The power of water

Foz de Iguacu, Brazil

 


One of the most dramatic waterfalls in the world, straddling both the Argentinian – Brazil border, I was fortunate enough to be able to see both sides of the Iguacu Falls.

Argentinian side
The majority of the falls lie on the Argentinian side and the national park has lots of paths and trails set out so you can see as much of the falls as possible and from every angle. If you were to visit I would recommend going on the Grand Adventure Tour, through the jungle in jeeps (unfortunately we missed the Jaguar and her cubs by a few days) and then off in a speed boat to not only to see the falls from the water but experience some intense and throughly soaking showers. Great Fun!

To top off this great experience I received a present from my Aunt and Uncle – One night stay in the Sheraton in the national park. Oh my word after camping what has felt like eternity, I could not contain my excitement (and thanks) for such luxury. I also found the fact that that bathroom actually had toilet paper and hot water an absolute treat and it did also take me a while to find the edge of the bed in the middle of the night to go to the toilet!

I totally spoiled myself by making the most of my stay at the Sheraton and enjoyed the view of the falls from the pool deck – I also got to have some Martinis with one of the other guests who enjoyed the the grand adventure with me.

Brazilian side
From the Brazilian side you can take in the whole view of the falls and it certainly is great for taking sunning pictures. I stayed at the Paudimar Campsite some 12km outside the town of Foz. It was one of the best campsites I have stayed at with a pool and bar onsite – it is also convenient to get to the National Park to visit the falls as it is a 10 minute bus ride.

After staying 4 days around the falls it was off to the seaside town of Parti for some good beach time. We drove for about 2 days camping in the forest and then near a beach before we reached Parti. It was the first time we noticed that the bugs were out with some nasty sandflies on attack. We were in for a total disappointment as we arrived at this famous beach resort in a torrential downpour and made our way to a very soggy campsite. It was a week before Carnival and even though the campsite was a floodplain they were still charging an unbelievable 20 Reals!! Having decided that I was watching my budget very carefully I had set my mind to camp even in this great weather, but my fellow female travellers were having none of it and whisked me away to share their room for the next three days – I was literally reduced to tears at the kindness of their gesture.

I had hoped for sunshine for the next few days and I was blessed the next day when the rain had stopped and just for good measure we played ´The sun is shining` by Bob Marley to get us in the mood for our day cruising. The boat cruise was extremely relaxing and went past some great beaches . We got time to swim in the sea, dive off the boat and it was here that I tasted the best Vodka Orange (the secret freshly squeezed oranges). After the boat cruise it was off to explore the night life till about 5am followed by birthday celebrations the next day for my friend Kirsty. My views of Parti – if the sun is shining it is just fantastic – if it is raining best get out that set of cards!

Accommodation:
Paudimar Campsite
Sheraton Iguazu Resort & Spa – Parque Nacional Iguazu, Iguazu National Park, Argentina

Argentine Patagonia

Argentine Patagonia
Puerto Madryn, Argentina

 


Having made it to the end of the world and surviving the cold for three nights in tents I was more than keen to leave this beautiful positioned town, Ushuaia, and head off in search of more landscape contrasts, sea life and warmer weather.

It took two days of driving, including a border crossing back into Chile and then back into Argentina to get to the next major town, Puerto Madryn. Along the way we visited a sea lion colony near Camarones before we camped by the coast for the evening. A beautiful sunset, campfire and the sounds of the sea were the perfect end to a long day drive. Having seen quite a few sea lions, it was off to Punta Tombo National Park to visit a penguin breeding ground. I thought it would be something like Boulders Beach in Cape Town but I was surprised to see how big it was – it went on for miles. Although a bit smelly it was fantastic to see all the little penguins waddling around.

Trelew
Going from enjoying the sea life, I bizarrely visited the town of Trelew, a welsh village – yip in the middle of Argentina! There are lots of traditional tea houses and they certainly live up to the expectation of great tea and cake.

Puerto Madryn
Finally we arrived at this interesting seaside town with a beach that stretched for miles and lots of bars and cafes. We explored some of these and managed to dance on the beach until 6 in the morning – good going! The rest of my days I enjoyed the sunshine before venturing to the exciting town of Buenos Aires.

Puerto Madryn is mainly the main entrance point for the Valdes Peninsula which is famous for its marine reserves. Unfortunately I missed the trip out to see more sea life and armadillos as I needed to get my leg checked out at the local hospital. Not something you would want to do everyday but if you are ever in this town the hospital services was definitely first class and the consultation was free.

Walking alongside amazing scenary

Torres del Paine, Chile

 


There is not too much I can say about my four days stay in Torres del Paine, other than the sheer beauty of the landscape and the fact that every morning I got out my tent to the wonderful mountain views could not be matched. I got to do 2 amazing walks on the famous W route – about 20 and 24kms each and although the one was a really tough climb, up massives and massives of boulders the view at the top was just amazing.

I do hope that my photos do justice to what I have experienced.

Hot air in the atacama

San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

 


To arrive in Chile from Bolivia was just a totally different experience – From feeling like a dust ball on windy dirt roads we crossed the Bolivian border and within 20 mins we hit tarmac roads (roll on smooth travel). I thought Chile very much more in line with a first world country with shopping malls and petrol stations with toilets. (Very exciting as I was starting to get tired of hiding behind bushes on long journeys.)

Our first destination was San Pedro de Atacama, which is situated north of Chile in the Atacama desert. It was extremely hot and probably reached 40 degrees some days. It had a great vibe with lots of wine bars that we could sample some great Chilean wine. It was here that I visited my second moon valley, based in the desert it pretty much looks like the moon with odd craters and markings. I spent the afternoon exploring and staying for the sunset at the valley which was absolutely beautiful. I had to climb to the top of the sand dune where the wind whipped the sand around but the effort was well worth it!

In the evening I visited the local observatory to see some stars and being my lucky day I even got to see Planet Mars. Atacama is known as the best place to see that stars and I must admit I have never seen so many stars in the sky at one time it was just beautiful (I also enjoyed the hot chocolate at 2am after standing out in the cold).

Before leaving this real quirky town I made sure I visited the local pool for some cooling down and in preparation of the next two days of travel…The first night we bush camped in the middle of the desert near El Mano de Dieserte and had the most fantastic party under the stars…this has been rightly named on tour as Disco Desert. The second night we camped on the beach at Azucar de Pan after getting the local fisherman to take us in his boat to see the local penguins, sea lions and pelicans.

Driving across the Altiplano

Uyuni, Bolivia


Well I felt like a complete dust ball each day as we drove across the altiplano reaching over 5000m above sea level – it was dry and hot and with limited amount of water, not many opportunities to wash yourself clean. But once again it was the scenery, the people and the flamingos that made this journey a good one. I was also pleased to be able to sleep indoors at a refuge for the night as it was very cold in the evenings. I hope you like the my journey through my pictures as for me that tells a whole story!!

Its all about the salt flats

Uyuni, Bolivia


Once again it was a long drive from amazing dry and arid planes to surprising green oasis with willow trees to reach my next destination – Uyani. Pretty much a nothing town, solely in existence for the tourists making their way to the Salt Flats and ultimately Chile. It was a very small town with some walls surrounding the town but to be honest it looked like a rubbish dump!! Certainly no hygiene system in place here.

But I wasn´t here for the town but to experience the gorgeous scenery of the the salt flats. Taken their by jeep I looked in wonder at this white plain in front of me that certainly looked more like snow than salt. This sensation stayed with me for the rest of the day and when you look at my pictures you will probably wonder why I wasn´t wearing more clothes because it looks cold. I had a great day on the salt flats taking perspective pictures and enjoying the experience of nothing ness around you.

The day ended with a magic sunset across the salt flats and I hope my pictures tell you more of a story.

Once the richest city in the world

Potosi, Bolivia

 


It was a long drive from La Paz to Potosi, once one of the richest cities in the world as it was known for its silver mines. These mines were exploited by the Spanish and although the mines are still in operation all you can see of its wealth is the magnificent churches and for some reason everyone is driving brand new cars!

I spent the morning in Potosi exploring the city with my friends, Jen and Anthony. We opted to give the silver mine tour a skip basically because it sounded horrible to be trapped underground with traces of arsenic and all sorts of other dusts. It was also not appealing to be watching 14 year old kids working in the mines which still use original equipment in other words ancient!

The town had great character and the churches lived up to expectations. We managed to find a mirador (viewpoint) overlooking the main square were we saw a religious festival and a protest go by.

In the afternoon we visited Miraflores Hot Springs. We ordered a taxi that took us to the hot springs and agreed to wait for us for an hour and bring us back to Potosi. This was a great idea as it was off the beaten track and we probably would not have been able to get back into town. Not exactly what we expected but it was great to be away from the usual touristy spots and visit places the locals go too. Obviously we were a surprise to everyone there and every move was watched.

Isla de Sol

Copacabana, Bolivia

 


Woo-ha! I made it across the border from Peru to Bolivia – not being too sure about the stable situation of the country I was well pleased to find that only the official capital of Bolivia, Sucre, was affected by the riots. The main reason being is that the people in Sucre want the government to come back to Sucre and not stay in La Paz which is known as the defacto capital. Consequently there were riots and a 3 people were killed by the police. At the moment the situation is stable but as you will see from the first places I have visited it looks nothing but peaceful.

Staying in Copacabana for 2 nights at Wendy Mar was a great treat after a long drive from Peru. I could not believe that the hotel cost us $4 per night and it was really lovely besides from the temperamental showers that have some odd electrical wires sticking out the top — mmmm electricity and water don´t exactly go together me thinks!!

Lake Titicaca from the Bolivian side is way more beautiful than from Peru and with the local food kiosks overlooking the harbour you can definitely enjoy watching some beautiful sunsets over a cold beer. I did try some of the local Bolivian wine – which tasted of warm Ribena and the best bit was the alcohol percentage was….wait for it….0.05%. So much for warming up with a class of vino tinto.

It was not just feet up in Copacabana but a small trip out to Isla de Sol (the island of the sun). It was a 2hour trip across to the island before we went on a 6 hour walk across the island to enjoy some amazing views. Not for those that struggle with altitude but if you take it slow it is rather enjoyable – but you also have to remember that most boats leave at 4pm so not too much dawdling is allowed. The sun was well up for the boat trip back and it was a perfect end before making the long drive to La Paz the next day.

To ensure a great drive we joined local tradition and had our vehicle blessed by the local priest in the main square…bizzare but I had real fun decorating the truck for the occassion.

Floating on the Uros Islands

Puno, Peru


Leaving Cuzco we set off in Cameron (my transportation for the next few months) to Puno. It was a beautiful drive with views of snow capped mountains and long stretches of great landscape. We stopped off along the way to visit the Sillustani Ruins – which are ruins dating back to pre Inca times. To be honest although I find these sites interesting I think I am all ´ruined` out at the moment! We spent the night out in Puno which is nothing really to write home about and very much on the dangerous side.

It was the next morning that I was looking forward too – heading out to Uros Islands or the floating reed islands and most people call them. Classed by some people as touristy it is still very fascinating and without our visits these people would not be able to survive. I was not brave enough to eat the reeds that they use to build there islands, houses and eat – which was just as well as nearly everyone that tried came down with some dodgy tummies.

I loved the islands with the colourfully dressed inhabitants and the cute little girls who sang and danced for us when we arrived. It was also a peaceful journey across the highest navigable lake in the world – lake Titikaka.

Ups and downs of Camino Inka

Machu Picchu, Peru


For the last four days I have been walking the Inca Trail and it has been a great experience and challenge! I set off on Saturday with a family from Uruguay, a Peruvian lady and an Australian couple in the pouring rain. I did wonder if choosing the rainy season was a good idea and if the whole walk would be like this. But the weather was kind to us and soon cleared up to show us some amazing views – it also helped that the path was not so slippery.

The porters were fantastic in carrying our gear and the chef was just amazing providing us with three course meals, snacks and tea everyday – I will admit that I needed all the energy I could get and hey I did walk 42km.

The first days walking was okay with only a 2 hour up climb and we thankful reached first camp around 4pm. It was up early on the 2nd day for the ultimate challenge of reaching Dead Woman´s pass some 4200m above sea level. By the time I got to the pass I felt like the dead woman but I did it!! Only slightly affected by the altitude I recovered to tackle the steep incline on the way down. My knees don´t particularly like the down bits and I felt a bit slow making my way cautiously down.

The third day we were truly in the cloud forest and it was weird to see the valley fill up with clouds and ten minutes later being able to see the view again. This was our longest day and we walked for a good 7 hours – but the scenery was just fantastic and of course the thought of being closer to the end was wonderful. At our last campsite I was lucky to see a coyote but it was too quick for a photo. I was even more lucky to get a hot shower that evening – all fresh and ready for the much talked about walk to the sun gate.

The final day we arose at 4 am and prepared for the last day. It had rained the whole evening so we were hoping that the clouds would lift when we reached Machu Picchu. It was cloudy all the way and when we arrived at the sun gate if I had not seen the pictures I would have thought it was some hoax — all we saw were clouds. We waited 10 minutes and luck was with us as the clouds slowly revealed the hidden Inca City — it was very dramatic!!!

Getting closer to Machu Picchu really showed the beautiful and crafty work on the Inca`s. The more I saw of the city the more I loved it. Everything had meaning with cleaver architecture work around almost every corner.

So I made the Inca Trail and survived Dead Woman´s Pass and I congratulate all my friends and family that have already achieved such a wonderful challenge – you never really know what you are in for until you do it!!