Central & South America

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Central & South America

Postby weetbix456 » Sun 09 Oct, 2011 3:21 pm

Hey guys! So I'm taking off in Feb's next year for an extended trip through out central & south america, travelling overland south from Mexico city and hopefully making it to the bottom of Patagonia by Dec/Jan, following the Andes for most of the trip (and the good weather :wink: ) Depending on cash flow, I then plan to loop back up towards Buenos Aires and possibly Brazil. If anyone has travelled in these areas before and could offer me some recommendations of exciting sidetrips, unforgettable experiences, short/extended hiking trips, off the beaten track journeys or could share any interesting stories it would be much appreciated! I'm completely up for anything, so don't hold back on those crazy places and out there ideas..even if its come from a friend of a friend of an 80 year old postman. I hope to hear from you all!!

Thanks a lot, Nick.
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Re: Central & South America

Postby ILUVSWTAS » Sun 09 Oct, 2011 7:13 pm

Azz has just recently returned from a similar trip, im sure he'd be willing to help. PM him!!
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Re: Central & South America

Postby Azza » Mon 10 Oct, 2011 8:34 pm

Hi,

Yup... Went from Peru, through Bolivia, Chile etc. down to Patagonia.
There is a very well trodden backpacking trail that will become pretty obvious when you get there.

There is a reason its well trodden as there are some pretty spectacular sights.

We did all the 'big ticket' walks.. In hindsight I'd like to have done more.
Worth noting that South America is not as cheap as you might think.. well at least once you get to Chile, Brazil and Argentina you'll start to feel your wallet
burn like your back in Australia. I guess its not that bad, but you'll notice the difference after places like Bolivia.

Cheers

Aaron
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Re: Central & South America

Postby weetbix456 » Mon 10 Oct, 2011 9:00 pm

heya!! awsome, thanks azza. How'd it all go??

Yea i've done a fair bit of snooping into what i can get up to, and figured i'd end up along the backpacking route for a lot of it one way or another, which as you say isn't so bad in itself hey! I just always like to get away from it all every now and again, and those times always seem to be the most memorable :) Any places in particular worth the trouble?? Yea i've been saving my pennys for a while now..hopefully it lasts me as long as I'm intending! Do you need a guide for most extended walks?? and are there decent maps available locally??

Thanks a heap, Nick.
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Re: Central & South America

Postby Azza » Mon 10 Oct, 2011 9:22 pm

It was an awesome trip... My only disappointment was that we didn't stay longer.

My recommendations are to get you started: \
Inca Trail - have to book through a guiding company. There are other walks that I hear are pretty good, but similarly your best to book with a guiding company.
Uyuni Salt Flats in Bolivia. (Red Planet - were pretty good, but there are lots of dodgy operators there)
Torres Del Paine - I did the circuit. The map they give you when you enter the park is adequate.
El Chalten - Fitzroy, Cerro Torre.

In hindsight we missed out on some good stuff, given more time we'd have done more.
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Re: Central & South America

Postby Eremophila » Tue 25 Oct, 2011 7:10 pm

We had a similar trip earlier this year, didn't do heaps of walking but did the Inca Trail with SAS and were very happy.
Stayed in Torres del Paine - you DO need to book ahead at that time of year. You can either camp, stay in the refugios or one of the exorbitantly-priced hotels. We stayed at Hosteria Las Torres(?) which is right at the base of the day walk for Mirador Las Torres, so a fantastic location. Very pricey and the service was rather ordinary. You are also restricted to eating there, we smuggled out extras from breakfast to become our lunch.
The hotel had NO information whatsoever re hiking - they only promote their low-range guided walks or horseback tours. There is a very small kiosk out the front which sells a bit of food and drink, any provisions/equipment you will need to bring with you. I don't think they even sold band-aids. It was quite surprising. From the hotel info, you wouldn't have known you were at one of the world's hiking meccas.
Also went to El Chalten but I was ill and, despite fabulous weather which is apparently quite rare there, we had to restrict our walking to the top of a hill overlooking town :(
Argentina was pretty cheap - that was Feb/March this year. Depends what their currency has done since then. If you get to Ushuaia, it is tax-free. The nearby national park (Tierra del Fuego?) is apparently quite good but we hadn't planned being there and didn't have time to visit it. Lovely town though.
We scored very well - booked the Navimag ferry trip through the Patagonian fjords and our boat was either broken down or crashed just as we arrived in Chile. The company offered us an expedition cruise through Tierra del Fuego / Cape Horn / Magellan Strait for the same price..... much more up-market and full bar..... needless to say we said yes!
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Re: Central & South America

Postby weetbix456 » Tue 25 Oct, 2011 8:44 pm

thanks azza & eremophila! this is great stuff..most of the places you guys have mentioned i've skimmed over so it's great to hear theyre worth it. I plan on getting down to patagonia/tierra del fuego by our summer next year. Cruise of the fjords sounds real nice! Azza, what sort of price are we talking bout for the guided inca trail?? Also, did you take your own tent? I don't mind grabbing one over there but am wondering about the available quality and where the best place to pick one up would be..
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Re: Central & South America

Postby Eremophila » Tue 25 Oct, 2011 9:50 pm

Not sure about tents but North Face jackets are worn by a lot of the locals in Patagonia, and particularly further south eg Punta Arenas, kind of standard gear it seems :lol:
Oh and the "Big Ice" tour of Perito Moreno Glacier, near El Calafate - this is where my avatar photo was taken. Yes, it's a guided tour - but it was great. We spent over 3 hours on the glacier itself and had a ball. The maximum age is 45 so I was 3 months short of being too old :shock: Can't remember the company name but it's mentioned in Lonely Planet.
El Calafate is definitely a nocturnal town.... twice we arrived after 11pm on the bus, found our hostel and had no trouble whatsoever sitting down to a meal in the main street. Great atmosphere.
Our Inca Trail trek was.... hmm around US$500 base price, maybe $540. Then another $60 for them to carry your gear - 9kg allowance, of which almost half is taken up by the sleeping bag & mattress provided. They give you one of their duffle bags to pack, which is not waterproof, so you need a strong garbage bag to put your gear in as well. I think the sleeping bag hire was another $20 and they were North Face down bags, nice and warm. Oh and add on the tips for porters and guides at the end.
Unfortnately my partner is rather tall so we couldn't zip up the tent, his feet were hanging out the opening.....
It was good value for us, we had excellent guides and there was bucketloads of good food. I don't think we used our snacks after the first day. 3-course lunches do not make for easy ascents!
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Re: Central & South America

Postby weetbix456 » Mon 13 Feb, 2012 4:56 pm

Alright sweet! So i'm off on Wednesday..pretty excited. I'll deff be checking out some of the places already mentioned and give some heads up for any more i find worth while. I've started up a kinda blog thing for my folks i'll be using if anyones interested here : http://lingoofagringo.blogspot.com.au/ bye bye for now yo!!!
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Re: Central & South America

Postby Azza » Mon 13 Feb, 2012 5:41 pm

weetbix456 wrote:thanks azza & eremophila! this is great stuff..most of the places you guys have mentioned i've skimmed over so it's great to hear theyre worth it. I plan on getting down to patagonia/tierra del fuego by our summer next year. Cruise of the fjords sounds real nice! Azza, what sort of price are we talking bout for the guided inca trail?? Also, did you take your own tent? I don't mind grabbing one over there but am wondering about the available quality and where the best place to pick one up would be..


Sorry just saw this now... you don't need a tent for the Inca trail or anything, but personally I'd be taking a tent and sleeping bag for a trip like that as there is plenty of opportunity for camping and saving a few $$$, my main regret was not doing more walking and camping. I also like the security of knowing I had all my gear and if it hit the fan I was prepared. e.g. getting stranded in Bolivia during a snow storm on a mountain pass at 4000m in Andes. Things don't always go to plan, you get screwed over by dodgy tourist operators, other backpackers... intentionally or not. Its much easier to laugh it off as all part of the experience if your not freezing to death with no shelter.

Gear wise - if you are going through the US then get gear there. Prices in South America for outdoor gear weren't particularly great - perhaps just as expensive as in Australia.

tierra del fuego - the main park bit was nice... but a little overrated in my opinion.

Guide wise - I've done lots of off track walking in Tasmania so the concept of hiring a guide is not something I'd do for a track walk... except you have to for the Inca Trail.
In Chile and Argentina - well known track walks are generally very well sign posted and marked.

Have a great trip!
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Re: Central & South America

Postby NickD » Tue 14 Feb, 2012 11:08 am

My girlfriend and I are heading off end of the month for Southern Patagonia and then making our way North up to Central America. Similar time frame. Wow Patagonia has a lifetime of walking I've discovered and its going to take us 2-3 months just to get into the Northern parts of Chile. I am concerned about how much time we will spend in Chile as it is an expensive country compared to say Bolivia where I also intend on being for quite some time. Some of the mountains there are quite appealing.

Enjoy weetbix, maybe I'll bump into you on trail
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Re: Central & South America

Postby Azza » Tue 14 Feb, 2012 2:44 pm

NickD wrote:I've discovered and its going to take us 2-3 months just to get into the Northern parts of Chile.


Crickey?? What are you planning on doing? - walking options are going to be be more difficult beyond March as winter starts to approach, its get windy and tourist season ends. Having been there at the end of march before, the season abruptly changes, people disappear and businesses shut down. Gets better as you head further north though... Probably still okay around Torres Del Paine though.
I think I spent a month and a half in Chile from top to bottom. Felt like the right amount of time when you consider all the other fantastic places in south america.
Much of the middle lower section is still in ruin after the big earthquake so you can skip the bit between the lakes district and Santiago. e.g. the wine region is pretty much non-existent as far as tourists are concerned.
The atacama stretches for 1000's of k's and some of the cities in between aren't particularly exciting.. In hindsight I would have skipped a few places, we just ended up wasting time. I could have done a few more weeks of walking in Chile - my only regret so hopefully you get the extra walking in that I missed...
There plenty to do in Argentina as well and its easy to skip back and forth across the border.
Bolivia you'll only get a 30 day visa.. I didn't feel like I missed a lot in a week. There are a couple of big ticket items to do, nice and cheap.. watch out most tourism operators and buses are unintentionally dodgy by western standards... e.g. due care and safety standards are non-existent.

Have a great trip..
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Re: Central & South America

Postby NickD » Wed 15 Feb, 2012 9:49 am

We are planning to just do HEAPS of walking. I understand that weather conditions will be deteriorating but we intend to do as much as we possibly can in the walking department! Probably going to spend March on Tierra Del Fuego & then on the Paine Circuit. That'll take around 1 month!! Thanks for the tips on the Lakes District. I'm not overly keen on spending time in cities like Santiago or anywhere thats big by my pathetic Tasmanian standards :P
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Re: Central & South America

Postby Azza » Wed 15 Feb, 2012 10:48 am

Have fun! You'll love it.

I should qualify that region VII around Talca is where the earthquake hit pretty hard. But there isn't really that much of interest between there until you get to the Lakes District.
It'll be interesting to see how you fair transportation wise, whether collectivo's or local buses will still be running so that you can access some of the walking areas.
Either way it'll be an adventure!
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Re: Central & South America

Postby roysta » Sun 19 Feb, 2012 3:54 pm

I reckon we could hear of some problems in that department, March is getting late there.
December, January much better.
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Re: Central & South America

Postby weetbix456 » Sat 25 Feb, 2012 11:59 am

ahhh patagonia..i cant wait. it's a small world nickd, maybe we will! cant wait to get down the to andes :D so far, so so so so so good!
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Re: Central & South America

Postby weetbix456 » Thu 24 May, 2012 12:59 am

first section down & out..wouldnt say central america is ideal for really spectactular hiking variety, but there a few that are worth mentioning. Quetzaltrekkers are a non for profit company that run hikes in Guatemala and Nicaragua, ranging from short day walks to multi day slogs. The profits go to helping street kids, and is run entirely by volunteers. I did the hike from Xela - Lake Atitlan which I'd highly recommend. We got sucked into an orange fight at the end of it! The Volcanoes on ilsa ometepe in nicaragua are also worth checking out, but a lot of the walks throughout the entire area stay below the tree line in the hot hot hot jungle cover. Boquete in Panama has some nice day walks.

Heres a link to my blog if ya'll be interested http://lingoofagringo.blogspot.com/

Onto the Andes!!!
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Re: Central & South America

Postby NickD » Thu 24 May, 2012 2:24 pm

Thought id add my update too. the warnings of March being late is very unfounded. We started in Tierra Del Fuego in early March and spent a good month around there and Isla Navarino (amazing!!) before heading to Torres Del Paine, Monte Fitzroy, Esquel, El Bolson, Bariloche and now I´m still in Patagonia, but in Pucon!!

no transport problems, the weather has been stunning (yeh some snow here and there, but nothing too difficult), and the advantages of being in Patagonia ¨out of season¨ has been very quiet trails, spacious hostels and never needing to book anything in advance!! Patagonia I love you!! Enjoy Weetbix when you get down this way, its scale will blow your mind!!

Top Picks so Far for trekking -- Isla Navarino // El Chalten (Fitzroy) // El Bolson area // Sierra Valdeveiso, Isla Grande
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Re: Central & South America

Postby Azza » Thu 24 May, 2012 3:22 pm

March is a great time down south... things quieten down and it's generally much less crowded.

I noticed heading towards April the weather changed abruptly when we were there, it got windy and stormy for a while. Seasons were a changing.
El Chalten was interesting - businesses were closing for the coming winter, peak tourist season was over and many of the hostels were closing for the season.

Apparently its not uncommon to go weeks without seeing Fitzroy and Torre - so sounds like you did well!

My only regret was that I didn't do more walking... I guess there is always next time.

I know patagonia is big, but you might want to check where Pucon is, last time I was there it was in the lakes district... :-P
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Re: Central & South America

Postby weetbix456 » Fri 25 May, 2012 3:48 pm

dude, im so amped for the andes its ridic!! gotta love the beaches BUT we all know that feeling of being in the mountains..columbia not too far off now, heard theres some pretty spesh spots. NickD how far and for how long you heading up¿¿ would be sweet to hit something up together if it works out. Got any pics btw?? Thanks for all the tips guys..CAN NOT WAIT here in flat land anymore xx
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Re: Central & South America

Postby NickD » Sat 26 May, 2012 9:09 am

Hey Weetbix, I´ll keep an eye out for your updates here and what not and for sure if we happen to be in the same zone then I´d always love another hiking partner!!

And although by some technicalities Patagonia only includes Southern Argentinan Pampa, by other definitions (and they seem to think so here) it extends to Pucon! The Arauncania is by any stretch of definition is the most northern point that gets called Patagonia. I think we have landed some work here and because the mountain biking is so good here, might stay for a month or so!! :)
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Re: Central & South America

Postby weetbix456 » Sun 19 Aug, 2012 5:57 am

Just a bit of an update, pushing on south through South America. Thought I'd post up a few places I've visited along the way, or wish I did!!

Columbia

I spent about a week in the El Cocuy NP area, takes a bit of effort to get out there...so not too many other trekkers. Easiest way is to go up from Bogota.

Planned a 4 day solo circuit, but got hailed off the mountains on the second day coming up over a high pass right by a glacier...also my head was thumping, should have given myself more time to acclimatize. Signalled the retreat and spent another night back at the laguana camp before heading back down. Was probs the wrong time of year for this area, I've heard Jan - Feb is much calmer.

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Another cool spot for day hikes is the area around Salento. Not very demanding but the wax palms look sick!!

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Also I'd planned to do some traverse across Los Nevados NP out of Manizales but the volcano decided to blow up when I was there and ruined my day...

Ecuador

There is some really good day hikes out of Otavalo in northern Ecuador. Breaks up the bordoms of the much anticipated markets...

I did one to the top of Fuya Fuya at Lake Mojanda. Kind of similar terrain to parts of Tazzz. there are also a few other lakes in the area to visit. It's safe to walk here despite what they say...catch a cab up from town & walk back or scam a ride.

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Latacunga is a great base for excusions in central Ecuador.

From here I bused out for two days walking on the Quilatoa Circuit. The highlight is an amazing emerald coloured crater lake, and some impressive canyon lands. You can walk from town to town, where there are plenty of cheap accomidation options, so there is no need to carry your camping gear. Also you can make this as long as you like, up to 4-5 days. Would also be a great bike loop I guess.

Image

Now for the jewel in the crown, Volcan Cotopaxi. Such an amazing mountain. Perfect in every way a volcano should be. There are plenty of options around here. You can hire a guide and climb to the top in 2 days, 5,897m. There is also a 4 or 5 day loop around the mountain. You can hire guides in the small towns around the trailheads. I bused to the park enterance & hitched up to the big lake, then walked up via road & tracks to the refuge. Turns out there might not be any camping there, and it costs over $20 to stay in the hut. I picked the worst campsite of my life out on a ridiculously exposed spur and got blown all over the place in the night before losing my tent fly the next morning. But I got it back somehow. And the views were increadible. Happy Days. I then walked back down and camped up a valley behind the lake. Best views i got of the massif. Day trips can be arranged in most nearby towns.

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There are some good day walks around Baños, also a great waterfall bike route. It's a pretty cool place. Make sure you get out into the Amazon somewhere though!! I spent 4 days in the Cuyabeno Reserve out of Lago Agrio. Lots of wildlife, tangled river systems. Go get yourself Sha-manned!!

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Out of Cuenca there is a easily accecable park Cajas NP. This place probebly reminds me of areas in Tazzz more than anywhere else so far. Lots of varying degrees of treks, from day hikes to 3 day loops. Lots of lakes!! We got pretty crappy weather but it was worth the visit.

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Peru

Ok, so hands down, Peru kicks all the goods out of all the others put together. I'm only halfway through at the moment but thought I'd use this time waiting around for a bus to put this post up. I should get around to more laterzzz.

Huaraz, is the bomb. You could kill a life time in this place. First of all I went off on a 4 day trek known as the Santa Cruz Trek. Don't be talked into the false idea that you neeeeeed a guide. You don't. You pay like a $20 park fee that lasts anywhere up to a month or so, and the track is so easy to follow you could do it in the dark without a torch. Campsites are good, and there are plenty of people about. There is also only one pass of around 4,800m so it's not such a huge undertaking. Start from Cashapampa 2 hours or so from Caraz. The ride home at the other end of the trek is increadible.

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Next I hit up the Huayhuash Circuit, something I'd wanted to do for a good three years. This was possibly the best hike I've ever done. Huge ice faces, glaciers, canyons, torquoise lakes, indigionous communities. A blow out. I wasn't sure about the logistics with this one so I signed onto a cheap all included guided group. In total I payed 400 soles for 8 days, guide, donkey, food, equipment. In hindsight I could have done this trek solo but the going is much tougher than the Santa Cruz, there is a pass to cross over every day, and there have been hold ups and murders in the pass. I think the area is pretty safe now however, as you go around you end up paying 160 soles in total to the communities for "protection." A bit strange & messed up, but I wasn't squirming freaking out that I'm gunna get stabbed at night while I sleep. Do this trek before you die.

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Out of Huaraz there are also countless day trips, rock climbing & mountaineering oppertunities. Grab a map and get stuck into it.

I'll try to update as much as I can, when I can. Hope this helps if anyone else is heading over to this area anytime soon :mrgreen:

Ciao for now, Nickoooo xxx

There's more details neeearrr.... http://lingoofagringo.blogspot.com/
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Re: Central & South America

Postby goanna » Thu 23 Aug, 2012 12:06 am

I wasn't sure about the logistics with this one so I signed onto a cheap all included guided group. In total I payed 400 soles for 8 days, guide, donkey, food, equipment.


Hi Weetbix,

You certainly got a great rate for these services. We are currently in Huaraz asking about guides and donkeys. Who did you use and how many were on your trip?
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Re: Central & South America

Postby weetbix456 » Fri 24 Aug, 2012 9:04 am

ohhh mad!! how long you guys in huaraz for?? amazing place. i'm hangin about cuzco for three weeks or so if ya wanted to do any trekking later on. i went to a company in the plaza bit, just opposite from casa de guias called andean summit i think it-s called. bright green place, they set it up through a seperate company or something..take your own sleeping bags if you go with them though or insist they give you an extra one!! ENJOY!!
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Re: Central & South America

Postby doogs » Fri 24 Aug, 2012 9:35 pm

Fantastic stuff Nick, it certainly looks amazing. I am very jealous!
Do you want to build a snowman?
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Re: Central & South America

Postby goanna » Tue 04 Sep, 2012 11:56 pm

Hi Weetbix,

Thanks for the helpful information. We are just back from 10 days in Huayhuash and leave tomorrow for 7 days on the Alpamayo Base Camp trek in the northern Cordillera Blanca. The scenery in this area is very spectacular.

We started in Santiago de Chile in early March and have been heading slowly north so our paths must have crossed recently.

Azza wrote:
Bolivia you'll only get a 30 day visa.. I didn't feel like I missed a lot in a week. There are a couple of big ticket items to do, nice and cheap.. watch out most tourism operators and buses are unintentionally dodgy by western standards... e.g. due care and safety standards are non-existent.

Have a great trip..


The situation has changed re Bolivian tourist visas. You fill in a form that asks how long you are staying. We said 90 days and got a 90 day visa. These cannot be extended. Bolivia is a great place with lots to do and see and some excellent walking especially in the Cordillera Real and Apolobamba. Not as spectacular as near Huaraz but we didn't meet any other trekkers except on La Chonta. We only left Bolivia because our visa was about to expire. Would have liked to stay and do more.
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Re: Central & South America

Postby NickD » Sun 09 Sep, 2012 10:23 am

Did you stay at the Flying Dog hostel in Cuzco Weetbix?

Someone else had already been to the site from this computer (at the flying dog) when i went to click in.
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Re: Central & South America

Postby seagullhike » Tue 11 Sep, 2012 10:41 pm

Just thought i would say, Youre trip looks awesome!! Looks like you have hit some pretty fantastic spots along the way.
I am planning with two buddys to visit South America in 2014 to coincide with the football world cup, this would be an ideal ender or starter as the main intention is to cram in as much hiking/ climbing as possible in the 4 months we are there. The general direction you posted seems pretty on point. This thread has been a treasure trove! Also how is the women situation going over there? Easy to pick up? This is a big consideration for me.

Cheers, hope to see more.
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Re: Central & South America

Postby Onestepmore » Mon 17 Sep, 2012 12:47 pm

This looks amazing. We're planning on a 3 week trip to Patagonia in Dec '13/Dec '14 and hope to walk the Torres del Paine circuit, plus go fo a riding holiday there for a few days after. I wish hubby could take more time off work....
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Re: Central & South America

Postby weetbix456 » Mon 08 Oct, 2012 12:18 pm

heyyyaaaa nickD, you still around?? i was staying at the wild rover in cusco..got stuck there for well over a month n a half working behind the bar..what a hoot i have to say!! seagull, go crazy. the night life is pumping over here, if you dont meet a truck load of legends its your own fault. in bolivia now, got some big ideas spinning around for the near future.

here's a couple more hikes in peru...

get to Huacachina just south of peru and bomb the balls off the massive sandunes...increadible

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I did the 5 day Salkanty Trek to Macchu Pichu..cheap and scenic alternative

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...and of course the money pot herself...

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then a two day hike through the Colca Canyon to see the condors just out of Arequipa

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and just the other day short stroll across Isla del Sol in the middle of Lake Titicaca

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Last edited by weetbix456 on Fri 19 Oct, 2012 4:51 am, edited 1 time in total.
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