Steve Happ Photography Ramblings and dissertations

December 27, 2010

Bolivia Backpacker Birding

Filed under: South America — Tags: — admin @ 11:43 pm

Bolivia Backpacker Birding

Electricity is 220V, 50Hz. Two-pin round plugs. Try the Yungas Region. Get a boat ride down Rio Mamore from Puerto Villaroel to Guayamerin or Rio Beni.
Cochabamba – stay at Hostal Mexico or Residencial Familiar.
Rurrenabaque – Stay at La Perla Andina or El Curichal Hostal.
Coroica Road – La Cumbre
Choquetanga Valley near Pongo.
Cotapata Trail.
Apa Apa Reserve, Chulumani.
Takesi Trek
Lake Titicaca

Bolivia Wildlife Reserves

P.N. Amboro. The village Buena Vista is 2 hours north-west of Santa Cruz. Get permit in town.
Beni Biological Station Reserve – Savannah birds
PN Pilon-Lajas
Reserva Nacional de Fauna Ulla Ulla Biosphere Reserve
Noel Kempff Mercado National Park There are 2 entrances with tourism facilities: Flor de Oro on the North side and Los Fierros on the South side.

Madidi National Park
Entry B$95. The Chalalan Lodge is run by indigenous people. You can go on boat trips on the River Tuichi – – 4 days is around $300.

Carrasco National Park
Hire a guide from Kawsay Wasi from local communities of Bateon, San Mateo Alto, El Palmar, etc. ( )
15 minutes from the town of Villa Tunari.

La Paz – Residencial Belzur, Residencial Imperial, Hostal Austria.
Coroica – Hostal de la Torre.
Chulumani – Hostal Dion, Country House.
Sorata – Residencial Sorata, Hotel Santa Lucia.
Copacabana – Hostal Emperador.
Uyuni – Andina Eduardo Avaroa reserve – stay at Hotel Avenida, Hostal Marith.
Santa Cruz – Backpackers Santa Cruz Hostel, Alojiemento Santa Barbara.

Birding Bolivia Resources
Bird Bolivia Site
Birders Guide to Bolivia

Birding Sites in Bolivia

To get used to the altitude, only ascend ~1000 feet per day. Watch alcohol consumption, eat healthily. Budget ~= $15-25, $1 ~= 6-8 BOB.
Get a Yellow Fever Vaccination. Ecologies include the altiplano, Chaco, Amazon Basin

National Parks of Bolivia
Amboro – near Santa Cruz, stay at Residencial Nadia.
Cotapata – in the Yungas, between La Paz and Coroica.
Madidi – has 1100 bird species!
Noel Kempff Mercado – in Santa Cruz dept.
Pilon Lajas Biosphere Reserve
Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa
Tunari – near Cochabamba.

La Paz – SECRET GARDEN Backpackers Oasis, Loki La Paz

Parque Nacional Madidi

Bolivia Budget Accommodation

Santa Cruz – Hostal Cactus, Hostal Maya, Hostal Ambar Backpackers
Coroica – Residencial Coroica, Hostal Kory.
Chulumani – Alojamiento Daniel, Country Guesthouse.
Sorata – Residencial Sorata, Hostal Las Piedras.

The Southwest
Tarija – Alojomiento El Hogar, Residencia el Rosario.
Villazon – Residencia Martinez, Residencia el Cortijo. Border town to Argentina.
Sucre – Casa de Huespedes San Marcos, Alojamiento el Turisto.

Santa Cruz
El Fuerte – Residencial Chelo, Residencial Kim.

Amazon Basin
Rurrenabaque – access to PN Madidi, must take guide.
Trinidad – Hotel Paulista, Hostal Sirari.

December 5, 2010

South America Overview

Filed under: South America — Tags: , , — admin @ 4:20 pm

South America

I flew into Buenos Aries from Sydney after a horrendous 14 hour flight. It took me a few days to readjust my body clock. Meanwhile I was really enjoying going to the Costanera Sur reserve on the shores of the River Plate. It took me a few days to get to Esquel after stopping off at Bahia Blanca and Neuquen.

Grey-necked Wood-rail
Buenos Aries, Costanera Sur, Grey-necked Wood-rail (Aramides cajanea)


Talon skiing at La Hoya

I met up with a few Canadians at La Hoya. That is Talon above. I stayed up the mountain for a couple of weeks and then moved down into Esquel and stayed at a hostel for a couple of months.

La Hoya fly park, Jean

This is Jean, a ski instructor at La Hoya, getting some air in the Fly Park. They had some great jumps set up and everyone was getting into it.

Me Skiing
Me skiing la hoya

I got this photo taken by local photographer. I was skiing at the Sol piste. After leaving Esquel in late September, I had a marathon 48 hour bus ride to Salta in Northern Argentina. Then up to the border with Bolivia at La Quiaca, where I was strucken down with altitude sickness for about 3 days.


Into Bolivia with a train from Villazon to Oruro, bypassing the Uyuni salt flats. After a couple of days at Oruro, I hopped on a bus to Copacabana on the shores of Lake Titicaca.

Puna Teal
Puna Teal (Anas puna)

Copacabana was a really nice place if you avoided the tourist ripoff joints. I did manage to get sucked into a boat ride to the Isla del Sol which was a great disappointment.


I got a bus across the border to Puno, where we changed buses to get to Arequipa. From Arequipa, I hopped on the Lima bus and got off at the Paracas National Park. Paracas was fantastic. I got lots of photos of new birds along the shores, went on a tour into the desert on the edge of the ocean and had my first taste of cerbiche.

Inca Tern
Inca Tern or Zarcillo (Larosterna inca). Islas Ballestas, paracas , peru.

The boat ride to the Islas Ballestas was fantastic. We saw heaps of cormorants, boobies, sea lions and my favourite, the Inca Tern. After that, it was off to Lima where I stayed next to the beach at Barranco. There were lots of Black Vultures circling about the city, which gave an eerie feel to the place. I rented a surfboard up the coast at Huanchaco, then it was off to Chicama.


Chicama is the longest left-hander in the world. It goes for more than a kilometre. You have to jump off the wave down the beach and walk back out. The water is very cold so you have to wear a long john wetsuit and the current is very strong.

Oasis hummingbird
Oasis Hummingbird, Lobitos

Mancora is in the far north of Peru and is very hot. The water here is warm, so you can surf without a wetsuit which is a welcome change. Further south is the break of Lobitos which has some great surf. The locals really charged it and I got some great photos.


From Lobitos, it was down to Lima for a few days, flew to Puno, then back into Bolivia to La Paz, Cochabamba, Villa Tunari, Buena Vista, and the capital Santa Cruz. Back into Argentina to Salta, Rosario, Parana, Gualeguaychu and Buenos Aires, where I caught the plane back home.

October 3, 2010

Isla del Sol

Filed under: South America — Tags: — admin @ 2:04 pm

Isla del Sol. Lake Titicaca.

The morning after I arrived at Copacabana, I went on a boat ride tour to Isla del Sol. The boat ride there and back costs 30 Bolivianos, which is about $5. There are two boat tour companies as far as I could tell, and there could have been more. The boat was about ten metres long, with an enclosed section with windows so you did not get wet from the spray. You could also sit up on top, but I did not because the wind was blowing and it would have been freezing. A few people came down from the top because it was too cold.

Isla del Sol

Anyway, we set off onto Lake Titicaca at a rather slow pace I thought. The boat had an outboard and I thought it was seriously under-powered. We approached the Isla del Sol and there were some great views of the island but not much bird or animal life. I was expecting much more wildlife than I saw. It was a bit of a disappointment in that regard. When we got to the north part of the island, we got this spiel from some tour guides that they would show some ceremonies and archeological sites and a crappy museum, all for the price of 30 Bolivianos. I was lead to believe that it was 15. I just escaped down the beach and took some photos of the birds and the pigs that were rooting around in the sand.

Then I went for a walk back towards the settlement and followed a track out to the point. There were a few pigs tethered to bushes and then further out, I ran into their rubbish tip. I was totally disgusted. They just throw their rubbish on the rocks and burn it.

Rubbish Tip
The Rubbish Tip at Isla del Sol

I went back to the wharf and waited for the boat to leave. We headed off and landed at the south end of the island, where we had to pay 5 Bolivianos just to walk onto the land. The whole set-up was a tourist rip-off. I was pretty cheezed off with the whole thing by that time. You could walk up the hill and see some temple but I did not bother. It was funny watching all the tourists get off the boats and then trudge up the hill with their very heavy bags. That part of the trip was amusing, but I would not bother recommeding to anyone that they waste their time going there. It was pretty crap.

The next day I headed off to Puno, where we changed buses. Puno, in Peru, has not much going for it except a couple of reserves on the shore on Lake Titicaca. They would be great places to look for birds, I think. We took the bus to Arequipa and at times we got as high as 4800 meters. The country was pretty barren, but we followed a little stream most of the way. Some of the lakes on the way had some Chilean Flamingos in them. I arrived in Arequipa about 7pm. and after a chaotic chase for a taxi, got to the hostel and slept the rest of the night. The next day I had diarrhoea and spent the whole day on the toilet. This morning I am feeling heaps better and will head for Pisco on the coast tonight.

October 2, 2010

Bird of Lake Titicaca, Bolivia

Filed under: South America — Tags: , — admin @ 3:14 am

Copacabana and Isla del Sol, Bolivia.

The Puna Teal is found on the Andean altiplano. Its Chilean name is Pato puna. They have a black cap that extends to below the eyes. Their lower face and neck are creamy white.

Puna Teal
Puna Teal (Anas puna)

Andean Cooot. The Chilean name is Tagua andina. It is found mainly in altitudes from 2100 to 4700 meters from Colombia to North-west Argentina.

Andean Coot
Andean Coot (Fulica ardesiaca)

The Andean Gull (Larus serranus) is found on high altitude lakes. They are very similar to the Brown-hooded Gull, which I thought they were until I read the literature. In flight it shows a distinctive white patch on the primaries. In non-breeding plumage the head is white with a spot behind the eye. The Chilean name is Gaviota andina. (Photo to come)

Speckled Teal
Speckled Teal

Bare-faced Ground-dove (Metriopelia ceciliae). Chilean name: Tórtolita boliviana.

Bare-faced Ground-dove
Bare-faced Ground-dove

I am pretty sure that I have also seen the Black-hooded Sierra-finch (Phrygilus atriceps) in Patagonia, but there is another similar bird, so I could be wrong about that one. doh! Chilean name: Cometocino del norte.

Black-hooded Sierra-finch
Black-hooded Sierra-finch

The next few birds are from Isla del Sol, on Lake Titicaca. I am not sure about this one. I think it could be just a common sparrow but have not had time to check.

id needed
ID needed

There were heaps of pigs on the beach and this one was getting a bit ahead of himself, I reckon.

um, rude photo.
Miss Piggy and suitor

The Andean Lapwing (Vanellus resplendens) is found high in the Andes, generally in puna wetlands and water ways. The Chilean name is Queltehue de la Puna.

Andean Lapwing
Andean Lapwing (Vanellus resplendens)

White-winged Cinclodes (Cinclodes atacamensis). Chilean name: Churrete de alas blancas

White-winged Cinclodes
White-winged Cinclodes(Cinclodes atacamensis)

Thanks to Arthur Grossets website on South American birds for the invaluable help in identifying these birds.

From Argentina to Lake Titicaca

Filed under: South America — Tags: — admin @ 2:21 am

Into Bolivia

Train to Oruro
The train to Oruro

Wow, it has only been three days since my last post but it seems like an eternity ago. I have come so far. Let me start at the beginning. On Monday morning I got up early for a change and headed over the border to Bolivia. The border crossing was easy and without any problems at all. The Bolivian side of the border is called Villazon and has got much more going on. There are heaps of shops and markets and lots of action going on. Coming back, I reckon I will stay on the Villazon side rather than La Quiaca. There are lots of hotels etc and the food is pretty good.

Train to Oruro
Going through the mountains near Tupiza

First up I went to get my ticket for the train to Oruro. It is called the Wara Wara del Sur, and it runs twice a week. There is another train which is a bit better that goes on two other days. I got the Salon class which was about 80 Bolivianos, approximately $12. The train took off at 3.30 pm and headed north past Tupiza, where there lots of magnificent scenery on the way. The mountains are incredible around that area. But as soon as night fell, you could not see a thing, so I just watched videos and after midnight tried to get some sleep.

The train got into Oruro about 8 or 9 in the morning and I was well knackered. I walked up the road to the Hostal Hidalgo and got a room for about ten bucks. A single room in this semi-posh hotel with TV in the room. I love TV in the room, especially after a long trip. It is great to just veg out and do nothing but watch the idiot box. Later that day I went looking for the Tourist Office but got the runaround. I just wandered around for the rest of the day. Oruro does not have much going for it. There is this magnificent lake about 10k south but I could not find out how to get there.

The next day I hopped on a bus to La Paz. Approaching La Paz, I was blown out by the location of the city. It is in this deep valley and all the houses are plastered across the surrounding hill-sides. In the distance you can see these huge snow-covered peaks which must be about 5000-6000 meters high. La Paz itself is located at about 3500-4000 meters itself. It seems like a really nice place, but I only saw the bus station.

At 2pm I caught the bus to Copacabana. Just out of La Paz, the country was really flat and dry. Then it got a bit more hillier and finally we hit the side of Lake Titicaca. The roads along the lake are just stupendous. At one stage we got to a ferry and we all had to get out and the bus went on a ferry, while we caught a boat across and got back on the bus on the other side.

Bus crossing Lake Titicaca
The ferry taking the bus across the water

Ferry Doods
The driver of the boat that we caught

Finally we arrived at Copacobana, and I was very surprised how cool the place was. I was not expecting much but I was pleasantly surprised. It is situated right on the lake in the little bay with a big hill to the side of it. It has been a while since I have been to a tourist town and this one is not much different from the rest of them in that respect.

Hotel in Copacabana
The view from my hotel room which costs $5 a night

Sunset over Lake Titicaca
Sunset over Lake Titicaca

September 24, 2010

Bolivia Travel Notes

Filed under: South America — Tags: — admin @ 1:00 am

Bolivia Travel Notes

NB. Yellow Fever vaccination required for Bolivia. It lasts 10 years.

No visa required for Australians. get 30 days.

bus from Villazón on the border with Argentina to Tupiza (Hotel Mitru for 50 Bolivianos per night or La Torre Hotel.)

Santa Cruz

Hostal Ambar Backpackers is very cheap.

noel Kempff park:

Rurrenabaque – Madidi NP.

the flight, with Amaszonas Airlines from La Paz to Rurrenabaque, which cost some $55 USD for the 35 minutes flight, instead of the horrifying, deadly, 20+ hours bus trip.

Samaipata is the southern gateway to amboro national park.

Buenavista is the northern gateway to amboro np.

Puerto Quijarro

TAMENGO Hostel-Resort Pantanal. Get here on the Death Train from Santa Cruz.


There are tracks from El Calvario. No ATM in town.


You can do a day trip or stay at the Apa-apa Reserve.

There are two wayt to Peru.
1. Via Copacabana and the Kasani-yuyunga border crossing.
2. Via Desaguadero on southern side of Lake Titicaca.


Learn Spanish –

PN Amboro

Acess it via Buenavista, 100km northwest of Santa Cruz.


No ATM in town. You can access PN Madidi.

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