A Travellerspoint blog

Panama City

Panama City is hot and humid, well that´s the first obvious thing we noticed while getting off the plane.

It took our hapless taxi driver about 75 minutes to find our hostal, they have an Idiot proof road numbering system here which some of the taxi drivers can easliy prove that no system is fool proof.. We tried getting a bus from the Airport but evryone was jammed packed so we couldn´t get on..

Our Hostal is on the very edge of the Centre, about 20minutes walk to the smarter areas of town, it is nice and quiet though and we do have air con all for 30 bucks.

Our first full morning in Pananma City and we decide to Visit the Santa Ana area of town. This is the old historic part ( a lot of it is run down but you can see a lot of renovation work in progress. There are several nice Churches and Cathedrals on Santa Ana

The Inglesia De La Merced and the Inglesia Catedral about the best.

Inglesia De La Merced and the Inglesia Catedral
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Some of the restored buildings are really impressive.

Santa Ana Buildings.
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As you can imagine there is no shortage of hat sellers in Panama City !

Hats.
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The downtown area of Panama City is about as modern as you can get with one or two really interesting designs.

Downtown Panama city architecture.
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Our next trip into the City was to see the Panama Canal and hopefully see a few big boats passing through.

We shared a taxi with a couple of girls from our Hostel, Cho from South Korea and her friend from Russia Olga ! The crazy chaotic queue at the Miraflores lock was almost enough to make us turn back. We viewed a few large boats ( ships ) as they came up through the locks and one really odd looking space ship shaped affair which we later found out was part of the Sea Shepherd eco based charity that patrols and compiles evidence against ocean going bad boys and polluters.

Miraflores Locks.
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Big boats go through the locks.
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A small army of locomotive tugs help guide the bigger boats through the locks.
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More boats.
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Star Wars meets boat designs..
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After a morning at the locks and some time at the Panama Canal Museum we headed to the Albrook bus station to book our bus to David, as we were warned that the buses will fill up really quickly around Easter.. yes you have guessed it... the bus company will only let you book your seat 1 hour in advance.. Duh !

From the bus terminal we headed to Amador and the mile long causeway leading to the three islands of , Isla Noas, Isla Perico and Isla Flamenco. As we walked along the causeway we could see a pretty impressive storm brewing up over Panama City.

Storm over the city.
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The Causeway.
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Isla Noas and Isla Perico.
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Dotted all along the causeway are palm trees, a few had an weird yellow sap which had hardened on the trunks making them look like they had been made out of plastic.

Palm tree trunk.
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On the way back to the hostel we stopped off at the 99 supermarket to stock up on a few beers.

Next day we took the local bus to Albrook and walked to the Parque Nacional Metropolitano ( about 25 min walk ) we paid our visitors fee of $2 each and set off to cover the three main hiking trails, the time allowed should have been about 3 hours, we did them all and the return to the visitors centre in about 1 hour 45 min, including photo stops and a short rest at the Mirador, I think they were allowing for really slow walkers. We were hoping to see a bit of wildlife, supposedly Sloths and other mammals are quite common in the park. The only Mammals we saw were a noisy French family.

We saw loads of leaf cutter ants and a few Terrapin and a nice looking Lizzard and a few birds which we failed to recognise.

Park trails.
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Lizzard.
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Terrapins
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Ants.
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There were loads of what looked like Oyster Mushrooms growing all over the place, not sure if they were but they did look very much like them. A little more courage and we could have had a nice free lunch.

Oyster mushrooms.
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The views over Panama from the Mirador were good though.
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The parque was mostly trees and jungle which was fine, even though we saw next to nothing in the way of wildlife, being so close to Panama City this isn´t really to much of a surprise.

Leaf.
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We even managed to catch the correct bus back to the district where our hostal is, so the whole days travel cost us just $1 for both of us !

Posted by malnlinda 14:27 Comments (0)

Baños Ecuador.

The 4 hour bus from Quito to Baños is mostly pretty ordinary stuff until you get about 65km out from the capital. We pass the famous Cotapaxi volcano but as it is shrouded in heavy low cloud we are not able to see it.

We arrive in Baños to sunshine and half decent temperatures.

Baños.
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Baños is quite small but has a very impressive Cathedral.

Baños Cathedral.
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The Spanish Courtyard behind the Cathedral.
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Dotted with small pretty plazzas´s Baños is instantly pleasing to the eye. Surrounded by mountains and a mythical Volcano which we were never to see in the six days we were there due to the famous Ecuador cloud.

Baños Plazza.
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It was in Baños we realised the the stress of travelling, we somehow booked ourselves into the wrong hostal ! However after a mere 12 hours we realised things were not quite as we expected and re-read our hostal booking... yes we had done the unthinkable. A quick e-mail to let the correct hostal know that a couple of idiots had managed to find themselves in the wrong digs . The next day we travelled down the valley to the correct place, called Cass Verde. What a great little place this turned out to be.

Later that morning we set off on a short but very steep hike up to Mirador Bella Vista, just as we started out it began to rain. Regardless the walk was really nice and we had pretty good views for most of the trek.

Baños to Bella Vista.
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As we really liked Baños we decided to book in for a few extra days. The next morning we did another hike but on the otherside of the Rio Pastaza, again we had a bit of rain but overall it was much nicer than the previous days weather.

2nd days hike.
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We passed quite a lot of trees with bromeliads growing from them.
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The views back down the valley were spectacular.
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On the trek we also saw a few land crabs and some rather impressive spiders.
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Images form the trek.
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The next day we did a short trip to see the Cascades, which we repeated the day after on yet another trek.

Cascades.
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Our 6 days in Baños were really great and we didn´t want to leave, a flight on the 15th to Pananma City forced us to make a quick dash back to Quito to catch our flight back into the Northern Hemisphere.

End of Ecuador Blogs.

Posted by malnlinda 06:25 Comments (0)

Quito

Quito. Alter a great 8 days in the Galápagos we were once again in city land, this time it´s Quito, the capital of Ecuador and its enormous. The city sprawls out over the nearby hills like a plague of concrete. That said Quito turned out to be rather nice.
The city is surrounded by Volcanoes and high hills so much of the time the peaks remain shrouded in clouds and clouds mean rain. When it rains here it surely throws it down.

The city has some marvelous old buildings in the historical sector of the city and one church in particular ( yes I have forgotten its name and so has Linda though she says it begins with a "C" ) was spectacular, The amount of gold inside the church was quite obscene. Sadly even aflter paying an admission fee we were still prohibited from taking a few harmless photos, I think the idea was to squeeze more dollars out of the gringos for a few postcards.

Main Plazza Quito.
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Observatory.
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Quito Buildings.
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Basilica.
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Not far out of Quito are two places claiming to be on the equator line, the rather flash and impressive Mundo created a few years ago is sadly about 300mt off target so the medals go to the smaller equator museum just down the road. The museum and attractions here are mostly tribal and simple experiments in showing how the Earths rotation effects things like water falling down the plug hole, at the centre there was no vortex at all but just 1 metre Either side of the equator line a vortex is clearly visible.
North of the eqator the vortex is anti -clockwise and South its clockwise.

Linda on the Equator.
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Equator Line ( the real one ).
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The problem with the low cloud and rain effectively stopped us from taking the 20 minute cable car ride to the parque Volcan which overlooks Quito.

Quito odd pic.
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The only thing wrong with Quito is some of the Taxi drivers ( yellow cabs ) , like a lot of their breed around the world they think it is fair game to negate on an agreed fare and try to rip you off, perhaps a cull of these vermin is in order.

From Quito we took the 4 hour bus to Banos in search of some sun and a little warmth.

Posted by malnlinda 06:18 Comments (0)

Galapagos Islands

The highlight of our South America trip has arrived, the Galapagos Islands, it´s a place we have wanted to visit for ages so we are really excited about the next 8 days.

Our first taste of the Galápagos was when we visited an area on Baltra called Primicias where giant tortoises roam freely. The size of these Tortoises is quite something.

Giant Tortoises of Primicias.
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Our next stop on Baltra was to the much overrated Darwin Station where a breeding programme is trying to salvage something of the gene pool of indigenous tortoises, including that of the famous long necked tortoise “George” who at 135years old is sadly past donating his genes. However attempts are still being made for him to mate with two younger Spanish Tortoises of similar genes.

On the way from the Darwin station to the harbour we passed a load of Pelicans .
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Our fist view of our boat and we were impressed, having booked our trip online we were not really confident that what we had arranged was going to be that clever, a nice twin cabin with hot water, our fellow crew members also seemed pretty good as well so not a bad Start.

Day 2 an early Start and a walk around Plaza Sur to see the land Iguanas. Landing on Plaza Sur was interesting as a large male Sea Lion was perched on the landing jetty and wouldn´t move, our guide with the aid of a few flailing life jackets manager to persuade him to shift. On shore we encountered more Sea Lions and some Swallow tailed Gulls, really tame.

Swallow Tailed Gull and Chick.
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Our walk continued to the cliff face where we saw many of the colourful land Iguanas. A photographers delight, the Iguanas were no more than a few feet away .

Land Iguanas.
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Continuing on our walk we spied our first Blue Footed and Nasca Booby´s and our first Marine Iguana.

Blue Footed and Nasca Booby´s
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Marine Iguana.
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The landscape of Plaza Sur was really odd as there were loads of large cactus trees against a backdrop of red and yellow grasses.

Plaza Sur landscape.
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Sea Lions.
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We returned to our boat for Lunch and in the afternoon did a spot of snorkeling in the clear blue waters of Santa Fe. Where we swam and danced with the hugely entertaining Sea Lions.

Day 3 Another early Start and another morning walk, this time on the Island of Española and the Punta Suarez. The walk today was to see the Marine Iguanas. We were soon almost tripping over the critters, there were hundreds of them, some with quite vivid red and green colouring and some the same colour as the surrounding basaltic Lava. Sally Lightfoot Crabs seem. To be hiding behind almost every rock.

Marine Iguanas.
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Sally Lightfoot Crab.
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As well as seeing Marine Iguanas we were treated to great views of Pelicans and more Galapagos Sea Lions.

Pelican and Sea Lions..
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Around the point of the Island is an impressive water spout where incoming waves get squirted up through small holes in the lava to give a free water display.

Water spouts.
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Landscape of Espanola.
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In the afternoon we did more snorkeling this time at Bahia Gardner and later walked amongst the large colony of Sealions, we also had a pretty good sunset as well.

Bahia Gardner.
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Sunset.
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Day 4 A longish overnight cruise to San Cristobel where we picked up two new passengers and said goodbye to our rather excitable Japanese girls. But before this we made a small detour to look at the Island of Leon Dormida.

Leon Dormida
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After Leon Dormida we proceeded to visit the Galápagos interpretation centre where we learned a bit about how the Islands were formed and how the human impact is altering the Islands. The main Island of Baltra has over 17000 permanent settlers and their want for power, water and refuse disposal is really causing problems, along with the estimated 170,000 visitors each year the human impact cannot be overstated.

In the afternoon we did more snorkeling in San Cristobel, and had yet another good sunset.
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Day 5 Another early Start and a walk around Bachas, this time to see the small colony of Greater Flamingoes and other wildlife.

Greater Flamingo and Black Necked Stilt.
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Bachas.
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In the afternoon we took a dingy around the backwaters of Black Turtle cove to see if we could spot any Black tipped reef sharks and Green turtles.

The green turtles were in abundance.
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The jetty at Bachas, Linda shares a bench with a local resident.
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Our Boat.
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And our overnight stowaway.
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Day 6 Genovesa Island, this was always going to be a wow day and it didn´t disapoint one bit. Genovesa has large colonies of Red Footed Booby´s, Magnificent Frigate birds and a whole cliff side of Storm Petrels, we even sighted a solitary Short Eared Owl.

Red Footed Booby´s
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Magnificent Frigate Birds.
lots of them...
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Storm Petrels.
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Nasca Booby and egg.
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Genovesa Landscape.
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Day 7 Bahia Sulivan, Bartolome.

At an even earlier start than usual we are up to see if we can spot any of the rare Galapagos Penguins.
The short boat trip to the coast was quite impressive as we caught the sunrise.
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We were lucky enough to see about 6 penguins but the early morning low light made getting a good photo quite hard from a moving dingy.

Galapagos Penguins.
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Had we waited we would have found that the penguins would be visiting us while we did a bit of snorkeling later that morning.galapa2_008.jpggalapa2_013.jpggalapa2_014.jpg

After our spot of snorkeling we hiked around the lava fields of Bartolome .

Lava Fields.
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We then did a walk to a viewpoint overlooking Sulivans Bay. FANTASTIC.

Sulivans Bay from the view point.
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More Bartolme views.
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Day 8
Last day and a quick trip to look at a couple of twinned Calderas back on Baltra, and a good view of a Galapagos Dove.

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Then its back to the mainland..

Galapagos blog complete, next stop Quito.

Posted by malnlinda 08:06 Comments (1)

Guayaquil Ecuador

Stopping over in Guayaquil was not on our hit list of things to do, the place has some pretty bad press and is supposed to be really quite dodgy, we are here for one reason, to sort out our Galapagos trip and to sort out our ongoing problem with the TAME Airline.

What a great surprise this place is turning out to be, ok so we are stuck out in the more dodgy suburbs where even the bakery has an iron grill where your bread and rolls are passed out to you and the lack of a decent eatery nearby is a pain but overall the place is so much nicer than we were expecting.

The waterfront at Guayaquil is really impressive, apparently 10 years ago it was a dump but with a bit of money and a lot of effort this has been transformed into something really special.

Along the waterfront is the botanical garden, again a superb achievement.

Botanical Garden.
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The garden has also proved popular with some of the local wildlife.
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At the Northern end of the waterfront stands the small hill of Cerro Santa Ana ( just 444 steps not including the extra 50 or so to the top of the lighthouse) . Once again great effort has been made to tidy this area up and the small winding streets of Las Penas are another success.

Lighthouse
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Santa Ana backstreets.
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The view over the new waterfront from Cerro Santa Ana is also impressive as it shows the scale of the work that has been done here.

View over Guayaquil waterfront from Cerro Santa Ana.
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Tomorrow we are off to the Galapagos so this is a blog we were not expecting to create. I think Guayaquil is well worth a few days of anyones time.

Posted by malnlinda 10:12 Comments (0)

Huanchaco and the Chan Chan pre Inca village

Arriving to Huanchaco from the cold Huaraz was really nice, we didn´t need fleece jackets or waterproofs.

Huanchaco is primarily a beach resort which attracts a fair number of mixed ability surfers.

The beach is ok, clean but has a few bigish rocks which the surfers need to avoid.

Huanchaco beach front.
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Over looking the town is an impressive church, which turned out to rather plain on the inside.
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Further out of town is the sacred hill " Cerro de la Virgen" a smallish hill with a finely painted icon nestling in a small recess in the rocks.

Cerro De La Virgen
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The outskirts of Huanchaco are really quite run down with mud built single story houses, it reminded us of the middle east rather than South America.

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Just 5 km out from Huanchaco is the pre ince village of Chan Chan, a tribal group called the Chimu settled here and constructed this huge mud walled complex, the complex has lasted from 11 A.D TO 1450 A.D when the all conquering Inca incorporatede the Chimu into their society.

The Chimu complex is really huge, we only saw a snippet of this very impressive site.

Chan Chan, the ornate mud walls were relly impressive and the sheer scale and size of the place was quite amazing, we thought Chan Chan was probably more impressive than Machu Pichuu !!

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Due to problems involving a certain Ecuador air carrier and a few hopeless UK banks we spent more time e-mail these idiots and trying to speak to them from Huanchacos only Locoturio ( international pay phone ) so we never got to explore the Chimu Museum of the Sol and lUna mud pyramids on the outskirst of Trujillo.

So the blog for Huanchaco is rather brief.

Next stop will probably be Ecuador, Guayaquil and more wasted time talking to the TAME Airline to resolve our expensive and ongoing dispute..

Posted by malnlinda 12:13 Comments (0)

Miraflores and Huaraz

We had been expecting Lima and Miraflores to be noisy, chaotic, a bit risky and dirty. Well what a great surprise, Miraflores is about the cleanest, part of any South American city we have encountered. Our digs were in a really quiet suburb of Miraflores. The abundance of great restaurants was also welcome.

The Miraflores seafront Larco Mar, with its cliff to views and restaurants soon became one of our favourite places to chill out.

Pacific Vies from Larco Mar.
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The Top end Hotels at Larco Mar
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Vuture on a lamp post.
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Miraflores was so nice we hardly ventured away from its clean quiet environ. The weather was also nice so all in all it was really nice.

Heading North to Huaraz we caught another overnight bus, just 8 hours this time but just as uncomfortable.

Huaraz should have been a bit of a haven, in fact with depressingly dull skies and near freezing temperatures it was a real dump. The nearby spectacular mountains hidden under thick layers of grey cloud. The City is a about the scruffiest, most polluted tip we have encountered so a complete contrast with Miraflores. To be honest Huarez in poor weather is a waste of time. The only consolation is the place is quite cheap so we were able to claw back some of our recent overspend, We also found a couple of half decent eateries so all was not bad.

The grey depressing Huaraz.
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Dog on a cold tin roof Huaraz.
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On our last day at breakfast time the sun came out and we were able to glimpse the spectacular scenery around Huaraz..... for about 15 minutes, then the cloud came down again.

Pics of the mountains around Huaraz from our breakfast balcony.
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Next stop is Trujillo so we are hoping for a bit more warm weather.

Posted by malnlinda 10:01 Comments (0)

Machu Picchu and the $360 view......

We were seriously going to give Machu Picchu a miss due to the extortionate cost of getting there and getting in. From Cusco you should be able to catch the explorer train direct to Aguas Calliante ( the town of Machu Picchu ) however recent heavy rain has stopped this so you have to get a bus to Ollantaytambo and then catch the train. As the road to Machu Picchu is non -existent you are forced to take the train, a 27 mile journey taking two hours and costing $64 return. Of course you can take up the 4 day 3 night Inca trail hike starting from just outside Ollantaytambo and get the return train back after reaching Machu Picchu but at $475 a head this is also not a cheap option.

We decided to do the trip in one hit, why? its the rainy season and the trails are just mud.

So a 06:00 start for the bus to Ollantaytambo then a two hours spectacular train trip to Aguas Calliante, spectacular for one reason the river running beside the train line is in full force.

The River.
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After reaching Aguas Calliante you than have to get another bus ( or walk to the world heritage site of Machu Picchu ) as it was throwing it down the bus seemed like the best option.

On the way to Machu Picchu.
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When we arrived we were met by loads of disappointed tourists and inca trail hikers who had spent the last 7 hours waiting to catch a glimpse of the City. Low cloud and rain had other ideas. So when we reached the famous view points we were not surprised to find we could see anything..

Our first view of Machu Picchu.
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Within a short while however the rain stopped !!!! and the sun seemed to be trying to break through, the result was a two minute window where the splendour of Machu Picchu was revealed. We were just lucky to be in the right place at the right time. Within 15 minutes it was again throwing it down with rain, the last views of Machu Picchu were gone.

Machu Picchu revealed.
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Then finally all was lost to the rain and clouds.
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Llamas in the mist.
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We Traipsed around the site for about 3 hours trying desperately to envisage what the place must have been like in Inca times. After 3 hours of being rained on we called it a day and headed back to Aguas Calliante to get dry and get warmed up.

A local Pizza restaurant came to our rescue where Mal was allowed to hang out his wet cloths on the Pizza oven to dry.

Pizza drying machine.
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So was Machu Picchu worth it......... on a good day it would be something totally awesome, in the wet and low cloud it certainly loses something.. This is now our third of the new seven wonders of the world and each of then so far has been seen in torrential rain...

This end the rain gods blog for Machu Picchu.

Posted by malnlinda 11:25 Comments (0)

Cusco and the Sacred Valley.

Cusco is one of the best places to explore all things Inca, the Sacred Valley being just 20km away and the famous Machu Picchu accessible via a combination of bus, train and legs. The cost of visiting these world heritage sites is also quite substantial so another big hit against the budget.

Our first Inca experience's are centered around Cusco city. being the Walled temple of Saqsaywaman, the sacred rock of Qenqo, the Inca administrative site of Puka Pukara and the very impressive Aqueduct's of Tambomachay ( the later being the most impressive )

Saqsaywaman.
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Puka Pukara.
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Tambomachay.
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The stone work of the Incas is quite extraordinary, there are virtually no gaps between any adjoining rocks and all seem cut to perfection. When you compare that the current building method using mud and straw for construction ( Adobe ) you get the feel that all the skills of past generations have been lost and the later building construction techniques fall way short of what they were six hundred years ago.

The Sacred Valley is home to many Inca sites, we visited three.

Our first Sacred Valley site was the Inca City of Ollantaytambo, a well preserves city still partially inhabited today, huge agricultural terraces lead to the unfinished temple of the sun, how ironic that it was raining when we were there.

Ollantaytambo.
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After Ollantaytambo we visited the hill side Inca city of Pisaq, very very impressive. The huge swirling farming terraces lead to the city which command superb views down the valley.

Pisaq.
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Our last stop was a real let down, Chinchero, this turned out to be a sham in the form of local handy craft and the inevitable shopping experience.

Balls of Vicuna wool.
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Further out from Cusco are the huge Farming Terraces of Moray. Three huge circular and semi circular constructions than were made by the Incas to experiment with different types of crop, a sort of Inca nursery.

Some of the Farming terraces are over 150 metres deep.

The Farming terraces of Moray.
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And a bug.
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And potato fields.
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One of the oddest things we encountered was the Salt mines of Maras. Apparently these were originally of Inca design and are still used today, terrace upon terrace of salt pans line the steep hillside of Maras. The salt is collected in the dry season and can amount to 150,000 tonnes of the stuff.

The Maras Salt terraces.
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On the way back to Cusco we had a half decent sunset and had to drive carefully along a road that had collapsed due to the heavy rainfall.
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So far our favorite Inca site has to be Moray. Tomorrow we have our long awaited trip to Machu Picchu.. see next blog.

Posted by malnlinda 11:22 Comments (0)

Copacabana Bolivia and the Isle de Sol

Copacabana is the prime jumping off point to cross lake Titicaca into Peru and the sacred Isle de Sol.

Just 4 hours from La Paz and miles away in noise. Some people hate Copacabana some love it, we loved it. The local walks and views across the Lake are stunning, just up a very steep hill from where we were staying is an old shrine and cemetery.

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Copacabana also has a really impressive Basilica, the inside is stunning but no photos are allowed so you will just have to google it or take my word.

Copacabana Basiliaca
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A 2 hour small boat journey from Copacabana to the Isle de Sol shows you just how big lake Titicaca is. it´s huge 195 km in length and supposedly 63km at its widest. Making it the Highest large volume lake in the world At 3800 mts.

The Isle de Sol is OK we were expecting more. Perhaps the previous days walks around the coastline of Copacabana had been just too good. However we still managed a 8km coastal walk from the North of the Isle to the South.

Isle de Sol.
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From Copacabana we took the bus to Peru ( Puno ) This turned out to be a bit of a farce but typified what is going on in Bolivia at this present time.

We set off at 0800 on the bus and after just 5 minutes we hit a road blockade, this was part of a national day of disruption in protest at the rise in local bus fares ( from about 9p to 14p ) per local journey. Our only option was to either turn back and try again tomorrow or charter a small boat to take us across Lake Titicaca into Peru, so this is what we did. When we arrived on the Peru side of the lake we had to climb up a muddy bank (in the rain and with full packs ) and proceded to hike about 1km to the Bolivian boarder post, from there we walked to the Peru post to get our passports stamped and our entry visa validated. Then we caught the bus to Puno ! Simple.

End of Copacabana and Bolivian Blogs.

Posted by malnlinda 11:55 Comments (0)

Cochabamba & La Paz

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Cochabamba, the capital of food, or so we were told. A tedious trip involving a 3 hour micro bus and an 11 hour big bus from Santa Cruz was all we needed. The city on first impressions is a bit of a dump. As it was late we simply crashed out.

Next morning we ventured to the bus station, dodging Protests and armed police, the bus staion was unable to process a bus ticket more than 24 hours in advance so a wasted affort. We decided to walk to the newer part of the city and eventually to the Christo which is sited on a nearby hill top.

The cable car ride was impressive and so is the rather shabbily constructed Chiristo.
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From the hilltop we were treated to some excellent views of this sprawling city.
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The following day with more protests in full swing we attempted to get an extension to our visa which was expiring in a few days time, knowing the bureaucratic nature of Bolivia we expected a long and tedious few hours. 10 minutes later we emerged from the Immigration office with a further 60 days added to our visa. Next up the bus station where we eventually managed to book a morning bus to La Paz. On a roll we visited a nearby internet cafe and lo and behold it was actually really quite good, so we spent a couple of hours catching up on our photo downloads and blogs.

As for being the food capital... well so so, that was till we booked a table at a rather nice Italian restaurant. Ok so it was half decent but not as good as many. 5/10 for food, 2/10 for everthing else.

A 7 and a half hour bus from Cochabamba gets you to the cold and scruffy capital of La Paz. At 3700mts it´s the worlds highest capital city, the volume of traffic and associated pollution does little to help with breathing. Part of our reason in coming here is to catch up with some friends and to catch the bus to Copacabana. Just like Cochabamba, the place is full of demonstrations and more than once during the miners demo was dynamite detonated on the streets. A bit scary. La Paz really hasn´t much to offer, apart from the usual churches and plaza. The weather here was also dire, cold wet and not a lot to do. To our rescue came Harp and Aman who cooked up a superb curry in their apartment for us, also Liz and Kim arrived so we had a lot more fun despite the dire weather and overall dullness that is La Paz.

A great night out at the Star of India restaurant with Kim & liz, not the hottest of cuirries but very tasty none the less. Our last night in La Paz was with Harp, Aman, Liz & Kim at a Morrocan Restaurant.. :-)

La Paz.
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Off to Copacabana.

Posted by malnlinda 07:33 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

Samaipata Bolivia

After a couple of days in the not so exciting Santa Cruz we decided to catch a micro to Samaipata, what a superb choice this turned out to be, Great hostal and a charming little village.

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We soon decided to tag along on a two day 1 night trip to follow the last days and movements of Ernesto Che Guevara, what a great trip this turned out to be, great scenery and great company on our small 4x4 trip, Jim and Jesse from America were our travel buddies.

The first day took us to Villegrande where Che was eventually laid out on display on a laundry slab after his execution. Very strange.

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A small museum and the usual photographs of the great man were also on display.

A long and rather steep drive into the hills took us to the small village of Higuera where che was wounded and captured before being executed in a local school.

The valley where Che was captured was a tactical disaster, being overlooked and essentailly cornered, he and his comrades had no chance in escaping the 450 strong US Backed Bolivian army.

The valley of Che´s last stand and the point where he was actually captured.
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Our digs in Higuera were a bit on the basic side, large Spiders and no electricity adding to the effect.
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The next morning we walked down to the site of Che´s capture, a steep and slippery 3 hours trek.

The small village of Higuera has become a bit of a tourist attraction, but as the roads and the location are difficult to get to it still only attracts a few visitors a day, fewer still walk the path to the capture site.

Higuera.
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The scenery around this remote area is quite stunning.

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The journey back to Samaipata also turned out to be quite an adventure as overnight rain had swollen the two rivers that we needed to cross, it was really touch and go if the 4x4 could make one of the crossings..

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One the way back we stopped at a small hillside inca burial cave and some cave paintings
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We eventually arrived back in Samaipata at 21:15 the following day..

Samaipata is inthe Amboro Jungle area and has some amazing sites to see.

The Volcan Region was one which we decided to try. A series of Treks and a few waterfalls in this very tranquil area was our reward.

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Just 9km outside of Samaipata is the huge Inca burrial and rock carved temple of El Fuerte.
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We stayed in Samaipata for 8 days and could easily have stayed longer.

More Samaipata images.
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Next blog, Cochabamba and La Paz

Posted by malnlinda 12:07 Comments (0)

Potosi and Sucre

Potosi is the highest city in the world, at 4100mts its hard to keep your breath while out walking. In days past Potosi was a major economic force, due primarily to the abundance of silver and other minerals mined from the nearby hills.
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Today the mines are a dangerous mix of private co-ops and larger companies all digging into the same huge mountain, the scary bit is that no one knowsw exactly where anyone else is mining so this is a disaster waiting to happen. Tourists can visit the mines to see first hand how bad the working conditions are. There is nothing safe about this particular venture. Mal tried it and was glad to get out. The mix of downright dangerous work practices and wreckless guides means you really do take your life into their hands. The constant boom of dynamite going off and the fact that no fresh air is piped into the mines along with the high altitude means that breathing is really difficult. To be honest Mal wished he hadn´t done this particular excursion... way to dangerous.

Pics from the mines
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Yes this guy is trying to pull the roof down..
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Potosi has some really nice churches and buildings, the views from the city centre out to the mines are quite spectacular.
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Just 3 hours fro Potosi is the charming city of Sucre. At a mere 2400mts we can again breath more easily. Our hostal in Sucre turned out to be a real gem. Our friends Liz and Kim from New Zealand also arrived here a couple of days later, in fact within a short while, Harp and Amon and Diete and Virgil were also here ! So a good few evenings were had out with our travel buddies. All was going until Diete and Virgil had their hotel room broken into and had their camera, mobile phones and laptop stolen, this was really sad as they had effectively lost all their photos of their 3 month journey.

That said Sucre is a fine city, some great restaurants and some great architecture. There was even a few days of practice carnival.
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From the nearby mirador there are great views over the city.
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Just 5 km out from Sucre is the geological wonder of the Dinosaur footprints. A side of exposed hill with hundreds of huge footprints, sadly like a lot ofm things Bolivian, maintenance is a low priority and a recent land slide has demolished many of the better paeleontological specimens.
Only now are steps being taken to protect the remaining footprints.
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Next Blog Samaipata.

Posted by malnlinda 11:57 Comments (0)

San Pedro De Atacarma to Salar de Uyuni 3 day crossing.

A classic way to get from Chile into Bolivia is by the 3 day Salar De Uyuni crossing, A 4x4 jeep with 6 people. We booked our trip and expected it to be ok but nothing exceptional. How wrong we were, we had superb travel companions, a Dansih lady Diete and her Husband Virgil ( pronounced Berhellio ) and a French Couple Maria and Herve. We couldn´t have wished for better. Our Driver Javier was also first class.

The first day takes you across the Chile border and into Bolivia, the Atacarma never fails to impress. We were soon at our first stop a fantastic Lake called Laguna Blanco, a backdrop of Volcanoes and a lake full of Flamingoes..
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Next up was another lake this time the Green lake which in reality was more vivid blue.
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A drive through more desert and at a height of over 5000mts we arrived at a strange lunar landscape full of smoking fumeroles.
The colours and the landscape were breathtaking ( well at 5000 mts what would you expect )

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After a short lunch stop we arrived at yet another fantasic lake.snaps_168.jpgsnaps_002.jpgsnaps_007.jpgsnaps_008.jpgsnaps_009.jpgsnaps_012.jpgsnaps_015.jpg

Our first night was spent an a 6 bed shared dorm with our new found friends.
Outside loads of Llamas were also settling down for the night.
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The next morning we drove to a stone forest, quite bizzare.
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Another lunch stop this time to a backdrop of mountains lakes and flamingoes. Amazing.
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Another totally amazing day and the highlight was supposed to be the next day, could we be so lucky ?

A 2 hour drive from our overnight stay in a Salt Hotel and we arrived at the vast Salar De Uyuni salt flats. Some great photo opportunities and more staggering scenery.

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We arrive in Uyuni around 3pm to a welcome beer and a hot shower, the last 3 days have been the best since we started travelling through South America..

Posted by malnlinda 09:49 Comments (0)

Atacama Desert Chile

A smooth 17 hour bus ride North of La Serena and you arrive at San Pedro De Atacama, right in the middle of the Atacama desert and it´s flippin hot. The Town is a great place to explore the vast wilderness of the Atacama.

Our Hostal was on a small dirt track just on the edge of San Pedro.

Our Digs.
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San Pedro is a small town which exists mostly on tourism, it is a gateway to and from Bolivia where we hope to secure a bus to later.

In the main square there is a quaint white church.
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Almost all the roads in San Pedro are dirt tracks which makes the place feel otherworldly. The old Football pitch certainly gives you that impression.

San San Pedro main street and the old football pitch.
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Over looking San Pedro are numerous Volcanoes.

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From San Pedro a few good day trips out include the Luna Valley which goes into the heart of the desert where you can watch the sunset and the moon rise, as it was almost a full moon while we were there this sounded like a good idea. We were not disapointed.

Atacama pics.

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Valle De Lune.
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Also from San Pedro a highlight trip is the Tatio Geysers which require an 04:30 start. A bumpy 2 hour mini bus ride from San Pedro is all it takes to complete the 90km to Tatio. It`s quite expensive to get into the Tatio Geyser park, 5000 Chillean Pesos ( about eight English pounds ). We arrive just befor sun up and the views are quite surreal. At 14320 ft these are the highest Geysers in the world.

Tatio before dawn.
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As soon as the sun is up the place takes on a new dynamic, huge plumes of steam pour from around 60 geysers.

More Tatio Geysers.
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On the way back from the geysers we pass several small rivers and streams, some allowing great views of smoking volcanoes and a good sighting of Vacunas.

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We pass a quaint small desert village where we try Llama Kebabs and some local scrummy bread.
The small church in the village is just perfect .

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Linda and the Llama kebab.
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End of our Chile blogs, next blog should be Bolivia.

Posted by malnlinda 11:52 Comments (0)

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