Thursday, 30 April 2009

Lima, Miraflores, Internal bodyflora reduction ..

Well we cruised into Lima the capital of Peru with a few stories of good/bad from travellers down south so we werent expecting too much. So a summary of the highs and lows is warranted;

  • Seeing Russ and Bobby for one night on their way to La Paz - having cold celebration beers on arrival, a good dinner, good company, wine and an awesome meringue.

  • We stayed in a chilled Hostel in Miraflores (Inka Lounge) - met many good travellers from around the world including those volunteers helping out the Peruvian town Pisco which was levelled by an earthquake almost 2 years ago. Thanks to Ryan from South Africa for good laughs and use of his laptop!

  • Spoke Spanish, Spanglish, German, English and Portugese to a guy from Portugal to communicate! ha!

  • Had a nice walk with Tish overlooking the beach

  • Talking to Mum and Dad! (Mr and Mrs Peric)

  • Picking up Simons renewed passport safely from the Australian Embassy (the old one ran out of pages!) - soooo good to see Australian newspapers and tourism brochures at the embassy.


  • Overcast weather

  • Simon got a horrid bug that put him in bed for a good part of a day or 2. Part and parcel of travelling - this one was a shocker!

  • Missing out on a great seafood restaurant by the sea due to said bug.

  • Crap internet connection at the hostel preventing blogging and photos posting by Tish while simon was in!

Pig Flu and Mexico status update

Hello All,

Some have been in touch to let us know about this breaking news, thanks very much for the information. We were due to fly out of Mexico on June 1 but have contacted our travel agent to see what the options are...up until then we will most likely change course and unfortunately have to spend a week in Costa Rica instead of Mexico, half our luck :) So the rough plan from here is Peru/Ecuador/Gallapagos Islands up until May 18 then fly to Costa Rica for a week then Cuba Havana and surrounds for a week then either back through Mexico airport or some alternative country back to London. From there as you know we are off to Tanzania Africa after a nice few days in London with Tom and Hannah.

Love to you all

S & T

PS we are having the time of our lives as expected

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Hoo chee mama Pictures

HUACACHINA (pronounced hoo-chee-mama) - Sand Boarding

Well I knew it would come ...the time when an experience would totally blow our minds, pump the adrenaline to extreme and dazzle us with beauty!

For the mathematicians:

1 Desert Warrior + 1 sandboard (a planks of wood with bindings) + massive Peruvian sand dunes = MASSIVE AMOUNTS OF FUN!

So we had a few days up our sleeve on our way through Peru and we decided to detour close along the coast mid Peru to Huachachina (sounds like a type of chihuahua)...glad we did...Lonely Planet totally undersold this place..for sure the hotels were a little run down but they were fit for purpose, some chilling time by the pool and some sand fun. We booked into a medium range Hostel got a double room with a pool, nice. There are 3 things to do in this place, drink Pisco cocktails (average local grape used in Brandy), sit by the pool and top up the tan and get sand blasted! So we soaked up options one and two on day and two then came time for the sand work.

So H as I will call it is a desert oasis with a lagoon surrounded by hotels and eateries..we walked out the front of our hostel with an english guy keen for some sandbiting action and we saw a well spec'd dune buggy fit for the three of us (the rest of people go in 9 seaters which is like a small school bus, not as cool) the guy hands us card - the desert warrior! 8 years driving experience on dunes, from Venezuela, what struck us was his professionalism he had no interest in crazyiness and confirmed his credientials early on, we were booked in.

So that afternoon at 4pm we ascended into the desert from some crazy was a like a roller coaster with some sand boarding thrown in...the sand boarding was great fun, we rocketed down dunes and ate lots of sand on the way. I had some many memories of my dad taking me to Kurnell sand dunes in Sydney growing up, giving me a piece of cardboard and saying down you go! Aside of the baording the driving was the highlight, loads of of great driving, high dunes, fast pace action and amazing scenery and sunset all in about 2 or 3 experience we will never forget and didnt think we would see in Peru....any one making a trip to here MUST come past this.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Nazca Line Pictures

Nazca Lines and Hair Loss...

With another bus ride from hell but this time we got on a really nice bus (cama full bed style) which means business class in S.A bus terms. Heading straight over the Andean mountains it meant crazy driving at a speed that is not probably not recommended....anyway we have heard all the bus stories now on with the real story...this one will be short.

Arriving into Nazca, we checked in, had a quick power nap and Si went up in a 4 seater cessna plane to see the lines (in summary a stomach wrenching ride with amazing views overlooking lines on the ground shaped into many formations, apparently formed by movement of dark rocks revealing lighter coloured sand...Simon thinks a few drunken farmers could have achieved this rather than the Nascans Tish wasn´t overly interested in seeing the lines so poped down the street for some internet time.

Nazca is just a place, very basic... Wouldn´t overly suggest it unless you are extremly interested in the lines themselves as the town is a bit of a dive but has one of the best Chinese Restaurants we have been to in a VERY long time at a bargin price of 9 soles ( about 1 pound 60) including won ton soup great for travellers budgets!
Nazca was a great place for us to rest and recover before heading off again and we comically ran into our Welsh friends again and joined them on the bus on the way to the Peruvian Desert town Huachachina for some sand dune buggy and sand boarding fun.

Last point on Nasca is that it was the place where Mr Peric finally decided to shave off his growing mop...number 4 on top, 3 on the sides...he had only been promising it for abou t20 years :)

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Friday, 17 April 2009

Manu Jungle Peru

As we all know, a trip to South America is not complete without a trip to the we got together in Cusco with our good Australian friends from London Lindsay and Richie and booked ourselves a 4 day trip deep into the Manu Jungle. In a nutshell here is what we got for about $300USD per person:

  • Transfers via truck (A- team style Ford Van) to and from the jungle

  • all meals, water and snacks included

  • Birding

  • white water rafting on class 2/3 rapids

  • Birding

  • Tree top canopy flying fox and abseiling - so much fun!

  • Birding

  • Motor boating (no not what you think Dev if you ar reading this!)

  • Birding

  • Jungle walks at night (scary!)

  • Log boat ride in the marshes with baby anacondas apparently (not on the brochure!)

  • an english speaking guide with EXTENSIVE birding experience, good sense of humour, 2nd class white water rafting experience (the main guy had jungle fever!)

  • Clay Licks experience...and amazing feeding pattern of parrots and macaws

  • See this link for more on Birding...its a serious sport!

We had a great time with great people with good sense of humour, Will and Rachel from Wales joined us who were on our hell bus in Bolivia and we were also joined by a quiet english guy called Matt aka Megatron for his inhuman strength in knocking down trees on jungle walks...a trip he wont forget!

Funniest thing we remember on the first Jungle walk at night was our guide Miguel saying calmly "Only one rule of the Jungle...dont touch ANYTHING. Ants will bite you and you will cry like a child all night." Happy days! I have never seen people stick together so well! Of course there were lots of mysterious branches touching the person in front to heighten the scare. I was disappointed I didnt see a tarantula but was kind of happy after seeing a scorpion spider..this massive man eating disgusting thing! Aside of that we saw marsupials, rats, monkeys, birds, many more spiders and insects etc but no anacondas, jaguars or pumas - very rare!

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Salkantay Trek - Machu Picchu Pictures

Machu Picchu. click here for more pictures

Salkantay/Santa Teresa/Machu Picchu Trek - 5 days

The Salkantay Trek is a 5 day 4 night alternative trek to the standard Inca Trail trek where every man and his dog treks in a congo line through the sun gate and on to Macchu Picchu on teh final day...not for us! Our Trek involved trekking through the Salkantay pass, a mountain that is 6225m high with deep forests then via Santa Teresa with relaxing natural hotsprings and ends the last morning in Machu Picchu.

llama Path is a local company that we went booked with. A evening briefing before the 5am start allowed us to meet our 2 guides Freddy and Jose, it also allowed us to meet the rest of our group. 1 Mexican, 2 Swiss, 2 Americans, Rich and Linds and the token Brit....aka "tea bag" (more stories on him to come)

First day started with a 7 hours medium level trek to our first camp in the valley of Salkantay. We didn´t realise how comfortable the company made this trek. When we arrived into camp our tents were set up, a bowl of hot water and towel were at the door and popcorn was always served on arrival once freshened up....nice but not expected!

With an early morning start all went to bed straight after dinner. Tish somehow got a bug either that day or the evening before as she was violently ill all night. The only funny side of this was the local stray dogs got a hot meal and where extremely happy. With day 2 as the toughest day of the5 days, it was horse back for Tish. Sounds luxurious but trust wasn´t.
Day 2 was trekking the Salkatany pass, a mountain 6430m. We were hoping for the clouds to lift but no luck this time, we did however get to watch some impressive avalanches from a-far.
The weather was wet and muddy the whole trip which meant the tracks where ankle deep in mud so hard walking at times.
We got to spend one of the nights in a park by the natural hotsprings of SantaTheresa,. This place was just stunning and with 4 pools to choose from, everyone was satisfied after a few days of hard trekking.
Day 4 was spent walking train tracks climbing past and around the mountain of Machu Picchu.
When arriving in Aguas Caliente ( the town at the bottom of Machu Picchu) there was an option to climb a mountain adjacent to Machu Picchu where you could get a great view of the mountains and Machu Picchu itself. Only Simon and 2 others (Richie and Adrian) attempted this as everyone was pretty shattered by the end of day 4 anyway. The views were amazing and the trek up was mainly by ladder.....crazy stuff but a highlight!
A 4am start on day 5 meant we were the first ones in line to get to Machu Picchu. With another cold and wet day, all were a little slow to start with but as the sunrise broke, so did the clouds...just for brief moments.
We climbed one of the small mountains colse to Wayna Picchu to get a great view of the ruins. There are many, many, many stories to Machu Picchu so it is up to yourself which one you believe, make your own assessment.
Later that afternoon when we all arrived into Aguas Caliente, we were expecting to leave our guides there and head back to Cusco but instead we were informed that there was a farmer strike and they had blocked all the roads and train tracks with boulders so we were trapped in town the night. No one seemed too upset, instead we found the cheesy local night club and danced the night away with many sore heads the next morning. A great trek, hard but rewarding and recommended over the yellow brick road of the Inca trail.

Friday, 10 April 2009

Lake Titicaca, Copocabana, Isla Del Sol, Bowler Hats, Proposals!

Hello all...little bit behind on the blog entries but great efforts will be made in coming hours to restore this and the interest of our loyal follower base :)

So continuing on we decided to head out of La Paz towards the Peru/Bolivian border ...Lake Titicaca specifically (highest navigable lake in the world by some accounts but not entirely accurate as Bolivia and Peru both have much higher bodies of water). We decided to head for Copacabana (not of Barry Manilow fame) which is situated in Bolivia on LT (Lake Titicaca). We hopped on a local a small 12 seater mini bus after confirming with some french travellers that we all had been charged the gringo price and no local price seemed to exist...if you were a rather large Peruvian woman with a 40 kg bag of potatoes your tariff was reduced :)

So leaving LP for Copacabana in our mini bus after picking up what seemed like 24 people for the poor little bus laden on the roof along with 2 mattresses, 2 bags massive bags of popcorn or the like, 15 gringo backpacks, chickens, guinea pigs and other accessories we were all ready for a journey. For the most part it was uneventful with beautiful mountain scenery..however I do remeber Tish expressing her insane sense of humour and putting on the hat of the very large peruvian lady next to us while she was sleeping...I was of course the lucky photographer, keep an eye out for that photo!

Some history on that while I am here is that most of the Peruvian ladies are very hard workers, dress very well in skirts and often where many embroided rugs to keep worm, their hair is platted carefully and on top of their head they wear a classic bowler hat! The bowler hat - called a bombin - has also been worn by Quechua and Aymara women in Peru and Bolivia since the 1920s when it was introduced to Bolivia by British railway workers. For many years a factory in Italy manufactured the hats for the Bolivian market, but they are now produced internationally.

interesting history here and pic at top (imagine Tish with that hat on! we werent in a position for explanations if we got caught!

We arrived in Copacabana which is essentially a lake side town with no cash machine, lots of restaurants and of course souvenirs and tour agencies. We booked ourselves into a lazy hotel that needed some work but enough to keep us happy for 1 night only as we would be on the move the next day to the Lake. we headed off for dinner which with many restuarants presented many options for us but our budget was very tight as we didnt want to withdraw more bolivianos as we were heading for Peru which uses Soles! So the budget kids headed for dinner drawn by a restuarant that allowed us to use our student cards (yup that is right we study at Cambridge :)...the cheeseburger and beer were good then it was off to bed for some much needed rest before a long next day. We have learned many things while is a strong TIP: CHECK THAT THE BED IN YOUR HOSTEL/HOTEL IS FIT FOR A HUMAN TO SLEEP IN! Our bed was essentially a hammock with no back support and at 3am I{d had enough, left Tish to it then rolled out my thermarest (blow up matt) and sleeping bag on the concrete floor! It was at that point that I started to notice the raw sewerage smell and gasoline smell coming from the room...not much sleep was had that night on my part! Seems exaggerated but that was what the room was like, no wonder it was so cheap! hahah.

THE PROPOSAL (Romantics be warned this may produce tears!): I am pretty sure you know we are happily engaged now but here is my version of events leading up to the fine day on Isla Del Sol, Lake Titicaca, Bolivia....ok some of you know I had this planned some time back in London but location wasnt confirmed. First in London I had called Graeme and thankfully received the go ahead (thanks Graeme), this was no easy task scouring through old phone bills to find Mr Wilkinsons number and not attracting a barrage of questions! So as we travelled along through Argentina I thought that Bolivia with its amazing mountains would be the place and we were going to climb a mountain so why not the summit! Unfortunately the mountains had broken my darling and no summit proposal had presented so I quickly reassessed options but was coming under increased pressure as I had a travel ring and a small Bolivian treasure chest in my pocket ready to go. The pressure came as we were nearing the border of Peru and the little Bolivian treasure chest was about to become obsolete as it read "Bolivia"!!! So staying calm I thought I would see what beautiful scenery would come and if the time presented then take the plunge, if not then it was going to become a Peruvian proposal which wasnt bad but not what I had in mind with abundant tourist trails. So onwards and upwards we hopped on a terrible boat trip to Lake Titicaca...with limited sleep for the both of us we embarked on a gasoline smelling boat which should have been there in half the time, we were somewhat grumpy ffrom no sleep and the previous nights overnight bus, added to this my Ray Bum sunglasses (poor imitation Ray Bans from La Paz) had decided to pop out a lense to the amusement of all the gringos on the boat! Funny in was going to take something great to turn things around. So speeding things up a little we disembarked and commenced a three hour walk on Isla Del Sol (Island of the Sun)..which had no sun when we arrived :) The walk was mediocre at best and we learned that the locals were going to hit you with a tax at one point on the island of which we had limited money to pay as we were wearing down the Bolivianos! Never mind as we approached the taxing gate we took a detour around the mountain and to our great delight found an amazing view of the other side of the island, peace and tranquility which we hadnt experienced in years. What I found intriguing about this place was that it was SO quiet and allowed us to converse in a way we had never achieved in many years in the hustle and bustle London. Growing confident I felt this the time, I positioned myself down the hill a little went down on one knee and produced the chest with ring inside exclaiming to Tish "Look what I found!" She opened it and couldnt believe that someone would leave such a gift on the side of a mountain overlooking a beautiful lake :) God bless her! Tish eventually clicked that I was asking her to marry me after 4 great years together...she said yes - hurrah! We then went and had lunch at a cafe (with our 30 Bolivianos we had made by not paying the local tax man) that had one table overlooking the lake and its stunning views - perfect. We shared a few stories and hurried back for the boat back to the mainland Copacabana.

If you are looking to go to Lake Titicaca I would recommend a stay on Isla Del Sol for a peaceful retreat. The interesting thing about the Lake is that it is not riddled by tourism and has very limited amount of boats to get from point to point...probably a good thing on the eco-tourism front.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Huayani Potosi Pictures

La Paz and Huayna Potosi Mountain 6088m

After the worst bus ride in the world....we surprisingly made it to La Paz alive. We were lucky enough to still be going in the same direction as Mike and Solly who we were on tour with (brit friends living in sydney). Solly has a Spanish background so it was a relief to have her through the nights travel. Arriving in La Paz as 6am, it is one of the most spectacular cities we have seen. The city is built 3660m and set in and around a valley. The population of 1.5 million is hard to believe when you look at the size of the valley but when you are amongst it, it is evident of its population.
Tish´s cold wasn´t getting any better from the salt tour and the pain at that altitude wasn´t pleasant so Solly and her went to the local doctors to see what was up. After 1 hour of Solly and the Bolivian doctor speaking in Spanish they came to the conclusion that is was an infection between the ear and throat and immediate antibiotics were in order. The medical system is comical in bolivia. The doctor will write the prescription but then it is up to you to get the drugs and needles from the local chemist and then go back to the doctors to have them give it to you. Tish experienced her first jab in the bum. Painful but laughter overcame her. 2 days of this and 30 hours of sleep cured her.

We checked out the local bar and restaurant scene over the next couple of days as La Paz isn´t a city that you need to visit certain things, the city in itself is great.
Having both read "Marching Powder" before travelling, we were keen to check out the local prison. The prison is known to have a better living standard to those on the outside with market stalls, restaurants and hairdressers inside the prison walls. Prisoners are required to purchase their own cells, so dependant on your wealth is dependant on your cell. Interesting link with more infor on La Paz prison
We were unfortunate not to have been able to visit the prison as only 2 weeks earlier the head of security and governer were sacked for illegal doings related to the prison so they were tightening all belts till the fuss blew over. Disappointing as it will no doubt be open again in the next months but it isn´t legal to visit the prison anyway.

Having met some inspiring Australians (Charlotte and Steve) travelling who had trekked/climbed a serious mountain and glacier in Bolivia called Huayni Potosi (6088m) we too decided to give it a crack. Probably not the best idea concidering we hadn´t been trekking in over a year and tish not being that well...anyway we scanned the streets for those who were providing this trek and found that Dr Hugo´s tour company was the best and most comforting that he was a doctor as well, Hugo was a world class climber of hundereds of climbs on Potosi so it was great to have his assessment and guidance. So after hours of questions and him signing Tishs health off, were were off.
It was a 2 hour drive out of La Paz which was tough in itself. It is a 3 day-2 night trip but only 2 days up and back. The afternoon of arrival we walked to a close glacier to practice the skills of Ice picking and climbing.....It was tough and this was supposed to be the easy part. Returning back to base camp we had an early night and good meal in preparation for the real climb tomorrow and the next thing we recall so well is the requirement to take on baord a huge amount of calories...the body without and strenuous exercise was working so much harder at altitude, so teh climb would be tough.
After lunch on day 2 we started our ascent to Huayni Refugio. Starting from 4700m and ending our first days trek at the bottom of the glacier at 5300m doesn´t sound far but it was about 4km and 4 & half hours of mostly 60 + degree climbing and no actual track to follow, just climbing/trekking loose rocks and in some spots basic climbing. We were already on the backfoot of this climb as we were not told to bring out hiking shoes as we knew we were given boots but these boots where Snow boots walking the first day in 3kg boots was more than we needed and wore us down from the outset. We made it to base camp which was a very basic tin shed is where we spent the second night at temps -12 due to lots of cloud cover, there was very little sleep had due to altitude (you had to sleep almost sitting up to allow more oxygen to enter the lungs) before the 1am final ascent to the top at 6088m.
In bed at 6pm, Tish woke up at 8pm with restricted breathing and had to sit upright till 1am after taking crushed asprin to help the breathing and swelling. We were lucky that 3 Alpine hikers from a mountaineering club shared the shed as non of the local guides had any signisficant medical experience or drugs. Tish was correctly advised to not make the last ascent to the summit. It was touch and go for everyone up until the last seconds as another of the team a girl from Canada suffered altitude sickness and also couldnt make it either. So after checking Tish had recovered to a good state it was left to Simon and a Portugese guy Luis to throw on the equipment and make the attempt. So some information on the equipment and layering technique is helpful and to the climber it is essential..thermal pants, two pairs of socks one synthetic and one llama wool (I wore 3 pairs for the summit attempt), then you have 2 tshirts, 2 thermal vests and a ski jacket with hood, a llama wool hat, llama wool gloves and some outer waterproof gloves a first pair of pants over the thermals then a second paid of waterprood pants and finally some sunglasses. In addition you carried an ice axe with a supporting rope and wore crampons on your 3kg boots to allow you to ice walk and climb as well as a climbing harness. A day pack was carried which held as many chocolate bars, snickers, gatorade, sugared water as possible...this was going to be tough! So starting at 1am in the dark I wasnt particularly in the mood for an exhausting experience especially after seeing Tish in a state for a few hours...but hey it was time to do one for the team! Our guide Felix was rock solid, about a 45 year old Bolivian with plenty of experience (Dr Hugo described that all his guides had world class experience so that helped). So starting out Felix set a solid pace early with me second and Luis the Portugese guy last, all three of you were tied together via a rope of about 2 metres in between that clipped into the caribeener on your harness. I found the best way to climb early was to focus only on one footstep (the one of the person in front of you) and nothing else. So after solid hour of walking the gradient got significantly one point we climbed using the ice axe up a 40 metre 45 degree slope to get to a ridge which we continued along for a another hour or by this point you were really starting to feel the pinch, chocalate bars were being consumed at a good rate and water consumed fastly..phew. Walking in the dark was didnt allow you to see in front of you or how far you had to go which in the end proved to be the thing that actually got us to the summit...if we saw what was ahead we would probably have turned back. The final attack on the summit was a gruelling 200 metre climb on hands and knees with ice axe at around 45 degrees...ouch. The final walk along the tiny ridge of the summit was tough after expending so much energy to get when we finally reached the summit just before sunrise it wasnt euphoric but more relief in the early minutes and the -15 degree temps were talking their toll...but after a while we appreciated the view of the top of the world! So after a quick photo or two we started the descent which was hard having to use different muscle groups. Thankfully we had made it the top first and many other teams were now starting to attempt heading to the top, on the way down we met many exhausted climbers trying to complete the final 200m some without success, we met 3 groups of one guide and one climber many of which had started as 5 person teams but depleted and turned back along the way, this gave us satisfaction...the climb down was equally hard but also started to show us what we had just climbed...the scenery was amazing - beautiful snow mountain landscapes and massive crevasses either side. We came to a point where we had to belay down the snow due to the sharp angle of descentwe apparently climbed this part earlier! so after an exhausting few hours we made it back to base camp....minus most of the chocolate bars and fluid supplies. The thing that made me laugh was that Felix only took on water and chocoalte when I offered it to him back would have quite happily continued without it...these guys had a distinct advantage of being born and bred in the mountains. The ice axe proved to be a saviour on the descent many times as you could use it as a third leg to stabilise the tired body. It was almost over, phew.

Tish's comment...seeing Simon in pieces from the glacier climb that morning woke me up to how tough it really was and certainly not a climb you attack when not at your peak health. He couldn´t say a word till we got back to La Paz and he slept for about 14 hours. I am keen to tackle another climb like that in the near future but be 100% happy with health and fitness. Congrats Si, I´m very proud!

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Salt Lake Tour Pictures

Click here to check out our Salar de Uyuni pictures.

Salar de Uyuni -aka Salt Lake Tour, Bolivia

Arriving into Toupiza early evening meant we had to find a tour that night that would leave the next morning. Tish had been sick with what she thought was a cold so went straight to bed as soon as we hit Toupiza.
We found a tour company who our new friends we had met traveling up through Bolivia had made contact with prior to our arrival. Job done. We had our own tour with them starting 8am the next day!
Our first day started with visiting Quebrada de Palala which were spectacular red formations that resemble needles, reaching 4200m. Our next stop that afternoon was called Valley of the moon. It is a product of erosion. Landscape presents shapes like the moon showing peaks and craters. Our first day had already blew us away with its scenery. It was hard to believe it was going to get better! Our first night was VERY basic accommodation with VERY cold conditions. We were sleeping at 4260m so our first night sleep was interrupted by us all waking at 2am with problems breathing. Didn´t help we had a bottle or two of wine before bed...not recommended and wasn´t repeated again...haha
Day 2 started at 5am as it was a 10 hour day of driving. We were lucky to have a great 4wd and a great guide and cook. First stop was San Antonio, abandon town distinguished once for its gold.
This trip for us has been the highlight of South America. We could go through day by day but there was SO much amazing things this entry would be way too long and borning for some of you. Every day we would say that it couldn't´t possibly get any better.....but it did.
Throughout the 4 days we visited volcanic rocks, Hot Springs, lagoons made up of arsenic and magnesium (they use this to make detergent), dried lava, picturesque snow caped mountains, craters of lava and mud in constant boiling, flamingos
Our last night was spent in a Salt Hotel. (hotel made out of salt) where we had our first one at that..YAY. It was cool to stay in this hotel. The next morning we woke at 4am to get to the Salar de Uyuni (salt flats) before sunrise. The Salt Lakes is considered to be the biggest of the world. It is formed by 11 layers with a thickness that ranges from 2 ro 20 meters deep. Here we watched the sun rise with only 1 other car in site and went snap happy. After a few hours there we had breakfast at Cactus Island. This crazy Island made up of Cacti. We walked to the top,checked out the view and went on our merry way out of the salt flats. Very cool day but for us it wasn´t the highlight of the trip with the other 3 days being so impressive. Amazing pics will follow.
On the way back to Uyuni we stopped at a Train Cemetery...weird but fun non the less.
Our bus our of Uyuni was the hairiest ever. I think this has been updated in "buses" post.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Welcome to Bolivia

So...our last post was when we were in Salta and talking about the easy travel it had been thus far....things have changed in less than a week...we were certainly up for a challenge and a challenge we got!

We hopped on an over night bus from Salta(Argentina) to the boarder into Bolivia where we would go through the boarder crossing and spend our next few weeks in Bolivia. The trip is only about 300kms but takes 8 hours....that may help you understand the story below.
We hop on a bus for another over night travel in what looks like an OK which is was the roads that we horrendous! We had been spoilt with getting our 5 or 6 hours sleep on most over night trips but this one was not the case. The roads were like being on a cattle grid for most of it so the 2 hours sleep we got were well enjoyed! When we got on the bus we saw 2 other white people speaking English so we quickly made conversation to help sooth our nerves for what we knew was ahead. They too were excited when we found out they were heading the same way as us. Bolivia travel is an experience in it´self.

To our surprise we did made it alive to the bus station at 6am but where shocked to have to wait in a cattle pen of a terminal till day light when we could walk over to the boarder crossing to Bolivia. Boarder crossings are a classic! no security and just a box on the side of the road where they look and you and stamp your passport. We were now in Villazon (boarder of Bolivia). We ripped through the boarder crossing by early morning and then had to wait till 4pm to get a train to Toupiza where our first tour began. We were highly recommended NOT to take buses in Bolivia where possible...what is meant to be a 10 hour bus ride can take you 20 hours....

We set up camp in the first cafe that opened in Villazon (about 8am) for the day where we had copious amounts of te, coffee, water..anything to allow us to hang there for the day. Lunch quickly approached and chickens were being hung on the rotisserie which meant salivating was the only thing going on from then. We were the first to call dibbs when ready....YUMMO!

The day went quickly with our new found friends from UK (now living in Sydney) talking rubbish, sipping tea and enjoying a chicken or two. 4pm we got on the train to Toupiza where our Tour started first thing the next morning. The train ride was picturesque...although we all passed out as soon as we hit the seats...missed our dinner call but woke up to a sandwich on our laps...haha

Monday, 6 April 2009


Hello there, hope you are all well, ots been a while but Bolivia has been action pàcked..

As most of you know by now the most common way to journey about SA is to take a bus, I have never seen such an extensive bus network, very impressive and most locals wont fly due to cost...this is why when you speak to people who fly about SA internally they will scream about the airport taxes theory is that they are always there but not revealed by many western airlines..

So back to buses, broken down by country here are my thoughts on the buses and what you get for your money:

Brazil: Buses seemed realtively modern but companies like Pluma have buses that should have been decommisioned years ago, in true form we had the pleasure to experience one that had an aircon unit above your head that screeched every time the thermostat kicked in and the best part was the dirty stinky toilet that conveniently blew smells into the cabin of the bus! All in all the buses in Brazil were average but not the best, they were overpriced for the long haul trips over 10 hours compared to other countries.

In most countries you get the seating choice of semi-karma, karma and executive. What you get at each leavel ranges from a seat that reclines somewhat and no meal, to a seat that reclines very well for sleep and a basic meal and drinks to finally the executive that provides leather seats, horizontal recline, great food and they will stop at a restaurant for your dinner!

In Australia or England I never could have imagined doing a 17 hour bus ride but here it is amazing how quickly you get used to catching buses, making yourself comfortable, sleeping and dealing with the specialities the locals come up with (and there are many 5 people to 3 seats is not uncommon!).

Argentina: in My experience probably the most efficiently run and best buses in SA are in Argentina, they run like clock work, everyone has an allocated seat and you cant get on without solid identification (you would think thi sis a given but read Bolivia below). We got a nice upgrade to Executive from Buenos Aires to Mendoza, the seats were virtually flat and they stopped at a restaurant and paid for our dinner!

Bolivia: Ok so once you dribble over the border from Argentina into Bolivia things begin to change drastically, good buses apprently exist but we havent be exposed to too many. It seems gringos (non SA people) pay for their ticket and hope to get a seat where as the locals can comfortably board most buses with no allocated seat or can start to see how things get stolen..

Ok so worst bus experience was in Bolivia: 12 hour over night bus trip from Uyuni to La Paz the capital. Prior to baording the bus the ladies in the booking office were joking about the probability of us getting our day packs stolen (usually contains your most valuable items). So to prepare for this I had a chat with a few Israelis, Irish, Scots, English and Aussies and we all agreed we would stick together and keep eyes open. So we hop on this bus which form the exterior looked pretty solid and we all made our way to the back (no allocated seats) and got seated, we locked our day packs at our feet and tied them to the under part of the seat and then put one leg through the strap as a final resort (this was after concealing all of our paper valuables, passports memory cards for photos etc under our clothing)..we were ready! So the bus cruises off and we quickly discovered that in Southern bolivia the roads arent sealed so the apprently strong bus started to rattle and shake tremendously, the seats were shaking like a dodgy massage chair on overdrive, crazy stuff. As this progressed anyone sitting aisle side was cooked by the heat in teh cabin and anyone window side were cold as the cold air started to creep in. Naturally there were a few worried faces as the bus started to sway here and there and reverse in sections where it couldnt pass! So onwards from here the lights in the cabin go out and we started to slow down and pick up every viallage person who wanted to get on and sure enough they started to make their way to the back of the cabin and talked loudly where people were trying to sleep in the crazy conditions. Mike and Sole a cool english couple we had met were behind us and we agreed that Mike and I would sit aisle side to wait for the locals. Soon enough the locals started to sit in teh aisle around our feet and hands were moving about in the dark near our bags but we were ready and quickly moved to removed..after some knees and elbows they got the message and moved down the bus. Ok so all was going fine and then 2am it was time to change to another bus! So gringos moved very fast off the bus to secure our bags coming out of the under carriage..all sorted we were doing well! Finally we got on a freezing bus for the final few hours to La Paz - we made it safely but in hindsight it came from sticking together and working as a group...I can easily see how single people or even couples can have their bags picked off by distraction...

Off for our Macchu Picchu Trek briefing...speak soon!