A Travellerspoint blog

Beautiful Lake district of Chile and Argentina

Next we caught the red eye from Arica at the most northern part of Chile down to Puerto Montt, 2 thirds of the way down via Santiago. The airlines here are what they used to be like in the UK! A one and a half hour flight and they served us breakfast, wicked! As we had 2 flights that morning, we got 2 meals, unfortunately my belly was still rejecting food so Paul had 4 meals!

Once we arrived in Puerto Montt we got a taxi from the airport straight to Puerto Varas, we couldn’t believe how nice and green the country was, it was just like being back at home.

After we checked into our hostel we had a wonder around the town and realised how touristy it was, and prices to match! It is a lovely place, the lake in full view with 2 snow capped volcano’s in the background.

After a good nights sleep we had another fairly early start to catch our bus to Bariloche, Argentina. It took us about 3 hours to get to the border where we had to wait over an hour while we queued to get our passports checked and stamped. Strangely it took another hour on the bus to drive to the Argentinian border. We drove over a mountain where there were mounds of ash on the side of the road. Everything in that area has been covered in ash due to a nearby volcano that had been sporadically erupting over the past 18 months.

The Argentinian border crossing took a much shorter time and we were glad to get on our way again to Bariloche.

We arrived at our destination at 5pm, it was about 30 degrees and still pure daylight. After we checked into our stunning guesthouse we had a look around the town, sat down to have an ice cream and gazed at the vast glistening lake! Pure holiday feeling. Due to this we thought we would get into the vibe and have a late dinner, not going out until 10pm. We found this packed local restaurant on the edge of town (half the price of the ones in town) and both ordered some trout, which had been caught from the lake. Mouth watering is all I can say! After a couple glasses of wine Paul convinced me we should book white water rafting for the Friday and merrily I accepted (eekk). After paying for our bill we stopped at a pub to have a pint before we stumbled back up the hill to out guesthouse to get a much needed nights rest.

The sun rose at around 4am (like our summers the days are very long in this part of the world) and I was awake! I needed more sleep but I was wide awake!
We got up for breakfast around 9am, booked our rafting tour for the next day and went down to town to explore some more. Barlioche is a ski resort in winter and a lake resort in the summer, filled with young hippy folk. It is very European with a German and Swiss influence, there are so many Swiss chocolate shops, which we have yet to sample.
We decided that we would just laze around, have a siesta and cook our own food in the kitchen in our guesthouse and prepare for tomorrow…the extreme sports day of white water rafting. Eeek, wish me luck..!

Posted by LeahPaul 17:19 Archived in Chile Comments (1)

First overland boarder crossing in South America

From Arequipa we caught a 5 hour bus to Tacna, the buses in Peru are great. The UK could learn a thing or two about service and cheap transportation.
Tacna is a small town about an hour from the Peru-Chile boarder.
From the bus station we had to catch a collective taxi, which would take us over the boarder for just 25 soles. We had to fill a car with 5 people wanting to go. This wasn’t a problem and we soon found an American women, an Australian guy and a big tattooed Chilean bloke called Eduardo.
It was tight on the front seat with the driver myself an Eduardo all bunched up together, whereas in the back they had loads of room with too small girls and a guy.
We soon got to the boarder and I was surprised at how easy it was. I was expecting to have to pay someone to get through. Maybe next time it won’t be so easy.

Once through we headed on to the beach town of Arica. Finally after 2 weeks at altitude we were at sea level. We only had one full day here so we tried to make the most of the beach and the sunshine as much as possible. Unfortunately for me and my tan Leah was ill so we didn’t do anything too adventurous.

Next we’re flying 2 thirds of the way down through Chile to Puerto Montt, and the Lake District area of Chile and Argentina…

Posted by LeahPaul 15:18 Comments (1)

Everything's difficult at altitude!!!!

The day after we arrived back to Cuzco after completing the Inka Trail we were off to Puno. We had booked a 5 hour bus to Puno which included stopping at several Inka sites. After Machu Picchu nothing really compares so it was a bit disappointing.
We arrived in Puno in the afternoon, had a wonder around and then went to bed for some much needed sleep.

The next day we had a wonder down to Lake Titicaca port. The lake itself is the world’s largest high altitude lake at 3800 metres above sea level and covering 8400 sq km’s.
At this altitude it was still very difficult to do anything, even at night I used to constantly wake up short of breath thinking someone was trying to suffocate me!

Puno is not the best town in the world. We walked around the main streets…it didn’t take long and we were thinking we had made a wrong decision in booking to stay here for 3 days. There really isn’t much to do unless you do the lake tours.
We had a look around different tour companies and found a 1 day tour we liked so booked it for the next day. Then, we went to bed early ready for another early rise.

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We were picked up in the morning for our island tour and were met with glorious sunshine.
We boarded our boat and headed off out of the harbour to our first stop.
Uros Island is a floating island made of reeds. The island is built using layers of buoyant totora reeds. There are 50 of these small islands in total, each housing different families.

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We were greeted by some short fat women in brightly coloured dress and soon were given a little dance, some reeds to chew on and a tour.
All very interesting how they manage to lead a normal life on what seems to be an unstable floating island.
After this we were ushered into see their houses and were shown an array of goods they wanted to sell us.
Leah decided to buy a hand-sewn tapestry.

Next it was off to Taquile Island, this was a long 2 hour journey so we decided to head up on top of the boat to get some sleep and sun.
Once we arrived we walked to the top of the Island. Still at 3800 metres above sea level this was hard work, even though it only took 25 minutes.
We had a look around the main square and then went off to have some lunch.
After a bit more of a look around the island we headed back to the boat and then returned to Puno.

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At the end of our time in Puno we caught a flight to Arequipa. Unfortunately for us we only had one afternoon here. If we didn’t have to move on we could have stayed a lot longer.

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The city is beautiful, very European in style and the Cathedral in the main square has a backdrop of snow-capped mountains.
We only had time to look around the centre of the city before our trip overland from Peru into Chile.
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http://www.flickr.com/photos/roundworldadventure/sets/72157628932749721/
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Posted by LeahPaul 13:20 Comments (0)

Everything's difficult at altitude!!!!

The day after we arrived back to Cuzco after completing the Inka Trail we were off to Puno. We had booked a 5 hour bus to Puno which included stopping at several Inka sites. After Machu Picchu nothing really compares so it was a bit disappointing.
We arrived in Puno in the afternoon, had a wonder around and then went to bed for some much needed sleep.

The next day we had a wonder down to Lake Titicaca port. The lake itself is the world’s largest high altitude lake at 3800 metres above sea level and covering 8400 sq km’s.
At this altitude it was still very difficult to do anything, even at night I used to constantly wake up short of breath thinking someone was trying to suffocate me!

Puno is not the best town in the world. We walked around the main streets…it didn’t take long and we were thinking we had made a wrong decision in booking to stay here for 3 days. There really isn’t much to do unless you do the lake tours.
We had a look around different tour companies and found a 1 day tour we liked so booked it for the next day. Then, we went to bed early ready for another early rise.

IMG_3696.jpg

We were picked up in the morning for our island tour and were met with glorious sunshine.
We boarded our boat and headed off out of the harbour to our first stop.
Uros Island is a floating island made of reeds. The island is built using layers of buoyant totora reeds. There are 50 of these small islands in total, each housing different families.

IMG_3712.jpg

We were greeted by some short fat women in brightly coloured dress and soon were given a little dance, some reeds to chew on and a tour.
All very interesting how they manage to lead a normal life on what seems to be an unstable floating island.
After this we were ushered into see their houses and were shown an array of goods they wanted to sell us.
Leah decided to buy a hand-sewn tapestry.

Next it was off to Taquile Island, this was a long 2 hour journey so we decided to head up on top of the boat to get some sleep and sun.
Once we arrived we walked to the top of the Island. Still at 3800 metres above sea level this was hard work, even though it only took 25 minutes.
We had a look around the main square and then went off to have some lunch.
After a bit more of a look around the island we headed back to the boat and then returned to Puno.

1IMG_3798.jpg

At the end of our time in Puno we caught a flight to Arequipa. Unfortunately for us we only had one afternoon here. If we didn’t have to move on we could have stayed a lot longer.

IMG_3818.jpg

The city is beautiful, very European in style and the Cathedral in the main square has a backdrop of snow-capped mountains.
We only had time to look around the centre of the city before our trip overland from Peru into Chile.
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Posted by LeahPaul 13:20 Comments (0)

Inka Trail

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I apologise in advance for my spelling and grammar :-)

After getting used to the altitude on our 2nd day in Cusco we decided to do a tour of the Sacred Valley just outside Cusco. The Sacred Valley tour consists of visiting several small towns where Inca ruins have been excavated. Pisac, Ollantaytambo, Chinchero & Urubamba. The weather was thankfully on our side so we go a bit of a tan, and the food was yummy too.

The 3rd and 4th day in Cusco we just spent exploring the many little streets and squares in Cusco, and obviously resting in preparation for the 4 day Inka Trail hike.

Friday morning was a very early start, we got up at the delightful hour of 5am, to be honest it wasn’t a big issue as we went to bed a 9pm on Thu and we are still on UK time (5 hours ahead). The trek requires you to get up early and go to bed around 8pm after dinner so there was no point in trying to change our sleep pattern.
So we rose early with a promise to be picked up between 5.20am – 6.00am, but at 5.15am we were quickly ushered out of our room with the hotel owner screaming at Paul asking where I was. I think she was very annoyed about being woken up at such an ungodly hour.
So, we were the first Gringos on the bus, we were driven around Cusco’s tiny streets for about an hour picking up all sorts of Nationalities that would be our group for the next 4 days.
After everyone was picked up we had a 2 hour bus journey to Ollantaytambo where we had a breakfast of scrambled eggs, bread with lots of butter and jam, and a strong black coffee, all you need to start the day.
After breakfast and shopping for Coca leaves and plastic ponchos we got back on the bus and had a rather bumpy ride to the start point of our trek at 2,600 m.a.s.l (meters above sea level).
Once all the formalities had been done at the start check point we were off! We crossed a bridge over the Urubamba River, which eventually runs into the Amazon and started trekking up a fairly steep hill. The first half of the first day was quite easy, we stopped every 20 or so mins for our guide to explain about the nature or some ruins that we passed. We stopped for lunch at about 1.30pm, and OMG! The food was amazing! Bearing in mind that on our trek we had 16 trekers, 20 porters to carry EVERYTHING, all the tents, camping equipment, all the food etc, there was only 1 cook and 2 guides.
1st course was avocado with a refreshing salsa, 2nd course was a delicious soup, and 3rd course was amazingly cooked trout with rice and a Russian salad, yum!
After our lunch had settled we hiked up another few hours with stops to take in the views but mostly to catch our breath.
At about 5.30pm we had finally reached our campsite, a few of us chilled out having a beer as the weather was so nice. Dinner was at 7pm, another slap up meal from the Chef. We were all really knackered after that so were all in our two man tents and asleep by 8.30pm!

The next day we had a 5.50am wake up call with coca tea in bed, 5 star service!
We were told by many people that the 2nd day was the hardest by far due to the constant uphill walking and the thousands of steps, not to mention the altitude but we were all really looking forward to it as it was another beautiful day. We camped at 3,000 m.a.s.l and needed to reach the 1st pass at 4, 215 m.a.s.l. The highest mountain in the Alps is Mont Blanc at 4,810 m.a.s.l so you can imagine how high we were.
The first few hours of climbing were challenging (I always found it more difficult to breath in the morning due to the altitude), I think most of the group were ok, but we all knew the hard bit was to come. Before we started walking up the steep part of the trail our guides taught us how to chew the coca leaves, you get about 7 leaves, roll them up and stick them between one side of your back teeth. You have to almost continuously lightly chomp on the leaves but they must not be swallowed. The taste was rank, I don’t mind the tea but the chewing on the leaves brings out a very bitter taste that made me gag if they were left in there too long. Needless to say, I still used them as they helped get the oxygen around my body and helped me breath while I was climbing thousands of steep steps at a high altitude.
So, at about 9am we started up the first half of the steep part of the trail. It was hard! Paul and I had a similar pace and so did 2 other guys from our group, two Americans called Thomas and Joey. It was good to be in a small group as we all had turns as pace setters. We were all chewing on the coca leaves with our headphones in climbing to the beat of the music. Most of this part of the trek was in a sort of small forest, we couldn’t see many nice views, just a few cool tumbling rivers.
At about 11am the 4 of us were the 1st to reach the ‘camp’ where we would have 2nd breakfast (yes, that is how hard it was! We required 2 breakfasts). We had to wait quite a while for the people at the back but it was nice to have a break.
At this point we were 3,800 m.a.s.l, so it had taken us about an hour and a half to climb 800m.
The weather can change within seconds at this altitude. When we arrived it was baking and cloud free, but within a few mins a thick cloud had rolled in and we were all freezing! Luckily we had all prepared for the 4 seasons in 1 day.
Once 2nd breakfast was finished we got ready to climb the final path to the 1st pass called ‘Dead Woman’s Pass’. The 4 of us started off ok then a local porter carrying over 25kg of weight fell over in font of us. We were very concerned so tried to help him but he seemed out of it. I’m not sure if he was hypoxic or drunk but he just wanted to keep walking. I gave him my water but not speaking much Spanish there was only so much we could do. A bunch of Spanish people were shouting at him telling him to rest but he wasn’t having any of it, his eyes were almost rolling round the back of his head. After a few mins we decided to go on as there was nothing more we could do for him. One of the guides later told us that he was still drunk from the night before, but I am still not too sure.
Shortly after the crazy porter incident an Australian couple from our group joined us, called Belinda and Andy, we all had a good pace and were determined to get to the top ASAP. We started stopping every 20 mins to have a sort break but this was quickly reduced to every 5 mins until Paul, Thomas and Joey dropped back and I lead on. For some reason I am either mega fit or I wasn’t affected as much by the altitude (most probably the latter). I was the 1st person in our group to reach the 1st pass! Whoop!!!! I just got my head down, concentrated on my breathing and found the easiest way up each step.

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Very shortly after Andy, Belinda, Paul, Thomas and Joey joined me. The sight was amazing but soon after we arrived at the top a very cold cloud rolled in.
The last part of the day’s trek was all downhill. I DO NOT like going downhill, it hurts! We knew we only had about an hour and a half more of walking before we reached camp so we started. After a few twisted ankles and wet bottoms from slipping we made it to camp. It was a nice feeling to have a sit down and a cup of hot coca tea.
After about an hour and a half the last of our team joined us and we had lunch.
Disappointingly our guide warned us that there had been a few landslides on the next part of the trek so the route may have to change, but that he would tell us for sure at lunch the next day. We all hoped the trek would go ahead as normal as we wanted to go through the Sun Gate to get to Machu Picchu.
After lunch we all had a siesta and then got up for dinner at 7. With full tummies we all went back to bed for a restless night due to the all night rain.

The next morning we woke at 5am, had breakfast and started trekking at 6.15am. It had been raining all night and it rained all morning, as we were so high, at aprox 3,600 m.a.s.l it was very cold, and it even snowed over night where we had walked the previous day. We were all soaking, cold and miserable.
We climbed up to 3,950 m.a.s.l to do an Inka ritual and then climbed down to 3,500 m.a.s.l. We stopped at many Inka ruins and we told how they lived.
The 2nd half of the morning was much more enjoyable as it stopped raining! Paul, Andy, Belinda, Thomas and I trekked together, this part of the trail looked like an ancient forest like but also on the side of a mountain. The path was mostly flat which felt great. We stopped for lunch at Phuyupatamarka, 3,600 m.a.s.l and then set off again. This part of the day I was not looking forward to as I knew it would all be down hill. We went 8km downhill from 3,670 m.a.s.l to 2050 m.a.s.l, that is a lot of steep steps! And at lunch we got that bad news that the last part of the tail was closed due to fears of a landslide. We had several options due to the landslide, we decided to walk an extra 3km downhill and 4.5km on the flat to get to a town where we could have a hostel to sleep in, and get up early in the morning to get to Machu Picchu when the gates opened.
The downhill part was treacherous, the first half was wet and slippery so we had to take our time, but after a while the ground dried up and we were able to bounce down. Half way down Paul had a twinge in his stomach, I think lunch didn’t agree with him and he had to literally run down these steep stairs to the next toilet, he just made it. Phew!
After we reached the bottom we again had to wait for the rest and then walked 4.5km along a train track dodging the trains to the town where we were staying. We had dinner (not Paul though, still feeling a bit sensitive), a few drinks and went to bed, dreading the 4am wake up. That night I closed my eyes and all I could see were the steps coming towards me, weird!

In the morning we had breakfast and half of us walked up 2km of solid uphill steps to Machu Picchu, the rest got the bus - I think all who walked instantly regretted it.
Finally we were at the gates to Machu Picchu, the weather was great! We took some cool pictures, had a tour and walked around for a bit. It is truly a magnificent sight!
So, the trek was almost over. We had walked 11km on the 1st day, 12km on the 2nd day, 22.5km on the 3rd day and 2km on the 4th day. A total of 47.5km with a lot of steps.

After, we decided at go back down to the town, taking the bus this time to grab some lunch before we got the early train back to Ollantaytambo, and then a bus to Cusco. It was a nice feeling having done the trek with no problems. We had a burger and beer and then headed back. The train was massive! About 2 times the
width of the ones in the UK.
We got home at around 6.30pm, unpacked our bags, had a shower and went straight to bed as were had an early bus booked for Puno in the morning! Fab!

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Posted by LeahPaul 14:36 Archived in Peru Comments (2)

Out of breath in Cusco!!

After a long 18-hour journey we finally got to Lima. Checked into our hotel and really pushed the boat out sampling the local cuisine at a TGI Fridays – I wouldn’t even bother with that place at home. Anyway we were tired and needed food so it served its purpose.
30 degree heat and blue skies, wished we could have stayed a bit longer but we had and early flight the next day to Cusco.

We arrived in Cusco, which is 3400 meters above sea level. After all the talk about the altitude I was half expecting to pass out as soon as we walked off the plane. Much to our delight this didn’t happen, and we didn’t even notice a difference until we had to walk up a slight slope.
We were met off the plane by our hotel hostess Mercedes, who kindly poured us a cup of coca tea when we got to the hotel. Still buzzing off it as I write this!!!
Only joking this helps with the altitude and we soon realised we needed it.
The rest of the afternoon has been spent doing nothing and hopefully we’ll be acclimatised tomorrow.

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Posted by LeahPaul 06:00 Archived in Peru Comments (3)

Adios England

Just arrived at the airport before the start of our trip begins!
I can’t believe we’re actually going…
Its seems like only a month ago we were planning where we wanted to go to and now its all reality!
I hope they have some nice food on the flight…
And wine!!!

Next stop Lima…

Posted by LeahPaul 11:01 Archived in England Comments (0)

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