A Travellerspoint blog

May 2011

Back at sea level

Arica

sunny 22 °C
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After San Pedro de Atacama, I went to Arica, a city further North in Chile.
The old Aduana in Arica

The old Aduana in Arica


The Morro

The Morro


Pelicans in Arica

Pelicans in Arica

And finally...I was back at the beach! It was not quite warm enough to spend all day on the beach and go swimming, but it was enough for some relaxing hours of lying in the sun.
Chinchorro beach

Chinchorro beach

Arica also has a lot of other things to see. There is a lot of history; the oldest mummies ever found were discovered here, which you can see in the Museo Arquelógico de San Miguel de Azapa.
Mummy at Museo Arquelógico de San Miguel de Azapa

Mummy at Museo Arquelógico de San Miguel de Azapa


More Chinchorro mummies can be seen in the Museo de Sitio Colón 10.

I went to the Santuario de Picaflores, a place outside Arica where a woman takes care of hummingbirds and some other animals in a very interesting setting (whole rooms furnished in the forest...) and which you can visit with her as a guide.
Santuario de Picaflores

Santuario de Picaflores

Santuario de Picaflores

Santuario de Picaflores

The cemetery in San Miguel de Azapa is probably the strangest I have ever seen.
Cementerio de San Miguel de Azapa

Cementerio de San Miguel de Azapa

Cementerio de San Miguel de Azapa

Cementerio de San Miguel de Azapa

The cathedral San Marcos de Arica was designed by Eiffel and the sunset seen from the Morro (a big hill in the city centre) is beautiful.
Catedral San Marcos de Arica by night

Catedral San Marcos de Arica by night

View form the Morro

View form the Morro


View form the Morro

View form the Morro

In a village called Codpa, at about 2 hours from Arica, there was a big traditional wine fest on that weekend. Another opportunity to see a very traditional festivity! So on Saturday I went to Codpa. They sold a lot of local foods and drinks, especially of course the Pintatani, the special wine the whole fiesta is about (which is very tasty and also very strong).
Vendimia in Codpa

Vendimia in Codpa

Local fruits at the Vendimia in Codpa

Local fruits at the Vendimia in Codpa

There were also shows of traditional dances and music from the region and demonstrations of the wine making process.
Traditional dances at the Vendimia in Codpa

Traditional dances at the Vendimia in Codpa

Traditional dances at the Vendimia in Codpa

Traditional dances at the Vendimia in Codpa

Traditional dances at the Vendimia in Codpa

Traditional dances at the Vendimia in Codpa

Traditional dances at the Vendimia in Codpa

Traditional dances at the Vendimia in Codpa

It was a great day and a very nice couple from Arica who come there every year even invited me to sleep over in there tent, so that I could see the shows that are on at night as well. Unfortunately, I had to decide against this because sleeping in a tent without a sleeping or even a sleeping mat seemed like a very bad idea at the cold night time temperatures you get at an altitude of almost 2000m. So I took the last bus back to Arica that night.

Posted by sarahm_lux 16:25 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

San Pedro de Atacama

In the Chilean desert

sunny 20 °C
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San Pedro de Atacama is located in the Atacama Desert in the North of Chile. It is a very small village and I think there are more tourists then locals there. Almost every building that is not a hostel is a tour agency, a restaurant, a café or a shop.

There are many tours one can do from San Pedro, to hot springs, geysers or lagoons. However, since I had seen all of these things before, I did not want to spend more time and money on these tours. I therefore decided to only take the tour to the Valle de la Luna. This part of the desert has a similar surface to the moon, hence the name. It was a beautiful area and we saw an amazing sunset.
Valle de la Luna tour

Valle de la Luna tour

Valle de la Luna tour - Las Tres Marias

Valle de la Luna tour - Las Tres Marias

Valle de la Luna tour

Valle de la Luna tour

Valle de la Luna tour

Valle de la Luna tour

Sunset in the Valle de la Luna

Sunset in the Valle de la Luna

The next day I rented a bike and went exploring on my own. I rode to the Pukará de Quitor, the ruin of a pre-Inca fortress, where there is also a mirador from which you have amazing views over the whole area.
Around San Pedro de Atacama

Around San Pedro de Atacama

Catarpe valley

Catarpe valley

I cycled on to the valley Catarpe, where I had to cross rivers and ride through sand, not the easiest bike ride I have done… You can imagine what I looked like afterwards, wet, muddy, tired, but luckily not sunburnt. I rode my bike to the Quebrada del Diablo, an impressive canyon, which is really narrow in places, so that it reminded me a little bit too much of the movie 127 Hours which we had just watched in Sucre…
Catarpe valley

Catarpe valley

Quebrada del Diablo

Quebrada del Diablo


After I had cleaned myself up, I went on the Star Tour that night. The tour brings you to an observatory where a guide first explains a lot about the stars, planets, galaxies, constellations etc. Really interesting! Especially since I did not know much at all about the stars. You then get the chance to look through several telescopes, in which can see single stars, groups of stars, galaxies, and even the moon and Saturn! Through one of the telescopes you can (or rather the owner can for you) take a photo of the moon. The last part of the tour you spend inside the house, drinking a hot chocolate (or tea, but who wants that if you can have a really good hot chocolate ;) ) and having your questions answered.
I enjoyed this tour a lot and was happy that I was recommended it because otherwise I would never have heard of it.
Photo of the moon

Photo of the moon

The next day I planned to spend in San Pedro, using the internet, sorting my things out a bit and getting the bus to Arica at night. However, my plans were slightly changed by the fact that the hostel told me in the morning that I was not allowed to stay inside the hostel after check out and that they cannot even store my backpack till the evening. I had never had this in a hostel before, so I was quite surprised and obviously really annoyed. I went then, together with a German who wanted to take the bus to Arica that night too to buy a bus ticket and find somewhere that would store bags. We tried at the bus company, but they said that they do not have facilities for luggage storage. What to do now? We could not carry our backpacks around all day, especially since he wanted to rent a bike that morning. Luckily, the bike rental company agreed to store our backpacks until the night! As I was not allowed to be inside the hostel anymore, I spent the day in the plaza (where luckily they have free wifi in San Pedro) and in a café where they had internet.

Posted by sarahm_lux 12:46 Archived in Chile Tagged san_pedro_de_atacama valle_de_la_luna pukara_de_quitor catarpe Comments (0)

Salar de Uyuni Tour

sunny 20 °C
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On Saturday, 7th May, I finally went on the tour of the Salar de Uyuni. On the way to the bus terminal in Potosí I had met 3 Australians who wanted to take the same tour, so we decided to meet up in Uyuni to book a tour together. Together with us on the tour was a Peruvian couple.

The first stop of the tour was Colchani, a village were the salt miners live. Here they have a small salt museum and they sell things made out of salt. Not exactly the highlight of the trip, but after this immediately followed the Salar! It is really impressive! The salt lake is massive and all you can see in the horizon is white!

Salar de Uyuni

Salar de Uyuni


Salar de Uyuni

Salar de Uyuni


We had fun taking many (funny) photos on the Salar and when the guides finally told us we were leaving after several hours, we were still reluctant to go.

I got a bit hungry on the Salar...

I got a bit hungry on the Salar...


...and had myself a snack ;-)

...and had myself a snack ;-)


But then the guides got hungry too and made a big stew

But then the guides got hungry too and made a big stew


After having seen the highlight of the tour, we went to wash the salt of the car and then started our journey South. However, on the way our car starting having some problems and suddenly it broke down in the middle of the road. Our driver and cook spent some time trying to find and fix the problem, and luckily they eventually did! So we continued our trip and soon reached the train cemetery. In this location we saw a lot of old trains which were brought here when they were not fit to be used anymore. Interesting to see them all rust away together.

Train cemetery

Train cemetery


This was the last stop of the first day and we drove on to our accommodation in a small village. The accommodation was not as bad as we had heard from others who had taken a 3-day tour. There was running water and electricity. There even were showers, but you had to pay to get a bit of lukewarm water, so we skipped the showers. It was not too cold inside either, which was what many people had complained about. We spent the night playing cards in our dorm, only interrupting the games to have dinner.

The second day, we went to visit a valley with some impressive rock formations and to see 2 lagoons: the Laguna Hedionda and the Laguna Colorada, on both of which we could see many flamingoes.

Rock formations

Rock formations


Laguna Hedionda

Laguna Hedionda


Laguna Hedionda

Laguna Hedionda


Laguna Colorada

Laguna Colorada


Laguna Colorada

Laguna Colorada


We had lunch in a canyon and then drove through the Desert of Siloli with the Arbol de Piedra.

Desierto de Siloli

Desierto de Siloli


Arbol de Piedras

Arbol de Piedras


The second night accommodation was similar to the one the first night, except that this time the electricity only came on for some hours at night. The Peruvians gave me a lot of tips this day for travelling through Peru :) Thanks! We then played cards again, had a very unhealthy dinner (chips with sausage, eggs and whatever else was on the big pile of food on our plates) and had some wine which we found in a small shop in the ‘hostel’ next door.

On the third and last day of the trip we had to get up at 5am. We drove up to an altitude of almost 5000m (luckily none of us had any problems with this) to visit the geysers and then see the sunrise in the mountains. Beautiful, but freezing cold, at an altitude of almost 5000m!

Sunrise

Sunrise


After this, we continued to the hot springs. Here we had breakfast and then went for a nice hot bath. So good after the cold cold morning!

The hot springs

The hot springs


Our last stop was the Laguna Verde, from where we continued to the Chilean border. Here I was dropped off and took a transfer to San Pedro de Atacama while the others drove back to Uyuni.

Laguna Verde

Laguna Verde


The group with the driver and cook

The group with the driver and cook


What an impressive tour!

Posted by sarahm_lux 00:00 Archived in Bolivia Tagged bolivia salar_de_uyuni Comments (1)

At >4000m altitude

Potosí

sunny 23 °C
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When I got to Potosí, I was hoping not to have too many problems with the altitude because I had heard of many people having bad headaches, feeling sick or having nosebleeds when they first got to this altitude. Luckily, except for the normal being out of breath when walking fast or uphill, I had no symptoms of altitude sickness whatsoever. Great, so I could fully enjoy my time in this city.

Like most people, I planned to go visit the mines in Potosí. When I went to the tour agency however, I found out there was a local ‘fiesta’ on that week in the small village of Macha. The ‘Fiesta de la Santa Cruz’ or ‘Tinku’. The tour guide convinced me to go there first and then to the mines the day after. This was a great choice since I had a really interesting day in Macha.

We set off at 5 in the morning on the 4 hours bus ride with a bus full with people (there were around 30 of us) to the village in the countryside. On the way we stopped to eat a traditional Bolivian breakfast, meaning soup. It was really good and warmed us up after the cold outside and on the bus.

Driving on, we already spotted some groups of indigenous people in their costumes walking towards the village of Macha, dancing, playing music and fighting along the way.

Arriving in Macha, we first had to buy a pass to be allowed to take photos of the festivities. We then spent the day watching the locals dance, play music, get very drunk, and - most importantly - fight. That is what the festival is mainly about: people from different villages or areas fight against each other, either one-on-one or between the whole groups. When not fighting, the villages try to beat each other by playing music better, having nicer costumes or dancing better. It is basically a fight between villages the whole day. Very aggressive, but very interesting as well.
Macha

Macha

Macha

Macha

Macha

Macha

Macha

Macha

When the fights become too aggressive, the police needs to step in and the only way they seem to think to stop the fights is by throwing tear gas into the crowd. After the first time this happening, some of us escaped to the top of a church tower and we observed what was happening below from a safe distance for a while. However, during the day, most people got their share of tear gas, which was not the most pleasant experience: runny eyes and nose, aching throat, stomach pain, feeling sick. Even while we were having lunch, tear gas was thrown outside and the fumes entered the restaurant. Most of us managed to escape to the restaurant’s back garden on time, so that I only got stinging eyes for example. However, the ones sat closer to the front door were not so lucky…

Later in the afternoon, when people started getting too drunk, the guides brought us into a chichería, a place where they serve chichi and other drinks. Chicha is the local traditional drink which is made by fermenting maize. It does not have a very high alcohol content (we were told about 2-3%), but it does not taste very nice either; at least for me it war far too acidic.

On the drive back, after we had stopped for dinner (having had the third soup of the day as a starter…), the guides came around with bottles of the famous 96% alcohol. Luckily, it was mixed with lemonade and so it was actually quite nice. Only 5 of us stayed awake during the whole bus ride though, so we got most of the drink ;-)

The next morning, I joined the same guides to visit the mines of Potosí. Most people in the group had been to Macha the day before, so we almost all knew each other. Funnily, one of the only 2 people who had not been on the tour the day before, I already knew from Santiago.

First, we went to get our protective clothes, rubber boots, helmets, headlamps… When we were all set to go, we went to the miners’ market, where we bought coca leaves, soft drinks and dynamite as presents for the miners. Then we visited the refinery where we could see how the silver is extracted.
96% acohol

96% alcohol

Cerro Rico

Cerro Rico

view of Potosí from the way to the mines

view of Potosí from the way to the mines

After all this, we finally drove up to the mines. I was a bit nervous of going into the mines. I had heard that you walk/crawl through very narrow and dark tunnels and that it is hard to breathe sometimes. This all turned out being true, we had to pass very narrow tunnels, and in some lower levels it was hard to breathe or sometimes it was so dusty that the dust hurt your throat.. However, none of this was much of a problem and I enjoyed the visit of the mine. We saw different parts of the mine, met miners at work, went to see the Tio, the god (or rather devil) of the mine and even heard a nearby dynamite explosion. It is interesting to see the mines, the miners and hear something about their lives as well. I was happy to get out though and not have to enter the dark dusty mine every day like the miners do. Another great experience!
At the entrance of the mine - in my great outfit ;-)

At the entrance of the mine - in my great outfit ;-)

In the dark tunnels of the mine

In the dark tunnels of the mine

Tio

Tio

Our mines tour group

Our mines tour group

Posted by sarahm_lux 21:19 Archived in Bolivia Tagged bolivia mine sucre macha tinku Comments (0)

A 3-day hike in the Bolivian countryside

An Inca Trail, a big crater, tiny villages and dinosaur footprints

sunny 24 °C
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Together with my British Route 40 friends, I decided to go on a 3-day hike not far away from Sucre. We were going to walk along an Inca Trail, hike through the Maragua crater and see some dinosaur footprints.

The first day started very early, we had to leave Sucre at 5 in the morning. Sleeping on the 2 hour bus ride to the starting point of our hike was not really an option since the ride was very bumpy and the bus did not have any headrests. At 7 we got to our destination where breakfast was prepared and we all got to know each other a bit. We were a really big group, the second biggest ever to go on this hike with this company actually, which made the food preparation difficult and we spent almost 3 hours at our breakfast spot before we were finally ready to start our hike.

The first part was walking down the Inca Trail, a downhill walk with great views of the mountains around us.
Hike - day 1

Hike - day 1

Hike - day 1

Hike - day 1

Hike - day 1

Hike - day 1

Hike - day 1 - lunch

Hike - day 1 - lunch

We then went to visit one of the schools the company who did the tour (Condor Trekkers, a non-profit organisation) funds. We met the children, took some photos and were explained some of the background of the school.
Hike - day 1

Hike - day 1

After this visit, the harder part of the day began, we started walking uphill for quite a long time… On the way, we met some local people trying to sell us bracelets and children who were happy to get some sweets off one of us. By the time we got to the village where our accommodation was, it was already dark and we were really tired. We waited until dinner was ready (By the way, the food we had on the hike was really good and it was a lot too!) and after we had all eaten we fell into our beds, exhausted from this long day.
Hike - day 1

Hike - day 1

Hike - day 1

Hike - day 1

The second morning, we walked to the Garganta del Diablo, a beautiful location where a big waterfall can be seen.
Hike - day 2

Hike - day 2

Hike - day 2

Hike - day 2

After this, a not very steep but really long uphill part started. Especially at the altitude, carrying our heavy backpacks and because of the warm weather, this uphill hike was quite hard and I was so relieved when I reached the top of the hill. After some more walking up and down along mountainsides, we reached the dinosaur footprints where we had our lunch. The footprints were an impressive sight. It was hard to imagine that huge dinosaurs have walked up the mountain in exactly that spot millions of years ago, and their footprints can still be seen
Hike - day 2

Hike - day 2

Hike - day 2

Hike - day 2

Hike - day 2

Hike - day 2

The second day of the hike was not as long as the first one, so that we got to our accommodation, which was a school this night, at 4.15pm. So we were able to relax a bit and some of our group played football with the local kids. Before and after dinner we played some UNO and then went to bed (mats and sleeping bags on the classroom floor…) soon to be ready for an early start the next day.
Playing UNO in the classroom

Playing UNO in the classroom

The last day, we had to get up at 5 in the morning to leave at 6 and start the last 2-hour walk which lead us to the village where we caught our transportation back to Sucre.

The vehicle that would bring us back was a truck. We all got on the back of the truck which was already filled with local people and their luggage. More people kept getting on at every stop and in the end the truck was full with people, bags of fruits and vegetables, a big pile of our backpacks and even furniture and a stove. Everybody tried to find the best and most comfortable spot to sit/stand possible, but this proved very difficult. The ride was bumpy, in parts quite dangerous, and definitely not comfortable. It was another adventure though and I am glad to have done this once. Though if I make it to Central America, I have heard I will have to travel like this more often…
The truck on which we rode back

The truck on which we rode back

On the back of the truck

On the back of the truck

Posted by sarahm_lux 21:24 Archived in Bolivia Comments (2)

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