Tag Archives: tour

Road Trip Diaries: Hellooooo Colorful Colorado – and Mesa Verde National Park

I’m sad to say that It’s been about four years since I last updated this blog. Grad school and working life has taken its toll. However…it’s back!

So, going back to July of 2013 – after our weeklong travels through the Big 5 of Utah, we made our way to the southwest corner of Colorado to visit Mesa Verde National Park. The weather, while still very warm, was noticeably cooler than what we experienced in Utah. After showering about two times during that hot, dry and sweaty week however, this was exactly what we needed.

 

 

Colorado, the “colorful” state, greeted us with this sign against a plain golden backdrop…

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South America Travel Diary: The So-Called “Dangers and Annoyances”

(I got this title from the Lonely Planet books because that’s what they called this type of travel advice.)

So far, all I’ve written about are all the amazing things about certain countries in South America. This blog post, however, will be about some of the things we can do as travelers to be more mindful. There are many reasons why various social problems exist in other countries (especially those in the Global South, AKA “developing countries”), and most of the time they’re rooted in various political and economic issues on different scales (let us not forget the deep legacies of colonization or the impacts of unfair trade agreements). Most travelers have an incredible amount of cultural and economic privilege that gives them the ability to visit other countries – which often creates certain dynamics that may even be the reasons for the types of crime that may occur against us.

Of course every country, every city, and every situation is very different. Half of the time it’s about prevention and awareness, and half the time it’s just about luck.

Shopping all day in Las Brujas, La Paz

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The Peru and Bolivia Travel Diaries: The Logistics

A lot of readers have been asking me specific questions about how to travel about from city to city, what to budget, what to bring, what to expect, etc. I’ll attempt to use my limited traveling experience to give my opinion on some of those questions. But don’t just take my word for it – ask around! And as always, check out the Lonely Planet Thorn Tree forum for all your questions!

Check the exchange rates, but when I was traveling, $1US = $2.5 soles (Peru) and $1US = $7 bolivianos (Bolivia)

When llamas are angry their ears go back

Llama llama llama…

BUDGETING

If you’re really on a budget (I mean, REAL broke-style), here’s an estimate of what to expect to pay (without tours, which range from $15 a day to $100 a day, depending on how hardcore they are)…IMHO:

PERU: $25-$40US a day (without tours)

  • Lodging: as low as $35 soles a night (for hostels)
  • Food: As low as $20 soles a day)
  • 1L bottle of Water: $2-3 soles / A soda = $2.5 soles
  • Taxi around town: $3 soles to $12 soles
  • Bus: $1 sol to $2.5 soles
  • Public bathrooms: $1-3 soles (sometimes offer you toilet paper when you pay)

BOLIVIA: $15-$25US (without tours)

  • Lodging: as low as $20 bolivianos a night (for hostels)
  • Food: As low as $30 bolivianos a day (usually more)
  • 2L bottle of water: $6-10 bolivianos / A soda = $4 bolivianos
  • Taxi around town: $3 bolivianos to $12 bolivianos
  • Bus: $1.5 bolivianos or more
  • Mini-van taxi: $2-4 bolivianos
  • Public bathrooms: $1-3 bolivianos (sometimes offer you toilet paper when you pay)

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Three Hot Days in Nazca

After a day and a half in Lima, I was pretty much over it. Since I didn’t have anyone else to hang out with for the rest of my days there, I decided on a whim to make a short trip to Nazca to see the infamous Nazca lines. If I had time, I also wanted to hit up Ica/Huacachina to go sandboarding, but I wasn’t going to push it. Didn’t want to miss my expensive flight back to San Francisco in four days!

On the way to Nazca

No Man’s Land: On the way to Nazca

I took a Cruz del Sur bus (the most reliable bus in Peru, so I’ve heard) past a few tourist cities (like Ica) and finally ended up in Nazca at about 9 pm at night. The trip down there however was kinda nuts. It looked like Mad Max land out there! Nothing but desert and brush with some homes (and sometimes in villages) out on the plain by themselves. Very end-of-the-world-ish-looking.

When I got in, the Nazca Inn hotel owner was waiting near the bus station to bring guests to his hostel. He was really welcoming and friendly – a local Nazcan who went to school in England for a little bit to learn business, who then returned to his hometown to run his family’s hostel. We spoke back and forth in Spanish and English, which made communication easy and fun. He took me on a short tour around the main strip and dropped me off at the hostel. Which, by the way, is AWESOME!

Hallway at the Nazca Inn

Hallway at the Nazca Inn

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Later that night me and the hostel owner got drinks on the main drag…however, after getting completely drunk after one drink, I had to go out to get a burger so that I wouldn’t be completely embarrassing. I ate in his car while we drove around town and met his friends…

Yeah, I can be a bit of a sloppy drunk. So sue me.

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Travel Diaries: The Top 10 Bad @ss Things About Bolivia

la paz

Before I made my plans to go to South America, I told my friend Darrell that I was planning to go to Peru, and then fly to Argentina to see Patagonia. I had no other plans to visit any other countries, because I only had two months.

“You have to do Bolivia”, he told me.

“Why?”

“Just because – it’s awesome.”

Yeah, Bolivia was AMAZING. I want to go back. I didn’t even make it to Argentina on this trip because I spent so much time there.

ANALOG GIRLS’ TOP 10 THINGS TO DO/SEE IN BOLIVIA: (Dedicated to all my good folks out there right now)

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Carnaval in Uyuni: Ninja Turtles, Vikings, and All-Day Water Balloon Fights

After we ended our four-day “Tupiza to the Salar de Uyuni” tour, the Swiss couple (that I met on the tour) accompanied me in search of a better hostel. We came across Hostal La Magia de Uyuni, a much more upscale place with great looking bedrooms and an excellent breakfast. It was pretty pricey though – as a budget traveler, I aim to pay less than $10 a night – $20 on special occasions. However, after 4 days with only one hot shower (not including the hot springs soak), I was looking forward to a quiet night’s rest in my own room. Unfortunately, an expensive room does not equate hot showers – I was shivering in (almost) lukewarm shower water that night (I think they didn’t have the water heater turned on at the time).

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One of my favorite things about Bolivia (and Peru) is the amazing festival music – a combination of triumphant-sounding horns and energetic drums. Everyone seems to have access to brass instruments and can form a marching band out here! While most people in Bolivia go to Oruro for Carnaval (where the big parade goes down), Uyuni was preparing for its own Carnaval parades that weekend. I don’t know what it’s like in Oruro, but I have to say that Uyuni’s Carnaval made me fall a little bit in love with this small city, and it’s awesome people.

Getting ready for the festivites in Uyuni

Getting ready for the festivities

Balloon and water pistol vendors

Balloon and water pistol vendors

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Ladies and Gentlemen: the Salar de Uyuni

Despite the heavy rains that had been plaguing southern Bolivia for a few weeks, by the time we got to the Salar de Uyuni, most of the rain water had cleared – except for a layer of water on the actual salt flats itself. Roads were now completely usable, and we had very few fears of our jeep getting stuck out on the cold Salar somewhere.

We awoke at 5 am to get going on the day. During our slow drive, we were greeted by an amazing sunrise that reflected like a mirror on the Salar’s watery surface:

Antes de la amanacer

Antes de la amanacer

Brilliant

Brilliant

Driving through the Salar's waters

Driving through the Salar’s waters

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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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Cochabamba Part II: Dinosaur Tracks and Bat Guano at Torotoro National Park

Besides visiting the gigantic Jesus Cristo statue towering above the city, one of the main reasons people visit Cochabamba is to get access to Bolivia’s fantastic Torotoro National Park (I’m a HUGE National Parks fan – visit as many as possible wherever you go!).

I wasn’t planning on going originally – I still had many pages to go on my Spanish-to-English grant translation project, and I didn’t even know how to get there. Luckily, my Cabana Las Lilas hostel owner Alex was willing to take tourists on trips the park and was down to coordinate all the logistics. With another couple from Denmark and another traveler from Germany interested in going, I stayed up all night doing as much as I could to finish my translation project before packing my bags to head out to the park famously known for dinosaur tracks, cave exploring, and beautiful canyons.

It was pretty awesome – everything and nothing that I expected. The drive there was pretty nice too:

On the way to Torotoro

Wizzing by cacti, mountains and farms on the way

rocks

Climbing up the swtichback roads on the way to Torotoro

Climbing up the swtichback roads on the way to Torotoro

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