We finally made it to the much-anticipated Lakes District in northern Patagonia. We had read accounts of other overlanders traveling through the area and knew that it would amaze, but nothing could have prepared us for the beauty. With its stunning azure lakes, crystal clear rivers, and temperate forests filled with the strange Monkey Puzzle Trees, the Lakes District far exceeded our expectations. We enjoyed a leisurely travel pace, spending our days fly fishing, hiking, and relaxing as we passed from one incredible lakeside or riverside campsite to the next.
After a slow week in the Atacama Desert we drove over one last pass and finally descended from the altiplano into the verdant hills and valleys of northern Argentina. In Salta Tim braved a dentist, we got our first taste of the Argentinian lifestyle, and thoroughly enjoyed the company and fantastic cooking of some great overlanders. As we headed south we passed through incredible landscapes of painted hills and green river valleys before arriving in the charming town of Cafayate, where we spent Christmas drinking good cheap wine and practicing our grilling skills. Before heading back over the mountains to Chile we spent a few days in Mendoza, where we went wine tasting like good tourists, and then got hit with one of the worst hailstorms we’ve ever seen.
Bolivia was a country we knew almost nothing about before we entered, but it turned out to be spectacular. The scenery astounded us at every turn. The laid back beach town of Copacabana on the shore of Lago Titicaca, the interestingly-located and bustling city of La Paz, the deceptive white expanse of the largest salt flat in the world, and the brilliantly-colored lakes teeming with flamingos in the mountains of the southwest absolutely blew us away. Although we spent only about two weeks in Bolivia, we left with hundreds of amazing photos and a sense of awe from the incredible scenery of the altiplano.
In Southern Peru, the focus was on the Incan ruins of Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley. We checked out the alien lines in the desert, were woken up by a police officer at our frigid altiplano camp spot, and battled the switchbacks and trucker traffic to get to Cusco. From there we drove through more gorgeous mountain scenery to the Hydroelectric Plant on the opposite side of Machu Picchu so that we could take Hobie with us on the hike to the town below the sacred ruins. As expected, Machu Picchu was spectacular and we spent most of a day hiking up the nearby mountain, wandering through the amazing stonework, and just sitting to take it all in. On the way back towards Cusco we camped overlooking an intricate mosaic of salt ponds, wandered through a maze of artisan markets, and drove down the Sacred Valley, lined with more ancient Incan ruins. We spent our last two nights in Peru in a valley lined with red sandstone cliffs and then on the shore of the massive Lago Titicaca.