Where We’ve Been: January 2018 Road Trip Driving Route in Peru & Bolivia

We spent a grand total of three days in the truck in January 2018, but those days were intense as our South American road trip made a 932 mile (1,500 km) straight shot from Lima, Peru to La Paz, Bolivia. Here’s what it looked like.

PanAmerican Highway Peru

The Pan-American Highway in Peru.

January 2018 South American road trip in Peru & Bolivia

We began the new year in Lima, Peru and on January 2 we departed for La Paz, Bolivia. We know heading south down the Pan-American Highway is a long and tedious drive because this is the third time we’ve done it. Though the highway is mostly in good shape, the endless barren desert, curvy coastline, and too many slow trucks makes the coastal stretch hard work.

On the first day, we left Lima early and thanks to the new year holiday truck traffic was lighter than usual. After passing the towns of Pisco, Ica, and Nazca we arrived in the coast town of Chala. The next day continued south across the barren coastal desert landscape to Monquegua, stopping midway to give our hard-working truck a wash and an oil change.

Desaguadero border crossing Peru - Bolivia

Crossing the border from Desagaudero, Peru to Desagauadero, Bolivia.

The third day had us leaving the Pan-American Highway and driving back across the Andes to an elevation of nearly 16,000 feet (4,875 meters) before dropping down to the Altiplano and Lake Titikaka at a mere 10,000 feet (3,050 meters). Here the town of Desaguadero, which has the same name on both the Peru and Bolivia side of the border, straddles a small river as it enters Lake Titikaka. This is where we crossed from Peru into Bolivia.

La Paz, Bolivia

The city of La Paz, Bolivia occupies almost every inch of a deep and complicated canyon which drops down dramatically from the city of El Alto on a very high plateau.

The last leg of the journey took us into the sprawling and insanely congested high altitude city of El Alto which sits above a giant chasm in the earth which holds our final destination for the month: the world’s highest capital city, La Paz, Bolivia.

Our complete road trip driving route in Peru and Bolivia in January 2018 is below:

See what we saw out there on the road in Peru and Bolivia in January of 2018 in 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

Here’s more about travel in Bolivia

 

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Where We’ve Been: 2017 South American Road Trip Recap

What a year! Even though we spent the past 2.5 months of 2017 renting an apartment in Lima, Peru where we focused on work, not driving, we still managed to rack up 14,906 miles (23,989 km) on our South American road trip in 2017 in Peru, Chile, Bolivia, and Argentina.

Countries visited in 2017

Oh, the borders we’ve crossed…

We also had five border crossings in 2017, bringing our total border crossings so far on our little road trip to 61. For more geeky road trip tallies, visit our freshly updated Facts & Figures page. And check out our South American road trip driving route for all of 2017 in our map, below.

2017 South American road trip recap

We began 2017 house sitting in Salta, Argentina. We spent the first two months of the year exploring the very North of Argentina and driving in some of the most remote and spectacular places we’ve been in our 10+ years of driving the Americas including Cafayate and the Puna de Argentina. In March we crossed the Andes into Northern Chile where we spent nearly two months exploring the unique landscapes and mountains around San Pedro de Atacama. From there we drove north along the coast to return to Peru.

Vicuna Argentine Puna

An elegant vicuña in the Puna de Argentina.

In April, re-entered Peru and, for the next three months, we continued to explore this fascinating country. We started in Arequipa and hiked the Colca Canyon. From there we discovered Peru’s primary pisco and wine-producing area around Ica. Then we headed up to the Cordillera Blanca, the most breathtaking mountains we’ve visited since our time traveling around the Himalayas in the mid 1990s. After trekking, hiking, and exploring these beautiful mountains we once again headed south, passing through Lima (again), then Ayacucho, and on to Puno and Lake Titicaca which is the highest navigable lake in the world. 

Laguna Paron Cordillera BlancaPeru

Laguna Paron in the spectacular Cordillera Blanca in Peru.

In July we entered Bolivia and spent the next three months getting to know this surprising country. We started in Copacabana on the shore of Lake Titicaca, then we explored the absolutely buzzing capital city of La Paz. At 11,975 feet (3,650 metes), La Paz is the highest capital city in the world. From there we headed south to the Uyuni Salt Flats, the largest in the world. From here we explored the rugged and remote southwest corner of Bolivia, another one of the most epic drives we’ve done. Then we explored what must be one of the least known wine regions in the world in the Tarija area of Bolivia.

Uyuni Salt Flats FBolivia

Our truck on the Uyuni Salt Flat in Bolivia.

From there it was up to Potosi, whose Cerro Rico mines contributed a good part of the wealth stolen from the Americas in the 16th and 17th centuries by the Spanish. Then we visited the historic capital of Sucre. After exploring the Santa Cruz and Cochabamba areas, our three-month stay was up. In October we crossed from Bolivia into Chile, then back into Peru where we spent the remainder of the year in an apartment in Lima catching up on work and developing a new website which we’ll be bringing to you shortly.

Here’s more about travel in Peru

Here’s more about travel in Bolivia

Here’s more about travel in Argentina

Here’s more about travel in Chile

 

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Where We’ve Been: October 2017 Road Trip Driving Route in Bolivia, Chile & Peru

In October 2017 we were ready to leave Bolivia and re-enter Peru. Then we checked our math and discovered a calculation error which meant we would need to briefly enter Chile before entering Peru. Whoops. This means that we visited three countries and crossed two borders in October. In total, we drove 1,462 miles (2,353 km) in Bolivia, Chile, and Peru, including a massive chunk in just seven long days. Here’s out October 2017 road trip driving route.

driving Isluga Volcano National Park

Where we’ve been: October 2017 road trip in Bolivia, Chile, and Peru

We began the month in La Paz, Bolivia where our allotted 90 days were coming to an end on October 7. We had planned to leave Bolivia and re-enter Peru near Lake Titicaca so that we could drive to Lima via the most direct route. However, just 48 hours before our scheduled departure from Bolivia, we realized we didn’t do our math properly and we would not be able to re-enter Peru for another week. So: we had to leave Bolivia but we weren’t yet allowed to enter Peru. What to do? Head to Chile, of course.

Polloquere Hotspings Vicunas National reserve, Chile

So we changed plans entirely and drove to the border at Pisiga, Bolivia to enter Colchane, Chile. This silver lining? This sudden detour allowed us to explore a remote corner of Chile that we missed when we were there at the beginning of the year. So, from Colchane we were off on an epic 2-day off-road drive through Isluga National Park (named for its active volcano), Las Vicuñas National Reserve (with its giant salt flat, elegant vicuñas, flamboyant flamingos, and natural hot springs), and Lauca National Park before reaching pavement again in Putre, Chile.

Las Vicunas National Reserve, Chile

From Putre we drove to the city of Arica on the coast, returning to sea level for the first time since June. After passing a bit more than a week in Arica we were able to re-enter Peru and resume our original plan, albeit with a much longer drive to Lima from the Chile border.

After two and a half long days of driving up the coast, we arrived in Lima where we settled in for two months to catch up on work. We won’t be moving again until the beginning of the year so there won’t be a November or December “Where We’ve Been” post… unless of course, our plans change again.

Our complete road trip driving route map for September 2017 is below:

And don’t miss the chance to see what we saw out there on the road in Bolivia, Chile, and Peru in October of 2017 in 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 Bolivia

Here’s more about travel in Chile

Here’s more about travel in Peru

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

After weeks in the cold high-altitude Altiplano, often over 13,000 feet (4,000 meters), our Bolivian road trip focused on exploring central Bolivia in September of 2017, where we enjoyed a comparatively mild climate at moderate elevations between 5,000 and 9,000 feet (1,500  and 2,800 meters). In total, we drove 2,022 miles (3,254 km) in Bolivia in September of 2017. Along the way we traveled to a former Bolivian capital city (Sucre) and ended in the current capital city (La Paz) with time spent exploring Samipata, Amboro National Park, Santa Cruz, Cochabamba, Torotoro National Park and Sajama National Park plus the Tiwanaku archaeological site. 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.

Nevado Sajama Volcano Bolivia's highest point

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

We began the month in the beautiful colonial city of Sucre which was Bolivia’s first capital and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. From Sucre we explored the nearby Cordillera de Los Frailes with its pre-Columbian cave paintings and dinosaur footprints.

From Sucre we drove the old (read: unpaved) Cochabamba to Santa Cruz “highway” where road construction in preparation for paving is making the route even more of a mess. We finally arrived at the pleasant town of Samaipata where we hiked to the Nido del Condor (condor’s nest) to watch at least a dozen condors glide in the strong winds they love.

We also visited Vallegrande and explored the Che Trail where we learned a lot about  revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara who was killed by the Bolivian military (with CIA assistance) in the nearby town of La Higuera before his body was displayed and then secretly buried in Vallegrande.

night sky and milky way from Refugio los Volcanes Bolivia

Next up was Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia’s largest city, where we stayed at a hotel called Inboccalupo which is probably our most unexpected boutique hotel experience of the year. From Santa Cruz we visited the remote Refugio Los Volcanes (pictured above) on the edge of Amboro National Park.

Then it was a long drive to Cochabamba, which sits in a giant valley of the same name, before heading to the little-visited Incan ruins of Incallajta and the nearby colonial town of Totora. Then we visited the spectacular Torotoro National Park with its breathtaking yet easily accessible canyon, dinosaur footprints, rock walls covered in marine fossils, and beautiful rock formations.

The only problem is that the road between Cochabamba and the Torotoro National Park is mostly made of cobblestones. This meant driving about 60 miles (100 km) on cobblestones each way. This will soon be a thing of the past, however, since a new highway between Cochabamba and Sucre is being constructed and it will pass nearby the park, dramatically reducing the drive time on cobblestones.

Torotoro Canyon bolivia

After leaving Torotoro National Park (that’s us in the park, above), we passed through Cochabamba again on our way back up to the high-altitude Altiplano. Our first stop was Curahuara de Carangas with its richly painted Colonial church, generously known as the “Sistine Chapel of the Andes”. Our next stop was Sajama National Park, home to Nevado Sajama which is the highest peak in Bolivia at 21,463 feet (6,542 meters).

Sajama National Park also contains hot springs and geysers, lakes with flamingos, and more Colonial churches. Nearby, along the Rio Lauca, we visited some unique chullpas (pre-Columbian burial towers) on which you can still see some painting (and human bones inside).

The end of the month found us at the pre-Incan archaeological site of Tiwanaku, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, before returning to La Paz, Bolivia’s capital.

Our complete road trip driving route map for September 2017 is below:

And don’t miss the chance to see what we saw out there on the road in Bolivia in September of 2017 in 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 Bolivia

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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.

Here’s more about travel in Bolivia

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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

Here’s more about travel in Bolivia

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