The day started with two hours of bumpy roads in the car before we got to the boat on the river where we were to fish. It was windy and the guide had some trouble to find a good place. After a while he decided we should be by the pier and he showed us how to do it.
It was lots of piranhas in the water and they had noticed us (or the fish we used for bait). The first half hour we just fed them. The piranhas took our bait and took off. Maybe our guide wanted to show us how to do it so he started fishing as well. After literally three minutes he got one. And he showed us the teeth, and yes they are strong.
After a while we were able to fish from the boat. And yey! – I got my first piranha. A bit afraid of the teeth I just gave it to the guide.
Jon caught one as well and at the same time I got my second.
Happy with the boat and fishing tour we returned to the accommodation for the last lunch before we went to Campo Grande. And yes – the piranhas were served for lunch.
The day started early, or really it should have. Breakfast was at six o’clock and we should have started the first walk of the day at seven, but the rain was too heavy. We said goodbye to the group we talked to yesterday and waited for the rain to stop.
The night before we had gotten some advice that we should wear sneakers and long pants during the walk. A bit confused – our guide said shorts and flip-flops, the water we would be walking in was one meter deep. I decided to go with the advice of long pants and sneakers even if my shoes are made of leather and pretty new. Jon wore sneakers but combined them with short pants. The other in our group had shorts and walked barefoot like our guide.
We started walking and it was wet. We saw some birds and armadillos.
And a raccoon.
The problem with walking barefoot.
It was in all maybe a two and a half hours walk in water and in the woods. I was pretty happy with my choice of clothes. It was aggressive ants on the ground and lots of mosquitoes in the air. We had mosquito repellent but I’m not sure it worked. But long pants did. Not even one bite on my legs when we were finish. Jon was pretty badly bitten but the girl Hazel in our group took the prize.
In the afternoon it was time for another walk to see more animals. And yes we saw more birds and armadillos.
Jon and the guide saw a ocelot and according to him it was the best on the trip. I was too far behind to follow when they started to run and when I googled the animal later I was bit jealous. Lucky for me my best animal (after Morris, my cat) is the crocodile. No crocodile found but lots of caimans. They had a tame one who lived in the lake and when the guide called for him by name he came. The caiman did get part of a chicken to eat as a means of convincing him to come. This was great as we got to see one of the caimans up close. It was so many caimans everywhere so I was very happy.
In the evening we had the night walk. The guide showed us spiders and ants. When he turned the flashlight to the lake we saw lots of eyes – the eyes of the caimans. Right where we had walked during the day. No snakes were to be seen, but a dead horse in the bushes. When Jon asked our guide why no vultures where there he said that they would be soon.
Tired after a long day of walking we went to bed early to get a good nights sleep before fishing piranhas in the morning after.
Okay people. We need to talk about hostels and hotels. I know I can be a bit picky. And also a bit unreasonable sometimes. But during this trip I’ve learnt that you don’t die in hostels and it can be pretty nice. Yes people are weird, there is always someone sleeping at all times, making noises, turning down the air-con to freezing and are being drunk, all the time. But you learn to handle it. As long as the building is clean, the beds are comfy and the staff is cleaning the bathrooms.
The first stop after the border crossing into Brazil was Corumbá. The plan was to stay there one night before visiting the Pantanal. A bit (very) tired after the long wait at the border we were starving. With the Spanish couple we met in the queue we grabbed some lunch before we were off looking for a place to stay the night.
First hotel we bumped into was “El Shadday”. We asked about the price and it was cheap, €12 for a private room with shower. No air-con but a fan. “Do you want to see the room?” they asked – we said no. In retrospective maybe we should’ve seen it.
Even Jon admitted that this was the worst place we have been to so far. But he fell asleep pretty fast. So many insects and cockroaches, just close your eyes and pretend you never saw it.
Just one night was enough and we were off to Pantanal the day after.
04.00 am the alarm set off and it was time to go to Machu Picchu!
You have several options of how to get into the park. If you book well in advanced you can do a three day walking tour that ends at the Sun gate, you can do a two hour walk from the parks beginning up to the entrance or you can take a bus direct to the entrance.
Before this trip we talked about to do the three day walking tour but when we checked it out it was booked until July. So we did the last two hour walk. In retrospective it was a wise idea. You don’t need any particular balance just to be in rather good shape. We were not.
Around 06.30 am we were able to enter the park. This is with no doubt the most tourist destination in South America and even if this is the low season it was crowded. And amazing.
We decided to do this trip without guide (if you want you can buy a guide before you enter the park). With some help of the map and Wikipedia we did fine just wandering around.
Maybe we are a little fed up with all the amazing nature we’ve seen lately and did not appreciate this to the fullest (most me) but it was still pretty cool. And maybe I should’ve done some reading about this before to maximize the visit.
Even if we were a little tired of all the walking we decided to visit the Sun gate. From there you can see the whole city of the Incas. It took almost an hour but the view didn’t disappoint us at all. We sat there and ate cookies before we went down again.
Very tired I decided to take the bus back to the city. Jon took a walk down (the same 2 hours walk), I don’t know but for me it was a blessing to pay €10 for the bus back since my foot got in the way of a misplaced stone.
If you’re lazy you can go to an agency in Cusco and tell them that you want to go to Machu Picchu. They will offer you tours for around €90. We are lazy but care for comfort. And comfort they didn’t offer. As we heard you would go by mini bus and the trip would take 6-8 hours, depending on the road condition of the day. We had the last bus ride in mind and decided to go by train.
In Cusco we bought tickets for the train (€104 round trip from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes). The train is expensive but you will save lots of time (the train took 1½ hour, snack is included and the best thing: no bumpy road). You will also need entrance tickets to Machu Picchu (we bought the cheapest for adults €33, if you have a student ID you get half off). As you can see our adventure became a little more expensive than it needed to be but the comfort was worth it.
We took a collective taxi from Cusco to the train station in Ollantaytambo. It took a little less than 2 hours (plus 1 hour waiting time until the car got filled up). We decided to stay in Aguas Calientes one night before entering the park in the morning. This is little off season and we found a pretty cheap hostel.
In Aguas Calientes you can get a massage pretty cheap (and it’s recommended after your adventure). There are also some restaurants. That is pretty much it. We found a restaurant with a tumbling tower game. On the train to Aguas Calientes we met two Argentinians we started chatting with. After we had visited Machu Picchu we bumped into them again. How to pass the time? Playing games with them!
(Photo by Agusta).
At last (19:00) the train returned to Ollantaytambo. We decided to stay one night there but if you want to there are a lot of collective taxis and mini-buses back to Cusco the same night.
We arrived in Cusco late in the night and took a taxi to our hostel and fell asleep pretty fast. The next day we went out to explore the city. Happy to be down at just 3400 m above sea level and able to walk more than 10 m without stopping to catch our breath. Cusco was the Inca empires most important city and you will notice that they try to sell that picture to all people visit.
Cusco is like all other cities with a big tourist attraction nearby. It’s all about doing tours and in every corner you have someone offer you tours and massage or a restaurant. You can also find clothes made of alpaca wool pretty cheap.
We stayed here for two nights before we went to Machu Picchu and one night after coming back. Mostly we ate good food, did some shopping and went to a hostel party the night we came back (to meet our new Argentinian friends). If you are looking for a hostel in Cusco we can recommend VIP house, close to the plaza and cheap. Breakfast included and helpful staff.
One of the weekend things to do in La Paz is to watch wrestling. And more specifically Cholitas Wrestling. On Sundays, close to La Paz in El Alto in a big basement you can enjoy the show. The easiest way to do it is to buy a tourist-ticket (you can go by yourself but it’s not that big of a difference in price and you get some snacks, VIP-seats and a pick up at your hostel/hotel).
The bus ride from central La Paz to El Alto took almost one hour since it was carnival-time but we’re happy.
The show started and it was a little bit crazy. We asked our self a few times: “what is this?”. But it was funny to watch and the Bolivian families seemed to enjoy it.
In the end of the show it was some dancing from the wrestlers carnival style (and yes – including water pistols and foam).
The bus went back to La Paz after the show but Jon read something about Mi Telerífico, a cable car between La Paz and El Alto. After a quick look at the map we asked the guide if we could take the cable car down to La Paz instead of the bus. This was no problem and the bus dropped us off close to the station. The view was amazing but Jon couldn’t fully enjoy it because he is afraid of heights.
A little later than planned we arrived to La Paz! The first “real” city in Bolivia. This was the first we saw of the city.
It’s carnival time everywhere in South America and La Paz is no exception. First we were a little surprised of all the noise because we had just planned to go to the local witches market. But all the main streets were closed for the carnival.
It was a little less dancing and more of a water/foam-war. Everybody seemed involved in this – not only kids, this was a whole family-thing. We thought that we were safe because we were unarmed and looked very tourist-y. Wrong.
They screamed “Welcome to Bolivia” and threw a water balloon in Jons chest. We figured it was best to prepare ourselves the same way the locals did.
Jon was like a little kid and he told me that he had a lot of training with all of his siblings and I believe him. Pretty good at it as well.