A Travellerspoint blog

April to October 2007

New Zealand, Australia and Ireland

As I've been really lazy in keeping this up to date here's a short summation on the last few months. I arrived back in New Zealand at the beginning of April and spent a week catching up with friends in Auckland - thanks to Brian and Libby for putting me up, not having to sleep in a dorm was a blessed relief after 7 months of no privacy! A few nights out were of course on the cards and bizarrely enough (although by now I don't really consider many things bizarre) I bumped into Sinead - a girl I had worked with in Cuzco in Peru! Small world eh?

I then made my way down to Wellington where I met up with my mate Nads and together made our way around the country over the next few weeks, many a laugh was to be had and I can't wait to get back and catch up again - should hopefully be before the end of the year.

After that it was off to Sydney where I stayed for just over a month meeting up with my London buddies Caroline and Nicky - such a relief not to have to do the whole "What's your name, where are you from, where have you been, for how long, yadda, yadda, yadda! After a few nights in a hostel I moved onto the sofa of Caroline's very nice boyfriend Mike's house along with the Python and young Tim. After trying to find mildly interesting work I decided to cut my losses and beat a hasty retreat back home in order to shore up the funds again and decide what was to be next on this rollercoaster of life. After a few days in London catching up with old friends it was back to Ireland for 4 months where I worked in my brother's restaurant, camped out at friends houses and spent a lot of time in the sea only to find the travel bug was well and truly embedded and my feet were itching like hell again - time to get the hell outta there! Thanks to the parents for the assistance! So now I find myself back in Australia and trying to decide on what's next - for the last week I have been working in an Outdoor Ed camp and now I'm seeing what comes up next, either I'll be moving down into Melbourne or trying to find more work with OEG, I'll try to keep you all posted!

Posted by kerryd 00:43 Comments (0)

Tupiza and the end of my trip in South America

After the beauty and diversity of the trip in the Salar de Uyuni region I moved south to Tupiza - a town known for its laid back atmostphere and a convenient break on the way back to Argentina, a mere 3 hours from the border. I met up again with Abran and Carrie, friends met a few times before in various places and together we put a hole in the local supplies of red wine.

Not much to say about the town really, as advertised it was extremely laid back and offered trekking in the nearby hills and an alternative starting point for the trip into the Salar de Uyuni. I stayed a couple of nights and then made my way back to Argentina via a border crossing from tediousness that couldn't be made up. It took approxiamtely 6 hours of standing in a queue only for an official to come up, take our passports, head off with them for a couple of minutes and come back with them all stamped - why couldn't they have done that in the first place????

Due to the amount of time taken to cross the border I couldn't get a bus back to Salta that day so ended up going to Jujuy and then Salta the next day, then after a couple of days I caught anoher bus over to Puerto Iguazzu and the magnificant water falls that reside there. Having been to Niagara Falls I was expecting something similar - nothing like them at all! They were so much more, Niagara was like a dripping tap compared to the majesty of Iguazzu Falls. The Argentinian side of the falls offers miles of tracks through butterfly filled tropical forests as well as boat trips under the falls themselves - so what's a girl to do? Well get wet of course! This place is one of the most jaw dropping beautiful places I have ever been and if I had of stayed around a few more days I would have taken the trip across the border to Paraquay and Brazil - both of which were a mere couple of miles away......maybe when I go back someday.

Fom Puerto Iguazzu it was a 16 hour bus trip back to Buenos Aires and a couple of weeks party time before heading back to New Zealand via a night in Santiago again. Yet again Buenos Aires didn't fail to delight - meeting up with old friends and celebrating St Patricks Day was definitely one to remember. I also have to say that the people I met in the hostel this time around were the best bunch of people I met in my trip around - all very friendly, funny and up for a laugh at any given moment. So just so I remember.....Kristina, Meredith, John, Christina, Jodie, Ewan, Helen, Tom, Dierdre, Kate, Ben and the Frat Boys. The wheelbarrow races at 5 in the morning were particularly entertaining and much more preferable to the naked league which was up for discussion many times!

So that as they say is that - the end of my travels in South America, a continent blessed with rich cultures, generous people and such diversity that you could never get bored. My hope is that I'll get to go back in the not too distant future and work my way from Mexico down to Argentina - any joiners/dreamers welcome!

Posted by kerryd 00:06 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Salar de Uyuni

sunny -17 °C

Back on the bus then after waiting nearly an hour for the taxi and making it by the skin of our teeth we were on our way to Potosi - and what a journey it was......as many people as possible crammed in and with the oblligatory chicken stuck in behind my legs to make room for yet more people! At least it kept my legs warm I suppose....

After approx 6 hours we arrived in the town of Uyuni - the northern starting point for those doing tours of the Salt Flats and surrounding areas. The town itself wasn't that exciting and the service in the restaurant was possibly the worst I have ever come across but apart from that it was all good - oh yeah and the hotel had no water which made for an interesting toilet situation! Anyway I digress - on to the Salar de Uyuni. After sussing out a couple of agencies we settled on a 2 night 3 day adventure which cost the princely sum of $65 per person - bargain! Inclusive of all meals and accomodation and of course our 4 wheel drive and our guide - glad that I spoke and understood enough spanish by then to understand most of what was said!

About a 20 minute drive from the town we came to the start of the Salt Flats (12,000 square kms in total) and that was all you could see for miles - an ocean of salt. We were also lucky to be there when they were covered in water which gave the most impressive mirror like quality you could ever imagine - absolutely stunning. Made for many an impressive photo I can tell you - as well as some rather entertaining ones too. Amazing what you can do with a bit of imagination and a camera - I promise one day to actually get some posted.....

In the middle of this ocean of salt you come across Pescada Island which is covered in cacti and soaring rocks - a good place to stop off and contemplate all that beauty that surrounds it.

Towards the end of the first day you come off the salt and hit the 'road' again and make your way through mountainous terrain and bone crushing passes before finally reaching the accommodation for the night. Tomorrow would bring the Colrado Desert and on through to the Laguna Colorado and Lago Verde and an amazing amount of flamingos.

As promised there were flamingos and a pretty impressive sight it was. We stopped at a couple of lakes and then that was that - there are only so many flamingos you can look at! As well as the birdies of course are the lakes. For me they were probably even better - the various mineral deposits had left steaming red and green masses of water which only the hardy aforementioned bird can survive in (they eat the algae). We also stopped of at the tree in the desert - a wierd rock formation that strangely enough resembles a tree! Then again we headed off to lay our heads down for the evening. Tonight we were to be entertained by no less than 4 groups of youngsters who went from hostel to hostels 'entertaining' us backpackers - whilst very sweet (although obviously they expected us to give them money for their trouble) I can't say it was of the highest standard.......the elbowing and occasional sniggers when someone got something wrong made that all the more apparent! Dinner was once again cooked up by our guide and left us with full bellies and not a sign of a stomach upset in sight. Tonight was to be an early start as we were hitting the road the next morning at 5.30 - what's that all about??? Well the reason being of course that we get up to watch the sun rise over the thermal grounds of Sol de Manana - full of geysers and bubbling mud pools and not a fence in sight! Health and Safety would have a field day! But very beautiful it was and an excellent spot to watch the sun come up - after this it was a quick half hour trip down the road to the thermal baths for a quick dip before breakfast. All in all very beautiful.

That then was that - after dropping one of our german companions off on the border we began the long arduos trek back to Uyuni and with a sore bum but may happy memories we arrived back to our hotel some 8 or so hours later. Not bad for $65 all in.

Posted by kerryd 06:46 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)


The gateway to hell.....

sunny 25 °C

Leaving behind the colonial granduer of Sucre then and moving on to Potosi which was a mere 2 hour taxi ride away and at 30Bs each not a bad bargain either.....although leaving behind my travel towel on the back window meant it cost significantly more!

So the 5 of us who had been hanging out together in Sucre made it on to Potosi - me, Hayley, Caroline, Gemma and Veronico with the intentions of doing the trip into the mines and that's just what 4 of us did, with Veronico who had been before assuring us that it really wasn't that bad.......yeah right! If suffocating dust and holes in the floor dropping 2 or 3 levels without any kind of safety at all is your idea of easy then so be it!

A little bit more about the city and the mines then.....Potosí is the capital of the department of Potosí in Bolivia. It is at an altitude of 3967 meters and is claimed to be the highest city in the world. It lies beneath the Cerro Rico ("Rich mountain"), a mountain of silver ore and was one of the places plundered most by the spanish, so much so that it is said that the wealth generated here was what drove the industrial revolution in Europe. Its rumoured that a million souls have perished there over the last 300 years - beginning with the natives and then added to by African slaves brought over to work the mines. Why then would you want to go in and see for yourself then? For me a large part of it was actually seeing in person what these men and boys do every day of their lives to support their families, and what is it that decreases their average life expectancy to only 40 years old?

Starting the day early we went to be kitted out with protective trousers and a jacket (to keep most of the dust out...), a hard hat and a torch powered by a battery belt. That was that then! Then off to the miners markets to buy some supplies to take as gifts to the miners - this was an actual working mine that we were going down and the gifts were a way of saying thanks for letting us interrupt your work as we make our way past you. The gifts consisted of soft drinks, chocolate, coca leaves, hydroglycerin and dynamite - yes you read that correctly....dynamite. Enough to start a small war.

After that shopping trip time to make it into the mines, our group consisted of 8 people, 1 guide and 1 helper who's purpose was to take anyone out should they be overcome by dust, claustrophobia or sheer panic and fear. Going in the first hundred yards what strikes you is the dust and that's at ground level where the air is cleanest, then its the darkness. The further in you go the lower the ceiling becomes and the tighter the shafts so you spend your time either permantly hunched over or crawling on your hands and knees. Running through the middle are the tracks on which the carts are pushed manually by 1 or 2 miners to take the 'completo' out - that is the raw material blown or picked from the walls and loaded onto the carts after being hauled up through openings in the floor from up to 4 levels below. At the first level and half an hour in we had our first person give up and be led out - a strapping man from Sweden who just couldn't take any more. After that we descended through holes in the ground to the 2nd, 3rd and then the 4th levels all the while hacking away and stopping to rest every 5 minutes or so as it was so difficult to breathe through the choking dust, it felt like alking through treacle. Added to this was the attempts at avoiding the cables running along the walls as they were carrying live electricity and then you're having fun!

Mining is hereditary amongst the men of families. Father take their sons into the mines when they are as young as eight years old to be errand runners. Miners have a very short life expectancy with silicosis being the usual cause of death but having a lot of help from accidents, and the hard living that accompanies the lifestyle outside the mines.

How these men and boys, some as young as 12 years old can do this every day is unbelievable and somewhat heartbreaking - everywhere you look are the blank stares of the miners as they chew their coca leaves (believed to make a person immune to thirst, hunger and physical pain) and occasionally groups sitting down resting sharing the local brew of 98% alcohol - anything that takes the edge of the harshness.

The guides were excellent and most informative of what was happening, the history of the area, mining, and descibing the every day life of a miner and his family, being ex-miners themselves they were clearly knowledgable. Our guide at the age of 25 had already spent 11 years working down the mines with a further year as a guide. Whilst Bolivia lacks the infrastructure and clear directives from government this will continue as long as there are mines to mine and the country's wealth will continue to be eroded. Sad but true. I definitely recommend this as a way to see how the people here truly live - a very effective eye opener for all.

Now onto the fun part! That evening we were accompanied out on the town by Pedro, one of the guides who wanted an opportunity to improve his english in a social situation......so off we trotted to the Devils Bar, frequented by the miners and friends although on this particular night we were pretty much the only ones there. The drink of choice was a fairly potent Bolivian concoction served hot - no idea what the name is but not bad all the same! That of course led to calls to find another karaoke bar and continue our tour of the top singing spots in Bolivia - that brought us to the american bar....oh dear....but away we went and karaokied the night away with Pedro whispering in my ear that he really liked me and he wanted me to stay with him! So whilst Lady in Red was being crooned by the other 3 laughing their heads off at my utter dismay I had to let him down gently and let him know that there was no future for us together (bearing in mind that we had met only 4 hrs before and that I didn't have the intention of staying in Potosi!). Shortly after it was time to head for the hills and say goodnight - have to say it was a pretty amusing trip home with me being the cause of most of the piss taking! Bitches! Time to hit the road again the next morning - next destination was to be Uyuni and the Salt Flats.

Posted by kerryd 21:40 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)


The White City

View Jack in the job and head off! on kerryd's travel map.

Leaving behind the craziness of La Paz I jumped on a bus with Hayley who I had met in Copacabana for a 12 hour night journey to Sucre and was pleasantly surprised at how bad the roads weren't! Sure there were a few bumps here and there but I managed to sleep through most of them with a shockingly flat reclining seat - not bad eh? (This was to be the last of such luxury......)

Arrived in Sucre at 7 in the morning after waking around 5 and being treated to a beautiful sunrise and a very thorough drugs check by the local gendarme. Found somewhere to stay, dumped the bags and went in search of some breakfast - very nice it was too! Had a wander around town to get our bearings, found an optician's and ordered some ridiculously cheap prescription sunglasses, sat sunworshipping in the main plaza and bumped into a lady I had met 3 months previously in Rosario.....small world eh? Busy morning! That afternoon back to the hostel to clean up and have a little siesta...when in Rome as they say. That evening it was out to dinner with people we met whilst enjoying the local brew out on the patio - Caroline and Niamh, Sean and norweigian guy who's name I can never remember but has the thickest Manc accent I've ever heard and Veronico from Argentina. These turned out to be the dining and general frivolity companions for the next few nights as we all kicked back and relaxed.

In terms of things to do - there is a place just outside of the city which has visible dinosaur footprints which were uncovered by the local concrete factory approx 10 years ago and are known to be millions of years old - whilst now you can only view them from a platform as they are attempting to protect them until such time as they get silicon or something similar, until a couple of years ago they actually let people go right up to them and touch, etc. Fair enough that its limited but I was a little disappointed at how far away it was. There is also hiking and horseriding as far as the eye can see, but as a place to just hang out, take it easy, shoot the breeze with the locals and all that its great. The karaoke bars are also good - particularly when we had finished with them! I don't think the people will ever forget my magnificent attempt at singing Shakira in spanish - I however am attempting to forget it everyday!

Next stop Potosi and its famous mines.

Posted by kerryd 21:40 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

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