Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Living like a "porteno" (citizenship of Buenos Aires)

At the streets of BA

I have found my family and language school at Buenos Aires and I´m feeling already like a porteno of this city. The transportation is easy and the people nice. Weather is hot and the food is excellent. There are lot´s of cafes, parks and huge avenues in this city. Students are all on summer vacation during Dec - Feb and there are lot´s of people having vacation and out of the city currently. Therefore the traffic and the transportation is much easier now than from March onwards. This is really pleasent place to live...

Paris or Buenos Aires ?

The lense of my camera was dirty and the camera was not able to focus anymore to close (macro focus). Therefore I serached a camera service and they cleaned the lense free of charge! What a good service in Buenos Aires!!!

Palacio San Miguel (Spanish school location)

Language school is located near the downtown and there is convienent metroline connecting Palermo and downtown, metro ride from the apartment of my famile to the school takes only 15-20 minutes. The metro in Buenos Aires is established already 1913 and is the oldest metro in Latin America and southern hemisphere. It´s the 13th metro opened in the world. There are still old wooden carriages in use in line A, where you can really feel the 1920´s athmosphere, wow!

1920's athmosphere on the metro

Since I left Finland over two months ago, I got my first cider on this trip at Buenos Aires. In fact a jug of cider with slices of apple, orange, etc :) It was delicious, tasty and refreshing experience!

My jug of cider, great!

By the way, Nokia is visible here practically in every corner of the street. Nearly all of the street signs have Nokia name visible. Look at yourself...

Nokia @Buenos Aires

P.S. What the youngsters know about Finland. At my family 17-year old boy immediately mentioned Duudsons, when heard I'm from Finland :)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Buenos Aires = Ragged Paris (Read lovely place)

Bienvenidos a Buenos Aires! I just loved the city at first glance. It's like a Paris with lot's of parks, cafes and athmosphere, but more ragged. It's not unclean, it's according the south American standards, not European standards. City is full of heat, joy and passion. It's huge with 12 million people living in this Metropolis, but it feels somehow cozy and managable. I will be staying here next week and will be studying spanish at Buenos Aires language institute "coined". The weather forecast for Buenos Aires looks like this :)))))

Before Buenos Aires I was spending four days at Iguazu. Two days at Brazil side and two days at Argentinian side. If planning to visit Iguazu falls in the future I have a tip for you. Stay at Puerto Iguazu, Argentina and just visit Brazil side. Don't stay at Foz de Iguazu, Brazil. It's more 1) cheap, 2) safe and 3) nicer to stay at small village of Puerto Iguazu than in a bigger city of Foz de Iguazu. You can visit Brazil side falls and Itaipu dam in one day. Don't go to Paraguay side, the crossing of the border takes two hours and it's crowded with lot's of cars and people. Itaipu dam can be visited from Brazil side as well.

On the border of three countries. Paraguay on the left, Brazil on the right and Argentina on front. River Parana flows between Paraguay and Brazil and river Iguazu between Brazil and Argentina. This is the point where Iguazu river joins Parana river.

Falls were amazing and giant, but once you have seen them you have seen them. That's it. Now I have visited all the major tourist attractions during this trip, Galapagos islands, Machu Picchu, Chichen Itza, Tikal, Titicaca, Iguazu falls, Salt flats. The rest of the trip doesn't provide any more tourist attractions, thanks god! I'll skip Rio de Janeiro and it's beaches (I have seen and will see so many beaches and even better ones).

Part of the Iguazu falls

In order to complete this water subject I'll add still a photo of the pool, which was actively used at hotel. Temperature is constantly above +30 degrees :)

Pool at hotel

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Good bye Andes

With wild animals at Brazil:)

Now I have left back the mountains and chilly nights. When plane was landing at Asuncion airport, there were pleasent +32 degrees temperature at 9 PM. Therefore I have to say goodbye for the Andes and the countries there, but I can't complain :) The warmth feels comfortable and enjoyable and I can dumb my warmest clothes on the bottom of my backbag. However there are one nuisance, which was not existing at the colder climate and higher elevations. Mosquitos carrying malaria and dengue fever. There is no medicin / vaccination for the dengue fever and I don't have any anti-malaria pills. So far I have managed to travel through Central America and bunch of South American countries without getting malaria, although malaria is existent in every country except Chile and Uruguay.


Just quickly passed Paraguay and 6 hours bus ride from Asuncion ended up in Brazil and Iguassu falls. Will be hanging out at Iguassu couple of days checking the falls in Brazil and in Argentina. The world's second biggest dam (after China's Three Gorges Dam), Itaipu, is located on the border of Brazil and Paraguay.
Paraguay uses 7% and Brazil 93% of the electricity produced by the dam. It covers 90% of Paraguay's consumption and 22% of Brazil's consumption.

Check the weather forecast for Foz de Iguazu.

Iguazu falls from Brazilian side

Monday, January 18, 2010

Cheap living at La Paz

La Paz

Bolivia is a cheap country compared to other countries even in South America. Decent lunch in a restaurant will cost at La Paz roughly 3 euros. At the street you can eat nearly for free. Today I had an excellent almuerzo (set lunch) in Pan de Oro Cafe/Restaurant for a bit over 2 euros. The lunch consisted of salad and soap from the buffet as a starter, main course chicken filet with rice and potatos, fruits as a desert and drinks. This was one of the best lunches I have had.

At stairs of Cathedral

After two months of travelling my hair has been growing a bit. Therefore I went to the barber for the haircut and it cost only 3 euros, pretty much ten times cheaper than in Finland. I will need passport photos for the Surinam visa, which I'm trying to apply at French Guiana later during my trip. The six passport photos cost 2 euros. Hotel room in 3 star hotel is roughly 10 euros and room in 5 star hotel 40 euros.

For a long time I had a chance to enjoy sauna and jacuzzi. The sauna at the hotel was pretty good. There were pot on top of the hot stones having eucalyptus leaves and some steam were pushed through it to create humidity. I was sweating like in Finnish sauna. This is the highest sauna I have visited so far. I have been in sauna at Huaraz in Peru at 3300 meters and at Namche Bazaar in Nepal at 3500 meters.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Not so marvellous moments

OK. When Ari commented on the last post how marvellous picture of travelling you will get from the blog posts, I'll give something else now. This is only from Bolivia during 5 days travelling. Enjoy !

When I arrived into La Paz airport and took the taxi, I made the mistake not to agree the price before. When Taxi driver was driven me into bus station he asked 100 bolivians. I was shocked. It's something like 14 USD for a short drive and with the same price you'll get a room for a night at 3 star hotel in La Paz!. When we were fighting for the price for awhile I didn't had any other option than to pay. I had flown whole night and I was tired and the first people I met in Bolivia is cheating and trying to get as much as possible from the gringo. That's customer service. And I really get pissed off and got the first impression of Bolivian and it's people.

When travelled by bus to Copacabana, I got loose stomach at there. Next morning when I was coming back by bus, there were only one seat left. When I sat on the seat it was totally wet. The cooling system over the seat has been leaking whole night and the seat was like a pool. My jeans were wet and I realized that locals had took the other seats and the driver didn't tell me anything, of course. Money from the gringo and he can sit wherever locals don't. I was complaining to the driver about the seat and he just throwed a blanket to me and said put that on the seat. Well, I did it and travelled to La Paz. At the same time I had loose stomach I had to just stand three hours bus drive before I got the to toilet at La Paz at Hotel.

I got a room from Hostal Astoria and when I was walking on the city and coming back to my room I noticed somebody had tried to open my lock on my bags. I noticed it because I have 3 digit lock and the code was changed. OK, I have been prepared and will be locking everything, that's not a surprise. But then when my bus was leaving to Uyuni at 9 PM, I extended the room check-out from noon to 8PM and agreed with receptionist to pay 50% extra. When checking out at 8PM, there were another guy at reception and he was saying I need to pay from 2 nights. When I was telling we agreed with other guy only for 1,5 nights he didn't agreed. Finally after longish discussion we were shouting each others and I just throw 1,6 times one night charge and walked out. I was so angry for the all the Bolivians who doesn't care anything about tourists and just try to get as much as possible without any decent service. Well, when I returned back to La Paz after Uyuni trip, guess if I returned back to same hotel :)

On the Salar de Uyuni trip the driver and the car were excellent, but he continued to Chile to take a couple of French guys who were in our car and the rest of the 4 people had to change the car for the return trip back to Uyuni. My bus was leaving at 8PM from Uyuni and when I asked from the new driver when we are at Uyuni he said "No problemos", we are there at 6PM. He was driving so slowly that all other cars were passing us and the car was broken 3 times, before we reached a half-way to Uyuni. Clock was already half pas three and when I asked again he said it takes only three hours more to Uyuni, so I thought we would be then at Uyuni latest at 7PM and it would be OK. Well, there were more problems in the car and he was driving only 20 kms/hour and the car broke again three times more. When it had got broken sixth time and it was already quarter past seven and we were not even close to Uyuni the driver finally admitted it was not possible to get to Uyuni at time. I managed to change another car, which driver was speeding and I managed to catch my bys by running onto the location, where bus was leaving. I was there at 19:59, one minute before the bus was supposed to leave. However I was left my extra baggage for storage on the local tourist agency and it was closed and there were nobody. Bus company representative called the owner of the agency and she brought the baggage to me. Bus was then leaving a little bit late because of me.

These just during 5 days stay and travelling in Bolivia.

When I was afraid of what will happen during my travel in my earlier post, it seems that Finnish saying if it has happened two times already there will be third time as well. The earthquake in Haiti in worst case has taken the lives of 200 000 thousand people. The number is as high as with tsunami on 2004. I know it can't be my fault, if fatal large scale natural catastrophes will happen every time when I'm travelling in Latin America, but maybe this was the sign to not to come here anymore after this trip...

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Salar de Uyuni and Eduardo Avaroa Andean Fauna Reserve

The road on the salt flat

3 days far away from civilisation on the world's largest salt flat, Salar de Uyuni, and on the Eduardo Avaroa Andean Fauna Reserve desert at the altitude of 3400 - 5000 meters were absolutely great! The first day with visiting the Salar de Uyuni marvellous salt flat and the island "Isla Inkahuasi" with older than 1000 years giant cactis.

Somewhere on Salar de Uyuni

Lunch break near Isla Inkahuasi

Second day brought spectacular views on the desert with many lagoons, which are the homes of three flamingo species: the James, Andean and Chilean. Lagoons had different colours, like red, white, green, dark, and so on... Salt flat is located at 3400 meters, but on the second day we reached the heights of 4600 meters.

Flamingos at Laguna Chiarkota

Arbol de Piedra (Stone tree zone)

On the third day continued the trip to Eduardo Avaroa Andean Fauna Reserve, which is next to Atacama desert in Chile. Driving on the 5000 meters with awesome views and athmosphere of remote desert. Visiting great lagoons and one of the unique places in the world with psychedelic views.

Sunrise at desert at 5000 meters on the way to Polques

Enjoying Polques hot springs

There's so much to see and experience, I share only a small part of it with photos. This you need to see and experience yourself! Forget lake Titicaca and La Paz in Bolivia, visit Salar de Uyuni and desert, it's an unforgettable moment...


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Copacabana and Lake Titicaca

Village of Copacabana and it's beach on lake Titicaca

Trip has been continuining to Bolivia and lake Titicaca. On the Bolivian side of the lake there´s a small village called Copacabana (I guess the name comes from the fact there´s a beach like Rio´s copacabana :)) Anyhow village is quite pictoresque and beautifully located on the shore of Titicaca. The altitude of 3,8 km makes every movement a little slower than normally. I rented a kayak and did a short kayaking on the lake, but quite soon noticed it is much more exhausting to kayak at this altitude than on the sea level. After a while I had a bit headache and went back to hotel to rest for a while.

Kayaking at Titicaca with latest technology :)

Now I´m spending a day at La Paz, which is the world´s highest capital city. The streets are narrow and steep, air is thin and there are lot´s of people. Buses and cars are making the air polluted, cause the city is located at valley (similar like Kathmandu in Nepal).

I have had stomach problems for awhile, they started in Peru before the Inca trail. Eight years ago when visiting Peru last time I had the worst and most painful stomach problems ever. It seems Peru is my nightmare and I don´t want to visit that country anymore. Everytime I´ll be sick there.

After Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia from South American countries I must admit that I don´t like South American countries like I did Central American countries. The central Anerica is my favourite so far. Let´s see if rest of the countries in South America change this view, but I doubt it.

Thursday, January 7, 2010


Some of the funny and interesting places in the Ecuador and Peru:

Plaza Kusipata is located in central Cuzco, Peru. Kusipata is Quechua language, but the word has meaning in Finnish language as well. Kusipata literally means "Piss pot or Urine pot" in Finnish. Not the best name for the beautiful square.

From "piss pot" we can fluently move to this one: the one and only Inca toilet in Machu Picchu

Dog which followed me to the top of Wayna Picchu, is looking to 300-400 meters down to Machu Picchu from the rocks on the summit.

Standing on the equator a bit from north of Quito. Actually this equator line and monument are roughly 250 meters south from the real equator.

Now exactly at the equator, according the GPS of my mobile. What a coincidence, the equator location was next to Telecomunicationes building :)

At Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz island, Galapagos, Ecuador

At postoffice bay at Isla Floreana. Postoffice has been working on this island since pirates established this postoffice hudnreds of years ago. Pirates left their mail to the mailbox and next ship / visitors took the letters and mailed them. Nowadays you just leave postcard or letter without any stamps to this mailbox and next visitors can take the mail, which is close to their home address with them and deliver the mail. This system is still working today... Perhaps you will get the postcard next week or next year delivered by somebody, who is living close to you!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Inca trail

Our group ready to start Inca trail

4 days Inca Trail was rainy, a bit demanding, but unforgettable to really understand and follow the footsteps of Incas on their marvellous road system. Still some parts of the trail to Machu Picchu are 80-90% of original Inca trail. I'm 100% sure there were not a single fat Inca existing, when walking these trails up and down it askes a lot of endurance and exercise.

Our guides Carlos and Mauro

Machu Picchu was as amazing as before and this time I managed to climb Wayna Picchu next to Machu Picchu. What a way to start a new year to visit Machu Picchu on 1st day of the year. When I climbed steep Wayna Picchu next to Machu Picchu I reached a top of the mountain, which consists only of big rocks and very steep slopes 1000 meters down to Urubamba valley and river. The rocks were slippery after the rain and I was sitting one of those, when young girl was trying to climb the same stone, where I was firmly sitting. Unfortunately she loose the grip and fell down and started to slide down the rock into her death. However she managed to grab her hand on my left arm, which stopped her falling. I was able to keep both of us on my right hand on top of the rock and she thanked me for saving her life. What a good start for this year!

Machu Picchu and steep Wayna Picchu behind

Now I'm back at Quito, because the plan was to use Inca Trail as preparation and acclimatization trip before trying to climb Cotopaxi. However I got cold after the Inca Trail and am having flu right now. Therefore I have to skip Cotopaxi climb totally, cause it's not wise to climb that high mountain if you are not 100% health and in good physical fit. Instead of Cotopaxi having sightseeing at Quito and it's surroundings.

Our magnificent cook made this delicious cake for the new year's eve dinner on the last campsite (SAS was the trekking agency, not the scandinavian airline :))