A Travellerspoint blog

First week in Peru

Machu Picchu with the McFriesens

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After spending some time in the desert we headed up to the Chilean border town of Arica to catch the train into Peru. Arriving in Tacna, we immediately caught a bus up to Arequipa. We stayed two days there and were stuck in town while Nathan and Trish were in Cusco because of a two day road blockade. The blockade closed down the border between Peru and Bolivia and also with Chile to protest the rising prices of staples such as tomatoes and chicken. It also coincided with the EU/South America economic summit held in Lima.

So we met up with the McFriesens on the 16th and then headed on a four day Inka Jungle Trek to Machu Picchu the following day. The trek itself was fun, hot, and smelly. The first day we biked downhill for four hours or so on a very dusty and bumpy road. The second day we hiked along a section of an Inka trail linking Machu Picchu with Vilacabamba (the final Inka stronghold, where the last Inka king was killed), relaxed at a lady´s house where she had a refridgerator (in the middle of nowhere) pet monkey and anteater-like creature, crossed the river in a flying fox, and had a much deserved soak in a hot spring. The third day we walked to Agua Calientes and then hiked up a neighboring mountain to view Machu Picchu from above. The fourth day we woke at 4am to begin hiking at 4:30 to get to Machu Picchu for sunrise. We spent the day exploring the ruins and spent a couple hours climbing Wayna Picchu, the mountain seen behind the ruins in the postcard pictures of the site. Headed back to Cusco that night on train.

The following day was Corpus Christi, the second largest festival in Cusco, and the streets were filled with dancers, bands, folklore creatures, and floats of Jesus, Mary, and saints. The colours, sounds and smells were a sensory overload.

Posted by edenjosh 19:36 Archived in Peru Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Salta and San Pedro de Atacama

Sand EVERYWHERE!

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After yet another overnight bus, we arrived in Salta, Argentina. Josh was under-the-weather so we spent most of our time here taking it easy so he could re-coup. We visited some churches, sat in the town squares and enjoyed the warm, sunny weather.

A few days later, we hopped a bus to Chile and the town of San Pedro de Atacama. SP de Atacama is an oasis in the desert. I guess when we picture oases in our heads, we picture them as they are depicted in cartoons -lush areas of palm trees with sparkling pools of blue water. We were surprised to find out that an oasis is still just a desert but with a few scraggly, dusty trees here and there! The town was beautiful none-the-less. All the houses were built in the adobe style out of mud and rocks. The day after we arrived, we started a tour at 4 a.m. (!!!) that drove us into the desert to see a field full of steaming, erupting geyers. It was truely an amazing site! Worth getting up at 4 am for and enduring the minus 12 degree weather of the desert at sunrise. After that, we relaxed in a natural hot spring until we were all thoroughly cooked through and wrinkley. Next, we visited an aboriginal village that raised goats, llamas and alpacas. There, we were treated to llama kebabs. They were very delicious! Our final stop was cactus valley. A beautiful valley lined with 3 hundred year old cacti. Amazing!

The next day, we took an afternoon tour to Death Valley. The views were amazing! We were able to run down the steep, huge sand dunes. Very fun but we were completely covered in sand! Sand in our ears, hair, even underpants!! Not comfy! Then we headed to Moon Valley for the sunset. It really did look like the moon with craters and strange, barren landforms. The colours from the sunset were accentuated by the reddish tones of the earth. It was a great time, however, after this, we had to board another night bus (to Arica, Chile) and endure an uncomfortable night trying to sleep on a bus with your pants full of sand! I guess some people pay for exfoliation like that!!!

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more photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/edenandjosh/

Posted by edenjosh 17:45 Archived in Chile Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Mendoza and Cordoba

Welcome to WINE country!!!

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After our chilly, but beautiful trek in Bariloche, we were thrilled to arrive in Mendoza where it was glorious t-shirtweather! We knew we were going to love Mendoza because on the 13 hour bus ride to the city, the bus attendant had all passengers play a game of BINGO and Josh won a bottle of delicious, red wine from Mendoza. Good thing we've been practicing our Spanish numbers!

The small city was quite charming. It had been destroyed by an earthquake about 100 years ago so as a result, the new city was built with wide, tree-lined boulevards to protect the streets should there be another quake. These spacious, shady streets made Mendoza a real pleasure to stroll around. Josh was also pleased to find food prices -especially ice-cream prices- to be lower than in Patagonia. We spent a lot of time there, sitting in outdoor cafes and people watching. We also took a tour to some near-by towns, a natural bridge made from hot spring sulfur, the base of Mt. Aconcagua (the highest mountain outside of Asia) and "El Cristo" -a Christ statue erected on the border between Chile and Argentina at 4300 m. The highlight of our time in Mendoza, however, was touring the bodegas (wineries). Josh and I, and two friends we made, rented bicycles and spent a glorious day biking from one bodega to the next. Some were very old fashioned where most processes were done by hand, others were modern and completely mechanised. ALL had delicious wine to taste. Our unanimous decision was that we enjoyed the "Malbec" varieties the best. Luckily, we were all able to bike home tipsy even though our bicycles were on their last legs and difficult to ride even when completely sober!

On to Cordoba! ...after another wonderful over-night bus ride, of course. Cordoba is a large city but still has a charming downtown with pedestrian streets and of course, a large town square. Josh couldn´t believe his eyes when he saw you could buy 1/2 Kg of delicious ice-cream for 7 pesos (about $2.50). Needless to say, I had a hard time convincing him that ice-cream for breakfast, lunch and dinner was a bad idea. Plus, at this point, since we haven't been trekking in a while, out pants are getting a little tight in the waist! Besides enjoying the city of Cordoba, we also visited near-by Alta Gracia. This town is famous for being a former Jesuit settlement where they ran a huge ranch and grist mills while converting the masses. It is also famous because "Che" Guevara lived there for a time as a child and his former home has been turned into a museum. Both sites were very interesting to tour. Che was a lot chubbier than the usual picture you see of him!

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Posted by edenjosh 17:05 Archived in Argentina Comments (1)

Patagonia by numbers

So we headed back to Argentina to finish our time in Patagonia with two final treks. The first was a 3-day one outside of El Bolson that we completed in two days, and the other was a 3-day trek around Cerro Catedral near Bariloche. Both treks were superb and had brilliant fall colours. The one in Bolson had several rickety bridges, and due to the condition of one, required us to ford a knee-deep river! Cold, strong, and not one I´d cross twice.

From Bariloche we headed up to Mendoza, wine country. Sitting in the warm sun we were able to count up some of the stats from our time in Patagonia. They are as follows:

Lodging:

Tent - 54 night (25 free)
Hostel - 29 night
Boat - 13 night
Bus - 1 night

Trekking:

Total km - 605
Total days - 41
avg km/day - 15
avg calories/km - 100
avg calories/km when hiking uphill - 150

Top 3 views: Ushuaia and Cordilla Beagle from the top of Cerro Guanaco in Tierra del Fuego National Park, Glacier Gray from the top of John Garner pass in Torres del Paine National Park, Cerro Castillo.

Hardest day: day 2 of Sierra Valdivieso. 11 hrs, 3 mountain ¨passes¨, no marked trail (Thank God for 16 hrs of sunlight).

Longest day: day 2 of Torres del Paine Circuit. 30km.

Temporary addictions:
Empanadas - like pizza pockets but stuffed with ham&cheese, beef, or chicken
Dulce de Leche - caramelized sweetened condensed milk
Helado - ice cream
Pancho - hot dogs with excellent toppings
Churrasco - thinly sliced steak sandwiches (best with cheese, guacamole, and chili sauce)

Posted by edenjosh 15:08 Archived in Argentina Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

Parque Nacional Alerce Andino

home of GIANT Alerce trees

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After getting a taste of large alerce trees at Pumalin we wanted to see even bigger ones, and the only place to do that is at the national park. Being only 40km from Puerto Montt, the park is relatively easy to get to and we set off the day after returning from Chiloe.

We woke up early to catch the 7:40 bus since the next wouldn´t be till noon. Because of the cold the previous night EVERYTHING was covered in frost (which stayed until about 11:30). The bus dropped us off 13km from the park, so we had some walking to do, but some friendly lumberjacks offered us a ride in the back of their pickup, awesome.

The park receives somewhere around 4000mm of rain a year so everything was wet, muddy, and smelled like that. The foot bridges that were built over the muddy parts had been covered in an algae or something similar and were incredibly slippery (I must have fallen hard at least 6 times). We saw some very large alerce (larch) trees, some around 2500 and 3000 years old and around 3-4m diametre. Similar to the largest one at Pumalin. The only disappointing part of the trek was that the log bridge 10 minutes from Catedral Alerce had collapsed and there was no way to cross the river otherwise. Luckily, these alerce aren´t the largest in the park but are "just" a particularly beautiful stand.

Posted by edenjosh 13:48 Archived in Chile Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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