Wagashi: Japanese Sweet with Otemoto Stick
Wagashi: Japanese Sweet with Otemoto Stick
Nice sculture in our floor's elevator lobby
Nice sculture in our floor's elevator lobby
Jun 302011
Gray-necked Wood-rail (Aramides cajanea)
Gray-necked Wood-rail (Aramides cajanea)

On our second day of the park tour we left the San Miguel de Bala community and headed up river to Madidi National Park.  After about 30 minutes of motoring we stopped at a small hut along the bank of the river that serves as the park ranger station.  We paid our entry fee (125 Bs, $18) and continued to the point where the Rio Tuiche branches off from the Rio Beni.  Despite the recent flooding there were many shallow areas along the way and it was entertaining to watch our guide fight his way around the rocky spots.

White-Lipped Peccary (Tayassu pecari)
White-Lipped Peccary (Tayassu pecari)

Eventually we pulled up along a rather nondescript section of the river bank and unloaded our bags. Our guide told us that he could smell chanchos (wild pigs) and that we might get to see them.  Sure enough, after we walked the half-mile to the ecolodge we came upon a group of a couple of dozen milling around the camp – talk about stinky!

We spent a total of two nights at the ecolodge in the park.  The accommodations were a little less sophisticated than what we had in the community but let’s face it – we were in the middle of the jungle.  The sleeping area consisted of a building divided into three rooms and the bathroom was a separate hut with running water.

Our fleeting glimpse of a tamarin.  Saddle Backed Tamarin (Saguinus fuscicollis)
Our fleeting glimpse of a tamarin. Saddle Backed Tamarin (Saguinus fuscicollis)

The main activity at the ecolodge was going on hikes through the surrounding jungle.  Over the two days we completed 5 or 6 hikes with our guide who had an uncanny ability to spot, smell and hear animals.  On our first walk through the woods we darted off the path after he heard the high-pitched whistling sound of a saddle-backed tamarin.  We eventually caught up to the small primate but he (or she?) was still really difficult to see high in the canopy.

Poison frog
Poison frog

Even though the monkeys and colorful birds are the most popular sights among tourists I found the smaller wildlife equally interesting.  Everywhere you look there are strange types of insects, lizards, plants and fungi on just about every surface.  Our guide pointed out a nest of bullet ants which are inch-long insects that get their name from the pain associated with their bite.  One of the teenagers at the community mentioned that he had been bit by one and spent the subsequent hours weeping in agonizing pain from the bite.  The Wikipedia article on the subject states “waves of burning, throbbing, all-consuming pain that continues unabated for up to 24 hours.” Note to self: avoid bullet ants.

Leaf-cutter ant superhighway
Leaf-cutter ant superhighway

The famous leaf-cutter ants were good fun to watch.  Spotting them is easy: you just look for the foot-wide river of leaves floating along the ground.  The pieces they carry dwarf the ants themselves.  Did you know that leaf-cutter ants are farmers?  They take the leaves back to their nests where they decompose and serve as fertilizer for a fungus that the ants in turn consume.

We found plenty of feathered friends in the jungle.  The toucans were a favorite and we came across the channel-billed variety on a couple of different occasions.  There were also various birds of prey, woodpeckers, water birds, etc.  Check out the thumbnail pictures below for more birds.

Male howler monkey
Male howler monkey

Monkey-wise the jungle treated us well.  It took about five walks and lots of effort but eventually we found some howler monkeys.  Hearing them is simple since their calls carry for miles through the jungle but getting close enough to see them through the dense foliage is another matter.  On our last day, as if out of spite, a large group of them came straight to the ecolodge and hung out in the canopy eating leaves for a couple of hours.  The males are strikingly large compared to the females.

So that wraps up our visit to Madidi National Park.  We returned to Rurre in the boat on our forth day and worked on booking the next adventure.  Heading the other direction from Rurre it is possible to visit Bolivia’s Pampas or grasslands.  It is an area not too different from the Florida Everglades that is chock full of birds, caiman, and monkeys.  More on that in the next post.

Madidi National Park – Part 2
Bullet ants
Bullet ants
Tayra (Eira barbara) tracks.  This critter sort of looks like an otter.
Tayra (Eira barbara) tracks. This critter sort of looks like an otter.
Our first capybara sighting
Our first capybara sighting
Macaws
Macaws
Orinono geese (neochen jubata)
Orinono geese (neochen jubata)
Gray-necked Wood-rail (Aramides cajanea)
Gray-necked Wood-rail (Aramides cajanea)
White-Lipped Peccary (Tayassu pecari)
White-Lipped Peccary (Tayassu pecari)
Solar panels and papayas
Solar panels and papayas
Fresh papaya juice in the making
Fresh papaya juice in the making
Poison frog
Poison frog
Some sort of turkey
Some sort of turkey
Some of the local plants are traditionally used as skin pigments
Some of the local plants are traditionally used as skin pigments
Vine snake?
Vine snake?
Our fleeting glimpse of a tamarin.  Saddle Backed Tamarin (Saguinus fuscicollis)
Our fleeting glimpse of a tamarin. Saddle Backed Tamarin (Saguinus fuscicollis)
Massive trees!
Massive trees!
Termites: They prefer to travel in these mud tunnels.
Termites: They prefer to travel in these mud tunnels.
Two beetles rolling a ball of mud (dung?)
Two beetles rolling a ball of mud (dung?)
Taking pictures of mushrooms
Taking pictures of mushrooms
Leaf-cutter ant superhighway
Leaf-cutter ant superhighway
Walking Tree - these trees can actually move themselves!
Walking Tree – these trees can actually move themselves!
Owl butterfly
Owl butterfly
Baby tarantula
Baby tarantula
Channel-billed Toucan (Ramphastos vitellinus)
Channel-billed Toucan (Ramphastos vitellinus)
Footprint of a jaguar
Footprint of a jaguar
Female howler monkey
Female howler monkey
Male howler monkey
Male howler monkey
Macaws
Macaws

Jun 222011

Just a quick post from sunny Hamilton, Montana.  It’s the day after the summer solstice as well as the day after my little brother’s wedding.  We had a picture perfect weather yesterday for the ceremony from the Trapper Peak Overlook in Montana’s Bitterroot Valley.  Fortunately all the guests made it up the forestry service road and back down again for the reception that followed.

Now that my duties as best man are finished I will do my best to get the blog posts flowing within the next couple of days.  I still have a couple of weeks worth of Bolivia to write about including an incredible visit to Lake Titicaca.  After that I will explain where we are headed once we leave Montana.  I can promise that some exotic destinations are in the not-too-distant future – we will be flying over 19,000 miles in the first two weeks after we leave the States on July 10!

Jun 132011
Our guide
Our guide

Visiting Madidi National Park is a multi-day process once one makes it to Rurrenabaque.  Wandering the streets of Rurre we passed dozens and dozens of agencies offering tours of the park.  We had read online that it was best to avoid the cheapest options in order to get a responsible company that treats both the park and the animals ethically.  We also heard recommendations for a number of community-run park tours: Chalalán, San Miguel de Bala and one other.

In the end we selected San Miguel de Bala.  While the Chalalán eco-lodge is the best known, it is a long five-hour boat ride from Rurre and was also quite pricey at over $400 per person for a four-day inclusive tour.  San Miguel de Bala’s pricing was lower ($300 per person, 4-day inclusive) and their jungle lodge is only about 2.5 hours by boat from Rurre.  The specific tour that we booked allowed us to stay in their village for the first night (about an hour upriver from Rurre) and then the second and third nights in their jungle lodge off the Tuiche River inside of Madidi National Park.

We departed from Rurre at about 8:30 in the morning on Day 1 and made the quick trip up to San Miguel de Bala.  The lodge was actually a collection of buildings on stilts.  There was a kitchen/dining building and a communal gathering building that were quite close to the banks of the river.  The guest cabins, which each  have their own bathroom, are further up the mountainside.

Typical house in San Miguel de Bala
Typical house in San Miguel de Bala

After we settled in to our nicely appointed bungalow, we headed off with our guide Simon to see his hometown – the village of San Miguel de Bala.  The village is home to about 30 familes of Tacana Indians and is a short walk down the river from the eco-lodge.  Simon showed us his childhood home, the homes of some of his siblings as well as the village’s church and school.  At one point we stopped to squeeze some sugar cane juice which we mixed with fresh lime – exceptionally tasty!

Squeezing sugarcane
Squeezing sugarcane

At the end of the village tour, one of the community’s dugout canoes picked us up at the village and took us to the eco-lodge for lunch.  The tourist facilities are quite large at San Miguel – I think they can host upwards of 40 or 50 guests but that day Amy and I were the only ones.  Following proper Latin American procedure, we climbed  in the hammocks for a short siesta after lunch.

Siesta time!
Siesta time!

The afternoon tour was to a rock canyon that is about 20 minutes down the river.  The canyon was only about 2-3 feet wide and was filled with bats.  Between the bats, the worms and the huge spiders it was definitely pretty high on my list of creepy-crawly places!  We also got to see some nice birds in the boat along the way.  All in all, a good first day on the tour!

King Vulture
King Vulture


Madidi National Park – Part 1
The booming metropolis of Rurrenabaque
The booming metropolis of Rurrenabaque
Setting out on the 90-minute boat ride from Rurre to San Miguel de Bala
Setting out on the 90-minute boat ride from Rurre to San Miguel de Bala
Jumping fish
Jumping fish
Leaf cutter ants
Leaf cutter ants
The center of the village: football field, school, church.
The center of the village: football field, school, church.
Typical house in San Miguel de Bala
Typical house in San Miguel de Bala
Squeezing sugarcane
Squeezing sugarcane
Refreshing sugarcane with lime.
Refreshing sugarcane with lime.
Rigging a trap to smash some chanchos (wild pigs)
Rigging a trap to smash some chanchos (wild pigs)
Siesta time!
Siesta time!
The river is thick with fish.
The river is thick with fish.
A spider for ever rock along the river bank.
A spider for ever rock along the river bank.
Buzzards and their king fighting over a couple catfish carcasses
Buzzards and their king fighting over a couple catfish carcasses
King Vulture
King Vulture
I am a giant (with awesome boots)!
I am a giant (with awesome boots)!
The entrance to the rock canyon
The entrance to the rock canyon
Bats
Bats
Our guide
Our guide


Flying to RBQ

Bolivia Comments Off
Jun 082011

When I told a good friend of mine that I flew to RBQ, his first comment was “Isn’t that the name of a sandwich at Arby’s?”  Indeed, it is the name of a sandwich at Arby’s (the Arby-Q) but RBQ is also the airport code for Rurrenabque, Bolivia – Bolivia’s gateway to the Amazon Basin.

Rurre is about 150 miles from La Paz as the condor flies and there are two ways to get there.  Option 1 is a long bus ride that takes 18 hours in the best of cases and often as much as 30, and as a bonus, having a ticket doesn’t necessarily mean you will have a seat.  Option 2 is a short 40 minute flight.  Advice from other travelers was unanimous: take the plane!

For about $150 with picked up round-trip tickets with Amaszonas (Z8 to us airline nerds) in their Fairchild Metroliner 23 which makes the trip to RBQ seven times daily.  Check-in at La Paz’s El Alto International Airport was much like the process for any other airline at any other airport in the world.  ID check, a few questions about baggage and the selection of seats.  After paying the departure tax we headed through security for a efficient-and-respectful (read: outside-of-the-USA) security check.

Nice tow for the powercart!
Nice tow for the powercart!

Our aircraft arrived about 30 minutes late and the ground crew set to work on the turn.  Much of this was fairly normal, although, I was entertained when they pulled the power cart up with what appeared to be rust-colored late 80′s Fiat Uno.  Refueling, a walk-around by the new crew, and baggage loading took all of twenty minutes and soon after they called us for boarding.

We had seats in row 9, the very last row of the 19-seat aircraft.   The last row is actually three seats across but the middle was unoccupied so all together we had 18 passengers, a captain and a first officer.  After everyone was onboard the captain yelled something to the passengers in the first few rows.  It may have been about the huge backpack in Mr. Seat 2A’s lap or it could have been a safety announcement, I am not sure which.  Either way, it must not have been too important because a few seconds later the engines started up and we started to roll.

The takeoff roll down runway 28L seemed exceptionally long but I guess most of that was due to the thin hot air at El Alto’s ridiculous 13,400ft (I guess that means most jumbos have to de-pressurize before landing here!).  Once airborne, we climbed to the west for a good while and caught a glimpse of Lake Titicaca before turning back to the east to shoot the pass through the Cordillera Real.  The views through the desolate and glaciated mountains was spectacular though the ride was quite bumpy.  Mere minutes after passing the Cordillera, it was as if the Earth just fell away as the Altiplano gave way to the Amazon Basin.

Just before arrival in Rurre we passed over a couple smaller mountain ranges covered in jungle as well as the town of Rurre itself.  Touchdown on RBQ’s runway 32 was nice and smooth and I got to experience my first dirt taxiway a few moments later (complete with horses roaming about).

Turning on to the downwind leg.
Turning on to the downwind leg.
RBQ
RBQ

Our return trip, one week later, was much the same although the weather was rainy and dreary and we suffered a 3-hour delay.  I am happy to report that the open-air RBQ terminal has a proper complement of stray dogs, a detached eatery and the most outhouse-like bathrooms I have experienced at any commercial air terminal.  My biggest regret is that I didn’t ask the guy running the show if I could come up into the small control tower to get a picture!

RBQ toilet and eatery
RBQ toilet and eatery

When it was time for us to go, we found out that we had to load ourselves back in the bus that had brought us from downtown Rurre.  The dirt taxiway we had used the week before was impassable thanks to the soggy ground so the bus took us out on the runway to meet the plane.  Inboard passengers got to stand in the drizzle while their bags were unloaded then we traded places with them.  Amaszonas doesn’t refuel at RBQ (they carry enough fuel from La Paz) so the turn was nice and speedy, I bet the plane was on the ground less than 15 minutes!

Aircraft servicing on the runway (due to muddy taxiways)
Aircraft servicing on the runway (due to muddy taxiways)

The 40-minute flight back was surprisingly smooth considering the violent thunderstorms we had had the night before.  My window fogged over pretty badly thanks to the humidity so I did the best I could with the photos.  The view of the Cordillera was again spectacular and before we knew it we were touching down on 10R at El Alto.  All in all a great trip, although, I will admit I was a bit nervous flying a rural Bolivian airline!  Next up on the blog will be our tour through Madidi National Park.  More photos below, just click the thumbnails.

LPB-RBQ
Inbound aircraft arriving at El Alto Airport
Inbound aircraft arriving at El Alto Airport
Nice tow for the powercart!
Nice tow for the powercart!
All loaded up!
All loaded up!
Turning on to the downwind leg.
Turning on to the downwind leg.
Passing Rurrenabaque and the Beni River
Passing Rurrenabaque and the Beni River
On bumpy final into RBQ.
On bumpy final into RBQ.
RBQ
RBQ
Very happy to be on the ground.
Very happy to be on the ground.
The return trip started on a rainy day after a three-hour delay
The return trip started on a rainy day after a three-hour delay
Hand-written boarding passes!
Hand-written boarding passes!
One of the competing carriers.
One of the competing carriers.
RBQ toilet and eatery
RBQ toilet and eatery
Aircraft servicing on the runway (due to muddy taxiways)
Aircraft servicing on the runway (due to muddy taxiways)
Seat controls (luz, not working)
Seat controls (luz, not working)
Parking next to some classics
Parking next to some classics
Happy survivors!
Happy survivors!

Nothing terribly exciting to report about La Paz.  We arrived by overnight bus from Sucre, a ride which was surprisingly comfortable given it was on a Bolivian bus.  We looked into flying but the prices were high and the day we wanted to leave were sold out.  The 12-hours on a discarded Argentine bus (full-cama) went by quickly enough.

Houses coat the walls of the valley
Houses coat the walls of the valley

We stayed at a hotel called Cruz de Andes that smack bang in the middle of the tourist ghetto and co-located with the Mercado de las Brujas (Witch’s Market).  Having to walk past dried llama feetuses to get to/from our room was a bit annoying but the location was convenient enough.  On the morning of our arrival we dropped by the Museo de Coca which addresses the controversial plant.  Coca has been cultivated traditional in this part of the Andes for thousands of years and is usually chewed or brewed in a tea by the locals.  This was all well and good until somewhere figured out how to refine it into cocaine (and other drugs).  Nowadays there is a heated controversy whether the Andean people should be allowed to continue their tradition.

Big mean Dodge minibuses.
Big mean Dodge minibuses.

Walking around in La Paz is a pain!  Aside from the annoying hills and altitude, the sidewalks are completely cluttered with all sorts of wares.  Blankets, hats, fried nuts, fruits, etc.  There is very little room to move around.  Crossing streets is also a bit of a challenge.  Few streets in La Paz have traffic signals so most intersections are a free-for-all.  The minibuses, micros, taxis and common cars all continuous fight for right away and I can assure you that pedestrians are not a high priority for any of them.  Entertainingly, along the main thoroughfare in La Paz one can see crossing guards that the city has hired to help people cross the road – they even make them wear zebra costumes!

Crossing guards / zebras
Crossing guards / zebras

Well that is about it for La Paz.  Like I said, nothing all that special – just a big city.  After La Paz we took a trip to Rurrenabaque to see Madidi National Park.  The photos are quite good we think (hint hint: monkeys and toucans!) so stay tuned!

La Paz, Bolivia
The witch's market near where we stayed.  Plenty of dried llama fetuses if you are looking for one.
The witch’s market near where we stayed. Plenty of dried llama fetuses if you are looking for one.
Point-to-point wiring.  Not as bad as some I've seen but a commendable effort.
Point-to-point wiring. Not as bad as some I’ve seen but a commendable effort.
Houses coat the walls of the valley
Houses coat the walls of the valley
Big mean Dodge minibuses.
Big mean Dodge minibuses.
Crossing guards / zebras
Crossing guards / zebras
Reject Bluebird school buses also roam the streets.
Reject Bluebird school buses also roam the streets.
A friendly ice cream dealer at Plaza Avaroa
A friendly ice cream dealer at Plaza Avaroa
Not the best, but not bad.
Not the best, but not bad.
Illimani looms over La Paz - 21,122 ft
Illimani looms over La Paz – 21,122 ft
Old ladies at kiosks sell cheap ($0.14) soda all over La Paz.
Old ladies at kiosks sell cheap ($0.14) soda all over La Paz.

Farm machinery is very uncommon in Bolivia.
Farm machinery is very uncommon in Bolivia.

Leaving the thin air in Potosí was a welcome change.  The bus ride to Sucre was an easy three hour affair that took us through some scenic Bolivian countryside.  Since we started our trip in the mostly desert-like southwest, this was the first glipse we had at Bolivian agriculture.  The small fields of wheat and corn were familiar sights but what was amazing was the lack of farm machinery.  I can’t recall any other time that I have seen people out harvesting wheat by hand.  Bolivia may be a poor country but the land is fertile and the people certainly work hard.

Visiting the town’s market was good fun.  Fruit juices are very popular in Sucre and the market’s selection did not disappoint.  The market also had lots of old ladies selling every type of potato you can imagine and then some.  Did you know that there are literally hundreds of types of potatoes in Bolivia and Peru?

Japanese buses!  This one was from Shinjo - near Sendai.
Japanese buses! This one was from Shinjo – near Sendai.

The narrow streets of Sucre and clogged with small buses, many of which are surplus from Japan.  Most of them still have the original paintjob complete with Japanese lettering, phone numbers, etc.  What I haven’t been able to figure out is how they convert them from left-hand drive to right-hand drive while still maintaining the original paint scheme.

Sucre, Bolivia
Sucre, Bolivia

Amy had her turn with food poisoning one of the days we were in Sucre.  That was the day we had planned to go to Tarabuco, a small village about an hour away, to see the once-weekly market.  I headed out there on my own and decided to use the local transport (shared vans) instead of the tourist bus.  It was a cheap ride but the legroom was painfully limited!  On the way home I talked my way onto a tourist bus for the price of shared van.  Go me.

The market was quite touristy but it was still fun to have a look around.  I ran into our Dutch friends (from the salt flat tour) in Tarabuco and we grabbed some lunch.  My soup had a nice surprise!

Why hello there Mr. Chicken.
Why hello there Mr. Chicken.
Sucre, Bolivia
Farm machinery is very uncommon in Bolivia.
Farm machinery is very uncommon in Bolivia.
The courtyard at our guesthouse in Sucre.
The courtyard at our guesthouse in Sucre.
Bolivia's shield is carried by the mighty condor!
Bolivia’s shield is carried by the mighty condor!
Plenty of fruit juice vendors to choose from!
Plenty of fruit juice vendors to choose from!
Japanese buses!  This one was from Shinjo - near Sendai.
Japanese buses! This one was from Shinjo – near Sendai.
Sucre, Bolivia
Sucre, Bolivia
Generous legroom on the one-hour ride to Tarabuco
Generous legroom on the one-hour ride to Tarabuco
Coca leaf vendor
Coca leaf vendor
A statue of an indigenous person tearing the heart out of a Spaniard.
A statue of an indigenous person tearing the heart out of a Spaniard.
Traffic in Tarabuco
Traffic in Tarabuco
Why hello there Mr. Chicken.
Why hello there Mr. Chicken.
Foosball in the street, a common sight in Bolivia
Foosball in the street, a common sight in Bolivia
Some traditional snacks at Salón de Té: Las Delicias
Some traditional snacks at Salón de Té: Las Delicias

Potosí, Bolivia

Bolivia Comments Off
Jun 022011

Once our salt flat tour wrapped up, the primary mission was to get out of Uyuni.  In all honesty, the town is a trashy dump that seems to exist solely for tourism (although it was once an important railroad interchange).  There were two highlights of our brief stop in Uyuni: 1) having a pizza at Minuteman Pizza (owned by a guy from Amherst, MA) 2) leaving town.  It was raining when we woke up but fortunately it was only a five minute slog over to the bus.

The snowy mountains outside of Uyuni
The snowy mountains outside of Uyuni

The bus was not exactly a fancy double-decker Argentine bus but it was fairly new and the seats were in good shape.  It lacked a video system which meant we wouldn’t have to endure hours of terrible movies.  Of course, there were other factors that made the six hour ride a bit suboptimal.

Climbing out of Uyuni it didn’t take long until the drizzle of rain turned into snow.  We passed Pulacayo, a once-mighty mining town and a few other small villages high in the mountains.  I had hoped that the bus would warm up after we got moving but it just kept getting colder and colder.  The weather outside toggled between rain and snow as we climbed and descended through the mountains.

Our rest stop on the way from Uyuni to Potosí.  Snow/rain/slush and some very meager food options.
Our rest stop on the way from Uyuni to Potosí. Snow/rain/slush and some very meager food options.

About halfway through the trip we stopped at some dumpy settlement high in the mountains.  There were a couple of adobe buildings and a small shack for the pigs that lived there.  Conditions were cold and snowy and even the pigs couldn’t be bothered to come out to see us.

Is this really South America?
Is this really South America?

Closer to Potosí the weather got even worse.  Heavy snow and, being in Bolivia, I wasn’t exactly expecting to see battalions of snow plows.  Sure enough, on a few of the passes we came to a complete halt while the motorists attempted to clear the road with shovels.  The music track for this comedy was dueling music between passengers: one guy in the back with a boombox versus two guys in the front with cellphones.  A fun ride indeed!  Fortunately, we made it safely to Potosí and to a nice hotel in the center of the old city.

Potosí was once one of the most productive silver mines in the world.  Most of Spain’s silver came from Cerro Rico, the mountain adjacent to town.  Apparently hundreds of thousands of people have died in dangerous mines.  The most popular tourist activity in Potosí is a visit to these mines which are now run by local cooperatives.  We had heard mixed things about the mine tours and decided against a visit.

Potosí, Bolivia - Cerro Rico, the silver mountain at left.
Potosí, Bolivia – Cerro Rico, the silver mountain at left.

Despite skipping the mines, we still got a good taste of what the Spaniards really wanted with the town.  We visited the Casa de la Moneda, Spain’s former coin mint, and saw everything from the crude machinery used to make the coins to the horrific conditions that both people and animals were forced to work.

Next up on the blog, Sucre, Bolivia’s white city.

Potosí, Bolivia
The snowy mountains outside of Uyuni
The snowy mountains outside of Uyuni
Our rest stop on the way from Uyuni to Potosí.  Snow/rain/slush and some very meager food options.
Our rest stop on the way from Uyuni to Potosí. Snow/rain/slush and some very meager food options.
Is this really South America?
Is this really South America?
The central market in Potosí
The central market in Potosí
Buying some salteñas (the local take on empanadas)
Buying some salteñas (the local take on empanadas)
Rotary-dial pay phone.  Only in Bolivia.
Rotary-dial pay phone. Only in Bolivia.
Potosí, Bolivia - Cerro Rico, the silver mountain at left.
Potosí, Bolivia – Cerro Rico, the silver mountain at left.
Our guesthouse in Potosí...
Our guesthouse in Potosí…
...and the courtyard inside.
…and the courtyard inside.
Beer is nice and fizzy at 4,060m!
Beer is nice and fizzy at 4,060m!
Buying some fresh OJ
Buying some fresh OJ

A slight detour

Bolivia, Chile Comments Off
Jun 012011

Our time in South America is rapidly coming to a close.  We are scheduled to fly back to the States from Lima, Peru on June 7th for my brother’s wedding.  We thought we had everything planned out, that was until a good old South American protest got in the way.

After leaving La Paz, Bolivia we had hoped to cross into Peru and hit up some of the major sights.  A few days around Lake Titicaca then a short flight over to Cuzco to check out Machu Picchu followed by another short flight into Lima to link up with our award ticket back to the States.  Unfortunately, the border between Bolivia and Peru was closed by large scale protests (about mining rights) in Peru about three weeks ago.  From what we read in the news, all of the possible land border crossings have been closed by the protesters.  Looting, burning cars in the streets, gunfire and what-have-you are the sorts of things in the news.  Not exactly where we want to be.

Most of the other travelers we have met are planning to detour through Chile in order to continue their trips into Peru.  Flying is also possible but prices are sky-high due to the increased demand as well as Bolivia’s crazy ticket taxes.  The vast majority of Peru is still safe for travel but we decided it would be too much of a rush to fit in this detour.  Instead, we opted to visit the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca and then use some miles to get from northern Chile (Arica to be exact) to Lima for our flight home.  It is an 8-hour bus ride from La Paz to Arica but that hopefully won’t be too bad.

The only routing available was via Santiago but that was still preferable to many hours on Peruvian buses and giving up our visit to Lake Titicaca.  We will be making a two-day stop in Santiago and then will continue on to Lima, Miami, Denver then finally Montana.  Peru will just have to wait for another trip.  Of course the blog posts will keep coming over the next few weeks…I have quite a backlog of stories and photos to share!


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