So I’ve been really bad with this of late, I’d like to say I haven’t had time but that’s not strictly true as we are spending endless hours on bus journies as we navigate our way through South America. Here’s the story so far
We arrived to sunny Buenos Aires where we rejoined Maria and Fiona who’d taken a Spanish course a week previous. The jet lag was horrendous, I felt like a zombie for days but once we began to feel somewhat normal we got stuck into what BA had to offer – steak dinners and tango dancing!
Definitely recommend a tango show to anyone coming here! After a week we flew to Lima (Peru) where we were joined by Paul and Aine who had come over for 5 weeks. The taxi drivers here are a little mad as are the public buses, people randomly jumping on and off while a guy holds the destination on a placard out the window! The Dakar 2012 arrived all the way from Argentina while we were there so the place was busy prepping the streets for the finale celebrations. Visited the Circuito Magico del Agua which is a series of illuminated water fountains and displays which was pretty cool.
Cusco was next on the list, the altitude hitting straightaway (3300m usl) and we out of breath quite a lot! We decided on the 4 day adventure trip to Machu Picchu as opposed to the official Inca trek as it was a LOT cheaper and was more fun than trekking for 4 days! With this we got to do mountain biking, ziplining, whitewater rafting which was great fun. We’ve since met people that paid $500+ for the inca treks, we paid about half that! We stayed in hostels too so no camping – when I say hostels it was anything from a mud hut to someone’s house in the hills! Made for a few interesting nights! The hot springs at the end of the 3 days was a treat! Day 4 was the climb to Machu Picchu itself which started at 430am and 1600steps! My ass should have been so toned after it! It was difficult with the altitude and the hour of the morning but we all made it in about an hour. What greeted us at the top was kindof mystical as the morning mist and clouds gave way to an incredible sight.
Copacabana was next, we might as well not have gone here, it was a disaster! No functioning ATM and the non-acceptance of credit cards anywhere meant we had to pool funds together in order to just get out! Lake Titicaca was beautiful but the rain while we were there put a dampner on exploring it! So onwards to La Paz where we spent the next week or so in action packed adventures, starting with a biking trip down the worlds most dangerous road – Death Road. Only took about 2 minutes for this mountain bike rookie to go tumbling over the handlebars and onto a busy road – we hadn’t even started the death road bit! Lesson to self not to pull on the brakes so hard! It was great fun though, the scenery beautiful but you only notice when you’re stopped! It’s not as scary as people say, yes there’s lots of steep drop-offs but once you’re careful….. Photography while cycling is a no no, you need both those hands on the handlebars!
We took a trip into the Bolivian Pampas(wetlands) from Rurrenbaque for 3 days. The flight worth the 100e (the bus can take up to 40hrs!) even if it was bumpy and in a tiny plane that landed in the middle of a field! The airport terminal was no more than a cow shed! An experience to say the least! The 3 days were spent exploring the area by boat. We got to see alligators, caimons, turtles, capybaras(the largest of the rat family), monkeys, toucans (Guinness bird!), macaws and even got to swim with pink dolphins, yes pink! Such excitement as these creatures swam amongst us!
Stocked up on winter woollies in La Paz which sells alpaca woollen products and its really cheap too! The socks are so cosy! We were going to need them for the next journey – our journey to Uyuni in Bolivia. The bus was an overnighter and got stuck en route meaning we almost missed the tour but luckily for us there was a Massey Ferguson on a nearby construction site that pulled it out and we were on our way. We were joined by 5 Australians, 2 South Africans for this trip which was by 4x4 landcruisers. The first stop was the Bolivian Salt flats, the largest of its kind in the world. Incredible place and a great opportunity for funny photos! What struck me over the next few days as we drove towards San Pedro de Atacama was the diversity in the landscape, one minute dry arid ground in The Valley of Rocks, then snow covered mountains as we moved higher up around the lagoons, followed by green grass before finishing up in the redness of the desert! Spotted lots of wildlife, the flamingos a highlight for me as I’d never seen them in the wild before. Llamas were in abundance as were Vicunas, both of which you’d never see in Europe.
We arrived in San Pedro, a pretty little desert town with restaurant after restaurant after restaurant! Its tourist centered with plenty options for hostel but its very expensive also. We got a bargain of 11e for a hostel, pity it meant I had to sleep on the top of a 3 tier bunk bed! Eh never again! Thought I was going to fall out! Didn’t help that they got rain for the first time since July and were completely unprepared for it! The rainwater started coming through the straw roof and under the door, the sheets the staff gave us to stop the flow were pretty much useless! Unfortunately the star gazing trips are not on when we arrived which was really disappointing. They don’t do them for 6 days around full moon as there’s too much light so we decide to cut time here short. We try to book our next bus to Salta and we’re told the buses are booked up until 15th Feb! Only options are an expensive private transfer or change route! We decided on the latter! Santiago our new destination.
Santiago:A short stop in between the 26hour journey from San Pedro to Mendoza. Stayed in the Barrio Brasil are at the Casa de Roja a really cool hostel housed in an old colonial building with plenty space to chill out and enjoy the sunshine. Took a free walking tour of the city- our guide Philippe was so passionate about the history of the city and to our amusement very animated in his explanations. He’s got irish ancestry apparently – Green! There’s actually a street here named after an Irish man Bernardo O Higgins who fought for Chilean independence. The irish are everywhere! We get to see some really nice spots including the house of famous Chilean poet Pablo Neurda and the Lastarria area which is packed with coffee shops . Get a bit lost on my way to Bellavista, a neighbourhood full of bars and restaurants, for the rugby and end up getting a taxi there. Need to learn how to read maps properly one of these days! Disappointed the rugby is cancelled on Saturday guess everywhere can’t have 35degree heat in February! Head up San Cristobal hill in Bellavista for a view out over the city, its huge and extends in every direction! You can walk up in about 25mins but with the heat and laziness I take the 3e funicular up and down. There’s a sanctuary at the top to Mary and it’s a busy spot for young and old alike as its part of the metropolitan park. It houses swimming pools apparently and a zoo!
From Santiago we travel to Mendoza Argentina and take the famous Mr Hugo wine tour! We’d only just hired the bikes and he was pouring our first glasses of local wine! He’s definitely a character, I can see why his business is so popular. At 30 pesos it’s a steal for an outing. It’s a self-guided tour so we set off with our maps and visit 3 vineyards, getting a tour in one which was really interesting, and sampling the local produce but not just the wine. We also to got to try olive oils, the nicest balsamic vinegar I’ve ever tasted and some liquors made with everything from fruit to green pepper! That one was spicy!