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City of Potosí

June 6th, 2009 | Posted by Davey in 17-Bolivia - (0 Comments)

The capital of the department of Potosi in Bolivia, the highest city in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site all rolled into one – need we say any more – an absolute must visit!

At 4,090m it literally takes your breath away just walking the streets.  Founded in 1546 as a mining town (mainly silver), it produced fabulous wealth, becoming one of the largest and richest cities in the Americas and the world with a population exceeding 200,000. As the silver depleted so too did its wealth.  Although the mines still operate today, there is little else on offer other than its 400 year-old architecture and history. 

There was a mine tour on offer which most tourists visit.  You get the opportunity to purchase and blow up some dynamite for around one US dollar – it seemed to be the highlight for most visitors.  60m underground for 4–5 hours seemed a little too claustrophobic for us and instead we walked around taking photos.

A really great pit stop for a couple of days, albeit a little tiring.

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Uyuni

June 5th, 2009 | Posted by Davey in 17-Bolivia - (0 Comments)

A quick pit stop in Uyuni in south Bolivia following our Salar de Uyuni tour before we head for the UNESCO sites of Potosi and Sucre and then onto La Paz.  At an elevation of 3670 meters it is damn damn damn cold .  Not too bad when the sun is out, but after 4pm you’d better layer up.

Supposedly, it is an important transport hub and the location of a major railway junction. Four lines join here, respectively from La Paz (via Oruro), Calama (in Chile), Potosí, and Villazon on the Argentine border.  Looking around, it seems the locals haven’t yet capitalised on the movement of people.

It was mothers day while we were there and it seemed to be well and truly celebrated.  It was great to see all the ladies out in their best attire, top hats and all .  We enjoyed walking around and people watching, hence the photographs below.  Great to see some real culture again.  It seems as if little has changes here for centuries…

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Quick update

June 3rd, 2009 | Posted by Davey in 17-Bolivia - (3 Comments)

Just a quick update to let you know we are alive and well in La Paz, Bolivia.  The posts have been few because of the lack of a decent internet connection.  Sam’s been laid up in bed for two days with a tummy bug. If the problem persists we’ll go and see a doctor but she seems to be on the mend.  We are staying at the best hostel in Bolivia while she recovers, it just so happens to be an Irish establishment called Wild Rover.

Tomorrow I’m heading off with a few other guys for a 74k bike ride on the world’s most dangerous road.  I’ve been assured that we will be in good hands.  In saying that, some English dude went flying of the edge to his death last week.  A true test of ones biking skills I would say.  I just couldn’t leave La Paz without doing this activity.  Hopefully I’ll have an update with loads of photos for you in a day or so.

Here’s a BBC article on the road and some youtube videos.  After looking at these, I’m glad I’ll be on a bike and not on a bus.

Salar de Uyuni Tour

May 29th, 2009 | Posted by Davey in 17-Bolivia - (4 Comments)

Colourful altiplano lakes, weird rock playgrounds, flamingos, volcanoes and, most famously of all, the blindingly white salt flat of Uyuni: these are some of the rewards for taking an excursion into Bolivia via the Salar de Uyuni Tour (Lonely Planet).

A little background:  Salar de Uyuni is the world’s largest salt flat at 10,882 km2.  It is located in the Potosi and Oruro departments in the crest of the Andes, 3,650 meters above sea level.  Some 40,000 years ago the area was part of Lake Minchin, a giant prehistoric lake.  When the lake dried, it left behind two major salt deserts, now estimated to contain over 10 billion tones of salt.  Every November, the area is the breeding grounds for three species of South American flamingos. As it is so flat it serves as a major transport route across the Bolivian Altiplano.  You can read more here.

We have no idea where to start when trying to describe the amazing time we had on this tour.  Three days in a teeth-shattering bone-shaking 40 year old jeep, altitudes of 4,000m and above, 25 to -10 degrees celcuis, concrete blocks for beds and cold showers.  Yes, amazing stuff and if, like us, you can get past these you will have an amazing experience. 

It is the landscape what makes this tour such a wonderful experience! We have tried to capture the best parts in our pictures below i.e. mountains, desert terrain, flora and fauna.  It was amazing from the minute we crossed the Bolivian border (pic 1) until we arrived in Uyuni 3–days later.  The company, guides, lodgings and food were just outstanding – and all for $120US per person.

Sure we broke down a few times, had a flat tire, nearly keeled over when off-roading, caught fire (electrical fault), radiator burst and ran out of fuel, but what an experience…

It was near on impossible to narrow down 1,000 photographs to 10 for this post so we’ve included nearly 50, so apologies to those with a slow connection.

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Out’n about in the desert…

May 29th, 2009 | Posted by Davey in 13-Chile - (2 Comments)

They say that San Pedro is an oasis surrounded by geysers, sand dunes, salt flats and lost Andean villages.  What better way to find out than rent some bikes and set off and explore for the day..

Looking back, we had a pretty hectic day and covered a respectable 65k on the desert roads.  The pictures below are pretty random but encompass Quebrada del Diablo (Devil’s George), Pukara De Quitor (a crumbling 12th century fortress ruins) and Valle De La Luna or Valley of the moon (a maze of sandunes where you can see the sunset over the Andes).

We left our hostel at 8:30am and didn’t return until 8pm so it was pretty full on.  After sunset we had a 12–14k bike ride home in the dark.  We had hoped to fit in the desert star-gazing tour upon our return but it was fully booked – damn – no tour agencies were open when we set off. 

Star-gazing in the Atacama desert is supposed to be best in the world and we were absolutely gutted to have missed out.  Our neighbours came back with pictures of Saturn, falling stars and various other astronomy marvels – adding salt to an already gaping wound.  Nevertheless, it was still pretty amazing having the opportunity stare up at the sky to see the sheer number of stars and the milky way in such a remote part of the world.

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