A Travellerspoint blog

Buenos Aires - an apartment, a pickpocket and Boca v River

sunny 21 °C

´Follow, follow, follow, cause United are going to Moscow´
Old Trafford and the Manchester United supporters

Hello blog fans

It hasn´t been long since I last wrote but so much has happened I thought I had better start updating the blog. We have moved into a funky little apartment in the Palermo Viejo district of Buenos Aires. We are on a quiet street but only 2 blocks from a little square surrounded by cool bars, restaurants and shops. The whole area has more than enough bars and restaurants to keep us busy until we fly home.

Unfortunately I also got pickpocketed on the underground, ba**ards. It all happened so quickly that I didn´t realise my wallet had gone until after they had got away. How they managed to unbutton my trouser pocket and get it out so quickly I will never know.

We have also been the ´el classico´, Boca Juniors v River Plate, joined a gym and booked a 3 day/2 night trip to Iguazu Falls. Despite the pickpocketing we are loving Buenos Aires, it is a fab city.

Friday May 2nd, Carla Jennifer Easton´s 23rd birthday
The day started well. The sun was shining and we had lunch sitting outside a nice pub in Palermo and then checked out our hostel and moved into our apartment that we have rented for one month. We met the owner and the agent and all went well. I was literally skipping down the street in the sunshine as we were delighted with the apartment. Small, but spotless and modern. It is a great feeling to have our own place for one month after 11 fairly hectic months of travelling.

We got the underground to 9 de Julio and went to change to get the underground to Plaza San Martin. As we got on there was a scuffle with people getting on then deciding they wanted to get out. I was involved in the scuffle and after it finished I realised my wallet had been pinched out my trouser pocket. I had combats on and the wallet was locked in with a button, fairly safe I thought. Somehow one of the guys, I think there were 2 or 3 of them in the scam, unbuttoned my pocket and lifted my wallet without me even feeling it. As soon as I realised I erupted with a rage and barged my way out the train as the doors were shutting and dragged Lynn with me. But it was already too late, they had disappeared into the crowd. Probably a good thing as god knows what would have happened if I had caught up with them.

We immediately found an internet cafe and got the numbers for our bank and credit card and cancelled them immediately. Unfortunately there was also around 100 pounds in the wallet as we had lifted money to go to the BA office and change our flights home.

I eventually calmed down but was raging that I hadn´t noticed something suspect was up.

At night we had dinner in the apartment and a few beers to calm down!

Saturday May 3rd
Lynn´s Mum phoned our new flat at 8am and woke us up. My Mum also called and we chatted before watching the Manchester United 4 v 1 West Ham game with breakfast in bed! Top goals from Ronaldo and Tevez ensured an easy victory.

After the game we walked down to the gym that we have joined for a month, around 6 blocks from our apartment. We spent an hour running and doing some light weights to break us back into the routine. On the way back we stopped off at a nice local supermarket and bought some food for the flat and returned to have beefburgers for lunch and then a wander round the leafy streets of Palermo Viejo.

There are some cracking shops in the area and I boughta couple of tshirts, a shirt and a jacket. Lynn got a sripey crossover shirt and a vintage tshirt. Buenos Aires is a well dressed city and our old backpacking gear just isn´t in vogue!

At night we wandered down to a local sushi bar and got 40 pieces to takeaway and had them for dinner with a nice cold Quilmes from the fridge.

Sunday May 4th
Boca Juniors 1 v 0 River Plate

One thing I really wanted to do in BA was go to a Boca Juniors game, so imagine my delight when the fixtures came out and Boca were playing their arch rivals River on May 4th. Maradonna used to play for Boca, as well as Tevez of United and Gabriel Batistuta. They have a rich and interesting history, as do River.

We were picked up by our mini bus and guide from Tangol at 12.45 and driven to the game. Amazingly someone else in the bus had a bit of Scottish history, Duncan McPhee from Santiago in Chile has a Scottish Grandfather from Greenock! He is also friends with Seb Rozenthal who used to play for Rangers.

We got to the ground a full 2.5 hours before kick off and met some other people who had booked through Tangol and transferred to the areas of the ground we were all in. The guide didn´t want to hang around outside as he said there would be trouble between the two fans and supporters have been known to get mugged for their ticket! This is a game that the whole of Argentina wants to see and the streets were deserted on the way in. The country stops for this game.

We took our seats high up in the stand behind the goals, opposite from the stand where the River supporters occupied the third tier. We were high up in tier 2 and it was steeper than the North Stand at Old Trafford, which is saying something! The result of the steep stand ensures you have an amazing view and are almost on top of the action when the play is at your end.

The reserves played a 45 minute match to warm the crowd up. Not that the crowd needed much encouragement. The River end was already full and the rest of the stadium soon filled up. At the bottom of our stand a group of kids through rolled up ticket tape into the crowd, enough so that pretty much everyone had one. Behind us a group of supporters prepared a huge flag that would cover the whole stand!

As the teams came out the ticker tape throwing started, creating an amazing sight. Anyone who has seen footage of the Argentina v Holland 1978 World Cup Final will know what I mean. Then the flares started and then the flag was passed down over the end of our tier and into thetier below. Some amount of work must have gone into the creation of this flag!

The game was delayed as the stewards battled to clear the River goalmouth and Boca fans played at trying to hit the River keeper with ticker tape that wasn´t unrolled! The game eventually kicked off and River started brightly with their number 30 looking particularly skillful. Boca started to gain more possession and their number 9 was sent clean through on goal, forcing a good save from the River keeper. The resulting corner was headed powerfully into the net and the stadium went wild.

River never recovered and although they had a lot of possession I can´t remember them forcing a real save from Boca. Boca had further chances to score but didn´t take them.

We waited for the crowds to clear and made our way back to the bus and then back to the flat. We decided we couldn´t be bothered cooking and found a nice restaurant a few blocks away that I will need to go back to as I can´t remember the name of it. We had a delicious meal, I had an amazing piece of meat, a good 4 inches thick, while Lynn had fish and lovely creamy mashed potatoes, washed down with a bootle of fine Argentine win - Torrontes Vinci Domingo. Amazingly we bumped into Duncan and his girlfriend, and we thought BA was a big city!

Monday 5th May
After a light breakfast we headed to the gym where we had a medical test to ensure we are fit and healthy. After 11 months on the road you can´t be sure! Our heart and lungs were fine and we had another hour of exercise and then walked back to the apartment, picking up some laundry from a local laundrette on the way. 2 big bags of washing for only 3 pounds!

We then got the underground into Central and went to the British Airways office to change our ticket home but you couldn´t do it in person! We then walked to the Tangol office and booked a ticket for the River Plate v San Lorenzo match on Thursday night. Should be a good one as River are 2-1 down from the first leg, it is the South American version of the Champions League. We also booked a 2 night/3 day trip to Iguazu Falls for May 15th.

After a relatively productive day we had dinner in the flat, with me cooking some nice fresh noodles, chicken, veg and sauce. It is great having our own place to relax in. We have stayed in some cracking hostels, but also some that have been very noisy.

Tuesday May 6th
After a long lie we went to the Subway police and filed a report in case we can claim some money back through our insurance. After that we had a wander around some shops and found a Levis Outlet store only a few blocks from our flat and Lynn bought a nice top.

We plan to have a very chilled afternoon and evening, likewise tomorrow, apart from the gym and then go to the football on Thursday night.

Catch you soon
Murray and Lynn
xxx

Posted by murray2701 12:00 Archived in Argentina Tagged round_the_world Comments (1)

Salta-Cafayate-Tucuman-Cordoba-Buenos Aires

sunny 22 °C

Calling out around the world, are you ready for a brand new beat?
Summers here and the time is right, for dancing in the streets.

Dancing In The Streets by Martha Reeves And The Vandellas

Hey all

Well we have made it to Buenos Aires after a fairly hectic week of travelling down from Bolivia, stopping off at various places on the way to break up the long journey. As we have spent quite a lot of time on buses this may not be the most exciting of blog entries, but here goes.

We left you on Wednesday 23rd April and that afternoon United drew 0-0 with Barcelona in the Nou Camp.

Thursday 24th April
The alarm went off at 5.50am and after a shower and checkout we jumped a cab to the bus station for our 7am bus. It was goodbye to Salta, a lovely city with a beautiful square and lots of nice shops and restuarants. The bus journey was only 3 hours and we arrived in Cafayate bang on 10am. There was agirl with a flyer for El Balcon Hostel at the station and it looked nice so we went there.

After checking in we wandered around town and grabbed a bite to eat at the square before having a nap in the afternoon. We then walked to a winery called Bodega Nanni, which specialises in organic wine. We tasted their four wines and bought two bottles - Torrontes, a lovely white wine, and Malbec, a nice fruity red. We then went to the supermarket and bought some crackers and cheese and retired to the rooftop terrace of the hostel with the bottle of white.

Later on we had some lovely ice cream at a place called Helanderia Miramda and a light dinner at the square.

Friday 25th April
After breakfast we bought some food to make sandwiches and rented two mountain bikes with the intention of biking 6km out of town to a campsite and then going on a two hour hike to some waterfalls.

We started out, cycling out of town passed vineyards and wineries along a very bumpy and dusty road that was slightly uphill all the way. We made it to the campsite just after an hour and met some other people who had the intention of hiking to the waterfalls. We soon found out that it was easier said than done.

There is no recognised path and we met an Argentinian who recommended only doing it with a local guide and with hiking boots as it was quite a scramble to get there. As we only had our sports sandals on we decided to leave it and freewheeled back down the road into town.

After another ice cream we had a shower and a snooze (we are getting into the South merican lifestyle!). Later on we went for dinner at a restaurant called La Criolla and had steak with a nice bottle of Torrentes (Domingo Hermanos).

Saturday 26th April
We didnt sleep well as a club down the road played deafening techno music until the small hours. I still managed to make it up for breakfast at 8.30am, leaving Lynn in bed so I could watch the Chelsea v Manchester United game on cable in the TV room. United lost 2-1 thanks to a rather dubious penalty award 5 minutes from time to Chelsea.

After Lynn awoke we headed on a 2km walk out of town to a cheese factory, joined in the end of a tour and bought some nice cheese to take back to the hostel. We then went to an internet cafe and enquired and researched about renting apartments in Buenos Aires with a company called BYT Argentina that had been recommended to us.

We watched sunset from the roof with a bottle of red and some cheese and chatted to an English guy and a German guy about the Worlds Most Dangerous Road bike ride. Sadly some turists were killed the previous week, just after we had been down it!

Sunday 27th April
Another night of broken sleep due to the techno club blasting music until 5am, just when we had to get up for our 6am bus to Tucuman! It is a real shame as El Balcon is a nice hostel but I wouldnt recommend it due to the club down the street. Cafayate is a lovely town though, very relaxed with nice wineries, hiking, biking and a cheese farm, well worth a 2 or 3 night stay.

After 2 nights of no sleep we slept soundly for the first 3 hours of the journey and after that we dozed until arrival in Tucuman at 12.30pm. We did contemplate jumping straight on a bus to Cordoba, but that would have been another 8 hours, so we decided to spend the night in Tucuman and checked into the Garden Hotel after we found that the hostel we had selected from Lonely Planet had closed.

We had a wander around town and found a nice bar next to the square where Argentine indpendence was declared and had a meal with a few beers while watching the Boca Juniors game on TV. After that it was a quiet night in making the most of a quiet hotel with no techno club nearby.

Monday 28th April
It was a quick stop over in Tucuman and the alarm went off at 6am and we made our way to the station for our 7am bus. We watched a couple of films on our deluxe bus, one with Michelle Pfiffer that we didnt catch the name of and The Last Samurai with Tom Cruise. Both pretty predictable and nothing to write about but they passed the time.

We arrived in Cordoba at 3.30pm and checked into the Morada Hostel, run by a very friendly guy called Diego. We wandered through town to Plaza San Martin and ended up getting a McDonalds. We then had a quiet night and booked a bus to Buenos Aires for the following evening.

Tuesday 29th April
We made the most of our one full day in Cordoba by walking around all over. At 11am we arrived at the UNESCO World Heritage site that is a University/Mueseum/former Jesuit church and went on a 1 hour tour around the site. It was very interesting and we learned a lot about Cordoba and Argentina from our excellent guide. Cordoba is a University town and produced most of Argentina´s doctors.

We went back to the hostel at 3pm, in plenty of time for the 2nd leg of the United v Barca ECL semi. We ended up watching it with a nice Englisg guy from Bristol called Matt. It was a cracking game, very exciting and nerve wracking with both teams playing well. United took the lead through a cracking goal from Paul Scholes and defended excllently for the rest of the game, while still producing several more chances of their own.

Wes Brown, Rio Ferdinand, Park and Tevez were particularly outstanding and I was quite emotional when the final whistle went. I am very pleased for Fergie that he has taken United to another European Cup Final and also for Paul Scholes who missed the 1999 triumph through suspension. I am also pleased for my friends from the Glasgow Supporters Club and know that a few of them will make it to Moscow for the final.

Later we went to the bus station and almost missed our 10.15pm bus by looking for the wrong one.

Wednesday 30th April
I found it hard to sleep on the bus, despite it being the most luxurious yet. Lynn slept well though and we arrived in Buenos Aires at 8.45am. We jumped a cab to a hostel in the Palermo Soho area called SOHostel. It was fully booked so we checked into one nearby for two nights before we move into our apartment a few blocks away.

After a shower we jumped on the underground to the 9 de Julio stop by the huge independence monument and had lunch in a cafe bar nearby. We then wandered around the shops in Central BA (very nice they are too) and down to Plaza San Martin and sat in a park for 20 minutes, basking in the sunshine. It is nice to be in a country where the sunshine isnt so fierce that you cant enjoy it. The weather in Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia was nice but it was pretty much factor 50 all the way and it due to altitude you couldnt really sit in the sun for long.

We then found a bar to watch the Chelsea v Liverpool game. I really didnt know who I wanted to win but found myself applauding Liverpool´s equaliser. The scousers lost though due to Gerrard not playing well and Benitez strangely taking off Torres. Liverpool simply dont have enough quality in depth. Chelsea didnt play much better it has to be said and they have two of the football players I hate most on the planet - Ashley Cole and Didier ´diving b***ard´ Drogba. They both represent a lot of what is wrong with football these days, mercenaries and Drogba is such a diver and moaner.

COME ON UNITED IN THE FINAL

Thursday 1st May
We slept late until 10am and then wandered through Palermo to have a look at the building that will be our home for 1 month until 2nd June. We move in tomorrow and you can check it out at - Serrano and Cabrera III: www.bytargentina.com/re/propview.php?view

We got the underground into Central and then walked to the San Telmo neighbourhood for lunch at the leafy Plaza Dorrego. We enjoyed watching Tango Dancers dancing in the street before our very eyes and also an excellent funk soul band jamming in the square.

It is a national holiday today, so with a lot of places closed we may go to the cinema tonight and then we move into our apartment tomorrow at 2pm.

I will write again soon.

Love
Murray and Lynn
xxx

Posted by murray2701 11:25 Archived in Argentina Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Goodbye Bolivia, hello Argentina

sunny 20 °C

Hey, don't falter, you know we ought to be together
Strange, I saw ya, I sorta knew it was for ever
Please, stay with me
and never miss a chance to kiss me
babe, I love yah
when you're with me it´s always summer

Don´t Falter by Mint Royale

Hello from sunny Argentina. It feels like we are on the home straight of our travels, with around 6 weeks to go. This is what we have been up to since I last wrote.

Sunday April 20th
Our alarm went off at 8.30am and after breakfast at the restaurant next to our hostal we went to our tour office to meet Mario, our driver and tour guide for the day. We headed south of Tupiza to a narrow gorge in a huge rock formation, which had a tunnel passing through it. We then headed to Canon Del Duende and went for a quick walk through it. The scenery was very cinematic, total cowboy country.

We headed out to the river - Rio San Juan Del Oro, although the river was pretty dry due to 2 months of no rain in the area. We had a picnic lunch under beautiful old trees, gazing out at the stunning rock formations. After lunch we headed out to see 4 rock formations - Puerta del Diablo, Valle De Los Machos, El Canon del Inca and Valle De Los Machos, featuring phallic type rocks.

We had a rather surreal experience at Puerto del Diablo. We were driving along in the 4x4 with the windows down when I thought I heard someone shouting. Mario did as well and suddenly out of the desert ran a tall guy looking a bit battered and bruised. He came over to the 4x4 looking tired, exhausted and somewhat confused. He told us he couldnt remeber how he got here, how long he had been here or even where he was. He looked like he had been out hiking and fallen as he had cuts on his arms, legs and head. We took him back to Tupiza and dropped him at the police station next to the hospital. He obviously had concussion and temporary memory loss (in our opinion anyway). He didnt even know he was in Bolivia. We looked through his digital camera to see if there was any indication if he was travelling with anyone but the pictures seemed to indicate that he was travelling alone. He was from Switzerland and he was called Bernard. At first I was reluctant to leave him alone with the police, but later I realised there was nothing more we could do. He had no idea what hostal he was staying at, where he had been or where he was going. He could speak Spanish and we had to leave it to the police to see if they could find where he was staying and the hospital to calm him down and rehydrate him.

After that strange experience we headed out to some absolutely stunning rock formations called Quebrada Palala and Comino Al Sillar. The rocks were different colours due to the different minerals found in the area and looked fantastic from our high viewpoint.

At night we had a quiet one ahead of our 4am bus to Argentina!

Sunday April 21st
The day started at 3am as our alarm went off. We left at 3.15am and walked to the local bus station. It was surprisingly busy for the time of day and after a little confusion we got on a local bus to the border, where we would then cross to Argentina and catch a nice luxury bus to Salta.

It was cold, damn cold. Bolivia is so high above sea level that during the day the sun burns fiercely and you really have to cover up. At night, it is freezing and you really have to cover up for different reasons! The bus trip was just over 2 hours along a bumpy, dusty road. Along with the bumps the bus didnt have any heating, so we didnt get any sleep.

We arrived at the border town of Villazon and got out into the coldest temperatures we have experienced on our trip. We found our bus company and they sorted us with tickets from the Argentinian side to Salta. After exchanging what was left of our Bolivian currency we went through passport control and jumped a cab to the bus terminal. We thought we had 90 minutes to kill until our bus but someone reminded us that Argentina is an hour forward. We gor some snacks, checked in our bags and jumped on our nice warm bus with fully reclining seats and slept for a while.

We arrived in Salta at 4pm, an hour late due to the Argentine army stopping our bus to check for anyone that might have jumped the border or smuggled stuff in. We checked into the rather nice Plaza Hotel for 90ARG per night. After a shower, we walked round the lovely 9 de Julio Plaza, with streetside bars and cafes and settled in one bar for some classic Argentine steak and a couple of beers before an early night as we were exhausted from our travels.

Tuesday April 22nd
We slept late, until 10am, so we missed breakfast at the hotel. We grabbed a bite to eat at the Vang Gogh Cafe, sitting out streetside and watching the world go by in the morning sunshine. We wandered round the city centre and felt quite glad to be back in civilisation after the Salt Flats and the cowboy town of Tupiza. We took some washing to a local laundrette and wandered around some shops but decided not to buy anything until we got to Buenos Aires.

Late afternoon we went to a bar to watch the Liverpool 1 v 1 Chelsea game over a late lunch and beers. It wasnt the best game and Chelsea were very lucky to get an equaliser late into injury time through a Riise own goal, but then again Liverpool and Chelsea are not the most entertaining teams.

At night we picked up our laundry, under 2 quid for a big bag! We then had a hotdog and sat in the local square before going to bed for another early night, watching quite a good film called Cold Mountain on cable.

Wednesday April 23rd
We woke in time for breakfast and then took the cable car up the hill overlooking Salta and the surrounding valley. We then booked bus tickets for tomorrow to Cafayate. This afternoon we will be finding a nice bar to sit in and watch the Barcelona v Manchester United ECL semi 1st leg, billed in Argentina as Messi vTevez. Lets hope Tevez wins, although I think he may start on the bench for this game. Should be 2 classic games with some amazing talent on display for both sides. Barca have Deco, Henry, Eto and Messi (with Ronaldinho injured), while United have Ronaldo, Rooney, Tevez, Nani and Scholes, not to mention Giggs and Anderson. COME ON UNITED!

Love
Murray and Lynn
xxx

Posted by murray2701 07:52 Archived in Bolivia Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Salar de Uyuni

sunny 22 °C

Sweet dreams are made of this
Who am I to disagree?
Travel the world and the seven seas
Everybody's looking for something

Sweet Dreams by The Eurythmics

Hola

We are now in the sleepy Western town of Tupiza in the south of Bolivia. Since I last wrote we have stayed in a hotel made entirely of salt and been on a two day tour across the magnificent 12 square km Salt Flats

Wednesday April 16th
Our overnight bus was a bumpy one. The bus itself was excellent, comfy reclining seats with a meal served as we left La Paz. The further we got away from L Paz the bumpier the road became as we transferred from smooth tarmac to a bumpy gravel/dirt road. Still, the bus arrived in Uyuni at 8am, only an hour later than scheduled.

We went to the company we had booked a two day salt plains tour through, El Desierto. We had also booked into the Salar Lunar Salt Hotel with them and they informed us that a jeep would transfer us there at 11.30am. We killed time by getting some breakfast and checking news and views online.

The Salt Hotel was absolutely stunning, probably the best place we have stayed on our travels and at $95US a night, certainly the most expensive. But hey, we wer never going to get the chance to do this again and it was something we really wanted to do after seeing it on Globetrekker. I´ll add photos to flickr in the next week or so but in the meantime you can check out http://www.boliviacontact.com/en_bolivia/LunaSaladaHotel_411.html

The Salt Hotel is around 200 yards from the edge of the Salt Flats and offers magnificent views out to the horizon. The walls are made of salt bricks, our bed had a salt base and headboard, the chairs and tables in the restaurant were made of salt and......well you get the picture. We had a nice afternoon nap and at night we met an English guy called Zak and his guide Wilbur. It turned out that we were the only 4 staying in the hotel that night. We had dinner and polished off 3 bottles of Bolivia´s finest wine between the three of us, with Wilbur sticking to beer. Needless to say we slept soundly and woke with fuzzy heads.

Thursday April 17th
We had breakfast and then had some time to kill before getting picked up by another jeep to join our tour for 2 days on the Salt Flats. We were due to get picked up at 11am but it was closer to 1pm when the jeep eventually arrived and took us toa small town on the edge of the plains to meet the rest of our group - Belinda from the Canary Islands, her smitten boyfriend Allessandro from Santiago and Leia and Mikel from France. Our guide was called Oliver and throughout the two days he provided an excellent soundtrack of late 70´s disco and early 80´s pop to keep us entertained in the jeep, made on old skool casette compilations.

We sped on to the salt and stopped at an area where the workers pile the salt into groups and then load lorries, backbreaking work in blinding sunshine. We then drove further to an old salt hotel that is now a museum as it was closed for sanitary reasons. Hotels are now only allowed to be built on the edge of the flats. After that we drove to a small village called Coqueza and stayed in the Tunipa Hostal for the night, hitting the sack early at 8.30pm as we were getting up in the morning to climb a mountain. I should add that we watched the sunset over the flats and it was absolutely beautiful, the whoe area is pretty mindboggling.

SALT FACTS
Some 40,000 years ago, the area was part of Lake Minchin, a giant prehistoric lake. When the lake dried, it left behind two modern lakes, Poopó Lake and Uru Uru Lake, and two major salt deserts, Salar de Coipasa and the larger Uyuni. Uyuni is roughly 25 times the size of the Bonneville Salt Flats in the United States.

Salar de Uyuni is estimated to contain 10 billion tons of salt, of which less than 25,000 tons is extracted annually. All miners working in the Salar belong to Colchani's cooperative. Every November, Salar de Uyuni is also the breeding grounds for three species of South American flamingos: the Chilean, James's and Andean flamingos. It is also a significant tourist destination; highlights include a salt hotel and several so-called islands. As it is so flat it serves as a major transport route across the Bolivian Altiplano.

Friday April 18th
The alarm went off at 6.45am and I immediately went outside to catch the end of the sunrise. I prefer sunsets as you dont have to get up early for them! After a light breakfast we left the hostal in the jeep to drive to a car park up the hill before starting to climb a mountain to 5400 metres above sea level. The flats are around 3650 metres above sea level, so we had quite a climb ahead of us, especially at altitude.

Before we huffed and puffed our way up the mountain to the Mirador (viewpoint) to Vulcan Tunipa, we stopped off at an ancient cave full of pre-inca skeletons. After that it was onwards and upwards and it took us a good hour and a half to reach the lookout. We were rewarded with stunning views across the flats. They looked so pure and white from a distance, more like snow than salt. We also had fantastic views of the now inactive Vulcan Tunipa with it´s beautiful shades of red volcanic rock shining in the sun.

After a good rest at the top we climbed back down to the hostal for an early lunch, packed up the jeep and drove out towards fish island, rocking to a great tune called Born To Be Alive by a guy called Patrick Hernandez, that I had never heard before. We also had YMCA by The Village People!

Fish Island is an island shaped a little like a fish and allegedly home the the tallest cactus in the world. It is a tiny island in the middle of the slat flats and has a hill in the middle that offers spectacular panoramic views around the flats. We spent a good few hours there before saying goodbye to our new French friends who were joining another tour to go into Bolivia and picking up 2 Japanese tourists instead. We had gone pretty snap happy on our tour but these guys took it to another level!

On the way back we stopped to watch the sunset, the white salt turning orange and red before going dark when the sun went down fully. Be warned, there will be quite a few pictures on flickr soon!

We drove back to Uyuni and had pizza and picked up our train tickets for Tupiza. It was our first pizza since our food poisoning episode and we were relieved that it was OK!

The train left Uyuni at 10.40pm and our seats were comfortable and the carriage was warm. Lynn managed to get to sleep but I couldnt get to sleep so I listened to the genius of Marvin Gaye and the guitar pop brilliance of Teenage Fanclub on route.

Saturday 19th April
Our train arrived in Tupiza at 4am and we wandered sleepily to a nearby hostal and checked in, sleeping until around 10am. We had a wander round and booked on a day tour for Sunday, taking in canyons, mountains, waterfalls etc and also a bus to Salta in Argentina for Monday. We decided against the Butch and Sundance tour as we thought it was hiking, while it is actually two long days in jeeps to get to the sites where the robbed a bank and supposedly met their demise. We´ll watch the film instead.

After brunch we watched United sneak a point away to Blackburn, setting up a magnificent week of football. The first leg of the Champions League semi against the mighty Barcelona on Wednesday and a potential title decider against Chelski next Saturday. I´ll be making sure our room has cable for those game, or at the very least that we will be somewhere with an Irish bar!

I´ll write again when we reach Argentina.

Love
Murray and Lynn
xxx

Posted by murray2701 13:02 Archived in Bolivia Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

La Paz and the Worlds Most Dangerous Road

sunny 20 °C

Ah, keep your eyes on the road, your hands upon the wheel
Keep your eyes on the road, your hands upon the wheel

Roadhouse Blues by The Doors

Hola from La Paz, the worlds highest capital city at a dizzying 3600 metres above seas level, a city where you have no excuse not to have shiny shoes, as shoeshine boys are on every street corner.

At the weekend I told our parents we were going mountain-biking yesterday. While that certainly wasnt a lie, I relented from telling them that we were biking down the Worlds Most Dangerous Road!

Check out the fantastic Kiwi owned companies www.gravitybolivia.com for full details and read yesterdays entry for our thoughts and experiences. I´m also in the middle of uploading some new photos to www.flickr.com/photos/murrayandlynn

So what have we been up to..........

Friday April 11th
We got up and checked out, the room was only 240 BOL, well worth it for the amount of time we spent in it being sick and watching football!

We hung around Copacabana until our 1.30pm bus, killing time on the internet and phoning my sister Carla who had somehow managed to fall down an 8 foot hole at her work! It is not just her pride that is bruised!

After an hour on the bus we all got out to catch two wee boats across a river, while the bus went on a bigger boat that looked like it might sink at any moment. Thankfully it didnt and we rejoined the bus on the other side and sped towards L Paz. I listened to The Beatles on the way, what a band.

We arrived in La Paz. From the outskirts it looks a complete dump, as you pass through lots of mini-villages/slums that have sprung up around the city. You then catch a sight of La Paz nestling in the valley down below and begin a descemnt down into the heart of the city. After jumping out the bus we caught a short cab ride to Hostal Nairia that Lynn had discovered on the internet.

Rooms were a pricey $32, but after a few days of doing nothing we had saved money and checked in. The room we had was lovely, complete with private sparkling clean bathroom and cable TV!

Reception had a leaflet for ´the best burger in La Paz´, so with our appetites fully restored we jumped a cab and headed to the place called Mongos for a gorgeous burger and chips, washed down with our first beers in Bolivia - Pacena Gold, which may make an appearance in our end of trip top 5 beers from around the world competition.

Saturday April 12th
Woke up at 8am even though the alarm was set for 9am and Lynn was pleasantly surprised to find the bathroom had its own hairdryer! The cafe downstairs had a buffet breakfast that we got as part of our room, so we feasted on fruit, muesli, bread and jam, washed down with coca tea.

We went a walk round the neighbourhood and stumbled across the excellent Museo de la Coca. A museum dedicated to the coca leaf, which has played a major part in the history of Bolivia and continues ot do so until this day.

http://cocamuseum.com/

The museum tells of how workers chew coca leafs to put in extraordinary shifts, cocas importance in medical history, the history with Coca Cola and of course how it is manufactured into cocaine. It takes 328kg of coca leaves to make 1kg of cocaine. So chewing on coca leaves or drinking coca tea isnt like doing cocaine, but it is medicinal.

We booked in for a Mountain Bike trip down the Worlds Most Dangerous Road for Monday with Gravity and then continued to explore the area. We passed what is possibly the worlds most notorious prison at San Pedro Plaza.

One of the best books Lynn and I have read on our travels is a true story written by an Australian lawyer called Rusty Young about an English drug smuggler jailed in this prison. The book is called Marching Powder and is nothing short of extraordinary. It tells of Thomas McFadden being caught smuggling cocaine out of Bolivia and how he was literally thrown into this prison where prisoners have to ´buy´ their cells, some live like kings and others barely survive. Check out www.marchingpowder.com

At one stage Thomas McFadden was running guided tours of the prison for travellers but that has ´officially´ stopped, although allegedly you can bribe guards to let you in. I had no desire to go in, although Lynn was pretty curious.

Anyway we didnt go in and had dinner at a restaurant called Angelito Colonial before relaxing in our room watching a Brad Pitt and Harrison Ford film.

Sunday April 13th
Not a lot to write about today. We got up and had breakfast and then returned to the room to watch Manchester United 2 v 1 Arsenal. One of the best games of football I have seen in a long time and a fantastic result for United in the title race with Chelski hot on their heels.

Monday April 14th - The Worlds Most Dangerous Road!
Well, what a day we had yesterday. It started with a meeting in La Terraza Cafe with our guides and other crazy mountain bike buddies. There were 12 of us and we caught one mini bus with a nice Irish couple called Stephen and Sinead and a couple of young English guys that looked a tad hungover.

We sped out of La Paz and ascended to the start of our ride, La Cumbre, 4760 metres above sea level. It was pretty cold and misty at the start and we got kitted out in waterproofs, helmets, goggles, gloves and with a super duper $3000 dual suspension mountain bike.

Our guide for the day was a Kiwi called Matt, a top bloke with years of experience. We took 20 minutes to get to know our bike and then sped off downhill. The first part of the day isnt on the Worlds Most Dangerous Road (WMDR), it is on a nice smooth tarmac road where you can pick up great speeds and you dont need to pedal at all!

We flew downhill and had a great time, before eventually reaching the start of the WMDR. At this stage I should explain that the WMDR leads down into a valley, dropping from 3150 metres above sea level to 1100 metres. It is a single track road that was used by the villages in the valley for years untila new road was built going round the other way. The WMDR used to see an average of between 250-300 deaths a year through accidents, buses, trucks and cars going over the side.

Nowadays it is barely used by cars. It is now a tourist attraction for Mountain Bikers, thanks to crazy Kiwis! It is still dangerous though. You are cycling down a single track road that is very narrow at times, bumpy almost all the time and at times you have 600 metre plus vertical drops on your left hand side. It is definitely a case of keep your eyes on the road and your hands upon the wheel.

We set off cautiously, a lot slower than the speeds we had been picking up on the tarmac. We stopped regularly so Matt could check how we were doing and for photo opportunities. As we had come down through the clouds we had experienced a bit of rain, but that only added to the excitement.

The longer we went on, the more confident we got. Well, the more confident I got, Lynn was always last but this was no race! It was great flying down the mountainside with mud splattering your face and cothes.

At 2100 metres above sea level we had to cycle under the San Juan Waterfalls. They were stunning and we stopped to admire them before carrying on. Near the finish we had to bike through a river and I fell in. At least it washed some of the mud off! We all arrived at the finish safely and enjoyed hot showers, a beer and pasta and veg.

I would thoroughly recommend the WMDR and the company Gravity to anyone up for a bit of excitement. We had a great day.

The bus journey back was long and laborious and after a sandwich we crashed out exhausted at 10pm. What a day!

Tuesday April 15th
Tonight we get a night bus to Uyuni where we will stay in the famous Salt Hotel before heading on a 2 day/1 night trip around the amazing Salt Plains.

After that we intend to head to a town called Tupiza, where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid met their demise before heading into Argentina where we will have to bring our trip to a close at some point! Our flight back isnt until June 10th though, although as we have a wedding on June 14th and Lynn returns to work on June 16th, we will probably bring it forward 5 days or so.

Speak to you after the Salt Plains.

Love
Murray and Lynn
xxx

Posted by murray2701 07:58 Archived in Bolivia Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

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