Inuvik to Ushuaia

The Islands of Lake Titicaca

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Demonstrating knitting at Taquile
Demonstrating knitting at Taquile (View on flickr)

Lake Titicaca is a massive lake, the highest navigable lake in the world at an elevation of 3,812 meters (12,507 feet). Both Peru and Bolivia share this deep blueish-green lake with several islands on the Peru side and several on the Bolivia side which are inhabited by indigenous people who mostly speak Quechua and Aymara, two languages that date from the Inca empire. A visit to the islands is an important part of visiting this natural wonder of the world.

We took a two day boat trip to three islands on the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca: Uros, Amantaní and Taquile. We first visited the Uros Islands, which in reality are dozens of floating artificial islands. Each island is made of reeds which are bound together and maintained by the inhabitants. People actually live on these small floating islands in reed houses. Not only are the houses and the islands themselves made of reeds but they make boats out of them too. Is is fascinating to see all the different designs of boats made solely of reeds. The people of the islands used to make a living from fishing, but this has replaced by tourism on most of the islands. The women wear incredibly bright neon-colored clothes which glow against the yellow reeds and blue lake and pastel-colored sky.  read more here... lee mas aquí... »

Entering Bolivia!

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Entering Bolivia
Entering Bolivia (View on flickr)

We entered Bolivia today. We asked cyclists already in the country whether they were sensing any unrest or finding any problems, and none of them were. So we decided to head on in. And even the news shows that all the issues have been in the eastern part of the country, which was far from our route anyway.

The one hurdle we had to cross that we haven't anywhere else on our trip: We had to get a visa! There was a gob of paperwork and $135/person to be paid for the privilege. Bolivia started this program (exclusively for US citizens) several months ago in the interest of "reciprocity". It only makes sense. If Bolivian citizens want to go the US, they have to jump through all these hoops (and far more, really). And we knew about this hurdle for many months.

We had thought we could get the visa cheaper ($100) Bolivian consulate at the last city in Peru, Puno, but when we showed up at their doorstep they told us they were out of visas and didn't know when they'd come.

For other cyclists, our friend Andrew wrote a great article about how US cyclists get a Bolivian visa.

How much does your bike cost?

Ever since we got to Mexico we've had to deal with the question in every little village: "How much did your bike cost?" It's embarrassing and difficult. Our bikes are ordinary mountain bikes, middle-of-the-road affairs, but they cost around US$1000, which is more than a year's income for a Guatemalan family. It's more money than most campesinos in the countries we've ridden through will ever see. So if we say "1000 dollars", they go into shock. I don't think it makes the bikes more likely to be stolen, but it's just a terribly uncomfortable thing to discuss.

In the past we tried: "About 2 weeks' salary" (very unsatisfactory to all, since it's an honest and open question. Some friends suggested lying and saying "$200" or something. That doesn't seem too good either. We've tried "It was a pre3sent; I don't know." Also unsatisfactory. Everybody knows we know.

But recently one answer has been very successful. We say "It's our custom not to talk about prices and expenditures." They immediately nod their heads and drop the question. Es nuestra costumbre no hablar de precios. Since I was raised not to talk about such things, it's absolutely true. And people really respect it since they're used to respecting other people's customs. Anyway, a recommended response!

Peru Wrapup

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Closeup of old man at Pisac
Closeup of old man at Pisac (View on flickr)

Pictures from southern Peru and Northern Peru are up... And our route maps and elevation profiles are all up-to-date as well.

Peru was a delightful and challenging country for bicycle travel. The people are warm and open and cry out "Gringo!" from every field and household. (This may be rude in "gringo" terms, but it's just friendly banter from most Peruvians. Who knows why everybody does this in Peru!)

It was also a hard country. We climbed to passes as high as we've ever been (4700 meters, over 15,000 feet) and suffered endless dusty dirt roads. The toilets (or rather outhouses) (if they existed) in rural areas were often of the "squatter" type, not the "sitter" type, where you put your feet beside a hole and aim at the hole.

The country is incredibly beautiful, with striking snow-covered mountains, green rice paddies, huge rivers, and everything in between. And, of course, it has Machu Picchu, which has to be one of the world's most beautiful places.

It was cheap most of the time, except around Cusco and Machu Picchu, where they have the squeeze of the tourist down to a fine art.

Some price examples:

  • Hotels: US$5-10 for the two of us. Sometimes surprisingly good.

Teetering on the edge! Help us with our decision

Update: See what we decided here.

We need your help! Please vote and help us decide what should be our next step.

After two years and 3 months of traveling by bicycle, we are tired and want a change or need a change. Our not-so-young bodies are complaining of the day and day out pounding of the roads of South America. But more than that our not-so-young minds are so full of what we've seen and done they don't seem to want any more. We have pedaled over 21,000 kilometers (13,000 miles) and bused, boated or hitched another couple of thousand kilometers. We have climbed many 4000 meter (13,000 foot) passes, pedaled to incredible beaches, passed months after months of farmlands filled with scattering of adobe homes and animals, sweated in the deserts, swatted the swarms of nasty bugs, visited cities, towns, tiny villages, churches, ancient ruins, museums and talked with thousands of people from many different walks of life. The turbulent economy has rocked us all. Even though we are in Bolivia, one of the poorest countries in the Americas, the financial situation in the US has affected our travel funds.

We are turning to of our loyal followers for support and advice in our moment of need. Please write to us and let us know what your advise to us would be.

Here are our options, as we see them:

End the trip here in Bolivia and head back home.  read more here... lee mas aquí... »

Our Plan: To Uyuni and the Argentine Border by Bus

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Thanks to all of you for your wonderful advice! After a week of resting in La Paz, Bolivia, here's what we have decided to do:

Tonight we're taking an all-night bus to Uyuni, in southern Bolivia, where we'll see the amazing Salar de Uyuni. After a few days there we'll take a train or bus to the Argentine border and ride south on the bikes to Salta, Argentina. In Salta we'll probably take some more time off, perhaps a month or so. Randy will try to pick up some work on the internet doing some web development, and Nancy will be refreshing some of her skills and doing some more drawing. Then we'll probably head south on the bikes and continue the ride.

Thanks so much for your care for us and for your encouraging comments!

-Randy and Nancy

Riding around Lake Titicaca and into Bolivia

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We rode from Puno, Peru to La Paz, Bolivia mostly along Lake Titicaca where the high-altitude lake reflected silver sunlight off the deep blue-green water. During the ride we saw villages harvesting reeds to make into mats, individuals making fishing nets, groups of people preparing the earth for the planting of potatoes, with mostly human power or oxen, but a few had the benefit of using tractors. The first night out of Puno, we outraced a tremendous storm and dove for cover in Ilave after riding 35 beautiful, flat miles. It was so good to be in a hotel room, dry, and safe from the blasting winds and pounding rain which lasted for most of the late afternoon and evening. The next day when we awoke the sun was shinning and the skies were clear. We rode another 49 miles enjoying vast open altiplano which was a wide open valley of dry flat fields. The closer we got to the Bolivian border the more we saw sheep and llamas grazing in the open valley. We even stopped for a photo shoot at the market in Juli where the livestock market was full of sheep and llamas. I saw live sheep hauled up on to the roofs of mini buses and lashed down. I watched as they stuffed live llamas inside the buses. I found it amusing to see a big bunch of live giant sheep on top of a van and a heads of llama sticking out an open window as the buses called colectivos drove past us. I was glad I was not one of those animals.

We stopped for the night in the last town in Peru called Yunguyo before we crossed into Bolivia. To our delight the town was celebrating the fiesta of its patron saint.  read more here... lee mas aquí... »

Blazing into Argentina (by bus and train). 5121 Kilometers to Go!

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Randy and Nancy crossing from Bolivia into Argentina
Randy and Nancy crossing from Bolivia into Argentina (View on flickr)

We crossed the border from Bolivia into Argentina today after spending all night on a very comfortable train. Well, at least it was a well-run, clean, on-time train.

Here's the sign that met us at the border, telling us how far it is to Ushuaia, our goal? at the bottom of Argentina:

Ushuaia is only 5121 Kilometers (3175 miles) from our crossing at the Argentine Border
Ushuaia is only 5121 Kilometers (3175 miles) from our crossing at the Argentine Border (View on flickr)

A 3 day tour of the Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia - a salt desert

Texture of the salt on Salar de Uyuni
Texture of the salt on Salar de Uyuni (View on flickr)

Our 3 day tour around Bolivia´s famous Salar de Uyuni, a massive salt desert, is best described by photos. Because of the difficult terrain, high elevation, remoteness, and extreme cold, we decided to explore this amazing region of southwestern Bolivia by 4x4 vehicle. We went with a tour company called Andes Salt Expedition . They provided all the transportation, food and lodging and expert interpretation in English about the surreal desolate geography we encountered along the way. They delivered what they promised and at a fair price.  read more here... lee mas aquí... »

A perfect ride down from the highlands of Bolivia into Northern Argentina, Jujuy

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Nancy with Lllama crossing sign
Nancy with Lllama crossing sign (View on flickr)

We started our descent from the Altiplano at about 3800 meters where the air is thin and sometimes seems almost non-existent. I never did get acclimated to the high elevation even after almost 3 months. So riding down to the lower lands was very exciting to me, I had hopes I would get my health back and my motivation to ride. This section was going to be downhill. Yes down, down, down. I enjoyed the ride downhill for all 4 days. It had a very satisfying feeling. The road was paved, smooth and no traffic to speak of. The land was open range with llamas grazing everywhere. Instead of having the yellow road signs, "watch out for cows", there were a signs with black silhouetted llamas. I think llamas have about the mental capacity of cattle. Llamas must have suicide tendencies because herds of them keep running across the road just as cars where coming. I imagine they dared each other to run across just as the biggest, fastest bus was approaching and cheered each other when they made it alive to the other side and just went back to grazing when one did not make it.

Camping at the chapel - Capilla Vieja
Camping at the chapel - Capilla Vieja (View on flickr)

The first day, the winds were quiet and we got in about 100 kilometers. At the end of the day we found an little old adobe church and set up our tent on the quiet side out of the wind and out of sight from the traffic. We cooked dinner inside the bell tower, and watched the sun setting over high grassy plains.  read more here... lee mas aquí... »

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