Jul 122014
 

It’s a cold and miserable winter morning in Melbourne – if it wasnt for the rain one could be forgiven for mistaking this climate for that of Uyuni or Copacabana in Bolivia.  I’ve been back home now for a week and it doesn’t feel like much has changed – not that I was really expecting it to.  I’m already starting to miss the freedom of travel, the excitement of arriving in a new city and the fun of meeting new people.

It was an incredibly diverse 2 weeks that I experienced in Bolivia.  With such variable altitudes, ranging from 90 to 6,542 metres above sea level, I went from extreme to extreme in a country that boasts such vast biologic diversity.

My first stop was the picturesque Lake Titicaca which sits in the Andes on the border between Peru and Bolivia. It is the largest lake in South America and following a very chilly night in the small town of Copacabana I boarded a ferry for the hour trip to Isla del Sol (“Island of the sun”) which is one of the lake’s largest islands.

Isla Del Sol

Isla Del Sol

The ferry ride proved to be pivotal to my experience in Bolivia.  Shortly after boarding a couple that I met at the ticket office earlier that morning coincidently sat next to me – Matt and Holly from Seattle in the USA.  We struck up some very interesting conversation during the journey where freakishly the couple sitting in front of us joined the conversation and remembered talking to me in the queue to Machu Picchu about a week earlier – Jonas and Elisabeth from Sweden and Germany.

Upon arriving at Yumani and navigating the many steep inca steps to the small township, we all checked into the same hotel (which was an absolute bargain at about US$4 per person) and from that point on I had the feeling we would be hanging out together for a while.  Once settled in we went exploring to find some stunning views of Lake Titicaca.

Matt, Holly, Elisabeth, Jonas, me and an Israeli girl we met

Matt, Holly, Elisabeth, Jonas, me and an Israeli girl we met

Lake Titicaca doesn’t really boast a huge range of activities but for what it lacks in that respect it makes up for in tranquility and beauty.  There is a 4-hour hike, which is best commenced from Challapampa in the north to Yumani in the south with some small ruins along the way.  I chose to give that a miss as I was experiencing some residual muscle soreness from my Machu Picchu workout 2 days earlier.

Foodies will also struggle with very little in the way of restaurants or bars but I can recommend one local place called Las Velas. This very hard to find, tiny candlelit restaurant with no electricity specialises in the local trout “Truchas” and is known to be one of the few places where actual wild species can be consumed.  We were also aware that the food takes quite sometime to be prepared and 2+ hours went by without any of us noticing, mainly due to a combination of great company and about 5 bottles of local Bolivian red wine.  My tip is to get there early as there are limited seats and by the time the tables turnover it will be well past dinner time.

The fish is truly exceptional and well worth the wait.  Unfortunately I don’t have any photos due to a few too many glasses of red and a raging hunger by the time the food arrived – but take my word for it.

Yumani

Yumani

After 2 nights on Lake Titicaca we were ready for a change so the 5 of us boarded a bus destined for the Bolivian capital La Paz.  We checked-in to a large apartment together which had the added bonus of a kitchen, so I decided to visit the local market to stock up on some produce and cook a meal – something I had not done for some time.

Cooking-up a storm in La Paz

Cooking-up a storm in La Paz

The next day we wandered through some of the local markets in La Paz and visited The English Pub to watch the first Australian World Cup match against Chile.  I must admit La Paz didn’t really offer a great deal of excitement and if it was not for the company of these wacky travellers I probably would have bounced out of there much sooner.

La Paz Witches Market

La Paz Witches Market

Matt found his long lost Bolivian brother

Matt found his long-lost Bolivian brother

Getting very messy at the English Pub after Australia's loss to Chile

Getting very messy at the English Pub after Australia’s loss to Chile

Following La Paz, my original plan was to head to Uyuni to experience the world’s largest salt flats but decided to alter my plans considering the crew were all about to board a flight to Rurrenabaque.  Travelling with this type of flexibility just makes for a far better experience as you discover new things along the way as well as cool people who you just want to hang with.

Setting off on our Pampas tour from Rurrenabaque

Setting off on our Pampas tour from Rurrenabaque

Rurrenabaque is a small town on the banks of the Río Beni in the Bolivian Amazon Basin.  It serves as a base for trips to the jungle in the nearby Madidi National Park and pampas tours for which we spent a few hours deliberating.  We ended up choosing a 3-day Pampas tour (with Dolphin Travel) mainly for the interaction with native wildlife.

Up close and personal with spider monkeys.

Up close and personal with spider monkeys

Baby Anaconda.

Baby Anaconda

Caiman lurking everywhere

Caiman lurking everywhere

We had an incredible 3 days on the Pampas tour with an abundance of natural wildlife ranging from turtles, anaconda, pink dolphins, capybaras, monkeys, giant ant-eaters, porcupines, toucans, blue and yellow macaws, and sometimes jaguars (which we didn’t see).   Bird watchers are spoilt with countless species and waking up to their sounds resonating in the jungle canopy every morning felt so surreal.

soloworldtour_Pampas__June_16__2014-4

soloworldtour_Pampas__June_17__2014

The first of my 2 personal highlights from the Pampas tour were swimming with the pink dolphins for which I don’t have any footage but the memories will last forever.  They were clearly playing games with us as we kept swimming towards them and they would swim away and surface on the other side of the swamp.  The water was so dark and impenetrable by sight, so it was a little weird when a dolphin brushes against you and you can’t actually see it.  Holly had some serious reservations about the authenticity of my claims and captured some secret footage which I later discovered on my camera.

The second and most favourite highlight (considering its one of my passions) was fishing for Piranhas.  This proved to be a easier task due to their voracious appetite for meat (we were using small strips of fresh beef for bait).  Literally as soon as the bait would hit the water the masses of Piranhas would pounce.

soloworldtour_Pampas__June_18__2014

After catching about 10 fish we ran out of bait so I decided to use one of the smaller fish for bait which attracted some laughter from the group and our guide.  It had only been in the water for a few minutes when I noticed something much larger take hold of it and I was struggling to hang onto the hand line.  Unfortunately the larger fish won out in the end and I was devastated I didn’t at least get a chance to see what it was – our guide said it was most likely a large catfish.

With no bait left we decided to head back to the lodge for lunch (which was literally right behind us as pictured above).  Our Piranha’s were simply cooked – fried and served with lemon wedges. Luckily we had other food on the menu as each fish only provided a few mouthfuls of meat – which was quite tasty I must admit.

soloworldtour_Pampas__June_18__2014-3

The end of the Pampas tour meant saying goodbye to lower altitudes, warm weather and sadly Holly and Matt whom were destined for Peru.   Elisabeth, Jonas and I boarded the next flight to Uyuni for my 3-day tour of the famous salt flats.

Our awesome (Red Planet) tour group

Our awesome (Red Planet) tour group

Salar de Uyuni spreads over 10,000 square kilometers with an elevation of almost 3,700 meters above sea level.  I was informed June (winter) is a good month to visit due to the dry weather but was shocked to learn that the average overnight low is -13°C.   

The tour was truly fascinating with such diverse landscape which at times felt like we were on Mars.  It was so surreal being literally out in the middle of nowhere and experiencing such varying beauty and wildlife. Some of our tour highlights included the following:

Train Graveyard – a place with a lot of wrecked old steam locomotives.

Isla de los Pescados, or Isla Incahuasi – Island of fossilized coral covered in 1000-year-old cacti in the middle of the Salar. These cacti (the highest of them being 9-10 m) grow at a rate of 1cm per year, so you can easily calculate their age.

soloworldtour_SalarDeUyuni_Bolivia__Latin_America__Salt_Flats_June_21__2014-40

Salt-Mining Area – an area where salt is dug from the plane into piles, and left to dry in the sun before transport to a refinery then to your table.

Laguna Hedionda – a lagoon full of flamingos

Arbol de Piedra – a stone tree that has been carved out of the howling, sandy winds.

Solar de Manaña geyser basin (5000m) – a collection of bubbling sulfur pools and a geyser

soloworldtour_SalarDeUyuni_Bolivia__Latin_America__Salt_Flats_June_22__2014-49

Termas de Polques hot springs – we took a midnight swim in the 40°c springs which felt like heaven in the outside temperature of around -10°c

Laguna Verde  - coloured green by Arsenic, Lead, Copper and other heavy metals with a perfect reflection of Vulcán Lincacabur

Valles de Rocas – many strange valleys of rocks popping up out of the altiplano.

And of course the customary funny photos on the actual salt flats.

Towards the end of the tour I got dropped off at the Chilean border near San Pedro de Atacama and that spelt the end of my fascinating two weeks in Bolivia.

Whilst some of the locals are not the friendliest towards foreigners, Bolivia has far too much appeal to be left off any South American itinerary.  Personally, I rated Salar de Uyuni equally with Machu Picchu for sheer wow factor, and the Bolivian Amazon Basin provided me with such intimate interaction with local wildlife.

My next update will cover the final week of my Solo World Tour in Chile –  what a surprise packet that turned out to be.

Hasta Luego amigos.

Like this:
    Jun 252014
     
    Working up a sweat in Cusco & Machu Picchu

    Bienvenidos a Chile –  I literally just arrived in San Pedro De Atacama after my 3 day tour of the Salar De Uyuni (Bolivia Salt Flats) and it feels like far more than 3 weeks since I visited Machu Picchu. At the time of writing this post I’m heading south towards La Serena – Valle De

    Like this:
      [...] READ MORE
      Jun 072014
       
      From Colombia, With Love

      I feel like I just broke up with the girl of my dreams. It’s been 4 full days since I left Colombia and I still can’t stop thinking about her. I thought maybe the beautiful town of Cusco would be more than enough to distract my attention but I still end up making comparisons. Colombia

      Like this:
        [...] READ MORE
        Jun 012014
         
        Bogota Street Art and Graffiti

        Colombia just continues to amaze me in so many ways.  The past few days in Bogota have been so rich of art and culture with many museums and galleries visited. By far the standout for me is the amazing street art I discovered during the Bogota Street Art and Graffiti Tour a few days ago. There is a

        Like this:
          [...] READ MORE
          May 252014
           
          A football miracle witnessed - Atlético Nacional V Junior

          I can’t even begin to describe how lucky we were to be at this Grand Final.  I’m not a huge soccer fan but this was definitely one of the most exciting games of sport I have ever seen. Club Atlético Nacional S.A., also known as Atlético Nacional, the home team based in Medellin are the current

          Like this:
            [...] READ MORE
            May 242014
             
            Sailing Panama to Colombia via San Blas Islands

            Right now I’m sitting in my dorm room at the Pit Stop hostel in Medellin.  Words really can’t describe how crazy it has been here with the combination of people we have in this room. It’s part of the reason it has taken over ten days for me to post about the awesome San Blas

            Like this:
              [...] READ MORE
              May 082014
               
              Best of Panama City...

              Right now I’m in a small port city called Portobelo in Colón Province, Panama.  In a few hours Ill be boarding the SY Mintaka sailboat with 4 other aussies, a german couple and a swedish girl destined for Cartagena, Colombia.  Our itinerary is to sail around the beautiful San Blas Islands for 3 days, do some

              Like this:
                [...] READ MORE
                Apr 272014
                 
                Volcano Boarding Nicaragua's most active Volcano - Cerro Negro

                After spending about a week in Leon I was constantly coming across thrill-seeking travellers that were here solely for some of the best volcano boarding in the world.  I resisted as long as I could but due to the ‘real’ surf not really happening at Playa Las Penitas, my rational was that I’d at least

                Like this:
                  [...] READ MORE
                  Apr 182014
                   
                  A Good Friday in Leon (Nicaragua)

                  It’s 9:00pm on Good Friday coming to you live and direct from Hostel Latina in Leon.  I’ve been here just over 24 hours and I’m ashamed to say I’ve made the executive decision to skip tonight’s beach party due to returning home at 5:00am this morning following last nights festivities. One day in Leon has eclipsed seven days

                  Like this:
                    [...] READ MORE
                    Apr 092014
                     
                    2 weeks in Guatemala

                    Right now it’s a lazy Saturday morning and I’m sitting literally on the beach at La Tortuga Verde a beautiful little eco-hotel 3km east of Playa El Cuco that doubles as a turtle sanctuary on the east coast of El Salvador. I’ve literally just finished a surf session and even though the waves were not

                    Like this:
                      [...] READ MORE
                      Apr 032014
                       
                      Memoirs of Mexico

                      Mexico was the first stop of my Latin America world tour component.  After spending a few weeks back home over the New Year break I was fully recharged and eager to embark on a region I knew very little about and had not travelled to prior.   Many friends back home warned me about the

                      Like this:
                        [...] READ MORE
                        Mar 092014
                         
                        Cuba: How I got local in Havana

                        As I started writing this post it was my second last day in Havana. I’ve been reflecting so much more than usual over the past few days and I thought I would capture these thoughts whilst I am in the moment rather than trying to recollect them as I have done on recent blog posts.

                        Like this:
                          [...] READ MORE
                          Feb 162014
                           
                          Getting primitive in Jordan

                          I have tried to catch-up on my blog posts since returning home briefly for a surprise visit and this post on Jordan should finally bring me up to date.  Jordan is the dream destination for any history buff and for the budding photographer Jordan packs many punches from desert landscapes, interesting and diverse cities and obviously

                          Like this:
                            [...] READ MORE
                            Jan 202014
                             
                            Best of the UAE

                            As I started writing this I just departed LA on a flight bound for Mexico City.  How ironic that I am sitting next to an American guy of Lebanese origin who is visiting his ‘girlfriend’ in Mexico.  Among the many things he tells me, most interesting is that there are lots of Lebanese people in Mexico.

                            Like this:
                              [...] READ MORE
                              Jan 012014
                               
                              My Favourites List of 2013

                              After almost 7 months on the road (and a few weeks back home), by far the most common question asked is to name the city that has been my most favourite. My stock response to this questions is to qualify the persons definition of ‘favourite’ – Favourite food, nightlife, people etc. There are so many

                              Like this:
                                [...] READ MORE
                                Dec 292013
                                 
                                [Reconsider] your need to travel... The West Bank, Palestine

                                After spending a night in Aqaba, I jumped on a bus headed for the Jordan capital of Amman where I then squashed into a ‘servees taxi’ headed for the King Hussein / Allenby Bridge border crossing to Israel & Palestine. The advice of many locals and those online was to cross the border down south

                                Like this:
                                  [...] READ MORE
                                  Dec 042013
                                   
                                  Inside the Dome of the Rock: The most contested piece of real estate on earth.

                                  Today was a defining moment for me.  At first I thought it was a defining point of my world tour but on further reflection it was more of a life defining experience.  What I experienced today will stay with me forever. After re-jigging my Jerusalem itinerary last night, I spent the day in Jerusalem Old

                                  Like this:
                                    [...] READ MORE
                                    Dec 022013
                                     
                                    The magic of Morocco

                                    Right now I’m on a bus to Amman after just leaving Aqaba, which is near Jordanian/Saudi Arabia border. The next 4 hours should offer a good opportunity to catch up on my blog. My world tour has really shifted gears over the past month.  For starters I can only recall a handful of evening’s where

                                    Like this:
                                      [...] READ MORE
                                      Nov 172013
                                       
                                      97 days in Europe comes to an end...

                                      Today marks day 171 of my world tour and as I am writing this I’m sitting right at the back of an Etihad airplane destined for Abu Dhabi (thanks to my sister Maz for hooking me up my first ever standby staff travel ticket). During the month since my last post I have covered quite

                                      Like this:
                                        [...] READ MORE
                                        Oct 252013
                                         
                                        My pintxo bar experience in San Sebastián last night...

                                        Pintxos (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pincho) are a basque appetizer similar to tapas on small slices of bread.  San Sebastián has a huge amount of small bars that are well-known for their signature pintxo dishes. Leo (our hostel host) took us out on a pintxos tour a few nights ago.  We sampled so many great dishes and I have

                                        Like this:
                                          [...] READ MORE
                                          Oct 222013
                                           
                                          Hangin' with the Homeboys

                                          So I’ve thought a lot about my trip since my last update in Zadar 14 days ago. Today represents 146 days on the road and I’m starting to get just a bit tired… Tired from living out of my macpac, tired of being woken up during the night and tired of being constantly on the

                                          Like this:
                                            [...] READ MORE
                                            Oct 082013
                                             
                                            Get on board in Zadar.

                                            Zadar in Northern Dalmatia is about 400 km’s northwest from Dubrovnik.  My bus trip took nearly 8 hours with a few stops and border crossings into Bosnia along the way.  I was really looking forward to visiting Zadar as I had read some great reviews and knew it would be far less touristy than Dubrovnik.

                                            Like this:
                                              [...] READ MORE
                                              Oct 012013
                                               
                                              On tourist duty in Dubrovnik...

                                              I’d heard so many positive things about Croatia – both during this trip as well as from friends and family that have travelled there before. I must admit my expectations were high even after some recent advice that Dubrovnik in particular was quite touristy and expensive. But I didn’t quite comprehend the magnitude and downplayed

                                              Like this:
                                                [...] READ MORE
                                                Sep 192013
                                                 
                                                4 days in Belgrade…

                                                Belgrade was never on the itinerary of my solo world tour, but after reading an article (read here) sent to me from a friend I made in Krakow I thought I’d give it a shot. The overnight train from Budapest to Belgrade wasn’t the most comfortable trip unfortunately, even with my sleeper cabin.  The 2

                                                Like this:
                                                  [...] READ MORE
                                                  Aug 292013
                                                   
                                                  A Krakow of a time...

                                                  It’s been almost 2 weeks for me in Poland.  Having spent 5 nights in Warsaw, I was almost kicking myself after arriving in Krakow because of how much I adore this beautiful city.  It was a genuine case of love at first sight when I got off the train last week and  ventured out for

                                                  Like this:
                                                    [...] READ MORE
                                                    Aug 192013
                                                     
                                                    The Amsterdam come down.

                                                    I arrived in Amsterdam by bus on the 9th August and stayed for 6 days.  I really enjoyed Amsterdam during my first visit 5 years ago which is why I decided to return this time. Amsterdam is a beautiful city with its canals, alleyways and gothic architecture – some of the buildings date as far

                                                    Like this:
                                                      [...] READ MORE
                                                      Aug 062013
                                                       
                                                      Paris rockets to pole position...

                                                      Well all I can say is that at exactly this time yesterday, I was ready to bounce the hell out of Paris. I wasn’t feeling the vibe on my 2nd trip here in 5 years but that all changed following one integral decision I made yesterday – change hostels.  For 3 nights I was staying

                                                      Like this:
                                                        [...] READ MORE
                                                        Aug 032013
                                                         
                                                        New York - Thanks for the memories...

                                                        It’s 5:14 am here in Paris… I can’t sleep and can’t stop thinking about my time in New York. 13 amazing days have passed since my last blog update, there has just been so much going on. Today also marks day 64 of my solo world tour, time has gone by so fast – it

                                                        Like this:
                                                          [...] READ MORE
                                                          Jul 212013
                                                           
                                                          Can I get some real hip hop?

                                                          It’s Sunday morning, well afternoon actually – its 12:27pm to be exact. I’m recovering from a big night in a little French café next door to my hostel in Bushwick, Brooklyn.  Probably not the most desirable suburb according to locals, but it suits me just fine. So if you have looked at my Facebook, Instagram

                                                          Like this:
                                                            [...] READ MORE
                                                            Jul 152013
                                                             
                                                            I love New York. I love the USA.

                                                            It’s been over a week since my last post and as usual a lot has happened in that space of time. My solo world tour has now spanned 6 incredible weeks and is officially my longest ever time spent outside Australia.  So I guess if I were to do a world tour health check now

                                                            Like this:
                                                              [...] READ MORE
                                                              Jul 052013
                                                               
                                                              Note to self: 4 days in San Francisco is not enough…

                                                              San Francisco was probably the city most people said I had to visit when discussing my upcoming travel plans. It’s funny because there weren’t any defining reasons given – it was just somewhere I had to check out. Some cities are known for their nightlife, others for their coastline, or architecture, culture and so on…

                                                              Like this:
                                                                [...] READ MORE
                                                                Jun 292013
                                                                 
                                                                Good things just happened...

                                                                It’s Saturday morning, I’m chilling in a pretty cool café in San Francisco’s financial district called Sugar Cafe. After sleeping over 12 hours last night I feel great today and ready to see what San Francisco is all about. But I really want to wrap up my 11 days in San Diego by writing about

                                                                Like this:
                                                                  [...] READ MORE
                                                                  Jun 232013
                                                                   
                                                                  SD in San Diego...

                                                                  So it’s Sunday morning in beautiful San Diego, I’m sitting in an awesome bagel shop called Brooklyn’s Finest eating a cheddar jalapeno bagel with cream cheese whilst sipping on a cafe latte.  I know I said I’d try to post more frequently but I never knew what San Diego had in store for me. I

                                                                  Like this:
                                                                    [...] READ MORE
                                                                    Jun 182013
                                                                     
                                                                    LA Wrap Up

                                                                    After 8 days in Los Angeles, I was ready to move to my next destination. Staying in Hollywood, I was right in the thick of the action – metres away from Hollywood Boulevard.  Walking along this famous strip, I quickly learned it is a huge tourist trap whilst I avoided tripping over every 2nd person

                                                                    Like this:
                                                                      [...] READ MORE
                                                                      Jun 122013
                                                                       
                                                                      California love... LA / Hollywood / Santa Ana

                                                                      So I have been in the USA for nearly 4 days and it’s definitely time for an update. As much as I enjoy Fiji, I’m so glad I made the call to leave early. This is my third visit to the USA and I love this country more and more with each visit. So where

                                                                      Like this:
                                                                        [...] READ MORE
                                                                        Jun 082013
                                                                         

                                                                        Well, it’s my final night in Suva and my original itinerary had me heading over to Nadi for 10 days to soak up some sun in preparation for the USA. This morning I made the call to exit Fiji all together, all I can say is I’m just not feeling the vibe here this visit.

                                                                        Like this:
                                                                          [...] READ MORE
                                                                          May 302013
                                                                           

                                                                          After 2 months of planning and anticipation, my solo world tour has finally commenced and I find myself in an all too familiar destination to kick things off – Fiji. Fiji and I have a long and treasured track record spanning almost 8 years of regular visits. During my corporate days at Optus I attended

                                                                          Like this:
                                                                            [...] READ MORE