A belated Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone!
Finally I have got around to updating the website properly with our travels (see posts below this one for our bike adventures). We are now in Buenos Aires after a whirlwind christmas travelling trip with my entire family for a month. We go back down to El Chaltén in Patagonia to get back on the bikes and start riding north again in 2 days. In the meanwhile here is a little bit of a rundown of how our holiday season progressed. I have put the pics in as thumbnails, giving you the choice of opening them (remember they don’t open in a new window, you have to use the ‘back’ button) seeing as most of them are from Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca which in my opinion are slightly over-photographed. So if you’ve seen enough and you don’t want to see ANOTHER photo of Machu Picchu don’t bother!
Somehow it turned out that the rest of my family (Mum, Dad and Kate) came to South America on different flights and arriving in different cities. Dad caught up with us in Punta Arenas, we met Kate in Buenos Aires after we left the bikes in El Chalten and then we all met up with Mum in Lima. Keeping in mind that this is South America I don’t know how we had the good fortune to actualy all meet up at apointed times and dates… it seems miracles do happen!
We made our way from Lima out to Cusco and Machu Picchu first. Cusco was a nice little city and we all drank lots of coca tea to get acclimatised. Mum took a particular liking to the coca and is not happy that they won’t let it back into Australia. Everyone got to practice the two most common spanish words used in Cusco by gringos, “No gracias”. The locals will sell you everything and anything here and are incredibly persistent, even jumping in on photographs and then asking for money. Comes with the territory I guess – on the real gringo trail.
We would have liked to trek up to MP but time constraints of the trip wouldn’t allow it so we had to settle for the train. The landscape is incredible around the area. We thought we’d seen plenty of mountains but its amazing how all the way along the Andes can be so different. Here in Peru they were amazingly steep, the steepest we’ve seen I think, but heavily forested also with turbulent chocolate brown rivers rushing between them. The ruins were amazing, defintely living up to all the hype. We stayed overnight in Aguas Calientes and Mick and I went back to Machu Picchu in the morning where we had the whole place almost to ourselves to explore. It was a misty, rainy day but that seemed to make it all the more mysterious – the clouds would lift off the ruins in different parts and you could catch a glimpse for a few minutes before they were veiled in the mist again. Magical.
Cusco Pics: 1. The Cathedral 2. Mum politely refusing to buy ANOTHER little figurine. 3. Mum, Kate and I on a narrow cobbled street. 4. I was trying to take a photo of Mick but this cut little girl could not be discouraged from joining in!
Machu Picchu Pics: 1. The vista. 2. Mick and Mel at the ‘Sun Gate’. 3. Mick and Dad at the Sun Gate showing how steep the terrain really is.
We followed the well trodden gringo trail on a bus from Cusco to Lago Titicaca where we caught a beautiful sunny day for a trip out on the lake. The floating reed islands of the Uros people were incredible. These little communities actually live on small islands of floating reeds, which they are continually building as the reeds rot away from beneath them. They also construct large reed boats, which are mostly for the benefit of tourists, regular small fishing boats being a much easier way to get around and last longer than 1 year which is the total life of any reed boat. The communities we visited were the ‘tourist’ islands – their income is almost solely from the tourist trade although not from handouts – they sell their wares and their reed boat trips. There are apparently still over 100 other small Uros communities though which live further out on the lake who fish for a living as they have always done. Apparently they used to live on reed boats in the lake when they moved off the land to escape the Inca empire, then decided they could build these big floating islands to live on more comfortably instead. Genius!
The Uros people on Lake Titicaca: 1. The floating village. 2. The family on a reed boat. 3. Grinding grain traditionally. 4. The expanse of Lake Titicaca.
The same day we visited the island of Taquile, another community where the people more or less live traditionally, make beautiful handicrafts of a style different to the rest of Peru and a spectacular spot with great views to top it off. It was interesting to note that the big work is really done as a community. I’m pretty sure all the male folks were out helping to build another house … not that many of them seemed to be doing much but they were having a good old time anyway.
The male members of the community building a house in Isla Taquile.
Mountain views on the road from Copacabana to La Paz.
After seeing a fair bit of the Peruvian side of the Lake we took a bus the next morning to the Bolivian side, the resort island of Copacabana where we had a quick tour of the Isla del Sol (definitely a place to go back to with more time) and the Basilica de Virgin de Copacabana, the patron saint of Bolivia. It was interesting and beautiful but all a bit too quick…. that night we were on a bus to La Paz. Unfortunately our experience of La Paz was also quite limited, it looked like an interesting city, but we had to catch a flight to Santiago the next morning so we had to be content with the views from the hotel window in the morning.
We spent a lovely Christmas in a cabin on the Rio Mendoza, part way into the Andes, and a few more days of rest and relaxation afterwards in Mendoza, our favourite city in Argentina, really topped off a nice Christmas break. Especially after the flying (really was way too rushed) trip in Peru and Bolivia. We caught one of the super comfortable overnight buses to Buenos Aires for New Year, where we hung out in trendy Palermo Soho, trying to look as cool as the locals and not getting anywhere near it. A tango show topped the tour off for Kate, who had to leave the next day. The show was really good, much better than Mick and I had expected. We’d been to BA so many times before and hadn’t really bothered but we were really glad to have seen one, it was a really spectacular show. Mum and Dad went up to Iguazu Falls for a few days (which they loved) before leaving yesterday.
Pics of christmas and new year: 1. The fam at the cabin near Mendoza 2. Mick and I with this very lovable Santa 3. Mick cooking the parilla (barbie) for xmas lunch, of course! 4. Mum and Dad at the lookout to Aconcagua 5. Kate and I on New Year Eve.
So now we have a couple of days in BA to get organised before heading back down to start the ride again. Phew! Its been way too long off the bike now. Hopefully we don’t have to break our bums in again! In all seriousness though we can’t wait to get back on the bikes – and I think the next part should be one of the most spectacular. We have one month on the Carretera Austral, a remote road in southern Chile. Our first challenge is getting across an adventurous border crossing from Argentina to the Chilean side, including 2 ferry rides and bushwacking it a bit. Wish us luck!
Tags: Argentina, Lake Titicaca, Machu Picchu, Mendoza, Peru, South America, Travel Destinations