Welcome to Marion and Alfred

Teresopolis, Nova Friburgo and Arraial do Cabo

Thursday, 22 November 2012 14:50

The main attraction of Teresopolis is the marvelous Parque Nacional Serra dos Orgaos with stunning shaped mountains like Dedo do Deus (God's finger) with altitudes up to approx. 2300 meters. It stretches Northeast of Rio de Janeiro along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. It is part of the rain forest and consequently precipitation is huge. Two entrances into the park are close to Teresopolis with trails, natural swimming pools and good campsites.

Between the two mid-sized cities of Teresopolis and Nova Friburgo is the scenic Tere-Fri circuit with gorgeous winding roads. Teresopolis is named after the Empress Maria Teresa from Habsburg. She was the wife of Dom Pedro II, the Emperor of Brazil in the second half of the 19th century for 49 years. Families emigrated from the Swiss canton Friburgo founded Nova Friburgo in 1818.

The charming village Arraial do Cabo is one of the first settlement in America: Amerigo Vespucci landed here in 1503 and left 24 men. It is located on the beautiful peninsula Cabo Frio with islands, mountains, cliffs and beaches with clear and turquoise waters. 

Maria Teresa is watching Teresopolis

 

Pico da Bandeira, Domingos Martins and Ouro Preto

Friday, 09 November 2012 14:49

The Caparao National Park on the border between the Brazilian states Espirito Santo and Minas Gerais contains southern Brazil tallest mountains including 2892 meters high Pico da Bandeira. Besides its relative modest altitude (for South America) it is a geographical point of superlative because no other mountain in a circle of more than 2500 km is higher. Just two peaks on the Brazilian / Venezuelan borders are a little bit taller in Brazil. Accessibility of this mountain is easy including fabulous hiking trails and cozy campsites.

Thanks to gold found in its mines, Minas Gerais is famous for its baroque colonial towns like Ouro Preto, the jewel in the crown and Brazil's first World Heritage site.

100km East of Caparao is the pretty German-style town Domingos Martins. Street names are in German and there are clubs like the Bergfreunde to preserve the culture of the immigrants, mainly from Pomerania and Hunsrück. Natural treasures like the waterfall Cascado do Galo and the dramatic rock Pedra Azul are nearby.

Lutheran church of Domingos Martins

   

Salvador and the coast of Bahia

Sunday, 28 October 2012 15:20

Salvador de Bahia was the former capital of the Portuguese New World colony and is now the stunning Afro-Brazilian metropolis in South America with more than 3 million inhabitants. It is a magnificent jewel with beautiful colonial buildings, powerful people and gorgeous coastline. It might be the best place outside of Africa where the descendants of the slaves have preserved mostly their culture and heritage.

40 kilometers North of Salvador is the outstanding beach village Praia do Forte with a TAMAR station, which is a research project to protect Sea Turtles. Eggs are collected on dangerous places on the nearby beaches and embedded here till the little Sea Turtles are hatching. It includes an interesting visitor's center.

South of Salvador are the touristic paradise Morro de Sao Paulo on the island Ilha de Tinhare, the wild beaches of Itacare and the marvelous home town Ilheus of Jorge Amado, maybe the most famous novelist of Brazil. Terrific and touching is the National Park Monte Pascoal, which is managed by the gentle indigenous Pataxo people.

We came in time to Salvador to meet Alfred's cousin Vera, who had organized a tour of the orchestra Klangverwaltung München (Management of sounds, Munich) in South America. For us it was an unforgettable wonderful experience to listen to this orchestra, conducted by Enoch zu Gutenberg. They played classical music from Mozart, Haydn and Schubert.

Announcement of the concert in Salvador

   

Chapada dos Veadeiros and Chapada Diamantina

Friday, 19 October 2012 00:37

The marvelous highlands Chapada Veadeiros and Chapada Diamantina are treasures of nature with unique landscapes, scenic canyons, grassy valleys, beautiful cascades, nice swimming pools with crystal clear water, abundant flora and fauna. 

The first one is 200km North of Brasilia. Its main entrance gate is the kooky town Alto Paraiso de Goias with some spiritualization and many interesting people from overall the world. Few kilometers west is the pretty little village Sao Jorge where a lot of youngsters and oldies wear dreadlocks. Between the two sites is one of the main attraction: The Vale da Lua, the Brazilian Moon Valley.

The 400km West of Salvador located huge Chapada Diamantina achieves altitudes of more than 2000 meters sea-level and has the highest mountains in the Northeast of Brazil. Morro do Pai Inacio is probably one of the most climbed mountain in Brazil. The former diamond-mining town Lencois is a perfect base to explore the Chapada Diamantina.

Thanks to geocaching we enjoyed the superb hike Indaia after we had left Brasilia. There are six waterfalls on its way and finally we arrived at the top of the 168 meters high Itiquira falls after few hours walking, bathing and swimming. All details including useful way-points are described in the Geocache GC265JH (Guardando na memoria ...).

Jumping into the cold water of the Indaia river on a hot day

   

Brasilia, Cidade de Goias and Pirenopolis

Wednesday, 26 September 2012 21:05

Brasilia is Brazil's futuristic capital in the center of the vast country since the year 1960. It was built in the 1950s after a long period of planning and struggle to move the capital from Rio de Janeiro to the middle of nowhere. Former President Juscelino Kubischek - JK - was the main driver of this urban project, unique in the world. Besides the military the architect Oscar Niemeyer was one of the key players for its construction. It is a city of bureaucrats and government with modern, remarkable and some stunning buildings. It is the only city in the world created in the 20th century awarded UNESCO World Cultural Heritage.

The little town Pirenopolis is one of the main weekend destination of the inhabitants of Brasilia. It is a mixture of Portuguese colonial architecture, art decor and hippie vibe in a marvelous hilly landscape with wonderful waterfalls.

Cidade de Goias is another city in this region which achieved UNESCO World Heritage status. It is like an open museum with many beautiful baroque churches, colorful colonial buildings and narrow cobblestone streets.

In Cidade de Goias

 

   

Crocodiles and more - Pantanal

Saturday, 08 September 2012 18:08

The Pantanal is with 210,000 sq km the hugest wetland on earth located in the center of South America. According to lonely planet it is the number two attraction in Brazil, after Rio's Sugar Loaf. It is wilderness abundant of wildlife with few farms and no bigger settlement. Many kinds of birds, monkeys, capybaras and crocodiles are easily visible in their natural environment due to much open space like savannah, rivers and lakes. September is the end of the dry season, many water holes vanished or are at low level. They are filled more or less completely with fish, crocodiles and other game seeking for some coldness in the merciless burning sun. It is quite hot during the day, more than 40°C!

But there are two other treasures in the state Mato Grosso close to Cuiaba, its capital. 150km North is in the jungle the village Bom Jardim with crystal clear rivers and lakes with uncountable colorful fishes. Snorkeling here is a stunning experience, you feel like being in an aquarium. Northeast are the marvelous pinnacles, cascades and gorges of the national park Chapada dos Guimaraes.  

We arrived at the Brazilian border in Friday afternoon. There was the usual fruit and vegetable inspection and we lost some eggs, tomatoes and onions. Asking them for official immigration they told us that we have to go to the Police station in the first city, Caceres, more then 100km far away from the border.

It was already dark when we arrived in Caceres and found the right Police station for immigration (GPS coordinates: S16° 05.186' W57° 40.540'). They gave us the stamps in our passport and the needed paper. For our car we had to go to the customs office, but they have closed between Friday, 2:00PM and Monday 9:00AM. Thus we had stayed the weekend in Caceres. We used the time to investigate its bars and to enjoy Brazilian beer in the hot evenings.

Thanks to the Transpananeira, the heart of the Pantanal is accessible with some efforts. It is a dirt road of more that 100km, starting at the village of Pocone, which lies between Caceres and Cuiaba.

Welcome to the capital of the Pantanal

   

Torotoro National Park and the way to the Brazilian border

Sunday, 02 September 2012 16:44

The Torotoro National Park is a superb area in the eastern range of the Andes, the Cordillera Oriental, 150km South of Cochabamba. It is a magic and wonderful world with caves, pinnacles, cold streams, canyons, wildlife and dinosaur footprints. Due its complicated access via steep cobbled or dirt roads it is relatively remote.  

100km Northeast, close the main road between Cochabamba and Santa Cruz are the most important Inca ruins of Bolivia, Incallatja in a marvelous landscape.

The best way from Bolivia to Brazil is through Chiquitania, more than 1000km through the hot jungle with some huge cattle farms and picturesque villages, mainly originated by Jesuits. Outstanding are San Javier and San Ignacio, both with beautiful churches and UNESCO world heritage states. Thanks to the Jesuits fine arts like music or carving is quite popular.

But we had some serious trouble to reach the Brazilian border. We came in the evening of Saturday (August 18th 2012) to Cochabamba and enjoyed its night life a little bit on a street restaurant. We met their three Carlos, one elderly pastor from Argentina, a young man driving a green Volkswagen T3 with his wife and son - Carlos. We had a lot of fun and learned some new Spanish words, Thanks Carlos I, II and III.

A cozy sleeping place in Cochabamba with some money from Jesus?

 

   

Volcan Parinacota

Sunday, 26 August 2012 01:51

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 mandatory. On the Chilean side are some nice tours to gain it properly.  

West (Chilean) side of Volcan Pomerape and Volcan Parinacota

   

Cerro Yana Sanca Grande and Cotahuasi Canyon

Sunday, 12 August 2012 23:48

Cerro Yana Sanca Grande is an unknown mountain directly on the street between Arequipa to the Cotahuasi Canyon, which is to Peruvian definition the deepest gorge on earth. Besides its height of 5496 meters sea-level, this mountain is dwarfed by the giants of Nevado Coropuna and Nevado Solimana, but it provides stunning and superb views.

The area around Cotahuasi Canyon is quite remote because it can be accessed only by dirty roads of more than 150km and high passes over 4700 meters. It is a beautiful valley with hot springs, Inca ruins and picturesque villages. On the way to the Cotahuasi Canyon is the lower valley of the Colca river, now named Rio Majes. It it a fruitful region with pleasant warm climate and interesting archaeological sites like the petroglyphs of Toro Muerte. There are other nice petroglyphs in Miculla which is close to the town Tacna on the frontier to Chile.

We came in the late evening of July 20th 2012 to Toro Muerte and could stay the night in the solitary parking lot in front of the petroglyphs. It is located in a dry side valley of Rio Majes near the village Corire.

Line drawings in the desert

   

Condors and more - Colca Canyon

Monday, 23 July 2012 02:58

The Colca Canyon is one of the more famous and attractive tourist destinations of Peru in the vicinity of Arequipa. It is with approximately 3200 meters (south side) respectively 4200 meters (north side) depth mightier than the Grand Canyon in USA. The upper valley is a fruitful gorge with many terraces and picturesque little villages like Chivay and Cabanaconde. Thanks to the glaciers on the upper slopes of the valley and a perfect irrigation system, water is plentifully available.

Other highlights are some hot springs and trekking down to the bottom of the canyon, to the little paradise Sangalle. In this oasis bananas and other tropical fruits are growing.

But the star of the Colca Canyon is the Condor, the king of the Andes and biggest raptor on earth. Cruz del Condor is a holy place of the local people because every morning many Condors start their daily journey from here. The steep eastern walls provide perfect nestling places for them.

Condors fly mainly by thermal up winds; thus they have to wait until the sun heated the rocky walls. We came to Chivay at lunch time on July 8th 2012 and it begun to rain, which is very unusual in the dry season. Chivay is the local district capital with reasonable facilities like good restaurants.

Main square of Chivay

 

   

Nevado Chachani and Volcan El Misti

Friday, 06 July 2012 20:27

Arequipa is with more than 1 million inhabitants the 2nd biggest city in Peru. It is located on the edge of the Atacama desert to the Cordillera Volcanica at 2400 meters see-level. Its major landmark is the still active Volcan El Misti, a perfect cone of 5822 meters high. North of the volcano is the huge snowy mountain Nevado Chachani with several peaks. Its main summit achieves 6075 meters and it is supposed to be one of the most accessible and easiest 6000er on earth. South of the volcano and also in the townscape of Arequipa is the very eroded volcano Nevado Pichu Pichu with seven summits. On its northern side is the marvelous lake Laguna Salinas Blanca with abundant bird life.

Approximately 100km southwest of Arequipa is its coastal resort village Mollendo, which is very busy in the austral summer. This was our first destination after we had crossed the Bolivian / Peruvian border in Desaguadero on June 22nd 2012 to meet a friend from Germany. We spent our first night in Peru after 31 years on a side street to ruins in the Aymara - Lupaca reservation. In the evening we explored the area and found some strange cairns.

Cairns with human bones - tombstones?

   

Huayna Potosi

Tuesday, 26 June 2012 23:38

The mountain Huayna Potosi is with 6088 meters sea-level one of the ice castles of the Cordillera Real. This mountain range is the eastern boundary of the Altiplano, the 2nd widest plateau on earth after Tibet, with about 4000 meters altitude. On the east side of the Cordillera Real follows the Amazon basin, with vast amounts of clouds, rain and snow in the Bolivian winter period (December to April). Consequently the glaciation of the Cordillera Real is enormous.

Graveyard of Milluni with Huayna Potosi


Life on Altiplano is hard and tough with very cold nights, excessive sun burning during the day and heavy precipitation in the rainy season. The indigenous tribe are the proud Aymara people. They achieved that their tongue is the second official language of native people in South America (after Guarani in Paraguay). The Aymara new year, Willkakuti is celebrated on their sacred place Tiwanaku in the longest night of the year at June 21st, when the sun turns. 

   

Iquique and Arica

Thursday, 14 June 2012 14:56

Iquique and Arica are with approximately 150,000 inhabitants each, the two biggest cities in the far North of Chile. Both are located beautifully on the Pacific Ocean surrounded by the pristine Atacama Desert in the back. This part of the desert is famous for its nitrate cities and geoglyphs, which were built between 1000 and 1400 BC by the local tribes. Most of the nitrate cities were established during the nitrate boom, which started mid of the 19th century. Most of them are abundant now, because the development of the artificial fabrication of nitrate mid of the 20th centuries stopped the boom.

Pelican on the beach close to Iquique

 

When we came back to Mendoza on May 24th 2012 from our second return to Germany, we wanted to head as fast as possible in the North of Chile because the climate there is much more reasonable in late fall. But first we had to cross the Andes. The only possibility in this season is the tunnel Christo Retendor, the direct connection between Mendoza and Santiago de Chile. 

   

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