Long distance Paulo
Trip Start Dec 28, 2010
14Trip End Jul 15, 2011
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So briefly, what have I seen lately....
Before leaving Bolivia, it was a must to visit the worldīs largest salt flats. Ok, it doesnīt sound like tons of fun, but actually itīs very cool. This dried up lake is 12,000 square kilometres in size and extends as far as the eye can see. Blindingly white, this part of the Bolivian altiplano (Andean high plain) is so surreal - a landscape a little like a Salvador Dali painting. Completely flat, dazzling on the eyes and pretty much lifeless. Having a white background does allow you to take some interesting photos too
After hours on a bus, the next proper stop was San Pedro de Atacama in northern Chile. Here I experienced my first taste of camping outdoors in South America. No warm water, a swamp surrounding the campsite, no seats or doors on the toilets - it was top notch! Iīve actually stayed in worse places subsequently, and I feel confident I could now easily survive a stint in Guantanamo Bay!
I also think I might be a weather curse. Thanks to those of you whoīve noticed my lack of tan so far! It hasnīt been a good summer in South America. My hands have a lovely tan though! But when you arrive in a town that is actually in the Atacama desert, I thought the least I could expect was some sunshine. Instead, the night I camped there, the mother of all thunderstorms hit the place. The streets were flooded, it tipped it down and the all the shops and restaurants lost electricity for hours. Luckily as an experienced traveller I was prepared. I was wearing shorts, flip flops and left my sleeping mat outside the tent!
Another mammoth bus trip followed (19 hours) as I crossed into Argentina from Chile, and arrived in the picturesque town of Salta. I was delayed at the Chilean border for three hours, as apparently there was a festival the night before, and the immigration officials fancied a lie in. You have to love a country that shuts down an international border because theyīre hungover! Iīm learning that in South America, things happen when they get round to it, and not when itīs scheduled.
Anyway, I have to admit falling in love with Argentina almost immediately. For starters it feels about ten times more developed and prosperous than either Bolivia or northern Chile! Overall living standards are far better. After roughing it for weeks at high altitude, Salta was a gem oasis to discover.
Making a mental note not to mention the F word in Argentina (no not that F word, I mean the Falklands) I spent two excellent days in this laid back & hospitable town. Salta has loads of open, green spaces, beautiful plazas and friendly people. I hit the gym (yes I miss my exercise!), hit a few cafes and hit the bank for pesos (well, I didnīt actually hit a bank - just visited!). I don`t want to talk about finding a bar that showed the Wales V England game. The less said about that, the better!
After Salta, I travelled further south to experience the outback of Argentina. For four days I stayed on an Estancia, which is essentially a cattle & horse ranch. I got my first ever chance to have a go at horse riding. I had a dude of a horse called Salchecha
But the real highlight of Argentina so far has got to be the steaks. This country is not for vegetarians! The steaks are incredible. I know I love food, but the steaks are just amazing! Huge. Tasty. Huge some more! One evening I ate a 28oz beauty. I had to lie down afterwards. Then there are the empanadas (a kind of mini cornish pasty filled with more meat), the red wine and great beer. Itīs food & drink good times down here!
Following on from the Estancia stay I briefly called in on Argentinaīs second & third biggest cities, namely Cordoba and Rosario respectively.
Cordoba is a lively city which has no less than seven universities. Quite an attractive place again - colourful, colonial architecture and similiarily to other Argentinean places, very friendly people.
Now itīs Buenos Aires time! Iīve only been here a short while, but already it feels like an incredible city. Iīll update on BA soon....