One of the things I love most about traveling is learning about the cultures and history of the countries I visit. The world has a much more diverse history than what we learn about in school (US school system anyway). Ancient history is definitely one of the driving forces behind the destinations I choose along the way. I just love to be exposed to the greatness of the civilations that came before us, whether it’s exploring an ancient Mayan city, climbing to the top of Machu Picchu, or simply meeting the history of a place in its main square through the monuments and people. I’m often impressed with what I learn and experience, but in this case I was saddened and shocked.
One of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World and an UNESCO World Heritage Site, Iguazu Falls is an incredible site to behold. These great falls flow out of the Iguazu river as it creates a divide between Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay.
The falls themselves create the border between Argentina and Brazil providing options to see its greatness from each country though most visitors tought the Argentine side as the most impressive.
I visited the Argentina side of the falls and can't imagine a better view. Not only can you get up close to the falls from the ground, you can take a boat under the falls, or walk on bridges across the top of the falls and peer deep into the Devils Throat straining to see the bottom through the cloud of mist in the air.
Most people who visit the diverse landscapes of Bolivia end up in the Salar de Uyuni, or salt flats of Uyuni. It’s the largest salt flat in the world and provides some amazing vistas and photo opportunities. More recently, visitors have the chance to not just explore Salar de Uyuni but to also venture into the high mountain deserts around Uyuni, Bolivia to experience almost other worldly landscapes.
I started my journey to Salar de Uyuni on a 4 day tour from Tupiza in the south of Bolivia. While most tours and travelers leave from Uyuni, I found that the buildup of the tour would be much better leaving from Tupiza and also that the tour operators are generally more reputable in Tupiza. Not to mention I got to spend a couple of days in Tupiza lounging by a pool, riding horses, and mountain biking before setting out.
Tupiza, Bolivia is a small town in the southern part of Bolivia that really only has a few draws for travelers. I made my way to Tupiza from Potosi, where I toured the Cerro Rico mines, as I had heard from other travelers that it’s a great place to begin a 4 day tour of the Uyuni Salt Flats and surrounding areas.
I found a quaint town still uncomplicated by technology or the Western World. The only wifi I could find in town was at one of the better hotels. None of the restaurants or café’s had it which even in Bolivia is unusual. There was one ATM in town which is better than the Lonely Planet reports of no ATM’s. The lack of the outside world makes it a great place to unwind for a couple of days which is just what I did.
Many travelers have mixed emotions about visiting Potosi Bolivia. It is a city with a long history revolving around the mining of the Cerro Rico mountain that looms overhead. Mining in Bolivia has a long sad history with millions of deaths in its mines, children mining as young as 11 or 12, the use of forced labor slaves, and the export of the great wealth of Bolivia to Spain.
Today Potosi is a city that travelers come to for only one reason – to visit the mines. Yes, you can take a tour of a mine as workers chisel, drill, and even explode dynamite as they go about their daily business of mining the various minerals found in the Cerro Rico (meaning rich hill).
One of Bolivia’s most recent claims to fame came in 1995 when the North Yungas Road, that connects the country’s capital city of La Paz with the Amazonia region below, was named the World’s Most Dangerous Road. The Death Road or El Camino de la Muerte, as it’s now called, is a 69 kilometer or 48 mile section of road that is so treacherous it claims up to 300 lives per year. Luckily in 2006 a new and improved road was opened and the majority of traffic diverted away from this scary stretch of loose rock, landslides, and fog reducing that annual number dramatically.
Far before the traffic left, adventure seekers discovered that it’s a great downhill bike ride and a new attraction was born. Thrill seekers can ride the Death Road with one of some 20 companies that have sprung up over the years and spend a day grasping a bike break for your life and trying to miss all of the large and loose rocks as gravity pushes you down the World’s Most Dangerous Road. So with that kind of reputation, how could I resist?
Oruro, Bolivia is a city that most travelers skip 360 days a year. But for the week in February each year, hundreds of thousands of people descend on this mining town to be a part of the oldest Carnival celebration in the world.
I almost decided to skip the party. I mean I was in Sucre, Bolivia which is an 8-9 hour bus ride away. Not to mention it is common knowledge that you will either not be able to find a room/bed at all during Carnival in Oruro or you will pay 100 times the price. Only days before Carnival was set to kick off, a friend at my Spanish school took it upon himself to organize a trip at a great price so I just couldn’t resist.
What I am traveling with has changed quite a bit since I originally set out on the trip. I can’t stress enough how packing light will be a lifesaver (back really) once you’re on the road. You’ll find that there are plenty of items that seem totally critical to your trip that a week or a month in you still haven’t used.
As you run through my list keep in mind a couple of things. First I run a travel blog so my electronics section is far more exhaustive than most travelers will ever need. Secondly, I am currently traveling with clothes and gear for all the seasons I’ll be in. If you plan your trip to stay in only hot or only cold destinations you can cut out around half of the clothing. I also love to dive and am currently traveling with my scuba diving gear. My back has been urging me to rethink this one recently though so that gear bag may be up for a flight home here soon.
Ollantaytambo is both the archaeological ruins of a great mountain side Inca city and also a modern day village perched alongside the Rio Urubamba. Likewise it was a key stop on the trail to Machu Picchu in ancient Inca times and also serves as the point to catch the train to Machu Picchu today. Ollantaytambo is one of a handful of sites that lie in the Sacred Valley. Sitting at an altitude just shy of 2,800 meters it doesn't exactly feel like you're visiting a valley.
My first glimpse of Ollantaytambo was the morning I started the 4 day Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu. While I wasn't able to explore the city and ruins that day, I made it a priority to come back and visit this masterful mountainside relic.
Travelers today are super lucky as we get to explore the world with some of the conveniences of home on our smart phones and tablets. I am definitely a digital nomad and don't understand the travelers that try to escape technology. It's like a badge of honor to say you travel without a cell phone, tablet, or computer for some people. Not me! I loved my gadgets before I traveled and I definitely love them now.
You just can't beat the convenience of having the internet at your fingertips and many of the apps on my list I just couldn't survive without (Google Maps for one!)
So to get you prepared for your next trip, I compiled the apps that I use everyday on my Samsung Galaxy SII Android phone.