14 weeks in South America

Old Jun 21st, 2010, 09:05 AM
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You really need the waterproof windbreaker in Patagonia and a lightweight polyfleece layer would do for the warm layer(because once you start hiking you won't be wearing the warm stuff anyways). I was thinking that since Bolivia is at high altitude it will be cold at night. But why not buy something warm and alpaca when there?
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Old Jun 23rd, 2010, 12:07 AM
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Kacenka - I managed to find the website of the company we used http://www.fairplay-peru.org/en/Volu...ourse_Details/ they have a number of options re length of course i.e. 5days, 2 or 5 weeks. We opted for the 5 days which, together with some previous basic study and a good phrase book gave us the basics needed to get by. For me, I doubt whether anything less than 5 days would be of any use.

We found the Fairplay approach worked well as the teachers and the helpers had very little English (and if they did they refused to use it so you had to communicate in Spanish). It was a fun way to learn as after the lessons we would go out to lots of different places e.g. markets, zoos restaurants and we would be encouraged to speak with the local people and, at the same time, get loads of free advice ablout how not to get ripped of by taxi drivers, how to stay safe on buses, where not to go etc...

The school can organise for you to stay with a local family (full board) at reasonable rates (more opps to practise your Spanish!) and you also have the opportunity of volunteer work in the afternoons if this is of interest to you.

Like most language courses I hav etried, you get out what you put in but what I liked about this approach was the practical application of the language right after the classroom session.

We also took some additional private lessons with an Argentine teacher in Ollantaytambo. If you are interested I could try and look up here email address - let me know.

PS IMHO your best bet on the clothing issue would be to take a waterproof jacket with a zip in fleece (or at least a separate fleece) as the nights particularly can get very cold at altitude. We also took some long thermal underwear which is cheap, really effective and, above all light to carry and pack.

It is a bit of a cliche I know but true nonetheless that, when packing for a long trip, you should "lay out all of your stuff and then throw half away and take twice the money you were planning" Believe me, travelling light will improve your enjoyment of the trip immensely!
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Old Jun 23rd, 2010, 08:30 AM
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I agree with the thermal underwear suggestion, just don't bring cotton. I have the polypropylene type which weighs next to nothing. Also get one of those cool Peruvian hats with the earflaps when you are in Cusco/SV.
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Old Jun 23rd, 2010, 08:52 AM
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I think this is a reasonable schedule. have fun!
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Old Jun 24th, 2010, 12:22 AM
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Thank you so much guys, your help has been very much appreciated!

Crellston, I have noted the website and we are considering staying in Cuzco for further 5 days after our MP trek to take the 5 day Spanish course. I'm not sure how to fit everything into our schedule but we will have to figure it out. I've got basic knowledge but I don't think it will be enough ...

Mlgb, I have noted your clothing suggestions; my husband loves those hats and you have only encouraged him now LOL!

Roll on September!!
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Old Jun 24th, 2010, 09:26 AM
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We await your trip report!
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Old Jun 24th, 2010, 02:32 PM
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We will definitely write and keep up our blog whilst travelling. 2 months left!
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Old Jun 24th, 2010, 03:03 PM
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I've been to a fair number of places on your proposed itinerary, although on different trips. I would recommend adding the following places:

1) On your way from Cuzco to Puno, make a diversion to Chivay for a couple nights, and check out the Andean Condors in Colca Canyon. It will split up the long drive, and will also give you a once in a lifetime chance to see these giant birds.

2) It may be worthwhile to divert from the Sacred Valley to the Manu biosphere reserve for a couple of days, to see the monkeys, the macaws, the parrots, etc.

3) I highly recommend going from Uyuni to Chile, going through the altiplano, stopping at Laguna Colorada, Laguna Verde, etc. In November, that should be phenomenal - literally thousands of flamingos, plus unreal scenery. We just did this, but there weren't many flamingos since it is winter time and many of the lagoons freeze over. In summer there will be tons.

4) It's very easy to get from the Chilean/Bolivian border to San Pedro de Atacama, where 3-5 days are warranted. From there, you can take a nice paved road from San Pedro back to Salta in Argentina.

5) Torres del Paine, on the Chilean side in Patagonia, is phenomenal, and even though I haven't been to the Argentine to compare, I would still suggest giving Torres del Paine a go.
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Old Jun 25th, 2010, 01:31 AM
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Hi mistadobalina,

I commented on your photos yesterday, again truly amazing! And thank you for the wonderful info on Bolivia, all noted.

We are actually going to Manu Reserve on a 7 day tour, have you been yourself?

Thank you for the tip about Colca Canyon, we will definitely include this. My husband is a keen bird watcher and he'll love this.

We were going to leave out Chile - no reason really beside our time frame is getting rather tight; also the fact that in my mind Argentina and Chile are very similar but Argentina has some additional things we would like to see/experience ... It's a tough choice, Torres del Paine looks simply amazing, hopefully the Argentinian side won't disappoint ...
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Old Jun 26th, 2010, 03:48 AM
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I also recommend Colca, but note that it won't "split up the drive" from Cusco to Puno; it's actually five hours beyond Puno.
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Old Jun 26th, 2010, 09:51 AM
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Afz is correct - my mistake. I was thinking Arequipa and Puno (which Chivay is between), not Cusco and Puno. That being said, buses are plentiful.
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Old Jun 27th, 2010, 08:35 AM
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I've been to Ecuador, Galapagos and Peru several times. North of Quito, Mindo is a great place to check out the birds. Then go to Otavalo Market, which is open every day, but without a doubt is best to hit it on a Saturday.
South of Quito, go to Black Sheep Inn and hike the Quilatoa Crater Lake area.(can do 1-day hike) Plan to spend at least 2 days there. Also visit Tambopaxi Lodge at the base of the Cotopaxi Volcano, also for a little day hiking. (watch for tiger scorpions, they can get inside the buildings.)
In Quito I enjoyed the Guayasim museum and artisan market.

In Peru, I enjoyed the day long bus-ride from Puno to Cusco. I assume it's just as enjoyable in the reverse. The bus stopped at several interesting places and lunch was incredible. Loved the homestay on Amantani Island in Lake Titicaca. It's like going back in time.
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Old Jun 29th, 2010, 01:35 AM
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Jwhitt,

many thanks for your tips on Ecuador, this will be very helpful. We won't have as much time as we would have liked but we will definitely manage to do Otavalo market and a few days to do some hiking around Cotopaxi and of course Quito.
Regards,
Katerina
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