When we told people we were ”Going on holiday” the general reaction was like ”umm excuse me…aren’t you already traveling the world, what do you need a holiday for?” Well my friends, we may be travelling the world but we are and have been working a lot and a holiday meant we left our computers at behind and forgot about work for 17 blissful days. We will be writing a post on all the differences between Working As We Go and Holidays, so stay tuned.
We didn’t spend our holidays alone, we travelled with one of Karen’s best friends Aline and her boyfriend Marcus. Big thanks must go to Aline who pretty much organised everything for us. One thing I learnt over the 17 days was that South America is an amazing place. I’ve been here 6 times but the last 5 times have only been in Brazil. The natural beauty on this continent is superb and should definitely be explored by everyone. We included a tonne of photos in this blog because there were too many to leave out. Enjoy!
The Viagem Radical (Radical Journey), which was the name of our Whatsapp group, started in the small town of Iquique in the north of Chile. From here we hired a car and drove across the dessert to the famous San Pedro de Atacama where we spent a couple of days. We paid for a couple of different tours in San Pedro, from the freezing heights of the geysers to the Valley of the Moon, the views were stunning. We all struggled with the cold and the altitude but Karen had a little scare at the Geysers where she almost fainted thanks to the fact we were about 5000m above sea-level. But after a rest and dipping her feet in the piping hot springs she quickly felt better.
The next 3 days we spent crossing the Atacama desert in a Land Rover. We left Chile and entered Bolivia in what is by far the most simple border crossing we have come across, which was a sign of things to come. Bolivia is a poor country, it is the poorest that we have seen so far but that doesn’t mean it’s not awesome. Crossing the desert for 3 days might sound a bit boring. You might think, “don’t you get bored of looking at the same thing over and over again…” well that’s what I was afraid of, but much to my surprise and delight, the desert changed and changed a lot. We would drive for an hour and the landscape would completely change. The second day was the longest day of driving and the landscape must have changed at least 7-8 times. I felt I should have slept but there was so much to see out the dirty window of the Land Rover that I didn’t want to close my eyes, I didn’t want to fall asleep cos I didn’t want to miss a thing 😉 Here are some of the different views we came across while crossing the desert.
The first night on our crossing of the desert was the hardest. We stayed in some very basic accommodation about 4500m above sea level. If you’ve ever spent any time at altitude you’ll know that it plays with your body big time. No one slept well at all. Aline was very sick the whole night, which may have been a combination of food poisoning and altitude but the rest of us had dry lips, dry noses, headaches and it was hard to breathe. It was one of, if not the longest night I’ve had in the past year.
The second night was a lot better as we dropped down to about 3000m above sea-level. On the last day of the tour we ended up at what is one of the highlights since we started Working As We Go, the spectacular Salar de Uyuni. This salt flat is the world’s largest and is a thing of beauty, and glare, a lot of glare, take your sunnies with you. Millions of years ago it was a sea but the water evaporated leaving behind all the salt. Sunrise at the Salar was another wow moment as we were left speechless. After a few hours admiring and trying to line up the perfect illusion photos we left the salar and the tour was over. Later that night we got the overnight bus to La Paz.
Our friends Luana and Anderson are living in La Paz which was a main reason we stayed 4 days in La Paz. They had a couple other friends staying with them at the same time so our group grew from 4 to 8 which was awesome! La Paz itself isn’t the prettiest but it does have a lot of character and interesting history which we learned about on a walking tour on our first day there. The other days we took tours to mountains around La Paz. These tours are where we really noticed how poor parts of South America can be. The city of El Alto which overlooks La Paz is the fastest growing city in Bolivia and it looks like it can’t keep up. The buildings look unfinished and there are very little bitumen roads but the surrounding mountains and scenery are awesome. Having said this, La Paz does have one of the coolest transport systems I’ve ever seen. They have 3 lines of cable cars (with 7 more lines in the works) that take you from the city centre, which is in the valley, up to the tops of the surrounding mountains. It’s really cool as a tourist attraction but thousands of people each day use it as a means of transportation, which I think makes it even cooler. AND it costs 3 Bolivianos which is about $1. Compared to the cable cars at the Blue Mountains where they require your left hand to ride the cable cars, it’s a steal.
What came next was years in the making, the conquering of the Death Road. I heard about this bicycle adventure years ago and had wanted to do it ever since. The Death Road is a really dangerous road that winds down around the mountains which has unfortunately claimed the lives of a lot of people. We were all a bit nervous before hand but once we got started we loved it. We didn’t find it was too dangerous on a bike and we were more scared or falling off the bike and breaking a limb rather than actually flying off the edge to our deaths. Responsible fun, that’s what we were after, not crazy adventure. The big danger is with cars, buses and even trucks. The road is ridiculously narrow at times which is why I imagine there has been so many fatal incidents on the road. Another reason we didn’t find it too scary was that in the last few years a new road had been added nearby which meant that there was no traffic to compete with. The views combined with the adrenalin made the Death Road one of the coolest things we’ve done.
The time came to say farewell to our friends as we continued the holiday up to Cusco, Peru. Everyone who has been to Cusco had found things to say about it and I gotta say……everyone was right. We loved it. It’s touristy but hey, it’s touristy for a reason. Not only is it beautiful but it has an interesting history. The city has an amazing combination of Inca and Spanish architecture through out. Cusco also has a lot of awesome Inca archeological sights within a couple hours of it and we spent two of our days in Cusco exploring them.
After Cusco we made our way to what was building up to be a, if not the, main attraction. Machu Picchu. We took the cheaper option of a van + hike because it was $35 return compared to the $150 return with the train ride. Which was actually a decent option as we got to experience Peru’s own death road and a nice hike. Unfortunately for me about 30mins into our 3hour walk I started to feel the effects of some bad food I must have eaten. The next 12 hours of my life were not fun, in fact I was very close to seeing a doctor but decided to ride it out. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise. There is a walk from Aguas Calientes (the town below Machu Picchu) to Machu Picchu which we were planning on doing, but thanks to my illness Karen and I decided it was best to take the bus, Aline and Marcus still did the walk. We arrived fresh and ready to explore Machu Picchu, they arrived sweating and ready for bed. They started their walk at 4.30am and it was 1.2km straight up a mountain. Add to that we hiked up to the top of Machu Picchu mountain which is another few hundred metres up and even steeper plus we had to explore Machu Picchu and walk back down the mountain. This day was the most tiring we have experienced so far. We arrived back to the hotel at around 5pm, showered and lay down for a 2 hour nap before we woke up and went and got some dinner, well that was the plan anyway. We lay down at 6pm and didn’t wake up until 7am the next day. It was an amazing sleep 🙂
Anyway back to Machu Picchu. We’ve visited some of the top ruins in the world on our travels. The Greeks, the Romans and the Mayan ruins in Mexico and Guatemala are all amazing but the views from Machu Picchu and the fact they built a God damn city on the top of a mountain are ridiculous. It definitely lives up to the hype.
The following day we were all struggling to move from the long day of walking up and down mountains the day before but still had to find the strength to do the reverse leg of our hike + van trip back to Cusco. Even though I was sore it was a much nicer experience than the way in thanks to my food poisoning not being a problem anymore.
We made it safely back to Cusco then the following day, which marked 1 year as Working As We Go, we spent the day flying back from Peru to Brazil and back to reality, well, our reality at least.