44 Days in South America: Experience and Connection
So here's the deal, Welcome to a little daily blog. I'm blissfully aware I won't be able to update this daily. But when I can, I'll write about the day's events, and catch up on the days missed, via the written notes in my diary. I'll discuss where I am, my headspace, what I'm reading or listening to or any other information you might find interesting or useful. Enjoy.
Day 45 Airports Airports Airports
Flight 1, El Calafate to Buenos Aires went without a hitch. 3 Hours reading Shantaram went faster than rolling through Westworld episodes on Netflix. Following this was a 5-hour wait at BA Airport, filled with reading and an update to this blog, and a quick call to some of the team back home.
Flight #2 was much the same, 2 hours to Santiago. I managed to sneak in an hour of sleep, once arrived, straight to some chairs to sleep further.
A few hours later, I woke up, and rolled to a restaurant for some food. My last meal in South America, and read whilst waiting to board the 1pm flight to Melbourne. 15 hours on a plane. The last leg. Can’t wait
Day 44 El Calafate
Today was as enjoyable as it was uneventful. I slept in, ate the shitty hostel brekky, packed my bags (for the last time) and checked out. I decided, to not book any half day tours, and to spend the day reading, writing and walking around the town. That is exactly what I did.
I spent a few hours reading Shantaram in the restaurant of the hostel. With the vista of Lago Argentina and the surrounding trees and snow capped mountains in front of me.
I then headed into town, for a delicious feed and a few more hours in the pages of the book. After some delicious Spinach Gnocchi with Lamb, I headed to the supermarket to spend the last of my pesos and grabbed some snacks for the plane.
The afternoon was spent much the same as the morning, much reading (this book is ace) and catching up on this journal, plus finishing my weekly email that is to go out on Friday morning. Oh and of course catching up on Collingwood Anzac Day win over Essendon. What a day.
I headed off to the airport at 6 pm for my 8 pm flight, the plan for the next 48 hours is to fly to Buenos Aires, arriving at 11 pm, find somewhere to sleep for 2-3 hours. Check into my 5 am flight to Santiago, then hang out at the Santiago Airport for a while until our plane leaves for home. It feels weird finally going home. I’m more than ready, but a sense of sadness at the end of this wonderful adventure hangs at the edge of the thought. Regardless, life is simply impermanence. It only feels like yesterday when I left. Yet so much has happened.
Day 43 - Puerto Merino Glacier
6 am brekky, into a 7 am pickup, kicked off our adventure to the Glacier. With a 90
Minute bus ride ahead of us, I chose to nap, waking up as we pulled into the car park at the pier, where we would jump on a boat to head to the edge of a glacier.
When I first got a face full of this huge chunk of ice, it was truly a WOW moment, a 70m high wall of ice who knows how wide. An amazing thing to see, I couldn’t wait to get on this thing.
We were dropped off at a refuge, where our guides talked us through everything we needed to know about the glacier, and some things we didn’t, we then headed to the edge where we would put on our crampons and go for a hike across the surface.
As always, our group was slow to get there, stopping every few steps to look at the awe-inspiring ice block in front of us. Taking photos that would never portray the incredible sight we could see.
Finally, we were crampon’d up and ready to go. The 2-hour trek along and over the glacier was wonderful, an adventure I won’t forget in a hurry. Culminating in a stop to drink some glacial water and some scotch whisky with glacial ice. It wasn’t gin, but it sure was delicious.
We headed back to the refuge for lunch, had an hour or so to take photos and eat, and then it was back on the boat and off to the viewing platforms, fortunately, we were able to see big chunks of the glacier calve off into the water. An incredible sight.
The viewing platforms were just as amazing as the walk itself, seeing the entirety of the glacier was mind-blowing, with each crevasse, corner and bump reflecting the suns rays in different ways leaving an incredible sight in front of us. The size of it gave me the same feeling I had at Iguazu falls. Truly wonderful.
After an hour or so, we jumped in the bus and headed back to El Calafate, I promptly fell asleep.
Dinner consisted of a giant Argentinian BBQ with Lamb, Steak, Chorizo, Chicken, Salad and chips. More food than I’ve eaten in the last two
Days sat in front of me. I had a crack, a valiant effort but couldn’t finish it all, I was cactus. What a day. Back for an hour of reading, then off to sleep.
Hometime tomorrow. Kind of.
Day 42 - Mirador Condores and El Calafate
This morning I woke up, pretty sore from the last few days of hikes. With Jack, Will and Jamie heading off to do a big hike. I said goodbye and checked out of my room. Unsure as to how I’d spend my day.
I decided not to go for a big walk, but to do one of the shorter viewpoint walks. Mirador Condores, a 4km round hike up above the town. It was short and simple but the perfect way to end my time in this little town.
Magical views of El Chalten and the surrounding peaks was the perfect send-off, with condors flying above it was a wonderful moment.
Once back to the hostel, I had 30 minutes to wait for my bus which would take me to El Chalten. I watched some Flight of the Concords and relaxed.
The bus ride was very cruisy, so much so I stared out the window for an hour or so, and then promptly fell asleep.
I arrived in El Calafate jumped off the bus, and walked the 2km to the hostel. Checked in, and set up shop for the night at the window, overlooking the town, lake, trees and mountains. I was treated to a perfect sunset.
After finishing Meditations, I looked through the pile of books on the bookshelf at the hostel, and fortunately found Shantaram, a book I’d planned on reading when I got home as I had started it before I’d left, but didn’t bring it because it was too big, what a result.
I won’t try and put the feeling I had into words, but for a period of time whilst sitting in the hostel restaurant, looking out over the lights of El a Calafate, reading my book, I felt at peace. Completely in the moment, what had come before and what was to come in the future paled with insignificance as I was truly in the moment, deep inside the pages of my book, with an acute awareness of what was happening around me. What a wonderful moment.
Day 41 - Mt Fitz Roy Adventures
It was now or never. The last day to attempt the 26km hike to Mt Fitz Roy, seemingly the weather gods smiled upon us as we woke up, it seemed sunny. Not so much.
Izzy, Jack, Jamie, Will and I headed to the supermercado to load up on food for the hike, as soon as we opened the hostel door we were hit with a chill that I hadn’t felt in my time in Patagonia. It was cold, very cold, with a little bit of snow coming in.
We made some sandwiches, ate brekky and set off, tightly wrapped up, keeping ourselves warm, I decided to stop in at the store to get a neck warmer, otherwise, my face may fall off.
The incredible landscapes of Patagonia were highlighted during this hike, snow-capped mountains, snow-covered trees, rushing rivers and multicoloured trees of autumn, it was magical. Albeit cold and wet. It was trekking heaven. We stopped at a campsite, 10km or so into the hike and had lunch in the snow, with the knowledge of a 1hr 400m vertical climb to come, we knew we had to fuel ourselves.
A few km later we arrived at the bottom of a mountain, in a landscape which wouldn’t look out of place beyond the wall on GOT.
We began our ascent, climbing up as the snow got thicker and thicker, eventually by the time we had almost reached the top, we could only see the tops of the metre-high signposts leading the path. Eventually, once seemingly at the top, we couldn’t see where to go. With a snowstorm getting heavier and heavier we decided it best to turn around. A frustrating decision but the correct one. We couldn't see much, but geez it was a fun adventure.
The hike back consisted of snowballs and lots of laughs, we took a detour and walked past Lago Capri, one of the lakes and enjoyed the beauty of a snow cover walking trail, forest, rocks and mountains. One of the best days I’ve had on this trip, even though we didn’t get to see Mt Fitz Roy in all of its glory.
When back at the hostel, we loaded up on dinner, drank some wine, and went to bed.
Day 40 Chorrillo Del Salto
I decided a little sleep in was in order today. It was cold and wet, and frankly, I wouldn’t be hiking much today.
After brekky, I decided that I’d do a small hike, 6km round trip to the Chorrillo Del Salto waterfall before I left I purchased a poncho to make sure my bag (and everything else) didn’t get as wet as they did the day before.
The hike itself was pretty easy, although I was wet, I was having a wonderful time, headphones in, enjoying the little bit of misery that comes walking with boots full of water.
I arrived at the waterfall which was pumping after a few days of rain yet the most amazing thing was the trees and plants and flowers which surrounded the stream leading away from the waterfall. More colours than I’ve seen at autumn time ever before. A miraculous sight. About 1000 photos later, I made the trek back to the hostel. Dried up, showered and cruised back to the room. Funnily enough, Izzy, Who I’d met at the airport a few days back, ended up checking in to the same room, what are the chances. We grabbed lunch and she headed off for a hike of her own, whilst I went back to catch up on some Netflix.
A few hours later, a few English lads who were also in my room, invited me to have some food and play cards, the night consisted of too much food, and too much wine, and plenty of cards, basically the best way to get to know a group of people.
We decided that we would do a big hike together tomorrow, which meant off to bed, which was a good idea seeing it was already well after midnight.
Day 39 Lagos Torres
Today started with a little bit of a sleep in, a basic breakfast, and plenty of optimism. I had a 20k trek ahead of me to Lagos Torres, a lake at the bottom of a glacier at the bottom of a delicious looking mountain.
Unfortunately, my week here is being marred by bad weather, just the luck of the dice.
When I headed out for the hike, it was windy and cold, yet fortunately dry (for now) and it stayed this way for the first 5km or so, then the heavens opened, a 10 minute downpour left me very moist but engrossed in the beauty of this place, as I walked along the Fitz Roy River, I didn’t mind too much. Unfortunately, after this point, the rain didn’t stop and the fog came in thicker and thicker.
The viewpoint, at Lago Torre, was little more than the silhouette of Cerro Torre, and a lake with a few chunks of ice from the glacier and plenty of wind and rain. With no shelter, I had a look around, took some photos and videos, and turned around to head back to the town. By now, everything was wet. Shoes were full of water, gloves wet, fingers cold yet still a smile on my face as I was loving every second. This feeling lasted another few km, as the cold set in, so I focused on the audiobook I was listening to, and ticked the legs over, aiming to get back to the warmth of a shower and fresh clothes.
A few hours later I was back in town, and seemingly unable to undo my shoes or undress myself until my fingers had defrosted, but the shower was a welcome relief, and the waffles I had after the shower were certainly much needed.
The rest of the day was very relaxing, walking dead, and a nap, before dinner (could get used to big steaks and red wine) and then off to sleep.
Hopefully the weather is better tomorrow, (not expecting it to be) as I have two days left here, with the plan to do a shorter waterfall hike (14km) and a longer Mont Fitz Roy hike (26km) before I leave.
Day 38 Pliegue Tumbado
This morning I awoke to the sound of wind and rain, not what I was hoping for, but regardless, it was the card we had been dealt. I grabbed my already packed day bag from the night before and headed out for my first hike.
The plan, a 22km up and back hike to Pillage Tumbado. I chucked the rain jacket on, made sure I had the camera, water, snacks and a few extra clothes and got stuck into the hike. I always try to start my hikes being pretty cold, as you warm up pretty quickly, next thing you know you’re covered in sweat and pulling off layer after layer. Starting in the town, I knew the 11km hike to the viewpoint would be mostly uphill, so I stuck an audiobook in my ears (Own the day, Own your life - Aubrey Marcus) and ticked the legs over.
I’ve quickly realised over the last two days that Patagonia is much more than the Andes and some snow. There are vast changes in the ecosystems and scenery even within short distances. I hiked up rocky hills, across dry fields, wetlands, over streams, along river beds, through little bunches of beautifully coloured trees with falling leaves and even through another little forest with trees with no leaves, it was an amazing sight to see.
A few hours in, I came to a big open space, covered in rocks with no signs of life, just wind, snow and a vista covered in fog, with mountain peaks and lagoons peering through the gaps. This area reminded me of Mt Cook on the South Island of New Zealand. As much as I enjoy hiking by myself, I missed the company I had on that hike. Butters, we will have to do Patagonia one day. Actually, when I come back, I want to bring everyone.
The next hour or so of the hike was brutal, the wind was picking up, and even though the sun was poking through, it was snowing, basically sideways, so much so that I had to pull out the beanie, sunglasses and gloves and basically hike with the head down for a little while.
I made the viewpoint, with no respite from the weather in sight, I had some snacks, snapped some photos (on the camera so I’ll post them up when I get home) and decided not to climb the extra 500m up to the top of Plieuge Tombado, I decided instead to walk around the front of it to see if I could grab any ace photos, or find a spot with less wind.
I managed to snap some cool photos, but unfortunately none of the tops of the snow covered peaks, too much fog for that, hopefully, I can get some nicer views over the next few days. I say nicer, but today I saw some of the most incredible scenery I ever have. As I said, there is much more to this place than just mountain peaks.
The hike back was relatively easy, fuelled by the sunshine and the downhill, It felt like no time and I was back in town. Its funny, I tend to draw a lot of similarities between hiking and life. When we go back the way we came, we forget the effort and time it took to get there. I worked incredibly hard to climb up those hills and rocks today and walking back, you tend to forget about all of the inclines and tough spots. Life is no different, we very rarely give ourselves the credit we deserve. It's nice to stop, smile and realise how far you’ve come sometimes.
I was reminded of this after a chat with a mentor a few days ago, he asked what I was happy with at Virtus after being away for so long, I said the things I wasn’t happy with, and ended with, ‘But day to day is going very well’
Sure, there is plenty not running as smoothly as I’d like, but day to day is going well, and fuck I’m very proud of that. It's nice to look back and realise how far we have come.
When I arrived back in town, I hammered a big lunch and headed back to the hostel for a big shower and a change of clothes. With most of the stores having split shifts, the supermarket and camping stores wouldn’t be open for a few hours, so I had a nap.
When I woke up, I scoured the town for somewhere I could hire a tent, believe it or not, being end of season and with the weather getting fairly gnarly, I was unable to hire a tent, very disappointing as I had planned a 2 or maybe 3 day trek for the next few days. But it is what it is, I’ll be doing the same trek, but returning to the town each night.
I guess its time to pull the sleeping bag and mat that have been dormant in my pack for the last 6 weeks out to breathe, they’ll smell amazing.
After a big dinner, a quick blog update and a few quick chats, It's off to sleep, another big hike tomorrow.
Day 37 Buenos Aires to Patagonia
A 2:15 am wakeup left me with about 3 hours of broken sleep, fortunately, I had my bags packed so was able to roll downstairs into the taxi, to head off to Buenos Aires airport for my 5:30 am flight to El Calafate in Patagonia.
For those that know me, will know that I love hiking and adventuring, and Patagonia is the one place in South America which first drew me to think about this trip.
To say I was excited to finally head down to this magical part of the world is certainly an understatement.
I checked in and sat down in the cafe to wait to board. The only fortunate part of the time difference is that if I’m up super early, it’s mid-late evening back home. It was ace to be able to catch up with a few lovely humans from back home whilst I was waiting. After finishing up a chat on Facebook, someone yelled out from another table “where are you from?” Realising she was talking to me, we struck up a conversation. Izzy was from Chicago studying in Buenos Aires, heading down to Patagonia for a few days between classes. It’s funny how in a Spanish speaking country, you’re drawn to others speaking English, a quick where are you from/why are you here etc etc can turn into a full life story and create an opportunity to get to know someone when only a few moments ago the only thing we had in common was the language we spoke.
We got to know each other for the 90 minutes before boarding, when boarded I nestled in for a 3-hour nap, but not before realising the exit row was completely empty, so I swapped seats and found myself with a whole row to myself whilst the rest of the plane was full. What a result.
I was awoken as we were coming in to land at El Calafate, with the sun streaming in over the beautiful landscape, it was one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen. The whole sky and ground was a beautiful bright orange, what a way to wake up.
When we landed, I booked a bus for 11 am to El Chalten, where I would spend the next few days and numerous hikes. The drive there was something else, I had my nose stuck to the window for the 3 hours, with a big smile on my face enjoying every corner, lake and landscape on the journey. Truly happy. Is the way I’d describe my feeling today. Such a wonderful place.
Unfortunately, as the day rolled on and as we arrived at El Chalten, the weather turned to shit. I was hoping for a little hike today but decided on a walk around the town, a late lunch and some research into which hikes to do over the next few days. The next few days will be all above 80% chance of rain so looking forward to getting wet on a few hikes. Hopefully, the visibility will be acceptable, regardless, whatever happens, happens.
It turns out that today is Israel’s Independence Day, fortunately for me, I made friends with a group of Israeli backpackers and was absolutely treated to some Shakshuka, some incredible conversation along with bulk beer and wine.
What a night. The planned 10 pm bedtime was extended much longer than expected. But for good reason. New friends, new experiences. This is what travelling is about.
Day 36 Colonia - Uruguay and Buenos Aires in the evening.
As I was only a 1-hour ferry ride away from Uruguay, I decided that I may as well make the trip and explore Colonia. This meant for a 6 am Wakeup and a 5km walk to the ferry terminal.
One boarded, I was fast asleep, turns out you can nap whilst crossing the widest river in the world... when we arrived, we jumped on the bus for a tour around the City.
The bus tour was nothing special, but the walking tour that followed was very enjoyable. Plenty of history between the Spanish and Portuguese had happened in this little corner of the world with the architecture of each contrasting against the other in a very interesting way.
After the tour, we had free time until we were to leave at 4 pm. I went and had a delicious lunch and wandered for a few hours, listening to music and podcasts, in a bit of a trance just lost in my own head, it's nice to be able to stop, walk and think. I dont get to do this much at home. After a couple of museums, I headed to the beach for half an hour of meditation. I'm missing the go go go of life at home, but making the most of the time I have left to not be on a schedule or in a rush.
The boat ride back was uneventful, but when I was back in Buenos Aires I booked my flights to El Calafate and back, leaving me the rest of the evening to walk some parts of the city I was yet to see.
A simple hostel cooked dinner of Gnocchi, a few chats with some of team and a few mentors and KP and I was off to sleep. A 5:30am flight meant a 2:30am wakeup. Very excited to be heading to Patagonia tomorrow. Flying into El Calafate, then a bus to El Chalten for a few days then El Calafate for some glacier adventures and then depending on time either some more hikes or home.
Below is an artists representation of what I'll look like in El Chalten.
Day 35 Buenos Aires
I was jolted awake by an Argentinian policeman asking me for my passport at 7 am. What a way to start the day. A few hours later, the 18-hour bus ride had come to an end. After speaking to a lovely Argentinian guy, he suggested I walk from the bus terminal into town and as I was yet to book a hostel, this seemed like an ace course of action.
At first glance, BA was much cleaner than some of the previous cities I had been in throughout Bolivia and Brasil, certainly the areas I spent today walking around. I decided to go for a big walk down the Florida street, which is a walkway straight through the touristy part of the city. Eventually, I was hungry, sweaty and ready to find a hostel. The first two I went to were booked out, so the third BA Stop was the one for me. After putting my laundry in, charging my phone somewhat, I met a guy from Singapore who I had lunch with.
After lunch, I went for a walk by myself around the city. Spending the next 4 hours doing a big loop and then looking at all the squares and gardens within a reasonable distance. I also decided to book a ferry for the next day to Colonia, in Uruguay. 7:30am-5pm for tomorrow is now sorted. Should be fun, and if nothing else, I'll get to explore an old town and add another country to my list.
After plenty of walks, hikes and runs over the last few weeks, I haven't felt the need/want to drink much at all. I'm really enjoying chatting to locals and other backpackers, then hitting the hay early and rising ready to go for the next day. I'm very excited that in a few days, I'll be heading to Patagonia for more hiking, and mountains. I love mountains. Especially those covered in ice snow and rock. I tried to book flights today, but as my travel card doesn't have my name on it, they wouldn't let me, I tried online but skipped the payment section and said I had 'reserved my seat' and to pay later, who knows, I'll head to the office tomorrow night and see whats what. All I know is that in 2-3 days, I'll be staring at glaciers and mountains, that's a wonderful feeling.
The not so wonderful feelings I'm getting, are the ones that make me worry about things at work, finances, and ultimately issues I cannot control or take action to remedy until I am home. I am doing my best to remain mindful and present, but its a hard thing to remain consistent. Like anything, I'll do the best i can. Its frustrating to say the least.
Day 34 Fog de Iguazu to Puerto Iguazu to Buenos Aires
After a decent sleep, I rolled out of bed and ate the very average hostel breakfast. Fortunately I had some leftover pasta I cooked for dinner and loaded up the fuel tank for a big day.
The plan was to jump on a bus, clear Brazilian and Argentinian immigration and cross over to begin my adventures in Argentina.
Being Sunday and having no actual bus schedule, I wasn’t sure how long it would take. The transport gods continued on my side as they have the last few weeks, with a bus coming 10 minutes into my wait. I was dropped off at the Brazilian customs, taking about 60 seconds to stamp my passport, a far cry from the 2 hours it took me to get into the country.
Unfortunately, I had to wait a while for the next bus, but it was a nice day, and Joe Rogan and Eddie Bravo provided the entertainment.
The Argentinian side was very quick too, the nice bus driver waited for everyone, then dropped us off at another bus stop where I jumped in a cab to the falls.
My plans for today were to visit the Argentinian side of the Falls, then jump on a plane to Buenos Aires. Unfortunately, however, the runway of the Iguazu Airport is under construction for a month. Starting today. You wouldn’t read about it. Leaving me with two options. Back to the Brazilian side for an expensive international flight, or, another overnight bus to the tune of 18 hours. I thought I was done sleeping on wheels, but I guess one more night iI ok have to be.
Yesterday I was blown away by the sheer size and power of the falls on the Brazilian side. I thought there was no way today could top that.
Yet again. I was wrong.
The Argentinian side gives you an incredibly intimate look at the falls, with many km of trails you get to tick the legs over and explore the front back and sides of the falls. An absolute mind-blowing experience to stand atop and below the same falls I was looking at from across the river yesterday. If you’re somewhere within South America, I would highly recommend making the trip to the falls and spending a day on each side. They are very different experiences, of the same falls. My mind is still swimming after seeing Garganta del Diablo straight in front of me from the top. Picture below
After about 3 hours of exploring, walking and fits bumping monkeys, I jumped on the bus and headed into town to the bus depot with the plan to spend yet another night on a bus.
I managed to get the last seat on a 5 pm bus to Buenos Aires, an 18-hour journey which was made a little more bearable as I had managed to find a place to charge my laptop to 40% after it has been dead for a few days. Who would have thought that Argentina has the same PowerPoints as us? That 40% lasted two movies and set the scene for me to pass out and have an ace sleep.
Day 33: Foz Do Iguacu
Today started off a little rocky, the overnight bus from Campo Grande wasn't as luxurious as I'd hoped, as some of the overnight buses I had previously been on were. To add to the discomfort, it seemed to stop every hour or so at another terminal for passengers to jump on and off, this didn't make for an uninterrupted sleep, however, we do what we can with what we have, and I made do, stringing together an hour or so when I could.
At 8 am, we arrived in Cascavel, now it was my turn to switch buses, an hour to wait, then another 3 hours until we made it finally to Foz de Iguazu. I managed to sleep most of this drive, safe to say when I get home, I won't be spending much time on a bus.
Once arrived, I jumped in a taxi and legged it to my accommodation, 'The Tetris Hostel' a hostel made entirely out of shipping containers, a bit gimmicky, maybe, but it is cheap and will do the job for a night. It had been a few days since a proper sit-down meal, I headed straight to the closest restaurant for a steak, and a chocolate milkshake. Absolute heaven.
After the feed, I grabbed my camera, loaded up on sunscreen and jumped on a bus to head to the Brazilian side of the falls. A public bus, entry fee and park transfer later, and I was standing in front of the Iguacu falls. I've said it a couple of times on this trip, but it is rare that these things live up to the hype, but this was something else. The falls were not only humongous in size but seemingly stretched as far as you could see. The sound of the water crashing, the smell of the jungle, the butterflies flying around and the incredible power of the water was a sight to behold, and something I won't forget in a hurry.
I cruised around the boardwalk for a few hours, taking photos, videos and enjoying this awe-inspiring natural wonder. It was an incredible feeling to stand at the bottom and stare straight into the aptly named 'Devils Throat' part of the falls, copping plenty of water for my troubles. A must do, cannot wait to see the Argentinian side tomorrow.
After a few big days travelling, tonight will consist of dinner, and a nice relaxing night, probably to bed early. It'll be nice to sleep horizontally again.
Day 32: Crossing the border, En route to Iguacu
Not much happened on day 32, I woke up after an average night sleep with intermittent vomiting, fortunately, I felt much better when I woke up. I packed my bags, couldn't stomach any food so had a juice and walked down to the Bolivian Immigration.
Unfortunately, I was greeted with a nice big line, seemingly not going anywhere, great. I put a podcast on and cruised to the back of the line (Well I thought it was the back, turned out I had pushed in front of about 20 people, whoops. Once I had realised my mistake I had camouflaged in, so I went with it) Once I had passed through the Bolivian side (2 hours later) I triumphantly cruised over to the Brazilian side, only about 500m away, and was greeted with a line that was even longer, what a day. Another two hours later, I was through. The online Brazilian Visa was a success, and I was on my way. As 4 hours of the day had been eaten up, and it was now 1 pm, I decided to find a bus to take me some of the ways to Iguazu falls, I asked the taxi driver to drop me at the bus terminal, this was not easy, as I speak minimal Spanish, and no Portuguese, but we made it work. I managed to find a minibus that would take me to Camp Grande, a 5 hour, hot sweaty bus trip away, as it was leaving in 10 minutes, I ticked the box and made it happen.
5 hours and half an audiobook later, we made it, stopped on the side of the road, and I was told to jump in this random car, more through pointing rather than telling, with a couple of other guys from the bus, we took off, straight to the bus terminal, fortunately, we arrived at 7:55 and I was fortunate enough to jump on an overnight bus at 8 pm. Talk about timing.
Day 31: Flight to Santa Cruz, Bus to Puerto Quijarro
After a big day yesterday, the 5 am alarm hurt my soul, however, with a 7 am flight, and a taxi driver waiting, I peeled myself out of bed and rolled into the taxi. I was still in 'wing it mode' taking everything one step at a time. I took the taxi to the airport, checked in for my flight, and had a big breakfast. Once in the air, I was fast asleep, waking up as the wheels touched down in Santa Cruz.
When we landed, the air was thick and juicy. From 3800m above sea level to 400m above sea level. It was nice to have a bit more oxygen, and to feel like we were breathing in honey for a few minutes.
Once out of the airport, I jumped on the local bus and headed into the city. As I didn't really know where I was going, I stayed on the bus until there were only a few people left, checking maps.me every few minutes to see where I was in relation to the city centre. I decide, that I was a bit sick of cities, and wanted to keep moving, so I tried in my best Portuguese, using the Google Translate app, to ask the bus driver how to get to the Bus terminal, this was harder than you'd expect, but I could tell he wanted to help, he ended up dropping me at a taxi rank so I could take the taxi to the terminal. Once at the terminal, I managed to find a company to take me 7 hours down the road to the border town of Puerto Quijarro, where I would stay the night. An hour of waiting, and I was on the bus.
I had a nap, watched some game of thrones, read some of my book, meditated and listened to some Rogan, finally, we had arrived at a dark dingy bus station, I jumped in a cab and asked him to take me to the closest hotel to immigration. 150 bolivianos later and I was home free. A double bed and a relaxing night.
Unfortunately, this was not the case, Something I had eaten or drank that day did not agree with me one bit. I spent the next 12 hours vomiting my guts up as my body tried to remove whatever it was that made me ill. This was not a fun night.
Day 30: Uyuni Salt Flats Tour
Day 30 started with a pretty amazing sleep considering I was on a bus. We arrived in Uyuni at 7 am, with the tour not starting until 10 am, I managed to get back to a few emails, chat to KP and write back to a few messages. It was nice to eat breakfast and relax.
Once 10 am came around, I introduced myself to our tour group. Laz, Linley, Arya and Isabella. An awesome crew who made an epic day even more amazing.
The tour of the salt flats kicked off with a visit to the Bolivian Train Graveyard, an only mining railway no longer used and now home to all of the old trains. We climbed over them, took photos and explored this playground for adults. Once finished here, we headed to the flats, with a stop at the market on the way. I treated myself to some Lama and Rice, it was delicious, and something we should dive into at home. Add some spicy salsa and I was in heaven.
We then drove out to the Salt flats in our Landcruiser (one of 50) and found a spot for lunch. We went for a little walk as the tour guides prepared lunch. A delicious sit-down feast of (yep) llama, beef, quinoa, salads and some fruit for dessert. Thank god for vegans, as there were 3 in our group, Laz and I managed to get a couple of extra steaks each. Life is good.
We then headed to a hostel/restaurant in the middle of the salt flats, that is used for the Dakar Rally.
There isn't much to see here, bar a giant salt sculpture with the Dakar logo, and a huge pile of flags from all across the world. Very cool.
We headed then further out into the Salt Flats, to find somewhere to take some perspective photos. Our tour guide, was very excited and we soon found out why he loved taking photos and making videos which would make the most of the perspectives. It was incredible, a true professional, and very funny to watch.
After this, we headed to our tour guides favourite spot, the edge of the salt lake, there is a water basin underneath the whole lake, but parts of it are like puddles, this puddle, was huge, and when you walked across it, it felt and looked like you were walking on water. An incredible sight.
Once we played and splashed around here for a while, we headed to the edge of the salt flats to watch the sunset and then I had to shoot off to catch a flight back to La Paz, onto Santa Cruz. Fortunately, the tour guide had agreed to drop me at the airport. What a king.
The sunset was incredible. Some amazing colours and shadows and fantastic company made for a fantastic finish to our tour.
30 minutes later, i said goodbye to everyone and checked in at the airport. Unfortunately my plane to Santa Cruz had been cancelled and moved to the next morning.
Day 29 - La Paz, Goodbye to Friends, Overnight bus to UYUNI
In our hostel, Wild Rover, our beds are basically situated in a box, with a nice thick set of curtains to pull across to settle in for the night. This is great when getting to sleep, but horrible when you're trying to wake up, as you could spend all day in there without realising its daytime - no sunlight is not ideal. Being aware of this, and after a big day yesterday, I knew that if I left myself to my own devices I would have slept all day, therefore I set an alarm and jumped out of bed to head for coffee. Safe to say, I've probably had 3 coffees over the last month, and all of them have been Nescafe. Absolute rubbish (I'm happy being a coffee snob), however after some research and some tips, I was told of two cafes and I was keen to check them out on my last day in La Paz.
The first was called Bronze cafe, and it lived up to the wonderful coffee I had heard about ( Thank you Sascha ) I sat here, read and just enjoyed being in a cafe that wouldn't be out of place in Mornington. To have a real iced latte in the middle of Bolivia was wonderful.
After the coffee, I checked out of the Wild Rover and headed to meet a few friends for lunch. Michaela, Tom, Sascha and James. We landed at an incredible Bolivian restaurant with 3 courses for 50 Bolivianos (about $10) it was incredible. Meat Stuffed Potato, followed by Pork Belly, followed by a delicious passionfruit, jello and something else dessert. Delicious and cheap, cannot complain.
After lunch, I said goodbye to the guys, its hard saying goodbye to amazing friends, but on the bright side, I'm looking forward to heading to places such as Switzerland, London, San Francisco and Estonia (just to name a few) to visit these legends at some point.
Time for another coffee, I walked to another Cafe, Higher Ground run by a guy from Melbourne, with actual coffee, again it was like being at home. I realise how much I've missed Lattes. I sat, read, wrote, enjoyed a few coffees, then headed back to the hostel, to print out my Brazilian Visa and to get my stuff together to jump on the 7:30 pm Bus to Uyuni, for my tour of the Salt Flats tomorrow.
Tonight I will be leaving my travel companion James, as I head South he will be heading to the Jungle for a few days. Its been an ace 28 days together, time to go our separate ways and meet up at either Iguazu Falls, Patagonia or Buenos Aires for the flight home. Who knows.
I'm looking forward to a few weeks of Solo Travel. I'm only booking one step at a time. Looking forward to 'winging it' through Bolivia, to Brazil, down to Argentina and to Patagonia. I'm excited about the unknown, the overnight bus rides, the adventures, and the alone time. I love being around people, but am excited to stick my face into my books, and spend some time with yours truly.
Day 28 - Death Road
In life, Few things live up to the hype. Death Road is one of the magical few that absolutely blew my mind. A full day of adventure, riding down the 'most dangerous road in the world' on mountain bikes, was one of the best things I've done. Surrounded by vertical cliff faces, narrow roads and incredible scenery, this is a day I won't forget for a while.
We started off at 4800m, Descending throughout the day to 1200m. Our first 20km or so was on a sealed road, as they wanted us to get used to our bikes and ensure we knew what we were doing. Its an incredible feeling overtaking big busses and trucks as you're hurtling down a hill.
After a quick lunch break, we made it to the start of Death Road, If you've seen the Top Gear Bolivian Special, you'll know what I'm talking about. Fortunately, they have closed the road to the majority of the public, now using it as a tourist attraction, and rightly so, some of the sections were incredibly narrow, and its no wonder it has the name it does.
We spent the next few hours, hurtling down the dirt road, stopping every 20 minutes or so to let the group catch up and to take some incredible photos. As we descended, the sun came out more and more, and we quickly heated up, clothes coming off at each stop.
Fortunately, we were without incident all day, until the last 10 minutes, when one of our Chilean Counterparts and James, took a corner too fast and hurtled into a ditch. Carnage.
Luckily they were both ok, a few bruises and scrapes, but very very lucky.
We finished the ride, and cruised to a hotel where we had a buffet lunch, jumped in the pool, showered and then back on the bus for the 3.5-hour drive back to La Paz. Everyone was quickly asleep, but the bus was uncomfortable so I settled into an audiobook for the journey.
Once back in La Paz, it was street food time, then second dinner and then bed.
A perfect end to an amazing day.
Day 27 - Exploring La Paz
Day 27 kicked off early as I was keen to explore and well eat... After brekky I decided on the walking tour at 11 am, unfortunately, I couldn't find the guide, so ended up doing my own little walking tour, before catching up with my Swiss friend Sascha for a day of exploring. Sascha had been here for a week or so and had plenty of places to show me.
After lunch, we proceeded to adventure around the city. It was incredible, the list of stops included San Francisco Square, La Paz Cemetery, San Pedro Prison (After reading Marching Powder by Rusty Young last week this was amazing) The witch market, a Bolivian market (we were the only tourists), a few rides on the cable cars, a couple of museums, including Mamani Mamani (check it out online here) the La Paz Musical Instrument Museum, with over 2500 individual instruments and we finished up at the Killi Killi Lookout (below) over a beer and with the soccer happening in the stadium in the background, it was an incredible atmosphere.
After this, we headed back to the hostel for dinner and a few drinks. Unfortunately, this got a little out of hand, with multiple beers and baby Guinness shots, and a chance entry into the Beer Pong Tournament for the evening. The night escalated pretty quickly, culminating in an Aussie win, and a tactical 1 am shower and bed as to ensure I was spritely at 8 am the next day for our Death Road Adventure.
Day 26 - Isla Del Sol to Lapaz
It's currently 12 pm on Day 26, I've just caught up on the blog, a few emails, completed some planning for Virtus, now I'm kicking back looking out over Isla Del Sol, I'm about to head down to the beach, where we get a boat at 3:30 pm to take us to Copacabana, where we will jump on a bus at 6 pm to take us to La Paz, the capital city of Bolivia.
I'm at an interesting point in the trip where although we have 20 days and plenty of incredible experiences left. I'm missing the routine, connection and progress of home. Work, Football, Friends and Family, the daily/weekly experiences that we take for granted when we are at home. As a friend said to me, we almost always struggle with homesickness as we very rarely experience it.
However, I am incredibly aware of the importance of enjoying every minute and helping out at work online when I can. I have worked incredibly hard for a long time to present myself with this opportunity and I am certainly not going to let my head be anywhere else than where it is right now.
If anything magical happens today on the way or in La Paz, I'll be sure to report.
Adios for now.
The drive to La Paz was incredible. We drove out of Copacabana and up into the hills looking over Lake Titicaca as the sun was setting. So much beauty, the rolling hills and valleys were something to behold. About an hour into our journey we had a little water crossing to do, we got off the bus and onto a little wooden rickety boat and seemingly were smuggled across the lake, if we hadn't crossed the border a few days earlier, I would have been worried.
Luckily, we made the journey safely and were back on the bus and on our way. The drive into La Paz was also spectacular, rolling hills covered with city lights, this is going to be an amazing place to explore tomorrow.
Day 25- Isla Del Sol
We kicked off Day 25 with a Vegan Breakfast (as we were staying in a bit of a hippy hostel) safe to say I don't feel as energised as normal. I packed my bags, and then went for a run (albeit slow and sometimes a walk) up to the lookout above Copacabana. It was a wonderful experience, but the pain to get up there was something else. The altitude kicked me hard, and the incline didn't help. I was planning a round trip, but once at the top, decided to record a few videos for the team back home and meditate (and catch my breath) The way down was intense, straight down the side of the cliff, very enjoyable, but not the smartest thing to do in runners.
Once down, I consumed a bit more of my book 'Meditations' By Marcus Aurelius. I find myself reading pages over and over, what an amazing man. Grabbed my bags, ate lunch and jumped on the boat to Isla Del Sol.
The two-hour trip was made to feel a little longer as we were sat on the roof, and I was in a T-Shirt and Shorts. It was a little chilly. Thankfully, my current audiobook 'Crushing it' By Gary Vaynerchuk, helped me through the journey.
When we arrived at Isla Del Sol, We quickly realised that our hostel was right at the top of the hill. Currently at approx 3800m we had to ascend to 4050m to get there, and to make things worse, would have 20kg or so of bags on my back and front. This walk hurt, a lot. After about 40 minutes of pain, we had made it. I'm looking forward to enjoying the juicy oxygen in the Mornington Sea Level air when I get home.
Not to worry, the views were exquisite and well worth the walk, the hard stuff is always worth it. We checked into our hotel, relaxed for half an hour or so, then decided to go on a hike/adventure around the mountain.
As we were leaving, we met two English girls Sophie and Karen and they joined us for the hike, which was short lived when we realised we were hungry and should probably nutrition up before walking. Maybe we would catch sunrise if we hung out for an hour or so.
And catch it we did, an absolutely wonderful sight is seeing the sun setting across Lake Titicaca, with the mountains of Peru in the background. We were treated to some amazing colours. Which were well deserved as we had hiked about up to one of the highest peaks, through thorns and up rocks to get to this wonderful view. Once the sun had disappeared, we hung out for a while, watching the stars come out.
Once we headed back to our hostel, we went for another feed, Spag bol with no meat wasn't the best decision, but it did the job, then we decided to head back to our hostel with a bottle of wine, turn out the lights, listen to 'A deeper understanding' By the War on Drugs and enjoy the magical night sky that was above us. It was something else, extremely spiritual - cue existential angst.
The sky looked like this > with a little less colour. Absolutely amazing.
Day 24 - Welcome to Bolivia (Copacabana)
The excitement of an 8:30 am pickup wasn't lost on us, unfortunately, however, our transport decided to be 45 minutes early. Frustrating, but luckily we had packed the night before and were able to grab our bags (unfortunately skip breakfast, the Snickers bar in my bag would have to do) and we jumped in a minibus which would take us down the road to the big bus, which would take us to the border.
I nestled into the comfortable recently vacated seats on the night bus and decided to spend our 2-hour journey to the border diving deep into The Tony Robbins Podcast. I resonated with this immensely and paused twice to write a couple of blog posts along the way. Watch this space, I'll post them up soon.
Once we made it to the border, we exchanged money, went through immigration, and crossed over to Bolivia. One dusty, dirty, shabby town to another. I have a few thoughts about borders and my dislike for them, you can read about it if you click here.
Once everyone was through immigration (seemingly Bolivians are not fond of Americans) we jumped on the bus for a 10-minute drive to the lakeside town of Copacabana.
Day 23 - Exploring Puno
We arrived in Puno, bright and early, kicking the morning off with another Peruvian breakfast. Then we headed to a little boat to knock over a 2-hour tour of Lake Titicaca and the floating islands which are inhabited by about 2000 people. This was pretty cool, with the islands being made out of the reeds which grow in the lake.
After the tour, we were taken to our hostel, where we proceeded to have a nap. Overnight buses are not overly conducive to an amazing sleep.
Once I woke up, I headed out to explore, after an hour or so, I snuck into the nearest restaurant for an alpaca steak and mash. I was not disappointed.
Today is the first day I have felt properly homesick. The travel paradox is an interesting one. I love the new adventures, places and people, but I miss the incredible people and places that are still at home. Its an interesting one, I know i need to stay present and enjoy every second, because its not every day you get to explore South America. It was ace to have a few calls with some of the legends I've left behind while I'm exploring the world, Dad, Bec, Jess, KP, Coop, Jess thanks for the chats. Good to hear everyone is kicking goals whilst I'm away.
Tomorrow we head to Bolivia. Cannot wait.
Day 22 - Goodbye Cusco (Half way though the trip)
After a late wakeup, checkout, I headed to have lunch with some of the crew we have met along the way. Its an interesting thing meeting new people, knowing them for only a few weeks, but having so many incredible shared experiences, it feels like you've known them for much longer.
After lunch, and our goodbyes, I walked around Cusco for a few hours, taking in the incredible architecture and did a little bit of people watching, explored the markets and headed back to our hostel.
After a big few days, and a big lunch, i camped out in front of the TV until it hit 9pm and we had to jump on the bus to Puno, our last stop in Peru. 10pm-5am, this will be fun.
Day 21 - Humantay Lagoon Trek and too many Cocktails
After an ugly 5am wakeup, we were on a little mini bus for a 3 hour trip down the Sacred Valley. I chose, (or my body chose) to conk out pretty quickly. Safe to say I needed the extra sleep. I woke up at our breakfast stop bleary eyed and ready for a feed. Now the pre trek breakfasts here in Peru nestle in the category of simple things done savagely well. Its far from gourmet, but scrambled eggs, fruit, yoghurt, bread with jam and butter and some coca tea, really does the trick.
Loaded up on a moderate amount of nutrition, and plenty of calories, we had another hour to drive to the start of the hike. I was well awake now, and settled into listening to an AdventureFit Radio Podcast with Rusty Young - Author of the Bestseller Marching Powder, a story about an english drug trafficker caught up in San Pedro Prison in La Paz - Bolivia. I finished the book about a few days ago and its an incredible story, even more so as we will be in La Paz in a few days.
Once we got stuck into the trek, the altitude, sore throat and headache had kicked in, so I loaded up on water, a couple of Panadol, and chucked the headphones back in to give me something to take my mind off the significant ascent we were about to partake in. 90 minutes or so of pain later, we made it, as you can see from the photo, it was an incredible place. A beautiful turquoise lagoon, surrounded by snow capped mountains. Machu Picchu is situated a long way behind me, with Salkantay Mountain in the middle, turns out that this is a trek you can take to this magical Incan city... if i come back, i think this will be my jam.
For anyone who has done a bit of hiking, you'll know that at a certain angle, downhill is probably harder than uphill. This was certainly the case for the way down. Zig zagging down the mountain at a moderate jog seemed to be the best way of descending, it felt nice to open the lungs and get the body moving a bit more quickly, a far cry from how I had felt at the start of the hike.
The bus ride back was relatively painless, i wasn't able to sleep too much so i took to watching a few ted talks on my phone, and listening to the last Virtus Podcast Episode with Mark Simpson (Yes i like to listen back a few months later when i have forgotten what we spoke about ) eventually arriving back in Cusco, for a quick nap before heading out to catchup with a decent group of our Peru Hop crew. With a few recently having arrived in Cusco and a few leaving (including us) tomorrow, it was time to let our hair down a little.
The only problem, when we woke up from our nap, it was the last thing we wanted to do... An executive decision to load up on food and water was welcomed, and then we finally dragged ourselves out of the Wild Rover Hostel into a cab, and into Cusco.
What happened next wasn't planned, but also was not the least bit surprising. Happy hour, free shots, all amidst salsa lessons and an ace crew of people, next thing we knew were all well on our way. We ended up heading back to our Hostel Wild Rover for some drinks, this went further out of control when we all ended up on top of the bar for a little while. Safe to say the RSA is a little bit more lax over here than it is in Aus.
As we well know "Hangovers steal happiness from tomorrow" so at 3am when the crew decided to go back to Cusco for more, i made the magnificent decision to load up on some water, and go to sleep. Future Wallace thanked me for that.
Day 20 - The Day After MP
Day 20 Started a little later than anticipated, after such an incredible day yesterday, I didn't end up getting to sleep until the early hours of the morning, add a few weeks of accumulated fatigue on top of that, and I was cooked. A decent sleep later and a big breakfast and I was up and about again. I'd contracted a bit of a cold from the last few weeks of hiking, travelling and eating some gnarly street food, so i made the executive decision to do very little today.
A few walks around the incredible city of Cusco, a nap on the grass and a decent amount of time spent reading my book (Meditations - Its amazing) and listening to podcasts and I was well and truly in a magnificent headspace. After a quiet dinner at the bar, we booked a day trek for Humantay Lagoon the following day, and it was early to bed as a 5am bus was waiting for us.
Day 19 - Machu Picchu
When Jocko woke me up this morning, I jumped out of bed before he started counting. We scoffed breakfast, and started the walk to the base of MP. 20 minutes later, we were at the bridge to start the climb up the mountain.
We had about 5-600m to ascend, through a path basically straight up, through the jungle, with the raging river below. It was incredible. And we weren’t even there yet. It was tough, hard work, but that’s what makes the peak absolute bliss. Life is struggle, and hiking mirrors this. I made it to the top, waited for the others and found ourself a guide at the top. Luiz, an absolute legend, agreed to take us on a tour of MP. If you do this, make sure you get a tour guide, we learnt so incredibly much in such a short time.
I’m not going to try to explain the experience. This is something you need to see and enjoy for yourself, no photos will ever do this place justice, but I will say that the 3 hours we spent on MP was one of the best things I’ve ever done, culminating in 30 mins of meditation at the top, I almost transcended human form.
Once finished, we grabbed a water, and ticked the legs over as we had to be back at the bus in a few hours. As all descents, the best way is usually a run, as it’s quicker, and more fun. James and I descended in 20 mins or so, stopped at the restaurant at the bottom for dos cervesas and a chance to stop and try to understand what we had just experienced.
Once Pri arrived, we started the walk back to the bus. 9km along the railway. This quickly turned into a bit of a run as we were on such a high, 10 mins later we stopped to let the train go past and happened to run into a few of our PeruHop friends Tom and Mikaela who were headed the other way. A quick hello, and we were off again.
I decided to run, 25 minutes worth, geez it felt good to tick the legs over, it’d been a few days since a run with a bunch of hikes taking it out of the legs. Eventually we made it back to the station, loaded up on food and jumped on the bus for a 6 hour bus ride back to Cusco.
This ended up being an 8 hour bus ride, as the weather turned and we had to go 20km/hr as we were headed down some very sketchy one lane road with a massive drop on the other side, and we had to get out, and push the van (Mercedes Sprinter, not small) across the rocks. Lucky for a couple of big string Aussie boys. Once we got back to Cusco, I knocked over some emails, and then we went out for dinner, and when I got back managed to find a link to watch the boys pump Sorrento for round 1. What an incredible day.
Day 18 - The route to Machu Picchu
Jocko Willink telling me that I had 10 seconds to get out of bed was the first thing I heard this morning. Dragging myself out of bed, down to reception so we could wait for our transport was tougher than I’d hoped.
The following 6 hour bus ride was brutal. Drifting in and out of consciousness wasn’t the most enjoyable way of spending the first half of the day, but eventually we made it to the end of the road, Hidroelectica. This is a little train station where you can either jump on the train, or hike 9km along the tracks to Aquas Calientes. We of course decided on the latter. James, Priyanka and I started the hike surrounded by the most incredible scenery. The surrounding canyon and river is something else, and with the walk being mostly flat, rocky ground, it was a nice change from the inclines and declines we had been used to and what we had waiting for us tomorrow.
When we made it to the town, it looked like something out of The Lord Of the Rings, just with modern buildings. (Check out the photo below) we were meant to meet the tour guide in the main square, but were unable to find him. So we grabbed a feed, a few pisco sours and checked into our hostel. Once checked in, showered and relaxed. I tried to call KP for our 9 year anniversary, but the time difference didn’t help. I consider myself so incredibly lucky to have someone like her by my side 😌
Finally we made contact with our guide, we met up with him in the main square, for him to tell us that the tour company didn’t book our 6am ticket, as the Office in Cusco was closed, so we were told we were going at 11am as the 6am was now sold out. (if you’re going, I’d recommend booking on the government website yourself) however, the 11am start cooked our plans, as we had to be back at the bus at 2:30 for the drive back to Cusco. We were in a pickle.
Luckily after a few hours of discussion/many phone calls we met another guide who told us of a loophole. Because we had transport booked, we would be able to get in at 9am, not ideal but hey, take a breath smile because tomorrow we are climbing up to Machu Picchu.
Day 17 - Cusco
Today was the first day for a little while we hadn’t been in transit or exploring something incredible. After a little sleep in, a delicious breakfast and an hour or so of work, we headed into Cusco to catch up with some friends for lunch. We found ourselves at an family owned organic restaurant where all of the food is from their farm. Safe to say the food was amazing. Two meals and some fresh juice later, I was well famished.
We headed to the market/tour agencies to book Machu Picchu. Now let me preface this by saying there are many, many ways you can do this. 9 day inca trails, jungle tours, trains, buses, cars etc. Travel agents back home will have you believe you’ll have to spend 2-3k on a tour. This is certainly not the case.
We booked for MP, with return transport to Hidroelectrica, 2 meals, we booked our own Accom at the base of MP at the town of Aquas Calientes. Paying about 220 Peruvian soles (about $90 AUD)
After booking, we headed back to our hostel, planning dinner and a few drinks at the bar. But quiet night as we had an 8am pickup the next morning. Unfortunately, we got sucked in to the Wild Rover Experience. Gin was on special, happy hour was pumping, and we were in an ace mood. Safe to say things got a little out of hand. Luckily, I had enough sense to call it and get to bed in time to get a decent-ish sleep.
Day 16 - Rainbow mountain
Another early start, bumpy bus ride and basic breakfast, and we were ready to climb up rainbow mountain. Somewhat of a new tourist attraction, with it having only been open for 2 years to the public, we had an 11km round trip to the site. Which as we found our later, got its colours from 4 minerals - Zinc, Magnesium, Sulphur and Copper.
The walk to the mountain was incredible. In a valley surrounded by mountain peaks covered in ice and snow, green rolling slopes and some red mountains, it was thoroughly enjoyable.
We started at 4500m and reached a peak of 5100m, having lived at sea level my whole life, I was nervous about the altitude. Luckily, it didn’t seem to affect me at all, except being a little short of breath on the way up, and making 60% feel like 90% we got the job done.
Rainbow mountain is one of those attractions Instagram has seemed to make famous, the mountain itself is beautiful, but the valleys surrounding it were breathtaking.
Day 15 - Bus to Cusco
Not much happened Day 15. We were picked up at 5:45 for a 12 hour bus ride to Cusco. We hunkered down and I managed to write a few blog posts, catchup on some sleep, watch a movie or two and finish a number of podcasts and books. A great day for relaxing, but not the most comfortable thing spending that long in a bus.
When we landed in Cusco, we checked in, booked a tour at rainbow mountain the next day, popped into the bar to watch Peru 🇵🇪 v Iceland 🇮🇸 in the soccer, drink a beer and load up on food. With a 4am wake up the next morning, it wasn’t a big night.
Day 13 + 14 - Colca Canyon
After a 3am pickup, we were introduced to our guide Fernando, an incredible human with plenty of stories. After a 6 hour bus ride, breakfast and a few loo stops we started our trek.
Day 1 consisted of 2 x 7km sections, with lunch in between. We started at the top of the canyon (the 3rd deepest in the world, 2x the depth of the Grand Canyon) and descended 7km to the river below, this was nothing short of breathtaking. To see the canyon open up as the clouds parted, with condors flying overhead was a majestic experience.
After lunch, we were treated to another 7km which Fernando labelled ‘Inca flat’ which was not flat at all, a nice incline followed by a decline. By this time fatigue was setting in, especially as I had decided to carry a heavy bag for the training effect, and because why not. I was quickly lamenting this decision. But as always, left foot, right foot, we got the job done.
When we got to our little accomodation, we jumped into the pool, hung our sweaty clothes out and James and I settled into happy hour at the bar ( more like shack next to a few tables) after dinner and too many cocktails, we hit the hay.
Day 2 kicked off at 4pm, with another 6km hike, this time more or less straight up the side of the canyon. How do you climb a mountain? One step at a time. This was truly the mantra, about 80% of the way up, fatigue had well and truly taken over, but the views, sunrise and serenity was something else, so we gritted our teeth and got the job done. Things like this are always the hardest just before you reach the euphoria of making the top. What an adventure. Once the rest of the group had reached the top, we walked the final 1km through fields to our lunch stop, before jumping on the bus for 6 hours of bumpy sleep.
When I get some decent internet, I’ll link my Instagram story video from the trek, it was incredible.
On the night of the 14th we managed to catch up with a big chunk of our PeruHop crew for some dinner and drinks. Nothing better than making friends from all around the world.
Day 12 - Arequipa
We kicked off day 12 in the beautiful city of Arequipa. After an overnight bus ride, we were lucky enough to check into our hostel at 6am which meant a few more hours sleep.
When we woke up, we did a quick tour of a Monastery, luckily I didn’t burn up on entry, then we jumped in on a walking tour around the city. Albeit super slow, it was an interesting few hours, learning plenty about the Inca culture and the city itself.
With the next few days locked away for a trek through Colca Canyon, we hit the hay early.
Day 11 - Huacachina to Nazca to an overnight bus to Arequipa.
Another early morning wakeup to jump on a shuttle bus to take Sasha, a Swiss backpacker and I to Nazca, where we had booked a flight to see the Nazca Lines, ancient drawings in the desert. I was incredibly dusty and the bus ride was very bumpy, which resulted in a few hours of broken sleep and sweat as the air con wasn't working super well.
The flight itself was ace, Peru has such an incredible landscape. The Nazca lines were pretty cool, not sure if i would pay the $80 US again to do the flights, but it was a great experience.
Now we are sitting in a hotel near our meeting point, I've just had another sweaty nap on a leather couch, soon the group will be here and we can have dinner, before jumping on the bus for an 11 hour drive to Arequipa.
Adios for now.
Day 10 - Paracas to Huacachina
Today was busy. 8am speedboat tour out to some rocky islands that were inhabited by more birds than I’ve ever seen in my life. Plenty of penguins and sea lions roaming around it was a very serene yet smelly place. Safe to say the birds have got to go somewhere... that’s why they are mostly white islands.
Following this was another tour at the National Reserve, this was incredible. A big chunk of southern Peru is desert. Proper desert. Nothing to see except for sand dunes and nothingness. This reserve was on the ocean, the point where desert meets sea is mesmerising. I’ll put some photos below when I get some decent internet.
Then we jumped on the bus to Huacachina a little town surrounding a desert oasis. Yep it’s as pretty as it sounds.
Now im off to do some sandbording and for a ride in a dune buggy. This will be fun.
Ok, It was amazing. The dune buggy is basically a roller coaster on the sand. It was insane. Simple as that. The sand boarding was very fun. My week in Myoko - Japan certainly helped. I cant wait to get back on the snow. But thats another trip for another time.
We ended up watching the sunset over the desert. An incredible experience. The desert is beautiful, its not like the deserts in Australia. No trees, just sand, lots and lots of sand.
After the sunset, we went back to the hostel where we had a family bbq with the crew from Peru Hop, free drinks for an hour quickly turned this into a massive night of dancing, drinking and an impromptu pool party. Safe to say my head was sore the next morning.
Day 9 - Lima to Paracas
Welcome to PeruHop. A hope on hop off bus company which would take us all the way to La Paz Bolivia, exploring plenty of Peru along the way. We had a 6 hour drive to the coastal town of Paracas plenty of time to make some friends, and learn about Peru from our tour guide Alex.
Unfortunately, the copious amount of seafood, beer and pisco in my system was having a field day with my intestines. They did backflips for the best part of 24 hours.
Alas, that didnt stop us from enjoying the Paracas National Reserve on quad bikes. Fortunately we were more or less able to go a little faster than we would have been able to in Australia. This was incredibly fun, and to top it off we got to do this as the sun set over Paracas. Life is good.
Day 8 - Lima
Day 8 started with an early wake up, mostly because of conking out with a food coma nice and early the night before. After a run and some meditation (I set the goal of meditating for at least 20 mins a day for the whole trip) we both sat down to do some work for a few hours, replying to emails, catching up with the crew and seeing what’s happening back home.
As strange as it sounds, I miss work, I feel disconnected now I’ve been away a week. It’s a nice feeling knowing Virtus is in such good hands.
The rest of the day was spent exploring Downtown Lima. Some incredible architecture and sculptures fill this part of the city. Again the slums and the affluent neighbourhoods sit side by side.
With a 6am start the next day, we decided on only a few beers, after a big dinner, and a few 1L Jugs and a couple of pisco sours we called it a night. Fortunately.
Day 7 - Santiago to Lima
After a 6am wake up we were at the airport nice and early for our 9am flight. Unfortunately our flight was delayed 5 hours so much sitting, reading and podcasting ensued. The frustrating part was having no idea what time our flight would leave, as all of the announcements were in Spanish 😂😂
Eventually we got to Lima, the transfer was already organised and we headed to our hostel. Lima is a crazy contest of rich and poor, many Peruvians had made the journey down from the mountains to look for work, unable to find any. So the slums were many but seemingly well organised. The affluence change within a block or two was insane.
The evening was spent walking around Miraflores, a clean, active inviting suburb of Lima.
We had been told multiple times that Peruvian food is amongst the best in the world, and we were not disappointed. The seafood was next level. Peru you have my stomach 🙌🏽
Day 6 - Pichilemu to Santiago
Today was time to say goodbye to the beautiful seaside town of Pichilemu.
It’s been a fantastic opportunity to switch off, consume some content, and enjoy this beautiful corner of the world.
We jumped on the 1:30 bus, nestled in for the 3.5 hour trip, only to be told a few stops in that James had purchased the ticket for tomorrow. Whoops. Not to worry. A quick cab ride back to the bus terminal and we were lucky enough to jump on the 3pm bus snapping up the last two seats. The bus trip was fairly uneventful, the backdrop of the Andes in the distance is something pretty magical. There’s just something about mountains that make me happy. I’m very excited for something me hiking that’s to come. Very much looking forward to heading to Peru tomorrow.
Day 5 - Wedding Day
After a week of sunshine, a storm decided to roll in over the Pacific Ocean. The activities for the day were reduced to the indoors. Gary, James and Deb introduced me to a card game called Uka, thoroughly enjoyable, especially as Gary and I were very, very successful at it. Beginners luck, probably. About 4 hours of cards and beers and it was time to get ready for the wedding.
The wedding itself was magical. It’s an interesting thing being at a wedding where you only know a few people, I enjoy being a fly on the wall at things like this and it was interesting people watching and seeing how happy everyone was. Pure celebration and party mode. The wedding took place next to the beach, with the sunset delivering the goods as the ceremony finished. You can’t plan this stuff.
Day 4: Pichilemu and a pillow
Before I left I sent the intention of the trip. After juggling a few I settled on a little mantra “Explore, experience, adventure and just be” The just be section of the mantra is fairly important to me. It means to have minimal expectations and to just go into each day and each part of the trip with my head and my heart open to experiencing. It also means that I don’t need to be go go go all of the time. Day 4 I lived this meaning to a tee. After a sleepin, I read, listened to a podcast and went for a giant walk through the town and down along the beach ‘just be’ I ended up sitting by the beach, people and water watching for a few hours before grabbing a big feed, and getting to bed super early. I guess my body needed sleep. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to just sleep when I need it. I’m certainly not complaining. I feel blissfully zen.
Day 3: Santiago to Pichilemu
We kicked off day 3 with a 3 hour bus ride down south to the beautiful coastal town of Pichilemu. A beautiful surf centred area with an incredibly chilled vibe. After a decent feed and a walk I got stuck right into an afternoon nap.
We have ventured down to Pichilemu for a Wedding. I’m fortunate enough to be +1 to a Chilean wedding (super cool) as Longy’s friends are getting hitched on Saturday. This evening was spent getting to know them over too much beer and red wine. Safe to say I had a decent sleep in post session. Day 4 started a little later than expected.
Day 2: Santiago
Today was a day of two halves. The first was exploring Santiago by foot. It was pretty interesting. Some incredible architecture, nestled in amongst some horrible buildings. As we got closer and closer to the CBD, chaos ensued. People everywhere, trying to sell anything and everything. Reminding me almost of our 2013 South East Asia trip. Its almost a cross between Bangkok and Sydney. It seems as though most CBDs and major cities are much the same, albeit some minor historical and architectural differences. The second half of the day was spent relaxing. In a book, listening to a podcast (Tim Ferris + Aubrey Marcus *its ace) and a big fat nap. Not sure if the last few months has caught up with me or delayed jetlag set in. Regardless. Naps are ace.
The food here is amazing. Steaks/Ribs/Tacos/Burritos... lucky we are walking lots.
Day 1: Touchdown.
We have finally arrived in Santiago, Chile, a few thousand km away from home. It seems kind of surreal. This trip has been booked for months, but I've been neck deep in 'life', that I haven't really thought about it. Strange maybe, but my focus has been on whats right in front of me, and there has been so much crowding my vision for the past few months, well, until now. It hasn't been that long, yet so much has happened... I feel as though that's the title of the current chapter of my life. Day 1 of a trip is a strange feeling, part of me is hanging on to home, I miss KP, I miss Virtus, I miss my team and the Virtus Family, but the other part of me is both scared and excited for the impending trip. 6 weeks of the unknown, apart from the countries we are visiting and a few sights along the way, this trip will be largely decided by how we are feeling each day. This excites me, I've never been too much of an itinerary guy, but this is somewhat next level. Chile, Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay (maybe) and Argentina, I'm looking forward to enjoying some time in each of your beautiful countries. Strangely, we left Melbourne at 9:40 pm on the 13th, it’s now 10:20 pm on the 13th. Magic flying powers. That’s me for now. It's time to have a beer and explore Santiago, Be amazing.