Rio to Lima
Overland trip from Rio to La Paz then my own way to Lima
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
My flight had arrived late the day before and by backpack hadn't but I only had the one full day in Rio before meeting my group and made the most of it.
It was a nice sunny day and I spend most of it walking. I headed up along the beaches until I eventually got to the Spanish stairs which have been on my list to see. From there I headed to Christ the Redeemer, the last modern world wonder I had left to see and some fantastic views over Rio.
My bag arrived half an hour before the group meet up at 7pm so I was ready to go. Or guide Seba is from Argentina, Volker from Germany, Phil from Aus and Maddie, Andy, Gamma, Craig, Karen, Claire, Lee and Lisa are all from the UK.
+28/09/2017Snorkeling, Ilha Grande
Ilha Grande, Brazil
We had taken a scenic bus down the coast to Ilha Grande where we had a full day to spend.
Took a chill cruise with a couple of others from the group to the north part of the island for some snorkeling and kayaking. There weren't enough kayaks to go around so I went snorkeling again and got to go for a swim with a title which made my day. The snorkeling in general wasn't fantastic but the visibility was OK and the turtle seemed happy to just swim along for a while
On the cruise back we came across a couple of whales swimming in the channel to really just top things of.
We headed down to Paraty today which involved another nice drive down the coast. We got there around midday and a bunch of us headed out for Kayak across the bay. Pleasant way to spend the evening though we did discover the bay is mostly mud with just a sprinkle of same along the shore to make it look pleasant.
A fairly quiet day in Paraty. A bit of a wander around the town in the morning before having a crack at paddle boarding in the afternoon. It didn't go particularly well. Had a great time though falling into the water and my balance was getting as bit better towards the end.
In the evening headed out with Andy to catch the All Blacks vs Argentina gam. Seba, our Argentine guide who's not a rugby fan was a good sport to come along and watch the inevitable end result.
Top day out on the water around the bay near Paraty. Unlimited Caipirinhas, sun, football on the beach and diving of the boat. Just a great fun day.
Iguazu Falls, Brazil
We were up early to try and beat the queues at Iguazu Falls on the Argentine side of the rivet. We did the walk at the top along all the Falls, some 80% of the waterfalls are this side, before heading done for a jet boat ride below a couple of the waterfalls where you get genuinely soaked.
In the evening we had a lively night at a barbeque at the house of the local tour operator which ended early when Karen cut her finger open to the bone. It was Craig's birthday so everyone was out for a good night.
+05/10/2017Parque de Aves
Iguazu Falls, Brazil
A bit of a slow lazy morning as we all recovered from the barbeque the night before.
After checkout most of us headed out to the bird park which was actually really well done. It's basically a bunch of aviary's in a large loop through the forest and there are about five that you walk through that are full of the birds you don't really get a chance to see. It's certainly more satisfying to see the birds in there natural habitat, and we did see some like the Tucan in the national park, but it was lovely to get up close and snap some cool pics.
In the late afternoon we headed to the Brazil side of Iguazu Falls which offered a great view of the Falls from the other side. There was a lot more water flowing as they release the dams on certain days so it was great to get a different perspective.
Now it's an overnight van to Bonito. Bit of a cramped and bumpy ride but it's there only time we have to do this.
After a cramped overnight van ride we arrived in Bonito just after 6am where we had to hang around for a few hours before we could check in and do some activities.
Myself, Gemma and Volker headed out to see some waterfalls at a park about 100km out of town. It wasn't exactly incredible and recent rain meant the water was muddy but it made for a chill afternoon and the zip line was fun.
+07/10/2017Rio da Prata
Rio da Prata, Brazil
This was the one excursion we had to book in advance and it was worth it. A natural spring makes a beautifully clear steam that is full of fish and you put on a snorkel and float with the current through the crystal clear waters.
We headed north to a ranch in the Pantanal, a wetlands on the border with Bolivia and apparently the most bio diverse region in Brazil. It was a laid back affair though the temperature was a killer, in the high thirties most of the day. Two nights in hammocks was comfy enough though I had a lite nights sleep the second.
We had a few activities included here that weren't exactly amazing but fun enough: house riding, day and night walks (highlight was the armadillo) and prihana fishing (I was the only one to not hook a fish of some sort)
Santa Cruz, Bolivia
Border crossing from Brazil to Bolivia today then a night train to Santa Cruz. Seba had hyped the border as being painfully slow and usually taking hours but we were the only ones there, I suspect most others chose to stay out of the midday heat.
The overnight train was a bit bouncy and I didn't get the best nights sleep but the chairs were spacious and we arrived in Santa Cruz around 8am. The hotel we were staying in was a bit average and wanted to charge you for everything but, by paying for breakfast that morning they let us check in early which was much needed.
There wasn't a great deal going in Santa Cruz itself, it's a commercial city were most westerners in Bolivia are based. We checked out the town square then headed to a mall where a few of us ended up playing ten pin bowling for a couple of hours. In the evening we managed to watch Argentina quality for the world cup making Seba happy then headed out for a nice meal where Volker and myself tried Llama. A bit chewy and the flavour of the meat was masked fairly heavily by the seasoning but it was enjoyable.
A short flight took us up into the mountains and Sucre which is the capital and a charming colonial town.
Went quad biking with Andy and Volker on the first day which was great fun. On the second went hiking with Volker along an Inca trail and to visit some dinosaur footprints. Bit harder than normal at the altitude and our guide chattered way to much which detracted from the hiking.
We took an afternoon bus from Sucre to Potosí where we had a pleasant walk around the centre which hints at the city's past. Potosí used to be a rich city because of the silver mine that towers over the town but it's best days are long gone and most of the town is a rough miners town.
On the morning most of us went on the touristy trip into the mines. They undoubtedly keep the tourist trip safe and easy but you still get a sense of how uncomfortable and scary it must be to work down there, especially at over 4000 metres. Part of the tour involved buying “gifts” of coca leaves and dynamite for the miners, or guide seeing a couple of the sticks of dynamite off when we where 2km in and 15 metres down to give us the experience. The woomph as they went off made for an interesting sensation.
+17/10/2017Bolivia Salt Flats
Bolivia Salt Flats, Bolivia
We'd stayed in Uyoní the night before and had an early start at 6am on the first of our three day trip. Our first stop was a pretty little lagoon where I got to see the fat rabbit like creature common in these parts. From there we headed to the hot springs for what was a bit of a rushed dip in the warm waters overlooking another lagoon; we were running late because of issues with one of the 4x4s. Late in the afternoon we visited the red lagoon and the flamingos, I've always associated them with Africa but they appear to be quite common in South America as well. As we were late on time we skipped the Green Lagoon but drove through a spectacular sunset before arriving in the dark at our lodgings for the night.
The next day was a more reasonable start at 9am where we found out we'd been staying next to another lagoon full of flamingos. We drove pass another lagoon with yet more of the pink birds before heading out to the salt flats. These were fantastic to drive across and provide a surreal experience as the flat ground just continues to roll on. We stopped at an island in the centre covered in cactus that provided a nice perspective and some pretty pictures. We got another pretty sunset that afternoon before having drinks by a bonfire in a local ruin. I managed to sprain my ankle pretty badly here walking around in the dark which means I'm going to need to take it easy for the next week.
The last day was playful photos on the salt flats. This isn't my thing but I would have joined in except my ankle was double it's normal size and going black and blue. So instead I chose to lie back and keep it elevated while the others played around. This was followed by a visit to the salt hotel then train graveyard before the night bus to La Paz.
La Paz, Bolivia
I saw sweet all of La Paz as I spent most of it cooped up in my hotel room waiting for my ankle to recover. It was nice to have a break from running around all the time but it got boring fairly quickly. I would have liked to at least explore the cable car system they have for getting along the hills,
La Paz is also where I split with the tour group with most heading on to Machu Picchu then Lima. They were in town for three nights though so I did have some company.
La Paz is a concrete jungle but in the centre there was something quite appealing about the brown, almost pink, buildings that converted the steep surrounding hills. The morning and evening light was quite lovely and the hills lit up brilliantly at night time. I'd splurged for a decent hotel room and had a lovely view of the hills.
La Paz, Bolivia
Death Road was the main reason I'd had for coming to La Paz and I wasn't going to miss it. As soon as my ankle was getting closer to normal size and I could hobble around without too much discomfort I signed up for the cycle trip down what was the most dangerous road in the world with hundreds doing let year at one stage.
It was a cloudy and wet day but still a fun experience. The road is pretty much closed to normal traffic these days as there's a sealed road available now, so the only trouble is likely to be caused by yourself. Still on average a tourist manages to die each year and as you're hurting down with the steep cliffs on your left hand side you can see how a moment's distraction could result in you flying off the edge.
Today I was on the move to Peru with Bolivia Hop, a tourist bus service that makes the border crossing easy. The route was via Copacabana and Isla del Sol, the first a small town in Bolivia on Lake Titicaca, and the second an island that the Incas believed the sun came from apparently. There was a 40 minute hike up the island that I had to skip because of my ankle and there wasn't much going on in either place so I had a relaxed time of it.
The border crossing in the evening was easy enough with just a bus load of tourists to process. And then after eleven years I was back in Peru and headed to Puno.
Lake Titicaca, Peru
I had a regretfully early start after arriving in Puno late the previous evening but was booked on a day tour to check out Lake Titicaca.
The first stop was on the reed islands, probably the most famous attraction, which are man made and touristy as hell. I guess the only reason for them to still exist are the tourists that come through and they've made the most of it. The islands are full of women in bright dresses welcoming tourists, selling trinkets and you can see each section has exactly the same set up to entertain the boat of tourists that visit. They also have these reed boats, most painted bright yellow, that they give us tourists a short journey on. All in all its well enough done and an easy trip, it just doesn't feel especially authentic.
The second part of the day was on an island further out on the lake. I had to skip the hike again because of my ankle but made it past way up the path for lunch where we had a bit of a cultural show that was OK, mainly because it was informative, short and they didn't try to make me dance.
The evening is a night bus to Arequipa that I'm really not looking forward to.
I arrived in Arequipa just after 5am and not surprisingly wasn't able to check in yet. The hostel however had hammocks on the roof and I got a few hours kip up there in the morning sun before exploring the city a bit. Apparently it's the second largest in Peru and it has a nice colonial centre with a mountain dominating the background.
Ideally I would have spent more time here and gone on a hiking trip up to the valley of the condors but I'm out of time and my ankle, while a lot better, isn't up for any hiking trips. Fortunately I did get to see an Andean Condor in Sucre, as one soared directly above us at the end of the four wheeler tour, something or guide was excited about at the time.
So the main event here for me was trying Guinea Pig, something I didn't manage when I was in Peru the first time. It was cooked to be really crispy and was tasty enough, it was mainly skin though with not much meat and what there was was hard to get off the bone.
The bus ride from Arequipa to Nazca was 10 hours of edge of the seat stuff, especially some of the overtaking manoeuvres along the coastal section with the drop to the ocean below. I'd chosen a seat at the front of the bus on the top level which gave me a better view of oncoming traffic than the driver, which didn't help my peace of mind.
There isn't much going on in Nazca which is a busy but small tourist town. I was here of course for the Nazca Lines and took a flight up in the morning in a small 4 seater Cessna which held the pilot, a guide, a French girl and myself. It was a fun half hour ride with plenty of tight turns as they circled the lines from both sides to ensure that we both got a good view. If you suffer from motion sickness I doubt you'd enjoy the experience as much.
There were something like 14 individual shapes we flew over including: a dog, condor, astronaut, fish, parrot, lizard, triangles and spirals. They're certainly a bizarre feature of the landscape given their size and that they're only really visible from above.
After the flighti didn't have much to do besides chill out. This is my last stop before Lima then home and I'd given myself a full day to get a flight in.
An early bus to Lima where I arrived in the afternoon and chilled for the rest of the day before having an early night for my early flight. I've been to Lima before so wasn't keen on checking it out again and didn't have much time in any case.
From Lima I flew to Santiago where I liked the afternoon and evening in the airport before my flight to NZ.