South America

Cartagena

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Sunday, 22 February 2015 00:20

The UNESCO World heritage site Cartagena is the undisputed Queen of the Caribbean world. Its mystic old town is surrounded by an ancient impeccable city wall, which contains a labyrinth of cobbled streets, antique balconies with exuberant flowers, medieval buildings and places full of live.

Beauty dancing in the old town

 

In Cartagena's quarter Bocagrande with its impressive skyline are fancy beaches and many hotels of all categories - this makes it the number one touristic destination in Colombia. In addition Cartagena has a nice environment with marvelous island which are protected by a national park and the active volcano Lodo El Totumo, where you can bath in the mud of its crater. But the cosmopolitan city with more than 1 million inhabitants has also its shadows like slums with unbearable poverty and violent crime.

Few kilometers southeast of Cartagena is a second UNESCO world heritage, the sleepy little town Mompòs in the hot swamps of the lower river Rio Magdalena.

   

Cayambe and Corazon

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Monday, 26 January 2015 18:17

Cayambe is a mountain of superlatives: It is with 5790 meters sea-level the third highest peak of Ecuador. It is the only place on the equator of our planet where you find ice and snow permanently. It is a perfect white volcanic cone which a tremendous huge mass of ice.

Marion with Cayambe

 

Before we dared to go to Cayambe we had climbed up 4790 meters Corazon which is few kilometers south of Quito west of the little town Machachi. Corazon means heart and indeed with some fantasy you might find a heart in its shape.

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Pacific Coast North of Lima

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Friday, 01 November 2013 14:34

Southern Peru has Machu Picchu, Cusco and many other historical sites of the Incas but on the Pacific coast north of Lima are innumerable testimonies of ancient Peru, many still not detected or buried in the sand of the extreme dry Atacama desert which is a perfect conservation medium. The UNESCO world heritage site Caral is supposed to be one of oldest city on earth, founded 4500 to 5000 years ago. Other top highlights are the ruins of the pre Inca cultures Chavin, Moche, Sican and Chimu like Chan Chan the mightiest town of our world built with adobe, which we had visited in the year 1980.

Today there are huge cities like Trujillo or Chiclayo in the desert, where the sweet water from the glaciers of the Andes flows into the Pacific Ocean. Close are beautiful beaches, which are popular holiday destinations in the austral summer. The coast turns 90 degree on the most western point of the continent and the the impact of the cold Humboldt ocean current weakens. The landscape becomes more green and tropical the closer you come to Ecuador. The water temperature is pleasant and on the border are the only mangrove forests of Peru located. This region is very fruitful with many rice, bananas and sugarcane fields.

Peruvian family enjoying the beach of Zorritos

Approximately hundred kilometers Northwest of Lima is the incredible lush national park Reservas Nacional Lomas de Lachay, a true oasis in the dryest desert of our planet. The mist of the ocean is sticking so long on its crests that a rich fauna including raptors and flora with trees are able to exist. Lachay has a remote campground and superb hiking trails over and around its ridges. We were lucky because we spent a sunny day in Lachay, which is very rare.

   

Ancohuma and Copacabana

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Wednesday, 14 August 2013 23:39

Ancohuma is with 6427 meters sea-level the tallest peak around the largest lake of Bolivia and Peru Lago Titicaca which is with 3810 meters sea-level the highest navigable lake on earth. It is a ice and snow castle and the second highest summit of the awesome mountain range Cordillera Real of the Bolivian Andes. Our dream was to achieve its top but we had bad conditions in the early morning like heavy snowfall, unusual high temperatures and groundless deep snow. Consequently we decided to turndown at 6256 sea-level below the last steep slopes. Especially we didn't want to accept the serious risk of avalanches. Nevertheless this trip was an outstanding nice experience for us.

Illampu and Ancohuma seen from lake Lago Titicaca

 

The tour to Ancohuma starts in Sorata, a pleasant and warm village on the eastern slopes of the Cordillera Real at 2700 meters sea-level. After struggling with its narrow and steep streets we found the heavenly campsite Altai Oasis with wonderful people (GPS coordinates: S15 46.179 W68 39.306). Johny and Simon thank you so much for your extraordinary support and creating this marvelous place.

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Most northern part of Ruta 40

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Sunday, 07 July 2013 01:59

The more than 5200 km long street Ruta 40 strechtes from the very South of Patagonia to the Northwest corner of Argentina along the Andes. It is one of the most famous, legendary and scenic roads on earth. Few years ago travelers had to deal with difficult dirt and gravel parts including severe river crossing. Nowadays most of the street is tarred or pavement is in construction or planned.

But the most northern part is still as rough as in former times. In addition it passes its highest point, the dreaded Abra del Acay. With 4895 meters sea-level it is higher than the summit of Montblanc, the tallest peak of the Alps. South of this col are beautiful villages like Cachi, Payogasta and La Poma with some touristic infrastructure. North is the mining town San Antonio de los Cobres with its engineering masterpiece La Polvorilla, an impressive railway viaduct with about 50 meters high. The largest salt lake of Argentina Salinas Grandes follows. Finally the Ruta 40 merges with Ruta 9 to the border to Bolivia via the town Quiaca.

Railway bridge Viaducto La Polvorilla

   

Santa Catarina

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Saturday, 23 February 2013 18:14

The state Santa Catarina is famous for its spectacular coastline. Green mountains covered with dense rain forest hit the Atlantic Ocean. Thus it is one of the major holiday destinations within Brazil, especially in the hot summer period. But the tourism has some negative impacts like environmental pollution, high prices and exceeding building boom. Some cities like Balnerario Camboriu have a skyline like Manhattan. We wonder if all Brazilians have apartments on Santa Catarina's beaches.

But we found some pristine beaches, mainly on the island Ilha de Santa Catarina. It is the heart of this state, also its beautiful capital Florianopolis is located on the isthmus between the continent and the island. More marvelous beaches are on the peninsula Bombinhas.

The population of Santa Catarina have their roots generally in Germany and Italy. There are town names like Nova Trento or Alfredo Wagner. In its third largest city, Blumenau and its surroundings most of the people speak fluently German. Blumenau hosts the second biggest Oktoberfest in the world (after Munich).

Two beauties on the beach Praia Mole on the eastern shore of the island Ilha de Santa Catarina

   

Volcan Parinacota

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Monday, 27 August 2012 15:07

The dominating mountains in the Chilean Lauca National Park are the two Payachatas (twins) Volcan Parinacota and Volcan Pomerape. The first one is with 6342 meters sea-level slightly higher and it is a perfect cone, one of the most beautiful mountains on earth. Both are covered with snow and ice. They are located on the border to Bolivia, there in the Sajama National Park .

On foot of the Payachatas are the picturesque villages Parinacota (Chile - West side) and Sajama (Bolivia - East side). The most popular and common ascent to Volcan Parinacota is from Sajama via the northern ridge, which arises from the saddle between the two volcanoes. It provides beautiful views to the southern glacial face of Volcan Pomerape and to Bolivia's highest mountain on the opposite side of the village: Majestic but icy Nevado Sajama (6542 meters sea-level).

Due to the high altitude of the village Sajama (more than 4200 meters) good acclimatization is mandatoty. On the Chilean side are some nice tours to gain it properly.

West (Chilean) side of Volcan Pomerape and Volcan Parinacota

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Uruguay - From Salto to Colonia

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Monday, 05 September 2011 11:24

Uruguay is the second smallest country in South America, but still twice the size of Austria. It is located east of the large Rio Uruguay, which is the other big conflux of the Rio de la Plata. Uruguay is called the Switzerland of South America due to its stability, prosperity and wealthyness. A lot of banks are in its capital, Montevideo. The landscape is hilly, green and grassy with many cows. In addition Uruguay has nice coasts on the Atlantic Ocean, Rio Uruguay and Rio del la Plata.

We visited the west part of Uruguay on the shores of the big rivers between the second biggest city Salto and the ancient, picturesque town of Colonia del Sacramento. Colonia lies opposite of Buenos Aires on the Rio del la Plata. It is a good place to park the car if you fly from Buenos Aires to your home city. 

The dam of the hydroelectric power plant Salto Grande is the most northern street  between Argentina and Uruguay. The Uruguayan customs was very strict in terms of fresh fruits and vegetables, so we had to eat our bananas and tangerines before we could enter Uruguay. Unfortunately we had had a rich breakfast few minutes before, so we had to to scrap some food.

The first city Salto is a pleasant town with a nice main square named after the Uruguayan National hero Jose Gervasio Artigas. He had been the first in South America 1764 who had performed an agriculture reform to the advantage of the local people. He had been defeated by Argentine and Brazilian troops 1819 and he had to move to Paraguay into exile. His reform had been removed to the benefit of the European rich landowners, which had exploited the local people.

Plaza de Artigas of Salto

 

   

From Asuncion to Ciudad del Este

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Sunday, 31 July 2011 18:28

Paraguay is one of the smaller and less populated countries in South America located between Bolivia, Brazil and Argentina without sea coast. Small means that it is a little bit bigger than Germany. Less populated means fewer inhabitants than Austria or Switzerland. It is divided by the river Paraguay into two major parts: The western Chaco, which is a flat, hot and arid lowland with very few people and the eastern green highlands with 90% of Paraguay's population. Paraguay was the first state in South America with two official languages: Spanish and Guarani of the indigenous people (also Guarani).

Asuncion is the capital of Paraguay on the huge river Rio Paraguay. It is also the economical center and with more than 1 million inhabitants the biggest city in Paraguay. The second one, Ciudad del Este, is located in the three border area between Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. It is the boom town due to reduced taxes with many, many shops of all kinds like computers or dresses.

We crossed the Southeast of Paraguay, where some beautiful sanctuaries are situated. Our first destination was Asuncion, which is just 40km away from the Argentine border.

Skyline of Asuncion with Rio Paraguay

 

   

Sierra Nevada del Cocuy

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Thursday, 12 February 2015 00:18

The Sierra Nevada de Cocuy is one of the most spectacular ranges of the Andes with 15 peaks higher than 5000 meters sea-level. Green lush valleys lead to huge glaciers, stunning pinnacles and marvelous lakes. It is located approximately 300 kilometers northeast of Bogotá in the eastern range of the Colombian Andes, the Cordillera Oriental. Besides bumpy dirt roads access to the this paradise is relatively easy, also to some of its summits and glaciers. Many Colombian people come to these mountains to see and feel snow once in their life.

North face of 5130 meters high Pan de Azucar - Sugar loaf

 

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The Oriente - Misahualli

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Saturday, 24 January 2015 18:21

The little village Misahualli is the main touristic destination in the eastern part of Ecuador - El Oriente in the hot, humid, green and lush area of Amazonia. It is located on shore of the river Rio Napo, one of the mightiest tributary of the Amazon river. Misahualli is an ideal base for trips into the jungle with a very good infrastructure.

Brown-white snake of the rain forest

 

We had been already two times in Ecuador, firstly in May 1981 and secondly in January 2004. 1981 we had been visiting the indigenous people Aucas- an exhausting 5 days trip. 2004 we had taken a public boat to Coca - a 10 hours voyage, which is no longer possible because today is a good paved road to Coca and the public transportation is done with buses. Tommy had been never in Amazonia, thus we decided to travel a third time to Misahualli. Again it was an amazing trip into the wonders and secrets of Amazonia.

   

Cordillera Huayhuash

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Friday, 01 November 2013 15:03

The spectacular Cordillera Huayhuash lies few kilometers North of the famous Cordillera Blanca and its main city Huaraz. It is a relative small range with stunning pinnacles sugared with enormous mass of ice and snow. Nevado Yerupaja is with 6617 meters sea-level its tallest peak and the second highest mountain of both: Peru and the tropics. Like all other major peaks of the Cordillera Huayhuash access to its summit is extremely difficult and dangerous. Even today some peaks are without any successful ascents for years.

North-east face of Nevado Yerupaja at sunrise

 

Thanks to the book and movie Touching the Void Cordillera Huayhuash became very popular in the last years: It shows the unbelievable story of Joe Simpson and Simon Yates when they climbed up the south-west face of 6344 meters high Siula Grande in the year 1985. On the way down Joe Simpson broke his leg. His companion roped him down the steep, dangerous and difficult north-west ridge. Suddenly Joe Simpson hung under an overhang and he couldn't move. There was no more rope. Simon was standing in deep powder on the very steep ridge. The weight of Joe Simpson moved him slowly but constantly to the abyss. His only choice to survive was to cut the rope. Joe fell into an huge crevasse. Simon searched him desperately but couldn't find him. He returned to the camp and was sure that Joe didn't survive the crash but Joe found a way out of the crevasse through the glacier with his broken leg. After three days he came back totally exhausted to the camp in the night just before his companion wanted to leave.

Cordillera Huayhuash can be circled in a 10 days hike with many high cols (two more than 5000 meters sea-level), pristine lagoons and beautiful campsites. Only one little village is on its way - a lot of food and other stuff must be carried. Thus we searched for mules in Chiquian, the last bigger settlement on the western side of Cordillera Huayhuash and reachable via a decent paved road.

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