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Handy Andes by Dave Ferguson

Introduction | Bolivia | Peru | Equador | Essential Info


First, a few words of warning:

The central and northern Andean states can, at times, be difficult places to exist. The challenges are both political and environmental. During the 6-month period in the area I experienced 1 military coup, 3 national transport strikes, the end of Ecuador's currency, and was tear-gassed the day I flew home. During that time I spent just 6-weeks below 2000m and saw 2 volcanoes erupt within a couple of kilometres of where I stood. Such occurrences can be vexing and potentially hazardous so a few words of advice:

- If you're planning to spend much time in the region, learn Spanish, it'll make life a LOT easier

- Read the papers (aided by the above) to keep abreast of political and volcanic activities.

- Acclimatise. French 6a at 3500m is very, very hard work.

- Take your time. Don't plan too much and allow lots of contingency time.

- Don't be put off by horror-stories. 99.9% of the time South America is a wonderful, friendly, beautiful place to be and horror-stories normally only happen to the stupid.

(Government travel advice can be viewed here).

Getting There | Season | Travel | Cost | What to Take | How Long to Visit | Why!!

Getting there

There is not an enormous choice when it comes to flying to South America, few airlines fly direct from the UK, Lima being the easiest if you must. If you are willing to change in the US then you can get to most major South American cities, and La Paz and Quito are easily accessible. Figure on £500 - £600 return.

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When to go

This is a weird one. The seasons in the Andes are very strange: summer is wet winter is dry, but because of the range in altitudes and topography all weather conditions are on offer. There are no hard and fast rules: we got rained on in the dry season and sunburned in the wet season, figure it out if you can; I think any time is a good time.

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How to get around

Local transport is good but slow. The distances to be covered are sometimes small but the roads can be in such a terrible state of repair that you only average 20 miles an hour by bus so many people take inexpensive internal flights. Figure on about $50 per hour of flying or $0.50 per hour of bussing. Remember, few locals have cars so the public transport system in all of these countries is extensive; virtually anywhere you want to go can be reached by some form of public transport: bus, jeep, truck, plane, boat, donkey…

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How much will it cost?

Not a lot. Of the three countries featured here Ecuador is the cheapest, followed by Bolivia and Peru. If, like me, you don't mind using a shared bathroom in a hotel and foregoing the swimming pool, whilst still demanding clean sheets and lots of nosh then bank on £10, £13, and £15 per day for Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru. Obviously you can survive on less or splash out considerably more.

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What to take?

If you are going for a dedicated cranking trip then take everything, including lots of chalk and decent camping kit including a good sleeping bag. If you are mixing it up then you can get away with just shoes and a chalk bag.

Climbing kit can sometimes be hired, but it has normally been trodden on by hundreds of crampons so inspect everything thoroughly. Prices always vary so shop around.

A decent waterproof is useful, as are sandals and a sturdy pair of shorts. High quality Alpaca-wool bouldering hats can be purchased out there but good shades are nigh on impossible to score.

A sleeping bag is not really necessary unless you intend to be in seriously cold, high-up type places a lot.

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How long to go for?

As long as possible, but at least 3 weeks because it takes a while to become even moderately acclimatised. Most of the crags are at around 3000m so acclimatisation is particularly important.

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Why should I go?

Apart from the astounding climbing possibilities, you have a massive array of landscapes-dominated activities to chose from: trekking in the Andes, hanging in a hammock on a boat drifting down the Amazon, or surfing the Pacific's longest left-hander in Ecuador. Plus, you have ancient ruins to rival anywhere in the world, sprawling polluted cities to rival the worst, and smiling people to rival the nicest. PLUS, the food is good, the beer is (sometimes) good and the language is easy and interesting. Other than that…

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Stone Forest - info on climbing in Chile, Southern Bolivia and Argentina.

Introduction | Bolivia | Peru | Equador | Essential Info


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