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Northern Chile: Go Big or Go Home

Camilo took us to a site where monster mining trucks were parked for maintenance.
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Entering Chile was like entering the first world again. Gregor and I had just finished driving Bolivia’s Lagunas Route, where the roads were pure dirt and we had little contact with civilization for four days. Once we crossed into Chile, we found ourselves on a pristine highway with speed limit signs, tidy shoulders, SOS stations, and runaway lanes – all indicators of a safety-conscious society. At the Chilean Customs office, the uniformed officials took away our Bolivian fruits and vegetables – the protocol of a highly regulated agriculture industry. And when we were charged $30 CAD to “camp” in a hostel parking lot, well, there was no denying that we had entered a country of means. (more…)

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Lagunas Route: Our Bolivian Backcountry Caravan

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There’s a desolate dirt track in southwestern Bolivia’s altiplano (high plains) called the Lagunas Route. It stretches for over 400 km (250 mi) through a treeless, uninhabited wilderness occupied by colourful lakes, thermal springs, canyonlands, and volcanic formations. The Lagunas Route is the kind of dirt road that 4×4 vehicles were made for – you know, the kind you see in the truck commercials. Once you’ve filled up at the last gas station you’re in for at least three days of self-sustained off-roading. So what do you if you’re in a 2WD van on a 4WD route? You follow a Toyota truck. (more…)

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Middle of Nowhere: Uyuni Salt Flats

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Salar de Uyuni, the largest salt flat on Earth, is a major highlight on any Bolivian driving tour. Measuring a whopping 12,106 sq km, the salar is an expanse of blinding whiteness that was formed by the evaporation of a giant prehistoric lake. The terrain looks deceptively firm in all directions, but it’s not uncommon for vehicles to bust through the salty crust and get stuck in the soft mud underneath. We had heard stories of people in 4×4’s being stuck for days with no other vehicles around to provide a tow. So when our American friends, John and Paula, told us they would join us on the salar, we were happy to share the adventure with them. (more…)

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The Road to Bolivia’s Amazon Basin

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Last January, I met a Winnipeg author named Daria Salamon at a hostel in Salento, Colombia. Daria was at the tail end of a one-year backpacking trip with her husband and two school-aged children. They had already explored three continents together and she was documenting their journey on her blog (Daria Salamon). As we chatted about our travels, she mentioned that her family saw pink dolphins in the Amazon Basin. I thought I misheard what she said. (more…)

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Peru to Bolivia via Lake Titicaca

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Straddling the border between Peru and Bolivia is Lake Titicaca, the world’s highest navigable lake. Its surface elevation sits at 3800 m (12,500 ft), which is 21 times higher than that of Lake Superior. Gregor and I have seen plenty of high-altitude lakes on our mountaineering trips, but never one as high as Lake Titicaca. We were looking forward to seeing this famous lake with our own eyes. (more…)

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