Santiago to Chillán   Leave a comment

Wednesday 15th October 2014

Our next main destination is the Chilean Lake District, 770 kilometres further south on the Ruta 5, the Panamericana. Without our own transport we have to stick to the main roads where the coaches run and can’t meander along the Pacific coast as I did the last time. The town of Chillán lies halfway between Santiago and Villarrica on the northern end of the lakes, it is described as picturesque place and it’s also the birthplace of Bernado O’Higgins, one of Chile’s founding fathers and leader in the country’s struggle for independence from Spanish rule. A perfect overnight stop.

We enjoy the last freshly squeezed raspberry juice in the Happy House Hostal, use the last credit on our BIP card for the metro and arrive early at the perfectly organised Tur Bus terminal near the Universidad de Santiago. The bus is only 15 minutes late, we drive conveniently through the fertile Central Valley and arrive early afternoon at our destination.

The sixth hotel where we ask for a suitable room is ours and we set off to explore the apparently slightly boring town. Rarely has a contrast been so unexpected – from our tranquil neighbourhood we stumble into buzzing community life on the other side of the Plaza de Armas, the main square, with chaotic traffic, mercados, shopping malls and life music everywhere.

We spend a very pleasant evening in Chillán and are glad we have chosen this somewhat hidden gem as our stopover.

Cathedral of Chillán, built to withstand earthquakes

You can get literally everything in this department store

All pictures from today here – #380 to 447.

Santiago de Chile   Leave a comment

Monday 13th and Tuesday 14th October 2014

From Valparaíso we take the bus to Santiago, a comfortable 90-minute journey through green valleys and along the Ruta del Vino. It’s under three kilometres from the Terminal Alameda to the Happy House Hostal, recommended in various travel guides and close to the city centre, so we walk along the Avenida Bernado O’Higgins to gather first impressions.

We like the accommodation and check in for two nights; then we use the excellent metro and bus network to visit a fellow traveller, who I met in 2010 in Buenos Aires, in the district of La Reina. Mick, originally from Denmark, travelled the continent on his VFR750, got stuck in Santiago and is now running a motorcycle touring company (Ride Chile and service & repair workshop (Moto Service STGO together with his friend Tomás. Both of them give us a warm welcome and invaluable advice for our journey south.

We then spend the evening and the following day exploring the sights and delights of the Chilean capital – here are just a few impressions.

Ruta 68 between Valparaíso and Santiago

Estación Central

Street exhibition: foreign elements in the Cocina Chilena

Our modest alojamiento

Room with a view

With Tomás and Mick

La Moneda – the presidential palace

Cerro Santa Lucía – Huelén in the language of the Mapuche

Cerro San Cristobal

Mercado Central

Museo Histórico Nacional on the Plaza de Armas

Catedral Metropolitana de Santiago

Spot Johannes…

Absolutamente. All Santiago pictures here.

Oda a Valparaíso   2 comments

Saturday 11th and Sunday 12th October 2014

qué disparate eres,
qué loco, puerto loco,
qué cabeza con cerros, desgreñada,
no acabas de peinarte,
nunca tuviste tiempo de vestirte,
siempre te sorprendió la vida…

Pablo Neruda

I love this place. Four years ago I stayed far longer than intended in Valparaíso and this time I want to show my dad this wonderful ensemble of beauty, decay, geography, history, art and life. We start early in La Serena and again, our bus is late, but we still make it in daylight to Valparaíso.

Having lost all sense of time and days of the week, we didn’t realise that it is Saturday and accommodation scarce – the city is a popular weekend destination for Chileans as well. It takes us until after 20.00 hrs until we finally find a far too expensive hotel in the picturesque neighbourhood of Cerro Alegre.

Talking of time, it takes way too many hours of our day to keep this blog relatively up-to-date; I usually spent three to four hours writing a new post and thus I’d like to limit future entries to a brief summary and a few selected pictures. If you want to see more of the places we visit, please have a look at the Photo Galleries.

I am sorry, especially when I think of all the kind feedback we have received for our frequent reports, but Johannes has just made a projection of the time already used and the time necessary to keep up the pace and came up with  176 hours! So I hope you understand that we rather spend these hours enjoying our journey of a lifetime.

Thus here are just a few snaps from Valparaíso where we stayed two nights –

… by day

… by night

The Cerros are not the most very trolley-friendly environment…

Armada de Chile

I could stay here another few weeks, maybe longer – but Santiago beckons…

All Valparaíso photos here.

Posted 15 October 2014 by Pumpy in Chile, The 2014 Rucksack Trip

An unexpected journey…   Leave a comment

Wednesday 8th October 2014

As you know, we prefer travelling during the day because we want to see the countryside. Therefore, for the approx. 10-hour journey from Arica to Antofagasta we have booked a coach that leaves Arica at 7.15 in the morning. So the alarm goes off at 5 o’clock, we are showered, dressed and packed by 6.00 am and our host at the Hostal Sunny Days has also got up early to prepare an oppulent breakfast for us.

We arrive at the bus terminal with plenty of time (what do you expect? We’re German after all…) and head straight to the agency’s counter to enquire which platform our bus will be leaving from. Lo siento, says the friendly señorita, tengo malas noticias – sorry, I’ve got bad news: the service has been cancelled and the next bus isn’t scheduled until 9.20 am. Great, all the effort for nothing; we won’t get our seats in the front row, we won’t cross the Tropic of Capricorn in daylight and will arrive in Antofagasta after dark…

The driver of the later coach tries to make up some time but there are lots of roadworks –

… and several checkpoints

At least Johannes gets to see plenty of the Atacama Desert

Approaching the city of Iquique

… with its spectacular sand dune

And back to the desert…

Due to all the (partly unvoluntary) stops and delays it is already 21.00 hours when we arrive in Antofagasta. Now we have to organise our onward journey for the next day, find accommodation and something to eat. Too much hassle for this time of the day; and so we spontaneously ask the bus driver if we can carry on to La Serena on the same coach. Yep, not a problem, they just have to find new seats for us each time the bus stops and passengers with a booking get on. The crew even serves a snack for dinner…


Thursday 9th October 2014

We have a pleasant night-journey and don’t sleep too bad in our semi-cama (reclining seats) bus.

After 24 hours we finally arrive in La Serena…

We find accommodation in the Hostal El Punto, a lovely German run place close to bus terminal and town centre and then head for a sight-seeing trip into the city.

Iglesia San Francisco de Asis

Exhibition and art market

Plaza de Armas y Catedral

In Chile motorcycles need front number plates as well

Iglesia Santo Domingo de La Serena

Time to smell the flowers…

Late lunch at our new favourite heladeria ‘Bravissimo’

Model of the Faro – the lighthouse

… and the real thing

The Pacific beckons

… but it is bl**dy cold!

Coquimbo and its Millennium cross on the other side of the bay

In the evening we meet my friend Elisabeth, who has moved from San Fernando to La Serena since 2010, for dinner.

At long last, we have our first Pisco Sour, the Chilean national drink

We’re having a brilliant time…


Friday 10th October 2014

… so brilliant that we sleep until 9 o’clock the next morning and just make it in time for the excellent breakfast for which the Hostal El Punto is known.

Most of the day is spent with updating our records

… and writing the next blog post

As a reward we treat ourselves to another ice cream in the afternoon – and a trip to the local supermarket where they have a ‘German Week’.

Even our English friends wouldn’t get withdrawal symptoms in Chile…

Then we go to the beach again

Elisabeth joins us after work

… and we have dinner on the Avenida del Mar

The sunset colours are almost kitsch – but true

Far too soon the evening and our time with Elisabeth in the beautiful city of La Serena are over…

Tomorrow we will head to Valparaíso.

Posted 13 October 2014 by Pumpy in Chile, The 2014 Rucksack Trip

Parque Nacional Lauca   2 comments

Monday 6th October 2014

Straight after breakfast we head to the car rental station near our hostal and ask for a small car that will get us into the Lauca National Park, 160 kilometres east of Arica on the Chilean Altiplano.

Lo siento, says the lovely señorita behind the counter, we don’t have any small vehicles anymore, only camionetas, 4×4 pick-ups. Although she gives us a good price, a 4×4 pick-up is still more expensive than a car and, to be honest, quite a big truck. We try a few more rental services in the neighbourhood but to no avail – they don’t have any vehicles at all that day, are not particular interested in helping us or they are apparently closed on Monday mornings.

Well, time is pressing, the first offer was a lot better than anything we have seen online the previous evening, the agent is very friendly and accommodating, and regarding the intimidating size of the vehicle, hey-ho – I drive a Transit van at home after all. And so we return to Europcar where Señorita Soraya deals with our request in the most helpful and efficient way imaginable. 20 minutes later we are the proud temporary owners of a Mitsubishi L200 Katana, a 2.5 l Diesel with 175 bhp. As it turns out later it is the perfect vehicle for our trip.


Our first destination is the Museo Arqueológico San Miguel de Azapa.

Home of the oldest mummies in the world (8,000 to 2,000 BC)


The people of the Chinchorro culture developed different techniques of mummification over the centuries.

(click on the picture if you want to know more)


… and, most fascinating, they even regarded still-born fetuses as members of their community and prepared them in the same way as the adults.

This photo proves all of you wrong who think that Johannes doesn’t visit museums

What palm trees look like when they are not trimmed regularly


From San Miguel de Azapa we take the Ruta 11 through the Lluta Valley east.

Within 170 kilometres, the ‘Ruta del Desierto’ climbs from sea level near Arica up to over 4,600 metres on the altiplano.

After 145 kilometres we reach Putre where we will spend the night


For dinner we have regional dishes made with Llaita, a freshwater algae that is growing in the wetlands of the altiplano.


Tuesday 7th October 2014

We climb even higher – from 3,500 to 4,500 metres above sea level

… before we enter the national park

Road conditions are not the best – natural traffic calming, we suppose…

… to protect the wildlife

The Twin Peaks – Volcán Parinacota (6,342 metres, Chile) and Pomerape (6,282 metres, Bolivia)



Lagunas de Cotacotani

Living stone

They are really plants…

… not just moss growing on rocks

Lago Chungará on the border with Bolivia

Volcán Parinacota

I catch up with an old acquaintance…

… who still offers a fantastic tea made from coca leaves and chachacuma that helps if you are suffering from soroche (altitude sickness)

Even up here there are road works…

… to build a better country

We visit the village of Parinacota

… with its famous 17th century church

… which has been closed for two years now for emergency restoration

You can still climb the belfry

Around the corner we spot a vizcacha

On the way back to the main road we take a different route

Our last stop before returning to Arica

In 2010 I spent over an hour to get a shot of one vizcacha here…

This time we are spoilt for choice

We even see a family!

… and some more vicuñas


I think I’ve fallen in love with the L200; a fantastic car for this kind of excursion, comfortable, easy to drive and capable of mastering all sorts of road conditions. And it pulls a herring off the plate… 😉

We even contemplate briefly keeping it for the rest of the trip…


After returning the pick-up, we find excellent accommodation at the Hostal Sunny Days near the bus terminal. Its tag line is ‘a home away from home’ and that’s really true. Lovely hosts, a friendly welcome with juice and cake and loads of well-thought through details, facilities and services.

On the roof terrace

Beach of Arica by (almost) night


The visit to the national park was certainly another highlight of our journey! All Lauca pictures here.


Posted 10 October 2014 by Pumpy in Chile, The 2014 Rucksack Trip

Arica – City of the Eternal Spring   Leave a comment

Sunday 5th October 2014

If you are ever going to visit this amazing country, try to arrive during the week – Chile is closed on Sundays.

Originally we had planned to organise a hire car today, visit the Museo de San Miguel de Azapa to see the oldest mummies in the world and then carry on to the Lauca National Park.

Nice idea, but like almost all other shops and businesses, the rental services in Arica are closed and so we have to postpone our schedule for 24 hours. Never mind, we always strive to make the best of a situation and so we will explore Arica today.

Finally being on the Pacific coast, our first walk is to the beach.

The Morro de Arica in the background

We find a lot of dead animals in one particular part of the bay…

… and surfers in another

Arica is an important port for a large inland region of South America. The city serves a free port for Bolivia and manages a substantial part of that country’s trade.

Around midday the sea mist clears

Precaution in case of Tsunamis

… a side-effect of the frequent earthquakes

Fortunately for us, the bus terminal is open and we can organise our onward travel to Antofagasta – and enjoy some icecream and leche con café.

The cathedral – designed by Gustave Eiffel and built in the 1870s

On the Plaza Colón

Start point of the climb onto the Morro de Arica

First viewing platform

Chilean Navy Building

It’s quite a steep ascent…

… but the views are worth the effort

We are not the only ones enjoying the sun…

On the way down

De gustibus non est disputandum…

While strolling through the pedestrian zone…

… we find an open supermarket where we buy provisions for our excursion to the Lauca National Park, which will hopefully materialise the next day – pending a suitable car rental service. In one of the aisles we find a most surprising item:

We take this as a happy omen…

Posted 8 October 2014 by Pumpy in Chile, The 2014 Rucksack Trip

From Peru to Chile   4 comments

Saturday 4th October 2014

Arequipa’s house volcano Misti wears a snow cap this morning.

We enjoy another of the most delicious breakfasts of our journey

Then we leave our lovely hostal and head to the tour agency on the Plaza de Armas where our journey to Chile will hopefully start.

Iglesia y Convento San Francisco

The police mainly use motos to enforce law and order

Our lift to the bus terminal

Bye bye, beautiful Arequipa…

Not sure if we will miss the Peruvian traffic chaos though…

We’ve heard a lot of stories about Arequipean travel agencies and not all of them were raving reviews. So I’m a bit concerned if our all-inclusive tour package will actually materialize…

Stage 1, the transfer from the city centre to the terminal, has worked and stage 2, the coach trip from Arequipa to Tacna, doesn’t look too bad either.

Well, the bus leaves half an hour later than confirmed, the first six kilometres take over an hour and the driver stops three times during the journey to check potentially broken bits on the underside – but hey-ho, we arrive in one piece and with a delay of 90 minutes only at our destination…

A few snaps from the road –

Sophisticated air-con

This looks a bit menacing…

Fortunately it’s only fog and clouds

Amazing how many shapes and shades of sand there are…

Double solid lines? Recommendations…

When we arrive in Tacna, we can’t see anyone holding a sign with our names, as we were assured by the agent in Arequipa. I make enquiries with the bus company that brought us here and Johannes walks the length of the terminal hoping he will find someone looking for us. Ok, we’re one and a half hours late but that’s not our fault and most probably the normal estimated time of arrival on a distance of 379 kilometres. The search is not helped by the fact that there are two terminals; one for national and the other for international connections.

While we are already thinking about plan B, a young señor approaches me – Pablo, our middleman, who’s just been for a coffee after his long wait for us. He’s not cross at all, very friendly and extremely helpful.

Pablo passes us into the hands of another previous Formula 1 driver…

While overtaking one car after the other, our chofer forewarns us that Chile is not only two hours ahead of Peru but the waiting time at the Peruvian-Chilean border can be another two hours on a Saturday. However, with his help and that of a Chilean family sharing our taxi, the formalities are surprisingly quickly dealt with and we arrive in Arica effectively only one hour later than anticipated.

We find accommodation in the Hostal Colonial where I’ve stayed before (the owners even remember the German motorcyclist on the English bike!) and still have time to go out for dinner.

What a long and eventful day… But never mind, we are now in Chile!

Posted 6 October 2014 by Pumpy in Chile, Peru, The 2014 Rucksack Trip

Arequipa – Peru’s White City   Leave a comment

Friday 3rd October 2014

After Sucre in Bolivia, we explore another Ciudad Blanca (White City) – this time in Peru: Arequipa with its stunning colonial buildings made of pearly sillar stone, a white volcanic material.

At the top of the list of things to see in Arequipa is the Monasterio de Santa Catalina, a convent founded in 1579 and closed off from the outer world for almost four centuries until it was opened to the public in 1970. It’s like a city within the city.

We are well impressed. After the monastery we head for the Plaza de Armas again and play ‘spot our restaurant from last night’. Can you?

Arequipa’s mercado central –

There are over 400 varieties of potatoes in Peru

This is one of them

Did I mention that I miss my Possu?

Have a guess what this is. We couldn’t figure it out until we asked the friendly stall owner…

This lovely lady pampered us with freshly pressed papaya and lucuma juice


If you ever visit Peru, don’t miss Arequipa – we absolutely love it! If you need any further persuasion you will find more photos here.


Posted 4 October 2014 by Pumpy in Peru, The 2014 Rucksack Trip

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Nasca to Arequipa – A Patchwork Journey   Leave a comment

Wednesday 1st October 2014

All coaches from Nasca to Arequipa leave late in the day and drive through the night. That’s pretty inconsiderate to the tourists who want to see the beauty of Peru. So we decide to travel by colectivo and try to get as far as possible in daylight.

Leaving Nasca

Our first minivan to Chala


Driving in South America is often chaotic; we get the impression that signals, speed limits and solid lines are regarded as mere recommendations…

The Panamericana is straight…

… and the landscape rather arid

Woo hoo – the Pacific Ocean!

Risk of sand drifts – which can lead to road closures

After 170 kilometres we’re arriving at our first milestone Chala


Our second means of transport is a taxi to Atico, 90 kilometres further south.

To make his journey worthwhile, the driver crams four passengers into the back…

Sometimes it goes horribly wrong

It doesn’t get any greener…

The highway follows the shoreline

Safe in Atico!

Here we have to wait an hour for the next connection

We don’t get bored though – there is plenty to see


Our next shuttle is a 16-seater minibus, however, the ‘chofer’ manages to get 20 people in – sitting on stools and their own luggage…

After another 133 kilometres we reach Camaná, where we stay the night


Thursday 2nd October 2014

We have a nice room and a good breakfast in the Hotel San Diego

.. right on the main square of Camaná

Peruvian Police Patrol

Our last colectivo that should bring us to Arequipa, 176 kilometres further on

Johannes is impressed by the landscape – I think he didn’t believe me when I said that there would be nothing but sand for the next few weeks…

Ok, I may have exaggerated a bit

Here they grow vines for the famous Pisco

Arequipa’s house volcano Misti, 5,822 metres / 19,101 feet high

We’ve made it – 579 kilometres with four vehicles and all during daylight hours!

A taxi brings us to the Plaza de Armas


Then we walk to the Hostal ‘La Casa de Melgar’, a beautiful colonial building, which was recommended by friends and where we are given a fantastic room on the first floor.

With view of the Misti!

We explore the sights of the city centre

… and learn the differences between the South American camelids (zoom in if you want to know them as well)

The traffic baffles us every day anew

Each to their own…


The icing on the cake of a wonderful day is having dinner in a little restaurant above the rooftops of Arequipa.

Ponchos are provided against the chill

Lovely food…

… and great views


Buenas noches – we’ll stay another day in this amazing city to appreciate what it has to offer.

Posted 4 October 2014 by Pumpy in Peru, The 2014 Rucksack Trip

Nasca and The Lines   Leave a comment

Tuesday 30 September 2014

The Hotel Paredones Inn has a beautiful roof terrace where an excellent breakfast is served.

Great views included – Plaza Mayor

Cerro Blanco – the White Mountain, the highest sand dune in the world

Protesters making their point


At ten o’clock Julio, our official tour guide, picks us up from the hotel and we’re heading north on the Pan American Highway.

Strange to see a dead-straight road for a change…

We stop at the Mirador that was erected for the education of the public and sponsored by the scientist Dr Maria Reiche, who spent over 40 years of her life studying the Nasca Lines, discovering over 50 figures and around 1,000 lines in this period.

You probably know about the Nazca Lines but in case you need to refresh your memory, the Wikipedia article is a good start.

Julio explains the origins of the lines, tells us about the Nasca people and points out the figures you can see from the view tower

Las Manos – The Hands

El Arbol – The Tree

The Lagartija (Lizard) is cut through by the Panamericana Sur

Our tour bus…

We continue north to the museum into which Maria Reiche’s modest cottage has been converted.

This is where and how the scientist lived for more than 25 years – without electricity and running water

Dr Maria Reiche’s main tools and instruments – oh, and she used a step-ladder as well. Amazing.

Original photographs

Feel free to use the zoom button if you want to know more

On the way back to Nasca we stop at a natural viewpoint.

… from where you can spot more lines

360 degree view – you better click on the photo to see anything at all

The rest of the day we spend catching up with the blog – you may have noticed…

… although between posts Johannes allows me the occasional treat –

Another stroll through downtown Nasca

A visit to the Heladeria

And finally, one of the highlights of our stay in Nasca…

Brochetas Mixtas y Ensalada de mi Tierra at the restaurant Estación ‘Plaza Mayor’

For dessert we watch another of the daily campaigns

I bet most Peruvians will be glad when the elections are over…

At least we will be out of the country by the 5th of October if everything goes to plan.

Tomorrow we will try to get as far as possible towards Arequipa – by colectivo…

Posted 2 October 2014 by Pumpy in Peru, The 2014 Rucksack Trip