A Travellerspoint blog

Christmas on lake Titicaca

sunny 16 °C

When we arrived at our hotel Copacanaba we breathed a sigh of relief. It was exactly what we need. After a snooze andsome TV, Adriana managed to talk to her family of web cam as it was the 24th of December (christmas day in Portugal) so all her family were having christmas dinner.
That night we had reserved a special Christmas dinner(which Adriana hated) then we went to bed. On the 25th, we took a walk around the village and then took a pedlo out onto the lake where we could relax and take in the views. In the evening we did the obvious christmas day persuit of doing little and watching christmas films while looking out onto the lake from our window....bliss!!

The fallowing day we were on our way again up to Puno in Peru. It is still situated on the shores of Lake Titicaca, but is on the Peru side. so it is goodbye to Bolivia (i dont think we will return any time soon)!!

Posted by Themoffats 10:48 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

Bolivia II- La Paz & The Salar De Uyuni

La Paz - Uyuni

all seasons in one day 14 °C

We got to La Paz at around 8:00 a.m.. We met with a guy from Laquay of Tours, the tour operator in some Dutch recommended to make the trip to Salar de Uyuni (3 days, 2 nights). The trip includes all meals, accommodation, Spanish guide and transportation (in a 4x4 Land Cruiser). The group would be made up of 6 people, so were going to get to know 4 more travelers. The coach left for leave Uyuni at 9 in the evening, so left our bags at the bus station, and had the day to explore La Paz (the highest capital in the World). Sadly by now both myself and Adriana were suffering from altitude sickness, we both had banging headaches and nausia so I wasnt in the best of moods in La Paz!!

La Paz was not very impressive. The city was dirty, noisy and gray. So we Decided we did not want to spend Christmas there as we had planned. We went to an Internet cafe where we studied where to spend Christmas. We thought about Lake Titicaca, and tried to find a good hotel on the Bolivian side. I found a hotel (Hotel Rosario) that seemed to have everything we needed, good views of the lake and a relaxed environment. We spoke also about the Amazonia and Decided not to make the trip, as all the routes were exactly the same as we had done in the Pantanal, they were just a lot more expensive.

We walked by the markets, but we both did not feel good. so we headed back to the bus station to wait for the bus to Uyuni. By this time the change in hight (we were now over 5000 metres above sea level) and the change in climate (from around 25degrees in Santa Cruz to around 10degrees in La Paz) made for a miserable experience!! but it was nothing compared to what was to come!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The night bus to Uyuni was the worst bus journey i have ever been on and will ever go on! Most of the journey was not on roads so we physically jumped in our seats, as well as this the noise of vibrations were like no other. the only way i cant get close enough to describe it is like sitting on and next to a workers drill (jackhammer) for 12 hours!! this coupled with altitude sickness was enough to send anyone slightly mad. During the night even I had to open the window to throw up!!!

We reached Uyuni around 7:00 a.m.. We found out that that the tour started at 10 so we had two hours to have a shower etc.. we ended up showering in a hostel while getting dressed etc in a room being referbished but only after I insisted on that instead of getting naked in the hallway where they wanted us to get ready!!!, it was a slightly sureal experience, we even had to wait about 20 minutes until there was any hot water.
After this and a bit of breakfast we met the vfirst two people on our tour, Gareth (an Australian) and Shioban (an Irish woman who lived in Australia for 8 years). We finally left in the 4x4 at 10.30 to visit the Salar. Lunch was on the salar in an inn where we met the other two people that would be on our tour. Emma (an English girl that was teaching English around the world for the last 5 years) and Richard, (another Australian, who worked and travelled at the same time).

Adriana was now suffering from altitude sickness like myself and could not eat, and as we kept travelling into the salar The effects got worse until she was the one being sick. Adriana layed down in the jeep while myself and the other guys took pics of the salt pan. The Salt pan itself is a sight to behold it is so bright you have to wear sunglasses to look at it for a long time and it seems to go on forever, making the horizon melt away.

In the middle of the salar is `fish Island`, so called because its in the shape of a fish. however it looked amazing to me because of the huge saguaro cacti (the largest cactus in the world) that totally cover it from top to tail.

After the salt pan we travelled to various lakes which were inhabited by Flamingos!! they were very beautiful and some of the lakes were covered it hundreds of them. Each lake we visited were different colours which were created by various chemicals found within them. there were gree, blue and even red lakes throughout the tour.

The first night in the salar, we stayed in seperate rooms, but the altitude was still affecting me and i found sleeping very difficult. having a THUMPING HEADACHE at 4 in the morning when you have to be up a 7 is not nice. however we continued on across the desert to lagoon after lagoon which did start to get repetitive. On the second night we stayed in shared room with the rest of our group which would have been fine but again my headache came back and I found myself up all night sitting outside on my own while everyone else slept. As i finally shook the headache anf got into bed again it was time to get up as on the last day we had to get up around half 4 to travel to the natural geezers and hot springs.
The geezer itself was impressive with bubbling mud coming out of the ground (stinking of egg) and a man made steam geezer pumping steam out of the ground. After the geezers we continued on to the hot springs. Sadly I was very disapointed with the springs, there were too many tourists there (around 50) who were all getting into what seemed to be a little man made hottub, simply because it was water heated naturally. to me the attraction was spoiled and any natural beauty had been lost. however the lake in which the spring overlooked was very special so myself and Adriana decided against getting into the bath full of sweaty tourists and opt for a sit down and a great view of the lake.
On the way back from the tour we ran into some lightening storms which were amazing, with a last stop in a train graveyard with lightning hitting the ground all around us which was amazing. then it was back to Uyuni where the heavens had opened!!
Basically these 3 days of travel by Uyuni were reasonable. We arrived back on December 23 in the evening. We were all went to a restaurant famous for its pizzas before getting the same bus we got into Uyuni back to La Paz. Again the bus back to La Paz was a journey full of jumps in expected. However this time it was raining hard with lightening! the bus got stuck as well and at onepoint I thought the bus was going to go off a cliff when one of the wheels on my side went off the side of the road!! However our biggest concern was that we had another bus from La Paz to Copacabana, where he wanted to spend the Christmas. The bus to Copacabana left at 8am. If everything went well with the bus to La Paz we would get there around 7am, giving us 30 minutes to catch the next bus ...

However the bus to La Paz stopped many times during the night. We feared we would miss the bus and have to stay in La Paz for Christmas.We finally arrived in La Paz at 7:45 a.m.. We ran off the bus I opened the door to the bags and grabbed them, then we ran!! We found a taxi but it could not take us all the way due to the market blocking the street to the hotel where the bus was going from. From the taxi we ran through the market knocking people out of the way until we reached the hotel. When we finally got there our reservation had not written down ... but there were still had 2 spaces left. Finally on the bus we could enjoy the 4 hour trip from La Paz to Copacabana on lake Titicaca (the largest lake in South America).

Posted by Themoffats 10:46 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

Bolivia I - The ´Death Train´to Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz - La Paz

sunny 28 °C

As we passed the border from Brazil to Bolivia, the problems began to emerge. First of all, our train to Santa Cruz was canceled. We had to stay one night at Hotel Bibosi (in Quijarro) and take the next regional train the next day. The regional train, known as the "tren de la muerte" (the train of death). So we would have to take the train the day after. The "train of death" is described in the Lonely Planet guide as dangerous, with smuggling, animals in the cabin, frequent derailments, among others ... When you read this, we were quite worried, but as I said, it was the only way to reach Santa Cruz

The next day, when you check out the hotel to go take the train, the card system was not working. This caused major problem because we had no Bolivian money, just our debit cards. So Adriana had to go with the hotel choffer to a cashpoint at the border (there were no cashpoints in the town itself). Once at the cashpoint Adriana found that it was closed for maintenance and the other only accepts Visa cards. This was all taking place while I had taken both the bags and ran to the train to wait for Adriana to arrive. After finding that there were no cashpoints and with the train only 10 mins from departing, Adriana went back to the Hotel to tell them there was no way we could pay and that if she waited any langer we would miss the train and have to stay another night in Quijarro. After much discussion they gave her the address of the hotel in Santa Cruz where we could pay once we arrived there. Now with that sorted she asked the choffer to drop her at the station as there was only 5 mins till the train left. He simply replied that it was only four blocks and that she should just run there!! Meanwhile I had made it to the train and was waiting, and waiting. I was so worried as it was the first time we had been seperated since the start of the trip. My heart sank as I heard the train blow its horn to leave.... I thought we had missed it for sure. Suddenly I saw her running round the corner so we picked up the bags and ran for the train, we ran past the guards and threw ourselves onto the moving train just in time!!!
we stood there for a little while breathless and dazed, it was very hot as well so it took a while to take stock of what had just happened.

After all the excitement of getting the train it was nothing like the Lonely Planet had described. Yes, it was fairly basic, but had no chickens, or much less smuggling places. It was simply local people with bagsheading for Santa Cruz, nothing more nothing less.

When we sat down we met this man sitting opposite to us called 'Willy'. He was Bolivian born, but had studied in the United States and had already traveled everywhere you could think of as he had worked for the Hilton chain of hotels. After we talked for 2 hours, he already wanted to open a business with Adriana in tourism. His plan was: Adriana get tourists in Europe and persuade them to go with him on tours in Bolivia, as he was a guide. With the help of a tour operator from Santa Cruz they could corner the market in Bolivia. He began to give us all kinds of contacts and talk about what to do in Bolivia. We spoke also about the political situation in Bolivia. According to what he said, the Americans were ruining everything, because the new government does not want to know the interests of America. The U.S. is funding the right exteme due to oil and possession of land. This conversation lasted a long time!!
In the end, I was very pleased to have chosen the regional train because everything seems so authentic. Throughout the journey by train we had kids (from 6 to 16 + -) selling: water, coca cola, lemonade friaaaaaaaa, biscuits .. and when stopped at the various stations along the way there was ... Chicken with rice and chips, fillet, steak, french fries being cooked by the track. In the end decided to buy a strak Kebab for dinner. We even exchanged our real (Brazilian currency) to Bolivian.

During the night, the train bumped along slowly and gavew little rest (due to the poor seats). However after 22 hours we had survived the train of death! We arrived at Santa Cruz in the morning, found a taxi and went to our hostel. After a short rest we went to explore the city, change money and have lunch. After this we put our clothes to wash.
Santa Cruz is a very nice quiet and relaxed city with a beautiful main square with lots of little shops and bars orbiting it. However our one mistake in Santa Cruz was to book a room that had no real windows or Air conditioning!!!!!!... The room seemed a sauna all the time it was a nightmare.

During the night we decided to call Willy and let him show us around a little bit of the city. At night, the city awakens so the quiet city by day blooms with people by night with little shops and markets appearing, selling everything and anything. We went with Willy to an Irish Pub, Then on to a Cuban bar where we listened to live music. Here Willy continued to speak of the project that he wanted to make with Adriana and that the next day before we left for Patosi, he would take us to see a hostel and go and meet this tour operator. After the bar we went back to the Sauna we called our room for a little bit of rest.

The next day, when we reached the station he was already there to search for the bus to Patosi for us. Sadly Potosi was already full so we decided to go to La Paz right away then from La Paz we would go to Uyuni and then from there into the Salar. After we purchased the ticket, willy insisted we went for breakfast, then After breakfast, Willy wanted to take us to the tour operator to talk about our new business and wanted to show us a hostel for me to recommend to future travelers. To our luck, the tour operator had closed that day, and the hostel was being referbished! After this we said goodbye to Willy and headed to have lunch, and then back to the hostel to prepare for our trip to La Paz!!!

Posted by Themoffats 10:45 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

The Pantanal

the pearl of Brasil

sunny 27 °C

After a 16 hour bus trip from Foz de Iguacu to Campo Grande, we had no time to rest before the transfer to the Pantanal. We arrived around 8am in Campo Grande, where we were met by our tour operator- Gil's Pantanal Discovery. As we were leaving for the Pantanal the same morning they gave us breakfast and a room to have a quick shower.With our stomachs full, we were ready for the next trip.

We travelled into the Pantanal with a British couple called Jason and Nicola, We travelled by van which gave us time to chat and get to know the people we would be spending the next few days with.
After 4 hours we reached the farm. Almost as soon as we arrived we joined a dutch couple to go fishing for piranha! Our guide, was Gabriel, a real life Tarzan!!

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After the fishing, Gabriel prepared the piranha for dinner, When we arrived back from fishing we had beers with the other couple and watched the sun go down.

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The day after we went to another farm, where they were going to walk through the forest, lunch and ride a horse.

on the walk we saw Howler Monkeys, Toco Toucans, Woodpeckers and Hyacinth Macaws ( the largest Parrot in the world) which were simply beautiful!!

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During the horse riding, our guide, Gabriel, found a Boa Constrictor. A real cowboy, he grabbed it and brought it back to the farm ... while he was still on the horse. When we reached the farm we took photos of it around our necks . It was a strange feeling because the boa was very strong and didnt stop moving ...

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During our stay we saw lots of caiman (a species of crocodile). They were all over the place ..

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The day after we were joined by another couple from Ireland and a couple of younger dutch guys, and said goodbye to the dutch couple who had been with us from when we had first arrived.That day we went on a safari with the British couple down the river where we saw giant river otters, capibara( the largest rodant on Earth), kingfishers, tiger herons, caiman, Howler monkeys, caracaras and many other bird species found along the river it was amazing!!

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later in the day we went river tubbing down the main river with the Irish, dutch and the British couple next to the farm where we had been fishing on the first day. Gabriel always told stories of piranhas and anacondas just to scare us that little bit more when we were in the water.

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That night we went on our last tour with just the English couple, up the river for a night safari... there were bats all around us as we travelled upstream, and all u could see in the water were little lights like stars from all the caiman

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Sadly thus ended our tour of the Pantanal. of all the places we have visited since, this is the place that as stayed in our minds....simply unmissable!!!!

In the afternoon we went to take the bus to Corumba (the next large town outside the Pantanal to stay a little while before we moved on into Bolivia to take the death Train to Santa Cruz). Corumba was a very beautiful little town, with amazing views over the Pantanal below. Sadly this was the last town before the stress began!!!!

Posted by Themoffats 10:42 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

Iguazu

one of the true natural wonders found in South America

sunny 31 °C

We arrived early in the morning in Iguazu ... our initial plan had been to camp ... but after experiencing the heat of Puerto de Iguazu, we decided to get a hostel ... Maybe not a little late? Yeah .. The cheap hostels was full leaving us with little options left. We decided to walk around the town looking for a place (this with the backpacks in the heat and hight humidity). After what seemed like an eternity we found a very pleasant place called Las Cabanas. " A little expensive, but at that time we did not care we just so wanted to rest somewhere.

The hotel had a nice pool so we spent some time there to cool down before heading into town to see what was happening there. After having dinner in a small cafe we headed back for a well earned rest.

The next thing to do was to travel into the national park so we got up very early to catch the first bus to the Iguazu National Park. The trip took about 20-30min. When we first arrived we took a small trail up to where the train picked us up and took us to the falls. It began to Rain at the beginning as we approached the falls from behind (we had heard this was the best way to first see the falls for the 1st time). However it was very difficult to see the waterfalls throught the rain and spray from the falls, but when the sky cleared, it became more and more beautiful.

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Iguazu has many tourists, but this did not detract from the beauty of the falls. As well as this the wildlife such as the butterflies, koates and birds all come together to make the Iguazu falls something that can not be missed when travelling around South America!!!

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After the falls we had to head over the boarder, back into Brazil to catch the bus to Campo Grande, where we would begin our tour into the Pantanal.

Posted by Themoffats 10:42 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

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