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Archive for March, 2011

Hello All!

This will be just a quick update of what we’ve been up to for the past week or so (I can’t believe it’s been that long already!)

There’s a few pictures we’ve taken HERE (http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=344267&l=8404891dc0&id=683619282).

We arrived in Santa Cruz, in the southeast of Bolivia a few days ago.  It’s hot, humid, and generally uninteresting here.  Our first night we stayed at a nice hostel (Residencial Bolivar, I think) – it had a beautiful leafy patio, complete with resident toucan.  Yes, toucan – we didn’t even have to go to the rainforest to see one!  The downside was that it was the most expensive place we’ve stayed yet in Bolivia, and while it did have wifi, it was too slow to do much.  But, on the bright side, it had lots of sparkling clean bathrooms with hot water.  The rest of the day was uneventful – Tyler had a cold, we ate pizza, watched a movie, had some fruit in the market…oh, and I found a new skirt at a thrift store!

We left Santa Cruz after just one night for Samaipata, three hours away.  Samaipata is a tiny little town, but it has beautiful surroundings (Incan ruins, waterfalls, rainforest, etc.).  We decided to play it cheap and ended up camping at a place called “El Jardin” (the garden) which turned out to be fantastically nice.   Beautiful, serene, lots of fun people, really coolly designed buildings (adobe and recycled colored glass).  The unfortunate thing was that after one nice day it decided to rain for two, making it impossible to do anything but huddle under the kitchen porch with new friends.

We made an attempt to see some Che Guevera sights in the nearby town of Vallegrande, but it mostly ended up being too expensive and time consuming, not to mention obsessive.   Plus, it didn’t help that ALL the information in the guidebooks is pretty much, well, shit. As in not true.  Completely inaccurate.  We did manage to see where he used to be buried and hear some amazing stories from people in the town, but that’s about it.  (For those that don’t know, Che was assassinated outside Vallegrande in 1967; that’s why there’s a bunch of “Che stuff” around there, usually referred to as “the Che route” or “the last steps of Che.”)  That night we survived the craziest thunder and lightening storm of my life – the ground was literally shaking, and I actually started to think maybe the world was ending outside.  But, out cheap tent held up with one one wet spot, due to my laziness when setting up the rain-fly (it really didn’t seem like it would rain at the time!).  After that, we were basically trapped in Samaipata for a few days due to the rain, waiting for it to clear up so we could go out and see some of the sights, but instead we spent our time cooking, getting arepas (corn pancake things) at the market, making amazing hot chocolate, and hanging out trying not to be bored to death.  After three nights we decided it was finally time to move on…back to Santa Cruz.

And here we are again, this time staying in an extremely cheap place.  We did, however, find a very nice coffee shop place (Alexander Coffee, near the main square) that has fast wifi, so all is well.  We’re trying to take care of a few online chores (bills, cat supplies, bank accounts) and organize our next steps.  Hopefully tomorrow we’re going to try to volunteer at the Ambue Ari animal refuge, about 6 hours northeast of Santa Cruz.  In order to volunteer, we need to gather a lot of money, as there’s no ATM in town, procure malaria medication as even Santa Cruz is in the dreaded “red zone” of malaria on the maps, not to mention basically take care of anything important involving the internet, as the refuge has, get this, no electricity.  However, since we’re going to make a one month commitment (hopefully) we will get to work with felines…as in…jaguars, pumas, etc.  If that turns out to be true, it will be all worth it.  If not, we’ll become very fit doing construction and maintenance at the park I’m sure.  Once we’re there, there is a town nearby that has an internet cafe, so we should be able to update once a week or so.  If you want to check out information about this place, check it out HERE (http://www.intiwarayassi.org/articles/volunteer_animal_refuge/volunteer_at_ambue.html)!

Until next time, we love you all!

Sharon and Tyler

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Sucre!

Finally, I’ll post my entries from our week in Sucre, Bolivia.  Pictures can be found HERE.  Enjoy!

Sucre, March 17th – March 23rd

Day One: We arrived in Sucre with our new little family of friends in the afternoon, and took a taxi to the center of town, Plaza 25 de Mayo.  The funny thing was that the taxi…well…didn’t run so well and we spent a good chunk of time waiting on the side of the road for the car to start, which the driver assured us was normal and that it would fine in just a minute.  Eventually it worked and we arrived safely at Hostal Charcas, right across from the Mercado Central.  After checking out a room for 4, we decided it was good enough and set down our packs.  While the hostel didn’t have much to offer (no wifi, no breakfast, no kitchen) the price was right at about 33 pesos each (less than US$5), they had a rooftop terrace and lots of bathrooms with lots of hot water.  We walked around the city a bit, through the bustling Mercado Central, and settled on having a beer and a snack on the terrace before we decide what to do for dinner.  Seeing as it was St. Patrick’s Day, and our friends were from England and Germany and had never celebrated, we decided we might as well try to show them how it’s done…sort of.

We started out by eating at a German restaurant (Kafe Kulture), and passed a strange dance party in the street on the way.  Isabel was quick to point out that the owner was Austrian – and the food took an eternity to come out.  Luckily (or not) we were occupied trying to pour our ½ liter of dark hefeweizen beer into the tall, skinny glass without spilling foam everywhere.  It’s a special talent I apparently don’t have. When the food did come, it wasn’t the cuts of meat advertised on the menu, and the waitress was genuinely confused above which plate was what (strange, since she also spoke German).  But, seeing as we didn’t really know what we were missing (authenticity) I thought it was pretty delicious.

Next we head for the Joy Ride Café, where we had seen an advertisement for a St. Patty’s day party.  We made our friends order a liter of green beer each (on special 2×1) and spent a long time chatting over what we’d be doing at home.  We run into a friend of Isabel’s, who is going to a non-profit language school that sounded interesting, and also had some funny run-ins with your typical, drunk-to-a-stupor expats. After finally finishing our green beer, we stop for snacks, drinks, and bon-bons (which Will has to climb up a ladder in the store to get…hilarious), hang out in the room for awhile, and finally go to bed around 3 a.m.  Not a bad St. Patrick’s Day, but still not the same as home.

Day Two:  On our second day we sleep in until 11 or so, and everyone slowly gets up, showers, has coffee and gets ready for the day.  We don’t leave until around 1 p.m., and head across the street to search for the famous juices and fruit salads at the Mercado Central. I think I can easily say it’s the best fruit salad I’ve ever had, for only about US$1 – with every type of fruit, including local varieties like chirimoya, yogurt, oats, nuts, whipped cream…simply amazing.

After that we went off in search of information: we’re trying to look into hiking, mountain-biking, and/or climbing, and/or going to Sunday market in a nearby town, which is also having a festival this weekend.  We went around town getting different information and eventually book our bus tickets for Sunday and book a hike on Saturday, and we’re left with plenty of ideas of what else to do here in Sucre.  There’s a language school, Fox Academy, that is a non-profit and all of its proceeds go towards teaching English to low-income families.  It sounds like a fantastic school, they also offer classes in Quechua, the local indigenous language, as well as cooking classes, and you can volunteer to teach English.  Also, the company we’re going hiking with is a non-profit that invests its proceeds into the local community, and they’re looking for volunteers. It seems like there’s a lot of really interesting things going on in Sucre to get involved in!

Later Tyler and I head back to the Mercado in search of snacks: Tyler gets this amazing chorizo and rice dish from the second floor of the market for only US$2, and I try humitas, which are basically like triangle tamales, but sweeter, and mine had only cheese and could have used some flavor and some type of sauce.  After our “snacks” we head over to Fox Language School for a dinner fundraiser they’re putting on that Isabel’s friend Fiona invited us to.   It was a great way to try some traditional Bolivian food and get a feel for the school (lots of nice families and kids).  After that we went out for early drinks at the Amsterdam Café, a non-profit restaurant/pub that works with Bolivian street kids, and quickly became one of our favorite places to hang out (why not, it’s for a good cause?!). We talk about planning a possible two day hike through some villages outside Sucre that we heard about through the extremely helpful local tourist office, that would include walking along part on an old Incan trail, and seeing volcanoes, craters, and tiny indigenous villages.  But, for now, it’s off to bed so we can get up early for our hike tomorrow!

Day Three: We get up early and head back to the market for another great fruit salad.  It makes us late, but hey, it’s Latin America, and it doesn’t really matter anyway.  Our guide is Yao, a recent volunteer from Vancouver, BC.  First we go to Parque Cretácico – a dinosaur park on the outskirts of Sucre.  It seems that a cement company accidently uncovered hundreds of dinosaur footprints in the hillside, and so they built a park around it.  Due to the shifting of tectonic plates, the footprints are on a vertical wall that you can see from the park. The park is filled with dinosaur bones and models, as well as an AV room showing BBC documentaries.  It’s a pretty interesting, if cheesy, place.

Next we take a walk through a poor, working class part of town to find the “trailhead” to the waterfalls we’re supposed to walk to.  Yao has only been there once before, and he’s asking locals the best way to get down to the river.  We take some narrow trails down the ravine until we’re at the river.  The idea is that we follow the river, which is mostly dry, a few hours and have lunch at the falls.  We have a good time talking and walking, even if it does start to drizzle, then rain, then really rain. We’re from the PNW, after all, right? We stop and have a great lunch of grilled veggies, avocado, tomato, spinach, hard-boiled eggs, etc on great bread rolls. Then we continue walking, and after some amount of time Yao tells us the surrounding landscape doesn’t really look familiar.  At first think he’s joking because we had been teasing him that he would get us lost.  He’s not joking; he doesn’t know where we are and wants to walk back.  It was supposed to be a one-way hike and we’re not really looking forward to walking all the way back.  We tell him we should keep going to some nearby houses and ask people if we can hike out of the river valley to a main road, from where we can catch a taxi or hail a truck back to Sucre.  Eventually we find a family that has a huge truck and is actually heading back to Sucre later that day and is willing to take us as well.  So, it’s all going to work out – phew.

We walk around the river some more, then Yao manages to get us lost again trying to find the road out of the valley to where the truck his.  What a great guide. The truck ride back is pretty fun – it’s an open truck and we got some great views of the “super moon”, although I was really about to pee my pants.  Finally we make it back, find a pee spot, and get a taxi back to our hostel.  Yao wants to make our failed day up to us and invites us to his place for drinks and snacks.  He mostly wants to bribe us out of telling his boss he got us lost.  Not wanting to turn down a free offer, we agree to meet him and he points us in the direction of his apartment and we agree to meet him in about an hour.  Within that hour I fall asleep, and the others go out to meet Yao.  It turns out he actually told them the wrong directions (AGAIN!) and they couldn’t find their house.  They went to the Amsterdam Café for dinner, and ran into him there, where he said “hey guys, what happened? I waited for you for like fifteen minutes.”  Fifteen minutes?! That’s it?!!  Then, he apparently wanted them to go to a party with him and everyone was like, ‘no I’m pretty tired…’ and our idiot guide Yao had to audacity to tell them ‘hey, I did the same hike as you and I’m still going out, why are you so tired?’ Wow, just wow.  Then he tried to friend us on Facebook. What a completely incompetent guy.  I mean, I feel bad for him; it sucks to make a big mistake on the job, but c’mon, take some responsibility. We didn’t want him to get in trouble, but we thought the company should know what happened so they can maybe take some precautions in the future – like give guides maps, only let experienced guides lead hikes alone, and to learn to say ‘no’ when there’s not enough staff to lead a hike.  The idea of the organization is great, so I want them to do well – it just looks like they have a few lessons to learn!

Day Four: While Saturday turned out to be sort of a draw, Sunday pretty much made up for it.  Well, it was off to rough start…when just as we were leaving (already late) for the bus, I said my usual line to Tyler “do you have the key?” expecting his usual answer “yeah, it’s in the door, c’mon.”  But this day, it was different.  This day, the key couldn’t be found anywhere, to the point that we were about to miss the bus.  I tried to send Will and Isabel on ahead so they wouldn’t miss out on the day, and I would stay back in the room to look for the key and guard our things.  I had already looked everywhere.  People are freaking out, and it’s my fault.  We try to store our most important stuff (computers) with the hostel reception, but the poor old man is too consumed trying to get everything ready for their bus leaving for the market.  We decide to just have him lock the door with the spare key and leave him a note in case he forgets, which seems highly likely because he’s old and easily confused.  The worry, however, is that someone took our key and will go into our room while we’re gone.  I was the last one with the key the night before, so I would be responsible for anything that goes wrong.  We tried to have faith in humanity and enjoy the day in Tarabuco, a town a few hours away that has a huge Sunday market, and today was having a huge festival.

The day turns out to be great – there are tons of people lining up for a parade through the town in fancy, colorful indigenous costumes.  We find out the president of Bolivia, Evo Morales, is going to be there – crazy!  We walked around trying to politely take pictures of people’s colorful dress and make our way through town.  Eventually we decide to eat something since we missed breakfast thanks to my great key fiasco.  A women taking surveys points us in the right direction of food and lets us know the procession doesn’t start until noon so we have plenty of time.  We make our way up the hill and eventually a guy randomly calls out to us, something like “mister, mister!” in English, and end up talking to him.  He’s completely drunk at 11 a.m., but harmless.  He’s eating at a typical Bolivian food stand – a women on the side of the road with a few large pots wrapped in colorful blankets, and a some plastic chairs and a table. We look inside the pots and see a fantastic looking potato soup. At five pesos for a giant plate of food, we decide to risk it.  She loads up a huge serving of pasta, soup, and salad and we sit down to enjoy our gigantic meal, which turned out to be pretty delicious with few aftereffects.

Next we try to stake out our places for the parade – Will and Isabel opt to go further up into town to photograph the parade, while Tyler and I try to get a good spot for seeing the president.  Around noon more and more people are gathering and things start to get a little crazy; people are climbing trees and fences to see the procession.  Evo dances a traditional dance in full on traditional garb. The processions pass through, each one being announced and making some kind of offering to the president: a bag, a garland, at one point they actually threw popcorn at him and he picked it up and ate it, at another they gave him armfuls of bread and baskets of food, at another they were throwing confetti and ribbon at him, fireworks were going off that sounded like gunshots…it was totally unreal, unlike anything a president in any of our respective counties would ever do. The funny thing was that when asked for applause, the people hardly responded, yet they were dangling off trees to see him and shouting out his name.  At one point, I swear, he looked right at us and gave a sort-of fist salute, which Tyler, he obviously stands out, repeated back to him, and he actually laughed and waived!  It doesn’t get much more surreal than that.

After the festivities we went around town shopping for llama everything – llama socks, llama sweaters, a hat, traditional weavings, traditional ponchos (which Isabel plans to make into a rug – great idea!), pillowcases from traditional fabrics, llama gloves, and normal things like a flashlight and batteries.  I even got to pet a really friendly cat for awhile, which the people around me joked that they would sell it to me. It was fun to just walk around the market, which not only had all the traditional touristy type things, but normal things like kitchen supplies, cocoa leaves, spices, clothes, etc.  It was truly interesting to see, and we were so lucky to be there on the festival they have once a year.

Day Five: On Monday, myself, Tyler, and Isabel set off for our two-day hike to some villages outside Sucre.  Sadly, Will was back at the hostel, sick. L We had made all the preparations the day before – we got food and water at the supermarket, packed our bags, put the rest of our stuff in storage, found a taxi to take us to the first village (the micros are currently on strike).  It was drizzling as we left….not good.  After about 20 minutes we turn off the paved road onto what used to be a dirt road, but by know is mostly a mud pit.  We’re afraid that we’re about to get scammed and robbed, and we’re not looking forward to hiking and camping in the rain.  It only looks worse on the horizon in the direction we’re trying to go.  After some admirable attempts by our driver to navigate the muddy roads, we decide to admit defeat and head back. A lazy day might not be so bad anyway, and maybe Isabel can leave earlier to La Paz.  We come back to the hostel and find a slightly better Will so Tyler gets us a double room for the night, and Isabel and Will are going to try to head to La Paz that night.  Before we know it, it’s time to say goodbye to our dear new friends and readjust to travelling as just the two of us!  It feels so lonely now – who will help us make all the decisions and lead the way around town?!

Day Six:  Today starts with a beautiful sunny day.  Our new room is much nicer than the old one – right up by the terrace, with lots of windows and sunlight, and storage.  And it doesn’t smell like an old shoe, all for just a total of US$2 more per night!  We enjoy finally being able to sleep in and have a lazy start to the day, my favorite.  Since it’s sunny out, we walk around town taking pictures, and walk up to the Recoleta Mirador, which has great views of the city and the surrounding valley.  It’s beautiful; Bolivia is so green and beautiful!   After some much needed time interneting at Café Amsterdam, which turns out to have the fastest wifi of any of the places around our hostel, we head off for one last sightseeing stop: La Casa de Libertad, where Bolivia’s Declaration of Independence was signed, and where the first Congress of Bolivia convened before the political capital was moved to La Paz (Sucre is the “constitutional capital and houses the Supreme Court).  I can’t believe I’ve seen the Bolivian declaration of independence, and also the first Argentine flag, but none of the historical relics of my own country.  A trip to DC is a must!

After that we walk around some more, trying to plan what to do next.  We settle on a 5 p.m. bus leaving for Santa Cruz the following day, where we’re hopefully do some camping, see Che Guevara’s grave, and maybe even volunteer in an animal refuge where I’ll actually be allowed to hang out with big kittens like pumas and such.  We basically spend the rest of the day trying to eat all the food we were left with from our failed camping attempt and napping.  But, we went out to dinner at Locot’s and had some delicious Bolivian food that I can’t remember the names of now.

Day Seven: I can’t believe it’s already been a week since we arrived in Sucre!  Today we don’t have many plans.  We sleep in, pack, get ready, and try to finish off the last of the food we were left with after our failed camping attempt.  I pack our favorite cookies for the bus and make some sandwiches, leave a can of tuna for the hostel kitten, drink the last of our instant coffee, and give the rest of our fruits and veggies to a man on the street.  Our main goal of the day is to finish updating photos and the blog, and mail a package home.  It’s so funny to mail something here – first you have a find a box, which is usually just in the street or you can ask for one in a store.  Then you have to find packing tape at the market.  Then we took it to the post office and they say we have to wrap it in paper.  To buy the paper we have to find a libreria.  Then the post office lady wraps our box for us. So many steps just for a package!  At home I’m so used to buying everything in one stop!  But, we got it done, and now it’s just a few hours until our bus leaves for Santa Cruz.  Depending on the road conditions due to rain, it’ll either be 15-25 hours long, so until next time….

Love you all!

Sharon

 

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cerro rico

After Uyuni, we went with our new friends, Isabel and Will, to the mining town of Potosí, a few hours away.  Pictures can be found HERE and my notes are below. Enjoy!

 

Potosí, March 15th to March 17th

Day One: Bumpy, slightly nerve-racking to the unaccustomed bus ride to Potosí, about 4-5 hours east from Uyuni.  The road is mostly dirt and rock, with some muddy spots and sections that have been washed out and re-routed. The scenery is beautiful: rolling green hills, llamas, cacti, colorful native dress.  We stop after awhile for a bathroom and snack break; we buy corn on the cob for a snack, sprinkled with salt from the salar, and it’s sublime.  The kernels are bigger, chewier; nothing gets caught in your teeth.  We reach the mining town of Potosí in the afternoon, and, like usual, are greeted by a number of people offering us tours, taxis, and hotels.  We talk to one person who offers tours to the mines in Cerro Rico, the silver mines that made Potosí famous for centuries.  It was once the richest town in South America; and it is currently one of the highest cities on the planet at 4100 meters (that’s 13,452 feet above sea level!). The guy is friendly, with great English, but not pushy. We take flyer and say we’ll look into it.  We decide to walk to a recommended hostel, and end up going the wrong way.  We run into the same tour guide again, who points us in the right direction, gives us hostel recommendations, and tells us how to take the public bus to where we need to go. After a cramped bus ride up the hill, we reach the main plaza and find our hostel without much trouble, except gasping for air.  It’s a nice place (the Koala Den), with internet, colorful rooms, hang-out spaces, book exchanges, a kitchen, and a movie room.  And it’s only US$5 per person, including breakfast.  We love Bolivia. We get organized, and are off to search for food.  It’s a weird time of day and not much is available; the streets are chaotic and crowded.  Since we’re four with our new friends, we end up buying an entire rotisserie chicken, potatoes, marinated onions, and bread.  It’s a huge lunch…think we’ll just be having beer from the highest brewery in the world for dinner.   Then Tyler and Isabel drop off our laundry – yay! We have problems with the internet, and when it finally does work, it’s painfully slow and crashes often.  It’s cold in the hostel, but luckily we have new llama sweaters and scarves to keep us warm.

Tyler and Will go off to book our tour of the mines tomorrow – they go to the office from the man we talked at the bus terminal, and it turns out he’s a great, honest, and interesting guy.  He used to work with the tour company run through our hostel, which is recommended by the Lonely Planet.  The hostel tour company advertises that 15% of the total tour price (100 Bolivanos, or about $15) to the miners still working in the mine.  The guy explains that he found out the company actually wasn’t giving the miners the proper percentage, and since his family works in the mines, he quit and started his own company, owned and run by miners, which does give the proper percentage of the tour price to the miners.  He also offers a better price, and includes lunch. Meanwhile, the tour company through our hostel, Koala Tours, is still saying he works there, since his name is in the Lonely Planet, but tells everyone he’s on paid vacation.  Based on the stories the guys brought back, the tour tomorrow morning should be really interesting!

Day Two:  Miner’s Refrain; the day of the mine tour.  It’s difficult, because when I first heard about these tours, I was immediately against them.  How dare tourist go to gawk at the horrible conditions in the mines!  But, after hearing about the guy we’re going with, I feel a little better.  We’re mostly just going along with our friends anyway. But I still have a sort of moral conflict about the whole situation…one the one hand, I think it’s good to know where the minerals that make up your iPod touch and plasma TV’s come from.  People should be conscious of mining conditions, which are rarely good, so we can work to change them for the better. And the money from the tours is going towards improving the lives of the miner’s and their families.  But, on the other hand, the tours help keep the miners in the jobs they have.  They get free money, and the tours bring them gifts of cocoa leaves, dynamite, and drinks. That doesn’t leave much motivation to leave.  Plus, after having a conversation later with a different tour guide at a museum, I found out most of the miners don’t have to work in the mines; they want to.  They’re proud of the suffering; proud of their strength, proud to spend all their money on cars and 96% alcohol, ignore their families, and die young of black lung.  There’s still cases of kids (age 12 and up) working in the mines because their parents died and they have no education, or of old guys who work there out of what has become Quechua tradition, but it seems these are the rarity rather than the norm.  So, there are definitely two sides of the coin here, and from the little time I spent there I’m not sure which one I lean more towards.  What I do know is that tourists mostly take the tours for the adventure.  A better option would be offering tours of parts of the mines where people no longer work: tourists can still feel cool or whatever for going into the depths of the mines, squeezing through holes, wheezing in the dust, chewing cocoa leaves to ward off headaches, and get an idea of the horrible conditions in general, and especially under colonial times, maybe get an appreciation of the work that goes into the minerals that make up so much of our technology, but they wouldn’t be supporting a broken system.

Now, about the tour itself: after the best breakfast I’ve had in a hostel in South America (it was the norm of bread and jam but with real coffee and scrambled eggs) we head over to the office.  After the typical bit of waiting around, we get in a van and head up to get changed into some pretty smelly and gross “mining clothes” than only came in “Bolivian sizes”: nylon pants and jacket, rubber boots, a helmet, and headlamp.  Then we cave and buy the cheesy bandanas so we maybe won’t have to breathe in as much dust in the mines (wish I had thought of that beforehand).  Then we talk around the miner’s market in our ridiculous garb, or guide greeting people in Quechua, the local indigenous language, and what most miners speak.  We’re here to buy gifts for the miners we’re going to visit – so we can start conversations.  We buy a big bottle of juice and dinamita completa (you can guess what that is), and some cocoa leaves (yes, we tried them, yes they help with altitude sickness, really!) and head up Cerro Rico and make one last stop on our way to the mines: the mineral processing plant.  It’s small and smelly, and we get to see how the different minerals are ground, refined via a series of chemical reactions, ground again, washed with water, and dried in the sun as super-concentrated minerals, mostly sold in the London Stock Market to go towards making our plasma TV’s. From just 5 minutes in the chemical processing room my throat was burning, even though it was pretty well ventilated. Not fun place to work.  After a few poses for pictures at the top of the hill, we were off to the cooperative mines of the infamous Cerro Rico.

In colonial times, Potosí was the center of wealth, famous for silver (people said the streets were paved with silver…not likely but it shows the towns renown) that powered the Spanish Empire. The silver is mostly depleted, but miners continue to extract other minerals and ores.  Houses line the entrance of the mine where workers can take breaks and change their clothes; the entrance looks like something out of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom: a railroad for trolleys of materials descending into a dark, square entrance supported by wooden beams.  We flip on our headlamps and head into the darkness…it’s wet from the rainy season and we’re trudging through who-knows-what liquids. Our guide used to work in the mines and knows the passageways well – he’s practically jogging down the path as we’re panting to keep up.  The difficulty in breathing only gets worse the further in we go: there’s more dust, chemicals, the air gets thicker and damper. I’m chewing my cocoa leaves trying not to panic.  We stop in complete darkness, turn off our lights, and listen to our guide tell stories about the mines in colonial times and how the co-ops work today.  We go a little ways and stop to visit the Tío (literally “uncle” in Spanish because the word dios was too difficult to pronounce for native Quechua speakers) of the mines: the God they worship for protection, safety and wealth.  They make offerings of pure alcohol (so that they can find pure minerals) and cocoa leaves to him – he exists only in the mines; outside the indigenous peoples were forced to be Roman Catholics and refer to the Tío as a devil.  Next we descend a few rickety ladders further into the mines, squeeze threw a few passageways, and try to keep up with our guide as we’re bent over due to the short ceilings. We talk to a few miners about their work and give our gifts away.  Next we follow a trolley delivering materials to be lifted out of the mines via wench and processed. Finally it’s time to retreat into fresh air after only a couple of hours in the mines – but that’s more than enough for me.

If you want to check out more information about the mining conditions, I hear there’s a great documentary out (we haven’t seen it yet) called “The Devil’s Miner” (2005) based on the story of a boy working in the mines of Cerro Rico.

After the mining tour, we were mostly pretty tired and I spent about 2 hours waiting for a shower as there was only one bathroom in our hostel, and trying to get the wireless to work with my computer, which, after 2 days, was never really successful.  I think it was that night that we ventured out for some street food: a paper cone stuffed with a small hamburger with sauces, and packed in with french fries drizzled with mayo and spicy salsa – for 5 pesos each.  For US$2 I ate two of these, and a bubbly beverage.  It was amazing.

Day Three: On our last day in Potosí we got up, had breakfast, and went to walk around the city taking some photos of the different plazas and churches.  We went on a tour of the Casa de Moneda, “Bolivia’s finest museum” according to the guidebooks. It was where all the silver money was minted, beginning in colonial times, and ending in the early 1900s.  They still had the original machinery and refinery rooms (complete with original soot) used and we got to see the progression from hammering out coins by hand to a more refined process by machine.  The latter process consisted of a silver ingot passing through a press a total of 12 times (4 times at each machine, each powered by 4 donkeys downstairs turning the presses) until it was thin enough to be cut into coin by scissors, by hand. The museum also had some art, a room full of rocks, and a room of archeological artifacts, and was in a really gigantic, beautiful building centered around 5 courtyards.  It was definitely worth the few dollars it cost to enter, and it was there I had an interesting conversation with the tour guide about the mining situation in Potosí.  She also mentioned that in Potosí there are basically two things to do: mine, or learn to speak English and get involved in tourism.  She was much friendlier once we struck up a conversation in Spanish; I could sense a bitterness about having to speak English to find work and she chided us for not speaking more Spanish (of course!).

After the tour it was finally time to try salteñas, basically Bolivia’s version of the empanada, made with yellow corn dough instead of flour, and filled with stewed meat, onions, spices, a tomato-y sauce, and the ubiquitous bit of hard-boiled egg and single un-pitted olive.  After that, it was time to catch our bus to Sucre.

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Once in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile, we decide it’s time to cross into Bolivia.  We decide to book a 3 day, 4-wheel trek across the desert to Uyuni, Boliva.  Below are the tails from what has essentially become my e-diary, sorry most of it was written in notes and in a hurry, so its not that great.

Also, pictures can be found HERE and HERE!

Trip to Uyuni, March 12th – March 14th

Day One: We get up painfully early before the sun rises to get ready and pack our bags.  Tyler wanders the town to find an ATM so we have money to exchange into Bolivanos, as well as buy last minute snacks and bread for breakfast.  We wait around outside the office for awhile until finally a van picks us up and we set off for the border.  We’re stamped out of Chile easily enough, and continue on to the Laguna Verde border crossing into Bolivia: remote, in the middle of the desert altiplano.  From there we’re told we can temporarily enter Bolivia, but as soon as we get to Uyuni we have to each pay $US 135 to obtain our visas.  Not too bad…the only problem so far is that we specifically went to the ATM in Chile to get pesos to exchange in Bolivia to pay entrance fees and have some cash when we get to town because the ATM is supposed to be spotty, but we never get a chance to stop.  So frustrating! But the scenery and company makes up for everything…

We drive through the desert in our trusty Land Rover with our fantastic Bolivian guide Neftali. After a few hours through the incredibly high and remote desert, we come across a lake, known as the white lagoon.  Who would expect water out here?!  The more impressive sight is the Green Lagoon, which, when the wind and sun are just right, goes from watery brown to bright turquoise!  It was amazing to watch it slowly transform – well worth the wait!  Next sight was the Dali rock fields, which apparently inspired the famous Spanish artist (or they just look like his work, I can’t remember now…).  As we keep driving all day long, we have good conversations with our new friends and trip-mates: Will and Isabel.  By the time we reach the Polque Hot Springs we’re already sharing towels along with stories.  The hot springs were great (with a fantastic view), but maybe a little much with the altitude (close to 5,000 meters – which is about 16,404 feet of elevation!).  Next stop: Morning Sun Geyser Basin, where we walk around active, bubbling, muddy, sulfuric geysers. They’re not like Old Faithful; they’re more like some kind of swamp-land from your imagination when you’re reading Lord of the Rings.  Still interesting to see though!  Finally, a few hours later we arrive at the refugio by the Red Lagoon.  Like the Green Lagoon, when the sun and wind are just right the lagoon turns an amazing shade of rust-red in the late afternoon, and is home to thousands of pink flamingos.  That night we sleep out in rustic accommodations in the desert; our guide makes us the best dinner of all the groups (lasagna!), including wine, and we even get afternoon tea and pancakes for breakfast.  Incredible!

The only downside to the trip was that the other 2 girls in our car (“the frenchies”) wanted to be in another car, and to make a long story short, basically insisted that we plan our entire trip around following this other car’s schedule, which ended up making us miss some sights in the desert and have a really, really long second day and an extra night in the crappy little town of Uyuni, all so they could see some boy they liked and see the last day of Carnival in Uyuni (which is just a bunch of people drinking in a square).  Ah, the joys of group travel! At least we made some good friends out of the whole thing, and had some great discussions with Neftali about who his least favorite travelers are…

Day Two:  After a great breakfast in the refugio, we head out to cross the rest of the desert.  We get up early, intending to leave early, but the French girls hold everyone up and we end up leaving 2 hours later than planned so they can try to follow the other car…

No worries though – we focus on the awesome sights we’re getting to see.  First stop is the Stone Tree, a cool rock formation in the middle of the desert.  In addition to the “tree” there are volcanic rocks around that I swear were just made for bouldering…so perfect I couldn’t resist playing around on them.  Later I found out someone else had the same great idea and broke their arm, so you’re actually not supposed to climb on the boulders…what a shame.

After the tree and boulders, we made a few more stops in the desert for photos on mountains and lakes in the altiplano, then made a looooong trip to Uyuni, in Bolivia. Before heading into town we stopped at the “train cemetery” where old trains from over 100 years ago are just sitting around rusting in a field. You can play all over the them…it’s kind of a neat, but weird, sight.

Once we get into town, Neftali tells us that there’ s really nothing to do in Uyuni other than party for Carnival, which none of us are really interested in after our 2 days in the high desert.  He can’t cook us dinner because the place we’re staying doesn’t have a kitchen, and there’s not many restaurants open because of Carnival.  We end up having to eat pizza for dinner, which the French girls didn’t even show up for.  Oh, and that was after they took the first showers and used the last of the water at the hotel so no one else could shower until the next day…in the afternoon. Lovely. But, at least we have a room to ourselves, and we can breathe a little easier at last!

Third Day:  On our last day of the tour, we finally get to see what we’ve been waiting for: the salt flats of Uyuni, the largest in the world.  Right now since it’s the end of the rainy season in Bolivia, the flats are covered in about a foot of water so we don’t get that endless white field effect, but we do get amazing crystal clear reflections.  Before we get to see the flats, we stop at a “salt museum” to see the traditional way of how salt is processed.  Basically when the flats are wet it’s shoveled into triangular piles, which are hauled into town by truck, where they’re dried in the sun for a few days.  Then the salt is heated in an oven to clean it, ground, and packed into plastic bags, and sealed by melting the plastic.  When there’s no water on the flats, they use knives to cut blocks out of the salt which they use to make houses and tourist hotels.

Next we drive out the start of the flats, a few miles outside of town, and have breakfast on the back of the Land Rover.  Side-note: strawberry yogurt with chocolate corn-flakish cereal is surprisingly good. The goal of today: avoid sunburns (Tyler, of course, fails at this), and take a million pictures. We drive through the water, stopping in the middle to get out and take pictures. We walk for about an hour through the water…exfoliating our feet on the crunchy, surprisingly sharp sand. Apparently there’s nothing for traveler’s foot like walking around these flats for a day! And isn’t that a nice image to have in your mind when you’re using salt?!  The scenery is intense: the watery reflections and cloudy skies blend into oblivion; it’s exactly what I imagined when I read The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Seriously, it looks like you can just walk into nothingness and heaven.  There are islands on the flats that look like they’re floating in the sky because of the reflections, like some trippy Myzumi anime.  After we spend a long time trying to take it all in and capture it, we meet Neftali and the others at the Hotel de Sal, where Neftali is making us a traditional Bolivian lunch of llama and the best quinoa I’ve ever had.

After that we head to an artisanal market in the village near the flats, where I buy my first llama sweater and get my first taste of beautiful, vibrant, and cheap Bolivian handicrafts.  Waiting for months before we buy anything has finally paid off!  Once we get back to Uyuni our tour official ends, and Tyler and I set off on our next challenge: getting our visa straightened out.

The Longest Hour: the tour is over, and we have an hour before we meet Will and Isabel to figure out where we’re staying and get our Bolivian visa.  We passed though the border crossing at Laguna Verde on the condition that we would pay to get our official visas as soon as we arrived in Uyuni.  After the end of the tour, we walked around town looking for the Migración Office, covered in our salt-splattered clothes.  We find the office, expecting to pay the $US 135 visa fee.  However, we can’t pay by debit card, and the ATM only dispenses 150 Bolivanos (about $US 21) at a time.  We are pretty sure we can’t just make 10 withdrawals in day, even between our two bank accounts.  We go to the only ATM in town anyway.  It doesn’t open until 5 p.m. It’s now about 4:15.  We’re supposed to meet our friends, Will and Isabel, at 5 in the main square.  We have nothing to do for an hour.  We walk.  We look vainly for another ATM.  We ask around for hotel and hostel prices, as we also have to find a place to stay that night.  We walk more.  Finally, I decide to just use an internet café, at least let the most important people know we’re alive and well in Bolivia, even if we don’t have our visas yet.  It takes 22 minutes to send one email, delete my junk mail, check one bank account, and update my Facebook status.  Frustratingly slow, but at least I can finally write home.  Tyler goes to get in line for the ATM.  At 5:05 a women is painstakingly slowly sweeping bank receipts out of the ATM booths.  No one can go in until she’s finished. She doesn’t know it’s after 5, that people had already been using the ATM. Tyler and I are now first in line.  Some pushy tourists try to tell the girl to hurry up, people are waiting.  Strange thing to see in Latin America.  We patiently wait; we’re used to it by now.  I spot our friends, wave in the direction of the ATM and get back in line. We finally get to go in; we each try to withdrawal the maximum amount on the screen from our bank accounts – 1400 Bolivanos, about US$200, hoping with every fiber of our being that it works.  It does!  Our friends are trying to get a Bolivian phone card to work; it’s complicated.  We tell them we still have to get our visa. They’ve decided to stay in the same hotel as with the tour; they’ve already showered and have a room.  That’s what we wanted to do, but we were waiting for them.  We decide to go get our visa before the office closes and meet them at the hotel later. We go, but we don’t have all the required paperwork. That’s easy; just pay a 50 peso fine each.  Our passports already have the visas and 90 day stamp in them; we just have to fill out the paperwork. The dates are fudged to match the day we were stamped out of Chile.  But we’re officially in Bolivia!

We go back towards the hotel; I’m impatient as Tyler insists on buying another 5 liters of water before the big bottles sell out.  I want to shower before the water runs out again.  We get back, check in hurriedly, get to the room, and take our bags from storage to the room.  Tyler runs to meet our friends at the “bus terminal” to buy our tickets to Potosí for tomorrow. I scramble for a shower before the water is out.  I try to use as little water as possible and be as fast as possible so Tyler can have a shower.  I want to wash my salty pants but I don’t.  Tyler gets back, and for the second time there’s no more water for him.  Oh no! He washes using bought water, again, but he amazingly only uses less than a liter of water.  We spend some time reading our guidebook, playing computer games, organizing photos.  We go to eat dinner with our friends, end up at a “Mexican place” which turns out to be alright. Off to bed early, we’re still used to Chilean time, an hour ahead.  The next day we find a place serving breakfast, bread on the verge of mold, with margarine and jam, coffee.  Then we’re off on the very bumpy dirt road to Potosí…

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San Pedro de Atacama, Chile, March 10th to March 12th

First, there’s photos from this part of our trip HERE!

Our bus ride goes up Valparaiso through the coast and desert 25 hours until we arrive at the small town of San Pedro de Atacama, in the far north of Chile.  The bus ride turns out to actually be one of the best, Sharon sleeps well (though Tyler struggles), the bus food is pretty good for riding semi-cama, and the movies are also better than usual.  We arrive late at night and as we’re getting our bags and trying to orient ourselves, some folks ask us if we’re looking for a place to stay and offer us a room for CHP 5,000 each (a good price, though it doesn’t include breakfast or internet), and we agree and they take us to Casa del Sol Naciente in their pick-up truck.  We’re the only 2 in our room, but the beds are warm, there’s hot water before 10 p.m., a kitchen with loads of free items, a hangout patio with a fire place, camping options, a lurking kitten, and really nice people. It’s a bit “rustic” but it has great views of the surrounding volcanoes and desert.  The second night they offer us a private room for a $1000 pesos more, which we take and enjoy.  Both prices were lower than anything we’d seen online.

Day Two: We finally get to sleep in – late – until 11 a.m.!  Tyler for some crazy reason gets up early, showers, buys bread for breakfast and makes coffee, making for a nice, relaxing morning.   Then we walk around town a bit – it’s tiny, all the buildings are one-story adobe, and most of the roads are unpaved and look exactly the same, with complicated street names, when there are street signs.  We compare prices at different tourist agencies for the trip across the desert to Uyuni, Bolivia.  The agencies aren’t budging on the prices, so while we mull over whether or not it’s worth it, we book a trip to go to Valle de la Luna that night.   After asking a few more questions, we book the cheapest trip that leaves the next day.

Once all the planning is done, we seek out a cheap lunch at food stalls on the outskirts of town, and find a little place that serves ceviche with boiled potatoes and salad that turns out to be quite good.  Afterwards we walk around town taking a few photos and collecting 5 liter bottles of water and sugary snacks for a trip across the desert.  By the time we come back to our room, it’s basically time to get ready to head to Valle de la Luna.  We rush to get ready but end up waiting around quite a long time for the tour bus to pick us up (it’s very late), but by now we’re getting used to the “hurry up and wait” mentality, and we’re excited to be the only North Americans, as it increases our chances of getting to practice Spanish.

Once we finally get to the tour, it’s great!  We stop at a mirador that overlooks the desert, mountains, and town, and then go for a downhill walk through the Valle de Muerte – a beautiful desert canyon.  Next we stop to pay the park entrance free (our student discount works again!) and take a very rushes walk through some crystal salt caves, then quickly walk up to the mirador to just in time to catch the sunset over the Valle de la Luna. Who knew the desert could be so beautiful, and have so many different shades of orange, red, pink, and rose?! It was truly out of this world, and we felt blessed to once again get to experience such unique and beautiful scenery.

Once back into town, we decide to have chorilliana one last time, and this time we make sure to ask that it comes with a fried egg (instead of scrambled) before our plate arrives at the table, a mistake we’d made twice before.  For some reason (maybe the altitude) we’re still hungry and ask for another plate of fries, as we watch the news of the tsunami in Japan and warnings all along the Chilean coast.  Then we finally go back to the hostel to pack and organize for our trip through the desert early the next morning.

Next time from the desert crossing to Uyuni, Bolivia!

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Hello All!

So, a few things: first, we are doing fine nd well in Sucre, Bolivia, and we’ll be here for a few more days.  We’ve had spotty internet for the past few weeks, which is why we couldn’t update this much.  I’ve just posted something I actually thought I had posted weeks ago about our first impressions in Santiago. Today I’m going to work on posting what I’ve written as sort of an electronic travel journal over the past few weeks, starting with these ones from Santiago and Valparaiso, Chile.

Enjoy, and sorry to post so much at once!

Oh yes, and more pictures of Santiago can be found HERE, and pictures from Valparaiso can be found HERE.  I still have to add captions later today so you know more what’s going on, but for the love of God I just need to start getting something up for everyone!

Love you all,

Sharon

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Santiago, March 2nd to March 7th

As soon as we get off the bus, even though is dark out, 6 a.m., and we have absolutely no idea what we’re doing, I can tell I love Santiago.  We decide to hang around the bus terminal until it’s at least light outside, and hope the tourist office will be open soon.  After waiting awhile, and seeing the tourist office doesn’t open until 10 a.m., we decide to ask a taxi driver to take us somewhere we there’s a concentration of hostels so we can walk around and make our choice. The taxi driver doesn’t quite believe us, and ends up taking us to a hotel (we wanted a cheap hostel) but we’re too tired to keep protesting, and, there’s a baby kitten there!  The hotel is empty, the building is decrepit, the staff…strange.  But it’s right downtown, so after a nap and a shower, we set off to wander around the downtown sights: Plaza de Armas (the main plaza), Palacio de Moneda, the cathedral, parks, etc.  Immediately I love the way the city looks and feels.  We have lunch in the Mercado Central, amazing, but expensive.  We have centolla, spiny crab, which is fantastic, and ceviche.  The city is beautiful: clean, plenty of open spaces, parks, palm trees, interesting architecture, friendly people.

The next day after breakfast with a kitten in my lap, we decide to move on to a cheaper hostel.  After some online research we decide to stay at a newer hostel.  It ends up having great prices, wifi, breakfast, and everything is sparkling clean and new, and in an amazing old building, close to downtown.  We love it immediately; our dorm room has a balcony. We go out exploring again, at some point, that day or the next, we head up Cerro San Cristobal, one of the tallest hills in the city.  You take a funicular up to the top, where there’s a Cristo Rendedor statue, a sort of outdoor sanctuary, and parks overlooking the city.   On our way back we wander through the Bellavista neighborhood, colorful and artsy with tasteful graffiti covering most of the buildings and walls.  We walk through Parque Forestal, stop off for amazing ice cream at Emporio de Rosa, then head to hostel recommended Kyo’s sandwiches, which are absolutely amazing.  We cook dinner that night, and decide to add on another day since there’s so much to do in lovely Santiago.

We like Santiago so much, we keep adding on day after day.  Our hostel is fantastic, the people are great, and it’s just such a nice place to be.  We go to the grocery store and once again decide to make some comfort food, aka Mexican food.  We’re also looking to use up the last of our brown rice.  We make Mexican rice, which doesn’t work so well with brown rice, and tortillas. We make a ton, so we have leftovers for lunch the next day.  That night we go out with the hostel to La Piojera, a “typical working class Chilean bar.”  The common drink, a “terremoto” literally, an earthquake. It’s cheap white wine, fernet, and brandy topped with pineapple ice cream.  Tyler ends up having three, and I have two.  It’s more than enough, and to make a long story short, we spend most of the next day sleeping and putting around online, organizing photos.  In the afternoon I walk to Cerro Santa Lucia, a beautiful park nearby.  That night I cook Tyler pasta for dinner, and we have a lazy night.

The next day we sleep in, and decide to go to the Museo de la Memoría y Derechos Humanos, after eating sandwiches at Kyo’s again, of course.  We decide to walk there, through the Barrio Brasil neighborhood on through to Quinta Normal, stopping on the way for sopaipillas at a food cart – a sort of fried corn dough served with a spicy salsa called pebre. The museum is great and interesting, although, sadly, we don’t get back in time to go to Neruda’s house, La Chascona.  I email the Neruda house and set up a tour for the next day, and surprisingly get a quick response.   That night we made plans to go out with our Chilean friends that we met in Punta Arenas, which ends up being a lot of fun.

Saturday we go to La Chascona, one of Pablo Neruda’s homes, a famous Chilean poet who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work.  The house is amazing – colorful, unique, and inspiring, and in the artsy Bellavista neighborhood.  Afterwards we decide to stop off at Emporio de Rosa for ice cream, again. Still no Earl Grey flavor, but I opt for raspberry mint and rose this time. Tyler once again gets green tea with mango and raspberry mint.  That night one of our new friends at the hostel, Sergio, decides to host a BBQ for anyone who wants to join at the hostel.  It turns out to a lot of fun, though a late night. We grill corn, which everyone found strange, zucchini, and onion to make a salad, as well as chorizo.  We stay up late into the night, swapping stories, drinking wine, and sharing food.

The next day we get up painfully early to take a bike and wine tour through the nearby Maipo valley.  It’s a fantastic tour, beautiful, though the highlight I think was seeing kittens at the organic winery.  We take home one bottle, and eat lunch at a traditional countryside restaurant, where I finally get to eat cazuela, a stew, and Tyler has pastela de maíz, a sort-of stew surrounded by corn bread baked in clay dish in an oven.  Both were fantastic, and the next day, after one last late night hanging out with friends at the hostel, we finally left for Valparaíso.

Valparaíso, March 7th to March 9th

Day One: After a short bus ride west (1 ½ hours) we arrive in the port city of Valparaíso.  It’s known for being sort of quirky, with lots of street art, and lots of student energy.  We arrive and stay at La Casa Limón Verde, a beautiful old restored house in a great neighborhood. Everything is so colorful in this city…it’s mesmerizing.  Our first day after we drop off our bags, we walk around the nearby miradores in Cerros Alegre and Concepción, taking in the views and vibes of the city.  We walk through the dock area up Ascensór Artillería, which overlooks the entire city by the Pacific Ocean.  The city is somewhat like San Francisco, less gritty, nicer, and quieter, but vibrant.  We cross the city and walk through the Museo de Cielos Abiertos, an outdoor mural museum on top of a hill overlooking the city.  By the time we get back, we’re exhausted from all the walking, and opt for an easy dinner of an instant garbanzo bean dish and fresh pineapple.  We treat ourselves to cable TV before bed…Titanic is somehow better dubbed in Spanish than in English.

Day Two: We take a bus to Isla Negra, a town about 1 ½ away that is home to what is supposedly Neruda’s most outlandish house.  All his homes have nautical themes, but this one is particularly interesting and especially beautiful as it’s right on the sea.  After the well rehearsed Spanish tour (the tour of the other house in Santiago was in English, which they charge more for, but the guide was great; this one was in Spanish and we got a student discount, but the guides were really lifeless), we spent some time enjoying the beach before heading back.  We decided to make empanadas that night, after seeing a Chilean family make some in Punta Arenas.  After a long (at least an hour) search for masa to make the empanadas, and find green onions and shrimp, with a few street vendor snacks in between (sopaipillas with pebre and eggrolls) we finally make it back and make some pretty darn good empanadas, drink our wine from Maipo, and Tyler even makes it up on the trapeze at the hostel.

Last Day: Check-out is at noon, and our bus to San Pedro de Atacama doesn’t leave until 10 p.m.: we have 10 hours to kill. We made our own delicious breakfast: eggs and chorizo for Tyler, yogurt and fruit for Sharon and were allowed check out late.  We walked across town to La Sebastiana, Neruda’s third house, but just hang around in the garden looking at the views from the city and checking out the gift shop and free exhibits.  From there we follow Calle Aleman to take in some of the best miradores of the city.  The hillsides are covered in multi-colored houses overlooking the sea: enchanting.  We walk down Cerro Allegre, admiring the empty but beautiful churches.  We end up walking back and forth across town at least three times, trying to find something else to do, and taking in more street food.  Eventually we take naps in the park for about an hour, and head back to the hostel to get something out of our bags and use the bathroom.  After a chat with the hostel worker, we sit on the street and watch a group doing capreira in the Plaza de Sueños, a sort of Brazilian martial arts dance.  Then we finally ate chorilliana, a classic Chilean dish of French fries, grilled onions, steak, chorizo, chicken, and topped with a fried egg in a classic bar that is 115 years old, with live music.  The chorillana was delicious – so unhealthy, but so good – and the local beer typically so-so, and then it was finally time to catch our bus.

Next updates from San Pedro de Atacama, Chile!

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Santiago, the best!

Hello all!

Just wanted to hop on really quick to let y’all know I’ve posted pictures from our first few days in Santiago HERE.

So far, we like Santiago quite a bit, in my opinion it has all the great things about Buenos Aires, but better, and without the bad things. The food we’ve had is fantastic, the public transportation is clean, more organized, and quieter, the weather is warm to hot but not humid, there are more parks, atmospheric tree-lined streets, colonial buildings, people are willing to talk to you on the street, in Spanish, but it’s still a modern city. Maybe I’ll be looking for jobs or internships here in the future?

We’re staying here until Saturday, then we’ll move on to Valparaiso. I’ll post some more photos and updates then!

Love,

Sharon

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