Hiking in Colca Canyon

by Cassie, August 26th, 2010 | No Comments

We spent six days hiking through Colca Canyon, the second deepest canyon in the world. It was a neat hike, but really intense. The first day, we decended 1,750 meters to the bottom of the canyon. Over the next two days, we climbed 3,250 meters (10,662 feet) to a pass at 5,100 meters. Then, we desended 2,045 meters (6,709 feet)  in one day to get to Chachas. We did a lot of hiking up and down on this hike, but the scenery was beautiful.

Hiking up to Paso Cerani at 5,100 meters

Hiking up to Paso Cerani at 5,100 meters

Arequipa, Peru

by Cassie, August 16th, 2010 | 2 Comments

We arrived in Arequipa, Peru the night before their big celebration of founder´s day. The city was packed full of people, and we barely managed to find a hotel room for the night. The next day, there was an eight hour long parade throughout the city. People came from all over South America to participate in the parade. In our hotel, there were some men that traveled 16 hours by bus from the jungle to dance in the parade. It was a very impressive parade! Arequipa is a city that was founded by the Spanish, so it definitely has a more Spanish feel to it. The parade was a little different than the parades we saw in Bolivia with more Spanish-style dancing than indigenous dancing. Check out the photos.

The parade ended at 9:00 at night in the Plaza de Armas

The parade ended at 9:00 at night in the Plaza de Armas

Arequipa is known for its amazing food, and we have not been disappointed! Everything we´ve had in the city has been delicious. We finally found a place that had doner kebab, and we had our first doner kebab since we left Europe! Unfortunately, Peru is much more expensive than Bolivia, so we´re no longer able to eat dinner at nice restaurants for less than $10. 🙁

Doner kebab!

Doner kebab!

Uros and Taquile Islands

by Cassie, August 16th, 2010 | No Comments

While we were in Puno, we visited the Uros and Taquile Islands on Lake Titicaca. Check out the photos!

Uros Islands (Floating Islands)

Uros Islands (Floating Islands)

Reflections on Bolivia

by Cassie, August 12th, 2010 | No Comments

Non-litigious society: Bolivia´s motto is: ‘Fewer laws make fewer offenders.’ It definitely shows in Bolivia. It can be a little scary when traveling around the country. None of the boats have life jackets, and they do not look particularly sea-worthy. When crossing the straights of Tiquina, we could see the water through a gap in the boards on the bottom of the boat. You also have to be careful when walking around. There are suddenly big holes in the sidewalk where you could easily trip and hurt yourself. Construction areas are not blocked off. The Gringo Alley in La Paz, Sagarnaga street, was under construction, and there were people using heavy machinery right next to people walking down the street. On the positive side, anyone who wants to set up shop can just clear some space on the sidewalk and start selling, so it is really awesome to be able to buy anything and everything on the street. We saw a guy performing with balls of fire in the middle of a busy street intersection while the cars were stopped at red light. When the light turned green and the cars passed him, he asked for tips. You would never see anything like that in the US.

Crammed buses, micros, boats: No matter where you travel in Bolivia, it is guaranteed that every square inch of space in the vehicle will be filled with as many passengers as possible. Buses and micros will stop anywhere to pick up an extra passenger.

Fiestas: Bolivians definitely know how to party! The fiesta will most certainly not begin on time, but once it gets started, it will go on for hours. They have amazing parades with fancy costumes, lots of marching bands, and dancing. The parades in the US pale in comparison to those in Bolivia.

Fires: Bolivians love to set fires! They set fires anywhere even if it’s right next to houses or in the middle of the city. While we were on the Choro Trek, we were camping alongside the trail, and we suddenly saw a huge fire on the side of the mountain. When we asked someone about it, they said the people set fire to the  grassland to create better pasture for their animals, but the fire definitely seemed out of control. When riding the bus out of La Paz, we saw fires on the side the road right next to heavy traffic.

Animals Everywhere: Especially in the countryside, there are animals everywhere: sheep, llamas, mules, donkeys, pigs, and dogs. It is common to see people herding their sheep down the street or road.

Cheap: Everything in Bolivia was so cheap! You could get a huge meal for only a dollar or two! Even when we ate at nice restaurants, we never spent more than ten dollars! It will be hard going back to the US and adjusting the cost of things.

Onto Peru

by Cassie, August 12th, 2010 | 1 Comment

We left Bolivia, and now we’re spending a few days in Puno, Pero. Check out the photos.

Picnic lunch at the overlook in Puno, Pero

Picnic lunch at the overlook in Puno, Pero

We also have photos from our ill-fated trip to Oruro.

Do not order Salcipollo!

Do not order Salcipollo!

In line with how the rest of our day was going, we ordered the Salchipollo in Oruro not really knowing what it was, which turned out to be a gross pile of french fries, sausage, and a couple pieces of chicken covered with ketchup and mayonaise. Do not order Salchipollo!

Bolivia, we give up!

by Jonathan, August 11th, 2010 | No Comments

Ok, Bolivia is fouled up beyond all recognition.  The entire southern half of the country is inaccessible.  Yesterday, we took the bus south 4 hours from LaPaz to Oruro, hoping to catch the train to the salt flats of Uyuni.  So we got to the train station, and found it completely abandoned. The protestors at Potosi have blocked the tracks, and the entire rail network of Bolivia is now shut down.  So our plan B was to get a bus.  At the bus station, we talked to 3 bus companies- two said no buses were going to Uyuni due to blockages, but the third said the could take us via an alternate route which would take 14 hours over rough roads.  But as we were debating whether to do it, they received a call- apparently the protesters had caught wind of the alternate route and shut that down!  We would have talked to other bus companies, but they were all closed- the agents stopped bothering to show up a long time ago.  So with that, we had no choice but to give up on the remainder of our Bolivia trip and head back to La Paz.  Its not much fun to spend 8 hours on a bus only to end up in the exact spot you started- we even stayed in the exact same hotel room 🙁

Even after all the problems the protesters have caused us, its hard not to be impressed with their effectiveness.  They´ve blocked every road into Potosi, as well as all the other main roads in southern Bolivia.  Not only that but they have blocked all the alternate routes, they´ve seized the airport, and they even remembered to block the railroad, which runs exactly twice a week! Not only are they thorough but they show no mercy- they won´t let anyone in or out of Potosi even though the city itself is nearly out of food. They wouldn´t even allow tourists with serious medical problems out of the city. It took two attempts with a helicoptor to finally evacuate the sick tourists.   See http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/aug/11/potosi-protest-tourists-trapped-bolivia

Yesterday, they finally agreed to meet with the government in Sucre.  However, when they arrived, there were protests outside the building, and they couldn´t get in.  So, they left saying the government closed the doors on them and broke off all dialogue. And in case things weren´t bad enough, now the president, Evo Morales, has left the country on a trip to Asia, so he´s not even around to negotiate. In addition, they´ve escalated the protest by seizing the electrical plant to the San Luis mine, and they´re threatening to shut off the power to the mine.  In case all that wasn´t enough, there is a new law, which is causing massive protests, entirely seperate from the massive protests going on in the South!  There have been huge protests throughout the country, and yesterday protestors bombed a customs building in Oruro!

So we have given up on Bolivia and today we travelled into Peru, where the roads are actually open. 🙂

Check out AlexT´s comment, which is pretty much spot on with what is going on right now.


Hiking in Sorata

by Cassie, August 9th, 2010 | No Comments

We had lots of fun hiking in the mountains in Sorata. Check out the photos.

Laguna Glacial at 5,080 meters / 16,666 feet

Laguna Glacial at 5,080 meters / 16,666 feet

Road to Potosi still blocked!

by Cassie, August 9th, 2010 | 1 Comment

We thought that after a week hiking in the mountains in Sorata, the road blockage in Potosi would be resolved. However, 12 days after it started, the roads to Potosi are still blocked. The people in Potosi have several demands of the government, and the government has offered to meet in a neutral place to talk about their demands. But, the people in Potosi refuse to meet anywhere besides Potosi. It doesn´t seem like the protest in Potosi is going to be resolved soon. It is frustrating that we still can´t get to Potosi, but it could be worse. There were hundreds of tourists that were stranded in Potosi. Since all traffic to the city was blocked, there was no food getting into the city and all the ATMs ran out of money. Can you imagine being stranded in a city without food or money? Some of the tourists have been able to get out, but there are some that remain stuck in Potosi.

Tomorrow, we are going to try to take the bus to Oruro, and then take the train to Uyuni. Today, all the roads south of La Paz were supposed to be blocked due to another political protest of a law that was just passed. However, they postponed the road blockages until next week and just marched through the streets instead. We hope everything will be okay for traveling south of Bolivia tomorrow, but you never know what is going to happen in Bolivia.

Maybe by the time we do a tour of the Salar de Uyuni, the road will be reopened to Potosi. Otherwise, we´ll have to see Potosi on another trip to Bolivia.

Plan B

by Cassie, August 1st, 2010 | 1 Comment

Traveling in Bolivia is more challenging. We were supposed to travel to Potosi last night, but the road to Potosi was blocked by a political protest. So, we were not able to travel to Potosi last night, so it´s onto plan B. Bolivia requires you to have more flexible travel plans. Instead, we are traveling to Sorata today to do some hiking in the Cordillera Real range since the road to Sorata is actually open. Hopefully, by the time we leave Sorata the road to Postosi will be open again. 🙂