Lost in Transition: 5 towns, 8 days – Nazca, Huacachina, Lima, Iquitos (Peru) & Leticia (Colombia).

22 Apr

Its Saturday April 14, 8pm and we’ve just settled ourselves into our VIP seats on the bus bound for Nazca. Thinking it might be one of the quietest Saturday nights we’ve had in some time, this thought is soon ousted when 5 of the other 7 available seats were filled by a group of barely-out-of-their-teens females and their decibels. Not to worry, I pat our bottle of vino tinto and giant sized bar of chocolate and figure things could be worse. Luck is still with us when we are treated to an in-flight movie, Braveheart. Dubbed in Spanish, with English subtitles, I decide it does no justice to William Wallace’s “Freeeedomm!” speech. Alas, the good and the bad seesaw needs to be evened out, and the bus soon rolls to a stop. Landslide. Nobody moves tonight. No movie, no music, it’s raining hard outside and… we’ve run out of vino tinto…

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Landslide Victory: Trekking to Machu Picchu

14 Apr

Topping up the levels with a hearty dinner in Jacks cafe in Cusco we’re in both in an apprehensive mood; it’s the night before our 5 day / 4 night, Salkantay Trek to the lost Inca city of Machu Picchu. We’ll be camping for most of the trek, and although the rainy season is supposed to be petering out, every night for the last three, has seen massive thunderstorms and huge downpours. It’s been cold too. We’ve shivered ourselves to sleep, after gasping for breath in this high altitude city following the nightly climb up to our hostel on the hillside of San Blas neighbourhood. These factors, combined with the feeling that walking for 5 days just to see one of the new 7 wonders of the world could be an anti-climax, Machu Picchu can’t be that good can it? Well happily, it turns out, that it can..

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Dizzying delights. La Paz, Bolivia to Lake Titicaca to Arequipa, Peru.

5 Apr

The rolling valley that is La Paz is dotted with lego shaped houses, streets smelling of freshly baked humitas and lights haphazardly draped through streets like a badly decorated karaoke bar. Even when we arrive at 5am in the drizzling rain, its already buzzing with vendors selling their wares and mini-vans tooting and carting locals to works.

The city of La Paz hits you like the waft of an Indian curry from a nearby kitchen. Its the ‘hope-you-like-chilli’ variety, choking your nostrils and sending your salivary glands into overdrive. It doesn’t look like much but its spicy, hearty, daring – an unpretentious big city, a melting pot of indigenous farmers, sleek Bolivian businessman, expat extrepreneurs, and camera-snapping tourists – all digging their spoon into the bowl wanting another lick. I can already tell this is going to be better than the average vindaloo.

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Tupizzaria with Salt – Tupiza to Salar de Uyuni.

25 Mar

It’s been a long bus ride from Potosi to Tupiza – we’re travelling with fellow Brits Beth & Adam, it’s hot, it’s a long time since we left Potosi, they’re unwell and we could all do with getting to our respective hostels. The bus stops, great we’re here, actually no we’re not;  there’s no town to be seen. We’re halted at a road block behind a parade of trucks, buses, cars and vans – our driver turns off the engine in sympathy for his fellow motoristas who are protesting at having to renew their annual licence in La Paz. It seem’s we’re not going anywhere for a while…

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Only the devil can save us now. Potosi, Bolivia.

21 Mar

At 4070m, Potosi is the world’s highest city and a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is set against the backdrop of a rainbow-coloured mountain, the Cerro Rico – but a beautiful eye to a depressing soul, for Potosi’s history is a long, sad tale…

“The city was founded in 1545 following the discovery of ore deposits in the mountain, and Potosi veins proved most lucrative. By the end of the 18th century the streets were ‘paved’ with silver, it grew into the largest and wealthiest city in Latin America, underwriting the Spanish economy for over two centuries.

Millions of indigenous people and imported African slave labourers were conscripted to work in the mines in appalling conditions, and millions of deaths occurred. Today thousands continue to work and die in the mines: although the silver has been depleted…” [extract, Lonely Planet]

More than 8 million have died since the opening of the mine, though this number encompasses only those who have died from mining accidents. It does not take in the millions more who, due to unprotected exposure to noxious gases, have lost their lives from silicosis pneumonia. The mines still operate and are no less dangerous than 100 years ago, using primitive tools in temperatures from freezing to +40C. Earning less than $2 a day, they have a life expectancy of 35 years. With a lack of other jobs in the area, children as young as 10, who have lost their fathers in the mine are forced to enter themselves, with little hope of escaping.

In order to truly experience the past and present horror of this city, we decide to visit a cooperative mine, led by Rodrigo, ex-miner-come-hostel-owner-come-tour-guide…

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The shadow behind the rainbow. Santa Cruz to Sucre, Bolivia.

19 Mar

It’s the witching hour when we finally arrive at our hostel, Jodanga Backpackers, in Santa Cruz de la Sierra. Grabbing a short nap gives us the morning to book a flight to Sucre for AU$40 each. I am hesitant, wondering how this can possibly be enough to cover a plane engineer’s wage, but a 15-20 hour ride on a bus without bathroom was too scary to contemplate…

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The Pantanal – Pirahnas & Capirihnas.

15 Mar

Travelling with a partner for several months means you get to spend a lot of time together…. as with the places we’ve visited, we now know more about each other…. this morning’s discovery is that I have just found out that Kelly (former resident of Melbourne, the cultural and fashion capital of Australia) really, really likes her and I in matching outfits… hmm…

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