[Fidel’s Passing, Part 4 of 6] Fidel Castro’s Ashes Cross Cuba

The morning after the 29 November 2016 memorial rally, Fidel’s ashes toured Havana, the beginning of a 4-day cross-country journey east to Santiago de Cuba. The route traced in reverse January 1959’s Caravan of Liberty when Fidel travelled from Santiago to Havana celebrating the end of the Batista dictatorship, the culmination of the Cuban Revolution.

Rocío and I witnessed Fidel’s ashes pass three times, once in Havana on 30 November and twice in Santiago on 3 and 4 December. On all occasions, people lined the streets in anticipation. Officials stood at regular intervals ensuring people remained off the road.

Old Havana, 30 November 2016

Hotel Armadores de Santander in beautiful morning light while crowds wait for ashes, Havana

Hotel Armadores de Santander in beautiful morning light while crowds wait for ashes, Havana

Early on 30 November we walked from our Old Havana accommodation to coastal Avenida del Puerto (San Pedro) for the caravan. Continue reading

The Interoceanic Highway Trip

Llama with a view near Tantamaco, Macusani, Carabaya, Peru

A llama with a view near Tantamaco in Macusani District

Rocío and my month-long trip along and around the Interoceanic Highway in southern Peru and eastern Brazil was one of my greatest travel experiences. Continue reading

Puerto Maldonado to San Gaban via Mazuko, Madre de Dios, Peru

After Brazil and a second visit to Puerto Maldonado in October 2016, Rocío and my intention was to return south to Macusani and visit Ollachea. In the shared taxi (colectivo) from Puerto Maldonado to Mazuko, the driver told us about San Gaban, north of Ollachea. His belief it was worth visiting was supported by another passenger. Our destination changed to San Gaban.

Outside of Puerto Maldonado the driver stopped for us to buy fish from a roadside stall. The grilled pacu and catfish tasted amazing.

Grilled catfish, outside Puerto Maldonado, Peru

Grilled catfish in the taxi form Puerto Maldonado to Mazuko Continue reading

Border fun on a trip to Acre, Brazil

Known as the end of Brazil, Acre is a seldom visited state in the far west of this giant country. South of Amazonas State, Acre also borders Peru and Bolivia. From Puerto Maldonado, Peru, in late September 2016 Rocío and I decided to visit Rio Branco, Acre’s capital and largest city. We knew little about the city or state but thought a visit to Brazil would be fun since we were nearby.

In Puerto Maldonado we took a van 171 kilometres along the Interoceanic Highway to Iñapari, the Peruvian town on the Peru-Brazil-Bolivia tri-border. The road passes papaya and banana plantations and has over 200 speed humps. The humps were installed after speeding drivers caused many crashes on this straight, flat road.

The Migraciones office in Iñapari town manages Peru migration control. Entering Peru from Bolivia I thought I had 90 days. However, the scribble on my entry stamp officially noted 60. I had overstayed my visa. No problem. I could receive my exit stamp upon submission of a receipt for USD$23 (USD$1 for every day over) of Peruvian soles deposited at the town’s Banco de la Nación branch.

Entering Brazil wasn’t an issue as I already had a Brazilian visa (Australians require visas in advance). However, the official did ask us if we were travelling together and, if so, why we requested different durations.

In the Brazilian border town Assis Brasil (yes, that is its name) we waited for a shared taxi to Brasiléia. No, not the federal capital, that’s Brasília. The Assis Brasil taxi driver association’s name Sindicato Dos Taxistas De Assis Brasil abbreviates to S.T.A.B. Táxi. Do they know the English connotation?

S.T.A.B Taxi, Sindicato Dos Taxistas De Assis Brasil

We caught a S.T.A.B. Táxi from Assis Brasil to Brasiléia Continue reading

From Andean Glaciers to the Amazon Jungle in one Spectacular Day

The journey from Ayapata to Puerto Maldonado was my most amazing and varied single day of travel ever. Seeing glaciers, tropical jungle and other magnificent landscapes all on the same day is hard to beat.

In late September 2016 Rocío and I wanted to get from Ayapata, Puno Region to Puerto Maldonado in Madre de Dios during daylight to view the scenery. There was no direct day transport, not even from Macusani. Using local advice, we reached our destination via the following steps:

  1. Ayapata to Macusani Bus Terminal: van
  2. Macusani Bus Terminal to Macusani Terminal Terrestre: mototaxi
  3. Macusani Terminal Terrestre to Lechemayo: van
  4. Lechemayo to Mazuko: mototaxi
  5. Mazuko to Puerto Maldonado: shared car

Ayapata to Macusani Bus Terminal by Van

Sheer mountains, Andes, Ayapata District, Carabaya Province, Puno, Peru

A mountain with sheer cliffs towers over this building between Ayapata and Macusani Continue reading

Where is Ayapata?

Ayapata in Carabaya Province, Peru, is a place I never knew existed*. This was until Rocío and I saw Macusani posters advertising Ayapata’s first coffee festival for 25 September 2016. We thought it was a great excuse to visit, despite the excellent Maps.Me showing no roads leading to Ayapata. Even today, Google Maps still shows a road-less town of Ayapata District.

An unsealed road did link Macusani to Ayapata, with vans departing from Macusani’s bus terminal for the two hour journey. Flamingos, Andean geese, ducks and other birds inhabited the stunning Andes mountain and lake scenery.

The journey’s second half encountered fog, darkness and rain. Rocío feared the steep roadside drops and poor visibility combined with the usual South American driving style.

Sitting in front of the van travelling to Ayapata on mountainsides in low visibility Continue reading

From Santiago, Chile to Mendoza, Argentina: Border Delays, Snow and Beautiful Andes Scenery

I planned to leave Santiago on the 1st of May and take a bus to Mendoza, Argentina. The only problem was the high altitude Andes Mountains border crossing’s exposure to snow storms, landslides and other road-closing events.

On the 1st I caught the metro and eventually found the correct bus station (Santiago has several). There I was told the border was closed. As I had bought my ticket online, I could not change it at the bus station and needed to telephone the website operator for a refund.

The next day the border remained closed.

The border reopened on the 3rd of May so I packed up again and took the metro with Noe and Santiago (the person) who were returning to Cordoba, Argentina. At the bus station we met Aivy, a Lithuanian materials scientist going home via Rio. Aivy had accepted a post-doctorate position in the USA researching adhesives for climbing robots on a project funded by NASA. Together the four of us bought tickets, visited a nearby supermarket and waited to catch our van.

From Santiago, Chile to Mendoza, Argentina

Andes Mountains on the Chilean side Continue reading

A Birthday Gift to Remember

A few weeks ago my sister Shannon turned 40. Last year I knew I was going to be away for the birthday so to make up for it, I thought, what would be a dream gift for this wonderful sister, daughter, mother, cousin, niece, colleague and friend? As Shannon is yet to experience the joy of overseas travel, a holiday abroad would be an amazing present for her to remember forever.

I told family about the holiday gift idea and they were very supportive so I developed a plan to enable this gift without Shannon knowing. A protected OzCrowd fund-raising page, a secret Facebook event and complicit family and friends were key aspects of this plan.

Random Title (Medium)

As the campaign title and main image were publicly visible I chose a generic title and image

Private Ozcrowd Campaign (Medium)

Accessing the fund-raising campaign page required a password

Continue reading