Sparky Travels

April 17, 2011

Salkantay Trek Part 1

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — admin @ 10:10 pm

A couple of hours after falling asleep my alarm was ringing and I was up and out. What I didn’t need was there to be no water and consequently no shower. I didn’t have long to worry about this as the minibus arrived and we were on our way to Mollepata. Given that I risen at 3am I pretty much slept the whole way there. My fellow trekkers were a Dutch couple and Swiss guy. Our guide was a Peruvian called Elvis. At Mollepata we had breakfast, bought coca leaves and walking sticks and then continued to the starting point of the trek, Sorayapampa. Here, at 3800m we met our mule driver and chef and began the our walk to Machu Picchu. A few minutes after we began we stopped to make an offering to the mountains in Incan style (no, not sacrifices) by leaving coca leaves and requests for good weather and safe journeying.

DSC02919DSC02912 

The landscape was very reminiscent of the Scottish highlands, to further add to the likeness the rain began while we slogged uphill to our lunch destination at Soyrococha. It was a hard hike up to the high point of 4600m as we made our way through the Salkantay Pass between Humantay and Salkantay mountains. Just before the top we stopped for lunch in the pouring rain, huddled under a plastic sheet. The soup followed by fish and rice warmed our cockles and kept us all in good spirits.

DSC02922DSC02925 

The downhill walk to the plains and our camping spot at Huayracmachay was long but not too steep and the rain eased throughout. We were descending into the clouds at this time so never got to see either of the mountains we had passed. When we arrived at Huayracmachay our tents were set up and the chef was working on dinner. The valley were were in was meant to be pretty but we couldn’t see more than 50 metres in either direction. We chatted and got to know each other before heading to bed at 9pm. Me and Stephane were sharing a tent while, naturally, Joost and Marije had a tent of their own, as did Elvis.

DSC02940 DSC02961

We awoke at 7am on the 17th after a night of heavy rain. Our tent had just about coped while Joost and Marije’s hadn’t fared so well. A pancake breakfast and clearing sky encouraged us and we were soon on our way downhill again. The rain returned but was only a light drizzle as the highland landscape gave way to forest. DSC02969 DSC02978

Halfway down the track Marije’s knee gave up and after attempting to struggle on it was decided that Elvis would go and get a horse and bring it back so she could ride down. We sat and waited with her as Elvis ran off. Two and a half hours later Elvis still hadn’t returned. Lunch was being postponed and we realised we didn’t know exactly where the campsite was, other than ‘down’. We decided that we should at least try and make our way down the hill a bit. A few minutes after we set off, Elvis appeared with horse in tow. It was a good thing as the track quickly began to deteriorate. We crossed through creeks and waterfalls on bridges made of branches, or stepping stones. For a few hundred metres the track was a mud slick where we were glad to make it through without losing a boot. It would have been very difficult for Marije to make it down here on foot.

DSC02976 DSC02989

We arrived at Colcapampa at 4:30pm and wolfed down our very late lunch. Elvis was especially deserving since he’d had to go all the way to camp, get the horse, bring it back and then return with us! Dinner was only a couple of hours later in the same place and after a lesson on the Inca gods from Elvis and a game or two of cards we went to sleep.

DSC03000

April 16, 2011

Cuzco

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — admin @ 5:48 am

Liam, Marie, Mia and I arrived in Cuzco, capital of the Incan empire, on the 12th of April and checked into Pariwana hostel. Unlike most of our accommodation over the last month, this was a big, busy, party hostel. After a quick nap in the ridiculously comfy beds (big duvets & 2 pillows!) we had a few games of table tennis in the courtyard. A walk round the town revealed it to be very pretty, if touristy, with colonial architecture dominating and a numerous pretty plazas, not least the central Plaza de Armas. We dined at Los Perros, a modern restaurant serving international cuisine.DSC02904

Liam was only passing through Cuzco on his way to Lima and a flight out of South America so the next day was his last day with us. We sat on the balcony of an Indian restaurant, drinking beer and wished him well on his journey. I then went on a trek round town to look into treks to Machu Picchu with limited success. Me and the girls went to the recommended Inca…fe for dinner where I sampled some Alpaca steak with the Andean staple of quinoa. The alpaca was tender and juicy with a taste veering towards venison. yummy!

DSC02900

Back at the hostel it was Pub Quiz night, but we arrived too late to form a team. Instead we helped a couple of Irish guys, James and Eugene who won the quiz and kindly shared their bottle of rum prize with us. This helped make the karaoke night which followed the quiz bearable. The singing (none of which involved us, I hasten to add) was excruciating and the song selection abysmal. Me and James were the only two left wh wanted to continue so we caught a cab to sample the local clubs. The first was closed and the bar below was lifeless. The next stop was pretty much full of prostitutes and tourists and the final one full of large groups of Israelis. We decided at this point to cut our losses and head to bed before the sun came up.

I dragged myself out of the hostel on the morning of the 14th and tried to get my trek booked. Most were too expensive or didn’t go all the way to Machu Picchu and the only company that ticked all the boxes was closed for the morning. While I waited for it to open I went to MAP, the Museum of PreColumbian Art. This was mainly displays of ceramics and metalwork from the earliest civilizations through to the Incas. The most impressive was that of the Mochicas, from the 1st-8th century AD. These displayed high levels of craftmanship and lifelike portrayals of animals. Other impressive pieces in the museum were indistinguishable from some modern art, especially cubism.

I managed to book my trek, a 4night/5day Salkantay trek, that afternoon which begins in two days time. Fresh from my enjoyable Alpaca experience it was time to try something else… Guinea Pig. It was served roasted, halved and with the head chopped off but with it’s little claws rigid in the air. The taste was like very bland rabbit and there was not much meat on it. I’ve tried it but I’ll never order it again. Though maybe a stew would be more palatable.

IMG_2040

Friday the 15th was spent trying to get prepared for the trek the next day. I needed to pay the $400 or so, hire trekking boots, sleeping bag and a rucksack. At our team meeting that evening we were informed that the pickup time for the trek was 4am in the morning. I still managed to go out for a farewell dinner with Mia, Marie and Claire, another Danish girl. We went to a sushi restaurant and I managed to get a couple of hours sleep after packing my bag and checking out.

April 12, 2011

Puno

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — admin @ 10:18 am

After an uneventful exit from Bolivia and entrance into Peru, we arrived late in the evening at Inkas Rest hostel in Puno, a town on the banks of the Peruvian part of Lake Titicaca. The owner, Alfredo, was super-friendly and directed us to a Chinese restaurant that would still be open at this late hour. We underestimated the size of the dinner and ended up with a huge selection of wanton soups and noodle courses.

We were up early on the 11th to be picked up for our boat tour on Lake Titicaca. The first stop on the tour was a 20 minute sail away, The floating islands of Uro These are a community of people living on islands made from reeds dating back to before the time of the Incas. It was a bit of a tourist trap with a tour boat anchored beside each island. Once we were on ‘land’ we were shown how the islands are made and what life is like for the villagers. They were very friendly and it was an interesting stop but it all felt a little unreal. We were given a ride in a reed raft back to our boat and then spent a few hours sailing to the next destination, Isla Taquile.

DSC02848DSC02811

Taquile is a traditional Titicacan island and as with the Uros Islands, is very touristy. We had a walk up to a house for lunch where the gave us a demonstration of local dancing and served us lunch. Then we had an hour to look around the nondescript plaza. If you’d never seen island life on Lake Titicaca then it may have been interesting but I was quite bored with it.

DSC02863DSC02872

One good thing about the trip was the people we met while sunning ourselves on the top deck during the long journey to and from port. We met some of them (including Katie & Shaun and Shelley) in the Rock and Reggae bar in the centre of Puno after a dinner of Pizza and Pisco Sours. We rocked the bar for a good number of hours before heading home. On the way a guy ran past Shelley and grabbed her vintage cigarette case, disappearing quickly into the night. Presumably he thought it was her purse but he was out of luck, there weren’t even any cigarettes in it.

DSC02886

The next day we caught an 8am bus to Cuzco, leaving disappointing Puno behind. Though I’d seen floating Islands for the first time on my travels, the tour (which was well run and informative) destinations didn’t really do it for me. The town is also pretty underwhelming and I wouldn’t rush back. Not the greatest introduction to Peru, but the real sights are yet to come.

April 10, 2011

Copacabana

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — admin @ 3:06 pm

Liam and I were picked up from our hostel in La Paz at 8am and didn’t escape La Paz’s traffic-jammed streets for an hour and a half. A few hours later we arrived in the resort town of Copacabana via a ferry crossing where the bus went across on it’s own barge!

DSC02624

We checked into the nearest hostel (Hostel Central) and went to the pub to watch Chelsea v Man Utd while drinking a very tasty 7% beer named Judas. We relaxed for the rest of the day and had an extremely disappointing dinner in the restaurant next door to our hostel.

DSC02628

Early on the 7th we boarded a boat for the short, yet long, hop across to Isla Del Sol, where the sun rose from the sea according to Inca legend. The boat trundled along at near walking pace taking almost 3 hours to reach the North of the island which has a population of 3000.

We only had a few hours until the boat back to the mainland so set straight off along the peaks towards the Southern port. The sun was shining ad the trek was lovely, if somewhat tiring due to the altitude and steepness. DSC02667DSC02641  DSC02649DSC02635

At various points we had to buy tickets at checkpoints along the route to enter areas owned by different parts of the community. The final descent was an old Inca stairway leading down to the port where we caught the excruciatingly slow boat back to Copacabana.

We strolled along the beach before dinner and then tried to find the party scene in Copacabana, we failed.

On Friday the 8th we had a hearty English Breakfast at Bistrot and then met Marie and Mia who had caught up with us again after leaving La Paz. The highlight of the day was a trip out on a swan-shaped pedalo, with Liam serenading us on the guitar. A really fun wee excursion.

DSC02723DSC02728 DSC02730

The next day we returned to Isla Del Sol to spend the night. This time the boat was slightly faster. We spend most of the time there eating and drinking on terraces and balconies enjoying the tranquillity and sun.

DSC02778 DSC02782

On the 10th we waited for the boat back to Copacabana and caught the 6pm bus to Puno, Peru. Bolivia was without doubt one of the most consistently spectacular countries I’ve ever visited, full of amazing scenery, friendly people and interesting culture. I’ll no doubt return since there is so much more to see there.

April 6, 2011

La Paz

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — admin @ 3:09 pm

Halfway through our night bus journey to La Paz, with the clock just ticking over into April Fool’s Day, we stopped for a short break in some nondescript town. When we reboarded the bus Lara discovered that her camera, computer, purse and iPod had been stolen. It was small consolation that she still had her passport. I was fortunate that my bag, containing the same sort of stuff was untouched only 3 seats further forward!

When we arrived in La Paz we checked into our hostel (directly opposite San Pedro Prison which unfortunately no longer runs tours) and had a nap before looking into the possibility of a tour to the jungle in the north of Bolivia.DSC02538

Our dinner was at a cheap and wonderfully tasty Lebanese restaurant, where we met Livia again, followed by drinks at Oliver’s (The self styled “5th best bar in La Paz”). After that we went to the infamous Route 36, the most outrageous club I’ve ever seen.

Subsequently, the next day was always going to be a recovery day. The girls did drag me out into town again to try and book a jungle trip but the cost and timing of available trips meant that we were ultimately unsuccessful. Maybe next time. That evening me and Liam watch 21 and overall had a quiet one.

Sunday the 3rd of April was Lara’s birthday. We breakfasted at Olivers and strolled round town enjoying the sights, markets and ice cream. We went out for a birthday meal at Mongos, a classy restaurant in a nice area. Soon we returned to the hostel, full and tired.

The next morning we headed to Pepe’s, a charming cafe which served fantastic breakfasts close to the Withes Market. We then took a taxi to a viewpoint which was closed on Mondays before finding an even more impressive one which was open. La Paz is situated in a really beautiful setting, built up the sides of hills with a bustling and vibrant centre.

DSC02564

DSC02555

I escaped on my own to visit the Museum of Contemporary Art – three levels of piantings crammed onto walls in a pretty building. Much of the artwork was for sale and I was sorely tempted by a few pieces. We returned to the Lebanese for dinner and then hit the hay in anticipation of an exciting day to follow.

Marie, Lara and I rose early on the 5th and took a taxi south of town where we were picked up by two sufficiently ‘Xtreme’ brothers in their 4×4. We drove out of town into the countryside and up a hill overlooking a beautiful valley. This was where we would jump of the hillside and float our way down to the ground in our first paragliding experience.DSC02591DSC02615 

My nerves evaporated as soon as my pilot and I took a couple of steps and rose smoothly into the air. It was a novel feeling sitting down and floating around with a stunning vista all around me. 17 minutes felt like seconds and I’d happily have gone straight back up to do it again.

DSC02596DSC02597DSC02601  

The most dangerous part of the day was probably the taxi back, with a taxi driver who kept on falling asleep at the wheel and had to be woken up whenever we stopped at red lights. After a chicken broaster lunch, Liam and I went shopping and booked our bus tickets for the next day while the girls went to the tattoo parlour to get etched and pierced. We returned to Mongos for dinner where people were dropping like flies due to the exertions of the day.

Liam and I rose early the next morning and caught the bus to our final stop in Bolivia, Copacabana, on the banks of Lake Titicaca. La Paz was a surprisingly pleasant place which I didn’t expect to enjoy as much as I did. It could easily have kept me occupied for another week but the travelling must continue as time ticks away.

April 1, 2011

Katalla (near Sucre)

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — admin @ 5:01 am

The seven of us (Jake, Lara, Liam, Marie, Mia, Rick and I) arrived at Katalla, 8km from Sucre in the early evening of the 29th of March. The place was set in a beautiful wee valley, with some local farms dotted about. It consisted of a central building with a good kitchen, dining table and common room with benches. On the porch were hammocks and just to the side of the building was a traditional stone pizza oven, bonfire area and more benches. The chalets were cosy buildings with attached toilets and were painted in the same bright colours as the main building. The jewel in the crown of Katalla is the outdoor spaces, with a badminton, volleyball court, pool (just installed so unfortunately we didn’t get to use it) and mini golf course.

DSC02530DSC02529 

We settled in and Rick, the self appointed Head Chef, set about cooking up a storm with assistance from er, his assistants.The Swiss owner even brought her pet puppies over for us to play with for a while. Everyone started to get settled in and relaxed and after our slap up dinner we sat around the bonfire. Music played and Rick treated us to some exceptional gypsy violin while the drink flowed.

The next day we lazily rose and breakfasted before having a bocce competition in the sun. DSC02488

In the afternoon we.headed to the nearby “Seven Waterfalls”. The first waterfall we reached had a lovely pool so we jumped in. The water was cold and refreshing in the heat of the day as we splashed about.

IMG_1602

As the afternoon began to ebb away the girls headed back while we lads decided to explore the canyon leading down in the general direction of Katalla. We had great fun rock hopping and picking our way down along the riverbank.

DSC02508DSC02510  

Another relaxing evening followed by the glow of the campfire.

The last day in March and our last day in Katalla was similar to the previous one. We returned to the “Seven waterfalls” but this time we climbed up past the first waterfall to the next pool. We spent longer here warming up on the rocks and cooling down in the bright blue water on what was another gorgeous day.

IMG_1631 

That evening we reluctantly left Katalla and returned along the bumpy road to Sucre where we caught a long distance bus we’d booked earlier in the day. La Paz awaits.

March 29, 2011

Sucre

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — admin @ 8:01 pm

Waking up in Potosi on the 27th of March, Rick and I joined a group of fellow travellers from our hostel in getting a bus to Sucre. These were Jake, Liam (both Australian), Lara (Swiss), Mia and Marie (both Danish). We arrived in Sucre, the previous capital of Bolivia a few hours later after a rickity bus ride and spent some time trying to find a hostel with space for all seven of us. In the end we plumped for three private rooms in Hostal San Francisco. A nice, clean hotel close to the central plaza with a lovely courtyard.DSC02370

We walked round town to see what was going down (not much) and went for drinks overlooking the Plaza. The buildings in the plaza and surrounds are all bright white, prompting Sucre’s nickname of the White City. Dinner was in a French restaurant that wouldn’t look out of place in any western city, La Taverna. The food was excellent and though expensive for Bolivia was less than £5 per person. I had the Chateaubriand steak which was cooked to perfection. We were all stuffed and looking forward to our comfortable beds so had an early night.

DSC02368

We started our first full day in Sucre with breakfast in a nice cafe called Florin. I ordered the Pan Bapao, which was a bit of an mystery based on the menu’s description. When it came I was surprised to see an excellent version of the Asian steamed buns I enjoyed so much. So tasty I ordered another one.

The only attraction Sucre seems to offer is a Dinosaur Park just out of town. It is based at a quarry where dinosaur footprints were discovered traversing the quarry wall. The boys weren’t up for it so the three girls and I caught the Dino Bus there. On the way we met Livia, a Swiss girl who joined us for the trip. The Dino Park was pretty modern but not exactly a must see attraction. The dinosaur footprints were relatively interesting and our guide was full of enthusiasm, even if he couldn’t impress the dozen non-plussed Israelis also on our tour.

DSC02389 DSC02393

Afterwards, the four girls and I ended up at a local teashop in the centre of Sucre for tea and various Bolivian cakes. Not a very manly pursuit, but very tasty.

DSC02409

We met the boys, went for dinner in another nice restaurant and then drinks in a bar called Bibliocafe. It was pretty quiet, but the 8 of us provided plenty of business.

DSC02410

We returned to Cafe Florin for a late breakfast on the 29th and then set about gathering supplies for our next destination, Katalla EcoLodge. We’d been told about this place by people in Potosi and it sounded like a perfect little place. Situated 10km outside Sucre, it is a small hostel set in the country with individual cabins. We were picked up in two groups by the guy who worked there and taken on the bumpy track to Katalla.

March 27, 2011

Potosi

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — admin @ 9:31 am

Our 5hr bus to Potosi arrived at 3pm, Rick and I caught a taxi to our chosen hostel - Koala Den -  in the North of the centre. Like many hostels I’ve encountered here, it looks like its seen better days but was comfy enough.

DSC02366

Potosi holds the title of the highest city in the world and once had great wealth, being one of the richest cities in South America, due to the silver mines which made it famous. Rick and I had a short walk around the steep network of streets but the altitude limited the speed and distance we could cover. We put some much needed – salt encrusted – laundry on and had pizza and beer at the hostel before heading to bed. Our quiet night was due to us booking a tour of the mines the next morning. We’d heard numerous accounts of how scary, dangerous and shocking the tour is, never helped by having to sign a disclaimer absolving the tour company of any responsibility in the event of our death.

We were up early on the 26th and headed to Real Deal Tours where we met our fellow ‘miners’, Sarah & Cecilie from Denmark and a Japanese guy. The five of us were to be led by Efrim, a former guide with Koala Tours who’d been recommended by Lonely Planet and had started his own company with some other ex-miners. After getting kitted out with wellies, jackets, trousers and hardhats with headlamps we walked around the miner’s market. Here we bought gifts for the miners we were expecting to meet down there. Popular gifts were coca leaves, soft drinks and cigarettes (not a good idea given the damage their lungs take) but I couldn’t help but spend the 20Bs (£1.90) on a stick of dynamite with fuse and detonator.

DSCF0009 DSCF0046

Fully in the spirit and pretty apprehensive, we chewed on our own supply of coca leaves and entered the mine. Within a few metres the tunnel had begun shrinking and everyone began to stoop, walking single file into the darkness. A hundred metres in we met some young (15-19 year old) miners pushing a cart. We stopped for photos and Efrim explained the life they lead. The conditions are pretty harrowing, with bad air, long shifts and dangerous work but they can earn 3 or 4 times the average Bolivian’s pay.

DSCF0016 DSCF0023

We stumbled through the tunnels which were up to a foot and a half deep with water and getting smaller the deeper we went. Ever so often we’d meet some miners and would watch them work, help them push their carts and hand out our gifts.DSCF0032

The girls had reached the end of their tether by the time we reached the deepest part so Efrim and the three of us guys crawled the last 50 metres to a section where the tunnels got uncomfortably small and we could hear the miners using a pneumatic drill to break up the rock. We could barely see anything due to the dust and breathing was difficult.

On the way back up towards we surface, we stopped off at the ‘shrine’ to the devil of the mountain, where offerings of cigarettes, sweets and alcohol were given. We got to taste some of the alcohol, a miner’s favourite at 96% alcohol. I’ve no idea what the other 4% is!

After 2 hours underground we were glad to see the literal light at the end of the tunnel and an escape into the fresh air. After this we were given a quick tour of a refinery, where the miners (who are all individual contractors) sell their produce and returned our miner equipment. The tour was really well led and I felt safe throughout (or as safe as you can feel in a working mine).

DSCF0045

In the evening a gang of us went to Coyote Grill (Jeremy, Marky, Kate, Rick, me & English Liam) for a Mexican meal and those of us who didn’t have a mine tour the next day went to a bar. After five minutes in the bar we all started sneezing and our eyes watering. Some sort of tear gas had been released nearby and soon all the customers and staff were outside trying to get the sting out of our nostrils.

March 25, 2011

Salt Flats II

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — admin @ 3:19 pm

We were allowed a leisurely 7am start on the 23rd of March, the third day of our Salt Flats tour which began with us driving past  Laguna Colorada on the way to the Arbioles de Teirra (Tree of Rock). This is a famous rock which resembles a tree and we waited our turn for the obligatory group photos.

DSC02231 DSC02226
Our route then led us past the 5 Lakes which varied in colour, reflectivity and overall beauty.

DSC02242DSC02264DSC02239DSC02250
We stopped for lunch at another field of strange geological formations, many of which were perfect for clambering about on, and then continued on to the town of Uyuni. On the outskirts of the town there is a train cemetery which also produced good photographic and exploring opportunities.

DSC00020

In Uyuni we checked into our night’s accommodation and took advantage of the intermittent water supply to get a hot-ish shower. After Modesta’s usual high quality cooking we headed to the “Extreme Fun Pub” for beer and card games.

On the last day of the Salt Flats tour we had a 5am start to try and get onto the salt flats by sunrise. Our 4×4 wasn’t the happiest of vehicles as we were all tired and the girls had Bolivian Belly. We could tell we were on the salt flats themselves when the rough and bumpy track became smooth and flat until we were driving through an inch of water on a perfectly flat plateau. We stopped just in time to witness probably the most spectacular sunrise I’ll ever see!

In the direction of the rising sun, the thin layer of water on the surface was perfectly reflective while the rest of the skyline has an unearthly glow

DSC02304

DSC02299
We spent a fair whack of time having the mandatory photo fun. Jumping photos, reflection photos and ones where you play with the sense of scale were popular. Breakfast was had at the salt flats restaurant, where almost everything – including the building itself – is made from salt. The homemade pancakes helped the girls’ recovery and gave us enough energy for more photo fun.

IMG_2035 (Large)IMG_0992 (Large)

IMG_0995 (Large) IMG_0990 (Large)

We stopped of at a village on the edge of thee salt flats to peruse the stalls where I managed to limit myself to buying a hacky-sack, then we returned to Uyuni. Shower-nap-dinner and me and Rick said goodbye to the girls before another evening of card games (Baraka and Casino) accompanied by rum & coke.

The next day, the 25th, Rick and I caught a 10am bus to Potosi. Uyuni was a decent wee town, busier than, but lacking the character of Tupiza. The salt flats and surrounding area were unforgettable though.

March 22, 2011

Salt Flats I

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — admin @ 11:28 pm

I was woken abruptly at 8:30am on the 21st of Feb by the woman at the hostel banging on my door offering me a chance to join a tour to the salt flats in an hour. After a bit of haggling I decided to go for it and rushed about town trying to get money and supplies for the trip. Tupiza lacks ATMs so I had to queue at the bank for a credit card advance.

At 10am I met my fellow tour-ists at my hostel: Rick, a violinist from London and Claire & Cigdem, dentists from Australia. Our driver was Mario and our cook/guide was a lovely Bolivian lady called Modesta, who spoke as much English as I speak Spanish.

With our bags and supplies strapped to the top of the 4×4 we set off for our 4 day tour. Quite quickly into our drive we were climbing into the mountains where the views were incredible. The rock formations I witnessed the day before were revealed to be present over vast swathes of the area. Much of the day was spent driving through the country west of Tupiza along dirt roads. We had occasional stops for photos and one in a small almost deserted town to stretch our legs.

DSC02062DSC02056 

Our home for the night was a village in the middle of nowhere with a pretty church and not much else. Our room was nice enough, the beds had lots of blankets covering the straw mattresses and there was a table where we sat round having dinner. The vegetable soup which Modesta had made was superb and the mince stew was very hearty. Once the sun had gone down the stars were very visible and the band of the milky way slashed brightly across the sky. We toasted our trip with some wine and champagne which Rick had resourcefully included in his supplies.

DSC02070

We were awoken at 5am the next day and after a quick breakfast we got on the road again. The girls were a little worse for wear, mainly due to the altitude which was not surprising given we were already way over 4000m. In fact, after a stop off at an abandoned settlement of ruined stone shacks we passed 5000m, 5 kilometres above sea level! On one of our regular breaks we watched llamas feeding at a sort of oasis and by 11am we’d arrived at a sizeable lake. We caught our first sight of pink flamingos there and strolled around part of it, taking the obligatory ‘jumping’ photos.

DSC02096 DSC02128

DSC02136DSC02143 

The sun is mighty powerful at this altitude and although the nights are extremely cold, the place warms up quickly during the day. Thus, we were eagerly anticipating stripping down and having a soak in the hot springs. It was pretty busy when we arrived, with a dozen or so 4×4s parked up but it quietened down pretty quickly. The water was perfect bath temperature and the view as you lazed in the pool was lovely.

DSC02167DSC02164 

After another tasty and filling meal courtesy of Modesta, we drove towards a semi-dormant volcano, passing Salvador Dali desert on the way. It is so called because the landscape with warped rocks sticking out of the ground is reminiscent of Dali’s paintings. Next we reached Lago Verde (Green Lake) which was undoubtedly green (and toxic) due to the minerals it contains.

DSC02171

Our final stop of the day was at the geysers. Unlike Old Faithful or others I’ve seen, these were open pools of boiling hot mud. The smell of sulphur was overpowering while Modesta and Mario led us through the labyrinth paths between the pools before telling us that a tourist had died falling into them on another tour. Not a good way to go.

DSC02188

DSC02200DSC02197 

Our accommodation was slightly more communal, with a number of jeeps worth of tourists in the same place. While they all had comically early nights we sat up for a few hours playing cards (Hell No) and drinking rum & coke.

« Newer PostsOlder Posts »

Powered by WordPress