Kicking Off The Bucket List – Macchu Picchu

DSCF0142_1920x1440There are a handful of things that comes to mind when thinking about South America, such as the sights of Rio, and the Jungles of the Amazon. Plenty of places can be used to talk about the continent and one of the most emotive is surely the ruins of Machu Picchu. Many people choose to visit the ruins as a day trip, but something like this is surely best kept as a culmination of experiences that grant context and meaning to the time you actually set foot in the most famous archaeological site in South America. A quick confession: Pre-colombian ruins bore the crap out of me. Every example I have seen of them thus far have left me very underwhelmed – I guess I am spoilt from the multitude of impressive ruins in Europe. Don’t get me wrong – I find Incan history fascinating, and the various items that have survived are often very beautiful. The Pre-Colombian art museum in Cusco is a wonderful place and I am looking forward to the Gold Museum in Bogota (pretty much the only thing I am looking forward to in that city). Machu Picchu might be the most important, or at least the most well known, ruins in South America, but they are for me, just a part of what made the five days around the area so special. Continue reading

Cusco – Holiday From Holiday

DSCF0739_1920x1440I had a bit of a scare arriving in Cusco. The bus was due to arrive in this infamous Peruvian town and I had already brushed up on the basic layout of the town centre, so when we drove through a town at arrival time I assumed we had arrived. This even extended to my perceived geography of the city, as we passed through a Plaza De Armas that I was expecting to see. What I was not expecting was how cruddy the town looked. All dirty buildings with rough looking eating places and even rougher looking drinking places. Well, this was going to be tough… and then as soon as we arrived, we left. Thankfully. Half an hour later we drove through opulent tree lined streets lined with modern technology stores, glossy billboards advertising expensive phones and people dressed to the nines. Surely this was Cusco. Actually no, it was the town just down the road, but still it was a great relief compared to what I had expected just a short time before. The bus station of Cusco is as rubbish as any you’ll find in South America, but it came with the added distaste of unscrupulous taxi drivers, who would charge double the going rate without any effort because if you don’t accept it, the next gringo will. Even worse, below a large board demonstrating the acceptable taxi fares, these guys still insisted on much higher rates for the ten minute journey in to the town itself. Cusco is like that, full of green gringos and all those who would gladly extort them. Come expecting it, and the taste is less sour. Continue reading

Introduction to Bolivia, 101

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The finale of the salt flat tour was a great disappointment, especially when compared to what had just preceded it. The salt flat’s namesake is the town of Uyuni, and a more flyblown dirty place you’d be hard to come across, even in Bolivia and after the glory of the desert south of town, this place is a hell of a let down. The sole central street is awash with crappy pizza places selling something resembling the stuff, but not quite closely enough. The only thing worth doing in Uyuni is getting out of it. Its one saving grace is that it’s in Bolivia, so a private hotel room is likely to set you back less than a fiver. Continue reading

Don’t Forget To Breathe

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Getting in to San Pedro de Atacama felt like arriving at an outpost at the end of the world. The modest sized town is an oasis in the middle of the driest place on earth, surrounded on all sides by sand and brown mountains that would swallow up anyone who walked in to them. With sweltering heat and fierce sun during the day, the nights can see temperatures drop well below freezing. Stepping out of the bus felt like walking in to a wild west film set. On Mars. Continue reading