Location: Cusco, Peru
We left the smoldering volcanoes of Arequipa, for the tourist capital of Peru.
Arrived really early in the morning, after very little sleep, and checked in to our dorm room. Only the second time we've stayed in a dorm the whole time we've been away, and we realized why. Listening to other people snore is a surefire way to even more bad kip.
So we hit the town, sampled some of Cuscos nightlife and got taken under the wing of some friendly locals. Stumbled back to our dorm in the early hours, and then checked out a few hours later so we could stay somewhere decent.
Explored the Sacred Valley with main Inca ruins and picked up a few little souvenirs. Got the train towards Machu Piccu today, tried to climb up to a view point before realizing it was way too dodgy. Go to the famous site tomorrow, picture to follow in a couple of days.
Location: Colca Canyon, Peru
Accourding to a new study this is the deepest canyon in the world, (previously thought to be the second deepest)
We completed a three day trek, climbing in and out of the canyon staying in the back end of nowhere, meeting proper locals. Getting really close to Condors, and partying in tiny towns, beautiful place with cool people.
Location: Copacabana, Bolivia
Is a small enchanting town on the edge of Lake Titicaca southern shore. Its also a place of high altitude set at 3800m. It was a pleasant little town where we had the famous Trucha (trout) which is court fresh out of the Lake and served on your plate.
We did a one day tour of the Isle del Sul (island of the sun) which, is the legendary Inca creation site and is the birthplace of the sun in Inca mythology. It was here the bearded white god Viracocha and the first Incas, Manco Capac and his sister-wife Mama Huaca made their mystical appearances. We took the boat over to the island in the morning and from there we walked the 6k of the island to the southern tip along the way we saw the Inca ruins of Pilko Kaina and Chincana which, is where the Inca creation legend began.
From here were getting a bus into Peru and into Ardequipa.
Location: La Paz, Bolivia
We got a luxury tourist bus to La Paz which, was so much better than the bus we got over the border which was an experience I did not want to repeat.
Apparently, one of the worlds highest capitals except its not the captial of Bolivia, Sucre is?? Anyway, its plopped in a chasm at a height of 3660m and is something words cannot describe. The whole city seems to be clinging to cliff edges and the amount of houses in such a small space is something else all together. On arrival we could see the triple peak of Illimani (6402m) and sits in the background. Probably the best thing about La Paz was the 100% fake English Pub which, actually served beans on toast and real tea. We spent most of our time in La Paz in bars and in the markets. Andy, did the worlds most dangerous road (he'll put a diary entry on for this at a later date).
Location: Uyuni, Bolivia
We made it across the Chilean border and into Bolivia after much waiting around and long bus journeys. We got our first taste of Buses Bolviian style which, generally means cramming as many people as possible into the tinist buses imaginable.
Salar de Uuyni, are the worlds largest salts flats they sit at 3653m and blankets an amazing 12,000sq km. It was part of a prehistoric salt lake, Lago Minchin, which covered the southwest Bolivia. When it dried up it left a couple of seasonal puddles and several salt pans, including Salar de Uyuni and Salar de Coipasa. On the first day we visited Isla de los Pescadores bears amazing stands of giant cactus and a marooned colony of Vizcachas (long tailed rodents realted to the chinchillas). Our lodings for the first night there were at Palacio de Sal, which is literally a hotel made entirley of salt (see pictures).
The second day we got up early to watch the sunrise over the salt flats and then we headed off to see several startlingly beautiful sights. The surreal landscape is nearly treeless, punctuated by gentle hills and volcanoes. There were also loads of Flamingos including the rare James specicies. We headed to see several Lagunas the most notable been the Laguna Colorada which is a bright red lake fringed with white minerals. We spent the night by the lake in a less comfortable hotel but neverless it was still good.
We had an early morning start (5.00am!!!) so that we could get to the gyser basin for sunrise. The gysers are located at 4950m high and it was pretty spectacular with its boiling mud pots and sulfurous fumaroles. We then headed for the Termas de Polques hot springs which spout a comfortable 30deg cel sulfurous water and provided a nice morning dip at 4200m. Our final stop was at Laguna Verde, an aquamarine lake, which is tucked intoBolivias Southwest corner at 5000m. Behind the lake rises the dramatic 5930m cone of Volcan Licancabur.
Location: Santiago, Chile
Mendoza has wide shady sidewalks and beautiful plazas it has good restaurants as well but some give you food poisoning! The region produces 70% of the country's wine and the whole place is just wine crazy. Apart from wine there isn't much to keep you there for more than a few days. So we left here to go to Santiago.
Santiago has a strong European and US feel to it; it has a lot of sidewalk cafes and streets are lined with glassy skyscrapersérs that overpower the smaller original buildings. The area we stayed in was Bellavista which has loads of nice restaurants and night clubs. Although, full potential wasn't reached on this as I had food poisoning from Mendoza (rubbish).
At 870m Cerro San Cristobal towers above Santiago and is the site of the Parque Metropolitano the capitals largest open space. We took the easy option and got a cable car up there's instead of the long winding walk. At the top is a statue of Saint (not sure which one there's so many here). It was most definitely a Jessy Cressy place they had music playing which you would expect a stone henge and lots of candles and stuff. It gave a great view over the city however, the Andes weren't very clear due to all the smog.
The best news to come out of our trip, was for those that know about the paintings, we've actually managed to send them home (yeah!). We took them into the post office and like Argentina they told us, in Argentina, we need a certificate but unlike Argentina they told us where to get it from. So we had to take the paintings to the Arts Museum and they authorize them and say basically there legal for export. So with certificate in hand we take them to the post office and it only costs us 25quid to send them home instead of $430 which DHL wanted.
We left Santiago yesterday and today we are now in a place called Calama there's not much here but were just using it as a quick stop over before we get a bus to Bolivia this evening. We're now heading to Uyuni this is where all the tours start for going to the Bolivian salt flats.
Location: Bariloche, Argentina
To one of the most famous view points in the world. We've been in and around Bariloche for ages now and we nearly missed this place.
Short bus ride out of town, then the lazy mans way up a hill (chair lift) to fantastic views over Bariloche and it's surrounding lakes and mountains. We'll let the photos speak for themselves.
We then took a bike ride around the lakes, to sucluded beaches, beautiful Miradors, while eyeing up some of the most stunning houses in Argentina. Great way to end our time in Bariloche. A big thanks to Ian for such a great day.
Location: Tronador, Argentina
We decided to see a bit more scenery around Bariloche before we left, and get to summit while high Andes. Mount Tronador was our target which stands at its highest 3440m high, after two previously failed summit attempts our fingers were all crossed for decent weather this time around.
The weather was perfect, for our first days climbing though the trees, we rose over the tree line to fantastic views of the near mountians and glaciers. But our mouths really dropped when a huge male Condor (3m+ wingspan) passed only 5m above our heads, even after watching them for nearly a month we`d never been that close to one in flight, truely astounding.
We climbed to just over 2000m upto the Refugio; now lets get one thing straight Refugio's are usually just mountain huts that have basic facilities i.e. a roof and a floor. We get to this one at 4:30pm and it looks like a basic mountain hut corrugated iron etc. However, we get inside there are flushing toilets (this was the most amazing thing that won't be appreciated at home), a real fire, tables, sofas, a kitchen with two huge bran-new stainless steel ovens and a dog. On a first night here we had the chef cook us a lomo steak in a fresh mushroom sauce and if we wished a bottle of red wine! All in all a top class refugio come hotel!
Our attempt on Tronador would see us have to get up at 4:30am to get breakfast and all our technical gear sorted. We were all ready to leave at 5:30am. The initial walking in crampons is always difficult you have to get used to the fact your feet way a hell of a lot more and therefore to walk is more like to stomp and therefore a lot more effort.
The walk was beautiful we were walking under a full moon under clear skies and therefore head torches weren't needed. There was something peaceful about walking under moon light with no one else around. You could see all the outlines of the mountains and when sunrise started around 7:30 the colours light up the sky as they gradually fall onto the Andes and onto the glacier we were walking on. The route we walked took us across two glaciers to get to the Argentine peak.
The last 20minutes of the trek to the summit were the most technical and thank god we had done ice climbing before, if you hadn't you would have been so scared. The summit was breath taking we were the highest thing for miles and in the far distant you could see the far Andes of Chile and in the other direction the lonely Volcan Lanin. After 6hours of ascent to the top it only took us 2.30hr to descend, which was more like crampon skiing than walking (great fun). We got back to the refugio and 3.30pm and decided to stay one more night before our descent down to the valley the next day., mountain concurred
First of all we would like to apologise for been completely lame on our update page, since only having a total of 8days out of three months in any kind of civilisation we didnt get the time to update anything. However, this expedition has now finished and therefore we have lots of time to waste again and make everyone jealous at home.
Lanin Nacional Parque
At 3776m, snow-capped Volcan Lanin is the dominating centrepiece of tranquil Parque Nacional Lanin, where extensive stands of lenga (souther beech) and the curious monkey puzzle tree flourish. The area used to be dominated in the not to distant past with glaciers as these have now almost disappeared it leaves behind blue finger shaped lakes which look a bit like the mirrored lakes famous in New Zealand. Lanin is a dormant volcano, the whole area used to be hugely active with one volcano per 5km2.
Lago Tromen where we were based is a forested area on the northern approach to Volcan Lanin, did we happen to mention that this lake was great for sunbathing on its small volcanic beach and swimming in its cristal clear water! (Are we back into the swing of things for making people jealous).
From Lago Tromen we went further South into the park to a place called Ruca Choroy, we spent around four days here doing various different jobs with the Monkey Puzzle tree known over here as the Araucaria. We spent time collecting species samples for the park biologist, Javar wanted samples of different height trees. So we went off and dug this 50cm tree up not thinking much of it but because of the way it had grown it was over 80years old and only 50cm high. The trees grow depending on the light condition so they may grow a stem for 20years decide that its not in a good position and grown another one etc etc and so can end up with 5different off shoots be only 50cm high but 80years old (sad really) especially when theres a 40ft tree next to it which may only be 50years old. On the last day here Andy choose to do a trek option to the next camp site and I choose to lay on a beach with a temperature of 30deg cel and an ice cold swim in a glacial lake (heaven). While Andy went off on a day trek, found a super cool ice cave and had a snowball fight.
Our last section of the park was spent in Cana Plantada which possibly takes the award for the most beautiful sun sets and sun rises seen on the whole trip. This camp was also famous for a less desirable reason because running right through the middle of our camp one day was a baby creature, in its self not to scary but where theres a baby theres usual more babies and a mum!!! (see photo page for pic, Arachnophobia anyone?).
The best thing about the park was scenery and I cant describe most of it so have look at photos. Finally, note in terms of weather this place is amazing, one day we were sunbathing on the beach in bikinis, the next day we have torrential rain in the morning and 2inches of snow in the afternoon. Only one day where it was cloudy, unfortunately that was the day we tried to climb the volcano
We spent the first week of our month at condors chilling out in La Butera which is the name given to the Estancia its located on. We stayed in a small log cabin which came equipped with a real fire burning stove, Baileys, Whisky and lots of food. The time spent here was probably the most chilled out you could imagine. Out of the 7nights that we were here we saw a max of 16 condors on the rock at the same time. The size of these birds is huge its on par with the Albatros (if that makes it any clearer) if not then take my word for it, its bloody huge, wingspan is 3m+.
From La Butera we went onto Fragua which is like base camp its used to be an old school house which has since become redundant and GVI have taken it over. Our time here was spent doing bird transects so we would go out and walk for 4km and say what you see! Its truly amazing we saw Cinereous Harriers, Condors, Crested Carcara (approx same size as an Osprey), Black Cheasted Buzzard Eagles, American Kestrels, Turkey Vultures, Pygmy Owls, Great Horned Owls, King Fishers etc basically lots and all of them come so close its amazing.
Our final part of Condors was spent in a place called Chaquinita, which is located on a private estancia belonging to the Benton family. The family own ridiculous amounts of land in Patagonia, they have sheep on the lands which they use the wool from to make Benton T-Shirts and stuff. The place is really remote, less than 10 people knew it existed before we turned up to watch Condors. Anyway, we were lucky to have the best fisherman out of the whole expedition with us for our time here. Steffan court us fresh brown and rainbow trout everyday and it tasted wonderful it took approx one hour from been caught to been on our plates (who could ask for more).
On the whole trip weve calculated weve had less than a weeks rain over three months, who ever said Patagonia has bad weather lied lol.