Archive | January, 2012

Colonial beginnings…

28 Jan

Salta to Buenos Aires is 20 hours on a bus.  Usually dreaded, this time we enthusiastically bound up the stairs and sink into our leather seats (faux no doubt, but comfy so who cares), flipping the switch to swing out flat. Roaring along in the setting afternoon sun, I note the typically freezing air conditioner seems to be non-existent. About an hour after take-off we pull into a bus mechanic. Hmm, signs aren’t good, but we soon smile again when, after a bit of a tinker, we chug away. Dinner is lasagne, too bad for me, but I eagerly await the drinks tray arrival as my pre-trip planning told me el vino tinto is available. As he shows me the expanse of coke and lemonade, I turn back to Fidel’s autobiography (see birthday presents referenced in Mendoza post), cursing the fake promises made to lure tourists. Then, in a blink and you’ll miss it moment, I spot the bus attendant carrying a suspiciously un-fizzy dark liquid to a fellow passenger.

‘Tu tienes vino tinto..?’, I tentatively say.

‘Si, si’.

Success. Sniffed out faster than the banana dog at Perth airport.

And of course, Oliver Twist makes an appearance… ‘please sir, can I ‘ave sum more?’.

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Salta – high altitude wineries, only the experienced need apply.

22 Jan

After last night’s star gazing we’re up at first light, a great time was had in San Pedro but we’re dog-tired and it seems it’s going to be a long day…. trundling in thirty minutes late in a cloud of dust, the whole day bus to Salta is bursting at the seams …

It takes half an hour just to load us and the last 15 people on board before setting off and then stopping not 5 minutes later. Kelly and I exchange bemused looks as we’re marched off to stand for 2 hours in the blistering sun to get through the border crossing.

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Drying out in San Pedro de Atacama

15 Jan

What we thought might be a relaxing overnight trip to San Pedro, turned into a 3am wake-up to put our bags through a Chilean scanner. Drowsy, given we’d surprisingly managed to fall asleep in our barely reclining semi-cama bus seats (not to mention the extra vino consumed over dinner), and perplexed as we weren’t crossing any international borders, we trooped off the bus and gathered our bags – no paperwork, just a scanner. With my bag full of carrots, half a garlic, chilli, nuts and a squashed banana (thou shall not waste food) not raising a Chilean eye (clearly catching the 40 winks I was missing), I am still non the wiser about their motivations.

With the bus driver also not allowing me to go to the bathroom without the bus moving (again, too tired to argue the ridiculousness of it all and too silly to simply wait until we took off again), I trudged off into the wilderness for this bano I’d been pointed towards. Taking my lead from ‘The Womble’ – what MC has nicknamed the very short and stout Chilean women whose appearance reminds him of these childhood TV characters (before my time, of course) – I found my bano (would have been cleaner finding a bush) and proceeded to get locked in. Who knows what I would have done if The Womble had not kicked it in for me, smacking me a sixer in the face, upon which I was then chased down the street by the bano attendant demanding his 200 pesos for the luxury of this affair.

Here´s hopìng the bed bugs forgot to reboard our coach…

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Come fly with me, let’s fly away…

9 Jan

… to llama land, where a one man band, will toot his flute for you.

Ok, so we didn’t see any llama’s, nor any solo flutists in Iquique, but we did take our first flight for 6 weeks – oh the luxury of popping up to northern Chile in 3 hours by plane, rather than on a bus for 24 hours. It was definitely something appreciated now, and perhaps taken for granted before – other ‘new’ luxury items include; there being space in the communal fridge for our grub, loo roll, the last clean pair of socks when all hope was gone and most of all…. hot water (Dad – imagine the savings at Brambles if switched to once / week) might almost be enough to replace the wine glasses we seem to get through.

Leaving the airport it seems we have landed on Mars, red dirt, on which nothing grows, follows us for the 40 kilometers into Iquique – a town which, by any description, is most unusual; imagine a Benidorm beachfront (that said with a crocodile enclosure, obviously), in Namibia,  where the old town has wildwest wooden sidewalks fronting grand Spanish / Moorish colonial mansions. Truly, a place like no other, and a bit more like it.

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Topping up the levels in Santiago.

6 Jan

I like to think of myself as a glass half-full kinda girl, but rolling into our hostel in the hip Melbourne-vibed suburb of Barrio Bellavista saw the energy levels gasping for air and MC fighting back the beginnings of the flu – bets are on as to whether it was caught from the seaside swim or the hostel’s dog blankets. Wanting fresh air (and almost getting it through Santiago’s smog), we decided to take the closest tourist attraction – a cable car up Cerro San Cristobal – and spent the afternoon lounging on the stone wall, eating helados and soaking up the view.

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Valparaiso. City of seagulls.

3 Jan

As the saying goes, One man’s trash is another’s treasure. Particularly true if you’re a seagull.

Crossing the Argentine/Chilean border during the holiday period saw us delayed 3 hours, meaning our supermarket shopping had to wait until New Years Eve – with the seagulls in full flight. Flying, fighting, pecking and pushing for everything – the last bread roll, the last packet of Lays, the last half-attractive roast chicken.

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