A Travellerspoint blog

September 2013

Iguassu Falls, Brazil and Argentina and the Itaipu Dam

What a dam good river!

sunny 30 °C

Tuesday 24th September - let the border hopping commence: Paraguay - Brazil

We left for the Brazilian side of Iguassu Falls from Ciudad del Este in Paraguay first thing in morning. The journey is only about 20-30km, yet took us the best part of 2 hours. The first bus for some reason left empty and would not take us. The second bus took us to within a kilometre of the border before we were kicked off and made to walk to the bus at the front of the queue, which was about 15 buses up. We explained to the driver we needed to stop at the border to show our passports as the locals do not need to go through immigration.

We then sat at the side of the road for 15 minutes for some unknown reason before changing bus driver. Maybe the new bus driver was late? We forgot we would need to tell the new bus driver we needed to stop and so went soaring past immigration. We got off the bus and walked the hundred metres or so back to immigration to be stamped out of Paraguay. Before alighting, we had been given a transfer ticket for the bus so that in theory we could board the next bus on the same ticket.

The next bus pulled up from the same company, yet would not accept our tickets, saying we had to pay. We decided that seeing as we still had to get off the bus at the Brazilian immigration after we had crossed the river, we would walk the 500m bridge of no man's land to cross the border and catch a bus in Brazil. We cleared the Brazilian immigration and flagged down a bus. It turned out this bus was a Brazilian company as opposed to the Paraguayan company we had started with; however they were more than happy to accept the tickets.

We were not looking forward to having to do it all again the following day when we crossed into Argentina.

Itaipu Dam

In the afternoon we visited the Itaipu dam, which is situated on the Paraná river and forms the border between Paraguay and Brazil. This dam generates 75% of all Paraguay's electricity and still leaves 90% of the supply for Brazil. Itaipu is a binational company and you could tell our guide loved this with endless binational jokes. The tour begins with a 30 minute brainwashing video about how amazing the Itaipu dam is, forgetting to mention any negative consequences which have come from its construction. Afterwards you're driven around the site and it is explained how they use the water to generate electricity. The dam is 200m high. It is unbelievably big. All the equipment they use to generate the hydroelectric power is completely oversized. The turbine hall is a kilometer long and each turbine has a diameter of about 25m. It was really fascinating to see something so different. For this tour, you have to wear a hard hat. For part of it, you are within the working dam; part of the tour takes you through the offices, where you still have to wear the hard hat, to the amusement of the workers.

After the dam tour, we found an all-you-can-eat churrascaria for £8. These are found all over Brazil and for your £8 you get a pretty decent self serve buffet of rices, pastas, salads and a couple of mains. This is not why you go though; the staff continually come round with various different meats on skewers and cut you a piece off. We must have had about 10 pieces of meat. And it was decent meat as well. I think we could be visiting a few over these over the next couple of weeks.

Wednesday 25th September - Iguassu Falls, Brazil and border hop number two: Brazil - Argentina

We got up early to go to Iguassu Falls in the hope that we would beat the crowds. Although it was busy at the entry gate and on the bus which takes you around the national park, the bus nearly emptied as people decided to do the visitor centre first. This meant that at the Falls, there were only about 15 of us. The waterfalls were magnificent and well deserved of their title of one of the 7 wonders of the world. That are high, loud and powerful along some distance. They were beautiful. The speed at which the water travels was unbelievable. I am so glad we have seen the Falls as these are definitely something anyone who gets the chance should go to see.

Next door to the national park is a bird park which we decided to visit, not really expecting much. We ended up spending over 2 hours there and have never seen such a vast range of birds. There were a few walk through aviaries, including one with some very impressive toucans. Their beaks look so fake and stuck on the front. They posed very nicely for photos.

Afterwards, we collected our rucksacks from the hostel and crossed the border into Argentina, which was fortunately a lot more civilised than attempting to cross over from Paraguay with only one easy bus change. And back to understanding when you're being spoken to and what is written down. For Chris though, it's all in 'foreign' but at least he's 'got his translator back', which coincidentally was the first reason he listed for not wanting to travel alone. Nice to be valued by your husband.

Thursday 26th September - Iguassu Falls - Argentina and third and final border hop: Argentina - Brazil Enjoying the fact we got our passports back and can therefore re-enter a country.

Once again we got up early to beat the crowds; however this time that was not possible. The Argentinian side of the Falls is reportedly the better side from which to view them and is a lot more accessible with the majority of the route being completely flat. We personally preferred the Brazilian side as you can see the Falls as a whole and get an idea of the magnitude. With the Argentinian side, you are right on top of them and so you can only really see that section of the waterfall. The wildlife is probably better on the Argentinian side with more colourful and exotic birds, as well as a few different smaller breeds of toucan.

We also went on a speed boat ride up to the waterfalls and under 3 of them. It was worth seeing the Falls from water level and looking up at them.

That evening, we made our final trip over the border back to Brazil and went out for dinner. Over dinner, we began to notice the number of very attractive and natural women, to which Chris commented that we were going to need to tie his mouth shut. I didn't get this at first so questioned him. His response was so they can't tell I'm gawping at them and demonstrated his open-mouthed, transfixed expression. Hmm....

Itaipu Dam brainwash part two

Included in the price of our dam tour, were 'free' tickets to their eco-museum which showed more reasons why the Itaipu dam was so brilliant. It was a strange museum with a few unrelated themes, and only English or Spanish translations in the first couple of sections meaning we were really not too sure what was going on in most of the museum or what relevance it had to the construction of the dam. I mean one section was a dirty cartoon comic strip competition.

After a late lunch/early dinner, we caught the 16 hour night bus to Sao Paulo, where the temperature is in the 30s. I can't wait!

Posted by Roaming Rolts 08:23 Archived in Brazil Tagged waterfalls river puerto dam border passport iguassu foz itaipu Comments (0)

Asunción, Paraguay

Pit stop en route to Brazil

rain 20 °C

Asunción is the capital city of Paraguay, a lesser visited country by travellers as Paraguay has yet to really catch on to the idea that tourists equal money. We are a bit behind on our travels, and so only spent 24 hours in Asunción as it was the cheapest place to fly to near Iguassu Falls.

We arrived on a Sunday and so everything was shut apart from the shopping mall. We neededa new camera, and as this mall was the best in Paraguay, we were optimistic; however this mall was tiny and only seemed to sell clothes. There were no electrical shops. Instead we spent the afternoon hiding from the rain in a nice cosy café.

In the evening, we headed to the Lomo Jerimino district, which on a Sunday evening has various stalls set up for tourists. We walked along some deadly quiet streets until we reached this little neighbourhood which was lit up and decorated with plenty going on. We had some yerba mate tea, which is traditionally drunk in Paraguay. I found it far too sweet but Chris quite liked it.

The following day we ventured into town. We visited the local market, but no one tried to sell us anything, despite it looking like most the stallholders were selling the usual tourist tat. We found an electronics arcade and managed to buy the camera we wanted for quite a bit less than it had been advertised in Chile.

We wandered around town a little more, visiting various plazas before catching the 6 hour bus to Ciudad del Este, the border town to Iguassu falls.

Posted by Roaming Rolts 17:27 Archived in Paraguay Comments (0)

A quick trip to Santiago

The quickest way out of Calama, Chile

rain 5 °C

Following our 2 bag snatches in Calama, we were unsure as to where to go next, having missed the bus to Santiago in order to report the second theft to the police. That and the bus tickets were in the bag and Chile is the first country to which we have been where you didn't need to supply your name and passport number to catch a bus anywhere. (Therefore meaning the bus company had no record of our purchase our to whom they had sold the tickets.)

Once we had managed to persuade the police to do a report, (goodness only knows why they are always so reluctant,) we had to work out where to go next. We tried to get to Salta, Argentina, as was our original plan, but there were no buses until Friday at the earliest and staying another 5 days in Calama was not an option. The best we could do was Santiago on the Tuesday and then fly across South America to Iguassu Falls.

Monday was spent buying a replacement tablet so we didn't have to visit internet cafés, and researching cameras. We also discovered that £250 had been stolen from Chris' account and so Tuesday morning was filled with once again desperately trying to get the police to file a report. Finally, report in hand, passports around my waist, we caught the 22 hour bus to Santiago, arriving Wednesday at about 11am.

Wednesday and Thursday were bank holidays and so everything was shut. On Wednesday, once we dropped off our bags and showered at the apartment, we headed out to wander the empty streets. I have never seen such a quiet and dead capital city. On Thursday, we visited the zoo, containing a variety of animals, all in cages far too small for your average pet dog let alone a big cat.

After the zoo, we took the funicular railway up to the top of the hill overlooking Santiago, which offered you a better view of the tower blocks.

On Friday, more shops were open and so we decided to go camera shopping. We researched a few options, tried to buy several models, but it appears Chile has no stock. Eventually we managed to get a new compact camera and will try to get a proper camera in Brazil.

Saturday it was incredibly wet and still not much was open. It seems we will have to leave Santiago knowing it as an almost ghost town.

We caught our flight to Asunción at 7.30pm, with a lovely 9 connection in Sao Paulo. At least we save on accommodation right? We were very pleased to get our exit stamps as it had been suggested by the embassy that someone may have misused our passports rendering them useless.

Posted by Roaming Rolts 20:06 Archived in Chile Tagged flight police chile santiago plane passport calama thieves connection report bank_holiday Comments (0)

Off to Chile? Leave your valuables at home.

How the low-life live: off of your stuff like Chilean parasites.

Midnight, Thursday 12th September

Having almost missed the night bus from Iquique to Calama, we kind of wish we had.....

3am we had our first encounter with the police when everyone is kicked off the bus for their bags to be scanned at a random police checkpoint in the middle of nowhere. 30 minutes later we're back on the bus and arrive in Calama at 5.30am. Unfortunately this bus company did not allow us to stay asleep on the bus and so we were turfed out into the freezing cold bus station to wait for our bus to Salta, Argentina at 8am.

At about 7.30am, I thought someone tried to nick my bag by pulling it under the seat, and so I moved it in front of me. We were watching them, when next thing you know, some guy decides to leave his seat from the row in front and go the long way out by pushing past us and treading on Chris. Next thing we know, my bag containing our passports and various valuables such as camera and kindle and a couple of hundred dollars has gone. I couldn't believe I hadn't been wearing the passports as I had been every other day of our trip.

After spending the morning at the police station, we contacted the British embassy who told us we could get a temporary passport, although this would only allow us to visit 5 more countries and we've got about 10 left on our list. You also cannot re-enter a country, which made our route more difficult. It also looked as though we would need to change our flight to Asia to allow us a week in the UK to get new passports. To say we were angry is an understatement. It had made a complete mess of our trip.

We ended up staying in our worst hostel yet which was so depressing, with thread bare sheets, chewing gum on the walls and the dirtiest shared bathrooms. The following night, we managed to book a 5 star hotel for £35 and spent the afternoon at the pool.

Sunday 15th September

We had tickets booked for the bus to Santiago to go to the embassy at 3.30pm. After checking out of our hotel at midday, we decided we would try the police station to see if the bag or anything had been dumped. The first police station just said no. The second police station also told us that nothing had been handed in; however they told us there was a third police station just up the road and to try there.

We went in and saw two red passports. As they got them out, we saw they were new British ones. Unbelievably, they were ours! We were so ecstatic, we headed to the internet café to let our family know we had found them.....

And then somehow, some other Chilean scumbag managed to nick our other rucksack and ruin our great mood. He'd used some foreign currency to distract Chris, who went to take it up to the desk and one of the men ran off with the bag. We actually couldn't believe it. We'd been so careful, attaching our bags to anything we could but were obviously caught off our guard in our good mood from getting the passports back.

We headed back to the police station to file another report, which the police were very reluctant to do?

And so we missed the bus and ended up staying in this thriving hole of a town for another 2 days until we could catch the next bus.

By the end of Sunday, we were still very pleased to get our passports back but disbelieving that we had no valuables left. To top it off, they withdrew £250 cash on a credit card that had not been used for 18 months and the credit card company didn't know we were in Chile/South America. It flagged up their fraud thing, yet not enough for them to block the transaction. Brilliant, what's the point in flagging it up?

But we have our passports and will be leaving Chile for Paraguay on Saturday and man I cannot wait.....

At least we have no valuables left for them to steal, just a note in my bag (in Spanish) saying 'haha scumbags, this bag was for you and has nothing of any value. Enjoy!' (Just some snacks and drinks!)

Posted by Roaming Rolts 16:50 Archived in Chile Tagged chile stolen passports thieves scum Comments (1)

Chile - yet it's the warmest place we've been?

Our five day mini-break to northern Chile

After our Uyuni salt flats tour, we took a transfer to San Pedro de Atacama, Chile,

San Pedro de Atacama
Sunday 8th September

San Pedro de Atacama is a small town in the dessert. It is hot and dusty. Our hostel had a really lovely patio area with hammocks. The town is set amongst the dirt roads, with discreet wooden signs for all the shops and banks. In the main square, there is a church, which from the outside looks a little neglected, but inside has the usual ornate display of the virgin Mary and Jesus. This church is different to the others we have seen as its roof is exposed, showing that it has been made using cactus. Dried cactus wood without the pins makes for an alternate long grain pattern on the wood.

Calama
Monday 9th September

Calama sits 100km towards the coast from San Pedro de Atacama and is a reasonable sized town with a proper shopping high street. This is the closest we have been to what we would consider a normal shopping town in the last month. Even Chris didn't seem to mind browsing the shops for some chinos. He was even more impressed when his chinos turned out to be a quarter of the advertised price, costing approximately £4.

After lunch, we went on a free tour of the copper mine Chiquimata, which is about 30 minutes from Calama. The tour takes you around the ghost town of Chiquimata, deserted by the last miner family in February 2008. This ghost town feels very strange as everything is still in a reasonable condition, and you completely expect the streets to be full of people.

The mine itself is an absolutely huge terraced pit in the ground. The majority of this tour is viewed from the comfort and safety of the bus; however you still have to wear a hi-vis jacket and a hard hat. Part way down the terraces, there are a couple of viewpoints where you can have a better look at what's going on. You can see these gigantic trucks, capable of carrying up to 400 tons swamping the standard sized cars they pass and making our 50 seater coach look like a toy.

After the mine tour, we still had a good 6 hours to kill before our bus at midnight to Iquique, and so went to the cinema and got some dinner, which took us nicely to the departure time of the bus.

Iquique
Tuesday 10th September

The bus arrived into Iquique at 5am; however we were allowed to stay asleep on the buys until half 7, which was brilliant as nothing was open at 5, it was freezing cold, and dark until 7.

We dropped off our bags at the hostel, had a shower and headed out. The centre of Iquique has a western feel to it with most of the properties having a decked veranda with railing made out of wood and a matching balcony across whole front section of their wooden house. It is a costal town with good sea for surfers and sandy beaches which I'm sure get pretty busy during the summer months.

We had hoped to hire a car, but they turned our to be a lot more expensive than we had expected, with one company not understanding why we needed to know the excess in case of an accident. They then went on to suggest we hired the car with a driver for 50,000 pesos, however we still had to pay fuel, making it another 40 odd on top. In the end, we found a taxi driver who was more than happy to do it go 50,000 all in.

That afternoon, we visited the replica of the Esmeralda boat, which is moored at the port. This boat is set up as it was the day it sank in May 1830. We were given a guided tour, explaining what life was like on the boat. the boat seemed bright and airy; however I'm sure once you stuck 200 men on it for a few months it was anything but. We enjoyed this exhibition as it's not your usual run of the mill museum, and clearly showed the lives of the crew members on board, depending on their rank.

Wednesday 11th September

The next day, our taxi arrived and he loved being a tour guide, pointing out various sights along the way. Whenever we stopped, he enjoyed telling the locals he was tour guiding. We had decided to do the same tour offered by most the agencies but in reverse so as to miss the crowds. It made a nice change for it to be just the two of us on the excursion.

Pica

Our first stop was Pica, a small town with some thermal baths which they had carved into the rocks. These were not the warmest of waters, but still considerably warmer than your average pool. There were 2 caves at one end which created natural stream rooms. Through the floor in a couple of places, you could feel the water coming up from the ground.

Afterwards, we had one if their infamous natural fruit juices before heading to Matilla.

Matilla

Matilla is a small village with a strange museum which is basically someone's front room full of old fashioned furniture. there is also a church containing a display of Jesus and his disciples having their last meal, during which, Jesus looks incredibly stoned.

La Tirana

La Tirana is another small village with a main square and a church but with a difference. The outside of this church is made entirely of corrugated metal. The bottom half resembles a painted pig sty, whereas the top had all the usual features of a church with its clock and bell towers. Having been won over by the metal exterior of the church, we were expecting the usual within. How wrong were we! The interior of the church was all a deep midnight blue with hundreds of gold stars stuck on the ceiling. The edges of the room were painted gold and there were artistic paintings on most of the walls. I don't think I have ever seen such a colourful church.

Humberstone

The highlight of this tour is the ghost town of Humberstone, abandoned in 1960 when they finished mining the nitrate. This town had previously been almost left to ruin and although it has been a tourist attraction for some time, it was not particularly well maintained. Since 2005, it has been a UNESCO world heritage site and with the funding from that, they have been able to restore a lot of the town to how it once was.

Humberstone is fascinating and take hours to walk around. As you come into the town, there is a row of terrace houses which has each been turned into a miniature museum showing things like the toys the with which the children would play, the tools they used to use and one was set up as an example of a typical home.

Another thing which made Humberstone more pleasurable to visit was the fact that there were no museum guides watching your every move. Unfortunately this was clearly too much freedom for some people as the place was sadly covered in people's names carved into the wood.

You can wander around the former industrial warehouses which house some absolutely massive machinery. Back in the main town, there are a few more houses representing the workers' lives depending on how high up they were within the mining hierarchy. In the middle of all the houses was the main square, off of which were the various town amenities, including a large and recently restored theatre, school with about 10 large classrooms, complete with desks, shops, market, hotel and swimming pool, not forgetting the free hospital, which had been state of the art in its day. I had hoped there would still be a ward set up within the hospital but sadly it was just empty rooms.

There was also a rather strange museum exhibiting examples of doors and windows from Humberstone, even though you had seen plenty of examples throughout the town. This room was very long and contained hundreds of doors and windows.

Just before you leave the town, there is one final building which has been lovingly restored and inside is set up to be a home and also show before and after pictures of the work that has been done on various properties but mainly this one, which had only been completed a year ago.

Santa Laura

Final stop for the day with our taxi chauffeur was another former mining town Santa Laura, which is across the road from Humberstone.

This town was a lot smaller with only approximately 500 inhabitants. The main feature of this town is its impressive industrial machine which sits in the middle with a tall chimney behind it. This picture is iconic to the local area.

Iquique
Thursday 12th September

We hired bikes today and went for a cycle along the coast, stopping for lunch on the beach. As mentioned previously, Iquique is good for surfing and has nice sand beaches. We spent the afternoon reading on the beach and I went for a paddle in the sea. There were a few crazy people who were actually swimming in the sea, despite it not being a particularly warm day and the sea being freezing to the point where it made you numb.

At 11 pm, we caught the night bus to Calama, ready to catch the 12 hour bus to Salta, Argentina the following morning.....or so we thought...

To be continued.... (When I get round to writing the next blog!)

Posted by Roaming Rolts 12:50 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

Pass the salt please!

sunny 5 °C

Uyuni Salt Flats, Bolivia

The Salar de Uyuni is the world's largest salt flat at 12,106 km² and sits at 3653m. The reason for the salt flats is there used to be a sea there; however due to movement is the tectonic plates, the sea is fine and there's only water metres below.

Day One

Train cemetery

Our first stop was just outside Uyuni, where there are a load of trains just dumped. There are not too many carriages, but a lot of old fashioned engines. They are 40 years old and have since become a tourist attraction and playground for adults.

Salt Flats

After a quick stop at a market set up for tourists, where we bought a T-Rex, we drove out onto the salt flats. After about 20 minutes driving, we got a puncture and so stopped for lunch while our driver put on a boiler suit and changed the tyre. While we waited for lunch to be prepared, we took some pictures on the flats, taking advantage of the lack of depth perception.

Once again, our internet connection is awful, so I will try and upload photos when we have a better connection, until then, if you're our frown on Facebook, you can already enjoy then there. :-)

Cactus Island

After lunch, we visited cactus island, which is a rock formation in the middle of the flats, which has hundreds of massive cactuses growing amongst the rocks. As you look down from the island, you expect to see the sea, and the salt does almost look like the sea, with what looks like wave lines in black towards the base of the rock.

Salt Hotel

We headed out of the salt flats and found a small hotel, which nobody else was staying at. There were little huts made out of salt, with thatched roofs. The floor is covered in large salt granules and the bed is made out of salt. It got very cold at night, but we managed to stay warm with a few blankets, a couple of sleeping bags and I wore my thermals and a fleece.

Day Two

The next morning, we got up just after 6 and got dressed quickly as it was freezing cold. We left just after 7 and had about a 3½hour drive to our first stop, an active volcano.

Ollague Volcano

This volcano has not erupted for 120 years. The last time it erupted the lava only went as far as the foot of the volcano.

Las Lagunas

We visited 4 similar lagoons, each with flamingoes. The first lake was very blue, whereas the second was more of a frosty colour and had a lot more salt around it. The first lake was half frozen, and so it made it look like the flamingoes were walking on water.

Mountain of seven colours

We drove to 4550m where we could see a beautiful mountain, which had seven different colours in its rocks. It was really impressive but so cold and windy!

Stone Trees

In the middle of this dessert are some rock formations which they have named 'stone trees'. They were formed by lava from the volcanoes, but are interesting due to them being in the middle of nowhere and very neat and tidy. There was snow on the ground around the base of these rocks, but they sheltered you from the worst of the wind.

Laguna Colorada

The final lagoon for today is a large red lagoon, which is red from marine algae. It is a deep opaque red the whole way across, with the odd salt island in the middle. It was absolutely stunning and like nothing else we had ever seen before. This lake made the pink flamingoes look white.

After this we headed to our hostel, where we are sharing a room with the other four people on our trip. The hostel we were taken to was supposedly the best hostel out of all the hostels for that overnight stop; however there were at least 4 dorms, yet we were the only group to stay at the 'best' hostel.

This hostel was freezing cold, with no heating, and only an hour and a half's electricity, so come 8pm, it was pitch black. There were no showers, but there were at least proper toilets.

We had been warned that this was the cold night and so wore thermals and a fleece to bed, inside a fleece lined sleeping bag with two blankets. Apart from when my hat came off of my ears, I wasn't cold at all and slept pretty well.

Day 3

Geysers

We set off at about 6am to see the geysers. These were amazing as we were at the top of the mountain and it was freezing cold at about -10 yet there was stream everywhere with various outlets shooting high up into the sky. There were mud pools which were bumbling furiously. There was one geyser which our guide said was artificial, and so was nowhere near as hot and so you could run through it, which kind of felt like running through a tumble dryer.

Thermal baths

After the geysers, we went for a soak in the naturally occurring thermal baths. It was absolutely freezing as you stripped off all your thermals and layers, but the water was the perfect temperature. They had built a pool out of rocks at the edge of the lake and it was the most beautiful setting ever for a thermal bath.

Laguna Verde and Laguna Blanca

Our final stop was to some green and white lagoons. They change colour and look better when it's windy, which unfortunately it was not for us. They were still pretty spectacular, reflecting the mountains perfectly in the water.

After this, Chris and I took a one hour transfer to San Pedro de Atacama, Chile, which was lovely and hot (too hot for Chris) when we arrived. At 27 degrees in the non-existent shade, it was a huge contrast to the -10 we'd started at!

Salt Flat Tours

If you're planning to go to Bolivia, you must do the Salt Flats tour and should really find the time to do the 3 day tour but must do at least 2 days. Our tour company was 'Bettotours' who we were actually quite disappointed with; however still feel that the £95 we paid for everything on the 3 day tour (meals, accommodation, 4x4 vehicle, entry fees to 2 national reserves plus a fairly lousy guide - other companies sounded better) was definitely worth it for the unforgettable landscapes we saw.

reasons to potentially avoid Bettotours

Our driver, who is also the guide seemed to put in the bare minimum effort. He offered us very little information to the point where we had to ask all the right questions to find anything out. How do you know what to ask sometimes?

He didn't even introduce himself, but another couple seemed to be calling him Herbert?

He was completely oblivious to the fact that Chris and I were not returning to Uyuni but transferring to San Pedro de Atacama until at the end of the second day he told us we had a 9 hour drive back to Uyuni and I made a joke about how we didn't have to.

He tried to ditch us at the Chilean border at 9.30, when the transfer should have been 11am. This would have meant missing the last few places. I asked if we could get the 11am bus and he claimed 9.30 was the last one. He eventually left us at 10.30.

On the last night, he said we had to be up at 5 for breakfast at 5.30 and that we wanted to leave by 6 at the latest if not earlier. He suggested it would be better to have breakfast at 5.15, so we did, bags all packed. We were ready by half 5 and had to wait for him for 15 minutes before he even started packing the car!

The second night, we were told there would be a rush for the best hostels and that we would want to get there first to secure the best hostel. Our hostel had at least 4 dorms, yet despite it being 'the best' no one else stayed there. One group came and left. This 'best' hostel had no heating and no electric after 7.30pm. There was no hot water, no showers, the toilets weren't great and it was freezing cold.

Although it was freezing cold out on the flats, the sun was still incredibly hot, particularly on the car. We were all absolutely baking in the car and stripped right down to shorts and t-shirts. The company advertised that they had air-con but it turned out it needed new gas so didn't work. We weren't allowed the windows open because of the dust. It was not comfortable in there at all, and rather annoying having to constantly strip off and layer up.

The advertised heating didn't appear to work either in the morning when it was still dark, we were at an altitude of 4950m, the stream had frozen and there was snow on the ground.

At one point, the car stopped randomly, we thought potentially another puncture. The driver gets out, walks behind the car, stretches a bit before getting back in and announcing 'me dormí' - I fell asleep...

Finally, we were supposed to get lunch on the final day, but because we were going to San Pedro de Atacama, despite paying for the lunch, we were not going to get it.

Although the rubbish guide could be a one off, he's still representing the company and they clearly allow him to work like this. The poor maintenance of the heating and air-con is obviously a company decision to miss-sell you comfort. Had we been going back to Uyuni, we'd have complained. Instead, we'll try and send an email which will no doubt be ignored.

Thankfully, the scenery more than made up for any negatives of the tour company.

Posted by Roaming Rolts 15:52 Archived in Bolivia Tagged lakes salt lagoons bettotours puncture Comments (0)

Sucre and Potosí, Bolivia

sunny 25 °C

We arrived at about 8am in Sucre after the 13 hour bus ride from La Paz. It felt a lot later and after dropping our bags off at the hostel, we attempted to head out for some breakfast. Firstly, most places were still shut. We found one place which had virtually nothing available from the menu. We managed to get a chicken roll and some coffee, but as the lady poured out the coffee, it looked incredibly syrupy and in fact tasted burnt. We quickly moved on and went for attempt number two on the breakfast front.

We found a very nice French crêperie just off the main square called la pâtisserie, which did the most amazing pancakes, cakes and chocolate mousse with pretty good coffee and delicious freshly squeezed juices.

After this, we set of for a stroll around town, which although Sucre is the capital of Bolivia, it is very small and by day, fairly quiet. We tried to visit the Merced church a few times, but as with a lot of things in Bolivia, it did not stick to it's opening times. We went past quite a few times and it was never open.

For dinner, we found a restaurant which served the best and tastiest food we have yet to have in South America, other than while doing the Inca trail. We were so pleased to have a change from fried chicken, plain white rice and cold chips that we went back a couple of times. If you're looking for different food in Sucre, definitely head to Abis Patio. We both had burritos, which were more like fajitas, but incredibly tasty.

The next day we headed to the Dino-park (see previous post) where we saw dinosaur footprints.

In the afternoon, we went to a museum which didn't open (would you believe it?) But did have a very nice lunch overlooking Sucre from the top of the hill.

After trying la Merced one last time, we headed back to Abis Patio for dinner.

The following day, we had an early lunch before catching the bus to Potosí at midday.

Potosí is quite cold as it's 4060m above sea level. Thankfully as we've acclimatised, we didn't find it difficult wandering up and down the hills. We visited the Bolivian Royal Mint museum, which shows the history of coin making in Bolivia from the 16th to the mid-20th century. It was interesting to see how technology improved, meaning the quality and lifetime of the coins became greater along with production time. Potosí was the coin making capital of the world, with most countries retaining a line through their currency symbol, which is believed to represent the strength of the currency, but is actually the í in Potosí.

We plan to have a wander around town after lunch before catching the bus to Uyuni at 17.30. Tomorrow morning we are doing a 3 day, 2 night tour of the Salar de Uyuni, before crossing the border into Chile on Sunday evening.

Posted by Roaming Rolts 09:22 Archived in Bolivia Tagged food museum potosí money mint sucre Comments (1)

Dinosaur Prints, Sucre

sunny 20 °C

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Today we visited the dinosaur park in Sucre, which has dinosaur prints, which they found when excavating a cement quarry back in the 1990s. We took the Dino-bus from the main square, which was basically a double-decker truck with some old office chairs screwed to the floor. It was a very uncomfortable 20 minute journey!

At the moment, this dinosaur park is fairly under developed as it is currently waiting for approval to become a UNESCO world heritage site, with which they will receive funding to preserve the prints with silicone before building a walkway a few metres away from the prints. Currently, partly due to the possibility of landslides, the viewpoint is situated some 300m away. The wall with the prints on is 1200m long and 150m high. It is vertical rather than horizontal due to plate activity millions of years ago. You can see the tracks clearly with the naked eye, but they've got binoculars to make them clearer.

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Dinosaur prints

There is a small museum which has information and diagrams off the dinosaur prints, telling you about which dinosaurs created which prints. Throughout the park there are lifesized models of various different dinosaurs.

It would be interesting to go back here in the future, once it has received funding and see how different it is.

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In afternoon, were walked up a hill which had a mirador which overlooked the city where we had lunch and planned our trip to Chile. We tried to visit a museum, but as it seems with most things in Bolivia, opening hours are irrelevant, they may open if they feel like it.

Tomorrow we're heading back up to 4060m (brrr) to freeze in Potosí.

Posted by Roaming Rolts 18:12 Archived in Bolivia Tagged museum unesco dinosaur prints Comments (1)

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