Edit Blog Post
Published: January 18th 2008
Blimey, it's been a while! Hope you all had a great Xmas and New Year.
This was going to be a super long blog, but whilst sitting here earlier, some bastard swiped my bag with my camera in it so I´ve spent the last 2 hours in a police station and don't feel up to finishing this. I´ll carry on another time...
I'm also having a few problems uploading photos, so I´ll attach more next time.
Other than that, it´s going well!
Since I last wrote, I've been to Bolivia, Argentina, Chili, Argentina again, back into Chili and now I'm in Argentina again. On Sunday we're off to Paraguay and then it's on to Brazil. It's hard to remember what day it is let alone what country I´m in.
Bolivia is the poorest country in South America but contains some areas of outstanding natural beauty. Our first stop was La Paz, the highest capital city in the world at 3660m, which is spectacularly located in a valley, with houses built up the sides of the valley.
One of the girls, Trudy, left the tour today so there was a farewell party for her at the
hotel, to which we got delivered the largest pizzas I've ever seen. Unfortunately, in our group are some of the biggest eaters I´ve ever seen so I only managed to get one slice!
The following day we had a tour of the city, including a view from the top of the valley looking down, which was pretty spectacular. It was disturbing to see some incredibly expensive houses on the outskirts of the city, mainly owned by the police and politicians, as the rest of the country is very poor. It is one of the busiest cities I have seen, with indigenous people selling their wares on the street pavements, forcing everyone to walk in the street, which was quite scary as the drivers are nutters.
Next stop was Potosi, the highest city in the world, famous for it's silver mine in the Cerro Rico mountain, which was once the most lucrative in the world but now contains only less precious minerals. The roads in the city were so narrow that it took over an hour to park Jack as Luke the driver narrowly avoided knocking down a few buildings. In the end we needed a police escort.
We took a trip inside the mine, decked out in fetching yellow jacket and trousers, wellies, face mask and miner's lamp, to see the appalling conditions in which the miners work. Millions of people have been killed in the mine over the years, and those that survive the work often die of pneumonia within ten years. It was quite a shocking experience, involving crawling, climbing and squeezing into narrow passages whilst barely able to breathe, and at one point one of the heavy carts which the miners pull along rails ran over my little toe, which was nice. We bought the miners gifts of dynamite, alcohol and cigarettes before we entered, as is the custom.
After Potosi we drove to Uyuni through some wonderful rugged mountainous scenery. We visited the famous salt flats which have to be seen to be believed. They are bigger than Lake Titicaca, and from a distance they look like water with icebergs floating on them. We stayed there for a stunning sunset.
After a night in a town which seemed to exist only to break up two 11 hour drive days, we crossed into Argentina to the city of Salta for three nights
of camping. The difference between Argentina and Bolivia was noticable within yards of the border, with proper roads and buildings replacing shacks and gravel roads. Salta is a beautiful city full of beautiful buildings and people, and it was nice to spend a couple of days wandering around or sitting in the cafes people-watching.
We left Salta at 5am (having to pack up the tent in the dark) and had another 12 hour drive day to San Perdro de Atacama in Chile, which is located in the middle of the Atacama desert, the driest in the world. Some parts have never received rainfall since records began.
The border crossing into Chile was painful as we had to wait for hours whilst they searched through all our bags and the whole truck as they are very strict about what you can and cannot take into the country. You can't even take fruit or veg. After quite a few weeks in this tour, our team finally had to cook our first meal (some other teams have cooked three times) and we did a pretty good goulash.
San Pedro is a pretty touristy town, with not an awful lot to
do, so it's bizarre that we spent 3 nights there. On the second night, I awoke at around 5pm to what felt like a heavy wind blowing the tent from side to side. My subconscious told me that it wasn´t windy, but it wasn´t until morning that I realised we had experienced a minor earthquake! So that means I´ve seen a volcano erupt and felt an earthquake on this trip... exciting!
We visited an observatory located at the top of a mountain, which was one of the highlights of my trip so far. We got a great view of the craters of the moon through the telescope, as well as millions of stars. We also saw a few satellites passing overhead.
We then went to La Serena, which is on the beach and where a few of us decided it would be nice to take a break from the group for a few days and booked a flight from Ushuaia to Buenos Aires in a few weeks.
Next stop was Santiago, the capital of Chile. It´s a big city, quite expensive, but we were there four days before Xmas and it was heaving. I had to buy
a new pair of jeans as the 2 cheap pairs I bought in Ecuador both ripped, so I had to brave the crowds of Xmas shoppers, which was painful, plus we did a secret Santa, so I had to find a pair of earrings for one of the girls in the group (at the advice of her husband), not something I´m used to doing at home, let alone in a busy foreign city!
We said goodbye here to another seven people in the group, and seven new people joined us (it should have been eight, but one guy mysteriously didn´t show up or leave any messages to say where he was).
I met a lovely girl, Susana, over the internet and we had a great day together, having lunch, walking in the park, helping her move house and then having a lovely curry in a fancy hotel. It was a shame that the truck was leaving at 6am the following morning!
After Santiago we had another long drive through some lovely scenery to Pucon in the Chilean Lake District, where we would spend Xmas day. We stayed at a nice campsite, and the weather was around 90
degrees, so it couldn´t have felt any less Xmassy if it tried. Pucon lies next to a beautiful lake overlooked by an active volcano, and the town looks like a village in the Swiss alps, with lovely cafes and chocolate shops.
On Xmas day we opened our secret Santa presents (I got a Fidel Castro tshirt and a rubik´s cube!!, and luckily the earrings went down well), and then headed to Willie´s farm for a fantastic barbeque and sports day, which was huge fun. ´Sports´ included egg and spoon race, three-legged race and pass the melon! Afterwards, we played a bit of football and unfortunately I injured my knee again so I was a bit down after that. Still, it was a very memorable Xmas.
On Boxing Day we had (another) very long drive to Bariloche, in the Argentinian Lake District. The scenery is quite beautiful here, and we drove past 7 gorgeous lakes. We stayed at a great campsite (I´m really enjoying the camping) and I spent a couple of days wandering around the lovely city, which is also famous for its chocolate (pity the weather was so hot!). On the 2nd night here, we were supposed
to have a lads' night out, although in the end only a few of us went out. My hangover the following day reminded me of why I don't drink much these days, and I nearly got arrested when I deliberately dropped a pint glass on the floor of a pub that had charged us (and only us) to get in and also overcharged us for drinks. A guy came up to me and showed me his police badge but I played dumb and said it slipped! I'm afraid I was very drunk at the time....
OK, that's as far as I´m going for now. Next instalment will cover new year's eve and a wonderful time in Buenos Aires.
Tot: 0.097s; Tpl: 0.051s; cc: 12; qc: 24; dbt: 0.019s; 1; m:saturn w:www (220.127.116.11); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.2mb