Four years ago, George returned from his sabbatical in South America and Dominican Republic wide-eyed with a crazy idea to drive from Alaska to Argentina. After visiting Bolivia, he could not wait to solo drive through Bolivia’s salt flats and altiplano (high planes). Needless to say, as we left Cuzco and headed for the Bolivian border, we were pumped for the new country and new adventure.
We made the obligatory stop in Puno, Peru on Lake Titicaca to visit the floating reed islands. Someone described the tours to the islands like visiting disney land. The inhabitants do seem ready to sing some cheery songs in any language necessary. Setting aside our obvious dislike of the tourist trap, we were able to appreciate the ingenuity of the people. You’ve got to respect anyone who can carve out a life from layers and layers of reeds floating on a lake.
Maybe not the most efficient sweeping operations we’ve seen.
Visiting the Uros islands
The welcoming party
The reeds are also eaten
The islanders raise fish
Making use of plastic bottles
Working hard for a tip
After the amusement park visit, we made our way to Copacabana Bolivia and yet another tenuous ferry ride.
Driving into Copacabana
A tuk tuk overlander
La Paz was next on our list. The city sits at 3,200 to 4,100 m and was built in a narrow valley which means a heart pounding climb anywhere you go. Hiking through the city, we took in the baby llamas hanging from stalls in the market, wood carvers and one of many city view points.
One of the major pulls of La Paz is the proximity to the death road, a 60 to 70 km stretch where historically hundreds of people lost their lives each year. Because of a new highway, the traffic is mostly bikers and adventurous drivers these days. We opted to bike down the road instead of driving up to save Vida from some abuse. As we prepared for the ride, I was a tad nervous until I turned around and saw one of the riders in our group holding the seat of another rider and helping him practice being on a bicycle again (a very comical dose of perspective). I quickly loosened up and was smiling ear to ear for most of the ride down.
Start of the ride (La Cumbre) at 4670 m
We’ve become pretty accustomed to long drives on the trip, but the week long dash through northern Peru to Lima tested us. To spur us on, we had a friend flying into Lima for a two week visit.
When we picked up George from the airport the following day, I was outnumbered 2 Bulgarian Georges to 1 Canadian Teresa. I took the back seat and let the boys happily gab away in Bulgarian. George arrived with a suitcase of goodies in tow: car parts for George and kitchen toys for me. It is a well excepted practice to laden any visitors with whatever you might need from the North. My wonderful mother can attest to this after I forced her to jam packs of our favorite coffee in their limited luggage.
This girl is happy with the new toys.
Lima is perched above the pacific ocean and boasts a good swell and paragliding over the beach. We settled into a hostel in the heart of the safe and trendy Miraflora neighborhood which borders the beach.
Lima is chock-full of high quality museums. Forced to cherry pick, we decided on Museo Larco, private and impeccably run. Although the Georges claimed they were interested in the historical artifacts, I call bullshit. I believe they were drawn to the pre-Colombian erotica exhibit.
Sundays in Peru do not appear to be the day of rest they are in Canada and the US. To stumble on some Sunday festival is as easy as stepping outside and moving your feet. Our feet lead us through one of the central squares past yet another catholic procession to a food festival. The area was set up perfectly for street performers, there were tens of small circular performing areas for the crowds to be drawn into.
Typically, we try to avoid tourists attractions like Lima’s new Circuito Magico del Agua (Magic Water Circuit). George I. however is a little bit obsessive about water fountains, so it seemed like the perfect activity. I have to say, the 13 fountain circuit is delightful and best visited in the evening so you can take in the lights and pyrotechnics.
On our way out of Lima heading toward a desert oasis, we made time to snap a few pics of the city.
After one last hurrah in Colombia at Las Lajas Sanctuary near the border, we finally got our butts into Ecuador. We loved Colombia, but we were both ready to move on.
Walking to the sanctuary
It’s a long way down
Spanning the river
Our first stop was just outside of Otavalo at Rose Cottage. We were excited to visit the famous Otavalo market and stock up on some cozy alpaca things. At the end of our market visit and months of searching, we finally found a handheld orange juicer. The market had such good produce that we stocked up on some things including two bags of oranges and a bag of young potatoes. It would be OJ, coffee and potatoes each day for a week.
I’ve been following SeventeenBySix (two journalists and one euro van) for months because of their quality stories and documented camping spots. They’ve been in Ecuador for a while getting their van repaired, so we finally caught up with them. They were kind enough to let us stay in their apartment in Quito which is quickly becoming an overlander stopover. It wasn’t too long before Marcia and Doug (1/3 of Southern Tip Trip) rolled in to join us.
With a city base, we explored Quito and visited the long anticipated equator.
View from the top of the TelefériQo
You can climb to that from the top of the TelefériQo
We don’t need someone to tell us we’ve come along way because our memories take care of that. It is sometimes nice to snap a pic that sums up in a shot just how far you’ve come though. We’ve hit the arctic circle, the arctric ocean, the 45th parallel, and finally yesterday the equator.
Moving into South America and the southern hemisphere has given us a chance to reset and reevaluate. What has really hit home the last couple of days is our constant rushing based on our preset end date. A year might seem like a long time, but tip to tip is a long way to go and all the good stuff is in the details. Yesterday, I started proclaiming ‘f$%k our end date, i’m sick of rushing’. Each proclamation got a little louder. Maybe I was trying to convince myself. We have a self imposed schedule primarily to ensure we don’t loose touch with our very fast moving industry. Now, what I hope and what I’m trying to believe is that I wasn’t employed because I was up to speed with all the new shinny things in the tech industry. I was employed because I got things done. So, maybe we’ll be back in the states by February and maybe we won’t, but this trip is not worth doing if you don’t get to stop and smell the coffee.
After leaving the coast, we made a stop in the capital, Managua. The city doesn’t exactly roll out the red carpet. It didn’t help matters that it was excruciatingly hot. We had a look around what would be a central square in any other city: large church (caving in and complete with bullet holes), museum, government building, park, and a fountain. The church has been frozen in time. It was condemned after the last major earthquake in the early 70s. The building was shot up during a civil war. In any case, the place was deserted. Time to go.