A Travellerspoint blog

Onward to Argentina

Red Meat and Red Wine

After my trip through the Salar I ended up hanging out in Tupiza for almost a week. I really enjoyed the desert scenery and the warm weather. All the cactus remind me of Texas. Spent part of each day hiking through the hillsides all around town.

I really loved the short time I spent in Bolivia but it was finally time to say goodbye, at least for now. TJT_5170_W.._Shadow.jpg

Argentina is a much better developed country. Forgot how nice it is to travel on actual paved roads in a bus instead of bouncing around on dirt roads in Bolivia. Bused to Salta, Argentina and stayed there a few days and enjoyed the food, warm weather and great ice cream. Everyone kept telling me during my travels how great the beef/meat is in Argentina. My first night in Salta I went up the street from my hostel to give it a try. I ordered parridillos and a beer. The waitress brought me a bottle of dark beer, a one liter bottle. She later arrived with probably 2lbs of french fries and 2lbs of various meats. Beef, pork, chicken, ribs, two kinds of sausage and a couple of other things I didn´t recognize. The meat was served on a habachi sized warming contraption that had hot charcoal underneath to keep it all warm. It was all so good. Total cost $16.00. I think I´m going to like Argentina!!

Currently in Cordoba, Argentina figuring out my next steps, sightseeing and planning on eating some more red meat!

The Road Goes on Forever and the Party Never Ends

Posted by timtheis 17:48 Comments (1)

Salar de Uyuni and Southwest Bolivia

Every Mile a Memory

When I last left you I was in La Paz, Bolivia. I said goodbye to my friends Rob & Naomi as they traveled down to Argentina. Fortunately I met up with some friends I made traveling from Cusco to Puno, Kim and Karen. They are also from England. I seem to be making tons of new friends from England lately, weird.

The three of us traveled down to Oruro and the next day grabbed a train to Uyuni. Train riding seems glamorous but not quite the same in Bolivia. Slow going! Uyuni also contains a train graveyard. Lots of old trains piled up on the edge of town rusting away in the dry, desert air. Just to clarify this was not the train we were on!

In Uyuni we booked a four day private tour of the Salar and Southwest Bolivia. It would just be the three of us as passengers in a land cruiser. A typical tour might have six or seven passengers in the same vehicle along with a driver and a cook. It was a little more money but worth every penny after we saw other vehicles packed with people especially when we were traveling four days. Our guide was named Luis, who also drove the Land Cruiser. He brought along a cook named Margarita who made us three good meals a day. Margarita brought along her four year old daughter named Darling who doesn´t like to stay home without her mother.

The first day we visited the Salar which is a huge salt lake. The salt is 2 meters thick at the edge of the lake and up to 40 meters thick in the center. It is such a big lake that it is visible from space.

Near the edge of the lake local families pile up salt into mounds to dry. They then sell the salt.

Luis then drove us to Isla del Pescado (Fish Island). It was about an hour drive going about 70 miles an hour across the salt flats. Amazing feeling pulling up towards the island, felt like you were in a boat as it neared an island in the water.
The island contains some animals and a bunch of cactus. We had lunch on the island while Luis changed the first of our flat tires. Here I am with Flat Stanley.

The small dot is a person walking on the salt.
Couple of jeeps heading away.

Karen, Luis and Kim leaning against our ride for the next four days.

Mountains in the distance

The complete whiteness distorts your sense of perspective. Here is a picture of Flat Stanley and it looks like he is holding me in his hand. No trick photography, just me standing about 100 yards away.

Here is one of Karen standing on Kim´s shoulder whispering in his ear.

One of myself and Karen standing in a pair of hiking boots.

Afterwards we drove another hour south to the southern edge of the salar.
We visited Galaxia Caverns which were only discovered five years ago. Some pretty neat formations and lots of people buried everywhere. A civilization used the caverns as a cemetary over 2,000 years ago. No pictures to upload of the inside of the caverns, sorry.

Luis than drove us to our hostel for the night, which was made entirely of salt. Tables, chairs, walls, the floor, beds (which luckily had a regular matteress on top). The roof was made of reed. Unique place, although it was very, very cold at night.

The next morning we drove off the Salar and headed up into the hills on rough, 4x4 roads. The salt was amazingly smooth, something we would all miss over the next three days. This morning we had our second flat of the trip.

We visited an overlook for Volcano Ollague. The volcano is venting steam and small amounts of ash. It is on the border of Bolivia and Chile.

After some more driving we arrived at Laguna Canapa.
Yes, those are flamingos at 12,000ft+ elevation. They fly from the coast to eat in shallow lakes. The white surface in the photos looks like snow but it is actually borax deposits in the lake. Very cool huh!

The second night we stayed near Laguna Colorado, Red Lake in english. The name seems appropriate after you look at the picture.
A corner of the lake was fed by a hot water spring. The flamingos would feed near the spring to stay warm.

The night near Laguna Colorado was far and away the coldest night of the trip, probably the coldest night of my entire South America journey. We stayed in a hostel at 4,400meters with no insulation and barely had running water. We rose at 5am to start our day and stood around shivering waiting for Luis. Finally we had found him still asleep in bed at 5:45. He rallied fast and got us to the geyser field just as the sun rose. There were geysers, mud pots, boiling water and steam vents just like Yellowstone park but on a smaller scale. The interesting thing was that you could walk anywhere you wished among the geysers, boiling water, etc just a little bit dangerous.
Did I mention how cold it was....

Later that morning we drove through another beautiful desert named, Salvador Dali Desert. It was one of my favorite places on the trip and the pictures just don´t do it justice.

Here is a photo of Laguna Kollpa which was so still that it perfectly reflected the surrounding mountains of Chile.

We saw tons of llamas along the route this day. They all had colorful braids tied to their ears and fur. Luis told us this was done in respect to ¨Pachamama¨or mother universe.

We visited a ghost town named San Antonio de Lipez. This town was abandoned by the inhabitants just 5-15 years ago. Everyone moved to a new town a few miles away because they felt that evil spirits inhabited the area. It was a very spooky place. Fittingly we had another flat tire in this ghost town. That´s flat tire #3 of the trip if you are keeping score.

We stayed the last night in the new town of San Antonio de Lipez. It was my best night of sleep on the whole Salar trip so I wasn´t bothered by any evil spirits although I did forget (lose) my mp3 player in the hostel so maybe a spirit wanted to listen to some good music from Texas :)

The next morning we stopped at San Vincente, Bolivia. There are some famous americanos buried in this cemetary. Can you guess who??

Here is a clue from the line in a movie about them....¨Kid, the next time I saw let´s go someplace like Bolivia, let´s go someplace like Bolivia.


Did you guess Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid. If you did you would be correct.

We made our way through some stunning landscape that reminded me of the American Southwest towards Tupiza, Bolivia near the border of Argentina.

We finally arrived in Tupiza, Bolivia and checked into our hotel. Nice to have a hot shower after four, dusty days in a Land Cruiser.

The following day we rented some horses for a ride through the desert canyons. I hadn´t been on a horse in probably 20+ years. Here we all are The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. I´ll let you figure out who is who.

Kim and Karen moved on to Potosi, Bolivia to continue their trip. I will move on to Argentina in a few days. I´m staying in Tupiza to hike around the canyons and enjoy being warm again for a few more days!!

The Road Goes on Forever and the Party Never Ends......

Posted by timtheis 12:55 Comments (0)


Getting high on Huayna Potosi

Well I am currently in La Paz, Bolivia. Getting to La Paz from Puno, Peru was fairly easy on a bus. I read that it involved taking a ferry ride across a narrow section of Lake Titicaca. I somehow imagined big ferries like in the Bay Area or Seattle but in hindsight that was pretty silly to think in South America. We got to the dock and everyone had to get off the bus. We crossed the strait in small boats. Our bus went across on this barge.
After seeing the name of the barge I was pretty happy to not be on the bus.

La Paz is a huge city surrounded by mountains. Lots of hustling and bustling in the city with crowds of people everywhere you go. Everynight on the street below my hostel and in the surrounding blocks a black market sets up. Interesting to see that you can buy DVDs of movies still showing in theaters in the US. Anyone want a $5.00 pair of brand new Nikes? You can buy just about anything if you wander around long enough.

I met up with a couple from my Salkantay trek in Peru, Rob & Naomi.

We wanted to do another adventure together so we checked into climbing one of the surrounding mountains, Huayna Potosi. Rob decided against climbing but Naomi and I were up for trying so a couple of days later off we went. Huayna Potosi is 6,088 meters high, 19,973 feet, far and away the highest thing that I have ever climbed. Our guide service Bolivian Mountains was highly recommended and in fact took the former president of Bolivia up this same peak. We loaded up with another climber, Charles who had signed up for the climb and off the three of us went. This is our vehicle loaded up with gear and Huayna Potosi in the background.
A little further down the road another view of the mountain, hope this isn´t a bad omen.

Set up our camp the first day, then hiked up to a glacier to practice walking on crampons and using ice axes with our guides, Jose & Freddie. The hike also helped us get aclimatised to the altitude. Here is our guide Jose going up an ice wall with his axes.
Here is me with my buddy Flat Stanley. In the background you can see a glacial lake.

The next morning we hiked further up the mountain to a refugio at 5,130m, adaptly named rock camp since it was on a huge pile of rocks.

Rested all afternoon. Ate dinner at 5:00pm and went to bed since we were getting up at 1:30am to start up the mountain. I should say that we tried to go to sleep. Our bedroom was the upper floor of the lodge. The entire floor was one big room covered wall-to-wall with pads. A six inch gap ran down the middle, in theory it was where you should walk but everyone piled up their gear in that space. The room filled up by 7:00pm with about 40 other climbers.

Naomi, Charles and I all laid shoulder to shoulder with everyone else. Not the greatests conditions for sleep. People getting up all night long, rustling around with their gear, coughing, snoring, etc. Between all the noise and altitude I didn´t manage any sleep.

1:30am finally came and it was like a cattle call. In a matter of minutes everyone was up putting on gear, swinging their packs around with ice axes and trying to eat breakfast. Crazy. Our guide Jose told us all to rest until the craziness subsided. We finally ate at 2:30am and put on all our gear. I wore five layers on my upper body, four pairs of pants, two sets of gloves and two hats. Up the mountain we went in our crampons all roped together. Luckily we were climbing the night after a full moon and it gave us tons of light. We climbed some of the sections in just the moonlight without having to use our headlamps. Very neat.

It was tough walking on crampons in the thin air. Usually we had to rest every ten steps or so. The lights of LaPaz far below were amazing in the night air. It looked so close it seemed you could just reach out and touch the city. The sunrise was spectacular. It turned the mountain into awesome shade of lavender, pink and orange. As the sun rose higher and higher we kept shedding layers of clothes. The higher we went the more I rested until I was resting every one or two steps near the top. Didn´t take many pictures since I was to concerned with breathing and trying to keep from stabbing myself or someone else with my crampons or ice axe. Here are some pictures from the top of the summit after resting a bit.

Me and Flat Stanley

Me and My guide Freddy

Freddy setting up the protection to keep me from sliding off the summit!

Naomi and Jose coming up the ridge

Random climbers following us up a ridgeline towards the summit

View west, Lake Titicaca on the horizon

View above the clouds from the summit

Made it back down safe and sound. Happy to have all my fingers and toes still attached. Seven hours climbing up, two hours coming down. The descent was much easier on the lungs. You could almost feel yourself getting stronger with each step going down. Journeyed back to LaPaz that night for a hot shower and solid nights sleep.

The following day said goodbye to Rob & Naomi as they were heading towards Argentina.

Next up for me....Salar de Uyuni

The Road Goes on Forever and the Party Never Ends --- Robert Earl Keen

Posted by timtheis 17:58 Comments (2)

Peru by the Numbers

Days in Peru.....49
Parades Seen in Peru....16
New Friends & Memories....countless
Long Distance Bus Rides....7
Movies Seen on Bus Rides....11
Buses pulled out of a creek....0
Total Combi Rides....too many to remember
Combi Ride with an infant on my lap....1

One of my favorite pictures of Peru....

Back in the day travelling with my Dad....started travelling young.

The Road Goes on Forever.....

Posted by timtheis 13:35 Comments (1)

Final Week in Peru

Heading to Bolivia

I spent my last full week in Peru attending Spanish School. Starting to feel much more comfortable with my limited Spanish vocabulary. I spent every afternoon walking around Cusco with my teacher for a couple of hours. TJT_4397_--_Web.jpg
We visited markets and areas of town that I never would have visited on my own. Such as the cemetary in Cusco which was quite interesting and impressive.
This is a street vendor that I bought some merchandise from....not my spanish teacher.TJT_4407_--_Web.jpg

At the end of the week I took a bus to Puno from Cusco which stopped several times along the way to explore some ruins and museums. A great way to break up a 8 hour bus ride. Here are some photos of the ruins at Raqchi.TJT_4412_--_Web.jpg

The next day I took a tour of Lake Titicaca, which is on the border of Peru & Bolivia and is the worlds highest navigable lake (more like the size of an ocean). Visited the floating reed islands of Uros. People still live on these islands today. The islands are anchored by rocks in water that is over 50 feet deep. The island itself is made of reed stacked up to be over 6 feet thick. You can feel the motion of the waves on the island. About 20-25 people live on each island. Very cool but the islands economy relies exclusively on tourism.
Took a ride on this ride boat, it was amazingly stable. Good thing because the water was very, very cold.

Also visited the island of Taquile on the same tour of Lake Titicaca. This is a regular island made of land, where about 2,000 people live. The people dress very colorful and have some interesting customs. The men do all the weaving of clothes on the island. A single man wears a white & red hat until he becomes married. After he is married, he wears a solid red hat with some designs. A single woman wears brightly colored skirts until she gets married. After she is married, she wears only black skirts, kind of like mourning I guess. Very interesting.
This is a photo of two single men and a single girl.

Next up Bolivia...

The Road Goes on Forever -- Robert Earl Keen

Posted by timtheis 06:42 Comments (1)

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