::Title: Bolivia, Peru, & Equator Trip May 1997 ::Author: Steven Engelhardt, steven_t_engelhardt ::Filename: ::
Left Minneapolis at 15:20 for Chicago on a Fokner F100. In Chicago I changed planes and continued on to Miami at 17:30 getting there at 21:30. My flight to La Paz is scheduled to leave at 2330.
Tiahuanaco Ruins Bolivia
We leave Miami at 00:00 on American Airlines 757 the flight was full. They show 101 Dalmatians but I choose to snooze. We arrive on time at 6:05 and the sun is rising. After passing through immigration I catch a cab for Hotel Sagarnaga. The cab cost $7 and the hotel is about $20 pretty expensive for Bolivia but it has a bath and a color TV but all the shows are in Spanish. I tried to get a tour to the Yungas however there are none on Sundays so I bought a tour to Tiahuanaco A Pre-Inca archaeological site about 72 km from La Paz. Driving out of La Paz is an adventure, the city sits in a Canyon and the road winds its way around the side. Since the airport is over 13,000 feet it is hard work for cars and buses to make it up and hard work for breaks on the way down. Drivers in Bolivia do most of their driving with their horn and leave pedestrians trying to get out of the way. The road to Tiahuanaco gets worse the farther we go, many bridges are being repaired due to recent rains so we end up making our own road and we cross a few streams. The landscape is very barren there are people living out here but the ground is all rocks. When we reach the site we visit a small museum and then follow our guide as we tour the site. The ruins are old aprx 700 AD. This civilization was eventually replaced by the Inca. We proceed back to La Paz, we encounter some Bicycles on the road and support cars on the road, we run some of them off the road but cannot get by them all so our driver gets on a small dirt road and goes across the side of mountain to get around them. Pretty scary ride, we did manage to get past most of the bicycles however. It is strange, they seem in no hurry to start but once moving they can drive crazy. Well I made it back to La Paz and did a little shopping and then went to bed early. The people of Bolivia were friendly but very poor.
At 8:30 AM I get on the tour bus to Puno via Copacabana. After climbing out of town we are on the Altiplano a barren plane. There are snowcapped mountains in the distance. The road goes from bad to worst, we make our own road and cross some streams. Finally we can see lake Titicaca. We travel several more miles and come to a ferry crossing. Our bus takes one ferry and about 20 of us cram into a small boat for the 1 km crossing of lake Titicaca (no life jackets in site). We climb out of town and get great views of the lake and island de sole. It is 38 km to Copacabana a pretty little town on the lake. Here we have 1 hour for lunch and we switch busses. I have lunch with a Peruvian doctor and a Dutch medical lab technician he gets 2 months vacation a year and buys a 3rd, he is spending 3 months in South America. At 1 PM we leave for the Peruvian border. At the border we get off the bus and walk through getting our visa's stamped. Peru looks much more prosperous with more and better land for agriculture. A tour agent is on our bus and is assisting on finding hotel rooms for us gringo's on the bus. after reaching Puno she leads us to Hotel Wasi for $8 a night which seems ok so I elect to stay. I then journey over to the tour office and purchase 2 tours for Tuesday and an airport transfer for Wednesday. I also had them confirm my plane reservation. Outside the hotel there are street vendors selling everything, I buy a flour sack and some postcards. I had a chicken-egg omelet for dinner.
Uros Native People, Floating Islands
At 8 am I get up and go out and shop a bit buying some socks. The tour bus comes by at 9:20 am and it picks me and a bunch of young English girls on vacation. We get on a small boat with our tour guide and we first stop at a small island with 3 families on it. There also happen to be about 7 shops also. They had pigs and chickens running around. I climb a small tower and take some pictures, later we visit a small museum. The footing is kind of mushy and you will slowly sink in if not careful. These people moved out to these islands to keep away from the Incas. They would fish and trade there catch with the people on the land. Lately they trade their goods for tourist money. We take a reed boat over to the next island, one with 60 familys. We of course have more shops but we also got to visit a school. We then take our boat back to Puno and lunch. At 2:30 PM we get on our next bus to the religious burial site of Sillustani. There are about 20 of us going on this tour. It is a very desolate looking place and it is 4.017 meters or 13,200 ft above see level. The site overlooks a small lake and it is also cold up here, the funerary towers look impressive against the bleak landscape. We have not escape civilization however as our tour guides cell phone rings. It is nightfall by the time we leave and it is getting very cold. We return to Puno and I have chicken and rice for dinner and listen to my favorite oldies station on 105.
Sillustani Religious Ruins Peru
I leave at 7 am for the ride to the airport. Along the way we pickup anybody who waves us down, this is common through out South America. It turns out the airport is just outside Juliaca and I am glad I am not staying there. It is a very congested city. I pay my departure tax and wait for the Americana 727. It is only a 30 min. flight to Cusco. It takes a very long run to get airborne in this high altitude. The land below is very mountains with many valleys, the train would have taken 11 hours. I took a cab down town for 6 soles. A tour guide came along for the ride and you get suspicious of these guys. This one turns out to be ok and helps me find an hotel and gets me booked on several tours. I am staying at Hotel Incawasi for about $14 a nite, I am right on Plaza de Arms. The 1/2 day city tour cost $5, the full day Sacred valley tour $10 and Michu Picchu is $55. At 2 PM the bus comes by for the city tour. We stop first at the Cathedral and then the Convent de Santa Domingo where some original Inca buildings are inside the walls these buildings are very carefully made and have survived numerous earthquakes. The inside walls of these buildings were covered with 70 55^ gold plated panels 1/2" thick. Next we drove to the top of the city to the Christ Redeemer statue and a great view. A short distance away is Sacsaywaman a huge temple the Spanish called a fort. 80% has been dismantled to help build the city of Cusco. We next stop at Qenko also know as zigzag ruins with several small caves and tunnels. We next make our way to Puca Pucara or the Red Fort because of the way sunlight shines on it. The last stop is Tambo Machay and its many waterfalls, it is getting dark so we head back, we do see the comet Hale-Bop on the way back. Back at the hotel I again listen to the Peruvian Oldies station.
Today I am on a day trip to the sacred valley, there are 6 of us and I am the only one who does not speak Spanish. We leave at 9 AM and our first stop is a tourist market where they give us time to shop. Next we proceed to Pisaq and it is market day so we get to shop some more we then proceed to the ruins and it is a long and hard walk to the ruins we spend 2 hours there, the view of the canyon is spectacular. We then stop in the town of Calca for lunch and then onto Ollantaytanbo. We spend 1.5 hours there and it is another difficult climb to rach the top of the ruins. Of course there are also markets to visit. Finally on the way back to Cusco we stop in Chinchero where there are more ruins and a very old Church and of course markets. It is 6:30 before we make it back to Cusco. During the day I talked to Richard from upper NewYork and a Israel farmer, both are spending 3 months in South America.
Steve at Machu Picchu
Got up very early this morning to catch the 6:30 train to Machu Picchu. It cost $55 to ride in expresso it is cramped. We reach Puente Ruinas train station at 10:30 and get on one of the many busses to the top. We have to be back at 2:30 PM so we have some time here. We have an English speaking guide who take us through the complex. About 1000 people lived here and why they abandoned it is unknown. The Incas were real craftsmen Builders. We are in a subtropical area, we have lost several 1000 ft on our train ride from Cusco, we are close to the Amazon. After touring the ruins we take the bus back into town and have lunch. I have lunch with Richard and 2 Swedish girls and 2 ladies from Toronto. By the time we get back to Cusco it is dark. I have discovered an Ice Cream shop next to my hotel and I make a stop there.
I got up at 7:30 and take a cab to the airporte 7 soles. I get there about 8:15 for a 9 am flight. The flight is delayed an hour and it is full of college kids returning to lima. We fly a 737 to Lima, the flight is uneventful, we fly over the ocean when we land. I get into Lima about 11:15 and I get a cab to take me to Museum de Nacion. The traffic is terrible and I finally get there after 12:00. I then have an hour before I have to return to the airport. The Museum is very nice and we get a English speaking guide to show us around. The drives manners are not so nice and they drive mostly with there horns. I get back to the airport and check-in for my 3 PM flight to Quito. I am traveling on Avianca Airlines, Colombia national airline, the flight continues from Quito to Bogota and then Caracas. We are on a MD53 a fairly new aircraft. After getting airborne we go along the coast for a while and see the barren coastal desert, then over the ocean and finally inland and land at Quito at 5 PM. After going through immigration and exchanging some money I get a cab to Residencial Marsella on the edge of new town. For $4 a night it is decent there is a small restaurant in the hotel and a grocery store around the corner.
La Mitad de Mundo
This morning I get up and have scrambled eggs-ham-cheese and milk for about 75c. I take the trolley bus for a bit and the catch a bus for the ecuadorian monument. The bus is very full and cost 75c for the 22 km trip to the monument. I bought a ticket to the observation tower and the natural history museum located inside the monument. Later I visited the planetarium which had a good show of the northern and southern hemishperes. I had lunch there and skipped the guinea pig in favor of chicken soup. I took the bus back to Quito and visited the central bus terminal in the old-town, a very hectic place.
This morning after breakfast I take my day pack and leave the rest of my stuff locked in my room and I head back to Terminal Terrestre de Cumanda and a bus to Riobamba. No problem finding a bus, 12,000 sucres or $3 4 hour trip. Finally we are out of Quito and driving through the lush valley between the mountains/volcano's. The valley seems very rich for agriculture with its volcanic soils. After reaching Riobamba bus station I take a taxi to the train station and I check into the hotel Residencial Colonial for 6,000 sucres or about $1.50 for the night, I find out that I have been overcharged for this place, it is terrible, no door knobs no door on bathroom, no glass in windows, what a dive. I go out on the street and buy a Hot-dog French Fries and cabbage for 2,500 sucres or about 70c. The town seems very prosperous and busy.
I get up at 5:15 to catch the morning train to bucay. At 5:30 I am waiting for the station to open, no one there it turns out the train does not leave until 7 AM and the hotel will not let me back in so I wait. It also turns out that the train is an Autoferros meaning it is a bus mounted on rails. Also the train only runs to Huigra, this is strictly a tourist train and they charge 54,000 or $14 for the trip about 5X what a local would pay. There are some German tourist on board as we depart through the country side. We are riding on narrow gauge through the canyons chasing chickens and pigs but we do stop for cattle however and a small landslide. We reach Alausi and pick up a bunch of French tourists most of which decide to ride the roof, the rest inside Germans on one side and French on the other. After we leave town the scenic part of the trip starts as we loose altitude going down the canyons and going through switch-backs and several tunnels, I ride the roof for a while myself. I find amazing is all the cactus along the road next to pine trees and corn plants, very strange. It is also getting warmer as we get lower, more tropical. The ride on top is very crowded especial with French tourist wanting to get pictures of every cactus plant, I am surprised no one fell off. We reach Huigra where the train stops. There is nothing there and I have to find a ride to the Pan American Highway. The tour guide for the french group offers to give me a lift so I promise not to anymore bad things about the French. The bus ride back out of the canyon is also very spectacular and after about 30 min. we make it to the highway. There is a bus stop there and I wait, a half an hour and no vehicles at all! Finally a pickup goes by and about 10 min. later a Bus bound for Quito. This ride cost me 20,000 or $5 and after 90 min. we stop in Alausi for lunch and continue back back to Quito. I make it back to my hotel in Quito about 7 PM.
After breakfast I leave the hotel about 9 am and go downtown first. I am looking to exchange my Peruvian soles but no bank will take them (they are having a border dispute) and I am also looking for a tour agency that can put me on a tour for Thursday. Finally the 3rd agency will accept my credit card and I book a tour to Cotopaxi for Thursday. I also stopped at burger King had a lemon Pie. I finally get to the bus station and before getting in the station a catch a bus on the curb. It is a 2.5 hour ride to Otavalo and I miss the stop and have to walk back 1/2 mile. I make my way to Poncho Plaza where there is a craft market on Saturdays and Wednesdays and most other days as well. I go on a spending spree as it starts to rain and everything gets there plastic out. I am running out of money so I exchange a $20 bill for sucres. I am getting very low on cash and I have to watch what I buy. I stop in a restaurant and had a banana milk and some local came in with a golden gopher tee shirt and a yankee cap. I get a bus back to Quito and back to my hotel by 7 PM and I pay my bill for the 6 days in Quito 90,000 sures or about $22. I have dinner special soup, rice, chicken, milk, peaches for 10,000 or $2.50
This morning I leave at 7 am for a Safari to Cotopaxi volcano Rafael picks me up in a land rover, I am alone on this tour it cost $65. On the way south of Quito we stop and get some bread and have a short breakfast with another tour going to shopping for the day. We continue south and reach the turnoff to the National Park at 8:30, it is another 15 km to the park entrance. I pay $20,000 sucres or $5 entry fee, nationals pay $2,000. We start gaining altitude as we work our way toward the mountain. We stop at a small museum with some stuffed animals and later we see some wild horses by a small lake and a alpaca herd. We continue to gain altitude and we are now in 4 wheel drive low. We are basically on a dirt road as we work our way up to 4500 meters where the road ends. We are on foot now and the refuge where we are headed is 300 meters above us at 4800 meters or 15,744 ft. It is very steep and the air is thin, I have to rest quite often. I make it to the refuge and get my passport stamped. It is a very basic facility with no frills. There are bunks for staying overnight which is necessary if you wish to climb to the summit at 5800 meters or 19,000 ft. After enjoying the scenery for a while we return to the land rover and start our trip down. We see several hawks and a fox on the road with a rabbit. Further down we stop at some Inca ruins for lunch, the ruins have been buried by several volcanic eruptions and only the top is showing. The last volcanic event was in 1975 when the vocano heated up and melted the glaciers and caused mud flows buried several villages. After some hard driving on dirt roads we reach the Pan-American highway and we drive back to Quito. We stop shortly at the drivers apartment which is 2 rooms and includes electricity, telephone for $90 a month. Since we are back early he takes me up to the Statue of the Virgin over looking the old town, the view is spectacular. He returns me to my hotel at 5 PM and I start packing.
Quito, New Town
At 6:15 am I go out on street and flag down a taxi to the airport for $5. At the airport there is a long line at American Airlines. The flight leaves at 8:50 but they want us there early. By 7:45 I have made it through check-in, security, and immigration and now in waiting room. At 8:20 we board the 757, I have a middle seat and a gentleman asks if I could move to the isle so his daughter and son could sit next to each other. This gentelman is a diplomat and I believe he is the Equatorian Ambassador to the US. It is a 4 hour flight to Miami and I get a second chance to watch 101 Dalmatians. After leaving Quito we go out over the Pacific ocean and we pass over Panama, Grand Cayman and Cuba. After arriving at 2 PM I have a 2 hour layover and I manage to get my Peruvian money exchanged. I am on a Northwest flight at 4 PM direct to Minneapolis. I get into Minneapolis at 7 PM.