My last night in South America did not pass particularly smoothly. Two girls in the group were getting the same early morning flight as me so we decided to share a room in the hotel. However when we came down to meet everyone at reception we discovered that they had already left so ended up wandering around La Paz for two hours trying to find them in order to say goodbye! Bye some miracle we did eventually stumble across them but it was a bit of a nightmare in one of the most reknowned paces for crime targeted at tourists in the dark and rain!
After three hours sleep I embarked on my bizarre day of flights: Firstly flying to Lima then El Salvador, Guatemala then finally Mexico City with absolutely no room for error; one of the connections was only 25 minutes long! As you could imagine I was highly dubious that this erratic series was going to flow smoothly, but miraculously I arrived in Mexico city last night in one peace AND, far exceeding my expectations, with my luggage! Hallelujah!
Flying over the beautiful snow-capped Andes.
Flying in over Mexico city was fantastically exciting. Had to get a shot out of the window but this doesn’t quite capture the city’s competition with the stars as much as I would have liked!
My flight to Cancun leaves this afternoon so on arriving, I headed straight over to the airport Hilton where Mum had kindly booked for me to stay for a night as a treat (and also to avoid the highly dangerous city!) It was such a fantastic surprise! I was so excited at the unprecedented luxury that I was running around the room taking photos of the king sized bed and complimentary shampoos.
Refreshed by the best nights sleep I’ve had since I left home (thanks Mum!) I headed out into the city the following morning. My airport ‘authorised’ taxi was extortionately expensive. Apparently there are a large number of assaults occurring in ‘non-official’ taxis so the airport get away with charging an arm and a leg. My taxi back in a local perfectly reasonable-looking taxi cost a quarter of the price. Anyway, I went to the main plaza which is the third largest city square in the world. Unfortunately it had large marquees set up in it completely ruining any photo opportunity. The cathedral was particularly stunning, whetting my appetite for the historical sites to come on my trip!
“Water, taken in moderation, cannot hurt anybody.” Mark Twain
My lower intestine would beg to differ.
Shortly after arriving in Potosi, the highest altitude city of its size in the world, I began to notice the problem with eating the ridiculously cheap market food and salads, washed in local water. Unfortunately though, I cannot particularly blame the food or water as I’ve also had a raging fever for the past 24 hours and a belligerent head cold to match.
I must say, although I like to visit different places and different cultures, freezing my ears off on top of a mountain is not really my cup of tea. The bright light of the salt flats has additionally resulted in thorough sun burn and sun blindness resulting in an appearance much like the emperor off Star Wars.
One little nugget of useful information I’ve managed to obtain from this is that the local Mate ‘coca’ tea is really good at taming your altitude sickness! Although to be honest I’ve been finding it hard to tell the difference between altitude sickness and virus!
I couldn’t resist a shot of this fantastic old beatle!
Unfortunately I can’t find The Fast Show ‘Jesse’s Diet’ (yoghurt) clip on youtube which I wanted to include…those of you who have seen it will know the one I was aiming for!
Yesterday we visited the salt flats in Uyuni, Bolivia. This is the largest expanse of salt in the world. It was absolutely jaw dropping. We drove in Jeeps across the flats for around half an hour, giving us an idea of just how enormous they are. We then, of course, stopped for the obligatory perspective shots. I bought a plastic king kong specifically for this purpose!
We also visited a ‘factory’, for want of a better world to describe some piles of salt and a man grinding it up! It was interesting to hear that it’s usually the children’s job to package up the salt – using an open fire to seal the plastic bags. Safe.
All of the buildings and houses in the area were additionally built with salt bricks. Pretty brave, considering the frequent rain!
Following this excursion we headed over to the local ‘train graveyard’ which allegedly is home to one of the trains accosted by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid! The duo certainly seem to have been very prominent in Uyuni. The graveyard was far more picturesque than I’d expected, with the old track stretching out into the horizon and a threatening storm looming in the background.
“Real freedom lies in wildness, not in civilization.” Charles Lindbergh
We’ve just drive for two days north from Salta into Bolivia. We stopped en route at a little town called Tupiza in the Desert Mountains. The drive presented us with the most incredible views of the Argentinean painted mountains and the similar landscape of south Bolivia, dotted of course with packs of llamas and numerous cacti! The iconic Bolivian women here are so fantastically photogenic but unfortunately do not seem at all agreeable to having their photos taken which is a shame. I’ll see what I can do without offending anybody!
The landscape is so ridiculously dusty that if you open the truck window for a second a huge cloud of dust will immediately fight its way in! We stopped for lunch yesterday in a little mud-brick hamlet in the middle of the desert. There were llama skins and bones sporadically scattered around the place. Apparently llamas provide the staple part of their diets. There was even a little school there! I find it impossible to imagine how people can live in such conditions! The Papua Guinea villages, although primitive, had an abundance of fresh water and fertile turf. Compare that to a barren desert with only a small well in the centre!
Here’s a glimpse of the Argentinian ‘painted mountains’.