A Travellerspoint blog

Santiago and the beginning of the Road to Rio

Sept 14th - Sept 15th

sunny 19 °C
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I had an early start for a 6 hour journey to Santiago from La Paz, taking me via Arica and Iquique. It was sad to say goodbye to the group in La Paz, as we all went our separate ways. Some were continuing to travel, whilst others were heading home.
As we took off from sunny La Paz you could see the clouds casting a shadow on the ground below which created an interesting contrast on the landscape. On the other side of the weather spectrum, it was very grey and misty as we landed in Santiago. This was not the only difference I noticed as I came out of the airport. Chile was a much cleaner and wealthy contry compared to Bolivia, and you could see money had been put into the infrastructure. Not only that, I felt much safer on the roads, there was a seatbelt in the taxi for starters!! I unfortunately didn´t have any time to explore the city itself, as soon as I arrived it was a quick meeting with the group, dinner and then bed.

The next day we all went on a day trip to a nearby city called Valparaíso, a very quirky little city on the coast. From the flat of the seafront, it quickly ascends to a very different city above, which can be navigated using the elaborately decorated and creaking funiculars, which give you great views over the city.
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There are numerous houses of varying colours interspersed with little art shops and boutiques.IMG_5123.jpg IMG_5140.jpg
We had a grilled fish lunch in a Viña del Mar where the palm tree lined boulevards, sandy beaches and big waves crashing on the shore mean that it has been likened to the Miami coast.
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Posted by slking 12:11 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

La Paz and the end of the Bolivian Discovery

Sept 12th - Sept 13th

sunny
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The night bus back from Uyuni was tough. 10 hours in not so comfortable and cold conditions. I had better get used to it as my next leg of the trip has 4 overnight buses :o(

We arrived back in La Paz at 6.30am and rather than going straight to bed, I signed up for a day trip to 'Death Road'. This road has been featured on Top Gear for anyone who watches it, and has been named as the most dangerous road in the world. It is 62km road leading from La Paz to Coroico. Because of the extreme dropoffs of at least 600 meters (1,830 feet), single-lane width – most of the road no wider than 3.2 metres (10 ft) and lack of guard rails, the road is extremely dangerous. Luckily they have now built a new road which carries the cars and lorries, so the dirt track is used for tourism and bike rides like I did. The track was covered in loose stones and rubble and so you had to be very careful as you were going along. I ended up at the back of the group, although I didn´t feel like I was going slowly at all! The incline of the road can make it very easy to let the bike get away from you so you have to apply the brakes constantly as you go and be very careful on the corners!!

I hav a CD full of pictures of te trip which the company that took us gave us. Unfortunately I haven´t come across a computer with a CD drive yet, but when I do I will make sure I upload them.

Posted by slking 05:31 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

Salar de Uyuni

Sept 9th - Sept 11th

sunny
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It was a long drive from Potosi to Uyuni which took us through varied counrtyside ranging from mountains to desert. There were occasional buildings and a few animals including donkeys, horses and llamas, and it made you wonder how people can live out there.

We left Uyuni and travelled to the nearby Train Cemetery where there are many rusty old steam trains.IMG_3352.jpg
You are able to climb all over them, which we all proceeded to do like a bunch of kids in the playground!
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Next we visited where the salt from the Salar de Uyuni (Salt Flats) is processed. Huge piles of salt are made out on the flats, collected up and brought to be processed. The salt was pure white and so reflective that you had to wear sunglasses all the time otherwise it really hurt your eyes.
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They showed us the machines that they use to grind the salt very finely, and then a Bolivian lady spends all day scooping it up into bags and sealing them with a flame so that they are ready to be sold. A very back breaking and tedious job if you ask me!
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There was a really old car here too which I liked the look of.
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We had lunch on a little island out on the salt flats which was just amazing. It was this haven in the middle of nowhere. We had driven miles to get there. The salt flats themselves cover 4633 square miles! The island was covered in cactii and you could actually climb right up to the top of the island where the views were incrdible, you could see for miles. It literally took your breath away as you climbed though, being at 3653m above sea level. It was so peaceful and quiet.
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One part of the island had a little 'bay' which from the top of the island looked like it could have been a beach. The salt was graduated as it came into 'shore' and almost looked like waves.
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After lunch we went out to take the famous perspective pictures where you can use any objects you can find to take silly pictures. Here are just a few of ours:
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That night we stayed in a Salt Hotel where literally everything is mad of salt, the tables, chairs, pillars, beds.
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It was an early night as the lights went out at 10 and we had a very early start to catch the sunrise and to set off for a packed day in the National Reserve.
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The National Reserve (Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa) had so many different natural wonders in there. We visited several lagoons which had lots of beautiful flamingos in them.
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The red lagoon (Laguna Colorada) was so called due to the algae in the water and some say that´s how the flamingos get their lovely pinky red colour.
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The green lagoon (Laguna Verde) is actually poisonous so there were no flamingos in there.
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There was a rock that supposedly looks like a tree? See what you think!
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And some geysers which produced the most horrendous sulphur smell!
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Last up on the trip for the day was some thermal springs. It took a little bit of convincing to get in there at first, but with the water at a balmy 35 degrees it was actually quite pleasant once we had braved the stripping off in the cold winds.
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Posted by slking 05:15 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

Potosi

Sept 7th - Sept 8th

sunny
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Our journey to Potosi took us through some beautiful countryside. As it is the dry season the land was very arid and brown with very few trees or shrubs. There were however a few trees dotted around which had a very black/brown bark and stunning purple flowers. I have no idea what these were but they definitely brought some colour to the otherwise colourless views from the bus. You could easily imagine the rivers flowing and the green shrubs thriving in the rainy season though.

That evening I was feeling very fluey, much like I had felt during my very first night in La Paz, which I put down to the altitude. Potosi stands at 4090m above sea level, along with the pollution from the very old imported buses and cars from Japan I was finding it very difficult to breathe. Needless to say we had a quiet night that night. The next day we went to the silver mines which are still working.
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The mines were extremely dark and cramped and I don´t know how the miners are able to work in those conditions. There are boys there as young as 14. We had to keep jumping to the side as the wagons carrying the minerals came whizzing past. They apparently work for 6 hours a day with no breaks so that they can earn as much as possible as it is run as a co-operative. They keep their hunger at bay by chewing on coca leaves. I had a go at chewing a few as part of the tour, I wasn´t very good at keeping them in my mouth without swallowing and they didn´t taste very nice anyway!
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Inside the mines there are statues dotted about of Tio. He is meant to protect the mines and the miners as long as they do not upset him and bring him gifts such as cigarettes, 96% alcohol, and coca leaves.
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Despite the appalling conditions in the mines, the rest of Potosí – its grand churches, ornate colonial architecture and down to earth, friendly locals make it a really nice city.

Posted by slking 16:10 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

Sucre

Sept 4th - Sept 6th 2011

sunny
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Due to 'Pedestrian Day' we had a very long and boring journey to Sucre. No cars, buses etc were allowed on the roads of La Paz during the daytime, so we had to leave for the airport at 7.30am for a 1.30pm flight. There was alot of waiting around, but it gave us all a good chance to get to know each other. At this point there were just 7 girls in the group, all of a similar age so we had lots to talk about. Upon arrival at Sucre airport we met up with 4 more people who had just travelled in from Brazil, adding another girl and 3 boys to our group.

Once settled into the hotel, we set about exploring the streets of Sucre. Being the capital of Bolivia, there is much money in the area, which can be seen in the beautifully kept white Colonial buildings that line every street. We stumbled upon some dancers practising for the Fiesta de la Virgen de Guadalupe which was due to take place the following weekend. Even from the costumes that they were wearing for practice, you could tell that it was going to be a very colourful parade with every colour you could think of reflected in their costumes.
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The following day a group of us went horse riding in the countryside near Sucre. It was my first time on a horse so I was a little nervous to begin with, but I soon relaxed and began to enjoy it. The views were amazing, and the photos I took just don´t do it justice at all. Here is a picture of me with my horse Tamako.
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There were a few sore bums the next day!
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In the afternoon we had the opportunity to visit a local orphanage where we had great fun playing with the toddlers in the playground, and then had the task of helping out with feeding time for the younger ones. The orphanage was run by some local nuns and the children were all very well looked after by volunteers. They seemed very happy and healthy, and were very big on cuddles. We had picked up a few donations at the local market beforehand such as nappies and formula, but also a huge bag of lollies, which proved very messy later on!
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The next day I had booked myself onto a mountain biking tour in the surrounding area. Unfortunatley I embarked on this with a raging hangover, having been out until the early hours the night before. To say it was tough would be an understatement, I had no energy throughout the whole trip and all I could think about was my bed back at the hotel. The guide had to raid his first aid kit for a little pick me up to get me through the cycle. It was all worth it though, as at the end there was a BBQ and a swimming pool waiting!
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One of the girls had read in the Lonely PLanet about a great view which could be seen from the top of the Police Station. Thinking that we wouldn´t have any chance of getting in, we gave it a go anyway and to our surprise they seemed quite obliging. The views over the city were amazing and you could see for miles.
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Posted by slking 15:33 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

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