The journey is the reward – Cusco to Nasca   Leave a comment

Sunday 28 September 2014

For most people the main reason for visiting Nasca is to see the famous lines. For me, there are two others:

1) The road from Cusco to Nasca – pure motorcycling heaven – one bend after the other through spectacular scenery, covering a total of 639 kilometres / 398 miles and going from 3,400 metres /11,150 feet above sea level in Cusco down to 1,800 metres / 5,900 feet, climbing up to 4,580 metres / 15,026 feet again and then settling at 615 metres / 2,017 feet in Nasca.

2) The mixed beef tenderloin/chicken kebab served in the restaurant Estación Plaza on Nasca’s Plaza de Armas – food I’ve dreamed about since I first had the pleasure in 2010.

I was hoping that these reasons, together with the Lineas de Nasca, of course, would be sufficient to convince my dad of including Nasca in our route (as you know, we have to cut a few corners in order to finish our South American loop in three months).

Fortunately I succeed and so, after our last breakfast at the Hostal Hatun Wasi, we take a taxi to the Terminal Terreste.

Down the Cuesta San Blas…

Arriving at the terminal

Our transport for today

Adiós, Cusco!

Not all sights are pretty…

Let the fun begin!

A bit of dirt road thrown in for good measure

The bus even stops for a short break so that we can stretch our legs

… and marvel at the vegetation

… and the engine

Río Chalhuanca

A small town of the same name is our destination for today. We prefer to see the beauty of Peru in daylight and have broken up the journey into sizeable chunks. Accommodation is quickly found.

As everywhere in the country, election campaigns are in full flow.

As all the coaches passing through Chalhuanca can’t pick us up until 15.30 hrs, we book two seats in a minivan that leaves for Nasca at 11.00 hrs the next morning. We explore the town by walking the main street up and down and then settle for dinner in a local Polleria – a restaurant specialising in chicken dishes.

Monday 29 September 2014

After a good night’s sleep we find a little café where we enjoy an excellent breakfast: freshly pressed papaya juice, café con leche, cheese sandwich and cake – all for the stately sum of £2.70.

We still have over one and a half hours until departure and are just about to set out on another exploration of Chalhuanca, when the young man from the minivan company approaches us in the street: if we would mind starting immediately, as the rain is closing in and the driver would like to avoid severe weather on the journey over the mountains . God, no, the earlier we arrive in Nasca the better. We grab our luggage and board the van.

Sitting in the front row we have a vista panorámica

The weather worsens the higher we climb

At some point it even starts to snow…

Not all drivers are as excellent as ours…

The highest point of our trip so far

You don’t really get a sense of the altitude on the Altiplano – but every little hill is in fact over 5,000 metres high

Puquio on the horizon

Tinkle stop on top of the world – above the tree and bushes line, obviously…

As we approach Nasca the scenery changes completely

Cerro Blanco – the highest sand dune on earth (2,100 metres / 6,900 feet a.s.l.)

This amazing road is kept in excellent condition

We head straight to the Paredones Inn, where we get a nice room at a very competitive rate

We explore the town, book a tour to the Nasca Lines for the following day and have dinner at the Rico Pollo, devouring some mores delicious chicken variations: gizzards and kebab this time.

It’s not a bad life we live… 🙂


Posted 1 October 2014 by Pumpy in Peru, The 2014 Rucksack Trip

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Salineras de Maras – A field day   Leave a comment

Saturday 27 September 2014

After all the excitement in Machu Picchu we’d like to grant ourselves a rest day in Cusco – maybe go on a little excursion to the salt ponds near the town of Maras in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, come back early, write some posts and postcards, explore more of Cusco and so on.

All the organised tours leave at 8.30 or 9.00 hrs, which is a bit too early for us on our day off, so we decide to get to the site ourselves – it shouldn’t take long, as there are plenty of colectivos going from Cusco to Urubamba and they can drop us off at the junction to Maras. And that’s what we do.

A few pictures from the road –

Avenida del Ejército in Cusco

Towards Miraflores on the outskirts of the city

It will be a long ride to Nasca, our next destination

Oops – we should have checked the weather forecast…

Our Taxi Colectivo (because we shared it with two other passengers) – otherwise it would have been a taxi privado for double the price

The road to Maras

Oh, oh…

Two kilometres in, a dirt road branches off to the salt ponds –

Important strategic information has been removed from the sign…

I think that we can avoid following the road and getting dusted by the passing tour buses and construction trucks by finding our own way through the beautiful valley.

Initially it doesn’t look too difficult

We enjoy the scenery

But then the path turns into a water channel…

… and peters out in a field above the inaccessible gorge – we have to turn round and climb up to the plateau again.

At least there are plenty of animals about and their shepherds confirm that there is indeed a camino to the Salineras.

We just hope the weather holds…

At some point we are at least able to see our destination –

… unfortunately there is still a barranco between us

We meet another herd and the boys assure us that we are on the right path

… and sure enough, we’re getting nearer

Still, every attempt to get closer ends at a steep edge above the valley. In the end we have to return to the dirt road and follow it the long way down.

With hindsight we should have walked a bit further on the road at the beginning and taken the left-hand side of the valley. So if you happen to be in the area and fancy a gentle stroll, take our advice and opt for the Maras side of the glen…

At least we get fantastic views of the site

The Salineras have been worked since pre-Inca times by evaporating salty water from a local subterranean stream

Although the walk has taken us many hours more than intended we both feel that it was worth the effort.

Our plan is to continue to the bottom of the Sacred Valley and the Río Urubamba on foot

The path is narrower than it looked from above

View up the valley

Then we take the track to Urubamba

Peruvian Trail Rider

There he goes… I’m not envious, not a bit…

Brick production line

Río Urubamba

While we walk towards the main road, a local taxi comes along

Not that we are knackered – but we wouldn’t want to miss this special experience…

We get out at the bus terminal in Urubamba and immediately find a colectivo which is about to leave to Cusco. The sun goes down and shows the impressive landscape in the most beautiful light.

It’s already pitch-black when we arrive in Cusco; we still have to organise our onward journey to Nasca the following day and find something to eat. Strangely enough, we feel rather invigorated by our epic ramble, even walk the two kilometres to the Terminal Terreste, get a good deal, book our seats and catch a city bus into the historic centre, where we have a pleasant and well-deserved feast.

Ok, maybe not your typical rest day – but another great adventure to remember.

Posted 30 September 2014 by Pumpy in Peru, The 2014 Rucksack Trip

Machu Picchu   4 comments

Friday 26 September 2014

We get up before 5.00 am, have a quick breakfast and head for the bus stop. Although we thought we’d avoid the first rush – the shuttle bus service from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu starts at 5.30 am – we still have to queue and wait for another four buses to fill up.

We didn’t miss the sunrise though – there are too many clouds around this morning

The hills surrounding Machu Picchu are covered with Cloud Forest

At first we can’t see a lot of the site

But then the clouds clear…


Yes, Machu Picchu is a huge tourist attraction, it’s very expensive and complicated to get to and in (visitor numbers are restricted to 2,500 per day), but it is a magical place and absolutely worth the effort.

Much has been written about the world heritage site and millions of photos have been taken which you can find all over the internet; so here are just a few personal images.


Río Urubamba

Huayna Picchu

Johannes taking in the scenery while I enjoy the guided tour

Sophisticated roof fastenings


Inka Bridge

Johannes! You don’t need to be able to read Spanish to understand the sign…

Not for the ones who suffer from acrophobia…

After clouds, fog and rain we can finally enjoy the views in the sun

Near the top of Huayna Picchu

Full of wonderful impressions we take the bus down into the valley again.

In Aguas Calientes we notice an important bit of information

Then we board the dedicated train back to Ollantaytambo – this time not just with a snack but with entertainment as well –

I get to dance with a local spirit (sorry, I didn’t catch the name – any enlightenment would be gratefully received)

At the train station we’re picked up by a tourist colectivo – courtesy of the tour package.

Tired but happy we return to Cusco around 21.00 hrs – what a marvellous experience, certainly one of the highlights of our trip!
All photos here.

Posted 30 September 2014 by Pumpy in Peru, The 2014 Rucksack Trip

To Cusco and Aguas Calientes   Leave a comment

Wednesday 24 September 2014

For the 388 kilometres from Puno to Cusco we treat ourselves to a luxury bus –


Ruta 3S

They are too modest, those Peruvians…

The legendary Andean Explorer

We head straight for the Hotel Marani where I stayed the last time and are in for a big surprise – the hotel has changed name and ownership and belongs now to a sort of chain – and they charge triple the price! I’m also annoyed that they quote me in US dollars; we are in Peru, are we not? What a disappointment. We find accommodation elsewhere, close to the Plaza San Blas, which is not bad but nothing to write home about.

At the tourist information we enquire how we best get to Machu Picchu, where to buy the entrance and the train tickets (there is no road to Aguas Calientes at the bottom of the Inka City). We could organise everything ourselves, like I did in 2010, but it would cost us another day, so we decide to splash out and book a tour. Although it’s already 19.00 hrs, the agency can sort out all the documents that evening and we can set off the following morning – that’s worthwhile the additional cost, we think, and the price also includes accommodation in Aguas Calientes and a professional tour guide.

On our stroll through Cusco’s back streets we stumble across a typical eatery where we seem to be the only foreigners – the food is cheap and plentiful.

We enjoy ‘Bistek a lo pobre’ – which is anything but…


Thursday 25 September 2014

The next morning we leave our laundry with a Lavanderia near our hostal.

And walk via the Plaza de Armas –

– to the tour agency, where we just have to board the bus – it’s that simple.

Off we go

On the outskirts of Cusco

We drive over the mountains into the Valle Sagrado – the Sacred Valley of the Incas



Here every tourist has to board the train

The railway follows the gorge of the Río Urubamba

Aguas Calientes

Very touristy, as you can imagine

Still, I always wanted to stay a night here to be able to see Machu Picchu either before the day tours from Cusco arrive or after they have left

There is a downhill competition in town

We follow the river towards the climb to Machu Picchu.

At 2,040 metres Aguas Calientes lies 1,400 metres lower than Cusco and thus the vegetation is richer and more colourful

Early tomorrow morning we’ll be up there…

We cannot wait!

Posted 30 September 2014 by Pumpy in Peru, The 2014 Rucksack Trip

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A day in Puno   4 comments

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Bye, bye, Bolivia – the next morning we take the bus to Puno in Peru.

Copacabana Airport

When we arrive in Kasani, the little border town, we queue for half an hour in the Bolivian immigration office and another 30 minutes on the Peruvian side to get our passports stamped. Meanwhile the bus is waiting for all passengers. You can also do this on your own – use a micro to get from Copacapana to the frontera, walk across and then catch another bus to Puno. But at a price of £2.70 we treat ourselves to the more convenient direct option.

Mind you, there are plenty of taxis about…

Welcome to Peru!

The road follows the shore of Lake Titicaca and we notice a lot of agricultural activity – farmland and many animals grazing along the route.

How I miss my Possu…

People carrier

Filling station

How do you get the sheep onto the roof in the first place?

Puno, ho!

When Johannes is grown up he wants to drive a bus with two twin axles

I’ve forwarned my dad that he shouldn’t expect anything too exciting in Puno (apologies to all the locals who are reading this) but as soon as we have settled in our room at the Hotel Zurit, the political demonstrations start outside – national elections are being held on 5th October – and we have a window seat to watch the spectacle.

We walk to the lakeshore –

– and take a ‘Rikscha’ back into the city centre

It’s also the local university’s anniversary and all the faculties celebrate in traditional costumes and dancing in the streets.

Puno’s Cathedral

In the evening we treat ourselves to typical Peruvian dishes –

Alpaca a la plancha y Cuy al horno

Mein Vater, der Meerschweinchenfresser…

It’s all in the mind – guinea pig tastes like poultry, it is a Peruvian delicacy, not cheap and served whole mainly to prove that it’s the real thing.

You see, there are quite a few interesting things going on in Puno – Johannes is well impressed. Tomorrow we’re off to Cusco; Machu Picchu is calling.

Posted 28 September 2014 by Pumpy in Bolivia, Peru, The 2014 Rucksack Trip

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Lago Titicaca   Leave a comment

Sunday 21 and Monday 22 September 2014

Between La Paz and Copacabana, the main town on the Bolivian shore of Lake Titicaca, lies the Strait of Tiquina, which still has to be crossed by boat.


… and passengers

You could ask why haven’t they built a bridge yet but first, this would be a huge investment for the poorest country in South America, and secondly, this type of transport provides the locals with jobs and travellers with an exciting experience. Long may it continue.

We stay two days in Copacabana to make a boat trip on the legendary lake.

Room with a view

Isla de la Luna – Island of the Moon

Home to one of the oldest Inka structures – the temple of the virgins of the sun, where the selected young women were raised and educated before being sacrificed on the Isla del Sol

Replica of a traditional reed boat

Yumani on the Island of the Sun


The Basilica

On the main square

Spot the town’s only mailbox…

Weekly gas supply

… and a last panorama shot

Tomorrow we will enter Peru, stay one night in Puno and then continue to Cusco and Machu Picchu.

All photos of Lake Titicaca and Copacabana here.

Posted 25 September 2014 by Pumpy in Bolivia, The 2014 Rucksack Trip

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La Paz   Leave a comment

Saturday 20 September 2014

Pretty much all buses from Sucre to La Paz leave in the evening, and although we try to avoid night-journeys because we want to see the countryside, we don’t have much choice this time.

In case we were wondering why warm blankets have been provided for each passenger, we soon learn that the bus doesn’t have any heating facilities – and as we are travelling on the Altiplano at an altitude between 3,800 and 4,100 metres (12,400 to 13,500 feet) above sea level, it gets quite chilly during the night.

… and that’s despite several layers of merino, fleeces and down jackets…

Rarely has a sunrise been so welcome…

A smile can brighten the day as well

Before we reach La Paz we cross El Alto, the second-largest city in Bolivia after Santa Cruz – La Paz comes only third.

The traffic is horrendous at a quarter to eight in the morning (and at any other time, as we learn later)

And then, after the toll boot on the Ruta 3, Nuestra Señora de La Paz opens in front of you – it is a breath-taking sight, although today the sky is overcast and the views are not as impressive as I would have wished for my dad.

We are so cold that we need some breakfast straight away in the bus terminal.

There is no shortage of accommodation in La Paz, but I’d like to stay at the Hotel Milton, which I liked a lot in 2010. It’s just under two kilometres from the bus terminal and we decide to walk.

Our road, the Avenida Illampu, is closed for market

As a returning customer I get a good deal and a room on the fifth floor with great views of the street market.

The hotel also has a roof terrace

Downtown La Paz

Iglesia de San Francisco

… and from the inside

Plaza Mayor

Plaza Murillo

Palacio Legislativo de Bolivia – fitted with a ‘Bavarian style’ clock

La Catedral Metropolitana de La Paz

In true German style we have some coffee and cake in the afternoon – and write postcards!

Towering over La Paz is Mount Illimani, at 6,462 metres / 21,200 feet

In the afternoon the sky has cleared and we take the brand-new Linea Roja, the red line cable car that connects La Paz and El Alto and helps to reduce the enormous volume of traffic between the cities.

Cementerio General from above

Sophisticated corner solution

You could be forgiven to think that the centre of La Paz is a huge street market…

There are whole sections for every article you could possibly need

Although we are still tired from the previous night, we can’t miss a visit at the restaurant ‘100% Natural’ in the Calle Sagárnaga, where I’ve eaten one of the best tenderloin of the whole journey four years ago.

We are not disappointed

… and for the ones who are concerned about our calorie-intake, I would like to point out that we share one portion between us

A last visit to our fabulous roof terrace – Avenida Illampu by night

Buenas noches, La Paz…


Posted 24 September 2014 by Pumpy in Bolivia, The 2014 Rucksack Trip

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Sucre – La Ciudad Blanca   1 comment

Wednesday 17 to Friday 19 September 2014

After a frugal breakfast…

… we enjoy a hair-raising journey by micro…

to Potosí’s new bus terminal…

… from where we take a bus to Sucre

Impressions from the road –

The 158-kilometre journey along the well-paved Ruta 5 takes just over three hours. As always when we arrive somewhere, the first thing we do is organise our onward journey – here in Sucre we find a very helpful overview of all connections available:

Sucre is the constitutional and official capital of Bolivia, while La Paz is the seat of the government – which is still a sensitive subject between the cities and causing confusion in the rest of the world. Due to its well-preserved colonial buildings and structures painted in white, Sucre is also called La Ciudad Blanca – the white city – and has been declared a Unesco World Heritage site in 1991.

When I came here in 2010, I found Sucre beautiful, vibrant, with a pleasant climate at 2,810 metres altitude, full of friendly people, lovely parks, colourful markets and lots of interesting corners. All this I’m eager to show Johannes as well.

We find accommodation in the Grand Hotel where I’ve stayed before and are offered a suite again –

Some times it pays off to travel with your dad…

A great view is included

We are just a few metres from the Plaza 25 de Mayo – the main square

The cathedral in the background

Street-sweeping Bolivian style

Palacio del Gobierno Autónomo Departamental de Chuquisaca – previously the seat of the national government before it was moved to La Paz

San Felipe Neri

On the first evening we have a deluxe version of Pique Macho, this time with beef, pork, chicken and chorizo, home-made salsa, the best chips in town and a fresh salad

Our second day in Sucre is mainly dedicated to resting and the more mundane traveller chores: laundry, sewing, posting, writing postcards etc…

We start with an excellent breakfast

I need a haircut

Then we browse the huge Mercado Central for bits and bobs

You can get the most amazing fruit juices – freshly made to order

Bolivian honey jars – we think there’s room for improvement in the marketing and presentation departments…

The Zebra Brigade – making road crossings safer and life in the community better

There are strong relationships between Bolivia and Germany

Here we build a culture of peace

… this also involves culinary interchange

In the ‘Kultur Café Berlin’ we enjoy Apfelstrudel with vanilla sauce

The mighty micro, the main means of transport in Bolivian towns

We are still so full-up from our Apfelstrudel escapade that we skip dinner that day – so no further mouth-watering Pique Macho photos for you, sorry.

On Friday we have booked an overnight bus to La Paz that doesn’t leave until 19.00 hrs; so we still have some time to enjoy Sucre. And there is hardly a better place than the ‘Plaza Restaurant’, formerly known as ‘Los Balcones’.


A last stroll through the beautiful park on the Plaza

Then we board the micro to the bus terminal

Adiós, Sucre, hasta la próxima vez – we hope we’ll see you again at some point in the future.

Posted 21 September 2014 by Pumpy in Bolivia, The 2014 Rucksack Trip

¡Potosí, Potosí!   Leave a comment

Tuesday 16 September 2014

If you were ever wondering how to pronounce the Bolivian city of Potosí, I can recommend spending half an hour at the bus terminal in Uyuni and listening to the travel agents trying to fill their coaches. The vociferous calls “¡Potosí, Potosí! – this bus leaves immediately for Potosí!” will haunt us for the rest of the trip.

Some pictures from the now paved road, which was one of the worst ripio tracks back in 2010. The 204-kilometre journey only takes us three and a half hours this time.

The railway!

Our destination in the distance

¡Bienvenidos a Potosí!

Potosí lies at 4,090 metres above sea level and is the highest place where we will stay overnight.

Not sure whose idea it was but although you should avoid physical exertion at altitude if you are not used to it, we decide to walk the 2.4 kilometres from the bus terminal into the city centre. Of course, it’s uphill all the way…

Next time we take a Micro, ok, dad?

Our chosen hotel has changed ownership, name and room standards, but we find accommodation in the Hostal Felimar, where we are offered the suite on the top floor.

We even have a balcony!

La Catedral – from behind

The main square is closed for refurbishment

El Cerro Rico, the rich mountain, whose silver ore was the reason for Potosí’s former wealth and historical importance

The City Council – illuminated in the Bolivian national colours

In a local fast food restaurant we discover a new favourite…

Pique Macho – with beef, chicken, sausage, goat’s cheese, eggs, onions, tomatoes, chillies and chips

Cerro Rico and Potosí by night – from our own balcony…

Posted 19 September 2014 by Pumpy in Bolivia, The 2014 Rucksack Trip

Salar de Uyuni   2 comments

Monday 15 September 2014

As we are lacking our own transport…

… we have booked a 4×4 tour of the Salar

The Crew (clock-wise from right): Aida, me, Nasi, Mar, Esthefany (a family from Barcelona) and Marco from China

We see a few places I haven’t visited the last time – which is great!

The Train Cemetery

All tours stop at the art market in Colchani

We rather explore the backyards

Salt production

Playing with the perspective…

Our Catalan friends fly their flag at every opportunity

Los Ojos de Salar – the Eyes of the Salar, where minerals rise to the surface in gushers

What happens if you set the self-timer to 2 seconds only…

That’s better!

Inside the Hotel de Sal – everything is built entirely with salt blocks cut from the Salar

Ȋles flottantes…

Lunch in the middle of the salt flat

Llama chops with Quinoa and vegetables

Next stop: Isla Incahuasi, pretty much the centre of the Salar

And then our driver, Enrique, treats us to a little extra tour…

… to the Volcán Tunupa, 5,332 metres above sea level

… where Flamencos (Flamingos) have been sighted

Here they come…

There they go…

We have a last look at the Caldera…

… and the Salt Lake…

Then we head back to Uyuni

… and say goodbye to our new friends – Mar and Esthefany…

… Aida…

… and our driver, guide and host Enrique

What a fantastic day all around – this experience is certainly one of the highlights of our trip!

All pictures of the Salar de Uyuni can be found here.

Posted 19 September 2014 by Pumpy in Bolivia, The 2014 Rucksack Trip