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The Last of Utah (for Now): Canyonlands National Park

Damn. What a year! I’m a bit sad that I haven’t progressed on my goal to finish writing about our awesome National Parks Road Trip from the summer of 2013. Since then I’ve been completely side-tracked by grad school, summer jobs, and other adult life-related activities. Note to all the young people out there: Don’t grow up, it’s horrible (I’m only partially kidding).

Anyway, back to the story:

After finishing a pleasant half-day at Arches National Park, we made our way out of Moab and went back west towards our last stop in Utah: Canyonlands. Of course, most people these days know about Canyonlands due to that whole story about a guy that got his arm caught between some rocks…but we definitely aren’t that hardcore.

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Canyonlands can’t be fully appreciated in just a day’s time, although you can certainly experience some great short hikes and amazing vistas (ABOVE). To truly enjoy Canyonlands, you need a 4WD vehicle, a GPS device, plenty of food and water, and a personal guide who really knows how to navigate the land – that’s how you get to see all the really sketchy and amazing stuff. But we weren’t there to visit the Maze section of the park. Nor the Needles for that matter, since we didn’t have much time. Most causal visitors like us take a day trip through the Island in the Sky.

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But before we could begin our trip to Canyonlands, we first had to find a new place to stay for the night. We tried to find a site at the famous Dead Horse Point State Park — however, we soon found that EVERY site had been taken (the place is quite popular by both families and photographers alike). The ranger at the visitor’s booth was really nice however, and gave us directions to a great little campground down the road.

Little did we know that we’d be staying at one of the most gorgeous (and obscure) little campsites in Utah…

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From Tupiza to Uyuni Days 2 & 3: La Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa

Jumping for joy - at La Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa

Jumping for joy – at La Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa

The next day we awoke to a cold and pitch black morning around 4 am. Our goal was to leave the town by 4:30 am so we could head out through the mountains on our journey to one of the most amazing National Parks I’ve ever seen: La Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa. It was like nothing I’ve ever experienced in my life. Granted, I haven’t traveled that much…but still!

Another view of the Laguna Colorada

Laguna Colorada

DAY 2: LOS PAISAJES INCREIBLES DE LA RESERVA NACIONAL DE FAUNA ANDINA

At 5 am, the morning was cold and dark but extremely beautiful – it reminded me why it’s so worth it to wake up early in the morning sometimes. As dawn began to break, we started to see rolling green hills, winding creeks – and wild vicunas, grazing in the distance.

Early morning jeep ride through the valley

As we began our journey up the mountains, we began to see the ground turn from green hillsides to snow capped mountains. We were definitely gaining altitude.

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The city of ghosts

On the top of a mountain sits “La Ciudad de Fantasmas”: a lost city – 4690 meters high in altitude – that was abandoned in the year 1750. As the legend goes, the town was once taken over by colonizing Spainards, who forced the local Bolivian population to work in their gold and silver mines on the mountain. Over time however, the local people actually became very rich – and quite hedonistic. Due to their indulgent and “godless” lifestyles, one day a woman (sent by God) came to one of their rowdy parties..and basically got everyone sick. And then everyone died, which is why the village is allegedly still abandoned today.

Abandoned homes

Abandoned homes

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Rurrenabaque, I Love You

My trip to Rurrenabaque started of with a short 45 min ride on a 30 passenger plane (very necessary during the rainy season, where bus rides are over 24 hours long and incredibly dangerous). I had heard great things about the town, but didn’t realize just how beautiful it would be until I started to see the lush, green jungle below from the plane.

As we landed, I thought to myself, “Why the hell wasn’t I here for the rest of my trip.” I had been suffering through high altitude and coldish weather for the past 3 or so weeks!

Except Rurre - I could stay here all week long and just chill in this warm jungle town!

I love this jungle town

After getting into town, I found a (very friendly) motorbike taxi driver and went to Hostal Santa Ana, where I was given a gorgeous little room (outside bathroom) for $40 bolivianos. The hostel also had a hammock garden, many patios, and lush trees and palms covering the grounds. Despite no free breakfast and a lack of wifi, this place was pretty awesome.

Hostel Santa Ana

Hostel Santa Ana

My lunch that day was also pretty great – soup and a second course of beef at a small restaurant up the street. All the almuerzos in town are $10 bolivianos and HELLA tasty.

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Day 1 in the Pampas: Animals, Bucked-nekked Hotness, and Mosquitos

The next day was the beginning of my trip into the Pampas of Beni. The first person I met was an English guy named Kevin – he was cool and friendly but his accent was so strong that there were times when I couldn’t understand what he was saying. The other folks were a group of Japanese tourists, an older somewhat hippie woman from Germany, two Dutch girls, a pair of French boys and three Chilean guys. The latter group of people were in my truck as we rolled out for three hours on a muddy and potholed dirt road to our destination up north. I spent the latter part of those three hours getting to know the driver of my car who was getting sleepy at the wheel – we had a great conversation about his life, his family, life in Rurre, and Bolivian politics.

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