In the Pantanal and the Amazon it is still rainy season, so we drive through the west of Bolivia and Peru to Ecuador and Colombia. On the way back we drive more eastwards from the Andes to Brazil, hoping to have less rain.
Villazon, the town at the border crossing, is busy and you know that you are in another country. Via the busy and narrow streets we drive to Tupiza and from there following a nice road to Uyuni.
Arrived in Uyuni, we first look around the train-cemetery. The rusty locomotives and wagons are lined up in two long rows. It is a shame that there are always people who think it is necessary to put there name on it.
The town itself is not very special. The biggest attraction here is the saltlake. There is still half a meter of water on the lake. Isla del Pescado is unreachable due to the water on the plain. You can take the car 9 km up the lake to take the famous perspective photos. We don't think it's worth exposing Brinks to the salty water. Maybe we will drive by later in the year to drive over the lake when its dry.
The next stop is Potosi. The city is located at more than 4000 meters and was once a rich city because there is a large silver mine. The buildings refer to better times.
It is a city with a sad history. People still die in the mine almost every day and the average miner wil not become older than 40 years. It earns well namely 125 US $ per week.
We visit one of the many mining cooperatives. It is one of the unhealthiest environments you can work in. Safety is zero and the circumstances very bad. Tourists are asked to bring presents for the miners. This can be dynamite, coca leaves, alcohol to 94%, to lemonade and cookies. We bring the last ones. The children are very happy with it.
Sucre, compared to Potosi, is a lot easier to drive through and has beautiful white colonial buildings. It is the formal capital of Bolivia. When we have a drink at the Plaza 25 de Mayo, a group of people from Tarabuco in traditional clothing makes music and performs a dance. It is a kind of clog dance on wooden shoes with bells. And of course with the necessary coca leaves in the mouth.
On the way to Cochabamba we make a stop at the longest dinosaur track that has been found so far. There is a museum, quite nice and of course the many footsteps of different types of dinosaurs.
In Cochabamba we miss a turn and drive straight into the market. Apparently this is normal because there are also countless buses, motor taxis and cars. Here and there a cop is blowing a whistle. We are a little unaware of the usefulness because nobody responds. From the car you can easily get to the stalls. So actually it is handy to have such a drive-through.
We are at a campsite in the outskirts of Cochabamba. It is a relaxed place and nice and quiet.
At least the first night. The second night someone is knocking on the gate and on that of the neighbors at 1:00 am. Lot of noice. Not so nice when you try to sleep ... Not much later the campsite owner knocks on our car. We have to pack our things and leave as quickly as possible. The mayor has declared a regulation that the entire area must be evacuated. What seems; the river that runs past the campsite is blocked and is about to break through. The risk is that with a flood-flush the entire area is flooded in no time. The narrow streets then make a quick departure impossible. So at 1.30 a.m. we are looking, with a French family, for a higher spot for a little more sleep. We arrive at, what we thought, another campsite, but there was nobody except a pack of dogs. We decide to stay here for the rest of the night. But we did not get a lot of rest because at 5.00 we are awaked by shaking of the car. The cause is an earthquake with a 6.5 on the Richter scale with the epicenter about 50 km away. Sleeping is out of the question so we decide to drive to La Paz at dawn.
La Paz busy, very busy. Every centimeter is used on the "highway" and nobody gives the other a piece of asphalt. The only law that is enforced here is that of the strongest. With a lot of pushing and honking we reach a campsite. Because the city is built on a steep slope, the roads are narrow and there are a lot of people living there is no metro but a cable car network. Very handy with a color system. You can see the city from the air. Explore the entire city without any hassle and bustle.
Valle del Luna is a valley of sandstone. What can I say ... well we have seen it.
After a lot of hassle we again left La Paz unscathed and we head towards Lake Titicaca and Tiwanaku to the Peruvian border.
Arequipa has a beautiful old center that is within walking distance of the campsite. Countless restaurants and shops. We stay here much longer than we intend.
First of all we meet Andre van Huizen here, secondly we have to look for and install new solar panels because the 4th panel has now also been killed. Oil must also be changed. Normaly it will take an hour but the Toyota dealer makes it a day filling program. And last but not least it is just a nice place.
Sven has meanwhile been given the name of Handy Harry. A Landcruiser that does not start, a truck that the engine cannot turned off, a remote-controlled car that does not work. Sven knows how to solve it.
When people go to Arequipa, this also includes a visit to the Colca Canyon. Especially because you can see Condors from very close by, but also because the surroundings are very beautiful. In the morning the condors come out of the canyon and at about 4 in the afternoon they come back from foraging.
We see condors every now and then during our entire trip. but never so close. When we arrive here in the afternoon we see about 5 of them.
In the morning it is quite a spectacle. More than 15 condors glide really close by. Very impressive when such a bird with a wingspan of about 3 meters glide right in front of you.
The Colca Canyon is deep, but the deepest in the world is the Cotahausi Canyon with more than 3500 meters depth. The way there is with a lot of hairpin bends. That must also be because the road starts at sea level and therefore has to rise a lot to reach the edge of the canyon.
On the way there is an archaeological site with petroglyphs. Drawings are not to be found on a rock face but on more than 5000 stones.While we walk around there a group of people comes and they ask us for an interview. What seems; they want the site to be recognized by UNESCO and therefore protected. We are surprised that this is not yet the case. Of course we participate in a promotional video and enjoy the fact that we can just walk through the blocks for the entrance of 1 euro.
The Cotahausi canyon is very impressive. We enjoy the peace and the view.
On the map, a main road seems to go north. After a few kilometers the asphalt becomes a dirt road and a few kilometers later a cart track. The navigation indicates that we are on the main road so we continue and hope that the road will not get any worse or narrower. In the small villages that we pass through, people watch whether a UFO enters the village. No one laughs or waves. The children hide and peep around a corner. It is clear that not many foreigners come here.
Although the road is really bad, the area is very beautiful. Eventually the road goes from the canyon up to the pampa, but before we get back to tarmac it still needs some driving skills and nerves of steel. Oh right, and a dirty car.
Near Nasca is an old cemetery, just like the lines. There are a lot of graves. Instead of the people lying down, they are wrapped in a sitting position. It is striking that here too they received all sorts of things in their grave.
From a platform we can get an impression of the lines. We were a bit surprised that it was so small. To be able to see it properly, you would have to look at an airplane, but we are not that interested.
In Peru, a lot of Pisco, a kind of grappa, is distilled. Strong stuff with its 45% alcohol but well worth going to a vinca for a tour and a tasting. To our surprise a lot of wine is grown in Peru. You can find vineyards in the middle of the desert. Although a lot of sweet wine is produced, there are also houses that make good quality whites and reds.
We visit Tacama, a wine that we have already tasted extensively with André in Arequipa. The story is that here the first wine was made by the colonizer for the church.
Now it is a professional company and every year someone comes from France to make the right blend.
We were not planning to go to Lima but still make a stop. We find a hotel where Cateau is welcome and the car can be safe parked.
Because Lima is known for its culinary delights, we are going to eat super luxury for once. We take the IK-Experience menu including with the accompanying wines. With its 14 courses, it is an evening-filling program and the food is small works of art. Although we never photograph food, now it's done.
To the north of Lima the coast is very boring and in some places it can be dangerous with armed robberies. We make a D-tour to the Huascaran NP. through the mountains and through the canyon back to the coast. This is also the location of the highest mountain in Peru, the Nevado Huascarán of 6768 meter.
We spend a few days under the palm trees on the beach. Warm up a little before we go into the wet Equador.
We have now been on the road for 6 months. People regularly ask if we are not fed up yet. We are certainly not ready to go home yet, there is so much to see and meet so many people. South America and 'being on the road' is very satisfactory up to now.
But don't you miss anything from home? We are not looking forward to anything when it comes to food and drink. A herring sandwich is being replaced by ceviche and the hunt for tasty cheese has become a sport The only thing we miss are friends. Although we have contact by the internet, you would sometimes just want to be there for someone or with someone, and watch a movie on the couch on Sunday afternoon that is sometimes nice.