A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: lauraj

Cycling The Death Road

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Bolivia's Yungas Road is officially the most hazardous on earth. Local people pray before using it and the nearest hospital is a two-hour drive away. In it's worst year someone died on average every two weeks. Now the main road goes a different route but some drivers still opt for the short cut. Daft tourists hurtle over its bumps and skid around it's terrifying hairpin bends on push bikes at speeds approaching 40mph.

With the dubious label of 'The most dangerous road in the world', this spectacular 38-mile ride drops more than 11,800ft from the cold, dry oxygen starved Andean mountains into the hot and steamy Amazonian jungle. The first part of the four hour ride is paved road. Flying down, crouched over my handle bars, squinting out of teary eyes I was enjoying the staggering views and getting used to being in the saddle (it had been a few years to say the least!) then the road split, we headed down a steep gravelly track and the proper ride began. The trail, in places no more than a muddy track maybe 10 feet wide, wound precariously down around the mountain, past waterfalls that spilled onto the trail and cascaded over the sheer drops of up to 500 meters. And not a safety barrier in sight. It was sobering passing all the crosses and memorials where people had lost their lives. We stopped briefly by the cross marking the spot where a young British lad misjudged a corner just a month before.

Our guide was a crazy Peruvian who spent a good deal of his time turned around backwards on his bike filming and taking photos of me and my cycling buddy George. He occasionally turned around to one-handedly negotiate a tricky corner or avoid a bus. I have him to thank for these pictures.

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Posted by lauraj 12:59 Archived in Peru Comments (1)

Colca Canyon Condors

The deepest canyon in the world and the largest flying birds in the Western Hemisphere

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It's a bit of a way to go but if you're in need a hangover cure, a morning spent at this incredible place four hours away from anywhere in Peru is second to none. After a very Irish birthday celebration (which barged noisily into the early hours and involved a moonlit rickshaw joyride) we were up at the crack of sparrows to take an extremely bumpy bus ride around some extremely bendy mountain roads. Staggering out of the bus we came across one of the most breathtaking views of the trip. And then we saw the Condors.

My camera battery had almost died from the cold but thankfully my friend Paul lent me his spare, if I had walked away without a shot of these magnificent beasties (that grow up to 3m) I think I might have cried!

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Posted by lauraj 11:25 Archived in Peru Comments (1)

Nascar

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The Nazca Lines are a series of geoglyphs located in the Nazca Desert, a high arid plateau that stretches more than 50 miles between the towns of Nazca and Palpa on the Pampas de Jumana in Peru. Believed to have been created by the Nazca culture between 200 BCE and 700 CE the lines are shallow designs in the ground where the reddish pebbles that cover the surrounding landscape have been removed, revealing the whitish earth underneath. Hundreds are simple lines or geometric shapes, and more than seventy are natural or human figures. The largest are over 200m across and they are spread over an area of nearly 190 square miles.

There are many theories about why the Nascar lines exist, mostly pointing towards a religious significance, the worship of the life giving mountains and other water sources, a message only the gods could see. The geometric lines could indicate the flow of water or be connected to rituals to summon water. Some lines seem to line up with celestial bodies at certain times of the year. The spiders, birds, and plants could be fertility symbols. Other possible explanations bandied about include: irrigation schemes, giant astronomical calendars, or parking spots for spaceships, widely accepted is the theory that the lines were used as sacred paths leading to places where these deities could be worshiped, and the figures symbolically represent animals and objects meant to invoke their aid. Maybe they just liked monkey´s. Hey, who doesn't?!

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Posted by lauraj 10:12 Archived in Peru Tagged tourist_sites Comments (1)

Lump of old rocks

...or the most incredible place on earth..?


View South America on lauraj's travel map.

At 3:50 this morning I was woken up by one of the porters, it was the 4th and final day of our Inca Trail hike. We huddled in the dark, tense with excitement waiting for the rangers to open the gates to the Machu Picchu National Park. The sun slowly soaked the sky and one by one the peaks of the mountains appeared in the gloom. At 5:30 the gates opened and we started the final leg of our journey. Everything ached. It didn´t matter, even the last 50 huge steps up to the Sun Gate, the final hurdle and an absolute slog, couldn´t stop us. We reached the summit and drank in our first view of Machu Picchu. Another hour and we were standing amoung the ruins. We´d made it, we´d all made it, and it was very, very special.

It´s almost midnight now and I´m shattered and battered and I´ve probably smelled better but the trail was out of this world and I enjoyed every single minute, even when my lungs were bursting and my legs felt like lead and my stupid knee was grumbling and my toe nail was hanging off and it was hot and dusty or cold and windy or the steps were impossibly steep and went up for hours all I had to do was remember where I was and look up and everything melted away into spectacular fog of acomplishment, excitement and wonder.

The last few days have been epic, I´ve not had much chance to keep up to date with my travels as we´ve been on such a whirlwind tour, I´ll catch up one day but just for now, here´s a taster, a glimpse of the spectacular Machu Picchu.

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Posted by lauraj 20:07 Archived in Peru Comments (3)

belated sights and sounds of otovalo

ok, mostly sights...

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Otovalo is the biggest market in South America, the stalls spiral out from the main square and spill into the surrounding streets covering almost the entire town with a vibrant attack on all of your senses. I spent most of the time trying not to buy the beautifully soft alpaca blankets which will not even come close to fitting in my backpack...

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Posted by lauraj 15:36 Archived in Ecuador Comments (1)

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