Salta to Cafayate

Over the next days I will try to edit some more footage and make it available.

The first is the amazing road from Salta to Cafayate. I start filming at the halfway point as I started to climb into the more interesting landscape. I was filming intermittently rather than continuously then put all the videos together and then increased the speed so that trip is condensed to seven minutes.

Hope it doesn’t make you car sick. HERE it is.


As I while away some time at the airport waiting for my British Airways flight home, some statistics.

In the last month I have taken eleven flights (twelve if you count the Ushuaia flyover),

I have travelled over 20,000 miles.

I have crossed the Andes seven times.

Lost count of the number of beers, bottles of water and cocktails but heh whose counting.


Last night of the trip

Back in the haven of another Tierra Viva hotel, the same as I stayed on the last visit to Lima, I collect my large suitcase which they have held for me and start to sort myself out. Suddenly I realise that I no longer have the wish to lie down and do nothing so I am determined that tonight I will enjoy myself.

First stop, the Belmond Miraflores Park Hotel which reputedly had a rooftop bar where I could enjoy a cocktail, the sunset, and a cigar (I hadn’t packed them for the high altitude trip). Bar no longer there.


Not a good start so I wander over to Larcoma a shopping, eating, and drinking complex built into the side of the rock face overlooking the Pacific Ocean. I find a bar, order a cocktail and an appetiser, six pieces of a beef mixtures wrapped in spring roll pastry served with a dipping sauce. Delicious and that will do for dinner.


The sunset is spectacular, first the full hazy sun on the distant horizon and then the pinky orange after glow in the night sky.

imageEven though outdoors it was a non smoking area so on the way back to the hotel I passed a small bar with tables outside. A caipirinha and an H.Upmann half corona later and I feel ready for the night ahead. Back to the hotel to change.

I was in the mood for some live music but much is closed on a Tuesdays, especially the penas, where one can watch local music. However, there are two jazz/blues clubs that are open in my area. i head off to Crocodilo Verde at 8.30pm whose website tells me is a block away from Calle Pizza (this is not a made up name). I have read about this pedestrianised road called Pizza Alley in the guide book, a place full af bars, restaurants and night clubs and always thought that this was a made up name for the tourists. Another thing it is known for is prostitutes. Even with the police presence I am nodded, smiled, winked or pssst at several times as I pass through and I know it is not because of my good looks.

Crocodilo Verde is discovered, I pay the fee, and told I can sit anywhere. The place is packed so I sit opposite a couple of local lesbians. It is a great intimate venue and on stage is a female comedian who I assume to be the warm up before the music. I order a beer and a plate of breaded langoustinos. Then the female introduces a male comic who has the place in uproar. It’s all in Spanish so I haven’t a clue but at one stage he obviously does an observational mickey take on different nationaltities. I pick out Italian and Portuguese and then he moves to the German and does the actions and mannerisms exactly as we would in the UK. I ask my waiter what time the music starts. He says no music it is stand up comedy night. I pay and leave..whata mistaka to maka.

I walk back towards my hotel and make my way to the Jazz Zone.  When I arrive at 10pm it is almost empty and it looks like they are clearing up. I don’t want to make the same mistake twice so I ask if there is any live music. Yes it will start at 10.30. Perfect so I order a beer and sure enogh a young band starts to set up. Latin American reggae with great saxophonist. This was followed by a heavier less subtle reggae band, but also good. The club had filled considerably during the music although from what I could see most knew each other i.e. friends and family of the bands. Nevertheless it was a good last night.

I fell into bed and woke at 8am without having to get up for one of my high altitude pees. Everything back to normal.


It is now Tuesday morning and I still dont feel 100% . I cant really describe the problem other than a general malaise, slight headache, breathlessness and an overall feeling that everything is too much effort. Add to that the sun at altitude has also affected my gut and we are not in a good place for the hours drive to the airport at Juliaca.

The taxi driver is good but it is a long straight busy road and there are some whiteknuckle overtaking manoeuvres along the way. Then we come across one that didnt make it. The car had gone off the road and rolled. Looked like no casualties though. A few minutes later and an SUV in front of us had pulled up and a female passenger was vomiting beside the road. I am feeeling so good!!

Juliaco is a town the train passed through as is rough. The taxi has to travel through the centre of town to get to the airport and its a case of doors locked and hang on to your bags.

image.jpegJuliaca airport is another of the superlatives I have encountered on the trip. It is the world seventh highest airporst at 3826 mtrs above sea level. Because the air is much thinner at this level the runway needs to be extra long. Knowing this at the beginning of my journey I timed the take off point at sea level. From the start to take off this took 28 seconds. Here it took a worrying 41 seconds!!!

I slept most of the way to Lima where on arrival I couldn’t immediately feel the sea level benefit probably because I had moved from a pleasant 18 c to a stifling 30 c.

Isla Esteves

There is only so much of a parade one can take. The music is monotonous, there being only two main versions of the marching music. The streets are so crowded it is difficult to move and the sun at altitude is difficult to take. Together with feeling under par it is too much to take so I repair to my hotel. What will I do with my day?

imageI discover that there is a private island sitting on Lake Titicaca reached by a single road which the train passed on its way into Puno.. On the island is a gleaming white hotel called the Libertador and there is a path for walkers around the small island.

I have to walk two blocks uphill aways from the main street to hail and cab and this time to prenegotiate the fare. The ride is ridiculous as to get around all of the blocked roads I am taken up and down the steepest and narrowest streets imaginable. Brake failure would be fatal!

The security guard on the entry road to the island would not open the barrier until he had spoken to me. Waste of time but he gets the idea that I am visiting the hotel. What an oasis.

imageI slump into an easy chair in the vast bar area. Huge glass panels on either side enable me to look back across Titicaca to Puno and on the other side towards the so called reed dwellers on the lake. Apparently a big tourist attraction as I can see the small pleasure cruisers make their way in that direction.

I am enjoying the quiet and the solitude and after a beer and a bottle of water I venture out. Turning towards what I believe to be the start of the walk I encounter a herd of free roaming llama who stare at me inquisitively with almost human expressions. I start to climb some steps, which instead of leading around the island, leads to the top with wonderful views across the lake. As I reach the top I see small rat-like creatures disappear into the undergrowth. In fact they are cuy, wild guinea pigs. Here I am surprised to find a grave and a monument to a James Orton.

I later discover that Orton was an American explorer who made three important trips to South America. On his last trip, in 1877, he sailed across Titicaca to Puno but was found dead on board. The Puno community would not allow hime to be buried in the town. Heaven forbid…he was not a catholic! However, the local newspaper proprietor Sr Esteves, who had met Orton on a previous trip and was a fan of his work allowed him to be buried on his island.

image.jpegAs I wander back the llama have followed me up and we warily pass each other once more. The 30 minute walk around the island was wonderful, full of interesting vistas, helicopter landing pads marked out with white stone, and wild life including a fox.

I return to my seat in the hotel for another beer and water and while away another hour such is the peace of the place. It is only 6pm but not having had lunch I order a bar snack which turns out to be sufficient to avoid a dinner later. In the meantime a storm passes and the sun sets.

I need to get back to the boom boom which can be heard from across the lake. The doorman gives the taxi man my address, two blocks up from my hotel, there is a sucking of teeth because of blocked roads and the price has now risen by 5 soles, just over £1. Not a problem, and back through the hilly suburbs we travel, this time in the dark.

Another excursion to the grand parade and I am done for the day.













Fiesta de la Candelaria 2

The grand parade took place on Monday and again sections of the 79 groups paraded a different route with some wider streets but also passing along the narrow main street as before. I managed to sample some of this. Watch HERE.

The altitude (higher than Cusco) was giving me problems again and by 10pm on Monday I am in my bed. I would have liked to witness the late night mayhem as the all day drinking takes its toll and the portaloos overflow! I wake for another pee at 3am and am wide awake so consider slipping out as I can still here the drums pass. Then all goes quiet and I slip to sleep.

At 9am in the morning I walk down the the main road and you would not know what had been happening five and a half hours previously. The pungent portaloos have disappeared, the streets have been washed, there are no chairs and temporay stands are partially dismantled.



Then I here the drums again coming towards me up the pedestrianised main street. It is the Virgin herself, carried aloft, and followed by a few religious devotees. Nothing compared to the thousands of the less religious the night before. Watch HERE.

What an experience!

Fiesta de la Candelaria 1

I knew this would be big but I wasn’t expecting it to be humungus. The fiesta venerates the Virgin of Candelaria and is held roughly in the first two weeks of February. The key dates are the first Thursday in February when the statue of the Virgin is marched through the streets.


The following Sunday, the day after I arrived, there is a huge music and dance competition in the main stadium. It starts at 7am and finishes at 4pm. Watch HERE

image After each group has performed they march through the streets from the stadium to the main square. This process takes until at least 1am on the Sunday. Watch HERE.

On the following Monday, my second day here, the grand parade is held. It starts at 8am and by the time all of the groups and bands have passed, I have now discovered, it is 3.30am on Tuesday! The event involves 40,000 dancers, 5,000 musicians and 25,000 ancillaries, putting it on a par with Rio and the carnaval de Oruro in Bolivia, and making it one of the three largest fiestas in South America.


My hotel is 50 metres from the parade route so for two days I hear the boom boom of the base drums. The streets are so narrow that there is little room to pass and spectators who have grabbed one of the thousands of chairs along the route shout for you to move. Temporary portaloos are set up at side streets along the route issuing a distinct aroma as you pass.