Grand Finale at Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu in the morning fog

Selecting the Inca ruins at Machu Picchu as “Grand Finale” for my round-the-world trip worked perfectly. Reading books about the discovery of this site did put me in the right mood, as I was preparing the trip from the nearby city of Cusco. There are several ways for the pilgrimage to Machu Picchu. The most famous one is the “Inca Trail” (or as the locals call it: “Gringo Trail”). But it seems that I have come here a couple of years too late: Peru has professionalized its tourism infrastructure and it is therefore not possible at all to hike this trail independently. Fares for organized hikes – including porters, cooks and already prepared tents on arrival – range from 300 to 700 US dollars for the four day hike (depending on the agency and the bargaining skills). More annoyingly, I would have needed to book this trek at least four to six weeks in advance. Continue reading “Grand Finale at Machu Picchu”

Buenas noches, sexy woman in Cusco

Peruvians relaxing on a hill near Cusco

Cusco is the tourist capital of Peru. This city boasts with tour groups, hawkers, nice restaurants, cafes, hotels – and: splendid sights in and around town.

Although prices are obviously more expensive than in the rest of Peru, it is still possible to maintain a budget. I splurged a bit on the hostel, but I wanted to ensure that there was hot water for the showers at any time of the day (which is not so common in this country). Cross-financing the extra I paid for accommodation, I decided to moved around in “urbanitos” (city buses) and “colectivos” (minibuses), instead of taxis. Continue reading “Buenas noches, sexy woman in Cusco”

Puno for the embarrassed

Typical roof decoration

“Puno is a hole.” This is the answer I’ve got by a weird traveler when I asked him the smalltalk question “Have you been in Puno?”. Honestly, I did hope to get some information about this town situated at Lake Titicaca – or at least get into a casual conversation. Because I got bored during the two hour border stop waiting for our bus – going from Bolivia to Peru – to be cleared by the officials. But my conversation partner definitely had traveled too long alone. During his monologue, he never answered my questions, but would brag about how stupid all tourists are – obviously including me – and how much more authentic his way of travel was.

Continue reading “Puno for the embarrassed”

Dangerous roads in La Paz

Downtown La Paz

La Paz is Bolivia’s administrative capital city. Don’t overlook the word “administrative”, as this country is one of the few one’s being able to finance two capitals (the other being Sucre). There is one major road leading into the center of town, which is located at the bottom of a crater-shaped canyon. Winding steadily down from the suburb of El Alto (at 4150 meters altitude) to the heart of the city (at 3660 meters altitude), the bus ride features an almost 360 degree panoramic view during a half hour descent.

Whether people love or hate La Paz, they all agree that this town features one of the wackiest city layouts worldwide. From tiny little brick houses to big business towers, everything seems to be “glued” to the crater walls. Staring too much at the hundreds of thousands of squares at the horizon probably can create hallucinations. Some travelers even argue that the interlocked squares of residential houses look very familiar – like a full “Tetris” game screen.
Continue reading “Dangerous roads in La Paz”

It’s the altitude, dude – on the road to Sucre

Downtown Sucre

The constitutional and judicial capital of Bolivia, Sucre, is a small town of 200’000 people which boasts beautiful colonial buildings everywhere. The city’s name doesn’t refer to the sweet ingredient, but to the revolutionary leader Antonio Jose Sucre. He was one of Simón Bolívar’s closest friend, who was back the most important leader of Spanish America’s successful struggle for independence. Unsurprisingly, the city is full of history and consequently is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Continue reading “It’s the altitude, dude – on the road to Sucre”

Being in high spirits in the Uyuni Salt Flats

Silly me in the Salar de Uyuni

So you have been seeing this super cool picture of your friends jumping around in a desert. And you have been amazed at the photographic genius of your best mate, who is – by using a false perspective shot – holding two of his friends in his palm while he’s sitting in a desert like a Yoda. Let me solve the mystery as there is nothing really creative about it. Because anyone can do these kinds of shots in the “Salar de Uyuni” (Salt Flat of Uyuni). Try a picture search on Google, Picasa or Flickr and you will be amazed how uncreative most people are – including me – when it comes to orchestrating a truly unique picture scene.

Continue reading “Being in high spirits in the Uyuni Salt Flats”