Monday, February 21, 2011

21 months, 12 days and home....

I would lie if I'd say it was easy to buy my return tickets and I have kept delaying it for months. So I eventually forced myself to come back for Christmas. It was for my family as I was up for another summer in the Southern hemisphere until the early March to really get to 2 years of traveling.
I spiced up my return with a surprise to my mum and my grand-parents, arriving two days before what I had told them.

 From late drinks at terrasses with my Chilean friends....

 to -2 degrees and a white Normandy 3 days later

I flew out of South America from Santiago de Chile and it took me three days to arrive in Caen. My flight has been all but direct: Santiago - Lima - Bogota - Madrid - Paris - Caen. 3 days, little sleep and once I was in the plane all the disappointment I could have felt about finishing this trip had disappeared. It is surprising as I am not a person really into family stuff but once in the plane I was ok because I knew what I was doing I knew it would make my relatives really happy. And since I have been so lucky to do this all trip for so long it was time to do something for them.

 My Colombian friend Carolina who came to see when I was between two flights at Bogota airport. Muchas gracias Caro!!!

So I came back Saturday 18th December at 10.00. I will never forget this day, the tears I saw in the eyes of my relatives, thing that I would not have thought, their laughs that made me quite emotional. I will not forget that this day was somehow surreal, to be again with them, a bit like if I had not left because the environment has not changed.

This 18th of December will always as a really special moment in my trip!!!

My house for 2 almost years

The trip is over

One anecdote. I was told coming back through Paris would be hard because it would show me life as I am not really looking forward to. So I arrived and the suburb train was late due to suspected luggage in one station blocking all the traffic so I had to wait half an hour in the cold for the bloody train!!! Welcome back!!!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A relaxing time in Argentina

What to say about my last month of traveling.
First I really enjoyed it, so much that I added Argentina on my list of destinations I would like to live in in South America.

First because it was spring, it was nice and warm and after months in the Andean altitudes I was happy I could wear only a tshirt at 23.00 while I was having an icrecream. Speaking about icecreams I did an "icrecream diet" whose aim was to eat icecream everyday. There is this flavour called mousse de maracuya which is just DELICIOUS. The strawberry, mango and peach sorbets are all great as well.

Pineapple, vanilla and strawberry...

Secondly because life is relaxed in Argentina. In the north it stops from 13.00 untill 17.00 because it is so hot the only thing you enjoy doing is a siesta!!! Then everything opens up untill late late late at night. In Buenos Aires life does not stop but it really slows down at the same time. So you do little and you check your clock and it is 22.00!!! Ahh, it´s time to start cooking. Finishing a nice bottle of Argentinian wine, it is midnight and everybody is still up. Talking about wine I had the best white wine in 10 years near Mendoza.

Although I am still not a fan of cars there is something quite funny about Argentina is that they do not throw away old cars. So from time to time one can see a car left here rotting. Moreover the cars in Argentina are either really new or really old like 20 years old but they continue working and they still work quite well. This contrast in the steets is quite surprising.

Two examples of car wrecks in the street

Football or fútbol as they say here. Here football is sheer passion, something simply crazy as people, including girls, do not have much sense of humor when it comes to their favorite club. Everybody supports a team, even those whose are not real fans of football. The ironic thing is that Argentinian club football is really bad as any good player will be bought by European clubs. Anyway people still go to the stadium despite the quality of the football and the violence between supporters. I went myself to see a game: Velez Sarsfield - Tigre. Velez was second and is considered to be one of the teams that plays best in Argentina. I was with the supporters behind the goal. They sing all the time, they do not really watch the game there is definitively something else, something that in France we have no idea about when it comes to supporting a team.

Even the police watches the game!!!

My friend Mattias (right) who took me to the game

Argentinian people. What make a special a country (contrary to a few spots in a country) are its peole. Argentinians are really friendly and welcoming. Friends from the travel, friends I had just met, friends from CouchSurfing they all showed me Argentina on a good light.

Barbecue with the family of Dany

Paola and Gime in Rosario

Maria (left) in Buenos Aires

Monday, February 07, 2011

Iguazu, the last natural highlight

Iguazu came as a big surprise in my last month of the trip because after so long it has become more difficult to be impressed by what I saw when it comes to nature. I usually blame it on Patagonia because the month I have spent there has been simply so fantastic.

I know I look like a beggar and I need to change my tshirt!!

As I did for the rest of Argentina I decided to take my time in Iguazu and get a bit lazy. So in the end I went three days to the national park Iguazu, two on the Argentinian side and one on the Brazilian side.
The two are quite complementary because when one gets you really close to the Falls (the Argentinian one) the other one gives you an impressive view of almost all the falls at once and I can confirm it's pretty cool.

  The Brazilian side (with la garganta del diablo at the left of the picture)

 and the Argentinian side that takes you almost into the watrer

What is really impressive for Iguazu is the sheer might of the falls. They make you feel so small and weak that you could stay there litteraly hours watching the water falling down. There is something that attracts you. You can try to count how long it takes from top to bottom for the water to fall, try to see how it changes with the light of the day or just think what would happen if I would swim there (the end is obvious but it would be fun before). The surprising thing about the falls is that the river is actually quite calm and suddenly there is the drop where the powerful monstear appear!!!

   From quiet.....

to the devils throath!!!!!

Iguazu has almost really nice butterflies, some food thieves dressed as rodents and a nice small waterfall to refresh a bit when it gets really hot.

Last thing is that although it is crowded you can avoid the crowds if you just go a bit before or after the big flows linked to the small train getting you from one point to the other (it is made for lazy people!!!)

Whenever you get to Brazil or Argentina take the time to get there it is really worth it.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Argentina: last country of the trip

Argentina is my last country of this trip, the one I thought 20 months ago would be the only country of South America I would have enough time to visit and apart from Bolivia it will be the one I have spent the shortest time in.

At the same time I have entered more or less the last month of my trip and instead of thinking that I decided to act as if it was my only month and as if I had this one month to relax from my daily routime of  home. So my chedule is light and I do not oblige myself to see or visit anything ieven if it is supposed to be the highlight of a place. Instead, reading books or newspapers, chatting with other travelers, eating icecreams or having siestas of 2/3 hours are things I do most. Another thing is that the food in Argentina is undoubtedly a step up from Bolivia and even from Peru: the meat especially and also the empanadas are excellent.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

New albums with pictures

With the four new articles here are some albums of (until now) commentless pictures:

La Paz and the treks of Sorrata and the one unfinished in the Yungaz in this album,
Sucre the colonial city,
Potosi the famous historical place of both wealth and tragedy,
The salar de Uyuni, my four days tour there,
Tupiza with its canyons presented as the Far West of Bolivia.

Also there is the album of the province of Jujuy with three places such as Humahuaca, Ticalra and Pumamarca along the Quebrada de Humahuaca.

And finally I publish the album of Puerto Maldonado in Peru where you will see me almost in the jungle and you will see my first steps using a machete.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Uyuni: salar, great group and stains

The salar de Uyuni is the turistic highlight of Bolivia. This is a huge slat sea at 4,000m high. The tour of 3/4 days include 1/2 days on the salar itself and 2 days in the nearby desert once a sea bottom full of unusual rock formations, volcanoes and lakes.

My tour was divided in two parts. Almost no one wants a 4 days tour so the agency adapted a schedule for me so that I could spend one day near a volcano with a view on the salar before going on with a group for 3 days.

And I loved it, to be almost the only tourist on this "island", climb closer to the crater of the volcano and then be really lucky with a really international group in which we had an excellent atmosphere. These 4 days together have gone really fast, cruising through the beautiful landscapes and inventing choregraphics for the pictures.

Talking about the pictures I have to admit that I am not happy with mines. Since my last day in Maras when kids dropped my camera I have dust on my lens and this has really taken down the quality og my pictures, especially the ones with a bright sky like in the salar. But somehow a bit as a miracle they receded after the second fay of the tour!!!!

Bolivia, difficult start / Pas trop de bol en Bolivie

My first days in Bolivia have been difficult. You know about the drunk people in Sorrata and on top of that I got an inflammation of teh articulation of the jaw. It happened because I extracted a wisdom tooth just before leaving Peru for the cheapest price ever (7 euros) but for such a price it was not made with the sweetest delicacy.. Because of that I had to stay 10 days in La Paz instead of the 3 days I was planning. Next to the fact that it is really painful, I could not open my mouth (to date I still have not fully recovered) and eating had become really annoying as it would take me 4 times longer to eat half of what I am used to. Luckily for me I was with Aurore otherwise these 10 days would have felt much more difficult. My biggest fear of traveler is to be ill at a moment I am alone. Although I had my share of diseases in this trip just once I had one when I was alone (in Cuenca, Ecuador).

But now I am on the road again, I must say I love it. Sucre was really relaxed and beautiful, Potosi was intersting, the salar de Uyuni brought me nature as I love it and I have been again in contacts with the travelers community which is something I missed during my time in Cusco.

Elections in Peru

Early October there were local elections in Peru. Here are a few remarks on and after the campaign.

A typical way to do politics in Peru seems to makie a picture of a candidate, put a giant poster on a 4*4 and drive around town with loud speakers.
A typical program is to announced a huge list of new projects/buildings never mentioning how to finance them. Next to this program even Chirac would soumd like a serious politician.
Shows of supporters are sometimes arranged by giving money for people to show up at rallyes.
Everyone denounces corruption but the vast majority of incumbents is corrupted. SOme candidates give themselves the title engineer or doctor to appear more serious (and to impress uneducated people) even if they have made no studies.
Corruption plagues Peruvian politics. A candidate said that 30% of all budgets disappear because of  corruption and some people estimate the reality to be higher than this.
A candidate in a rough neighbourhood fakes to have been shot (in his car) by people paid by its opponent.
On election day and even on the day before, alcohol is prohibited. This is the same in all South American countries. My Chilean friend explained to me that on election day in the past in Chile there were gatherings where a candidate would give free alcohol and at the end of teh day would ask the people to go and vote for him.
A few days after the elections, among many accusations of rigged elections, there was one case near Cusco where people went to burn down the house of the winning candidate becase they said he was corrupted.
In Maras where I taught, the corrupted mayor lost the elections. He decided to cut the budget for the teacher of computing for the school as a retaliation because the Head of teh school had never been a supporter of him.
A you can see Peru is a democracy but it has some flaws...

Bad combination

I met Aurore on the slopes of the canyon to get to Choquequirao.
Since then we did three treks together and it has always happened something:
1) in Ausangate our guide abandoned us on the last day forcing us to carry our bags for the last 10 kms (that luckily were flat).

We then met in La Paz for two other treks:
2) the first in Sorrata, supposedly a great place to trek which reminded me of the South of Colombia but less nice. The event on the day we went to an high altitude lake was that when we came back we got problems with two heavily drunk miners of the small village that makes the departure and the end of the trek. To avoid  more problems that some endless and fuitless discussions with some idiots determined to get money from us we paid them little and went away because one never knows where this could end with drunk people feeling they are above the laws. The incident reflects both the racism of a part of the Bolivian popuplation toward foreigners and a change of attitude of some people since Bolivia has an indigeneous president.

3) the last rek was a 2 days descent of an Inca trail through a rain forest. It was really humid with dense vegetation. I would have been happy with a machete! We were a group of 6 when our guide (the one of us who had done this trek 4 times) slipped on a wooden bridge and fell 4 meters as well as banged his head on a rock and did himself s deep cut. This was the end of the rek and luckily after the help of one of us who is a doctor he could come back to the start and get treated at the hospital.
The bridge

 and under the bridge...

The conclusion of all this is that Aurore and I decided no to trek anymore together.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Update is coming and survey

Hey all,

I did not forget my blog but in Bolivia updating a blog using Internet sounds like a challenge so I just delayed it and will do it in a couple of days with my adventures in La Paz, Sorrata, Sucre, Potosi, Uyuni and Tupiza.

I am now in the north of Argentina and I will show you as well the first pictures.

 Finally I just launch a small survey about which country would you prefer to come and visit me if I get the chance to live in South America (see on the right).