Adios Chile and on our way north to Ecuador!!! - 4 July 20 13
21:34.0 S 72:26.0 W
Greetings from us all now at sea some 150nm offshore in light conditions having departed Antofagasta, Chile, three days ago and on our way north to Ecuador. As discussed in the last entry, we made plans to secure the yacht in Antofagasta in early June so we could go exploring by bus to Peru and Bolivia for a few weeks. This was quite a nervous undertaking for us for several reasons… one being it would be the longest we have left the old girl by herself, and that the marina we had chosen was by far in the worst repair and the worst condition we have experienced yet in South America. As rickety as the pontoons were, and after assurances from the staff (who were fantastic despite the conditions), we let her be and departed Antofagasta on 7th June for a tourist excursion inland. Just a note on why we are seeing Peru by bus and not stopping in at ports to visit is that after investigations we have discovered that Peru, for yachts, is very unfriendly and corrupt and therefore way too expensive.
We made our way to Peru via Arica and Tacna on buses and a taxi to end up at the famous city of Cusco. We were not disappointed with the rich Inca and Conquistador history and the associated sites and museums. Around Cusco itself we managed to visit Tambomachay, Puca Pucara, Qenko and Sacsayhuamán (plus others) which was to give us a taste of what was to come. Despite intentions to do an unsupported trek (we were carrying quite a load of our own camping gear!), we settled for a more touristy/easier four day Inca Jungle to Machu Picchu ‘trek’. So, after a couple of days in Cusco we crammed onto a minibus with fellow backpackers and were driven over a mountain pass of 4350m before commencing a mountain bike ride down roads to Santa Maria. Very enjoyable (not too strenuous!), very fast and we probably descended 2km vertically over 50 or 60km riding. The next morning we started trekking up the Rio Urubamba valley with our guide pointing out local crops, history and alcoholic beverages. The day ended with a cable car crossing over the river (hard to describe, best wait for a photo..) then an hour or so relaxing in some soothing hot springs – very very nice. We spent the night in Santa Theresa - you know you’re on a hard core trek when there’s a night club in town!
On the third day we all opted to do zip-lining as an extra activity. This involved being attached to a suspended taught wire, hanging in a climbing harness, then sliding (flying fox style) flat out over a deep ravine before having to brake with a gloved hand. There were four zip lines with one several hundred meters high sliding over a thousand meters… brilliant!! So much fun was had by all. After lunch in Hidroeléctrica (original name) we had a two or three hour trek to the tourist mecca of Aguas Calientes which is the gateway to Machu Picchu - a tough trek that day ;)
The following morning was a 4am alarm for the trek up to the famous Machu Picchu where we met our guide just before first light. Machu Picchu is justifiably famous and well worth it despite the thousands of people who were there with us on that day, and every day. The Inca ruins are simply amazing and we were lucky to have a guide willing to fill us in on the history, or at least what is known about this mysterious place. After much exploring and many photos, Matt and Rohan climbed Machu Picchu Montagne for a bit of fun (?) and extra views. So much to describe but photos will sum it up best. After more exploring of the area including the Sungate and Inca Bridge, we all returned to meet up with our trekking group for some dinner, drinks and goodbyes as they were on a train back to Cusco that evening. A magical place and definitely a highlight of our trip so far…. Loved it!!!.
We, however, had elected to stay two nights in Aguas Calientes which enabled us to explore and relax the following day. Matt and Rohan climbed the nearby mountain Putucusi via steep paths and ladders, which afforded more fantastic views of Machu Picchu but without the crowds – this being a highlight for the lads in Peru. Meanwhile Julie made the most of the bargain hunting, resting sore feet plus a bit of sightseeing. That evening we travelled back to Cusco by train after a long day.
After a couple of more days in Cusco seeing more museums, local dancing in the main plaza and catching up with our trekking friends (at the Irish Bar – where else?!) we departed for Copacabana on the shore of Lake Titicaca, Bolivia. We were hopeful to witness a local ceremony for the winter solstice on Isla del Sol (Island of the Sun) where the mythological origin of the Incas is located. After camping on the shores of Lake Titicaca, we trekked and boated our way to the north of Isla del Sol to stay overnight at the small village of Challapampa. Here we heard many different rumours as to what was going to happen the following morning on the 21 June on the nearby mountain top for the ceremony. To make sure we did not miss anything we had a very early start once again to climb up the nearby mountain in darkness for sunrise. Quite hairy at times but well worth the effort. At the summit we found local traditional elders and leaders, a Bolivian film crew and other backpackers beginning to participate in the sunrise ceremony. Despite the bitter cold it was a real privilege to be associated with such an important event on the local calendar – not an experience we will forget in a hurry, especially the sun finally answering the prayers to slowly rise above the horizon once more. That evening we returned to Copacabana to reflect, relax, and decide what to do next.
We decided that more of Bolivia was on the cards so bussed our way to Uyuni – a desert town and gateway to the famous Bolivian salt flats. The overnight bus trip arrived at 7am and we found ourselves right away on a three day tour that morning with three new friends and a guide all crammed into a Toyota Landcruiser. The salt flats were immense, stretching beyond the horizon in some directions, and well worth the effort of getting there. After a tour of the flats, we spent the next couple of days exploring southern Bolivia which included shallow lagoons (including red lagoons due to algae) with flamingoes, close up views of volcanoes, and amazing rock formations. It also included one of the coldest nights in some very basic accommodation in the mountains. The wind and snow hammered the buildings all night that lacked any heating and decent seals around the windows. Thankfully there were plenty of blankets to go around. Because of the weather we could not go further into the mountains the next day as per the tour plan and the guides made a decision that we had to get to lower altitudes regardless of the conditions in case we became snowed in for another night. A decision that was welcomed by us punters considering the cold we experienced from the night before and the fact we had no more food ;). Despite the concerns we made it into the lower valley the following morning with no hassles to enjoy the last day of the tour.
After nearly three weeks away from our boat we boarded yet another bus (68 hours total spent on buses Julie informs us!) for our return leg from Uyuni to Antofagasta. More amazing scenery with the added bonus of getting back to sea level and normal oxygen levels again! There was much relief all round when we found Providence safe and sound in the same state we had left her.
After a few days of getting the old girl ready for sea once again we departed Antofagasta on the 2nd July for the next leg of 1600 nautical miles north to Ecuador. Before we left we had a fourth crew member join us, Nora from Germany, who is helping us sail to warmer waters. She tells us she has plenty of sailing experience, but it has been quite a few years so I guess we shall see!
That’s us for the next few weeks apart from the odd position report as usual. All things considered we hope to be in Manta, Ecuador, in three weeks. Bring on the sunshine!!!!
See you soon – Rohan, Matt, Julie and Nora
PS….. As usual, we have many photos to sort through and will post some sooner than later.