Jeep trip to the biggest salt plane in the world!


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Originally uploaded by Chris_Walker

We have just returned from an incredible 4 day jeep trip to the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia; the biggest salt plane in the world. For the first three days we were driving through the most beautiful and colourful mountain landscapes, and we could have been on first the Moon and then Mars. We saw steaming geysers, blue, red and green lagoons, flocks of flamingos (some only a couple of meters away) and floated in a lovely hot spring. It was all at very high altitude (>4000M) and very cold, especially at night (the second night was like sleeping in a fridge, but with our sleeping bags, liners, all our clothes on and 6 blankets we were warm enough). Then on the final day we got up early to watch the sunrise rise while in the middle of the salt flats with nothing but the hexagons of white salt extending in all directions. We then had our breakfast on a salt table at a cactus covered island in the middle of the flats.

Samaipata to Sucre – the long way round.

From Samaipata we wanted to travel to the next big town on our way back west across the country into the highlands. There was a night bus we could take which would take us all the way. But after reading about a very expensive organized trip which went there by jeep staying in local villages on the way, we decided to try and do it ourselves. It was made all the more exciting as none of these places are in our guide book and no one seemed really sure about the times or existence of buses.

The route would be following the ´Ruta del Che´. The remote area of Bolivian highlands where Che Guevara unsuccessfully attempted to instigate a revolution to overthrow the US backed military dictatorship. He was captured and executed in this area by an elite ranger battalion of the Bolivian army trained by the US green berets, on the 8th and 9th of October respectively.    

Day 1 Samaipata to Vallegrande.

By 11am we are by the side of the road waiting for the many buses which apparently pass through in the next couple of hours. 3pm, give up standing and looking down the road and go and get some food in a cafe by the road side. 5:30pm,  after deciding to wait to see if there is any room on the 7pm night bus straight to Sucre, the owner the cafe we had been lingering in for the past few hours shouts us and the elusive ´12pm´ bus to Vallegrande has arrived! We squeeze on to the already very crowded bus, and find a space stood up at the back.

We arrive into the small town of Vallegrandein the dark, hoping there is some where to stay, and after being pointed in the right direction we find a very nice cheap hotel with a real mattress, and not just the piece of thin foam we have become accustomed to.  

Day 2 Vallegrande.

Day 3 Vallegrande to pucara.

Get the local 8am bus to Pucara, a tiny remote village set over looking the most amazing mountain landscape. We find a small very basic (no electricity, like most of the village) but clean hostel on the main square, and go in search of food and bus times..  We find out that the bus too Serrano leaves on Saturday and Wednesday.  So as today is Thursday I guess we are staying here until Saturday. We are a bit worried as the money is starting to run low and we have not seen a bank since Santa Cruz. But relax a bit after finding no where to actually spend any money except 2 shops which sell cream crackers and tinned meats. So it´s a pack of cream crackers and a tin of sardines for lunch and a tin of sausages for tea…

Climb up above the village and watch a beautiful sunset over the mountains. Then as there is no electricity in our room we find ourselves in our little rickety bed for 7:30pm (with just enough battery left on the ipod to watch the Matrix).

Day 4 Pucara

After a breakfast of cream crackers and apricot jam we set off to walk the final 15km of the Ruta del Che which takes us though the valley where he was finally captured and too the village where he was executed.

Day 5 Pucara to Serrano.

Day 6 Serrano to Sucre.

Day 206!!

We have finally escaped from big cities after being stuck in Cochabamba and then Santa Cruz by various ailments (all of which are better now). We are now in the little town of Samaipata , which at 1800M is lovely and sunny. Samaipata is a very pretty town surrounded by green mountains, and with its slate roofed houses and tall skinny conifers feels like we could be in the mountains in Italy.

We have already had 2 good days out walking in the amazingly beautiful mountains. Yesterday we walked about 18km to an archaeological site on top of a near by mountain, and are having a day off today as our legs are now very achey.

Happy New Year !!

20th June – From La Paz we travelled to Tiwanaku to celebrate the Aymara new year and winter solstice. The site of Tiwanaku is near the south-eastern shore of Lake Titicaca and contains Pre-Columbian ruins which are still very important to the the indigenous people of today, thousands of which had travelled here to celebrate their new year.

We stayed in a hostel in the small village right next to the site, so after looking round the food and drink stalls which were being set up around the village, and testing their many wares – which includedtoffee apples, Api, a hot berry drink with a tasty fried pastry thing, cubes of fried but now cold and soft pig skin, and rum in hot frothy tip top – We were very pleased to be able to get out of the cold and get a few hours sleep before the ceremony began at 5am.

At 5am we got up to find everyone very, very drunk on rum and tip top. We then climbed up to the site to wait for the sun to rise. I have never been so pleased to see the sun, which took until 7am to get to us, and by which time we were completely frozen, any longer and I think we would still be there frozen to the spot. Just before sunrise Bolivia’s first indigenous president Evo Morales arrived in a helicopter and hoisted the Bolivian flag while the crowd sang the national anthem, he then joined the priests for the ceremony.

Isla del Sol, Lake Titicaca, Bolivia

6th June – From Lima we traveled up into the Andes to Puno, a Peruvian town located on the shores of lake Titicaca. At an elevation of 3,860M we got the cold and snow we had been asking for in Central America, and needed to take a few days to get over the initial effects of the altitude.

When we were in the Himalayas we had noticed that the altitude had not effected us half as much as when we were here 5 years ago, and we had put it down to being fitter and not living in London any more, But for some reason the altitude seems to be much worse here, very strange!

9th-10th June – After spending 2 nights in Puno (with bad headaches and moving very slowly), we caught the (very cold) early morning bus to Copacabana the main Bolivian town on Lake Titicaca which is just over the border from Peru (where Gemma was very pleased to find a pair of fleece long johns to go under her jeans). From Copacabana we were able to catch the very, very slow boat to the sacred Inca island of Isla del Sol (island of the sun) – the Inca’s believe that both the sun and moon were born in lake Titicaca, and that the sun god was born on this island.

13th-14th June – We spent 2 nights on the island which allowed us to spend a day walking round the trails on the island, visiting the sacred sites, and watching the most amazing sunsets. After checking the map we worked out we must of walked at least 10 miles, which i think should be multiplied by 10 to correct for the altitude and all the up and down (not much of the island is flat).

We arrived on the island on Friday afternoon in the middle of a large festival, which involved lots of dancing in very beautiful elaborate costumes to a brass band, and lots of drinking! By the evening there were many, mainly elderly men and women wobbling around, crying, falling over, having very loud in depth conversations, whilst being carried home by at least 2 younger members of their family. Then as we were setting of to walk round the island on Saturday morning, we could hear the music starting again, and pasted a parade coming from a near by village, which had their band at the front and several people carrying the all important crates of beer following behind, and they were still drinking as we left to get the boat on Sunday morning – they certainly know how to throw a fiesta!!

Kinky the Kinkajou


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Originally uploaded by Chris_Walker

Here is a picture of Kinky the Kinkajou, who we looked after at the Rainsong animal sanctuary, Costa Rica (we have finally put some more photos on flickr). She is definitely one of the most gorgeous, soft and gentle animals in the world.

and the mexican hairy porcupines which charged at Chris!!




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Originally uploaded by Chris_Walker