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Archive for February, 2010

Trains, planes, buses and 4×4´s!

So the next 48 hours of transport were interesting to say the least!

The train was due to leave Uyuni for Oruro at 1:45am, we then had to catch a bus to La Paz, ouch! We got back from the Salt flats at 6pm so had just over 7 hours to wait… or so we thought. The train appeared to be running on Bolivian time and turned up an hour late! This however was just the beginning… The rain was coming down like we´ve never seen before. We got to sleep in the train pretty quickly but then woke up at 6:30am to discover we hadn´t moved an inch! Of course the train staff were providing lots of information about why…NOT! So after being told one hour more several times we searched for a plan B. We hired a 4×4 with some other people and made our own way to Oruro. The roads had pretty much disappeared in parts so it was a good test of the 4×4 driving through rivers! Eventually we got back to La Paz about 8 hours later than scheduled, ready for our flight to Santiago Chile.

Now we expected the flight to be a straightforward journey but no…Instead of going all the way to Santiago we stopped in Iquique to clear immigration, although this wasn´t really explained. So we ended up joining the back of a long queue. When we eventually tried to reboard the plane we were told the gate had closed! WTF! So along with a few other passengers our blood started to boil. The plane was still there with the tunnel attached but the useless staff insisted it was closed. The next thing a young girl is whisked passed us and gets on the flight! I was really losing it at this point and so was Gem but aside from barging the staff out the way and getting arrested there was little we could do. In the end they put us on the next flight which was 4 hours later. We managed to get a free meal and a $150 voucher towards another flight each. It turned out to be useful because we booked a flight y´day for our Torres Del Paine trip, it cost $300 each! Anyway the fun wasn´t about to end there. We then missed our second flight they´d booked us on… We forgot the time change of 1 hour between Chile and Bolivia and there´s no tannoy system or clocks in this shack airport…that was a real kick in the nuts but we couldn´t blame anyone but ourselves! What a bunch of muppets! Anyway we eventually landed in Santiago 8 hours later than scheduled and dowsed ourselves in Chilean wine!

We´ve really enjoyed Santiago and had some great food and wine. Today´s sandwich at lunch might just beat the chicken valdestana! (some of you will know this)

We´re off to Valparaiso now for a couple of days.

Hasta Luego.

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Hola amigos!

Well what a week we´ve had! We took the overnight bus from La Paz to Uyuni to arrange our trip to the Salt Flats. It was 12hrs of the bumpiest ride you can ever imagine, it got even better when the rain started coming in through the windows! The buses in Bolivia are not quite the same quality as Peru. I managed to get some sleep somehow despite the rollercoaster ride across this dirt track, I don´t think the Romans would be happy with the roads in Bolivia! The downside was the vibrations from the bus broke a camera lense…well so I thought…luckily the Nikon Service center in Santiago fixed it easily.

We took a 3 day trip in a 4×4 around the Salt Flats and not so nearby sites. The whole trip was amazing and def one of the highlights so far. On day 1 we eventually headed out to the Salt Flats themselves, the size is staggering. Once out there you can´t see anything but mountains and salt. We took some crazy pespective photo´s, walking into Pringle Cans and holding each other in the palm of hands etc We´ll showcase these at some point hopefully. In the evening we stayed in a hotel built from salt. Day 2 was a visit to the highest desert in the world and some crazy rock features. The hostal that night was pretty grim but we were up at 4:30am the next day so luckily the experience was short lived. On day 3 we visited the natural geysers and bathed in the hot springs before breakfast whilst watching the sunrise, amazing! Prob the best morning we´ve had so far…

We then headed back to Uyuni and waited for the train back to La Paz…see the next post for the details of that fun!

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Motorcycle Diaries

So we arrived in Bolivia a few days ago. The first stop was Copacabana, no signs of Barry though! Maybe we got the wrong Copacabana… This is a small town on the Bolvian side of Lake Titicaca. We stayed in a really nice hostel…is there such thing…well it was perched high up on the cliffs overlooking the beautiful Lake. It´s not so beautiful when you get down to the lake side and see the rubbish dumped everywhere and some suspicious smells! We decided not to visit the Isla del Sol, it´s supposed to be beautiful and has some Inca ruins but once you´ve seen 3 islands you´ve seen em all.

The day after we headed to La Paz. The views are pretty incredible as you decend down to the city from el Alto. The city is deep inside a canyon surrounded by el Alto and then snow capped mountains behind. El Alto is a kind of shanty town on the rim of the canyon. Apparently the fastest growing city in SA though, most immigrants arrive here. We felt quite breathless when we arrived here, the city is at 4000m above sea level and we had to hike around with the rucksacs looking for a hostel. This proved more difficult than usual because of a huge street carnival, we couldn´t get across the road! Also along the way we got attacked by the locals…don´t worry we´re fine, it was just foam and water guns! There seems to be a craze here during carnival to have water fights or foam fights. We both got done by a sniper from a bus window!

Today we had a potter round but forgot to account for the fact its Shrove Tuesday…a national holiday here so everything was closed! The city was like a ghost town, really weird. Anyway the locals are out now having a beer or 10, presumably getting warmed up for the Man U vs AC game! Speaking of which I better go get myself a good spot.

Tomorrow we´re off to Uyuni to start our salt lake adventure.

Hasta Luego

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Result!

So we´re back from our travels around Lake Titicaca, that was a great experience. But the title of this blog is result because a stroke of luck meant we met a couple of fellow travellers in Puno, one of which happened to have a Nikon SLR too. As you know my charger got stolen so I have been desparately trying to hunt down a new one but it was proving as elusive as the Holy Grail. Luckily this kind traveller was heading back to the States in a couple of weeks so offered to sell me his charger. I was most grateful so I´m now back taking pictures. We still won´t be able to upload to the blog until we get a new netbook but at least we don´t miss out on pictures for the remainder of SA.

So when we arrived in Puno, the departure point for Lake Titicaca on the Peruvian side, we were lucky enough to see the festival “La Candelaria”. This is a festival that runs for about 2 or 3 weeks during Feb. Pretty much everyday and night there are celebrations running through the streets. Some of the costumes are pretty amazing, I guess it´s like a Peruvian Mardis Gras.

We then booked ourselves onto a 2 day trip around the islands of Lake Titicaca. This would include a homestay on the Isle de Amantani with a local family. We also did a little volunteering , teaching English to some kids in a library built by the tour agency and tourist $. The whole experience was pretty amazing and a real eye opener.

The first islands we visited were the Uros. These are floating islands made from the natural reeds that grow in the lake. It´s really amazing to see how these people have built entire islands with houses, lookout posts and huge boats using only reeds and some rope etc It´s the closest island to Puno and due to it´s ease of accessibilty it´s a little touristy but no less amazing.

After this we sailed to Amantani which is about 3hrs away. We were both suprised about the size of the lake itself, it´s really like a vast sea. When we arrived on Amantani we were greated by the local family we would spend the night with. The houses were so primitive, no electricity or hot water. The evening meal was cooked by candlelight, how they did it we don´t know. The people were very friendly though and the island is stunning. In the evening we got dressed up in traditional clothing of the islanders and went to a party. This bit was a little touristy but good fun. The clothes that the locals wear all have some significance, for example you can tell the marital status depending on their hat.

The day after we visited another island Taquille. Again the scenary was stunning. At times we have to pinch ourselves because we´re seeing so many beautiful landscapes it´s easy to forget to appreciate them.

After this we´ll be heading to the Bolvian side of the Lake, Copacobana.

Adios for now.

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Colca Canyon & Beyond

During our time in Arequipa we took a 2 day trip to visit the Colca Canyon. Allegedly the 2nd deepest canyon in the world after nearby Cotahasi. It was about a 5hr drive to village of Chimay where we stayed overnight. Along the way we saw loads of Lamas and Alpacas…I thought hmm I ate one of you last night! I thoroughly recommend Alpaca meat, not sure you’ll get it on Bolton market but you can try! It tastes like pork but much more tender, like a fillet steak. Also along the way to Chimay we tried chewing on coca leaves. This was an experience we probably won’t repeat but worth trying anything once. Over here in Peru they sell allsorts of derivations of Coca, Coca Cookies, Coca Tea, Coca Sweets, you name it they have it. They all taste better than chewing on the leaves too! The andean people chew it because it gives you energy and helps with altitude sickness.

In Chimay we had a buffet lunch of local Peruvian dishes. Here I got to try the Cuy…or Guinea pig as we call it! Gem was staying well away. This also tastes pretty delicious, a bit like chicken but sweeter. Generally they serve it roasted in it’s entirety..i.e with head and claws still on! I had it in a big stew so it looked a bit more like rabbit.

On the second day we got up early…5am..err hello we’re on holiday! Anyway it was a nice drive through the canyon to the lookout point for Condors. We saw quite a few of these birds which are pretty impressive, upto 3m wingspan soaring through the canyon. After that we took a small hike and headed back to Arequipa for another 2 nights.

We did another Spanish lesson and attempted to clear our favourite cafe out of cake! The cakes here are the best, maybe the best we’ve ever had. So if you are ever in Arequipa make sure you pop down to Capriccio for a slice or 2!

Today we arrived in Puno and we’ll be visiting lake Titicaca over the next few days.

Adios Amigos!

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Arequipa

Hola Amigos,

We arrived in Arequipa 3 days ago after a long overnight bus trip. We´ve been enjoying a relaxing time here and occasionally cursing the day we stepped foot in Nazca and took the most expensive flight of our trip so far!

We decided to take a few Spanish lessons during our time here, it can only help and gives my knee sometime to recover!

Arequipa seems like a really nice nice city with a lovely Plaza and some great architecture. Hopefully we can post some pictures in the future.

We´re off to the Colca Canyon tomorrow morning for a 2 day trip. It´s supposed to be the 2nd deepest canyon in the world with nearby Cotohasi just beating it. We´re also hoping to see some Condors here and enjoy the hot springs. I realised I needed some new swim shorts because our friend the burglar nicked mine! Honestly why he would want those I can´t imagine…they were due a wash too!

We´ll be back in Arequipa for a couple of days following the Colca canyon. We´re then heading to Puno for the carnival. We decided to give Cusco a miss because it´s a long trip there and back, since there´s no chance of seeing Machu Picchu it´s not worth it for us.

Right that´s all for now.

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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly!

Hola Amigos,

Well it’s been a while since we posted any updates because we haven’t had an internet connection since we left Lima. So in that respect we have a lot to update you all about.

We’ll start with the Good…
So we enjoyed our last day in Lima, in fact we ended up spending an extra day there and relaxing a little more. One evening we went to a park which has a fountains and light show. It’s a little like Barcelona or Las Vegas Bellagio. The only thing that lets it down is the music is not particurlarly choreographed to the fountains like the aforementioned places. The locals love it though and turn out in there hundreds! Especially the kids that dance in the fountains. I took my camera and tripod to take some shots and a few of the kids thought it was great, started asking for pictures and following me round like a celebrity whilst Gem chuckled in the background!

Here’s a few pics from that evening.

Pyramid Fountains

Lima Fountain

Cool and the Gang!

Fun at the fountains

After Lima we headed to a little desert oasis called Huacachina. It’s a tiny place with the town surrounding the oasis and being surrounded itself by the desert. The sand dunes here are HUGE! We stayed in a “hostal” which was more like a really nice hotel, infact it had been renamed to Hotel Huacachinero when we got there. The rooms were huge and the place had a great swimming pool! Anyway it was a little over budget but worth it so we had 3 days there.

Now for the Bad….
On the final day shortly after seeing Man U spank the Arsenal, come on you reds!!!! I went dune buggying and sand boarding. Sand boarding is a little like snow boarding but on sand if you haven’t seen it. On the first dune that we sand boarded the guide recommended we lie flat on the board and effectively go down on our stomachs….I had other ideas! Now clearly sand boarding was like snow boarding which I also haven’t done before, but I’ve skied and seen enough boarders to know what to do…or so I thought! I decided to go down stood up like a snow boarder, cut to 200 meters down this huge dune at which point I’d picked up a little more pace than I banked on and it was time for a wipe out of mass proportions! and that as they say was the end of my sand boarding career! My knee is now a little sore..oh and my shoulder..oh yeh and lets not forget my neck! You know you’re in trouble when you hear someone else go “ouch that’s gonna hurt” as you tumble down the dune whacking it now and again! Anyway it was all good fun and I’m on the mend. Gem said maybe I’ll learn my lesson but I probably won’t.

We also did a little wine tour and sampled a few Peruvian wines…the less said about these the better! There is a firm reason why most people haven’t heard of Peruvian wine and long may it stay that way!

Here’s a few pics from Huacachina

Huacachina

Dune Walker

Parrot at our hotel!

Vineyard at Ica

Now for the Ugly…

Well we arrived in Nazca 2 days ago. The first day was great, we went to a lecture on the possible origins of the famous Nazca lines at the planetarium. We thought it would be a pretty interesting thing to do before we went to see the lines. The day after we left the hostel to catch our flight over the lines, the only way to really appreciate them. This was the single time in this whole trip that we decided to leave a bunch of stuff behind in the hostel. Unfortunately in the short time we were out seeing the lines some **** decided to rob us! So we got back to the hostel and our room had been ransacked and our laptop, some of my camera gear, our ipods and pretty much everything electronic had been nicked! Fuming, steaming mad does not even describe how we felt! It turned out to be the guy in the next room to us, he’d either picked the lock or somehow accessed the keys in reception. The owner of the hostel was very good and we drove around the town looking for the culprit but he’d long gone. He was a Peruvian and so no chance of catching up with him. We’ve filed a police report but they didn’t seem too interested. Hopefully the insurance will replace some of the stuff but we lost all our photo’s which is pretty gutting. We have the low resolution copies I uploaded to the internet which is something I guess. We’ve kind of come to terms with it all now and you do gain a sense of perspective when travelling. I mean most people have so little and lots of people have just lost homes and family in Machu Picchu and Haiti so material items shouldn’t hold too much importance. This means the blog updates might not be so regular and the photostream might dry up for a while. He nicked my charger and trying to find a charger for a DSLR out here isn’t going to be easy until we get to a major city.

Well that’s about it for now. We’re off to Arequipa tonight…9hr overnight bus ride!

Hasta Luego!

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