roblog - Official Blog of Rob Hurvitz

29 May 2009 - 6:48:17 PM
Night before the Trek

Tomorrow I'm heading out on a 4-day version of the Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu. Should be fun. Next week I'll put up a few pics from it -- something for everyone to look forward to!

Spent a few hours today checking out four other Inca ruins that are pretty close to Cusco. The first three were pretty small sites, but the fourth was quite impressive. Those Incas had some excellent wall-building skills. I'd upload some of those photos, but I need to pack and then go to sleep -- leaving Cusco at 4:30 a.m. to start the trek. I'm hoping I'll be able to sleep on the shuttle to the trailhead.

Anyway, this is just a short post to let folks know about the impending trek. Wish me luck!

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28 May 2009 - 7:42:56 PM
Puno and Cusco

Hey, I'm in Cusco! I was trying to put off arriving here as long as possible because it feels to me like another end point town, the first being Ushuaia. As soon as I visit Machu Picchu, it'll feel like my trip is at a close, again. But I want to visit Huaraz, so I will most likely soldier on and hit the road after the MP trek. I guess we'll see. In the mean time, though, I uploaded some pics from my second Lake Titicaca trip (calm down, Geary). It was another one day trip, this time from Puno. The first stop was at the floating Uros islands, which are masses of reeds heaped on top of bouyant reed root mass. The Uros folk have huts and whatnot built on them, get around on reed (and non-reed) boats, and sell stuff to hordes of tourists who land on their islands several times a day. Then we chugged along to Isla Taquile, but I'd misheard the name originally -- when we arrived I was very disappointed to discover there was not a single drop of tequila to be found. Ah well. I had to console myself with the beautiful views, the interesting local dress and dances, and a tasty lunch.

floating souvenir stand
View of the island and semi-circle of souvenir sellers taken from the little observation tower built (from wood, thankfully -- not reeds) on the floating island -- Uros Islands, Peru

Uros girl
Adorable Uros girl -- Uros Islands, Peru

through the reeds
Boat path through the reeds -- Lake Titicaca, Peru

Uros fisherman
Uros fisherman, waiting for the tourist boat to pass -- Lake Titicaca, Peru

Two local Isla Taquile women showing off their mad weaving skills -- Isla Taquile, Peru

Isla Taquile view
View from the plaza at the top of the Island -- Isla Taquile, Peru

And now here we are looking at Cusco's Plaza de Armas and Cathedral -- Cusco, Peru

mate de coca
An appealing glass of mate de coca -- Cusco, Peru

I'll be in and around Cusco for the next week, at least. There are tons of tourists here, and I hear American accents all over the place (well, except for right this moment -- the internet place is chock full of Israelis all chatting away). It's very different from Bolivia. Ah well. I'll just have to work my way through it somehow.

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25 May 2009 - 11:21:40 AM
Adios Bolivia

This morning I left Bolivia and am now back in Peru, the town of Puno to be exact. I'm a bit sad to leave Bolivia, but I had to within the next week due to passport expiration issues. Puno is pretty lively so far, and the internet access is way way way faster. Oh my goodness. It's like a breath of fresh air. Perhaps I spend too much time on the internet...

So yeah, Isla del Sol was a very pretty island in Lake Titicaca. It has a few little pre-hispanic ruins, and a nice walk/hike across the main north-south spine of the island. Managed to meet a few of the locals, too, because the three villages (one each in the north, central, and south) have slapped together a ticket system: 10 bolivianos to visit the north, 5 to visit/walk through the central part, and 5 to walk/visit the south. Didn't visit the little ruins in the south, which would have added another 10. But it was a very scenic walk. Here are some pictures to prove it:

one tree island
Rocky island in Lake Titicaca with one tree on it -- Copacabana, Bolivia

Looking back on the northern town of Challapampa -- Isla del Sol, Bolivia

Isla del Sol traffic jam
Traffic jam on the path to the Chincana ruins -- Isla del Sol, Bolivia

sacrificial/picnic table
Sacrificial table next to the Chincana ruins -- Isla del Sol, Bolivia

Chincana ruins on the north end of the island -- Isla del Sol, Bolivia

cross-island trail
The trail that crosses the north-south spine of the island -- Isla del Sol, Bolivia

sw arm
Southwestern arm of the island -- Isla del Sol, Bolivia

Copacabana, Bolivia
View of Copacabana just before sunset -- Copacabana, Bolivia

If all goes well, I'll visit a few more islands tomorrow: the floating Uros Islands and possibly Isla Taquile. Will need to figure that out soon.

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23 May 2009 - 5:12:54 PM

No, not the hottest spot north of Havana. Nor the warm, beautiful beach in Rio. This Copacabana is in Bolivia on the shore of Lake Titicaca, at an elevation of around 3800m. It's a pleasant little touristy town, so far (I've been here for about four hours). But let's rewind a few days. Back in Sorata I went on a three day trek up to a couple of high altitude lakes. Hired a guide and a mule, which was very much a guilty pleasure. Hiking up from 2800m to 4200m on a steep, unrelenting trail would've been hell without the mule. Thank you, mule! Spent the night at Laguna Chillata and the next day slogged up to Laguna Glacial at 5000m. That was a struggle. Altitude acclimatization doesn't seem to be my strong suit. But I made it, just as the clouds started to form, and so most of my pics of the upper lake are a bit misty. But it was a beautiful spot, and the hike down was way easier than the hike up.

grassy field
Grassy field on the hike up to Laguna Chillata where we stopped for lunch -- Sorata, Bolivia

laguna chillata
Laguna Chillata in the morning (during the day and up close it doesn't look nearly as pristine...) -- Sorata, Bolivia

laguna glacial
Laguna Glacial isn't really so big, but the glacier coming down to it is quite pretty, as are the mountains on either side -- Sorata, Bolivia

View of Mt Illampu during the hike back down to town -- Sorata, Bolivia

Back in Sorata we stayed at the very relaxed and cool Altai Oasis. If you're ever in Sorata, I highly recommend staying there. Comfy rooms, beautiful gardens, animals galore, and the owners are really, really nice and helpful. Oh yeah, the "we" in the first sentence -- a laid-off friend of mine from Seattle flew down and met me in La Paz. It's a nice change of pace traveling with someone else. We'll be continuing on to Machu Picchu in Peru before parting ways.

Anyway, we headed out the day after the trek to the San Pedro Cave, a seven mile or so walk from the Altai Oasis. Nice views along the road to the cave, and the cave itself was a fun little run-through. It had a lake on which you can rent a pedal boat (they used to let you swim in it, but not anymore), but we just walked along the trail above it.

Sorata and mountains
View of Sorata and Illampu and Ancohuma from the road to San Pedro Cave -- Sorata, Bolivia

trash dump
View of the local trash dump -- off the side of the road down into the river valley -- Sorata, Bolivia

San Pedro Cave
Entrance to the San Pedro Cave -- Sorata, Bolivia

cave lake
The lake in San Pedro Cave with the pedal boats you can rent -- Sorata, Bolivia

This morning we took a couple buses and eventually reached Copacabana. There was an odd river crossing at the Straits of Tiquina, where marching bands and other revelers were celebrating something. I'd been missing the marching bands. I'm keeping my fingers crossed there'll be some here in Copa.

bus on a boat
The bus boarded its own boat and crossed the strait, and here it is pulling into the other side -- Tiquina, Bolivia

Tomorrow we're doing a day-trip to Isla del Sol. Ruins and hiking. Should be fun. Maybe I'll have another post tomorrow with pictures from that. Keep your fingers crossed.

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18 May 2009 - 1:54:36 PM

Well, I think I've found the most expensive internet access in Bolivia, and it's not even all that fast. It's about 12 Bs per hour. Yikes! So I'll keep this short. I took an overnight bus from Sucre to La Paz, and it seemed like half the people on it were coughing all night long. Didn't sleep very well, and ended up with a bit of a cold. Lovely. So yeah, La Paz was a bit of a haze, but I did manage to bike the World's Most Dangerous Road, which was a whole lot of fun. Started around 4800m elevation, biked 63km downhill through a gorgeous valley, and ended up at around 1200m elevation. So here are some pics.

View of Mt Illimani from town -- La Paz, Bolivia

me on bike
Me all bundled up near the start of the World's Most Dangerous Road (WMDR) bike ride -- WMDR, Bolivia

Looking down the valley at the start of the dirt/gravel road -- WMDR, Bolivia

drop off
Drop off in silhouette -- WMDR, Bolivia

Nice views of the Cordillera Real on the drive from La Paz to Sorata -- Cordillera Real, Bolivia

View of Illampú from the road to Sorata -- Sorata, Bolivia

Tomorrow morning I'm heading out on a three day trek up to see some lakes and will be camping at 4200m. Should be fun. Gotta go buy some food for it now. Later.

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14 May 2009 - 12:53:03 PM

As it turns out, the start of the South American independence movement started in the city which would be later named Sucre on May 25th, 1809. This is the bicentennial, and yeah, it's a pretty big deal here. There are a number of old colonial building with scaffolding have a nice new coat of white paint being applied, and the fountains in the main plaza are being repaired, and there seem to parades with marching bands every night, and when May 25th hits I think it's going to be a huge party here in Sucre. But today is the 14th, and I'll be hopping on a bus to La Paz in a few hours. Ah well. Maybe I can come back to Bolivia in 2025 for the bicentennial of their independence. Yeah, I'll put that on my calendar.

Marching bands seem to be quite popular in Bolivia. I was woken up in Uyuni by nearby band practice but I left before I saw a parade. Potosi had marching bands going through the streets both nights I was there; it was the anniversary of a local, prestigious school, and marching bands came from far and wide to participate. And now Sucre has marching bands and parades every night. The last one I saw was much less formal -- smaller bands in front and back, and everyone in between was dressed up a la Halloween: devils and zombies and even a Jack Skellington on stilts. Does this happen everywhere in Bolivia every single day? That would be pretty cool, but I think I've just been getting lucky with the festivities.

Anyway, for the most part Sucre a nice little city to walk around. When there are lots of people and cars out it's a bit of a hassle because the sidewalks and the streets are quite narrow, but otherwise there's lots of old colonial buildings all painted white and plenty of pretty bell towers on all the various old churches. The weather's been great, and at only 2800m I don't get winded by walking uphill here, as I did in Potosi at almost 4100m. La Paz is also just over 4000m, so I'll see how I fare there.

I spent a day doing a very beautiful hike through the Cordillera de los Frailes, basically from the village of Chataquila to the village of Maragua. I also wanted to spend a day rock climbing, but that didn't quite work out as planned -- the agency I talked to decided to go with a beginner trip instead, which I didn't want -- and I hadn't asked around at other agencies. Oh well. But I have pics from the hike and from Sucre for your viewing pleasure, so here goes...

old pipe organ
Old pipe organ in the Iglesia de la Merced -- Sucre, Bolivia

Sucre view
View of Sucre, featuring the bell/clock tower of the central Catedral -- Sucre, Bolivia

Courtyard of the old San Felipe Neri convent, which is now a school -- Sucre, Bolivia

old bell
Old bell at the old San Felipe Neri convent -- Sucre, Bolivia

inca road
The hike I did started on a restored section of Incan road -- Chataquila, Bolivia

Maragua Crater
View of the Maragua Crater, our destination -- Cordillera de los Frailes, Bolivia

pretty landscape
One of the many pretty landscapes along the hike -- Cordillera de los Frailes, Bolivia

another pretty landscape
Another of the many pretty landscapes along the hike -- Cordillera de los Frailes, Bolivia

little waterfall
A little waterfall on an interesting hillside along the hike -- Cordillera de los Frailes, Bolivia

Maragua view
One of the many fine views from the village in the middle of the crater -- Maragua, Bolivia

Well, I'm now sort of caught up with pictures. Never got around to putting up any from Potosi, but oh well. I guess I'll just keep those for myself.

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13 May 2009 - 3:53:40 PM
Tupiza to Uyuni Pictures

I mentioned the four day 4x4 trip from Tupiza to Uyuni in a previous post, and now I finally have online a dozen of the hundreds of pictures that I took. Let's get right to them, shall we?

uturuncu volcano
The first night of the trip we stayed near the Uturuncu Volcano (about 6010m -- the volcano's elevation, not that of where we stayed, which was 4100m). Here it is just before sunset. Cordillera de Lipez, Bolivia

uturuncu sunrise
And here it is early in the morning. It was really, really cold down in the shade. Cordillera de Lipez, Bolivia

land cruisers
Two of the many 4x4s making the trip (mine was the one on the right) -- Cordillera de Lipez, Bolivia

mountain of color
Cool colored mountain near El Desierto de Dali -- Cordillera de Lipez, Bolivia

The Bolivian view of Volcano Licancabur (5960m). I saw the other side four months previous from San Pedro de Atacama, Chile. Cordillera de Lipez, Bolivia

flamingos in laguna colorada
Lots of flamingos hang out in the red-colored lake, Laguna Colorada -- Cordillera de Lipez, Bolivia

arbol de piedra
The heavily photographed Arbol de Piedra (Stone Tree) -- Cordillera de Lipez, Bolivia

more flamingos
I wasn't going to take any more pictures of flamingos, but these two were hanging out very close to the edge of the lake -- Cordillera de Lipez, Bolivia

uyuni slat flat sunrise
The last day of the trip was all about the Uyuni Salt Flat, starting with the sunrise -- Uyuni Salt Flat, Bolivia

long shadows
Casting long shadows across the flat, white expanse -- Uyuni Salt Flat, Bolivia

Isla Incahuasi view
View from the top of Isla Incahuasi, a dollop of cactus-covered land jutting up from the salt flat -- Uyuni Salt Flat, Bolivia

big guitar
We took lots of silly, lack-of-perspective pictures. This one came out pretty well. Uyuni Salt Flat, Bolivia

Cool! I'm glad I finally got these pictures up. Maybe tomorrow I'll get a few up from the hike I did yesterday outside of Sucre. The Cordillera de los Frailes is a very pretty area, and the hike was great, from Chataquila to Maragua. Bolivia so far has been incredibly beautiful. I'm glad I'm here, even though I had an unpleasant bout of food poisoning on Sunday. Ugh. Don't worry, though -- I won't be posting any pictures of that.

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7 May 2009 - 7:56:10 PM
Catching up: Iguazu Falls and Tupiza pictures

I finally figured out why I haven't been able to get any computers to recognize my camera's 4 Gb memory card -- my USB card reader only worked with SD cards up to 2 Gb. And here I was so quick to blame everything else. Anyway, I wandered around Potosi today and eventually found a little shop that had an appropriate USB card reader. Yay! So here are some pictures. I ended up uploading only five from Iguazu instead of the original 20 I had in mind, but that's the way it goes.

San Bossetti Falls
San Bossetti Falls -- Iguazu Falls, Argentina

up towards garganta
View from the river up to Garganta del Diablo (the Devil's Throat) -- Iguazu Falls, Argentina

top of the garganta
Upper Garganta del Diablo, with rainbow -- Iguazu Falls, Argentina

garganta del diablo
The main waterfall of Garganta del Diablo -- Iguazu Falls, Argentina

devil's esophagus
Looking through the mist downriver of the Garganta del Diablo (the Devil's Throat). Would this then be the Devil's Esophagus? -- Iguazu Falls, Argentina

And now for some pictures of Bolivia. Taken during a six hour hike from Tupiza through a couple of canyons just out of town. Went up Quebrada del Inca and down El Cañon. Very fun.

the obvious canyon
The turn-off for Quebrada del Inca was a bit of a guess, but we guessed correctly. Can't you easily tell where the canyon starts? -- Tupiza, Bolivia

Some cool, crumbly pillars just before the entrance to the Quebrada -- Tupiza, Bolivia

Quebrada del Inca was a pretty cool canyon, but the steep walls and mostly half 'n half light and shadow on the rock made picture taking a little hard -- Tupiza, Bolivia

south from the saddle
Looking south from the saddle on the ridge separating Quebrada del Inca and El Cañon -- Tupiza, Bolivia

north from the saddle
Looking north from the saddle on the ridge separating Quebrada del Inca and El Cañon -- Tupiza, Bolivia

rock fins
Lovely rock fin formations at the start of El Cañon -- Tupiza, Bolivia

Ah, now I just have to sift through my desert/lakes/salt flat photos and put those up. And a few from Potosi. I guess that'll be in Sucre, where I'll be heading tomorrow. It's a little hard to leave Potosi because I like the feel of it, even though I get winded climbing up the three or four flights of stairs to my room. It takes a while to acclimatize to almost 4100m elevation. Sucre is only 2700m or so -- what will I do with all that oxygen?

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5 May 2009 - 2:39:47 PM

Success! The 4x4 trip was pretty dang beautiful, although it did test my tolerance for discomfort, which is fairly high. But there's some amazing scenery in southwest Bolivia. Gorgeous panoramas, cool deserts with mineral-heavy lakes, volcanos, salt flats, and lots and lots of bumpy dirt roads. Took plenty of pictures, and I would upload some for your viewing pleasure, but the internet spots in Uyuni are either unusably slow or don't allow USB connectivity. Sigh.

Anyway, the Uyuni Salt Flat is really quite spectacular. Totally blows away the Atacama Salt Flat, or at least the one part of it I saw. The pictures you can find of it on the web are amazing, but actually standing in the middle of a vast white plain stretching out 50-100 kms to either side of you is just plain incredible.

Yeah, so I'm in the sleepy town of Uyuni, which seems to have a 5% transient Israeli population. Lots of travelers roaming the streets while waiting for buses to other parts of Bolivia. I decided to spend a night here instead of jumping on a night bus for Potosi, which would arrive around 4:00 a.m. Instead, it'll be nice to take a hot shower and then not wake up at 5:00 a.m. like I did this morning. And maybe in Potosi I'll be able to find a computer that'll read my 4Gb memory card, but I'm not counting on it.

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1 May 2009 - 6:37:00 PM

I'm in Bolivia! Only a day so far, but I really like it. The border crossing wasn't nearly as painful as I thought it would be. The La Quiaca - Villazon point of entry seems to be pretty laid back. All they really wanted was my money and for me to fill out an extra form. They didn't bother with all the other requirements, which was nice. Didn't even ask about where I'd been in Argentina to see if they needed to ask about my yellow fever vaccination.

I was feeling a little worn out in Buenos Aires and Uruguay, but within minutes of crossing the border, feeling the underlying chaos of Villazon, I was all excited again about being on the road. My entry stamp is good for 90 days, and I'm a little regretful now that I didn't renew my passport before the start of this trip. Oh well. Can't travel forever, I guess.

One of the main drawbacks about Bolivia, though, is the speed of the local internet connections. To call it slow is being nice. Maybe in Sucre I'll find a fast connection and newer machines and be able to upload a few pictures.

Went on a 6 hour walk today through some nearby canyons that were quite beautiful. So many shades of red. Tomorrow I'll be heading out in some sort of 4x4 vehicle to check out volcanos and salt flats and geysers, oh my. So yeah, no internet for almost 4 days. I hope I can survive without email. Uyuni, the town where I'll be ending up, has an ATM, which Tupiza lacks, so maybe their internet connections are somewhat better.

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