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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City of God, Rio de Janeiro.

10 Mar

There are many reasons why one might nickname Rio de Janeiro, the City of God. The most obvious being the looming stone statue of Cristo Redentor, perched atop the 710m high peak known as Corcovado (Hunchback), viewable from practically anywhere in the city. I quote from my Lonely Planet bible, “voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World”.  I took a long glance at this glowing figure upon arrival in Rio, hoping I hadn’t brought any bad karma with me, when our bags were unceremoniously dropped by our taxi driver at the bottom of a dark street in Botafogo, resident drunks haunting the corner, and told our hostel was on the other side of a very unforgiving-looking iron fence. When we finally managed to poke our way through, we climbed the 159 steep steps to our tree-top residence, Rio Nature Hostel.

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Little Boipeba, away from the flock…

6 Mar

The sun has long since set, we’re weaving through the mangroves in the twilight on the Rio do Inferno, we’re on the last, fast, boat to the Isla Boipeba an hour from the town of Valenca. All up with good connections the journey to the isle from Salvador ought to take about 6 hours – so far it’s taken us 10 hours; it feels like it’s been a long day, and unbeknowst to us it’s just about to get a whole lot longer…

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Coasting through north-east Brazil: Praia de Pipa to Salvador

1 Mar

Hello sunshine, oh how you make us glisten (a lady does not sweat).  After another uncomfortable overnight bus, we arrive too early to check in at Sugarcane Hostel in Praia de Pipa, and decide to do the one thing that always seems to rejuvenate the spirits – don the togs and dip in the beach.

After musing many restaurants for lunch, all getting nothing but an eyebrow raise and a “you’ve gotta be joking love” from me, MC remembered a wise man once told him, always head one street back from the tourist spots. This we do (thanks Ginge) and after getting the oink of approval from the piggy bank, enjoy a big lunch for a mere $5.

While only a small tourist town filled mostly by holidaying internationals, Pipa is undeniably beautiful…. you can swim with the dolphins in the morning, have a beer on the beach in the arvo, before retiring to a hammock for the evening. So as the saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and the following day we lounge at Praia dos Golfinhos, reading and watching the dolphins play.

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Jeri-kwah-kwah-ra: Blissfully Ignorant

22 Feb

Leaving Fortaleza in a minibus for Jericoacoara, confusion reigns; our typical approach to planning combined with an almost complete lack of being able to speak Portugese (can´t be that different to Spanish can it? – tip; yes it can) sees us facing a few subtle travelling issues; firstly, how to pronounce our destination, secondly, where it is (as the bus we’re on doesn’t go all the way), thirdly, how to complete the final leg, fourthly, whether a transfer is included in the ticket we just bought, and lastly, of course, how do we get back…. About all we do know right now is that we´ve heard good things about Jeri (abbreviation quickly adopted) and that we´re not going to miss Fortaleza…

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Falling for you, Iguazu Falls.

15 Feb

Boarding the bus bound for Montevideo, we’re like sugar-loaded children on their way home from the Royal Show. All chittering and chirping, high from too many rides and too much fun on the ranch, reciting extravagant, exaggerated stories of aversions overcome, our united decibels inducing a stern and perilous look from the lady in front so familiar I decided she must be a mother with 3 children.

The skyscraper landscape looms near and we take our place in the bumper nudging traffic before heaving our dusty backpacks, still faintly smelling of cowpat soup, into our hostel for the night – Escuela de Rock. This joint is cool – if you like that punky, backstreet, let-me-play-air-guitar-before-sleeping-on-a-flea-ridden-mattress-in-the-garden, sort of place. Normally a lover of rock music, this time its earth-shattering loudness is too much, too soon after the tranquility of our ranch experience (not to mention the warm beer). By the time the owner began to regale us with announcements of top electronic dance parties for the evening, I feel like a cherry on the top of melting ice-cream, slowly sliding of the fleeting perch of perfection to bop around in a sea of cold reality. Looking forward to moving on to the Iguazu Falls, we refuel on a cheap dinner, and even cheaper wine, before crawling into bed.

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Girl (and boy) Interrupted.

13 Feb

Dear all

Our netbook broke. Despite our attempts to have it fixed, it needs a new motherboard and given it’s European origins, it is not possible to be replaced. We are, however, so determined to keep in touch with you all that we purchased another – albeit terribly cheaply and Windows is in Portugese – but slowly, slowly, we will bring you back up to date with our news.

Apologies for the inconvenience, normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.

x Matt + Kel