A Travellerspoint blog

March 2014

I thought we were on Mars

Salar de Uyuni and Sajama National Park

sunny 12 °C

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Uyuni itself wasn't the most inspiring little town, but as the access point to Sajama National Park and Salar de Uyuni, it was everything we needed. We arrived in the morning and ran around finding a hostel, booking our tour, booking our bus back out and finally relaxing and recovering from an uncomfortable overnight bus trip.

We went with Los Tres Gigantes (cheapest tour company we could find) to do the 3 day tour, and it was the best $100 I've ever spent. Our first day we went out to the train cemetery (where old trains were left to rust in the salt) and then onto the salt flat itself. It's so incredibly white, it's hard to describe and incredibly hard on the eyes without sunglasses. Just an amazing sight! Then it was onto our first night's resting spot, which was a very cute mudbrick town about four hours from Uyuni on rather bumpy dirt roads.
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The second day was the real highlight, we went from lake to lake, each more spectacular than the next with some magnificent scenery in between and rather bizarre rock formations. Sometimes it was like being on another planet with white lakes and red lakes and barren landscape. We saw flamingos llamas, vicunas (a wild and slightly smaller version of the Llama) and a bird that looks a little like a small emu. Just incredible.
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The next day, two of our company got some serious altitude sickness and were throwing up all night, so they couldn't continue. There was serious debate the night before about whether we would get to continue, as the sick travlllers didn't want to pay any extra to stay behind, and all the other cars were already full. Our driver eventually saved the day, by stumping up the money himself. So we were up at 3:30am the next morning to see the geysers which we pretty cool if a little smelly and then off to the hot springs, which after two days without showers and a very cold morning were a real treat! We then circled back to pick up the sick two, and unfortunately missed the last lake (Laguna Verde) and Dali's desert, but the tour was amazing all the same.
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Posted by Addy21 14:12 Archived in Bolivia Tagged salt flats Comments (1)

La Paz

Rest, recuperation and acclimatisation

sunny 13 °C

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We arrived in Bolivia, ready for some relaxation and at over 3500m above sea level, we needed to take it easy for a few days to get used to the altitude. We spent our first 4 days in La Paz, eating, resting, planning (oh the dreaded planning, how we hate you) and eating some more. With 3 course lunches at around $2 we were eating well, which made Matt very happy, and they became the centrepiece of each of our days. The location of the city is pretty spectacular, turning a corner to look up at the steep slope of the crater in which its nestled is pretty amazing. The sight of the city at night was just magical, gold and silver lights sparkling, really beautiful. On our overnight bus to Uyuni to do the Salt flats/national park, the moon was rising over the lip of the crater as we drove out, so beautiful. It will definitely stay in my mind as one of the most beautiful sights I´ve ever seen.

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Posted by Addy21 14:09 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

Santiago

Such a lovely city

sunny 24 °C

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After the W we were pretty happy to be back in a city, with WiFi and laundry and regular hot meals. While we only spent a few days there we both really liked Santiago, the city had a great feel to it and the people were all very friendly. We ate a fish at mercado central, bought a stack of fruit and veg (something we couldn't find anywhere in Argentina) at the La Vega for a pittance, wandered around the city to take in the sights, and up San Cristobel to see the views over the city. All in all a lovely three days before heading to Bolivia.

Posted by Addy21 13:41 Archived in Chile Tagged santiago Comments (0)

The W... Dern, dern, deerrrn!

Ouch

overcast 8 °C

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Ok, first things first, the W trail is not easy! They lie, they all lie! Ok I may be exagerrating a little, but from what we'd read online and in travel books, it sounded like a pretty easy little trek with some camping as long as you were reasonably fit. We have come to realise, when they say easy, they mean for experienced hikers. Which I have no problem saying in saying we are not.

We decided to do it cheap which meant, hiring a tent and some matts, carrying all our food for 5 days and hiking in from Administration (5 hours) rather than taking the catamaran to our first night's campground. Our 5 hour hike would have been quite pleasant except for an incredibly strong headwind the entire way, I'm not joking when I say that the gusts would stop you in your tracks and you had to lean in and really push to take your next step. We had one very scary moment, when Matt (gallantly carrying our big bag and most of the heavy stuff) almost got pushed off a steep section as a gust came around from the side and caught the bag like a sail. I swear my heart stopped for a moment. Thankfully we arrived safely at the rather exposed camp around 7pm and were both about ready to just catch that stupidly expensive catarmaran back and drink tea with the lovely ladies at our hostel in Puerto Natales.

After a very rough sleep (two man tents are not made for 6¨5' men, and our hired mattresses did nothing to keep the cold out) we were putting on brave faces for our second day's hike, where we could thankfully leave everything behind to hike up to Glacier Grey and return (another 9 hour beauty). It was pretty steep going and a bit hard on the old legs after the previous day and night. The Glacier was well worth it, so beautiful, with large chunks that had drifted close to the shore. One of the best sights so far. It was another long a pretty tough day, and this is when Matt's shoes decided to start falling to pieces. We used a few rubber bands to keep them together until we got back to the campsite and then begged some tape from the staff in the hopes it would get us to our next campsite. We very wisely made the decision that night not to attempt the Valley Francais, which adds about 4 hours to the 3rd day's trek and to instead push on to a campsite a little further along, in the hopes of a big 4th day and some well timed trekking on the fifth would get us back to our cozy hostel in time to make some hot food. Oh hot food, how underappreciated you are.
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I put on everything I owned that night in an attempt to keep warm and we rearranged the tent for some diagonal sleeping... which unfortunately only meant a marginally better night's sleep. We woke up pretty cheery though and ready to tackle our third day with a bit of an early camp and rest as our reward. Our enthusiasm was dampened somewhat about 30 minutes in when the tape on Matt's shoes fell off. We got our MacGyver on and used some knee high stockings to tie the ends of Matt's shoes back together and his shoelaces to hold the middle together. We were pretty awesome if I do say so myself and I highly recommend the packing of stockings to any wouldbe travellers, very handy. Here are Matt's shoes at the end of the trek.
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Yes, we will need to get them fixed before the Inca Trail.

Things started looking up at this point, and we had quite a pleasant day hiking, with some gorgeous views, and got to our campsite around 3pm to have a nice relaxing afternoon. We got some rope from a friendly ranger along the way for when the stockings gave out (very late on day four, I was impressed.

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Day four was a big one, even bigger than planned. We hiked one of the hardest sections, going up and down fairly steep hills most of the day. It was really very beautiful and I think our bodies were finally hardening up to this hiking thing, as we both made it through to the campsite in record time (for us), and then decided to do the final (toughest) stretch (only an hour but, incredibly steep) to see Los Torres del Paine. The feeling that ¨we´d done it¨ was incredible when we got to Los Torres and though not perfectly clear we got a pretty good view and it was a pretty amazing sight.

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The 5th day was just hiking out. Unfortunately about halfway down my trusty hiking stick broke (there may have been tears... I'd come to love that stick), but that was the worst of our misfortune so can't really complain.

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Again our frugal ideas got the better of us and we opted for the additional 7km hike to the bus along the road rather than grabbing the hotel´s minibus, which I think we both regretted about 3.5kms into that leg. In the end we made it, and felt pretty pleased with ourselves, and very much deserving of the stew we made when we got back. Oh god was that good stew. Dreaming of, and planning for, that stew was a pretty good motivator for those last three days. We may have been more excited about the stew than the sights at some points, don't judge us, you weren't there. I'm a little sad I don't have a photo of it. : )

Posted by Addy21 13:23 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Hiking, hiking, hiking

El Chalten

overcast 9 °C

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Our next stop was the only town inside Los Glacieres national park, El Chalten, which we were very surprised to discover was only 28 years old. The main sights are Fitzroy and El Torre (mountains), neither of which we got to see up close due to the weather, but thems the breaks. We arrived from Calafate and decided to take it pretty easy for the first day and just relaxed around the hostel... Matt napped and I read, very pleasant. The next day we did our first big hike, 9 hours. Maybe should have started a bit smaller. We hiked up to an area with a glacier and on a clear day a view of El Torre. The glacier was pretty cool as were several of the sights along the way but the cloud meant El Torre wasn't visible. We got back completely stuffed and seriously questioning the wisdom of our plans to hike like demons for the next 8 days (including the W). The next day we were somewhat recovered, but decided to take it a bit easier as it was once again cloudy and Fitzroy was nowhere to be seen. We hiked up to a really pretty lake, about a 4 hour round trip and enjoyed the warmth and food at the hostel again.

We finally got a sunny day on the day we had to leave, we didn't have quite enough time to attempt the hikes to see Fitzroy up close, but did a shorter hike that gave us some brilliant views of a family of condors that called the area home, as well as both El Torre and Fitzroy from a distance. In some ways it was probably the nicest hike of the lot and was a nice and easy 3 hours. Next stop Puerto Natales and the W... Eep!

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Posted by Addy21 13:03 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

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