South America Varied jour nies through Sam
d i f f e r e n t
la nd s
Mindo Quito Banos Guyaquil Galapogos
Mancora Huanchaco Lima Pisco Nasca Colca Canyon Arequipa Inca Trail Sacred Valley Cusco Lake Titicaca La Paz Rio de Janeiro
Pantanal Montevideo Colonia del Sacramento
Buenos Aires Rosario Iguazu Falls
Table of Contents Brazil
Rio de Janeiro
Another day, another bus
The Sacred Valley of the Inca´s
Inca Trail to Machu Picchu Arequipa and Colca Canyon
Nazca, Pisco, and Lima
Colonia del Sacramento
Northern Peru, Huanchaco, Trujillo and Mancora
The road to Quito
Brazil to Bolivia
Santiago and Valparaíso
Sucre Potosi Uyuni salt flats, lagoons & desert La Paz
Summary and Statistics
5th largest country in the world Largest in South America
8,459,417 sq km2 Borders Argentina 1,261 km, Bolivia 3,423 km, Colombia 1,644 km, French Guiana 730 km, Guyana 1,606 km, Paraguay 1,365 km, Peru 2,995 km, Suriname 593 km, Uruguay 1,068 km, Venezuela 2,200 km
Climate mostly tropical, but temperate in south
Terrain mostly flat to rolling lowlands in north; some plains, hills, mountains, and narrow coastal belt
Altitude lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m highest point: Pico da Neblina 3,014 m
Land use arable land: 6.93% permanent crops: 0.89% other: 92.18%
198,739,269 0-14 years: 26.7% 15-64 years: 66.8% 65 years and over: 6.4%
Population growth rate 1.199%
Birth rate 18.43 births/1,000 population
Death rate 6.35 deaths/1,000 population
Life expectancy male: 68.43 years female: 75.73 years
Culture Ethnic groups
white 53.7% mulatto 38.5% black 6.2% other 0.9% unspecified 0.7% Religions
Roman Catholic 73.6% Protestant 15.4% Spiritualist 1.3% Voodoo 0.3% other 1.8% unspecified 0.2% none 7.4% Languages
Portuguese Spanish German, Italian, Japanese English Amerindian
Our impressions Brazil came across as a bit too American for our tastes. There was a large emphasis on large cars and highways. Also the food was mostly takeaway fast food such as burgers and pizza. Brazil was very expensive, with meals in Rio as expensive as London. On average we spent $US 110 per day between the two of us, which was slightly over budget. We were only able to keep costs down due to staying with Paula and her family which saved us on accommodation and food. Thanks again to Paula for having us.
18 days $110 per day (195 Brazilian reais)
68 hours in buses 4 hours spent in transit per day
Corumba, Curitiba, Florinopolis, Foz do Iguazu, Pantanal, Porto Alegre, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo
Janeiro Travelling day After what seemed an eternity organising our move home and trip, we finally ended up at Heathrow airport. BA had overbooked the flight, so we were offered 600 Euro to fly the next day. However, with our visas expiring that day we decided it was best to pass up the cash. After a good flight where we had good leg room and plenty of sleep we arrived in Sao Paulo. We then caught a 6 hour bus up to Rio, again sleeping most of the way. We located our hotel in Santa Teresa and treated ourselves to a lovely dinner of fish in coconut milk with banana and potatos.
Wander After a good nights sleep and a tasty breakfast we caught Rio´s last remaining electric tram down into the centro. The tram dropped us off at the impressive modern Cathedral – a giant cavernous cone with 60m long stained glass windows. We walked along the baroque Cinelandia and to the National Historico. We caught the metro down to Copacabana where we dipped our toes in the surf. Copacabana occupies
a cresent of white sand, with views to Sugar Loaf Mountain at one end. From there we walked round to Ipanema beach, where all the surfers were. We snacked on corn on the cob and wandered our way back to the metro and home to the hotel.
Views Despite being winter here, we woke the next day to a humid 30 degree heat. Determined to take advantage of the weather we set off for panaramic views. We caught the bus to the base of Corcovada, the hunchback mountain overlooking Rio. From there we jumped on the cog railway and chugged up the side of the mountain to the base of O Christo Redento – Christ the Redeemer. The 30m statue of Jesus was very serene, with his outspread arms looking like he wanted to dive into Guanabarra Bay. The views from his feet across all of Rio were beautiful. After having a fill of the view, we caught the train and bus back to Gloria where we visited a little church full of Portuguese style blue and white tiles. Rio has been fun. Tomorrow we catch the bus back to Sao Paulo to visit a friend of Anna´s.
São Paulo Meeting old friends
We arrived in São Paulo on Friday evening after a long bus ride from Rio. Paula came over to NZ 11 years ago as an exhange student and spent 6 months at Anna´s high school. As soon as we met Anna and Paula started chatting like old times. We were taken to Paula´s home in Jabaquara. After being introduced to her lovely parents and energetic dog Sushi, we had our first of many delicious and filling meals.
Municipal Market On Saturday morning we drove to the Municipal Market in downtown. After a long queue for the car park we explored the stalls. We had brunch at Hocca Bar. Sam ate a GIANT roast pork sandwich while the girls opted for smaller fish filled pastels. The Municipal Market sells goods imported from all around the world. At one stall we were treated to many different fruits, most of which we had never seen before.
Gol! Fuelled up after brunch we drove to the Municipal Stadium. Paula had heard that the new museum was well worth seeing. It was! The museum was a great multi-media experience including virtual soccer, simulated crowds, and commentators. Sam was happy as he got to score a penalty goal at 80km per hour!
Drinking the Brazilian way We visited a bar where Paula´s friend worked famous for Caipirinha (Brazilian fruit cocktail) and coxinhas (fried cheese and chicken parcels). After this we headed back to Paula´s for a delicious Japanese meal followed by another Brazilian desert. On Saturday evening we met several of Paula´s
friends and went to Via Madalena. The area was packed with bars and people drinking outside and enjoying the warm evening.
Avenue Paulista – old meets new On Sunday, treated to another stunning day reaching 30 degrees (in winter!), we explored Avenue Paulista. On Sundays there is an antique market under MASP (Museu de arte de Sao Paulo) and craft market across the road. We wondered along the Avenue to visit some of the remaining art noveau mansions including Casas das rosas. The mansions are surrounded by high rise sky scrappers.
Downtown In the afternoon, after a sizeable delicious Sunday lunch with the family, we caught the metro to Liberdade (little Tokyo). We were greeted by another market and then wondered along to the Cathedral Metropolitana. After this we crossed downtown to Edifico Italia (the tallest building) for a free panaromic view of the city.
Evening drive Paula treated us to an evening drive around Sao Paulo to see a new ´postcard´bridge, the watermelon building and we stumbled upon a light and water show at a park.
Sad goodbyes We were sad to say our goodbyes. Loaded up with food for the journey, thanks to Paula´s generous parents, we headed down to Curitiba on Monday. Hopefully next time it will take Anna and Paula less than 11 years to meet again!
Curitiba After a fun time with Paula in SĂŁo Paulo, we caught a bus with the worldÂ´s slowest driver down to Curitiba in Southern Brazil. We set down our bags in the very cold and basic HI Roma Hostel and headed into the shopping centre nearby for dinner. The next day, we went against our principals and caught the hop on hop off open top tourist bus. It was pretty good value, giving easy access to the sights and a little commentary. We caught the bus to the pretty botanical gardens, funky Oscar Niemeyer Museum, 360 panoramic tower and the historical centre.
The following day we caught our only on time bus to Florinopolis, a small town straddling the main land and Ilha Santa Catarina. We wandered the small town where everyone was polite, and had fun in the food market.
Another long bus ride later we found ourselves in Porto Alegre. We looked at the bus station only to find that our best option for moving on to Uruguay was to hop straight back onto a night bus for 12 hours. At least the bus had nice large seats, that was until it broke down and we had to swap onto a smaller busâ€Ś Still we have now made it to Montevideo, which feels very nice and we will write about shortly.
Argentina 580 km, Brazil 1,068 km
0-14 years: 22.4%
176,215 km2 Climate warm temperate; freezing temperatures almost unknown
3,494,382 15-64 years: 64.3% 65 years and over: 13.3%
Population growth rate
mostly rolling plains and low hills; fertile coastal lowland
Altitude lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m highest point: Cerro Catedral 514 m
Land use arable land: 7.77% permanent crops: 0.24% other: 91.99%
13.91 births/1,000 population
Death rate 9.09 deaths/1,000 population
Life expectancy male: 73.1 years female: 79.72 years
We only spent a short time in Uruguay and only visited Montevideo and Colonia del Sacramento, so it is hard to form too many opinions.
white 88% mestizo 8% black 4% Amerindian (practically nonexistent) Religions
Roman Catholic 47.1% non-Catholic Christians 11.1% nondenominational 23.2% atheist or agnostic 17.2% other 1.1% Jewish 0.3% Languages
Spanish Portunol Brazilero
Uruguay would be much better to visit in Summer when it is hot and you can visit the beaches and ranches. Montevideo was a neat city with a great old town which is slowly falling apart. The delapadation looks neat now but needs to be repaired soon.
2 days $85 per day (1670 Uruguayan pesos) 2.5 hours spent in buses and 1 hour in a ferry
2 hours in transit per day
Colonia del Sacramento
Monte/ video Long time arriving
We arrived after our long bus journey from Porto Alegre feeling a little travel worn we arrived in Montevideo. After a coffee and croissant we managed to bus and walk our way to a lovely hostel in the old city called Posada al Sur. The Ciudad Vieja (old city of Montevideo) is full of lovely crumbling palaces built in a variety of neo classic styles with neat doors and balconies.
Leisurely long lunch To recharge our batteries we sat down in a neat cafĂŠ for the menu of the day. The menu of the day is the best way to have lunch, the main meal, in Uruguay. For 150 pesos (5 pounds) we had coke, leek soup, ham and cheese omelette and dolce de leche torte.
Exploring the Ciudad Vieja Feeling much more human we explored the Ciudad Vieja, walking along the pedestrian Sarandi to Plaza Independencia. In the centre of the square, under an equestrian statue of freedom fighter General Artigas lies a tribute to independence with cool typography and guards in old uniform. On the corner of the plaza is the Palacio Salvo, once the tallest building in South America.
We slowly wandered the lanes under the decaying palacios and edificos to the Cathedral and back to our hostel for a siesta.
For dinner we headed to Plaza Matriz where we ate chivitos, the local version of a hamburger. The chivito was a pita filled with sirloin steak, fried egg, tomato and lettuce.
Further exploration The following day, we had a tasty breakfast at the hostel of cornflakes and dolce de leche on fresh brown bread. Feeling full we continued to wander the streets of the city for the rest of the day. We wandered into the Puerto del Mercado which was completely full of stores grilling various meats and fish. Smoke lay heavy in the air, and all around were Montevideons laughing and drinking.
Summary Montevideo has been a nice place to stay. The people here are very friendly and happy to help us out with our Spanish. The crumbling, once grand buildings give a lovely old world feel. There are other travellers around, which we had not seen much of in Brazil. Tomorrow we are off to Colonia del Sacramento, then the following day to Buenos Aires.
Colonia del Sacramento The lovely weather in Uruguay caved in this morning with high winds and torrential rain blowing in. We caught a taxi to the bus terminal and a bus up the coast to Colonia del Sacramento.
Colonia del Sacramento is a small town with cobbled streets and single storey colonial buildings in various pastel hues. In summer it must be very pretty with blue skies and the the tree lined streets in bloom. Right now though it is a very cold and grey. Colonia is also a big tourist town being only an hour ferry from Beunos Aires. All the prices are in both Uruguan and Argentine pesos. This makes the town a bit on the expensive side. Tomorrow we catch the ferry across to Beunos Aires, where we have booked a funky looking hostel.
Argen/ tina Geography
8th largest country in the world and second in South America
2,780,400 km2 Borders Bolivia 832 km, Brazil 1,261 km, Chile 5,308 km, Paraguay 1,880 km, Uruguay 580 km
Climate mostly temperate; arid in southeast; subantarctic in southwest
40,913,584 0-14 years: 25.6% 15-64 years: 63.5% 65 years and over: 10.8%
Population growth rate 1.053%
Birth rate 13.91 births/1,000 population
rich plains of the Pampas in northern half, flat to rolling plateau of Patagonia in south, rugged Andes along western border
lowest point: Laguna del Carbon -105 m highest point: Cerro Aconcagua 6,960 m
Land use arable land: 10.03% permanent crops: 0.36% other: 89.61%
7.41 deaths/1,000 population
male: 73.32 years female: 79.97 years
Culture Ethnic groups
white (mostly Spanish and Italian) 97% mestizo (mixed white and Amerindian ancestry), Amerindian, or other nonwhite groups 3% Religions
Roman Catholic 92% (less than 20% practicing), Protestant 2%, Jewish 2%, other 4% Languages
Spanish (official) Italian English German French
Our impressions We would have loved to spend more time in Argentina and less in Brazil during our trip. We will have to return to get down into Patagonia and also into the various wine valleys. Argentina had a neat feel with friendly people and plenty to do. Buenos Aires is the equal of any European city for sights with a grand buildings and a funky edge. Iguazu Falls were one of the highlights of the trip and an amazing natural landmark.
6 days $100 per day (210 Argentine pesos)
21 hours in buses 3.5 hours in transit per day
Buenos Aires, Puerto Iguazu and R o s s a r i o
Buenos Aires Day 1 We arrived on the Colonia Express ferry from Montevideo at midday and tried to work out our way to our hostel. Unfortunately we guessed the wrong way and walked a fair way into the neighbourhood of La Boca before realising. An hour later, tired from our packs we arrived at our hostel. We stayed at the Art Factory hostel in San Telmo. The Art Factory is a very funky hostel, one of the best we have stayed in. Each room is decorated by a different graffiti artist. They also organise differnt events every night. San Telmo is a one of the oldest barrios (neighbourhoods) in Buenos Aires. It is full of old decaying Parisian style buildings from the 1800`s. We jumped onto a art walk organised by the hostel around San Telmo. Unfortunately, Monday was a public holiday so all the art galleries were closed. Instead we just wandered around ourselves, looking at antique stores and couples tangoing in the square. For dinner we tried a selection of empanadas, which are like mini cornish pasties but with thinner pastry and tastier filling. We had spinnach, ham and cheese, tomato and mozarella, roqueforte, chicken, and mince. Afterwards we caught the Subte to Ciudad Cultural Konex to watch La Bomba de Tiempo. La Bomba is a percussion band of 15 drummers with crazy amounts of energy. The club was packed with people, and it turned into a big dance party as the drummers pounded mutliple rythms, along with a guest flutest.
Day 2 The next day we walked through the crazy grid patterned streets to the downtown area, known locally as the Microcentre. Buenos Aires spreads out from the Avienda de Mayo, which starts at the Casa Rosadas. The Casa Rosadas, Pink House, is the Presedential residence. The house is pink because it symbolises the union between two parties, one red, one white. Across the square lies the Cathedral which is housed in a neoclassic greek temple. From there we walked along the pedestrian Florida St and stopped for a tasty Argentinian steak lunch for only 6 pounds each. The buildings in the microcentre are all very grand, and would not look out of place in Paris, hence Buenos Aires being the Paris of the South. We walked up to Avienda 9 de Julio, the widest street in the world at 24 lanes! In the centre of the avienda is a 67m obelisk, where the supporters of victorious football teams traditionaly meet. It is also the site of the original Argentine flag when Argentina became independant. After a brief rest back at the hostel, we caught the subte out to Palermo, a leafy (in summer) suburban district. Palermo is where the rich people moved after there was a yellow fever outbreak in San Telmo. Many nice buildings remain, and there are plenty of restaurants and bars. However, being 4pm it was rather dead. To cap off the day, we enjoyed a fun tango show and lesson at our hostel for only 5 pounds each. The musicians were great, and the dancing was fun.
Paris of the South
Day 4 On our last day in Buenos Aires, we caught the bus out to La Boca. To catch the buses in Buenos Aires, you need to have coins, which is difficult because everyone deals in notes. You need coins because the ticket machines on board only accept coins. La Boca, is an old port area that was settled by mostly Italian immigrants. The locals created their houses using zinc sheets, and painted them using the left over paint from the boats. This resulted in a crazy mix of primary hues. Today, the tradition is continued in a very touristy way. The cobbled streets of La Boca are packed with tourist tat, and caricatures of famous Argentines such as Maradona and Evita are everywhere.
Day 3 As the weather had taken a turn for the worse, we decided to head to the area with a collection of musuems, Recoleta. We jumped on a rather decorative bus and slowly made our way through the traffic. Unfortunately the art musuem was not yet open so we instead tackled Buenos Aires Design. There were plenty of funky furniture and homeware stores to tempt us, but with only packs to travel with we managed to walk away unscathed. After a coffee we headed into Buenos Aires` second oldest Church, Basilica Nuestra. It was very atmospheric inside with soft choir music playing. The Church sits next to the Cemetary del la Recoleta, where Evita is buried. We were quite taken aback at the sheer size of the tombs and mausoleums that were more like small decorative houses. The cemetary had an airy feel with many doors on the tombs able to be opened. We then stopped for another tasty steak lunch and headed to the Musea Nacional del belles Artes. The museum had a good collection of both European and Argentine Art. After a rest back at the hostel we had another wonder around our neighbourhood, San Telmo. After tempting ourselves with many more cool design stores we stumbled on the Mercado de San Telmo. After a wander through the stalls, which were fairly quiet being mid-week, we warmed up in a nearby pub.
La Boca is also home to museo de Bellas Artes de la Boca de Artistas Argentinos. The museum is housed in the former house of La Boca´s favourite artist Benito Quinquela Martín. The roof terrace gives great views of the port. The top floor shows off some brilliant paintings by Martin. The first floor has art by other Argentine artists, some of which is also pretty good. We caught the bus back from La Boca to Puerto Madero, another port which has been fully gentrified. The cool by slightly sterile environment contained a cool bridge. The bridge is supposed to represent a couple tangoing, but I could not see that. From the port we did a big walk through the microcentre. Walking along Florida, Corrientes and up to the baroque Congress Building. From there we wandered back down Avienda de Mayo to Casa Rosada and home. For dinner we visited a Parillada in San Telmo. Parillada´s are barbeque houses. We had a tasty large meal of tenderloin beef with roast potatoes.
Summary Buenos Aires was a great city that we really enjoyed. The people were all dressed funky like in Barcelona. The buildings were as grand as those in Paris. The food was cheap and tasty. The neighbourhoods were varied and interesting. We would highly recommend going.
Rosario While Buenos Aires was the Paris of the South, we think Rosario is probably ArgentinaÂ´s equivalent of Hamilton or Milton Keynes. The small brother down the road from the big smoke that wants to be cool too but is not attractive enough.
Continuing the small man syndrome, Rosario has an over the top large monument to the raising of the Argentine flag of independence. However, along the river Parana, we found a really tasty fish restaurant that was recommeded in the Rough Guide. Set on the banks we ate a giant meal of empanada, salad, fries and whole barbeque fish. It was very tasty, and we are still trying to walk it off. Tonight we are going to embark on a 19 hour bus journey to Puerto Iguazu. Wish us well!
Iguazu Falls Argentina We survived our 17 hour bus ride from Rosario to Puerto Iguazu. Our bus was very empty, there were only 10 people to start with, and by the time we reached Iguazu we were the only ones left. We then caught the bus back towards the falls to stay at the HI Hostel Inn, a well set up hostel with a cool common area full of computers, pool tables, table tennis and fusball. We rested the rest of the day. The next morning we awoke to pouring rain. Luckily though the weather broke, and by the time we had caught a bus to the falls the sun was starting to shine. The falls cost 10 pounds to enter, and this includes a train ride out to Garganta de Diablo, the Devil´s Throat. We had met a lovely English couple, Vicky and Carl, at our hostel, who we explored the falls with. We started our day at the Devil´s Throat, and were amazed at the sheer amount of water that was pounding down and the mist that rose above. 1800 cubic metres of water pass over the falls every minute! From the Devil´s Throat we explored Paseo Superior. This passage takes you along the top of the second biggest waterfalls in the park. The view was stunning dotted with brightly coloured rainbows. We then stopped for lunch, during which some very daring Coatis (cute furry animals) were trying their best to get some!
We spent the afternoon along Paseo Inferior, which not surprisingly takes you along the bottom of the second largest falls. This is the fun bit where you can get absolutely soaked and up close and personal with the falls! All in all it was a fun day out. We were also treated to a large range of wildlife, from the cheeky Coatis at lunch to colourful Toucans in the trees and other chattering birds and a large rodent. We finished the day off with a tango show and BBQ in the evening. Both Sam and Anna were dragged up to the stage to dance for a bit.
Brazil The following day we checked out of our hostel and headed to the bus station. We caught a very cheap local bus across the border to Foz do Iguazu. After checking in we headed over to check out the falls from the Brazilian side. Although there are fewer trails to walk and the experience is not quite as intimate, you can get some great panoramic photos from this side. You also get a better appreciation for the sheer scale of the falls. We have spent the rest of our time in Foz relaxing and seeing the town. Shopping has been good and Anna is happy. From here we are heading up to the Pantanal to hopefully see some good wildlife.
Sam and I have been travelling for four weeks now. We are well and truly settled into the trip. It has been really nice to meet other travellers who all have a different story to tell. We have met people who have taken voluntary redundancy, people who are travelling after finishing university, and generally people like us who have the travel bug!
We have just returned from five days in the Pantanal in Brazil. The Pantanal is the worldÂ´s largest wetland, around the size of France. It has two distinct seasons, wet and dry, and is home to more than 10 million aligators!
- Many many many aligators
We stayed at Pousada Santa Clara, a farm located 5 hours from Campo Grande. The Pousada was well set up with a pool, games room, two pavilions with hamocks and a dinning area. We had a cute double room with air conditioning which was needed in the 40 degree plus heat! We spent our time relaxing at the farm and joining in on a number of activities from horse riding, to trekking and a safari drive! One of the highlights was pirana fishing by the camp. We were next to a large number of aligators who were waiting to be fed the fish that were too small. BBQ pirana for dinner was tasty. However, the main reason for visiting the area was to spot some of the wildlife. We were very fortunate to see a number of species. The list goes something like this:
- Hyacinth Macaws (an endangered species that reach up to $10,000 on the black market), they actually live up to 100 years and mate for life - Red Macaw (who was more a pet of the farm than actual wildlife and very noisy at sunrise!) - An armadillo - Howler Monkeys - Cabybara (SamÂ´s favourite, a dog sized hamster like mammal) - Deer - Fox - Brazilian Tapir - Kingfishers - Giant otters - White Jabiru - Pink and Japanese Stalks - Taranchular (eek) - South American Racoon - Ibis, wading birds - Iguanas
28th largest country in the world and ____ in South America
1,098,581 km2 Borders Argentina 832 km, Brazil 3,423 km, Chile 860 km, Paraguay 750 km, Peru 1,075 km
Climate varies with altitude; humid and tropical to cold and semiarid
Terrain rugged Andes Mountains with a highland plateau (Altiplano), hills, lowland plains of the Amazon Basin
9,775,246 0-14 years: 35.5% 15-64 years: 60% 65 years and over: 4.5%
Population growth rate 1.772%
Birth rate 25.82 births/1,000 population
Death rate 7.05 deaths/1,000 population
lowest point: Rio Paraguay 90 m
highest point: Nevado Sajama 6,542 m
male: 64.2 years
Land use arable land: 2.78% permanent crops: 0.19% other: 97.03%
female: 69.72 years
Culture Ethnic groups
Quechua 30% mestizo (mixed white and Amerindian ancestry) 30% Aymara 25% white 15% Religions
Roman Catholic 95% Protestant (Evangelical Methodist) 5% Languages
Spanish 60.7% (official) Quechua 21.2% (official) Aymara 14.6% (official) foreign languages 2.4% other 1.2%
Our impressions Bolivia was our favourite country in South America, largely because it feels how we imagined South America to feel. It was the poorest country at the highest altitude, giving a desolate feel with hard working friendly people. The salt flats were one of the highlights of the trip, and were something we had not experienced anywhere else during our travels.
17 days $54 per day (390 Bolivianos)
30 hours in buses, 24 hours in a 4x4 and 23.5 hours on trains 4.5 hours in transit per day
La Paz, Potosi, SantaCruz, Sucre, Uyuni
Brazil to Bolivia Corumbรก
With a funny Englishman and confident Aussie we meet in the Pantanal, we caught a bus to Corumbรก, on the Brazilian side of the border with Bolivia. We checked into the HI hostel which was nice and clean and tucked into a tasty burger across the road. The next day we bought our train tickets and taxied across the border to Bolivia. We caught the death train operated by Ferroviaria Oriental to Santa Cruz, first class. The train rattled round a lot, but we managed to sleep a fair bit.
by taxi and train Santa Cruz
The four of us stayed at the lovely Residential Bolivar on Calle Sucre in the heart of the old town. The rooms are arrayed around a leafy courtyard with hammocks. The breakfast was tasty with wholemeal rolls and nice fruit. The old town of Santa Cruz contains maining lovely colonial buildings with deap wooden porches. The central market is very large and contains lots of knock off brands. We had a nice couple of days, then caught a cramped bus to Sucre.
Sucre We are about to embark on a 5 week GAP tour from Sucre to Lima. We are a little unsure of doing an organised tour as we normally like to do it ourselves. However we wanted to do the Inca Trail in Peru, and you have to book that 3 months in advance. The cost of doing the 5 week tour was not much more on top of the Inca Trail. Before going on a 5 week tour we decided to have a relaxing time in Sucre.
Day 1 Feeling a little wiped out after our long bus journey from Santa Cruz, we took things a little easy on our first day, slowly ambling the narrow streets staring at all the white washed buildings. Sucre is at an alitude of 2700m, and you can feel the lack of oxygen when you first arrive. We had one last dinner with Ryan, whom we met in the Pantanal. We ate at the Joy Ride Cafe, which brands itself as `Possibly the best bar in townÂ´. The food is very tasty with generous portion sizes.
La Ciudad Day 2
Feeling much stronger and more used to the altitude, we set off up the hill to Recoleta. On route we stopped at the Museo de Arte Indigena. An excellent museum that showcases the different weaving techniques and patterns of the different local indeginous groups, especially: / Jalqâ€™a / Tarabuco The weaves in the museum were beautiful and made us even keener to get to the Sunday market at Tarabuco where the Tarabuquenos sell their wares. Further up the hill in Recoleta, infront of an old convent there is a lovely mirrador with execellent views back across the city. We wandered back down the hill for a cheap supermarket lunch before catching the Sauro Tour bus to Parque Cretacio. The parque is a limestone quarry where the workers discovered the worldÂ´s largest collection of dinosaur prints. The are over 5000 different prints made by 435 different dinosaurs. There are four different family types of
dinosaur represented. Entrance to the park includes a guide, who was very good. Sucre is currently celebrating 200 years of Independence from Spain, and judging by the celebrations, they are pretty happy about it. Every night there is a parade with people dancing in costume to brass bands. The festival itself is for the Virgin of Guadalupe.
Day 3 Tarabuco, 65km from Sucre, has a large market every Sunday. The local indeginous Tarabuqunoes come to the market to buy their weekly shopping and sell handicrafts to tourists. To get there you can jump on a local micro, or much easier get the tourist bus from infront of the Cathedral at 8.30am. It was fun walking around and looking at all the brightly coloured weaves. We bought alpaca golves and hats (dorky but needed for the cold salt flats of Uyuni), a doll dressed in local atire, and a lovely rug. In the evening we watched more processions celebrating the Virgin.
Days 4-8 We spent the rest of our time in Sucre relaxing, shopping and learning Spanish. We found a neat Spanish school, the Bolivian Spanish School, where we were able to have private lessons for 5 us dollars each per hour. We had a fantastic teacher, Jorge, who was very patient with us. Our vocabularly is increasing by the day and we are structuring sentences and understanding more of what is spoken to us. We were also lucky to catch up both with Penny, a lovely Australian girl, we met in the Pantanal and Carl and Vicky, a great English couple, we met in Iguazu. Next we are off to Potosi with our tour group. The group is made up of two Norwegians, an Australian girl, a German guy and our guide is Argentian. I feel a joke coming onâ€Ś
Potosi After leaving Sucre, we travelled onto Potosi, which at over 4000 metres high is the highest city in the world. Potosi has somewhat of an old world charm about it, with crumbling Colonial frontages. The main reason people come to visit Potosi is to see and experience the working conditions in the mines. In its hey day Potosi was the largest city in the world, around the 17th century, after silver was discovered in one of the mountains. The Spaniards took control once the silver was found and made the indigenious people work non stop. After they protested they then put African slaves down the mines but they could not cope with the cold. A checkered history. The mine is now almost completely depleated of silver but is still mined for minerals such as zinc, lead and tin. There are about 1500 miners working and over 6,000 entrances, 600 of which are still safe to us. Sadly on average 3 workers die each month from accidents in the mines. There are several entrances that tourists can visit. After being suited up in overalls and given head lamps we were led deep into the mine. Once inside we had to walk bent over and crawl in places. We visited two miners who were working in there, Eduardo and Jose. They each work alone in a designated area for 12 hours a day. They only earn money for what they bring out. Hard to fathom really.
We bought some treats for the miners and their children including coca leaves, biscuits and dynamite. Sam even got to explode some outside afterwards, and yes all the girls watching managed to scream and jump when it went off. In the evening we cheered ourselves up with a glass of Bolivian wine and a delicious whole trout cooked in garlic and cream. However, later that night we could still not keep thinking about the working conditions the miners still have to endure. It seems so futile in this day and age. To complete our stay in Potosi, the next day we visited the Coin Museum. The museum was once home to 200 rooms and the centre of the coin production in Potosi. We were lead through a guided tour of the history of the complex, from the adminstration to the manufacturing of the coins. Coins were originally made in Potosi and shipped all around the world. The coins were originally made of 93% silver and 7% copper, at that time the purest in the world. The coins were essentially worth their weight. Sadly now Bolivian money is now made in France, Spain and even Canada. In the afternoon we headed onto Uyuni to begin our 3 day four wheel drive tour of the salt flats. Our guide Barbara, also organised private cabs for us today to shave sometime of the journey which was nice.
City Highest the
Uyuni salt flats,
Uyuni is a nothing city, the reason for going is the Salar / Salt Flats. We enjoyed a three day / two night 4X4 tour.
Day 1 / Salt Flats We started our trip with a visit to a train cemetary. Bolivia imported steam trains in the 1920Â´s to transport the minerals from Potosi to Chile. In the 1980Â´s they scrapped them. It now makes for a neat jungle jim to climb over. From there we drove into the Salar. The Salar was originally part of the Atlantic Ocean, but due to tectonic movement it was lifted to an altitude of 4000m. All the water has evaporated leaving the salt lakes.
Families buy 100m by 100m plots of the salt flats. They create large piles of salt which are then collected by truck. A family of 16 generally fills two trucks every month and earns 2000 Bolivianos (180 pounds). We drove into the centre of the Salar to Fish Island, so named because it vaugely looks like a fish (if you squint in the glare and balance on your left leg) and is made of coral. It is surreal standing on dried coral in a salt desert surrounded by 900 year old cacti. We spent two hours taking silly photos on the salt flats taking advantage of the optical illusions. For accomodation there are various salt hotels. Buildings, beds etc all made of salt bricks. We were warned that temperatures at night could sink as low as -30 degrees celcius. Luckily for us, it did not get much below freezing.
lagoons & desert
Day 2 / Lagoons
Day 3 / Desert
The next day we left the Salar behind and headed across desert and through tall mountains. We stopped off at various lagoons to watch the flamingoes and even a fox.
We rose early to find that it had been snowing overnight and we were amongst the clouds. The temperature stayed below freezing all day.
That evening we stayed in a basic hotel next to the red lagoon. There were plenty of llamas around, with coloured wool tied in their ears. The red lagoon is more a dusty pink or salmon colour. The lake covers over 60km but is only 80cm deep. The red lagoon is coloured by tiny particles, these particles get into the plummage of the flamingoes making them an even brighter pink than usual. I jokingly came up with this story, but then found out it was true when reading a local guide. In peak season there are up to 26000 flamingoes in the red lagoon alone.
We drove to some small geysers and mud pools then on to the green lagoon. The green lagoon is supposed to be one of the highlights of the trip. Unfortunately the cloud was so thick we could only see a murky green lagoon, and not the brilliant reflection of a lovely mountain. The green lagoon is coloured by arsenic, lead, magnesium and calcium carbonate. A rather poisonous cocktail making for zero wildlife. The rest of the day was a long drive back to Uyuni, followed by an overnight train to Oruro then a bus the next day to La Paz.
La Paz Day 1
After over 24 hours travelling from the green lagoon to La Paz we were feeling a little tired. We rested up on the first day before going out on the town. We went to a great Thai restuarant called Maphrao On, then hit the tiles till the early hours in MongoÂ´s.
Day 2 We started the day with a great breakfast of muselie and fresh fruit at Banais before exploring La Paz. La Paz has a reputation for being just a big dirty city. However, we found the old town area was very nice. Outside the Presedential Palace were guards in red 18th Centuary uniforms. Calle Jaen is a pretty little cobbled street full of small museums and gives a taste of what La Paz would have been like a couple of centuaries ago. There is a giant market in the Aymarra part of La Paz that our guide book estimated at 30 blocks. Every street in the area is flanked by stalls selling clothes, food, electronics etc. We had great fun wandering through and buying up on handicrafts.
20th largest country in the world and ____ in South America
1,285,216 km2 Borders olivia 1,075 km, Brazil 2,995 km, Chile 171 km, Colombia 1,800 km, Ecuador 1,420 km
Climate varies from tropical in east to dry desert in west; temperate to frigid in Andes
29,546,963 0-14 years: 29.1% 15-64 years: 65.2% 65 years and over: 5.7%
Population growth rate 1.229%
Birth rate 19.38 births/1,000 population
western coastal plain (costa), high and rugged Andes in center (sierra), eastern lowland jungle of Amazon Basin (selva)
lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m highest point: Nevado Huascaran 6,768 m
Land use arable land: 2.88% permanent crops: 0.47% other: 96.65%
6.14 deaths/1,000 population
male: 68.88 years female: 72.69 years
Peru had the most sites to see of any country. As a result Peru also had the highest concentration of tourists and locals trying to exploit the tourists.
Amerindian 45% mestizo (mixed Amerindian and white) 37% white 15% black, Japanese, Chinese, and other 3% Religions
Roman Catholic 81.3% Evangelical 12.5% other 3.3% unspecified or none 2.9% Languages
Spanish (official) Quechua (official) Aymara A large number of minor Amazonian languages
We still enjoyed Peru though, because the sites are amazing, particularly the Inca Trail. We ending up spending more time in Peru than elsewhere.
25 days $55 per day (160 Peruvian soles)
44 hours spent in buses, 8 on a boat, 2 on a plane and 24 hours trekking
3 hours in transit per day
Arequipa, Colca Canyon, Cusco, Huanchaco, Inca Trail, Lake Titicaca, Lima, Mancora, N a s c a , Ollataytambo, Pisco, and Puno
Lake Titicaca Puno
Lake Titicaca is the highest lake in the world at almost 4000m above sea level. The lake is 165km long and 62km wide, and is shared almost evenly by Peru and Bolivia. It is also the spiritual home of the Inca’s as the birthplace of the sun and moon gods. We caught the bus from La Paz in Bolivia to Puno in Peru, lunching in Copacabana. There is not much to Puno, just a couple of colonial squares and a rowdy local market. At Coca Kintu we had one of our best dinners on the trip to date. Anna had alpaca in a red wine and fig sauce. Sam had lamb cutlets in an apple, pecan and spearmint sauce.
Isla Tequille The next day we caught a boat out into the lake. The boat was very nice and made locally. It was powered by a 60’s Ford engine making it rather slow. After three hours sailing we arrived at Isla Tequille where we climbed up many steps for lovely panoramic views of the lake. We had a very tasty lunch of grilled trout washed down with Inca Kola, which tasties like creaming soda.
Isla Amantaní We caught the boat for another hour to Isla Amantaní. We were introduced to our host family at the dock and shown to their house. The family was made up of mum and dad, their three daughters and one grandson. The family spoke Quechua, and a little Spanish (but more Spanish than us).
After a short break we were taken up the football ground, where Sam played a bit / almost scoring a goal. Next we set off up the hill to a pre-Incan temple. The walk up was tough in the altitude, but we found that if you stopped you quickly got your breath back. If you walk around the temple anticlock wise three times you get to make a wish. We completed this task and were rewarded with a lovely sunset. Back down with our families we were cooked a tasty vegetarian meal of quinoa soup, rice and pototoes and coca tea. To thank the family we gave them a present of olive oil, tuna, pasta and a toy for the grandchild. Our families dressed us up in local custome for a party. Sam had a red poncho, Anna was in embroided blouse, skirts and cloak. We danced the night away to Andean music.
Uros floating islands After a tasty crepe breakfast we caught the boat back to Puno, stopping at the floating islands of the Uros people. The Uros people fled the Amazon and settled in Lake Titicaca before the Incas, but at some stage were forced to live on floating islands in the lake. The islands are made from 9×4x1m sections of the roots of totara reeds, then covered with another 3m of criss-crossed reeds. Each island survives for about 15 years and needs constant upkeep in the wet season. We stopped at one island, where we saw how the people lived. It felt rather touristy, especially since the people living there are not the original Uros. After another evening in Puno we caught the bus up to Cusco.
Cusco From Puno we caught a hot and stuffy bus to Cusco, the capital of the Inca´s. Unfortunately Anna was not feeling well and stayed in bed that afternoon. She did not feel well for a few days but luckily recovered before the Inka Trail. Overall we found Cusco too touristy, feeling more like Bangkok than South America. In the Plaza de Armas you could not walk two steps without someone offering a massage or drugs.
Mountaineering Cusco is surrounded by low mountains. We set off up the hills behind the cathedral. We walked up to Sacsayhuamán, an acient Inca fort. The climb was tough as Cusco is at 3700m. The stones used to make the fortress were very impressive, weighing up to 6 tonnes. The stonework was impressive as the different shaped rocks sat flush with each other without any mortar. Also the walls were cleaverly created in a zig zag pattern so that any attackers would be broken up and have to expose their flanks while scaling the wall. For better views back over the city we climbed the next mountain. Below a large white Christ the Redeemer we had a beautiful view of the Plaza das Armas, red tiled roof tops and various church spires. For lunch we stopped at the gringo favourite, Jack´s. We ate two very large tasty sandwhichs and toddled off back to the hotel feeling a little sick. Around the corner from Jack´s is a famous 12 sided stone in the foundations of the Arzobispado.
The next morning we visited the Qoricancha museum in the Santo Domingo Church. The Qoricancha temple to the sun god was once the most important temple in the Incan empire. The temple was ringed in gold with a golden garden in the centre. Sadly all that remains now are a few walls, surrounded by the Dominican church. The museum was a little disappointing and haphazard. In the afternoon we visited the San Pedro market. A large food market ringed by handicraft stalls. We got a very large and tasty banana milkshake for $US 1 each.
Museum morning The next morning was taken up visiting a couple of museums; The Inka Museum and the Arzobispado. The Inka Museum is just behind the Plaza das Armas in an old mansion. The museum is very interesting covering pre-incan to post-Spanish rule, including Nasca mummies and a scale model of Machu Picchu. The Arzobispado contains colonial religious paintings in the old arch bishops residence. The paintings are in the Cusquñea style with plenty of gold leaf forming a lattice over the clothes of the holy. You get a free audio guide with the entrance ticket. That evening we found out there was a possible strike on the Machu Picchu train line the day we were to return from the Inka Trail, possibly meaning we would have to trek it in three days instead of four…
En route to the sacred valley we stopped at the small village of Ccaccaccolla, where GAP sponsor a community project of weaverÂ´s. GAP help with teaching the woman how to weave useing traditional methods including the natural dying of wool. We love handicrafts and bought a beautiful red and green table runner made from alpaca. The sacred valley of the IncaÂ´s was a large argricultural area for the Inca community. The valley has three harvests per year, producing a large quantity of food. We visited two terraced sites for growing the food; Pisac and Ollantaytambo. The sacred valley or Urubamba Valley is just north of Cusco.
Pisac Pisac is three times the size of Machu Picchu with large numbers of terraces all with their own residential blocks. It was all protected by fortified walls. We entered through the serpent gate. The gate entrances are trapezoidal, making them stronger against the frequent earthquakes. We climbed to the religious area, which afforded brilliant views of the sacred valley around. The
religious area contained various rooms for the priests and sacred fountains. In the centre was a round temple to the sun. The altar in the temple was carved out of the bed rock and was used as a yearly astronomical clock.
Ollantaytambo Ollantaytambo is slightly different as the residential area is a planned city, which still functions. We dropped our bags off at our hotel then explored the agricultural and religious sites. The terraces of the Ollantaytambo supposedly make the shape of a sitting llama, but I think that is looking for something that is unintentionally there. Afterall, a sitting llama is not a very specific shape. The religious site at the top fo the terraces is very impressive. The stonework here was similar to that in Cusco. The stones were cut from a quarry ontop of a nearby mountain and dragged to the site where they were shaped. Afterwards we explored the residential town, still in the same grid layout as inca times. The next morning we awoke early and started the Inca Trail.
Inca´s of the
Inca Trail to General information
From the Sacred Valley we started the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Officially only 500 people are allowed to start the trail each day including guides and porters, meaning there are about 200 tourists starting the trail each day. There are many different Inca roads throughout the Inca empire, but there is only one trail that you can hike to Machu Picchu. There is plenty of competition to get amongst the 200 tourists permitted on the trail. Officially you only need to register 30 days out, but to get on the trek we booked four months in advance.
We woke at 7.30 and drove from Ollantaytambo to the 82km point (82km along the 130km sacred valley) to start the trek at Piskacuchu. We got stamps in our passport, crossed a suspension bridge and were on our way.
There was the threat of a possible strike on the train line from Aguas Caliente to Cusco on the day we were to return from the trek. This meant we may have had to do the four day trek in three. Confirmation of whether a strike would occur or not would not be till the second night. That meant we pushed hard and did most of the trek in the first two days. We trekked with a small day pack containing our wet weather gear, water and snacks. Our porters carried an additional provided duffle bag containing our changes of clothes. As we are travelling for three months in South America we trekked in walking shoes instead of hiking boots. These were perfectly adequate. If you are worried about your ankles going downhill you may want boots. We also rented good quality hiking sticks which helped pull you up hill and steady us downhill. Our group consisted of 16 tourists, 2 guides, 2 cooks and 20 porters. The porters carry your gear, tents, cooking tents, cooking and dinning tents and seats, food, and lights. Their packs can weight a maximum of 25kg.
With the sun shining strong and Mt Victoria looking splended covered in snow, we sped along the trail. The path is almost non-existant on the first day trekking. You also pass through various villages. It does not really feel like you are taking an acient incan passage. We did pass two sets of ruins though; small look out points and terracing. These sites were Salapunka and Torontoy. For lunch we stopped below Wayllabamba, the normal place for resting at the end of the first day. I feel that if you stopped here you probably would not feel like you accomplished anything on the first day. Instead we carried a third of the way up Dead WomanÂ´s Pass to Yunkachimpa. Dead WomanÂ´s Pass is normally what you do on day 2. The pass is at 4200m, having started the day at 2700m. We found trekking at altitude not that hard, probably as we had already been at altitude for the past month. Those in our group who had just had one day in Cusco (3700m) found it more challenging. When we arrived at camp the porters clapped us in (as they did each night). We had a snack of popcorn and tea and waited for dinner. Dinner consisted of a tasty soup and a main of chicken and vegetables. Vegetarians and those allergic were served separately. After dinner we were introduced to the team and said a little about ourselves also. The Porters were mostly in their twenties, although the ages ranged from 19 to 56. They came from a variety of different villages mostly around Cusco and Lares.
Machu Picchu Day 2 The next day, still not knowing whether we would have to do the trek in three or four days we woke at 5am for our biggest day of trekking. First we climbed another third of Dead Woman´s Pass to Llulluchapampa for a tasty quinoa oatmeal and omelette breakfast at 6.30am. We made ourselves a large waterbottle of coca tea to help us with the alitude and fuel us. The water provided on the trail is boiled in a plastic bag, making it taste bad. It was much better to use the water to make tea and drink that cold instead. From there we slowly ascended through cloud forrest to the top of Dead Woman´s Pass (Warmiwañusca) so called because it looks like a woman reclining from the distance, rather than it killed any woman getting up. The views down into the valleys from the pass were stunning. The pass is the highest point on the trail at 4215m.
We left lunch at 1pm and climbed Runquaraqay Pass (3760m). En rout we stopped at runquaraqay ruins, an Incan message point. The Incan´s had messenger posts all over the empire, using runners to relay important information. A message from Cusco could reach Lima in 1,5 days, covering 300km. We then descended through cloudforrest past the ruins of Sayacmarca. The stone path here is virtually original Incan. The cloud forrest was very cool with big mossy trees and watering spongy undergrowth. Eventually we reach camp at the third pass of Phuyupatamarca (3600m). The pass gave stunning views back to the Urubamba valley and the start of the Amazon rain forrest. During the days walking we mostly stayed in team rapido at the front, consisting of Lorriane, Gill, Dorris, Javier and ourselves.
The trail here is made of many stones in large steps. Most of this part of the trail is not original.
It was a great sense of achievement to take all three peaks in a single day over 16km. We were relieved to be clapped into camp and for the hot tea, snacks and dinner waiting.
We then descended through llama grassland, running down the stoney steps to lunch at Paqaymayo. Paqaymayo is the usual spot to stop for the day. Not for us though, we still had two more passes to climb!
That evening we found out the train strike was not going to affect us, leaving us with an easy third day of walking so we could rest up for Machu Picchu on the fourth day.
Day 3 With no strike we had the luxury of sleeping in till 7.30am. Unfortunately the weather was not so kind, we were up in the rain clouds, which did not let up. The slowly trudged through the rain down the most original Incan path on the trail. The first set of ruins we passed were below the pass at Phuyupatamarca. We made our way down to Intipata, which ironically means sun tower. Initpata was still in the clouds spoiling what is supposed to be one of the best views of the trail. Intipata was still very interesting, consisting of a large space of convex terraces and religious buildings. From there we reached camp at Wi単aywayna for lunch. In the afternoon we then explored the most impressive ruins of the trail. Wi単aywayna is another set of terraces, residential and religious buildings and are very well preserved. The terraces are sheltered from the warm Amazonian winds. The cooler air temperature meant that different crops could be grown to those on the exposed Intipata. We had great fun running down the terraces next to the cascading fountains to the residential area at the bottom. The houses were in good condition with steep gables and some were even two storey. We ate another tasty dinner, and the cooks even brought out a cake. We presume the cake was baked in the nearby bar (only building during the trail). Afterwards we thanked the porters and handed over our tips to the porters, cooks and guides. Wi単aywayna is a large campsite as this is where everyone comes to get to the sungate for sunrise the next morning. There is a large bar with not too overpriced drinks. You can also get a warm shower if you want for $US 2. We did not bother with this as we figured we would still get hot trekking the next morning.
Day 4 We awoke the final morning at 4am, ate a light breakfast and said our goodbyes to the porters. The porters do not go to Machu Picchu, instead they rush off to Aguas Caliente to get an early train home. Sadly our Norweigen friend Kari had been sick all night and was not looking good to finish the trail. We left here and Thea at the back with the assistant guide and carried on ahead to Intipunku, the sungate. Having got through the final checkpoint at 5.30am we arrived at Intipunku at 7am. The sun was hitting the gate, and also illuminating Machu Picchu in the distance perfectly. After staring at the great view for a while we then trekked another 30 minutes to the guardhouse above Machu Picchu. The terraces above Machu Picchu at the guardhouse are the excellent postcard shots that everyone knows. Silver, our guide, then took us on a short tour of Machu Picchu, showing us the fountains (there are 16 in total), the round tower and temple to Pachamama, and the sun temple with intiwatana (sun clock). Afterwards we left our group and ambled around the large site. We wandered through the residential area then climbed back up to the guardhouse for more shots in better lighting. In the tour, Silver told us about Bingham from Yale who discovered Machu Picchu. He recieved Presedential permission to search for the site, which convinced local MayorÂ´s to help. Eventually he paid a local farmer 1 soles ($US 0.30) to show him the site. There are now disputes over whether Yale University or Peru should get the plunder from the tombs surrounding the site. Afterwards we caught a crazy train back to Ollantaytambo where there was a weird local dance and a fashion show. After another bus ride back we arrived in Cusco rather tired. The Inca Trail was fantastic and we highly recommed it to everyone.
We arrived late in the evening after a short flight from Cusco to Arequipa. We had one of the best hotels on the tour so far, Hostal Solar. Very funky and clean, ask for a room on the second floor up though. We had a tasty and cheap turkish meal and El Turko before getting an early night.
Day 2 The next morning we rose early to catch a private bus to the Colca Canyon. We had a really good guide called Elly who was informative along the route. However, we had one hurdle to cross before leaving the city. The police. There was a rally on later that day and apparently we needed some mysterious piece of paper to allow us to leave. A long discussion and 20 soles later (apparently the going rate to pay off the police), we were let through. En route we went through a Vicu単a reserve. There are three of these in Peru where the wild llamas are protected. Their fur is considered to be amongst the softest in the world (10 mircrons) and as such can reach up to 1000 us dollars per kg. We wound our way past three snow capped mountains, Ampato, Sabazaya, and Wallqu Wallqu to Patapampa which at 4915m was the highest point of the pass. At the pass we stopped to make statues to the Pachamama and offer three coca leaves each. We then drove past Mismi Mountain, the official starting point of the Amazon river. We stopped for a tasty buffet lunch at Chivay then continued onto our accommodation at Mama Yacchi Hotel. In the afternoon we went for a walk and stumbled upon some pre-incan ruins.
Day 3 We awoke at 5am to have breakfast and travel to the Cruz de Condor to watch the Condors take their morning flight. We left early as they fly between 8-10am on the hot air currents. The Condors live up to 75 years and mate for life. If the female dies then the male flies to 9000m to commit suicide. If the male dies, the female lives on but alone. They considered to be lazy birds for several reasons. They do not kill and they do not like to flap their wings (hence gliding on the hot air currents). When we arrived at the mirador there were several condors perching on the Canyon cliff. We spent about 1 hour watching their flight from several angles. There were up to 10 in the sky at any one time, swoping overhead with their 3m wingspan. The Canyon is the deepest in the world. At one point it measures 4,100m! At the point we watched the Condors it was 1,000m deep. We returned to Arequipa that evening and met up with an English friend, Ryan, who we had been travelling with in Brazil and Bolivia.
In the morning we explored the Santa Catalina Convent. The Convent is 400 years old and essentially is a city within the city. Woman used to pay to enter the Convent and stay within the Novices Cloister for up to one year before deciding whether to become a fully fledged nun. The nuns had no contact with the outside world apart from through a screen. Their families were no longer able to touch them but could give gifts through a turnstyle. Each nun had her own house with kitchen. They preyed for most of the day. We wondered through a number of the houses. Depending on how much money they paid depended on the size of their house, some where two levels. It was quite airy walking through the houses set up like the nuns had just walked out the door. The Convent was made of the same white stone as many of the religious buildings in the city. However, to protect the nuns eyes they painted the stone a rusty orange and blue tones. In the afternoon we met Ryan again to explore the markets and had a tasty cheap set lunch. In the evening we ate again at El Turko before heading off on a night bus to Nazca.
Nazca, Pisco, and Nazca
We arrived on a night bus from Arequipa and said goodbye to Thea and Kari who were heading onto Lima early. After checking into our hotel we visited a Cementary complete with a number of mummies. Sam enjoyed taking pictures while Aarti and Anna tried to talk about something else. We then did our flight over the Nazca lines. We flew in a four seater Cessina plane with a podgy but cheerful pilot. The flight was a little bumpy and you spend half your time on your side to view the lines. Not for the faint hearted. The lines are a great mystery as no one quite knows why they are there. We flew over the whale, triangles, astronaut, dog, monkey, hands, condor, hummingbird and tree. The flight took around 35 minutes and cost 64 us dollars (cost depends on season). You can turn up at the airport and negotiate your price there. We spent the rest of the day relaxing by the pool at the hotel.
We departed the hotel around 9am to Pisco in our private van. En route we stopped at the tower which costs 1 soles to climb, from where you can see closer up the hands and tree nazca lines. On the drive to Huachachina Oasis we watched the movie Twilight on the bus much to the delight of Anna and Aarti. Huachachina Oasis has a large pool in the centre surrounded by palm trees and 400m high sand dunes. We took a dune buggy and sand boarding trip into the dunes. The dune buggy ride was like being on a personal roller coaster and Anna and Aarti screamed accordingly. In the afternoon we had a tasty fish lunch and relaxed by the restaurants pool. If you are in the area, the dune buggy trip is well worth it at only 15 us dollars. In Ica we stopped at a winery to learn about the wine and pisco making process. We also sampled a few varieties and left with a big bottle of pisco sour pre-mix. We spent the night in Pisco. Unfortunately due to an earthquake in 2007 much of the city still lies in ruins or is under construction. You would be better off staying in either Ica or at the Oasis.
Lima We caught a cheap bus to Lima in the morning. The trip takes around 3 hours. We met up with Kari and Thea at the hotel and had a tasty lunch of Ceviche (a marinated raw fish dish) at Peunte Azul. A very popular choice with locals and travellers and well worth the wait. Anna was kidnapped by the girls and taken for a pampering session at a spa for her birthday. A lovely treat. Meanwhile Sam bought a tasty lemon meringue pie and candles for dessert. We had a tasty dinner and much to Annaâ€™s embarrasment the waiters sung her happy birthday in Spanish! Having consumed the bottle of pisco sour between us we danced the night away at Gothica. Thanks to Thea and Kari organising for us to be on the list! On our last day in Lima we wondered through the Artesian markets looking for a few more Peruvian souviners. We then wondered down to the waterfront to stare out at the Pacific Ocean and try to catch a glimpse of NZ. In the evening we cooked dinner with Aarti, Kari and Thea before saying our goodbyes and hopping on a night bus to Trujillo.
Northern Peru Trujillo / Huanchaco We arrived at 7am on a night bus from Lima then caught a taxi from Trujillo to Huanchaco. Huanchaco is a small fishing village in Northern Peru, the main reason to visit here is either for the surf or to visit many pre-incan archeological sites around Trujillo. We found a reasonably priced hostal, Naylamp, in our guide book that we went for. After sleeping a bit longer we headed to the market to get some supplies for lunch and to cook dinner. In the afternoon we caught a small local bus to the Chan Chan complex. Chan Chan was a large city, most of which you can no longer visit. You can visit the Nik An Palace, site museum, Huaca de Esmeralda and Huaca Arco Iris. You get access to all four sites for 11 soles ($US4). Taxi drivers offered to drive us around all the sites for 40 soles ($US14), we just walked and caught local transport spending only 20 soles ($US7). We started exploring Chan Chan with the palace, walking through plazas, temples and tombs adorned with carvings of fish, birds and fish nets. We then went to the Museo de Citeo which was not worth visiting. From here we caught another local bus to view Huaca Esmeralda which was a temple made of mud brick. Most of the carvings here have been lost. We then caught a taxi to the last site called Huaca Arco Iris, which was a larger temple with one wall completely covered in carvings. The temples today are rather oddly placed in the middle of houses. We spent the afternoon relaxing by the beach and cooking a tasty pasta dinner. The next day we decided to explore Trujillo before heading to the Temple of the Moon and Sun.
Huanchaco, Trujillo and Mancora
The Temple of the Moon and Sun In Trujillo We walked through Plaza de Mayor which is framed by colourfully painted Colonial buildings to the Central Market. We stopped for yet another tasty fruit smoothie, a great choice in South America, to fuel up and get some fresh fruit. We then had a tasty set menu lunch for 5 soles. We have developed a taste for Lomo Saltado, a salted beef stir fry. After lunch we caught a collectivo (shared van) to the Temples. The site was discovered in 1991 and the dig is progressing slowly funded by a University in Trujillo and a large beer company. The temples and the town were from the Moche Culture who founded an empire in 400-700AD. At its peak the capital had 20,000 people. The temples are made up of adobe bricks weighing up to 100kgs and with enscriptions on each brick representing a family. The most amusing enscription was a smiley face! The Huaca de la Sol is larger but mostly eroded away, caused by the Spanish diverting the Rio Moche. The Huaca de la Luna consists of 5 pyramid temples built on top of each other by consecutive Kings. Sacrifices were carried out by the priestesses to appess the gods. They believed that the gods were responsible for the weather. The empire fell apart when there was a bad el nino weather season and the priest could not control it through sacrifices. After this time some people broke off and founded Chan Chan. As the dig progresses on site they find new things each day. In the fourth layer the walls were painted with vivid reds, yellows and whites. The engravings depicted the main god in different moods. One engraving also gave a glimpse into daily life showing the animals, fishing boats amonst other things. The god represents nature with octupus tentacles for hair (the sea) and a jaguar mouth (the forrest). Sadly when the Spanish arrived they diverted the river which destroyed much of the city. They also carried out very crude excavations to steal any gold. Gold pieces that were found were then melted down and sent to Spain. Again we were witness to the needless destruction caused at the hands of the Spanish. After heading back to Huanchaco for a tasty falafel dinner when caught a taxi to Trujillo to meet our night bus to Mancora.
Mancora Mancora is dubbed in our guide book as a spot on the Northern Coast of Peru not to be missed. Having stayed here for a few days we are not going to disagree! Mancora is a lovely small town. It has accommodation options for every budget and different spots depending on whether you want to party or just chill and stare out at the ocean. We chose to stay at a lovely b&b just out of town called Mancoral. Our balcony looks straight out to the Pacific Ocean. Its a hard life sometimes. We were only a short walk into town, 1/2 hour along the beach, when we needed supplies. The bird life in Mancoral is brilliant. Great flocks of up to 50 Pelicans flie overhead in a V formation. There are also storks, gulls and hawks. Surprisingly, having only travelled 9 hours from Huanchaco the water is a lot warmer. The beach also has lovely white sand and we have been treated to blue skies each day. A great spot to recharge the batteries before heading across the border to Ecuador!
73rd largest country in the world and ____ in South America
283,561 km2 Borders Colombia 590 km, Peru 1,420 km
Climate tropical along coast, becoming cooler inland at higher elevations; tropical in Amazonian jungle lowlands
Terrain coastal plain (costa), inter-Andean central highlands (sierra), and flat to rolling eastern jungle (oriente)
14,573,10 0-14 years: 31.1% 15-64 years: 62.7% 65 years and over: 6.2%
Population growth rate 1.497%
Birth rate 20.77 births/1,000 population
Death rate 4.99 deaths/1,000 population
lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: Chimborazo 6,267 m
male: 72.37 years
Land use arable land: 5.71% permanent crops: 4.81% other: 89.48%
female: 78.37 years
Ecuador was a little disappointing after Bolivia and Peru. There was a weird mix of most things being dearer but some cheaper, such as the buses.
mestizo (mixed Amerindian and white) 65% Amerindian 25% Spanish and others 7% black 3% Religions
Roman Catholic 95% other 5% Languages
Spanish (official) Amerindian languages (especially Quechua)
The undoubted highlight was visiting Galapogos with the abundant wildlife and brilliant snorkelling. We would advise only visiting Galapogos and not bothering with the rest of the country.
17 days $79 per day
27 hours spent in buses, 40 on a boat and 2 on a plane 4 hours in transit per day
Ba単os, Mindo, Otavalo, Quito and Galapogos
The road to
Quito We left Perú for Ecuador, aiming to get to Otavalo for the Saturday market.
Guayaquil We booked the 9.30pm Cifa bus from Macora to Guyaquil, as these had full ´cama´ seats. Unfortunately we were told this bus had ´broken down´ so we were placed on the semi-cama 11pm bus with no refund. We think our bus was simply cancelled as not enough people had booked, there were just the five gringos there. The border control into Ecuador is rather severe. Our bus was stopped and searched on three seperate occaisons. There was one black man on our bus, and he was picked on each time. We arrived in Guyaquil rather tired after the bad bus at 6am. We booked an onward bus to Baños for 2pm later that day. We caught the metro bus into town for $0.50 and started to explore. Most tourists skip Guyaquil, but the city has gone through an extensive regeneration project over the past two decades, doing up the waterfront and Las Peñas areas.
We started with the waterfront, which has a funky boardwalk and lookout towers, botanical gardens, outdoor gym, IMAX and museum. There is currently an exhibition below the IMAX with minuture displays showing the history of Guyaquil from preincan to present with Spanish and English voice overs. From the waterfront we climbed up to the colourful Las Peñas, situated on Santa Ana where the original Spanish fort lay. Las Peñas was a dangerous area until gentrification, and there are photos up showing what the buildings looked like befor restoration. It is now a very pretty area with great views over the rest of the city. All the restaurants were closed in Las Peñas, so we had a tasty meal at Aroma Café along the waterfront before returning to the bus terminal. When we arrived at the terminal we again we found our bus had broken down (again not enough people had bought seats) so we were bought tickets with another company. This company however did not go direct to Baños, so instead of a 6 hour ride, it took 8.5 hours. The conductor continuely lied to us about how long the bus was going to take.
Baños Baños is a small mountain town in central Ecuador. The name means Baths, due to the various thermal springs. Personally I snigger, as when you want to find out where the toilet is in South America you ask ¿Donde esta el baño? We stayed at the oddly named Plantos y Blanco (Plants and White), a very popular hostel. The hostel has a great roof terrace, with lovely views of the small town ringed by mountains. The breakfast is very tasty and good value. We stayed for two nights. The most famous springs in Baños are the Virgen of the Waters. We visited in the evening for $2. The water is a murky yellow colour due to the sulphates. There are three pools, one freezing, one hot, one boiling. We stayed in the hot pool, occaissonally cooling down with a nearby cold shower. It was lovely and atmospheric sitting below a waterfall surrounded by locals. Plantos y Blanco offer a steam bath for $2.75 and is certainly a different experience. You take the steam bath in the morning, and it is recommended to do this for three mornings though once was enough for us. You sit in a wooden box with just your head sticking out. Steam is pumped into the box making you sweat. You stay in the box for four minutes, then wash yourself down with a cold wet towel. This is repeated three times, then you sit in a cold bath and rub your stomach. Then after another steam box you get hosed down with cold water.
Quito From Baños we caught a short 3 hour bus up to Quito.
Quito, the capital of Ecuador is the central base for tourism in Ecuador. We arrived in Quito from Ba単os and eventually found a rather bad hostel in the new town to crash called Crossroads. The room was nice and large, but the common areas were not very clean and it was very noisy at night due to the neighbouring bars.
Otavalo Our reason for charging into Ecuador and not taking our time in the south was to get to the Saturday market in Otavalo. The Saturday market is the largest handicraft market in South America. Otavalo is a two hour bus ride ($2) north of Quito, although it takes a bit of effort just to get to the right bus station. We first caught a bus to Ofelia bus
station, then a $2 taxi ride to the right bus station. Otherwise it is a $6 taxi ride from the New Town. We jumped off the bus early in the north of the city, and followed the locals into town through the fruit and vegetable market. It was neat walking through this section that most gringos ignore. There was so much produce. We feasted on sweat pineapple to fuel the shopping. The artesan market runs from the central square most way back to the bus station along 10 blocks. There are many many stalls selling everything you could possibly want. We spent 5 hours wandering through and purchased some weavings, a giant hammock, Panama hats and gifts for home. We returned to our hostel in Quito happy, and ladden down.
Mindo The following morning we relaxed in the New Town of Quito, visiting the disappointing Indian market and the cool art market. In the afternoon we caught the bus to Mindo from Ofelia. Mindo is smaller than Baños, and set in a cloud forrest reserve. Cloud forrest is forrest that contains plants that get their water from the air, as it is at an altitude where clouds sit. As Baños is a small town, there is no ATM that accepts VISA or Mastercard (we had to catch a bus to nearby Los Bancos). Also there are no street signs so it can be hard to find your accommodation. We stayed at the lovely Cabañas la Estancia. We were the only ones there, so it felt more like staying with a homestay as the family running the cabañas were lovely and inquisitive. The next day we walked on the main road out of town up into the cloud forrest. Our goal was zip lining. There are two companies side by side offering the same experience. We went with Mindo Canopy Adventure for $15, who are the original company. The zip lining was an excellent experience. You go with two guides and can choose whether to fly across the the wires solo or with the guide. There is also the option to go upside down or in Superman pose with a guide. On our last day we again trudged up the hill, another 2km past the zip lines to get to the waterfalls. Unfortunately we left our money back in the cabañas and the only way to get to the waterfalls is first by a $5 cable car. Rather annoyed withourselves we headed back into town and cheered ourselves up with the best pizza in South America before jumping on a bus back to Quito.
Galapogos Islands We booked our Galapogos trip prior to leaving the United Kingdom with Gecko. Our tour included nights in Quito at the beginning and end of the boat trip, which is important to check so that you know how many nights your trip actually is. Our tour included the flight to Galapogos and four nights on a 16 person boat. Other people booked the same trip as we, only the day before the boat set sail for approximately the same value as we had so its up to you whether you book in advance or not. A large part of the tour was snorkelling. We rented our snorkelling equipment for 10 us dollars for the whole trip. You could also rent wet suits but we found the water was warm enough to snorkel for up to 1.5 hours without.
Day 1 / Santa Cruz We woke early, had a transfer to the airport and waited round for our flight. We were on the direct flight with Tame Airlines, approximately 2 hours to Baltra airport in Galapogos. At the airport in Quito you pay a $10 Galapogos transfer fee, then at Baltra a $100 entrance fee. At Baltra, our guide picked us and our 15 person group up. We transfered to our boat and sailed across the channel to Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz is the second largest island in the archepelego. We stopped at a beach on the north western side of the island, away from the towns, for a snorkel and walk along the beach. The snorkelling as not that great with limited visibility due to the sandy water (better snorkelling was to come). The walk was good though with sea lions, marine iguanas, bright red crabs, frigate birds, grey heron, a Carribean flamingo, pelicans and blue foooted boobies flying overhead.
Day 2 / Santa Fe We slept overnight on the boat in the Baltra Strait and then sailed after breakfast to the Plazas Islands. There are two plazas, the northern is reserved for scientific research but you can explore the southern island. We saw marine and land iguanas. You can tell the difference between the two species by colour and size. The marine iguanas are smaller and generally black while the land iguanas were yellow and green. The yellow colour comes from their new skin when the old layer has peeled off. The iguanas live for 75 years and do not mate for life. They leave eggs in burrows for three months and leave the young to fend for themselves. The land iguanas live off cactus and go crazy for the yellow flowers. The marine iguanas eat algae. There were also loads of sea lions and their gorgeous cubs. The sea lions have quite a distinctive bark and smell… We were lucky to arrive about 1/2 hour after one cub had been born. As part of natures way of dealing with the birth, birds came and cut the umbilical cord to the placenta. It was a bit grim but made sense. The sea lions live to 40 years of age. There is always a dominant male in each group with a number of females. The male generally prefers younger virgin
sea lions. The females have one cub at a time after a nine month pregnancy. Once the baby is born they stay with it for three days before going out to sea to search for food while the cubs play with their mates. After a year of milk they move onto solid foods and start to fend for themselves. We walked around the island before heading back to the boat where we sailed to Sante Fe. During the sail we saw what may have been whales in the distance and a large manta ray jumping in the air. After lunch we wet snorkelling along the reef line and saw lots of different types of fish including Leather Bass, King Angelfish, Mullet, Parrot Fish and Giant Hawkfish. The guide heard about sharks in the shallows so we hoped into the dingy and went shark hunting. Anna was confused about where the sharks were and was wondering why everyone was pointing at her…. Turns out the shark was below her and bigger than her…..EEEEEEK. Anna quickly snorkelled away and then did some good internal shrieking. On the way back to the boat we first played with sea lions. We were told that they like to mimic what you do. If you twirl, they respond and they also like to blow bubbles and dive down deep. After this we continued swimming and saw our first TURTLE! At first it was resting by some rocks and then started to gracefully swim. We shadowed him for awhile and were transfixed by his movements. What an experience!
Day 3 / Española This day was by far the best in terms of wildlife spotting. Española has no predators, with the goat having been eradicated in the 70´s. We sailed overnight from Sante Fe to Española and took sea sick pills to help us sleep. We arrived at Gardner Bay and had a wet landing on the beach. We wondered past basking sea lions, curious mocking birds (watch out for your water bottle), to watch six turtles feeding in the shallows. After this we went for a snorkel and were treated to a couple of sting rays buried in the sand. We saw reef cornet fish, trigger fish, cardinal fish, hog fish and long fin half beak. We went back on the boat and out to Gardner Island for more snorkelling. This is where the funniest incident of the trip happened. Japhet, an Australian guy, was playing with a sea lion for a bit. He then took a break and stood on a rock. Sam and I were watching as the sea lion came up from behind him and bit him on his bottom! It was so hilarious we forgot we were under water and laughed so hard we started taking on salt water! The sea lion was really playful with everyone, and bit Sam´s flipper. After lunch we sailed around to Punta Suarez. We did a dry landing and a three hour walk around the island. Along the walk we saw many marine iguanas which were a molted red, green and black. Due to the way in which they dive they talk on a lot of water and
then spit it out back on dry land. Watch out. Next we came across the Blue Footed Boobies nesting. Sam also spotted the boobies doing their famous mating dance. The dance consists of each boobie taking turns to lift their little blue foot, alternating one foot at a time in a circular motion (think white man two step shuffle). They also have a distinct call, different between the males and females. After this we also saw some eggs and some very white fluffy chicks. We carried up the island to the albatross airport. There were a number of albatross chicks waiting for their parents to bring back food. We were treated to one chick being fed by his father, who was not much larger than he. The chick was very demanding and clattered his beak on his fathers. The Galapogas Albatross has a wing span of 2.5 metres. We went to a view point to wait and see if any chicks were going to take their first plunge and hopefully fly. Alas there were none but there were plenty of other birds to entertain us. These included the tropical bird, frigates, and boobies. We could also see a giant blow hole where the surf pounds in and spurts up 30 metres. From the cliffs we walked through the masked boobie nesting area and back to the blue footed boobies. We saw more mating dances, chicks and eggs. All through the walk there were many mocking birds, Galapogas doves and finches.
Day 4 / Floreana We landed at post office bay at 7.45am and went to collect and post postcards. As the tradition goes you put your postcard into the box (without a stamp) and leave it there for someone from your country to collect and post when they return home. You also grab any that need delivering. Sadly there were none for us but we had a fantastic snorkel afterwards with three turtles. Further along the island we visted a beach where a number of sting rays were feeding in the shallows at ankle depth. There were also a number of flamingos in a nearby lagoon. The highlight of the morning was sail en route to the visit to Devils Crown (Corona del diablo) for snorkelling. We saw a huge pod of dolphins that completely surrounded the boat. The dolphins danced at the bow of the boat jumping up to two metres in the air. There was also a whale further out. The snorkel was more challenging due to the currents. We were treated with seeing a reef shark, puffer fish, star fish and golden rays. The rays were beautiful to watch until they turned around and started swimming towards us. We high tailed it back to the boat. That afternoon we sailed back to Santa Cruz and had our last night on the boat. We also went into Â´townÂ´ for a few drinks.
Day 5 / Darwin Centre We woke early and transfered to the land to visit the Charles Darwin Centre. At the centre they had a breeding programme for tortoises and iguanas and provide support for international and student researchers. They also monitor the islands via GIS mapping and work to preserve the ecology on the islands. We visited a number of different areas with a number of different size tortoises from newly hatched to females in their forties and males in their eighties. They do not know how old they live to but believe it is about 150 years. We saw lonesome George they last saddle tortoise from Pinta Island. Luckily George is not so lonesome anymore and has two lucky ladies to keep him company. They are hoping that some little Georges hatch in the near future. After this we caught a bus to the airport and flew back to Quito. Although the Galapogas tour is very expensive, it is well worth extending your budget to make it. It is easily the highlight, and some may say the only reason to visit, Ecuador.
Quito Mariscal / New Town
We based ourselves in the Mariscal district of Quito, also known as Gringolandia. We stayed in four different hotels during our time here as we bounced around to Mindo and Galapogos and back. The best budget accommodation was the Backpackers Inn, best treat yourself option was Casa Sol. There is not too much in the way of sites in the new town, but people base themselves their because it is safer, and has plenty of accommodation and eating options. We wandered down to the artesean market, which was largely full of lame tat and overly expensive. There were a few good finds though. Across the park from the market is the Museo de Banco Centro in the Casa de Cultura. The museum houses an impressive room of pre-Columbian ceramics from around Ecuador. Unfortunately the gold room was closed, but their prize piece, a large headband was still on display.
Bellavista Bellavista is further out in the new town up on a hill (hence the name). We caught the bus out and trudged up the hill to the Museo Guayasamin, Ecuador´s premier modern artist. Guayasamin was born in 1919 and despite his parent´s dreams of him becoming a doctor he chose to paint. The museum is housed in his former home, a lovely spralling Spanish villa. The collection includes preColumbian ceramics and funerary pieces as well as his artwork. His paintings were influenced by his travels, struggles of indeginous people, early death of his mother and world politics. He travelled far and had influencial friends around the world including Fidel Castro and Chairman Mao.
Further up the hill is the Capilla del Hombre (Temple of Man) which realised Guayasim´s dream of a new spirituality focusing on people. The temple is full of Guaysamin´s paintings and sculpture. Guayasamin is buried under and tree overlooking the temple and Quito. Guayasamin´s artwork is very emotive, focusing of skeletal figures with large eyes and hands. The pieces are very large and powerful.
Old Town Quito has the largest old town in South America, and it looks very much like a European old town. There are plenty of stories about the old town being unsafe. It felt fine to us during the day but there were a few over protective locals telling us to watch our bags and where it was unsafe to walk while we were there. One of the highlights of the old town is the basilica, which is on a hill overlooking the old town. The basilica is neo-gothic in style with galapogos animals instead of gargoyles. The interior is bright with new stained glass windows but is unremarkable otherwise. You can climb to the top of the belfry for $2 for good views. At the bottom of the old town is a nice artesean streat called Calle de Ronda with cobble stones and restored mansions. Up the road is the Iglesia Compañia de Jesus, a Jesuit church which our Rough Guide describes as “opulence gone mad”. The small church contains seven tonnes of gold. Every surface is painting or gilded with golden scroll work. There are several plazas in the old town. We were treated to festivities for Halloween, All Saints, Day of the Dead in Plaza San Francisco.
Mital del Mundo We caught the bus from Ofelia bus terminal to Mital del Mundo (Middle of the World). There is a epic monument erected at the site that French scientists wrongly proclaimed the equator line. We opted not to go in and took a photo from outside. Instead we walked another 280m to the Museo IntiĂąan (Sunpath). Do not be put off by first impressions as you get a guide included in the ticket price. Set among totem poles from around the Americas, your get to perform various cool experiments such as walking on the equator line with your eyes closed â€“ you loose your balance fast. Other experiments are balancing a raw egg on the head of a nail and the classic water going down a drain. Worth a visit. If you do go, take your passport so you can get it stamped.
38th largest country in the world and ____ in South America
756,102 km2 Borders Argentina 5,308 km, Bolivia 860 km, Peru 171 km
Climate temperate; desert in north; Mediterranean in central region; cool and damp in south
Terrain low coastal mountains; fertile central valley; rugged Andes in east
Altitude lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m highest point: Nevado Ojos del Salado 6,880 m
Land use arable land: 2.62% permanent crops: 0.43% other: 96.95%
16,601,707 0-14 years: 23.2% 15-64 years: 67.8% 65 years and over: 9.1%
Population growth rate 0.881%
Birth rate 14.64 births/1,000 population
Death rate 5.84 deaths/1,000 population
Life expectancy male: 74.07 years female: 80.77 years
As with Uruguay, we were not in Chile enough to pass judgement. We only visited Santiago and Valparaiso.
white and whiteAmerindian 95.4% Mapuche 4% other indigenous groups 0.6% Religions
Roman Catholic 70% Evangelical 15.1% Jehovahâ€™s Witness 1.1% other Christian 1% other 4.6% none 8.3% Languages
Spanish (official) Mapudungun German English
Chile felt a lot more European than the other countries, including Argentina. The infrastructure was more developed. Chile was slightly cheaper than Brazil, mostly since transport was cheaper. There were not many sites to see, you have to venture into the north or south for those.
4 days $77 per day
(38,385 Chilean pesos)
4 hours spent in buses and 3 on a plane 1.75 hours in transit per day
Santiago and Valparaiso
Santiago En route from Ecuador to New Zealand we stopped in Santiago for four nights. We stayed at a funky hostel in the Barrio Brasil area called Don Santiago. It felt just like staying at someones home and we had a fantastic bbq with the other guests on Halloween.
Day 1 We walked into town and climbed Cerro Santa Lucia for fantastic views of the city. From there we wondered around the Artesan market and finally bought ourselves two maté cups and bombillas (silver straws). We walked down to the River and across to Recoleta. Being a Saturday it was full of interesting clothing stalls. We walked onto Bellavista which is full of bars and restaurants. There was some cool grafitti en route.
Day 2 We visited the Museo de Arte de Pre-Columbia, which is free on Sundays. The museum houses the best ceramic display we have seen in South America, encompassing Central America and the west coast of South America from Ecuador to Chile. We spent the day shopping and wondered down from Plaza de Armas to the Central Market.
Day 3 We decided to go on a day trip to Valparaíso on our third day. It is an easy and cheap bus ride from
Alameda. Valparíso is a port town and has enough to amuse you for a day. We caught one of the dozen funiculars still working up Cerro Conception (originally there were 33). The hills are full of colourful buildings, some of which house shops and cafes. There is also great views around the city. We caught another funicular, Asendor El Peral back down the hill after exploring a bit and had a set menu at one of the fish restaurants. We slowly wondered back to the bus station via the shops and headed back to Santiago in the late afternoon.
Day 4 For our final day in South America we made sure we relaxed, sleeping in and eating the tasty breakfast at the hostel before going shopping. In the afternoon we caught the metro out to Viña Concha y Toro, the 10th largest winery in the World. We wanted to visit this winery as they produce the Casillero del Diablo range that we used to drink in London. The winery was very fancy, with an English garden, large summer residence and vineyards. The tour also included walking into the Casillero del Diablo (Devil’s Cellar). The original owner of the vineyard placed his best bottles in this cellar to mature. After a while he noticed that the wine was going missing. He suspected the local workers were stealing it, and knowing how superstitious they were he spread a rumour that the devil lived in the cellar. The ruse worked and noone stole any bottles any further.
Sum/ mary We greatly enjoyed our travels around South America. There is a great diversity in things to see and do. The scenery changed from costal to wetland to arrid alitplano. Each city had its own charm whether modern or old. There is a great wealth of flora and fauna, particularly in the Pantanal and Galapogos.
Our trip was a little slow to get going, mainly due to Brazil being very expensive, and very large. Once we got to Buenos Aires we really started to enjoy ourselves. This was capped off by Iguazu Falls and the Pantanal.
Bolivia and Peru showed us the sites and sides of South America that we were expecting, with the Amerindian cultures, llamas and Inca Trail.
Ecuador was disappointing with not many interesting tourist sites, but is certainly still worth visiting to see Galapogos â€“ probably the most amazing place we visited. We were surprised by just how large South America is, and this is reflected in two key statistics. How much time we spent in transit and how many different beds we slept in.
374 hours Transport
4 hours travelling per day
and Statistics Accommodation
92 nights in 57 different beds Overnight bus 7 nights / 7 buses Double room with shared bathroom 15 nights / 7 beds
Mixed dormitory 6 nights / 4 beds Overnight boat 4 nights / 1 boat Homestay 4/2 Tent 3/1
Overnight train 2/2
Double room with ensuite 50 nights / 29 beds
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