Tag Archives: La Paz

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

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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

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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

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Watc hing the sun set from our camp

Watching the sun set from our camp

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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!

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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

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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

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Canyons and beaches

A rough guife to where we’ve been this week.

After Los Barriles we prepared ourselves to go to the big tourist and resort areas of Los Cabos (meaning “the capes”). It’s made made up of San Jose Del Cabo and the Cabo San Lucas. Loads of huge ‘all inclusive’ resorts but not that many campgrounds, surprise surprise! We did manage to get a crappy expensive one for a night. We explored the tourist areas and beaches and could see why it would be so popular – beautiful!

The beach and resorts at Cabo San Lucas (we had to sneak through a resort to get here)

We kept on going however and made it to the more quiet Pacific Coast and Todos Santos, famous for surfing and big waves. We even stayed at a real ‘surf camp’ but didn’t get inspired to try it.

The last of the 191 baby turtles released that morning

We returned to La Paz on Tuesday to arrange our ferry tickets to get to the mainland. No sweat as we had already checked out the office and price plus gotten our permits for Ginger long ago at the border. We arranged for the ferry for 2 days later, Thursday, and then headed to hang out on the beach in La Ventana while we waited. Tough life! It was recommended by a Canadian couple (Albertans we met while waiting out the hurricane) and did not disappoint. There were probably at least 25 other RV’s all decked out for the impending season of wind. Mostly retirees and all avid wind surfers or kite surfers plus they biked, played volleyball, etc… Super active bunch. We stuck to our biking and swimming but did join them for their happy hour and got some good advice for our travels.

Finding private beaches on our bikes

More beautiful beaches in Mexico!

We made it to the ferry on Thursday and it left on time at 2:30pm and everything! It was a 6+ hour ride but really comfortable, except for a bit of wave action – blagh. Having a margarita probably didn’t help matters. We got off about 10pm and, taking many people’s advice, found a spot in the ferry terminal parking lot to settle in for the night. Secure and surprisingly quiet once all the trucks left.
Friday we drove east in search of a suitable camping site. We did a drive by on two RV parks that looked all closed up/atrocious but eventually did find a hotel that also had a few spots for RV’s. By no means was it flash! They opened up a room for us to use the facilities (only cold water!). We arranged to leave the van there for a couple of nights while we took the famous Chihuahua al Pacífico (ChePe for short) train into Copper Canyon. A 7 hour ride.

A quick stop for lunch

The Copper Canyon is overall larger than Grand Canyon and has some deeper areas with 6 rivers all draining into the Sea of Cortez. And it was chilly up there, with a low of about 4 C! We stayed for 2 nights and did a bit of exploring.

Checking out the local handicrafts

Christine on the edge

Another edge walk

Chrsitine and Copper Canyon

Catching the ‘Teleferico’ into the Canyon

Exploring around the canyons

The native people here are Tarahumara/Rarámuri. They are famous for their ability to run long distances, historically running up to 320km in a single session over a couple of days! They have a famous ultramarathon here every year. It was the weekend and there were lots of celebrations and activities including running races for every age, shape and size. Some even wore the traditional running garb.

A local runner, with shoes made from old car tires

Trying the local foods – Great!

We were reunited with the van on Monday and left for Mazatlan early Tuesday morning. We got there in time so we could check out a service station that had bee recommended on the Internet. American trained mechanic with excellent English. That’s what we’re in need of because we require some brake work in the front and our temperature gauge has recently gone beserk.

She is with the mechanics now….  Wish us luck!

The beach and sunset in Mazatlan

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Hurricane… What Hurricane?

After our drive through the desert we were very happy to see some beautiful beaches on the east coast of the Baja Peninsula.  And extremely happy to see that we could camp within metres of the water.

Our beach on the East coast

Our camp setup on the beach

with beautiful sunsets (This picture is especially for Elaine!)

We spent a couple of nights here at Santispac Playa Beach, just south of Mulége, and met some really nice Americans (this was also the scene of the odd Roy Orbison puppet show at the beach bar!).  John was a particularly friendly guy, who had been on the beach for a couple of months while sorting out a lease on some local land – he had a lot of great advice, including where to find wi-fi and great tacos in the local village . John was also the first to mention that he wanted to see the weather report and check how “Hurricane Paul” was developing…. unfortunately this was all news to us….. Hurricane? What hurricane??

So on Tuesday morning we had to think about our hurricane strategy… most of the locals recommended we hunker down for a few days and let the weather pass, but our hurricane guru John ( he’s from Florida) thought we’d be fine to head further South, where we might miss the brunt of the storm. So, we packed up and headed down the road. We initially had quite a bit of rain on the drive, which just got heavier, as well as the wind picking up significantly. The next major town was Loreto, which we managed to make before the true force of the storm hit. We did have to drive through a couple of small rivers across the road, but nothing too serious.

Water over the main highway – we got through this one

Loreto was exactly where the hurricane decided to cross the peninsular. Oops!
In Loreto we found everything closed with windows taped up. We parked Ginger in the flooded main street, and settled down to wait out the storm (ie, we napped, and Dave tried to deal with a nasty Margarita hangover).

Flooded roads in Loreto

The main street in Loreto

After our afternoon siesta we decided to be tourists and had a lovely wander around town in the hurricane.

Christine exploring in gale force winds

When it looked as though the water levels might be dropping we decided to try our luck on the highway again, as our intended destination was only 13km further south down the road.
On the way we had to deal with many wash outs across the road, waiting for up to an hour or two at each one to see if the water would drop enough to let us pass.

Our first road wash out – we made it through this one

The waits were not so bad, as the locals were out in full force to see the effects of the flooding and try their luck crossing the rapids – some luckier than others!

One unlucky (or stupid?) local – we made it through this one too

We managed to get Ginger through a couple of these flooded sections but were eventually turned back by a washed out bridge with boulders washed all across the road.

The washout that turned us around

We headed back to Loreto in the dark and eventually found a nice hotel that would let us park and sleep in their carpark, as long as we had breakfast in their restaurant the next morning – good deal!

The local river right after the hurricane

The same river about 12 hours later

An early start with pancakes and brewed coffee, and then back on the highway… Only to be told by the army guys that the highway would be closed for at least another 12 hours. This time we managed to find a way to the RV park (a dirt road around the back of the airport) and enjoyed a quiet day by the pool, and walking the beach checking out the washed up debris.

The debris strewn beach in town

The next morning (Thursday) we hit the road about 11am only to find we couldn’t actually get to the beach that we had hoped to stop at, as the dirt road was washed out … So an instant decision was made to continue to La Paz. An easy drive, but a good few hours away.

Baja is still beautiful though!

On the way into downtown La Paz we spotted a Walmart, so swerved across 3 lanes of traffic and straight into their carpark. We stocked up on everything. It was about 6pm when we left Walmart and headed to the local RV park that Christine had looked up. It was of course closed down. Oh crap! It was 8:30pm when we finally pulled in to an RV park we had spotted on the way into La Paz – though we did have an interesting night drive up the peninsular while looking for other options… New lesson learnt: stick with what you know! Oh, we also learnt that cows and donkeys like to wander onto the road at night as its warmer…
On Friday we headed to a Home Depot and picked up the supplies we thought we might need for our next Ginger upgrade… mosquito screens on the side and back doors.  Since the rains we’ve been eaten alive, Dave especially!  We now have a good supply of netting, industrial Velcro and magnets. This is tomorrows project, so we’ll let you know how it goes.
We are currently in Los Barriles, which is a quaint little fishing village on the East coast.
Christine wants a haircut. We both want to try fish tacos. We both want to chill out on a beach again after being forced into town by the hurricane. Hopefully this is the place!

Beautiful Los Barriles

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