A Travellerspoint blog

Rurrenabaque

sunny 28 °C
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After two days of waiting at the airport and finding out our TAM-flight (that is Transporte Aero Militar) flight to Rurre, as locals call it, was canceled because of the rain in Rurre, we finally took of. The flight was very nice and so different from all the horor stories I had read about it. Arriving in Rurre after a week in La Paz was like arriving in a different world. The heat and humidity are ever present and the quietness and naturaleza all around make Rurre a very nice little village. The day we arrived, there was a strike, so we had to walk into Rurre, which gave us a very good impression. I took a bed in a dormitory in Hospedaje Oriental, a lovely hostal with a big garden with hamocks for relaxing in it and trees from which you can pluck very tasty mangos and bananas.
Next day we, five Aussies, Rachel and Ruth, two lovely girls I had met and hung out with the day before, and Catherine, Chris and Jackie, left for a three-day-tour in las pampas. It was beautiful! The jeep annex boat trip to get to our base-camp were lovely. The wildlife and sun were there to keep us company, although it is raining season and there is supposed to be less wildlife to spot in this period.

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The camp was lovely and so were our guide Jimmy and our cook . The second day we went horseback riding, in the rain, in the morning, swimming with pink dolphins in the afternoon and looking for lagardos (aligators) at night. The third day, we took boat and jeep back to Rurre and drove through the magnificent landscape of the pampas again with tucans, monkeys, dolphins, aligators, turtles, sloths, several bird species I had never seen before amd loads of mozzies in it, it was just beautiful!

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At night, we had a few beers with our guide Jimmy and several other tourists in the Moskkito Bar, where you can have very good trucha (trout) as well. Next day, we left for a two-day selva (jungle) tour in Parque Nacional Madidi, again by boat. Walking, eating and sleeping under a shelter in the jungle was cool and again, I had the lovely company of Rachel and Ruth and our guide Eric and his girlfriend Reina. Although the pampas tour was better, the selva-tour was still very enjoyable, but maybe a bit too short.

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The flight back into La Paz was only a few hours late and we arrived well after dark.

Que les vaya bien, amigos!

Posted by Gitan Jean 06:17 Archived in Bolivia Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

La Paz y la Careterra de la Muerta

semi-overcast 22 °C
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When you arrive in La Paz, you get a beautiful view on the city from 'El Alto'. The city is built in layers, poor people (used to) live high up and rich people down. With an altitude of 3,660 meters, La Paz is said to be the highest capital in the world. The only problem though is that Sucre is the constitutional capital of Bolivia, not La Paz. Like the Dutch, Libian and South-African governments, the Bolivian government is not seated in the capital, that is why there is so much confusion. La Paz is the biggest Bolivian city though, with about 1.4 million people. It is a very busy and noisy city, a lot of traffic and polution, but there is a lot to do and see, too.

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Walking along the many markets is a joy for the eyes, ears and the nose. The mercado negro is probably the most famous one, but the bit I have seen of it, I did not like very much. Go out and explore the markets you bump into by accident, they are much more interesting than the clothes on mercado negro. A must see is the Mercado de las Brujas, the witches market, where you can buy amulets, potions, good luck goodies, llama foetuses etc. Close to this market, there is a whole street with souvenir shops, for those out for buying souvenirs. Take a walk along the main streets of La Paz as well, they are crowded with people, traffic and stalls, but it is all very interesting to see. The amount of illegal cd's you can buy here is incredible, I have found one shop where legal copies can be bought. Plaza Murillo is without any doubt the most beautiful square in the city and has La Paz's cathedral as well as el Palacio del Gobierno in it.

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A nice half-day trip away from the city's noise is to the Valle de la Luna, public buses take you there in about an hour. It is a bit of a tourist trap although the moonlandscape is amazing. The surroundings are very beautiful and inviting for a walk back towards La Paz. Remember you can stop the buses wherever you want. The Valle de la Luna is also very close to La Paz`s zoo and to the Muela del Diablo (the devil's molar), both of which Eva and I did not go to visit.
Another attraction is San Pedro's prison, a village in itself. The prison doors are open and San Pedro has shops, restaurants and churches in it hence rich prisoners do not have so much of a bad life.

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A must when you are in La Paz is the Careterra de la muerte, a 70 km-long mountainbike downhill-track that takes you from the very cold La Cumbre, at an altitude of 4,700 meters, to the tropical Coroico, 3,500 meters down. The beginning is all asphalt and you can reach speeds up to 70 km/h without pedaling! Than after an hour or two, the real carretera de la muerta starts, no asphalt any more, just a small path with a ravine of up to 700 meters going straight down at the side! There is quite some trucks, buses and cars you have to overtake on the death road, so it is all very exciting. The road was chosen the most dangerous one in the world because on average, there are 26 vehicles going down every year, which makes an average of one every second week! Over the eight years travel agencies have been running mountainbike-tours down the Careterra de la Muerta, eight people have died doing it, six tourists and two guides. In our group, three out of five people fell and one of them was unlucky enough to fall down on the asphalt at high speed, so he had to be taken back to La Paz to get his chin stitched. The other two got away with only some scratches.
But it is all well worth it. The landscapes are amazing and the adrenaline rush is wicked. After you have made it down, a van takes you up half an hour and takes you to a hotel where you are served a buffet. Unfortunately, I had had a very bad diarrhoea for the first time this trip the nighth before, but after about seven tablets of imodium in the morning, I made it down, where the stomach ache started again. The four hours by van back to La Paz, doing the Death Road the other way around, were terrible, I was in pain and had to stop the van two times to flee into the bushes.
The agency I booked with was very good, it is called X-treme downhill.

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Hasta luego, amigos

Posted by Gitan Jean 17:09 Archived in Bolivia Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Copacabana y la Isla del Sol

sunny 22 °C
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The Joker group with about twelve Belgian people we kept on meeting in Peru provided me with a travel companion after Thomas had left. Eva, a lovely girl from Mortsel (near Antwerp) wanted to travel to Bolivia, too, so when we met again at Machu Picchu, we decided to travel to Copacabana together.
Copacabana is a little city at the Bolivian side of the Lago Titicaca, eight kilometers passed the Peruvian border. It is a perfect basis to do a day trip to the beautiful Isla del Sol. If you go there, take the boat to the north of the island in the morning, do the lovely eight-kilometer-walk to the south and take the boat back from there. Make sure you walk up the hill in Copacabana, too, it provides a gorgeous view on Lago Titicaca and over Copa, it is perfect to see the sunset. Copa has an impressive cathedral worth visiting and it has quite a few good restaurants where you can sit outside in a nice garden under the ever present sun. Try the 'Pico Macho', a traditional dish with spicey beef, salchicha (pork sausage), paprika and of course, chips. Order a glass of api to go with it, it is a typical Bolivian drink made from brown maize. You can take a Paqueño to go with it, too, it is a tasty Bolivian beer but there might be some misunderstandings if you ask for a Pequeño grande. The market is worth paying a visit, just to see how they sell meet, uncooled of course with tons of flies circling around, or to buy some fruits.
Eva and me stayed overnight in the south of Isla del Sol, at Don Thomas. You get a room full of flies, there is no water, nore is there electricity and the toilet, well the hole with a plank with a hole in it over it, was overfull. But we only paid 6 bolivianos (0.6 euros) and had a good night's sleep. Next day, we wanted to walk to the litlle port on the south of the island, but we miscalculated a bit and ended up having to climb rocks and doing dangerous things as the coast line was getting rockier and rockier and steaper and steaper. Then to make it even worse, it started hailing heavily and fortunately Eva managed to get a fishing boat to get over to the shore and pick us up. The port seemed to be still very far and we would never have gotten there without walking the whole way back because further on, it was impossible to walk. Quite a good adventure that was, the rowing boat back to the port.
The colectivos (little white vans for public transport) from Copacabana to La Paz do not seem to be very safe as there are several reports of tourists getting robbed on them or even kidnapped and forced at gunpoint to give their credit card's pinnumber. So, you would better take the tourist bus to La Paz, it is only 10 bolivianos (1 euro) more expensive and it is safe. There is signs up warning you for these incidents in several tourist places in Copa as well as in La Paz.

Posted by Gitan Jean 14:28 Archived in Bolivia Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

El Camino Inca

sunny 22 °C
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The end of our tip in Perú, the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, tourist attraction numéro uno in Perú. We booked through a very good agency called All-Trek Cusco. Our group consisted of six porters, our guide Yanira, Jochem and Sabine, two Dutch people we met in Parácas before, Thomas and me.
First day, we met at 6.30 am and after about four U-turns back to Cusco, the mini-bus finally took us to Ullantabamba, where the porters prepared us a lovely lunch with a matesita de coca to go with it and then we left for the adventurous camino to Machu Picchu. The first day was quite easy, only about two to three hours of walking but I was surprised that our guide was out of breath every time we had to walk up a bit, and she was not pretending! We arrived in the early afternoon and played some card games with Christian, one of the porters, seventeen years old.
The second day was the thoughest. Twelve hundred meters of climbing up to, 4,200 meters, the highest point I have ever been so far. The last half hour was really difficult, because at that altitude you feel you get less oxigen and you have to breath deeper and deeper. But, chewing coca leaves, we got there allright and we were rewarded with a beautiful view as well as with a cold breeze. After a fifteen-minute brake we started to walk 600 meters down again and made it in three hours and fifteen minutes, which is not to bad in my humble opinion. About one hour later, our guide Yanira arrived too and we had lunch. Then we climbed another three hundred meters and walked down for another one and an half hour or so.

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The third day was very easy and very short, luckikly, because it was pissing out of heavens all day. Around eleven am we arrived at the campsite with a restaurant where we could sit down, dry our clothes, have a cerveza and even take a shower for the first time. We played cards all afternoon.

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The fourth day, we got up at 4 am, to get to the final checkpoint at 5 pm and walk the last two hours. We got to the Intipunku, the sun gate, around 6 and almost immediately continued our way because from the sun gate, Machu Picchu is still quite far away and you get much nicer views when you get closer. Still, people take tons of pictures from the Intipunku. Around 7 am, we arrived at the site that is in the running to be one of the new seven world wonders at http://www.new7wonders.com It was brilliant to get there after four days and the reward was very good.

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It is amazing how accurate the Incas could built stone walls with stones so big. And the size of Machu Picchu... The surrounding mountains are stunning, too. Machu Picchu, however touristic it might be, is a must-see for people travelling to South-Peru.

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If you have some energy left after el Camino Inca, mount the Wayna Picchu, just next to Machu Picchu. It is a though and steep way up, but it is well worth it, the view you get from there is magnificent and it is nice to spend some time on the New Mountain, high above the Old Mountain.

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We walked down to Aguas Calientes, the little village where all tourists arrive by train, and saved six dollars by doing so. The way down through rainforest is very nice and for the first time I saw the butterfly I failed to see in Costa Rica, one of the symbols of C.R. though. It is the one that is black and blue from the inside and looks like a snake head from the outside. It is soo beautiful and oh soo big! In Aguas Calientes, we went to the hot springs, that were only so so and then took the train back to Cusco.

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A beautiful experience, el Camino Inca!

Posted by Gitan Jean 16:55 Archived in Peru Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Cusco

sunny 23 °C
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Cusco is whitout any doubt the most beautiful city we have seen in Perú. Cusco, el ombligo del mundo, the bellybutton of the world, lies in the sacred valley of the Incas. From the terrace of our hostal, we had a beautiful view on the gorgeous Plaza de Armas so it was quite nice having desayuno (breakfast) there under the ever present sun.

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Cusco has many picturesque little streets, sometimes very steep and the remains of the Incas are ever present. It is very nice to walk around for hours, especially in the San Blas bario. A tip for people travelling to Cusco, go and have lunch in el Buen Pastor in the San Blas bario. It is a bakery run by a nun and twelve orphins. It has very nice empanadas, pizzas and of course an overload of pastry. You can eat on the first floor. Do not forget to order a borracho, a tasty chocolate ball with a slight brandy flavour, delicious but quite heavy! The only annoying thing in Cusco is that people never leave you alone. All the time you are boarded by people who want to get you in their restaurant or who want to sell you postcards, souvenirs, tours, weed, cocaine or whatever crap you can imagine. Another little inconvenience could be that there is far less Chifas in Cusco than in Arequipa.

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On Tuesday, we went to visit the ruins of Pesac. They are very impresive, but there is a lot of tourists and Peruvian school groups. All of a sudden we became very popular with school girls and we had to pose to be in pictures with girls tons of times, it was good fun. The walk back down from the ruins to Pisac was cool. We met a Frenchman on the way and joined him to a restaurant on the Plaza de Armas. It was way too expensive so we just had a plate of soup and had some empanadas baked in a huge oven from an old woman after. Actually, Pisac is one big market with hundreds of stalls just selling souvenirs, so not really worth going, though the ruins high in the mountains are definetely worth paying a visit. In about an hour, the bus took us from Pisac to the ruins of Qenco for two soles (0.5 euro). They were not very spectacular, especially after having seen the Pisac ruins, but it was a part of the boleto integral we had to buy to get into the Pisac ruins, so it was okay. From Qenco, we walked back to our hostal and we had gorgeous views on Cusco.

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On Wednesday, Thomas and I stayed in Cusco, visited the Plaza de Armas and some museums. The museums were boring, but again, they were on the boleto integral. After a nice dinner with Mickey and Kathleen, two nice people from near Ghent, we went to Mama Africa, the place to be for tourists who want to go out. Around midnight it got just crowded enough and Thomas and I met two very nice and beautiful girls from Lima, sisters, Cindyta and Claudita, it was a good night dancing!

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Next morning, after only a few hours of sleep, we woke up in panic at 8.45 am, because we had to be on the Plaza de Armas at 9.00 am to go rafting. Running the steep streets down to the centre we just made it in time. A mini-bus took us to the Urubamba river where we did a two-hour raft of category two to three. It was quite easy, but good fun. At night, we went to a Peruvian-Mexican restaurant where we took the 10 soles-menu (2.5 euros) that consisted of tacos, garlic bread with Pisco sour, a soup or a salad, a main plate and coffee, very good price-quality. We went to bed quite early because next day we had to get up early to start the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.

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Posted by Gitan Jean 14:56 Archived in Peru Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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