Thursday, 27 March 2014

Samaipata: The Resting Place for Rebels

When I mentioned to Sister Clementine from the orphanage that our next stop was Samaipata, she looked terrified and told us that the road between Sucre and Samaipata was so dangerous that we really should just go somewhere else. When I got home I started researching this and lots of people were advising to fly to Santa Cruz, which is a short bus ride from Samaipata. We couldn't afford this so we decided to just face the scary bus ride. We were recommended two companies, Flota Bolivia and Copacabana, we ended up going with Copacabana and I have to say it was fine. The bus ride is long, and bumpy, but with a careful driver it was absolutely fine.

Samaipata really proved to me how different Bolivia is. We´d passed through dry desert, the green and grassy flat lands and icy mountains. We arrived in this tiny town incredibly early in the morning. Without having a map of the town or a phone to call the hostel we were staying at, we had no choice but to sit on our luggage at the corner of the road and watch the sun come up. It was only when the sun fully rose that we could take in the muddy main roads and the huge green leaves that seemed to hang over the perimeter of the town, as if the jungle was trying to swallow up the town.
Samaipata
Samaipata
Samaipata
Slowly but surely, the town started to wake up. We soon learnt that the pace of life here was incredibly sleepy. only a couple of trucks drove past and one lady swept the pavement. We eventually hailed a car who stopped and agreed to take us to our hostel La Posada Del Sol.

The American owned hostel turned out to be a huge treat for us. They had unfortunately double booked, so upgraded us to a lovely room which had a view of the rolling hills which surrounded the town. Better still, there was a huge garden with lots of hammocks, the perfect place to laze away an afternoon with a book and a glass of red wine. Furthermore, they offered us a cocktail each night to apologise too, proving to us that Bolivian customer service has a lot of catching up to do with the American´s.
Samaipata
Samaipata
We set our things down and went in search of El Fuerte, a group of ruins that had been built before the pesky Incas took over the continent. It was a really nice change to the city. We seemed to have the whole place to ourselves on top of the hill, and it was a really nice place to nosy around and stretch our legs after the long bus ride. We saw some menacing looking caterpillars, almost as scary as the punishment hole. Eeeek!
Samaipata
Samaipata
Samaipata
Samaipata
Samaipata
Our second day, the sun was shining brightly, so we decided to take a dip in the three waterfalls, or cascadas de cuevas, maybe an hours drive out of the town. It was an amazing walk down to the waterfalls, and I got a little envious as it appears to be someone´s back garden. It was so green and hundreds of butterflies wafted around on the breeze. The water itself was chilly, but I managed to brave it to the rock in the center before Nick showed me there was a shallow path hidden in the pool meaning you could walk there! Oh well! The rest of the morning we laid on the sand and dried off.
Samaipata
Samaipata
Samaipata
Samaipata
One of the major pulls of Samaipata is the fact that it is in the hills surrounding the peaceful little town that Che Guevara was captured and executed. Many tour agencies in the town offer tours of all of the spots that played a part in Che´s last few days. Nick and I decided not to do this as it turned out to be a little more than we wanted to pay. Whatever you decide to do in Bolivia, it's worth rebelling against the advice to relax in the resting place of rebels.

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Saturday, 22 March 2014

Sucre: Sugar, spice and all things nice

Sucre definitely left a sweet after taste. Filled with tasty fresh food from the market and spending lots of time with cute children. I was excited to arrive in Sucre as we had planned to stay there for a bit longer than we usually stay in one place. Lots of people do this in Sucre as there are lots of language schools to take some Spanish lessons, and lots of opportunities to volunteer. This was something Nick really wanted to do, so our first day we went in search of someone who needed our help.

We stayed at the hostel Takubamba or Casarte, which was one of my favourite hostels we've stayed in. It was very big and had lots of white washed walls that were decorated with art by the guys who ran the hostel. The kitchen was outside, covered by a thatched roof, the rooms were big and clean and the people were really nice there. We had a few nights spent cooking huge meals for 15 people, which all proved to be really tasty.
Sucre
Sucre
Our first morning, once we were unpacked, we asked the guys at the hostel if they had any ideas about us volunteering. I really don't like the companies that charge tourists to offer help, and we first of all browsed some of the oppoiƧrtunities on this site, although we didn´t really have months to offer so many were out of the question.

The guy in the hostel told us to go to Amsterdam Cafe. It´s a cafe run by Linda, a dutch lady, and most of the profits go to helping charities around the city. She sat with us and talked us through all of the programmes in the city who would need our help. We eventually decided on an orphanage called Tata Juan de Dios which was for children under 5.
Sucre
We took the walk across town, up into the hills where the colonial buildings faded out and were overtaken by half finished brick buildings, with lots of street dogs hanging around in the doors. As we approached the orphange, we could hear screams and shouts inside, but before I had chance to think, a lady was calling for us to come inside.

We met the sister who runs the orphanage, she explained that it was divided into two. Babies and toddlers were put into one section, and children from about 2 and a half to 5 were in the other. Our first task was to help the other volunteers take four of the young boys for a walk around the block. This is the only time they really leave the orphanage, and the only time they get to see things in the outside world. It was really nice to see how excited they got over simple things like a dog or an aeroplane.

Many of the children there still have parents who just cannot afford to give them the care they need, but the orphanage allows the parents to come and spend as much time as they can with their children. If it is possible in the future, they may be reunited.

Other children, if they are very lucky can be sponsored by local people, who can come and visit them regularly and buy them gifts. A pair of twins were lucky enough to have a sponsor father who came to see them every weekend and were were treated to some llama ponchos while we were there.

The next 7 days were a blur of children, happy children, sad children and sometimes naughty children. Tasks like hanging out their clothes to dry in the sun, playing with them in the playground, feeding them, putting them to bed and giving out lots of cuddles. It was nice to spend a bit of time focusing on someone else, as sometimes travelling can seem very self indulgent, doing whatever you want, whenever you want.

It was interesting to note that in the older children, there were only 4 boys and about 20 girls in the group. All of the kids were incredibly cute and desperate for a bit of attention. The orphanage definitely gives them all they need in terms of food, shelter, health care and clothing, but it's just the extra touch of attention they need. It was very hard putting them to bed on the last day and saying goodbye to them.

We worked in the orphanage every morning, and would spend the afternoon exploring Sucre. My two favourite places were the markets an the Recoleta view point. It seemed like you could buy anything you needed in the markets. In the centre are the fruit juice ladies. As soon as you walk past they start calling to you, Nick and I decided to stop one day and enjoyed one of the fruit salads. A mountain of fruit, cream and cereal. I also couldn't resist one of the hundreds of rainbow jellies that appear to be a delicacy here. The reason why I look so nervous in the picture with the jelly is that a beggar chose that moment to This is the perfect place to eat lunch if you are on a budget.
Sucre
Sucre
Sucre
Sucre
We were in Sucre at the start of the carnival period, which means one things for Bolivians...water fights! Having finished at the orphanage one Sunday afternoon, Nick and some of the other guests at the hostel armed themselves with water balloons and went to the square. Finding they were a little out numbered, they recruited the shoe shine children into their army. Giving them water balloons, and pointing out targets the boys would then pepper the poor, unsuspecting victims. It was a lot of fun as a spectator, especially while enjoying an ice cream from Abi´s.
Sucre
Sucre
Sucre
Sucre
Sucre

The other place that was really nice was the Recoleta look out point. You can watch the teracotta rooves of the whole city from between the white arches, and sit in a deck chair enjoying the sun. A perfect way to get away from the madness of carnival in the centre.
Sucre
Sucre
Sucre
Sucre

If you do find yourself wanting to volunteer in Sucre, I would definitely recommend getting in touch with Amsterdam Cafe, and perhaps treating yourself to a hot chocolate while you're there. Guilt free, knowing that it's helping someone else too!

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Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Potosi: Silver Linings.

Devil's Miner
photo taken from a still of a Devil's Miner
I only have one picture from our time in Potosi. Mainly because the main draw to this hilly city is the mining in the mountain that looms high over the town below, and partially because I used our time there to catch up on all of the early mornings of the Salt Tour.

This used to be one of the richest cities in South America as the mountain was filled with silver, but when the conquistadors showed up, it turned into an affluent city built on exploitation. They forced the indiginous people to work down in the mine for months at a time, and even invented a scary looking god with horns, called Tio. The indiginous were told that if they didn't do as they were told then Tio would curse them.

Today, the silver has almost completely dried up, but still the miners are down there, looking for anything that can bring them a little money. The city offers tours down the mines, where you can see the conditions that the miners work in. Ramshackle passage ways are held up with anything they can find, it's stiflingly hot and dusty. Not the nicest place to be, so I decided not to go down, but Nick went with our friend Simon. He came back, completely black from head to toe and said that it was something he won't forget.

When you go on the tours, you're asked to bring the miners a present, of either dynamite, coca leaves or alcohol. The miners have to go it alone, and work in small groups, or cooperatives. When, or if, they do actually find anything, they share the money amongst their group. Taking dynamite saves them money on having to buy their own explosives, chewing coca leaves alleviates the altitude sickness, and alcohol obviously helps them through the day. It was scary to see how much the powder clung to Nick after just opne day, and how it affected his breathing in the night, just after a few hours down there. Some of the boys he saw there were only 14 and had already been walking there for a few years.

It seemed that everyone in the town was somehow attached to the mines above. Our hostel owner's father had been killed there, and his mum had to work extra hard as she didn't want her sons to face the same, dark fate.

We were lucky enough to catch a showing of the documentary, The Devil's Miner, which follows two young brothers who work in the mine after their father is killed there. It was eerie to see the Tio, as each cooperative has their own version, which has lasted through the centuries and still hangs over the heads of the miners. The younger brother in the documentary is terrified to look at their Tio, so his brother has to take him and explain the importance of the mining god and their safety. Their scary, stone idol has offerings scattered around his feet from the miners who hope that they survive the few years they have left of their incredibly short life expectancy.

I'm not a religious person, but I can see in this town why the miners and their families all prey to the big man in the sky before they have to venture into the hellish underground conditions of Tio's mountain.


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Monday, 17 March 2014

Travelling Beauty Products Trash, Treat or Stash : Lush Godiva ShampooBar

I started Trash, Treat or Stash to review the Korean make-up products I thought were better off in the bin, the ones to treat yourself to every now and again, and the ones that were so good that you should definitely stash them. I ended the Korean edition when I left Korea, but there have been a few things I´ve used on my trip around south America I think a travelling edition is definitely in order.

Lush Godiva Shampoo Bar

Trying to keep my luggage to a minimum, and trying to travel with just hand luggage,(Which I failed at miserably) Lush´s shampoo and conditioner bars seemed like the perfect solution. They smelled amazing, were all natural and very compact. I´ve loved every Lush product I´ve had in the past, so I decided to buy a bar of Godiva, which is a shampoo and conditioner rolled into one.

Cost: I spent over £6 on a 55g bar, and another £2.50 for the tin. A bit of a luxury buy, but I was told that it would last a lot longer than a bottle of shampoo which you can get for less than half the price.
Prettiness: Godiva smells amazing, which was what tipped me over the edge of buying this. It left my hair smelling amazing too. And the tub made it really easy to pack, and took up a lot less room than a bottle of shampoo.
Usability: I found this pretty hard to use, first I ran it over my hair which just made it feel like I was tearing out my hair. I then resorted to trying to build up the bubbles in my hand before working it into my hair. I do have really dry hair, but this left my hair feeling greasy a lot of the time.

trash
Overall: I think you can tell from my comments, I am not a big fan of this product. It cost a little too much, was difficult to use and made it look like I´d washed my hair in a chip pan. To top it all off, within two weeks it had melted into a gross, sick looking mush in the pot which then leaked into our toiletary bag. Not sure if the 40 degree weather in Buenos Aires is to blame, but I think I will stick to liquid shampoo in bottles from now on.

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Thursday, 13 March 2014

Uyuni Salt Flats: Rainbow lakes and Llamas sporting fancy earrings

There is always a travellers check list for every new country you visit. Argentina, you should eat copious amounts of steak, drink good wine in Mendoza, watch tango in Buenos Aires and visit Iguazu falls. Check! Chile is looking out over the colourful hills of Valparaiso, enjoying Pisco in Santiago, frazzling to a crisp in the driest desert on earth. Done! We now have a whole new set of boxes to mark in Bolivia. The number one of everyone's list is to visit Salar De Uyuni.

This is a huge, old lake that has a thick, salty crust that looks exactly like snow. Everywhere we go there are tour companies offering tours going here, and we decided to take it from Tupiza, as I mentioned in my last post.

I can't really put into words the things we saw and experienced over the 4 day tour, it was all so breathtaking. When I look back at the photos, the landscape still looks awesome, but doesn't really do it justice!

The tour from Tupiza consists of 3 days of travelling through national park and the highlands in Bolivia, and the final day spent on the salt flats.

Highlights for me included getting up close with some incredibly cute and proud llamas, bathing in hot springs surrounded by mountains, the Colorado lagoon which is a lake that's bright red because of the algae where flamingoes hang out, and finally the morning spent on the salt flats.

We did the usual perspective photos, and when it was time to head back, the driver let all 4 of us sit on the roof. As we were driving a huge flock of flamingoes flew over head, so we followed them for a while, before branching off.

I will never forget the amazing pleasure of unfolding out of a truck after several hours driving, nor will I forget the white, furry little fella in the pictures below too quickly!

If only crossing things of a list was always this much fun to do!
1st day of Uyuni Salt Flat Tour
1st day of Uyuni Salt Flat Tour
1st day of Uyuni Salt Flat Tour
1st day of Uyuni Salt Flat Tour
1st day of Uyuni Salt Flat Tour
1st day of Uyuni Salt Flat Tour
1st day of Uyuni Salt Flat Tour
1st day of Uyuni Salt Flat Tour
1st day of Uyuni Salt Flat Tour
2nd day of Uyuni Salt Flats
2nd day of Uyuni Salt Flats
2nd day of Uyuni Salt Flats
2nd day of Uyuni Salt Flats
2nd day of Uyuni Salt Flats
2nd day of Uyuni Salt Flats
2nd day of Uyuni Salt Flats
2nd day of Uyuni Salt Flats
2nd day of Uyuni Salt Flats
2nd day of Uyuni Salt Flats
2nd day of Uyuni Salt Flats
2nd day of Uyuni Salt Flats
2nd day of Uyuni Salt Flats
2nd day of Uyuni Salt Flats
2nd day of Uyuni Salt Flats
3rd day of the Uyuni Salt Flats
3rd day of the Uyuni Salt Flats
3rd day of the Uyuni Salt Flats
3rd day of the Uyuni Salt Flats
3rd day of the Uyuni Salt Flats
3rd day of the Uyuni Salt Flats
3rd day of the Uyuni Salt Flats
4th day of the Uyuni Salt Flats
4th day of the Uyuni Salt Flats
4th day of the Uyuni Salt Flats
4th day of the Uyuni Salt Flats
4th day of the Uyuni Salt Flats
4th day of the Uyuni Salt Flats
4th day of the Uyuni Salt Flats
4th day of the Uyuni Salt Flats
4th day of the Uyuni Salt Flats
4th day of the Uyuni Salt Flats
4th day of the Uyuni Salt Flats
4th day of the Uyuni Salt Flats

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