To Peru

26 06 2011

From La Paz we headed to Copacabana where we took a boat trip across lake Titicaca to a little island called ‘Isla del sol’ (island of the sun). The locals believe that the island is where humans were created.

We did a short 2 day trek from one end of the island to the other, there are some small ruins at the far end of the island and beautiful views all around. On the second day we awoke to rain and hid in the tent hoping it would piss off….it didnt!

Next we headed to the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca to a little town called Puno. From here we visited the “famous” floating islands and were disappointed to see how much of a tourist trap the whole place was. Their culture has totally died out because of interbreeding with the local indians, no-one even knows how to speak the traditional language anymore. It purely survives of tourist dollar and from the moment you step onto the island you are harassed to buy something, some guy even tried to sell us his broken watch!

We finally got a little rest from the constant harassment of tourist towns when we got to Arequipa! Arequipa is the second biggest city in Peru but definitely the most beautiful! the main plaza is filled with huge white colonial buildings and it has its own chocolate factory !!!!!
We had booked a hostel on the internet and didnt quite know what to expect considering it was only it second day running! We pulled up in the taxi and instantly thought we must have the address wrong because in front of us was a massive new white house with a pool and beautiful gardens….for $8.00 a night we were definitely in the wrong neighbourhood!

But to our surprise the mansion in front of us was the hostel! We hung around for easter gorging ourselves on chocolate easter eggs with little presents inside and then decided it was time to walk it off!

It was a 6 hour bus ride to the the trailhead of the Colca Canyon trek. Along with the nice scenary we saw a bus sitting on the side of the road which literally had the whole front section (where we were sitting) ripped off. I learnt a very important lesson that day, never sit up the front!
Colca Canyon, 5 days a little lost on the first day, couldnt turn back… traded some apples for other veges in the small villages. Crazy as fuck bus ride home, people with legs of raw meat in teh overhead. Thought we were going to die…

Arequipa for a little longer, did rafting and had a bbq at the hostel.

Cusco,
Nice looking city if your looking for a massage or a painting, choquekeraw ruins to Machu pichu. Bus got a flat tire, hotel tried to rip us off, hot, tired, mozzys, fuck this place sucks, lets go to fucking Thailand and get massages and drink coctails for a few months instead. Ok sounds like a plan.





Sunrise at 6088m

12 04 2010

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The 3 day Huayna Potosi adventure began with an afternoon hike to the glacier and some quick lessons in ice climbing!!! With all of our specialised gear on we felt like real mountaineers! The guides showed us how to walk on the ice and use our ices axes to climb and fall! They set up ropes on the top of the glaciar so we could practice our newly learnt skills. It looked quite far from the the bottom and i was amazed when i made the five meter climb to the top! Little did we know the next ice climbing experience would be 200m straight up in the dark!

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On the second day we walked up to the high camp (5200m) ate an early dinner and tried to get some sleep before the big climb!

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We awoke at midnight, ate some cake, put on our boots, crampons and every piece of clothing we owned and headed for the mountain! We were tied to our guide Salverio and felt very safe in his hands, having climbed the mountain hundreds of times.

It seemed liked we were walking really slow but Salverio told us that it was important not to sweat because once you stop for a breather the sweat freezes inside your clothes and makes you even colder!

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We walked for 5 hours in the pitch dark night and were then faced with the decision of going the “easy way” or the “challenging” way to the top. Under the influence altitude, the first symptom, bad decision making, was evident as we enthusiastically decided on going the “challenging way”. Fools.

Salverios definition of the challenging way – steep and a little bit of climbing.

Our definition of the challenging way – A 200m near vertical ice wall which required you to climb using you ice axe for nearly and hour.

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Our calves were on fire and breathing was difficult but determination (and the fact that there was no way down) got us to the top in time for sunrise. Shivering uncontrollably with snot frozen to the ends of our noses we took some photos and admired the amazing view! We could see the glowing lights of La Paz and all the way across the mountains to Lake Titicaca!

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1) Made it! 2) Tied to the top. 3) Salverio our guide.

As the sun lit the sky we made our way down a skinny ridge (where falling meant certain death) down to the snow covered slopes of the beautiful mountain.

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There were huge crevices with spectacular meter long icicles and in places the snow resembled rolling hills of white sand.

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Absolutely exhausted, even the walk down the mountain was a task. Descending from 6088m to 5200 in 1 hour does strange things to the body!

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Once back at camp we met up with the rest of the group and shared our stories with those who didn’t make it to the top. One american girl, Savana, was very unlucky having to come down after getting altitude sickness half way up.

All we wanted was to do was rest…but it wasn’t over yet! We still had the hour walk down to the base camp, where i thoroughly enjoyed falling on my arse numerous time before finally making it to the bottom.

We had made it! Tired, sore and glad it was over, but glowing with accomplishment and a whole new understanding of the endurance of the human body!

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From Bolivia with love..

20 03 2010

It’s been a few weeks since we left Salta in apparent ruins after the earthquakes in chile? and headed north for Bolivia. Our first stop Tupiza was only a few terrifying hours by bus along dirt/mud road. We spent a night there in a fairly decent hotel and organised a 4 day 4×4 tour to the salt flats of Uyuni for the next day. The first day was hectic, it had been raining and all of the rivers were up. Our car was fine but the other car was a piece of shit, struggling at every little ditch. After lunch it began to rain making the roads even worse and putting us off schedule. We reached a town with beds at 8 but not without one final crazy river crossing….well you couldn’t really call it a crossing considering we were driving down the river instead os across it! Very scary but our driver milton was awesome, he had ben doing the tour for 8 years and obviously knew a little about 4 wheel driving.
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In our car were 2 canadians, a dutch guy and the cook danni, i think she worked harder than the drivers, getting up a 3am to prepare lunch and breky. We always had too much food , pancakes for breakfast, pasta, curries and fruit and vegetables for lunch and two course dinners! We wanted to take her with us trekking.

Paying out the shittyness of the other car was a daily event, it was officially titled “the dick mobile” and had a fine array of artistic dicks and windmills drawn on the back window. The wind mills were dedicated to the grumpy old dutch couple who had to have a say in everything that went on, wankers. We met a really funny couple from the uk, sylvia and pierce, i was sad we couldn’t spend for time with them, they were lots of fun.
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We drove through the most amazing scenery changing every couple of hours from dessert and red lakes to crazy rock formations. The best day was the last when we drove over the flooded salt flats. Amazing! The water met the blue sky on the horizon making it look like an endless sea of blue, very trippy!
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We thanked our driver and cook, said goodbye to our new friends and headed to La Paz. The single worst bus ride i have ever been on, the bumping was so violent it vibrated through my whole body making my teeth chatter…..luckily it only lasted for 6 HOURS out of the 12…..thank goodness for sleeping tablets.

We finally found a hostel and got straight into it with a quad bike tour above the city. We visited witches markets with dried llama foetus’s and spells for good luck and health and resisted buying more alpaca jumpers and token llama covered wears.

After enough pollution to last the rest of our lives we headed out on a 7 day trek through the mountains of the Cordillera Real. With only a hand drawn track on a map and a few pin points on the GPS we ventured over 5000m peaks and through lama grazed valleys without even getting lost….much…haha! We ran into lots on locals watching over llamas and picking their little coca crops.
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Bolivia is the only country where it is legal to grow coca, other then its obvious use (sniff sniff) they sell it for tea and remedies and the locals chew it for its health benefits having more protein than meat and lots of vitamin b. Evo Morales, the new president of Bolovia has apparently just kicked out the US task force, saying their involvement is more about eradicating the coca then helping them produce new alternative crops. Good on him.
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When walking through the settlements you could straight away tell the people who had dealt with tourists before, rubbing their fingers together in the age old finical gesture . After convincing them that we were “poor gringos” they still didn’t give up, one old lady (with a machete tied top her back) even requested Monique’s pink hat…..sadly she had to settle for door number three, going home with a soggy museli bar!
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The nice people we met made up for the money hunters, greeting us with handshakes and kisses all round, they told us about the area and wrote our names down in a little book incase we didn’t find our way out , how considerate. They absolutely loved Jarod (obviously haven’t seen a ranga before) one guy even went in for a big hug, scruffing his strawberry locks to check if they were real.

From the top of each pass the views of the surrounding mountains were amazing …when we could see them past the thick clouds! We walked the last two days of trek in the jungle (jr saw a monkey) and finished in a little town called Corioco, it was a nice place to relax and finally get the 7 day old jocks off and have a shower and a decent feed.
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So now we are back in La Paz awaiting our next adventure to the 6088m ice covered mountain of Huayna Potosi.

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Huayna Potosi in the background





Dont cry for me..

26 02 2010

We decided to end our time in argentina and celebrate monique’s birthday in style with a 4 day guided trek through the surrounding mountains.

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It was some of the most amazing scenery we have seen and we finally got a real feel for the culture of South america. Seeing how the family’s live in the mountains with their cows, goats and little mud huts was a big eye opener. The closest hut to town was 7 hours by foot and we saw whole familys (grandmas with no shoes!) walking it with their donkeys loaded with food to trade in town.

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On the first day climbed to above 4000 meters and camped next to a little house hidden in a beautifully green valley with the biggest cows i have ever seen!

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The second day was another 7 hour walk up hill. We were so high that most of the time the clouds were below us, like a big white blanket on the horizon. that night we camped next to a cemetery along side a little settlement which had its own school!

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On the last night we were treated to freshly slaughtered meat and a comfy bed in a mud hut amongst the jungle. It had been raining for most of the day and the rivers were filling quickly making out exit through knee deep raging water under a water fall a very daring one.

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In true backpacker style we hitchhiked back to town, but wasn't expecting three hours of hairpin dirt roads in the back of a truck in the pouring rain…hahaha!





What a pretty mountain…why is our car making that noise?

26 02 2010

So we hardened up, put the bad memories behind us and decided to rent another car!

We were sure that the odds were on our side this time and that nothing could go bad after our last rental disaster…how wrong we were! haha!
About an hour into the journey we came across a lineup of cars on the side of the road and a lovely little creek flowing down from the hills and across our path! oh and we have a flat tire.. Not to worry we changed the tire and remembered that the car was a rental and drove through the water anyway.

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By this stage we were starting to climb higher into the mountains, it was amazing how quickly the scenery changes. One moment we are driving through the rain forrest the next we are passing giant cactus’s, blue sky’s and the occasional mule.
We climbed up as high as 3500m where the road flattened out into a wide open plain and soon descended into dry red desert.

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The mountain formations were amazing, we had melted chocolate ice cream on one side and crazy perforated cliffs on the other. Apparently there were some scenes from one of the star wars movies filmed out here..

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The first of the bigger towns we went through was Cachi, like most of the towns in this area it was a small colonial place, quiet with the majority of the buildings constructed from the mud and stone of the area.
We decided not to stay in Cachi as all the accommodation was overpriced for the influx of tourists they see this time of year.
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We ventured out of town to La Paya and ended up staying in a little country hotel in the mountains. Turns out they had inca terraced fields right next door! It was very exciting walking through the them, we saw a rock with a big hole ground into it which they used to ground flour! They had paddocks full of fruit and nut trees, i even got to pick an apple off a tree and grapes off the vine!

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For dinner We had a three course candle lit meal, with our favourite malbec wine…very romantic and in the morning we climbed the mountain next to the old terraced fields. We went the wrong way up but were very happy that we went that way when we found some pieces of Inca pottery!!!!!! We were so excited, we were real explorers now…..hahahaha!
We showed the owner of the hotel, she wasn’t as excited as we were…. apparently they find stuff all the time, they even had whole pots and cups!
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We set off at around 11am back on the dusty little road heading towards Cafayate. About 5km outside Molinos, the next little town the car started to sound like a tortured goat and handling like a 3 wheeled shopping cart.
After a quick look over Jarod deemed the car “Rooted” yet we continued to drive it to the next town in hope of finding a phone so we could ring the rental agency.
Lucky for us there was a phone and after a quick call to the rental company they were on their way out with a brand new car to replace our trusty Renault.
Due to the 6 hour delay to proceedings we were now left with the delightful task of driving the next hour or so at night to find somewhere to stay.
We ended up in a town called Angastaco and found a lovely, stinky little motel which had rooms with furniture made totally out of cactus wood!

Next was Cafayate and the wineries!! The town was packed and we later found out that there was a little music festival on there that weekend! We decided to skip town headed out to quilmes where there apparently was some well preserved inca ruins! After paying out 10 peso entry fee we climbed up and around the valley surrounding the ruins imagining how it looked it its prime.

From Quilmes we drove back through Cafayate and made our way home on a lovely smooth bitumen road that passed through some amazing rock formations and mountains.





Iguazu Falls

20 02 2010

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After a 16 hour bus ride we arrived in the little jungle town of Puerto Iguazu! We spent a day exploring the falls and were blown away by their beauty and immensity!

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We saw our first toucan in the wild along with a snake, a squirrel, pink butterflies and lots of very friendly coatis!

We went on a boat ride that took us right up underneath two of the falls, it was insane! The water nearly filled the boat and we got absolutely soaked!

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Although it may seen very remote and tranquil in the photos the reality is that it is almost like a theme park! Trains, shops, restaurants and thousands of tourists climbing over each other to get the best views. Were glad we got there early and at least got a few hours alone with the famous Iguazu Falls!

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The last supper

12 02 2010

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Our last meal in Buenos Aires… Until we return in 8 months to fly home that is.