October 2015 Travel Report: Night Buses and Surreal Scenery
It has been tough keeping up with this blog while travelling through Latin America. In a bid to be more up to date without having to be constantly writing, I thought I’d start summing up the previous month of travel in one convenient post (this one is a bit late because I just spent the last week without internet!).
October was one of the toughest travel months since I quit my job over 16 months ago. We travelled on 6 night buses, which, for someone who is a light bus sleeper, wasn’t easy. It wasn’t all sleepless nights though; we also saw some stunning, otherworldly scenery, explored classy colonial towns and embarked on a journey past snow-capped mountains through the channels of Patagonia.
We spent over a month travelling through Peru, from the post-apocalyptic deserts of the north to ancient Inca ruins in the south. Our final days in Peru were spent exploring the ruins and rugged scenery of the Sacred Valley, including the hill fortress of Pisac and the circular terraces and bright white salt pans near Moray. Peru has turned out to be the one of the highlights of this trip; it really does have everything a traveller could ask for. The landscapes are amazing, the food is far more varied and flavourful than its neighbours and there is so much history and colour. Our final morning in Peru was spent touring the Uros islands, a slightly disappointing tourist trap that was by far my least favourite place in Peru.
A quick trip through Bolivia
We had planned to spend around a month in Bolivia, but after lingering longer than expected in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru we had to breeze through it at high speed. We ended up spending just under 2 weeks in the country, but in that short time we saw some impressive sights. First up was Isla del Sol, an island in Lake Titicaca which wouldn’t look out of place in the Mediterranean, filled with thousands of tourists filing off cruise ships. We walked the length of the island and it was beautiful – a series of postcard worthy views full of quiet coves, white sand beaches and electric blue water.
Next up was La Paz, a city which isn’t as immediately appealing as most others in South America. We stayed for an unmemorable few days (and then returned a few days later to sort out a visa). The highlight of La Paz was definitely the shopping – we bought lots of warm clothes for our upcoming adventures in Patagonia. We also ate a lot of ribs and drunk a lot of milkshakes in La Paz – it’s good to have a break from the local food sometimes. After La Paz we spent a few days in the peaceful colonial city of Sucre, and then headed to Uyuni to embark on a 3 day tour to the largest salt flat in the world. The salt flat was pretty amazing but the colourful, flamingo filled lakes and mountains dusted with a light sprinkling of snow were the highlights of the tour.
Heading South through Chile
The tour, which started in Uyuni, Bolivia, dropped us at the border with Chile. After a day of feeling really sick (I think it was food poisoning from the food on the salt flats tour) we spent some time in the otherworldly Atacama Desert. From San Pedro de Atacama, a quaint little tourist town, we took a tour to the Valley of the Moon. Snow-capped volcanoes and mountains stood over a valley sprinkled with salt and dominated by huge rock formations. From San Pedro we took 3 night buses over 5 days, eventually arriving in Puerto Varas, a little German inspired town in Chile’s Lake District. Between San Pedro and Puerto Varas we made brief stops at Bahia Inglesia, one of the best beaches in Chile, and Santiago, the capital. After exploring the Lake District for a few days we hopped on a cargo ship headed for Puerto Natales, the gateway to Torres Del Paine National Park, supposedly one of the most beautiful natural areas in South America.
A tale of 7 night buses
Sleeping on seven night buses in a month is a bit crazy and not something I’d recommend to people planning a trip to South America. It had to be done though, and it wasn’t actually that bad. Depending on how much you’re willing to pay, night buses in South America can either be really comfortable or really grim. Actually, in Bolivia it makes no real difference how much you pay, so we just took our chances with the cheap night buses and came up trumps for 2 out of the 3 journeys. The other bus was unbelievably cold – it was a miserable night. Night buses in Chile were pretty good and a lot cheaper than I’d expected. We paid for semi cama (usually the cheapest night bus class) for all 3 trips and got upgraded to Salon Cama (luxury) on one of those trips.
The Road Ahead
In just a few hours we’ll be heading to Torres del Paine National Park to tackle the W Trek. It’ll be 5 days of tough walking with what promise to be breathtaking views (edit – we just got back from this trek and it was awesome / really hard, but more about that later). From there we’ll cross over to Argentina to see a glacier and do some day walks. We’ll then be leaving Patagonia behind and flying to Buenos Aires (our first flight since landing in Mexico City over 8 months ago), and from there we’ll travel by bus to Mendoza and then back to Santiago, where we have a 36 hour trip to Hong Kong spread over 4 flights to look forward to.
Want to know more about our journey through Peru, Bolivia and Chile? Leave a comment!