Tag Archives: landscape

More Best of Utah: Arches National Park

Man, grad school is NO JOKE. UC Berkeley is especially no joke. I thought I would have a little bit more time in between papers and classes to record all our journeys from our best ever 2013 “Left Coast” National Parks Road Trip…but it was not meant to be. The travel journal will have to be finished in the summer of 2014. It’s Friday night and I should be doing homework right now, but f*** it.

Anyway. Back to the story.

Moab campsite

Joy and I woke up just about the same time that the sun started to rise above the rocks and peak into our tents. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this campsite is the BUSINESS. Oh my god it was beautiful. And we completely lucked out by getting the massive group campsite. We could have put on a horse show with the amount of camping real estate we had to ourselves. THANK YOU Bureau of Land Management!

Our next stop was the iconic Arches National Park. We tried to set out early to avoid the midday heat, but by the time we got to the visitor center and filled up our water containers, it was already about 8:30 AM or 9 AM. That was a little on the late side. This place gets baking HOT, so there’s warning signs everywhere about making sure to bring enough water and wearing a lot of sunscreen/protective clothing.

IMG_1707-167 I think that, by this time, we had been in Utah for about 6 days or so. That meant that for the past 6 days, we were constantly hot, sweaty, and pretty filthy. Since Arches doesn’t really involve long hikes or backpacking trips, we decided on doing a short, half day trip to the park to appreciate some arches…and then be on our way to find a shower (at least, that was on my itinerary).

Joy had been to Arches as a kid and had already seen the famous Delicate Arch, so we decided to drive to the farther ends of the park to Devil’s Garden do the shorter hikes for Landscape Arch and a some other arches. The hike was so short and mild (relatively speaking) that I actually just wore flip flops. I don’t recommend that, but yeah. After doing 10-15 mile days, hiking just a few miles in a family-friendly park is like walking to the store.

I wish we could have seen more of the park (I wanted to do the 4 mile RT hike to Delicate Arch, and some more adventurous scrambling around the Fiery Furnace area), but Joy’s blisters still hadn’t healed and we remained a bit exhausted from hiking around Utah for a week in the dry summer heat.
IMG_1712-168The first arch we hit up was Landscape Arch. I don’t know why they call it so, I think it looks more like a “Delicate” Arch. Or more like a “Land Bridge” Arch.

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Rainbow Pony also had a chance to appreciate the loveliness of the Arch.

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CHECK OUT some of the gorgeous photos from our hike (by hitting the To Be Continued link)…!

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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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Best of Bolivia: From the Badlands of Tupiza to the Salar de Uyuni

On the bus from Cocha to Tupiza

On the bus from Cocha to Tupiza

My trip to Tupiza/Uyuni didn’t start off too well, at first. For some reason I had thought that my bus took off at 3 pm not 2:30, so by the time I got in line for the wrong Illimani bus at Cochabamba’s busy bus terminal, a man (who sold me my ticket the day before) came running up to me while my actual bus was taking off out of the terminal parking lot.

You were supposed to be here at 2:30!” he said to me, exasperated and in Spanish. I told him that I thought that I was supposed to arrive at 2:30pm but that the bus would actually take off at 3pm. Who knew the buses would leave on time?

Tiffany, tu faltaste”, he scolded me as he radioed in to try and stop the bus from leaving me behind.

After a few frantic minutes, he finally found a taxi that could help me chase after my bus and try to catch it at its first stop, just outside of the city.

My driver was really sweet. He was a young father in his mid 20’s who actually lived in Sweden for about five years to make money to send back to his family. We got a chance to learn a lot about each other as he raced down Cochabamba’s busy streets in search of my bus. Like many cab drivers, he asked me why I was traveling solo…why I was still single at 34 and didn’t have kids…and why I could speak Spanish. “That’s just the way life is in California sometimes”, I replied.

After a 25 minute cab ride, I ( finally did get to my bus just before it took off again for its next stop. “A minute more and we would have left you behind!” the bus driver told me. 

The next 16 hours of my bus ride were just as “adventurous” as my journey to board it: I got a chance to watch a lightning storm strike the ground on wide open landscapes (I’ve never really seen bolts of lightning before!) and see beautiful sunsets over the mountains and the valley. I also had a two hour-long talk in Spanish with some guy next to me that was traveling to Tupiza with his family. But the most “exciting” part by far was enduring the bus’ rubber-like swaying at each mountain curve that we turned. I couldn’t sleep at all throughout the night. On top of it all, it was pretty cold on the bus (all the locals on the bus knew better and brought blankets for the trip). Rain seeped in from the windows and fell on me as I tried to sleep.

The journey

The journey

Fortunately, we arrived safely to the Tupiza bus terminal around 6 am. I was exhausted and pretty zombie-like at that point, but I had no place to rest. I meandered down the streets until I found the La Torre – Tupiza Tours office so that I could start my epic four day jeep journey from Tupiza to Uyuni that morning.

Since I booked my tour over email and not in person, I really didn’t know what to expect from the trip – or even, what I needed to bring or do for the tour. I just knew that I was going to see the salt flats of Uyuni and some amazing landscapes.

That last statement is actually an understatement. It was AAAAMMAZZINGLY gorgeous!!

For the next four days, I spent most of my time traveling in a jeep with two other tourists from Switzerland, our guide Juan Carlos, and his mama – who cooked for us during the trip. Besides our jeep, there were a handful of other jeeps that were also doing the same route as us (but from different tour companies), so I had a little bit of a chance to meet some other folks along the way.

There’s not much to say but to show the trip in pictures. If you like landscapes and nature and don’t mind driving in a jeep for most of your day, this is the tour for you.

DAY 1: FROM TUPIZA TO THE MOUNTAINS

We started off in Tupiza by driving to a mirador of the Badlands:

Tupiza's Badlands

Tupiza’s Badlands

Blue and red mountains

Blue and red mountains

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Torotoro National Park, Part II: From Cave Paintings to Cave Hiking

Our second day at Torotoro National Park started off with a beautiful ride up the mountains. It’s amazing how much altitude changes everything. As we began to ascend, the weather quickly turned from warm and sunny to cold and rainy. At one point we had to get out of the jeep so that Alex could attempt to drive through the incredibly muddy roads at the top of the mountain! A bit dangerous, but it worked out fine.

Passing by a herd of sheep on the way up

Passing by a herd of sheep on the way up

The cavernas part of Torotoro National Park was only discovered about seven years ago. Beautiful landscapes, tall arching caves, and the discovery of ancient cave paintings now draw tourists to the area.

My camera can't do this landscape justice: it was way more gorgeous than this!

My camera can’t do this landscape justice: it was way more gorgeous than this!

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Cave drawings

Cave drawings

As we came upon a set of cavernas, our guide explained that once upon a time, cattle robbers brought their stolen herds to these caves and held them in this area for some time. When some of the villagers finally discovered where their stolen cattle were being held, the robbers quickly let them out of the caves and ran away with them down the mountain. They were never recovered. 

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