Giving isn’t for recieving but naturally it’s what you will get!

I volunteered with my small help in Ollantaytambo,  Peru in the heart of the Sacred Valley of the Incas for just under one month. I had entered into Bolivia around 4 months earlier and I had free time to start searching the internet for a program I hoped to work with. At the time I had never worked any volunteer work and I didn’t really know what I would fit into best. Why did I want to volunteer? It’s honestly not something I can answer? It’s just a feeling inside, a feeling to share, and to me it doesn’t come with any cost.

I have been fortunate enough to grow up in a loving Christian family who have raised and guided me in ways I can only dream of. The have supported me in every decision I have made, including to travel for one year on South America. It hasn’t all been rainbows and lollipops though. We have fought and endured through tough times of my youngest brothers premature birth, loosing most of our home to a house fire, depression within the family,unexpected death of my 25 year old sister and soon to follow my grandfather due to aggressive oesophagus cancer.

At times we were in way over our heads and we received countless support from our local churches, families, charities and companies we worked with. It was a real blessing to have all of this support duiring these times and I honestly think at times we would have struggled to regain our footing without all of this support.

I was stuck in a rut, working my life in a constant loop that was forever the same and I always dreamt of travel, I just never puhed myself to make it happen. Finally in early 2013 I purchased my ticket and saved my money to go. In my mind I wanted to volunteer and do what I could to lend my helping hand I just had no idea where or how?

I went to language school in Sucre, Bolivia to learn Spanish for one month in the mornings and I was staying with a local family who mentioned I could volunteer in an orphanage in the city. I thought this would be a great oppertunity to try. I spent one month in the afternoons spending time with the boys helping with homework, cooking, cleaning and playing sports.  It was a wonderful experience and it was amazing to see the little changes in the boys. I always think they have helped me more then I ever did with them. It’s great to recieve mails from other volunteers with questions from the boys asking where am and what I am doing. I will be returning in the future.

Ok back to My Small Help. I was looking online for a volunteering opertunity in Peru.. I was really getting frustrated with finding so many organizations with costs of $1000 for a week? Really what is this? Where is the money going? It doesnt make sense to me to make volunteering into a touristic exercise. I guess the sad thing is people just want to do it for the experience and they will pay for it withought ever knowing where all the money is going. Im sure there are some good organisations out there where the money is used effectively to help, but I am skeptical.

Well finally I came across My Small Help an NGO (non government organisation) in Ollantaytambo, I read over the website and was interested instantly. There was no question for money. I sent off an email to the coordinator Leander and asked if I was able to help out with the School bus Project. This was a project that helps special needs children travel on a bus to a special needs school around 35 minutes away in the Urabamba communitynamed Arco Iris (rainbow).

With many emails and some questions here and there I finally arrived in Ollantaytambo at the end of July. I really had no idea about the place or how I would be able to help. I was blown away with the mountains and scenery when I arrived and instantly felt at home.

Mayra the coordinator who is living in Ollantaytambo came to meet me in the plaza and guided me around the town while giving me a detailed overview on what they are doing. I lived with Mayra and the other volunteers in the My Small Help home. We pay for accomidation which goes towards the projects. I think this is great to have everyone living together really getting to know each other and bounce ideas off each other about the projects.

Within My Small Help we also help the local families in there homes to help make living more comfortable for them and their children by giving support and also information becuase a lot of them have been closed off from education and even now using computers etc.

Some of the girls are working on sewing project teaching the mothers to sew and make things to sell and some of the mothers make cookies to sell to help raise money. I found there is a real sense of community between the families and those volunteering with my small help.

I was introduced to the bus project with Mayra on the first day and met the children who have a variety of special needs. Down syndrome, cerbral paulsey, autism, deafness, struge weber sydrome. All of the children were so happy and warmed up to me super quickly, I felt at ease yet somewhat uncomfortable at the same time, why? I really had no idea how I was to assist with the children, I had no expertise in any field that I thought would be benificial to them…

Having fun on our last day

Having fun on our last day

Within a few days this feeling was gone, I found I could help by just being me, a big brother, a teacher or a friend. I just needed to spend time with them to find different ways to stimulate and communicate with positove respomses. I also helped them with things that they were not capable of doing themselves. Cleaning, sitting, assiting walking etc.

During two weeks I was voluteering it was the school holidays and we spent time visiting families in their homes. Giving some entertainment to the children and advise to the families about excersises to keep the children entertained information about hygiene etc.

 

Heading off to visit the plaza for the Peru independence day march!

Heading off to visit the plaza for the Peru independence day march!

Marching in the plaza for independence day

Marching in the plaza for independence day

So

many of the children are living in quite rough conditions,  Alex for instance is 18 years old with cerebral paulsy. He attends school two times per week and on the other days we visit him in his home. A lot of the time he is left to lie in his bed with no entertainment. We take him outside to wash and get some sun. We play music and practice excercises to get his brain thinking and practice hand eye coordination to pick up a ball. I also massaged his body as he really would get to move. This was the hardest for me to see, my first response was I should take him home to Australia. How could he be 18 and in this condition? He is living im a small town without doctors and his parents would have received little information that could guide them to giving him a more sustaimable upbringing (physiotherapy etc)..

With Alex and his cousins

With Alex and his cousins

Now with My Small Help and regular volunteers we can assist and give the families the assistance and guidance they were so long without. Recently Mayra went along with a lot of the childrwn to a local hospital for a thourough checkup.

Some of the children may only live to 15 years old. Young Marina has Struge Webber Sydrome, a very rare syndrome and is said she may only live another 7 years. She is living in rough conditions and the mother blames this condition on vitamins she was given while pregnant.  The family only speak the native language of quechua and the parents are also alcoholics. This makes assisting and guiding even more difficult.

Marina was the first to come in contact with me when I arrived and hold my hand an walk with me. Marina is a a wonderful artist who loves singing and dancing. She is unable to speak or walk without assistance but she lets you know what she wants pretty quickly.

Young Lulu was born with Blue baby sydrome and requires heart surgery if she is to live a long life. Unfortunately her parents are afraid to go ahead with the surgery and she will only live a very short life. All we can do is support and assist her to having the best life possible

. After all life is temporary to us all, its just some leave this earth prematurely.

Marina and Lulu

Marina and Lulu

Each of the children have a story and each of them have the most amazing personalities that shine like all of the colours of the rainbow. Without the wonderful work and many hours dedicated by Leander, Mayra and all of the other wonderful volunteers some of these children would still be living in the darkest of places.

What really struck me is that Ollantaytambo is the heart before everyone slips off to visit Machu Picchu, the place everyone would think about if you mention Peru. There is probably more money in Peru right there filtering through the expensive train and entry tickets then anywhere in Peru yet the region is lacking facilities and the assistance required.

 

School drop off

School drop off

Most days I visited a lovely older lady Natty who is unable to use her legs and spends most of her days on the ground out in her garden. It’s amazing to see her smile and how she speaks of the fun she has had with past volunteers. She loves music and food! I can’t seem to visit without her giving me something to eat, you can only say no so many times to your elders before you need to eat. She required an operation recently to remover her gall bladder and with the help of the team she was taken to a local hospital.

Natty working hard in her garden

Natty working hard in her garden

Along with the projects My Small Help work closely with the surrounding villages working on different projects. I helped along with another organisation Life Works build a greenhouse in Phiry within a local school to help them grow fruit and vegatables at the high altitudes.

We also assited in picking up rubbish along the local river and wow there was a lot. It’s all about the education and helping the local people learn about what they have missed out on, the simple things of hygiene and how to care for the environment.

I went along with the locals of Camicancha to build a small vegetable garden in the school. It was an amazing experience as children, mothers and fathers all came during the school holidays to help make adobe bricks (mud and straw) and work the ground to plant the vegatables. We worked hard together, then we ate lunch together and shared chicha (a local alcohol made from corn).

Work break! !

Work break! !

 

To me the people of the Sacred Valley have very little in the sence of material goods, education (older generation),  health care etc yet they work hard together and love to help each other, I’ve never seen so much love consistently within a community.

I think we tend to forget that it’s not only in times of need that we need to give, but all of the time. This is what we lack in our first world we have forgotten the importance of living as a community.

I fell in love with Ollantaytambo, the children and it’s people. I felt at home and I enjoyed every moment with everyone there. I woke up excited to go and pick up the children for school… to see the excitement on their faces as they returned after school holidays!!

Lourdes was the first girl in Ollantaytambo to be helped by Leander and My Small Help. Thanks to all of the help she is living on her own and working in the park selling phone credit :)

Lourdes was the first girl in Ollantaytambo to be helped by Leander and My Small Help. Thanks to all of the help she is living on her own and working in the park selling phone credit :)

It was one of the greatest experiences of my life and I will continue to assist My Small Help as long as I am here becuase I see the positive impact it has had on many lives and I hope to return in the near future. Being an NGO they do rely on funding to pay for the school bus to continue running. If you can donate even a little money or your time it would mean so much- http://www.mysmallhelp.org/volunteer_in_peru.php

Thank you to the team of My Small Help, you are all a blessing to those you help and you will forever be in my thoughts and prayers.  Keep up with the amazing work.

“How would your life be different if…You decided to give freely, love fully, and play feverously? Let today be the day…You free yourself from the conditioned rules that limit your happiness and dilute the beautiful life experience. Have fun. Give – Love – Play!”
― Steve Maraboli, The Power of One

Nevado Mismi- The source of the Amazon River

There is no such thing as failure, there is only oppertunity to succeed!! It doesn’t matter how many attempts it takes just never give in to the fear thats holding you back.

Nevado Mismi- the source of the Amazon river… The longest river in the world which travels 6,400 kilometers from the mountain Nevado Mismi in the Andes, Peru to the Atlantic Ocean in Brazil. Who on earth wouldn’t want to visit!?

The beautiful Nevado Mismi from Carhuasanta Valley

The beautiful Mismi

Sitting in bed one morning reading Walking The Amazon by Ed Stafford a British guy who walked 860 days from the source of the Amazon to the Atlantic Ocean…. I had an idea, Well I’m not going to do that!! But I did think wouldn’t it be amazing to visit the source of the Amazon!! That’s epic..I’m going to do it I thought.

If you want to learn more about Ed Stafford heres a good interview with him on some of his latest projects http://blog.maptia.com/posts/ed-stafford-in-olorua-and-the-amazon

Later on during my travels and getting closer to Peru I looked into a tour because I had no experience climbing above 2000 meters altitude.  Well all I could find was a 4 day tour to climb the mountain for $400US. It was unrealistic so I put the idea aside and didn’t think about it again until later.

Only a few weeks ago in fact I found some blogs online with a few people who had climbed Mismi with a local guide very cheap.!

Check out the blog- its a good read-

http://vivasouthandcentralamerica.wordpress.com/2013/01/26/nevado-mismi-the-source-of-the-amazon/?replytocom=668#respond

More information about climbing Mismi-
http://www.summitpost.org/nevado-mismi/154342 and

Well I started thinking again that this climb is possible. Then I thought why not do it solo? This would be an atempt like no other so I needed to plan and plan well. I sent some emails to try and get some info.. But I didnt receive many good responses unfortunately.

When I arrived in Arequipa, Peru I went to Incaventura http://www.incaventura.com a small tour agency I found on Facebook. I can’t remember the owners name but he knew the Mismi route well and had been there for research also. He printed out a map from google earth and explained the route to me in pretty good detail.

I felt pretty good with the information I had and I got everything together that I needed for the hike, food clothing etc. I needed to buy gloves and wet weather pants. I had everything else with me to survive in snow conditions.

I still knew there had to be a better map out there. I went to many tour agencies but the topographic maps they had only had Mismi in the top and it cut out the whole route.. Hmm what to do. I went online and with more searching I found a great website with gps topographic maps https://www.gaiagps.com.

The owner of my hostel in Arequipa (La Casona De Jerusalem- great owners) let me use the computer and I cut and pasted all I needed into paint then printed out a map then covered it in sticky tape to protect it.. This is what I used. (Photo to come soon)

I checked out the mountains weather on http://www.mountain-forecast.com/peaks/Nevado-Mismi/forecasts/4000 and everything was clear, just cold and wind. No snow or rain predicted.

I was ready to rock so off I went and took the bus to Chivay.

I stayed in hostel Rumi Wasi in Chivay. The señora is named Yuli if I recall (Julie) she was very helpful and took me too a local guide who knew the Nevado Mismi route. He was really helpful and said that my map was good. He said to climb up on the west side of the mountain facing north whereas the guide in Arequipa said climb up the east side. Not too worry I thougt. I will assess this when I get to the mountain. This is my adventure and it will be epic!

Day 1:
On the Monday morning I made my way to the vans that go to? I cannot remember but they go through the small town Tuti where the 4×4 road begins. Yuli took me to the vans and told the guy to drop me off at the exact location where the route starts..

Well the van was meant to leave at 8:30 but we spent nearly an hour driving around the small town trying to fill up the van!! It was driving me insane!!! I just wanted to go! Finally we were off… Not too long in the van.. Maybe 20 minutes driving along the main road and not far out of tuti (4kms approx) and you can see a huge sign saying Nevado Mismi 26kms and a dirt road to the left. The driver stopped and let me out. I prepared a few things. Got some photos and off I went. This road is used for the miners in the North and its in great condition. You can hire a 4×4 to take you very close to the Mismi then you can summit. You could do it in one day.. but thats no adventure…

This is the beggining

This is the beggining

Wow did I feel the altitude.. It had been over 4 months since I had hiked with a pack and only at 2000 meters above sea level. The start of this walk is at 3800m.

It was a beautiful day and the sun was shining strong. Because of the hight the sun is super powerful and you need to use lots of sunscreen to avoid getting burnt.

Along the road

Along the road

Is this the Ran Ran ruins?

Is this the Ran Ran ruins?

The full first day is spent on the dirt road which is mainly used for the miners in the north. I was really struggling to walk. Sometimes walking 20 meters then needing to stop. I kept going and around 3:30pm I met a guy in a van. I asked how far it was to the Quebrada Aquenta where I was planning to camp the night. He said one hour and offered me a lift. I declined. I really wanted to walk myself even though I felt like I couldn’t make it.

Finally around an hour later I made it to a Aquentya valley which was to my right with heaps of Llamas and a small stone house. I could see a frozen waterfall on the mountain. I left my pack on the road and walked down the hill to ask the señora if I could camp on her land. She asked if I was alone an I said yes.. I went to the edge of the property and set up my tent by a stone wall to help keep the wind away. The hight was approximately 4,800 meters. The highest I have ever slept (on land).

I hopped in my sleeping bag around 6pm and cooked some noodles and a coca tea and then tried to sleep. I was warm yet I was rolling around all night. I think the longest between time checks was 2 hours. Not sure why I couldn’t sleep?

Day 2:
I woke up just after 6 and thought I would try and sleep more but nope I couldnt…

I got up out of the tent and wow was it was freezing. There was so much ice on the inside of the tent from condensation. One bottle with 300mls of water was nearly frozen. I made sure everything was kept inside the tent.

Camp 1

Camp 1

I cooked up some oats and a cocoa to drink. Shook the ice from the tent fly and packed away my gear then made my way down into the valley where most of the river was frozen. I took some photos because it was such a beautiful place. I found a spot to fill my water bottle then made my way up to the frozen waterfall.

It was easy to get to the bottom part of the waterfall. I took some shots then made my way up the clif climbing to get to the biggest part of the ice wall.

Bottom of frozen waterfall! Super thick ice

Bottom of frozen waterfall! Super thick ice

I climbed above the waterfall and tried to get around beside it…. Then my foot hold slipped and then my hand hold. I didn’t go far luckily.. I changed my body position quickly which stopped my slidding off the 10m drop. I laughed at myself and said don’t be an idiot! You would have died, find another way. So I back tracked and climbed down a little and found the easiest way to the frozen waterfall. It was magnificent, I haven’t seen anything like it before. Ice really makes some beautiful shapes.

Top section of frozen waterfall

Top section of frozen waterfall

Well unfortunately I had to leave and make my way to my bag for another days hiking. I loaded up and off I went at approximately 9:20am I was pretty stoked and felt good after the waterfall. Not far up the road to the right there is a running waterfall. I am now sure after reading this is the Aquenta fall.

Just over an hour of walking the road turns north to the mines. You can see Nevado Mismi from here.. I was confused and thought it was a different mountain. I turned left on a very dull 4×4 track..

Frozen

Frozen

It ended quickly and I kept going up for a couple of hours over rocky sand that looked a lot like a desert then I followed some animal tracks where I was just hoping I see the mountain.. Then it hit me.!! This is Mismi. It had been all along and im super close to Cerro Ajo which is on the ridge line to Mismi (this is also the best route to climb Mismi, my original plan which I later changed). I had climbed to 5200m high when I didn’t need to. It was good to get into climbing to prepare for the summit the next day.

Amazing views wherever I looked.. with a nice cairn (pile of rocks) showing I am on the right trail

Amazing views wherever I looked.. with a nice cairn (pile of rocks) showing I am on the right trail

I made my way west towards Carhuasanta where I needed to descend nearly 500m. I got some nice photos of the twisters in the valley I continued my way down to Carhuasanta valley where I met a farmer who i had a lot of trouble understnding but he said there were houses down in the valley and you can used them.

Twister!!

Twister!!

With a steep decent into the valley I arrived at around 3pm. I saw three houses in the valley. The first full of straw on the floor. I found a nice place to fill my water in the river of Carhuasanta.

My house for two nights... nice and comfortable

My house for two nights… nice and comfortable

The waters from Nevado Mismi flow into the Quebradas Carhuasanta and Apacheta, which flow into the Río Apurímac which is a tributary of the Ucayali which later joins the Marañón to form the Amazon proper. (Wikipedia)

Mismi day before ascent

Mismi day before ascent

I made my way to the other houses calling out but no one was around and doors were closed shut with iron.

Ok I thought!! I’m going to stay here the next two nights. I made my way to my house and cooked up some chicken noodle soup that was horrible!! It had so much salt in it I couldn’t eat it. (I left the soups for future travellers). I relaxed for the afternoon and planned my route for the next day. I was expecting a 3 hour summit (later I realised this was from the east side using Cerro Ajo ridge.. not the way I went).

My warm bed for two nights

My warm bed for two nights

I was planning to tackle the summit of Nevado Mismi from the east side ride and then continue across the whole mountain to decend on the west side then head into the valley to find the source of the Amazon that is marked with a cross.

The temperature at night was to drop -3 degrees Celsius so I was thinking it may be nice to make a hot water bottle but in the end I didnt because I felt warm.

Day 3
I woke nice and early day three with a slight stomach ache unfortunately. Again I didn’t sleep great and rolled around most of the night. It was really warm sleeping inside the stone house on top of the straw. I got myself up to the brisk breeze and made some breakfast and hot tea. I was ready to go at 7:45am.

I made my way straight up the side of the ridge from Carhuasanta valley (west side of Mismi facing north) with a small daypack with some food and water along with rain gear. The air was super cold and I was rugged up as I set off. It didn’t take long to heat up and the layers were being stripped. The first steep section took me an hour to get up!! Wow this is hard I thought.

I got to an open section that looked a lot like Tattooine from Star Wars. The ground was filled with tiny stones along with some bigger ones. It was quite impressive. I got a few photos and set off again. It was difficult to walk on the small stones, I found myself zigzagging up the hill. I hate having to do this but it’s the best way to save energy.

Tattooine?

Tattooine?

I kept to the left of the ridge because I wanted to get a good view of Mismi and where I was going. Up here there was a great view if thei Carhuasanta valley below along with the tiny tributaries that are the beginning of the amazon river.

Yes Im on my way Mismi

Yes Im on my way Mismi

Well after admiring the beautiful landscapes I got back to what I was here for. The route just continued and time was slipping by. Finally I hit so much scree (loose broken rocks) I was slowed down to crawling pase. The weather was all over the place, wind, sun and layers were coming on and off to adjust to the temp changes.

There are so many rock types as you climb, I’m pretty sure it’s mostly volcanic, everything from tiny stones to huge sheets of stone layered on top of each other. It looked like giants had been there to layer the rocks and scatter them. It was truely amazing.

I was pretty excited to come up to the main ridge of Mismi and I continued to climb. I made one mistake and went across to the right (the south side of the mountain). It was covered in snow and I traversed 2 small icy snow walls.. Which later I saw I didn’t need to. If I just stayed left it would have been easier.

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One step forward two steps back

So many rocks!

So many rocks!

Now all of a sudden huge dark clouds rolled in and brought snow and thunder.. I was pretty excited to see the snow then realized this isn’t good for me!! I want to summit. I put on my snow pants (a cheap waterproof pair which worked well). I waited around 10 minutes and the clouds pushed through.

I decided it was now or never because the weather was pretty sketchy all around the mountains.. With snow falling in the valley. I was still around one hour from the summit due to all of the scree! It was killer and I could definitely feel the altitude now walking 5 meters and having to stop out of breath!!

So close, I can see you summit!

So close, I can see you summit!

The last 50 meters must have taking me 20 minutes to climb! I tried to push through but I couldn’t. I felt so old.. But I kept going and I made it to the summit!!! 5,597 meters high!! 5 and a half hours after setting off from the valley. I was stoke and I was on top of the world! At least the highest I have ever been before on land.

Summit baby!

Summit baby!

I realized it must be easier climbing up the east ridge from Cerro Ajo!! Ah well I was on the top!! I was happy. I ate some food then took some photos and a video then looked over to the east peak and it looked higher so I made my way around with just my camera just to make sure I was at the summit..

Looking back to the ridge I climbed

Looking back to the ridge I climbed

Back to my things I packed up and decided I was going to decend straight down off the mountain.. Down the scree slope!! I thought screw walkng the ridge again it’s going to take me forever..

So geared up off I went running down the slope leaning back digging in my heals. I fell on my butt a couple of times because it was fast! It felt so good to be running freely down a near 45 degree angle slope. It was a lot like skiing and it must have taking me 4 minutes to decend what took at least 2 hours plus to climb..

Ice man

Ice man- well more like snow man

Just as I was near the bottom of the scree slope the snow started falling again and tt came down hard. I couldn’t see much more than 30 meters in front of me. I knew I just needed to continue walking straight down and I would come the big cliff wall at the end of the valley. It was slow going through the snow and over some really big rocks!!

I made it to Laguna McIntyre and the snow eased off. The sun came out and brought the most beautiful view with steam rising from the rocks and the smell!! Oh my it was the best in the world. Like fresh rain yet 1000 times better..

Wow! This is the best smell...

Wow! This is the best smell…

I continued down to the big cliff wall and made my way around to the west side to drop into the valley to find the source of the Amazon river which was located somewhere along the cliff wall. I started along the cliff walking east and found some beautiful frozen icebergs hanging from the rocks.

Ice bergs

Ice bergs

I was looking across the huge wall to try and spot the source. I knew it was a black rock marked with a cross but I couldn’t see it!! Time was fading so I dropped into the valley and walked along side the cliff in the snow walking through all the tiny rivers that all merge together.

Well I walked the whole length of the wall and thought wow it has to be around the corner going back up towards the mountain. I was getting really tired and it was now or never to find the source. I wasn’t going to walk back up here.

The source is just  around the corner

The source is just around the corner

Finally around the corner I looked up and could see some black rock with water flowing from it! I thought this has to be it. Off I went climbing straight up the biggest rocks. It was quite a challenge and slow going. But then I got to the top.. And I could see the cross an the water flowing from the rock!! It was around 5:30pm I was totally wrecked. I had been walking and climbing all day.

I was so excited I was laughing and couldnt control my emotions I even shed I tear, I couldn’t believe I made it!! This was the source of the Amazon River!! The longest river in the world.. Well no time to relax, a few photos and then I had to get going. The sun was setting and I still had to get back to camp.

Here she is, the source of the Amazon River! Was this the best water I have tasted or what!!

Here she is, the source of the Amazon River! Was this the best water I have tasted or what!!

I set off through the snow and the darkness came quickly. I went as long as I could without using my head torch because I knew the batteries were getting low!! Finally I had to use the torch and I walked through the valley to the left side along the base of the ridge I used to summit. It was really difficult to see and the ground was pretty sketchy.

Time slipped by an pretty soon it was 7pm.. Somehow I had started to walk up the ridge when I wanted to stay next to the streams. It is really dissorienting in the dark. when i finally realised I needed to drip down I turned to walk back down to the river and my feet decided to fly! I slipped and fell hard on my hip and elbow.. I thought oh shit this is bad.. I broke my elbow.. But I got up and kept going and knew it wasn’t too bad just a scratch and a good bruise to come..

Walking in the dark there were a few dogs barking at me from the distance. Made me a little nervous because I knew the closest llama farmer was up over the mountain, they did sound like domestic dogs and not wild (I dont know if you can tell but I was hoping this). I did take my knife out and held it for security.

The dogs stopped barking and around 30 minutes later I arrived to camp.. Well where camp should have been but for the life of me I couldn’t see it!! Try finding a rock building in a place that is all the same rocks that the building is made from! I couldn’t see it.. I took out my iphone to use as a torch to get some more light but nope.. I kept walking blindly. I was thinking what the heck. How is this so hard. I made my way down to the stream and started waking back the way I came and there it was.. The broken ice I smashed with a rock in the morning. It was healed but I knew home was close.

I walked up a little bit and there it was!! My home and all of my things still in there.. I was dead. I can’t remember? I don’t even think I cooked. I’m pretty sure I just went to bed wrecked yet feeling satisfied with the day.

I layed in bed refleting on the day and I knew it would have been much easier to go up through the valley to the left side of the cliff where the source of the Amazon River is then continue left to summit.. Ah well next time.. I had a few different guides tell me different things. It didnt matter, I made it and I felt happy knowing I went up the hard way and made it.

Day 4:
Waking up the next morning I felt pretty tired. It was another broken sleep. I have no idea why I was not sleeping well.? I made breakfast and packed up my gear. It was around 7:30 when I left and I made my way out the same way I came into the valley. I stopped to get some photos of the mountain still covered in snow and reflect on the climb. I was planning on waking around 25kms this day to get back to Tuti and finish the hike…..

Reflecting...

Reflecting…

Well I continued.. Instead of going back through the mountains to the road I thought I would go north through the valley and head east from there through the pampas and down to the road and back out too Tuti..

Well I made it to and through the pampas then I seemed to have lost myself? I had another snowstorm and yeh who knows.. I saw a road just after the pampas so I went for it and followed for quite some time then eventually it just ended at what looked like some sacred rock site. I was facing the biggest valley I had seen so far and couldn’t pin point myself on the map!!

I had mountains beside me all made from boulders and slate rock.. I knew I had to climb to try and see if could make reference to where I was. I climbed one mountain then the next and next.. I summited 4 small mountains and at every one I couldn’t work out where I was?

Ok what do I do? Go back? Walk the 5 fast hours I did an start again? Or try and continue through the valley? I had to go back to my bag which I left and that took another hour..

I looked around the area because I had seen a few cairns (trail markers made from piled rocks) leading into the Valley. These markers are amazing. Because they are man made there aperance is unatural to everythng else around making them very easy to spot at a long distance.

I looked hard Across the valley I saw what looked like a road and I was pretty certain it was so I decided to go for it.. I dropped into the valley and climbed up the other side! It took me a little over two hours!! As soon as I popped over the ridge there it was. An orange plastic bag secured to a rock.. And then another and another. I found a trail. But where was it going? Had to be somewhere people went becuse this was man made. (I had put my camera away at this point because I needed no distractions. I had to focus on where I was going. From here I only got a couple of shots with the phone).

Little orange bag in the middle of the photo... you rescued me !!

Little orange bag in the middle of the photo… you rescued me !!

I continued and the sun was starting to drop. I couldn’t see the next marker because it was all just rocks on the ground and the marker under a rock.. I saw I I pretty fresh set of boot prints and decided to follow them!!! It paid off and took me to the next marker and the next.. Until finally it was too dark and I had to set up camp. It was around 7pm near a 12 hour day. I cooked up a meal and then studied my map to try and figure out where I was.. I was heading west.!! What!! how did this happen I thought as I looked at the compass? It would have been a great time to have a GPS.

Ah well not much I can do but get some sleep I thought because I really needed energy. I was expecting day five to be 12 hours long too. I prayed as I always do before I sleep and asked for signs in the morning to keep me going.

Day 5:
It was the coldest night yet and I woke at 4am shivering on and off. I was also busting to pee for the first time in all my nights on the mountain so out came the water bottle (a must have in cold conditions, it’s not worth getting out of tye sleeping bag to loose precious heat) . I started getting things ready just after 5.. Still took me a while to get organized and off I went at 6:30am.

I continued following the markers but they ended and I couldnt see any sign of where they went. I continued down the mountain on the ridge and saw a small house so made my way hoping someone was there.!! Hmm nope :( ok moving on.. I could see a road in the distance on the mountain so I started walking towards it. It was a good 2 hours away.

As I got a little further down into the valley I could see llamas locked up in the corrals.. This was a great sign. There has to be someone in this house I thought. I made my way down into the valley for another hour and could see there were people! Wow I felt so good!! I approached at about 8:30 am and asked kindly for some help. I said I don’t know where I am right now. The man said I could go up the mountain 2 hours to find the road to Tuti!! I said hmm that’s where I came from!? How did I miss the road… Ok I said where else can I go!? I said I saw cars windows reflecting the sun on the top on the mountain ahead… Around a 4 hour plus hike…

But the man told me there is a town Coporaque around 1 hour down the mountain.. And he said there is transport there. I was so happy.. I said thank you so much and made my way. It was hard going downhill, it was very steep. I found what looked like a path which was actually a huge water pipe which I followed and then finally!! Wow I could see Coporaque.

This was my road out..

This was my road out..

What started as a huge pipe turned into a stone gutter system taking the water down the mountain to the town

What started as a huge pipe turned into a stone gutter system taking the water down the mountain to the town

I was dead.. It still took me two hours to get to the town but I was so happy. I arrived at 11:30am and literally couldn’t walk anymore. I made my way to the closest shop and bought two gatorades and asked where the mini vans pick up to go to Chivay..

I waited around 30 minutes and a van came.. Everyone was really excited to hear what I was doing from a younger guy to a señora who was well into her 80s.

Good job boots!! Merrells, I was really impressed with them

Good job boots!! Merrells, I was really impressed with them

Arriving back at Chivay I checked into my hostel and showered twice!! I was filthy. I had to remove the tape I put on my hips to help stop blisters from the pack.. Unfortunately this made things worse and just removed skin!! I didn’t put any padding on first!! Ouch!

Hostel Rumi Wasi

Hostel Rumi Wasi

Yeh this hurt a lot

Yeh this hurt a lot

Well showered and a little fresher I made my way for a huge buffet lunch.. Then had a nap and rested a few days. For the two days I made my way to the thermal baths just outside of Chivay 3kms. There are vans that take you for 1 sole. The cost to enter the pools is 15 soles, a little expensive but amazing for the body and they ate right next to the mountains!! It was bliss.. I felt much better after two two hour sessions.. Definitely a must after your hike. I also saw the guide from Arequipa who was on a tour with an older couple.. He said he was a little worried about me and that I am crazy!!

Perfect place to relax sore muscles after a longhike

Perfect place to relax sore muscles after a longhike

Super refreshing

Super refreshing

Looking back I’m stoked at what I completed.. It was taxing on my mind and body every second. I honestly didn’t think I could walk more after day one. Your mind rolls into a negative loop telling you your crazy and to stop! Give up… but no I really didnt want to give up! The mountains break you down but they build you up again to be stronger than before. I made some mistakes with navigation but I had enough food and plenty of water I would have been ok for many more days so worst came to worst I would have returned to where I was and started again. I get excited and sometimes go too far but I think about what I am doing and know the consequences… I know its been a long time since ive been out in the field and I need to refresh on my map reading…

And the unintended day 4-5 route

And the unintended day 4-5 route

But in the end I would rather die knowing I had tried my hardest than just thinking what if? Life is about growing and you will never grow if you never push yourself.

I have spent a lot of time in the field hiking etc (not for may years now) and I have studied outdoor recreation and know about my gear and surviving in snow yet I did take a risk heading out into the mountains alone, this was something brand new for me since we only have peaks up to 2000m high in Australia.

I hope you enjoyed as much as I did. Remember to stay safe in the mountains. It’s definitely recommended to go with a local guide.

“Some of the world’s greatest feats were accomplished by people not smart enough to know they were impossible.” Doug Larson

Hasta luego Bolivia

“Are you the sort of person who can turn around when you have nothing left, and find that little bit extra inside you to keep going, or do you sag and wilt with exhaustion? It is a mental game, and it is hard to tell how people will react until they are squeezed.” ― Bear Grylls, Mud, Sweat and Tears

Wow what a ride on the bus from Rurrenabaque to La Paz.. It was meant to take 18 hours but took 24 hours. We got stuck on a few muddy sections waiting for big lines of trucks trying to get up the hills.

One place we were waiting 2 hours.. I started feeling really sick at around 6:30pm.. Not sure exactly why? I was thinking maybe it was altitude because we were climbing but I had no idea…. Feeling horrible and close to vomiting I hung my head out the window of the bus to get some fresh air.. Nothing wanted to come out though..

Finally around 1am my mouth filled with saliva and I pulled open the window to let it rain….. All over the side of the bus. Unfortunately I didn’t feel any better.. I managed to get some sleep because thankfully I had 2 seats to myself which was nice.

We stopped somewhere for breakfast in the morning. I just got myself some juice and went back to the bus.

It was a great view arriving into La Paz. Full of mountains and snow. I was happy to arrive and took a taxi to my hotel- los balcones blancos. I highly recommend this place. The owners are great people who help out with everything. I was feeling horrible so took a shower and went to bed for a little while then woke to find some food.

The second day I walked around the city an I had a look at the folklore museum which is full of pottery, clothing made from feathers, masks and artifacts. It was a really nice museum and cost 20 bolivianos. Next I made my way to the gold museum but unfortunately it was closed… I took a seat on a park bench and had a little rest. I was really feeling the altitude. I made sure I took diamox which does make a huge difference.

Once I gained some energy I made my way to the coca museum. It’s a museum with a very detailed history on coca from when it was discovered, all it’s uses etc.. I had a translated copy in English and it was quite large but a good read with many photos through the museum. The cost was 15 bolivianos.

I took a look around the artisans and bought a couple of little things including some coca lollies which are amazing!!! I really wish I could take home coca lollies, tea, liquor.. It all tastes amazing. I’m still waiting on an email from customs to see if I can bring anything home.

I have been eating at cheap restaurants for a while for lunch etc.. Usually 10 bolivianos for a soup and a main meal of rice and meat.. Very nice but the lack of vegetables I’m feeling pretty dull..

I managed to find a nice Chinese restaurant that I had a nice meal of beef an oyster sauce with fried rice.. Not really the veg I needed but it was nice an enough to feed me or two meals..

Day 3- I didn’t get up to much. Just walking around some more and was deciding wash at your company I wanted to go with for the worlds most dangerous road. I ended up at one tour agency and I saw some great photos if the mountains near by that you could climb. I can’t remember the name but it was 3 days with everything included.. I really wanted to go but was feeling pretty crap from the altitude and I didn’t think it was a good idea to go up another 2000m until I was acclimatized.

The lady suggested to go to watch Cholita wrestling that night for 70 bolivianos.. I thought why not get out an see something different. We left the city at 4pm on a bus and made our way to the top of the mountain of the city. We stopped to get some photos of the city and mountains in the distance. It was really nice. I think we drove around 45 minutes and then we entered the big tin shed where there was a fighting ring.

I got my free coke and popcorn that was part of the ticket and made my way to a seat!! It was super cold in the shed so I got on all my layers..

They show started with some guys wrestling and they were pretty entertaining.. Next up came a young Cholita and a woman dressed up as a witch. The fight was dirty but a great watch. A few more fights an extreme stunts that would put me out if I tried.. Really takes skill to perform some of these moves. Big flips and awkward falls. Wouldn’t take much for them to hurt themselves. It was a good show to see once in my life.

Day 4 -I went mountain biking down the worlds most dangerous road with Xtreme downhill. I used a dual suspension and the cost was 450 bolivianos for the day including breakfast and lunch.. Very simple but  it was food..

The ride starts from the main road where you ride super fast for around 40 minutes then hop bak in the car for a hilly section. It’s very cold and it’s recommended to wear a few layers… We then arrived to the beginning of the dirt road.. We were above the clouds which was awesome but it was much warmer here so I only wore a tshirt with the jacket over the top.

I was missing a frame bolt on my bike so the guys fixed it and off we went.. Going downhill I love going as fast as I can so I was passing as many people as I could then bam!! The chain would come off.. Well this continued many times which was a little annoying because i had to stop and get the chain back on then pass people again.. The views were nice.. It’s hard to appreciate while riding though. Even if your going a little slower.

We stopped many times to get photos etc.. I have a cd with the photos but couldn’t find a computer with a CD player to load them.

The ride on the dirt went so fast! Was around 3 hours but didn’t feel like it. We arrived near the end to stop and pay the 25 boliviano park entry. I took of my pants and jacket to ride with shorts because it was really hot. We dropped from around 4700m to 1800m.

Not much further down the road my chain came off once more and was jammed nicely between the crank and bottom bracket.. It was only around 10 minutes more to go so the guide gave me his single speed bike and I finished up.

We stopped for a pretty simple lunch of rice and salad with chicken then chilled at some hostel. I wants really feeling the day and was happy to make our way on the 3 hour drive back to La Paz..

It was a beautiful ride for the views but I suggest if you have ridden a mountain bike on trails.. Go for something a little more technical. I would have preferred it.

The next day I spent looking around the city for a few gifts. Some hand made scarves etc.. There are so many stores with all of this stuff but it’s expensive and mass produced. I managed to find a nice older lady on the side of the road making some nice things. I bought a few things from her and even better she gave me a 25% discount just like that!!

I needed some new hiking boots and I managed to find a few stores that I liked on Llampu street. I am so picky I went in and out of each store to try boots on then couldn’t decide then would need to return. I finally decided on a pair of Merrell Charmeleon boots which are nice but may be half a size too small because I got the biggest.. I spent a good 3 hours walking in them on Isla Del Sol an they were nice. Gave me a bit of a blister on my toe where they bend. Hopefully that passes..

The time came for me to go an I took a 1:45pm bus to Copacabana. The ride was pretty easy and we arrived around 6pm. There were a few ladies waiting to get you to their hostels. I talked with one and she took me to the hostel puerto Alegre which was very nice with a good balcony overlooking lake titicaca for 35 bolivianos for a private room.

I made my way down to the lake to catch the last part of the sunset! It was amazing. It reminded me of being at the beach back home in Austrlia.!

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Copacabana, Lake Titicaca Sunset

I found my way to a nice looking restaurant with a soup and a main for 20 bolivianos.. Then I made my way to the hostel.. Well about 30 minutes later I went to watch a movie in bed an I felt horrible!!! I ran to the toilet and was vomiting like crazy… Finished up back to bed and 10 minutes later again!!! This time it was even worse.. Back to bed feeling slightly better I tried I sleep at around 8pm… But no I had more to expel!!! Back again for round 3!! Throwing up so hard with all the food from the day coming out my nose and causing it to bleed… This was the worst I had felt in the 7 months of travel… I was slumped on the bathroom floor against the wall just think what did this.!? Well i felt this was it.. Cleaned myself up and made my way to bed.

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My worst look so far!

I managed to sleep the night and woke feeling super weak.. The señora came to knock on more sore and said it’s check out time.. I forgot to tell her I need more nights.. It was ok I just needed to change rooms. I said I was sick and she asked if I needed to go to the hospital. I said I was ok just needed some food and water. She offered to go and buy me toast and get me some coca tea!! Such a nice lady.

I spent the morning watching movies drinking hydralyte to rehydrate myself because my pee was the worst colour I have ever seen.. Later in the afternoon I went out to get some fresh air and some fruits etc.

I ate very simply or the day and slept early. Waking up early to get ready to visit Isla Del Sol.. The boat ticket was 35 Bolivianos.. Then if you visit north and south of the island there are 3 separate entrance tickets you need to buy on the Island at each point.. The north 15bob, south 10bob, middle 5bob..

Our boat set off from Copacabana at 8:30am and it was a slow trip to the north of the Island where we would start and you could walk to check out some ruins. There was beautiful beaches and this place really rim index me of Wilson’s Promontory near where I grew up with the islands popping out everywhere .

Isla Del Sol

Isla Del Sol

You can check out he north island for a couple of hours then get back on the boat to go to the south of the island and check it out or you can walk the 8 Km’s to the South which I opted for. I needed to prepare for a mountain climb coming up soon in Arequipa Peru. I also needed to break in my boots.. I was gutted to find all my photos with dirt spots.. It was so dusty on the walk I failed to clean my lens and I need to do a lot of work in Photoshop to clean them up.

The walk was not to difficult yet there was a lot of ups and downs, the scenery was amazing. It was great I managed to walked most of the way without seeing anyone else. You can take a tour of the island but the groups are huge so it’s much easier alone.. You don’t learn much about the island but I prefer a solo trip.

Isla Del Sol- North. Awesome views of the ruines and snow capped mountains

Isla Del Sol- North.
Awesome views of the ruines and snow capped mountains

Arriving near the south I met a young girl Vanessa who was working the donkeys, she was no more then 8 year old but really sweet. She asked if I ha any Australian money to give her. I said that’s a great idea but unfortunately I don’t have any and have her a banana instead.. It wasn’t till then when I thought some small 20c coins would make great gifts because they have the platypus on them!! Too cool.. Next time I will carry some.

Making it back to the South Island I jumped on the boat for an hour trip back to Copacabana. Everyone was sleepy and falling asleep dropping their heads, including me of course.

Once we arrived I found a nice restaurant to buy some fresh trout from the lake. It was delicious.. A full trout on the plate with some chips. It’s was a little hard to eat because of all of the bones but the flavour was amazing.

Fresh trout from Lake Titicaca

Fresh trout from Lake Titicaca

I made my way back to the hostel and started watching the movie Transcendence with Johnny Depp, it’s about A.I where he is dying from radiation poisoning so he uploads his mind to a super computer. It’s a great watch but unfortunately my battery ran out so I decided to sleep and I will watch the movie later.

I woke nice and early to make my way to the bus station. I was to make my way to Puno, Peru. The cost was 30 bolivianos and the trip lasted a little over 3 hours… It was the worst trip so far!!!

So we arrived to the border of Bolivia to stamp out! I knew I had gone over my visa by a few days.. The guy behind the desk was trying to tell me it was more then one month!! He was happy and told me to see the other guy who counted the days on the calendar..

I want over my visa by 4 days so I as I pay 80 bolivianos…… Hmmm but wait!! I only had 50!! Crap what to do!? Lucky enough for me there was a nice American girl near by who was happy to give me the 30 Bolivianos. I was saved!!

I was the last one through and knew the bus would be waiting for me so I ran down the hill to enter Peru.. I lined up and one person before customs I thought I would look at my passport… Crap!! Where is my exit stamp!?? There is none.. I thought in at the desk now I will try! So he looked and said no stamp!! You need to go back..

Everyone was on the bus and I said to the driver I need to go back.. He was saying we have to go let’s go!! I said give me my bag I will find my own way.. But he insisted that I go and run…

So how does it feel to be entered into an 800m sprint that you wee not prepared for at nearly 4000m above sea level!!??

It was like being thrown into a torture chamber.. Every breath was like sucking through a straw getting a little oxygen feeling my brain say nope you need to stop or I’m going to stop you.. Quick stop then boom off again.

I tried to run through the plaza where there was a huge military show to which I got stopped very quickly and pointed in a different direction.. Crap I had to go further… I arrive back to Bolivia and said where my stamp I need it my bus is going to go!! He stamped it and of I went!!!

Running like Forest Gump only I felt like I whale trying to run on the ground… Back to Peru the line was huge!! I couldn’t speak.. My lungs wee burning.. I felt so rude but I pushed past everyone back to the guy I saw at the desk. An older couple were like what the hell!? Did you see this? Finally I could speak and tell them what happened and thy understood. Thankfully..

I made it to the bus and off we went.. I couldn’t take one breath without going into a fitful cough. It was so painful and still one day later I seem to have quite a bit if fluid on the lungs. It’s freezing at night which didn’t help.

So some advise when you cross a border. Take money… More then you need because you can always change it.. Also check that you have an exit stamp before you go to enter.

If I did this in the south if Chile when entering Argentina I would have died.. Marc and I walked 3 hours from the border if chile to Argentina because no cars came past.. Imagine if we had to do the 3 times!? Wow..

Arriving in Puno I took a taxi to my hostel Manzano b&b. Very nice and relaxing. Unfortunately the rooms are very cold because they don’t get a lot of sun. I made my way to the supermarket for supplies and some food for lunch. It was nice to see a huge supermarket where I could by anything I needed.

I relaxed in the hostel for the afternoon and met a girl from Egypt and a girl from Peru who asked if I wanted to walk the city. We went out to check out the sun set and the city. We thought we would go for something simple for dinner, hamburgers. The wait was long an the burger sucked.. Ah well..

In the morning we walked some more and went up to the condor mirador to check out the city. There’s some really nice views. The girls made their way to Arequipa and I went to see the museum Dreyer. It’s a nice small museum with a lot of pottery an weapons with 3 mommies. The cost was 15 soles and well worth the visit.

Beautiful views from Condor mirador Puno, Peru

Beautiful views from Condor mirador Puno, Peru

Mummies

Mummies

I spent my afternoon speaking to the coordinator if My Small Help in Peru http://www.mysmallhelp.org close to Cusco who are a volunteer organization who help family with special needs. The main program is to help 15 children get to and from school on the bus then help with either teaching or help families at home with building projects to make things easier for the family at home.

I will be going to Ollantaytambo to volunteer for 3 to 4 weeks. I’m really looking forward to it.

I made my way to the docks to do a short tour and visit the floating islands of Lake Titicaca. I found a guys selling tickets the the closest isalnds Uros and it was 30 Soles for 3 hours.

Theres always a light to guide your way. Its up to you if you want to follow it.

Theres always a light to guide your way. Its up to you if you want to follow it.

It was a relaxing boat ride through the reeds, which is one of the main staples for the people on the islands. As we got closer it was like going on the set of water world.. It was like a small city all made from dried reeds. We made our way onto the island and was greated by a few of the families, ariumd 5-6 families live on each island.  The islands are made from a peat mosss then topped with layers of reeds. Its really something else. The families farm fish to sell and make blankets, clothing etc to sell to tourists.. They need To buy food they cannot grow like rice etx. Life seems quite relaxed for the people on the islands.  You can take longer tours to some of the more remote islands of Lake Titicaca and sleep with a family for the night.

Beautiful

Beautiful

Lake cruising

Lake cruising

Floating islands of Uros,  Lake Titicaca

Floating islands of Uros, Lake Titicaca

I made my way to the bus station at 2pm to go to Arequipa. I went with Cruz del Sur and the experience was a lot like taking an aeroplane. We were scanned with a metal detector and two people checked our passports. A guy walked through the bus at every stop people would get on to put the camera in your face and say your seat numner, guess its a good way for security if the bus should crash and they need to identify people. The in road service was nice with drinks, food and movies and it was nice to have a toilet again.. unlike the Bolivian buses.

When arriving to Arequipa I’m planning on climbing Mount Nevado Mismi the mountain that is the source of the amazon river.. It’s around a 3-4 day hike and with a company it’s around $400US.

I want I look around and see if there is anywhere cheaper otherwise if there is a good map I will tackle the mountain myself. We need to wait and see. Not too many people do this trip. The most popular is the Colca Canyon. I will check it out too but need I save wherever I can.

That is my final update for Bolivia. I will write up an overview soon of my 94 days in Bolivia. My highlights. Some advice. My Spendings….. Which went way way way over my budget!!

Thanks a lot Bolivia! I’m going to miss you but I will be back!!

Always remember: “You’ll never find your limits until you’ve gone too far.” ― Aron Ralston, Between a Rock and a Hard Place

WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE

“In the adventure known as life, there are those who live it vicariously, and enjoy the ride from the safety of an arm-chair; and that’s good. There are those who have a few chances to realize incredible and life-changing experiences; and though they don’t repeat them, they carry with them a growth and personal philosophy for the rest of their lives. And there are those for whom a taste, is never enough; for whom the lust of adventure, is nearly insatiable. And if you add to that the overwhelming desire to create, and to share, then you get where I reside. For the end of one adventure, only signifies the beginning of another.”- Les Stroud

Here I am in the Pampas of the amazon in the north west of Bolivia around 3 hours away from Rurrenabaque. It’s 7:30pm and and I’m sitting in bed under my mosquito net. I’m on a 3 day tour with Flecha Tours from Rurrenabaque with 2 Brits and an Iraqi. There were meant to be five more people but something happened with the plane they were on and one guy was really sick. Let’s take a step back to where I left off and i will fill you in with the tour a little later..

I set off from Santa Cruz to Tupiza around 7:30pm on the most comfortable bus I have been on yet.. It was a bus with  only 3 seats wide instead of 4 and nearly reclined all the way!! I had the best sleep and arrived around 8am. I walked in to the plaza. Was around 10 minutes in the heat. I found the information center to find accomodation and they suggested  some hotels. I walked around and looked at a couple and ended up staying in hotel Paulita in a private room for $60 bolivianos per night. I needed to do some washing so got on it when I checked in. It was so humid it took 2 days with the fan on to dry. I made my way over the road for a freshly cooked bafe which you pay by the kilo. Was a little expensive but I hadn’t eaten all night and didn’t want to spend too much time looking around for semi normal food.. Everything around seems to be deep fried KFC style chicken.

After lunch I walked the city to go and see the Pantanal park where they have a few different animals but unfortunately the place was closed for maintenance. I still managed to walk around the property and look through the fence to watch the pigs and a deer as well as a hawk that flew in with a fresh kill.

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A man told me this guy has impaled 2 people at the park

I thought I may as well make the most of the time and make my way to see the museums. I walked some more in the heat around 30-40 minutes to the archeological museum which was also closed!! I just wasn’t having luck. Well there were still 2 more museums to visit in the University. They have a fish museum with around 400 species of native fish preserved in glass tanks. There are a few people there who were happy to guide me around and gave some great information.

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Check out those fangs!! wow

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This guy is resposible for a few deaths of humans. Many tribes thought that their ancestors where coming to eat them in the river because the teeth are a lot like human teeth.

Next up I visited the botanical museum and I had a guy show me around for around an hour!! It was great. They have heaps of seeds from medicinal plants and give a lot of information about plants and how they work ect. I thought it was quite amazing. I was still kind of stuck with what I wanted to do and just couldn’t make up my mind so went to Moxos tours to look at my options in the area. A river boat trip was 300 bolivianos per day with a group or 600 as a single. No one else was booked in so I looked at horse riding.. It was still super expensive and not worth the money at all. I enjoyed it but it was really simple and a lot of riding near main roads. We didn’t get out to see anything special. The best part about it was my riding partner, wow I cant remember her name but she was gutted to see me leave. She was really sweet.

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My guide ;)

The next morning I went to bus bus terminal to check times to get to Rurrenabaque. The guy said in one hour.. Or the next one is on Monday!!  It was Friday and I didn’t want to spend more time in Trinidad. I bought a ticked for 160 bolivianos and took a Moto taxi (motor bike taxi) back to my room. Pretty much everyone in Trinidad rides a motorbike. It’s insane. I quickly packed my things and grabbed a taxi back to the station. I bought a couple of small snacks.. Then began to wait. It was super hot and the bus was an hour late. When I saw the bus I was thinking wow it’s old and has some off road tires. I had no idea what the ride was going to be like. I was right at the back of the bus and not far out of the city we were on a dirt road that looked like it was man made in the middle of the water. It became super rough and didn’t stop for the whole 19 hour journey!!

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Time to take the bus across the river

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These things were huge.. I really wanted to run across them

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This was the nicest part of the road

We crossed 2 rivers on a small barge that was towed with the smallest boat.  The scenery was breathtaking and we even saw the pink dolphins swimming along with many amazing birds and fish jumping out of the water beside the bus.. This was nice to see and take my mind off the pain of the road.. But then it became dark and the nightmare really began.

My body was struggling as I became really tired but I had to brace myself with my legs to use as shock absorbers for all the bumps otherwise my back was really not feeling good! There were 3 of us I the back and we visited the roof a few times.. Lucky for me I was I the middle seat but the other 2 guys on the sides went up and hit there heads so hard on the bag carriers. It was horrible. My butt was so sore from coming down so hard. I remember when we used to try and bounce up in the bus at school when we would drive over a speed hump!! That was fun but when you don’t want it it’s torture.. As we continued the rains began and we got bogged for awhile as one of the guys got out to try and get us out. It was the best time because we got a little sleep.. On we went and the pain and hours just kept slipping by. We arrived in Rurrenabaque at around 8:20am and left at 12pm the day before. There were a couple of Brits on the bus so we hooked up and went to hostel Chulini, Relaxed and had a little nap then went to get some food for lunch. Rurrenabaque or Rurre as the locals call it is a beautiful town next to rivers and small mountains with the most beautiful rainforest!!

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Beautiful Rurrenabaqu

I thought why did I spend so much money in Trinidad when I could have come here?! Ah well you can only learn I guess. We went to one tour agency to see prices. There is a jungle tour or pampas tour for 300 bolivianos per day with food. We thought we would look around and we found Flecha Tours who offered tours for 200 bolivianos per day all included. They seemed a little more professional and gave us some good information. There was a 3 day pampas tour available for the next day! We asked for a discount and they guy said no problems I’ll give you 50 bolivianos off because there are 3 of you.. We said deal lets do it. So cost was 550 plus 150 entry fee to the national park.

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Felcha Tours! Ready to head off on our Pampas tour

The next morning we set off at 8:30 with just the clothes we needed and mosquito repellent etc. We left our other things with the tour company. There were meant to be 9 of is in total on the tour. We went to the airport to meet some other guys who were flying in but they didn’t show so we set off on a 3 hour drive to Santa Rosa. On the way one of the guys really wasn’t feeling well and decided he could not come on the tour so that left 4 of us. We stopped for lunch on the way at a restaurant. The food was nice. Then we made our way to the river where we packed everything onto the canoe and made our way for around 2 hours to our lodge.

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Awesome canoes for our tour

As soon as we set off we were greeted by the pink dolphins!! They are amazing. The day was perfect and full of do many birds and monkeys. We arrived to our lodge. There are many in the area for each tour company. They places are simple with rooms and beds with mosquito nets. Toilets, showers and a community space for eating. Our cook is amazing and we had a delicious meal with many dishes.

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Flecha Tours lodge

Our guide Jaci introduced us to the local alligator Pedro who lives in a small lagoon behind the lodge. He was pretty happy and came to greet us with his teethy grin!

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Check out this beauty!

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Hola Pedro!!

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During the night we went to look for alligator. We found a few with there eyes glowing back at you as you shine the torch light at them. Pretty cool colour. Then we started to see fish jump out of the river and our guide said it was piraña. The night was really hot and I didn’t sleep the greatest. Woke at 5:45am to head out and see the sunset. We went to a big open space on the river with the most amazing view! The sunrise was spectacular. I didn’t quite get the wide shots I wanted because I had my long camera lens on because we were going bird hunting after..

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Mind Blow!!!

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Perfect light bringing a new day

Not long before we were about to head of to go bird watching a storm blew in a brought heavy rains!! We made our way back for a huge breakfast then head out to look for anaconda and cobra. We went to a huge marsh that was hot and infested with Mosquitos. The guides ashure us there is no malaria or dengue here. Unfortunately with the clouds and rain it wasn’t hot enough to see snakes. We still tried and only found a snake skin, crab, snails and other insects.

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Snake skin

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Searching for Anacondas!!! only thing i found was millions of mosquitos!!

Out guide said it was one year ago when he last saw an anaconda.. Ah well… not to worry we made our way back to the lodge for a wonderful lunch.. Again the food was amazing and we had many dishes along with so many interesting garnishes that or cook cut into shapes of flowers. It was nearly too beautiful to eat.

There was a tree with a hole in it and Jaci said to put the camera in and take a photo with flash!! wow it was full of bats sleeping for the day.. a very cool suprise.

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Peek a Boo!! I see you!

 Now for the afternoon of fun!! We went fishing! Yes you guessed it, for piraña.. We found a nice little pool of water were we parked the canoe and got some meat on our hooks. As soon as you dropped it in you could see many little ones going for it. Then the guys started catching fish after fish.. Unfortunately i didn’t even get one on the line.. Ah well it was still fun and we ended up with 9 in total.

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Piraña baby

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Stick your finger in! I dare you ha ha

Back to the lodge dinner was ready and we just had to wait for the fish to be deep fried.. The piraña is such a nice fish to eat although there isn’t too much meat and many bones it was so fresh and amazing!

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Freshly fried! amazing flavour

Now it’s rest time and the rains are here again it’s actually a little chilly but should make for a good nights sleep. Tomorrow we head out to swim with the pink dolphins! Really looking forward to it! Will be a childhood dream come true! We woke nice and late the last day of the tour for a wonderful breakfast of fruits and pancakes then we set off down the river to find a nice places to swim with the dolphins. As we made our way through the many estuaries the water began to change from a brown to a dark coffee colour. I’m not to sure why this is but it was really nice to see. We came to a large pool where we saw a around four of the pink river dolphins swimming!!

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Could live in this boat forever

I made the most of it and stripped of and jumped into the water… Swimming around waiting for something to touch me.. It was a little daunting but really exciting. Sometimes the dolphins bite to feel you.. Unfortunately I didn’t have any touch me but it was still an awesome experience.

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Whoop. Dolphins

Back into the boat we went to look for the slow one as Jaci calls them, or sloth to us. We were lucky and found 3. This guy had a beautiful black and brown coat. Jaci would whistle to him and he would slowly turn his head towards us then slowly turn away. Jaci repeated a few times and the sloth would look everytime probably thinking what the heck is that? it was very funny.

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Hey there mister slow one

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This place is amazing

We then made our way back to the lodge to pick up our things and make our way back to where we started to take a taxi back to Rurre.Just before we left a few of the monkeys came to say hello.. This cheeky little guy snuck past into the kitchen and stole a packet of pasta! he ran out as fast as possible and went up the nearest tree. He knew what he was doing and was trying to eat the pasta as quickly as possible. He ripped the packet open so hard that all of the pasta fell out and rained down on the tin roof.

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Cheeky little guy

We had to wait a while for a taxi because the dirt roads were really bad from all the rain. On our way back 2 of us needed to get out of the van and push through the thick mud otherwise we would never have got out! Filthy but on our way again. Arriving back in Rurre I checked back into hostel Curichal. And relaxed for a day….

If you want to see many animals and have a relaxing experience the pampas sure is a beuatiful place and well worth the visit

I wanted to go on a long jungle tour but this requires 2 people an no one else had signed up. I decided I didn’t want to do a 3 day tour so just relaxed at the hostel when Shahar the Iraqi from my pampas tour ran into my hostel asking if I wanted to do a 8 day jungle survivor tour with him because he needed another person!!! I jumped out of my hammock and said lets do it!! We made our way to escorpion travel to speak with the tour operators. Asking whys involved an the cost! The suvivor tour usually is 3 days to 5 but we wanted 8 days!! You get a pair a rubber boots, a machete, a mosquito net some food (little rice, potatoes, 1kg salt, sugar, a little beef jerky) hand fishing line. Some plastic for emergency and that’s it…

Ok so we said let’s do it!! 8 days!! The cost was 300 bolivianos per day, much more than a regular jungle tour due to amount of work for guide etc and it’s harder because of the need to find food etc. We managed to get them down to pay 2200 bolivianos for the 8 days. We just needed to pay an extra 125 bolivianos for entrance into park Madidi a reserve.. We paid and made our way to hostels to prepare for the next day. I packed my first aid kit and rain jacket. I took along a knife and alcohol gel too wash my hands to avoid getting sick. I wore a long pair of pant and a shirt with a hat. Took a torch and spare batteries and that was it..

Day 1
We left Rurrenabaque at 9am for the boat that would take us up the river into the park. We stopped off at the park office to pay entry and then off we went fresh ready to roll. We made our way up river Beni which is pretty big and very beautiful with jungle on either side, I was really feeling very excited!! We made one more stop to check in at another park office then made out way up the river for around 3 hours.

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Setting out

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Fresh

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The day was warm and sunny and quite windy so it took a little more time then expected. The lessons started right away as Leon told us about a coca sand which.. It’s coca leaves with bicarbonate soda and a special wood. You need to use bicarbonate to release the particular enzymes in the coca to make it work but long term use has deco stating effects on the teeth and stomach. There is a particular wood from the forest which you mix with the coca and it helps the stomach- even kills selmonala so it’s pretty important while in the jungle to avoid getting sick. You chew some of the wood until it is nice and munched up then get a good handle full of coca leaves, place the wood on the leaves then put a good amount of bicarbonate an then more leaves.. Squeeze it all together and stuff it into your check..

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Coca sandwhich

It’s much nicer with the wood and sweet taste. Really helps on those days when we don’t eat much and need to walk and work! We then passed the famous river tuichi where an Israeli was lost on an expedition. There’s a book I need to check out called return to Tuichi. Not to much further and we turned onto river Ondo.. Once we arrived at the central camp we unloaded the boat, sharpened up the machetes and made our way into the jungle with our guide Leon. With no path and little sun it was amazing to see Leon orientating our direction by looking at the way the trees grow.Not for into the way we stared to find fruits, a small jungle mango, tiny coconuts which housed larvae that were feeding on the coconut, a quick taste and wow!! They are full of so much flavour.

fresh ready to rock

fresh ready to rock

We walked most of the afternoon while Leon explained different medicinal plants that we found. We came across a large spider similar to the orb spider in Australia with a very strong web. He used a cigarette to breathe smoke on the spider then picked it up and handed it too me!! Then of course he said it was one of the most venomous spider in the jungle but it was relaxed with the smoke.. Was a nice experience.

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Yep he is piosonous

We made a sign with our direction of travel the traditional way on a particular fungus. Using a sharp stick we enscribed our names in the solid flesh.

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We added arrows to the sign to show others which way we were going

We came across and old camp an set up beside it with fresh palm leaves on the ground and we set up out mosquito nets. We found a patch of small coconuts and broke them open with the machete searching for larvae. It was very difficult opening the coconuts without cutting my fingers off but after a while practicing I found my own way!! Put it in the dirt and swing the machete!! Not the best approach but it worked and we found a few larvae so we set off to a small dirty river and started to fish in the night. We stated with really small fish that but fast and you ha I be as quick as possible to catch them.. Well I had no luck.. Leon of course caught a few then we used for bait and Leon caught some larger fish. We went back to camp and made a grill with sticks and cooked up the fish, potato, plantanos (cooking banana we got from the main camp). It was so good to eat since we ha not eaten since breakfast and it was getting late. We made our way to bed and managed to sleep ok only to wake up to rain!! Quickly got up and set the plastic above the nets and waited for it to finish.

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Thanks Leon!

Day 2

We still had a little fish which we cooked for breakfast then made our way into the jungle to search for more bait and we learnt more about different trees, there are so many trees which can be used for teas or ointments to kill all bacterias and heal many health problems. We stayed in the same camp so we could learn more about the area searching for a certain large bamboo we could use to cook in.. Night time came and back to fishing…. Again only out guide caught fish so thanks to him we got to eat. I did catch a turtle, we took a few photos and sent him back. This night we ate fish cooked inside the bamboo and rice cooked in the bamboo. It was amazing!! Another night of pretty good sleep..

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Bamboo is amazing. Fresh rice.

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Platano (cooking banana) on the fire is amazing

Day 3

We woke quite late to pack camp and eat some more fish for breakfast and make out way into the jungle to make our way towards the lagoons which were larger and had piraña. We walked through quite a lot of mud on our way and found a nice place to set camp. We needed to clear a few small trees and find leaves for our mattress..

Camp

Camp

After we set up we set out to find some worms in the river bank. We found a couple and started fishing.. Didn’t take too long for the piraña to start.. Again you need to be pretty quite with them!! Finally I got one on the line!’ Then another and another. Felt good to catch my own food that I could share with the guys.

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Wooden grill

There were a few caiman in the Laguna and we were fishing from a muddy bank which we layed palm leaves down that gave us a nice surface to stand on. We fished into the night and got ourselves a good catch for dinner and breakfast. Made our way back to camp to cook a feast of piraña which taste amazing. They are a little difficult to eat due to so many tiny bones. We also tried the coco larvae cooked on a shish kebab!! Wow it was the best thing ever. I could eat these everyday. After another late night and a good meal we made our way to bed.

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Raw coconut larvae! these things are amazing!

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Cooked coconut larvae!!! wow even better than raw!! crunchy

Day 4

For some reason I cannot really remember day 4? We did have a suprise for breakfast. We had fresh wild chicken eggs the Leon found the night before.

Wow fresh wild chicken eggs! what a feast

Wow fresh wild chicken eggs! what a feast

We spent the day searching for foods and fishing. We found an asai palm and collected the fruits to make asai juice (we prepared back in town and it was the best ever). We had another good day catching piraña and tiny cat fish kinda things. I cannot remember. We cooked them inside the bamboo and also in leaves and they were amazing!

The Laguna

The Laguna

We found a bunch of huge ants that when the sting it affects your lymph nodes and causes extreme pain.. the antidote is inside the abdomen of the ant. You take the stinger out then squeeze the juice onto the bite site.

These things are huge!!!

These things are huge!!!

The jungle is full of so many palm trees that have many fruits and different healing properties. They are also used for making weapons like bow and arrows. We could smell a really sweet scent in the air and Leon said there is a beautiful orange flower on a palm tree close. With a quick search we found the flower around 50m away and picked it so we could make a tea. You can also make purfume from the flower. We couldnt find the right bamboo to boil a tea so unfortunetly didnt get to try.

Such a beautiful scent. compliments well in my traditional head dress

Such a beautiful scent. compliments well in my traditional head dress

Day 5

We got up early to eat and pack up camp and set out through the jungle to find a new camp. We could hear a group of chanco (wild pig) crunching their jaws and grunting. We snuck up until we could smell the strongest foulest smell then finally we could see them around 50m away. We just sat an watched as they passed as they are very territorial and can he very vicious.

Log crossing

Log crossing

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We found camp in a nice place in the Jungle with access to the large river to finally have a wash. We set up camp with fresh leaves for bedding, got the mosquito nets up got a fire ready.. We went for a walk down the beach to find a good place for fishing.

Potential meal!! lucky we caught enough fish we didnt need to eat him

Potential meal!! lucky we caught enough fish we didnt need to eat him

There were many fresh caiman tracks as well as tapir and jaguar tracks with a small baby!! This means we need to watch out because the Jaguar can be very aggressive when it has a baby. When the night we made our way out to the river to search for frogs with the torches, we had to be careful and recognize the frogs because there were a few very poisonous frogs and toads which are dangerous to touch. We met another group who said they heard the Jaguar close by.

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Fresh Jaguar prints

We found many frogs and got to fishing with our 25kg lines!! Pretty quickly Sharhar got a bit and we saw it was big!! Unfortunately it got away but we were super excited!! Big river fishing is all about patience… Get the line in and wait, when the fish is on the line you know it!! Well it took a few hours and there were so many Mosquitos here that didn’t seem to go away! Usually they are fierce for an hour or two then disappear. Relaxing and talking I finally ha a bite and wow it was more than I expected!! It took quite a bit to pull in with the current of the water adding to the pull… I was so excited because we were starving an it was very late… Got the fish in and saw it was a catfish around 3 kilos…

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Feel like a king!!

Wooo we are going to eat we all thought.. Got my line in the water and not long later Shahar caught one a little smaller.. It was around 3am or so and boom I had another which was bigger! I got him in and he was around 4kg. We got them cleaned and said let’s call it a night. Made out way to camp and cooked up the small fish inside leaves. The meat was really fresh and so good to eat because it has no small bones, they have a lot of fat and it tastes amazing. Full and really happy we made our way to bed around 5am!

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Presenting our feast!

Day 6

We got up early around 9am too prepare breakfast and the rest of the fish in leaves to take with us to the next camp. I collected heaps of leaves to get all the fish into them. We had around 10 Huge pockets filled of fish. We packed up camp and set off to find a good location to stop and start to build a raft to leave the Jungle. We spent most of the day walking and cutting through the forest. We came to a huge bamboo forest next to the river. We found a nice place with a large beach and a nice place to harvest balsa wood and build the raft in the water. We set up camp using 6 poles of bamboo to tie the mosquito nets using the sand as the matress.

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Preparing the catfish in leaves to take to the next camp

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We set out to the forest to see what balsa tress were fallen and easy to collect. We found wood for the fire and set up too cook nice and early. We had 6 pockets of fish and one large bamboo we took from the last camp. We cooked up the fish and cooked rice.. Unfortunately some of the fish was off.. We didn’t cook it long enough in the morning and it went bad while walking in the heat. We did manage to eat a little that was good and saved one pocket for breakfast and hoped it would be ok. Later in the night I wasn’t feeling great. Stomach was a little bad. I think it’s from eating mainly fish and not much else. We were treating water with tablets because it would be difficult to boil enough water for 3 people using bamboo. We learnt about many vines that carry water but in the reserve they are Protected and you cannot cut them. I made my way to bed nice and early hoping to get some energy back ready to build the raft in the morning.

Day 7

Wow what a night!! I woke up freezing and put on my rain jacket I try and warm up a little.. I closed the cuffs to trap in my hands then went back to sleep.. Only to waken again and again but it didn’t take too long to get to sleep again. Morning came before we knew it and we got up to try the last lot of fish.. Unfortunately it wasn’t very good so we didn’t eat… Not the best day for no food, we had a lot of work to do! Well not too worry we sucked it up! Got some sugar drink into us and a cheerful of coca and we made our way into the bamboo forest to collect the large fallen logs of the balsa tree.

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River beach camp

We worked cutting logs with the machete and then carried the logs down to the beach ready to build. We used bark as cordage to tie the raft. We built the raft in the water  so it was easier to tie while floating, this was great because the morning on the beach was so hot and the fresh water was a welcome relief. We were in and out if the water and the sand flies made a meal of my ankles, there was nothing I could do! The repellent would wash strait off and there was no mud nearby to use.. I just had to deal with it. I made the right decision to wear pants at least so they only go to eat my ankles. Shahar had shorts and they made the most of his legs!!

Sand Flies, little buggers. All of these bites within seconds

Sand Flies, little buggers. All of these bites within seconds

We worked around 4 hours then packed up camp! Got some photos of us on the raft then packed all the camera and bags into the plastic for safety. Off we go!!! Well so we thought, we all jumped on the raft and under the water it went.. We all fell off soaked and pulled her into dock to head into the forest to collect more wood. By this point we were pretty tired and had to cut some more. We collected another 3 logs and worked nearly another 2 hours!! Time seems to fly by in the jungle when your busy all the time.. I think it was around 2:30pm when we finally set off!! The raft was perfect and held us all really well. River Ondo flows family slow but we still had to keep our eyes peeled because there are many trees in the water..

I took the front of the raft with a long piece of bamboo and Leon took the back to guide us.. He told me when to push right or left.. It was a lot of fun and really relaxing on the river. It was quite hot to started off with but the sun disappeared quickly behind the trees and I was still wet and a little cold.. After 2 hours we found a really nice beach with a deep spot and we saw some salmon breach so we docked and set up camp quickly to get some lines in the water with some rotten meat Leon had with him.. We wanted to catch a salmon but the odds were low because the water was very dirty and they like to feed when it’s clean.

Well we had no luck and the sun went down… I was getting really cold so we made a fire so I could dry out a little. We set out with the torches to search for frogs and bop them on the head with the machete. I hate hurting any animals but when you are starving it’s not so hard.. We all got frogs on the line and casted into the deep pool… After a horrible night sleep and no food I was so tired sitting on the beach falling asleep with all of a sudden bam!!! Leon had a bit and it was huge! With his strength he nearly went in the water and the line cut his finger pretty badly.. Unfortunately it unhooked and got away. Leon said we need to stand up an be ready because there are fish up to 40kg in this river.. This woke me up and I stood up ready because it was quite a struggle on the hands with just a 4kg fish the night before.. In the bigger rivers there are fish up too 120kg!! Insane.

Waiting and talking time was going by!! At around 11pm Sharhar got a bite and pulled it in! Nice another cat fish around 3 kilos. So good we ha dinner, now we just needed to catch breakfast!! Leon said let’s cook and eat then we will catch breakfast!! Well a minute later.. Bam I had a bite. Pulled it in and it was nearly 4kg catfish.. So good. We could cook and eat then go to bed..We set up two lines for the night to try catch lunch for the next day. Jut before we started to eat we heard a fish on the line and Leon went to look, he thought it was another catfish so left it in the water… We stayed up pretty late talking and eating the fish. We cooked them on a bamboo parilla (grill). We then went to bed satisfied and full. It was another cool night waking shivering but not as bad as the night before.

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Late night bbq grill!! Amazing

Day 8

I woke super early to find a crab with me in my mosquito net. I peeked outside to see a beautiful sunrise starting so I thought I would make the most of it and get up to catch some photos. It was the most beautiful morning. I got the fire going to heat up the big boy for breakfast. Leon for up and pulled in the line to find a beautiful Salmon with the brighter yellow fins! We were exited but gutted because we could have feasted on him the night before.. Unfortunately we didn’t get to eat him because we ran out of time and gave him away..

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What an amazing start to the day

Filled up on fish we packed up camp and set off around 11am to make our way to base camp which should have taken around 2 hours then we were going to cook the salmon and make some tribal photos in mud and traditional leaf clothing.. Well the river was a little slow and it took us around 3 hours.

When we came near to the camp we came across some rough rapids and we had trouble turning the raft and slammed into a log! We all flew forward and fell over. You could feel the power and see it much harder the cordage holding the raft together could have ripped! It was a mighty strong raft too. We got ourselves moving and found camp. There was a lot of people who arrived to set of on tours.

We had a nice meal of chicken, rice and salad with fresh juice! It was amazing!! The boat back to Rurrenabaque was going soon so we had to be fast and we ran down to the river an stripped off and covered ourselves in mud to get a few photos. Then we washed off and found some leaves for traditional clothing for a few more shots! Was a lot of fun.

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Warriors

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Please dont kill me!!

Back onto the boat we made our way back to Rurre tired and sleeping. I made my way back to the hostel to rest were I have taking a few days to get my energy back.

It was an amazing experience and I learnt a lot. It’s really hard to think back on everything because we were always doing something and talking about different things. Plus being tired and hungry it’s like a dream. I really should have written things down. If your ever in Rurrenabaque visit escorpion travel and ask for Leon as your guide. He is young but has spent his whole life in the jungle along with his whole family. He is a walking encyclopedia and know many medicines.

We found many different trees to treat parasites, cancer, sexual disfunction.. And I really can’t remember what else? There are many fruits we found- jungle mango, jungle avocado, few types of mini coconuts which also housed larvae which were amazing to eat raw and even better cooked, they also came in handy for fishing!! We found a beautiful orange palm flower which you can smell from 50meters away and make into a tea or perfume. We found a garlic tree which was great mosquito repellent and great for cooking!!

My favorite tree was the leche leche tree.. Milk tree that have a thick white cream that tasted better then milk. It’s also drank by woman who are not producing milk for there baby and it helps. The list goes on and on… There are life givers and life takers. You need to be careful because there is one tree that’s sap is so deadly if you touch it you will most likely die. Here we were just hacking through the jungle not knowing what’s what!! Really so much to learn.

I want to return and spend time in the jungle with his grandparents learning a lot about the medicines. Would be great if I could bring some things home but customs is very strict. This was definitely a life dream I lived and I will be back to learn more as soon as I can.

I just cant seem to leave this place. I find it very relaxing and the people are really kind.. I am also putting off the 20 hour bus ride to La Paz. Just yesterday I was asked to go fishing with a guy I met in the street. Unfortunately it rained very hard so we didnt go. Instead I found a small restaurant for a late lunch and sat down for a 10 boliviano meal.

There were a few guys there eating together and they brought me a drink which I thought was just a really sweet juice. Then they gave me another. They were really excited that I liked it and asked me to join them at their table. After seeing the bottle I could see it was alcoholic. I spent the afternoon with the guys talking and enjoying the day. The cocktail mixes were really nice in Cherry, Grape and Coconut.

We stayed until the restaurant was making dinner then I was asked to go and spend some time at one of the guys homes. We made our way to the edge of town right next to the mountain. I was a little suprised to see his home was just a brick room where he lived with a friend. They only had their beds and a few clothes. The toilet and shower were outside. This place continually opens my eyes and really makes me think to appreciate what I have. After all I own more then these two guys in just my bag yet they are really happy and love to enjoy the company of each other listening to music and doing what any 23 year old would do.

I often think back to home in Australia where i lived in a block of units with around 45 units. In my time of more than a year I only knew 3 of the people there. Its crazy how we shut ourselves into our own lives. These guys say hi and know many people in their town. Its great, I love their hospitality.

I really can´t get enough. So far this is my favorite place in Bolivia!

Well thats all for this update.. sorry it was a difficult read. I wrote over many weeks and went back to fill in things i missed.. I also accidentally deleted around 2 hours of writting and had to start again….

Until next time

“A lazy, bored brain latches on to negativity and problems and exaggerates them until they become out of perspective and all-consuming.”- Ed Stafford

Bolivia!! This place blows my mind

Yep I have been trying for 3 days to get blog up with photos!! managed to get a few up but the Internet has some issues with my site I need to work out… Thanks guys and I will get more of the photos up as soon as I can. Not sure when that will be? No Internet for a while again I think..

I feel a lot like Frodo Baggins heading out on his quest to save the world not knowing what lies ahead.

I’m not really out to save the world although I am on a new path each day and I am meeting new people and seeing different things which changes my perspective on life as I have seen it.

I hope I continue to learn and find ways of helping people more and possibly trying to change how people think about how we treat the earth and possibly change it..

Here I am siting at the beautiful Aguas Calientes in the east of Bolivia… The river is usually very warm and great for a dip but unfortunately for me there has been a good week of rain and the river has risen so the water is quite cold.. Luckily there is a little sun today… Just sitting listening to the water flow and the birds sing as I wait 5 hours to catch the bus back to Robore where I am staying a few days for some trips on the side..

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Absolutely loving all the new insects I see everyday that blow my mind… its so diverse here in Bolivia I saw many types of ants, wasps, catipilers and who know what else all in the space of a few square meters. Loving every minute of it..

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Below the unfortunate reality of Bolivia and the world…. they have many bins in the park with signs to put your rubbish in the bins….. to then go…… you guessed it, in a pile in the corner of the park. Very sad.
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Well I’ll continue where I left up. I spent my last few days with the boys from the orphanage at Jesus de Nazereth where I ended up helping out in the afternoons and weekends for nearly four weeks. It was such a great time to see the nine boys aged 8 to 19. It was my favorite time of the day.. The boys go to school in the mornings then in the afternoon they spend time cleaning etc and then they work on homework and they can play football etc. I helped where I could with homework and talking, then playing a lot of games…. Marbles, tazos, football, basketball. It really took me back to being a boy.

I don’t really know the background of the boys and why they are there but I do know the youngest of eight years was seen on the streets for a while with his young sister then one time he was found on the street in a box.. One of the guys who rotates a 24 hour shift with the other found him and took him to the orphanage. His parents are alcoholics and would not take care of him. It’s unfortunate to see but it’s really nice to see the boys have each other.. They really are like brothers. They fight a lot but then make up and play like nothing happened.

There are a lot of orphanages in Sucre and need helpers.. I did it through the Bolivian Spanish School where I studied, they helped me organise everything.

It was a government run orphanage with the two guys who live with the boys. They were amazing and give a lot to help them. I helped there with another guy Leanard from my school.

We saw they didn’t have much in the way of clothes etc and it was starting to get pretty cold. The government group gave them a school uniform and shoes while we we there- apparently the first time in over a year.

I asked friends and family if they could assist and donate a little… I was blown away by the donations within 2 days we had just under $500AUD…

With the money we were able to buy each of the nine boys a beanie, scarf, gloves, hoody (jumper), socks, jocks, football jerseys, toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, a day trip with food and photos for a poster from our day trip and a dragon ball z figurine..

It was a long day with the help or Leanard and Tania in the markets to buy everything but was worth every minute. We even got really nice wool scarves etc. The money really went a long way and all the boys were over the moon!!

A huge thank you to everyone that helped. The boys send their love to all.

In the final days we made a day trip to Yotala to a farm with the boys. They had a great time. They gave me a certificate to thank me for my time and wished me a safe journey.. They even gave me a farewell lunch. It was so difficult to leave. I will be back to see them, hopefully not too far in the future.
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Back to my home stay I went to say goodbye to my family. It was a great month and I had the best food. A huge thanks to Vladimir, Dorris, Carmincita, Pablo, James and Ximena.

I made my way to the bus terminal where I would take an overnight bus to Santa Cruz. I have to say it was the worst bus trip so far. Very windy and through the mountains with a crazy driver who thought we were in a race. Half an hour into the trip we burnt out the brakes and filled the bus with smoke so we all got off to get some fresh air… Not much further in we nearly had a head in with a truck because the driver wanted to overtake in the worst spot so boom!! Everyone ha there brakes on.. So not much sleep as we went through the haunted house!! It was also the hottest bus ever. Not sure why? But there was no air..

Well we arrived alive at 5am and I took a taxi to one of the hostels I had written down. Hostel Jadanga. I had to wait for checking at 2pm.. Tried looking for another hostel online while I waited that would take early checking but found nothing so relaxed as best as I could.. I checked in around 1pm. Had a shower and went for a walk in the city. It’s a nice hostel with a pool and good wifi! And breakfast is nice too, heaps of fruits and you can have 2 eggs on toast. Cost $80 for a 10 person room. I wanted to visit the museum but it was closed for maintenance.

The next day was raining on and off and quite cold but I wanted to make the most of my time and visit Güembé bio center. I took a taxi for 40 bolivianos. The way is pretty bad and a dirt road that was very muddy. My driver didn’t know where to go but we made it! Entry is $150 for the day. It’s really beautiful with a small museum, huge bird Avery, butterfly dome, pools, kayaks and a restaurant.. I had a blast and got some great photos, the Toucans and Macaws came up close. I recommend going if you visit Santa Cruz. It was definitely my highlight in Bolivia so far for wildlife up close and personal. Te taxi cost $60 bolivianos for the return trip with a regular who goes there often.

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The next day I took a Samaipata taxi for $30 bolivianos and got off at Gingers Paradise http://www.gingersparadise.com/ where I stayed for one week and worked a few days in the organic garden. You can go and just relax or work. It’s owned by Christabol an Sol who bought the land 15 years ago and are totally organic. The work is fun and the food is amazing. There is a beautiful river and lush forest with many birds and wonderful fruits.. Definitely a must see too..

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The rains came after a few days and it became very very wet and cold. I didn’t work a couple of days because of the weather and I was a little lazy he he.

I made my way to Samaipata to visit El fuerte ruins. I went up in the afternoon with a taxi that was $100 bolivianos round trip as he waited 2 hours. The weather was foggy and very cold. It was hard to see the ruins but I still enjoyed and it did take about 2 hours to get around. I went out to la luna verde resto bar for dinner and had a really nice Aztec soup (corn chips noodles and avacado), a steak and a spinach, strawberry and nuts salad..

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I stayed one night in El Jardin hostel
http://www.eljardinsamaipata.blogspot.com it’s a beautiful place to stay with a huge garden and the the price was $35 bolivianos per night! What a bargain.

The next morning I visited the archeological museum with the ticket from El Fuerte. It was ok but very small. I would only go there with the free ticket. Around lunch time I took one of the samaipata taxis from the plaza back to Santa Cruz to take the bus to Robore where I arrived aroun 2am.. Took a taxi to a hotel and didn’t sleep much. Seems to be only hotels in Robore around $70 bolivianos per night. No breakfast or kitchen so I am eating pretty simple.

Here at Aguas Calientes I found Los Hervores and El Burriño which was beautiful to relax and look around with no one else there.. You need to walk a little to the east along the train line until you see a big water tank on the left then on the right there is a sign. Walk down the road until you reach the river. Unfortunately it was cold also so I didn’t take a dip. I walked around and found many ants and insects to take photos of.. Now waiting a few hours for the bus to return. Getting chilly. Hoping to find something nice but cheap to eat tonight..

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Well I found a place to eat at and got some rice and meat- I try to eat red meat well cooked if I eat meat at all… I returned to my hotel and got ready for an early night.. I was woken around two hours later with the urge to use the toilet!!! Not a good way to wake up.. Was horrible as everything escaped my body.. Thankful it was only one round. I took the tablets the doctor have me. 2 antibiotic tablets and one immodium. He said if you are to have diaroeah it’s most likely going to be bacterial. Not to bad.. Only one time so far in 6 months. I’ve had a few stomach aches etc but no crazy onset like this.

I managed to get some sleep on and off with a very sweaty night. When I woke I drank some hydralyte to get some energy.. Slept a little more then went for a freezing cold shower because of course the hot water wouldn’t work. One more night in this hotel and move on to Santiago tomorrow to hopefully find a nice hostel.

Today I went to buy some fruits for breakfast and find a way to get to Chochis for the day. I was waiting for a bus where the lady from information said it would be. All the kids were out walking around. I was wondering what was happening. Well the bus never came and I didn’t want to take a taxi because the cost was $100 bolivianos when the bus is just $10.

I went and asked a taxi if he knew about the bus and he said it was Mother’s Day so that particular bus wasn’t running!! Oh well.. I didn’t want to hang around Robore, it’s really nothing to brag about. I managed to get to Chochis for $80 bolivianos and Miguel the driver played some good music which was great.

Chochis is a small town around 40kms from Robore and as you get close you see a huge rock cliff that spans across the horizon. It’s really beautiful. The town is small with very nice people and all playing music super loud he he.

I spent three hours walking around Santuario Mariano de La Torre. They have some beautiful wood carvings as the wooden poles of the building.

There is a huge rock that looks like it shot out of the ground. Very beautiful and a great place to walk up and sit on the edge of the cliff to eat and just watch the world go by.

It’s really a beautiful area with many birds and insects. I love it. Now as usual no one really knows what time the bus is due to go back to Robore. I will just wait and hope or if I get stuck I will call Miguel to come and save me.

Tomorrow I will move location to Santiago de Chiquitos where I hope to find a nice place to stay for a few nights and look around before heading bak to Santa Cruz to plan more..

Waking early in the morning to relax then head out for breakfast. All of the military were in the plaza playing football and volleyball in the street. They were running around the plaza in packs howling their leaders words. I took the bus to Santiago de Chiquitos from the plaza. The cost of most of the local buses are $10 bolivianos, taxi 10 for a short distance and 5 on a motorbike.

Arriving in Santiago I was dropped off out side alojamiento familiar and there was a nice guy who greeted me and I asked to have a look. The room is nice, will be a little cold at night but I have plenty of blankets and a sleeping bag. And there is hot water so I had a nice wash all for $40 bolivianos per night.

I made my way to a small restaurant for lunch and ate soup then meat with rice. It was nice and only 15 bolivianos for lunch. I then made my way on. 4.5km hike to El Mirador, it’s a nice walk along a dirt road and then climbing for a couple of kilometers. It was a nice sunny day and the view were amazing! There is so much forest here as far as you can see.

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It took around 1.5 hours to hike up then I spent around an hour looking around taking photos. I made my way back just before the sun went down. I was so hungry I had to eat at the restaurant again which was nice and at 20 bolivianos it’s a bargain.

Tomorrow I hope to visit some caves and a rock bridge but I need to organize a guide unfortunately. I would like to go alone but apparently there are many routes with no signs. Ah well see how we go.

Well I managed to organise a guide through the hostel where I am staying- alojamiento familiar. My guides name was Jose and he spoke only español which was great for me. I don’t spend a lot of time with other to speak. We set off after breakfast at 8:30am to walk through the beautiful forest just out of town which spans as far as the eye can see. I see why they say you need a guide, there are many trails and it would be easy to get lost.

We made our way through the bush at lightning speed and we went through a few different types of climate zones?? Not sure of that’s what you call it but we went through some lush forest then what was similar to a dry bush with not many trees to a grassland. It was up and down but the views were amazing!!

Jose pointed out a seed from a tree called the Pesoè which is used as medicine for throat and head. You burn the leaves with the seeds inside and breath smoke, it also drips oil which you can use on your nose an forehead to help clear the sinus.. He gave me some so i will try if I get a sore throat. I just need to remember to take them out before arriving back to Australia.

Jose mentioned that 30% of the trees in the area can be used for medicine. He loves reading and learning about the area.

Not far ahead he spotted a huge fresh paw print on the ground that he said was from a Tiger. Not sure what cat it is but it must be huge.

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After 5kms we reached the stone bridge and had a look around. Made our way a further 2kms to a waterfall and some caves. We made out way in around 100m. Water flows the whole way in a tiny stream and the deeper we got the more humid it was. My camera lens fogged up so I could not take many photos.

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We stopped for a short break and made our return. We were quite quick and only took 4 hours. Jose said we could go somewhere else if I wanted after lunch but i felt pretty tired. Was happy that he offered though. The cost was $150 bolivianos for the 4 hours but we could have gone longer if I wanted. I was happy to get back to wash some clothes and relax a little.. So lazy of me..

Tomorrow I think back to Santa Cruz to wash the rest of my things and plan my next steps. Hopefully it’s warmer there now than a couple of weeks ago.

Up early and I waited outside the hostel for the 7am bus to Robore. I was planning to be waiting until 2:30pm for a bus to Santa Cruz but a woman approached me in the terminal and asked if I was headed to Santa Cruz because there was a small 8 seater van going at 9am. It was the same price as the bus so I jumped at the chance.. The music the driver is playing sucks.. Reminds me of very old music. The Bolivians like their music loud too. I think we ran over a tarantula crossing the road. It was huge. I hope to see one up close.. Who on earth are these white guys in Bolivia who wear super dark blue overalls and a hat with a shirt. I have seen a few around and thought nothing of it. Now we had a guy get in the bus and we went through a town with heaps of them.. I feel too rude to ask. All I know is they seem very straight and don’t seem to smile.. Hmm

Hoping to get to immigration today to get my last 30 days in Bolivia for the year.

Next few days planning and skyping family etc.

Well I’ll leave you to a quote I found really interesting while reading…

“Throughout your life advance daily, becoming more skillful than yesterday, more skillful than today. This is never-ending.” – Yamamoto Tsunetomo. Hagakure, the book of the Samurai.

more to add…. currently waiting in the bus terminal in Santa Cruz waiting for my 9:30pm bus to Trinidad which should arrive around 7am for me to start a new adventure and find my way around.

Lazy days in Bolivia

I just discovered that my keyboards power plug is broken that is why I havent been able to charge it. A quick pull apart I managed to hook up another battery I have. Not quite the power it needs but its working.

I stayed in Tupiza for 3 nights at Tupiza Los Salares Hostel. It was a really new hostel that was very clean and had friendly people. I really just relaxed for those days and took a few walks through the towns markets. It was a nice place with a few walks into the mountains close by. I was a little too lazy to go.

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I did choose to take a four day tour with the same hostel who also has a tour company with the same name (map above, we did the blue route- Tupiza to Uyuni). The tour I chose was a 4 day 3 night tour which would take us high up into the mountains to see many lakes with different colours due to minerals etc filled with flamingoes..We would also see some semi active volcanoes and gizers. And to finish off we would see the salt flats of Uyuni, the biggest in the world and the old train cemetary.

We were pick up by our guide, Victor if I recall and his partner who would be our cook. He had a nice Toyota Landcruiser. All together there were 5 tourists on the trip, we set off at 9am in the morning and made our way into the mountains. It was a relaxing ride. We didnt see much on the first day. Just a lot of driving  up and down.. I was starting to feel the altitude. A funny tinggling in my torso. Very strange.. i had been up over 4000 meters before and didnt feel this. As the time went by all was ok. I had slight headache and loss of breath when i walked up a steep hill.

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We stopped for lunch on a huge grass plains filled with llamas.The food we ate was amazing. It was beans and rice with the best flavour ever. After lunch we set off again for some more driving until around 5pm where we stopped at a hostel for the night. Again i do not recall the town. It was a beautiful little town. I took the opertunity to get out and try again with some stary photos.. it was pretty exciting because i got a couple of good shots. I didnt last long outside because at 4200m it was cold…

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The next day we were up at 5:30am ready to head off.. there were lots of places to see..many lakes of different colours and volcanoes. Its beautiful in the mountains. Really feel free and at home. The days were super clear and quite warm. Its quite tiring just sitting in the landcruiser getting out at many spots for photos. I cant imagine how Victor was feeling.. loading and unloading the gear every morning and night then driving all day.. but 4 days work a week is pretty good. One tour every week.

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Night two we stopped in another town and stayed in Hostel Marcelo. It again was nice. There are no showers but thats no problem.. I wasnt hot and we really werent doing much. The food was tipical Bolivian food.. rice, vegies and many different kinds of potato that were simply amazing.. there was always enough food and it was so tasty.

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The second last day we went to see some ruines which where abandoned because it was too cold to live. Then we went to visit see some giezers which were pretty impresive. Heaps of hot steam just pouring out from holes in the ground.. you could really smell the sulpher in the air. Pheeww…. yep I got lazy and didnt clean my lens…. and too lazy to take out the dust spots in photoshop.

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Next we went to visit a hot pool that was really hot.. it wasnt super cold outside so i couldnt stay in there very long.. but the view was amazing and we had a friendly flamingo that was coming close to say hello.. really amazing creatures eating microscopic organisms living in the water..

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That was it we made our way to the last hotel.. the salt hotel.. where everything is made from salt. The bricks, the tables, the beds, everything. It was simply amazing.. On the last day we woke at 5am to be ready to go nice and early to get out onto the salt flats to whatch the sun rise.. its amazing to see so much white. Really looks like snow only its super hard and has beautiful hexagonal shapes wherever you look. It was really chilly in the morning so it was great to welcome the sun. We drove out into the lake where could see nothing but white all around to take a few fun picture..

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After this we stopped of in one last town for another bueatiful lunch of quinoa, it was fresh from the mountains. I  was suprised to see so much growning in the desert mountains. We finished off in Uyuni  and made a visit to the train cemetarty filled with old trains. It was great.

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We were dropped off in the city centre to go our seperate ways. I was heading to Sucre and needed to wait 9 hours for the bus.. it was a little boring but i made it. Finally on the bus at 10pm i tried to sleep as much as i could to be woken at about 3am in the morning with the driver saying toilet stop.. since there are no toilets on the bus i jumped off to see everyone going on the side of the road, woman too.. so i did what i had to do. Im happy it was just number 1. We arrived in sucre at 5am… i waited around until 8am then took a taxi to the Bolivian Spanish School where i would start Spanish lessons.

I took a Spanish test to see where i was at. I was so tired so it was difficult. I waited until 10am when i was to be picked up by my host family. I decided to stay with a local family to practice Spanish little more. Its very comfortable here. I have my own room and get breakfast and lunch. Lunch is the biggest meal and usually with all of the family, its so different to home. Everyone goes home from work and school for lunch and siesta lol… I started studying 30 hours a week for the first week then the second week i started volunteer work at an orphange with 12 boys from 8 to 15 years old.. I really enjoy the afternoons, helping with homework and then just playing games..

Im so tired by the end of the day its great to come home cook then relax in my own room. Couldnt imagine a long time spent sharing a room in the hostel. I havent done a lot in the city. I have visited the cemetary, the mask museum, and even went to the opera which was pretty cool. Im not much of a fan of cities but its really nice here. Its quite relaxing, it feels a lot like the Gold Coast back home without the beaches of course. There are a lot of old buildings which are really nice. I enjoy visiting the market to buy all my fruit and veg.. its huge, you can get everything you want there.. books, food, toiletries, everything. I have only been to visit a couple of the restaurants which were nice but a little expensive because they are for tourists owned by foreiners.
I would have to say its my favorite city so far because its so close to the mountains and it has everything you need.

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I did take a 4 hour motorbike tour Maragua, it was a great ride on dirt through the mountains with some amazing views. We didnt stop a lot for photos.. Now i have been in Sucre for 3 weeks with i think one more week to go. I am enjoying the lessons and even more the orphanage. Its great to understand people a little more when they speak.. i still have a lot more practice for speaking myself.. the mind has so much trouble trying to structure a scentense.

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I think i will head to Santa Cruz next and hopefully stay on a farm close by.

Again i am sorry for the lack of information with places visited etc.. Im so lazy with my writting.

Well until next time

Argentina- a brief overview

Post travel notes:

The time has come for my Argentinian adventures to come to an end… It was a wonderful suprise to visit the country. I was not planning to visit until I saw the prices to fly in to Quito, Ecuador. I could buy a return flight into Argentina for the price of a one way ticket in Ecuador.

I am so happy I got to experience such a beautiful country with amazing people. Not once did I encounter any issues. Every person I met was really helpful. There were many times where people approached me with the biggest smile and wanting to know where I was from and if I liked their country.

I found Argentina to be very similar to Australia in the landscape, I guess this is due to the position on the earth. I really felt at home and being able to see the Southern Cross really helped, plus the many eucalyptus trees everywhere. The only thing that was missing wad the koalas and kangaroos.

I spent my first month working at a farm close to Oberà Missiones, the north east of Argentina in the subtropical rainforest. I learnt some new skills for gardening, building etc. I woukd still like to learn much more so someday I can build my own adobe home.

I really enjoy the outdoors, I am not a city person however it was great to see the city of Buenos Aires. I love how creative people are, thinking way outside the box that we have compressed our brain into. Nothing goes to waste, everything is recycled, everything is fixed.. I guess when you don’t have much you really need to think.

We are lucky and we have a great county with a government that works most of the time however after seeing such a different world there are many things we see as important and complain about when its really not nesacessary. I am not going to get into specifics here as im no proffessional on politics etc.

I don’t work here and I have more than enough money to get by but a lot of people struggle with small things. It’s like going back in the past when you see everyone building their own homes. Everyone is a builder, Plumber, electricion, anything they want to be. You dont need a ticket you can just do it if you want to. You can start a business, a restaurant in your home, sell things on the street. We need to pay to even sell at a market. Everything is so strict. When it comes to building and electricity the rules are good because peoples lives can be at risk. I have seen some really bad buildings and wiring.

I like how the people in Argentina are trying to work for themselves whereas back home its easier to work for big companies etc anc much mre difficult to start a profitable business to live.

Enough babble and back to the Country. There is a bit of everything in Argentina, Rainforest, Mountains, Lakes, Rivers, Deserts. Its so larfe and it would be easy to stay for one year.

I fell in love with Misiones, the land and the people where so friendly. While working at the farm we would often visit the neighbors to buy eggs or mest and we would sit with them drinking yerba mate. They really didnt have much, a small home and a few animals,. Most of the farmers in the region farmed tabcoo which they sold to the huge companies who gave them much less money for their croops than they deserved, but they eother took the money or had nothing..

I really loved Bariloche and fell in love, its filled with tourists which is the only downside however the city is relaxed and the many lakes anc mountains surrounding the city really top it off. If you have a bike most places are accessible, hoever its quite hilly in a few places. The lakes and rivers are so fresh and lear that you can see through to the bottom. The entrance to the mountain’s is just a short bus ride from the city and there are many bautiful refugios you can hike too which found high in the mountains beside some beautiful fresh water lakes. Tent camping and entrance is free, this really got me excited. There are also many trails from easy trails to the mkre difficult which are not marked and most of the walming is on rocks and scree slopes. Refugio Frey has an amazing rock wall where you can find many long routes of differnt levels, I didn’t have any gesr so couldn’t try it out….. next time.

Arriving to El Chalten blew me away.. a super small town wifh mountains next door with many rock climbing walls. Everything is walking distance and you can take many hikes into the mountains. I could spend a few months here. It really sparked something in me and I started thinking about the outdoor industry again. I went to school in 2006 to study outdoor recreation, very similar to tourism here in Argentina. I wanted to be a rock climbing guide or hiking guide. I didnt get to pursue this because I required an operation on my hips to reshape the bine due to the ball joint rubbing away my cartilage. Many years of healing and physio I feel set to go again. I found an amazing mountaineering guide course near Mendoza to climb the mountain Aconcagua which is the highest mountain in the Southern and Western Hemishper rising to 6,960 meters above sea level. The course is reognised world wide however is costly and I will need to return home to save monry if I want to do this.

Cafayate in the north west had a great feel, very relaxed and many places to visit that were close. Its always a good sign to see bikes with no locks all around the city. This blew me away, working at a bicycle store back home in Austrlia I was forever doing quotes for people who had their bikes stolen while locked up. There were many great tours which were very affordable. The man in our hostel said I could go there and start a tour if I wanted.. maybe once I know a little more Spansih I can give this a try, the possibilities are endless. I just need to change my way of thinking.

My final must see in Argentina was Iruya, a small town high in the mountains. A great place to relax and watch the condors soar high into the clouds. I enjiy being by the mountains, just sitting and looking. I dont mind if I don’t get out and walk a lot, I just feel free. There are some amazing views if you do get out and push yourself up thise mountains, the rewards far outweigh the effort you expell climbing.

I will definitely be back to Argentina some time hopefully not too far away, I need to visit all the other beautiful places before I decide where to stay for a while.

I didn’t have much of a plan for my travels, just a general direction which changed a few times due to weather or just a feeling. I only pre booked my first two hostels before arriving to the country. From then I just arrive to the new place and ask information, I never say I need to be here on this date.. This is stressful, travel isn’t a job it should be relaxing.

I am on a budget of $30AUD/200ARS per day, so far I have gone way over my budget. I have kept track of spendings with the Expensify app which is a quick easy way to record your spendings.

https://www.expensify.com

I recorded everything in the local currency however the rates are always changing and I did miss imputting a few things so the most accurate spending is by looking at my bank account with all service charges and bank fees.

Please download the expensify file below which seperates spendings for meals, accommodation, transport etc. This will give you a rough idea of my spendings.

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My total spending for 117 days in Argentina:

Argentinian pesos: $22,881.00 = 195.56 peso per day- not including bank fees, just the purchase cost)

(actual spend at current rate from Australin Dollars-6th April 2014 $33,828 pesos. This includes my bank charges and service fees of ATM/Cajero) $742 pesos in bank fees.

Australian Dollars: $4,557.00 = $39.11per day (way over budget however this reflects all bank fees from the ATM/cajero) $100 in bank fees.

With 226 days remaining I need to cut back to average $30 a day so I do not run out of money. I am planning some spanish lessons in Sucre, Bolivia but I think I will be able to pull back the spendings after this.

Money Saving Tips:

BLUE DOLLAR RATE EXCHANGE: http://www.dolarblue.net

If you havent heard about the blue rate currency exchange, check it out. If you are happy to carry money into the country bring US$100 bills and you can exchange on the street for nearly double the official rate. Its not legal but everyone does it, even the police because it is not possible to get US$ in Argentina and its much easier for them to buy property or travel with US$ so they rely on travels.

COUCHSURFING: https://www.couchsurfing.org

A great website that is a lot like facebook where people offer you a place to stay in their home, on the floor or couch or even a bed. Most of the people have travelled and want to help you out with free board so you can spend your miney on imoortant things. This is a great option and available all throughout Argentina. It is free and I have met some wonderful people. I often take my host out for dinner or a drink. I have been saved a couple of times late a night with a place to stay.

WWOOFING: http://www.wwoofargentina.com

World wide opertunities for organic farmer. Another great way to save money. There are ariund 70 farms in Argentina that you can work for, generally you work for food and baord. The only cost is to the the website operators. You need to pay to get the contact information on the farms. You can check out the website and see all the information about the farms before you decide. It is best to write to a few farms in the same location as a lot of the farms do not have wifi and takes them a while to reply. Its quite popular so the more notice you can give the better. There are other sites out there that are free but I cannot remember the names.

The internet is filled with a lot of travel information such as Lonely Planet etc. I really found Fodors forums to be great..real people asking real questions giving trip reports and helpful hints. This was definitely my number one travel companion. A big thanks to Crellston for all the great tips and giving the time to write in so much detail. I find it difficult to find the time to sit and write, I hope I have helped someone a little.. if not its a good diary of my travels for the future.
Check out the Fodors forums here: http://www.fodors.com/community/

That concludes my journey in Argentins, if you want to see some beautiful places with a deep history and meet some amazing people, I highly reccomend you visit Argentina… Do yourself a favour and plan to spend many months, stay in places for more than a day. Get to know the locals, this is where you really start to learn about the Country and its sad history of bloodshed.

If you have any questions please send me a message, I really hope you have gained something from my writting as I have from reading blogs of others..

Here is a list of places I travelled in Argentina, in order of travel, some places were visited twice due to bus travel. All travel was by bus or taxi, on occasion hitchhiking but it was minimal:

Buenos Aires
Puerto iguazu
San Ignacio
Oberà
Villa Union
Posadas
Buenos Aires
Bariloche
El Bolson
Esquel
Into Chile for 12 days
Porito Moreno
El Chalten
El Calafate
Ushuia
Rio Grande
Rio Gallegos
Cordoba
San Juan
Barreal
San Juan
Barreal
San Juan
San Miguel de Tucumán
Tafe Del Valle
Amaicha
Salta
Cafayate
Tilcara
Purmarmarca
Iruya
Salta
La Quiaca

Argentina comes to an end

26th March 2014 (writing date)

Well here I am sitting in the mountains with the most beautiful view… Just sitting and looking, thinking about all the little things in life enjoying the company of my good friend Jessica who I have spent the last month travelling with developing a strong relationship and learning many new things along the way…..

Well lets step back a little, again it has been way too long since I have written… I need to think back and remember all the things I have missed. I really need to start writting a little everyday but I am always so busy and never think to do it until so much time goes…. In one day I have been in Argentina for four months!! I was planning to spend two to three months here but I have fallen in love with the Country. It is full of amazing people and places. As my Argentinian journey is nearing the end i know I will be back again soon..

I will update the Argentinian section of my blog with places i have visited and I will also post my spendings. I have kept track of my spendings with an app on my Iphone and Samsung Tablet called expensify, it is free and really simple to use. I have missed some spendings but I will give an overall figure in AUD$ also.

I am a little lost where I left things off last.. I think I arrived in San Juan to meet Marcelo who I met on Couchsurfing. It was a great experience arriving to Marcelos door in  san Juan. He had the biggest smile on his face and welcomed me into his home. Marcelo spoke little Engilsh and I speak very little Español. We spent many nights together staying up late teaching each other our languages. It was difficult at times and we needed to use the translator but we still managed to have some very deep conversations and understand each other. Marcelo never ceased to amaze me with his generousity and enthusiasm. He loved that he could spend time during his holidays as he is a IT teacher in the univerities in San Juan. He lived with his mother Martha who was also amazing and cooked the best food. I never went hungry.

Marcelo loves his city and showed me around and we went to three wineries that I cannot recall now.. but they were amazing and the taste of the grapes where the best I have ever had. We went to the small museum with information on the huge earthquake they had in 1944 which destroyed the city. They have a small simulator which runs for the time and intensity that the earthquake ran. It was quite an experience. I have experienced an earthquake of 4.7 in my hometown of korumburra Australia, but this was much more powerful than the estimated 6.7-7.8 they had.

Marcelo really wanted to take me to Barreal a town 4 hours drive from San Juan. Not far in distance but a long drive due to crossing the mountains. Its a nice drive and some great scenery which is always changing everywhere you go in Argentina. In Barreal we stayed at La Qarencia which is run by some family friends of Marcelos. Its a beautiful place and you have a wonderful view of the snow capped mountains.. The breakfast is also to die for.. Freshly made yoghurt, seeds and breads. We spend time walking into the mountains, checking out some ruins and also having a look at the dried lake. The Stars at night are amaizing and I had a try at some night photography. I couldnt get the right settings on my camera until the last night! I was so excited to get a few photos. I cant wait to be somewhere with a clear night to keep practicing.

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We stayed a few days in Barreal eating some really nice foods and making asado with some lovely wines. We made our way back to san Juan and spent some time meeting more of Marcelos family.. Going out for dinner and drinks. I really enjoyed myself and will return when I can to spend more time with all my friends I made. I cant thank Marcelo and his mother enough…I really cannot believe how generous someone can be when you dont know them. Its a real blessing and I know I will always hold a close relationship with Marcelo… ha ha he even said I am his adopted younger brother :) I think its pretty cool.

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The time had come to say goodbye. I spent nearly two weeks with Marcelo and learnt a lot of new things. I could stay for more time but I had so much to do..

4th April 2014 (writting date)

Well time to continue… I’m currently sitting in a hostel in Tupiza, Boliva. I crossed the border today from La Quiaca. It was fast and simple with no issues at all. Im in hostel Las Salares. It is quite new and very comfortable. There is rain outside which is very soothing…. I will get back to where I left off..

The day is the 28th of February and I head to the bus terminal to meet Jessica who was to travel with me for the next month. We met in Bariloche hiking in January and we spent a month talking online. She really wanted to travel the north west of Argentina so I said come along.

We spent a couple of days in San Juan seeing Marcelo again, it was difficult to communicate at first because of the language difference but we managed as Jess had a good level of english. I was still too lazy with my Spanish and it was always easier to speak in english. I had the best opportunities but didnt take them up. I learnt a little but not as much as I could have.

We went along with Marcelo and his friends again to visit Barreal and shared asado with his family while we checked out the sites. The weather was horrible when we arrived and the first night we were washed out in my tent. Thankfuly the next day was beautiful boue skies and we could dry everything out.

We went to see the dry lake which was covered with a shallow layer of water. It was so different from a week ago when I visited. The mountains were also covered in snow when they were bare..

Back to San Juan we hopped on a bus to Tucuman. It was beautiful to arrive as the city is close to the rainforest. I dont know why but I thought everything north was desert so it was a great suprise. We stayed in a really nice hostel (I cant check my notes to see the name so will update later). It was very comfortable and close to everything.

We made a bus trip into the mountain to hike a very short distance to a small waterfall, it was an easy walk and a very relaxing day. We visited the museum which was filled with some amazing insects. It blew us away and we spent a couple of hours enjoying every minute elporing the museum like excited children. It was awesome.

We went along to Tafi next where we onoy stayed short time. We didnt find much to do without taking a tour out of the town so we moved on to Amaicha, again we took a bus and did a short walk to see a waterfall. We went to the Pachimama museum and were blown away by the architecture and art by Hector Cruz. All the buildings are made with buetiful rocks and his paintings are beautiful. Definaltey a must visit if you go to Amaicha, it was the highlight for us.

Again we moved on and found Cafayate, instantly I felt super happy and like I was at home. It was very comfortable and we spent a while looking for a hostel! We wanted to find somewhere nice that had a good kitchen were we could cook and save some money. After walking around in the mid day heat we finally found a nice place hiding it self. Again I have made the mistake of not taking notes and we have done too many things and been to too many places my brain just wont remember.

Well we ended up staying 6 nights in Cafayate. We walked around the city, ate some wonderful food and cooked some amazing meals! Jess really loved cooking and I sure do miss it after only one day.

We took a couple of tours which lasted around 6 hours. One through the Quabrada, filled with amazing miuntains that have many sacred sites and also the most amazing colours. The cost was 100 peso and the driver took us to many locations 50km out of the town towards Salta. Worth the visit. Our next tour was to the 7 waterfalls just out of town which requires a guide, I think it was 130 pesos. It was a beautiful walk through the mountains on some steep terrain to see some wonderful waterfalls..

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There always comes a time when you need to move on, just so you can see the many places….. then decide where to return.. there are around 4 to 5 places inwould definitely consider living in Argentina, I will explain when I complete  my overview of my travels later..

Next on to Tilcara, a nice town on the side of the mountain quite frssh and small.. there are some nice walks  lose by to a waterfall and a dry lake. We also visited the ruins next to the town, these are all recreations and not actual ruinswhich are scattered all around the region. They would prefer you to visit these to preserve the other ruins. We only found out because the locals told us. From here we took a bus to Purmarmarca where we found a tour to the Salinas Grandis salt flats for 90peso.. it was amazing to see the salt and feel how tough it is, they say its as tough as granite and you can see this because the build houses from  bricks cut from the ground.

Our final move north was to Iruya… we boarded a bus for Humauaca where we needed to wait one hour for a transfer bus.. we spent the hour having lunch in the plaza where we were greeted by a young girl asking for food, we gave her a banana and asked where her parents where.. she was  not shy at all. Learnt from a young age how to ask for food, other wise I dont think she would eat. Another young boy was talking to a young couple and was giving them all the information about the town as professionaly as a guide. He deserved his tip but its sad to think a child at 7 needs to do this for his family, wow such a different world this is. 

Our next bus was to take us on a windy road up to 4100 meters through the cloads, the temperature dropped quickly and we winded back down through the mountains as we watched the day become night.. finally arriving to many woman with there printouts to come to their hostels which are run in there homes. We spoke to a few and decided on one. We had a lovely room with a balcony overlooking the mountains, it was bliss.

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We relaxed and took some short walks. The weather wasnt great and feeling a little worn out we didnt take the hike to San Isidro which is highly recommended.  We cooked our lunch but bought dinner at the hostel. A nice home made 3 course meal with empanada/tamal, oven baed chicken with rice or milanasa, then to finish off a nice pancake with dulce de keche for 35 peso.. we were regulars here and soent 6  nights because we loved the place. Well all good things must end….we found a remise taxi that would take us all the way to Salta for 150peso each… this was as much as the bus and so much quicker due to such windy roads.

Arriving in Salta we walked around looking for a hostel. We found a beautiful place with a huge room but it was so busy ad people were awake all night making noise, it was horrible… we had to move so we found a hotel with a good price and dinner included.. it was a great way to finish 5 weeks travelling together.. Jess went on back to Buenos Aires on the plane yesterday. It was hard to say goodbye, we really got on well and learnt so much about each other and the differnt lives we have grown up in.. 

We both have a lot to do this year but who know what the future might bring. Such different lives worlds apart… but the possibilities are endless…

I made my way to the bus station to move on to the  border town of Argentina La Quica, found a nice hosteo for the night.. El Apolillo, great people with the freshest bread for breakfast and good advise about where to go and crossing the border.

Final move onto Tupiza in a van for 20 Bolivianos… now relax then head on a tour sunday to salt lakes etc of Uyuni…

Forgive the rush of this update… well delay then rush to write.. I dont think internet will be great from here, I will try and upload with some photos…

Thanks again and speak soon!!

Spread your wings

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Set your eyes to the sky, spread your wings and soar into your dreams.

For once I am living my dreams and learning so much already about myself and other people. Travelling has been the best decision I have ever made. I must admit it was nearly 8 years ago when I decided to travel however I let myself get caught up in life as we know it, the cycle of working to constantly stay ahead and be able to afford things we like.. last year I decided that I wasnt happy in the cycle I was in, I was slowly decomposing but thought meh this is easy, I know what I am doing and its comfortable.. when I chose to change I was able to see more clearly that there were many things I didnt need and I realised I could save so much more money than I was.

It really didnt take too much effort to change my spending habbits and save. I really think anyone can do it. It doesnt have to be travel, it could be anything.  Saving for something you like or changing some bad habits.. I went all out and sold most of what I own, maybe a mid life crisis already? Who knows? I just felt I needed a fresh start..

I hope you all enjoy reading my blog and I hope it helps with your travels or in someway on a more personal level. I would love to update more often, I just find myself busy most if the time, and again im just a bit lazy..

I will be updating my spendings in each country to give an overview of my spending habbits etc

3rd february. Wow the adventures just dont stop.. right now i am sitting on a mountain relaxing with the views here in El Chalten. I decided to do a very short hike today on my own because my knees and feet are still giving me trouble from the epic hike at Bariloche. I just havent given my body enough time to heal between the walks, its been many years since i have hiked this much. Right now I have no money in my pocket and only one packet of biscuits for the day to eat. The one and only cash point in town has been empty for the last two days. I went to take money out in Chile Chico, Chile but just as i went to insert my card the machine said it was down.

Since leaving Esquel, Argentina I have been travelling with Marc who is from Barcelona. We met couchsurfing in Bariloche. It has been great travelling together, we have a lot in common and there is no dicking around. We both know where we want to go and what we want to see.

From Esquel  we left our couchsurfing host Sebastian and we bought some supplies to keep us going as we tried to hitchhike into Chile to make our way south with some different terrain to see. We made our way to the edge of the town . It was a super hot day and no one seemed to care to give us a ride. After a couple of hours a bus with Telefuetu, Chile drove past so we hailed it down and asked if we could join them.  

It wasnt long before we arrived into Chile and crossed the border with ease. It was nice to see some difference in the mountains, they were shear cliffs which seemed to have trees higher into the mountain than in Argentina.

We were really lucky to have a lady  pick us up after a short time and drive us around 70kms .. then another guy picked us up a short time later. We thought this is amazing.. things are going so well and we will make it through Chile in no time.

The guy dropped us off in Santa Lucia which is a dirt road and there were 6 other people along the road looking to hitch hike south also. They had been waiting 5 hours for someone to pick them up with no luck. We were set because the same guy who dropped us off said he just needed to do some work in town and if he saw us waiting on the road when he finished he would pick us up and take us further.

Well after around one hour a small bus came by and picked up the couple before us and they hailed us down to come along. It was a family driving the bus and they were going to La Juntawhich was just before Coyhaiaki where wer were going. Along the road we picked up 7 other hitch hikers and they dropped us off before we go to the town.

We were all looking to save money and someone managed to find the football field and said we could stay there!  Anything to save some money….well Marc and I were starving and had no Chilean money and no atm until 300kms away.We set off to look for a place we could use our cards.. after asking around we managed to find a family restaurant, it was a grandmother and her family running the restaurant out of their home. It was amazing. Such good people and we had an amazing 3 course meal. It was a great way to finish off the day.

We made our way back to the soccer field to make camp. I was happy to set up my sleeping bag under the pine trees. I slept well but woke to raid at 5:30am however it wasnt dripping through the trees so I went back to sleep. I woke up two hours later to find that finally the rain had worked its way through so I grabbed all my things and headed to the grandstand to pack.

It was quite a cold day but we made our way with two other guys to the main road to try hitch hiking again… well no luck and with the weather we were over it by lunch time. Again we made our way to the little restaurant for a beautiful lunch. Askingaround we were told there was a bus at four pm to Coyhaiki. So we made our way to were it was to pick everyone up. We saw a few of the others who slept at the soccer field. We found a shop that took card and bought some snacks and wine to wait out the bus.. Finally the bus came, but it was full and didnt even stop.. hmmm what to do now?  How do we leave if we have no money?

We knew there was a bus that would leave in the morning at six am so Marc went out to buy some tickets but with the same problem.. they wouldnt take card. After a little mucking around he thought to go to the family restaurant and ask if it would be possible to take money out there. It took a little  persistance but the grandmother agreed. We were saved, but now where to stay for the night? It was still raining and very cold.

A few of the others went out to see if they could find somewhere to stay. They came back and said the President of the town had a  bbq room where we could all stay with a fire and a toilet! We took the oppertunity..We bought him a nice bottle of wine and made our way to his house. It was a cosy shed but we had fire and wine so we chilled and then hit the sack ready to get up for the early bus..

Well the time came that the bus should be picking us up however an hour went by and nothing… they called on of the girls and said they couldnt find the house and we needed to walk to the centre of thetown. It was pouring rain and freezing.. finally on the bus to Coyhaiki i fell asleep very fast….Only to be waken in Puyaiki to be told the road was closed due to landslides… it was really  early and nothing in town. We needed to wait one hour before the information centre was opened to which we could spend time in the hall with WIFI. All we could do was wait as we watched trucks drive past filled with the biggest boulders I have seen. It was quite a beautiful town and the weather was sunny.

We made the most of it and went to another family restaurant for some fresh Salmon. It was great, then we went to the park for a siesta in the sun.. Finally we heard the road was open but the bus company didnt want to send a bus until the next day due to the cost.. we all made our way to the office then finally they said they would send a bus.

7pm the bus arrived and we all boarded to finally head to Coyhaiki.. we arrived around 12am and walked around to find a hostel that wasa good price however they were all quite high so we made our way to a childrens park and set up our sleeping bags to sleep under the stars.. It was a fresh night but i slept well. We were woken to the sound of the army marching and singing their songs at the military base. Finally we found some cash points where we could get some more money. We were over hitch hiking and thought we would take the buses from here.

The next bus to Chile Chico was not until 4pm so again we found a restaurante  for some food and some drinks… the good things about saving money on sleeping is we could spend it on something better and not feel guilty. The bus set off at 4pm. We were driven to the lake where a ferry was to take us to the other side. Our bus driver was starting to fall asleep as we drove on the windy roads with shear cliffs on the side. It made me nervous and Marc started to speak with him to keep him alert. He was quite a large guy and was eating the skin of a lemon.. first I have seen anyone do that.. Well thankfully we made it safe and made our way to the ferry to cross the lake.

In Chile Chico we found a cheap hostel. It was great to sleep in a bed and take a fresh shower after a few days of nothing. From Chile Chico we were to make our way back into Los Antiguos Argentina. A few people said it was pretty close se we started walking and after a few kms a guy picked us up and drove us a few kms to the border. He left us there and we began to walk… well nearly 3 hours later we made it to the Argentinian border, checked in and walked the final few kms into town. We made our way to the bus station and purchased a bus ticked to El Chalten. We went into town and found the best lunch… a beef asado, it was the best beef I have ever had in my life. So tender and the best flavour.

Onto the bus we went ready for a 12hour overnight trip, we met up with Vladamir who we met at the soccer field. As usual the bus wasnt very comfortable, the best part was we got two seats each but one minute it was freezing the next minute super hot.

Arriving in El Chalten in the morning was amazing.. super fresh air and beautiful mountais. I fell in love right away. We made our way around town and found a hostel that was 70 pesos per night. We had to wait until 10am for the manager to arrive.. we were lucky that three girls were leaving and the three of us could stay. We stayed 3 nights and madea couple of walks into the mountains.  We walked a  near 4 hour walk to Lomo del pliegue tumbado with the best weather ever that gave us the clearest views of Mount Fitz Roy! It was superb and we all spent some time taking photos. Once to the top of the walk we had some lunch then slept under the warm sun to get some energy back after the bad nights sleep on the bus.

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I will definately be back because there is some great mountains to climb and heaps of rock climbing. I even wrote to a company who do mountaineering courses. I would love to do one now but dont have the money for it.

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From Chalten we were heading to El Calafate and gave it a go hitch hiking in the morning. Again no luck so we took the bus. What sucks is some buses are rediculously expensive for the time..

In El Calafate we found hostel and went into town to see how much it was to take a bus to see Perito Moreno Glacier. We met a girl Merel from the Netherlands and decided it was to much to pay and we would try to hitch hike.. the day later we had no luck and took the bus!! Where did our luck go? Wet thought we would be set. Especially with a girl with us.. well not to worry we took the bus and made our way to the Glacier where we spent three hours walking and just gazing at the beauty of this amazing ice…Its beautiful blue colour and the noises it makes as the ice cracks and falls into the water.. there is nothing like it…a must see if you are down south.

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Next we made our way to Porto Natales  the entry point int Torres Del Paine Chile.. however we were not there to head into the park as we were all walked out.. next time. We found an amazing hostel named Nataly. The owner was Willy and loved what he did. One night he made and asado of half a lamb! It was superberb! We also had Melvin. A drink made from a melon cut open and with some white wine and sugar..it was also amazing..

We were so far down south we wanted to make our way to Ushuaia the southern most city in the world. We knew it would be expensive but we made the decision. We took the bus and made it. It was nice city, bigger than I expected. We made a walk into the mountains and ate some nice meals. We really didnt do much else.. We made sure we got a stamp in our passport from the information office and sent some postcards to family..

Well that was it, time to move north…we decided this was it! We were going to hitch hike north. It was super cold and the wind was horrible.. we gave it a go and after a couple of hours a guy took us around 30 minutes.. then we were picked up by another guy who was driving a postoffice van. He drove us to Rio Grande where we tried for the afternoon to get to Rio Gallegos where we knew the buses were a little cheaper… we had no luck and made our way into town..we jumped on couchsurfing and managed to find someone who could host us for the night. We were saved again..

The next morning we head back out of town and tried again in the furious winds for 6 hours and only making it 20kms out of town..we managed to get a ride back into town and bought some food and decided to sleep in the bus station for the night to catch the bus to Rio Gallegos in the morning. It was becoming super cold and we were not going to make it through the night. Marc received a messaged from the prevoious day from a couchsurfer who said we could stay at his house so we sent a message back and a few hours later he was able to pick us up and take us to his house.

Its been amazing to see the hospitality of the people here. It really opens your  eyes to some great things. We were even offered a lift back into town to the bus terminal in the morning… Well here we go!! Onto a 48 hour bus ride and way to much money back north to Cordoba .We are staying in Villa Carlos Paz just out of Cordoba with Marcs friend Luis.Again his hospitality is eye open.. its been great to spend my birthday here with someone i know. We went out for some food and drinks then just chilling out together.

Now its onto planning the next phase of the journey. It hard without internet and needing to go to the internet cafe. Things are changing due to costs of buses etc.. I think next I am heading to tucuman..

Well off i go and will  update again soon!!!

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Man Vs. Wild Round One

I made the decision to make my way South from Posadas, Argentina because the weather was becoming super hot and I didn’t really know where I wanted to go.

After finally healing from my infected leg after around 5 days in Posadas not doing much but relaxing I went to the bus terminal to see the cost of heading south. I knew it would be costly and i really didnt want to go back to Buenos Aires on the bus.

I spoke to a few bus companies and found that the only way I could get south to Bariloche was to take a bus to Buenos Aires then another bus onto Bariloche. So I made the decicion to go.. The next bus to BA was 4 hours away at 10pm… a 14hour trip back the way I had already come.

I said goodbye to Sergio and thanked him for all his help taking me to the shops and the station on the motorbike. I really enjoyed myself in Posadas spending time with a great family… I also got to practice some Spanish with everyone.. I really enjoyed speaking to the 5 year old girl because it was a simple conversation… although she did surpass me by a long way and couldnt understand my accent in Spanish… I really need to work on it.

Everyone struggles to understand my name. A friend said try and say Anden, because that my be easier. I am yet to give it a go but will see how it works.

I chilled in the station and waited for the bus. It was nice to catch a night bus as I could try and get some sleep. I reccommend the front of the bus on the top above the driver because the leg room is better. You can put your legs up to the window.

Well 14 hours of being in the bus wears you out pretty quickly, sleeping on and off just slighlty. Not quite enough to refresh you.. we arrived late in Buenos Aires as usual. I dont think I have been on a bus that has been on time.. I was getting worried because my connecting bus with another company was only an hour away.

I managed to change over with no problems as the next bus was nearly 40 minutes late. The next bus was a 24 hour bus ride to Bariloche. I did enjoy the change in scenery as we went through the open expanse of flat fields.. not much really there…a few hours out of Bariloche you start to go through the mountains, and wow they do not dissapoint. So steap and super sharp peaks. Its very different to our Australian mountains that i have been to.

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Our bus broke down twice in the mountains so we had nothing to do but chill outside and take in the fresh mountain air. We also played a few rounds of Bingo. It was good for me, learning the numbers. Unfortunately I didnt win… maybe next time.

Arriving in Bariloche around 2 hours late I found a taxi to take me to the address I had been given for couchsurfing. I didnt realise Bariloche was 25km long around the lake and that i was on the other side of the city.. It really pays to research because my taxi was $180 pesos. Crazy for a half hour ride when i could have paid $4 peso for the bus.. next time I know.

After a little stuffing around and asking some locals we finally found the house and I made my way in to meet the guys who would host me couchsurfing.

It was a beautiful home and really comfortable. I spent some time with the guys and met their friends. We ate and stayed up late. Something I dont know if I will get used to here. One night we made an Asado, BBQ made with coals. I absolutely love them..

Bariloche is a beautiful place with many crystal clear lakes and so much to do.. One of the days I hired a bike and made a 4 hour ride around the the lakes. It was quite difficult with many hills in between. The views are amazing and there are so many places to stop and take photos.

We were so lucky with the weather and most of the days were above 25 degrees. We made the most of it and visited some of the lakes in Bariloche. The water was fresh and very cold but it was super refreshing.. The water is so clear you can see right to the bottom. There is a beuatiful blue/green colour that illuminates from the water. It would be great to go with a snorkel to see the fish.

I was planning to head to El Bolson next for some hiking but Cristian said there was great hiking in Bariloche. I had a look and there are many refugios (like our huts in Australia). I decided to do a 5 day circuit to 4 of the huts. I gathered my things and looked over the map to plan my trip. I went into the city to register my walk at cab- Club Andino Bariloche, they give you information on the walks in the National Park etc. The park next to Bariloche is Nahuel Huapi National Park.

I took the bus to Kilometer 8 where I wanted to take another bus to Villa Catedral.. I just missed the bus by 2 seconds. It literally drove past as i tried to wave it down.. well I thought the next bus will come in half and hour or an hour… well waiting, and nothing came. I tried my best to ask if anyone knew when the next bus would be coming but no one knew. Finally after 2 hours just as I was getting ready to start walking and hitch hike, the bus came! What a relief.

On the bus and on my way .. I arrived at Cerro Catedral and made my way to the begginging of the walk. It starts off on the 4 wheel drive road.. its quite tame and easy going to begin with. After a couple of hours it changes and things start to get really steep.
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They views are amazing as you start to move higher into the mountains. I walked for around 5 hours with breaks and made it to refugio Frey beside a beautiful lake.. I was a little upset at how many people were there though.. it was more like a hostel then a mountain camp. Not to worry the views were to die for.. It was great to see heaps of rock climbers there too. The cliffs look great to climb. I will definately be back to climb some day.

I set up my tent on the tiny stones and started to cook my dinner of potatoes and carrots mixed with a soup. This night the sunset was absolutely amazing as it slowly dropped behind the moutains illuminating the sky with an orange glow…
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I was pretty tired so had a was in the lake and made my way to bed. It was a little uncomfortable because my sleeping mattress doesnt inflate anymore. It was a rough night on the rocks but i managed to get some sleep.

Waking early i pack everything away in my pack and relax on the rocks as i eat some breakfast. Ready to go I make my way around the lake and see a family of birds with some chicks, they looked like geese of some kind.

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After a few photos and some site seeing i though i better get moving as i wasnt sure how long the next refugio would take.. very quickly the trail turned into the side of the mountain, just rocks and up… it was quite the slap in the face. I wanted to go mountain climbing and the walk to Frey was a little dull. This sure wasnt though. I was so excited and super exhusted already.

The walk was around 7 to 8 hours of up and down and many scree slopes to navigate (loose rocks)- at one point i was walking with 5 others down the slope and we all slid and fell on our butts at least once. Its quite dangerous because at one point a laarge boulder dislodged and went on rolling down the cliff. Yelling out to the people below to watch out. Thankfully the boulder came to a stop and no one was injured.

Again there are so many beautiful place to relax on the walk from Refugion Frey to Refugio Jakob. You make your way through some forrest and there are amazing rivers.

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Arriving at Jakob everyone at the refugio was really nice, I logged in and found a quite campsite with smooth dirt for the ground. I liked the Jakob wasnt as busy as Frey. Its a harder walk. You can walk in from another point which is a nice trail that has a very steep climb and takes 6 to 8 hours.

I was pretty tired from the long day of climbing and descending so relaxed by the lake as I ate and watched the sun set.
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The next day I got a few things together in my pack, to climb Cerro Refugio, the mountain next to the Refugio. It was also the route to the next Refugio Laguna Negra which is mainly unmarked and they reccommend to take a guide.

I could see why they reccommend a guide, the path dissapears and everything turns into rocks.. much of the way is climbing, up to a grade 15 in some places on the Austrlian scale. Something you would like to have rope for for safety.

It was a couple of hours climbing to the top and i relaxed knowing that I had the mountain to myself. It was pretty awesome views 360 degrees around! I was on top of the world… well not quite. I was only aaround 2000 meters above sea level but for this day it was my mountain!!  My boring lunch of bread and salami tasted amazing!! Something about the mountains that just sets you free.. No worries, nothing. I love it and think Bariloche is somewhere I could live. It has everything I love to do!!!

Day 3 of my hiking I pack up camp and set off to make my way to Laguna Negra.. The morning is cold and I am a little tired. Setting off at 8am i head up the mountain as I did the day before. Again no one is there. Just me. Alone walking solo with just my thoughts. The day was great and nothing but sun and a slight breeze. 

The trail is nothing but rocks. Its like heading down to the beach and walking and climbing along the rocks!! It was tiring. I stopped a few times to eat and relax and a few times I left my bag to climb some of the mountain peaks.. It wasnt something I should have done on my own as if I did slip the fall would have been the end. I have hiked a lot in the past and have also been rock climbing so I was confident in what I was doing. If I wasnt I would not have gone ahead.

I managed to find the way where you pass over the mountain and continue down before ascending again to Laguna Negra, I left my pack and walked down for a while. I didnt really like the route and thought I may find something further ahead. I kept on moving and tried a few passes of the main mountain ridge line but couldnt find anything..

I sat for a while looking at the time and knew i had 5 hours of light left. I didnt want to stay on the mountain because I didnt know if they would call a rescue if i didnt turn up to the refugio.. i didnt want to go back the way i went.. so I looked over the map and decided to take an alternate route off the main trail.. when i say that there was really no trail anyway.. just a line on the map.

I choose my route and wanted to climb down the mountain to follow the river then finally head east to hit the trail and walk back to the refugio Frey where i came from.

I set off climbing down the mountain, when i say climbing I mean all fours and scalling down the cliff. It took me nearly 2 hours to decend nearly 1000 meters. It was quite a relief when i took the last step off the mountain.. making my way south 200m to the river i crossed through a thick lot of trees which i climbed on the bendy branches. Into the river i knew i could follow for a few kilometers and it would hit the trail at some point. The vegitation was lush on the sides of the river and i was forced to walk in the river. It was fresh and no deeper than thigh hight.

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I continued walking through the river watching the mountains and checking the map to decide where i would leave the river. It was beautiful and there were a couple of mini water falls i needed to navigate down. Again i knew i was somewhere not many people would go and it was exciting.. maybe foolish if i was to get into trouble… i had enough food and i knew where i needed to go. I didnt want anyone to worry.

I decided to leave the river because I was starting to go north away from the trail. I made my way out of the river and bam!! There i was in a swamp.. thankfully it was only ankle deep and went for about 500m.. then again the foilage was getting thick and turning into thin bamboo that was so thick you couldnt see more then a few meters ahead.

I could see the mountain about 2kms away with the trail at the bottom directly east… so with the sun behind me casting my shadow in front i pushed ahead knowing i had 2 hours of daylight to make the trail..

I was using the sun and a few trees that i could see above the bamboo as a bearing. Pushing through the bamboo was hard work and it was taking it out of me quickly. I found the best way to get through the bamboo was to seperate the bamboo one by one and make a tiny path to push through the 30cm i made and repeat.. a few times i needed to crawl and climb… a few points i was so thick in it that i couldnt turn or move.. one pont i was so frustrated i was pushing down the bamboo trying to climb then i fell and turned around to fall pack first… there i was stuck like a helpless turtel.

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I sat there for a moment and thought all is ok I know where I am, I know where I am going.. Its just a huge challenge i needed to push through. I got myself into this. I can get out! With one final push i managed to get myself up with my pack… i continued to push and found my way to a clearing under a huge tree. I couldnt climb it as there were no low limbs. I could see the mountain very close now and knew it wasnt far. The bamboo was thick here so i relaxed a moment to regain some energy!.. i made the final push and it was around 15 minutes more then boom!! Out i emerge to the trail.. I was so happy to get to the trail.. now it was around 9pm and I had been going since 8am with a few breaks up until lunch time..

The final push up the 1000m to the refugio was exhusting.  I picked up two sticks and went at it step by step… I walked into the refugio around 11;30pm looking like a zombie.. I was greated by many people and the guy who runs the refugio.. he asked where I had been. I told him my story and asked if i could buy some food because I didnt feel like cooking. He said to me its ok! Tonight I will feed you. I was so happy to hear that. What an awesome guy. I had a was in the lake to freshen up.. unfortunately i had taken a lot of cuts to my arms and legs from the bamboo, i was so focused i didnt even realise.

The meal was amazing and i made my way to an empty space on the ground. Rolled out my matt and sleeping bag and slept under the stars. It was a beautiful night and i woke a few times to just look at the stars. I do love how i can still see the same sky and the southern cross. It really doesnt feel like I am far from home… i am lucky because i feel like i am home wherever i am.. I used to get home sick when i was young.. but now its funny.. i am my home and happy to be wherever i am.

With a good night sleep i awake semi fresh the next morning.. deciding to make my way home to Bariloche. It was a struggle and I was pretty tired. I met up with a nice group of girls half way down the walk which was only 4 hours. It was helpfull to walk and chat, takes the mind off the walking. By now i was nearing 60km of walking and much of this on rocks. Its been a long time since I have done anything like this and my feet were suffering quite a lot..

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I was thankful to make it to the end and i was given a lift to take the bus home. People are so nice and really helpful.

On arriving back to the couchsurfing house there were a couple more surfers and I met Mark from Barcelona. We hit it off and we were heading in the same direction so decided to move on together and try to hitch hike from Bariloche to El Bolson..

We managed to find a decent spot after asking the police where would be good.. We took it in turns to hail cars and watched as the dust was building in the distance slowly the wind picking up just throwing dust everywhere like being hit by a sandblaster… We decided to use our powers and think together what car would pick us up!! We decided on a white pickup (ute in Australia of course).. it didnt take too long and bam!! There was our white pickup and a really nice guy who was going to El Bolson! We were set.

Mark had set up some more couchsurfing in El Bolson so we made our way to the town market where the couple Fernanado and Camilla where selling oils and soaps that they make. They took us to their bio home they have started building which is 25kms out of town.. super quite fresh air.. we slept in the loft. No power or running water. It is super new.

It rained for a couple of days so we went into town for a meal and a drink. When the weather fined up a little we made our way to a oneday hike from Wharton El Bolson to Hielo Azul Refugio.. it was around a 4 hour hike up a pretty steep rocky stream. Things then flattened out and the forest way amazing. Beautiful green trees and grass. It was quite a change from the rocky mountains at Bariloche.

We made it to the Refugio and we were staying inside so the cost was $100 pesos. Pretty expensive but we didnt want to carry much. The Refugio was nice and we cooked a nice pasta meal in the kitchen and drank Mate..
We met a guy mark had met on the bus and chilled together. The weather was really icy and it was nice to have the warmth of the refugio. We slept in the loft with many people and it was hard to get a good nights sleep.. the guy next to me thought he would try and share my bed a few times. I had to kick him a few times before he would more.. at first i thought it was the cat from the other house we were staying at then remembered where we where.

We got up nice and early to a beautiful day and relaxed with a nice breakfast and more Mate. We walked together with Mitchell down the mountain. We took our time. I was still struggling from the hike the few days before at Bariloche. Finally we reached the dirt road back to El Bolson. We tried to hitch hike and eventually a taxi pulled up and gave us a good price.. we were stuffed and took the ride. Thankfully because it was a long way back into town.

Back in town it was pizza time then try and hitch hike the 25km back home. Here we go with our Jedi mind control again!!!! 3 rides later and we were home… into our loft with our cats. We felt like home and had the best sleep..

Next day we got a ride with the guys into town as it was market day! Made our way to the outskirts of town and trying to get a pickup was proving to be impossible. The heat was pounding us.. finally a tour bus came by and we took it to Esquel.. the 120kms took 4 hours because it went through a national park. It was a nice ride and better than waiting, cost was $65pesos..

Now in Esquel relaxing and working out our travels south to the end of the world in Ushuaia, Argentina. We are looking to head through to Chile then back into Argentina. Hitch hiking as much as we can to make things as cheap as possible..

Well until next time… excuse the spelling and no photos. I will get some up as soon as I can.. we are all sitting in the same room next to the wall stealing next doors WIFI!!

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