Argentina, Chile and the parents
First of all this email is to wish you all a very Merry Christmas. I hope you all have a wonderful day filled with good food and loved ones around you and that the new year brings many good things for another year.
I was lucky recently to have seen 13 shooting stars in one night, so hopefully I can send some of those wishes your way as I don’t think I need quite that many right now.
I send this email from Potosi, the world highest town at a height of 4300m. Its finally starting to feel like Christmas as at night the streets are alive with people, markets, lots of things to buy and good food cooking.
This Christmas I will be spending in Bolivia in a town called Cochabamba, working with a hospital that works with orphans and street kids. I’m not there yet, but plan to be just before Christmas. Thought it would be nice to spend that time with some people who need. Also, over a year of travel now I’m ready to stay put for a while and call a place home again.
Which brings me to my next topic. It has been a long time again since I’ve put together a blog and sent out some updates. Some of you see photos updated on facebook but well sometimes words just capture something else. My main reason for avoiding the blog of late is the time it takes, especially when there is no good internet around. And as each month has gone by, the longer and longer it takes to try and capture that in a blog.
I’ve had some great responses back each time I’d done a blog, so it saddened me to not keep sharing those stories. So….this is my compromise. I plan to punch out a whole bunch of words and send them on in an email with a link to a site that I upload my photos to.
On a good note and almost like a Christmas present to me I just received an email from a photography competition that I entered a while back. Some of you may remember me asked for some votes for a photo that had been short listed. Well it looks like it has taken out the wildlife catergory, scoring me a whole bunch of prizes. Pretty happy about that! A nice little surprise email out of nowhere which certainly put a smile on the face and will keep me entering a few photo competitions along the way.
Since I have a few months to catch up on and there may be quite a few hundred photos to view, feel free to save this email for sometime in the new year. When your sitting back in the heat of an Aussie summer drinking an ice cold beer and its too hot to move, feel free to come on a ride with me for a little while. (note….for anyone drinking an ice cold beer that is, which ever part of the world you may be in)
So where to begin? When I last send out the blog I was in Lima, Peru. After that I headed to Huancayo. It was the same time as a festival in a small town calld San Jeronimo, the festival de los Avelinos. The men of the town dress up in rag like clothes, prepresenting a time when they went off to war, returning victorious but battered. The strange part is that all the men march into town and then present offerings of food to the president. What was so strange is that the offerings of food are cooked guinea pigs (cuy), dressed up in clothes like little people. Was a fun time with everyone in the street offering you food and beer.
After this I worked my way back to the coast line of Peru, to visit Ica, Pisco and Nazca. Close to Ica is Huancachina, a place with the most amazing sand dunes that I have seen before. In Ica you can grab a sand board, climb to the top and then surf your way down….a whole lot of fun. After this was some time in Nazca to take a flight over the Nazca lines. These ancient markings in the desert and only visible from the air as they are so large. Still to date they are greatly debated as to why they were made. I liked the theory of the tour guide who believed that the Nazcans made them to appease the gods above, since they are only visible from the sky. The Nazcans lived in very hard conditions, hot dry windy deserts. I’m not sure if they had much luck as these deserts are still hot dry and windy and it is a race that disappeared. Still, a better theory than an Alien landing pad.
After Nazca the road took me to the beautiful city of Arequipa, to visit the Colca Canyon and see condors flying in the sky. Then finally Cusco for Machu Picchu. Cusco is an incredible city in itself, with so many Incan sites to visit. Once you get used to walking up cobbled stairs all the time, they you really get to like the place. And of course Machu Picchu is amazing.
After Cusco I had to hurry things along a little bit. My parents were arriving in Buenos Aires in September and I still had a long distance to cover. In the end once I arrived in La Paz Bolivia I took a 60 hour bus ride to get to Buenos Aires. I do not recommend this, especially with a Bolivian bus company. Perhaps with an Argentine company as they serve you wine and food for long rides, but not with the Bolivians. The bus company only stopped for breakfast and lunch, running the freezing cold airconditioning all night, but then only in short bursts during the hot days.
After 3 nights on the bus, I was very happy to get off in Buenos Aires.
So after a couple of days of finding my way round this giant city I headed out to the airport to meet my parents. They had decided to come and visit me and see some of South America along the way. The first week was spend in Buenos Aires with some tango classes, shows, good fine and fine Argentine wine. After the parents were over the jet lag and ready to explore we headed off to Uruguay for a couple of days, to the quite colonial town of Colonia. Then a flight up to Iguazu Falls. Although it rained the whole day we were there, the falls are certainly a spectacular site.
After being in the northernmost part of the country, we took a flight far south to El Calafate. El Calafate sits on Lago Argentino which has a collection of incredible glaciers. The most famous of these being Perito Moreno, which is over 30km long and a height of around 70 meters above the water (of course much more below the surface). The amazing thing about this glacier is not just its size and sheer beauty, but the fact that it is one of the few glaciers that shrinks and expands. Unlike most other glaciers on the planet they are slowly shrinking. After 7 years of compacted snow new ice forms as the old ice slowly breaks away, which is another amazing site.
One more amazing part is that you can hike on top of this glacier. And at the end, a glass of whiskey with freshly chipped glacier ice.
After the south it was back to Buenos Aires for a bus trip to Mendoza for more fine red wine. One more bus ride took us through the Andes, over the boarder to Chile and Santiago. After a few days in Santiago we took a flight up to La Paz and made our way to Lago Titicaca, being the worlds largest inland lake and highest body of water. We also had one night in Peru to visit Puno for the Floating Islands. While somewhat touristy, the islands and the people are fascinating. The people of Uros have somewhat preserved their culture by living on islands made of tortoru reeds, which their lives depend on.
After Bolivia it was back to Santiago de Chile and time to say goodbye to the folks.
After Santiago I made my way back over to Buenos Aries to meet Christian, who was also in Argentina. We made our way to a circus conference for a few days which was at the very least nice to see another friend again and do some gentle training.
After Buenos Aires I headed south again to see some more of southern Argentina that I did not get to see with my parents. First stop was Puerto Madryn for whale and penguin watching. Having never seen a whale before, seeing a while whale was also a real treat. Then a bus ride over the other other side for El Bolson and Bariloche, which is like the Argentine version of the swiss alps. At times I almost forget that I was still in Argentina.
Then it was time to head north again, though Neuquen, Cordoba, Tucuman and Salta before finally arriving at the Bolivian boarder. It is amazing how different the north to the south of Argentina is, from snow capped mountains and glaciers, so dry deserts that contain all the colours of the rainbow. Each is beautiful and unique in its own way.
I was very happy to cross the boarder back into Bolivia once again. I really liked my time in Argentina, but Bolivia is a while other world. At times Argentina is very European…and perhaps too many steaks for my liking. Being back in Bolivia I am exposed to a place where the greater percentage is indigenous, high levels of poverty and a place where quinoa is a common find on any menu (enough to make any vegetarian happy).
The first stop in Bolivia was the infamous Salares de Uyuni, the worlds largest salt flats and Bolivian deserts. Not much lives out there, as not much can. From time to time you see vicuñas walking around and you will find flamingos at the lakes. But you will not find trees or green plants out here. But what you will find is beauty in these baren landscapes.
Yesterday was a tour to the Silver mines in Potosti, another fascinating place yet somewhat saddening. These mines were first discovered by the Spanish and have been worked for over 450 years. They estimate that over 8 million people have died in these mines over that time. Today much of the wealth is gone, as the Spanish took most of that, but people still work the mines in incredible conditions. A two hours tour in the mind made me realise how damn lucky I am with my job. Watching a 15 year old boy working in the depths of the mines made me quite sad. For 10 hour days, he may not see the outside world, stuck in the depths of the mine breathing in the dust that will shorten his life and no doubt kill him. Many of these miners are the same, spending their whole lives working in the mines for no more than 10 dollars a day at a time. I think after this experience I will never complain about work again.
So in a quick nutshell that’s the last few months for me. I’ve possibly covered as much distance in the last 4 months as what I have in the previous 8. For the next few months hopefully I will stay put for a while and call a place home again.
Well, until the next update….