A Travellerspoint blog

Link to pictures

Fotos!!!!

rain 20 °C

Hello everyone,
Sorry for not posting for a while, but here are the links to our South America pictures. Enjoy!

Liebe Blogleser,
hier ein paar Links zu unseren Fotos aus Südamerika. Viel Spaß!

South America:
https://picasaweb.google.com/mirja78/Sudamerika?authuser=0&authkey=Gv1sRgCO_Oo4bb343GHg&feat=directlink

Galapagos:
https://picasaweb.google.com/mirja78/Galapagos?authuser=0&authkey=Gv1sRgCPffhZSs5OHkUg&feat=directlink

Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu:
https://picasaweb.google.com/mirja78/SalkantayTrailToMachuPicchu?authuser=0&authkey=Gv1sRgCNv02v6Bhe3dJg&feat=directlink

Posted by xmirjax 07:58 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Machu Picchu

Salkantay Trek

sunny 22 °C

Mirja and I recovered from our various ailments in Cusco and relaxed a fair bit before starting out on the 80km Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu. We organized the trek through Chaska tours in town and started out extremely early (5am pickup) to go to the trailhead. Our group consisted of 3 French Canadians and 1 German in addition to me and Mirja. The agency also provided mules to carry most of our gear so we only had to carry water and a jacket over the 4600m pass and other big climbs. I did the Inca Trail 10 years ago and was happy to do this because it is completely different. The biggest differnece is this trek goes higher through more snow capped high peaks. We also saw Machu Picchu from a unique viewpoint the day before we arrived there and went by an old Inca ruin that very few people see. Another highlight was seeing 5-6 Andean Condors up close. They flew just a few meters over our heads, and later circled back a little higher before eventually landing near a dead mule. Our group was also a nice surprise. Everyone fit well into the group and we shared a lot of laughs.

Of course Machu Picchu is a big highlight as well. The last time I was there I only had a disposable camera, so I only have 5-6 pics from that trip. This time the weather was misty in the morning and cleared after 40 minutes to bright sunshine. The photos are amazing and I look forward to sharing them when I have the time to upload. Our guide gave us a 2.5 hour tour of the site, then later we hiked away to various viewpoints and sights of interest before heading back to Cusco on the train. If you haven´t been to Machu Picchu, there´s no words to describe it. It´s situated on a high saddle between 2 mountains with the Urubamba River ox-bowing around the peaks nearly 400 vertical meters below. The peaks are all lush green, and the surrounding peaks are much higher, so you feel like you are in a jungle of mountains. The site itself is 75% original and filled with temples that align perfectly with the sun on solstice and equinox days. Even with the overflow of tourists, its big enough to explore in peace and a little solitude if you are willing to climb some steps. I hope to go back in another 10 years.

We rested another day in Cusco after getting back from the trek. Cusco is our favorite S. American city thusfar. It´s clean and not so big and has all the creature comforts a westerner could ask for. We ate a lot of great meals there, and were able to plan out the transportation for the rest of our trip trhough Peru, Ecuador and Colombia.

Today we flew to Lima where we are spending as little time as possible before continuing northwards to Huaraz where we will do more trekking.

Posted by ichbinmatt 15:18 Archived in Peru Tagged machu picchu cusco salkantay Comments (1)

Titicaca

sunny 19 °C

We flew back from Rurre and jumped straight on a bus for Puno, just across the Peruvian border on Lake Titicaca. It was a mess getting through immigration into Peru, but after a lot of waiting and confusion we were in. We didn´t want to waste a lot of time in Puno since its not the most beautiful place, so we booked a tour to spend 2 days on Amantani- an island on Lake Titicaca with almost no development- no hotels, only one restaurant. Mirja had been feeling the effects of altitude since arriving back in La Paz, and it got worse as time passed. The wavy boat ride didn´t help. I was dealing with altitude a little bit better and was able to climb up to the top of the island where there is an Incan temple and stayed there for the sunset.

After dinner I soon grew sicker than Mirja with a nasty case of food poisoning. We were staying at a locals house with only a pit toilet, so it wasn´t the ideal place to be really sick. The local family will probably think twice before hosting westerners again. The next morning we cut our tour short and caught a local boat back to Puno, then checked into a nice hotel and just relaxed all day by watching TV.

On Wed morning we took a bus to Cusco- the gringo capital of South America. In the town center there are far more white people than locals. The town is the base for going to Machu Picchu and is filled with ancient Inca walls and ruins as well as plenty of colonial Spanish churches, not to mention amazing cafes and restaurants. We just relaxed for a couple of days to fully recover and sample some of the wonderful eateries.

Tomorrow we´re starting a trek through the Andes and will get to Machu Picchu eventually. We can´t do the Inca trail because its heavily regulated and booked out until August, so we are doing the possibly more scenic Salkantay trek.

Posted by ichbinmatt 09:28 Archived in Peru Tagged titicaca cusco puno Comments (0)

The Jungle in Bolivia

Pampas and Beni River

sunny 25 °C

Our week in Rurre has come to an end. We spent 3 days in the Pampas along the Yakuma River, then came back to town and went out along the River Beni to the tropical rainforest for another 3 days. Its so hard to sum up all that happened in this space... especially since this internet cafe has a disco running in the next room.

The Pampas is a wide open area along a river and possible to see all kinds of interesting animals. We travelled by 4x4 truck for 3 hours down a dusty and very bumpy road. We were in a group of 3 Israelis, a Dutch mother and daughter and another German. We were all happy to arrive at the river and get out of the truck and away from the reckless driver. We loaded into a big canoe-like boat with our guide and set off downriver to our camp. Along the way we saw capybaras (like a giant guinai pig), turtles, monkeys and loads of giant water birds (cranes and such). We were a little put off by our guide feeding the monkeys to attract them. Especially since they climbed all over me to get to him. The rest of our time there we took quite a few more boat tours, including one at night to look at stars and spot alligators with our headlamps. We also fished for pirahnas which was mainly fun just to see their little teeth after we caught them. I didnt catch any, but Mirja did. We also saw many alligators and caimens, a boa constrictor, different types of monkeys and sloth. Of those, the sloth was my favorite. Even though the branch broke that it was hanging onto, it didnt move quickly. I also learned the German word for sloth - Faultier - which translates to lazy animal... what a great name.

The highlight by far of the trip was swimming with dolphins, even though I wish we had a lot more time to do it. We searched around for a good bit of time before we could find the pink river dolphins that live in the Pampas. They were really shy and kept their distance at first. After a few minutes, all the young people got bored and went back to the boats. Many other people were afraid of pirahnas or alligators attacking them, so they never even got into the water. After 20 or 30 minutes of treading water and throwing a toy bottle at the dolphins, they finally swam right at me. They swam right at the surface of the water and looked me right in the eye as they approached, then dove down about a meter before they reached me and swam right under my legs. One or two splashed me with their tails everytime they dove. I think there were 4, but its hard to tell. They all circled back several times for multiple passes. I eventually went back to the boat and our guide said it was time to leave, so that was a bummer. I could have spent all day there.

After returning to Rurre for a night, we set off for the nearby Madidi National Park by boat. We paid for a more expensive tour that gave more back to locals and was more environmentally friendly and we immdiately saw where the extra money went. The staff was friendlier and the quality of accomodation and food was much much better. The didnt feed any animals or try to catch anything like in the Pampas. So if you are considering visiting here we strongly recommend Mashiquipe Tours and rate Fluvial Tours poorly.

Our time in the jungle was mainly relaxing. The Beni River eventually flows into the Amazon and we visited a small sugar cane farm just outside of the park. There we smashed the cane to get the juice inside, then mixed the juice with fresh limes and drank it down... so good, but sickly sweet. We also hiked around the rainforest and laid around in hammocks a lot and I got eaten up by mosquitos. There was only one other person in our group- a woman doing research on cacao trees. Because the forest is so dense, we didnt see so many animals- just some mokeys and macaus as well as all the insects. We even hiked deep into the jungle and spent the night away from the main camp where we could hear all the intense night noises as well as our guide snoring. We build a raft and sailed it back to camp the next day- good fun. We were most impressed by the forest and happy to learn about it from a local. Right now though, I am happy to be away from all the mosquitos and heading back into the mountains.

Posted by ichbinmatt 18:23 Archived in Bolivia Tagged rainforest jungle rurre madidi pampas Comments (0)

Paraguay to Bolivia

different worlds

all seasons in one day 20 °C

We spent only a couple of days in Paraguay before catching a flight from Asuncion to Cochabamba, Bolivia. I wish we had more time in Paraguay, but we made the most of it by couchsurfing in Asuncion with Javi- a laid back Paraguayan with a wonderful garden house in central Asuncion. I think couchsurfing was fitting for Paraguay because there are no real tourist attractions in the country, and especially in Asuncion. Our favorite site in the city is a statue of a disposed dictator (Stoessner) that was crushed, then encased in concrete with only parts of his head and hands now visible. Its fitting to the turbulant history of the country.

Upon entry to Bolivia I had to wait in the penalty box while all the other passengers proceeded with a simple stamp in the passport. After immigration officials finished admitting everyone, I had to prove that I had enough money to stay here, show an *invitation* from a hotel, swear that I didnt have relatives here, and then swear that I wouldnt try to stay in the country illeagally and search for work, show proof of a yellow fever immunization, provide 2 passport sized photos, then pay $135 USD. Can anybody fill me in on the steps to get a German passport? The good news is that this is the last visa I need in S America.

We spent a day and a half in Cochabamba (2500m) acclimatizing, then moved on to La Paz, which is one of the highest cities in the world. We were both short of breath, but this is a pretty mild symptom of such a high altitude. Its already the highest Mirja has ever been. Despite the difficulties and cost of getting into the country, I am very happy to be here. Its a world away from Argentina and Chile. The people are dirt poor and the beggars and babies laying on the street are noticable, but with a little precaution, it doesnt feel really dangerous. Its also good to take advatage of the low low prices and eat really nice food. In La Paz we had Indian and Mexican food on the same day. I think buying food and preparing it yourself is more expensive than eating out. After dinner we chanced upon some kind of local festival. May 1-3rd is a holiday here, so it must have been kicking off the holidays with a kind of parade with locals wearing brightly colored traditional costumes with much dancing and merry making. This was a lucky discovery since we noticed that we were the only white people in sight.

Our main destination in Bolivia is Rurrenabaque, which is a little amazon jungle town 400km northeast of La Paz. Even though its only 400km (270 miles), the bus ride can take 24 hours on dirt and mud roads, so we opted for the 45 min flight. We are both happy to be in one place for the next week. From here we will do a pampas tour and a jungle tour. This is one of the most bio-diverse regions in S America. The pampas is an open area of grasslands and rivers teeming with wildlife like pink dolphins and anacondas. The jungle is part of the amazon basin. Not far away are 6000m high snowy peaks. Again, we find ourselves in a completely different world from Cochabamba and La Paz. Those are both big cities at altitide with all the problems of 3rd world cities. Rurre is a very small town, mostly serving tourists, but its also at low down in the jungle, so humidity and bugs play a big role. Yesterday we were wearing all our clothes and struggling to breath in the thin mountain air, today we are buying mosquito repellent and making sure there are no holes in the mosquito netting.

Posted by ichbinmatt 18:10 Archived in Bolivia Tagged la paz rurre cochabamba Comments (0)

(Entries 6 - 10 of 41) « Page 1 [2] 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 »