Bolivia

Bloggers reward ;-)

Just a short update on how this travelbog is growing are going…

With almost 25.000 hits the statistics recognized 133 different territories.  The dense populated big modern countries are easy to get on the world map.  But tiny islands lost in the middle of a vast ocean with maybe a population of a couple of hundred persons are harder to reach as well as some devastated countries in war  It’s very satisfying to see that also they find the way to our blog.

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The top 10: Italy, Belgium, Spain, United States, Argentina, Germany, United Kingdom, France, Brazil, Colombia

Some others that caught my attention: Zimbabwe, Syria, Nigeria, Mozambique, Brunei, Palestinian Territories, Guam, Kazakhstan, Afghanistan, Benin, Mayotte, Tanzania, French Polynesia, Ghana, Nepal, Azerbaijan, Bhutan.

Thank you all, the Hermes’Journey goes on…

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Categories: Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, France, Guatemala, Honduras, México, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, U.S.A. | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Tupiza, hiking the Inca Canyon in Bolivia

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04-07/02/2014

Born around the year 1535, nestled in a valley alongside the river in between precarious mountain slopes, hidden from the cold high altitude wind and settled on the ancestral grounds of the Chichas tribe, the village of Tupiza is a short pause on our travel schedule.  It’s a town with a relax atmosphere and rural ambient where nice and friendly are a daily obviousness.  After an overnight bus ride, coming from Uyuni, we arrive very early in the morning.  At 4 0’clock no hostel opens their doors for us so we lay down our camping mat at the bus station and sleep till the first ray of light resuscitates the life in the streets.  Fast we find a nice hostel with a cosy indoor patio that offers us a private room for the right price.  Tupiza, as many of the villages in the area, outcries the lost grandeur it once had as a miners paradise.  Great buildings showing off majestic towers with diverse architectural features at the town square expresses a past of welt while decaying with the passing of the time.

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And still, settled at the shore of the Tupiza River, the village did not fade away in time did not turn into a ghost village as many others did.  Agriculture took over from mining activities and could maintain the small population.  This area has rich landscapes with gorges, canyons and valleys that makes you feel like being in a western movie and a high but small mountain pass and bizarre rock formations amplifies the effect in settings such as those found in the Valle De Los Machos and the Inca Cañon.

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Popular and a great attraction are horseback excursions made to the hypothetical tomb of the legendary bandits Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid, in the neighbour village San Vicente.  Another important tourist attraction of this town is the ‘Fiesta De Reyes’ to be held in the district of Remedios January 6.  Walking through the centre we become aware of the unwinding ambient here as trifling markets with vendors having time for a chat and a laugh meddle with happy children running on the streets and passageways and as young and old friends in the shade of carefully well-trimmed trees come daily play some kind of local billiard at an almost forgotten little square.  It feels good to see how simple live can be and how happy it can make people.

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Talking with the locals they tell us that there is a nice hike to do in which we can appreciate the full range of bizarre vicissitudes that erosion offers.  First the adventurous hiker walks the old railroad, then a turn to the right leaving Tupiza River behind him to pass through the ‘Cañon del Duende’.  El ‘Cañon Del Inca’ as a hike is not difficult but rather a long resistance test on the human body as both the solar radiation and the dry hot breeze brings you to your limits.  Once passed the Puerta Del Diablo (gate of the devil) where the sun high in the sky, shining luminous on the rocks, highlights the almost Valentino-red colour of the canyons but does not offer much shade to cool down.  Tower high cactus and some local thorn armed bushes are the only vegetation able to make it through the summer.

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With the devil left behind, scenery of incredible rock formations beautifies the abruptness of the ‘Valle De Los Machos’ as the hiker keeps on penetrating the purgatory.  A bit further the soil seems moist, and moist changes into wet by a hairbreadth and some few steps further wet becomes a tiny flow.  This micro river continually absorbed by the dry and thirsty soil grows by ever footstep the hiker advances into the narrowing gulch and ends up into a minor but very welcome cascade at Inca Canyon.  Clothes are taken off and a fresh shower in the canyon with no other soul around is a priceless reward for doing this hike.

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Our recommendation:

  • Hostal Pedro Arraya is a nice place to stay, close to both bus- and train station and the centre of Tupiza.  It has a small kitchen for you use but closes quite early on the evening (20:00hours!).  A good internet connection and comfortable rooms and dorms (without lockers) to spend some nights.  We paid 35 Bs a person per night in a private room.  The hostal offers tours and tickets for transport to the border.
  • The Cañon Del Inca trail is beautiful and cost nothing. Be aware to take enough water, suncream, food, …
  • For travellers heading for Argentina, use the banks and ATMs (most have the option for local bolivianos or American dollars) to obtain dollars as in Argentina changing a dollar on the street gives you about 25 till 45% more value for your money. Big notes of 50 and 100 are getting the best rate. Look for the wright rate at twitter (@DolarBlue) or on the internet comparing the many websites.  The same story for those traveling with euros (max 200€ notes!).
Categories: Bolivia | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Salar de Uyuni, a perfect valediction for Bolivia.

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30/01-03/02/2014

Formed as a result of transformations between several prehistoric lakes, near the crest of the Andes at an elevation of 3656 meters, the world largest salt flat is by far the harshest and most inhospitable terrain we have set foot on so far.  The endless salt crust reflects the sunlight with such intense whiteness that it seems to be snow, at night it looks like the moon let its light absorb by the salt which glows bright under the with stars filled firmament.  Once saturated because of the seasonal rains (December till April), a thin layer of water at the surface turns the Salar into an infinite mirror that reflects the blue sky, the white cotton clouds and the surrounding highlands so perfectly that horizons fades away and that the mountains give the impression of being islands floating avatar-wise in the sky.

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By sunset the Salar de Uyuni’ (or Salar de Tunupa) plays with colours and masters optical illusions which words can’t describe.

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Both the 10.582 square kilometers salt dessert and the ‘Reserva de fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa’ form a natural frontier between Bolivia, Chile and Argentina. To visit this wonders we travel to Uyuni village, founded in 1889 at the junction of the railways that enter Bolivia from Chile and Argentina.  Uyuni has nothing more to offer than a 19th century clock tower, several rusty tributes to the golden age of steam and if it wasn’t for the salt it probably would have become a ghost town.  Bolivia offers the cheapest possibilities to contract a tour that guides tourists through this rough area.  It takes us a while but after gathering some information we find the right deal: a 3 day tour with lodgements, food, guide and transport included.   It starts with the railway graveyard just outside the village and from there to the village of Colchani just some kilometers away from the salt dessert.

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We are amazed by the stunning views of this over-white otherworld landscape that the Salar awardus and the three day trip just had started.  After a short sleep on beds made of salt in a house made of salt we feel a bit dehydrated but are ready for the second day, where we leave the salt flats behind us and enter in a world of singular, eccentric landscapes. We enter a land of freezing salt lakes whose icy waters tinged bright red, pink, grey, orange or emerald green by microorganisms or mineral deposits. At the ‘Desierto de Siloli’, rocks sculptured by the very elements of nature designing the wildest and the most impossible formations are appearing any direction we look.

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There is a wide range of rare Andean wildlife in and around all these lakes. Large herds of vicuñas grazing on the slight vegetation of the high, semi desert grassland, as well as viscachas and even the elusive Andean fox are sometimes spotted.  The salty lakes, apart from the 80 species of birds, support large colonies of all three South American species of flamingo (James, Andean and Chilean) giving a supreme touch to a travellers experience.  In the morning we have a sunrise with geysers at ‘Sol de Mañana’ and a bath in a natural hot springs at the shore of Laguna Challviri… it’s all just perfect.  Refreshing the mind and recharging our inner batteries we are ready for a last day of wondering and gaping with disbelieve at this corner of Bolivia.  All in this three day trip is just so spectacular, enormous, and breath-taking that while driving back to Uyuni we are aware of the difficulty to describe such a place…

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Our recommendations:

–       As there is not much to visit in Uyuni village the stay is just functional, one afternoon to check out prices a cheap and comfortable night rest and the next day we start the tour, so we did not expect any luxe or extras.  Hostal ‘El Chavito’, close to the train station we got for 70 Bolivianos for the two of us.

–       We paid 630 Bolivianos each, at the agency: ‘Expediciones Libez‘ for a three day tour with food, transport, guide and hotels/hostels included.  If you are with a group of 5 then try to get the car for just the five of you, some tour operators load up the car with 7 persons which is very uncomfortable for long days of driving off road. Plus a 150 Bolivianos a person as entrance at ‘Reserva de fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa’ which is never included at any operator in the tour price.  Ask explicit for a sunset at the Salar of Uyuni as not every tour includes this spectacle.

–       There is the possibility to cross the border with Chile at San Pedro de Atacama, instead of driving back till Uyuni.  You miss a last half day of excursion but win a day of traveling to Chile.  In order to take this option it is important to get all the necessary papers and stamp passports at the police office of Uyuni.

–        In Uyuni railway station the cheap train tickets, on a reclining seat is a treasure to look for so try to purchase your tickets in advance we recommend to get them before the three day trip.

Categories: Bolivia | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

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