Arequipa and the Ice Princess

We arrived in Arequipa around 6pm and headed to our camping hotel. I too was confused by that term but as I found out, it is quite common for hotels in a city to lend out their back garden for campers and tour groups like ours. This meant a well maintained garden with good ablution blocks. We were also a mere five minute walk from the central Plaza de Armas which was a major plus. Having chatted to Alvaro our tour leader, it was obvious that there was not all that much to do around here. Essentially, we were waiting for people to return from the Colca Canyon excursion which I opted out of doing as having seen the Grand Canyon I figured this wouldn’t be more special. The main motivation for most people going was to see the Condor but I saw plenty of them in Torres del Paine. Lets get to the main attraction here. The Arequipa Inca ice princess.
Read more »

Categories: Travel | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Cusco – The Inca Trek and Machu Picchu

We arrived in Cusco on the 5th of May and checked into our hotel. Most people divided to head out for a party and I joined them for a drink but called it an early night as I was tired from the long trip up from Puno. As with most South American cities, all the action takes place around the central plaza (in this case, the Plaza de Armas). One of the favourite pubs for our group around here is Paddy’s, the “worlds highest Irish owned” pub but its very small inside and get crowded very quickly. The massive cathedral situated on the square is quite a sight to behold and entrance to the cathedral is 10 soles should you be interested in viewing the impressive stained glass windows. There is a tonne of history surrounding Cusco as it was the Inca capital for 400 years and a guided tour I took of the “Sacred Valley if the Incas” was a great way to learn about its history as well as the Incas. More on that in a moment.
Read more »

Categories: South America, Travel | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Puno – The Floating Islands of Lake Titicaca

Puno was our first stop after entering Peru. The area we were in was rather nice if not a bit touristy. The main plaza was one block up from out hotel and the road branching off of there was soley for us tourists as it was lined with restaurants, bars and street vendors selling all sorts of trinkets and souvenirs. We didn’t have all that much time in the city itself as the excursion we were all doing on Lake Titicaca lasted two days and that was the main purpose of our visit. I would have liked to spend a little more time in Puno as it seems to be a fun and friendly city. Anyway, on to the lake! Read more »

Categories: South America, Travel | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

La Paz – Tempt Fate on the Death Road

Many people make the assumption that La Paz is the capital of Bolivia which would be incorrect. Sucre is the actual capital which we have been to but didn’t do anything really noteworthy there. La Paz is the largest city in Bolivia and offers a wide range of markets and a city tour (which I opted out off this time). Probably the biggest attraction for La Paz which attracts thousands of tourists every year is the infamous “Death Road” which can be mountain biked down for a thrilling time. There is also zip lining and an animal sanctuary available at the bottom of the Death Road which we did visit. But I will save the best for last. Lets get to some markets!

Read more »

Categories: South America, Travel | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Potosi – Highest City in the World!

With a population of approximately 110 000,  Potosi is the highest city in the world of its size sitting at around 4600 meters above sea level. Its existence centers around a silver, tin, lead and zinc which has been mined into a swiss cheese. There is a lot of history surrounding the mine and the Spanish invasion many years ago. Turning the locals into slave labourers and having the down in the mine for up to 8 months at a time was how they forced out a lot of the silver in the mine. There is a mine tour for us gringos which a bunch of us that are not claustrophobic went on and we learnt all about their interesting cultures and traditions. More on that in a moment. We only had one day in Potosi which I didn’t mind as the altitude was a killer. Just walking up the stairs required a nap! But into the mines!

Read more »

Categories: South America, Travel | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Uyuni – Home of the World Famous Salt Flats

We’ve been in Bolivia now for a few days. Spent a night in Tupizo on our way to Uyuni. Nothing in Tupizo worth writing about so we’ll give that a skip. The change in environment, architecture, culture and well, everything, is amazing. Bolivia is the extreme opposite to Argentina and Chile. Potholes, dirt roads, unfinished mud brick houses and rickety old vehicles. The people are much darker skinned, shorter and wider than the southern countries and things are cheap as chips here. If only my bank card was working :-/ But lets tuck into the meat of this post. Uyuni and the spectacular Salt Flats!

Read more »

Categories: South America, Travel | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Salta – Rafting, Zip Lining and Horses

On leaving Mendoza, there were two more stops on our itinery. Cafayate and somewhere of insiginificance. Spur of the moment on behalf of Jono our driver a question was raised. Would we prefer to go directly to Salta or do the other two stops? Salta it was and a 15 hour drive day commenced. There were a good number of excursions to do and with some of them coming very highly recommended, this turned out to be one of the more expensive stops so far. Horseback riding with asado (BBQ) one day with massive party in town that evening. White water rafting followed by zip lining the following day. City tours. Oh, and some of the “best steak in South America”. We were all kept rather busy but had a great time.

Read more »

Categories: South America, Travel | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Mendoza – Wine Capital of South America

Mendoza, the wine capital of South America and producer of some of the best wines in the world. We spent two days in the Hostel Independencia and enjoyed lots of steak and wine (in my case, beer mostly). I have never been a wine drinker as it takes me back to the “poor” student days of cheap wine and bad hangovers but I decided that since we are in world famous wine county, it would be wrong to skip out on a winery tour and wine tasting excursion. More on that soon. There are tonnes of other possible excursions here (more than we have had available in other places) but we only had two days here which I feel was half of what we should have had. Rock climbing, hiking, sky diving,vineyards and a multitude of museums make Mendoza a very tourist friendly spot.

Read more »

Categories: South America, Travel | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Santiago – Capital of Chile and Party Central

Santiago was one of the milestones to the trip. We lost 4 of our original members and added another 6 to our ranks. Nice to have some fresh blood. Anyway, with only 2 days in Santiago not much was done besides walking around the city and getting in a sight or two. There was some interesting architecture and cool markets about but the highlight was visiting the Santa Luisa Hill for panoramic views of the city. A couple blocks from our hotel was the student area of town featuring some cool bars and clubs so we made the best of the nightlife. Bizzarre coffee shops and shopping centers made Santiago an interesting visit. Read more »

Categories: South America, Travel | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Pucon – HydroSpeed and Natural Hot Springs

Our second last stop in Chile, Pucon is a great town with a decent selection of excursions available. We were also told that Pucons nightlife was some of the best in Chile however there was not much going on at all. Perhaps that’s because it was Easter and people were staying at home celebrating with their families. Regardless, relaxing at the hot springs after a morning of hydrospeed ensured a good time in Pucon. More on those excursions below. Our camp grounds were comfortable and for once only a 2 minute walk to town. It can get expensive to have to continually rely on taxis to get about. Anyway, on to the fun!

Read more »

Categories: South America, Travel | Tags: , , | Leave a comment