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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. 


Volcan Tinguiririca

Sunday, 27 May 2012 17:57

Volcan Tinguiririca is with 4280 meters sea level one of the most dominant mountains 200 kilometers South of Santiago de Chile and 50km East of San Fernando. It is located in an extreme remote but beautiful environment. An aircraft crashed on its slopes in the early spring of 1972. One of the survivor went down after 72 days (!) to get help. Earlier rescue was impossible due to enormous amount of snow and bad weather. Some passengers survived because they had eaten the dead people. This touching story is described in the book "ALIVE".

There are the superb hot springs Termas del Flaco on the base of Volcan Tinguiririca. Few kilometers South is the bustling city Talca with approximately 200,000 inhabitants. Paso Maule or Pehuenche leads to Argentina via a pristine and marvelous landscape. Highlights are the hot springs Termas Campanario, the waterfalls Cascada del Arco Iris and the incredible blue lake Lago Maule. When we came to Talca we could watch an exciting event. 

World Motocross Championship 2012


Chiloe and Valdivia

Friday, 20 April 2012 17:42

Chiloe is with 9,600 sq km the second biggest island of South America, located more than 1000km south of Santiago in the Pacific Ocean. It is a hilly and green but harsh land with more than 2200mm precipitation per year. Most of its population live in the two bigger towns Ancud and Castro, which have about 20,000 inhabitants each. Many descendants of the native tribe Huilliche live in its smaller villages and settlements. Thanks to its isolated location, Chiloe suffered less from the mainstream of Spanish colonial development.

Chiloe is famous for salmon farming, its fine wooden churches, picturesque Palafitos (houses on stilts above the water), pristine beaches, dense cold rain forests, abundant fauna and flora. Huge areas are protected by national, regional or private parks.

250km North of Chiloe is the city of Valdivia, which has with more than 120,000 people approximately the same population like Chiloe. We came March 12th 2012 to Chiloe via the Panamericana (Ruta 5) and the usual ferry from Pargua. Close to Pargua is the pretty fishing port Maulin.

Boys of Maullin with Bernardo O'Higgins, the Chilean National Hero


Volcan Chillan and Volcan Antuco

Friday, 16 March 2012 23:48

The twin Volcanoes Chillan Viejo (old) and Nuevo (new) are 80 kilometers East of the town Chillan and the hot springs with the same name. This region is famous for its ski resort, the largest in Chile. Both volcanoes are active with some smoking rocks as well as the neighboring Nevados de Chillan. Besides their relatively low height of approximately 3200 meters the glaciation is quite big. 

Volcanoes Chillan Nuevo and Viejo


50 km South of the Volcanoes Chillan is the Parque Nacional Laguna del Laja. The lake Laguna Laja originated in the year 1873 due to a heavy eruption of the Volcan Antuco. This mountain is also a perfect black and / or white cone of close to 3000 meters height dominating the landscape of the national park. But it is excelled by the rough Sierra Velluda with its huge glaciers.

End of February 2012 we headed fast to the small village Bulnes to visit our friends Petra and Paddy in the winery Vina Chillan, see www.vinachillan.cl. This is one of the southernmost wineries on earth driven by Ruedi, like Petra and Paddy a Swiss citizen.


Volcan Lanin, the king of the lake districts

Friday, 02 March 2012 16:59

Volcan Lanin is with 3776 meters sea level the highest point of both lake districts, Argentina and Chile. It overtowers all nearby mountains more than several hundreds meters, only Cerro Tronador more 200km South achieves with 3478 meters a similar altitude. Volcan Lanin is a perfect cone of more than 2500 meters vertical highness and it is supposed to be one of the most beautiful mountains on earth. 

Majestic Volcan Lanin seen from the ascent to Volcan Achen Niyeu

The access to the summit of Volcan Lanin is relatively easy: First a six to seven hike to the upper hut Refugio CAJA from the ranger's office on the Paso Mamuil Malal or Tromen on its Argentine side, followed by another six hours trip over snow, scree and some rocks to the top. Due to several accidents on the mountains are the rangers very strict; they check your whole equipment like crampons and if you can use them properly.

In Argentina is the marvelous and huge park Parque Nacional Lanin North and South of the volcano with superb hiking capabilities, magical forests and beautific lakes.


Volcan Calbuco

Sunday, 19 February 2012 19:53

Volcan Calbuco is one of the most active in Chile. Its last major eruption was in the year 1961. The outburst of 1893 blew up its summit cone. Thus its shape is not so perfectly like the neighboring Volcan Osorno, which is supposed to be one of the most beautiful mountains on earth. Both volcanoes are located close to the lake Lago Llanquihue in the marvelous Lake District, the X region of Chile. Puerto Montt is its capital, a bustling city of more than 120,000 people and situated on the north shore of the fjord Seno de Reloncavi. 20km North of Puerto Montt is one of the major tourist destination in southern Chile: Puerto Varas on the southwest side of the huge Lago Llanquihue. Both towns have obvious Austrian, German and Swiss influence like the whole Lake District of Chile.

Volcan Calbuco at sunset - our route is the ridge on the left

We arrived in Puerto Montt three days prior to Tommy's return fly to Germany in the morning of January 31st 2012 and it was raining cats and dogs. We used the time to visit Nuevo Braunau and Puerto Varas, which have also some beauty at bad weather.


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