A Travellerspoint blog

In the Jungle, the mighty jungle....

(a wimba wey, a wimba wey, a wimba wey, a wimba wey - oooooooOOOOOOOOOOOO....)

all seasons in one day 28 °C

Sooooo, we decided we could not leave South America without doing a jungle trip - you cannot come this close to the Amazon with going into it! so off we went to Rurrenabaque, which is right on the edge of the amazon basin and one of the easiest places to start a trip from. we got up at 4.30am to catch the 6.15 plane from La Paz, which was a tiny little 20 seater. I am so glad we got up that early, because the views from the plane were amazing. first we saw La Paz, in the semi darkness, sprawled out beneath us with all the lights twinkling, then as we flew low heading north to Rurrenabaque we could see the sun rising to the right of us, and the snow-topped mountains emerging on the left. As we approached Rurrenabaque the mountains suddenly gave way to lush greenery as we reached the edge of the basin - it was an awesome sight, definately one worth waking up early for.

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When we arrived, the plane bumped down onto the 'landing strip' (field...) and we set off on our mission to find a jungle trip. An hour later we were signed up with Fluvial Tours, and set to leave 45 minutes later. after a quick breakfast we were on our way to the boat, which would take us on the 3 hour journey upriver to our lodgings. Almost everybody nodded off on the boat, but eventually we arrived at the landing spot, and then proceeded to lug all our stuff on a 15 minute walk to the camp (i dont think i was listening at the travel agent's when they told us about that bit...i would have brought less stuff....) . The walk was fine, except for the river crossing....which was slightly amusing for other people to watch me...i do have the grace and balance of Bambi...

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So we arrived at our camp, where we stayed in basic wooden huts, with simple beds and mozzy nets.
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lunch was served, everybody had a nap then we set off on our first walk. unfortunately, 7 people is a rather large group for this type of thing, and we didnt see any animals - they heard us coming a mile off. still, our guide showed us lots of plants and trees, and told us about their medicinal properties - all kinds of things from easing the itch of mozzy bited to helping with rheumatism.

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this is ian drinking pure water from a vine!

when we got back, we found to our horror that there was no alcohol at the camp.....so Ian, being the true hero that he is, arranged with the captain of the little boat to bring us some beer the next day when he brought another group ;) The captain also turned out to be a hero, as he appeared the next day with 2 crates of beer, ice and a coolbox! Trust me, when you're in the jungle, it's dark and there's a million mosquitos trying to eat you...you want beer. So we were all (except for the grumpy French guy who threw a strop) very grateful and enjoyed our second night with beer and a bonfire! (at which point we realised we should have asked for marshmallows as well....ah well you live and learn!)

anyway before the beer drinking of the second night there was more walking in the morning, where most of the group saw wild boars (i didnt, i was at the back and missed them :( bummer) and we also saw some birds, a tarantula and lots more plants etc.

In the afternoon we'd had enough of walking, so the guide showed us how to make rings (as in jewellery) from little coconut-type seeds. it was really cool, he just chopped the two sides off with a saw then scooped out the insides with a knife and showed us how to sand them down with sandpaper and emery paper, then polish them with dirt from the floor! never thought i would be making jewellery in the amazon jungle! Then at 4pm we went fishing - my first ever time. needless to say i didnt catch anything, but the guide and Raphael caught a pretty big one, then Ian caught one too, even bigger! we took them home and the cook fried them up for our dinner, which was very tasty!

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the next day we went for one last walk, then had lunch and trekked back to the boat to go back to Rurrenabaque.

on our return we tried to book our flight back to La Paz, hoping to travel the next day....only to be told that the next flight we could get was in 7 days time. Ah. All flights were delayed due to the rain over the last 2 days....because the airstrip is a grassy field, any rain means that nobody flies in or out. luckily there are 2 airlines, and the other ones could fit us onto a flight in only 3 days time, which was much better. there are buses, but they take 18 hours down a very bad road, which we didnt really fancy...and anyway they were all booked up too.

So we spent 3 nights in Rurrenebaque, which was a nice enough place but not too exciting - many places offered Happy Hour cocktails to liven things up, which we took advantage of..... :)

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On the tuesday morning we finally flew back to La Paz...back to the cold and the thin air :( We were a little disappointed that we did not see more animals (apparently the pampas tours see more animals), but at least we have been to the jungle, and it was a fun few days! We have heard about a small animal sanctuary a few hours from La Paz which we are going to try and visit - they definately have monkeys, which will make up for the lack of them in the jungle! Really looking forward to that, plus Ian is going to do some mountain climbing, and then we'll be off to the Salt flats...it's going to be a busy couple of weeks!

In the next episode....climbing, biking, bussing and hiking!

Posted by ericurly 14:45 Archived in Bolivia Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Lake Titicaca to La Paz

sunny 10 °C

So, what happened after Machu Picchu? (btw if you pronounce that wrong it apparently means 'old penis' so get it right!)

Well, we headed from Cusco to Puno which was...well, cold basically. It is on Lake Titicaca and is good place to visit several groups of islands - but i got a really bad cold and barely slept the first night we were there, so we settled for a short afternoon trip to visit just the Floating Islands. These islands are - yes, clue's in the title - floating islands, made from reeds which grow on the lake. they were originally made for the local people to escape the invading Incas, and there is still a thriving community living there today.
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They make the islands by first taking the roots of the reeds, which grow in large clumps, and tying many pieces together to make a base. they then take the reeds themselves, and layer them over the top - many layers, in alternating directions. every month they add a new layer, because they rot from the bottom upwards and must be constantly replenished.

Then they build their houses, furniture, canoes, crafts, hats, and many other things.....all out of these reeds. it's really quite impressive the number of things you can make from one little plant!
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So, that was the floating islands.

We didn't stay long in Puno because it was cold, and i was too ill to see more islands. so we got a bus the next day to Copacabana (not the famous one, just a little town near the border in Bolivia) which is another place on the lake to visit islands from, but on the Bolivia side. Lake Titicaca is about 60 percent Peruvian and 40 percent Bolivian. We just stayed one night there then got the bus to La Paz, where we stayed in Wild Rover, the Irish Hostel.

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As soon as we settled in, Ian booked to do the mountain biking down the Death Road, or 'World's Most Dangerous Road' , which is one of the top tourist activities in La Paz. Basically you mountain bike down the road, which is closed to most other traffic in the mornings, just bikes, and then you stop somewhere for lunch and a much-needed shower, and then come back in the minibus via the new, safer road. Needless to say, i wasn't really up for the death-defying cycling (hell, when am i ever up for any kind of cycling??) so i stayed behind and explored La Paz a little by myself. Ian returned safe and sound, and really enjoyed himself, so all was well! I have to say i was a little jealous because the photos of the scenery looked amazing - Bolivia is truly beautiful!

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Tune in for the next episode, in which Erica and Ian go to the jungle and get eaten by sandflies and mosquitos.....

Posted by ericurly 12:36 Archived in Bolivia Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Machu Picchu

all seasons in one day 26 °C

Our journey to Machu Picchu began yesterday morning in Cusco at 9am - we caught a collectivo to Ollantaytambo, where we bought our tickets for the train (ripoff, 34 USD ech way!) bolted our lunch and jumped on the train. unfortunately not a steam train but still pretty nice (with enough room for backpacks, shock horror..they should give Virgin trains some pointers...)
At around 1.30pm we arrived at Aguas Calientes, which is the nearest town to Machu Picchu (somtimes called Machu Picchu Pueblo), and is therefore the most touristy place ever. I have never seen so many restaurants in such a small place, and ALL of them serve pizza...apparently they decided that is the staple diet of all tourists and we will starve if they dont all fight over who gets to serve it to us...
We bought our tickets for Machu Picchu (paying the full price after the guy literally threw my student card back in my face...we had a big argument with him about it and he then ignored us and started playing solitaire on his computer....soooo rude) and then of course had some pizza and an early night.

Today began at 4.30am, when we dragged ourselves out of bed to go and buy tickets and queue for the 5.30am bus to Machu Picchu. We caught it and headed up to the site, arriving at 6am, in the rain (joy) - thank god for the enterprising lady at the bus stop selling ponchos for a dollar, and thus enabling Ian and Peter to look like superheroes in capes...
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When we finally got in, we wandered around in the drizzle, unable to see anything much due to the heavy mist/fog that was covering all of the Inca city. after a while we found ourselves at the entrance gate for Wayna Picchu, which is the steep mountain at the back of the ruins - only 400 people per day are allowed to climb it (compared to the 2500 people who enter the ruins every day at the height of peak season) and only from 7am until 1pm. luckily we found it at 2 minutes to 7am, and were within the first 20 people to enter and begin the ascent.

It was NOT easy....it's at least one hour of hard climbing up steep rocky steps, and that early in the damp morning it was slippy...though at least it was cool, i don't envy the people trying to climb it at midday! I was not the only one struggling - plenty of people were stopping every two minutes gasping for breath. the altitude doesn't help of course, because the air is thinner to begin with, and once you start climbing something so steep there just isn't enough oxygen! Ian of course climbed it in his flip flops (to many comments of "is he crazy??" from other climbers) and barely broke a sweat while i arrived at the top a sweaty dishevelled mess, covered in mud, rust, dust and rain.

not far from the top we came across a small problem - a fourlegged, furry problem. A dog had decided that he wanted to go for walkies, and had followed some walkers all the way from Aguas Calientes, into the ruins and all the way up the mountain with us. Well...not quite all the way. He got to almost the top, to a very difficult rocky bit and then lost his nerve and just sat there on a narrow ledge whining. He couldn't get up, he couldn't get down, and nobody could get past. So began Operation Dog, with several climbers trying to shift the poor thing, either to lift him up or down or encourage him to jump (he was golden retreiver sized so not easy to shift), but then he got quite agitated and started trying to bite, so everyone backed off and eventually he jumped down to the next ledge...and disappeared. then we realized he'd gone into a tunnel, which was actually where we were supposed to be going as well, rather than climbing up the really nasty steep bit that he'd got stuck on! so we all followed the dog thru the tunnel and carried on up the final stretch to the top.
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when we finally reached the top...everything was still covered in mist and fog. we couldn't see a thing, but having staggered up there we weren't moving until the mist cleared and we got the views we were promised!
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Eventually it happened, the sun came out, the clouds cleared, and Machu Picchu appeared out of the mist, laid out before us in all its glory. it was worth the climb and the wait to see this ancient site, surrounded by breathtaking mountain scenery and glorious sunshine. we all stayed at the top for ages, taking photos and soaking in the views, competing with everyone else for the best shots, and ignoring instructions from a spanish guide telling us to just take photos and leave quickly!
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Coming back down - tricky, slippy, not so fun, but once we got back down to the ruins, the herd of alpacas were grazing in the sunshine which was a great sight :)
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we wandered around a bit more, took some more photos, then headed home to get some well earned food and drink!
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All in all it was a great day - very tiring but worth it, an amazing place :)

Posted by ericurly 12:06 Archived in Peru Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

Colombia rocks!

Taganga, Parque Tayrona, Ciudad Perdida, Medellin, Bogota

all seasons in one day 19 °C

hello everybody,

Sorry for the lack of blogging recently.....

here's a little update....but its been a while and we've been a lot of places so i'll just do the highlights, to save my fingers and your eyes.

at the end of the last blog we were in taganga. Ian did the lost city trek (Ciudad Perdida), which was apparently awesome, took five days, sleeping in hammocks, trekking, meeting locals and military, and of course seeing the lost city (like a mini machu picchu).

meanwhile i stayed in taganga, visited Parque Nacional Tayrona for a day which was beautifu, did a bit of hiking then sat on the beach. rest of the time i mooched about, laid in hammocks, enjoyed the sun etc.

from there to Medellin - lovely city, bit rainy tho and not too warm. still, we had fun - went to a football match, went out drinking, had two barbeques courtesy of the argentinean and israeli chefs who were staying in our hostel! great hostel, great people, great time.

from there to Bogota, the capital. arrived early morning, freezing cold, weren't quite sure what to make of it. the first couple of days it just rained and rained, we had to shopping to buy me some jeans and a jumper because it was freezing and wet. we knew we would be in bogota for a week at least because we had to get ian a new passport - his was stolen in a bus station on the way to Medellin. luckily the people at the embassy were very nice and helpful.....they didnt laugh too much when ian forgot his passport pictures, and told us where to go to get new ones done...unfortunately he had hat hair, so had to go into a restaurant toilet to sort it out...where he nearly got beaten up by a rather large lady....

anyway we got the photos, got the passport, and went to get it stamped at the DAS office. only the DAS couldnt find any record on the computer of him entering the country. 2 hours later the guy decided that he would give ian the stamp because it was closing time and he wanted to go home - even tho there was no proof. ian then broke the door on the way out, at which point we ran away before they tried to deport us...

so, Bogota - in the end turned out to be a great city. once the weather cleared up, it stopped raining and even warmed up a bit during daytime, we started looking around the city some more and found that it was a great place. we stayed in La Candelaria, the oldest bit of the city which has a lot of university students - it has lots of tiny winding streets, little bohemian cafes tucked away everywhere with roaring open fires and candles and floor cushions (health and safety nightmare obviously, but soo cosy on a cold night). i went a little mad on buying earrings - the quality of handicrafts, jewellery etc is so much higher there than i have seen for a long time, i just couldnt help myself!
we went up to the top of the hill on the cable car for views across the city, and saw a little bit of the international theatre festiival which was on all month there. we went to see 'Fallen Angels', a french aerial circus in the bullring which was fantastic - trapeze artists, juggling, somersaulting, feathers everywhere, flying bicycles, fire breathing, you name it!

erm what else in bogota.....new friends, old friends, flea markets, craft markets, lots of rum, Margarita limon crisps (like walkers but better) bad pizza, great paella and crepes, ice cream, fruit juices galore (everywhere in colombia), bendy buses, furnicular railway, Museo nacional, mummies, strange sculptures of dead people on roofs....anything and everything!

Basically we loved Bogota, and Colombia in general!

right thats enough for one blog, will continue a different one for the next places!

Posted by ericurly 13:41 Archived in Colombia Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

Panama (San Blas islands) and Cartagena, Colombia

sunny 28 °C

Hello everybody,

sorry for the delay on this entry!

so, i got back to Panama City on the 12th of feb and on the 15th Ian left to get the boat across to Cartagena, Columbia. i didnt get the boat because, well, i dont do boats - not out on open water anyway. it's not just the seasickness, i think it's also the not being able to see land anywhere near me, makes me rather panicky....so i chose to spend a few more days in panama and then fly over to meet him in Cartagena.

he left at 5am on friday morning, and was taken in a 4x4 up to San Blas, a collection of islands off the north coast of Panama, inhabited entirely by the Kuna people. they govern themselves seperately from Panama, and nobody but Kuna are allowed to own land there - which is a damn shame since we learned that an island recently sold for only $5000!!! its a hair-raising ride in the car to get up to these islands, especially if it's been raining, because it's ridiculously muddy and the roads are just dirt tracks...but once you get there it is unbelievably beautiful. (mor about that in a minute)

once he got there he was transferred to the boat, and they spent a few days sailing around the islands, going snorkelling, swimming, landning on various islands, having a BBQ, drinking, and generally having an amazing time by the sounds of it! the boat was one of the biggest that sails this route and therefore one of the steadiest and safest, and i think quite comfortable too. they all had to take it in turns to cook for everyone, which was apparently not bad whilst sailing around the islands but not so easy out on the open sea!

ohhh and he caught a seven foot shark!!!! he knew it was down there and stayed up all night trying to catch it, which he finally did, on a hand-line (!) and then woke up the whole boat to show them! he had to wrestle it into the dinghy, and everyone came to look and take photos - obviously he couldnt take any himself cos he was busy, but we're going to get some by email from other people to show soon hopefully! they released it back into the sea once they'd got the photos etc, rather than eat it.

aaanyway they left San Blas on Monday morning and arrived in Cartegena on tuesday night....

Meanwhile.....

I spent a couple more days in Panama City, met some lovely people at our hostel, and arranged to go up to San Blas on the sunday, with Louisa and Sarah, two english girls who were staying in my dorm. we set off at 5am, to do the terrifying journey up to the coast....now, i've seen some pretty crowded buses in the last few months but i've never seen 17 people crammed into one 4x4 before. its was starting to turn into one of those jokes..."how many people can you fit into a landrover"...There were only us three tourists, but also lots of locals! i sat in the front (with a seatbelt i was very glad to find) with 3 bags, then on the back seat sat Sarah, louisa, two panamanian women, and five children (which soon became 4 when the 5 year old screamed and screamed for her mother til they let her out to go and sit in the back with her). then in the back truck part there were about another 6 people, plus luggage, and more luggage on the roof. now, thats a very heavy truck to be going over HEAVILY churned up roads, with ditches and ruts around a foot or more deep, lots of mud, steep climbs and descents. it was scary - we were on two wheels at times. luckily it was a very good truck, the best we saw, and also a very experienced driver - tho we did get a little hysterical when he answered his phone at one tricky part and continued to talk as he navigated a hill...but it was ok in the end!

we arrived at the coast and got into a little boat which took us out to the island we were staying on - i was very proud of myself, never got seasick or panicky on any of these little boats, which is probably because it was very calm, they didnt go too fast, and i could always see an island close by. we were shown to our hut, where there were two hammocks and a "bed" - possibly the most hilarious bed i have ever tried to sleep on. it was a flat frame with a thin mattress on (damp), which was propped up on a bench on one side, and two crates on the other two corners. then in the middle it just sortof collapsed in a huge dip when you sat on it. sleeping on that was an art, i tell you. we took it in turns, so i also had one night in a hammock, which i'd not tried for a full night before, and it was actually quite comfy.

The islands are amazing - tiny little carribean paradises, dozens of them - one we saw had only one palm tree on, nothing else. on our first afternoon we were taken to a little island with just a couple of huts on it and left for a few hours just to swim and relax. unfortunately the weather was pretty grey and overcast, with occasional heavy rain, but on the second afternoon we did eventually get a couple of hours of sunshine.

the second afternoon really made it for me - we had arrived on the island at 11am, rather soggy from the rain on the way over in the boat. the island had a few huts on it, and a couple of families, and there was another island right next to it which you could swim to, and a shipwreck you could snorkel around. unfortunately i forgot my contact lenses so couldnt do the snorkelling, which i was really gutted about cos apparently it was really impressive....but with no glasses or contacts there could actually be a shark dancing a jig right next to me and i probably wouldnt notice, so there wasnt much point!

so, while i was stuck on the first island, not snorkelling, the children who lived on the island came over to me and started whispering and pointing at the football near my feet, which belonged to sarah and louisa. they obviously wanted to play so i started kicking and throwing it around with them for a bit, and they seemed to think it was the best thing ever! anything i did they would copy - kicking it, throwing over my head, through my legs, volleyball passes (they showed me up at this point), anything, they were just such happy enthusiastic kids.
after lunch they wanted to play again - by this time everyone else was napping so it was just me, outnumbered by about 5 or 6 kids, from about 10 mths to around 14 years. they wanted to play football, piggybacks (only the little ones, thank god), and then eventually when i collapsed on the sand they surrounded me, making balls of sand with their hands and finding shells to present to me. i took some of the sandballs and made a mini "sandman" (like a snowman) which they thought was fantastic and immediately ran off to find twigs for arms, seaweed for hair, shells for hats....i dont know if they've ever seen a snowman out there, except for in pictures, but they certainly thought sandmen were brilliant!

i've not been around many kids at home, being the youngest of the family, but i certainly have never met kids like these - they didnt fight with each other, never complained or cried (that i saw), they shared everything without complaint, the big ones carried the little ones and looked after them, and they learned my name and wrote it in a huge heart shape on the sand, ran up to hug me every 5 mins, wanted to hold my hand and sit on my knee (that gets heavy when there's three in one go), wanted to teach me spanish and learn some english......and all in one afternoon. i was just overwhelmed by how much love these little kids seemed to have to share, unquestioningly - it was so refreshing to spend time with little people who dont ask how many countries you've been to or what job you do, or where you're going next.....they just want to know your name and how far you can kick a football!

anyway i will stop with the rambling now, but those kids really made my week! the next morning i left and got the jeep back to pnama city, which was much less scary this way as there were only 4 passengers, all of us with seatbelts on, and much less rain on the track. i enjoyed a much earned shower (none of them in SAn Blas....just a bucket of water to pour over yourself whilst wearing a bikini) and then the next morning flew to Cartagena, Columbia, to meet Ian.

Cartagena was absolutely gorgeous - its a colonial town and totally puts the other i have seen to shame. the Old Town is amazing, every street is worthy of a photograph, and the vibe is just so friendly and arty and interesting. we spent many hours just strolling around, up and down streets and around the city walls, enjoying the see breeze and the beautiful architecture and artwork - there is a lot of public sculpture, and of course the usual street sellers with their displays of brightly coloured jewellery, bags, scarves, purses, shoes, and t-shirts. the whole place just felt nothing like i expected columbia to be - i loved every minute of it.

we're now in a small town/village called taganga, which is very nice is rather more touristy than we expected. Ian is off diving today and is hopefully going to do the Lost city trek maybe tomorrow (Ciudad Perdida, google it) but its too tough a hike for me i think so i will stay here and work on the tan!

right thats all for now cos my fingers are very tired from typing! and im sure you're all tired of reading!!

Posted by ericurly 12:41 Archived in Panama Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

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