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Northeast Argentina and the Cascades of Iguazu

Friday, 05 August 2011 01:12

The Northeast of Argentina is a little bit different to the other parts: Lush and dense vegetation with some forests thanks to lots of water due to huge rivers and swamps. The absolute highlight is the Cascades of Iguacu in the very North of the province Misiones. The Southern part belongs to Argentina, the Northern to Brazil. Enormous amount of water is falling 70 meters down in more than 250 hundred cascades from a flat Basalt plateau. These waterfalls are ones of the top destinations in South America; thus many tourists visit them and there is a good infrastructure.

Interesting are the ancient Jesuit villages like San Ignacio Mini in Misiones, some other National Parks like Rio Pilcomayo in the province Formosa on the border to Paraguay and hot springs in the county Entre Rios.

After returning to Argentina and fixing our starter problems with the car (see article Samaipata and its environment) we visited the Laguna Blanca in the National Park Rio Pilcomayo. There was a lot of water because it had rained the last two days, but now the sun was shining on a clear sky and it was pleasant warm during the day. It was the first time this year we used our rubber boots and we were happy about them.

Laguna Blanca after sunset 


From Asuncion to Ciudad del Este

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



Samaipata and its environment

Monday, 25 July 2011 23:50

The village Samaipata is located in a marvelous environment in the first eastern ranges of the Andes. Its main attraction is the pre Inca fort El Fuerte de Samaipata, which is an UNESCO world heritage and one of the most important ruins of Bolivia and South America. The Incas used this fort as one their most outposts. East were and still are the very strong tribe Guarani, who defeated several times the Incas and prevent their further extension to East.

20km east of Samaipata are the Chorros de Cuevas, a paradise with three cascades, clean and cold water. It is an ideal destination on hot days to refresh and cool down. We drove on a rainy day from Santa Cruz to Samaipata mid of July 2011. The landscape became more and more mountainous and green.

The first ranges of the Andes from East


From La Paz to Santa Cruz and the National Park Amboro

Friday, 15 July 2011 15:28

The National Park Amboro between Cochabamba and Santa Cruz is situated on the lower slopes of the Andes to the Amazonas basin. It is famous for its density of game and insects, for beautiful waterfalls and natural swimming pools, and thick green jungle fauna. There are few camps inside this park, which can be accessed with a guide from the North via Buena Vista or the South via Samiapata.

Cochabamba is the third biggest city in Bolivia with more than 800,000 people. It is located in a nice valley of the Andes at 2570 meter sea level; thus it has a very pleasant climate. It is half the way between La Paz and Santa Cruz, the other two large cities in Bolivia. Its main attraction is the huge Jesus monument "Cristo de la Concordia" on a hill, more than 40 meters high.

When we left the Hotel Oberland in La Paz we heard a weird noise from the starter of our car. Besides that is was smoking like hell, again. So we decided to go to Eduardo, who manages the Bosch Diesel Service La Paz in El Alto the highest quarter of La Paz, around 4100 meters sea level. They revised the starter, the fuel pump and exchanged all Diesel tubes and the fuel filter. It was a lot of work; consequently we stayed 5 days in the service station. We had all comfort like electricity and hot shower. And we had enough gas for our heater, because it became very cold, especially in the evenings. The last morning we had some fresh snow. Thanks a lot Eduardo and the Bosch Diesel service team (GPS coordinates: S16° 31.944' W68° 10.483'). We used the time to visit the museums in La Paz; we like very much the coca museum and the masks in the folklore museum.

Eduardo and his little son


Cordillera Real 2011 and Yungas

Monday, 27 June 2011 23:36

The Cordillera Real is the mightiest mountain range in Bolivia with several peaks above 6000 meter. It is situated on the east side of the Altiplano and it gets in summer a lot of precipitation from the Amazon area. Thus the glaciations are heavy for this latitude; the permanent snow line starts at 5200 meter. We climbed in June 2011 Cerro Saturno (5006 meter seal level), Serranias Almillanis (5108 meter) and Cerro Charkini (5392 meter). To achieve the summit of the latter one we had to cross a glacier with huge crevasses.

On the ridge to Cerro Saturno


The Yungas are the lower slopes down to the Amazon basin. They have a rich flora and fauna, thanks to the clouds and rain coming from the Amazonas. A nice tourist destination is the village Coroico, which is accessible now from La Paz by a fully tarred road. But you have to cross the 4650 meter high pass Cumbre Coroico or La Cumbre. Few years ago the descent from this pass was horrible due to a narrow and dirty lane in vertical rocky walls. Many people died in the huge traffic and there are a lot of memorials. This old street is called the Camino de la Muerte, the Death Street. Now it is an outstanding mountain bike tour. If you start at La Cumbre, you have a vertical downhill distance of more than 3400 meters.


From Uyuni to La Paz via Potosi

Monday, 20 June 2011 01:04

Potosi is with more than 120,000 inhabitants the highest city of our world at 4100 meters sea level. Potosi was the richest town on earth due to enormous silver findings in the mines of the mountain Cerro Rico. The exploitation of silver started already in the 16th century and it was shipped mainly to Europe. But the silver was a curse for the local people, many died in the mines due to inhuman working conditions. Now the silver is gone, but tin and zinc are mined nowadays.  

La Paz is with more than 2,000,000 people the largest city of Bolivia, its economical heart and its seat of government. It is beautifully situated in different valleys of the Altiplano between 3200 and 4100 meters surrounded by very high and white mountains. Famous are the various markets of La Paz, a lot of nice places and the Valle de Luna (moon valley) with stunning earth pinnacles. 

We left Uyuni on June 1st 2011 to the village of Ticatica with some hot springs. We saw Rheas close to the road to Ticatica.

Three Rheas, the Ostriches of Southamerica



Volcan Uturuncu and Laguna Colorada

Monday, 13 June 2011 17:10

The mountain Volcan Uturuncu is with 6008 meters sea level the tallest mountain in the south part of Bolivia. It is an active volcano with two peaks. The last eruptions were in April 2003, after being hundreds of years inactive. There were some mining activities on this mountain and a rough dirty roads leads into the saddle between the two peaks. This road can be used by good 4-wheel cars up to 5400 meters, depending on the snow conditions. Uturuncu lies in a very remote area: The access from Uyuni is one long day by dirty roads, only possible with a 4-wheel car.

The 60 square kilometer big Laguna Colorada (red lake) is 4h drive West of Uturuncu in an altitude of 4275 meters. It is an unique natural spectacle, because the water color seems to be red, green and white depending on the sunset. This is caused by plankton. The plankton attracts a lot of birds like flamingos.

This is the second part of our trip with Fronia and Obet, see also our report Volcano Tunupa and Salar de Uyuni. In this article a map is included. After a cold and uncomfortable night in a hostel in Uyuni we started with Fronia and Obet the long way to the village Quetena Chico, which is the base for the ascent to Uturuncu.

The rough way from Uyuni to Quetena Chico


Volcan Tunupa and Salar de Uyuni

Tuesday, 07 June 2011 22:59

Salar de Uyuni is with 160 km length and 135 km width the largest salt area of our world at an altitude of approximately 3700 meters. The salt is between 2 and 7 meters thick, so it can be accessed by 4x4 cars if there is not too much water. In the rainy season between December and March the Salar de Uyuni becomes a tremendous huge mirror. The water dries in the following months more or less, so the surface becomes totally white. The Volcano Tunupa is situated on a peninsula of the Salar de Uyuni and provides fantastic views to the Salar because it overtops the Salar de Uyuni more than 1500 meters. Due to its outstanding location the Volcano Tunupa is a holy mountain of the Aymara people.

We came to Bolivia in the evening of May 24th 2011. The first town Villazon is a typical border city - mainly a shopping center for Argentina. We continued the next day to Tupiza, a pleasant town in a nice valley surrounded by rocky mountains.

Exciting car on the road between Villazon and Tupiza



Salta and Quebrada de Humahuaca

Thursday, 02 June 2011 23:58

Salta is one of the most marvelous cities in South America. It is the only one in Argentina with the add-on "La Linda", which means The Beautiful. No other city in Argentina has so many historical buildings, places and parks. Salta is with approximately 400,000 inhabitants the second biggest city in northwest Argentina. Salta has a pleasant warm climate even in late autumn because it is situated just 1200 meters high on the eastern slopes of the Andes. Closed to Salta is the Quebrada (valley) de San Lorenzo with more or less tropical flora and fauna. North of Salta in the province Jujuy is the famous Quebrada de Humahuaca, which directs to the border of Bolivia.

A side valley of the Quebrada de Humahuaca leads to the Paso de Jama to Chile. We came down this way from Chile, after our disaster with the shock absorbers; see last section in the article about San Pedro de Atacama and its environment. It turned out in Salta that the shock absorbers we had found in Chile were working in the wrong direction. Now we knew why we had become nearly seasick in our car! And we had two Indian Ladies in our car.

We found original German shock absorbers in Salta and a very good Volkswagen technician: Javier L. Torres, whose workshop is in the Catamarca 1050. He is a specialist for engines and he realized that some of the hydraulic tappets of our engine are not tight. Indeed 4 of them had scratches and oil was leaking into the cylinders which weakened the power of the engine and might reduce its life time. He had to disassemble the engine more or less completely, fortunately it worked afterwards perfectly without the buzzing noise it had before.

On the way down the Paso de Jama we passed wonderful salt lakes, villages and landscapes in the province Jujuy.

The Argentine side of the Paso de Jama


Volcan Licancabur and Cerro Incahuasi

Monday, 16 May 2011 02:07

The mountain Volcan Licancabur is the landmark of San Pedro de Atacama. Its shape is a perfect cone, with more than 3,500 meters over San Pedro. But the ascent is not possible on the Chilean side of Licancabur, because a lot of dangerous blockbusters are on this side and nobody knows where they are buried. Hence you have to go to Bolivia if you want to climb up Licancabur. It has one the highest lake of our world in its crater, more than 5,800 meters sea level. On its foot are some ancient ruins built by the Incas as well as on top of Cerro Incahuasi. This mountain is closed to the road to the Paso Jama few kilometers North of Licancabur. 

Volcanoes Licancabur and Juriques with the suburbs of San Pedro


San Pedro de Atacama and its environment

Tuesday, 03 May 2011 00:16

San Pedro de Atacama is the archaeological capital of Chile. A lot of ancient villages and sites like Pukara de Quitor are closed to San Pedro. There is also a very nice archaeological museum. San Pedro de Atacama is an oasis in the extreme dry Atacama Desert on foot of the Andes. Its environment is very beautiful with salt lakes, hot springs, gorges, rocks and a lot of volcanoes. South of San Pedro is the Salar de Atacama, the third largest salt lake in the Andes. West of San Pedro is the Valle de la Luna, the moon valley, which gives an imagination of the landscape of the moon. San Pedro is the holiday destination in the north part of Chile. All facilities like excellent restaurants, souvenir shops and tour guides are available. And there are many tourists from nearly every part of the world. The climate of San Pedro is very pleasant, especially in autumn: Always sunny, up to 25°C in the afternoon, but closed to zero in the morning. San Pedro is already more than 2400 meters high.

We started our trip to San Pedro de Atacama in the Valle de la Luna. This valley is part of the Cordillera de la Sal (salt mountains), which is between the bigger Andes and Cordillera Domeyko. It is built up mainly by a mixture of salt, mud and sand.

In the Valle de la Luna with the snowy Andes in the background 


Volcan Lascar

Friday, 22 April 2011 19:34

Lascar is the most active volcano in the northern part of Chile. It is a huge mountain with several peaks up to 5592 meters and an enormous smoking crater. The ascent is very popular, because it is just 100 kilometers away from San Pedro de Atacama and a height of 4800 meters can be reached with a good four wheel car. Consequently many tour offices in San Pedro offer the ascent of Lascar. The first destination is the marvelous Laguna Lejia which can be accessed by a dirty gravel road from the Toconaco, which is located at the main street to the Paso Sico, approximately 40 km south of San Pedro de Atacama. We decided to try to drive to the Laguna Lejia with our camping car. If it became too difficult for our car we had the idea to use our bicycles

Hint that we are on the right way


From Copiapo to Antofasta

Sunday, 17 April 2011 22:20

Copiapo is the capital of the 3rd region of Chile and one of the major mining cities in Chile. It is a very pleasant town with all facilities. Copiapo was in the news worldwide in the year 2010, because of an mining accident. Fortunately all miners could be rescued after several weeks. Antofagasta is the biggest city in Northern Chile and the capital of the 2nd region. It is located on the Pacific Ocean and it looks much more urbanely like Copiapo - 250,000 inhabitants versus 100,000. Between Copiapo and Antofagasta is the National Park Pan de Azucar on the Pacific with nice beaches and unbelievable game and birds in a very pristine environment. The name Pan de Azucar means sugar bread and its related to the white rocks due to the guano feces of the birds.

We stayed several times in Copiapo, because we decided to make a sevice on our Camping Car. The problem was the oil filter, first the wrong was delivered and second it was shipped to La Serena, 350km south. But we used the time to explore the beaches, which are 60 to 100km west of Copiapo. Our first destination on the Pacific was Bahia Inglese, a very noble and expensive holiday village. We spent two days there on a nice camping ground to free our car from the dust of the Paso San Francisco. The dust was everywhere, also inside the lockers! Totally different to Bahia Inglese is Caldera, a fishing port few kilometers north. It has a picturesque harbor with a lot of life.

Quaint fishing boats in Caldera



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