23 – 27 February – Arequipa to Nazca Peru

More photos added!

A six o’clock start from Arica to beat the customs queue and for the 550 Kms to Arequipa.

Surprisingly the queue isn’t as long as I feared and it ONLY took 2.5 hours!

Actually It reached a new low…… Believe it or not I was actually CHARGED for the form!….I patiently stood in the queue and reached the front only to be told I needed this form. To get it I had to go to the second floor. I went up to the second floor only to find a canteen!

I found some offices nearby and asked where I was supposed to get this form and was directed back to the canteen where this guy with a mop sold me a form! Dodgy? Probably but they must all have been in it! Incidentally, I have been in and out of Chile about six times but this form was new to me!

Typical scenery in road to Arequipa

Azulo purred all the way through the desert to Arequipa where I checked into a fabulous Hostel run by a Dutch lady. It was almost like a Hilton Hotel except it cost $20 per night for a very nice room. The only drawback was the owner NEVER stopped talking!

Flash Hostel in Arequipa. B & B and en suite for $20.00

My two Canadian ladies from Arica, Charlene and Jan were there also and we spent a nice day looking at the sites and having two very nice dinners. I had a wonderful Duck with FOUR sauces. Brilliant. The best meal so far in South America! With three Pisco Sours, a glass of wine…all for $25.00

Me and Jan enjoying our dinner (Duck with FOUR sauces and REAL new potatoes!

Arequiba is a lovely old Colonial town with fine buildings, a huge main square and a Convent dating back to 1540.

Arequiba. One side of main square

Main Square Arequipa

 

Peruvian family out for a walk. Nice to see them still wear their traditional clothes

The friendliest Policeman in the world

The Convent is huge and very beautiful. Almost a City within a City like the Vatican. The Nuns made themselves a good life, each with a delightful “house” …they call them “cells” but they certainly aren’t that. Apparently the Pope thought they had it too good so he put a stop to it!

Monasterio Santa Catalina

Inside Convent

I went to the Museum (Museo Santuarios Andinos) where they are showing a frozen Inca girl (Juanita) who was sacrificed to the gods and left on top of a mountain (Ampato Volcano) some 500 years ago. She was only found about 15 years ago. She is frozen and not a mummy. She was hit on the temple and left there. All her clothes and ornaments are there. Poor little thing. She was only about 12. Very sad.

Next I rode to Nazca to see the lines. it was a nice drive once I hit the coast. Lots of lovely bends and fine coastal scenery.

I took a flight over the lines but I have to say I was slightly underwhelmed.

The lines are fairly hard to see as the land is crisscrossed with four wheel drive and other tracks. The actual Nazca “line” in the photo is a frog

Naxca Lines...Can you see it - Not quite "National Geographic"

The photos in magazines are much better than the reality. Still they are amazing and it was good to see them

This afternoon I went on another tour to see the Chauchilla Cemetery. This is basically a huge area where the Pre-Incas buried their dead. There are literally thousands of graves unopened. It’s amazing, as you walk along a path, there are bits of 2000 year old pottery all over the place and bits of cloth that show through. You tug on the cloth and hope a head doesn’t come up!

2000 year old Mummy

2000 year old Mummy

 

2000 year old pots and cloth showing through the path. We buried everything!

This is NOT a museum, It is a Pre-Incan Cemetery in open land and it is open to the elements (it doesn’t rain here though) They have the graves open for viewing.  They are going to cover the graves with glass, as, believe it or not, people jump in the graves to get a photo! What is wrong with them!

Next stop Lima and a service for Azulo

 

 

19 – 22 February – Stuck in Arica (North Chile)

The best plans of mice and men…..My aim was to head north at a cracking pace to Peru. The roads are excellent…No ripio here (Hooray!)….only endless desert!

Well, I made it to Arica  OK which is on the northern tip of Chile…700kms from San Pedro. Quite a big ride.

I was all on track…. then I heard the news that the border had been closed due to rain having shifted land mines; Literally hundreds of the wretched things had floated down the mud and ended up near the main Chile – Peru road.

So I came to a grinding halt.

I had booked into a Hostel over the internet (actually somehow I had managed to book two different places ,both for the wrong days: I need a secretary!)

Then my luck changed. Just as I reached the hostel I was approached by an Austrian guy, Philipe. He and  an Aussie girl form Brisbane, Susan, are travelling together.

Philipe (Austrian) and Susan (Aussie from Brisbane)

He has this amazing 20 year old BMW 100 GS (1000cc) which has been modified and has a sidecar. He calls it Mr CHURCHILL as it smokes and drinks and never gives in…. Susan is riding a 200cc bike which she bought in Chile. She didn’t know how to ride a bike at that time!

They have both been travelling 14 months and together they have been riding around Chile, Argentina and Bolivia for about six months. She is selling her bike now, and he is shipping the BMW back to Europe. Then they are going off somewhere…Maybe Nepal, maybe Vietnam, maybe Colombia. The world is their oyster!

Susan and Me on Philipe's amazing BMW

So, I have had some great company to keep me sane. Susan and I went off in the BMW to a  Museum that has the largest collection of “Mummies” which was interesting.

G - strings are NOT a new invention (3000 years old)

Necklace

However  what was more fun was riding in the sidecar! Everybody waves and wants to take photos of the bike. If you want to be incognito DON’T get a bike like Philipes’

It’s a very nice Hostel and I have also met two nice ladies about my age, Jan and Charlene and today some more bikers arrived!

Arica is not a bad town but after a day or so I had seen the sights. The main one is El Morro. It is this huge rock that dominates the town. A wonderful natural defence. The town used to be part of Peru but in the “Pacific War” between Chile, Bolivia and Peru, (around the 1880’s) El Morro was stormed and Chile won the war. There is still friction between the three. Bolivia lost it’s access to the sea and Peru lost some territory. In the 1970’s Chile laid all these land mines that are now causing chaos.

El Morrow. Scene of a major Chilean victory in Pacific War of 1880"s

Arica from top of El Morrow

Those that know me know that I have read all Bernard Cornwall’s books about the fictitious character “Sharpe” . The books are set in the period about 1780 – 1830. Sharpe is a British soldier who fights through India with Wellington and then through the Peninsula War against Napoleon. After 1815 Sharpe is at a loss and joins up with Admiral Cochrane who is a Scottish Sailor who was kicked out of the Royal Navy and becomes a hero in the Chilean War of independence with Spain (Cochrane is NOT fictitious). The books are historically accurate (except for Sharpe) and where circumstances require some modification, Cornwell tells you. (unlike Hollywood that changes history and doesn’t seem to care!)..The books are a great read and poor Merry has followed Sharpe’s exploits with me in Portugal Spain and India!

Anyway…I thought Sharpe and Cochrane were at this Battle of El Morro! Well, he wasn’t! he was long dead! So, If you’re reading this and have nothing better to do…read the last book in the series and let me know where the battle was that Sharpe and Cochrane so convincingly beat the Spanish on behalf of Chile!

I have just heard that the border has opened so tomorrow I’m off to Arequipa, Peru. I dread the customs queue but at least I’m back on the road

Take a look at the picture below. I took a taxi to the top of El Morro. For some reason I gave the taxi driver a little Koala bear (I carry these as gifts…people love them) He was so thrilled, he took the little Chilean off his windscreen and insisted I keep it!

Given to me by the taxi driver

 

 

 

15 – 18 February – 4 day, 4 wheel drive trip to Bolivia

It’s strange how things work out. When I arrived in San Pedro only to find everything closed, I had three options…Stay and wait it out…Leave…Go to Bolivia on the 4 day trip. I opted to go to Bolivia. The Hostel in San Pedro let me leave the bike (and didn’t charge me)

It was the best thing I could have done and frankly it was the highlight of the “bike’ part of my trip so far!

I’m going to bore you with lots of photos as I just don’t know what to cut out!

We had two Land Cruisers of six people plus two drivers…ours was Felix.

My group plus Felix the driver

In the group of twelve we had three Poms (Annette, Mira and Patrick) Two Chileans (Fernanda and Maria Jesus) Two Germans (Sebastian and Elizabeth) Two Argentinians (Ise and Diana) Actually Ise is what I called him as his name as is quite unpronounceable!) One French girl (Carine) One American girl (Jeannie) and me…Needless to say I was the oldest by far! They were a terrific and lively bunch and we all got on like a house on fire!

Sorry, not the best photo but it’s the only one of the full group!

The group..3 Poms, 2 Germans, 2 Argentinians, 2 Chileans, One American ,One French and Me!

The trip was three nights and four days from San Pedro to Uyuni in Bolivia and back

We saw amazing scenery and many beautiful lakes. We saw extraordinary rock formations and strange looking plants!

Strange green plant..It looks soft but is like a rock

 

 

One way to get rid of me!

 

The mountains were dusted with snow on the outward part of the trip. On the return (4th day) they were covered in snow as the previous night we had a storm to end all storms.

We spent most of the time at a height of about 4900 metres! ….Luckily none of us had problems other than a few headaches….

We swam in a hot spring and from there on I was known as Geoff Heffner as all the girls wanted their photo taken with me!!!!! (I wish!)

"Geoff Heffner" in the thermal pool with the girls

We saw thousands of Flamingos on the lakes. it was so beautiful.

We saw wild Vicuna and Llamas and the funniest rabbit (actually it wasn’t a rabbit but I can’t remember what it was called!)…..

There were lots of birds but don’t ask me what they were!

In Uyuni we went to the train museum which is basically dozens of rusting old trains and bits of trains that have been dumped there……They have made some adult play things like a giant see saw, and a swing etc……. We all became a bunch of kids again!

Train Museum! Lots of old trains left to rot

Salar De Uyuni

The highlight for me was the Salar De Uyuni which is this HUGE salt flat. At the moment it is under water but we could still drive over it. The Land Cruisers stopped about 10 Kms into the flats and we walked around and took silly photo’s and had lunch!

The 4 wheel driving was great fun. We went through semi flooded river beds, over vast empty plains, over muddy and bumpy roads. You name it. Great fun. I wish I could have had a drive!.

No place for Azulo!

The drivers were excellent and our driver on the way home  (Rodriguez I think) proved he was a frustrated rally driver…..The last night, as mentioned earlier, there was a huge storm. We missed most of it but the roads were flooded, bumpy and it was getting dark. No worries for Rodriguez…He just was “living the dream” and FLEW along over bumps and by the edges of deep ravines and he never seemed to slow down on corners in the snow!

The Hostels (or Refuges as they call them) were very basic. None had hot water. The first night we slept 6 per room.

My room mates - I'st night...I tried not to snore!

The food was surprisingly good for two nights…the last night was a disaster…… There was no electricity overnight, the rooms were partly flooded, the loo and shower were basic, the food was terrible….. but the company was great and we had a good time anyway.

Night 3 room..Not terrific!

Luckily we didn’t have long in that Refuge…we got there at 8.30 and had to leave at 5.00AM! We couldn’t get out fast enough!

5 AM start on last day

We had all possible sorts of weather…Sun, Rain, Snow,Hail……In reality it was the perfect weather as we had the lot!

The only real downside of the trip was the inevitable customs queue to get back into Chile. It is quite ridiculous. There were hundreds of people in a queue and two windows. Why do they treat their tourists with such contempt. It took over 2.5 hours and we were all exhausted just wanting a hot shower and a sleep!

We had a great dinner that night and drank lots of farewell Pisco Sours!

 

 

 

 

 

 

13-14 February – San Pedro De Atacama

Am I mistaken or isn’t the Atacama Desert meant to be the driest desert in the world?

Well…..It’s pouring with rain here in San Pedro De ATACAMA….. and everything is closed!

San Pedro De Atacama

My Hostel is interesting!

Azulo's new accommodation...Not happy!

Actually it’s really nice.  The people are nice and the people in the Hostel are friendly and easy going. Needless to say, I’m by far the oldest but no matter! i have quite a flash room, believe it or not!

Given that everything is closed I have been looking at my options. Going through Bolivia with the rain and ripio is not very enticing so I will go north through Chile to Arica and into Peru that way.

The only thing to do here is a trip into Bolivia…So, I’m taking a 4 wheel drive trip with 5 others  for 4 days starting tomorrow (15th)  All expenses paid for $200.00. The main thing to see is the amazing “Salar De Uyuni”.

It looks a fairly tough and basic trip……..up at the crack of dawn…basic shared accommodation, no hot water! …..Giles, if you read this, I’ve toughened up after my holiday with Merry!

The Hostel has kindly agreed to allow me to leave Azulo here for no cost. i will spend another night here on my return on Saturday

Anyway, I will be off the air for at least four days, maybe more…….But, I hope you will be in for a treat with some great photos later!…

 

 

7th – 12th February – Santiago to Antofagasta (North Chile)

I can’t believe a week has nearly passed since my last post! Sorry about that!

Firstly, Thank you to those who have sent me emails or comments on the blog. I love getting them and as said before , it makes it worthwhile doing the blog if I know friends, old and new, family or just contacts are enjoying my pictures and ramblings! Don’t get blog fatigue as this goes on till May!

 

I hated saying goodbye  to Merry.  It was wonderful to have the time together. We had a terrific holiday and I wish it could have lasted longer! Poor Merry had a shocker of a flight home.

Before I start this post, I’ve got to show you Azulo having a nice rest in the reception of my hotel….At least he isn’t sharing my room!

Azulo having a well earned rest in the Hotel Lobby!

I arrived back in Santiago and was met by Robert. We had a nice evening together. The next day, I met Neil Peebles, Robert’s Cousin and his wife Veronica. Neil is something of a guru on our family history.

Neil and Veronica Peebles

We spent the day together in his lovely home in the mountains outside Santiago.

Neil Peebles Home in mountains outside Santiago

Neil gave me some “homework” to do on my travels North. I’m sorry to bore you with a little of my family history in this post but it’s a record of my trip….. It won’t take long…The Peebles all speak fluent English by the way!

I spent the night of 8th in a resort on the Coast. The coastline is gorgeous and the area is obviously booming.

I headed inland from La Serena to a place called PISCO ELQUI. They grow the grapes suitable for Pisco Sour in this valley. It seems Peru and Chile both claim Pisco as their National drink and there is great rivalry.

Beautiful Valley on way to PISCO ELQUI

 

How do they get the vines to grow there?

It is distilled wine basically. I went to THE Distillery, “Mistral” and had an excellent tour with a grenerous tasting.

At the Pisco Distillery - Doing what i do best!

The scenery here is wonderful. The hills are dry as can be, but the valley is green with grape vines

That night I spent in a little “Residential” (basically a family Hotel)  It was delightful.

I seemed to be the only person around even though the place was fully booked.

I had a home cooked tea and the owners son, Sergio, kept me company.

Sergio and me

Sergio now lives in Spain where he runs a Parrot farm!

He had lived in Denmark for many years and has a Danish ex wife and several children. He also has several Children in Chile and a new partner in Spain. Sergio has had a varied and full life!

Next I headed North to do my family homework!

My Great Great Grandfather, Robert Patterson Peebles came out from Scotland and married a Chilean girl, Maria Garcia. Robert was a broker it seems dealing in mining claims and was himself a mine manager.

I was sent to find the mine!

Old Copper mine workings near COPIAPO - Did my Gt Gt Grandfather work here?

It is near Copiapo. I drove up and down various roads and I think I got close!!!! The mine was there in 1877!

Next I visited the Church in Copiapo where Robert and Maria were married.

Beautiful Church in Copiapo. My Gt Gt Grandfather married TWICE here to TWO SISTERS!

It is a lovely old church but it was locked. I hunted around and eventually was let in to take some photo’s.

Maria and Robert had 9 children before Maria died of smallpox.

Soon after, he married Maria’s sister ! They then had two more children before she decided she had had enough and they separated!

Next I went to Puerto Vieje, a little place on the coast south of Caldara

Puerto Viejo - The "Atacams" sunk off the beach here killing my GT GT Aunt on her Honeymoon

Rather a sad story this one. Roberts daughter was returning on a ship, THE ATACAMA from Valparaiso on her honeymoon when the ship hit rocks and she died.

Amazingly she had been testing her life jacket as the ship hit the rocks. She was thrown into the sea but was hit by debris. Very sad .

Next I visited CHANARAL where Robert and Maria lived. The town was virtually destroyed by a tsunami in the 1920’s . Neil had a photo of the town in 1877.

Chanaral - My Gt GT Grandparents lived here. Most of town destroyed by Tsunami in 1920's

My mission was to locate where Robertt’s house would have been!

I asked the waiter in the little restaurant ( I showed him the photo)…Samual was his name. He looks well into his 80’s so I thought he may have some idea!!!

Samual...My Waiter and guide!

Well, blow me down, he said, “I’ll show you”. All the customers were left hanging waiting to be served and off we went in Samual’s truck to see where Robert might have lived!

Today I drove through the Atacama Desert.

Azulo crossing the ATACAMA DESERT

As you saw from the first photo, Azulo is having a well earned rest in the lobby whilst i type out my blog with a nice glass of Vino Tinto (or two)

San Pedro De Atacama is the next stop. ill spend three nights there!

No more family history…Promise!

 

4th -7th February – Rio

Rio is a place I had always wanted to see…Beautiful setting, lovely beaches and gorgeous bronzed girls…like the “girl from Ipanema”…

Well…what can I say!

The setting is absolutely fantastic. This must be the most scenic City in the world. The photo’s don’t lie!

Rio and Sugar Loaf from Christ the Redeemer

We took a City tour which is essential. Luckily it was Sunday so the traffic wasn’t too bad (weekdays it’s impossible)

Christ the Redeemer

First we took the tram up to “Christ the Redeemer”. It’s HUGE and the view is stunning.

Christ, the Redeemer

Next the cable car to Sugar Loaf Mountain…Equally stunning.

Cable Car to Sugar Loaf - Fast and effieient

 

"Urca" from Sugar Loaf

Then everywhere else. There are many beautiful places to see.

"Two Brothers" from Ipanema Beach at sunset

Rio's Modern Cathedral

By 4.00pm we were dropping in the heat and looking forward to the beach!

Finally we made the Beach….. It was the weekend…..

Ipanema Beach on weekend

The beach was a seething mass of humanity. Bodies were packed like sardines under umbrellas. The streets all around were packed. People everywhere. The beaches are big. Copacabana is 4 kms long and 200 metres wide so there must have been hundreds of thousands of people there……. We couldn’t believe it…… Like 3-4 MCG crowds on Grand Final day!

Crowds in the street on the weekend

……But where was the “girl from Ipanema???” (and her friends???) Nowhere to be seen!

The percentage of males to females on the beach must have been close to 2 – 1. Not a good ratio!

No, the beach on the weekend wasn’t for us!

We found a pre-Carnival Parade which was great fun. Lots of amazing costumes and everybody joins in and jigs along behind. It lasts for hours!

Pre-Carnival Parade - Ipanema

Monday arrived and we thought we would have another look at the beach. Amazing! It was virtually empty!

Copacabana Beach on Monday!

It’s completely different on weekdays. The whole atmosphere had changed. The beach was beautiful and empty! However….still no “girls from Ipanema” though, so that was a GREAT pity

Merry and I spent a few hours relaxing on the beach. It’s very hot here at this time of the year…35 degrees and above so it’s the best place to be

In the evening we found some fantastic but expensive restaurants. Hang the expense! It’s back on the bike soon so enjoy!!

So, sadly our lovely holiday is at an end.

Merry fly’s home today. I return to Chile to pick up Azulo then off we go up to the Atacama Desert!

 

 

 

 

 

3-4 February- Parity, Brazil

Have you ever swum in sea that is actually hot, not just luke warm?

We did, in Parity, (which is about 250 Kms south of Rio)…. NO EXAGGERATION, it must have been over 25 degrees!

Parity lies in the most beautiful bay with many Islands  and high hills behind the town. The water is very shallow in places and it is HOT here…. hence the hot sea water. Once out in the Bay the water is a perfect temperature.

It is an amazing place.

Parity

Originally a major Portuguese Port that shipped huge quantities of gold and diamonds to Portugal. It was only linked by road as recently as 1973….. and so it is a time warp.

Parity

There are beautiful, brightly coloured Colonial buildings that are all perfectly preserved in lovely streets. The streets have the most enormous cobble stones that came from Portugal as ballast.

Parity - Brazil

The Harbour is full of brightly coloures boats that take you out to the islands to swim and eat and snorkel for the day. Naturally we did that.

Harbour,Parity from our boat

Islands,coves and beaches around Parity. Reminds me of Whitsundays, Qld. Very beautiful

Buccaneer Bransbury..Couldn't find a parrot or cutlass!

If you ever visit Brazil, try and visit Parity. It has a big star of approval from us!

Tomorrow is our last stop…RIO. After that, I fly back to Chile and Merry flies home.

Then, no more fancy hotels or meals for a while for me! Ill have to toughen up again as I’m fast becoming an old softie!