What is this blog for?

Yes, I am lucky enough to realize one of my dream: doing a world-tour traveling Eastward, crossing about 20 countries during 7 months :-))
This blog tries to share part of this personal experience, through pictures, descriptions and thoughts. This is also to keep a track for me to remember later on ;)
Enjoy and do not hesitate to comment!

Monday, 19 August 2013

Trip update & final route

Yes, in this Friday August 16th, I just decided few things about my trip after few weeks brainstorming about them:
1. I will extend the trip :-) No return to Geneva anymore in few days, but Mid October at the earliest, end November at the latest
2. I will divert a bit (a lot!!!) my route, as I will go US & Canada after a week in Brazil, and will come back to Brazil afterwards...

So why all this?

Well, the most important point I think, is that after few months traveling, I really love it, and I am comfortable not having a job, nor being registered to any unemployment benefits. I thought it was risky, but as was commenting a friend... it might be even more risky to not live the dream fully! ;-)

I have to admit I was a bit scared back in March to be without a job for more than 4-5 months, and to not look seriously for another one, but now... Now I am sure traveling few months more will enrich me personally much more than coming back to Europe, and trying to "secure" a job or benefits without a real purpose. So yes I will keep spending more the savings hardly earned in the last years, but this travel time is so special, good, precious, unique.
The return to reality might be tough, but I am well aware of this and feel anyhow that after 7-8 months of travel, I will want to go back and find a work: my brain needs challenge & activity!

On the route itself, well... clearly, US & Canada are not really close to Brazil and on the way back to Europe, but I have friends getting married in New-York, and I just do not want to miss this. Plus it will give me the opportunity to see good friends, then travel to Chicago, Toronto, Montréal & Quebec which I have not seen yet.

After US & Canada, I'll be back to Brazil / Rio, head quickly to Paraguay /Asuncion, go see Iguazu falls, then will go around the country to see Sao Paulo, the Amazon, the North & East  coasts. Many more exciting adventures to come and tell!! :-)))

My world-map flights are now all over the place, up and down North / South few times, and the total km I will be flying are insane... I am not sure yet how many hours I will have spent in planes & airports, but that is for sure a lot. Hopefully, it is a personal trip.
Also, I will definitely have to plant few trees (or a forest?) to balance my terrible 2013 carbon footprint!

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

D125-126 Bolivia lagoons & volcanos

Wake-up call at 5:30am, departure 6am from the salt hotel South of the Salt-Flats… a bit rude, no shower but given it's -5°C and very unlikely to have hot water… not really important ;)

The 2 days will be a heavy travel days in our 4x4 jeep, driving from the South of the Uyuni flats down to the South tip of Bolivia, probably doing 600 km on dirt and rock roads (or no road at all), at 40-50 Km/h max… so spending 12-15 hours in the jeep.

However, for a second day in a row, sceneries seen will be unforgettable: blue & red lagoons surrounded by high mountains, flamingos, colorful volcanos, geothermic geysers at 5,000m high… this is a big "Nature" show-off!

Rocks, dirt and 6,000m high volcanos, with white snowed-peaks in the background were the amazing environment to cross down this South Bolivia altiplano region. Riding on endless plateaux, or going through tough dirty paths, the adventure was just awesome, despite the hours in the jeep. And with Miguel, our driver, who was putting some various music, going from kitschy techno music of the 90s to very local Bolivian latino music… it was at the end very entertaining :)

The view for many hours… endless Andean plateaus and dirt
View of a high snowy volcano peak, at the border of Boliva & North Chile
Bolivian Andes plateaux and mountains  overview
It looks  like a solid rock, but this is a plant! 
Many lagoons exists at those high altitudes, filled by rain water, mixing special mineral elements which can give them a specific color pending the time of day, wind, heat… I had no idea these kind of landscapes existed there, and this was awesome to discover.
There are birds and flamingos living on those lagoons, adding a great animal life touch, ambling in their intact, natural environment, where you could spend hours to stare at the surrounding and the slow life happening there. 

Cañapa lagoon
Cañapa lagoon and flamingos
Cañapa lagoon and flamingos… and perfect still water
Me and the lagoon
White lagoon with some other flamingos
White lagoons and its many flamingos!
White lagoon overview
Lagoon colorada, or the red lagoon: I also see a reverse white eagle in the lake, do you see it?
+… altitude is 4,300m here, sleeping just on the side!
We were already "high" ;) since few weeks, but those 2 days, we kept crossing plateaux and lagoons at 4,000m high or more, where vegetations is almost non-existent. Very impressive to see a vast area without ANY plant… only rocks and dirt exist at 5,000m high.

4x4 riding through the rocks and mountains
Beautiful view of the "5 colors" mountains, from a 5,000m high desert plateau
The Stone-Tree, standing at 4,500m high or more, lost in the middle of nothing
The Stone-Tree rocks formations overview
At the beginning of day 3, we are reaching Sol de Maniana region, which is a volcanic zone with geysers. Afterwards we traveled towards Polques hot springs where few of us can take a relaxing bath in a small pool of natural thermal water… awesome again. 

Geothermic myst at a mountain top :)
A geyser
Geothermic activity at 5,000m high: impressive
The Polques thermic baths
Well, me in the baths… 7am, around 0°C outside at 4,700m high… it wakes up!
View of the thermic baths area and surrounding
After all this great time in Bolivia, time to reach the end of this Andean tour. Reaching the border at 10am… we got stuck waiting for an hour, before the guards do a kind of celebration and speech for the Bolivian national day.
Well, for sure interesting to see and listen too (not really friendly comment on their Chilean neighbors, but I can understand given the sea-access land conflict), but as travelers kept arriving, it just created another hour of queuing mess… fun ;)
The border-crossing building, with Bolivian officers celebrating Bolivia's national day (August 6th)
The official border line...
The sudden line when officers stopped talking… of course, it could only be very messy… :P

Sunday, 4 August 2013

D124: Incredible day in the Salt Flats / salar de Uyuni

WOW. Remembering about this day in the Salt Flats makes me having a big smile :-)

This day has been so good, I barely realized while living it… for sure it deservers a good blog post! Starting with a tough & early run, the day rolled on with a wander through rusted, abandonned, trains wagons, then the famous endless salt-flats, followed by a hike on an improbable cactus-island before to end with a sunset on the t flats… Great memories! :-)

We arrive in Uyuni from the Potosi town at the end of the afternoon, Saturday August 3rd, just after the sun dropped. Dawn was not helping the town to look nicer, it's clearly a tiny "1-night before or after the Uyuni trip tourists trap" town. Streets are dirty, with many dogs running & barking around.
Still, after a disgusting dinner, we succeeded to find a fun bar and get some nice pisco sours and some dancing, surprising here and at 3,800m high… plus another good proof you can have fun anywhere ;) !

Sunday August 4th is the big day! I am starting with the group a 3 days trip across Uyuni then South Bolivia volcanos and lagoons, with 4x4 jeeps, to reach San Pedro de Atacama in Chile on Tuesday noon.

Departure 10am, but I decide to test my body limits with a run in the early morning… Wow, that was tough! -2°C with a low oxygen level at 3,800m, I only lasted 25mn running on 4km… interesting experience (& I didn't got bitten by a dog, big plus).

After loading the jeeps and a quick briefing, we finally hit the road at 11am. It barely takes 20mn to reach this abandoned train cemetery, which has become a classic attraction there, but is really nice to see a bit. The surrounding of the high Andes and the dry flats create a great set-up to wander between those rusted train wagons and take shots.
Train cemetery: a rusted, broken wagon
Locomotive closeup shot
Can start training on "posing pics" before Uyuni ;)
Train cemetery overview, with the Andes in the background (remember, standing 3,800m high here!)
Train cemetery weird rusted thing
Train cemetery detail
A classic locomotive shot with the Andes and Uyuni salt flats start in the background
Another 20mn drive brings us to the real border of the Uyuni salt flats, where few locals still work to collect, store and produce salt at the salt cooperative:
Use as an entry point to go in the salt flats, our guides takes here to also see how salt bags are being made from the salt collected in the salt. Let's say it's still a very artisanal technic here! This is as well, an opportunity to see a bit how Bolivian live (survive) in this desertic area of the country… poorly and basically.

A view on the village
A salt collection point
The "process" of drying the salt to pack it into a bag
Local houses
Leaving the village, we finally arrive in the Uyuni salt flats by 1pm, discovering 1st the salt piles area, where the salt-cooperative workers come to pile-up salt to dry it before to bring it to the village. This view is quite special, and the feel of entering the Salt Flats is even more special: this is a really a unique place and scenery on Earth!

Uyuni salt piles
My G-Adventure group posing on salt piles :)
30mn drive within the Salt Flats and you feel like on a different planet: this is really damn flat, gigantic (about the size of Lebanon or Jamaica), and in this dry season period, the ground is organized in pretty polygonal shapes of salts (mostly hexagons!), which is due to a drying process after the rainy season. Completely amazing to see and enjoy. When I look again at the pictures, I just want to teleport myself there and see this scenery again.
We had lunch right there beside the jeeps, whatever food it was, this lunch was fabulous.

The Uyuni Salt Flats: spectacular
The Uyuni Salt-Flats : you can drive at 100 km/h and close your eyes for a mn ;)!
Closeup shot of the salt hexagons
In the Salt Flats, a famous game is… fun picture poses. Given the endless perspective and white ground, it is very easy to make fun pictures… just a few below to show:

A crane digging up Stevie
Making of the pic: Andrew in a special posing ;)
George throwing me up
Me, "carrying" Daisy, Stevie and Nina: easy
INCAHUASI ISLAND… or the Cactus Island!
I could not really believe it when we arrive there. I had just no clue I would ever see this in the middle of the salt-flats: an island of cactus, standing on rocky hills up to 80m above the flats. What a scenery!
As the Salt-Flats were previously a vast inland-lake of trapped salty water, it dried up to create the Salt Flats… and the few islands in the lake stayed.
This one had a sacred meaning for the Incas, and ceremony to Pachamama are still practiced regularly at the top of it. After hiking up through the cactus and lamas, we played one thanks to our guide, this was fun. As is was an undersea area at some point, we could also observe some old, dead corals… weird at 3,800m high!

Incahuasi island: cactus and rocks in the middle of the Salt-Flats
Lamas walking around
1 side of the island with the Salt-Flats background
Cactus are centuries old, and tallest are up to 9m!
The coral rocks… yes, this is natural ;-)
We finished the day driving toward the night-camp at the South of the salts, enjoying amazing sunset views and feeling in this special location, of course doing a bit more posing ;-)

Jumping over the sun: easy
Being kicked by a British: aie!
Sunset on the flats
The evening and night will be tougher… rustic salt-hostel, i.e. with walls, beds, tables and chairs done with salt bricks, without any heaters and only basic amenities… well, I still thought it was pretty good for this lost location and high altitude.

In the evening, I am having a lot of fun with the group, gathering around the electric plugs and our hardware loading for the next day, listening to some good music while drinking the cheap Bolivian (but good!) wines we bought the day before.

Great atmosphere after a great day… but before 10pm, as electricity & lights will shut-down!
It's freezing cold in and out (-5°C or less… not really geared up for this), but looking at the night sky is astonishing: it's almost like we could see space through the Milky Way!
(thanks Andrew for the pics ;)

Amazing night sky view! ©Andrew Leung