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Where We’ve Been: August 2017 Road Trip Driving Route in Bolivia

We started the month of August 2017 in the town of Uyuni on the edge of the world’s largest salt flats, the Salar de Uyuni. After driving around this giant white expanse we drove a spectacular, high altitude route in the southwest corner of Bolivia. We then drove around Bolivia’s wine region and the to two of its most historic cities, Potosí and Sucre where we ended the month. In total, our road trip traveled 1,513 miles (2,435 km) in August and you can see the same spectacular scenery that we saw through the windshield of our truck in the drive-lapse video at the end of this post.

Salar de Uyuni Bolivia Red Baron

Where we’ve been: August 2017 road trip in Bolivia

We began the month with a short drive from the town of Uyuni to explore the former mining town of Pulacayo which is now a ghost town.Then it was time for a unique on the road less expanse of the Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat (see 1:07 to 3:55 in the video below). At 4,086 square miles (10,582 sq km), it’s an endless sea of white. To put this into perspective, the Salar de Uyuni is a little smaller than the state of Connecticut, a bit bigger than Lebanon, and a bit smaller than Jamaica. The empty vastness messes with your sense of perspective and lets you play with reality.

Uyuni Salt Flats trans-Americas Journey Karen Catchpole

Next up was a spectacular loop known as Bolivia’s Southwest circuit, named, no surprise, because it loops around the remote Southwest corner of the country up to the Chile border. This epic high altitude drive starts at over 12,000 feet (3,700 meters) and goes to over 16,000 feet (5,000 meters), taking in numerous lakes in a variety of colors from green to red to white, some filled with thousands of flamingos.

In addition to the multi-colored lakes, this route includes the highest geyser basin in the world, 19,000 foot (5,800 meter) snow-covered volcanoes, hot springs, and a desert area of rock formations known as the Dali Desert.

The downside of all this awesomeness was the road, or lack thereof. At times the severely washboarded track made it feel like we were navigating our truck over one foot seas. Over two days we drove 316 miles on this route. At one point, at the very southern end of the loop at Laguna Verde, we came to within eight miles of where we were in March on the other side of the border in northern Chile.

You can see most of the drive (sorry we had some tech problems so a few bits are missing) from 6:00 – 17:00 in the video below. Highlights include flamingos at Laguna Hedionda (7:58), Sol de Manana geysers (10:33), and Laguna Verde and Licancabur Volcano (12:24).

Flamingo Laguna Hedionda Bolivia

After this adventure, we continued on more horrible roads, down to the town of Tupiza which is near to where Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid are said to have met their end. Then we were off to Tarija, the heart of Bolivia’s wine-producing region. The only thing south of here is Argentina so we headed north to the historic heartland of Bolivia.

First was Potosí, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, founded in 1545 as a mining town. A reasonable percentage of Spain’s wealth in the 17th and 18th centuries came from the silver-rich mountain that looms over the city. From Potosí we continued to Sucre, another UNESCO World Heritage Site, where the country of Bolivia was founded.

Our complete road trip driving route map for August 2017 is below.

And don’t miss the chance to see what we saw out there on the road in Bolivia in August of 2017 in our drive-lapse video, below. It was, as always, shot by our Brinno camera which is attached to our dashboard.

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Where We’ve Been: July 2017 Road Trip Driving Route in Peru & Bolivia

We started the month of July 2017 in the small town of Huancavelica high (and cold) in the Peruvian Andes. From there our road trip crossed Southern Peru to Lake Titicaca and then traveled into Bolivia where we spent time in La Paz, drove Bolivia’s infamous “Death Road,” then headed down to the Uyuni Salt Flats where we ended the month. In total, our road trip traveled 1,794 miles (2,887 km) in July and you can see the same spectacular scenery that we saw through the windshield of our truck via the drive-lapse video at the end of this post.

Driving the Bolivian death road

Where we’ve been: July 2017 in Peru & Bolivia

From damp and cold Huancavelica, one of the highest cities in the world at 12,060 feet (3,676 meters), we continued across the Peruvian Andes to historic Ayacucho (watch  our snowy July 4th morning drive leaving Huancavelica at 0:50 in our video at the end of this post).

From Ayacucho we made a beeline to the city of Puno on the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca near the border with Bolivia. We then crossed into Bolivia, our 59th border crossing of the Journey so far, from Yunguyo, Peru to Copacabana, Bolivia (see this very tranquil border crossing on the shores of Lake Titicaca at 15:06 in our video at the end of this post). 

Once in Bolivia, we drove to the world’s highest capital city: La Paz. From there we took a side trip to the Yungas region, a forested area between the high Andes and the lowland, Amazonian forest. In a mere 40 miles (65 km) the highway drops more than 11,000 feet (3,000 meters) from a 15,500 foot (4,724 meter) pass to the lowlands below. Although there is a now modern highway heading down to the Yungas, we couldn’t pass up the chance to drive Bolivia’s infamous Death Road.

Once considered “the world’s most dangerous road,” this dirt “highway” no longer lives up to that moniker. Yes, it’s still a narrow, one-lane road clinging to a sheer cliff that at times drops many thousands of feet into the ravine below. However, since the new highway was opened there is very little traffic along the dirt route save for a daily onslaught of tourist bicyclers making the descent and a few adventurous foreigners who want to drive this famed road. This means there is no longer the need to cling to the cliff’s edge while passing oncoming trucks.

Judge for yourself in the Death Road footage starting at 17:07 in our video at the end of this post). 

After conquering Bolivia’s Death Road we headed south across the country’s high Altiplano to the city of Oruro. From there we made a side trip to the village of Orinoca, the hometown of Bolivian President Evo Morales, to visit the newly opened Museo de la Revolución Democrática y Cultura. Sometimes called the Evo Museum, many consider it to be a very expensive ($7.5 million US dollars), very large, and very remote homage to Evo himself.

From there, we drove south to the Salar de Uyuni, the largest salt flat in the world, where we ended the month.

Our complete road trip driving route map for July 2017 is below.

And don’t miss the chance to see what we saw out there on the road in Peru and Bolivia in July of 2017 via our drive-lapse video, below. It was, as always, shot by our Brinno camera which is attached to our dashboard.

Here’s more about travel in Peru

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Where We’ve Been: May & June 2017 Road Trip Driving Route in Peru

We spent most of the month of May in Lima, Peru which meant we didn’t cover many miles on our road trip that month, so we decided to combine May and June (which was a fairly busy road trip month) into one post. We began the month of May in Ica. From there we headed up to Lima and on the last day of the month we left Lima and drove north on our way to the Cordillera Blanca. In the end, other than driving around the Ica area, we only spent two full days on the road covering a mere 455 miles (732 km) in all of May. It happens.

Huacachina sand dunes - Ica, Peru

Where we’ve been: May 2017 in Peru

We began the month of May in the city of Ica which is a grape growing area famous for its piscos and some wines as well. After visiting several pisco distilleries and wineries (and one giant sand dune, pictured above), we returned to Lima, stopping at Tambo Colorado, one of the few large Incan ruins that’s not high up in the Andes, along the way.

We spent more than three weeks eating, drinking, exploring and working our way through Lima. We did take a long weekend away from the city, but we did it on the seasonal passenger train operated by Ferrocaril Central which travels from Lima to Huancayo (see the orange line in the map below). This train route crosses the Andes and is the second highest train line in the world and reaches 15,694 feet (4,783 meters). 

Our complete road trip driving route map in Peru for May 2017 is below. The orange line is the train trip.

See what we saw out there on the road in Peru in May 2017 in our drive-lapse video, below. It was, as always, shot by our Brinno camera.  

 

Where we’ve been: June 2017 in Peru

We managed to cover more miles on our road trip in June than we did in May – 1,425 miles (2,293 km) to be exact. We began June by driving from the coastal town of Barranca to Huaraz, the main town in the Cordillera Blanca which is a compact range in the Andes that includes 17 peaks over 19,685 feet (6,000 meters), including the highest peak in Peru, Huascaran which tops out at 22,205 feet (6,768 meters). We spent much of the month exploring and hiking in and around spectacular mountains, lakes and glaciers. See 10:05 in the video below for a time-lapse peek at beautiful Laguna Parón. From there we returned to Lima, then traveled south to the Central Andean town of Huancavelica where we are currently shivering at more than 12,000 feet (more than 3,658 meters) in South American winter.

Our complete road trip driving route map in Peru during June 2017 is below.

See what we saw out there on the road in Peru in June of 2017 in our drive-lapse video, below. It was, as always, shot by our Brinno camera. 

 

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Where We’ve Been: April 2017 Road Trip Driving Route in Chile & Peru

We started the month of April 2017 in the coastal city of Iquique in Northern Chile. From there we headed north through the Andes and the Atacama desert before crossing into Peru where we ended the month in Ica. In total, our road trip traveled 2,203 miles (3,545 km) in April and you can see the same spectacular scenery that we saw through the windshield of our truck via the drive-lapse video at the end of this post.

Sabancaya Volcano erupting Arequipa Colca Canyon Peru

Where we’ve been in April 2017 in Chile & Peru

From the coastal city of Iquique, Chile we headed inland into the Atacama desert and the Andes mountains where we visited some historic saltpeter mining towns, lakes with flamingos, salars (salt flats), hot springs, canyons, and geoglyphs including the Gigante de Atacama (Atacama Giant). It represents a deity that was important for the local inhabitants between 1000 and 1400 AD and, according to Wikipedia, it is the largest prehistoric anthropomorphic figure in the world with a height of 390 feet (119 meters).  Check it out at 8:35 in our drive-lapse video at the bottom of this post.

Mars Valley Putre Chile

We continued to Putre, a tiny town high in the Andes in the northeast corner of Chile near the Peru and Bolivian borders. From there we explored Lauca National Park and drove to nearly 16,000 feet (4,876 meters) on the flanks of a volcano.Check out the unique scenery of  “Mars Valley” in Lauca National Park (pictured above) at 12:15 in our drive-lapse video at the bottom of this post.

Next up was Arica, a city on the Pacific in Chile near the Peruvian border. From there we crossed back into Peru and headed to the country’s second largest city, Arequipa. From Arequipa we visited the spectacular Colca Canyon, along the way reaching the highest point we’ve hit so far on a paved highway: 16,109 feet (4,910 meters). We also got an eye-full of the erupting Sabancaya Volcano. Check out its ash plume at 22:08 in our drive-lapse video at the bottom of this post.

After returning to Arequipa we continued north to Ica, the heart of Peru’s wine and pisco region where we ended the month.

Our complete road trip driving route map for March 2017 is below.

And don’t miss the chance to see what we saw out there on the road in Chile and Peru in April of 2017 via our drive-lapse video, below. It was, as always, shot by our Brinno camera.

 

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Where We’ve Been: March 2017 Road Trip Driving Route in Argentina & Chile

We started the month of March 2017 in the small village of Iruya in the very northern tip of Argentina. From there we crossed into Chile where we ended the month in San Pedro de Atacama. In between, our road trip traveled 1,420 miles (2,285 km) and you can see the same spectacular scenery that we saw through the windshield of our truck via the drive-lapse video at the end of this post.

Jama Pass - Argentina Chile border

Where we’ve been in March 2017 in Argentina & Chile

From Iruya, Argentina we drove south through the Humahuaca Canyon, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, to Purmamarca which is a town known for its Mountain of Seven Colors (which, honestly, was not as spectacular as southern Peru’s Mountain of Seven Colors).

Purmamarca was our last stop in Argentina, for now. From there we headed west, crossing the border into Chile over the Jama Pass (pictured above). At 14,173 feet (4,320 meters), we thought the Jama Pass would be the high-point on the drive into San Pedro de Atacama, but we were wrong. Very wrong. After the Jama Pass the highway continued to climb, reaching 15,916 feet (4,851 meters) before finally dropping into San Pedro de Atacama via a spectacularly steep and straight road with many runaway truck ramps.

After a week in San Pedro de Atacama, a small town at the foot of the Andes which is the base camp for adventures in the Atacama desert, we headed to the coastal city of Antofagasta to have some work done on our truck at the Salfa Chevrolet dealership there. While in Antofagasta we made a side trip to the Paranal Observatory which offers free weekend tours of its amazing sky watching installation. We also made a stop at the Mano del Desierto sculpture (pictured below).

Mano del desierto - Atacama Desert, Chile

After our truck had been properly pampered, we returned to San Pedro de Atacama to celebrate the 10th road-a-versary of our Trans-Americas Journey in style at explora Atacama. At the end of the month we left San Pedro de Atacama and headed further north up the Pan-American Highway on the Pacific coast to the city of Iquique.

Our complete road trip driving route map for March 2017 is below.

And don’t miss the chance to see what we saw out there on the road in Argentina and Chile in March of 2017 via our drive-lapse video, below. It was, as always, shot by our Brinno camera which is attached to our dashboard.

 

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Where We’ve Been: February 2017 Road Trip Driving Route in Argentina

We started February in the northern Argentinean city of Salta and ended the month in the tiny village of Iruya, tucked deep in the Quebrada Humahuaca valley near the Bolivian border. In between we drove 1,822 miles, including a 554 mile loop through a remote section of Argentina’s Puna de Atacama region which was one of the greatest driving routes of our South American road trip so far. Let’s recap, including drive-lapse video at the end of the post which will let you see the same spectacular scenery that we saw through the windshield of our truck as we traveled (minus the bumps and dust).

Lugana Grande El Penon Argentina Puna

Where we’ve been in February 2017 in Argentina

From Salta, Argentina we returned to Cafayate and the Calchaquí Valley, including a return to the spectacular Quebrada de las Flechas near Cafayate to fly the drone. Then we continued south down Argentina’s famed Ruta 40 to Tafi del Valle, stopping at the pre-Colombian archaeological site of Quilmes along the way. Our February 2017 road trip driving route map is below.

Then we began what turned out to be the most beautiful and remote driving adventure we’ve had since we drove the Dalton Highway (Haul Road) in Alaska from Fairbanks up to the Arctic during the first few months of our Journey nearly 10 years ago.

Salar Vicuna Argentine Puna de Atacama

The loop we did through Argentina’s high-altitude Puna de Atacama was breathtaking both in terms of the scenery and in terms of actual breathing–the air is thin at a consistent altitude between 12,000 and 15,600 feet. We saw very, very few humans in this remote and largely uninhabited region, but there were thousands of vicuña (one is pictured above), thousands of flamingos, and many, many volcanoes to keep us company.

drive Salar del diablo Tolar Grande Argenina

Such beauty came at a price, however, namely hundreds of miles on rough 4×4 tracks that were, at times, a brutal combination of washboarding, ruts, and rocks. Our truck took a beating, including a large and unfixable flat courtesy of a rock we drove over while crossing one of the area’s vast salars (salt flats).

Puna de Atacama Drive

You can follow our Puna road trip driving route on the map at the top of this post–begin at the green star and head up to the red square, passing through El Peñón, Laguna Grande, the Piedra Pomez pumice fields, Antafagasto, Antafalla, Cono Arita (pictured below), and Tolar Grande before ending in San Antonio de Cobres.

Cono Arita Salar de Arizaro Tolar Grande ArgentinaAfter wrapping up our Puna adventure we returned to Salta and then headed to the very northern tip of Argentina to visit the Quebrada de Huamahuaca canyon, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where we ended the month in the tiny village of Iruya.

See what we saw out there on the road in Argentina in February 2017 vai our drive-lapse video, below. It was, as always, shot by our Brinno camera which is attached to our dashboard.

 

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