Drugs barons and banditos are what Colombia is famous for, but we don’t spot any obviously suspicious candidates in the immediate vicinity of the border. Maybe they’re all further up-country? We’ll keep our eyes open for them as we head north. On our way, our Colombia travel blog takes-in the odd mysterious monument, cactus desert, crater lake, death-road and a jaw-droppingly beautiful religious sanctuary.
Quito’s not a bad place as far as capital cities go. We wouldn’t ordinarily choose to spend ten days there, but we’re on an admin-mission here. Missions accomplished, we head north towards Colombia, with a few detours hovering around the Ecuador Equator: a misplaced monument, some little and large birdies, a great-fiesta-escape, some hats, and (another) volcano.
Physically speaking, we’re doing some ‘highs’ and ‘lows’ in Ecuador. We enter from Peru across miles and miles of banana low-land. Then we climb up-high. We get lots of cheese and chocolate, and spend a night closest to the moon. After that, we do a quick swing off a cliff (as you do) then it’s back down-low on the other side of the Andes, to the Amazon (again!).
So is it all Incas and llamas in Peru? Well, okay… there are quite a lot of Inca sites and there are quite a few wandering llamas. But there’s other stuff too…. Honest! For our third entry to Peru, we crossed the Brazilian Amazon into the (rather similar looking) south Peruvian Amazon. Now we head up to the Andes, Peru’s central highlands, for a long-awaited dose of cool, crisp mountain air. On the way we see battlefields, industrial heritage, some lakey-scenery and just the odd llama by an Inca ruin!
In the Andes at over 4,000m again… a bit of re-acclimatisation is required. We interrupted the sequence of our blogs slightly for our ‘Dakar Special’ when we had a tougher than expected challenge to catch the Rally in Bolivia. So now please humour our ‘time-warp’ as we step back in time to a few days before the Dakar: we’re leaving the beaches of Arica on New Year’s Day for a last bit of exploring in the Andes of northern Chile before crossing into Bolivia.
No, we haven’t just upped-sticks and shipped to Africa, we’re in Bolivia for the world famous Dakar Rally 2017. After a load of security shenanigans in West Africa, the rally formerly known as ‘Paris-Dakar’ was shifted to South America where it’s affectionately known by locals as ‘El Dakar’. Here’s the story of our attempt at finding over 400 bikes, quads, cars and trucks charging across the altiplano in 2017, together with our Top Tips if you’re contemplating a trip to see Dakar 2018.
It’s little visited, the south coast of Peru, which is a real shame. Back in September when we travelled up through southern Peru we took, like most travellers, the mountain route via Lake Titicaca and Cusco. Now south-bound, we’re loving the coastal route south of Nazca and on to Chile. Continue reading
“Heading to the Dakar Rally?” we asked the friendly Brit biker at the Peruvian border, “Yeah… I’m competing” came the reply. Blimey. Impressed.com. We’re not quite, or even anywhere near, as brave as Lyndon, but we are keen to go and see what antics the competitors get up to on their way around the route. Our new claim to fame: we now know one of the Dakar riders who we can go to cheer on!
Peru by the back door
We’re now in Peru for the second time. This time we’re far inland from the coastal route that we took north-bound. Now we’re taking a small rough back-road through the mountains to a relatively little used border post at La Balsa. On this whole trip we have met very few Brits Continue reading
Rainbow Mountain might predictably be described as colourful. The strata are indeed exquisite but at over 5,000m/16,400ft altitude in southern Peru, Rainbow Mountain sits far from any driveable tracks and it’s no ‘walk in the park’ to get there. Our friends Karen and Jimmy on holiday from UK, aren’t going to let the minor detail of a gruelling high-altitude Andes trek put them off visiting this geological wonder and we (foolishly??? 🙂 ) agree to join them on this quest. Are we doing Rainbow Mountain the easy way?
The Rainbow Mountain hike can be done in one tough day-sesh, but only if you are both: (a) a fit-young-crazy-thing, and (b) Continue reading
How on earth do we find ourselves hanging off a cliff-face, in a glass-bubble bedroom, suspended on wires above Peru’s Sacred Valley? Well, it is just the small matter of a 400m rock-climb via-ferrata. And a 200m high hanging wire-bridge to reach said bubble. And a six-stage zip-wire descent to return to terra-firma next morning. Stupid or brave… 🙂 ? Here’s our Skylodge Peru travel blog…
Lets winding the clock back a few months. Our great friends Jimmy and Karen are planning a holiday in Peru to meet up with us. Karen has a proven track record as an adventure holiday planner extraordinaire. “There’s this Skylodge thing…” Continue reading
Peru is a new country for us. We cross the border from Bolivia on the shore of Lake Titicaca near Copacabana and perhaps unsurprisingly, the Peru-bit of Lake Titicaca looks remarkably similar to the Bolivia-bit of Lake Titicaca! We’re heading first to Puno on the north-west side of the Lake then on to… well… errrm… we do have a plan, honest we do! We’ll let you know when it’s safe to do so (or to be more frank, when we have made up our minds and have a clue) 🙂 So much to see and do in Peru.
Titicaca… the highest lake in the world. More accurately the highest navigable lake, although we don’t know exactly what the difference is. It sits at 3,700m on the altiplano and straddles the Bolivia/Peru border. Bolivia has more than a fair share of natural beauty and this is yet another example of its best. A fitting exit point for us from this scenic country (Click here for route map).
Approaching La Paz we have a mixed impression. The city sits in a spectacularly steep sided valley surrounded by stunning snow-capped mountains. Nice. But we also see a blanket of ‘clag’ hanging over its skyline. Not nice. Emission standards still have some way to go around here! We’re not great fans of mega-cities but we do have a few practicalities to sort out here and we are just a teeny bit interested to have a look around.
We’re high. Very high. We’ve been plodding around the Bolivian altiplano, often at well over 4,000 m (13,000ft). After the central cities of Sucre and Potosí we’ve moseyed-on down to the remote south-west corner of Bolivia. Volcanos, lakes and the world’s largest salty-pan. We’re driving the Salar de Uyuni (see map).
We never learn our lesson! Crossing a border during the sacred ‘eating of the lunch’ ritual – don’t do it folks! These people take their lunch-break seriously! You only end up with a lot of waiting and not necessarily in an orderly line. But in our excitement at arriving in a new country, we have forgotten this simple principle again! We approach the Bolivian border at around 13:00 hrs and realise ‘the wait’ is on!
The Atacama Desert sits between us and the Pacific Ocean in northern Chile. As we leave Argentina over the 4,800 m Jama Pass, we’re heading to the Atacama to check-out some weird sandstone formations and some geysers. Then it’s down to the coast for a bit of beach time before we head north and then finally east back up to the Andes (click here for Route Map).
At 15,500 ft we crossed from Chile into Argentina over the Paso San Francisco. We’d enjoyed our three days waiting in the high Andes for the border to open, but were looking forward to descending down to rejoin the Ruta 40 highway and the more temperate climate of north-west Argentina. Highlights to look forward to on this next leg of the trip include the wine region around Cafayate, the colonial city of Salta and some reportedly huge cacti in quirky landscapes. Click here for the route map. Continue reading
Pisco brandy and astronomy are two of the things for which Chile’s Elqui Valley is famous. We’re rather fascinated by the stars and planets, and we also aren’t averse to the odd drop of brandy and wine tasting, so the Valley holds some interest for us. After that we need to dodge the snow and find an ‘all-year’ Pass to cross the Andes, but first we’re heading to the coastal town of Valparaiso.
It’s a happening place, Santiago. A sprawling capital city of six million people and almost certainly the most modern and ‘westernised’ city on the continent. That’s not to say it is without culture, history and character – it has these in spades too. We had spent a week in this cool city before our little detour to Easter Island and got a feel for the place. Cuthbert had waited patiently at Santiago airport for us to return, but we still had things to see and stuff to get done before hitting the road again. We had found a marvellous central but peaceful and secure park-up spot by one of the city’s parks with a friendly guard-chap, so it felt a bit like coming home when we returned.
Our main mission in Mendoza was to learn about the region’s wines. The city is Argentina’s capital of winemaking, which in itself is a good enough reason for a visit. But it’s also a rather cool city, with wide tree-lined streets, shady plazas with fountains and statues, a strong street-café culture, great bars and restaurants… where better to spend Easter?