The Brazilian Revolution-
As I was staying in São Paulo the Brazilian government raised the public transport prices by 20 cents. What initially started as a little price increase led to a revolution in this country. It started small with a few protests, but then it became bigger and bigger and soon the whole country was heavily protesting against the government. I just happened to be part of this and I went on the streets with the Brazilians to see what it was like and it is remarkable to see how dissatisfied the Brazilian people are. The dissatisfaction is obviously not only about the 20 cents, that is just the tip of the iceberg. The protests are about corruption, bad education, bad health care and many other things.
On an ordinary Tuesday night I was having a few beers in a bar until I heard a few strange sounds coming from the streets. I wanted to go outside to have a look, but I wasn't able to as the owner of the place shut everything down. No one would enter of leave the building. We witnessed the police marching through the streets and shooting at the civilians. I could not really tell what they were shooting with, but I can tell you it wasn't pleasant. When things started to settle down we saw a great opportunity to get out of the bar. It didn't matter eventually, because we ended up in another bar and we sat there the whole night. Viva a revolução!
The initial plan of staying 3 nights in São Paulo (aka Sampa) failed massively. I ended up staying here for almost 3 weeks, because I've made wonderful friends here and I simply love the city!During my travels I've had many conversations about Sampa and most of my fellow backpackers were not really enthusiastic about it and told me it is not worth a visit. Regardless of what people said I wanted to see this for myself.
When people think of Brazil, they think of Rio. This is justifiable, because Rio has it all: great nightlife, beautiful beaches, good weather, sexy women and many amazing tourist attractions such as the Sugar Loaf, the Christ Statue and the stairs of Selaron. However, I do believe that Sampa is undervalued. I agree that Rio has more interesting tourist attractions, but there is plenty of stuff to do in Sampa; it is the largest city in South America after all. It has many different markets, many museums, a great park and an amazing nightlife. Gastronomically, it is one of the most interesting places I have been to so far. Here you will be able to find a wide variety of cuisines; Vietnamese, Brazilian, Japanese, Chinese, Italian, Moroccan, Jewish, Arabian… whatever you are looking for you will find it!
Rio and Sampa are two different worlds and therefore it is impossible to compare these two cities. Just go to both cities and discover the good elements of each city. I believe that one might need to stay a bit longer in São Paulo to discover its true beauty.
Leaving Sampa was not easy for me. I have had an amazing time here and I wish I could have stayed longer, but we all know that I have to move on in order to discover the rest of the world. My flight to Bolivia would depart on a Sunday morning, which means that I had a goodbye party on Saturday night. I pulled all all-nighter again and my friends took me to the airport. Saying goodbye is never fun, but for some reason this one was extremely hard. But I'll be back Brazil…I promise you that!
Back to Bolivia-
I didn't feel like taking a bus back to Bolivia, so I took a flight to Santa Cruz (last time I crossed the border there I got stuck for 2 days, I wasn't going to do that again). I stayed only one night in Santa Cruz, but I've had a great time with the people from the hostel. The next day I went to Sucre and I stayed there for two nights. Sucre is a beautiful city, and it was good being back again. I've met some great people here in the hostel too, and perhaps I'll see them again at the Galapagos Islands.
Next stop: Potosi! Potosi is situated at an altitude of approximately 4.000 meters. That is quite a difference with Brazil, so I had to get used to the altitude again. There is nothing much going on in this city, but the main reason why tourists like me go there is because of the silver mines. Potosi started to become wealthier after the discovery of rich silver deposits in "Cerro Rico" in the 16th century.
I went on one of these mine tours and they brought me to a shop where I could buy stuff for the miners (coca leaves, lemonade, dynamite and a 96% alcoholic drink). This drink is brutal! I'd had this before and I wanted to give it another shot. Once you swallow the drink it feels like your whole body is burning. I managed to spill a bit on my chin and my chin was on fire!
The visit to the mines was extremely interesting. People make more money than the average person, but that is quite common when you are in the mining business. The miners are still exposed to harsh circumstances and many people die at a young age, because of the silicon they breathe in and this will eventually lead to silicosis (lung disease). Some miners start at a young age and I saw a few who were not older than 13 years.
Making a way through the mines can be pretty tough at times. The mines are high up, there is not a lot of fresh air and the mines are pretty narrow and claustrophobic. Nevertheless, it was a great experience and the most interesting part is that you get the opportunity to talk to the miners.
After the mine tour I got pretty sick due to the altitude and I believe I ate something bad as well. This resulted in a major headache and lots of vomiting. On top of that, it was extremely cold in Potosi and the place where I stayed at had no heating. Must have been my lucky day!
From Tupiza to Uyuni-
I met Juliette (French girl who lives in Canada) in the hostel in Potosi and she was planning on going to Tupiza. Given my health conditions it would be better to leave Potosi and go to a lower place. Tupiza is still pretty high up (approx. 3000 meters) but it is still better than nothing. I decided to go with her and book a tour to the famous salt flats of Uyuni once we get there. I had heard that the tours from Tupiza are actually better than the tours departing from Uyuni. When we arrived we booked a 4-day tour to Uyuni and it would start the next day. I wasn't fully recovered yet, but I didn't want to waste time.
The 4-day tour was absolutely marvelous. Juliette and I met 2 other guys as they were doing the same tour with us; Adam, the Englishman and Paul, the Irishman. Our driver Miguel was the best driver of all and Miguelina cooked some great food for us. The first day started off quietly, but then we got to know each other better on the first evening and the following days would just involve lots of laughter and craziness (the Irish accent was enough to make me laugh).
Personally, these few days were great and horrible at the same time. It was great, because I was seeing many amazing things. The "altiplanos" of Bolivia are just beautiful. It is not only the salt flats that are amazing, but the whole area around it is definitely worth driving through. The horrible part was that I was extremely sick. It was, both mentally and physically, the toughest week of my life. I experienced altitude sickness, food poisoning and extreme cold… all at the same time. And to make matters even worse… recovering in a jeep while driving on the altiplanos is not the best way to recover.
When we made it to the famous salt flats of Uyuni, better known as Salar de Uyuni, we had to take these crazy pictures everyone else is taking too. I had seen salt flats before, but they are nothing compared to this one. I felt like a tiny little ant, it is so ridiculously huge. It is the largest salt flat in the world at 10,582 square kilometers.
Copacabana & Isla del Sol-
After the Salar the Uyuni we made our way to Copacabana, which is a city at the Titicaca lake close to the Bolivian-Peruvian border. We took a bus from Uyuni to la Paz first. And trust me, Uyuni is not a cool place. If you don't have to stay here, then don't. It's probably one of the ugliest towns I've seen. The bus ride from Uyuni to la Paz was not that comfortable, because most of the roads are unpaved. Especially the first part wasn't that enjoyable, but I've been through worse.
In la Paz it is easy to take a bus to Copacabana due to many departures. I found Copacabana not really that interesting. It is nice to walk around for a bit, but it does not offer anything special. The city is mainly focused on tourism. Many people go to this place to cross the border to Peru or to go to Isla del Sol (the Sun Island). Of course, we went to this island. We arrived early and did a bit of hiking there. Normally, this would be an easy hike but the altitude made it a lot tougher.
Isla del Sol is located in the southern part of the Titicaca lake. The island is very rocky and hilly and there are no paved roads or motor vehicles. The local community use donkeys to transport their goods and the main activities are fishing, farming and tourism. The island itself has many ruins and it is assumed that these are leftovers of the Inca civilization. It is said that the God of Sun of the Incas was born here, which led to the start of the development of the Inca civilization.
A New Country: Peru-
From Isla del Sol we took a boat back to Copacabana and grabbed a night bus to Cusco from there. After a stop at the border and a stop at Puno (a Peruvian city on the Peruvian side of the Titacaca lake) we were on our way to Cusco. I have been here for a couple of days now and I have taken it easy. I had been travelling pretty quickly and I still need to recover from Bolivia. I have not seen that much of Cusco yet so I can't tell you much about it, but it seems like a cool place to kick it. I already noticed that Peru is way better developed than Bolivia (good internet, hot water, heating etc). The prices are a bit higher, but it is still acceptable. I'm currently waiting for my amazing Brazilian friend Tais to arrive here in Cusco. The next stop will be the amazing Inca city: Machu Picchu!