general travel trip reports

the south america round-up

kitten fishing in santiago de chile
mendoza, argentina
the southest i’ve ever been
arriving in patagonia
parque nacional torres del paine
around the park
into bolivia
hot-tubbing bolivian style
my very first geyser (a.k.a. i can see why safety fences are sometimes a good idea)
through the altiplano
hotel de sal (yes i licked the walls)
salar de uyuni
uyuni, bolivia
lake titicaca
cusco, peru
inka trail – day one
inka trail – day two
inka trail – day three
inka trail to machu picchu
lima, peru
screaming slugs – the highlights

general travel

into bolivia

We reached the Bolivian border control after driving up a long long hill out of San Pedro de Atacama in Chile, climbing up onto the altiplano to about 4000m altitude. Then a nice man inside stamped my passport.



We were taking a 4WD ‘tour’ across the Bolivian altiplano and to the Salar de Uyuni, the largest salt plain in the world. So as lost seagulls wandered around acting like they were on a pier at the beach, our trusty 4WD was loaded up, and we set out in convoy across the desert.



Apart from us two, our 4WD contained our driver, the young girl acting as cook (and though the meals were simple, some of them were ridiculously tasty – I definitely wasn’t experiencing any loss of appetite with the altitude), and an older French couple, who had very limited English, and slightly more usable Spanish. The other 4WD had a 21 year old driver who liked to listen to La Paz dance club tunes, two Swedish guys, and a Chilean couple. Even with the windows up and vents closed, the dustier roads filled the interior of the 4WD with clouds of dust as the entire vehicle was saturated with the stuff – I started experiencing flashbacks to driving around in the old International truck with Dad.



As we bounced around on the tracks criss-crossing the desert altiplano, dust infiltrating our nasal cavity and lungs, we stared out the windows at the passing volcanos, and lakes, rock and scrubland, vicu̱as, and llamas. Alex and I had the back row of seats to ourselves Рthe only way out was to roll over into the row of seats in front though Рa move I perfected after three days of getting in and out of the 4WD every time we stopped.

The sky was blue and clear, but although it looked like it was lovely and warm outside, the altitude meant I was reaching for my down jacket every time we stopped to hop out.



Laguna Blanca was the first lagoon we stopped at – it had no flamingos, but it did have a very nice volcano.

general travel

around the park

We see a guanaco (one of the llama/alpaca family). Actually, we see many many guanacos, all over the Park, but just have a photo of this one.



Cuernos del Paine



Many glacial lakes throughout the Park



And a bird of prey lurks on a sign as we leave the Park and head back towards Puerto Natales.



After leaving Puerto Natales, we flew back up Chile, in many hops to Santiago and then on to the desert North.

general hiking travel

parque nacional torres del paine

One morning we got up before sunrise (not hard to do in this part of the world at this time of year) and climbed into the little Toyota Yaris we had hired, and drove towards Parque Nacional Torres del Paine. The sun rose just as we were driving into the Park and got our first view of the Torres del Paine, swathed in grey cloud, but still visible.



We decided to just hike up to the viewpoint to see the Torres, as avalanche risk meant we couldn’t do the circuit hike in the park anyway. So we drove over the bridge of doom, and further into the park.



This time of the year was very much low season, and we only saw two other people the whole time we were there – a couple out on the path to Torres del Paine, with overnight backpacks.



We found a carpark, and wandered around til we found a likely trail to start hiking up. The streams we were crossing were full of rocks with little ice rings surrounding them, but were still flowing. As we gained altitude, patches of snow quickly appeared, and we were soon walking on a very snowy trail – becoming thankful that there had been other people around silly enough to come out here in the cold season.



The weather wasn’t looking promising, and the snowy path was getting deeper, and as we reached the Campamento Chileno it started to snow on us. We sat in the shelter of the verandah of the locked hut, and watched the snow and the grey clouds, and wondered whether it would be worth going on – would we even be able to see the Torres? After some food it had stopped snowing, and we decided we may as well keep going, at least for a bit, to see what the path was like – if the weather turned bad again we could always turn back.



We started trying to make quicker time, remembering how little daylight we had down in the far South here. We start slogging up the final hill, a slippery track of snow covering boulders, with big steps up, and of course snow covering everything we can use to balance ourselves or push up on. Between the snow and the pace we’re scrambling up the hill, we’re getting thoroughly soggy. But we finally make it to the top, and see the Torres del Paine, with their pet glacier and lake. Although there’s blue sky behind us, the Torres remain swathed in grey cloud – it seems they like to be atmospheric.

And then we hike out again, and the weather and the colours of Patagonia were beautiful.



general travel

arriving in patagonia

The best part about the plane ride from Santiago down to Patagonia was not flying past the erupting Chaitan volcano, but getting to see all of the enormous glaciers rampaging about the place.



We flew into Punta Arenas, and wandered down to the beach to look out across the Strait of Magellan towards Tierra del Fuego. Because we could. And stood at 53° 10′ latitude on the beach, and felt very southerly. Unfortunately we weren’t going any further South, and instead wandered up North to Puerto Natales.

Puerto Natales had brightly coloured doors



And flamingos! They looked very flamboyant against the dull grey of the cloudy day and icy water.