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The road up the hill… and navigation software.

The first day I drove into Cusco and then through old Cusco, my navigation software lead me to a road towards the campground which is situated about two or two and a half kilometers up on the hill outside the city… However I didn’t check the route beforehand and it was so busy I couldn’t check it while driving…
Needles to say, I don’t trust my software to find me the fastest and safest route anymore…
I was tooting my horn to get an old lady with her lama out of the way… because there was no way I was going to stop on this hill…
She jumped with her lama on the sitewalk/steps and pressed herself against the wall… Damn these tourists are even crazier then the Peruvian taxi drivers…!

Especially the last part; very VERY steep… Locals were laughing; stupid tourist is trying to get his car wrecked…

19 april 2014 Reageren uitgeschakeld

Eastern holidays in Cusco, Peru

I had a real lousy start in the morning. The night before I drove away from Julliaca and while it was still light I parked at a petrolstation. The night was cold and thus in the morning I couldn’t start the engine. After beckoning passing by cars for help with my start cables I finally had a car with two guys giving me some more electricity for my battery, and after a nerve wrecking 10 minutes the engine started up.

The drive afterwards towards Cusco was pretty nice, so I was able to forget a little bit of my problems with the car.

In Cusco i stopped at the Ford garage where the lady was very unkind and unwilling to help. But I demanded that she would get her supervisor. I found a lot of alternative part numbers from other brands for the glowplugs and the man in charge told me he was going to help me but not before Monday because it is Easter holidays. And South America being catholic I can forget it.

So onwards to the camp ground which I found after taking a wrong turn in old down town Cusco… driving a mad 30 degrees up cobble stone road take took my breath away and even my cars, I finally made it. Don’t trust your navigation Eric, check the road before you enter something that steep… Yeah right, but there was no where to turn and no going backwards either… I just honked my car horn to scare the shit out of the old lady in Peruvian dress and her two lamas… Get the fu…k out of the way, because I cannot stop!

At the camp ground I was told that there was a mechanic specialized helping overlanders that would come to the campground. So I told Millagro to please have him come next day…

So today – 17 april – he came at just after 8:00 in the morning… Got reluctantly my part numbers and sended his other worker to take out all the other plugs while he took one anyway as a sample…

After two hours he returned with no new plugs… Not to be found but another set with different thread… no way ! or a very expensive set for 90 soles a piece maybe to get on Sunday… Damn, I am running out of luck. At least I am in an interesting historic city safe in the campground with hot shower and internet… So it could be worse getting stuck during the holidays… I recall Puerto Madryn in Argentina during X-mas and new years eve…

16 april 2014 Reageren uitgeschakeld

Uros, floating Islands

In the afternoon, I was picked up by a taxi to be brought at the wharf and Jonathan the 20 yr. old captain of his own water taxi, an Uro himself was waiting for me.In the beginning there were only two of us. An American chap working and living in La Paz, Bolivia and myself but later Jonathan came up with a Peruvian couple.

Slowly he brought his boat to bear us through the channel of reeds and all the way past some of the bigger Uro Islands to bring us to his family Island.

The Uru people are living on these Islands made from cane, or reed that only grows near Puno. The lights on one of the photos you see on the hill is Puno.
Every third Month they have to place new cane on top off the islands because the bottom is rotting away. They float and are anchored. The fish and catch waterbirds. For other stuff they go to town.

The population is about 2000. They have their own language but they also speak an ancient Inca language next to Spanish. They live from tourism and whatever they can catch. All or most boats driving tourist to their islands are owned and captained by Urus.

The huts are build on a frame. When the people need to replenish the cane island 4 or more people pick up the huts and move them. New cane gets thrown on the island and the huts one by one moved back…
The islands are really bouncy and the Uru walk bare feet. On the island I was on – family island of the young captain – they had a volleyball net up… It was quite fun to play with them although within minutes I was out of breath. It’s still close to 3500 or more above sea level.
The toilet is a hole in the island going as deep as the rotted and earthen layer. Water to drink tea or cook is from the lake and boiled.

The boats from cane aren’t used much only to show for tourist but the kids go to school with them on the biggest main island. Most used little boats with outboard motors. Boats don’t last more then 3 months or so. Electricity is made with small solar panels. The young captain explained that a while back a bunch of students fell asleep with candles and the hut caught fire so fast, five perished in the blaze. The people could rescue the other huts and the Island. They cook on a small plateau made of wet and rottend earth on which a clay stove is placed. The fire is – guess what – dry cane… And clay pots are placed on this clay hearth.
To build an Island they have to get the rotting process going and the layer must be really thick before people can live on it and support huts etc.

The Uros use bundles of dried totora reeds to make reed boats (balsas mats), and to make the islands themselves.

The larger islands house about ten families, while smaller ones, only about thirty meters wide, house only two or three.

The islets are made of totora reeds, which grow in the lake. The dense roots that the plants develop and interweave form a natural layer called Khili (about one to two meters thick) that support the islands. They are anchored with ropes attached to sticks driven into the bottom of the lake. The reeds at the bottoms of the islands rot away fairly quickly, so new reeds are added to the top constantly, about every three months; this is what makes it exciting for tourists when walking on the island. This is especially important in the rainy season when the reeds rot much faster. The islands last about thirty years.

Each step on an island sinks about 2-4″ depending on the density of the ground underfoot. As the reeds dry, they break up more and more as they are walked upon. As the reed breaks up and moisture gets to it, it rots, and a new layer has to be added to it. It is a lot of work to maintain the islands. Because the people living there are so infiltrated with tourists now, they have less time to maintain everything, so they have to work even harder in order to keep up with the tourists and with the maintenance of their island. Tourism provides financial opportunities for the natives, while simultaneously challenging their traditional lifestyle.

The Uros islands at 3810 meters above sea level are just five kilometers west from Puno port. Around 2,000 descendants of the Uros were counted in the 1997 census, although only a few hundred still live on and maintain the islands; most have moved to the mainland. The Uros also bury their dead on the mainland in special cemeteries.

Food is cooked with fires placed on piles of stones. To relieve themselves, tiny ‘outhouse’ islands are near the main islands. The ground root absorbs the waste.

13 april 2014 Reageren uitgeschakeld

Sillustani ruins

Yesterday I left Arequipa rather late so I arrived at my destination, a parking lot also for campers near Puno. The road took me through the highlands at almost 4500 meters and the camp spot was still at 3800 meters. Explaining my headache.

Now I am in Puno in a hostel and waiting for my tour bus to pick me up to go to the cane islands of the Uros people…

Puno is actually a very ugly city and the roads are all very steep. It’s build right up on a hillside, and since the altitude is about 3500 meters above sea level, think twice before you want to walk from downtown back to the hostel where I was staying. for 4 Soles you have a cabby take you up the hill. One Peru Sole is about 36 dollar cents. My hotel room was 20 Soles per night. Yup…

13 april 2014 Reageren uitgeschakeld


Today I went sightseeing in town. First I wanted to get a feel of the lay-out and its people. I found out that a lot of historic buildings are bought by banks and other large corporations to safeguard the historic buildings from deteriorating. Most are partly a museum. Also a lot of buildings have beautiful details and courtyards that can be entered.

After a Starbucks frappuccino, I set of to find the famous Monastery of Santa Catalina  a huge cloister closed for centuries but now open to the public.

Of course a great Peruvian meal was also on my to do list of today. A ‘chuppa de camerones’ filled my stomach.

10 april 2014 Reageren uitgeschakeld

Arequipa, South Peru

After an uneventful border crossing but with very nice and helpful and interested Peruvian customs and immigration officers I drove through the desert of Peru up North.I had almost forgotten how extremely boring the countryside is.

Now in Arequipa in the courtyard of Hotel Mercedes. A beautiful old building almost in the center of Arequipa. To get here was quite a challenge because the road entering the city was under construction and signs were terrible. I think even the locals got lost and my navigation software, which wasn’t working that great kept directing me to a one-way street I couldn’t enter… Then at about 6:00 pm it was rush hour as well….. Aaaaahhhhhhhggggrr…!!!!!

Anyway I made it and safe and sound…. Did my grocery shopping and I will sleep like a baby tonight. Tomorrow I will visit the old town.

9 april 2014 Reageren uitgeschakeld

Kinda stuck…

I am trying to sell my car from here in Arica, Chile until Colombia. Timeframe unknown, but estimated one-and-a-half to two months from now.

Why? Because it’s a great car and in very good condition and it would still have great value and for another ‘overlander’, it would be a great deal. But for me it would be to expensive to ship it onwards / back to Bonaire. If I ever would decide to continue my travels, it is easier to get a new car, probably the same model though, but then buy it in the USA. I will miss it, but I still have some kilometers to go.

But why am I stuck in Arica? Well, Iquique is basically closed from the rest of Chile because of the horrendous earthquake that happened last week… Here in Arica you have to get past it, not necessary down to the town but still some roads are pretty damaged and the flow is slow. But I wanted to go up to Peru anyway, right? Yes that’s true but when I sell my car, there are some parts and supplies I don’t want to sell, but don’t want to carry with me either. So I have to ship them back home, and I want to do that in Chile because I believe it is more safe to do so from here. Unfortunately, a lot of shops and government buildings and organisations have been closed for the week after the quake… The post office isn’t opening until Monday… Also I needed good internet to advertise my car on the internet. so that is where I will be going tomorrow…

Last but not least; travelling alone gives me a lot of freedom in my decisions, but sometimes it is good if you can have some help with that. Get some other ideas, you haven’t thought of, as well… and I do miss that. What is smart to do, what not… Decisions, decisions…

6 april 2014 Reageren uitgeschakeld

Earthquake, not the movie.

Arica, Chile 21:00, April 1st, 2014

But no joke, a bloody bad joke…

At about 20:00 I talked to my Taiwanese roommate that I felt rumbling but he said it was the cars in the street… But then at 21:00 hours, I just had a shower and ready to browse the internet, it started to shake really badly. This time he said quite calmly: now this is an earthquake. The other German roommate started getting up and we all left in a hurry from the dorm and ran outside of the hostel. I grabbed my computers and my small backpack with all my papers. Outside, my car was shaking so badly, and the ground underneath my feet just wobled up and down and sideways in all directions. In fact you couldn’t stand safely on your legs, and I felt as if I was standing on a surfboard without sail.

All the lights were out by that time and it felt it gotten worse. Flashes of power stations or shorting transformers streaked in the night sky. Sirens from police, firebrigades and ambulances tarted to wail, and the onr of the hostel told u we should start seeking higher ground. The shaking was subdued by then, but it had taken at least 40 or 50 seconds maybe even more than that, but it felt like it was for 5 minutes of extreme shaking and I swear, I still felt something in the ground. Later I felt that my own heart in my throught was also part of it. Everybody was extremely shocked and scared.

I can tell you honestly, I have never been so afraid, and then of course the realisation that the possibility of a major tsunami set in en the locals in the street were already packing and running or driving to higher ground.

I guess I couldn’t think strait, because I just jumped in my car… I already had all my possesions in it, and drove off.. Into the crazy and confusing traffic which basically a wonder no major accidents happened because it was a madhouse… I knew roughly the way to higher ground and the safezone and kept following the traffic flow…

When I started seeing cars parked next to the road, I drove on for another kilometer or so and looked for a safeplace to park. Away from the traffic, away from large telephone and electrical poles… I started asking around if this was indeed a safezone, and it was confirmed, that it was safe here and we should stay at least 2 hours for a possible tsunami threat, to get back. It was now 21:40 in the night. Are you kidding me? I am not getting back to the coast! They told me that it was said that the earthquake was around 8 on the Richter scale. It turned out a 7.9 and 8.1 in Iquique. While I was writing this at 22:25, the car is slightly shaking again. And it ain’t from the cars driving by..!

I stayed there until it was daylight again. The whole day was no electricity and or internet. Now I can say I was in a heavy earthquake, but trust me… In hindsight, I could do without the excitement.

2 april 2014 Reageren uitgeschakeld

Parque Nacional Lauca

I went for a day trip from Arica to Lauca National Park [4650 mtrs] drank a lot and ate a lot of coca candy for altitude sickness…
The road was winding up from the coastal town up to the height of more than 4650 meters…
The Parinacota volcano is over 6000 meters high.

Unfortunately the weather was overcast because on nice days it is possible to make photos like the ones you see in the Wikipedia page. Tough luck for me…  Chungará Lake was just dull and cold and uninviting.

I did see Alpacas, Vicuñas [the lama in the pictures] and the rock hole living creatures; Vizcachas.
On my way back the sky closed and a raincloud started forming and dumping snow up high on the volcanos and rain at my height. To bad.
I stopped real quick to have a look at the thermes that were nearby.

1 april 2014 Reageren uitgeschakeld

Arica, north Chile…

I am getting good reviews from other travellers that went to Lauca National Park and the lake at the antiplano.  First I thought going there straight from Iquique but then I thought of going to Arica first and see how my ad for the car was doing. I have one really interested person.

Then in the hostel I heard that the trip to the lake is really worth it but I should go with my own car… so I’ll do that tomorrow.

31 maart 2014 Reageren uitgeschakeld

Back in Iquique.

I decided I had enough desert and sand, and drove on to Iquique. In the IYH to do some catching up on travelers info and do the unavoidable laundry.

Not sure if I will make a 250 km roundtrip to Parque Nacional Lauca for another volcano’s, lamas/Alpaca and antiplano lagoons and country side, experience… That or otherwise I will go straight to Arica and cross over to Peru and head north towards Lake Titicaca and Cuzco.

29 maart 2014 Reageren uitgeschakeld


Tomorrow continuing north, but for now in Calama. A not so nice mining town on my road from San Pedro de Calama.

28 maart 2014 Reageren uitgeschakeld

Valle de la Muerte, valle de la Luna and stargazing.

Near San Pedro de Atacama there are some impressive valleys and normally you would either take a tour with a 4×4 or mountain bike or horse ride. I took the car and tested it to the limit.

The valley of de la Luna was closed until later at night, so I went to valley de la Muerte… yes Valley of the Dead… You could wonder if you were in a western movie and have John Wayne coming around the corner… yes he is dead so the valley is appropriate, right?

At the end there were large dunes were some youngsters went sandboarding. They do that with large snowboards, but trust me, I would call it sand eating… and while I don’t like sand in my clothes and every crevasses of my body, and an arduous climb to the top, I just looked.

Then it was on to the top to the “mirrador de la valle de la Luna” for another sunset and some stargazing… It’s bloody dark out here and bloody cold – it can get as low as zero degrees Celsius.

You might want to set the map to Satellite image…

25 maart 2014 Reageren uitgeschakeld

Flamingos and a very salty bath…

Went to see some endangered Andean flamingos in the lagoons at the Atacama desert. On the way I passed the entrance of the ALMA international observatorium that is located at over 5000 meters! You could only see the workers camp at a height of about 3000 m. [ guess] and the road leading up to the plateau behind some mountains and volcano’s…

The salty flats where there are lagoons with tiny shrimp was nice to see. Not many flamingos and not as pink as the ones in Bonaire.

Later I went to the Laguna Cejar, where you can float in very salty water which get fed by underground rivers from high up the mountains. So the water is very cold, although the air was over 26 or 28° C.

24 maart 2014 Reageren uitgeschakeld

wake-up time; 3:30 a.m.

That was the time to wake up to drive at about 4:00 in the morning in the dark to the Tatio geysers, 90 kilometers north of San Pedro de Atacama. Most of the road was in pretty good – hardened mud – condition, only the last ten minutes were very bad with a washboard and sometimes large stones.

The road was visible in my lights, but the surrounding country was a total surprise when I drove back. All in all I climbed to an altitude of more then 4000 meters, and the tourist bureau and other overlanders at the camping warned about altitude sickness…

A lot of drinking and driving slowly to acclimatize to the height was recommended. I had a thermos with hot coca tea… With a lot of sugar and keeping my nose closed, it was drinkable. I didn’t get the nauseousness and headache – well just a little bit of a heavy head.

Arriving with a lot of other cars in the dark, and wearing tons of layers of clothes I bared the freezing cold and saw the steamplumes in the car lights. And between 6:30 and 7:00 it slowly opened up to the rising sun in the twilight.

Overall I walked around for about an hour until my hands were so frozen, I just had to go back to the car and start the engine and heat up.

The way back was even slower because there were so many photo opportunities I had to stop for…

The rest of the day is resting and catching up some sleep, lost in the morning.

The rest of the photos are in my Google+ album.

23 maart 2014 Reageren uitgeschakeld
© E.L. Criens 2014