Thursday, May 29, 2008

Backpacking South America: Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador (Part I)

From: At home, Redhill, Surrey, UK
Posted on: Wednesday, September 15

Excitement is building - only 1 month to go. Our tickets arrived today. We still have some preparation to do - we have to get Venezuelan visas and malaria tablets. We haven't decided which sleeping bags to take or whether we need to buy more, nor whether to buy the latest South American handbook or use the 1996 edition lent to us by Richard and Lisa. We met Dave's friend, Paddy, who recommended not using the Lonely Planet, as it leads you to all the tourist traps. He promised to give us some tips which he learned on his recent trip to South America. The Spanish lessons have started but are progressing slowly. Thank you, Paul and Wendy for the LOAN of the 'Learn to Speak Spanish' CD ROM. It's really cool. We speak into the mic and it tells us if we're we're wrong or right. Adios.

From: Cape Town, South Africa
Posted on: Thursday, October 28

Have spent 2 weeks visiting our families and friends in our home town, Cape Town in South Africa, enjoying the sunshine and of course the good ol' Cape Doctor (i.e. the SE wind for non-Capetonians). We spent 3 days in the Cederberg Mountains, visited Robben Island and saw Mandela's cell, climbed Devil's Peak and narrowly escaped being bitten by 2 puffadders, did the wine route and sampled Cape cuisine which seems very cheap after London.

From: Lima, Peru
Posted on: Thursday, November 04

After our short holiday in Cape Town, we flew back to London and then flew to Lima in Peru to start our South American adventure. We arrived last night and are staying at Mochilero's Backpackers ($25 p/rm) in Baranca, a seaside suburb of Lima. The hostel looks very palatial from the outside and the public areas but our room is quite drab and smelt musty although it is clean. Lima is big and busy, very polluted. Taxis everywhere, not as cheap as we expected. Went to the South American Explorers Club to get maps - discovered that they now have a club house in Cusco too so there really is no need to hang around Lima. We are flying to Arequipa tomorrow.

From: Arequipa, Peru
Posted on: Wednesday, November 10

Spent 3 days in the Colca Canyon which is a day's drive from Arequipa. Took a 'tour' on the way there, and went over a pass of 4800m in the bus - we didn't feel too well with headaches and nausea. Stayed in a village called Chivay at the entrance to the canyon, swam in hot springs and were entertained by folk musicians like on Leicester Sq. Woke up early next day to go and see Condors further up the valley. Tour cost $21 each for 2 days inc. transport there and back and to Condor viewpoint, smart accommodation with breakfast in Chivay, folk music evening. Other meals excluded but cheap @ $3 for 3 course meal. Entrance to hotsprings $1. We didn't go back with the tour but instead walked to the furthest village, Cabanaconde, and walked down the canyon to an oasis where we could swim. Camped there for one night ($1 each) and hiked to the villages of Malata and Cos񩲨ua overlooking the canyon on the other side - good views into the canyon. That evening we walked back up the canyon and spent the night in Cabanaconde at Valle del Fuego hostal, a characterful little shack - $6 p/rm, dinner $1.50, breakfast $1. Took the local bus back to Arequipa the next day ($4 each) - dirt road the whole way. Didn?t feel sick over the pass.
Staying at Hostal Posada de Sancho in Arequipa - not cheap but very nice @ $14 p/rm.

From: La Paz, Bolivia
Posted on: Monday, November 15

Caught the overnight train ($8.50 each) from Arequipa to Puno on the banks of Lake Titicaca (3800m) but still in Peru. It took 13 hours and got very cold during the night. Altitude was 4600m but we felt fine. Crossed the border to Copacabana on the Bolivian side. Saw trucks being blessed and pilgrims using model cars, houses and other material things as symbols of what they are praying for. Paid $3-4 p/rm. Met 2 South Africans who were impressed at how far their Rands were going. 3 course meals for $2. The women wear big bright skirts and small bowler hats and have long plaited hair.

Took a boat to the Isla del Sol on Lake Titicaca, just off the Copacabana and spent 2 nights camping there for free. Walked the whole island and witnessed a local festival with bands and people dressed in bread rolls! Apparently it was the end of the school term. Met quite a few English speaking travellers and picked up some good tips from them. Buying food was difficult as there seemed to be a shortage. Tried to swim in the lake but it was not very warm. It is crystal clear and a deep blue.

Took a bus from Copacabana to La Paz ($2 each) - the city is quite something to see, as it is in a basin surrounded by snow capped peaks. There is a demonstration going on outside. Peasants are protesting for right to grow cocoa. Since being in Bolivia we have had some short bursts of heavy rain and thunder and lightening. There are loads of Internet cafes here and they are full. Accommodation in Hotel Alem is $8 for a room. Had a vegetarian lunch at a Hare Krishna restaurant. We have been eating well e.g. good fish (trout) from Lake Titicaca, normally served with rice and chips.

From: La Paz, Bolivia
Posted on: Wednesday, November 17

Today we climbed a mountain near La Paz called Chacaltaya which was 5600m. It has a glacier which has the worlds highest ski lift (5400m) which is not working at the moment - this means walking to the top of the ski slope! The climb to the peak wasn?t difficult - basically just a walk to the top - but the altitude is the problem and it affected Trevor. It was snowing at the top. At the refuge there was a cute baby llama which belonged to the caretaker. It was fluffy and warm when you put your hand under it?s fur and very affectionate too. It drank milk from a babybottle. We also saw lots of big llamas on the way there and back. We got transport through the Club Andino Boliviana for $10 each.

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