keeping our balance was difficult and with a very narrow and steep path made hanging on to the saddle a life and death issue, but much easier than us trying to walk (climb) up and out.

Nazca Lines

Our next adventure was to view the Nazca Lines. This UNESCO World Heritage Site in Peru is located in the tall, dry plateau between the Palpa and Nazca towns. The Nazca lines are the main rival for Machu Picchu as the most visited tourist attraction in Peru. The Nazca lines are giant images printed and can only be seen from the space (or a $35 plane ride) They were created between 200 BC and 700 AD the figures range from simple lines to stylized spiders, monkeys, fish, llamas, lizards and human figures. The lines were created on such a large scale that it wasn’t until the 1920′s, when Peruvian airlines started to fly from Lima to Arequipa, that they were recognized as figures. The images are believed to be the result from visits of outer space-men who came to earth millions of years ago, but some believe that this line is part of a religious ritual. Who Knows?

So, we flew over them, took heaps of photos and then headed back to town where we caught the first of our buses to Ayacucho, where we are now.

Back to our little village to teach some more English in a few days. Will be there for a month before we head to Lima..

Posted by wherethehellrwe 16:01 Archived in Argentina

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