A Travellerspoint blog

A journey through Bolivia

With a few unfortunate delays on the way following not only my bag being stolen at the bus stop on our way out of Peru, but Justin's bag being stolen at the bus stop in Chile the following day, we finally made it to San Pedro de Attacama (sans Justin who went on a quest for a new passport).

Note to travellers: do NOT fall victim to people dropping money at your feet. Especially not two days in a row...

In San Pedro we met the rest of the Aussie crew, became a group of 7, and got ourselves organised for a tour through Bolivia!

We went with the typical three day itinerary travelling from San Pedro to Uyuni through some of the most amazing geology Bolivia has to offer.

Our journey through the salt flats included a convoy of three 4WDs.

Many of us suffered headaches and exhaustion as we reached heights of 5,000 metres on the first night of our stay in Bolivia.

We made a new friend - "England" as Jack kindly called him. I'm glad he never kept up calling us "Convicts"...

We may have given our French car friend a poor idea of Australians by playing Art vs Science - Parlez-Vous Francais? just a little too much. But at least it broke up the Bob Marley our driver had going the rest of the time!

Given I'm writing this post aboooooout five months after the tour, my memory is a little hazy on the day-to-day rundown on events, but here are some of the more amazing things we saw along the way:

Laguna Verde

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Sol de Mañana - Geysers

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Laguna Colorada

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Rock formations

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Tornados

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Salar de Uyuni - Salt Flats

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Incahausi

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Train Cementary

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Posted by caitlingordon 17:07 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

Cañon del Colca

With true Latin American style, the 160km bus journey to Cabanaconde - the starting point of our hike - took a lengthy 5 hours. With true backpacking style, we neglected to pay the 70 sol fee required to trek around the canyon...

We planned a four day hike, taking in three towns along the way.

On the first day we headed towards Llahuar. The 5 hour hike was largely downhill as we dropped more than 1,200 metres in altitude, however, things weren't that simple with multiple points that saw us constantly going up and down the canyon. The directions weren't all that informative either, with a few lines telling us to pass the bull fighting arena, and little else. To keep things clear, the bull fighting arena was full of horses...

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Thankfully, our first stop appeared perfect for a relax after the day, with the accommodation built just above the river, and multiple options for thermal pools to rest our weary limbs.

Fortunately, the pools weren't as hot as these geysers we'd seen along the way:

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Here's a shot from the start of the hike. I believe it's our route you can see towards the back of the canyon, heading down in switchbacks.

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As we found for each stop on our hike, all the options for accommodation provided you with dinner, but this first one was my favourite.

We'd gotten into a habit of asking about meals given my preferences against red meat, and Justin's hatred of fish. Here in Llahuar, we were assured we'd be eating a vegetarian meal. When our main course of pasta came out, we found on top sat tuna!!! Fortunately for me, I loveeeeee tuna! But Justin? He can't stand it. The poor guy ended up passing his meal over to Jack and I, and managed to get an egg to eat - definitely not sufficient after all that walking!

It didn't stop Justin being the first ready the next morning (read: every morning) though. Eventually we started the trek up towards Fure - another 5 hours of walking, 600 metres of altitude regained.

This was the most difficult day for me! Having hiked downhill for so long the previous day, my knees were feeling the pressure, and it didn't take long for everything else to get sore as we headed uphill!

The three of us, along with two Europeans, were the only foreigners staying in the town. We spent the evening playing cards together, and even attempted to teach some of the local kids the game! I don't think they'd ever seen playing cards before! Two young boys of around 5 years of age took care of our discarded cards as we played, attempting to have their own game that looked somewhat similar to our own.

As usual, Jack made friends with the local animals. These two couldn't get enough attention from him, stretching the ropes holding them as far as they could to ensure they stayed nearby:

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Day three took us back down 500 metres to Sangalle - also known as the "Oasis".

The usual up and down the canyon continued, however this time we could see our destination for a large part of the journey. Here's Jack pointing it out. You can see our track winding around to the left side and then eventually down behind Sangalle.

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Just like our first night, Sangalle bought us a relaxing afternoon, with the town apparently built for tourists with a multitude of swimming pools ready for our enjoyment, and excellent views surrounding us.

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For me, this was the last stop for hiking. I'd decided to take a mule up the following morning back to Cabanaconde - best $20 I've spent!

I can only imagine this last day was the worst for the guys. We were aiming for the 9am bus back to Arequipa.

The hike was a continuous incline of about 1,200 metres with a suggested timing of three hours.

The guys started heading up, and my group on the mules started after them.

Impressively, Jack beat my mule up, and Justin wasn't far behind us. Both guys managing the trek up in less than half the recommended time!

It was here that we were finally asked for our tourist ticket - the one we hadn't purchased. Jack told the man we'd left it in our big bags at the hostel. With a 'deposit' of 10 sols, he arranged to meet us before the midday bus. However, with the excellent timing of the guys, we made our 9am bus as planned!

Now it was time to head down into Chile and increase our little group to eight!!

Posted by caitlingordon 18:13 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Heading south through Peru


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3,157 kilometres. 7 cities. 2 weeks. Far too many hours of bus travel.

We crossed the border into Peru without issue, and headed to Piura, in the north.

Knowing we had only a couple of weeks until we were meeting others in Chile, we wasted no time, heading on quickly to Trujillo for a single night.

There we visited the archeological site of Chan Chan - somewhat less impressive than the ruins of Europe and Asia that I've seen:

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But the city was improved with the enormous local market we found, with aisles selling just bananas, or onions, or pumpkins!

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Then it was an overnight bus to Lima for a couple of nights. We had a fairly relaxed time here, exploring the streets of Miraflores, spending a night with Jacks cousin. Justin and I also went to the ruins of Huaca Pucllana:

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Following this, we travelled the short distance to Paracas. Here we went to the wineries around Pisco, having our first taste of Pisco (coming away with three bottles between us!!).

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We couldn't help but try pisco sours in Paracas either:

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We also did a day tour around the area and to Islas Bellestas, known as the poor mans Galapagos. The tour encompassed various archeological sites. Here's a few shots from the day:

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We then started our trip south to Cañon del Colca, with a stop for the day in Ica and Huacachina while we waited for a night bus.

The guys couldn't help themselves, and had to climb to the top of the sand dunes at Huacachina, with Jack rolling down and Justin running along after him.

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Finally, we made it to Arequipa, spending a day wandering the streets. I also paid a visit to Juanita, the ice princess, who had been found nearby, and is said to be a sacrifice by the Incan people.

Our last few days in Peru were spent hiking Cañon del Colca, but that's for another blog. :-)

Posted by caitlingordon 08:08 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

The last Ecuador adventure...

The final fun activity in Ecuador got me high as I'd ever been - to base came at Cotopaxi.

We jumped on a bus to Quito, but jumped off half-way at the Cotopaxi national park. As we'd hoped, a few cars were sitting there, waiting for tourists like us who didn't want to pay the fees of tour companies, and were doing it on the cheap.

Jack bargained with the men until one have us a good price, a French woman joined us to make a group of four, and we started heading up. We even got another two keen tourists on the way up who sat in the trailer.

The journey up gave incredible views of the volcano:

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Eventually, we got to 4,500, and then it was time to start walking ourselves. Naturally, being with Jack and Justin, the easier route was never considered and we began the hard slog up the shorter, steeper option. The refugio sat at about 4,800, and although just 300 metres up, it was hard work, taking more than half an hour with many stops along the way!!

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I decided to stop my climb there, but the guys continued on, reaching more than 5,000 metres. Justin tells me his fingers started tingling at that altitude!

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Jack even bought some of the glacier back down for me to see.

This became a little unnecessary though.

As we started the journey down, large hail hit us, causing Jack to cover his head with his bag. At the bottom, we realised our driver wasn't back - how did we get in the car and escape the storm? Fortunately, Justin found an open window, sticking his arm inside, and getting us comfortably undercover. But not until we'd had a little fun:

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I didn't envy the two in back at this point - I was freezing inside the car with the heater on!!

Can you tell the difference of the snow line in my later picture??

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Posted by caitlingordon 04:26 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

Hiking the Quilotoa Loop

Hiking with altitude - not so easy...


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Note to self: when deciding to do a trek at almost 4,000 metres, research properly - sometimes the first option is not the easiest...

At least that was our experience when we decided the Quilotoa Loop in Ecuador looked like a bit of fun for a few days.

We did our research (read: I read one blog that described how a couple did it) and went for it without much further thought.

We picked Justin up via a nights stay in Baños where he had been volunteering for the past five or so weeks, then jumped on a bus to Latacunga. Clearly not much of a tourist town, hostels were a little more difficult to come by, and hostels with Internet appeared non existent.

The next morning the plan was to catch a bus to Isinliví. The guidebooks told us a bus left every day around midday.

On Thursdays though? No bus... Ohhhh dear.

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The back up plan had to come into play - a bus to Saquisilí, another to Sigchos, and then a third to Isinliví?

No. No busses between Sigchos and Isinliví. So we thought we'd be starting our hike a day early, with a 14km walk to Isinliví...

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But luck finally caught up with us and we managed to hitch a ride to town.

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We spent the night at Hostal Llullu Llama, sitting around the fire with several other travellers and playing cards with the chefs son.

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The following morning following a hearty breakfast, we were off, starting at 2,900 metres with an almost 12km hike ahead of us.

Alas, the trek began downhill, and then further downhill... Until we got to Guantualo. Here we were guided by some young school children, who pointed us up a steep hillside, and up and up we went. Eventually, exhausted, hungry, and covered in dust, we made it to Chugchilán at 3,200 metres.

The next day was set to hike to Quilotoa - about 10km away, but we can't trust the signs in Ecuador. We passed this sign on the way out of town...

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Then shortly further along the road, we found this one...

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For this hike, I was much more prepared - I had the chef at Hostal Cloud Forest prepare a lunch for me, and I have to say it was the best $3 I ever spent (so much food!!!).

Like the previous day, this day started with a downhill stretch, as we headed to the river at 2,800 metres, then back up to Rio Sihui, and eventually Quilotoa at 3,900 metres. With my delicious lunch though, I found the day much more enjoyable, and while still finding the hike difficult, I didn't feel the same exhaustion as the previous day!

If you haven't been checking the maths, we hiked and continually got higher across the two days. Every other traveller we met was heading in the opposite direction to us, and with each hostel we stayed at, we were farewelled with a 'good luck' since they all knew we were about to have a difficult day!!

Here's some shots from along the trek:

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Posted by caitlingordon 06:24 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

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