Archive for the ‘South America’ Category

South America Photo Catchup #7: Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

Well, that's it. I think, barring any mental hiccups, that this is the lot. I've finally wrung the last bit of blood from the stone, and these shots are the last new ones that should be coming out of the South America trip. I mean, it's only 3 months since I got back. Ahead of schedule, really. Ahem. Next steps are to do a "Top 20 fave shots" post and then, if I am feeling energetic, the 10 minute video-to-end-all-videos. 

But back to the matter at hand. The shots below go into more depth around the 3-day trip around the Salar de Uyuni, the coloured lakes, and the southern deserts of Bolivia. The original trip report post – with some updated photos – is here

Just outside the town of Uyuni is the train graveyard:

Then out on the Uyuni salt lake itself, a look back at the jeep trail crossing the flat, and a bird nesting in a cactus:

In the town of San Juan, the clearly-not-Inca-but-still-creepy burial chambers, and a lovely sunset over the mountains:

From there we pushed down into the coloured lakes – many of them populated by crowds of flamengos and surrounded by llama herds:

Almost to the end, we covered a lot of ground in various deserts, and stopped at the famous "Arbol de Piedra" or Stone Tree:

Finally, we end on the sunrise over the Laguna Salada, with steam rising off the volcanically-heated water…

That should about do it for now!

South America Photo Catchup #6: La Paz, Bolivia

To my deep shame, it’s been a month since my last South America photo post. Workload, and a number of current photo sessions got in the way. I am in danger, nearly 3 months on from getting home, of having forgotten what these pictures are actually of! My work load has slacked off a bit, now, and I have a strong desire to get the last of the South American photos up and blogged before a trip to Istanbul in mid-May, when I know I’ll have a whole new round of photo madness. 

In any case, to the photos. This time the shots are of La Paz, the chaotic, bustling, friendly, eye-opening capital of Bolivia. Perched in a valley gouged out of the Altiplano, La Paz is around 3,600m (11,800ft) and so any effort such as hill-climbing leaves you panting for air. Unfortunately, La Paz is made of hills. 

First some scene-setting shots:

Now some shots around the markets, especially the Witches Market, where one can acquire any manner of non-traditional medicines / unguents, including the all-purpose dried llama fetus.

Next some shots around the Plaza Murillo, the seat of government, where the folk-hero indigenous president Evo Morales presides. Ever since he’s come to power, he’s adopted a populist stance in this majority-indigenous country by welcoming all manner of different indigenous groups to visit him. ‘Most any time you go to the Plaza Murillo there are heaps of indigenous folk in traditional dress waiting their turn to go into the halls of power, mixing with riot police, all under the backdrop of bullet holes scored into walls from a not-too-distant uprising….

Speaking of Mr Morales, his name “EVO” is plastered everywhere in Bolivia, there having just been an election which he won handily. The fact that dire poverty exists in close proximity to his ads is very Bolivian. 

South America Catchup Post #5: The Bolivian Amazon

Between Christmas and New Years 2009 (both spent in La Paz, Bolivia) I spent a few days up in the Amazon Basin in Northern Bolivia. It was a few days of heaven, sleeping in a pretty basic riverside camp, and cruising up and down the river all day taking in the flora and fauna, of which there was a heaping abundance. I wrote a blog entry about the experience at the time, with a few photos for good measure. But I had neither the internet connection nor the computing power to edit and upload many of my photos from the excursion.

Clearly, the time is right to rectify this, and so I've uploaded a small selection of additional shots that I quite fancy. Enjoy!

South America Catchup Post #4: Photos from Lake Titicaca

OK, so I already posted a few (3) photos from Titicaca way back in December when I first visited – post here – but I’ve been sitting on a whole heap of shots from the couple days we had out on the lake.

The first set of shots is from a little half day trip we took down the shore to Sawiña and the replica floating reed islands there. It was perhaps not the world’s most authentic tourist experience, but as we had arrived in Copacabana too late in the day to do much else, at least it got us out in a little reed canoe and out into the lake. It turned out to be a beautiful day and even the boatman’s grumpy son couldn’t put us off having a good time.

The second day got us a faster and yet longer boat trip out to the Isla del Sol, where an Aymara tour guide took us on a lung-busting rapid tour across the spine of the island, and no amount of coca leaves could disguise how desperately unfit I felt at altitude. But I still managed to hold my hand steady enough to take the odd landscape or two…

South America Catchup Post #3: Photos from Buenos Aires

The next installment of photos comes from the magical city of Buenos Aires. Of all the cities I visited in South America, Buenos Aires was the only one in which I thought I could conceivably live. La Paz was friendly and cool but manic and slightly broken. Cusco was charming and mysterious, but slightly too “gringo trail” to settle down in. Lima? Well let’s not go there. But B.A. was the essence of cool, even as it was desperately hot at times. The Porteños were all style and attitude, but knew how to let their hair down. The food was ace (as long as you weren’t a vegetarian) and the rambling and crumbling barrios of San Telmo and Palermo just begged for a long series of lazy days’ explorations on foot, with frequent rest stops at the ever-present sidewalk cafés. Even the over-touristed bits like La Boca had a certain style to them. I was fortunate never to come face to face with the infamous criminal elements, and I never felt unsafe – though to be sure I wasn’t brandishing the SLR around willy-nilly…

La Boca


San Telmo & Centre

To see all the Argentina photos you can click through on the slideshow below:

South America Catchup Post #2: Iguazu Falls, Argentina

Sure, I may have one little tiny blog post from the day with one measly photo and a Youtube video (albeit exciting) but I never got round to showing off some of the other shots I got at the mighty Iguazu Falls National Park in northern Argentina back in December.

Well, there’s no time like the present:

and lest I forget, this is the hard living we had to do when we weren’t out exploring the falls…

More to come very soon.

South America Catchup post #1: Lima, Peru

As promised I am going to fling up some more images from the end of my trip for your delectation today. The first stop is Lima, Peru, where I passed a brief period of a day and a half in between Cusco and Buenos Aires.

It was a jarring experience, after 5 weeks in the cold, damp, oxygen-starved mountains, to land in Lima and drive in from the airport through the ancient port town of Callao, now consisting of alternating shanty towns and massive retail parks of Toys'R'Us, Wal-Mart, Starbucks and TGI Fridays that could have been in Texas, but for some reason the coastal desert setting, and the griminess of the vacant lots and sand-blown boulevards of the outskirts reminded me much more of Saudi Arabia. And it was bloody hot, I mean summertime hot.

I spent most of my time in Miraflores, a posh suburb to the south of the city centre which contains a lovely central park (Parque Kennedy) and a heaping helping of tasty restaurants, cafés (I enjoyed Café Z greatly), and bars. I ate a ridiculous lunch at a restaurant specialising in lomo saltado, usually strips of cheap flank steak sautéed with peppers and onions, but in this case (posh, remember) the beef was juicy chunks of filet mignon and premium fresh veggies, half out in the open as per normal, and half encased in a delicious buttery pastry which was otherwise filled with melted cheese. Paramedics were standing by with the paddles, or perhaps I hallucinated that last. In any case wandering around Miraflores was lovely, everyone with a midsummer spring in their step, and kids in board shorts freshly arrived from the beach. I enjoyed walking down to the Pacific Ocean, where there was a swish shopping centre called LarcoMar built into the top of the cliffs.

In the morning I went on a city tour which was as combination of bus tour and walking. I didn't think much of this tour, though whether this was down to the package tourists making up the rest of the tour, or the somewhat poor quality of the tour itself, or the fact that we were touring the squalid, twentieth-century-reconstruction of the main square, I can't tell.

I was definitely not feeling the love when the elderly American cruise ship tourist / outpatient asked the guide in a loud, midwestern twang, audible from space, "IS THAT A CHURCH???" when stood in front of the building in the image directly below:

Later that day it was back to Miraflores where I made a beeline for the lovely El Kapallaq restaurant, a Lima institution, for a bit of the famous ceviche, or raw fish "cooked" in lime juice, mixed in with onions and spices. In my case it was the specialty of the house, a delicious combination of ceviche served with white beans on one side and roasted corn kernels on the other. An odd combination but it really worked. What blew my mind afterwards was a pan-fried chunky filet of the fish of the day, whose name I did not catch but which could have been bream. It was light (fell apart on the fork) and was the perfect kind of savoury, lemon butteriness. Yum. I took a shot of the sign they had on the wall, which had a shark's jaws and the words "the way to the heart is through the stomach". Perfect.

Finally it was time to catch the overnight plane to Buenos Aires, for the last few days of the trip. More on that in the next post….

The end of the road… for now.

I am sitting in Buenos Aires airport, awaiting my delayed 12-hour Iberia flight to Madrid and thence to London.

While I am sad that my seven-week indulgence is drawing to a close, I am looking forward to catching up with friends old and new, cooking myself up a nice big Thai green curry, and bizarrely I am looking forward to getting back to work. There's work to be done, for sure.

But just because I am hanging up my hiking boots for a little while, doesn't mean the content will stop coming. I have a backlog of post ideas, as well as a healthy backlog of photos and videos that will need posting over the coming weeks. This content may include:
  • Photos and report from Lima
  • Photos and report from return visit to Buenos Aires
  • My favourite 20 photos from the trip
  • My 5 highlights / lowlights
I have hopes that the blog will continue as a photo-blog even when I am not travelling. We'll see how that pans out!

Categories: South America Tags: ,

Photos from Cusco including rain damage

I just realised the other day that while I had stuck a bunch of photos up on Flickr at various points from Cusco, I had never actually posted any of them in a blog entry. Well, here goes. 

Plaza de Armas – the main square at the heart of the city. To get from anywhere to anywhere else in Cusco inevitably involves traversing this square, with the smart move being to walk through the square itself rather than along the colonnades at the sides, infested with persistent restaurant and massage touts. But it’s all worth it for views of the Cathedral, the church of the Society of Jesus, the fountains, and the colonial balconies teeming with restaurants and bars.

Water damage – While I was in Cusco, as regular readers are well aware, it rained like it was going out of style and caused all manner of problems in the city and the surrounding area, washing out bridges and trapping people in Machu Picchu. Typical of the scenes around Cusco were this collapsed shop – fortunately, nobody was killed – other buildings being braced up with wooden beams, and very typical scenes of utterly rained-out streets. 

Sacsayhuaman – This largish Incan religious complex is on a hill overlooking central Cusco, and is accessible by a breathless walk up a street and a trail. I really enjoyed the Imperial-style stonework (massive 50-ton rocks fit together with millimetre precision and no mortar) and mostly enjoyed my time up there, bar the persistent guides/touts who kept intercepting me throughout the site, and the one local on the top of the hill who walked up and asked me what I knew about Scientology. I told him where to stick it.

Qorincancha (AKA San Domingo) – The Incas built a temple complex including a Temple of the Sun and a Temple of the Moon near the centre of town. When the Conquistadores arrived, they built a Dominican church on the Inca foundations. An earthquake in the 1950s destroyed the church but left the Incan foundations intact. In the gardens outside I saw a black bumblebee with blue wings, a new one for me.

Nightlife – Since it rained a lot, and I ended up spending more time in Cusco than planned, I got to know a few of the night spots – and the inhabitants – pretty well. Highlights were KM 0 in San Blas (always a fun night of live music), Indigo behind the main square (really friendly staff and fantastic Massaman curry), and the time I was randomly invited to join in on a Quechua birthday party in a bodega. I also really enjoyed the food in Fallen Angel, and Macondo, and of course Indigo. But I think I’ll steer clear of guinea pig (cuy) in future as it was simply too much hard work for little morsels of meat which, in the end, weren’t that tasty. 

Although I am glad to be out of Cusco (and boy, Lima and then Buenos Aires successively are a real shock to the system) I am also glad of the time I spent there and the opportunity to get to know the place and some of the people there. On the whole, I found the people (both local and otherwise) to be very friendly and helpful, especially in comparison to Lima, where I found the opposite. But more on that later…

Just had to share this sunset image from Lima tonight

Just a quick one – I will do a bigger post about Lima once I've seen a bit more of it – but I wanted to share this photo I took of the sunset in a reflecting pool on the top of the cliff in Miraflores, the posh neighbourhood I am calling home for a couple of days.