Monday, 3 June 2013

The Blog is Back!

 Hooray the blog is back! It turns out that my computer was being very human and did not like the altitude. Now it is back down to sea level, it appears fine.

Well I am now back where it all began in Buenos Aires, Argentina. A short stop off and it is off to Uruguay this afternoon for the final few weeks of my trip. The 9 day trip to Uruguay is a bolt on option with Odyssey Overland and therefore last night we bid fare well to 10 of our fellow travellers, who will be making their way back home over the next few days. There are 10 of us going to Uruguay, so a significantly smaller group compared to the 22 who departed BA over 6 months ago (a couple left the trip in Ecuador as they had to return to work).

So now I have internet access and a working computer again, I will update you all as to what I have been doing over the past 3 weeks or so:

The poorest and least developed country in South America, with the highest ethnic population. We spent approximately two weeks exploring this very high, land locked country.

Lake Titicaca
Our first few days were spent relaxing in the tourist town of Copacabana, by the shores of Lake Titicaca. Quite a nice little town, but one firmly on the ‘Gringo’ trail, with scruffy backpackers everywhere. It does make me laugh that if you are a male backpacker you apparently have to attempt to grow a beard and stop washing. I say attempt as most of the beards on show were glorified bum fluff. We had one free day in town, which I mainly spent walking in the surrounding hills. Not easy at close to 4,000 meters, but good fun and the views over the lake were excellent.

La Paz
From Copacabana it was a relatively short hop to La Paz, the business and administrative capital of Bolivia. La Paz sits in a huge bowl and was founded by the Spanish to avoid the local chill winds and because gold was found nearby. When the British establish a city it is because of trade and transport links. When the Spanish establish a city it is because they don’t want to catch a chill! A by product of the location is that everything in the city is either up or down hill. Not easy when you are 3,636 meters above sea level.

We had two days to explore La Paz, which was more than sufficient as there is not a huge amount to see and do. We also had the added excitement of pension protests, which meant that the historic centre of the city was in lock down, with riot police everywhere. The Bolivians absolutely love to protest and this became a reoccurring theme during our time in the country.

After a day sightseeing, my second free day was spent outside of La Paz, on the famous ‘Death Road’. This was once the most dangerous road in the world, but has now largely been turned into a playground for Downhill mountain bikers after a new road was finally built in 2007. It even made an appearance on the South American Top Gear special a few years ago. Basically you are taken up in a bus to about 4,700 meters and descend to 1,100 meters over the course of 40 miles. Great fun even if the weather at the top was dreadful (sleet & snow). It was my first time on a downhill mountain bike and although they are very good at going downhill, I will certainly be sticking to a cross country bike as they are ridiculously heavy and softer than a 70’s American car. I have a nice video and photo presentation of the day you can all watch when I get home.

After La Paz our next destination was Potosi, the highest city of its size in the world at 4,060 meters. It should have been fairly straightforward to reach Potosi, but we were caught up in a protest by taxi drivers who blocked the road all day and therefore had to camp in a quarry in the middle of nowhere. It was one hell of a cold night, with ice on the inside and outside of the tent come morning. My sleeping bag is only rated to 2/3 seasons and therefore I froze my knackers off all night!

Potosi is basically a mining town and definitely my least favourite city in South America. Whilst there I went on a tour of the mines, which was without doubt the worst tour I have ever been on. This combined with the worst hostel I have ever stayed in, meant I did a little celebratory jig upon leaving the city. NEVER GO TO POTOSI, IT IS AN ABSOLUTE DUMP!

So on deeper into Bolivia and to the famous Uyuni Salt Flats. These are the largest salt flats in the world and really quite a sceptical. All you need to know is that they are very cold, very white, very flat and very salty! Some interesting photos from our day out on the flats, including one of someone running naked into the distance (I put it down to too much salt). Another reoccurring theme in Bolivia was how cold it was. Not too bad in the day, but at night it got very, very cold. This would not be too bad were it not for the fact that none of the hotels have central heating. DO NOT VISIT BOLIVIA IN THE WINTER, IT IS VERY COLD!

Our final destination in Bolivia was the small town of Tupiza. A very sleepy town with not much to do, although amazingly our hotel did have a heated swimming pool! Surprisingly I was the only one brave enough to venture in. The thing that will stick with me about Tupiza is the 12 hour drive to get there over the worst dirt roads I have ever seen. DO NOT DRIVE ON BOLIVIAN DIRT ROADS, THEY ARE TERRIBLE!

Thoughts on Bolivia
I will be short and sweet. Don’t bother. Least favourite country in South America, with the only redeeming featuring being that it is cheap (you can probably tell from the tone of my blog that I did not really enjoy Bolivia and certainly will not be coming back).

Argentina Take Two
So back in Argentina. Apart from two days spent on a ranch up in the Cordoba hills, we have just been driving in Argentina, so not much to report. The ranch was OK, but very quiet with not much to do. I did not fancy getting back on a horse, so spent my time walking in the surrounding hills, or reading my book.

I think that pretty much covers everything over the past three weeks or so, I will hopefully upload some of my Bolivian photos when I am in Uruguay as the connection in our BA hotel is not very fast. I hope everyone is well and enjoying the great British summer.


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