November 29, 2003 GMT
Looking For Condors

The road through the canyon towards Cabanaconde hugged the side of the valley, red cliffs to our left, the river to our right.
There were a couple of tunnels carved out of the rock, one at least 500m long and curved, a little scary in the dusty blackness, luckily there were no buses coming in the other direction! There were also a few lookout points along the way, nobody there, just us. We reached the famous Condor Lookout Point late in the afternoon, no condors to be seen, so we decided to do some riding shots. Arno had just ridden off, when what should I see just over the hill, yes, a condor, a pair in fact! Forgetting about the riding shots my camera was pointed at the sky when Arno came around the corner!


At last we see a condor in the Andes

His puzzlement soon forgotten, we watched in awe as the huge birds circled around the canyon, one even coming within a few metres of us.

We left Cabanaconde not quite at the crack of dawn, having seen condors already, a good breakfast seemed more important so early in the morning.

We stopped at the first lookout, quite close to the village, almost the only people there we saw another 3 condors. One soaring away on the thermals, while pair sat together on a rock about 300metres away. They sat there for a long time, we were just getting ready to leave when they stirred, took off and glided over to the other side of the canyon.
Further on at Condor Lookout, there were loads of people both tourist and locals. The former trying to spot a condor, the latter trying to sell their handicrafts.


Condor Lookout, plenty of things to buy here, while you wait for a condor

No condors to be seen, we headed back up the valley towards Chivay. The road was being repaired and was narrow, we stopped to let a truck through and as it passed, a condor flew towards us about 10metres up, following the road. There was no time to get a camera out, we just sat on our bikes and watched as it flew right over us, checking us out. An amazing sight!

Back on the tarmac we rode towards Juliaca on the road that was not marked on any of the maps. It pretty much followed the railway passing by the huge lake of Legunillas. Not wanting to stay in Juliaca, we rode to Puno, for the second time arriving as it was getting dark.

The next morning we left for Bolivia and Copacabana. We were enjoying the views of the lake when we saw another bike coming towards us. It was a Harley from the north of Brazil. Stopped to chat and found out the couple had ridden from Salvador to Titicaca in two weeks!!! That’s fast! Took photos and swapped info, then we had to get going before the border guys went for lunch. It was a quick and easy crossing, no waiting and no bribes. Perhaps the Harley rider had given them enough already!


A very shiny Harley from Salvador, Brazil

Copacabana was a nice surprise, a little town wedged between two hills right on the shores of Lake Titicaca, with a laid back feel to it. Much less busy than Puno, just a couple of streets of shops, a small market and a huge church, where the patron saint of Bolivia, the Virgin of Candelaria, calls home. Spent a few days relaxing, took a boat trip to see the Island of the Sun, from where the first Incas came, according to legend, and caught up on some writing.

It was an easy mornings ride to La Paz, had to wait awhile in Tiquina for a ‘ferry’ to take us across the lake, it was a Saturday morning and all the traffic was coming in the opposite direction. Fancy 4WD’s lined up on the other side, escaping to lakeside retreats for the weekend. Eventually a minibus arrived, bound for La Paz and we were off, bobbing across the lake on a sort of raft, powered by an outboard motor.


Yes we did make it to the other side!

We were later told that bus passengers have to get off the bus and take a different boat across, since one "ferry" sank complete with bus and passengers.

La Paz was the same as before, not much evidence of the troubles that had happened only a month ago. A police post in El Alto looked bombed out and the road was still pretty damaged in places, but that was all we could see.
It was actually nice being back in the city, we knew our way around, so could just enjoy the craziness.


Busy, narrow streets of La Paz

We finally got to meet up with Lois and Amalia, not under the best of circumstances however. On the way to La Paz, Amalia had crashed badly and now was in hospital in intensive care, while Lois was running around the city sorting out everything that needed to be sorted. Had dinner with Lois and Robb, who was travelling with them, and got to the hospital to see Amalia briefly. She was all bandaged up but in good spirits under the circumstances.

We left La Paz behind and headed south, stopping in Oururo, a small town famous for its carnival. A sort of practice carnival took place while we were there, no fancy masks or costumes, but groups accompanied by a band, danced their way through the streets for a whole day.


Dancing in the streets of Oururo

It was very relaxed, not too crowded and everyone could enjoy the spectacle. Even Arno got off his sick bed and watched the procession for a short time.
The next day we left Oururo and rode towards Sucre, where we had a lot of work to do.

Posted by Sian Mackenzie at November 29, 2003 02:38 PM GMT

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