Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Last night I dreamt of San Pedro

Last night I dreamt of San Pedro
                             It all seems like yesterday, not far away
Hola chica´s
Indeed and it doesnt seem that far away. Indeed and it was only over the border in Chile. Nice little town it is too but the locals have little or no english so there was a lot of blank staring done when trying to order food and buy things in shops. Luckily I have very expressive eyebrows and a common ground can always be found. Its only a few small streets but the restaurants were a lot nicer than what we had up to that point. There wasnt much too do bar wander around for a bit. The second night we went star gazing which was really good and a bit of a trip highlight which was unexpected. It was a Canadian dude doing the talk which was great to be able to understand him. Theres a shit load more stars in the southern hemisphere so theres actually a lot to look at. He had a laser pointer to point out what he was talking about which was helpful. There is actally a star called Beetlejuice which I was well impressed with. They had a load of telescopes set up so we got to see them more close up. The highlight was seeing saturn in the telescope. I know you see loads of pictures and stuff of it but seeing it in the telescope is really cool. The guide was really enthusiatic as well and it was easy to see why. I´d consider taking it up only theres feck all stars at home. They are building the worlds biggest telesope in Chile right now because it is so high up and so dry its the best conditions for viewing so it´ll be interesting to see what they might discover in future.
The next day we had a short trek over to Argentina, just 10 odd hours on the bus is all. No biggie. I started the day by getting sick at the first toilet stop. Its the first time in years I got sick sober and it wasnt pleasant. I had to get oxegen too because of the altitude so all in all a pretty unpleasant day and throw into the mix a border crossing. The joys of travel!  In fairness it was a really cool drive across the antiplano, the scenery literally change every 20 minutes, we even say another salt plain but this one was smaller. We had to hide all our food going over the border because apparently terrorists in this part of the world use ham sandwiches as their weapon of choice, they´ll mustard bomb you the first chance they get. We eventually arrived in Salta which seemed like a really nice city with a great big square and all. I took a wander to get me bearings but headed home when the lads went for food as even the thought of eating was making me gag.
The next day we had a totally free day so I decided to have a bit of a wander around the town. There was loads of shops and what not but I was more interested in finding a pub that would be showing the champions league game on that night between Real and Barca. I didnt find it. Still feeling a bit quesy I decided to retire to a cafe and finish The girl with the Dragon Tattoo that I had been reading on the truck and do some people watching. The book was pretty good, turns out the dragon tatto had no significance - I think? Anywho I got word later on about where the match might be on so headed off in me flippy floppys to find the Irish bar a few blocks away. Note to self, never walk anywhere in flip flops, Bastarding things nearly tore the feet off me. I did eventually find the Irish bar, which was closed, but luckily on a street which had nothing but bars. None were showing the match but I decided I deserved a beer for me troubles and so retired to a fine establishment for a libation or two. Eventually got to see the match so I was happy out. Got to see some vintage cars in the city centre doing the Bull run type race I think. Some cool corvettes and porsche's.We went for a meal that night in a typical Argentinian restaurant which served slabs of steak and no locals darkened the door till after 10pm which seems the done thing in them parts. We headed back to the bar street for a few drinks after.
We headed off the next day to Salta rafting for a bit of fun adventure activities. Report to follow.
To infinity, and beyond....

Thursday, 5 May 2011

La Paz times

Hola chico´s

I´m currently corresponding with you from the highest city in the world called Potosi on Bolivia. Go on look it up if you dont believe me. Its 4200 metres up and the altitude here is pretty bad though I m a bit more used to it after being at this general altitude for so long.

The last email finished off in lake Titicaca and let me tell you I felt like a right titicaca after asking around for Lola for the guts of 3 hours. Turns out she worked in a bar called Copacabana not in the actual town. An easy mistake which I´m sure has been made numerous times. Barry Manilow - what a w@nker! Anyway I met some Irish girls on the bus to La Paz and it was nice to be able to talk at normal speed again. My spanglesh is pretty awful. We arranged to meet up for dinner and we were joined by 3 lads from Cork and a nutter from Cavan. We ended up playing some drinking game whilst waiting 2 hours for our steak to arrive. A very sensible and quite conversational evening was had . I only think we are barred because someone dropped their napkin on the floor...

Anyways, moving on as they say, La Paz is a much nicer city than Cusco. The entrance to it is the most impressive of any city I´ve been to. Its basically in this huge hole so its fairly stunning when you get your first full glimpse of the place on the road in. I´d recomend it for that alone. Luckily there is more. The taxis here are a hoot. They dont know any street in the city and just take off in any dirction. Even with the language barrier I´ve made so many taxi friends - "You´re going downtown even though I want to go uptown, O you are a kidder, muchos gracias"

Theres riots here everyday in the main square and the miners let off sticks of dinamite for kicks which make quite the bang. My army shorts selection for an evening stroll was quite the topical fashion choice. Still I got to shoot 5 infidels before anyone copped so fun times. It is a nice city in fairness, lots of squares and mad markets like the witches market. Theres a lunar valley above the city which is supposed to be way cool but I didnt get a chance to see that. Like evey other city I´ve been to its buit on a hill so every walk is a struggle but thats the proce you pay in these parts.

My second day here I met up with the Dragoman tour crowd and its a nice bunch again. 14 in total and a big range of ages but the majority have English as their first language which I must admit was a major relief. Theres 4 Irish people in total as well which is new to me. I´ve always been the sole "token" Irish person so I guess now I´ll have to share the limelight   We just had a minor briefing the first evening and I booked my trip to death road for the next day. It would be me and 3 others from the tour.

We set off at 8 the next morning and headed high up in the hills to do death road. It was fairly cold and windy out but after a briefing from our guide we hit the tarmac road on our way to death road. It was grand and the only main scare was seeing the remains of a van over a cliff. We had to cross a checkpoint because death road happens to be in Bolivia´s second biggest coca plantation - niice. We got to death road at about 11 and started the decent which took about 3 hours. Its real shit when you get on it as in the 40k´s of road there is about 5 barriers on all the bad turns so its pretty much up to you. We would stop every 20 minutes or so and the guide would tell us about the bad turns ahead and how and where people died on the next stretch which fairly focuses the mind let me tell you. After about 7 stints out of 10 I felt confident on the bike and decided to move up front with the big boys and I lasted only that stint. They were flying it and after a high speed scare in a hairpin turn I decided I was up a level too far and went back to the pack.

Ironically enough I thought the stories the guide was telling us on the last few stints was just to keep us wary and vigilent of the road but on literally the last turn of the cycle in the village where we were stopping one of the lads in our group came of his bike and broke his arm. I wouldnt mind but he literally bombed it down death road and then a puddle in a village undone him. Very unlucky but just shows you dont even realise the speed you are doing until someone comes off the bike.

After he was carted off to hospital we went to this animal santuary for lunch and after seeing the amount of bites and the general crustiness of the volunteers I decided to avoid the monkeys and happy I was too. Then we got the final treat of the day in that we had to drive back up death road to get back to La Paz. In the dark. In the rain.In a full van. Going uphill. Luckily we had a game of movie tennis in which my movie buffness(?) came to the fore. I think they were more impressed with my movie knowledge than my bike skills - some achievement.

Anyways thats all for now. I´m in a town called Uyni where the salt plains are. It was amazing. Update will follow.

My name is U-L-T-A-N


Exit through the gift shop

Hola Chico´s

I´m now on my second day in Bolivia in La Paz.

I left Cusco at 10pm on Friday night on an overnight bus to a place called Puno. I decided to plump for the upgraded non kidnap package trip which I think was worth it. The bus was really nice and had big reclining cushy chairs but I didnt get much sleep as the road was so winding and steep that I kept on waking up with night horrors feeelong like I fell alseep on a waltzer. I´m glad it was dark becuase I dont think the view out the uper deck of a bus down the sheer rockface would have eased my mind any. I was talking to a few Irish lads who said theor bus up from the South of Bolivia was stopped by the locals on board because the driver was too drunk. Apparently a little drunkiness is to be expected but this guy had crossed the line. And now I am very happy I will not be travelling by bus any more.

Anyway we arrived ahead of schedule at 4am and so I had some time to kill before I departed for my floating Islands trip at 5.30am. Now thats my idea of a holiday! Its brutal cold here on the mornings till 10am and not having a breakfast did not help. We went to the floating islands and we were told we may or may not be invited in by the locls to see their gaffs and to talk with them so it was all very ¨Ooo I wonder will we get to meet any of these reclusive types¨ kinda thing. We neednt have worried cause about 10 boats pulled up and I didnt see one have to move on from an unwelcomed island. They gave us the brief lowdown on how they made the island yada yada and then we were invited to theor house before being swiftly guided outside to where they had all there rugs/pillow cases/arts n crafts things for a very un modest amount as well may I add. Maybe its the old romantic in me but it just spoiled the whole experience when you are shepparded over to buy their wares after a few mintes. It doesnt feel so authentic or something. As it turns out I heard from other people afterwards that they dont even live on the islands. They just turn up for the tourists and head back to the mainland - La vita รจ bella

After that we headed further out in the bay to visit a second Island called Tequille island which had its own tribe of people as well but who lived in normal gaffs it was just their way of living and customs that made them different. The women apparently come on to the men and they have these wolly pom poms with different colours - one for good mood, one for bad, and they wear them around accordingly. Sounds like an ingenius system really. The boys/men wear hats in certain ways to show their age/marital status and importance. The guide was showing how you´d wear the cap back to front first and then to the side and then certain folds. It was like watching the evolution of cap wearing. I wonder weather the rappers have a similiar system. Note to self - contact snoop doggy dogg when I get home. The have a system on the island which is really equitable. Each family takes turns in hosting a tour and providing the lunch so no one family is favoured over another. This seemed a lot more genuine than the floating village crowd. As it happened it was the best damn dinner I had in Peru - fried trout with chips and rice, I´d highly recomend it peoples.

Update on death road will follow. Stay tuned. Same bat station, same bat channel

Adios Amigos