10 August 2013

Last Post -Hints and Tips for packing and travelling

I am home now for quite a time and some people told me my blog is "unfinished"... and they are right - I promised some hints & tips... so here we are:

Starting with packing list - I will sort it by country / action etc, and in which months I was there

Generally important items to pack (consider):

  1. Camera + extra batteries
  2. Consider backup system for your photos - I had an external drive which was stolen - luckily I had my photos also burned on DVDs and sent home. Uploading photos takes a lot of time and is very, very slow in Peru and even worth (in some parts impossible) in Bolivia.
  3. Some device to use the free Wifi which is available everywhere ( I did not have a phone or laptop, or tablet - and at times it is challenging to find an (open) internet cafe with a skype connection)
  4. Onion style cloth - easy to combine and to adapt to different temperature
  5. Nice cloth for bigger cities - trekking cloth does not make you feel attractive - inclusive shoes! In warmer areas it is possible to use flipflops
  6. If you are a woman - take makeup and jewellery  or buy some) - especially in bigger cities and if you want to go out (and if it is only a meal or drink...)
  7. I read not to bring more than 7 pairs of underwear - why? It is small and light - take more, than you do not have the stress to wash it all the time!
  8. Washing line - to hang up your underwear and other cloth - also great to hang up your towel - if you hang it up on your bed, you can avoid the light or people looking at you
  9. Sleeping mask (against the light in hostels) and ear plugs - to sleep even in full rooms
  10. Not too much liquid stuff - you can buy shower gel, shampoo, sun cream, contact lense liquid, tooth paste in every bigger city in Argentina, Chile, Bolivia and Peru (also in the smaller ones in Argentina and Chile) - it is too heavy and takes too much space.
  11. Tape - to fix things easily on your backpack
  12. A good lock (not too big to fit to all lockers in hostels)

Patagonia (South Chile & South Argentina)
High Season between November and February (summer time). I was there Mid February - Mid March.

Patagonia is a very large area - starting from Bariloche in Argentina (lake district) and Puerto Madryn going down south until Tierra del Fuego. The further south you go, the colder it gets.

My packing list:

  • Down jacket - very important (especially in the evenings and on a ship, also useful as cushion when you are camping)
  • Fleece jacket
  • Long Johns - take nice black ones or leggings to combine it with a dress / skirt 
  • Ice Breaker Shirt  (or other Merino Wool shirt) - I bought mine in Chile and it is very warm but does not take much space!
  • Wind resistent trousers - I had rain trousers which did there job - especially on the ship but also in the wind
  • Scarf, hat and gloves should not be missed - I found my buff especially useful - against the sun, wind, rain and cold. As a scarf I had a ring-formed fleece one - which could also be used as a buff. It had the big advantage that it was very warm but did not take much space. For a hat I had one which I could wear over my ears - which is especially great in the wind and on the boat.
  • Wind and water resistent jacket - big enough to wear fleece, down jacket and other stuff underneath
  • long sleeve pyjamas - or long sleeve underwear - than it has two usages
  • Thick socks - sometimes to wear more than one pair. Also for the night.
  • Walking boats - that is what you do in Patagonia - walking!
  • Walking sticks (but you will need 2 for Torres del Paine against the wind - useful also in El Chalten, Bariloche and Tierra del Fuego)
  • If you take a sleeping bag (I did not have one) -take a very warm one for the South. In Puerto Natales, Bariloche, El Chalten it is easy enough to rent one. In Ushuaia it was a challenge to find a rental shop. I also had a inlay which was supposed to heat up the sleeping bag. It was small and I used it as well in buses and hostels with thinner bed sheets (I feel the cold very quickly).
  • If you have the money and space and want to camp a lot - take a floatable air mattress. Normally, you can only rent the one which is very thin and there only use it for insulation - not for comfort. 
  • Day Backpack - for one day tours
  • Camel bag - for water straight from your backpack into your mouth - especially if you are always thirsty and do not want to stop to drink.
  • Headlights - to be able to start walking in the dark (or if you are running late)
  1. El Chalten (day trips easily possible)
  2. Torres del Paine ("W-Trek" can be done in 4-5 days)
  3. Ushuaia and the Tierra del Fuego Park - camping with fire allowed!
  4. The Glacier Perrito Moreno (be sure that you have at least 3 hours to watch the ice falling)
  5. If you either like calmness and silence or walking outside the crowds - Puerto Williams in Chile (Tierra del Fuego) - be careful - boat trip to Ushuaia (Argentina) is expensive!
  6. Puerto Madryn - should be best in December when you can watch whales

North of Argentina (Mendoza, Tucaman, Salta, Iguazu)
It is much warmer here - bring summer cloth (I did not have enough...)

My packing list:

  • Short trousers for walking
  • Mosquito protection (long sleeve and / or repellent)
  • Sun protection for head (and sun glasses)
  • T-Shirts - 3 or 4 is not really enough...except you want to wash a lot
  • Flipflops
  • If you go high up (around Salta or Mendoza, e.g. Andes) bring warm cloth
  • Fleece (and if it only for the air conditioned bus
  • Wind jacket

  1. Waterfalls of Iguazu.. do the Brasilian side first and be careful with the mosquitos (especially in the hostel!)
  2. The rock formation of Cafayate
  3. On the way from Tucaman to Bolivia you can see so many different nice rock formations and mountains - it is worth a few stops (e.g. Purmamarca, Tilcara,...)

Bolivia (Highlands) - inclusive Jungle & Salt Flat

In Bolivia it is always more or less warm. But only during the day - as soon as the sun goes down, it will get cold! So do not forget warm cloth!!!! Bolivia is high up - so be careful with altitude sickness. The rain season stops some point in June ( I was there end of April until end of May)

My packing list:

  1. Warm cloth such as fleece, long-sleeve pyjama (no heating in hostels!!! I wore my fleece many times...)
  2. Sun protection
  3. Long-sleeve cloth for the jungle - if possible bright. It will get so dirty in the jungle that no washing machine can clean it - so accept that before you go. 
  4. Swimming stuff
  5. Mosquito Protection - a lot of spray!
  6. Headlights & batteries in the jungle - there is no plug, so charge everything beforehand!
  7. Rain protection (especially in the boat - otherwise, it will not only be wet but also cold.
  8. At the Salt Flats: it will be cold at night and early in the morning - consider two pairs of socks! Later in June- August when it gets really cold- take a warm sleeping bag
  9. Toilette Paper!!! - mostly you need your own! 
  10. Hand disinfection cream or gel
  11. Medicine - especially for a sensitive stomache. 
  12. Space in your backpack for cheap shopping (the best in South America!)

  1. Salt Flats - Tour from Tupiza to Uyuni was great - although a bit more expensive
  2. Rurrenabaque - Jungle for a unique experience 
  3. Rurrenabaque - Pampa - for a lot of animal watching - 3 days recommended
  4. Titikaka Lake - beautiful (but cold!)

South Peru

Similar to Bolivia - heat and cold through the Andes and altitude problems possible. ( I was there end of May until Mid June)

My packing list:

  1. Warm cloth such as fleece, long-sleeve pyjama (no heating in hostels!!! I wore my fleece many times...)
  2. Sun protection
  3. Long-sleeve cloth for Machu Picchu  
  4. Swimming stuff
  5. Headlights & batteries on treks
  6. Rain protection 
  7. Toilette Paper!!! - mostly you need your own! 
  8. Hand disinfection cream or gel

  1. Salkantay Trek - beautiful way to Machu Picchu!
  2. Machu Picchu
  3. Colca Canon - to see condors for sure
Chile (North)

Chile has sooooo many climate zones as it is very long - I was just in Pedro de Atacama and La Serena Mid June.

My packing list:

  1. Warm cloth such as fleece, long-sleeve pyjama (no heating in hostels!!! I wore my fleece many times...) for the evening / night - especially in San Pedro - the dessert is cold at night!
  2. Sun protection (especially at the Easter Island!!!!)
  3. Swimming stuff for hot springs
  4. Rain protection  in La Serena - in the dessert there is normally no rain outside February. But climate change did not stop in South America... I had rain and clouds...
  5. Summer cloth (especially at the Easter Island, consider long-sleeve to prevent burning of the skin!)

  1. Easter Island - especially at the festival end of January / beginning of February every year
  2. San Pedro de Atacama - you can easily spend a week here!
So, hopefully this has been helpful. I can not recommend enough a travel / journey like this. I have learned a lot about the countries I have travelled in, other countries, people, different ways of life and about myself! It was a fantastic time. a woman by myself - I have felt comfortable in 95% of the cases - so not less than I have felt in Germany and the UK. It is obviously important to be careful, but it is likewise so much fun that it is worth it!

Thanks for reading! :-)

30 June 2013

Arrival (aehm - a week ago) in Germany wih stopover in New York

Hi there,
It seems to be more difficult to update the blog being at home - although surrounded by internet...
But - to let you know - I arrived savely home in Uelzen, Germany Friday last week (21th June) after a 33 hour tour...

I have started in Santiago on the 19th June at 20:50 with my first flight to New York (no time difference to Santiago - 5 hour behind GMT) I made a big mistake in the morning. I thought it would be a good idea to get up early in order to be tired enough to sleep well on the plane - it did not work! First of all - we started late and it was already 1:00 am when they collected the dinner plates in the plane. And secondly - the seats are very, very uncomfortable. When I came from Germany I was not used to anything better - but since than I have travelled a lot in cama and semi-cama (cama = bed) buses. Even the half-bed one it much more comfortable than a normal plane seat. Result: I could not sleep!

On 20th June I arrived with a delay in New York. I walked out of the plane at 9:00 and managed within an hour, to get my luggage, check it in again, get my boarding passes for the next two flights, find out about how to get into New York (as I had time enough) and buy a chocolate croissant and a chai latte (wow, I missed these things!) for my second breakfast.
It took me one hour into New York. When I stepped out I was amazed! It was just sooo different from everything I have experienced in the last few months. This was really a big city with huge buildings. As I did not think I would have time to go into NewYork, I did not plan anything. I hesitated to start with as I was a bit scared -of course that was studpid- I travelled South America by myself - so I could also get into a big city :-) After walking around a bit through Time Square, I decided to go to the Museum of Modern Arts (MoMA) - something I wanted to do for a long time. I spend 2 hours there before I had to go back to the Airport. This was definetly a reason to go back to New York!

Back at the airport at 15:00 I had plenty of time to catch my flight to London at 18:10. We even waited at the airport to not arrive before the opening in London at 6:00. When I finally decided to sleep at 23:00, I had about 3 hours bad sleep before breakfast was served! Landing was 20 minutes early at 6:20.

In London I had not much time, less than 2 hours. Luckily, the airport is fairly empty in the morning. And boarding was slightly delayed for my 7:55 flight.

Finally, I arrived in Hannvover at 10:30 where my parents welcomed me and took me to their place. I packed out all my souvenirs from South America (in my backpack and send home in the post before).

Since than I have enjoyed many luxeries:

  • to throwing toilett paper in the toilet (I hesitated so many times!)
  • to wear a variety of cloth - feeling washing is not necessary for another months!
  • to wear "female" things like jewellery, make-up, nice shoes, nice cloth, nail polish... I never thought I would miss that!
  • use a quick internet connection
  • have my own mobile phone (even a smartphone!) 
I will post another last post with some hints and tips - so thank you for reading - but you might be interested to get another inside over the next week :-)

19 June 2013

Last Stop before Santiago - La Serena and la Valle de Equil

My trip is almost over... so time to hurry up to tell you about my last few days.

In the morning of the 16th June I arrived in La Serena - a beach town! And that`s what I did - I went to the beach. I had lovely sun shine and enjoyed the big waves (from the beach - it is winter here and the water is cold!). And that was almost all I did... I wanted to do a star tour in the evening but they cancelled it... guess what - too many clouds (again!).

I re-scheduled it for the next day - after my Valle de Elquil Tour. However, on the 17th it was even more cloudy and rainy! They told us the weather is better in the valley (and warmer!) so one couple from Chile, a guy from Brazil and I went. It was very interesting - we learnt a lot about agriculture, visited a pisco fabric and enjoyed the landscape in the kind of sunny valley. But the clouds stayed and got again no star watching for Steffi... which means I have to return!

This morning (18th June) I have left La Serena and went by bus for 6,5 hours and 500km to Santiago de Chile. It is strange to be back...and here is proper winter - like I know it from Spain. I almost get the Christmas feeling...

I will let you know how my journey home was and will summarise my journey and than my blog will come to an end...

17 June 2013

San Pedro de Atacama - Rain in one of the driest places in the world...

In the morning of 13th June I arrived in San Pedro. It just stopped raining - and I thought I was in a desert area (and it is!)...

I met some guys from the UK and we found a hostel together. They told us there that there was a forecast of rain for the next two days... hmm... but actually than the sun and heat came out and I organised my day.

For the afternoon I booked a tour to go to the Valle de la Luna (or Moon Valley) - this was very impressive - so much sand! Due to the Andes and the other mountain area this is appearing in the middle and constantly changing.

Than we went down into the valley itself. The white is salt by the way (I have tried it!)

Up to see the death valley - there are different theories why this is called like this. However, one is that there are still mines lying around (San Pedro is close to the Bolivian and Argentine border) and due to wind, weather and changing landscape the mines are also moving... so be careful!
But up here - there is no danger in juming!
And another valley - it looked amazing. We saw the sun set here.
Uh- very close to the ground. But actually the next photo is more scary - I just did not realised it at the time when I sat down for the photo (it is the same stone!)

Normally, they told us there are no clouds or rain whatsoever in winter (that is the current season here) - well  I guess I am lucky?!

For the next morning (14th June) I booked a tour to see the geysers at sunrise. For that reason we had to get up at 3:30 to be picked up at 4:00! So early. Unfortunately I could not really sleep in the jeep. After 1,5 hour driving our car stopped and the driver went out to discuss something with the police. Than the car turned around. I did not thing much about it, just that they will drive another way. But when 2 German guys started to talk that we are going back, I was completely awake. I asked the guide and he confirmed it -  nobody could pass because of too much snow! - What? I did not think I was in England anymore where everything closes for some snow... The rain we had the day before was snow around 4000m and that was why. They also closed the boarders to Bolivia (Salt Flats) and Argentina... Back at 6:00 I thought that this was a waste of time. I was the last one in the car to be dropped off when I saw another vehicle. I asked the driver whether they are doing a tour now - and they did and had a space free. So I changed car at 6:15 to see the Altiplano Lakes!

We saw the sunrise over the salt flat of San Pedro. Again, we had a lot of clouds which is unusual. The guide said, there used to be 4 days a year clouds in San Pedro - and all of them beginning of February. But for 2 years the weather is changing...

In comparison to the Salt Flat in Bolivia this one is half the size and had a rough texture (because of the lack of water)
You can see the thunderstorm in the background. It was very interesting to see - and the clouds moved so quickly!

It was freezing cold. My group consisted just of couples - from Brazil, Portugal, Chile and France. That is why we had a Spanish speaking guide. But being on my own had the advantage that I could sit in the front - and the guide Pedro had a lot of interesting things to tell.
And the weather looks good again...
We saw several rainbows.

And flamingos

The salt flat with rain puddles

And the sun is back - after we had some breakfast it all looked very different again.

Than we went uphill - up to 4000 meters. Our guide (and we!) were hoping that we could pass...
Gardens from the pre-Inka time - in terraces to save water (as it runs from one floor to the next)
And they built churches and their towers apart - for safety reasons. Some say it symbolises the man (tower) and the woman (church building).
And we are going up - there is snow which is apparently very, very unusual - even in winter.
But I thought it looked beautiful. The white stuff is this time snow.
 We were very lucky as our car made it to the top - other cars stopped much earlier and the people had to walk up for an hour... why do they not have winter tires - there would be no problems with them!

 And we arrived at one of the High Lakes - beautiful. The wind was very cold to start with but the air itself was not too bad.

 We also saw some vicuñas - they normally disappear when there is snow - these must be the last ones.

Do you know the stones over stones buildings (like in the picture). Apparently that comes from the Incas and you have a free wish when you do it yourself.

There is my - very stable - one. But my wish is a secret ;-)

Our guide suggested to make photos here - as there only one car every 20 Minutes...well, in the 10 minutes we made photos came around 8 cars...

We drove through a illusion: it looked as if the street was going downhill. But when our driver stopped, the car when backwards - up the hill. I did not quite get it.... it looked very real!

And in the last town, Lama feeding.

We came back at 14:00 and I already had another tour booked at 15:00 - not much time to relax. I had some quick food and went to see the Lagunas Cejar - the salt lakes.
 It lookes to paradise like. However, it was quite cold...the wind was harsh...

Me, trying to get into the water which was not really warm!

 It has so much salt in it that you can swim without doing anything - actually, if you do try to swim, you cannot - as your feet is submerging to the surface. They told us there are only two in the world - here and the Dead Sea. However, wikipedia says something different. Whatever is true - it was very impressive.

In the end it was warmer in the depth - so you just had to try to get your legs down! I stayed in the water the longest from our group - for about
half an hour. Than it was enough... we got fresh water to clean ourselves and got dressed quickly (it was very cold) By the way - it is very difficult to get changed with a towel with so much wind!

Afterwards, we went to the Ojos de Salar (the eyes of the Salar). Two wholes in the middle of nowhere filled with water.

 And another lake - where we watched the sunset.
 And had pisco sour - very nice!

 In the evening I met two German girls from the tour yesterday and together with a guy from Chile we went out for Pizza.

My last day in San Pedro --- 15th June --- as I booked a night bus to Serena. I still wanted to do the Geysers but my agency said the night before that it was not possible... so I had an easy morning. For a change there were hardly any clouds in the sky and a good view to the volcanos!

 In the afternoon I went to the hot springs - Thermas de Puritaner. They advertised temperatures of 32°C but I am sure it was not more than 27°C / 28°C - a bit too cold. It looked very natural and had water falls. Unfortunately, it was a bit too much in the shade and as I said a bit too cold. I still stayed in there for good 2 hours and enjoyed it!

There are no photos of me as nobody (including me) wanted to get out to organise it :-)

We came back at 18:15 and my bus went at 19:01. These were beautiful 3 days but very stuffed. It is easily possible to spend a week in San Pedro... next time maybe. It is time to move closer to Santiago! 

In the bus I had a bit of a shock - my ticket was not for the 15th but for the 19th June! I knew I said "mañana" - tomorrow but the woman was the whole time talking to her colleague and I did not check my ticket properly... Luckily Tur Bus changed my ticket in the first stop Calama (1,5 hours away) and I still had my cama (bed) seat. After 16 hours I arrived in La Serena... now I have only 500km left!