The Grad Finale – Part II

The day after the wedding my sister hosted a brunch for us and all of our guests. It was another lovely day where we hung out in a much more relaxed atmosphere than the prior day. We ended the day swimming ocean side at Christine’s Aunt Marg’s cottage. The cottage is an amazing place that Christine and now Dave love. A great end to a great weekend!

Chilling out the morning after the wedding

Chilling out the morning after the wedding

An easy afternoon by the water

An easy afternoon by the water

A very cool place to relax and swim

A very cool place to relax and swim

On Monday all the Moore’s packed into their rental cars and headed to Prince Edward Island. It took a couple of hours to get to the ferry and then a few hours on the other side to get to the White Sands Cabins. We expected the pristine and well manicured property that is PEI but instead got the leftovers after a huge music festival that happened over the weekend. However we made the best of it and the bright side was there were no other guests!

Hanging out with the Moores on PEI

Hanging out with the Moores on PEI

Our short time on PEI was filled with exploring the National Park and beaches, checking out Anne of Green Gables and eating and drinking in abundance. Lots of lobster, steak, scallops, Cow’s ice cream, along with some beverages in front of a camp fire. A great time was had by all!

We made it back to Halifax and then the departures of our family began. It was sad to see everyone leave and know that our Halifax wedding festivities were drawing to an end. However we did have more wedding celebrations to look forward to back in Melbourne! We had many departure dinners and lots of goodbyes (of course we missed some people!) before flying out on July 14.

At the airport, all ready to go

At the airport, all ready to go

We arrived in Melbourne and got geared up for our party on Saturday night. Christine and Dave even had friends fly in from Perth and Vietnam to help us celebrate! The party was at Agent 284 which is a cool bar/restaurant downtown in Melbourne. We had a private area and our own bar and we think everyone had a really good time! The wedding planners for this party were Dave’s parents and they did a super duper job.

Party time in Melbourne

Party time in Melbourne

Good times

Good times

with good friends

with good friends

The last week in Melbourne was filled with dinners, meet ups and lots of food and drink. We got to visit with lots of friends and family and even managed a winter bike ride on the rail trails. This made it very obvious that we need to get back in to the hiking and biking and a bit less of the eating and drinking!

Making pizza bases together

Making pizza bases together

Out biking with the parents - who left us in their dust

Out biking with the parents – who left us in their dust

Lovely family dinners

Lovely family dinners at home

And dinners out!

and dinners out!

and more dinners with good friends

and more dinners with good friends

and  their adorable kids

and their adorable kids

Exploring around Torquay

Exploring around Torquay

Loving a blue sky day

Loving a blue sky day

Beer and bubbly in the hot tub

Beer and bubbly in the hot tub

We wish to thank everyone who participated and helped us celebrate our wedding, our big grand finale to our trip. It was a very fitting way to end such a great year and we were so happy to be able to share it with everyone. A special thanks to our parents, Marg, our sisters and brothers who are so important to us everyday but especially on our big day. We couldn’t have imagined the day without any of them. Your help, generosity and time over the last month is greatly appreciated.

We are currently back in Singapore and trying to come to grips with the end of our amazing year and a half of travel and fun. It has been a wonderful adventure full of awesome experiences. And most importantly, we shared an incredible time in our lives together that we will always remember. People have told us that if we can survive in our little van for a year we can survive anything! Well bring it on!

Enjoying the delights of Singapore  - chilli crab - YUM

Enjoying the delights of Singapore – chilli crab – YUM

Getting our apartment and belongings sorted

Getting our apartment and belongings sorted

img 0187

Checking out the new sights of Singapore

Checking out the new sights of Singapore

The great sights of Singapore

The great sights of Singapore

We are now gearing up for our next adventure – DUBAI!!! Let the next adventure begin! This one however involves working and getting back to the 9-5 routine. It also involves getting paid which is a necessity after such a wonderful year.

Thanks for reading our blog and following us on this great journey. We hope to do it again sometime. We’ll keep you posted…

5 Comments

Filed under General News

The Grand Finale – Part I

It has been almost 2 months since our last blog. And man, we sure have done a lot in that time!

After our arrival back to Christine’s home town of Halifax in Canada, we finalized all of the wedding plans. There wasn’t actually too much to do as Christine’s parents were superstar Wedding Planners and had booked, confirmed and done everything prior to our arrival! It made everything so easy.

The following week, August 13th, Dave’s parents arrived all the way from Melbourne, Australia. After a weekend of introductions to the Berrigan’s and some time to recover from jet lag, we took them off on a 2 week trip around Nova Scotia in the trailer/caravan we borrowed from Christine’s parents.

Our parents together at Peggy's Cove

Our parents together at Peggy’s Cove

The gents enjoying the view

The gents enjoying the view

Set up in one of the great national parks

Set up in one of the great national parks

Enjoying a mussel dinner by the ocean

Enjoying a mussel dinner by the ocean. We’ve done this before!

We had great weather and managed to see lots of the beautiful Nova Scotia coastline and parks. However, even with brand new cars and top notch maintenance, things can go wrong. On our 3rd day after we stopped for lunch in Bridgetown, we had absolutely no brakes.

Our vehicle being taken for repairs.

Our vehicle being taken for repairs.

The amazing thing was how straightforward it was to remedy the situation. A quick call to CAA, an easy tow to the dealer, a replacement vehicle and all of this in english! It was all very easy and the only issue was that we weren’t able to sleep in the trailer so had to get a hotel for the night. A treat for us who had been sleeping in a tent!

The second week in the trailer Christine returned to home to continue with wedding preparations and Dave went along with his parents to Cape Breton for another week of sunshine and fun.

Dave's parents exploring Cape Breton

Dave’s parents exploring Cape Breton

Local wildlife in Cape Breton

Local wildlife in Cape Breton

Hiking by the river

Hiking by the river

The wedding week officially kicked off with the arrival of Dave’s oldest brother and his wife, Steve and Sue. They had a challenging time getting there with delays and flight mix ups, but arrived full of energy and enthusiasm. This started the influx of international guests including Dave’s younger brother and girlfriend Rob and Katie, Christine’s older brother and girlfriend, Richard and Elaine. By Wednesday all our family had arrived and were divided among Christine’s families homes. The week was filled with lobster dinners, seafood chowder, brewery tours, visiting Peggy’s Cove, touring around the Eastern Shore and of course last minute wedding stuff. The Berrigan’s and Moore’s got along swimmingly and all worked well together to make it a wonderful, memorable and very special time.

Dave preparing the house for visitors

Dave preparing the house for visitors

Great BBQ weather

Great BBQ weather

Outdoor family dinners

Outdoor family dinners

Great afternoons at Marg's cottage by the water

Great afternoons at Marg’s cottage by the water

Nova Scotian lobsters were a great hit!

Nova Scotian lobsters were a great hit!

and enjoyed by all!

and enjoyed by all!

Enjoying local beers and pizza

Enjoying local beers and pizza

Checking out the local beaches

The Moore’s checking out the local beaches

Practice run the night before the wedding

Practice run the night before the wedding

Socializing with friends and family before the wedding

Socializing with friends and family before the wedding

The wedding day was especially wonderful. Halifax was having a uncharacteristically hot and humid week of beautiful weather and this continued for the wedding on Saturday, July 6th. Poor Dave in his suit, vest and tie was a little puddle of sweat in the church but survived with a big smile on his face. Christine arrived to the church on time with her entourage and walked down the aisle with her parents. It was a simple but meaningful wedding ceremony thanks to the excellent Reverend who accomplished this in the hot and stifling church.

Our wedding

Our wedding

The happy couple

The happy couple

After the ceremony we took some pictures at the Public Gardens and then carried on to the reception which was at daMaurizio’s restaurant.

Christine looking stunning!

Christine looking stunning!

Both of our families at the wedding

Both of our families at the wedding

The best part was being greeted with the Moore-tini’s that were served on arrival. This was then followed by a 5 course meal and then cake. A feast for sure! We ended the night after the restaurant closed by going to a local Irish bar for one last drink with the hard core guests who were left standing. It was an awesome day!

Enjoying Moore-tinins before dinner

Enjoying Moore-tinins before dinner

A great night being had by all

A great night being had by all

Enjoying a post wedding drink

Enjoying a post wedding drink

The Moore's recovering post wedding

The Moore’s recovering post wedding

2 Comments

Filed under General News

Utah…Revisited!

Travels through Utah

Travels through Utah

We’ve had a great last couple of weeks. Utah is such a cool state with so many interesting parks and odd geology and geography. We did a little circuit of a lot of the National Parks including Zion, Capitol Reef,  The Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Monument Valley, Valley of the Gods and the Grand Canyon (North Rim this time).

The Checkerboard Mesa in Zion National Park

Looking down onto the formations in Bryce cayon Looking down onto the formations in Bryce Canyon

The Checkerboard Mesa in Zion National Park
Exploring some red rock canyons

Exploring some red rock canyons

Dave on top of a natural arch

Dave on top of a natural arch

We had a little hire car and mostly camped in our tent but did take a hotel break every few days. Sleeping in a tent is not nearly as nice as Ginger with her nice comfy bed…. We do miss the old girl!

Camping - Not nearly as nice without Ginger-Lee.

Camping – Not nearly as nice without Ginger-Lee.

The weather was also pretty good except for some really cold nights and wind.

Amazing and huge natural formations

Amazing and huge natural formations

Christine scrambling up red rocks

Christine scrambling up red rocks

Great views from on top

Great views from on top

Finding beauty in a harsh environment (it's easier when you bring her with you!)

Finding beauty in a harsh environment (it’s easier when you bring her with you!)

Natural arches and bridges aplenty

Natural arches and bridges aplenty

Great skylines

Great skylines

Even double arches!

Even double arches!

and some snow capped peaks as well!

and some snow capped peaks as well!

Wow - another arch!

Wow – another arch!

We did do a hike most days on some very beautiful trails like this one

We did do a hike most days on some very beautiful trails like this one

A great vista over the canyons

A great vista over the canyons

A panorama of one canyon (click for full size view)

A panorama of one canyon (click for full size view)

Monument Valley (click for full size panorama)

Monument Valley (click for full size panorama)

Exploring in Monument Valley

Exploring in Monument Valley

From the canyon floor

From the canyon floor

Herds of Bison in the Park (Grand Canyon)

Herds of bison in the Park (Grand Canyon)

On the edge of 'The Big One!'

On the edge of ‘The Big One!’

On the edge of 'The Big One!'

On the edge of ‘The Big One!’

We headed back to Las Vegas a few days before flying out to relax and get some errands done; ie Christine’s wedding dress fitting! We stayed just off the strip and only went for a wander on it to see the sights the last night. It was smokin hot with highs of over 40ºC everyday! We hung out by the pool or in our A/C apartment most of the time.

We flew back to Halifax on June 6th. We had a great welcoming committee, eventually, as our flight did arrive a tad early and no one was there!

In Halifax with the welcoming committee

In Halifax with the welcoming committee

But when they did get there there were flowers, Bride-To-Be badge plus a lot of our favourite people. Our welcome dinner was an awesome lobster dinner – yum!

About to rip into some fresh lobster

About to rip into some fresh lobster

Since getting back here we’ve gotten ourselves organized and are now getting excited for the arrival of Dave’s parents at the end of this week! Can’t wait.

This weeks banner - Christine(s) in The Valley of the Gods

This weeks banner – Christine(s) in The Valley of the Gods

4 Comments

Filed under General News

Farewell Ginger!

After a few days of recovery, and shopping, in the warmth of Las Vegas we have the energy and the technology to write this blog! It’s been a tough and tiring couple of weeks since the last entry. So here goes…

Our latest travels

Our latest travels

We spent a cold and wet night by the ocean in Puerto Montt, where even the local dogs were surprised to see us there at this time of year.

Hey guys!! You lost?

Hey guys!! You lost?

This ended up being as far South as we would make it on this trip. We had over a week to get back to Santiago, and planned to cross over to Argentina and travel a small part of the famous Ruta 40 on our way North.

Waterfalls along the way

Waterfalls along the way

We were so happy to finally cross the border into what we thought was our final country and blog namesake, Argentina! We found a great campsite by a lake and got cozy in the van.

Argentina! We made it!

Argentina! We made it!

Beautiful fall colors in the Andes mountains

Beautiful fall colors in the Andes mountains

Pumice from the local volcano was everywhere

Pumice from the local volcano was everywhere

Our lovely and quiet camp by the lake

Our lovely and quiet camp by the lake

Lakes and rainbows

Lakes and rainbows

The next day we went to the tourist town of Bariloche which is right on a lake with the beautiful Patagonia mountains surrounding it. We parked a couple of blocks from the tourist centre and then made our way there to get some information on local campsites and hikes. After about an hour or so we returned to Ginger and a big mess.

That small window sure had a lot of glass

That small window sure had a lot of glass

The remains of our possessions

The remains of our possessions

The van had the small front window smashed out and all three front locks were messed up from an amateur robbers handiwork. They tore the place apart and eventually with the help of our very own tools got into the safe. They got everything – laptop, hard drive, iPad, passports, cash, GPS, everything. We immediately sought help and the police were there shortly after. Christine also talked with the owner of the car next to ours who hooked us up with the local radio and TV station. Radio Seis showed up approximately 45 minutes later and did a TV and radio interview with Christine that was aired right away.

Christine _ Argentina's newest TV star

Christine – Argentina’s newest TV star

By the time we fumbled through a spanish police report and made it to a campground we received a call that all our documents and cards had been anonymously dropped off at the radio station. We were very happy about this but still were missing the most valuable stolen item, all our trip photos from this past year+ of travel. The radio station continued to air the story and the TV station did a follow up the next day where Christine offered a reward for the return of our hard drive or photo files. We also plastered the town with posters of our hard drive and the reward.

Vandalizing Bariloche with reward posters

Vandalizing Bariloche with reward posters

We stayed in the town of Bariloche for 6 more days hoping something would come up but so far no word.

We couldn’t wait any longer or do anything more and had to return to Santiago to meet the buyer of Ginger. We had managed to fix all the destruction and to do a bit of a clean up before meeting Peter on Wednesday, the 15th.

Did we say it was cold in Chile?

Did we say it was chilly in Chile?

Crossing the Andes back to Chile

Crossing the Andes back to Chile

Dave getting distracted while working on the van...

Dave getting distracted while working on the van…

We got a few vehicle ownership documents notarized but in order to get the van out of Christine’s name and passport and into the new owners we required a border crossing. The theory is that Christine would exit the country and then the new owner would produce new papers and enter the next country with the vehicle imported in his name. Sounds easy but the Chile/Argentina border where we crossed had integrated both countries customs offices together so we could not switch the papers. This was a huge glitch in our plans and meant we needed to find another border to cross. Peter was planing to head to Uruguay on the east coast, so we decided that we’d all make the 1500km+ drive together and cross there. This also made sense as Uruguay had no previous record of the vehicle either.

We did manage to have a stopover in the steak and wine capital of Argentina, Mendoza, and got a steak as big as our head!

Argentinian steak and red wine - just what we needed!

Argentinian steak and red wine – just what we needed!

The next 2 days were dedicated to driving. These were not without incidents; like a mud highway where we thought for sure we would be stuck for a few days. The pictures don’t give you any idea of the slipperiness of it or the mess that we got into. And this was a big highway!

Ginger skating sideways in the mud - the trucks in the distance have all slid off the road and stuck. It took us about 2 hours to get back 500m from here...

Ginger skating sideways in the mud – the trucks in the distance have all slid off the road and stuck. It took us about 2 hours to get back 500m from here…

The next big problem was the corrupt Argentinian police that stopped and held us until we produced money. The infringement fine started at $510 USD but quickly disappeared when Dave presented a US$50 bill which was quickly slipped into the officers pocket… the officer then shook his hand with a big smile and sent him on his way. Dirty buggers! This was also where Dave somehow lost one of his hiking shoes (which was covered in mud after the previous incident…).

The Argentina/Uruguay border we crossed was supposed to be on separate sides of a bridge and we were very surprised when we found that the 2 countries also had integrated borders! This made us very nervous but in the end Christine checked Ginger out of Argentina and at the next desk Peter checked her into Uruguay. At one point we thought we were caught but one of the officers thankfully didn’t look too close at the names. Phewf!

Ginger with her new driver in Uruguay

Ginger with her new driver in Uruguay

Once we got into Uruguay we booked a flight to Vegas and got the heck out of there!

Saying farewell to Ginger-Lee

Saying goodbye to Ginger-Lee

 

Farewell Ginger!

Farewell Ginger!

We left South America feeling beaten, as though everything of value had been stolen or taken from us. Not a great end to our fantastic drive from Canada. I think we just need some time to get everything into perspective! Hopefully some warm weather will help!

Dave in his rubber water shoes with shopping bag carry-on luggage.

Dave in his rubber water shoes with shopping bag carry-on luggage.

Las Vegas was lovely and hot and we had 2 nights to get ourselves organized. This included Christine getting a wedding dress (YAY!) and Dave figuring out what electronics we were going to need to replace (a new Microsoft Surface tablet!). After shelling out a small fortune we got most things accomplished, picked up a rental car and headed for the hills! Well Zion National Park anyways.

It was Thursday before the Memorial long weekend and of course everything was chock full. We eventually found a state park and tried to take shelter from the gale force desert winds for the night. The next morning we returned to Zion to try and snag a first come, first serve campsite. We really appreciate having the language as we asked a fellow camper at the park gate about the process of getting a site and he offered for us to share his site with a couple of his friends! You’re allowed to have up to 3 tents and 2 cars so we were set. We’ve met some really wonderful people along our way.

Exploring Zion National Park again

Exploring Zion National Park again

Rock scrambling

Rock scrambling

Christine hanging on

Christine hanging on

We had a good day hiking around Zion and a nice night hanging out with our fellow campmates. We headed for the tent early and had a much needed sleep in today. We are currently at McDonald’s using their free internet and eating sundaes.

We are spending the next couple of weeks car camping around America (Utah, Colorado etc) and hope to do a bit of hiking before heading back to Canada for the next adventure.

6 Comments

Filed under General News

Chilly chilling in Chile

This weeks route

This weeks route

We started out from Antofagasta 11 days ago refreshed and relaxed after our great visit with Shauna and Julian.

Thanks again guys!!!!

Thanks again guys!!!!

Checking out The Arch north of Antofagasta

Checking out The Arch north of Antofagasta

We kept heading south and found a good place to stop for the night at Pan de Azúcar National Park right on the ocean.

Checking out some bizzare artwork in the desert

Checking out some bizzare/cool artwork in the desert

In Pan de Azucar (Sugar Bread) National Park

In Pan de Azucar (Sugar Bread) National Park

Our beachside camp

Our beachside campsite

Definitely not warm enough for swimming though

Definitely not warm enough for swimming though

Dry desert hills and beaches

Dry desert hills and beaches

The next morning we dropped into one of Chile’s best seaside resort towns, Bahia de Ingles, to have lunch before deciding to head to Huasco for the night.

Lunch by they beach

Lunch by they beach

The beach and blue water

The beach and blue water

On our way to Huasco Dave felt something go with the front brakes while stopping. We looked and couldn’t see anything obvious so continued. A few kilometres down the road we began hearing some scraping and then all of a sudden we didn’t have any brakes! Brake pedal to the floor with no results… We managed to slow to a stop without hitting anything and again checked everything over. We took off the front wheel and had a closer look. We saw that the left front brake was completely missing a brakepad! Not good. The brake backing plate was still there, but all of the brake lining was gone! We tidied it up as best as we could, and then with the help of a friendly neighbour, Juan, we plugged the brake line so we could at least get to a repair shop. Of course it was a Friday night as well. Juan said we would have to go back 45 mins to the larger town of Villenar to get new pads installed. We camped out in front of Juan’s place and took off the next morning and very slowly, made our way to the mechanics.

We managed to find a brake specialist garage in Villenar, but unfortunatley there we no pads to suit our van anywhere in town. Thankfully they knew what they were doing and set about making a complete new set of pads by using our old backing plates. This involved cutting and drilling new linings and riveting these to the existing backing plates. This was all done by hand – we didn’t even know this was possible. New hand made pads fabicated and installed for less that $80. Not bad at all! And best of all they work great! We decided because it took most of the day that we’d head back to the coast and to Huasco where we hadn’t managed to see much the night before.

It was a Saturday night and we thought we could park at the waterfront for the night. However we were soon accosted by many a passersby (mostly drunks) and so we returned to the safety outside of Juan’s house! This time he invited us in to meet his wife and of course partake in some Chile Pisco. They also have a crazy dog and I was trying to ask them what his name was but with my barely passable spanish I only got doggy. Guess it turns out his name is ‘Doggy’ or when he’s misbehaving, ‘Dog-ito’! We also learned that Juan’s 3 previous dogs were also called ‘Doggy’. Juan may not be the most creative sort but he was a great help, and host, to us!

In the middle of the night we woke to hear some kids walking by and then some time later we woke to a thump and the van shaking. Both of us woke up yelling to ward off the culprit who had assaulted the van and Christine even jumped up in a flash and was at the front doors. When we quieted down we looked around, listened and heard nothing. Oh well, the punks must have done a runner! It wasn’t until well into the next day that we realized what had happened was that one of the suspension springs had given way! It was the cause of the middle of the night disturbance, not hoodlums!

So the metal spring that broke was not in our plans at all. We gingerly drove back to Villenar and went to see our new friends at the brake garage to get a recommendation for this next repair. He gave us one and said that they’d be able to look at it first thing Monday morning. Being Sunday we had to try and entertain ourselves in this small little town which we found not to be so easy…

On Monday morning we got the van looked at. The mechanic dismantled the suspension system and removed the broken spring. He tack welded it back together and then indicated that we should come with him to get a suitable replacement part. We all jumped into his car, for what we thought would be a trip to the spring shop. So we were quite surprised when he pulled up outside a car salvage yard. Because we were in a small town, and the van is an ’88, they had no replacement parts, and no way to make any. Oh well – so we started hunting around for similar size suspension springs.

Christine out spring hunting

Christine out spring hunting

Amazingly we found a great match that looked in good condition and paid by weight. It was less than $5. By 5:30pm we were back on the road with a new (to us!) spring and ready to get going south. After weeks in the deserts of Peru, Boivia and Chile we were desperately in search of trees and forests!

The next 2 days were completely dedicated to driving. We even slept on the road both nights, one night next to at a police control stop and another at a highway rest stop. Great amenities here with free hot showers at most of the rest stops. We eventually made it to the start of the Chilean Lake District that we were so excited for! We stayed 3 nights in the Villarica and Pucon area, however we had lots of rain and cold and didn’t manage to do much besides trying to stay dry and catching up on emails.

Ginger back amongst the pine trees

Ginger back amongst the pine trees

Today was the first day that we actually could see some of the volcanoes that are around these parts! We’ve come a bit further south again, and are checking out some more of the lakes district before going up and over the pass into Argentina. Our last and final country!

Volcanoes over the lake

Volcanoes over the lake

All our winter gear on again!

All our winter gear on again!

And we are also counting down the days we have left with Ginger as they are numbered…

3 Comments

Filed under General News

Bolivia to Chile…

This weeks travels!

This weeks travels!

We started this past week by exploring La Paz, the highest capital city in the world at 3,650m. It is a cool (literally!) city in a valley with its buildings expanding all the way up the sides of the surrounding mountains. We walked all over looking at the sights as well as for replacement items that were stolen back in Peru. We went to the Witches Market (Mercado de las Brujas) which was interesting if not a bit creepy with the baby and even fetus llamas, dried frogs and little soapstone carvings claiming all kinds of things. There are lots of different markets on the streets with most areas specializing in different things, like potato street, citrus avenue and electronic alley.

The witches market (check out the doorway...)

The witches market (check out the things hanging in the doorway…)

Citrus Alley

Citrus Avenue

We left La Paz and headed south east towards the famous Salar de Uyuni (salt flats). We drove all day and made it after dark to Ojo del Inca (eye of the Inca), a natural hot spring. It’s round and about 100m in diameter and close to 30°C.

Driving out of La Paz - where any lane will do apparently!

Driving out of La Paz – where any lane will do apparently!

It's not quite all deserts in Bolivia

It’s not quite all deserts in Bolivia

Our camp next to the natural hot pool

Our camp next to the natural hot pool

We were the only people camping there and went for an early morning dip in the 7°C morning air temperature. Easy getting in but difficult getting the nerve to get out!

Dave enjoying an early morning soak

Dave enjoying an early morning soak

Christine not wanting to get out

Christine not wanting to get out

Next we made it to the jumping off point for the worlds largest salt flats, the dusty town of Uyuni.

The remains of an old church by the road

The remains of an old church by the road

Beautiful views

Beautiful views

img 7694

Our first view of the salt flats in the distance

Our first glimpse of the salt flats in the distance

The 'on-footpath' butcher in Uyuni

The ‘on-footpath’ butcher in Uyuni

The salt flats cover an area of 10,582 square kilometers and are the result of prehistoric salt lakes that used to exist here. We prepared for our excursion on the salt flats and took off the next morning, a little bit nervous about what we would find. We were pleasantly surprised with the condition of the salt and how easy it was to drive on it with Ginger. It’s the start of the dry season so there was minimal water and the tracks where the gazillion daily 4WD tours go were fairly clear, abeit a lot of them.

Ginger near the edge of the salt flats

Ginger & Dave near the edge of the salt flats

Salt production

Salt production

The salt highway

The salt highway

Ginger pretending to be a 4WD

Ginger pretending to be a 4WD

We tried to take the cool perspective photos that you see everyone taking (with some success) but were just excited to be on the flats and in awe of the endless vastness and brightness. Super cool place!

Mini-Ginge

Mini-Ginge

img 7768

Of course we wanted to camp the night on them to see the sunset so pulled off the ‘road’ and waited for all the 4WD’s to leave so we could enjoy by ourselves. It was a quiet but cold night!

Exploring one of islands in the salt flats

Exploring one of islands in the salt flats

img 7833

Watc hing the sun set from our camp

Watching the sun set from our camp

img 7850

Rough sections of salt

Rough sections of salt

We had planned to return to Uyuni to re-fuel and resupply before heading to the border, so had left town with only half a tank of gas, but the next day we had a chat with some tour guides who confirmed that we could get off the salt to the South, and would be able to buy fuel in one of the small towns or at the border. So we made our way across and off the salt flats in the direction of Chile. Our GPS was pretty useless except for telling us the general direction we were going and the place we wanted to get to. We followed tire tracks across the salt and desert on some horrible ‘roads’ but eventually made it to the very small and quiet border crossing from Bolivia to Ollagüe, Chile. We were so happy to be there!

Rough roads on the way to the border

Rough roads on the way to the border

It was an easy crossing that we had prepared for, having boiled our eggs and eaten all our fresh fruits and vegetables. Finally, Chile!

Of course there was nowhere to buy any fuel here – and the one lady at the border who had some fuel to sell wanted US$5 a litre for it!! Nothing to do but keep going… Dave’s stress level was pretty high as he watched the fuel gauge keep getting lower and lower.

More rough roads and volcanoes in Chile

More rough roads and volcanoes in Chile

We had some more dirt roads to get through and had to sleep on the side of the road enroute to the main highway. But it wasn’t too bad with the surrounding volcanos and scenery that would impress anyone. The next morning we even managed to hike up the cindercone we had just slept next to. Great views from the top.

Roadside camping

Roadside camping

Dave ready for a quick 'after breakfast' climb up the hill behind...

Dave ready for a quick ‘after breakfast’ climb up the small volcano behind…

Christine on the edge of the volcanoes crater

Christine on the edge of the volcano’s crater

Dave pointing out Ginger far below

Dave pointing out Ginger far below

We eventually made it to the mining town of Calama where we could get some petrol. We had managed to stretch out one tank of petrol to over 850km! And there was still nearly 20 litres in the tank – pretty good going considering the elevation and terrible roads we had been on.

Salt flats, pink flamingoes and volcanoes

Salt flats, pink flamingos and volcanoes

We were rewarded greatly for all our efforts by arriving in Antofagasta and staying with our friends Shauna and Julian. We were so happy to see them for the 3rd time and on a 3rd continent this year. First in Nepal last March at the start of our travels, then when crossing Canada in Lake Louise and now here in Chile! They have a super apartment here right across from the beach and have given us food, lodging, parking and lots of information on Chile and Argentina. We are going on our third night now, but will try to pry ourselves out of their place tomorrow to get back on the road. Thank you guys so much for a much needed break from our travels!

4 Comments

Filed under General News

The best and worst of Peru

This weeks travels

This weeks travels

We have had an interesting week since the last blog. The highlight, obviously, was the surreal and amazing site of Machu Picchu. The low was in the southern town next to Lake Titicaca where our van was broken into and lots of our stuff was stolen.

So let’s start with the positive! From Cusco we got a little collectivo bus to Ollantayambo where we caught the lovely tourist train with panoramic windows up to the town of Aguas Calientes, which sits below the site of Machu Picchu (Would you believe we sat across from a guy from Sydney, Nova Scotia who told us his whole life story on the 2 hour ride!)

Ready to board

Ready to board

We got off the train and successfully found a horrible dive of a hotel. It was only after we paid that we saw all the mold and felt that everything was damp. We asked for a different room with an actual window which seemed to help, so hopefully we haven’t shaved off too much of our life.

We headed directly for the hot springs, which the town is named for and soaked in the fabulous water with all the other tourists.

The hot pools in Aguas Calientes

The hot pools in Aguas Calientes

After we were suitably poached we had dinner at one of the restaurants that are always harassing you as you go by. We tucked in early and managed to get a couple of hours of sleep in our stinky room.

4:30am and we were up and at ’em. We walked out of town to the trail that headed straight up the 400m to Machu Picchu. We waited with loads of others for the gate to open at 5am and then the fun started. It was a difficult way to wake up but we made it up all the way, then made our way to one of the terraces to enjoy the sunrise over Machu Piccu.

Our first view over Machu Picchu in the morning

Our first view over Machu Picchu in the morning

img 7299

Mornin' guys! Wachu lookin at?

Mornin’ guys! Wachu lookin at?

However the sun didn’t rise so much as it just got light. But it was still stunning and we tried to enjoy it peacefully despite a lot of not so quiet tourists. Can’t tell you how many times people told us to get out of their photos when we were just innocent bystanders! And they didn’t do it nicely!

After we had fully appreciated the initial view of Machu Picchu we moved on and headed to the Inca Bridge which is a very thin bridge and path running along a cliff face on the mountain. I guess you used to be able to cross it but Madeleine (Christine’s mom) said that someone fell off and that was the end of that. Don’t think I would have been brave enough to try it anyways!

Dave at the Inca Bridge

Dave at the Inca Bridge

The obligatory couple photo at Machu Picchu

The obligatory couple photo at Machu Picchu

Christine enjoying the view

Christine enjoying the view

We also signed up (payed for!) the extra treat of walking up Machu Picchu Mountain which is the forgotten mountain behind all the typical pictures you see. The one you see in the pictures is Huayna Picchu and is much shorter. Both have limits of 400 maximum tourists that can climb them each day. We thought we were lucky but quickly figured out that it was quite a hike and it took us a total of 4 hours! And a climb of another 600m!

Christine climbing the endless steps up Machu Picchu Mountain

Christine climbing the endless steps up Machu Picchu Mountain (a good view though!)

It was definitely worthwhile though, and we enjoyed the quiet and tranquility at the top, especially compared to the hairy main area full of self important tourists. We also got some great views of Machu Picchu.

Looking down onto Machu Picchu

Looking down onto Machu Picchu

Great views from the top

Great views from the top

Exploring the actual site (with the mountain we climbed in the background)

Exploring the actual site

Machu Picchu terraces, with the mountain we climbed in the background

Machu Picchu, with the mountain we climbed in the background

Overall Machu Picchu was excellent and a definite highlight of our entire trip.

We got back to Ginger late on Friday night and were ready to roll early the next day. Our next destination was Tinajani Canyon which was really cool and a great place to camp. We even managed to get a bit of a walk in before the wind and cold came with the night.

Driving through the high plains in Peru

Driving through the high plains in Peru

The view from our camp in the canyon

The view from our camp in the canyon

Looking down into the canyon (can you spot Ginger by the bridge?)

Looking down into the canyon (can you spot Ginger by the bridge?)

Looking along the beautiful canyon

Looking along the beautiful canyon

Now the bad: we made our way to the town of Puno which is the jumping off point to the floating village of Uros.

The floating reed islands of Uros

The floating reed islands of Uros

Outside a typical reed house

Outside a typical reed house

We parked by the ferry terminal in a large busy open carpark with lots of people around. The ferry ride and tour to the floating moss/reed islands was about 3 hours so we were back at Ginger by 3pm. Dave noticed right away that the back door lock was busted and that the door was unlocked. Christine jumped in and immediately checked our safe which thankfully had not been touched, and still had everything in it. We then started to take inventory of what was missing. Some of the big stuff was Christine’s E-book, her awesome big backpack, all of our jackets and the biggest bummer was all our electical cables and chargers! We started asking the people milling around the van if they saw anything but of course no one said anything and avoided us. Next was a trip to the police. Christine grabbed a ride up into the main square where the tourist police are, but the policeman said that it was Sunday and that the bank doesn’t open until Monday at 8am so they couldn’t do anything until then (You have to pay to get a police report apparently….?). Christine asked for them to come down and see but they weren’t interested. Times like these make you want to pack it in and just go home.

We were only supposed to be passing through Puno but now we needed to stick around to make a police report the next day. We talked to some other overlander’s who thankfully were also parked in the same parking lot and they decided that if we all banded together we would be able to stick it out in the car park for the night. So everyone pulled up alongside of us and we then took turns watching the vehicles. It’s times like these that you really appreciate your fellow travellers!

Fellow overlanders 'circling the wagons' after we were broken into

Fellow overlanders ‘circling the wagons’ after we were broken into

Thankfully David was able to pull the door apart to disconnect the lock barrel and get the locking mechanism working again, otherwise we would have had to have slept with the door unlocked.

The next day we took a few hours and got the police report completed and then went on a search for some replacement cables. So far we’ve gotten a laptop one but the tricky one is going to be for our Canon camera which has a funky seperate battery charger that’s not likely going to be found. Oh well, we feel we got away quite lightly and know that it could have been much worse. We are also so glad that we decided to install the safe before leaving Halifax.

Today we got the heck out of Puno, and even right out of Peru! Looking back on Peru we are not sure whether we really liked it or not. There are some amazing sights to see, and some really nice national parks to visit, and we did meet some fantastic and truly friendly people. However, we also found the day to day to be quite difficult, and a lot of the people unfriendly or unhelpful. The van was twice hit with thrown objects (fruit) which has never happened before. The drivers in Peru are truly awful, and put our lives at risk often. Their favourite trick was to pass you with horn blaring and headlights flashing, only to stop right in front of you 15 seconds later to pick up some passengers. Obviously getting robbed puts a big downer on the country, but we’re not sure we’d hurry back, especially now that we’ve seen the famous sights. Maybe we just need to give it some time….

Christine wearing all of her remaining winter clothes... they took the jacket, but not the hood

Christine wearing all of her remaining winter clothes… they took the jacket, but not the hood

We are currently camped in the Bolivia International airport carpark enjoying their security and free wifi.

 

This weeks banner - the view across Lake Titicaca in Bolivia

This weeks banner – the view across Lake Titicaca in Bolivia

5 Comments

Filed under General News

South through Peru

This weeks travels

This weeks travels

We made it through rain, hail and mud to complete the Santa Cruz trek last week. It was a tough 4 days and 3 nights but the scenery and spectacular views made it all worthwhile. Well for the most part! We started out early on Good Friday and took a collectivo (minibus) to the starting point about 1.5 hours away.

Ready to hit the trail

Ready to hit the trail

We then had a full day of climbing with lots of mud and rivers to jump across. Or in Christine’s case – not quite jump across one river and wallow in it with her pack weighing her down and only eventually being able to get up with Dave’s help. No physical harm was done, but she was soaked right through and a lot of her pack was wet too.

Christine demonstrating the 'drowned cat' look

Christine demonstrating the ‘drowned cat’ look

Thankfully it was only a short distance to the first nights campsite which even had a little shelter, which was great because it had started raining again. In one of the rain breaks we managed to get the tent set up and returned to the shelter to do the cooking. An early night to bed!

Drying out and cooking dinner in the shelter

Drying out and cooking dinner in the shelter

The next day started with sunshine and we got a late start because we were enjoying it and trying to get Christine’s stuff dry. Again a lot of uphill with a few rain showers thrown in. We got to our second camp late in the afternoon and had to wait under the cover of a dilapitated pit toilet for a break in the rain. Finally a short break in which we got the tent up and jumped inside with our gear. We continued waiting for another break in the rain to cook our dinner, but it never came. We ended up eating our next days lunch instead, tuna and crackers for dinner while sitting in our sleeping bags in the dryness of the tent.

Our camp on night 2 - not a bad view!

Our camp on night 2 – not a bad view!

A soggy start the next day, which was also the big pass day where we’d climb up to 4750m and over the mountain range. It was exhausting and took us all day.

Looking back down the valley we hiked up

Looking back down the valley we’d hiked up

Getting close to the pass

Getting closer to the pass

Finally - at the pass!

Finally – at the pass!

The view from the top to the next valley was amazing and thankfully the weather was crystal clear (unlike days before and after).

Views into the next valley

Views into the next valley

We headed down the other side and didn’t get quite as far as planned before it started pelting down balls of hail! Ouch. Thankfully Dave found a decent flat, non soggy spot where we could hunker down. The hail was replaced by rain but this time we got our poncho’s and raingear on and toughed it out in the rain to cook dinner.

The fourth and final day started out just plain wet, cold and miserable. We packed up everything soaking wet knowing that we’d be in the comfort of Ginger Lee soon enough! It took us about 6 hours to walk out to the nearest town where we got a bus back to Caraz. The 2 different buses we needed took about 3 hours and went up and over mountains with incredible scenerey. Heck if we had of known that we would have skipped the trek and just gone with the bus ride! Kidding but we have both decided that we want our next trek to be a nice low altitude, warm weather, flat trail!

We recovered from the mountains with our regular post-trek celebratory dinner of pizza and beers.

And a huge stack of pancakes the next morning!

And a huge stack of pancakes the next morning!

On Tuesday we managed to dry all our gear out, washed a load of laundry and prepared for the next few weeks. Wednesday we got on the road early and headed to Lachay National Park, which is about 100km north of the capital, Lima.

Heavy clouds while driving through the mountains

Heavy clouds while driving through the mountains

Typical desert towns of tiny 'cardboard' looking houses

Typical desert towns of tiny ‘cardboard’ looking houses

It was quite a dry and barren place right on the border of the desert. We of course had the place all to ourselves, well except for the rats that came out at night.

Ginger parked up in our very own exclusive campsite

Ginger parked up in our very own exclusive campsite

Watching the sun set over the desert with Jesus

Watching the sun set over the desert with Jesus

Thursday we bypassed Lima and made it south to Paracas National Park, which is about 245km south of Lima. This was a cool, deserty and very windy place right on the ocean.

Where the desert meets the ocean

Where the desert meets the ocean

Boats in the desert

Boats in the desert

We had a nice walk along the water but sadly saw lots of garbage and debris along with dead birds and even a dead seal. The next day we went to the park museum (just to use their toilets) and were pleasantly surprised by how well their exhibitions were done. We think we maybe even learned a few things!

On a not so good note we did have an encounter with a couple of Peruvian Police. We were pulled over and told that we didn’t have our lights on. Apparently Peruvian law requires them to be on all the time when on the highways, and we just happen to have a headlight out at the moment so aren’t using them. The policeman nicely told us this was a serious infraction and we were required to pay a fine. He took all our papers, showed us his book with the price of the infraction and even wrote out a ticket. When we asked where to pay he said a bank, but then suggested that we could pay him directly for half as much. We had decided before starting our travels that we would do all we could not to pay any police bribes, and so far during our travels we’ve managed to talk our way out of other similar situations with minimal trouble, but this day we were tired and were just not on our game or prepared. After a bit of debating we decided to pay him right there and then. Of course he took the money in his little book and let us go without any proof of a ticket or a receipt… We felt awful and knew that we should have insisted on paying at a bank but what can we do now! Sorry to all the other travelers, as we would never intentionally perpetuate this behaviour.

Nazca and the famous Nazca lines were next on our list. We got a taste of them as we drove along the PanAmerican Highway where we stopped to climb a tower for a view over two of the geoglyphs.

Christine with 'The Hands' behind

Christine with ‘The Hands’ behind

The next morning we got up early and walked over to the little airport and signed up for a 30 minute/$85US flight to see the Nazca lines at their best. Christine was nervous as the last small plane flight in Nepal was a disaster for her. However, she was prepared this time and took some prophylactic gravol/anti-nauseant and tried to remain calm.

Dave all ready to go

Dave all ready to go

The flight seats are determined by weight so poor Christine was stuck at the back of the plane all by herself! Perhaps a good thing.

Christine tucked in the back by herself

Christine tucked in the back by herself

After about 20 minutes of criss crossing the desert with the plane often on its side, the drugs gave out and so did Christine’s stomach. She was in quite a bit of distress but once down on the ground recovered quickly. Dave had a stronger stomach but by the end of it was feeling pretty ill too. However he managed to get some great shots and overall we were both happy to have taken the flight to see the nazca lines from above. Scientists know how the lines and geoglyphs were made, but still don’t know why they were made. Offering to the gods? Or to aliens? Apparently the earlier works are the animals, and the more recent symbols are the lines and geometric patterns. Once in the air above the plains you can see that there are literally thousands of lines and patterns created across the desert.

The view across the Nazca plains with thousands of different lines and patterns visible

The view across the Nazca plains with thousands of different lines and patterns visible

The whale

The whale

The astronaut

The astronaut

The monkey (a bit hard to see)

The monkey (a bit hard to see)

The hummingbird

The hummingbird

The spider

The spider

The condor

The condor

Looking down on the tower we had been on the day before

Looking down on the tower we had been on the day before

Coming in to land

Coming back to land

Christine with her little souvenir bag

Christine with her little ‘souvenir’ bag

After a second breakfast and a little recovery nap we decided to hit the road and start the long drive towards Cusco. Machu Picchu was waiting for us! We drove for quite a few hours, climbing above 4,000m elevation again, and then found a little camouflaged spot on the side of the road for the night. We headed out early again the next morning and still only made it to Cusco well after dark. A long drive of non-stop switchbacks up and down mountains.

Beautiful valleys at 4,000+ metres

Beautiful valleys at 4,000+ metres

Peruvian road hazards

Peruvian road hazards

We finally found the campsite and discovered 6 other overlanders here too! This is the most we’ve seen in months!

We had a great day today exploring the cool city of Cusco and planning our trip up to Machu Picchu. Christine has been there before but we are both looking forward to this highlight of Peru and South America!

The town of Cusco

The town of Cusco

The central plaza in Cusco

The central plaza in Cusco

5 Comments

Filed under General News

A Warm Welcome to Peru!

This weeks travels

This weeks travels

After fixing up the van we enjoyed a ‘free day’ in Banos. This consisted of a walk to the nearby village to try the highly recommended empanadas and to see the waterfalls.

Enjoying some fantastic emenadas

Enjoying some fantastic empanadas

Christine at the falls

Christine at the waterfalls

After, we took a bus into the main town of Banos to find some hot springs which the area is famous for (and named after). However we got distracted by eating ice cream and then every darn place where you could soak up the hot springs was closed! We went home, disappointed, to the van and decided to try the trout farm next door where you fish your own trout and then have it prepared and cooked on site. But would you believe this was closed too! Maybe this was just not our day.

Dyslexic humour - hehe...

Dyslexic humour – hehe…

The next day we headed out pretty early and made it to the UNESCO World Heritage city of Cuenca. It’s a cool colonial cobblestoned town. We’ve seen a few of these on our trip! It was a nice place to walk around and Christine even found a shop to try on a dress. No luck still and the search continues.

Not quite what Christine had in mind

Not quite what Christine had in mind

Peru was in our sights for the next day. This was an uneventful driving day except for the encounter with the Ecuadorian police who stopped us after observing us go over a double yellow line. Now this is after a long long time following many trucks going very slowly and being overtaken by many yahoo’s unsafely. We just happened to peak around this truck and saw the truck drivers hand frantically waving us back. However, too late! We were stopped and told by an officers english friend he called on his mobile that we made a “very, very, very, very, very bad infraction”. The fine was $150USD to be paid immediately to the officer. Well this did not go over well with us and we stated we had no money but would get some and pay at the police station or bank. He wasn’t quite sure what to do and we said we could wait all day if necessary. You could see his little brain working but in the end he couldn’t come up with anything and waved us on. No extra Easter money for him!

Road side delicacies in Ecuador

Roadside delicacies in Ecuador

We got into Peru after a great and easy border crossing despite it being 1.5 hours to complete.

We headed to the beach, and the warmth! We ended up in Mancora staying in the parking garage at a hostal. We were surprised at what a touristy and surfers place it was. Christine enjoyed her first Pisco Sour, Peru’s national drink, on the beach.

Christine enjoying the sunset and Pisco Sour

Christine enjoying the sunset and Pisco Sour

Driving through the deserts of Peru

Driving through the deserts of Peru

img 6747

Camping on a horse ranch down the coast

Camping on a horse ranch down the coast

Chiclayo was our next destination and was a special stop as Christine’s parents used to teach there 7 years ago and still had many connections. We met up with their good friend, Gladys, who does great things in the community with Centro Esperanza, an NGO.

Christine with Gladys and her friendly family

Christine with Gladys and her friendly family

She showed us around and then we were treated to lunch at the community Soup Kitchen where they are trying to help with the large problem of poverty and malnutrition of the young school children. Here the mother’s volunteer and learn to cook healthy budget friendly meals while helping to feed part of the community.

Christine working in the kitchen

Christine ‘working’ in the kitchen

Sharing lunch with the local children in Chiclayo

Sharing lunch with the local children in Chiclayo

The mother’s and children prepared a great afternoon for us. There was singing and dancing and the highlight for the kids and adults, I think, was the tour of our van, Ginger! They all thought our trip was amazing and never knew it could be done. It was a great and insightful afternoon for us and them! A very worthwhile project.

Outside the Soup Kitchen

Outside the Soup Kitchen

The kids were fascinated with Ginger

The kids were fascinated with Ginger

Only 7 children - we had 11 adults inside at one stage!

Only 7 children – we had 11 adults inside at one stage!

We enjoyed spending more time with Gladys and her family and were overwhelmed by their hospitality. They hooked us up with a hotel room right downtown, helped us get a safe place for the van, fed us many delicious meals and were just the most wonderful hosts! We didn’t want to leave but knew that we needed to stay on target if we wanted to get to Argentina before our time runs out. So we enjoyed one last lunch with Gladys, prepared by her sweet mother, and then hit the road.

We drove a few hours and made it to a beach area just north of Trujillo.

Traditional fishing boats at the beach

Traditional fishing boats at the beach

The next day we planned on a long days drive to get us back into the mountains and to the start of our next trek. We ignored the directions given by our GPS, as we could see a much shorter, and obviously quicker, route on the map, so we were taken by surprise when we realized that it was going to take 2 days of driving on our chosen crazy windy switchback road, averaging less than 25km/hr.

Climbing into the mountains on our crazy road

Climbing into the mountains on our crazy road

Christines view as we climbed

Christine’s view as we climbed

We decided at 5pm that the fog was so thick that we needed to find a roadside campsite. Not easy when the road is precariously hanging from the side of a mountain – but we did it.

Climbing into the clouds

Climbing into the clouds

Our roadside campsite

Our roadside campsite

The town we were headed for is at an elevation of 2,000m, so we were again greatly suprised when our ‘shortcut’ kept climbing to over 4,300m, and then found the roads even more scary on the descent.

Beautiful mountain views on the way up

Beautiful mountain views on the way up

At the pass - Gingers new (and unplanned) altitude record - 4,314 metres

At the pass – Gingers new (and unplanned) altitude record – 4,314 metres

Dave was an awesome driver though!

Looking down one of many sets of switchbacks

Looking down one of many sets of switchbacks

Looking across the valley to fields cultivated on amazing slopes

Looking across the valley to fields cultivated on amazing slopes

As we neared the bottom of the descent, and we could see the town in the distance we checked the GPS once again – the town was 7km away, but would take over 25km of roads to get there, it was that windy and switch-backed! We had almost made it to our town when we came to a washed out bridge. After checking out the signposted detour we found that bridge inadequate too.

The suggested detour - we decided to keep looking for another option...

The suggested detour – we decided to keep looking for another option…

After a bit of searching and checking with the locals we eventually found another option about 40 minutes away and crossed into the town of Caraz.

Not perfect, but it will do!

Not perfect, but it will do!

Not the quaintest of Peruvian towns but it’s a jumping off point for the trek we want to start tomorrow. Wish us luck!

5 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

The Equator…. Finally!

Travelling South out of Colombia

Travelling South out of Colombia

We left Salento and headed South. We made a stop outside Cali at a nice, quiet Hostel on a river in a beautiful valley. It was Sunday and the small towns and river banks along our route were packed with people taking advantage of the nice weather and weekend. It was a completely different place when we left the next morning with the streets pretty much deserted!

Camping outside of Cali.

Camping outside of Cali.

We then headed towards Ecuador and were hoping to hit the border town to spend the night, so we could cross over first thing the next morning. The mountain roads and traffic were a lot slower than we had expected, so we ended up pulling into a big 24hr gas station and asking to spend the night. No problem! Not the best of sleeps but a relatively safe place to hunker down for a few hours.

Sleeping with the trucks again!

Sleeping with the trucks again!

Beautiful hills in Southern Colombia

Beautiful hills in Southern Colombia

The next morning we were up early and made a stop to see a very cool church that is built on a bridge! Las Lajas Sanctuary is a Gothic style church that is built on the site where an apparition of the Virgin Mary was seen in the rocks. It’s also a popular pilgrimage site with many people claiming miraculous healing. An impressive place!

The view down to the church (bottom right, in the valley)

The view down to the church (bottom right, in the valley)

Las Lajas Sanctuary

Las Lajas Sanctuary

The inside of the church, with the cliff wall behind the altar.

The inside of the church, with the cliff wall behind the altar.

After the church we crossed into Ecuador with ease despite a bit of waiting in line ups. We even picked up a fellow Canadian traveller who we drove to our next destination, Otavalo, Ecuador.

This weeks travels in Equador

This weeks travels in Equador

Otovalo is known for having the largest market in all of South America! Well at least on the weekends but sadly (or gladly depending on how you look at it!), the majority of stalls, and all the live animal market was closed and the scene was very laid back. There was still a good market and Dave did end up getting a very dapper Ecuador hat!

Numerous soft and fluffy things available at the market

Numerous soft and fluffy things available at the market

Dave with his new 'Ecuador Hat'

Dave with his new ‘Ecuador Hat’

QUICK TRIVIA: Panama hats are actually originally from Ecuador. In 1945 for the World Fair Ecuador sent over all kinds of hats but since they travelled through Panama to get there the people in Paris assumed it was made in Panama. So poor Ecuador got no credit at all!

Our view over the town of Otovalo

Our view over the town of Otovalo

After hanging out at some nice cottages overlooking Otavalo we hit the road again and finally crossed the equator. It’s about time! And it’s only taken us 7.5 months. But it was very cool to see the line and a good photo opportunity. Now wouldn’t you think that the equator would have nice hot weather?!

Christine posing over the equator line

Christine posing over the equator line

Each in our 'home' hemispheres

Each in our ‘home’ hemispheres

Next we drove into Cotopaxi National Park to do some hiking and biking. Cotopaxi is the second highest mountain in Ecuador and is a snow capped vision (and an active volcano)! When you can see it that is! The roads were a bit rough going into the park especially this one corrugated area where we thought the van was going to vibrate to bits. Thankfully she didn’t, but we did manage to squash and cut a cable on our auxiliary battery, causing a short circuit with the battery. There was smoke, and a lot of running around and panicking, but phewf no fire!

Smoke and burn marks on the battery cover...

Smoke and burn marks on the battery cover…

Badly overheated battery cables

Badly overheated battery cables

The shakes also wiggled our furnace into not working. And when you’re on the side of a glacier mountain this really sucks!

Camping in view of the volcano

Camping in view of the volcano

All the winter gear was required up here (over 3800m elevation)

All the winter gear was required up here (over 3800m elevation)

We stayed on the mountain for two cold nights with all our blankets and thermal undies on. We could have handled the cold but on our lovely long bike ride around the valleys an unexpected storm blew in with heavy rain and hail

Christine catching her breath - biking at 4000m is just as hard as hiking!

Christine catching her breath – biking at 4000m is just as hard as hiking!

Another one of our 'typical' volcano photos...

Another one of our ‘typical’ volcano photos…

Christine keeping her dental skills up

Christine keeping her dental skills up

The roads turned into gushing rivers full of hail and our hands seized up from the cold. And the lightening was stiking so close it was scary! We were soaked to the bone and poor Dave just couldn’t get warm again. After a few hours and a long hot shower we started to feel our toes again.

New snow on the volcano - this fell during the storm of our bike ride...

New snow on the volcano – this fell during the storm of our bike ride…

We picked up another traveller coming from the park! This time a British guy who was having a hard time in Ecuador with tales of being robbed and being taken advantage of. Hope we helped him a bit! We dropped him off on the Quilitoa Loop which is a beautiful yet rough road around a volcanic lake and surrounding lush valleys.

Patchwork hills around Quilatoa

Patchwork hills around Quilatoa

The crater lake of Quilatoa

The crater lake of Quilatoa

Pretty and impressive! We had planned to hike around the crater lake, but the weather didn’t cooperate and with rain in the long and short-term forecast we decided to move on.

The loop road around Quilatoa

The loop road around Quilatoa

Beautiful views from the loop road

Beautiful views from the loop road

We moved on to the little town of Banos where we were the only guests at the Pequeno Paraiso Hostal. The owners are ex-overland bus drivers and specialize in taking in the huge overlanding tour groups, but the season hasn’t started yet.

The grounds at Pequeno Paraiso hostel

The grounds at Pequeno Paraiso hostel

Enjoying a 3 course lunch in Banos - all for US$2.50 - amazing!

Enjoying a 3 course lunch in Banos – all for US$2.50 – amazing!

With the entire run of the place we got Ginger all  fixed up again! That includes running new battery cables and getting the furnace working again. Dave is not only handsome, but handy too!

Christine checking the electrical connections to the furnace

Christine checking the electrical connections to the furnace

Dave running new cables back to the auxiliary battery

Dave running new cables back to the auxiliary battery

A big development in our plans is that we have found a buyer for Ginger! A few weeks ago we put her up for sale on a website popular with people doing similar trips as ours. Well wouldn’t you know we received an email from a British/Canadian guy who is keen to buy Ginger for a year of exploring around South America! A few logistics still to be worked out, but we are very happy that she’ll have a great new owner, and that we don’t need to stress out about finding a buyer any more.

Tomorrow we plan on getting into seeing the sights around here before moving on and finding some new places to explore.

 

This weeks banner - biking around Cotopaxi National Park - in the cold and thin air.

This weeks banner – biking around Cotopaxi National Park – in the cold and thin air.

2 Comments

Filed under General News