5 Months in South America – our Review

We sat in the bus on our way to somewhere in South America. The tickets for the bus we bought 30 minutes before departure. I looked out of the window, seeing the half-done houses, the street dogs, the indigenous women with their colorful clothes and I turned to Jakub, saying: „We have to write a last sum up about South America…I don’t wanna forget what we liked so much about these countries…okay, and we should also mention what we didn’t like…“ 😉

So that’s what this text is about!

WHAT WE REALLY LIKED ABOUT SOUTH AMERICA

The uncomplicated and spontaneous planning: you wanna go on a hike tomorrow morning at 7am, but it’s already 6pm? No problem for SA, the tour agency would just call one of their 34 contacts and book you on some transport available

Nature in every kind: no matter if it was the ocean in Peru, the mountains in Ecuador, the banana plantation in Colombia, the lake in Bolivia – everything was breathtaking beautiful

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Tradition: the amazing colorful skirts of the indigenous Ecuadorian or Peruvian women, the strange sounding native language as old as the country itself, the music played with flutes and guitars,…so different to our European culture, but simply wonderful to witness

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Menu del Dia: wow, where do you get a whole menu including soup, a main dish, dessert and a drink for 2,00 – 4,00$?! Only in SA!

Different food in different countries: Colombia was super famous for its fried platanos, whereas Ecuador served corn, Peru has its potatoes, and so forth. Generally, we rarely didn’t like the food in South America – if so, then it was because of a certain spice…Ellen found out that she doesn’t like Cilantro AT ALL when we ate a soup in Colombia, full of Cilantro 😀

Encebollada - the soup which helps against any hangover ;)

Food markets: whether you wanted to buy fresh vegetables from native women, fresh fish from the ocean or enjoy a good Menu del Dia lunch, the food market was the place to be. This huge variety of fresh fruit and veggies, combined with the smell of 37 food stands cooking delicious things is indescribable.

  Food Market

Street markets: you need headphones? New sunglasses? A North Face windblocker jacket? Just walk the main street and you’ll find everything you need and more 😉 Okay, the North Face jacket might be a fake…as well as the Ray Ban sunglasses…but they look pretty real at least 🙂

Baby transport: most likely every European woman when having a baby spends a lot of money on a baby buggy. In South America, you take a big multicolored scarf, roll the baby in a very sophisticated manner in the scarf and put it on your back. Done. No big deal. No pushing the carriage through crowded streets or trying to get in the packed bus. So convenient.

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Transport: we Germans think having the Deutsche Bahn is so handy because it takes you everywhere! So wrong. So expensive. So late. South America is certainly not known for their punctuality, but when it goes to bus schedules, hell yeah – then they know what „departure on time“ means! We’ve had so many comfortable, cheap and friendly bus rides…we’ll miss that, for sure

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Public transport system: well…where do we even start?! 😀 First of all, in countries like Peru or Bolivia, basically everyone can be a bus driver as long as you have a mini van or something alike. You just put a sign on the windshield indicating where you go and that’s it 🙂 And wherever people wanna get off they yell the the driver to drop them off at the next corner. So funny. Okay, let’s consider the situation having a normal public bus as we know it in Europe. Honestly, we only saw those in Argentina and Chile, the most developed countries :D. And you couldn’t get off wherever you wanted, no no, only at designated bus stops.

Bus Culture

Taxis: mainly because they were cheap, but also because every scooter,  motorbike, trike or whatsoever could possibly be a taxi!

The fastest Taxi in town

WHAT WE COULDN’T REALLY HANDLE IN SOUTH AMERICA

Environmental treatment: unfortunately, most of the people in South America don’t care at all about rubbish in the streets or emissions of cars. We have seen so much dirt in backyards, on the street, next to rubbish bins, in corn fields, you name it…only in very remote villages where people live from their own grown veggies, the nature was clean. Same problem with exhaust gases: the cars are so old or badly maintained that we kept putting a scarf or our sweater sleeves over our noses when we stood at a busy street. Even worse were the buses…they blew so much dirt in the environment that you could feel how little oxygen your lungs got! The dirtiest city among many was probably Guayaquil in Peru. Next to the street, small water puddles were black and sometimes even green from all the dirt! We hope that the education about pollution at some point starts at school so kids learn from early age what a clean environment could look like.

Toilet paper: might sound funny, but the toilet paper in South America doesn’t go in the toilet – it goes in the rubbish bin next to the toilet…might explain the big amount of rubbish they have to deal with

Hygiene standards: okay, when travelling through South America you don’t expect the same hygiene as in your own country, because you know they have less officials controlling these standards. That’s okay and you’ll survive anyway there – maybe with some stomach issues at a certain point, but still alright. 😉 What really shocked us however, were the prices for hygiene products, such as deodorant, shower gel, tampons,…it was so expensive that we completely understand why the poor natives cannot afford any of these!

Organization: We’d say that’s most likely one of the bigger problems as well. Yes, we both do work in a country which is so organized that you have a rule or law for every possible situation, whether it’s business related, daily life or school. 🙂 Maybe that’s the reason why it was especially difficult to understand why for example when boarding an airplane in Colombia, the last row passengers take the stairs at the front door and the first row passengers at the back door…or why 7 men are busy on a construction site, but only 3 are working and 4 are talking,…we could continue endlessly.

Tourist prices: Yes, as a tourist you will be ripped off many times, but they do it so obvious that we sometimes wondered if we should just walk away and don’t buy the bananas…or the street food….or book the trip… we have no problem paying more money on something when we know,  the right people who really do need it ask for more. But mostly the ones who already have enough rip you off.

We would say spending a couple of months in South America,  especially in countries such as Bolivia, Peru or Ecuador opens your eyes. The poverty there sometimes breaks your heart and if you hear on how much money some people live there a day you cannot imagine you’d ever be able to survive. And still, these people were so happy and friendly! They just see their happiness in other things as we Europeans do. Sometimes we arrived in a hostel and didn’t have hot water or maybe no water at all for a couple of hours. Internet was a precious thing – we just take it for granted in Europe to have water coming out of the grief or high-speed Internet everywhere. But most importantly: you don’t need a lot to be happy. We have our backpacks which still contain the clothes we brought on our trip and it’s totally sufficient! A good Menu del Dia, mountains and nature around you and the right travel companion is all you need sometimes. 🙂

 

Patagonia: Wild, Windy, Wonderful – Argentina & Chile

17.11.16 – 10.12.16

ARGENTINA

Where can we start with our text about this beautiful piece of nature? Honestly, Patagonia was one of the most stunning landscapes we have seen and combined with the rough weather, it was pure nature!

We left our cozy apartment in Salta fully “recovered” and ready to meet Ela in El Calafate, where our trip through Southern South America would begin. The weather in El Calafate was great and the craziest thing: we had daylight up until 10:30pm in the evening – so confusing! 🙂 Summer was about to start in Patagonia and there was not a tiny bit of Winter feeling coming up. Ella arrived one day after us in El Calafate, unfortunately without her backpack (which indeed was in the airplane, but they forgot to unload it, which we found out later. So it flew to Ushuaia and back the next day…:). Nevertheless, we started our first tour to the very famous “Perrito Moreno” Glacier in the National Park and were fascinated by the immense size of it. We both saw it from a boat ride as well as from the famous terraces – suddenly, a big piece of the glacier cracked and fell in the water, wow!! The noise it made was like a thunder rumbling close by – so cool. You would think that, like all the other glaciers in the world, the Perrito Moreno shrinks more and more, but actually the opposite is the case: it grows significantly! To celebrate this, we brought some champagne and cheered right in front of the glacier. 😉

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Once we had Ella’s backpack, we headed straight to El Chaltén, a hikers melting pot 3 hours away where we wanted to see the famous mountain “El Fitz Roy”. Our first trek lead us to the Laguna de los tres  in the Glacier National Park, a beautiful hike through forest trails. The last our is a constant uphill hike, super tough, but then you see the Laguna lying in front of you and it was worth the sweat. 🙂 Unfortunately, the weather was not on our side, at least for the lookout: it was cloudy and rainy and the Fitz Roy not to be seen. Well, we anyway enjoyed the trek (in total, we walked 20km this day and we all thought we won’t make a single step the next day!) and treated ourselves with some good Argentinian wine…from the countless of different bottles of wine we have tried in Patagonia, all of them were so delicious. 🙂 Not even the box wine we bought on the campsite in Torres del Paine National Park was bad. 🙂

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The next day our legs were heavy and the weather cloudy again and we thought: “what’s the point in walking to a lookout when you don’t see a single thing?” 🙂 🙂 But as we know, the weather changes very quickly here and additionally learned from our hostel receptionist that on another trek, we’d end up at a mirador where we would see both the Fitz Roy mountain as well as the Cerro Torre. So we packed our backpacks and headed straight to Laguna Cerro Torre. Again, the trail was incredibly beautiful and green…unfortunately, the promised lookout did not show us both mountains at the same time – that was geographically impossible. 😉 However, the weather got better and better, the sun was shining and we enjoyed the laguna without seeing the Fitz Roy again. Our chase for that mountain drove us almost insane! 🙂 On our way back, the mountain panorama was simply stunning. Returning to the village we met a guide with a group, so we asked him for a good way to see the Fitz Roy. Embarrassingly, he said “Turn around! There it is! And you even see it from the village!”….oh man. Really? Haha. 🙂 And true, while we were cooking this evening in our hostel, we could spot the summit from the kitchen window.

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CHILE

Travelling through Patagonia usually includes a visit of the famous “Torres del Paine” National Park, which is why we headed there the next day. Of course, the bus ride did not take us 6 hours only, but 7,5 hours – typically border crossing process craziness. 🙂 We arrived in Puerto Natales, which is the starting point for everyone who decides to explore the park. Most of the people come here to do the well-known “W-Trek”, a 4 days hiking adventure, the nights being spent in a tent, self-guided and you can start wherever you want with your hike! Sounds so cool, but it’s not that easy actually…all the campsites in the park and along the W-Trek have to be booked in advance, even the ones which don’t cost a cent (and obviously, don’t have any luxury such as a shower or a normal toilet). As we only learned that 2 days before we arrived in Puerto Natales, Jakub, the best planner in the world, googled until his fingers bled and organized the perfect route for us. 😉 We’d start the first day in the park by doing only a day trip to see the Western trail, then would come back 2 days later to start a 3 days/2 nights trek from East to the Middle. 🙂 The committee (Ela and Ellen) decided that 2 nights in a tent would be completely enough and agreed to Jakub’s plan.

Starting on the Western side of the park at Laguna Grey, we got to know Patagonia from its roughest side. First of all, the prices were absolutely crazy: a 30 min. boat ride to the starting point cost us 40$ round trip! Secondly, the wind on this part of the trail literally blew us away. We could barely enjoy the glacier at the end of the trail, because the lookout point was high up and the wind so strong and cold that we could stay there for maximum 2 minutes and needed to return down. 🙂 What a lesson – starting our 3 day trek would mean for us that we’d better be prepared for all kinds of weather!

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But before this adventure could start, we needed to rent all the equipment: tent, warm sleeping bags, sleeping mats, cooker, kitchen equipment, a donkey carrying our stuff,…just kidding. 😉 Since the city Puerto Natales lives from the trekking tourism, you can seriously rent stuff in every hostel and outdoor shop there. Of course, we would have to carry everything in the backpacks, so we should think smart about what to bring. When Jakub saw Ela and mine supply of chocolate in the supermarket cart however, he decided to throw 4 of the 6 cookie packages and 3 of the 5 chocolates out and replaced it with some rice and pasta, of course some wine for the first evening (although, as mentioned previously, the box wine was super good as well ;)), fruit and sweets. Still, we secretly bought some snicker bars, knowing that we would need a lot of sugar to “survive” this trip! 😉

The first day started, surprise surprise, with heavy rain and wind. Damn it, how would we even build our tent when the weather is as crazy as it is?? Luckily, at around noon the sky cleared up and we were able to search the campsite for a good spot. Once the tent was built, we hiked up the Eastern part of the trek. Our plan was to go all the way up to the Torres lookout, but unfortunately, we heard that it was snowing and the sight was 0, which is why we ended up hiking until the campsite Chileno, enjoyed hot chocolate, one of our cookie packages and walked back down. Up at the Chileno campsite, the wind was again so strong, we had to fight against it constantly. Down in the valley however, we enjoyed dinner in the sun. 🙂 Patagonian weather phenomenon!

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Our second day started sunny, although the night was freezing cold – even with 2 pair of socks, my feet were icy. Once we moved and started walking, we warmed up quickly and had this amazing view of the mountain range in the park, the typical Patagonian flowers and the turquoise laguna…unforgettable. Our trek led us through open fields, forest treks, stony paths all the way until our second campsite “Frances”, which we reached after 4,5 hours. At this site, we had a tent platform and while Jakub was building our casa, Ela and I headed to the “supermarket” (which was one tiny cupboard at the reception of the campsite) and stocked up our wine supply. 😉

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As we were cooking dinner, we started talking to our tent neighbors, 2 girls from the UK, who walked the same direction on the trek as we did. To our great shock, they told us that one connecting bridge broke this very day, making it impossible to cross to the end of our hiking trip and the exit of the park. WTF. This cannot be true. The worst was, as we got to know the South American mentality, this bridge would not be fixed within one day…well, now only wine and a strong Slovakian Schnaps could help us and we postponed the decision of how to continue to the next morning. 😉 We woke up in our tent (this night, with several layers of clothes to be warmer) and heard the rain dripping on our tent…noooo! Since the rain just wouldn’t stop we had to get up at some point and discussed what to do during breakfast: either walking further to the next camp and viewpoint to, most likely see nothing there, since it was cloudy or walking back the same way we walked yesterday to be able to leave the park and not spend another night there. Sadly, we decided to take the same path as yesterday and headed back to our first camp site. The 2 UK girls wanted to give it a try and hoped that the bridge would be fixed the same day or the next day, heading further West (as we learned later, the bridge was not fixed until the 9th of December – South America! :)). Overall, the Torres del Paine park was a great adventure and showed us the real beauty of Patagonia. Around every curve you find another amazing view, you walk through so many different landscapes and the best: you can do all these tours by yourself without any guide. Although we didn’t do the “actual” W-Trek, it was anyway fantastic and we had a bunch of fun on our trip in the nature. 😉 With good friends, good humor and good wine this outdoor experience was awesome! And we’ve never appreciated a shower more than after this. 😉

Our next stop was then Punta Arenas, a nice city more southern in Chile, where we mostly enjoyed seafood and the city itself. Additionally, we planned our next bus trip from here, which would take us all the way down to the most Southern city in the world: Ushuaia!

We actually planned to do this route by boat – it would have been a little bit longer and more expensive, but the views on the glaciers are supposed to be stunning. In the very last moment however, Jakub found out that the connection boat between the harbor where we would end up (Puerto Williams) and Ushuaia would take us 30 min with a cost of 120$!!! Far too expensive!! We cancelled the boat then and took a bus. Ushuaia was bigger than expected and way colder. We checked in our AirBnB apartment, which we rented for 3 nights and right away planned our trip to the penguin island. But first we visited the Tierra del Fuego National Park – although it was raining, we enjoyed walking through the Patagonian landscape.

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The perfect spot for the penguins is Island Martillo, which is why the next afternoon, we took a bus to the Estancia Haberton, a private property consisting of endless forest and many small islands. From there, we took a boat to the Isla Martillo – and we couldn’t believe what we saw! Right there on the beach, where we docked at endless penguin groups took a sun bath and hung around. 🙂 Wow, they were so close to us and watched us curiously. All around the island, approx. 3000 typical Magallanian Penguin couples gather and we even saw a baby penguin – so adorable. For us, this was one of the best encounters on our trip (and for Ela THE best ;)), because we saw the animals in their natural habitat.

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After this great experience, we left Ushuaia the next day by plane to fly back to El Calafate. The last evening we spent in food heaven: to treat ourselves, we ordered “Parilla” in a restaurant. This dish basically consists of meat, sausages, meat and meat. 😉 We shared it among the three of us and had a good bottle of wine. Unbelievable that these 2,5 weeks are already over! It was magical here, we had so much fun (Gracias Ela, fue increible contigo!!), we will never forget the nature and animals we’ve seen here and we will always remember the Patagonian box wine. 🙂

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Slovensky Preklad

Deutsche Übersetzung

Time Out – we Relax

14.11.16 – 21.11.16

We arrived in Chile in this super tiny village called San Pedro de Atacama – the sun is shining, people wear shorts and Tshirt and it feels like actual vacation. 🙂 We head to one cafe on the main plaza (they have Wifi here, in the city, wow!) to check what to do next and decide to book a tour for the evening to the famous “Valle de la Luna”, the moon valley. As you can guess, this valley is called like this due to the bizarre landscape which resembles the area on the moon. 🙂 We’re really impressed by the rock formation and the dry area! As it gets later in the evening, we wanna see the moon rise – this night is the night of the super moon. We wait forever as it seems in the cold and windy night until the moon finally rises and it’s an amazing moment – the mountain scenery combined with no light pollution at all is wonderful.

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Our plan was then to head to Salta in Argentina the next day, but since there is no bus for this day we stay another night in our 12 bed dorm (private rooms are seriously expensive in Chile ;)) and catch a bus the next day.

For the next 10 hours we have stunning views from our seats, crossing the Andes and having endless mountain landscapes. We cannot wait to arrive in Salta and finally settle down for the next 5 days, because this is what the plan for the following days looks like: doing absolutely nothing! 🙂 We feel exhausted from these indeed beautiful, but challenging last weeks. So many new experiences and impressions we have to digest, which is why our private Airbnb apartment seems like the perfect get-away until Ella arrives and Patagonia welcomes us. The apartment is perfect for our needs, we enjoy cooking and pancakes in the morning, work on the blog (the internet was sooo fast – the first time in a while that we don’t share it with a crowd of hostel people) and organize our weeks after Patagonia. Christmas is coming soon and we have big plans: we’ll be staying in Hawaii, woop woop!! 🙂 From 16th of December until 8th of January the island of Maui is our home, beach and sun we’ll be our Christmas decoration and bananas and mangos our Christmas cookies. 😉 So different to the Christmas we know from home and to be honest, I miss the beautiful decorated cities, the Christmas markets and Glühwein, cookies and just the smell of a Christmas atmosphere. But let’s see how we will experience Christmas this year and what New Years Eve will be like…

One Week in Bolivia: Copacabana at the Beautiful Lake Titicaca // La Paz // Uyuni

07.11.16 – 14.11.16

Crossing the border to Bolivia was luckily super easy – when we think back to the Central American countries, always demanding onward travel tickets, we appreciate the laid-back mentality here. 😉

1.Copacabana

Yes, there is indeed a small village called Copacabana in Bolivia – maybe it copied a little bit of the flair of his bigger brother in Brazil…? 😉 We definitely like this small village which is located right next to the Titicaca lake. Lots of bars, restaurants…and good weather. 🙂

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There is mainly only one thing to do here, which is taking a boat to the „Isla del Sol“. This is what we do the next day and are surprised by the beautiful lake. At some spots on the island, the lake looks like an ocean and is crystal clear! We learn from our guide that the pre-Inca culture believed that the sun was born on this island. A 3 hours walk from the northern part of the island to the southern part gives us time to enjoy the nature. Back in Copacabana, we watch the sunset over the lake – beautiful.

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2. La Paz

As we approach the outer borders of La Paz we are shocked: we knew it was big, but it seems endlessly huge! Although not the capital of Bolivia, it hosts the seat of the government. From many parts of the city, one can see the famous Illimani mountain. Additionally, La Paz is as high as almost 3,700m and hence, the highest administrative capital in the word!

Once we sneak our way through the complicated arrangement of streets by taxi, we actually like the vibe of La Paz. Dropping off our luggage in our hostel, we wanna discover the city, of course, with a free walking tour! 🙂 Here we learn for example about the famous San Pedro prison. Located in the middle of the city, the system there is known to be the craziest in the world: inmates have to pay for cells and and additionally, they pay an entry fee! A couple of years ago, one could even do a tour through the prison. If you had the wrong tour guide, it could happen that you never left the prison again. 😉 I suggest you to read the book „Marching Powder“ by Rusty Young, a “true story of friendship, cocaine, and South America’s strangest jail” [https://www.amazon.com/Marching-Powder-Friendship-Americas-Strangest/dp/0312330340].

One activity we had on our plan for La Paz was the famous „Death Road“ (Yungas road), which you can bike down. Years ago, this street was the only connection road from the remote villages to La Paz. Since the quality of the street was terrible, many deathly accidents happened there. Today, it is only permitted  for a few locals to access the street by car, otherwise only bikes are allowed. We weren’t quite sure if we were up for this adrenaline kick or not – we came to a point on our trip where the question was: „Do we really wanna do the activity or do we just do it so that we have done it??“

We’ve traveled pretty fast the past 1,5 weeks and were somehow „travel tired“…so we gave ourselves one day to think about the death road and then we’d see if we feel like doing it. Lazy day, lazy dinner in bed, lazy movie watching – that helped. 🙂 We were ready for the death road and it was a hell of a ride! Not of the speed or the danger (actually, we stopped so many times and had a very comfortable pace, we didn’t feel in danger at all), but for the landscape. From our starting point up at 4,700m (cold, windy, dry), down to 1,200m (jungle, humid, hot) it was a great trip. Right after this thrilling experience, the night bus took us to Uyuni where we planned to do the salt lake tour.

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3. Uyuni

This city’s only attraction is the famous „Saltar de Uyuni“, the biggest salt desert in the world! Since the tours start mainly at around 10:00am in the morning and we arrived at 7:30am, we decided to cancel our night in the hostel and signed up for a 3-days tour through the desert. 🙂 Mainly, our decision was influenced by the fact that on the last day, our driver would take us to San Pedro de Atacama in Chile. Hence, we didn’t have to take care of this transport. Getting some breakfast in the sleepy town (where Wifi was treated like it was gold: not available for everyone ;)) and, typically, snacks and lots of water, we were ready for the desert! Our jeep was loaded and our group was a nice mix of nations: 2 Australian guys, 1 French girl, 1 guy from Poland and of course the fantastic Slovak/German team. 😉 The first day we spend mostly in the desert itself, taking the most hilarious pictures in the salt lake: since everything is white there and one has no orientation of sizes, you can take such funny pictures by positioning objects in the right ankle. 😀

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We also saw the cactus island and watched the sunset in the desert. The first night we spend in a salt hostel – walls, bed and small table made of salt. 😉 Enjoying dinner together we went to bed early, because the electricity generator anyway turned off at 9:00pm. Surprisingly, hot showers were available…still wondering where they got the water from in this dry area…

The next day we saw the sunrise and headed further in the desert. We saw beautiful lagoons in different colors: one was super green whereas the other was pink-red! The algae together with the sun and wind do photosynthesis and create different colors. Additionally, we visited the geysers in the desert. This night was supposed to be freezing cold outside (temperatures below 0), so we decided to jump in the hot springs and enjoy the hot water as we had never before – the moon and the starts above us make it a perfect end to our day!

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The third day we mainly spent in the jeep and made our way to Chile – again, the border crossing was super fast and easy and bam, Chi-Chi-Chi-le-le-le, here we are. 🙂

Southern Perú – Arequipa and Puno

02.11.16 – 07.11.16

After a week in Cusco full of history, shopping for souvenirs and enjoying the city centre we head to the next beautiful city in Peru, Arequipa! Of course we travel by bus through the night, which saves us a night in the hostel and gives us an additional day in Arequipa. 🙂

And wow, we have great news: Jakub’s best friend Ella will be visiting us soon!! We are super excited and can’t wait to travel through Patagonia with her – it’s gonna be awesome. That means for us however, that we have to be in El Calafate latest the 23rd of November and will skip our planned Volunteering (postponed for Hawaii maybe… :)). We have a deadline. For the first time. How weird. 😉 So we sit down, make a detailed plan of where we are when to be able to arrive on time in the Southern Part of Argentina. Turns out that it‘s actually nice to have an overview of the next 3 weeks and where we’ll spend each day. 😉

But right now we’re in Arequipa, were we arrive in our alpaka sweaters and scarfs, just to realize that it’s way too warm for this type of clothes! So used to the colder cities, we wonder when we wore a Tshirt for the last time or sandals… 🙂 Arequipa is Perú’s second largest city, known for its beautiful city center, the THREE volcanos surrounding it and the proud  “Arequipeños”, who feel a little bit different than other Peruvians. 😉

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Plaza de las Armas

Enjoying a sunny day, we head to some travel agencies to book a 2 day hike through the Colca Canyon:

“Slicing through the High Andes like a giant fissure for more than 100km, Colca is the world’s second deepest canyon, approximately 3,400m at its deepest point — a shade shallower that the nearby Cotahuasi Canyon and nearly twice as deep as the US’ Grand Canyon. More impressive than the statistics are the region’s emblematic attractions, including soaring condors, endless trekking routes and unshakeable Spanish, Inca and Pre-Inca traditions little altered since the conquistadors first arrived in the 1570s.” [source: http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20121012-exploring-perus-epic-colca-canyon]

Hungry from all the walking, we decide to try the famous „Triple Picante“ dish which our guide from the free walking tour we’ve done recommended us. And wow, it’s delicious! Although it mainly consists of meat and we don’t know how one person can eat one whole plate (we shared one), we do enjoy the filled pepper, potato-cheese mix and the pork.

Triple Picante

Triple Picante

Additionally, we try the famous chicha, a sweet Peruvian beverage made from purple corn, a variant of Zea mays native to the Mesoamerica, and spices. Non-alcoholic, it is a type of chicha usually made by boiling the corn with pineapple, cinnamon, clove, and sugar. [source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicha_morada%5D Of course we also had Pisco Sour, which the Peruvians claim to have invented, although the Chilenians say the same…anyway, it’s delicious!

Grrr, the alarm clock rings at 3:00am, why do these trips always have to start so early?! Pick up time is at 3:30am, and at 3:35am we sit in the van on our way to the Colca Canyon. The last stop before we start hiking is a small restaurant where we arrive at around 6:00am to have breakfast. Another hour later we begin the hike – strangely, the first 3 hours is only descending. On our usual hikes, we start walking up, not down. 🙂 But obviously, it’s a canyon! The further we walk down the greener the nature gets. After a lunchbreak of 1 hour we continue walking and arrive our accommodation in the late afternoon – a small oasis in the middle of the mountains! We’re super hungry and cannot wait to take a shower. But before that we treat ourselves together with our group with a whisky and Cuba Libre. 😉 Since there’s only electricity from a generator and this one turns of at 9pm, we go to bed early and fall asleep under a bright sky full of starts.

Colca Canyon

Colca Canyon

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The 3$ Machu Picchu hat was worth every cent in this sun! :)

The 3$ Machu Picchu hat was worth every cent in this sun! 🙂

5:00am the next day our ascend back up begins – pretty exhausting, but the morning is cool and within 2:50hs Ellen is up. Jakub even made it in 1:30hours and was the second person up there, great! 🙂 Breakfast awaits us on the top of the summit and after we got some energy back we head straight to Arequipa.

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All in all, the hike was okay but we couldn’t quite understand why everyone recommended us the Colca Canyon…it was not as special as we expected it to be. 😉 Maybe we have seen too many nice lagoons in Cusco and Huaraz, haha.

The next day we leave Arequipa to head further South. Puno is our last stop before we cross the border to Bolivia. Hence, we only see the city center, have a very delicious dinner, buy a CD from a local Peruvian folklore band who plays at the restaurant and look forward for the 7th country on our trip. 🙂

Slovensky Preklad

Deutsche Übersetzung

Inca Capital Cusco and Machu Picchu

26.10.2016- 02.11.2016

Cusco city

Here we are, finally arriving at Cusco, well known as the capital of the Inca’s empire. So many times we heard about it, so many documentaries and movies we have seen and now we will spend the next days here, for real. 🙂 Our 14 hours bus ride was pretty comfy, we mostly choose the company „Cruz del Sur“, since they offer Cama seats (160 degrees), blankets, pillows and food!

The outisde parts of Cusco are like most South American cities – not completely build and pretty dirty and dusty. Luckily, we booked our hostel close to the city center and can concentrate only on the beauty of the historical Cusco. Right on the first day we decided, as always for a free walking tour. Our local guide explained us (a group of 3) a lot about the Pre-Colonial history of Cusco, being bordered by two rivers and build in a Puma shape. All together, the Inca capital Cusco was consisting of 8×4 Blogs and only the Inka aristocracy was allowed to live in the city center. The main and most important temple of the Cusco empire, the Temple of the Sun was located right on the central plaza in the city and was famously decorated by gold and silver (of course only until the Spaniards arrived), its gardens were as well full of treasures which were mostly brought from different edges of the Inca empire.

img_2891 Cusco

img_2900Quorikancha Garden

After the Spanish conquered Cusco, they rebuilt the city  and destroyed a lot of the original temples and houses. Luckily some of them served the spaniards as perfect foundings for their churches and new building, because of this fact there ist still enough original Inca walls decorating this mix of cultures.

Definitely recommendable is a visit of the Main Church at the ‚Plaza de Armas‘ ( entrance 20S) where local artists influence in Catholism can be seen, like for exmple a Guinea pig lying on the table in front of Jesus and many more.

The whole city is surrounded by Inca ruins of big importance and definetly worth to visit, If you are short on time, book a ‚city tour‘ which will get you first through the historical city of Cusco – Church and Quorikancha – Temple of the Sun and after your will visit ruins of Saqsayhuaman, Qenqo, Puka Pukara and Tambomachay – ooou yeah day full of ruins and history 😉

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Sacred valley

After getting to know the historical part of Cusco a little bit, we decided to book a daily tour to the Sacred valley of Incas. Fully organised tour in english – ooooh nooo, we ended up in a bus full of Peruvians and spanish speeking folk, so we can advance our spanish skills a little bit more. 😉

The sacred valley was one of the most important teritories of the Incas near Cusco. The whole valley stretches out from Pisac with its amazing ruins and agricultural teraces up to Ollantaytambo, the last Inca inhabitated city and big archeological side. During this trip you can admire amazing architecture, engineering and agricultural skills of Incas, which blood is still running in local habitants.

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At the end of the trip on our way back to Cusco, we made one last stop in Chinchero village, famous for its Alpaca textile manufacturing. After a very firendly and sweet plus educative presentation from local women about the producing of the textiles and coloring them without any chemistry, we had to buy some of the alpaca products!

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img_2939Ollantaytambo

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Rainbow mountain

No doubt that the surrounding of Cusco has a lot to offer in both cultural as well as in natural aspect. That’s why we decided to conquer the so famous ‚Rainbow mountain‘, which has only been accessible to the public (and not only local people living in the mountains) since last year!

We booked our trip with a local agency with a super friendly pick up time at 03:00AM – aaaah. As always, to get ready for a new adventure we packed 2 full backpacks of fruits and water and food. My ‚small‘ backpack had approximately 100kg 😀

After breakfast in a small village and chatting with a local woman who was around 70 years old, constantly chewing coca leaves we drove 15 more minutes and finally start our hike up 🙂 Coca leaves are by the way known to help with altitude sickness! But we have to admit that some indigenous people take it „very serious“ with their coca and chew it almsot all day long…we wonder what affect it has… 😉

Since we are profesional hikers in the meantime, we are well prepared for every situation and weather condition: rain poncho, sunglasses, extra tshirt, knife, water, plenty of food and sweets, extra jacket, extra socks, extra rain poncho, extra knife, extra water – you never know when you need ALL of it. 🙂 Our guide started in a really athletic pace, maybe because he walkes up this mountain 3 times a week, so we followed J After a while we passed the first tiny village and entrance to the park, which was full of alpacas and llamas.

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We started to descend steaply uphill, realizing that we were probably the last group for today hiking up to the rainbow mountain. From the middle of the trail we could already see that the weather up there was not that good and probably is going to rain a little bit (not a problem for our poncho ready team). Here we go, not only rain but snow hit us on our way up and we were almost sure that the rainbow mountain up there is going to have only one single color – white.

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Let’s not give up and go to the top anyway…reaching the top 5200m, we gave each other high fives and laughed about not seeing anything except fog and some confused tourists taking pictures of a foggy mountain. As we were the last group up there, we had a little bit of privacy and time to eat our snacks (banana,apple, mandarine, granola bar, bread with cheese and one more granola each). After finishing all of this – surpriiiiiiiise, the clouds moved away from the mountain for a small moment and none of our group could hide the excitement- there it is, the Rainbow mountain!! A beautiful variety of colors like from a fantasy movie revealed itself to us. We fully enjoy these moments, and of course take 186 pictures 😉

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After half an hour in the cold, we descended – looked like an easy job after we ate all the stuff and have seen the mountain. Suprisingly, the opposite happened and we experiened for the first time strong signs of altitude sickness. It hits at least half of our group of 12: headache, strange stomach feelings, dizzines – wooow, we surely didn’t expect this on our way back down. Probably our body didn’t realize until know that we were this far up and now pays everything back to us.

OK – we made it back to our bus with some help of water, snacks and coca leaves 😉 Luckily, after lunch and 3 hours ride back, we arrived at our hostel, exhausted but happy – what a busy day 🙂

 

Trek to Machu Picchu

The legendary Machu Picchu is so close! But we went from being super excited to almost rejecting going there…here is the story how we got there in the end:

  1. Wohooo, let‘s do a hike, maybe a couple of days-hike through the mountains and arrive at Machu Picchu!

This sounded like a perfect idea. We knew that the famous ‚Inca trail‘ is booked out for months in advance and we also knew that there are some other trails to do as a suspention for the Inca trail. After spending a couple of hours researching and running through several agencies, we found out that every single agency offers one trail: the „Salkantay trail“, taking 5D/ 4N. Hmm, our equipment is not the best for the rainy season in mountain for 5 days and also the thought that almost every tourist in Cusco will be on that trek, walking in line – nope, that didn’t convince us about this option.

So we spent another 2 hours of research and found out happily that there is another option for us, the „Lares trail“, 3D/2N, perfect duration. It would lead us through the local communities in the mountains, we would get to know the culture and would end up with a visit of Machu Picchu as well – sounds like our trip.

Next 2 hours, running through agencies and realizing that this trip is not as common as Salkantay and the price will be approx- 500$/ Person. Nooooo waaay for 3D hiking 500$!!

  1. Disappointment

Since I – Jakub was looking forward to this place for longer time, I was really disappointed.

Everything around Machu Picchu is a huge business and turismus around this place is enormous. Do we even want to go there?

  1. Ellen solving the problem

Luckily, the second crew member of our team of 2, solved this problem. 😉 Lets do it the easy way and book the Machu Picchu 2days bus tour, including a one night stay in Aguas Calientes (where anyway everyone ends up, no matter if you hike, go by train or bus…).

Jakubs reaction – I don’t care, I’m disappointed, but lets go there once we are here.

  1. How we got there and how it was

Pickup from hostel in the morning. Driving for 6 -7 hours from Cusco to Hidroelectrica (we are still happy that we survived this bumpy, narrow, curvy street with our maniac driver).

Having lunch in Hidroelectrica, then walking 3 hours along the railroad tracks (totally forbidden but everyone does it…?!) to Aguas Calientes and get some good sleep there.

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Start walking at 04:00am from Aguas Calientes 30min to the bridge which is the starting point of the 1750 stairs up to Machu Picchu. Waiting in line until 5:00am until the guard opens the gate.

Walking up the stairs from the bridge to the main entrance 50 minutes in good pace.

Waiting for the rest of our group and our guide and ready to go….at 6:30am, we enter the place…

Woooooooooooooooow!!!!!

The moment you first see Machu Picchu, still half covered in the clouds, being all mystical and full of history, you forget all the tourists, all the annoying planning, the early wake up and long walk – you are just there.

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All of a sudden, it is not anymore the ruin from some documentary you might have seen on TV, now it is a real place and WE are THERE! Beautiful and mystical…

The first two hours we spent with our guide who told us more about this ancient site – actually we didn’t really pay attention to his stories, but rather enjoyed the view and the Llamas running arround us with the magnificent background of Machu Picchu. 🙂

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As I – Jakub booked additionally the entrance to climb the Machu Picchu mountain, I had to leave our guided tour and started heading up to the mountain. To make it short – definitely recommended, doable in 1 – 1,5 hours (if you are fit) and the view is amazing.

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Ellen, in the meantime, enjoyed the site itself and looked down on Machu Picchu from the upper terraces…you can sit there forever and just look at this stunning monument.

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After walking around the site and taking enough long moments everywhere, our day at the Machu Picchu was over and we needed to walk back down to hidroelectrica, catching our 6 hours bus back to Cusco…all this terrible way back again, OMG!! Like this was not enough, a vampire flies invasion bit our legs and arms on the way back from Machu Picchu to Hidroelectrica, how terribly itchy!

 

All together, the whole area around Cusco is really turisty, but still amazing to see.

The crazy 2 days to reach Machu Picchu are long and exhausting, but definetly worth to do it and see that site once in a life (if you have some extra money for the train, maybe choose that option 😉 ) .

 

What a whirlwind of new experiences, impressions, people…let’s see what Arequipa has to offer, where we head next.

3 Cities in 5 days! Paracas // Huacachina // Nazca

21.10.16 – 26.10.16

Unbelievable, but it’s the end of October, which means it’s getting colder and colder at home – fall has begun, the days are shorter, nights are cold…and we sit on our hostel balcony in shorts and Tshirt, enjoying the ocean view. 🙂

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As you can imagine, we haven’t regretted our decision to quit our jobs and our apartment once. Of course, we both do crave for some mum-homemade-food or just simple good bread, but all in all we arranged well with the Peruvian cuisine and after some time of trying a vegetarian way of life, we slowly get back to eating meat. And at the coast we obviously enjoy seafood, for example in Paracas!

Paracas is a very tiny village at the ocean, which doesn’t offer a lot. For us it was rather a short rest after our hiking days in Huaraz. And we wanted to enjoy the sun a little bit longer. 😉 The first activity for both of us was a morning trip by boat to the “Islas Ballestas”, the so called cheap version of the Galapagos. Funny. 🙂 But we were surprised how many sea lions we saw in the end! They gathered around the rocks and even big males with their 5 females watched us curiously. Thousands of birds flew around our heads, the boat ride was impressive. Later this day Jakub decided to visit the Paracas National Park, which included a visit to the red beach. The next 2 days we mostly spent on planning further our trip.

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Sea Lion Rock No. I

Bird's Bridge

Bird’s Bridge

Sea Lion Rock No. II

Sea Lion Rock No. II

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Big Male and his wifes 🙂

Red Beach

Red Beach

Our next destination was then Huacachina, again a very small place being famous for its location: it’s an oasis in the middle of the desert! The only thing this village had to offer was a ride with the buggy and sandboarding – we had to try it. 🙂 Late in the afternoon we started the ride with this huge selfmade buggy. You cannot imagine how bumpy a sandy road can be when you speed through the dunes in such a vehicle! We were screaming and laughing at the same time and the driver kept making his buggy jump through the desert. Stopping at a very steep dune, we got our wooden boards and while we were still wondering how the hell we would make it down that hill safely and without being injured, the first person in our group was already sliding down…head first…OMG. What a crazy adventure! It was not as fast as we thought it would be since the sand brakes you down a lot, but still thrilling enough to try it again and again. 🙂 As the sun set we sat on the dunes, enjoying the beautiful sky and the illuminated oasis.

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Uuuh yeah! :)

Uuuh yeah! 🙂

Aaaaaah

Aaaaaah

Huacachina

Huacachina

The next day we caught a bus in the morning to Nazca. This place is actually very famous – in 1932 , archaeologists found some very characteristic lines, the so called Nazca lines. Additionally, when air traffic became more popular pilots spotted the lines in the desert of Nazca which looked a lot like figures or animals. It turned out that the ancient population of the Nazca had created these lines in the dry desert sand, without actually seeing what they will look like in the end! The people must have been very intelligent, since the lines are so straight that the creation of such had only been possible with mathematical knowledge. Still, scientists are not sure why they “drew” these lines – assumptions vary from astrological to religious reasons. For tourists, the city offers flights over the Nazca lines in small Cessna airplanes and since it was Jakubs big dream to do it, we booked a flight! 🙂 Reading some recommendations, we skipped breakfast the next morning – the flight can be very bumpy and unusual for your stomach. After waiting at the small airport until the fog has vanished, we finally boarded the plane together with 4 more people and up we went. What a feeling!! Being in such a small airplane you feel every change in wind, every curve we flew goes directly in your stomach…but it was thrilling, amazing, wonderful, awesome, incredible. 🙂  The first figures we saw were smaller than we thought and you needed to look very closely to spot them in the desert. Nevertheless, we saw all 12 animals and as the flight ended, we had 2 full vomit bags from not so well feeling passengers and 4 big grins from happy passengers (we were the happy ones). 😉

Can I still get out?

Can I still get out?

Nazca Figure

Nazca Figure

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What an amazing experience!

In the afternoon, we booked a guided tour to Cahuachi because we wanted to learn more about the culture of the Nazca. This place used to be a major ceremonial center of the, based from 1 AD to about 500 AD in the coastal area of the Central Andes. The site contains over 40 mounds topped with adobe structures. Scientists believe that it was a pilgrimage center, whose population increased greatly in relation to major ceremonial events [source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cahuachi]. Interestingly, the Nazca built very smart water wells the people nowadays in Nazca still take water from.

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The water system

The water system

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Cahuachi ruins

Cahuachi ruins

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Some crazy days ended and we looked forward to board our night bus which would drive us for the next 14 hours to Cusco. There, Machu Picchu is waiting for us, one of the big highlights of our trip and something we looked forward to from the beginning…woohoo!

Oh, and after our time in Latin America, we should actually count the hours we spent on buses – feels like we have spent half of the trip in mini vans, long distance buses, transporters,… 😉 That just belongs to our trip I guess!