Arica-The past two weeks!
Trip Start Jan 05, 2006
14Trip End Jul 21, 2006
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It all starts last week, when Eleni and I decided that we liked Bolivia too much, and we wanted to stay longer......but I´m getting ahead of myself. I still have 2 weeks to tell!
SO, two weeks ago, Eleni and I left Santiago on an overnight bus to La Serena. We went with my host mom´s brother-in-law, Pedro, who is visiting from Spain, where he lives.
The next day, we headed back to La Serena, where Pedro met us, and took us around the city. This is where we began the church hopping. I love visiting churches...and my dear Jewish friend Eleni didnt complain once! We visited four churches and half a mass at La Serena.
At 7am the next morning, Eleni went further north to Caldera. There, we met up with Kelly and her sister who is visiting for two weeks, Theresa. Caldera is pretty much an ugly boring city, but 10 minutes south is Bahia Inglesa, resort town with white white white beaches. So, we spent the day at the beach! In all of the times I´ve been to the Pacific Ocean this year, this was the first time it was warm enough to swim.
That night, we headed to San Pedro de Atacama....our travel guides claimed this is the backpackers place to be. 20 years ago, San Pedro was completely free of tourists....but someone discovered the natural beauty it has to offer, and now the entire city is composed of tourist excursion offices, reataurants, and artesenal markets
The next morning, we got up at 3:30...oh yes, 3:30am, to go to see the Geysers of Tatio. We were in a bus with 8 other tourists (4 french, 2 chilean, 2 Irish) in a 2 hour bumpy bus ride to the geysers. We arrived at 6am......and spent an hour (in the freezing cold...go figure in such a dry desert!) walking around this volcano crater. We were warned about the altitude, so we had to take it slow. Nonetheless, we all felt quite sick by the end of the trip. After eating breakfast, our tour headed over to hot water springs...where we went swimming for a bit! On the way back to San Pedro, we stopped at a little town called Machuco (sp??), saw an old church, and ate some te de coca. Oh yes, coca leaves. the same ones that are used to make cocaine
The four of us became friends with the chileans from this tour, who happened to be staying at the same hostel. They are brother and sister, from Santiago, and to Eleni´s delight, Jewish! :) We went to dinner with them that night...our first restaurant in a while (normally meals consist of bread and cheese from the supermaket). Eyal, the brother, owns a restaurant in Santiago, so we received VIP treatment, and free Pisco Sour! This night got even better, when I got a call from my beloved family in the US. I miss them so much!
The next morning, Eleni and I parted ways with Kelly and Theresa. They headed back to Santiago, while Eleni and I headed east to Bolivia. An extremely popular outing in San Pedro, is to go on a jeep tour of Southwest Bolivia. So Eleni and I went on a 3 day, 2 night tour of Southwest Bolivia for US $75. Oh yes, and that included everything...meals, hostels and all. In our jeep was Lucas, our guide/ driver, Phil (Irish guy), Danielle, and Matt (English couple), Eleni, and me. We set out Monday morning, and headed into Bolivia. We spent two days in Bolivia´s national park......more geysers, hot water springs, enormous rocks, shaped by the wind, lakes that change from green to blue to red to purple throughout the day, volcanoes, lots of llamas, vicuñas, and the best part, FLAMINGOS
No one was able to sleep our first night in the park....we were at 5,000 meters (no idea in feet, but really high!).....and we woke up every half an hour, with the headaches getting worse.
At the end of day 2, we ended up in Uyuni, a small city in Bolivia. We spent the evening getting to know Bolivian culture, eating Bolivian food, and admiring Bolivian women. Bolivia has a huge indigenous population...and most of the older women wear their indigenous outfit.....colorful skirts, shawls, and little bowler hats. So cute!
Day three was a day trip to the Salar de Uyuni....the largest salt flat in the world. It was insane. This is where out table salt comes from. I cant even describe how interesting it was. We went in a jeep driving through the salt flat.....so we were driving on salt, but it looked like we were driving on snow or ice....so white, so incredibly bright. As we drove deeper in (its HUGE....once you are in, all you see is white) there began to be a layer of water on the salt. Now, it looked like we were driving on water
This was supossed to be the end of our time on Bolivia....driving back to Chile that night and the next day. On the ride back to Uyuni, I was looking at a map of South America, and I commented to Eleni on what a shame it was that we were so far north already, and we dont get to see more of Bolivia. After a few minutes, we looked at eachother mischeviously, and hurridly began planning a way to stay in Bolivia. We had quite a few obstacles to overcome....we´d already paid for the trip back to Chile, as well as for our tickets back to Santiago. This was Weds, and we also knew we had to be back in Santiago by Sunday...since school starts monday. When we arrived in Uyuni, we took all the necessary measures to allow us to stay in Bolivia.
This is why we are sitting near the bathrooms on the way back to Santiago
But, we thought, you only live once! So, we jumped on a night bus to La Paz, the capital of Bolivia. You would not believe how sketchy it was! An old crappy bus, and Bolivia does not have paved roads that cross the country. At 4:30 in the morning, we arrived at some city, Oruru I think, and we told to change buses for the rest of the way. Wayyyyyyy sketchy. We arrived in La Paz in the morning Thursday...and spent the morning walking around the city. It is so different...it is modern, to some extent, but has so much of an indigenous influence.
In the afternoon, we went to the Peru/Bolivia border, to Lake Titicaca, the famous Inca Lake. We spent the afternoon in Copacabana, where I climbed up an Inca ruin mountainside. It was amazing...and when I reached the top, there was a rainbow crossing the sky. What a perfect moment.
We spent that night in La Paz......US $8 for a hotel...yes a hotel room, with all the luxuries of a hotel
Friday morning, we headed back to Chile :( . We spent the afternoon in Arica, the resort-ish northern most city of Chile. It felt like a tropical island city. How fun!
Now we are heading back to Santiago........and although I am incredibly sad that my 7 weeks of traveling throughout South America are over, I am thrilled that my sister is coming to visit in a week!
CIAO and I hope all is well with everyone!