South America 2010 - Facts and Information
Planning and Travel
Background information
S AMERICA 2010


CHILEAN ATACAMA

 Atacama Villages
 Altiplanic Lagoons


BOLIVIA to POTOSI
 Into Bolivia
 To S Pedro de Quemez
 Salar de Uyuni
 To Potosi
 Potosi Streets
 Potosi Churches


SUCRE
 To Sucre
 Sucre Streets
 Sucre Markets
 Sucre Cathedral
 Sucre Churches
 Potolo


LA PAZ & TITICACA
 To La Paz & El Alto
 La Paz Streets
 La Paz Churches
 La Paz Museum
 Tiwanaku
 To Sorata
 Altiplano Farmland
 Lake Titicaca
 Isla del Sol
 Into Peru



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First thoughts
Our trip to South America in 2008 was very successful. We found that we particularly enjoyed Chile; the Atacama Desert in the north was very good but what really blew us away was the high country of the altiplano. The more we thought about this the more we wanted to go back and spend more time on the altiplano. Thinking about the altiplano automatically led us to consider Bolivia and so we went back to Audley, the company we had used for other major trips.

First thoughts were to fly to Santiago and then straight on to Calama in the north to spend a few days at San Pedro de Atacama. From there we would drive into Bolivia across the altiplano to the salt flats at Uyuni and on to Potosi and Sucre. From Sucre we would fly to La Paz, spending some time on Lake Titicaca before crossing to Puno in Peru. From Puno we would take the train to Cuzco and Machu Pichu before flying to Lima. After that we would go to the north of Peru to look at some little visited sites there. Return home would be via Lima.

However things got changed. We had been a little too ambitious and this was going to be a very long trip. It was also going to be eye-wateringly expensive as our aspirations for Peru were not going to be cheap. More significantly news of an imminent change in our status to that of grandparents broke at this point and we realised that we would not want to be away for so long only a few months after his (as it turned out) arrival. The upshot was that we decided to go ahead with the first part of the plan but would head straight for Lima and home after Puno giving a 25 day trip from London to London.

Flights
For the long haul we opted for Business Class and said we wanted to fly with LAN rather than Iberia (experience with them in 2008 being less than sparkling). LAN also have true lie-flat beds unlike Iberia's 150° recline seats. LAN service was good. Flights were via Madrid. It is worth noting that on transfers to South America at Madrid you stay in your seats until everyone has left then disembark via the rear for a coach to Terminal 4S. Announcements about this on board are not always clear.

Internal flights from Santiago to Calama and Puno to Lima were with LAN who provide good service. Sucre to La Paz was with Aerosur in an elderly but very tidy 727 with good service. We had originally intended to make a same day connection to Calama at Santiago. Reflection on this showed that after a 20 hour journey from London we would spend eight hours waiting for the connection and would not arrive in San Pedro until early evening. Chilling out in a hotel at Santiago Airport and catching an early flight north the next day would get us to San Pedro mid-morning and fresh, so that was that what we did.

Getting around on the ground
With the exception of a shared transfer from Juli to Puno all of our land travel was in a private vehicle. We had our own guide throughout apart from those days 'at leisure' when we did our own thing. We had particularly wanted private arrangements in the Atacama as there were specific things we wanted to do our way.

The end result
It was an excellent trip and one that delivered in all aspects, especially as far as Bolivia was concerned as we fell in love with the place. We had not really known what we would find in Bolivia perhaps due to its reputation as a country that is unstable and plagued by corruption and poverty. Apart from occasional roadblocks by locals complaining about the government things seem to be very stable now. The country is poor, but although many people have very few possessions and live very simply they appear well nourished and free of the grinding poverty found in some other countries. For the tourist standards are high, hotels were excellent (those on the altiplano were basic but fine) and the streets safe. When we were on our own we never felt uncomfortable in any way, although in La Paz our guide did warn us to be very careful of pickpockets and not wear watches or jewellery in the street.

We had been a little concerned about our reaction to altitude as for much of the time we would be at 4000m (13000ft) and up to 5000m (16000ft) on occasions. Fortunately this did not cause us any problems (as long as we remembered to walk slowly in the thin air). By starting at San Pedro de Atacama (2400m) for a few days we hoped to get some acclimatisation. However one thing that did mar the trip a little was that we both picked up a stomach bug in Chile which lasted a long time, perhaps due to the altitude impeding the way our bodies coped with it.

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