My trails in Latin America
trails 2001 Lima-Santiago 2003 Climbing the Andes 2004 Yucatan 2004 Ecuador 2007 Patagonia-Altiplano 2008 Venezuela 2009 Climbing the Andes 2010 Tierra del Fuego 2010 Titicaca-Uyuni-Chaco-Buenos 2012 Patagonia 2012 Peru 2012/13 Patagonia-Peru 2014 Peru-Chile-Argentina 2015 Patagonia 2001 Lima-Santiago 2003 Climbing the Andes 2004 Yucatan 2004 Ecuador 2007 Patagonia-Altiplano 2007 Patagonia-Altiplano 2008 Venezuela 2009 Climbing the Andes 2010 Tierra del Fuego 2010 Titicaca-Uyuni-Chaco-Buenos 2012 Patagonia 2012 Peru 2012/13 Patagonia-Peru 2014 Peru-Chile-Argentina

Biking the Inca Land (2001)

My first ever bike tour overseas. The travel took three months and led me through Peru, Bolivia and Chile. I set off from Lima, then through southern Peru, across Bolivia and northern Chile I reached Santiago. In Peru I visited Nasca, Arequipa and its surroundings, Cuzco, the Urubamba valley and the Titicaca lake. In Bolivia I pedalled through the Altiplano and Salar de Uyuni. In Chile I cycled across the Atacama.

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I spent three months in a bike seat, having traveled over 3000 km, mostly on gravel roads and through the mountains.
I was surprised to find out that the entire Peruvian coast, the scenic it might look, was just a desert.
I hiked in the Colca canyon and Yungas, visited Beni National Park and climbed El Misti volcano.
After ten weeks of cycling across the Andes my bike and I were in a bit worn-off state. The whiteness on the horizon is Salar de Uyuni.

Argentina and Chile - High and Wild (2003)

The highest summit outside of the Himalaya? Why not! "Reach high", as they say. Unfortunately, in case of mountain expeditions this sort of attitude often leads to frustration. Defeated by autumnal snowstorms and insufficient acclimatization, I didn't reach the summit of Aconcagua in the end. But I met Gloria there (here we lean against the ruined shelter in "Independencia" camp, alt. 6500 m). She and her friends from Santiago's climbing scene made an excellent companion for future climbing attempts.

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For an illness I also had to abandon the idea of climbing the Andes' second highest peak - Ojos del Salado. Nevertheless I managed to reach it hitchhiking - quite an accomplishment in a complete desert. I spent three days in Salar Maricunga (in the picture) without a single car to pass by.
I briefly joined the ranks of Chilean carabinieros.
In Patagonia I hiked in Chile's Torres del Paine and Argentina's Los Glaciares national parks. There're not many places on earth that leave more profound impression in one's mind than those two places.
Santiago was my base camp, with Cajon del Maipo in a throwing distance. It has a dozen of serious summits and makes a perfect spot to take some rest from visiting more inaccessible corners of Chile and go ice climbing to the peaks such as Moai (4550 m, in the picture).

Biking the Maya Land (2004)

As always it all started from an idea. A bicycle turned out to be such a perfect mode to see the Inca historic realms, so why not to use it for a visit to the Maya land as well? In the beginning of 2004 the concept became reality - I landed with my vehicle in Mexico City and set off to the south. For next three months I cycled amidst tropical vegetation and along Caribbean beaches, checking on the heritage of the great pre-Columbian empire. The present which I found, turned out to be equally fascinating.

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Besides the most famous Mayan ruins, such as Chichen Itza, Uxmal, Tical and Tulum (its Wind Temple is in the picture), I visited several less known sites, some of them completely off the bitten track - a bike will take you anywhere you want!
Guatemala, with its colonial city of Antigua (in the picture) and the volcanic lake of Atitlan, was certainly "a cherry on a cake" of that travel.
The main charm of that country lies in its people. Nobody slams the door shot in front of your nose, like in Mexico. Instead they invite you inside. In Guatemala the Mayan culture remains more vivid than anywhere else.
Cenotes are bottle-shaped caves with a tiny entrance in the top - some of them of enormous volume. Lime rocks of Yucatan are pierced with them like Swiss cheese.

Up the Wet Volcanos' Alley (2004)

It was a spontaneous decision! One afternoon I popped into a flight agency and the very next morning I was sipping Columbian cafe in a plane to Quito. Ecuador is a compact country - the ocean, the Andes and the rainforest are a short bus ride from one another. It is also a fascinating blend of modernity and tradition. In the streets of Quito you will meet both trolleybuses and donkeys, and see women hand washing traditional colorful skirts in the roofs of the modern high-rises. In Ecuador the rain season lasts for half a year, with a peak in April. This is exactly when I set about the local mountains.

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The mountains of Ecuador are among the most accessible. It's not a coincidence that the main road in that country is called "The Alley of the Volcanoes". The summit over the Polish-Basque camp in the picture is Iliniza Sur (5263 m).
Atop of Iliniza Norte (5126 m) with Aritz - a Basque friend of mine. A cone of Cotopaxi is visible in the background.
Ecuador must hold the world record in the variety of colors of outfits and different hat styles. It seems that every village has its own traditional costume. The best places to observe this diversity are local markets.
When not in the mountains, Aritz and I still attempted to break our necks in some ingenious way.

Through the Snow, Sand & Salt (2007)

It was the longest and the toughest of my bike rides. First I pedaled through Patagonia, end to end - from Puerto Montt to the very tip of Tierra del Fuego. The last part I covered in the brink of winter (picture). Then useing the side roads I cycled through the Altiplano - first along the Chilean/Bolivian border, then on to Argentina. As a break I was hiking and climbing in Argentina, Chile, Peru and Bolivia.

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Lago General Carrera is probably the most beautiful and hardest part of Chilean Carretera Austral. I started my tour through Patagonia with such weather and clothes. Two months later I finished accompanied with the conditions you can see in the picture before.
One of undiscovered attractions of Peru - the Cotahuasi canyon. As profound as neighboring Colca, if not deeper. The difference is in the popularity among tourists - the crowds of visitors there and nobody here!
Ten liters of water, a few days of food and a compass. Three days in the whiteness, or Salar de Uyuni for the second time.
The southern outskirts of Bolivia with its western-like landscapes are another regions omitted by the tourists.

Venezuela (2008)

Venezuela by bike! Another idea which was growing in my mind for long. Or rather I had to grow up to it. It's a hot country! I mean the climate, but also the political situation and crime issues. Nonetheless the trip went smooth and safe. Within nine weeks I reached the farthermost corners of Venezuela, experienced the socialism in Caribbean fashion and all sorts of landscape. Among others I traveled through the savannah...

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Through the cloud forest...
Through the mountains...
And through the desert...
Venezuela is a land of paradoxes and a country of subsidized gasoline. One liter of petrol costs about three cents so there's no car too big, too worn-off and too fuel-consuming.
A touring cyclist is a true curiosum in that country and besides, Venezuelans are really curious and open. Needless to say, wherever I turned up, I drew people's attention.

Practical Vulcanology (2009)

Three months in the Andes. The expedition with the intention of scaleing a few high summits in Chile, Bolivia and Argentina, the ideas of which I gathered during my previous travels. The outcome was a number of ascents of 6000m peaks, 5000m peaks and some lower ones, together with many excelent treks in remote parts of the Chilean and Bolivian Andes. The long lasting upshot was yet bigger fascination with the world's longest mountain range.

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On the second day I got all my money stolen, so willy-nilly I spent most of my time in cheap Bolivia. The expedition only gained from it. The picture shows the highest summit of Bolivia - Sajama (6542 m).
Giving in the climb of Huayna Potosi (alt. 6088 m; here seen from the Zongo valley) some 50 m short of the summit was another blow. It was simply too difficult to carry on alone without a rope.
A majority of peaks I climbed happened to be extinct or active volcanoes. The geyser field in the picture is located near Puyehue volcano. Only a year later the volcano erupted violently, causing mass evacuation and paralyzing air traffic as far as Buenos Aires and Sydney.
If I were to point out one thing about the Andes which I equally admire and hate, it would certainly be penitentes. Those beautiful ice swards often make an impenetrable obstacle.
Lone on the summit of Volcan San José (5856 m). It was the last mountain I climbed, just before going back to Europe.

Tierra del Frio (2010)

A bicycle excursion through the western part of Tierra del Fuego. The aura of late autumn/early winter and the breathtaking nature. Beech forests, mountains, lakes and no people around - it's the last moment when that forgotten corner of Tierra del Fuego doesn't see visitors. Shortly, the new road to the south will be completed and the vicinity of Lago Fagnano and Bahia Yendegaia inevitably invaded by tourists, settlers and heavy traffic bound for Puerto Williams.

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The north of the island is a real treat for the fans of gray, empty spaces and hurricane winds. For the other 99,99% of cyclists it is a brutal test of motivation.
But the south rewards you with all the best that Patagonia has on offer - the mountains, glaciers, fiords, lakes and beech forests...
...especially impressive in the autumn!
The sunrise near Lago Deseado. Desired Lake, the Last Hope Sound (Seno de Ultima Esperanza)... those Patagonian names are haunting.
This is what I dreamt about when I was touring Venezuela. In Tierra del Fuego I slightly verified my dreams.

One Bike - Seven Countries (2010)

Altiplano is an inexhaustible source of cycling ideas. This time I made two of them come true: a loop around the Titicaca lake (picture) and crossing in one go three giant salt pans sitting astride the Chilean/Bolivian border: Surire, Coipasa and Uyuni. Then I penetrated thorny Gran Chaco - un unwelcoming region in eastern Bolivia / western Paraguay with some delightful fauna. Having cycled Paraguay from one end to another, I briefly entered Brazil and visited the Iguaçu Falls. Then through the Argentinean province of Misiones I pedaled towards Uruguay. After two months in a saddle and over 3000 km, I finished in winter-time Buenos Aires.

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Northeastern side of Lago Titicaca is the Aymara and Quechua country. They live like centuries ago with not much influence from tourism. And the road cut in the slopes climbing down to the lake is much more scenic than its counterpart on the western side. Due to the lack of the official border crossing between Bolivia and Peru this side of the lake doesn't see many tourists.
Salar de Uyuni for the third time. I already feel as easy here as in my backyard.
In Gran Chaco everything alive has thorns. The most typical species here is Palo boracho or "drunken tree".
Guarani Indians in a settlement of German-speaking Mennonites, on a street named after Hindenburg - an infamous German chancellor. Mennonites are the only ones to have succeeded in hellish Chaco. Guarani in turn posses only children and live in the margin of the Paraguayan society.
Devil's Throat - the most spectacular of several giant waterfalls forming the Iguazu Falls in the border between Brazil and Argentina.
Ruins of Jesuit Missions, red earth, yerba mate plantations and settlements of Polish immigrants yet from the nineteen century are all the features of the Argentinean province of Misiones.

Biking the Mapuche Land (2012)

An unhurried ride through beautiful Araucania - the land of fiords, mountains, lakes and volcanoes. From Chilean Puerto Varas I set out south. Then through Futaleufu I crossed to Argentina and turned north. Finally, in order to close the circle, I returned to Chile through the Mamuil Malal pass (in the picture). The pass, with its Araucaria forest and Lanin volcano (alt. 3717 m) towering above is easily the most spectacular border crossing between those two countries.

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Through the Chilean part of Araucania runs just one poor road, criss-crossed with fiords and constantly attacked by rains coming from the ocean.
My route run through Valdivian forests - dense temperate forests, supported on the Chilean side of the Andes by frequent rain.
The mountains stop humid air masses drifting from the Pacific. On the Argentinean side the sunny, warm autumn reigned.
The road on the Argentinean side, depending on the distance from the mountains, once was surrounded by dry steppes, another time (like on "Ruta de Siete Lagos" - pictured) by lakes and forests.

Side Roads of Peru (2012)

Yet another tour tracing lost Latin American civilizations and cultures - I cycled through the Chachapoyas country, the historical heartland of "The Cloud People". The route led from Cajamarca, across the Marañon canyon, then through the cities of Chachapoyas and Tarapoto, to Yurimaguas in Amazonia. I was pedaling through the mountains, cloud forests, profound canyons, near giant waterfalls (like Gocta, 771 m high - pictured) and ancient ruins. Finally some crazy downhill took me to the Amazon. On my way back to Lima I departed from the coast and followed the road between stunning Cordillera Blanca and Cordillera Negra, which climbed to over 4000 m. The cycling trip lasted two months.

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The biggest obstacle on the road across the Andes - from the Peruvian northern coast to the Amazon - is the Marañon canyon. To reach the opposite side, barely 20 km away, you have no choice but to follow the stony road plummeting 3000 m to the bottom and then climb it back on the other side.
The most impressive piece of legacy of Chachapoyas - "The Cloud People" in the Chachapoyas valley is the immense fortress of Kuelap. Placed on top of the hill, at 3000 m and 1200 m above the bottom of the valley, is as spectacular as the finest Inca structures.
Crossing the Andes means dust and sweat. But the prize is a downhill section leading to the Amazon - a paradise both for a cyclist and a biologist. In that transition zone you will most likely see animals, especially birds.
The famous Duck Canyon (Cañon del Pato) en route from Chimbote to Huaraz, is a challenge for cyclists: the road is rough, with 4000 m of the altitude gain and 35 claustrophobic tunnels.
Huandoy in Cordillera Blanca with its four summits over 6000 m, as seen from the road from Pamparomas to Caraz.
Puya raimondii plants (here in the stand in Huinchus/Cordillera Negra, alt. 4200 m) are related to pineapple, but its flowers reach 10 m. It grows only in a few high places in the Andes.

Voluntary resit of Patagonia & Peru (2012/13)

The whole trip lasted over two months, split between springtime Patagonia and Peru in the midst of the wet season. As a warm-up I climbed Chillan (3186m) and spent a day in a stunning valley full of thermal waters at the feet of this active volcano (pictured). There’s nothing better than a dip in a hot river amid the snows to conclude the summit day! From Valle Hermoso I set off for a multi-day trek through the Andes that I hardly had any information of. Walking sheppards’ paths and beds of knee-deep rivers I put on the line hope and intuition in par with navigation skills. Four days, three valleys, two passes and countless river crossings later I found myself on the public road again!

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I hitchhiked the entire region of Patagonia: from Bariloche, through Esquel, Trelew and Rio Gallegos to El Chalten – 2500 km in total or five days in the road. Having traveled in a curious array of vehicles ranging from tiny people-carriers, through wear-off pick-ups, sports cars, grand limos, to an overloaded track, I appreciated the fascinating people I met and the absorbing conversations I had with them. It resulted in some unusual insight into the Argentinean society. I was given a lift by intellectuals, labourers, businessmen, tradesmen, farmers and tourists; young and retired; rich and poor; indigenous people and immigrants...
The main reason to set up south was an aspiration to hike the Southern Ice Field. Not many people venture there - for its remoteness and demanding weather. Trekking Campo Hielo and circumnavigating the Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre massives gave me a good insight into Antarctic conditions and allowed to test my equipment as well as myself. I survived without much damage; however my tent got crashed by a storm.
I spent Christmas on the slopes of the Apurimac Canyon in Peru, on my way to the lost city of Choquequirao. A profound valley to be crossed twice (since you have to return the same way!) and the little publicity these fascinating Inca ruins enjoy, result in the fact that they annually see no more than three thousand visitors – just a one-day tally of Machu Picchu!
I marched from Calca to Lares using an old Inca trail. Then, following another ancient path through another high pass, I returned to the sacred valley of Urubamba.
In the Cotahuasi Canyon I was wandering amidst villages scattered along its two-kilometer-high slopes, some of them completely cut off from the outside world. I got as far as the deepest section of the valley and visited some forgotten ancient ruins. For two weeks of my stay in one of the world’s deepest and marvellous canyons I didn’t see another tourist. Nothing has changed in that matter since I was there in 2007. Everybody goes to the Colca Canyon which is perhaps less spectacular but much better advertised and of course easier to get to.

Peru and the Winter Andes (2014)

In April and May 2014 I returned for three weeks to Peru, leading a small, private group around some of the country's biggest historical and natural attractions. We visited Lima, the Ballestas Islands, Nazca, Arequipa, the Colca Canion and Taquile Island in the middle of the Titicaca Lake (in the picture). We spent five days in Urubamba valley visiting Cusco and various Inca sites in its vicinity, among them Machu Micchu. As for the most active part, we trekked in the Colca Canion, followed an ancient Inca trail down the steep Urquillos Canion and took a long stroll from Moray through Salinares down to Tarabamba.

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With Artur I walked through Cordillera Urubamba to Lares, which was already a third different variant of this beautiful trek I did, and perhaps the most spectacular. The ancient passage is still being used by the keen locals (pictured). The path led through a 4809 m pass, amidst blue lakes, snowy mountains and qenoal forests. The hot springs in Lares were our reward for the effort. Artur returned to Europe and I hit the glaciers of nearby Chicón (5530 m), this time alone.
Further south, in the Chilean Andes, I was welcomed by some harsh winter - the snow was falling even in the Atacama Desert! Despite good acclimatization I didn't manage to reach the summit of Marmolejo (6118 m) - the masses of fresh snow halted my efforts. No regrets though - a week spent in sunny and frosty mountains itself was a reward and pleasure.
I fulfilled my winter climbing ambitions on the Argentinean side of the Andes - in Cordon del Plata snow conditions were milder and I managed to reach the summits of Cerro Stepanek and Adolfo Calle. However the wind was fierce - I spent two sleepless nights holding the tent, yet to be rewarded with beautiful sunrises and silence in the morning when the storms eventually calmed down. The mountains can throw at you the best and the worst with a single blow.
Chicón, Cajon del Maipo, Cordon del Plata... Three high "C" in a winter outfit proved to be a serious challenge. What I learned though is that the snowy, winter Andes are no less beautiful than the summer ones. And they are accessible - it all just comes down to the meticulous planning, right gear and persistence.