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Published: March 5th 2006
Yes, I know it sounds incredibly foolish, and yes, I may be risking life and limb for a good Travelblog entry, but dammit it just sounds so cool! The weather is supposed to be cool and more excitingly, foggy! That´s great, cos I really don´t want to see the gaping chasm to my left when I´m concentrating on avoiding the oncoming trucks and buses that can´t see me. If I live to write another journal, I´ll post some piccies.
But I digress, back to where I left off last time.
Left the farm in Medoza in search of protein - as great as a fully organic, fruit-and-veg based diet sounds, when you´re doing manual labour, you need something to keep your muscles from disintegrating. First stop after Mendoza was Cordoba. This was only a day visit, as my bus arrived at 8AM and left again for Salta at 8PM. Hit the first vegetarian restaurant I could find, and loaded myself up with lentils, brown rice and veggies....mmmm. Then spent the rest of the day lounging around the plaza, watching a movie and window shopping. Cordoba is nice enough; full of university students and middle-class workers, but I was definitely looking
what´s the time?
forward to seeing Salta again. Back on the bus...
Arriving in Salta early the next morning, tried to get some horizontal sleep after trying unsuccessfully for the last two days on the buses (the seats only go back 45 degrees). Also tried to maintain the healthy eating habits acquired in Mendoza, but there´s just too many temptations ( I got myself re-acquainted with the medialuna, or sweet breakfast croissant). In penitence, I pushed myself up the 1000-odd steps to Cerro San Bernardo, rather than taking the teleferico to the top. No stopping, just step, step, step to the top - but the view was worth it. Spent a few hours wandering around in the gardens at the summit, and then hoofed it back down the stairs to town.
Spent more time on my typical travel indulgence - lazing around the town square and parks, usually reading, but sometimes just sleeping with my eyes open. One of the things I love about Salta is the fact that most of their parks are filled with huge gum trees. A good way to soothe a homesick soul..... The other thing I love about Salta is that you can get GOOD coffee there, and
Iglesia San Francisco at night
view from my room in Salta, Argentina
just sit under an umbrella at a cafe next to the plaza, and pretend you´re a snooty rich person for a few hours.
Got up a stupid o´clock a few days later to get on the bus over the border, finally saying goodbye to Argentina, and heading to Arica in northern Chile. Got some great views of mountains, salars (salt plains) and volcanoes along the way. Even managed to get a few photos in between catnaps. Got over the border into San Pedro de Atacama just before sunset, and got some amazing views of the sunset lighting up the volcanoes - better, I think, than the time I was here and paid for a sunset tour of the area.
Changed buses at Calama, and tried to sleep as much as possible on the way to Arica.
The best way I can think to describe Arica is a poor man´s Antofagasta. As a seaside town I guess it gets some tourists, but very few of those are gringos (most are Chilean). There isn´t a whole lot to do there as a tourist, but I enjoyed myself anyway, as the weather was fantastically warm, with the seabreeze keeping things just right,
and I had a great lunch with some very friendly waiters (I guess they don´t see gringo girls too often...). Decided I´d seen enough of the town and booked my fare to La Paz for the following morning.
It was a LONG trip, accentuated by the breaking-down of the bus halfway there. Some guys tinkered around in the motor and pulled somethings off, and we were off again, travelling through Chile´s Parque Nacional Lauca and Bolivia´s Parque Nacional Sajama along the way.
Lauca was great, but the sun disappeared as soon as we got near the mountains. The temperature dropped pretty rapidly as we climbed the mountains to the altiplano (high plain), where we´d cross the border. Eventually it started to rain, and I noticed unmelted clumps of snow on the side of the road - it must be freezing out there! It didn´t seem to deter the condors, flamingoes, alpacas and vicuñas that were out there though. Hopped off the bus for the obligatory border formalities and nearly froze my butt of instantaneously - my God it was cold! (yay, I get to use my thermals and polar fleece again - I knew there was a reason why
another pretty stormwater drain
Ceroo San Bernado in Salta, Argentina
I lugged them thousands of kilometers across the world!).
Sajama was a huge mass of volcanoes and lakes and snow - very picturesque, but deadly if you´re actually outside... Finally made it to La Paz later than expected, but got to my hostel with no worries or dramas.
Anyhoo, the altitude has kicked me in the guts again here in La Paz (aka the world´s highest capital city). Have had to drink coca tea to keep me in line; don´t worry about me becoming an addict or anything, the tea tastes like dirty sweaty socks - I have to let it go cold so that I can swig it without tasting it. Vile stuff (and no, I am NOT going to chew coca, that´s even more disgusting!). Visited the Coca Museum out of sheer morbid curiosity, to find the pro-coca propaganda machine in full effect. I guess that´s the result of Evo coming into Presidential power for you.
Gaped like a tourist out of the front of the Presidential Palace yesterday, as something was obviously going to happen - heaps of cops and military-type personnel in the Plaza. Sure enough, a squadron of Chinese dignatories arrived to brass
Brugmansia (for Belinda)
Cerro San Bernardo in Salta, Argentina
band fanfare, then promptly left the palace some 15 minutes later. Bummer - I was hoping to catch a glimpse (and a photo) of Evo - the world´s coolest president. Maybe tomorrow.
Woke today feeling like I´d been swimming in a pool of vodka - that´s what the others were drinking last night, but it seems unfair that I have to have sympathy pains... Must be the altitude and cigarette smoke that did it - Bolivians will smoke anywhere without a concern. Blech...
What´s left in La Paz? I guess there´s a few more museums to visit if the weather gets bad (like today - rain and thunder: visited the museum of contemporary art - excellent). And the Death Road Trip as well. Must also squeeze in a day trip to Tiahuanaco before making my way to Lake Titicaca (insert juvenile sniggering here).
Wish me luck!
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