Saturday, November 25, 2006

On to Chile

From Arequipa we boarded a bus (naturally, its how we roll down here) and headed to our last new country on the continent for this trip, Chile. After we experienced a wake up call by a "earthquake" shaking our building and waking us up (we were on the top floor of the highest building we could see in the area), we made our way to Iquique, Chile. Iquique is a city on the beach that apparently Chile is trying to build up as a beach resort destination, there´s even a part of town that sells duty free merchandise, including cars.

Activities for Iquique included the beach, the casino (where we tried our luck at subsidizing the cost of the trip with a little income), and we watched the Departed for $4 dollars apiece, which we thought was a great movie.

Also, this is where we spent Thanksgiving. As you all know, they don´t celebrate this holiday on this continent. Since I hadn´t seen turkey on a menu since arriving in South America, I didn´t spend much time looking. My big Thanksgiving meal this year was a chicken cesear salad, where the cesear dressing is actually just straight mayo.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Arequipa, Peru and Colca Canyon

After the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu, we headed to Arequipa with Diedrick and Dane. Since I hadn´t had enough hiking from before, we decided to hike nearby Colca Canyon for two days. Our English speaking guide was a aprox 17 year old kid who introduced himself in English in front of his parents (who fed us breakfast) and then didn´t speak English to our group again the next two days.

After hiking down into the canyon and crossing the river twice, we spent the night at the Oasis where we could swim and play soccer, and ate our spegetti dinner outside in the light rain. We woke up at 3am the next morning and hiked up out of the canyon and back to where we started for breakfast again. From there we took a bus to the place where we watched the condors take flight in the morning. Afterward we took the bus back to Arequipa. Diedrick left for Lima, and Dane, Mark, and my plans to spend to night out partying were dented by finding out that because the nationwide elections in Peru on Sunday, the town was going dry. We preserved and found places willing to serve, but it was a quieter night than we expected.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Inca Trail and Machu Picchu

Day 2 of the Inca Trail was a brutal day of hiking that started at 5:30am. We started by getting our tickets to enter the trail, and crossing the river at the control point to get in. Impressively, my ticket had my name spelled wrong, wrong age, and they switched Mark´s and my passport number, but despite the closer scrutiny we were allowed to continue.

Our group consisted as 8 tourists, 1 guide (Henry), 1 cook, and 4 porters. The porters carry the food, tents, etc., and us tourists only had to carry a bag with our personal things, sleeping bag, and sleeping mat. The other tourists in our group consisted of Dane from Canada, Diedrick from Holland, and Mark and Michael from England. Lastly we were rounded out by Phillipe and Veronica, a couple from Belguim, which included the only girl in our group.

On the first day of hiking the trail the different groups get spread out over a bunch of different campgrounds. There are 500 tourists allowed on the Inca Trail each day. Our group had camped farther away from Machu Picchu than the rest of them, so on Day 2 we had to hike all the way up to Dead Woman´s Pass and down to the next campground, where almost all of the groups spent the second night. For the first part of the hike our group stayed together, but when the sun came out we really got spread out as everybody moved at their own pace. After a long lunch, we hiked the last way to the pass which was 2 hours of constant uphill\upstairs hiking to the top. 6 out of the 8 of us completed it in an hour and caught the group ahead of us, and then we waited over an hour for Diedrick and Michael to make it to the top after stopping for rest every 6 steps.

On day 3 we also got up at 5:30am, and we were making good time through the easier part of the trail and the ruins along the way that we decided to go all the way to Machu Picchu today. After lunch at the last campsite before Machu Picchu (this place actually had a store and hot water), we hiked the rest of the way through the Sun gate to Machu Picchu for sunset and then down to the nearby town of Aguas Caliente. Sore after 3 days of hiking, our group headed immediately to the hot springs in town to relax. After a few hours there, we head to a restaurant where we spent the night to have a spectacular dinner where our cook showed he knew how to use a kitchen when one was available. After being couped up in a tent for 2 days, we headed out into town for some drinks and even some dancing. On the way back to the restaurant, Dane, Diedrick, Mark, Mark and I challenged some locals to a 5v5 soccer match after finding some guys playing on a short concrete field. After falling way behind early, we finally started to click and tied it up before losing 9-8. After that I got an hour of sleep before heading back to Machu Picchu the next day.

Henry gave us the tour when we arrived, and then all of us tourists except Michael climbed to the top of Wayna Picchu, the adjoining mountain next to Machu Picchu. After hiking back to town we spent the day there before heading back to Cuzco on the train and bus.

Welcome to Peru*

From Copacabana, Bolivia we pushed on into Cuzco, Peru. Cuzco is a city in Peru from where it is easy to get to a lot of nearby Inca ruins. Cuzco was our base from which we did some white water rafting, and then started trekking along the Inca Trail for 4 days to reach Machu Pichu. The first day we hiked 10 km along the river before setting up camp for the night. They were having a celebration on Saturday night where we camped, where we watched a 5 v 5 soccer tournment on concrete, listened to a small band play while people danced, and drank moonshine poured out of a gasoline container. More on the Inca Trail and Machu Pichu in a later post.

Also, if anyone has read any good books lately (long books too), I´m taking recomendations for reading materials before I head off to Australia or New Zealand, you can just email me with them directly.


Saturday, November 11, 2006

Copacabana, Bolivia

From Salta we strung together some bus and train rides to get all the way up to Copacabana, Bolivia on the shores of Lake Titicaca, which is the highest lake in the world. And sure enough, Captian Mark and Captain Indiana Tang sailed the highest lake in the world.

The locals rent their boats down by the shore. After selecting the most sea worthy sailboat from the 10 or so available, we survived the walk across the shaky pier and boarded (one of the kids helping us embark fell between the pier and the boat). Being veterans of sailing HobieCats at Wrightsville, we intially wondered what we had gotten into when we saw what was involved in sailing the vessel. However, after rowing out through the other boats anchored near the pier, we got through the 12 step process of getting the sail up and were cruising the lake like the experienced vets we are in no time.

We also hiked on Isla de la Sol or Island of the Sun, where Inca legend has it that the Sun god arose here. We saw a few Inca ruins here along the hike, and enjoyed a late lunch overlooking Titicaca.

We also learned that some things are different at high altitude. For example, when baking at high altitudes you have to watch the oven, or you will burn your brownies. I´d like to thank Lori for warning us of this before we burned anything baking.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


Halloween didn´t seem to be a big holiday in Argentina. There were a few stores that had a small selection of masks or costumes, but that was about it. We spent the evening in downtown Salta, and went out later and I only saw 3 kids dressed up. My favorite costume of the three was the kid who wore a scream mask, Argentina soccer jersey, and carried an axe. I´ll have to celebrate it next year.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Salta, Argentina

Leaving Iguazu, we headed west to Salta, Argentina next. Salta is a base point for a lot of outdoor activities in the surrounding areas. We rented mountain bikes to go up to La Caldera and then up to a nearby dam to go swimming. After I was exhausted after 20 km of uphill riding (Salta is in a valley, so anywhere you go is up from the city), we discovered the road to the dam was closed and headed straight for La Caldera. We ate a late lunch at a ranch hotel restaurant where I enjoyed the best $3.66 steak I´ve ever had, and afterward they let me swim in their pool so I didn´t miss out on swimming just because the dam road was closed.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Iguazu Falls

We saw the Argentina side of Iguazu Falls next. After a late start due to the bus issues, we spent the entire day at the falls hiking the various trails and seeing all the falls there were to see on the Argentine side. This was the most crowded and touristy place of the trip so far, we were shoulder to shoulder with other tourists the entire hike to the Garganta del Diablo, which was the most powerful of the many falls at Iguazu. Since my pithy descriptions can´t do Iguazu justice, pictures will be posted soon.

Concordia, Argentina

From Salto we intended to head up to Iguazu Falls. We took a boat across the Rio Uruguay to Concordia, Argentina to catch a bus to Puerto Iguazu. Upon arriving, we found out we could spend the day changing buses 3 times to get there, or take an overnight bus direct. Since Concordia also had hot springs, it didn´t take long to make this decision. The information desk informed me that bus number 7 went to the termas (hot springs). What I wasn´t able to distinguish with my Spanish is that bus number 7 with a sign for termas went there. The bus number 7 we hopped on dropped us off on the road when it turned around, and the driver told us to walk straight until we saw it on the right. Two miles of walking through the blinding sun later, I was enjoying myself at the hot springs for a second straight day.

The overnight bus to Puerto Igauzu was a bit late, but it started great with dinner and Pirates of the Carribean 2 subtitled into Spanish. However, after going to sleep I woke up freezing and with the air conditioner dripping water on my head. After moving seats and falling asleep again despite it being 30 degrees, I woke up to find out that the bus had broken down at 4am. They moved us onto a new bus (much more comfortable tempature wise), and we finished the trip only arriving 2.5 hours late after all. Upon arriving, we no longer had backpacks under the bus, so we foudn a nice cheap hostel while they told 30 minutes for the bags. 75 minutes later we got our bags. Hopefully this will be the worst bus ride of the trip, and it really wasn´t too bad in hindsight.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Salto, Uruguay

We left Colonia on a 5:55am bus to head to Salto next. My plans of sleeping were quickly dashed when the bus filled with high school kids about 50 mins later. Everytime I thought the bus was full, another group of four got on and they were all over the aisle and armrests and they were wide awake and chatty. The bus finally let them off at what looked like the middle of a field from my seat, and naturally I slept the rest of the way.

Salto is a town near some hot springs (Termas de Dayman) that we spent the day at. It had about 7 different pools, and thankfully 2 of them were covered so we didn´t get burnt by the sun. We´re still yet to see more than 5 minutes of rain on this trip. I tried the Asado here, which is barbeque (thanks Jackee). We also actually stayed in a budget hotel for the first time, here´s Mark enjoying tv in the room for the first time, appreciating a telenovela.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Tentative Itenerary

Ok, this is our complete plan for the South American leg of our journey. Some of this we´ve already done and some of it we haven´t. We´re attempting to stay flexible so it is subject to change.

October 15 - Buenos Aires, Argentina

Colonia, Uruguay (sleepy little town where Argentineans vacation)

Salto, Uruguay (town famous for hot springs nearby)

Puerto Iguazu, Argentina (huge complex of waterfalls)

Salta, Argentina (central location for going to many outdoor activities)

La Paz, Bolivia (highest capital city in the world)

Copacabana, Bolivia (fun/touristy town on the shores of Lake Titicaca)

Puno, Peru (town on the shores of Lake Titicaca)

Cuzco, Peru (base location for most trips to Machu Pichu and other ruins, we plan to hike to Choquequirau)

Arequipa, Peru (outdoor activity town)

San Pedro de Atecama, Chile (backpackers hotspot in northern Chile)

La Serena, Chile (beach town)

Mendoza, Argentina (city in the heart of Argentina's wine region. It came highly recommended)

Santiago, Chile (capital of Chile)

Head south through the Lake District of Chile (no specific towns chosen yet)

Bariloche, Argentina (mountain town in the Lake District, trekking, rafting, etc.)

Bahia Blanca, Argentina (beach town on the way back to BA)

Mar Del Plata, Argentina (high-end beach town for the wealthy of BA)

Pinamar, Argentina (popular BA beach town weekend getaway)

Buenos Aires (we´re hoping to get back here in time to spend a week or two here)

As you can tell we´re doing a big loop. (forgive any spelling errors) I´ll try my best to edit this as we go with any deviations from "the plan". I´m also going to try to post a map later. (the computer isnt cooperating right now)