Pls ignore an email sent from my account asking you to sign into a Google drive account – its a fraudulent/virus mail that has been used to access my contact list!
My account is now back in my hands.
Pls ignore an email sent from my account asking you to sign into a Google drive account – its a fraudulent/virus mail that has been used to access my contact list!
My account is now back in my hands.
Dear friends and family,
As the expat saying goes; “We are fresh off the boat on the shores of Australia”.
If you would like to follow our blog while in Melbourne, Aussie, please visit http://www.2godownunder.wordpress.com and click on the “follow” icon.
Andrew and Cathy
One of the peculiarities of travelling by bike is that one is bound to your travel companion. There is very little opportunity to indulge in complete isolation immersed in thought or contemplation. Daily travels while on the road always require a degree of concentration both from the pillion and clearly more from the driver. The downtime is spent visiting sites or indulging in the magic that is the foreign location. As we head back to the real world and plunge head first into mainstream life, we reflect on our journey.
The bike is packed and wrapped, our tickets are confirmed and we while away the last afternoon in Buenos Aires in our apartment in the classy suburb of Palermo.
I feel that a trip comes to the end when you think back on a famous spot you visited and struggle to contextualise it and recall instantaneously the immediate detail. For example, perito Moreno glacier…….Uhm, down south in Argentina, but what was the name of that place we camped?? No disrespect for our colleagues travelling for over a year! I look forward to re-running drives, visits, campsites and stories in time to come when the good times seem to take on an enhanced shimmer and the bad-times wash away leaving a gentle rememberance in their wake. Selecting the best of the best pictures to print and collate into a printed album for the occasional perusal when the mainstream feels a bit turbulent.
We have spent 9months of our life on the back of a motorbike, cape to Cairo included, fallen off at least 10 times (not once on this trip though!), seen two completely different continents and experienced wildly different adventures.
We have been blessed by meeting wonderful fellow travellers both touring on and off the bike and look forward to maintaining relationships over the years to come.
This whole trip would not even have been possible if Andy Cluver, my father-in-law, was not kind enough to ‘loan’ us his bike. I doubt there are many fathers or father-in-laws out there who are, one, willing to loan their BMWs and two, for the purpose of dragging their daughters across a continent where the advice we received before leaving home was to take out hostage recovery insurance! Whatever your beverage, please raise your glass to the amazing man who is my father in law!!! Thank you so much for this incredible and generous opportunity. The steed has had a private professional wash already and she is due for her post trip service when are back prior to her return to her rightful owner 🙂
This is a continent that has demanded a second visit not only due to its size, but it’s people, sights and diverse climates creating environments that are unrecognisable in different seasons.
Some of our firsts that come to mind;
– pillion riding a mighty GS 1200
– catching a mammoth trout
– touching a manatee
– seeing a real live toucan
– driving on salt plains
– driving in a snow-storm
– cracking a rib from a bad cough
– hot-wiring a BMW
– tasting a Pisco sours……….
We have made a short trailer of some of the things that we have experienced and soon we hope to put together a short video of our entire journey.
We have so enjoyed writing this blog and sharing it with our family and friends. Thank you so much for all the comments and visits to the site. We hope you enjoyed it!
Greetings from the southamerica2up team!
I met this really cool guy at the Sheraton who having learnt that we were heading to Buenos Aires via Corrientes promptly suggested a detour via Esquina to do some world class dorado fishing!!!! Looking into this prospect revealed that this region of Argentina has the best dorado fishing in the world – but the season is over!! Yet another reason to come back!
Not to be beat, we headed off on the dusty track to the Ibera wetlands to see some more wildlife. It was only 130km of sand which took us 2 hours of slithering to negotiate! Not what you would expect on the last leg…..but was it worth it!
We spent today on a morning and afternoon private boat trip through the wetlands. We had close viewing encounters with over 200 camon ranging in size from 15cm to 2 metres, saw 100 or more capybaras, lots of strange birds and indulged on what must surely be our last major Argentinian site-seeing activity!
Cathy: Here is a more info on these wetlands….
The Ibera wetlands are the second largest wetlands in the world, second to the Pantanal in Brazil. They have almost been kept a secret due to the fact that the Pantanal attracts most of the tourists. You access it from the tiny town of Carlos Pellegrini and the best way to explore it (or to see the most animals) is by boat.
It is pretty much an ecological system of swamps, lakes, marshes, lagoons and floating islands. And the animal life is something else!!!!!
I have never seen a wild capybara before and here they were on every island. I learnt that they are the biggest rodent in the world. Despite being rodents I thought they were awfully cute.
Caimans were everywhere and we got really close to them. I’m guessing that they are not nearly as vicious as crocodiles or maybe there is more than enough food around so they don’t have to look at tourists as a quick meal. It felt as if there were even more caimans here than there are crocodiles in Lake Kariba. Our guide took us really close. We could have pretty much touched them if we wanted to. We even managed to see 2 mommy caiman with their babies.
The bird life was spectaular. Every bush seemed to be covered in them. It was so great to see an abundance of life. In Bolivia we kept noticing the lack of wildlife so it was really great to see so much activity.
We were luckily to see a wild pig and 2 marsh deers. The wild pig was frolicking in the mud and it looked like it was having a lovely time. The two marsh deers were filling their bellies while grazing. So beautiful to watch.
These wetlands are known to have the richest fauna in the whole of Argentina. What a way to be getting to an end of this adventure…
The ‘cloud that thunders’ is the local name for Vic Falls and although such a colloquial name does not exist for Iguazu, the spectacle is no less awe-inspiring. Vic falls is considered the largest volume of falling water in the world. Iguazu tops Vic in length, but not height. What I found incredible is my perception of the Vic falls in comparison to Iguazu. My memory said that Vic was wider and more gigantic, but the stats say Iguazu is wider, though shallower……maybe it’s cos of the bias we carry towards Africa?
Its inevitable that we are going to compare the falls…each so exceptionally different in its character. Iguazu’s beauty comes from two main aspects; seeing completely different sides to this body of water between the 2 countries and the ability to view sections of the falls in remarkable proximity.
The Argentinians take the cake here for having created a network of elegantly disguised boardwalks along the sides of the falls giving the visitor access to numerous smaller waterfalls and glamorous views of the main falls. The Brazilians have made a single 1km long walk along the face of the gorge, no less impressive, just shorter (vs 6km in Arg).
Again, the Argentinians score on the Sheraton, most of the rooms face directly onto the front of the falls and from the bed, you can see the Devil’s Throat and the sheer front of the falls!
If asked the single biggest difference between Iguazu and Vic: I would say that what makes Iguazu so amazing is the cascading phenomenon as the falls pour over several islands before plunging into the roaring river below. As I remember Vic falls, the sheet of water just crashed to the bottom 100m below!
The falls are in a jungle, a fact you forget cruising in on the beatiful tar road. So it’s only opportune to visit the wildlife sanctuaries. Brazil vs Argentina again. The latter was an inspiring visit and so paradoxically different from the former.
The Rescue & Rehabilitation centre, for this is what it’s called in Argentina is a 20 hectare piece of land donated by the government to this private guy (forgot his name) who has established the sole wildlife rehab centre in Argentina! Animals (mostly birds) are brought in by the Eco-police or picked up on the road or via trafficking and brought here where his team patches them up for release! He runs a fabulous, privately funded enterprise generating most of his revenue from tourists.
Only guided tours are allowed, it’s peaceful, the centre is clean and quite……the Brazilians…….well, it’s a zoo! The buzzing of the helis taking people on flips and the boom of jets from the local airport is deafening. The birds are all squawking, the people are clicking photos away like mad. They enter the large aviaries with coke cans and chip packets, feed the birds (not allowed), try and touch some and generally behave like fools! Maybe it was my imagination, but I could feel the stress the birds were under!
I love my wife dearly, but her bird spotting and naming ability has yet a long way to come…..those toucans? Well, we saw lots in the Amazon, she thought they were buzzards then! :):):) I will leave the glamour of a night in the Sheraton overlooking the falls to our readers’ imagination…….
We have been in Bolivia for just over 2 weeks and have not slept at anything less than 3500m above sea level. Neither of us is designed for altitude life! The headaches and nausea are at bay, but the perpetual listlessness and shortness of breath is all pervasive. On arrival at Lake Titicaca, Bolivian side, I was barely able to carry our big bag up the stairs to our hotel room without stopping and panting like a marathon runner. Our energy levels are super low and the most comfortable thing to do is actually to ride…..it’s the easiest thing to do!
As we were sitting on the bike preparing to brave the 3 degree celsius ( there was ice on the bike saddle from the night before) start from Oruro , the hotel manager stuck his head out and asked where we were going. “Sucre” we proudly told him……whereupon he frowned and indicated that our planned route was ‘ripio con piedra y mal camino’…..this is bad Spanish paraphrasing for BAD road. Now when a Bolivian tells you that the road is bad…..believe them! It so happened that a guardian angle was looking down on us as we re-planned a route to Potosi, bypassing Sucre. A good friend of ours took the road we had planned and ended up drowning his steed at a river crossing necessitating a vehicular rescue!
The best advice for altitude ailments is get the hell down! We managed to get stuck in Potosi (4060m above sea level) with bad colds for 4 nights and couldn’t move! We eventually managed an escape only to head to Uyuni, the jump off point for trips onto the world’s largest and highest Salt Plains – the Salar de Uyuni.
This amazing piece of mother nature is 3600m above sea level and spans 9000 square kilometres. It is a giant, vast expanse of perfectly flat salt plain. It’s actually a lake with the upper crust completely solidified into a crust of salt able to bear the weight of a vehicle! There are a few small scattered islands on the plains, the most famous of which is the Isla de Incahausi. You can walk the length and breadth of the island in under an hour. What is striking about the island though is the prolific number, of all things, cacti!!
These remarkably well adapted species are apparently over 900years old! The largest are over 9m high and they cover the island!! One is able to stop off at the base of the island, pay a fee to the local and wonder in amongst these ancient species.
As a biker it is always comforting to know that you are following some sort of track or piste……on the salar it’s different. We plugged in the GPS co-ordinates ( compliments of Gilles, our wonderful French BMW friend ) and we go…..the plains are perfectly flat and you can send it! We cruised over the salt at over a 100km/hr and hardly felt the surface! It’s truly spooky riding across these plains with NOTHING in sight and no indication of where you are.
The Isla is about 70k’s from the edge of the flats and by the time we were half way, we were totally disoriented…..endless whiteness. I think the pics and short video clip will give you some idea of what we were seeing. What they don’t show is the temperature – it was minus 1.5degrees out in the middle!!
After a whole day on the flats we returned to our Salt Hotel to thaw…..so we splashed a bit and spent 2 nights in the infamous Hotel Luna Salada, an exclusive hotel on the edge of the flats ( ironically only R800 for a double room with all the fancy hotel finishes!). It’s claim to fame is its spectacular and unique outlook over the flats and the fact that it’s made solely from salt bricks 🙂
Adios to the Salar and a desperate anticipation for warmer climes as we take a south-easterly dirt road 250km to Tupiza, 100km from the Argentine border. Our day started off at 0 degrees, 3600m and ended at a balmy 22deg and 2800m! We are both breathing again and slightly warmer 🙂
En route across the last stretch of the Bolivian alti-plano I was feeling sorry for the bike – she was caked in salt from the Salar…..so in the middle of nowhere we came across a small mining village where the main attraction was a car wash! One happy BMW as I jet blasted every last grain of salt off her!
It’s been another drastic landscape transformation from the bleak, dry and desolate alti-plano to Tupiza which is a small village tucked into a warm valley at the end of the plano. We went on a very affordable day’s horseback ride through the valley and were spell-bound by the beautiful and mysterious rock formations that constitute this part of southern Bolivia – I think the pics tell the story better 🙂
It’s been a relatively brief visit to Bolivia, but filled with weird and wonderful sights and a test of our physical endurance and susceptibility to altitude. We have had a wonderful time, but are indeed pleased to be heading back to more amenable oxygen pressures 🙂
Machu Picchu survived the Spanish conquestadores by mere virtue of being inaccessible and hidden amongst a cloud and mountain pass deep in the Andes. Peruvians would call modern day grave robbers “American” since it was an American, Bingham, who discovered Machu Picchu and started excavating it over a period of 30 years from 1911 onwards thanks to the financial support of Yale! Now the locals are bleating for their 124 mummies and myriads of artefacts to be returned…….it’s a tough debate with an outcome looming in the near future with Yale promising the complete return of artefacts by the year end!?!
There are no roads that lead into this mountainous region. The closest town is Ollataytambo, about 50km from Machu; itself 80 km from Cusco. From here you can only either walk the Inca trail or take a train to the Machu Picchu town ( called Aqua Callientes for tourists because of the disgustingly filthy and crowded hot water springs located nearby). From here it’s a 20 minute bus trip up the side of the mountain where ONLY registered tour buses can go!
My point; by the time you get here, anyhow, you deserve it!
The Inca trail; Machu Picchu is not a major city or town. It’s considered to be a religious/ceremonial site where only royals or nobility used to come on special occasions. It is linked to the outer world by 7 Inca trails coming to the town from various directions; the sea for fish trade, the amazon for fish/fresh produce trade, Cusco for administrative detail etc. The famous Inca trail that people walk used to be the traditional route that nobles used from Cusco to the Ancient religious city of Machu Picchu.
2500m above sea level, covered in cloud and rain during summer and open to the cold heavens in winter, this Ancient world clings to the mountainside of Mount Machu Picchu. Giant terraces hold back the slopes from landslides and double as contoured agricultural plots. Finely carved rock buildings represent shrines or temples to the Sun and Pachamama or Mother Earth; more simple rock-built structures house nobles, warriors, grain or common workers. Large, open, flat green areas represent common ground for ceremonies or gatherings. Building techniques vary according to the nature of the occupants; the more royal, the more intricate the stonework. No mortar is used for most of the construction. Rocks are carefully cut to fit into each other either at 90 degree angles or strangely angled obtuse planes. The blocks have a roughly trapezoid shape cleverly designed to resist the occasional earth tremor! Some of the walls have large foundation stones surrounded by smaller stones – so when Pacahamama (mother earth) shakes, the foundations can cope with the movement!!! Remember, they are still here 500 years later!
The terraces; not all the terraces were simply for crop planting. According to their location on the mountainside they were used as a type of herbarium/experimentation region for growing seed from different regions or hybrid plants!! Due to the relatively high rainfall, the drainage systems built under the buildings and terraces are designed to not only drain the water off the mountain, but can regulate the rate of flow of water off the mountain. An intricate system of above- and below ground aqueducts facilitate this incredible feat. Furthermore, with appropriate drainage, the stone foundations are kept dry thereby preventing sinking and wrotting!
Machu Picchu is overlooked by the nearby Hyanu Picchu mountain, seen in all the classic pics of Machu. On top of Hyanu is a fortress or watch-tower that overlooks Machu Picchu and used to serve as look-out and message relay point. Only 400 visitors are allowed up here each day versus the 3000/day to Machu Picchu. We were lucky enough to get tickets to this peak the day before. It’s a pretty vertical climb up the face of the peak to the viewpoint where Machu Picchu lies splayed below one in its condor-shape!
We walked down the other side to the Temple of the Moon, a small cave with several niches intricately carved out of the natural rock, and then had to ascend around the base back to Machu – 3 and a half hours later we had yet to start our trip into Machu proper 🙂
It’s vital to take a guide (R600). We were lucky with Olga; her English was excellent, enthusiasm right up there, and explanations more real than any book 🙂
Prior to all this, our day started with a 4:30am wake up to get to the highest terrace of Machu Picchu and see the sunrise over the ruins. Why walk when you can bus, took the easy bus ride to the entrance 🙂 where we were horrified to see all the Inca trail hikers waiting to enter the ruins. I am sorry, but that really sucks, you have slogged 4 days and now you have to wait with hundreds of others to get into Machu Picchu?
Total time amongst the ruins – 10 hours 🙂 foot sore and filled with lovelly facts and history we made our way back to Aqua Callientes for a second night to rest the tired limbs!
Machu Picchu not only represented a wonderful indulgence into a centuries old culture, but it is also the most Northerly point of our journey. From here on, every revolution of the wheel is a step closer to home as we start the return journey through Bolivia and Northern Argentina.
The Inca peoples and culture sculpted the modern landscape for which Peru is renowned and attracts several hundred thousands of visitors each year.
One of the many surprising things about the Inca rule is that it was short in the scheme of things 1438-1532 and yet had such a profound effect on Peru.
Cusco was the ancient capital of this giant empire stretching from Colombia in the North to below Santiago, Chile in the South, about 7000km and extending across the Andes into Western Argentina and Western Bolivia, about 2000km East-West! The ancient name of for the Inca empire was Tawantinsuyu, which means the coming together of 4 provinces ie at Cusco.
Sun-god worshipping and sacrificing animals and humans was the order of the day, metal was not known to these people and eventually contributed to their destruction when the Spanish arrived with sword and cannon.
Their single greatest ability was their incredible knowledge of veld, flora, agriculture and building. Structures that were built 500 years ago are still in perfect nick today on a continent riddled with landslides and earthquakes!
Agricultural sites reveal micro-climate control and hybridisation projects!
They were not formidable modern-day warriors. A small army of Spaniards effectively conquered the entire empire between 1533 and 1538!
Thereafter and before?
3m years ago, Lucy and the Taung child of Austrolopithecus, Ethiopia and South Africa respectively
2000 BC building of the Egyptian pyramids
1500 BC to 1000 AC the rise and fall of the Tiwanaku empire
200-500BC, In Arica, southern Peru we met the oldest mummies in the world
200 -500 AD, In Nasca we met the true Ancients in the Chauchulla cemetery,
400-800 AD, the Nascan people and Nasca lines
500-900 AD, the Sillustani tower funereal tombs were built
We then move into vague times of the pre-Inca civilisations with no written records and only pottery and clay fragments to date peoples
1200-1400 AD construction of the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela
1550’s, Spanish invade the Inca empire
Since the Nasca lines on the coast we have been immersed in the history of Ancient cultures and practices all in the build up to reach Machu Picchu. The past few days driving have been our trail to the ancients and the museums we have visited; our anthr-archeological preparation for Machu. It’s only 660km from Nasca on the coast to Cusco, the heart of the Old Inca empire where we planned our trip to Machu. This distance took us 15hrs of driving over 2 days over the most squiggly climbing passes over 4500m above sea level!
The first day out from Nasca had the outside temp gauge ranging from 31 degrees in the desert to 5 degrees and sleet/snow over the pass 4 hours later!
En route we passed a family of touring cyclists – mom, dad, 11 year old boy on his own bike, and young girl riding in tandem with the mom. They were going at about 12km/hr over a 40km long pass, the one with sleet……sorry, but this is child abuse! It would be tough without carrying any gear let alone fully loaded, little water and no real prospect of warm accommodation at the end!! Crazyness!
Cusco was a right royal shock to the system, apart from the GPS getting things completely fudged with the one-way streets. At one point we were ramping off pavements and driving down embankments in order to connect to other streets in an attempt to avoid the maze that is the road system!!
This enormous city, previously the capital of the Inca empire, lies at 3300m above sea level and spreads inelegantly deep into a natural valley and up along the embracing mountainsides. It’s jam packed with tourist vans, long distance tour busses, countless taxis in all sorts of shapes and sizes and pedestrians galore! The streets are higgledy-piggledy in urban planning; some roughly cobbled, others potholed, others with a large central groove designed to catch the unwitting cyclists and others simply end…..
I battled with the altitude the following day when we planned to tour around Cusco. Cath did a fabulous guiding job navigating us, by foot, around the sites but at 5pm I was feeling so nauseous and flat that she had to put me to bed for the night! I was so sort of breath too, that I could barely make it up the stairs to our hotel room!
We planned the site visits with the goal of making Machu Picchu the main end point. The meant that the following day in Cusco was spent viewing several local ruins a few kilometres away. The names of the places are hard to pronounce and remember eg Sacsayhuaman, but the history we gleaned from the books and local guides were fantastic to prepare us for the visit to the City in the Clouds.
Having spent a lot of money in train, bus, local guide and park entry tickets we were ready to head to Machu ( I mean a lot, 200 US$ per person!)
Building mammoth pyramids and beating slaves to pulp in order for your tomb to look pretty has some sort of macabre purpose…….scratching kilometres of geometric shapes, plants and animal figures in a desert is somewhat bizarre and leaves everyone thinking why and for what end-goal. The mystery of the Nasca lines remains the worlds biggest arcehological enigma.
Covering an area of 600 square kilometres the Nasca lines are engraved across vast and dry desert plains and mountains. They are a complex of geometric line drawings and sketches of animals and plants species.
To give you an idea of size;
-the longest line is 10km across the desert floor
– the largest creature sketch is 280m long
– the narrowest line is 30cm wide while the broadest is 7m
– most lines are about 30cm deep
-most of the figures are one continuous line
In the mid 1920s commercial airline pilots noticed strange patterns on the desert floor. Closer inspection with smaller crop sprayer type planes revealed these remarkable drawings. So huge and extensive, the real understanding of the Nasca lines can only really be made from the air – imagine looking at an etched out figure 200m long from ground level? Doesn’t work!
How to date them; desert has no carbon…..but sticks found along the lines, presumably from ‘ceremonial’ events carbon-date back to 200BC! This only means that people were present, not necessarily the architects. Some theorists say they are alien!
Purpose; what’s the point of etching a giant monkey into the desert floor? By the way, there are no monkeys in the desert – interpretation, the people who made the drawings must have come in contact with traders or travellers from other regions – ? Maybe the amazon?
Stellar patterns – can only account for 30% of the lines and this is pushing the imagination!
Water sources; obviously vitally important for desert people, maybe these lines point to water? The local water supply in Nasca town is from sub-terranean channels coursing down from the Andes. Did the lines point to ancient rivers or sub-terranean sources?
How are they made; this region of the desert is unique in its soil substrate. It’s not just sand but constitutes a millennia old mud floodplain. The surface is covered with dark stones and about 30cm below the surface, the texture changes completely to a more pale, desert-sand type texture and colouring. So when you displace the top layer, the cleared area below contrasts vividly with the dark top layer and due to the arid nature of the desert, no rain washes it away. Regular winds keep loose sand off the lines.
2 techniques: literally sweeping the desert floor clear of the top layer of stone and secondly, scraping a slightly deeper channel into the floor.
What struck us most, was the fact that the lines were so narrow!
People mostly come to Nasca simply to fly over the lines. In a little 4 seater Cesna with 2 pilots we did just this and were gob-smacked at what we saw from the air. Enormous pictures of animals and plants crisply identifiable, without the need for an active imagination, from above!!