Tag Archives: video

Cuenca

After splitting ways in Manta I (Mark) made my way to Cuenca in the south via Guayaquil. The latter is a modern city that is surging forward. Many people visit as a stop off to the Galapogas Islands and it is worth a day to go down to the city centre (people were very friendly – I got a lot of 'hello' from people who genuinely just wanted to say hi).

Cuenca is a short trip from Guayaquil through some nice hill country. It was fairly rugged and foggy, reminded me of photos I had seen of Scotland. Apparently there are a few hiking trails in them thar hills.

The view from my hotel rooftop.

Cuenca is a great little city built on an old Inca site. It sits in a valley with the old town separated from the modern city centre by a river. I discovered some nice restaurants and bars, an ugly museum, a nice aviary and a merry Belgian selling waffles.

The central square features a lot of wonderful colonial architecture.

The cathedral borders the central plaza. It is very nice but impossible to photograph from a good angle.


Short video of Cuenca and the aviary.

It was almost a year ago that I was in Cuenca and I still have fond memories of it. I could easily have stayed longer. The weather was beautiful the whole time I was there and I really enjoyed just walking around the city. A nice place to rest before exploring the region.

The rest of my trip was spent making my way to Santiago, via stop offs in Máncora and Lima to break the trip up. The goal by that point was to make it home without having anything stolen (we had been very lucky to date) and I must admit it felt like a minor victory to arrive in Santiago with all my possessions – although the adrenaline was already pumping through my veins after my alarm didn't work, necessitating an emergency dash to the airport!

 

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Sandboarding in the Desert

The coast of Peru is one long stretch of desert. We got our first taste of it on the trip from Cuzco to Lima, which covers some fantastic landscapes, moon-like plataues of rock to massive sand dunes.

We had learnt that it is possible to stay at a small oasis in the desert a couple of hours south of Lima. The oasis has become a resort style town called Huacachina and it is surrounded by crazy-huge sand dunes that you can sandboard on. We were mad keen to give this a go so we stayed a couple of days and hit the dunes.

The oasis at Huacachina.

The dunes stretched as far as the eye can see.

The size of the dunes requires some serious machinery to get around. This came in the form of dune buggies on steroids. These machines roared up the hills at speed. As we would reach a summit the driver would plant his foot and we would plunge down the other side. It was like a roller-coaster ride, a huge rush!

We were pumped by the time we hit our fist dune. We rushed to the crest and after a quick wax we were throwing ourselves head long down the biggest dunes we had ever seen.

Waxing the board.

It was an awesome buzz. Here's hoping we get to do it again sometime soon!

 


MOVE: A Fantastic Travel Video

Hi everyone and happy new year! Apologies for the gap in posts, we are getting back into it soon!

Saskia found a great travel video online. It is only a minute long but take a look. The premise: three friends took one second of footage at scenic locations across 18 countries. An inspired idea and a great result.

Enjoy 🙂


Death Road Part 1

We are interrupting our scheduled broadcast to bring you our first posting on Death Road. We recently reached 1,000 subscribers for the blog and thought putting this up would be a good way to celebrate.

Mark gets ready.

That's Mark raising his hand.

This is part one of two postings on our Death Road cycle tour in Bolivia. We've had to split it up as there is an hour of footage and a lot of photos. The second post will go up as soon as the remaining video has been edited.

We picked Altitude on the basis of a recommendation from friends. They proved to be a good choice, great guides and there were enough to accommodate different speeds.

Mark switching on his GoPro.

The tour was split into two stages. The first began at the top of the mountain pass and ended near a truck stop. This was all on tarmac. The second stage involved getting back in the vans and travelling to the start of Death Road, a dirt road that hugs the side of a mountain range. This road has now been replaced by another route so it is much safer to use. However, unbeknownst to us when we booked the tour, the new road was partially blocked by a recent landslide so there would be traffic coming back up towards us…kind of a problem when the road narrows to one lane with no rails to prevent a fall.

The tip went well though. No-one was hurt, apart from the guy that front-braked for a shopping bag…Saskia rode shotgun in one of the vans as she didn't fancy riding a bike, but this was just as scary as she had to deal with traffic coming from the opposite direction!


A bit of video for ya. Best with headphones.

 


A Fiesta in the Amazon: San Ignacio de Moxos (Fireworks)

At night the party really kicked off. The plaza was packed and bands competed with each other across the streets.

The action was centred on the church, where Achus were running through the crowd with fireworks spinning on their hats. The sky was also being lit up by fireworks, which were paid for by two wealthy families that compete with each other every festival.

It was great fun being there. There were dangers though – people were throwing small fireworks into the crowd. This, along with the Achus, was causing chaos as people scattered in all directions. At one point a small firework barely missed a child in a tree but instead hit the father in the face. Amazingly he wasn't hurt and despite this experience he left his child sitting exposed in the tree!

We left around midnight but the fiesta kicked on to around 4:00 am. Some people were still drinking the next morning and others had passed out on the sidewalk. This was easy to ignore though and the bands kept a good vibe going the next day.

Here's a recording of two songs played by the guys in the photo below.

 


Bolivian Amazon: Pampas

There are are two tours that people commonly take when they get to Rurrenabaque: a jungle tour, which we just covered, and a pampas tour. The environments are very different. Whereas in Madidi National Park you are surrounded by dense jungle, the pampas is a large, flat, wetlands system. The pampas tours seem to be popular because they provide three unique opportunities:

  1. A morning hike searching for anacondas.
  2. A swim with the Amazon's pink freshwater dolphins.
  3. A boat trip to catch piranhas.

There are a range of tour operators offering pampas tours, with those promoted by Lonely Planet being the most popular. They are typically very cheap and some also offer a budget jungle tour. Apparently they all do the same thing but we would recommend doing a bit of research to see which ones are currently in favour.

We ended up going with Fluvial Tours, a budget operator. The choice was mainly driven by price – Chalalán was a bit of an outlay (although cheaper than the Pantanal) so we wanted to squeeze in another trip on the cheap.

Sunrise over the pampas.

The whole tour takes place in Pampas del Yacuma National Park, a protected area three hours drive northeast of Rurrenabaque. The tour was unique for us in that it was confined to the river. All travel is by boat, with accommodation provided by a series of lodges along the banks.

Travelling on the river is like cruising through an animal theme park. We saw many storks, herons, turtles, caimans and large capybara. The first afternoon was spent slowly cruising up the river to our lodgings. It was a beautiful day and very relaxing.

Chillin.

Fun with filters. A vulture soars above us.

The herons were quite striking. They are large, graceful birds and very photogenic.

We wrapped up two hours on the river with sunset beers. A nice opportunity to meet people and to watch as dopey tourists found their Dutch courage and got close to a caiman (no-one was harmed).

Searching for Anacondas

The next day we went in search of anacondas. This required a full morning trudging through marshlands in search of the python. Unfortunately we were unsuccesful but we knew in advance the chances were 50/50. It didn't help that our guides were not very informative and after some time our guide actually lost us. We wandered around for awhile, then decided to head back to where the boats were on the river. We eventually caught up with him back at the boat but no apology was given, which we thought was pretty slack given that he was supposed to help us find the anacondas!

Muy macho.

The land alternated between knee high water and dry grass islands.

The good news is we later found anacondas in a park in Trinidad. There are five of them in a cage near the military airstrip, much easier than trudging through the marshes!

Swimming with Dolphins

Everybody likes the idea of swimming with dolphins, and these dolphins are special. They are pink! The Amazon River Dolphin can be found throughout the Amazon Basin in South America in fresh water rivers. The dolphins have been there since South America was covered by a salt water sea, and got stuck in the basin when the sea receded.

They are a slightly stubby (uglier) version of the dolphins you might see in the ocean and are practically blind due to the murky river water. As a result, swimming with them is not as romantic as it sounds, and we heard several stories of people being bitten on their hands and feet while they were splashing around in the river. We jumped in the water when they were close by, but didn't get too close. They are quite shy and are after all wild animals. Still, it was a exciting experience to be swimming in a river in the Amazon surrounded by pink dolphins, caiman and piranhas!

Fishing for Piranhas

Another big draw is the opportunity to catch piranhas. Now, we'll be frank about this one. Piranhas are actually quite small and are not the flesh eating beasties you might believe them to be. Very anticlimactic. Still, they are infamous and people want to catch them. We gave it a go but the little buggers kept wriggling off the line (hooks were too big). We caught a few sardines and a catfish but otherwise were unlucky. Don't go out of your way for this experience.

Our guide with a little cat fish.

Monkeys Everywhere

We were surprised at the number of monkeys we saw. Our camp lodgings were visited by a pack of yellow squirrel monkeys several times a day. They would run along the hand rails and two even got inside a dorm room. We also saw kapuchin and howler monkeys several times.

A yellow squirrel monkey looking to snatch some food.

Howler monkeys staring at those funny homo sapiens.

All in all it was a good time. It was more social than Chalalán due to the mingling with other groups but we saw less animal species, although the ones we did see were in abundance. We would recommend a trip, it is good fun but bear in mind that they churn through tourists here and the wildlife is not always respected as it should be. Also, the guides may disappoint. We can't provide names of some the animals we saw because we never learnt them!

A Tiger Heron.

Two jabirus in their nest.

A capybara on the river bank. They seemed to be bigger here than in the Pantanal.

 


Day Five: Salt Flats

We got up early to drive out on to the salt flats to watch the sunrise. It was freezing, but the beautiful colours made up for it. As the sun came up we started to get a sense of just how massive the salt flats are!

We had breakfast at Isla del Incahuasi, one of 26 islands in the middle of the salt flats. The island was covered in cactus trees and provided a stunning lookout point over the salt flats. After wandering around the island, we said our goodbyes to the rest of our group who were continuing on to Uyuni. We jumped back in the jeep with our guide and cook and headed towards the opposite end of the salt flat to hike up a volcano!

Day Three: Quetena Chico to Laguna Colorada

We spent a lot of time in the jeep and covered a lot of ground, stopping every now and then to take photos and appreciate the amazing scenery. We passed by several lakes and lagoons which were half frozen and particularly beautiful. A few people tried to walk out on the ice, only to fall through it and end up with wet feet for the rest of the day.

Highlights for the day were the amazing Volcano Licancabur (5950m), swimming in thermal springs in freezing conditions, geysers, and watching the sun set over the pink Laguna Colorada surrounded by flamingoes. The photos speak for themselves, and even then they don't quite do justice to the absolute beauty of the landscapes in this part of the world.

 

Aguas Calientes (Hot Springs)

Laguna Blanca

 

Laguna Verde with Volcano Licancabur

Geysers

Laguna Colorada

 

 


Day Two: The Haunted Ruins

This is another side story from Day Two of The Saga. This wasn't mentioned in the original post but one of our stops was at some 'Haunted Ruins' at the base of a volcano.

The story is that these ruins are pre-Inca. Indigenous people moved here to mine for silver and gold, which eventually attracted the attention of the Incas. The Spanish later came and conquered the site.

 

 

The reason it is considered haunted is the town's history of sacrifices. These started off as llama sacrifices in exchange for good luck etc, which in some places is still practiced. The problem is that under the Spanish (? or Inca, we are not clear on this) the sacrifices became human.

Llama bones were scattered around the site.

 

The village was eventually abandoned and when Bolivia became independent a new colony tried to establish itself (the source of the white washed buildings in the centre of town). Apparently people in the colony suffered nightmares and decided the area was haunted by the ghosts of the human sacrifices. It all became a bit much for the superstitious and they abandoned the site.

 

The ruins themselves were interesting to walk through but the area was pretty desolate. Mark found various bone piles and even clay jar fragments. We are not sure how old the jar fragments are but the guides seemed genuinely surprised that we found them!

 

All in all in was an interesting stop. We don't visit sites like this very often!

 


Day One: Tupiza Triathlon

Crossing the border from Argentina was relatively straight forward. We caught a bus from Tilcara to La Quiaca, walked a few kilometres, then got our stamps and crossed into VillazĂłn. From there we jumped straight into an overcrowded mini van with a crazy driver who delivered us safely to Tupiza. The town itself is nothing special, but the surrounding landscape is exceptional!

Most people seem to stop over quickly in Tupiza on their way to the Salt Flats, but we wanted to get to know the countryside a little better so we stayed for a few days. One activity offered is the Triathlon, which involves a combination of a 4x4WD jeep tour, horse riding and mountain biking. We decided that this was the best way to cover the area in a short amount of time and have a bit of fun along the way!

 

Jeep Tour
The off road four wheel drive experience took us north of town into a wide valley. We drove past amazing rock formations, through dry river beds, past wandering llamas, goat herders and through tiny villages made up of adobe mud brick houses.
We then came back south of town to visit a popular river spot surrounded by stone mountains. In summer the whole river is flooded but it hardly rains at all in winter, so it was almost empty. A picnic lunch consisted of the staple ham and cheese sandwiches, with llama tomales, a local specialty. Despite asking for vegetarian food, they forgot to pack it, so Mark ate all the tomales (he was stoked!), and I got an exciting cheese sandwich!
 

Horse Riding
We spent a couple of hours after lunch riding through Quebrada Palmira to Canyon del Inca, via Puerta del Diablo (Devil's Gate) and Valle de los Machos (Valley of Men). Apparently the route through the canyon was an old trekking trail for the Incas.
The scenery was stunning and we had a great time riding horses through Bolivia's wild west!
 

Mountain Biking
We ended the day with a sunset downhill mountain bike ride from El Sillar through the Quebrada Palala. The lighting was fantastic, it turned the grass a golden yellow and the red rocks glowed.