A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: HillKyle

Iguazu Falls

the wonderful waterfalls

sunny 94 °F

Back to the jungle we go! It took our longest busride yet, clocking in at 24 hours, but we made it safe and sound. We even slept well, too! When we got off the bus, we were greeted with a wall of humidity and heat not felt since we were in Costa Rica. It was time to ditch our jeans and long sleeve shirts. And if only you could remove a beard for a few days...

8am the next day and we´re already sweating bullets just minutes out the front door of the hostel. We made our way to the park on a packed bus. The sun was strong and the sunblock laid on thick - let´s see us some waterfalls.

Up first was the Garganta del Diablo (Devil´s Throat). It´s one of the bigger attractions of the park and sits at the top of the park, where a series of falls form a semicircle that appears as though the depths of the planet are swallowing hundreds of gallons of water per second. It was quite a combination of sights and sounds, not to mention it was nice to get wet after a hot walk all the way there!

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Gulp, gulp, gulp

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Up close and personal

Next - a short train ride and quick walk downhill to some of the best views we had ever seen. There are a few ¨trails¨ throughout the park. They´re pretty much metal walkways that wind through the jungle to various viewpoints, bringing you closer and closer to one of the main attractions on the lower part - Salto Bassetti. The walkway takes you right up to the midsection of the fall. It´s loud, wet, and incredible.

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The rest of the trails lead to various other falls, with both bottom-up and top-down views to suit any fancy.

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Beautiful

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(Double?) Rainbow!

This is definitely tops on the list of natural wonders that we have seen. It just offers the complete package of amazing sights, sounds, and sensations. And it totally blows Niagra Falls out of the water due to its sheer size.

Now, as I´ve said before, no travel in Latin America goes quite as planned. You have to expect the hitch, we´ve both come to realize. Although that doesn´t necessarily make you less frustrated. Anyway, as we returned to town from a hot, sweaty day in the park, it was only natural to want a nice, cold shower. Perhaps some air conditioning and a nice beer, too. Well, unfortunately the water AND the electricity decided to take a little breather for our last day and a half. The entire town. Needless to say it sent the bottled water market sky high, but we were lucky enough to hop a flight out of down just as we heard the news that the water wouldn´t be turned back on for another three to six days...

Onward to Buenos Aires we went!!!

Posted by HillKyle 07:07 Archived in Argentina Tagged iguazu Comments (0)

Salta

quick stop, great empanadas

overcast 73 °F

Upon crossing the border from Bolivia to Argentina, we expected to get back into a more..developed world. A world where buses operated on time, tap water didn´t make you sick, and you didn´t have to peel raw tomatos. While the digestion-oriented changes came true, we had a slight snag in our bus plans that put us into Salta at around 2am. But we were ready and excited to enter the world of the empanada!

Salta was surprisingly beautiful, and we were able to walk around despite only being there for only two days. One of the highlights was the Plaza de 9 de Julio, a park surrounded by lovely buildings and cafes.

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A nice spot to sit and watch the world go by

Any visit to Salta apparently isn´t complete without a trip to the Patio de la Empanada. And it was worth it! Truly the tastiest, freshest, juiciest empanads we had ever eaten. Combine that with an ice cold Coca-Cola in a glass bottle, and you are in heaven.

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There were plenty more of those coming

All in all, Salta was a short trip (and hence the short post). I wish we could have stayed longer, but we had to prep for our 22-hour marathon busride to Iguazu Falls - coming up next!

Posted by HillKyle 15:37 Archived in Argentina Tagged salta Comments (0)

Salar de Uyuni

the amazing Bolivian Salt Flats

sunny 88 °F

After all of La Paz´s noise and hustle, we moved on to new, quieter territory. A busride and then an overnight train (first time on a train for this trip!) were all we needed to get from La Paz to Tupiza, where we´d have a basecamp for our next adventure: Salar de Uyuni. It´s a four-day tour that starts in Tupiza and ends in the town of Uyuni. And, instead of hiking the whole way like our Machu Picchu trek, it was mostly gazing through a bumpy SUV´s window. Here´s a quick day-by-day breakdown, and be sure to check out more pictures in the gallery!

Day 1 - Tupiza and the Wild Wild West

We kicked off the first day by exploring dry, rugged landscape surrounding Tupiza. Legend has it that the ¨real¨Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (or, rather, the real-life people these characters were based on) met their end here. Nothing like a little fusion of history, folklore, and entertainment while you take in all of the beautiful scenery.

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As our SUV meandered slowly up, up, up, the arid desert quickly changed to a snowier, more hostile environment. Still, our trusted guide Edwin was skilled at the wheel. It was our first glimpse at snow in quite some time!

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It´s got nothin´on ´cuse or VT, but still, a nice sight...

Just as quickly as we ascended, we descended back to sunnier, warmer country. Just as we reached endless fields of golden tufts (still not sure exactly what the plant was) the sun came out and lit up the land for a brief but wonderful golden hour - quite literally!

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And just like that, after about twelve hours in the car, we had reached our hostel. It was clear that the first day was more about getting closer than actual site-seeing. Still, if this was the worst day for site-seeing, we had a lot to look forward to!

Day 2 - Lagunas, Volcanoes, Geysers, and other things hot and volcanic

Now in the thick of the Bolivian altiplano and desert, we were ready for some serious sights (and sounds, and smells). Our first stop was the Laguna Verde, which we were lucky enough to see, our guide said, while it was changing color for the day. From which color to which, you may ask? Well, from green to a different green. Still, it was vibrant, and with the Volcano Quetena in the background, it made for quite a visual. So much so that we were inspired to take some sportswear modeling photos.

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Work it

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Worrrrrk iiiiiiit!!!

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Laguna Verde (workin it)

Our next stop was easily the highlight of the day. It also scared the crap out of the both of us. The geysers: a huge series of boiling and bubbling, rotten-egg-smelling, steam spewing geysers. It made us nervous enough to approach these giant steaming holes from the safe SUV. But when Edwin got out of the car to tell us we were going for a walk, ignoring the fairly large sign that said ¨Peligro: No se acerca¨(Danger: Do Not Approach), we were pretty well terrified of every step. Still, in what other country or setting could you possibly get THIS close to a geyser and stare it right in the face as it gurgled and simmered? You have to silence that little voice in your head that reminds you your standing on top of something hot enough to make mud boil.

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I love the smell of sulfer in the morning

Our day ended with a much more relaxing volcanic experience - some natural hot springs to unwind. Such stress!!!

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Day 3 - More Lagunas and the Salt Hotel

Today was the day of the Lagunas. First, we visited arguably the most famous of them all - Laguna Colorada. Due to the minerals in the sediment at its bottom, the Laguna Colorada reflects back a rusty and in some places blood-red color that is beautiful and a bit eerie. From there, we continued on to see the various other lagunas, each with there own special characteristics. The one thing they all had, though, was flamingos! Here are some photo highlights.

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Our shorter day concluded in a hotel made of salt, quite literally. More of a novelty than anything. We went to sleep to the sound of hail beating upon the tin roof and the salt walls, anxiously awaiting the 4am wakeup to see the sunrise over the salt flats. Almost to the grand finale!

Day 4 - Salar de Uyuni

OK, so our wakeup was a bit delayed (5am), but from the car we were still able to see the sun rising. It had hailed and rained throughout the evening, which leaves a layer of water on the flats about 6-10 inches deep. As you can imagine, when the sun comes up, the reflection of the water creates a still, mirror-like image that evokes endless ¨Ooooohs¨and ¨Ahhhhhhhhs¨as we furiously snap away with our digital cameras.

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Where does the land stop and the sky start?

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Mountains

As Edwin drove slowly through the water, careful not to splash the engine with too much salt water, us passengers were left with a strange feeling somewhere between flying and riding in a boat. It was alltogether one of the most surreal experiences. By the time we had filled up our memory sticks, we had reached an island - Incahuari Island. Strange, to think, that you reach an island while still on land, but there is truly no other way to describe it. After hours of watching the mountains disappear behind us, there was this small island up ahead, which provided us with some more scenery for some more heady pictures (that´s the theme of the day, I´d say).

Note again that the reflective surface is in fact land with a little bit of water, not a body of water!

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And then, of course came the dry section, which is probably the most famous part of them all - where everyone again pulls out there cameras, for endless amounts of pictures, from the goofy to the jaw-dropping. There are pictures a-plenty in the gallery, so go check em out!!! Here are just a few samples. And to sum up, while Machu Picchu represented an amazing historical and mystical experience, the Salar de Uyuni matched Machu Picchu but for its visual and surreal qualities. What an experience!!!

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Hope you enjoyed! Salta, Iguazu Falls, and Buenos Aires are up next so stay tuned!!!

Posted by HillKyle 07:53 Archived in Bolivia Tagged salt_flats uyuni tupiza Comments (1)

La Paz

the highest capital in the world

sunny 70 °F

By now, we´d more than accustomed to the altitude, after stays in Cuzco (10,860 feet) and Copacabana (12,600 feet). Now, we´re fit and ready to tackle everything that La Paz can throw at us. The never-ending noise, bustle, and thick exhaust - but the biggest highlight being the street food and the street markets...bring it on, our stomachs and wallets can take it! Maybe...after a quick runthrough, be sure to stick out this post for a nice dining story at the bottom. Don´t skip down, though!

Bolivia is known for its salteñas and empanadas - little hot pockets stuffed with meat (plus bones, sometimes), potato, onion, grapes, olives, and the kitchen sink as well. Also ubiquitous in Bolivia as well as South America is the tamale, a rather bland combination of cheese and corn wrapped in a corn husk and heated. They´re good, but definitely not as good as the salteñas and empanadas.

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Yummy fried empanada with a semi-cold Fanta Orange

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Tamale

What Bolivia is also known for is its markets - handmade crafts and clothes; fresh fruits and vegetables; and...dried llama fetuses and toucan beaks. You can find practically anything there, especially in the (in)famous Witches´ Market.

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NOT the Witches´Market, but darn close

A Post-Meal Drink

Now let me tell you about our first night in La Paz. We had just gotten settled into our hostel in the late afternoon, and after a quick rest, we were ready to eat like kings. We headed over to the hostel-recommended restaurant, which was a real treat - and dirt cheap! After stuffing ourselves various delectables from the salad bar, we had our main course and a towering bottle of beer. Chicken for Hillary, tasty llama steak for Kyle.

Once we were finished, our friendly waiter asked us if we´d like a trago (drink) on the house. ¨Sure,¨we said, not sure if he meant ¨on the house¨or simply ¨house drink.¨ Either way, we were game. So after rummaging around behind the bar, our waiter returns hugging a big jar. Now, we´re not talking about your normal, everyday jar of Smucker´s Strawberry Preserves. No, this is a jar he needs to hold with both hands (again, as I said before, hugging). It´s also covered in a cloth. No biggie. He pours the shots for us, places the jar on the table, and glides off to tend to a couple of other tables.

Like the couple of wussy gringos that we are, we start sipping the clear liquid. It tastes a bit like vodka. ¨Must be some kind of after-meal licour,¨ I (Kyle) say. ¨I had something similar in Italy once¨. Sure... Anyway, we finish our shots in one last gulp (or two, or three). Just as we do, our waiter is back to see how much we enjoyed it. We nod politely. By now, I´m thinking ¨OK, I can feel it working. I really don´t feel that full and my stomach feels pretty darn good.¨ That would soon change, though.

¨It´s a liquor of...a eh-snake¨ the waiter says in broken english. There´s no way he meant to say snake, I thought. He must have it mixed up with another word. ¨Boa. Boa constrictor,¨ he continued. Uh oh. Just as my stomach began to take a turn for the worse, he moved in for the grande reveal and removed the cloth.

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OK, so not thinking it would be a picture-taking night, we didn´t bring the camera...HOWEVER, we do have a low-res pic on our trusty Blackberry. Unfortunately, there´s no way to get it from the Blackberry to the computer (I know, it´s true..I´ve tried everything). If we can find a way to post the pic, we will. Until then, you´ll have to use your imaginations on this one.

It was actually a baby boa constrictor snake, with scales flaking off and everything. Only a proper way to end the first meal in what is quite possibly the most interesting city we have visited yet.

Posted by HillKyle 15:59 Archived in Bolivia Tagged la_paz Comments (2)

Copacabana, Lago Titicaca, and Isla del Sol

welcome to Bolivia!

overcast 70 °F

After a relatively easy border crossing from Peru into Bolivia (that included a hefty $135 tourist visa ONLY for Americans), we made our way to the small but busy town of Copacabana. It rests right on the border with Peru and is the main stop on the famous Lago Titicaca. While not the most attractive of towns (lots of trash and unfinished construction), its markets are bustling and its hilltop views of Lake Titicaca more than make up for it.

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Our stay was short and direct in objective: to see the sacred Inca site Isla del Sol and relax for a bit on the Lake. Isla del Sol appears deceivingly close to Copacabana. Unfortunately, the boat technology can only get you there in about two to two-and-a-half hours. By techology, I mean two dingy motors clamped to and steered from the back of a two-story boat that seats around 75 people. The engines rumbled and droned, propelling us to estimated speeds of up to 15 KPH (about 10 MPH). So, with PLENTY of time to watch the passing scenery, we sat back and enjoyed the ride.

The two hours were worth the wait, and our three hour hike down the length of the island brought us wonderful ruins with gorgeous backdrops.

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Now, no transport in South America comes without some form of adventure, whether big or small, and our ride back to Copacabana added a nice little slice of excitement in what would have been an otherwise uneventful ride back. With all of the gringos waiting on the boat, crammed onto the roof and sitting on the floor of the lower level, our fearless capitan strode down the docks...in my opinion, a bit drunkenly. His walk was a bit loose and cocky, his hair was glazed in sweat and slicked off to the side, from what I could only imagine as a long, sunny afternoon of drinking. OK, OK. Maybe it was just the sun, I thought, but when he proceeded to pick a fight with another boat captain after the boat was already untied and drifting from the dock, my suspicions seemed a bit more justified. Thankfully, it takes two captains to steer the two motors, so there was another (calmer) capitan on the bow of the ship, pushing off. As the tussle died, our fearless captain hopped onto the boat with inches to spare, and we were off.

The icing on the cake came when he tied off his motor (full throttle and steering straight ahead) with a piece of rope and walked to the front of the ship to sunbathe and take a lovely two-hour nap, leaving the poor other captain to right the ship all by his lonesome. Thank you, fearless capitan, for adding to our long list of overland, air, and water travel adventures.

Posted by HillKyle 13:45 Archived in Bolivia Tagged copacabana lake_titicaca isla_del_sol Comments (1)

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