Was a very busy and fast paced city! When the light turns green to cross the road, you nearly have to run to make it in time! I only stayed for two days, and for me it was perfect. I spent my time strolling around the city; one day in art galleries, the other in gardens and parks, it was lovely…
Normally I don’t like to spend too long in cities, because they are usually loud and stressful, but it’s a nice way to break up the Hiking! Mendoza was different, there is a really nice slow vibe in the city and there are so so many little parks, so many trees, I loved it! Mendoza is a wine growing region, so the main attraction here is tours of wineries! I and a group of people from my hostel decided to do it independently, so we got a bus to get us out of town, then rented bikes and cycled to the winery. It was really interesting to learn more about winemaking; the different varieties as well as different ways of making it. Biggest myth busted that day was that old wine is better… it’s not, it’s different for different types of wine, but never leave it sitting in a cupboard for years! After a couple of wineries, we had enough and did an olive shop one, which was so good too! Loved the cycling in between and had such a good day there. Really enjoyed my time Mendoza. 2 house points if you can put the wine pictures in chronological order!
From San Pedro de Atacama ( or San perro… ) I got a bus to Salta in Argentina. Whilst it’s taxing on the budget to be back in the developed world, it’s so nice to be able to rely on some services, get nice food and coffee… here I didn’t have a lot of time so I used it to get some sleep in the morning, then checked out the city, which was quite pretty and then went for a hike! It was so nice to walk and use my muscles again, even though I definitely needed a break after Huayna potosi! We met a local couchsurfer and he brought us to San Lorenzo for the hike, I think we were a little slow for him, but it was lots of fun. Later we went to a local Church to listen to a free concert from the youth orchestra followed by argentinianly late dinner in a lovely vegetarian restaurant (yes, they have those, but not many.. ). Wish I had more time to hang out, but it was time to move on!
Straight after leaving the salt flats we entered Chile (or more precisely as soon as the Chileans let us cross, so that took a few hours!). We actually entered on my birthday, and I had such a good time celebrating it with people I’ve travelled with and some new Chilenean friends. It was so cool that my new friends made such a big effort to make me feel special and celebrate with me! Another thing I was really eager to do here is learn more about astronomy, supposedly it’s the best place to do it on earth because of its elevation and lack of humidity! So we did a stargazing tour! It was Amazing! We got to see all the zodiac constellations, the large and small Magellanic Clouds ( galaxies ), andromeda, Uranus ( already seen mars and Saturn before in Cusco), as well as a nebula and a few stars; some of which looked like a star but were actually a group of them or just a double. It was so cool, but very cold, so we got a hot chocolate 🙂
In uyuni I’ve booked a 3 day tour of the salt flats. Here we had fun making funny photos as there is no perspective. We were basically driven around from site to site looking at various things like abandoned trains, salt extraction, lagunas, rock formations, deserts, viewpoints etc. The best was definitely spending the evening in hot springs gazing at the starry sky. I’ve never seen so many stars… it was so many I couldn’t make out the constellations I learned in the observatorium in Cusco. The salt flats and the rest of the park were really beautiful. Like a different world. Unfortunately our guide was completely disinterested and didn’t really speak to us at all. That combined with being couped up in a car with very loud music without much exercise/walking meant that whilst I’m glad I did it, it wasn’t my favourite tour…
Sucre felt a lot more colonial and relaxed in comparison to La Paz. There was a lot of beautiful white buildings, you could walk everywhere, there were a lot of tourist maps etc. One bit difference was that there were a lot of young people around, no cholitas here. I think it’s a university town. From Sucre, I did a tour in the surrounding area; exploring Managua crater and nearby dinosaur tracks. It was a beautiful area to walk around; there was more of the “rainbow” mountains. Apparently the green is a result of copper deposits, and the red of iron ones!
The journey from Puño to La Paz was one of the most scenic ones I’ve had. There were such beautiful and colourful mountains of the way; blue, green, red, burgundy, pink!Having arrived from Peru and previously from Ecuador, I could really notice differences from those to Bolivia; a much poorer country, less developed. This became apparent as soon as we entered, because the roads were a work in progress… these roads eventually brought us to unfinished buildings made of red brick of El Alto, just before entered the more modern ( but still somewhat 70s) city of La Paz. It has an interesting mix of very modern buildings, some colonial ones and lots of very hilly tiny streets to connect it all. IIn La Paz, I ve stayed near the witch market, where one can buy iems ranging from dead baby lama featuses to incense and sweets to offer to pancha mama. Other places of interest I’ve visited were the coca museum, the cathedral and some art museums. Having done the guided walking tour, I was able to learn more about Bolivia and its history. Apparently, it holds a Guinness world record for the number of presidents, even though it’s a young country; some resigned, some were killed, others ran away with the country’s money… Bolivia has a much larger population of indigenous people than Peru and Ecuador and this can be seen in the culture and way of life of people here. There are virtually no supermarkets: only local markets. No macdonanalds. Things are more laid back here. Many ladies dress in the traditional cholita way; colourful, puffy skirts, tall hats, long braids with frills attached.whilst in La Paz I’ve also been on a tour of Valle de la Luna and Chacaltaya peak 5400m to acclimatise and prepare for Huayna Potosi!