May was a month full of organised tours and 5 different countries – Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Bolivia and Peru. It was pretty full on and, at times, tiring but we’ve seen so many crazy landscapes that it’s definitely been worth it (don’t feel too sorry for us).
So for May we’ve visited:
Foz do Iguaçu – we finished off our time in Brazil with a day at the Brazilian side of Iguaçu Falls. We’d been told it was ‘a must’ to visit both sides because ‘Brazil has the view’ and ‘Argentina has the falls’ and I’m glad we did it in this order. Brazil really does give the sense of scale of the falls which are very impressive, although saying that I’ve visited both Niagara and Victoria Falls and I wasn’t aaas impressed as I’d hoped. Still, it’s in a beautiful setting and we saw toucans and waterfall rainbows so it was a good day in all.
Puerto Iguazu – in my opinion, the Argentine side of the falls are much much better.
You can get so close to the falls that you get soaked and really appreciate the magnitude and the park is pretty extensive to walk around. We took a speedboat trip under the falls and this was so soooo much fun. It’s easier to watch than for me to explain:
Buenos Aires – we loved BA! I think it’s mostly because after travelling around a lot for the last 2 months, having 6 nights in one place was a luxury. Plus we had an airbnb which meant we could have eggs and avo for breakfast and it had a washing machine which was well needed. We stayed in Palermo Hollywood which was a perfect base to explore the European-like city. We ate lots of good food, saw a circus show, went to see the Venice Baroque Orchestra and walked and ran a lot.
San Pedro de Atacama – arriving at Calama airport is like landing on Mars. It is so alien with no vegetation anywhere and just dry red earth. The bus from the airport to San Pedro alone was cool with a ginormous moon. We took a tour to visit El Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon) which is a mixture between the moon and Mars with huge craters, big sand dunes, jagged rocks covered in salt crystals and volcanoes surrounding it.
We watched sunset from the top of a hill which was the best sunset I’ve ever seen. The beautiful alien landscape and the multicoloured sky was just incredible.
Salt flats tour to Uyuni – whilst spending 3 days in a 4×4 might sound dull, the trip was so cool and again filled with crazy beautiful alien landscapes. Day 1 was all geothermal, full of multicoloured lagoons and geysers.
We started the day at 2500m in San Pedro and drove straight up to 5000m to the geyser so this was our first test of altitude. It did feel pretty weird like someone was sitting on your head and chest but we didn’t exert ourselves so were fine. I think David secretly expected me to be the weak link and succumb to altitude but I was less breathless than he was!
Day 2 was all desert with crazy rock formations and Day 3 was the salt flats. It didn’t disappoint.
Miles and miles of flat white ground was pretty magical. We weren’t very good at the perspective photos…
The trip was really great except one of our truck-mates was very sick and our driver did nothing about it, leaving David to look after the poor guy.
Potosi – this is a not very inspiring Bolivian city (which came to be a trend), in which the main feature is Cerro Rico, a huge silver mine fuelling the Potosi economy. One of the main activities is to do a ‘mine tour’ to check out the conditions in the mine. We did this on Sunday when there were no miners working which was good one 2 counts, 1 because there was less risk of explosion / collapse and another because it feels a bit poverty tourism-y. First you visit the miners market to buy gifts for the miners, including 100% alcohol and bombs (complete with dynamite, a fuse and ammonium nitrate). Crazy that these things aren’t regulated, anyone could walk in and buy them! The tour was pretty sad and difficult. At 4300m, the air was pretty thin and once in the mine it was full of dust so it was hard to breath. We had to climb through tiny holes and down huge drops, which is the normal route to work for the ‘men’ who work here, some as young as 14. The miners make a fair bit more money than the other jobs in town, but most die in their 40s due to silicosis. The conditions are really dangerous and terrible and the companies running the mines don’t seem to care at all. Also our guide mentioned there is an unknown amount of resources left in the mine (15-20 years perhaps) and given this whole city is pretty much dependent on it, what next?
Sucre – Sucre, by stark comparison to Potosi, has a wealthy old town, all painted white. It’s very pretty. We also found a great deal to stay in a 5* hotel here which was a nice change! The highlight of Sucre however was our visit to the Dinosaur park! The park has the world’s biggest collection of dinosaur footprints, with over 12,000! They were discovered by accident by a concrete plant which is still working around the footprints. It’s very odd being on a historical tour with a massive digger kicking up dust a few meters behind you. Only in Bolivia.
La Paz – again another uninspiring Bolivian city. Our overnight bus went smoothly and even managed to deliver us to La Paz on a day the whole city was protesting and blocking the roads. Not the best time to visit but even on a normal day the old town looks grubby and sketchy. We had just a couple of days here and didn’t do too much.
Amazon tour from Rurrenabaque – next we flew up to Rurrenabaque for our Amazon jungle tour in Madidi National Park. In a 25 minute flight we went from 4000m and 5 degrees to 800m and 30 degrees! I wasn’t particularly looking forward to this bit of the trip (after my tarantula dramas in Brazil) and it wasn’t really much better than expected. The jungle was very humid and mosquito ridden. Walking from the boat to the lodge I was bitten 3 times on the forehead! David ended up with 70 bites in total. It was a bit torturous. On a more positive note, we had the whole lodge to ourselves, ate really well, saw lots of colourful birds and took a tapir for a walk through the jungle (seriously, it wouldn’t stop following us).
Copacabana (Lake Titicaca) – we had a very quick tour along Lake Titicaca, the highest lake in the world at 3,000m. We started with the Bolivian side at Copacabana, taking a boat trip to Isla del Sol. This really was a flying visit with just 1 hour on the beautiful island but I’m not sure how much more you’d have needed.
Puno (Lake Titicaca) – we visited the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca the following day taking a boat trip to visit the floating islands. Whilst impressive in their construction, they are now 100% tourism and the people ‘living there’ often only go over in the day to sell things. Puno itself wasn’t particularly inspiring and so our visit to Lake Titicaca overall was a bit underwhelming. Also the speed we’d been travelling around the last few weeks along with organised tours was starting to get pretty tiring.
Arequipa & Colca Canyon – we loved Arequipa and had a couple of really good days here. The historical centre is all built with sillar – a white volcanic rock which is very beautiful, and the city is surrounded by 3 massive volcanoes. It’s a lovely place. We’d been told Peru had good food and Arequipa was a great introduction. We ate lots of good food (including a massive cheese fondue (ZigZag), alpaca curry (Chicha) and some incredible burgers at Chelawasi) and drank many pisco sours, Peru’s famous drink. We spent hours visiting the Santa Catalina Monastery which is probably the most beautiful building we’ve been in in South America with its walls painted bright coral or blue and cute cobbled streets.
We also visited Juanita, a young Incan girl sacrificed in a glacier and thus preserved until she was accidentally discovered. Finally, we did a day trip to Colca Canyon (starting at 3am!) which was a long day but really cool.
The canyon is the second deepest in the world (way bigger than the Grand Canyon) and it’s extremely picturesque and filled with one of the world’s biggest birds, condors. They flew right over our heads (like a meter away) and they were huge!
Cusco – we spent a couple of days in Cusco at the end of May running up to the start of our 9 day trek to Choquequirao & Machu Picchu. While we should have been taking it easy in preparation, we instead decided to get up at 3.30am for a trip to climb Rainbow Mountain, a trek up to 5100m. The trek itself wasn’t particularly difficult but the altitude had a huge effect. While my muscles weren’t tired at all, I was gasping for breath and felt pretty sick. Still, the view from the top (in between the clouds) was Rainbow Mountain, aptly named with stripes of different colours – so weird and beautiful, it doesn’t look real.
Highlight of the month:
It’s so hard again this month! With such a variety of crazy landscapes it’s hard to pick but here goes..
David – Salar de Uyuni
Jess – Iguazu Falls waterfall boat ride
David says he’s picked this because it was ‘muchos spectacularos’ which I’m pretty sure isn’t real Spanish but I don’t want to edit him! He also said ‘riding across the desert in disintegrating Toyota Landcruisers provided 72 hours of endless stunning vistas’ and it’s his highlight because he’s ‘never seen anything like it’.
David had to help me pick my highlight this month. It was either the sunset at Valle de la Luna because that made me feel pretty emotional and mega appreciative of the trip, also it was alien and cool and beautiful or the boat trip we took at Iguazu Falls. I’ve gone for the boat trip because as you may have previously watched above, it was excellent fun and I haven’t laughed that hard in ages. David suggested this should be my highlight because I was pretty giddy about it all day.
Jospeh – “I’m coming to the moon”
As background to this, when we were home last, all my (21 month old) nephew Joseph wanted to do with me was draw pictures. Mostly of spiders and the moon. So whilst telling him on Facetime that we were going to the valley of the moon that day he thought he could come with us. He just looked up at Katie, crawled over her, and said “I’m coming to the moon” and went to walk out. I believe Katie had a hard time telling him we were actually in Chile and he couldn’t come. Maybe one day Joseph!
David wanted to use a different quote this month, one, again, that made fun of something stupid I’d said. I told him he had to write the month’s summary for that to be the quote. Oh well 🙂
David – Chelawasi Public House
Jess – roast chicken, avocado & tomato sandwich in a French baguette!
David has picked Chelawasi, a burger and craft beer bar in Arequipa. We had a chicken and spicy avocado burger and a classic burger, both of which were really excellent. Although he is tentative to commit to this, David said, ‘it was, possibly was, my favourite burger ever’ which is a huge accolade from a man who likes food. Also he got to drink a variety of good beers alongside it so of course he was happy. It was very good mind.
I’ve picked a homemade option, partly because of the novelty of making our own food and partly because it was really tasty! In San Pedro de Atacama we happened to find a French bakery with really good stuff, so when walking past a roast chicken place, we had grand plans. Although the walk home with the hot roast chicken, being followed by stray dogs, was fairly scary, the resulting sandwich was just perfect.
- Foz do Iguaçu (Brazil)
- Puerto Iguazu (Argentina)
- Buenos Aires (Argentina)
- San Pedro de Atacama (Chile)
- Salar de Uyuni (Bolivia)
- Potosi (Bolivia)
- Sucre (Bolivia)
- La Paz (Bolivia)
- Rurrenabaque & Madidi National Park, The Amazon (Bolivia)
- Lake Titicaca – Isla del Sol, Copacabana & Floating Islands, Puno (Bolivia & Peru)
- Arequipa (Peru)
- Cusco (Peru)
Woa that’s a lot when you see it like this! No wonder I’m tired!
Car / Bus: 3,238km
Cumulative Total: 126,393km
Plans for next month:
June starts on day 2 of our 9 day trek (I’m writing this post trek so I know we are still alive, but more on that next month).
So June will see us visit Choquequirao and Machu Picchu, two iconic Inca sites, go to Lima, where we’ve booked into one of the top 50 restaurants in the world, head into Ecuador where, including other things, we go to the Galapagos, and on the last day of June we’ll be in Colombia for our final few weeks (ahh!) where possibly our friend Alex will join us for a bit!