Ruta Che, Spanish school and socialising – Day 331 (23,483 miles)

Our plan had been to spend less than 30 days in Bolivia, we reckoned on travelling around 1500 km to cover what we wanted to see so considered this to be plenty of time.  But if you can’t change your plans when travelling like this when can you?  So we headed an additional 400km east to the small town of Samaipata to meet other travellers at a Horizons Unlimited get together.

Nice views to begin with.

Ruta 7 had been badly damaged during the 2015/16 rainy season and is still being repaired, this plus fast detoriating weather conditions extended our 7 hour journey to 11 hours.

Not much of a view.

Then they closed the road for 2 hours.😡

Still, it was worth the journey.  Back in 2011 we met our friend John RTW at a Horizons Unlimited meeting in Chiang Mai and had some good times travelling with him in Thailand, Laos and Cambodia.  John has continued to travel since then, so glad we managed to catch up with him on this continent.

A great bunch of travellers to swap stories and information with, some like us were travelling through and a few had made South America their home for now.  Pete standing to my right comes from Surrey, that old small world thing!

Drone photography, good fun although it freaked the dogs!

After 4 days of fun, food and drinking we headed off with John to Sucre which was back on our originally planned route.  The route we took from Samaipata to Sucre took us through some beautiful countryside and is known as the Ruta del Che as Che Guevara spent the final months of his life and was subsequently killed in this area.

We made a stop at Vallegrande, Che’s body was rather strangely laid out in the above laundry room at the hospital to prove to the world’s press that he was dead.  Officially you can only visit on a guided tour which we didn’t have time for, the building is still part of the town’s general hospital and not sign posted at all.  We ran around the hospital until we found the building and managed to get some workmen to let us in for a quick look around!

We spent the night on a great little campsite at La Higuera which was the site of the old telegraph station where the telegram advising the authorities that Che had been captured and executed was sent from.

The old school house where he was executed and which is now a museum.

We had caught up with Pete and Franzie who were also travelling to Sucre.  There where some nice photo opportunities in this amazing landscape.

Juanita in the town square at Villa Serrano, Pete, Franzie and John were able to get their bikes into the hotel courtyard and had rooms inside.  The very accommodating staff allowed us to park outside and use the shower and loo for a nominal amount.  It seems like whatever night of the week there is often some kind of parade around the town square in Bolivia, luckily the accompanying brass band didn’t play too late into the night.

Fab pic taken by John RTW, he spotted this lady through a small door as he drove by and she was happy to be photographed.

When discussing Bolivia with other travellers the subject of fuel is one of the big topics. Anyone driving a vehicle that doesn’t have a Bolivia registration plate should officially be charged approximately 8 bolivianos per litre for petrol, as opposed to the rate of 3 bolivianos for local vehicles. In order to sell you fuel the staff have to record a ridiculous amount of information including your name, passport number, address in Bolivia, details of the vehicle, blah, blah, blah. This can result in a variety of scenarios:- They follow the rules and sell to you at the tourist rate and record the information OR will sell “sin factura” (without a receipt) for anything between 3 and 7 bolivianos per litre straight into your tank OR will only sell to you if the fuel goes from the pump into a can then into the vehicle (as shown above) which allows them to bypass the frustrating information logging!  Needless to say getting fuel can take quite a while and be a bit of a lottery.

Sucre is a small, pretty and friendly city that we intended to visit for 4 days and ended up staying for 13 days! John, Pete and Franzie were all basing themselves there for several weeks, some of the other travellers who we had met at the HU meeting were also passing through plus we stayed on a great little campsite and met other nice people, there was just too much good socialising to be had!

In addition John wanted to get to the bottom of Juanita’s juddery acceleration that had been going on for a while.  Previously he had cleaned the injectors, idle control valve and changed the throttle position sensor but not sorted it.  So now it was time to change the spark plugs, all six of them, 3 of which meant quite a lot of bits (my technical term) had to come out of the engine bay.

The spark plugs looked in pretty bad condition so we thought changing them would do the trick.  Unfortunately until John put it all back together there was no way of knowing.  It turned out not to be the fix we had hoped and a local mechanic suggested John should have changed the spark plug leads as well so it all had to come out again!  Anyhow that did the trick, Juanita is now running perfectly and John having now had so much of the contents of the engine bay out (twice) feels he knows how she works pretty well.

This is Christina and Torsten our great neighbours and fellow campers.  Torsten is a mechanic with many years experience and was John’s sounding board when working through Juanita’s issue.  Like John, Torsten could not rest until their van was in perfect working order.  Christina and I had both perfected the facial expression that suggests we are as interested and concerned as they are about that tiny little noise that we really couldn’t even hear!

We also fitted in 20 hours of Spanish language classes. I would like to say it has really improved our conversational skills but it wasn’t enough!  When we just used nouns linked together with a bit of miming we seemed to do OK.  Now we are trying to use the gender appropriate articles and adjectives it seems soooo much harder.😳

A nice relaxing afternoon spent with Franzie and Pete at the Mirador overlooking the town.

Our change of plans had meant we had to extend both our personal visas and temporary import for Juanita, thankfully both were pretty quick and easy to do.  We left Sucre having met and spent time with some great people and could quite happily have stayed a while longer.  But, we needed to get back on the road and continue through Bolivia otherwise we really are going to be getting to Patagonia in the middle of winter🌨💨😬.

🇧🇴Lake Titicaca and into Bolivia – Day 309 (23,076 miles)

Our last day in Peru we meandered through the pretty countryside close to the shores of Lake Titicaca.

Compared to tales from some other travellers we have been lucky up til now as the border crossing into Bolivia was the first time we’ve been asked for “unofficial” payments.  While being stamped out of Peru the official asked for a $20 payment, after us repeating “por que” a couple of times he said it was a “voluntario” payment, we chose not to pay!  On the Bolivian side of the border a policeman asked for $5 for a Peaje (road toll) unfortunately for him his sidekick couldn’t keep a straight face and it was obviously a scam.  So again we chose not to pay, especially as we had to open the barrier ourselves!

Quinoa in it’s raw state, a very pretty crop.

We spent the night in Copacabana the first tourist spot in Bolivia.  Obviously not the same place favoured by Barry Manilow, there were ladies in traditional dress but no show girls.

We took a slow, rather long and boring boat ride to the Isla del Sol on Lake Titicaca, the weather on the island didn’t live up to it’s name hence the washed out skies in the pics.

Our photo was taken by Sandy a traveller from Hong Kong who we spent the day with but forgot to get a photo of. ☹️

The usual thing to do on the island is to be dropped at the north end and walk along the ridge for about 4 hours then pick up a boat in the south to head back.  A couple of weeks before we arrived there had been a dispute between villages in the north and south regions to do with damage to some Inca ruins and the north is closed to tourists for now.  Bit of a shame and must be a blow to the islanders involved in the tourist industry.

John showing an unusual interest in some tourist toot.

So much prettier with blue skies.

Our next boat trip on the lake included Juanita as it’s necessary to cross the water to join the road to La Paz.

La Paz, a city that has an interesting centre to walk around although at 3640 metres it’s the highest capital city in the world so the pace was pretty slow.

You’re never too young to work a fruit and veg stall.

Equador, Peru and Boliva all have 100’s of different types of potato.  These brown and white stone like objects are potatoes that have been dried for up to 2 years and are then rehydrated to use is soups or cooked and served with a spicy sauce.  Bolivian equivalent of Smash! Continue reading “🇧🇴Lake Titicaca and into Bolivia – Day 309 (23,076 miles)”

Cusco and Machu Picchu -Day 300 (21,732 miles)

We arrived in Cusco to plan our trip to Machu Picchu, for travellers who fly in a stop here is usual to allow for acclimatisation to the altitude.  Cusco is at 3400m so higher than MP which is 2430m and the other areas in the Sacred Valley passed through enroute.  We’ve been travelling at altitude on and off for months now but altitude sickness can catch you out at anytime so we didn’t take if for granted that we’d be OK.

Our campsite was a couple of Km and a few hundred metres above the city, beautiful views but a hard slog on the way back home that’s when it’s obvious the altitude does make a difference.

Downhill into Cusco, the easy bit.

Every Sunday in Cusco is a Flag Day parade.  I have no idea how big the Peruvian army is but there was a lot of them here on this Sunday.  Also we could hear the music in the square go on until the early hours of Monday morning from our campsite 2kms away.  How on earth do these people get up for work on a Monday!

We had made the decision long ago that we wouldn’t be attempting a multi day hike to Machu Pichhu.  It was going to be the easy way in for us, we just had to decide whether that would be the taking minibuses and a train for the whole journey or driving part of the way followed by an overnight camp and a short train journey.  The drive was only about 80km each way but could take between 5 & 7 hours due to the twisty, hilly terrain.

We went for the cheaper option to drive most of the way along with the lovely bunch below who we met at our campsite.

Our fellow travellers in our little convoy Kahan, Mel, Dante and………….

Simon and Tanya.

 

Interesting old village but here comes the rain.

Spectacular views in the Sacred Valley.  The journey did take us the best part of 7 hours but there were lots of photo and food stops along the way.

This is how we arrived in Agua Calientes (also known as Machu Pichhu Pueblo) from our campsite in Hydra Electrica.  You can walk the 11km along the train track but the 14km walked round and about Machu Picchu was enough for us.

So, we made it to one of those places we had both dreamed of visiting since childhood.  It’s very special, not just the structures but the surrounding landscape as well.

 

The Urubamba river.

If you could just look this way?

This man was removing moss from between the stones with these hand tools.  Slooooow work.

The downside of visiting this time of year is it’s still the end of the rainy season, we were lucky and had a dry and warm day but not much blue sky.  The upside was there would have been many more tourists had it been a few weeks later. 

Back in Cusco we joined a tourist bus and visited a local village, this was the Witch Doctor.  We have no idea what he said (he spoke Cuecha) or whether he put a spell on us but he had an interesting face anyway.😊

Adios amigos.

Continue reading “Cusco and Machu Picchu -Day 300 (21,732 miles)”

Lima and the desert – Day 293 (21200 miles)

Our journey south along the Pacific Highway continued until around midnight, it took a while to get through the town of Huarmey which had been completed flooded.   Temporary river crossings to replace the 3 bridges that had been washed away allowed us to get through eventually.

Our fuel station camp stop guard dog, quite a mean look until you spot the silver earring!

We made it to Lima, traveling with Serge and Tanya had been great and we enjoyed a nice seafood dinner, followed by mucho wine and a late night to celebrate.

We stayed in the grounds of a hostel in Mira Flores a calm, touristy and pretty affluent area of the city, it felt a little strange and very remote from what we had seen over the last week but to be honest it was a relief.

Nice spot if you like playing beach sardines.

The neighbouring distinct of Barranco was a good walk away and full of nice historic buildings, street art and music.

So we can safely say John is bored with the sightseeing, after helping Serge fix his fridge he turned his attention to this motor home owned by a French family.
Continue reading “Lima and the desert – Day 293 (21200 miles)”

Exiting Ecuador 🇪🇨 – Day 273 (19721 miles)

Feels like we haven’t posted for ages so here is how our last week or so in Ecuador went.

Ingapirca is the biggest known Inca site in Ecuador and is sometimes billed as their Machu Picchu.  Perhaps not as dramatic and definitely not as well known but interesting and a whole lot emptier than MP!  The site is actually on the original Inca Royal Road which linked Cusco to Quito back in the day.  Although much of the road has been buried or built on there is still a 40km stretch of Inca Trail in Ecuador.

Clever mortarless Inca building technique.

The Inca Temple of the Sun.

There was a small car park with nice loo’s and security guards so at $3 dollars pp entrance fee including an English speaking guide and free camping it was a bargain excursion.

We were heading into Cuenca which is the 3rd largest city in Ecuador but on the way wanted to spend a couple of days in the Cajas National Park.  We only lasted one night, the weather was so cold, wet and gloomy.  The plan was to do some trout fishing in one of the many lakes but it really was miserable weather although still very pretty scenery.

 

Cuenca is pretty and after a day walking the city we found a really nice Indian restaurant, what a bonus!  Boy have we missed curry.

The main reason for our visit here was some van enhancements.  John had sketched some roof bars and a basket and we found a recommended workshop to make them for us.

Juan and his team (with some supervision from John 😉) did a great job.  We are now ready to carry fuel for any shortages and long stretches without fuel stations that we may encounter, especially in Bolivia.

It turned out another modification was needed as John’s only pair of glasses snapped clean in two across the bridge. Glue didn’t work but we found an optician who managed to drill both sides and pin them back together.  A pretty sturdy fix, fingers crossed it lasts until we get home.

Negra was our campsite pet, very friendly and like most Labs constantly on the look out for food.  We camped under an advocado tree and she liked to eat the skin and fruit then crunch up the stones and leave them for us to step on!

 

We were heading towards the most easterly and smallest border crossing into Peru at La Chonta.

It was a Sunday so on the way we stopped at the small town of Saraguro, it was market day which is attended by local Kitchwa people.

John had been looking for a machete and managed to get the size and type he wanted at the market.  I really should have taken a photo of him with it then but forgot.  So this is him today unfortunately suffering from a bit of a tummy bug.  He doesn’t usually sleep with it next to him I just placed it there for effect!

 A simple, strighforward, no fuss, no queue and no Welcome to Peru signed border crossing.

We have loved Ecuador, the scenery, wildlife and great people we have met.  They will shortly be going through the 2nd round of a General Election as the 1st round didn’t give a conclusive result.  Elections here are notoriously corrupt but we hope for the sake of the people the current ruling party are not re-elected.  At the moment the citizens pay ridiculously high taxes on goods and property, areas that have been effected by natural disasters are not prioritised for regeneration and huge amounts of cash disappear from public funds.  We wish them luck.

Adios amigos.

Quito and Carnival – Day 260 (17940 miles)

After a few days back at the campsite where we had left Juanita while in the Galápagos we had sorted through the hundreds of photos, cleaned the van and caught up on admin.

We headed into Quito’s Historico Centro to take a look around, neither of us were in the mood for museums but wanted to get a feel for the city.  It was a 25km journey and involved a couple of buses, we enjoy it when we use public transport as it takes us out of our own little travel bubble and forces us to use our meagre Spanish/sign language to get around.

Local musicians, and people watching in the main square.

A day walking around the city was enough to make us realise we are ready to get on the road again.

We did however want to meet Carlos who had been introduced to us by Harry a fellow motorbike traveller who we met on the road in 2011.  John had met Carlos very briefly at the Goodwood Festival of Speed a couple of years ago when Carlos visited Harry in the UK.

Carlos and Paola were great company, we ate, took in the views over Quito from Cruz Loma and shopped in a huge craft market.  They did the bartering so we got much better prices than a couple of Gringos would have done on our own!

The view of Quito from Cruz Loma (4,100 metres).

The Teleferiqo took us up the 4,100 metres, just a bit of walking at the top luckily.

Carlos has raced motorbikes for many years and has been Ecuadorian national champion in several different classes,  the championships are held at the racetrack in Ibarra that I had fancied taking Juanita round a couple of blogs ago.

Hopefully we will all meet up again sometime, the Isle of Man races maybe?

We headed south east to Misahualli a small place in the Oriente region, jungly, hot and humid.  We camped in this beautiful spot in a little eco resort run by a group of local ladies.

We headed off in 30c+ temperatures on foot to explore, this is another way of saying “not spend money”.  A lot of the activities here revolve around guided river trips and jungle walks and they are pretty pricey.  After Galápagos we need to be making our own entertainment for a while.

After a few sweaty miles we found the giant Ceiba tree, it is approximately 1500 years old and very tall (not quite sure how tall!) there were no signs, no real path and in fact considering it is one of the things “to do” locally it is pretty hard to find!

Very cheeky Capuchin monkey.  A lady who was enticing it with food so her companion could get a good photo was rewarded by it peeing on her arm!

We carried on heading south but more centrally through the highland areas and camped overlooking the peak below just outside the town of Banos.

Chimborazo is the highest peak in Ecuador at 6310m and due to the earth’s equatorial bulge it’s peak is the furthest point in the world from the centre of the earth.  Unfortunately it was rather cloud but spectacular anyway.

These are Vicuña, a smaller, daintier version of llamas.

We drove above the snow line and up to a refugio where we planned to camp for the night, it was going to be a chance to test out Juanita’s insulation and the clothes and bedding we currently have.  If we were freezing we would need to go shopping well before Patagonia.

As you can see we weren’t suitably dressed to start with!

As the GPS above shows we were going to be camping at close to 16,000ft.  We have been up to 14,000ft fairly regularly and apart from maybe the odd slight headache and the need to take it slow when climbing hills we’d been OK.

So we snuggled up in the van watching some downloaded BBC TV!  John had taken some pills to get rid of a slight headache earlier and by 7pm it was already down to 3c outside so we thought it was likely to be a pretty cold night.  A little bit later I asked John how he felt, his headache was back and quite frankly I felt pretty awful with a headache and was finding it hard to breath deeply.  We decided it was probably not a good idea to fall asleep feeling as we did so packed up the van quickly and set off to a lower altitude.  Not sure if it was the exertion of packing up the van quickly but within a few minutes of setting off both my arms were going numb and breathing was a real effort!  Poor John he was trying to drive down a rutted muddy track in the dark and keep talking to me in case I passed out!

Anyhow we got down to about 14,000ft and the numbness started to wear off and breathing got easier.      We carried on descending and slept at about 11,000ft which was fine.  Big lesson learnt, we need to take longer to acclimatise to altitudes above 14,000ft.

The next day we went back to Chimborazo, only to 14,000ft I hasten to add!  Unfortunately it was shrouded in thick mist that didn’t look likely to clear.  Still, we visited these ladies and bought nice hand made woolly hats and gloves for the next time we’re in such low temperatures.

We stopped at the very small village of Salinas, there  were milk churns everywhere as the village is famous for making cheese and chocolate.  After our experience  the day before we treated ourselves to a good supply of both products (any excuse!)

Rather gruesome!  The rest of the pig was being butchered round the corner.

The last weekend of February is Carnival all over Ecuador, it’s a huge party that seemed to go on from Friday to the following Tuesday.

This young lad and his friend were having a foam fight in a fuel station, his parents didn’t seem at all concerned about the amount getting into their truck.  Within a couple of days we would realise how messy carnival can get.

On Saturday there were small parades along the way as we were travelling to the town of Alausi.  We had picked this town basically because it was in the direction we wanted to go, it’s in a pretty valley and a campsite just outside the town had been recommended to us.

Sunday started with a colourful parade but……..

then the fun started.

We were “encouraged” to join in by some local ladies, they were great fun and very friendly.

Alcohol, a horse and a machete, could be an interesting mix!

We headed back to the campsite, the foam, paint and raw egg made for some cleaning challenges especially on camera lenses!

A fun time and great memories. Continue reading “Quito and Carnival – Day 260 (17940 miles)”

Galápagos, just fantastic – Day 247 (17302 miles)

We decided to book one way flights to Baltra, and organise a last minute cruise in Puerto Ayora the main town on Santa Cruz island to give us a better chance of getting a deal.  The tour agents showed us details of some nice fancy boats with availability that were at least double what we wanted to pay.

Karl who we met in Mindo had already tipped us off about a 16 berth catamaran called Solitario Jorge which although basic was clean, relatively new and the food was good.  So we got an 8 day cruise on that boat leaving within a couple of days.  In addition to the cruise we spent 4 nights on Santa Cruz and 2 nights on Isabela which gave us time to see a good selection of land and sea wildlife and the varied landscapes throughout the islands.

Whimbrel

Lava Lizard

Marine Iguana

Galápagos Sea Lion

Greater Flamingo

Galápagos Dove

Is it just me or at a quick glance does it look like John has his hand on his neighbour’s knee?😂

Stingray

Blue-Footed Booby

Magnificent Frigate Bird

Swallow-tailed Gull

Galápagos Penguin

Bryde’s Whale

John thought better of sitting next to this sea lion after it let out a roar/snarl of disapproval when he got a bit too close.

Galápagos Land Iguana

Blue-footed Booby and chick

Galápagos Sea Lion

Juvenile Sally Lightfoot Crab

Grown up Sally Lightfoot Crab

The only underwater photos we took are below and are stills from video footage on an old GoPro.  Not the best quality but gives an idea of some species we saw.

Pacific Green Sea Turtle

Blue-Chin Parrot Fish

Razor Surgeon Fish

Eagle Ray

Sea Lion

Humans😊

Galápagos shark (have been known to bite!)

Bad pic but that is a real Hammerhead Shark!

Us!

That’s our boat on the right.

Our fellow passengers, 8 nationalities and a fun group.

How excited was I to see the Giant Tortoises!

Above and below is the Sierra Negra volcano crater, the 2nd largest in the world at 10km wide.

We did a hot sweaty 16km hike into this amazing landscape.

 

========================================

The following images are ones that didn’t make the Editors cut (Because she’s bossy).

I have been given permission to add them so everyone can hopefully get the feeling we did. It’s bloody amazing in the Galapagos!!

Regards, down trodden photographer….

Onwards in Ecuador – Day 232 (17302 miles)

So, a new country, our first impressions after crossing the border were, wow these roads are good and…

double wow look at the scenery.

We headed for the town of Ibarra to do a few errands then on to a campsite at the nearby Laguna Yahuarcocha.  On Saturday nights the campsite owners organise a BBQ for anyone who wants to socialise, it was a nice opportunity to chat to others who had already “done” the more southerly SA countries and pick up some tips.  In fact a Swiss couple made a very valid point when we expressed some concern that we’d be hitting Patagonia in early winter if we carried on at our current rate of progress. We had intended to just head south and see everything we wanted on the way.  Instead, if we stick to our     plan until we have finished Bolivia but then travel down to Patagonia without stopping for extended periods, we can make it there in the Autumn then afterwards head north again to explore Argentina and Chile.  Quite obvious really but we needed someone else to point it out to us!

The is also a motor sport track at Yahuarcocha, it is used for occasional competitions and individuals can pay $25 for some time on the track, I was keen to get Juanita out there, just for the photo opportunity really.  John was not so keen, oh well.

We headed southwest to Mindo a small town in the foothills of the Andes.  It is popular for birdwatching and exploring the cloud forest, quite jungly but cool due to the altitude of 1300m.

We went on an early morning bird watching walk and spotted toucans, parrots, kites, woodpeckers and many smaller colourful birds.  Unfortunately we didn’t capture photos of any wildlife apart from…..

A small flock of twitchers.

The plants and butterflies were easier to photograph.

We had some great times with Karl a Cornishman who has fallen in love with Ecuador but not enough to leave Corwall behind permanently.  We look forward to meeting up again sometime in the future.

On our way to Quito we stopped off in the area of Mitad del Mundo which is a tourist attraction based around the Equator.  However, it was a Sunday and looked very busy, there was an entry fee and the actual Equator is a few hundred metres in a different direction so we decided not to go in.  Instead we took the GPS for a walk.

Here is John in a not very scenic but authentic spot on the true Equator.  Not sure if there was some weird atmospheric thing going on but John’s hair was doing some strange stuff!

Next stop Galápagos😎🐢😊x

Say hello 🇪🇨 and wave goodbye 🇨🇴 – Day 225 (16928 miles)

Not sure why it has taken so long to post a pic of a Renault 4, they are everywhere in Colombia and some are in brilliant condition.  For me this model comes in at 2nd place to the Citroen 2CV in the Most Stylish Car Ever category, just saying.

So, we are only a few hundred kilometres from the Colombia/Ecuador border, there were still a couple of places we fancied visiting before crossing the border but our thoughts were definitely turning to the border crossing, timings, money changing and the other practical stuff.

This is the St Agustin pre-Hispanic archaeological park, a nice walk from our camping spot which gave us the chance to get some walking kilometres in the bank ready for a couple of days sitting on our bums in the van.

There was a good hill up to a view point that we climbed after viewing the tombs and statues.  It is definitely raining season now, we were soaked to the skin when we arrived at the top which was so shrouded in cloud we didn’t even bother with a photo.

Nice views on the road.

A very chilled hitchhiker, hope he had sunscreen on, it was blinking hot out there.

It is now the 18th January and there are plenty of Christmas decs still around, the Colombians are definitely not worried about the 12th night bad luck thing.  Possible this old tyre tree is just too heavy for anyone to bother taking it down.

**WARNING**This section contains images of a church, you may wish to skip it.  Yes that’s for you WW😊.

Las Lajas Sanctuary is just outside the town of Ipiales our last night stop before crossing the border.  Some people liken the architecture to Disneyland and we could see why.  But the setting across a narrow canyon is very pretty especially against the blue skies which we are seeing less of now the seasons are changing.

Does this vessel to dispense holy water look like a cheap electric kettle to you too?

We managed to change our money at a decent rate without being scammed by the moneychangers with the rigged calculators.  Get the free 90 day visas that some fail to secure (even though we don’t have time to stay that long) and be in Ecuador by 8.30am.

See you down the road.x