A Travellerspoint blog

Rio De Janeiro

semi-overcast 32 °C

When our bus drove through Rio, the first thing that hit us was the awful smell of sewers and the view of thousands of run down and derelict houses. We began to question why everyone raves about this place, to us, it looked like a dirty and overpopulated city. We then arrived in the centre and got a taxi to Copacabana, where we were staying. The city seemed to transform itself into an impressive place, surrounded by mountains, with towering white buildings and pretty pavements full of mosaic white and black tiles. We definitely knew we were staying in a more glamorous area.

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Typically, when we reached our hostel, our room wasn't ready yet, so we decided to hit the beach for a couple of hours while we waited. The famous, Copacabana beach was fascinating to see with all the beautiful people posing on the beach, women in the tiniest of bikinis and men in Speedos! The waves looked ferocious, the sea was so blue, the sand was so yellow against a backdrop of high, white Seventies style skyscrapers all along the front. Sam thought it looked like a tropical Torquay!

When we returned to the hostel, our room apparently still wasn't ready. An hour later we were still waiting so Sam finally reminded the guy at the desk who had totally forgotten and raced us up to our room. Our private suite consisted of bunk beds in a room the size of a shoebox and was in between the bar and the TV room, though we were thankful to have our own private space.

We spent the rest of the day on the beach and just as we got back to the hostel it began to pour down with rain. We had a few drinks in the hostel bar, where we met a guy from Putney. We quickly realised his budget was a bit more flexible than ours when we arrived at the restaurant Marius, which was a seafood and meat restaurant that charged 38 pounds a head! Too late to turn back, we decided this would be a once in a lifetime indulgence! (We should have really realised the expense, when we walked down a red carpet in order to enter the place and all the seafood was displayed in beautiful ice sculptures). Inside was also amazing, as it was covered in nautical antiques of all shapes and sizes hanging from the ceiling. Even the floors in the loos were covered in semi precious stones! It was quite an experience.

Sam's theory of trying everything twice soon backfired when he was full after the mountain of his first plate. The seafood was absolutely out of this world, though we found the meat a little too salty. By the end, we were all totally full, although Sam was possibly full with pain!

The next day we woke to pouring rain and with no chance of visiting the beach we decided to go to a bookstore in Ipanema. After realising that this was a waste of time, we proceeded to walk the main high street of Ipanema in the pouring rain in the hope of finding some Christmas presents. Soaked to the bone and miserable, we resorted to going to a shopping mall just outside Copacabana. This was also Sam's idea of hell, but at least we were inside and out of the rain.

Tired and moody, we headed back to the hostel for a few beers and then ended up going to a churrasco with some other people much more in our budget limitations.

The next day was still pretty unpleasant, so we did the usual uneventful tasks of organising buses and accommodation for our next visit. We then went to Leblon to find the street and house that E-J's mother had lived in forty years ago. Sadly it had become a derelict building with graffiti all over the walls, but the canal down the middle of the road still made it a reasonably attractive place.

When we got back to the hostel we unexpectedly bumped into Liv and Ali, a couple we had originally meet in the Galapagos. Excited to meet again, we caught up with each others news and we decided we would join them and their friends for a night out in Lapa.

That night was the hostels weekly BBQ and it was amazing. After taking full advantage of the BBQ and salad, a group of us headed to Lapa to see the famous street parties. There were lots of people in the streets with vendors selling beers and Caipirinhas at every corner. We then headed into a club, which had the amazing deal of entrance fee and then as many Caips as you like for free. By 2:30am, we were ready for bed with the knowledge we were going to have one hell of a hangover from the amount of pinga we had consumed!

The next day our heads were in agony, but the sun was shining, so we wanted to take full advantage of this and see some of the main sights. We therefore joined the hostel tour of Christ the Redeemer on the Corcovado Mountain. As we joined this last minute, we had to share a seat on the minibus and going around and around as we climbed up to the statue did not do our hangovers any good!

Before reaching Christ the Redeemer we got an amazing panoramic view of the city from a good vantage point below the statue. The structure of the city was amazing, surrounded by the sea, with various different bays and large mountains dotted around the place. There were buildings growing from the valleys and huge skyscrapers everywhere. The Sugar loaf looked so impressive and it was the first time we were able to appreciate how and why Rio is so beautiful.

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When we reached the Statue of Christ the Redeemer, sadly he was in the cloud, but through the cloud we were able to make out this massive landmark and understand why it is one of the new great wonders of the world.

For a second or two the cloud would suddenly part and there would be uproar of applause from the Japanese tourists. They also constantly posed in front of the statue in the same stance as Christ for a photo.

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Behind and under the statue there was a little chapel, which Sam was totally taken aback by. E-J was slightly concerned that Sam may have seen the light and decided to become a born again Christian!

On our way back we passed through the old town of Saint Theresa, appreciating the Bohemian architecture. We then walked down a staircase of coloured tiles; designed by an eccentric old, chap from Chile. He had a tile dedicated to every country along the wall. Sam had great enjoyment talking to him particularly when he started slamming some of his artwork on the wall to show how strong they were.

When we finally returned, our hangovers were now at their peak, so we decided to spend the rest of the afternoon chilling on the beach. That night we went for a quiet meal together, before settling into the bar for a few drinks.

On the Sunday, a group of us decided to sunbathe on Ipanema beach. Sam started his morning by sitting in an English pub to watch the footy. E-J and another girl found the hippy market, which sold some amazing stuff and great gifts for Christmas.

By 6pm, we decided we would watch the sunrise from the Sugarloaf, so headed there only to find out it had just closed due to engineering faults. E-J, with a boiling trantum was just about to throw herself into a very angry mood, when Sam pulled her a side and reminded her we were in the presence of other people and we may be able to see it tomorrow.

That night we ate out with our friends from the hostel and then said our goodbyes, preparing ourselves for our early start the next morning.

The next day a prearranged taxi took us to the Sugar Loaf and by 7:45 we were outside the entrance to the cable cart waiting for it to open.

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It was great to be one of the only people there and we were able to really appreciate the clear sights in the crispness of the early morning light with no crowds around, unlike many of the other main attractions. The only frustration was the limited time we had, but we made the most of it and took in the spectacular views. It was great to be able to see another panoramic of this magnificent city.

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We then returned to the cab and made it to our bus completely exhausted, both already talking about when we could come back to this incredible city.

Sam's comments: Fantastic city, already want to come back, although my stomach suffered a lot from my theory at Marius of try each thing twice!

E-J's comments: I loved Rio. It is a place that I would definitely like to revisit, though with more money so that I can indulge in the amazing luxuries the city has to offer. It is an incredible place, so full of diversity. You cannot believe that somewhere so beautiful as this can also be so dangerous.

Posted by E-J 12:10 Archived in Brazil Comments (1)

Florianopolis

sunny 35 °C

The bus journey to Florianopolis was an interesting one, particularly when stopped by the police, who then started to open up parts of the bus in order to find something suspicious. Finally, they left the bus with the packages they were looking for along with two people from the bus.

When we arrived in Florianopolis, we made our way to the tourist information office and found an apartment in Armacao. Armacao is in the south of the island and renowned for being quiet, beautiful and full of walks.

Our next challenge was getting there. This consisted of two local bus rides and after working out the new ticket system; we were pleased to find the place without going wrong.

The friendly run apartment was pretty basic. However, it was lovely to be in somewhere bigger than a hostel room and the sea 50 m down the lane.

Once we settled ourselves we decided to go for a walk along our local beach. The sky did look a bit overcast, but we thought it would hold. The beach was not quite how we had hoped. It was clean and deserted, but was full of tiny pebbled sand which made it incredibly painful to walk along and each time we walked we would sink into the tiny pebbles, making it tiring and take forever to cross the beach.

By the time we had reached the end of the beach it had started to rain and with no bar in sight, we decided to keep on walking, down the road until we reached somewhere where we could get a drink. 200 metres on, we were in luck, though it was a pretty average place. We had a quick drink and then decided to head back. The next obstacle was catching the bus back and after waiting in the rain for several minutes one finally arrived. By this time the weather was pretty miserable, we were soaked to the bone so we decided to have quiet night in with beers, cheese and backgammon.

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The next day the weather wasn't much better, so slightly disappointed by our lack of beach time, we headed into the centre of Florianopolis to look around the town.

We found the buildings quite colonial and very colourful. Our next mission was to find a bank and at this stage we were starting to irritate each other. Sam then managed to lock the keys to our rucksack inside the rucksack along with all our cards and money! At this point, E-J saw red and had what can only be described as a "Travelers Moment" as she exploded at Sam in the middle of the crowded streets about the situation.

After buying a Stanley knife from a local handy store and cutting into the bag, everything was resolved. We were back to being relatively nice to each other in a friendly bar in the heart of the city. We finished the day with a night of beers and backgammon, sitting out on the balcony, hoping that the weather would improve.

The next day was sunny, so we decided to enjoy the beaches. We had been told about a picturesque beach called Praia Do Lagoinha Do Leste. Although it required a two hour walk over the hills, we decided this would be the perfect place, so set out in not the best attire of flip flops and shorts. The path quickly turned into an overgrown secret track of muddy rocks, green shrubbery and trees. We precariously made our way along the path, which followed the hilliness of the cliffs edge, so that we were constantly climbing steep hills and then descending them.

Two hours on, we came out from the trees and rocks and found ourselves in more bearable terrain, with a path amongst knee length grass. E-J was just beginning to enjoy the walk when suddenly Sam stopped still, frozen by the enormous tarantula dangling on one of the long pieces of grass beside his leg.

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E-J then started to freak out saying she didn't want to go any further, though realising that they couldn't turn back, or wish to repeat the treacherous walk they had already done. After a few hysterical minutes, Sam managed to calm E-J down. Another 45 minutes later and we reached the beautiful beach and it was worth every minute.

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The sea was an amazing blue and crystal clear and the sand was a rich golden colour. There was literally no one on the beach apart from a couple of surfers who were in the sea.

After relaxing for a while on the beach we thought we ought to continue our trek to the other beach Pantano do Sul, where we could get a beer and a bus back. The next challenge was trying to find the path to this place. Some friendly surfers pointed us in the right direction, but still not totally sure, a dog suddenly appeared and seemed to show us the way. We don't know if this dog was one of the surfers or a stray, but it definitely knew where it was going. Occasionally, the dog would run off into the bushes to investigate a noise but then she would always return to check we were on the right track. The walk took about 45 minutes to an hour and it was a steep and very hot climb over the rocky cliff amongst the trees. E-J was a bit more wary of all the noises coming from the bushes, having already come across the spider, but Sam was just desperate to get out of this place and get a drink as we were out of water.

We finally arrived at Pantano do Sul, hot and sweaty, feeling like we had reached civilization again. We walked onto the beach and had a beer in a bar on the beach. Sam took great delight in finding our waiter a dead ringer for Pete Sampras.

We then got the bus back, which disappointingly only took 20 minutes having taken us about 4 hours to trek in total. That night we had planned to have a quiet night of backgammon and a beer, but met our neighbours. They were a very friendly Brazilian couple who despite not speaking a word of English and us not speaking many words of Portuguese, proceeded to try and communicate with us through various hand gestures, objects and impressions. By 11pm, they finally left us in peace, with the knowledge that England had digital TV, mobile phones and Music Television.

We spent the next day on the other side of the beach from our apartment, and found it to have beautiful, fine, white sand, crystal clear sea and a few bars along the beach. It was a perfect day of total relaxation.

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On the Sunday, we decided we would explore some of the beaches in the North. However, the only way of getting there was by catching four buses and after getting two buses in the wrong direction, waiting an hour for the wrong bus and then finally getting there by the afternoon, we were both in foul moods!

When we finally arrived at the beach, Praia Do Santinho we found the skies overcast and the beach not that attractive. Despite taking four hours to get there, we only stayed 40 minutes before deciding we'd better head back. A complete waste of time! The only highlight was the icecream shop. This place had every flavour imaginable and then an array of different toppings, from chocolate springles to gummy bears. The best part, was that you got to get the icecream and toppings yourself, so we both indulged in a greedy amount! That night E-J cooked her first meal in almost three months and we played our usual game of backgammon on the balcony.

On our last full day, having realised that the North was a bit of a dump and we were in the far more beautiful area, we took full advantage of the beach, soaking up the rays all day and swimming in the sea.

Sam's Comments: Beautiful, great way for us to relax. Annoyed that the tarantula meant that I had to deal with E-J's biggest panic attack!

E-J's Comments: Florianopolis was brilliant. It was the first time that we actually had a chance to lie on a beach and do absolutely nothing for a day without having to worry about the bus, accommodation and what to do next. I feel totally refreshed - bring on Rio!

Posted by E-J 06:05 Archived in Brazil Comments (1)

Iguazu Falls and Foz do Iguacu

sunny 43 °C

After a long, but reasonably comfortable twenty-six hour bus journey we arrived in Iguazu. The stifling heat of the place immediately hit us. We shared a taxi with a couple of girls and after several attempts to find a hostel we finally found one and were then ripped off by the taxi driver for making him wait two minutes. Frustrated by this, E-J attempted to get angry with him, but with her limited Spanish was only able to shout "Non Bueno", (no good!) which didn't really have the power and attack she was hoping for...

That evening we wandered around the town of Iguazu, realising that there really wasn't anything there but the falls, so had a good meal and an early night.

Iguazu Falls - Argentinean Side

Early in the morning we headed to the Iguazu Falls on the local bus. When we got there, we were one of the first to arrive as we had organized to do a safari / boat tour at 9am. Sam noticed that the birds were squawking incredibly loudly and was informed by one of the tour guides, that the high pitched squawk of the birds was the Indians way of knowing the day would be very hot.

We started our supposed safari ride just after 9am, which involved sitting in a huge jeep full of twenty people and driving 200 m down a track with an abundance of trees and canopies above us. However, we didn't see so much as one insect. Next, we got on a massive speedboat and made our way through the river to the falls and into the spray of the falls. Although this was an incredibly quick experience, it was amazing to first hear the roar of the waterfalls, then suddenly see them and finally be totally soaked by the spray from them.

When we got off the boat, we both looked like drowned rats and were so pleased that we had stupidly put on clean clothes for the day.

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We then decided to explore all of the falls by walking up all the steps and along all the walkways. They were so amazing to see and E-J particularly enjoyed all the different levels and angles one could appreciate them from. Sam, on the other hand, was just relieved to be soaked as by now the day was getting incredibly hot and the climb and walk around wasn't helping.

After we had walked around all the walkways, E-J then realised we had missed out Isla San Martin, a small island in the middle of the Rio Iguazu. Never one to miss anything, E-J insisted that we walk all the way to the bottom again and visit this island. Sam wasn't best pleased though reluctantly agreed to it.

From the island we were able to get a lot closer to the front of the falls as seen in the video above.

We climbed back up all the walkways and staircases to the top. Tired from the added excursion, we headed to the train, which would take us to the biggest and main fall, Garganta del Diablo (The Devils Throat).

A walkway took us to the Garganta del Diablo.

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When we finally reached it, we were overwhelmed by it's size, the power of the force of the falls and their roaring sound. As you looked down into them, there was a semi circle rainbow inside, which added to the beauty of this spectacle.

We headed to the bus feeling revived from the impressive and mesmerising sites we had seen. After thirty minutes of waiting for the bus our moods began to change and after an hour it was safe to say we were bad tempered and desperate to leave the damn place. Finally the bus arrived and the next mission was to get a bus to the border and cross over into Brazil.

All seemed pretty straightforward as we caught a local bus to the border and got stamped out and stamped in to Brazil. It was only when the bus left us at the border that it became a bit more challenging as no other bus would accept the ticket that we had to take us into town. Finally after waiting in the sweltering heat for a good thirty minutes we decided to pay the extra and get another bus into town.

As soon as we arrived, we suddenly became incredibly aware of the change in language. By now, we could pretty much get by in Spanish and we had thought that the Portuguese wouldn't be too dissimilar, but we were completely wrong and could hardly understand a thing.

We managed to find a hostel, with incredibly helpful and friendly staff. That evening we spoilt ourselves with sushi and then had another early night as we planned to see the Brazilian side of the falls in the morning and then head to Florianopolis in the afternoon.

Foz do Iguacu - the Brazilian side

The next morning we woke early and were amused to find an array of different cakes for breakfast. Apparently this is quite normal for Brazil and E-J took full advantage of this while Sam insisted it was far too early to be eating any cake!

We caught a bus to the falls and made our way down the path to them. It was amazing to see them from the Brazilian side, because it gave you a better panoramic overview of all of the falls.

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We were really able to appreciate the beauty of all the smaller falls lined up towards the large fall at the end. We were also able to get a lot closer to the Devils Mouth and appreciate the power of the falls.

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There was also a lot of beautiful wildlife around and in particular a beautiful blue butterfly ended up landing on Sam's hand. We then had to stand there for a good 10 minutes while all the other tourists crowded around him to take pictures. Sam thought they where probably more interested in his Rolex!

We also took great amusement over some of the signposts they had plotted around the park. In particular, there was one of a wild animal being handed a hamburger with a cross over it. We wondered whether this meant we weren't allowed to feed the animals’ fast food, but could still feed them something healthy...?

After a few hours here we headed back into town. We spent a few hours around the town, appreciating that it was bigger then the Argentinean side, but didn't really have much more going for it.

Sam's comments: Quite incredible sounds and views from both sides. Rather worried that many people in Brazil think I am German!

E-J's comments: The falls were amazing. I loved seeing them from both the Argentinean and the Brazilian side, as you got to be in the heart of them in Argentina and you got to appreciate their impressive beauty from Brazil. I still can't believe that we are able to see so many breathtaking sites and that they never cease to amaze us.

Posted by E-J 10:38 Archived in Argentina Comments (2)

Salta!

sunny 28 °C

Starting with a train ride through Tupiza to the Bolivian Border, we crossed over into Argentina and set off on a nine-hour bus journey to the city of Salta. Salta is a city in Northwestern Argentina, situated at the foothills of the Andes Mountains.

As we arrived into the city at one o´clock in the morning we both felt tired and hungry. We quickly found some accommodation in the centre of town and after dumping our bags, set out to find somewhere to eat.

It was at this point that we realised the cultural differences between Bolivia and Argentina. It was as though we had been in a time machine. Women were in very western clothing against a backdrop of buildings, which had a very European look. We soon found a twenty-four hour restaurant and ordered some well required food. Sam, not missing the opportunity of being in Argentina, quickly ordered the steak. After feeling refreshed and full we headed back to our hostel to enjoy some well-earned sleep before exploring the city the next morning.

The next day we explored the European-like quality of Salta, with its little boutiques and coffee bars. However the best view was seen from the top of the city at San Bernardo Hill.

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Having enjoyed the sights and knowing we had a 24 hour bus trip the next day, we decided that a night out would be a great idea. After a few beers back at the hostel, we set off for the best-known steak restaurant in Salta. E-J ordered a rump steak and Sam went for the sirloin steak. At just over four pounds in price each, we weren’t expecting the best food, but we were seriously blown away when E-J’s steak first arrived, struggling to stay on the plate! She quickly started to enjoy it as Sam sat frustratingly waiting for his. Suddenly two plates arrived one with a huge piece of Sirloin and the other for the meat to be placed on once it had been cut! We both sat there eating some of the finest meats we had ever had, washing it down with some healthy, red wine!

After the lovely meal with Sam thanking the cook, we headed into the main area of bars and restaurants. We sat outside drinking cheap beers and cocktails, although E-J spent quite a large time on the dance floor.

Our last morning in Salta was spent packing with hangovers and preparing for the twenty-four hour bus journey to Iguazu.

Sam’s Comments: Best steak in my life. Having come from Bolivia I felt that I was in another world!

E-J’s Comments: It was after I forced the last piece of sumptuous steak into my mouth that I realised I had pushed the boundaries and the size of my stomach. For the next hour as we waited for the bill and then walked the streets to the bars, all I can remember is moaning with pain, rubbing my tummy and telling everyone I was full of steak!

Posted by E-J 10:38 Archived in Argentina Comments (1)

The Salt Flat Tour

sunny

Having arrived in Uyuni, one of the ugliest towns we have seen so far, we spent careful time trying to find the best tour. Finally we decided to go with the company Blue Line, who promised us that it would be a memorable experience, which it certainly was, but perhaps not for quite the right reasons. The evening was spent enjoying some fantastic pizza at Minuteman Pizza, which is run by an eccentric American, who gets his ingredients from all around the world and creates the best Pizzas in the whole of South America. This was certainly one of the highlights of the trip for Sam!

Day 1
The tour began at 10:30 am and we met Judy a Swiss girl who was also joining our group. Our first stop was the Cementerio de Trenes, which was basically a load of old trains that the Bolivians didn't know what to do with, so they turned it into some spectacle for the public. We arrived at the sight along with another five jeeps, and realised that it was going to be like this for the rest of the tour; a constant stream of tourists, fighting to get their individual picture without any other random person ruining the view. The place was literally like standing in a graveyard of rusty old trains, which were once beautiful. We couldn’t really appreciate this, as we were far more excited about seeing and getting to the Salar de Uyuni (Salt Flats).

As we headed for the Salt Flats, our driver stopped various times to get his gasoline, coca leaves, phone card and whatever else he seemed to need. The constant deliberating built up our anticipation and impatience to see the flats.

Just before we reached Salar de Uyuni we stopped off again, at a few museums in which there were statues of animals made out of salt. They were pretty impressive, though it wasn't explained to us until we were about to leave the building that you had to pay to enter them.

Finally, after much anticipation we reached the Salt Flats and they were totally mesmerising. They were so white and as far as the eye could see. The feeling you get when you drive over them is that of utter bleak isolation, provided you are able to block out the other ten jeeps travelling in convoy behind you.

Our next stop was the Isla del Pescado. It is called this, because as you drive towards it, it looks a bit like a fish. However when we got there it was an island full of huge and impressive cacti, some of them as old as 500 years old!

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When we got there we did a small walk around the island, taking in the incredible sights, before heading back to our jeep for a tasty lunch, which consisted of a sumptuous steak and various vegetables. At this point, things couldn't be better and we thought we had found our perfect trip.

After this we had a few hours to play on the Salt Flats, much to our enjoyment!

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If only E-J was really this size, she'd be a lot easier to handle!

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Sam was in his element, posing with the bottle of Mayonnaise!

After a few hours of mucking around we were happy to leave the place in the knowledge that we would be returning for the sunrise, as informed by the tour operator.

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We then headed to the Salt hotel, where we were staying for the night, which was just off the salt flats and back onto the barren, muddy ground. This place didn’t look like much from the outside, but inside it was amazing. Literally, everything was made of salt, from the tables to the chairs to the beds that we slept on and they had some strange salt decorations hanging from all the way round the ceiling. They also had a stuffed flamingo on the wall, which wasn't quite so nice.

We had a great evening of yummy food and a good game of cards. It was when we were about to go to bed that we were told we would not be returning to the Salt Flats, due to the limitations of gasoline. Confused and frustrated to be told something different from what had been promised to us by the tour agency, we reluctantly went to bed, defeated by the argument and by the fact that we would not be seeing the salt flats again. Instead we were told we would see the sunrise from our hotel. Bitterly disappointed we tried to not let this spoil our tour and thought positively about what the next day had in store for us.

Day 2
Having been told the sunrise was a 6:15am we woke up at 6:00am only to find the sun high in the sky. This was the first disappointment of the day. We then had a quick breakfast and headed to our next destination, which was a lake full of flamingos. E-J seemed to take in the view along with the rest of the group, but Sam sat in silence trying to withhold his disappointment in the tour.

We continued our journey in the cooped up jeep for another three hours before getting out to see another view, the volcano Ollagüe, which is constantly smoking.

The next part of the journey was a five-hour drive along rather bumpy terrain. With the driver only providing us with a limited amount of Bolivian music presented in tape format, E-J and Lou felt it was up to them to provide the group with some entertainment, so proceeded to sing every song they could possibly remember the words to throughout the journey, this ranged from the Spice Girls, to the Sound of Music, The Eagles and many more. This made Sam plummet into a deeper, darker depression over the whole situation.

The next location was Arbol de Piedra, known as the Stone Tree. The Stone tree was created by hot lava, drying in this interesting formation, making it look like a tree and has become one of the main attractions of the tour.

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Despite being told not to touch it, we found various people trying to climb the tree. And, after patiently waiting for about 20 minutes for a clear photo, without any other tourist ruining the view, Lou and E-J had to resort to shouting at people to move out of the bloody way - much to Sam's embarrassment.

The next location was the Laguna Colorada and it had the most mesmerising colours.

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The different colours within the lake are created by the wind mixing together the sulphur and different minerals inside it.

It was a very impressive sight, although it had to be a brief visit as the winds were incredibly strong here.

We continued our drive through the landscape, stopping occasionally for the ‘Bano natural’, which was always a challenge to find in such barren landscape. We finally reached the place we would stay for the night around 4:30pm and settled in for a game of cards and an early night. There were also various other tour groups staying at the same place as us and at 5:30 pm they all started to run towards their jeeps to see the sunset. As the only group left, again we felt as though our tour company had cheated us and asked our driver if he would take us too. He gave us his same usual excuse that there was not enough gasoline to get us to Tupiza, to, which point we finally snapped and an enormous argument arose. Poor Judy was the only person in our group who could fluently talk Spanish, so had to be our interpreter as the tension grew and grew. Finally, our driver, furious with rage decided he would take us, but by this point we were resigned to the fact that we had missed the sunset anyway, so there was no longer a point.

All agitated by the constant disappointments we decided to have an early night.

Day 3
Our driver woke us up at 4am to watch the sunrise and we were greeted by the pitch black and bitter cold. Sam and E-J, not the best at such an early time were at each other’s necks, furious with each other for one thing or another. We drove for a couple of hours in silence until we reached the area called Sol de Mañana full of geysers. These are boiling hot areas of mud with boiling lava, which have a constant stream of steam coming out from them, making them look very mysterious at this time in the morning. E-J was the only one to wander over to them as Sam was too cold and in too much of a bad mood!

As E-J walked past the no entry signs (following the rest of the crowd) and looked over the large craters into the boiling bubbles, spluttering out mud, she did question the safety of this place. It was only when she was back in the jeep that the guide informed the rest of the group that two people had died this year from being too close to the geysers...

We managed to miss the sunrise after all that and our next destination was to the Aguas Termales (hot springs). Still early morning, the temperature outside was freezing so no one was particularly keen to jump into the hot springs, but finally, E-J and Judy found the courage and once in, found them so warm and amazing. It was literally like being in a hot bath, though unfortunately with a load of other people.

We then had breakfast at this place before driving past Desierto de Salvador Dali, which is the site where Dali gained his inspiration for his famous surreal paintings. We then reached the final Lake, Laguna Verde with the enormous Volcano Licancabur behind it. The drive took quite a few hours and we were relieved to stretch our legs when we were there. It was an incredibly impressive emerald, green lake and if you stood at the correct point you could see the perfect reflection of Volcano Licancabar, exactly fitted inside it.

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Sam, by this point had, had enough of seeing all the lakes, so after one minute of stretching his legs, grumpily returned to the jeep. The rest of the group took their time taking in the spectacular view.

When we finally left the Laguna we then began our long journey to our third nights destination in San Antonio de Lipez. The drive was very bumpy and pretty unpleasant, especially for the two people cramped in the back. The landscape became incredibly barren with nowhere to hide behind if in need of a pee, except behind the actual jeep.

On the way to our final resting place, we visited a derelict site, 5000 m above sea level, making it incredibly breathless to walk around. The place was known as a ghost town, where the ancient people once kept lots of gold and silver, but their greed took over them and they ended up slaying each other until no one was left. Again, E-J, Lou, Tobias and Judy took in the sights while Sam sat sulking in the car.

We finally reached San Antonio de Lipez around 5pm. We had been promised a hot shower on the last day, but no such luck as not even a cold shower was provided. We played a few more games of cards and had a basic meal before hitting the pillows again after such an exhausting day.

Day 4
We had a relatively late start of 7:30am and had a quick breakfast before our drive to Tupiza. The drive took about 6/7 hours in total with a lunch in the middle. At this point we all felt tired, irritable and in need of a shower and a good bed. Our driver drove incredibly well though there were quite a few hairy moments, especially when we had to reverse around a cliff edge in order to let a truck past. Also we passed several herds of donkeys, which we were told had been walking for fifteen days to get to the next village with the supplies of corn and flour resting on the animals’ backs. These moments reveal the reality of such poverty and limitation there is in Bolivia.

Finally around 3pm we were in Tupiza and within half an hour were enjoying a much-needed hot shower. The day finished with some drinks and a pizza, which went down extremely well.

Sam’s comments: Biggest disappointment of the trip.

E-J’s Comments: I am sure in time I will reflect back on this tour with fond memories as we did see some very impressive sites, but I was also very frustrated with how much we were lied to and the typical response to our complaints, being, “well, it’s not my problem”, rather than trying to help the situation.

Posted by E-J 02:33 Archived in Bolivia Comments (3)

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