After The Lake District we went back and forth to Chile and Argentina a few more times. Visited Pucon, Graffiti-Bohemian city Valparaiso (must see place!), Santiago on Chilean side and later or in-between Mendoza, Cordoba and pretty much most of NW Argentina (Salta, Tucuman, Cachi, Cafayate with its Quebradas and Salinas Grandes).
After full three months of being with Mito on a day/night basis we split for about 2 weeks. Mito was sorting out his New Zealand visas (doctors and other paperwork) in Cordoba and I left down south to Iguazu falls (Argentinian-Brazilian borders) with Elaine who traveled with us for approximately 3 weeks. That was the place where I was picking up Branko who came to join us on our trip for 2.5 months.
Mito was not keen on waterfalls neither in travelling thru Paraguay, which was my second prime objective – after picking up Branko. Maybe, Mito just did not bother travelling extra 2500 km when he was so close to Bolivia, which was our next meeting point. Everyone sings only the best about Iguazu waterfalls but I still came there pretty relaxed without some massive expectations. It surely shook me strong though, and let my jaw involuntarily fall down on numerous viewing points when cruising through that National Park. Definitely add to your South American agenda. We did both sides, Argentinian and Brazilian. Do them both if you can, skip Brazilian if you are short of time or ca$h.
Paraguay was amazing. First time I had some proper and authentic non-gringo trail experiences. The country does not offer that much (with no offense to Victoria and Victor & all 6.5 million Paraguyans) in terms of having some world class tourist attractions. On the other hand, you see a country, which is not just unspoilt by tourism, but, politely said, pretty unprepared for it. Except for one gun-in-hand experience in pitch black hours at a gas station in Mariscal Estigarribia, all was sweet, and things went well on Paraguayan dusty roadways. We visited the second largest water dam in the world (Itaipu), 17th century Jesuit Missionaries Trinidad & Jesus, walked thru Ybycui National Park catching big metallic-blue butterflies, hit some bars & clubs in Asuncion with Victor & Victoria, 2 amazing guys who offered us a couch via couchsurfing.com. Last stop was in a German speaking (weird) city of Filadelfia. North of Paraguay border crossing to South of Bolivia we lived thru the worst nightmare of this entire trip so far, including a tough-ass travel indeed – It took us 3 days to get through 600km! Frozen on buses at night and spitting dust all the time in between…maldita shivering memories.
While we were cruising thru Iguazu and Paraguay, Mito covered another famous part of South America – San Pedro de Atacama Dessert and crossed to Bolivia from North Chile.
All three of us met on my birthday, 4th June in Tupiza, south of Bolivia. A cute little town, 2 liters of birthday spirits and traditional Bolivian cuisine. Simple is beautiful. Tupiza celebrated its anniversary during the same weekend, so the city was in motion & colour, packed streets full of food, dance, drinks & drunks, and other traditional ways of having fun.
South-west Bolivia offers probably one of the most amazing geographical phenomenon in the world – 12km sq. salt flats Salar Uyuni are something you will not see anywhere else in the world. Kindergarten look of Salinas Grandes in Argentina is at least 4 leagues behind it. Bolivian Salar Uyuni sitting at 3653m altitude knocks your socks off by its beauty, strangeness of surreal landscape offering man-where-am-I feeling. Crossing almost treeless SW Bolivia in 4×4 jeep took us 5 days, and one of the highlights included a trek to 6008m high volcano Uturuncu where Branko almost spat his lungs out and decided to reverse at about 5800m. Lilo made it safely and ticked off another of many dreams pursued in SA.
Bolivia is simply stupendous. I reckon majority of people who had done and travelled South America are ranking Bolivia among their top favourites. It’s the poorest SA country, even though extremely rich in natural resources – every $ goes to foreign companies who pay Bolivians few Bolivianos. I think we criss-crossed the whole country (Villamontes, Villazon, Tupiza, Uyuni, Potosi, Sucre, Cochabamba, Santa Cruz, La Paz, Rurrenabaque, Copacabana). Definitely add these among your Bolivian must-see don’t miss’n’do highlights:
– Rurrenabaque pampas trip, where you swim with pink dolphins and aligators, fish and eat piranhas and chill in hammocks since you’re poo scared to walk alone out of your cottage due to unknown wildlife bugging everywhere around. (pictures)
– World’s deadliest road, which you can make as deadly or un-deadly as you please. Views and experience definitely worth a big time. (Eng article & pictures)
– Potosi ex-silver mine where 12 year old or younger boys start with their mining career by helping their Dads who die in average 10 years after starting working there due to fatal working conditions and safety. Average salary is about 250 euros a month, which is 3 times more than other occupations offer in general.
Leaving La Paz (thumbs up capital city, where Mark The Melbourne boy and a „brother from another mother“ joined us for 3 weeks of tripping) for Titicaca and chilling out a few days on & round the Islands where the Sun and the Moon were born and 12 year old prettiest girl virgins were sacrificed to them in old Inka times is another high-altitude experience and a place to be (or dip for swim – see Vranovska vydra)
From Titicaca Mark, Branko and I continued to Peru. Mito returned acclimatized back to La Paz and destroyed a 6.4k meter peak that I will be jealous of till I break or close-up to his monstrous altitude record. Congratulations Mito! Read details about climb here.
The only down side of Bolivia in terms of triper.sk blog was lack of internet access, especially in the South. When Mito and I split, we really struggled to update or even add anything on our site. With little bits and pieces uploaded here and there we survived 3 weeks and then caught up with all that time in La Paz. This is just to let you know the reason and answer some of your questions why the blog had almost frozen at some stage. Trust us, we were pretty unhappy about it as well.
Peru, wow, a superbomb a country. Sceneries, finally broad and yummy cuisine selection, down to earth, humble, modest, interesting and interested fantastic people, history, culture, Mountains!, sand dunes, best surf waves in the world… I’m ranking Peru in my top 3 countries I have been to in my life :). Definitely half a kilometre or more above the expectations I had had before coming over. Mito thinks the same, so we are probably right.
While Mito was trekking in Bolivia, Mark, Branko & I ticked-off place by place on our agenda. Visited prime SA destination Machu Picchu, which was a cool but only once-a-lifetime-wish&visit experience in my opinion, trekked in the second deepest canyon in the world – Colca Canyon, almost twice deeper than Grand Canyon in the USA, laughed our guts off in Huacachina sandboarding.
Lima, probably one of least popular or fascinating SA capitals, was a big bye-bye and welcome point on our trip. Mark said his last Bye after our last 5star mealdeal and a few Cuzcena beers and Mimi (our ex-London flatmate came to join us and explore Peru for 3 weeks ). How we see Lima here.
Huaraz and Cordillera Blanca was probably the best trekking we have had together so far. Early morning 2 o’clock climb to Mt. Pisco (5752m), with all its adrenaline and views… bunch of unforgettable experiences. Video.
We have still not implemented Google maps into our blog, if any of you folks have an idea how to make it and with some slick design, drop me a line please. The blog was improved by adding a calendar, so you can browse thru the articles by date or search by month. (Or just find out what date it is today) Check it out. Thanks to Wacho. Rambo a la Antonis, the Greek God of Betfair (now ex) added a top design flash Betfair banner that has generated 3000 views so far, 8 clicks and 0 GBP revenue. Come on, make me feel better and register at Betfair via our banner, play & win so we make something out of it and can travel longer and supply you with some reading on your days off. Cheers in advance. The Videos section of the blog is also close to up-to-date.
Our Facebook fanpage – triper.sk – has got almost full collection of our photo albums and makes browsing through pictures less painful. It is also ready to be visited and you are all welcome to join the group. In addition, I have registered and joined some triper.sk pictures into a photo competition at http://www.printshop.sk/tomassko which is offering 500e to the winner, so keep your fingers crossed. Our ideal scenario is to cover the costs of our cameras which we bought specifically for this trip by similar photo contests.
Our next plans are catching surf waves for Mito and catching some sun beam radiation – me. We get to Ecuador to pick up Branko who left us for the Galapagos Islands (which we are both skipping), meet up with Lucka, who is joining us for about 5-6 weeks to travel in Colombia and Venezuela. Itinerary details here.
Same like I said 3 months ago, if you have tips, ideas how to make this online meeting-point more exciting, drop me a note, hint and I will try to fix it or find someone who can do it better. For now, thanks for reading, support and staying in touch. Speak soon. Peace & adios.
P.S. After 6 months, I have (finally) shaved.