…After our first night out in La Paz with the new group, we had another free day in the city before catching a night bus to Potosi. We had the dodgiest bus, think GAP skimped somewhat there, as it didn't even have a toilet and we were on it for 12 hours!
Bus journeys are were im really missing my ipod… which broke towards the end of New Zealand! So Im lost, especially without my regular fix of the new Kings of Leon album! So we survive bus journeys by card games! Girls you will be pleased to know that your cards have entertained me and many others greatly this year! Especially the dancing dog motifs!! Our games of choice were 13 and wink murder! 13, I can teach you when im home…wink murder, well you should all know that one from your youth! Yes a tragic game where someones the murderer and winks at you and you die, everyone else has to guess who it is. Hours of fun on long bus rides. Me… I don't even get chance to wink, as people know im the murderer as I get giggly when I get the card. … Clearly I need to work on my poker face!
Anyway we arrived in Potosi which isn't a particularly exciting place, it's a silver mining town (not that that in itself should make it boring...but, well it is!). I was shattered, seem to have got a bit run down and got a cold, so spent a large part of the day asleep. The next day another long bus journey to Uyuni, the start of the salt flats...and yet more 13 and wink murder!! Uyuni is a really random ramshackle of a town! We went out for pizza and then headed to a local bar in town. This bar did challeneges, 13 shots in the quickest amount of time…there was a whole wall dedicated to times. Paul chickened out and opted for the 13 shots of water challenge and then promptly threw up! Alex and Dennis did the alcohol shots. And these weren't normal shots either, they were like double the size of normal measures! And then one was 2 shots mixed with a bottle of beer which you had to down…gross! Dennis went first and did really well, (sheepishly diseappearing shortly after mind) ! Alex nailed it in under a minute, but made the schoolboy error of not being ill and was absolutely smashed! He was really loud, disabled the electricity in the bar fora while and was generally all over the place!
Next day we hit the 4x4 for our Salt flats adventures. Suprisingly Alex seemed ok after the previous night! I was in a jeep with Sook ( 54 yr old woman from Bournemouth who everyone loves!) , Priscilla and Viki. Our driver was some little old man though who drove at like 50mph were as everyone else shot off ahead of us. We kept shouting ´vamos vamos`at him, but to no avail! There was no music in our jeep either (we clearly got the rough deal!) So we sang …pretty much every song we knew over the course of the 4 day trip, which i dont think our driver appreciated!
The Salt flats are a crazy place, used to be a lake which is now dried up and its now just the bed of salt left. Its blindingly white and unbelievably hot. We stopped in the middle of the flats to take the comedy pictures, Stepping on people, being attacked by dinosaurs…etc. Stupidly enough though us girls took our photos into the sun (am sooo blonde sometimes!) so they haven't come out very well… oops!
After the salt flats we headed into the Atacama desert (the Bolivian side) - which is the driest desert in the world. The desert was pretty cool with ubelievable colours in the sands and rocks, and beautiful coloured lagoons as we were entering into it. On the final day of the 4x4 we got up at 4.30am as we had a lot of driving to do before we hit the Chilean border. We first stopped at the Geysers which were really cool, but like in New Zealand the smell of the sulphur was pretty overwhelming especially at 5.30 in the morning! After the geysers we went to the thermal hot springs. It was freezing outside as it was still early in the morning, but we apprehensively stripped into our bikinis and ran across to the springs which were boiling...perfect!! We sat in the springs for about 30mins enjoying the warm water and the beautiful scenery of the surrounding mountains...perfect!
Back in the jeep and then we headed to the Chilean border, unbelieveable that literally as soon as we had crossed the border, we were still in the atacama desert, but there were now proper roads and you could tell instantaneously that you were in Chile and not Bolivia, just by that and the standard of cars that came and picked us up...that werent held together by duct tape!
We headed to San Pedro de Atacama, a little town in the desert. I loved it here and could have easily spent longer than 2 days here. There was such a great vibe to the place. There were optional activites to do, but me and a few of the others opted to just chill out and enjoy the town as I didn´t fancy the tours and had already done Sandboarding in Oz. The first night we went out, had a really good night. We went to this cool bar that was open air in the centre and had a huge fire pit that we all sat around. I was fine on the red wine, and then Priscilla went and pushed me over the edge (along with herself!) by buying a frozen Margerita! And when i started to fall asleep, my roommate kindly took me home and put me to bed, and then went back out herself... dont blame her!
The next day we wandered around San Pedro and then in the evening we went on an Astronomy night which was absolutely fantastic. San Pedro is one of the best places in the world to view the stars as the sky is so clear. We were taught a basic overview about the stars and planets and then were let loose on the telescopes which were all fixed on certain points in the sky; We got to look at Supernova´s, red stars, galaxy´s, Jupiter and Venus and much more and everything was explained to us. By the end of the night we could also spot Orions Belt, The Rabbit and The Big Dog constellations.... although these look different in the Northern Hemisphere so i shall have to see if i can still find them when i get home!
After San P, we got yet another ridiuclously long bus ride to Salta in Argentina, to be greeted at 10 at night by torrential rain! We didnt really get a chance to explore Salta itself, although what i saw of it it just looked like another big city. Instead we did a day trip to the surrounding countryside and visited Cafayate to do a wine tour... ( I have now done a wine tour in pretty much every country ive visited this year!!) On the way to Cafayate we drove through a gorge and stopped to check out several of the rock formations which were pretty cool. The winerys themselves were really nice and we got a chance to sample several of the infamous Argentinian Malbec wines. We also visited an organic winery which made the most delicious Rose wine... yum!
That night we went out for some Argentinian steak... something Argentina is famous for! And it didnt disappoint! They bought out like half a cow on a plate mind which was impossible to eat!! The next day we caught our flight to B.A, and when we arrived in the afternoon we said goodbye to a few of the group (inc. my room mate!) as they were heading to Iguassu Falls... but some of us would see them again at the weekend, even though the tour would have finished by then.
That night was the official last night of the tour... 26 days over, couldnt believe it! We went to this gorgeous restaurant on the waterfront and had yet more yummy steak! At the end of the night Jim, the American man, suprised us all by paying for the bill which was really nice of him! We then hit the town. Ended up in some Drum and Bass club, which isnt really my kind of music but oh well!! A few more Mojitos and it didnt seem too bad! It was all a bit crazy though as people diseappeared and we didnt really get a chance to say a proper goodbye. The next morning some people had checked out before we got a chance to say goodbye so it all felt a bit up in the air. I waited for Priscilla and we went and checked into our hostel ´The Millhouse´. The Millhouse certainly lived up to its expecatations as a party hostel, people who stayed there were crazy...was a bit too much for me...must be getting old! P and I were feeling a bit down the day the tour ended, think we were so used to being with the group that we felt lost without them! We decided to cheer ourselves up by booking tickets to the Madonna concert for the following night. Im not a huge Madonna fan or anything, but thought she would be one of those people that you have to see in Concert.
The next day we did a sightseeing tour of B.A which took you to all the must see places in the city. Was a good opportunity to get a feel for the place as its huge, and to get an idea of the areas we wanted to go back and visit. After the tour we headed back to the hostel to get ready for the concert, and headed down there about 4. The queue was already crazy and we had to stand in the blazing hot sun for a couple of hours. We got in there and it was rammed, it was in an open air stadium and we were in El Campo... the standing section, and we managed to get fairly near to the front. It was absolutely crazy though as when she came on people started really pushing and screaming and I thought we were going to get knocked over. At one point 3 guys ran through the crowd and Priscilla diseappeared... they had carried her off with them! But its ok, we got her back eventually!! When she sang ´Dont cry for me Argentina´ the crowd went nuts... the guy behind me was screaming the words sooo loud and was crying...bless!! Obviously a hard core Madonna fan!
The other guys came back from Iguassu falls on Friday and we met up with them that night for dinner. We said goodbye to the 2 Aussie boys which was sad as dont know when or if will see them again, seeing as how they live on the other side of the world!
On Saturday we went to the Cemetery which is absolutley amazing! Its famous for being the burial place of Eva Peron (Evita), but hundreds of Argentina´s elite are buried there in Mausoleums. It is like a town and the mausoleums are beautiful and sooo ornate. We wondered around for ages, it was really interesting. After we went to La Boca. La Boca is perhaps my favourite place in B.A, it is naffly touristy, but fantastic all at once. It is stereotypically what i think of when i think of Argentina... the coloured houses, tango in the street, market stalls everywhere a fab place to wander around and then sit in a little cafe and soak up the atmosphere.
That night me and Viki decided to go to a tango show, a tad on the expensive side but we decided... when in Argentina..... !
When we arrived we first off had a lesson in beginners tango. God i sucked at that... 15 years of dance classes and couldnt seem to pick it up... as soon as i got put with a partner we just trod all over each other, but it was highly funny!! And i have a certificate that says i can do it.... so shhhh!!
After the class we sat down to dinner, a 3 course meal with all you could drink wine!! ... the food was lovely and it was nice to spend some time with Viki as she was flying out the next day. After dinner the tango show began, it depicted the story of tango from its early years right through to modern day and there was lots of singing as well. Was very good!! We got back from the tango about 11.45 and met up with Priscilla. We headed to a club called Asia de Cuba which they also have in London apparently. It was quite cool ( a bit too trendy for me and my scratty backpacker clothes, but oh well!!) Headed home about 4am...pretty early by Buenos Aires standards!
Sunday was a chill out day. Priscilla left us as she started a new tour, very sad!! And then me, Viki and Sook headed to San Telmo which is the oldest district in B.A full of antique markets ... was very cool. Sook went home that night, so yet another goodbye.
Me and Vik had a quiet night and then first thing in the morning she left me and I was all on my own again!!
I booked a bus to leave that evening (Monday 8 December) to go to Iguassu Falls which is on the Brazilian / Argentinian / Paraguian border, and it took 17 hours to get there. The Argentinian buses are sooo comfy mind so the trip isnt too bad, the seats fully recline and they have tv´s.
Iguassu, to quote my Irish mate Niamh, is ´deadly!!´ I had never heard of it before coming to S.America, but loads of people had told me to go...so i did! They are the largest waterfalls in the world, 2nd to Angel Falls in Venezuala, and they are claimed to be one of the newly listed natural wonders of the world. On Wednesday I headed to the falls all by myself. It was beautiful. I spent about 7hrs just wandering around looking at the falls from all the different vantage points they offer, and despite the fact that it was a really cloudy day it didnt detract from the beauty of the falls. Thursday i decided to head over the border to Brazil so i could see the falls from the brazilian side as you were supposed to get a more overall perspective of the scale of them. It was crazy hot, about 35 degrees, and really humid, so i got there and spent about 2 hrs walking round the falls and it was definitely worth it as you could get really close to the falls from this side ... in fact i got soaked on several occasions. But it was soooo hot that after a couple of hours i had to head back.
Friday I headed to Rio De Janiero...my final stop of the trip, 24hours on a bus...eeek!! Was excited as was going to meet up with Niamh (irish mate i met in Santiago, Chile). Got to Rio lunchtime on Saturday and headed to Leblon where my hostel was. Was cool to see Niamh again, and we went for a wander around the local area. Leblon, Ipanema and Copacobana all run into one another, so walked around them all. God, had just about got a basic grip on Spanish and now im in a bloody portugese speaking country and havent got a clue!!!
That night we headed out for Sushi...my 1st sushi experience and I loved it!! Afterwards we headed out with some others from the hostel to a bar...which turned out to be a bit s*** so we headed to one of the Samba schools in the equivalent of Rio´s getto area! Every september rios samba schools open their Carnaval rehearsals to the public and you can go along. It was one big crazy party and was absolutely nuts! We were the only tourists in there. We danced like crazy people until like 5am and then when the party ended everyone took it out onto the street... the band was out there playing and people were dancing, there was street food all up the street...was fantastic! We rolled home about 7.30 am absolutely exhausted but it was worth it! Found out after that it really isnt advised to go there by yourselves, but in big groups, as it isnt safe for tourists...ooops!
Anyhoo... now im in Rio and have 5 days left before I come home!! I´ve been looking forward to Rio for ages, some time to chill out and lie on a beach... have hardly lied on a beach at all this year! So... the weather, rain, rain and more rain!! And thats the forecast for the rest of the week too! Me and Niamh spent all day today in our Raincoats...not amused!! Meeting up with Priscilla again tommorrow which should be fun! So fingers crossed for some sun peeps... as at the moment Im cranky hannah, really want to go Paragliding in Rio and up to the Chist Redeemer (the infamous statue of christ that overlooks the city) but when the weathers s*** cant really do either of those things... Boooo!!
So kiddies, sorry for the super long blog...but hopefully this now brings me up to date! Will upload piccies and stuff when im back home!
Much love... xxxx