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Sunday, February 26, 2012

BOLIVIAN ALTIPLANO TO MONTEVIDEO'S BEACHES- PHOTOS

We follow that goat track into the mountains

The goat track turns into a river - oncoming 4x4's are suprised to see us

The rivers get bigger & bigger

Wow!!! Up in the mountains

We even see a few locals

Yet more locals - at Laguna Los Flamingos - where we camped

GR2 has no problems driving up the rocky riverbed

More gorgeous scenery

On the Atliplano

John looks at one of the "rock trees"

Amazing Laguna Colarado with it's red water

A few of the thousands of flamingos at the Laguna Colarado

Can't resist another look at the birds

A great bath with a great view

What a view to wake up to

At the edge of Bolivia - we are now entering Chile

The gorgeous town of Purmamarca - just over the Paso de Jama

The lighthouse at Montevideo - a great spot for use to camp - we ended up here a few times

Our camp spot at Bella Vista - one of Uruguays many beaches

BOLIVIAN ALTIPLANO TO MONTEVIDEO'S BEACHES

We are committed to the slippery, slimy mud road that we are on, despite it being “closed”. There are plenty of trucks, buses and 4x4 Toyotas. We discover if we move aside for oncoming vehicles we slide in the mud (after nearly taking the paint off an oncoming 4x4) so we stop and make them move around us. We finally make it to San Cristobel and Alota, where we fill up with fuel at a reasonable price. In Bolivia they can legally charge foreigners 3 times the local price. John has been negotiating a better price each time “Cash only & no receipt”

Then on to the Valle de Rocha’s, with its amazing rock formations. Here we see lots of 4x4’s, full of tourists. The road does not appear to be closed. I wonder where that impassable river is? When the rain gets heavy we stop for an extended lunch hour. As we are leaving a local 4x4 stops and we discover that the direction we had planned to take was the road to Chile, and we needed to take the goat track. This proves to much better. GR2 prefers goat tracks to mud & slush. It is a magical drive surrounded by mighty, snowy peaks through high country plains. We are continually over 4000m. We find the river crossing (Definitely 4x4!) followed by a river bed to drive up. GR2 copes beautifully, although we get some puzzled looks from the tourists in the 4x4’s.

We camp overnight in a gorgeous spot overlooking Laguna Los Flamingos, snow capped peaks and flamingos. What a spot to sit and soak in the surroundings. And no alcohol for us, not at this altitude. The next day we continue through more amazing high country and up another rocky riverbed. On and on, stopping to inspect some amazing rock trees before finally reaching Laguna Colorado set in a magnificent National Parque.  This costs us 150BOB each to enter, while locals only pay 30BOB! Still it is worth it the Laguna is fabulous, with red hued water and millions of flamingos.

We have GPS reference points for the Aduana (where we have to drop off our Temporary vehicle import license), fortunately, as it is at a mine site – who would think of looking there – maybe the border would be more logical, but there it is, on a little back track at 5020m altitude.

On through more snow & sleet. The weather is continually changing here. A stop at some hot pools for a nice soak, before overnighting near Laguna Verde. We wake to another glorious day with some more scenic driving, before we reach the border. Here they tell us that we will have to go to the Chilean customs before we cross into Argentina. Oh well, so down we head to San Pedro de Atacama an extra 60km. Last time customs was a breeze – all done in 10 minutes, but there are 3 buses here and a massive queue. One hour later we have the stamps in our passports and slips of paper stamped & ready for Argentina, a few hours drive away. Still it is a truly magical drive over the Paso de Jama. Sadly there are more queues. Two and a half hours later we have more stamps in our passports and another temp veh imp license.

We head down to 1738m before stopping for the night. This is the lowest we have been for weeks. In the next few days we head even lower as we pass through Jujuy and onto the Chaco – low, hot (read 45 deg here) country. At this point we mainly drive. It is too hot to stop, and not a heck of a lot to see. Finally we reach the border of Uruguay. Here we get a whole year temp veh imp License for GR2 so that she can be tucked away in Colonia while we head home. We have a few days tucked up our sleeves for cleaning, cleaning, cleaning and some R&R at some of Uruguay’s gorgeous white sand beaches. We have done a huge trip this time – 15,600km.

Then we say goodbye to GR2 to catch the ferry to Buenos Aires, and fly back home.

Plans for our next trip still to come (that means we haven’t finalised them yet)

Adios Amigos

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

BOLIVIAN BLOCKADES, DYNAMITE & MUD- PHOTOS

Leaving Peru, entering Bolivia

The ancient site of Tiahaunaco

Woops we need help[ this time - we had to get a truck to tow us out

Our campsite at La Paz airport

City of Ouroru

The queue of trucks

One of our good deeds for the day - towing out Bolivians

John is in there with the miners - trying to get us out

Road to Potosi

Miner John with his dynamite

On our way to the mine

Potosi Mine

1500kg - A lot of pulling & pushing by hand

Potosi streets - old balconies

We see lots of this - rubbish, rubbish, rubbish

Sucre - the white city

Armadilla ukulele's & hats at the Tarabuco markets

Cow head stew anyone?

Camp spot at Ojo del Inca (and bath spot)

Sadly one of our typical roads

Uyuni Salar covered in water - rusting the landcruisers

Loading the salt with shovels

Salt castles

Those puddles in Uyuni were very deep

Campsite in the train cemetary - John wanted to use his dynamite!!

BOLIVIAN BLOCKADES, DYNAMITE & MUD

We left Puno in Peru and headed to Bolivia via the supposedly “dangerous” crossing at Desaguadero, which in reality was pretty easy. Our first visit was to yet another ancient site “Tiahuanaco”. We got there too late in the day, so we camped in the carpark and visited in the morning. Actually it was better than anticipated with some reconstruction work making it easier to visualize buildings. We left on the back road, which proved to be a mistake, as we got stuck in mud and had to find a truck to pull us out. GR2 doesn’t like sticky red mud that turns her wheels to slicks.

So staying on tarseal we continue to La Paz (overnighting again at the airport) and continue on to Oruro. Preparations for Carnaval are under way, but we are over a week too early and it isn’t exactly the sort of place to kick your heels, so we continue our drive. As we near Lago Poopo we pull up abruptly because of a huge traffic jam. John goes to investigate – it is a blockade. The miners have covered the road with a huge dirt barricade, and trucks & buses are piling up. The bus passengers can walk a few kms to get on a bus at the other end, but the trucks are stuck. All detour routes are blocked as well. so we pull off to camp overnight. During the night cars have been sneaking through a back route, so very early the next morning we decide to try following the cars, only to get to a pile up of cars stuck in mud and a very small, flimsy wooden bridge. We do our good deed of the day and tow out the stuck cars, but we cannot cross the bridge. Who will tow us out if we end up in the river! So we backtrack and end up right in the centre of the blockade at the mining town of Poopo. We drive right up to the blockage, only to be confronted by 300-400 strikers brandishing stones. We make a hasty retreat & park. John spends the next few hours “working” the crowd. He chews coco leaves with them, drinks firewater with them, chats with them, grovels to the boss, and is told to play the game ( a sort of 2 up). In the process he discovers that the mine is owned by the Japanese and the miners naturally want more money. There is no police/army presence here trying to sort out the situation. Looks like a stalemate. Just to keep us on our toes they throw sticks of dynamite at random intervals in equally random directions.

Eventually they relent and let us through. Not onto the main road as there is another blockage there, but through the village and onto goat tracks. When we finally get back onto the main road we can see the tail end of the queue – it stretches 25km in both directions!

We are glad to be past the blockade, and head on to Potosi. Needless to say there is very little traffic. Sadly our Bolivian GPS maps are pretty useless, and there are very few road signs, especially in the cities, so we are back to paper maps. Always very interesting! But we do find a secure carpark in Potosi, recommended by a fellow traveler. From here it is easy to explore town, go on a mine tour and visit the mint. The mine tour was very sobering. There are 16,000 miners still digging out the rock and pulling and pushing the carts out, each 1500kg. Back to the dark ages! The granite hill is pockmarked with tunnels. All rather small. We had to bend down or crawl through the tunnels. I was mighty relieved to get out. Oh I forgot to mention – on the way to the mine we stopped to buy gifts for the miners. You know the usual cigarettes, coco leaves or dynamite. John bought gifts, but dynamite as well – this he kept for himself. I wonder when he will set this off!!!!

We continued to Sucre hoping to see churches & the textile museum, but it was the weekend and they were all closed. So a short visit sufficed and we moved on to the small town of Tarabuco to catch the Sunday markets. It was a very local affair with plenty of country folk visiting in their traditional dress.

Then we backtracked to Potosi and camped at a gorgeous hot crater lake called Ojo del Inca. What a magic spot for a good long soak. If it hadn’t been raining the next morning we would have been tempted to stay longer, but the sticky, muddy track beckoned.

We were now headed for Uyuni. We had to tackle the streets of Potosi again (no signs) to find the road. To our surprise it was a lovely sealed road, practically brand new. Sadly the road wasn’t finished. There were sections still being worked on, and in the rain they had turned to slush. At one spot a bus was stuck, and at another spot we had to pull over. The truck driver told us he had been waiting there 3 days for a truck to be pulled out of the mud. Fortunately our wait wasn’t very long, and we got through in a long trail of trucks.

Finally we reached Uyuni – an amazing dump of a town filled with mud & puddles of astronomical proportions. There has been much more rain here than normal and because of lightening the town has no power. We only stayed long enough to “do” a trip on the Salar. We make very bad tourists because we got very frustrated with stopping at markets and waiting for the others on our trip to take 1,000s of photos. The Salar was covered with water giving wonderful reflections, but not the blinding white salt we had been hoping for.

Anyway we were glad to leave town – we had been told the route we had planned was too wet and slushy, and the river crossing was too deep. So we changed our route to the main road to Tupiza, but remember there are no signs and our GPS is not a lot of help. Somehow we ended up on our original route on the slushy/muddy/slippery road!! John thinks I did it on purpose, but I really am not that good at map reading.

Until next time, Adios Amigos





 
 









Tuesday, February 7, 2012

DRIVE EVERY MOUNTAIN - PHOTOS

Even on a grey wet day the scenery is magnificent

Lost track of all the switch backs we drove on

GR2 on the edge of the mountain

Waiting for an oncoming truck...don't look down

Great camp spot

Creeping along the side of the cliff

La Union - one of the many villages we pass through

Some very cold llamas

GR2 and the 4x4 Mercedes we traveled with

Band at the wedding

Some unexpected wedding guests

We only just fitted through the concrete uprights! A long way back ...

These parades look like hard work

Yet more hilly stuff

We meet these guys on the road....party time

Festival at Puno









At last a puma and a condor

It's nearly dark.....last photos using flash. Then I get dragged away