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Mendoza, Argentina

sunny 27 °C

The bus to Mendoza only had 5 people in it and was taking a very scenic route through the mountains with lots of ski resorts. I was quite worried about the border crossing as I hadn't even checked if a visa was needed.

At the border the guy decided to check with his boss, who then had to check it with his boss and so on, so we waited for a while but I got the stamp.

We got to Mendoza at about 8-9 in the evening. I was quite shocked as I expected to see a little wine region when in fact it was a huge city with cement factories around it. We wondered around the streets in search for a hostel. But they all were either booked out or too expensive.

We eventually found one that was called Simplemente. And simplemente it was! With the walls peeling and the owners always hanging out in the kitchen and living room. They however did recommend La Florenzia restaurant where we went for dinner that evening.

The steaks were enormous and the wine was amazing. So that lifted our spirits a bit.


Next day we did a tour of wineries. The first one was a big commercial one. It was interesting to see big cellars with wine casks, so I was quite excited about the wine tasting that was to follow afterwards. Now I am not the wine expert, but as soon as I tasted the wine I wanted to spit it out - it was horrible. We then went to an organic vineyard, they had some nice white wine but red one again had a horrible after taste. Here we were staring at each other's face after almost 36 hours on the bus! Robert, of course, had to mention all the amazing South African wineries that he has been in.

The situation was saved by the stop in the olive oil farm and chocolate liqour shop. And of course another follow up dinner at La Florenzia. That put a smile on Robert's face and besides the wines tasted on the tour we actually found some really good stuff to drink :-)


Next day, after a lunch in the park we hopped on the bus to return to Santiago, Chile. So even the wineries weren't what we expected, those Argentinians sure know what they are doing with their steaks and food. :)

Posted by Laima 21:00 Archived in Argentina Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

sunny 30 °C

At the border we were told that we can't take any food accross, so everyone was dumping their biscuits and coca tea in the rubbish bins. They stamped our passports and told everyone to line up with their bags open. We didn't have anything special, so thy let us through very quickly. Other people seemed to stay in there for ages, some of them had bought little wooden souvenirs that apparently contained some seeds, so those got taken away. The bus left one couple at the border trying to sort something out.

The weather was really hot and it was so nice to breath in low altitude. We stayed in a nice hostel (Sonschek) that had a nice courtyard. So we just sat in the sun :)

We met up with other 4 for dinner, we paid about next to nothing for a 3 course dinner. The wine tasted amazing, and I almost cried once I tasted the pumpkin soup :) the life was back to normal! Megan and Steve kept talking about Argentina and how great it is supposed to be. So we started thinking that it might be a nice de tour for our trip to get some nice cheap wine (not that we had'nt had tons already) and of course as Robert kept pointing out the beef is the best in world .

Next day we tried to book out onward bus tickets but everyone in Chile was celebrating independence day, so no buses were leaving for a few days. The other guys had to stay for 4 days in order to get their bus to Argentina but we managed to book our internal bus to Santiago for the day after.


That afternoon we all did the trip to the Moon Valley. We went to a couple of canyons and finally to the Moon Valley itself to see the sunset.


Everyone had the same idea and started pulling beers from their bags (including our guide ;)). I could think of worse places to have a beer :) The sunset changed the colours of the mountains to purple which contrasted with sand dunes - it was amazing.


Once back at our hostel we cooked pasta, it was the first self cooked meal in ages that we had and it looked better than the French couples who were cooking next to us. :) We also went out for some vino and to check out the celebrations in town.

Next day we've jumped on the bus for our 24 hours bus ride. It was stopped at every little town, so I think we could have made it to Santiago in 16-18 hours. The seats were quite comfortable, so the whole trip wasn't too bad.

We reached Santiago bus station, got off and then saw a bus to Mendoza, Argentina leaving in half an hour. So we thought what a heck and bought the tickets for another bus ride of 8 hours.

Posted by Laima 20:33 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Solar de Uyni- Bolivia

sunny 24 °C

With our bums sore from the crazy Death Road ride, we left La Paz for Solar de Uyni. We were facing a 13 hour bus journey. The bus was very nice - it had great reclining seats, pillows and blankets. We also got food and snacks. So the first bit of the trip was easy. But then we got to the GRAVEL or should I say no road at all :) So imagine us in the middle of the night trying to sit up straight hardly touching the seats, that way you don't feel the bumps as bad.

We arrived in Uyni in the early morning and found a caffe for breakfast, I got a huge omlette. We then walked around the main square, Plaza de Armas ( did they tell you that all main squares in South America are called Plaza de Armas?) and tried to find the best deal for a 3 day trip to Salar De Uyni. All the agents were warning us that they can't speak English, so the whole tour was going to be in Spanish. However we found a company called Latitude and the guy could speak perfect English. He was even joking that he will be serving us flamingos for breakfast. Robert must have asked the guy like 3 or 4 times (a little over the top I thought) if he would definately be taking us as he can speak english - he assured us, so we booked the tour.



At this point, I started to feel unwell and had to go back to the hotel. I was hugging the toilet for quite a while, so it was a bit concerning to go on a 3 day trip the next day.

By next morning I was feeling better. At 10AM we were waiting for our pick up. All the other cars were leaving and our guy wasn't in the rush. Half an hour later he came in with another lady and invited us to his office. He said that he was not going to be able to go on the tour and that we had to join another group. He was also speaking in Spanish and the lady was translating everything in Eglish. We couldn't believe that he was pretending that he couldn't speak English.

Robert pointed out that he had asked him 4 times the day before about this happening and insisted on a refund for some of the money, he returned some money and we joined the Blue Line tour with the guide called Johnny :)

It worked out to be pretty good as we met this great bunch: Megan, Steve, Emma and Matt. We felt pretty bad as we ended up paying a lot less than they did due to the refund we got.

The salt flats were amazing - white salt desert contrast with the blue sky. We stopped for lunch at a place called Fish Island. The picture below


Johhny - our guide and driver- cooked steak on his little gas stove. After lunch we practised perspective photo taking. We spend the first night at a salt hotel (yes a hotel built from slat). It was quite warm inside despite the cold weather oustide.



Next day we were up at the crack of dawn, Johhny was a bit slow as he had 20 beers the night before :) We packed our things into the jeep and set off. Soon we saw 2 other 4x4's stuck in the sand. One of the guys tried to pull it out ant it got stuck as well. Then Johnny went and tried to pull it out, we were screaming for him not to do it. But he managed to pull one car out, which in turn pulled out all other cars :)

That day we saw the most incredible views - volcanoes, mountains, lagoons and of course lakes with flamingoes. I always thought that they liked hot weather, but apparently not as it was cold outside.



By the end of the day, we stopped to sleep in this house, shacks really. It had a little fire build at the front of the house, but our room was at the back. I was wearing all my sweaters and thermals, we had some wine that Johhny gave us ( he didn't seem in the mood to cook ) and a bottle of rum, so it wasn't too bad. But it started to get so cold and the fire was dying, so we burnt a book that Steve had to keep it going. (I never thought that we can get so much heat from John Grisham)

All 6 of us went to bed early. By that time I was wearing all the clothes that I had, including my hat and gloves. The night was so cold that I couldn't sleep. According to Robert, it wasn't even that cold on his Kili trip :)

Anyway, we had to leave at 4.30am next morning, but all our alarm clocks failed to work, (perhaps the cold weather), so Johnny woke us up late.


That day we saw some geisers and a volcano that inspired the famous painting by Salvador Dali 'with the time running'. We were all heading to the Chilean border for a 10 o'clock transfer, we managed to get a flat tyre, but Johhny was very quick in changing it so we made the border crossing on time.

Posted by Laima 16:04 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

La Paz and the Most dangerous road in the world

sunny 26 °C
View Around the world in 180 days on rob laurie's travel map.

After been dumped in the middle of a busy highway we managed to navigate our way to our hostel. A place raved about by all the books and blogs - we still cant find out what all the fuzz is about. Besides the hostel and the worst polution we have encountered thus far, La Paz is a great place.

Its basically a massive city that is in a huge valley and the buildings just keep going up and up the sides of the mountains, I couldnt get a picture that did it justice. We wandered through the witches market and after exploring the colonial and old town sections of town it was time to book the bike ride. To be honest it was the only reason I really wanted to come here and Laima kinda got dragged along.


The most dangerous road in the world is here (more people die here than on any other road in the world) and the great part is that we get to mountain bike down it :-). They build a new road about 18 months ago - so there is supposed to be no vehicle traffic on the old dirt road you go down. Luckily for us they messed up and the new road is aleady clossed for repairs, so we got to go down will all the cars, trucks and busses.


What can I say - it was fantastic. 65 km long and you drop over 3km in altitude, not to mention that most of the time you are flying (well most of us were), and you have a sheer drop off next to you of about 400 meters. We stopped for breaks every so often and it was pretty eary to see all the crosses marking where people had died. At one of these stops our guide pointed out that a women had died here due to her hands cramping from using her breaks to much and that eventually she could'nt break anymore and went over the edge - not sure how true that was, I think it was actually a little dig at Laima - she was falling behind a little :-)


Great Day!!

Posted by rob laurie 01:22 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

Lake Titicaca



We caught a bus from Cusco to Puno. The trip was about 8 hours with many great sightseeing stops. Robert wasn't really up for the sights and spend most of his time sleeping at the back of the bus after his food poisoning.

We picked the first hotel from our travel book and grabbed a taxi to get there. The town was really small and not as we had imagined it to be. The first dinner was nice - huge fish for me and a bowl of see through soup for Robert :)

Next day we walked in the market - huge melons, sheep's heads, mandarins, bananas and all weird stuff. The stroll along Titikaka was full of horrible smells as the local people were using it's shores as their toilet.

We decided to take a cycle taxi back. The guy was struggling to go uphill with us both and at one point it seemed like he was dying. He was quite slow crossing the lights and at one point a car literally stopped 5 cm from us. The excitment for the whole day!

Next day, we went to see the famous Uros floating straw islands. We didn't book the tour and just took the local boat. The motor wasn't starting for ages and then this guy came and fixed it. Unfortunately, he jumped off to stay on the shore and we were left with these two kids (about 14 and 7) navigating the boat.


The island tour was quite interesting with us getting to taste reeds. Everything was made of them - starting from the island itself and ending with houses and boats. The feeling walking on the island was the same as walking on foam. The Uros originally build the islands to prevent attacks from other neighbours. (That's how much I understood with my Spanish :))

Next day we were taking a bus to La Paz, Bolivia. All the buses usually stop at Cocacabana, but we wanted to go directly and cut our journey to 5 hours.

As soon as we saw our bus we weren't very impressed. But at that point we thought that we lost our tickets, so Robert went to talk to the ticket lady. She told us that the bus wasn't going directly due to the bus drivers strikes. After arguining she put us on a nicer bus that apparently was due to go through the border and directly to La Paz.

So we were sitting there laughing and all happy. After two hours, somebody from the bus received the call saying that all the roads were closed now and that we have to turn around. We spent the rest of the time swearing :) That crappy little town didn't want to let us go :) We had already spent 3 days there and now we had to spent another and try escape again.

Next day we repeated the whole procedure again and this time we managed to get through. We were stopped by the police, but it appeared that they were shooting a movie.

And the Lake Titicaca was so much better on the other side (Apparently Bolivia only owns 40% of it). We should have stayed in Copa instead as it was a great little town exactly what we thought Puno was going to be like - oh well :-)


We had to cross a river on the way - passengers on one and bus on another ferry. The bus ferry was about 3-4 wood planks glued together. Scary stuff, but all our wordly belongings made it across and finally we made it to La Paz.

Posted by Laima 20:53 Archived in Peru Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

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