A Travellerspoint blog

Bolivia

Sparkly Salar de Uyuni

all seasons in one day

Finally I made it to my next big tour, the worlds largest salt flats which sits at a soaring 3,653m and the blankets an amazing 12,106sq km. We managed to get a really good deal for the 3 day tour at a very cheap £25 per day!!! We were travelling with a group Spaniards comprising of 10 backpacker’s altogether and we were lucky to have such a good tour guide who had taken us the reverse way round so we didn’t have to be with another 30 other tour groups viewing the same sites at the same time! So day 1 comprised of us going to the old trains which still stand, all rusty but really cool to jump on and have feel of the size of these bad boy machines – there was a man made see-saw where I and Michael had so much fun on and also swings that were made out of odd bits of train remnants. After leaving we had to make a lengthy ride to our 1st hostel so we had to spend most of our afternoon in the car but the sites that we came by were so different and diverse. For lunch we had stopped over these mahussive rocks, I felt I was in some Indiana Jones movie heheh. Lunch was great but our 1st night was not! There were no showers available and well the toilets I would not call them that and how cold was it….bloody cold I literally had all my clothes on in a sleeping bag plus 2 blankets god know how I managed to get some sleep!

Day 2 – we had hit the 4,950m ‘Sol de Manana geyser’ basin very early in the morning and these streams of volcanic steam were ridiculous esp the height that they were reaching not forgetting the foul sulphurous smell that they were gushing out and the boiling mud pots! We then were very glad to hit Termas de Polques hot springs which reached a comfortable 30degress water and certainly provided a relaxing morning dip at 4,200m. The view was sublime…outside the small pool we were faced with a never ending view of the ocean and nothing else! Clothes back on and we were off to see several lakes but Laguna Colorado and Laguna Verde were just breathtaking! Honestly, Colorado I just could not believe that the water was actually RED! The rays of the sun heat up all the elements from precious stones to bring out the colour – just crazy. Laguna Verde was in the middle of nowhere and BANG there it was. Greener than green a beautiful turquoise in colour just spectacular but extremely COLD! My pictures seriously do not do any justice to them. Right next to Laguna Verde was Laguna Blanca which was ok…We were off to our next hostel which was a lot warmer and the toilets were more bearable heheh. We were staying near these huge rocks where supposedly Condors fly by really early in the mornings (did not get up that early to see them).

Day 3 - The final day we were making our way to the piece de la resistance the actual salt flats…it was a bit of a drive so by the time we reached Uyni we stopped to have some lunch and then we had spent about 3hrs on the salt flats. Trying to describe the view, the feeling, and the atmosphere is just so hard! You are faced literally with a blank canvas. Straight ahead of you cannot differentiate where the sky ends and where the salts meet. The salts were covered by an inch or so of water which gave it an amazing mirror gaze. As you can imagine we took loads of pictures and went a bit too loco hehe but everywhere you looked it was just looked crazy. At one point on the left we had the clouds forming a very soft cover, on the left there were grey clouds building up with the odd lightning sprouting out, in front I had saw the most beautiful sun set and then to top this we saw a flock of flamingos flying away in the distance. This was an amazing tour that I would recommend anyone to do and you would be surprised…I mean who would have thought you would get to see loads of pink flamingos in Bolivia?!?!?!? Beautiful Bolivia but bloody cold.

Posted by jasdeep_virdee 19:11 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

Spectacular Sucre & Poco loco Potosi

overcast

Sucre 28.01.2012
I could not miss the actual capital of Bolivia (you would think that it would be La Paz but no), Sucre. So it was a short visit for a couple of days. Like Arequipa this city is very cute, small and reminded me of Berkhamsted/Bicester Village. This city is flourished with whitewashed buildings that adore the colonial look. The market is another crazy experience with a lot of bustling going and Api being sold only in the mornings or at 5pm. I did go to the viewpoint to see the city from Museo de la Recoleta which I did not go in to see the art work but to admire the city from above. You would only need a few days here or there were activities such as hiking (whats new heheh), tubing, and horse riding same kind of stuff.

Potosi
Making our way to Uyuni we stopped off at Potosi, which just happened to be the world’s highest city reaching a whooping 4,070m! As it was only a stop off (we needed to get a connecting bus to Uyuni which only run once early morning or late evening) we had to kill a few hours and there just so happen to be a local match that afternoon. So for £1.50 we went to see ‘The Strongest’ play against ‘National Potosi’ the game had a great atmosphere, fireworks being shot, the supporters were constantly singing out loud, there was no sign of alcohol which was very different and loads of families together! It was a great afternoon spent before we got another bumpy ride to Uyuni. A lot of people do go to Potosi to see the miners that still run today, to get a chance to participate in how a work is like down in the mines. This was something I did not want to go and see as I know it would be hard to take in. A few travellers that I met along the way did say that they fully enjoyed the experience and how they love talking to the miners (which some of them were as young as 14ys old!!!).

Posted by jasdeep_virdee 19:07 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

Puno, Lake Titicaca, Copacabana & Isle de la Sol

Peru Bolivia boarder crossing

semi-overcast

17.01.2012 Puno - 18.01.2012
Peru was overall a massive country that had a vast variety of diff landscapes by far a lot to see and do but Bolivia waits for me! So after 6weeks of being in Peru we have finally left and made it to the ‘cheapest’ country in South America – welcome to Bolivia! Puno is the gateway to get into Bolivia, with a few islands all surrounded in Lake Titicaca. The boarder crossing was straight forward simple and I got hit on by one of the officer lol it was well funny! It has been kind of frequent for me to see a lot of young children running hostels, shops and here at the boarder on the money exchange counter – they give me jokes coz they are so cocky! We had arrived in Copacabana not much to say about this town as we only used it as a base to get to the island Isle de la sol apart from being very touristy! The people we came across were rude at times which made it unpleasant at times – they came across not bothered!

19.01.2012 Isle de la Sol
So Isle de la Sol, dotted with many villages we had to pay a minor donation when we entered each village but all this was going towards their community. It took more and less a day to walk through the island but the high altitude difference from Peru to 4,000m did take it toll on many of us. For me I found it very hard to breathe let alone to just walk. Amazing scenery with a mixture of unexpected weather conditions from gusty winds to pure sun. Even then landscape changed from rich green fields to rocky paths. Once settled in our hostel we had an amazing view of the lake, which by the way was massive. I remember sitting down at a local restaurant for lunch just amazed at the size of the lake which was still as a statue with the sun glistening its rays and bouncing off different shades of blues and greens! After lunch I and Michael had decided to take a walk and we came to this high point where you could two side of the island just being surrounded by this immense amount of water. We sat quiet for some time; I was thinking how I would love for my family and friends just to experience the calmness and the beauty of what I had in front of me. We watched the sun set before we headed off to the hostel.

Posted by jasdeep_virdee 18:52 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

Mother land of Machu Picchu

Beautiful Bolivia

all seasons in one day

I remember arriving in Cuzco I was saw masses of houses all jumbled together on top of each other all forming a cone which our bus was going down, down to the centre. My 1st impressions were totally off…well the outside of the centre were pretty much run-down reminded me of Greenwich but once in the centre it was pretty, dinky, cobbled streets, alpaca shops galore and not forgetting millions of restaurants fighting for your attention!
So we finally made it to the land of the mighty land of the Machu Picchu. After purchasing our ticket in Cuzco tourism centre (hidden away on some off street near a stadium which Lonely Planet got wrong) we decided to leave a few days early and do our own 4day trek.
Trying to find out where to get a bus/collectivo in Peru (pretty much most of South America apart from Argentina) has many bus station specifically for different areas so it gets very confusing all you seem to hear are people shouting out destinations names….you do start to pick them up once accustomed to them lol because at 1st you can’t figure what they are saying. So we got a collective to the Sacred Valley (which comprises of Inca sites, as well as frenzied markets and high altitude Andean villages. Our 1st stop in the scared valley was sleepy Pisac (only an 1hr away from Cuzco), which lies 2,751m and about 33km away from Cuzco. The market takes over this very small town. Most of the stalls are very similar to their neighbours and filled with bright colours of embroidery. We only stayed there for the morning and we then made our way to Urubamba. With a population of 10,800 I thought there would be loads to see but it didn’t give me that excitement. We did visit the local market and had a bite to eat after finding a hostel to stay for the night. I remember seeing a poster of Shah Rukh Khan (an Indian Bollywood actor) in an Internet shop which was funny and weird! The next day we had made our way to Ollantaytambo with a smaller population of only 2,000 and far the best town I visited with the Scared Valley. You are hit strongly with a homely feel once you step off the bus. Cobbled, narrow streets, small shops, women and men all dressed in their traditional attire. We were lucky to arrive for the celebration of ‘3 Kings Day’. We had just arrived in time for the town’s procession that was comprised with a steel band, loads of locals dressed in fancy dress and a float which was walked through the streets towards the main church. I had witnessed several groups perform either a dance/role plays which were crazy from little children to grown ups dressed up in the most weirdest costumes and masks… a nurse, a ghoul/skeleton, birds, big frilly dresses, masked cowboys who were whipping each other so strongly around their ankles that you could see them move! After these performers the whole town had headed towards the bull ring. The hills were packed out with families and their picnics. Women selling plastic cups filled with jelly and topped up with whisked egg whites, homemade beer (which tasted liked like crap!), popcorn – all snacky food. We had an hour or so of bullfighting and rodeo entertainment before the drinking and eating started. I did venture out to the ruins that (which were free) were overlooking the town before it got dark we went back to one of may street parties. We had the mayor and his entourage getting pissed near the church alongside the steel band. The women were outdoing the men when it came to drinking. Closer to the market me and Michael were invited to a private party where we danced with the locals the night away (and they thought we were Brazilians lol). Amazing stay here and I would so come back here for a longer time – absolutely beautiful!
So the next stop was to get to Agua Caliente and boy was it a journey to remember! We were hit by 2 diff landslides! 1 being a water one that had blocked the path so our bus could not go through until it was sorted out and the other one was more and less very similar but instead it was a load of loose rocks falling ton our path. During this long arse journey the driver had over sold so I was very lucky to stand for 4/5odd hours, oh yes with no toilet on board. There was this little boy whose mum had held out a carrier bag so he could go for a piss….awww how nice! I did get a seat for only 30mins before we finally got to Hydroelectric. I didn’t realise why it was called ‘Hydroelectric’ until I got there and all was revealed! Alongside the bus journey we were driving against a very wild, strong, crazy river which has enough generated energy which is stored and used for the local towns. So there we were faced with a 2.5hr walk on rail tracks, as we got there late due to the landslides we were had to end up walking in pitch black darkness but thankfully we were prepared – headlights! There were quite a few other backpackers doing this route so there was a lot of ‘ola’ going around. We finally made it to Agua Caliente but late…10pm and it was very hard to find a hostel but we manage to. We had to get up at 5am so a few hours of kip before the big day was needed.

5.30am pissing down with rain waiting at the bus stop only to be told that we needed to purchase a bus ticket as this was not included in the main ticket! The 20min bus journey that was at a ridiculous price took us to the main entrance with a big notice sign saying ‘No food or drink to be entered’ but we later saw families having picnics which drove us mad because as you can imagine the prices were crazy for a meal or even a can of coke!
So 1st stop was Waynu Picchu…we had to walk quite a bit at a very high altitude with steep stone stairs (which were slippery due to the slight drizzle in the morning) this must have taken us at least an hour to do. Once at the top we were slightly unlucky as there was a lot of cloud that was covering up Machu Picchu but I did get to see through the clouds several times – the feeling?!?!? Madness, like I mentioned before when you see an image over and over again and then when you go and see it you can’t believe your there - it looked fake in weird way. I did a very medieval feel. Walked back down the stairs towards the cave which was a waste of time so please allow going there nothing spectacular at all just a waste of 2hours! So as we were heading out of Waynu Picchu there was another picchu which gave us a closer look of Machu Picchu worth the small climb. So there it was MP standing in its glory and it did look spectacular, very grand, very green and just ‘pinch me, pinch me, am I there yet’ feeling! There were quite a few people but I did not feel bombarded with loads of tourist which was a great feeling. We decided to walk down to Agua Caliente as the bus fare was a rip off – lets just say after the 3hour walk on the rail tracks combined with the walking from 7am till 3pm I think I should have taken the bus back down as my knees were killing me so bad that my legs were about to give way…on a brighter note finally made it to Agua Caliente starving like mad could not even speak to one another lol. Had a Mexican we did chill to have the meal even though time was not on our side as we were planning to walk back to the Hydroelectric place that evening.
We got to Hydroelectric for about 8pm and was told that we would be able to get a ride to Santa Teressa. We waited and waited till 10pm when we were later told the roads experienced another landslide so transport was more and less on standstill. Luckily this couple dropped us off just before the landslide. The night was very mild and the moon was incredibly bright it was just blissful but the route ahead of us was not. As Michael put his 1st foot on the rocks you could hear a few falling down to the river below. We made it through and were lucky to get to Santa Teressa where we got a cab like midnight to Santa Maria hoping to get a overnight bus back to Cuzco but nada, so thankfully there was a café that was still open (midnight/1am) and the lady helped us to look for a place to sleep. Next morning we were waiting for the bus to take us back to Cuzco. Amazing trip really thought it was gonna be too hyped up but surprisingly it is something that I am glad that I had done.

Posted by jasdeep_virdee 18:39 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

Fishing for Pirahnas...Amazon stylee

The 3 day Jungle Trek

sunny 25 °F

Our last day here in the jungle and we were suppose to get up early to see the sunrise but due to the cloudy weather this was impossible but we were welcomed with yet another delicious breakfast and we were off to do a bit of Piranha fishing. The fishing turned out to be a miss as the tides were really high but we took advantage for another long lazy boat ride around the swamps where I saw squirrel monkeys and more toucans by the time I knew it we were back at the lodge for an early lunch, quickly but sadly packed our bags and we were off to Santa Rosa to take our 3hrs ride back to Rurrenbenque. The sun was out full beam a slight breeze and we were cruising in and out of bushes and all sorts what still gets me is how on earth can someone remember which turning to take when you are only surrounded by trees/bushes and loads of water and no road/river signs???? Sadly we had left 2hrs back to Santa Rosa on the boat, 3hrs in a 4x4 back to Rurrenbenque where we were greeted by ice cold coke – just perfect! The sun was HOT n beaming down strongly we were told by out tour operators that no buses will leave to go back to La Paz for that evening we checked either way and guess what…..they were wrong! We had left that evening at 11pm and arrived in La Paz the next day at 15pm!

Posted by jasdeep_virdee 12:02 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

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