Sunday the 27th of April 2003 – Day 68

Sunday the 27th of April 2003 – Day 68

Rob was up at 7.30am as he was heading south for 2 days. He lost his credit card in London, and has to get all his money transferred by Western Union. My bus was at 10.30am. Beside me was Rich, a surfer-skater from Canada who had spent 3 months in Brazil surfing and was now bringing his surf board to Peru to do more surfing. Its pretty crazy and the locals were having a good laught at this guy with his surf board in the middle of the continent. Beth from England and Dominic from New Zealand were also on the bus. It was very scenic but bumpy. We arrived to Potesti around 4.00pm and we proceeded to look for a hostel. We picked the Hostel Maria Victoria which was 15 P per night. It was a dorm room. I dont normally like to stay in dorms but I kind of knew the people now. i walkied around this buzzing city for a while, took money from an ATM and booked a mining tour for 9.00am in the morning. The company is Koala tours and the cost was 10 US or 75 B. We went out for Dinner with a kwiwi couple who are very, very anti-israeli (not anti-jewish). Israelis have a very bad reputation in certain parts of South America, india and New Zealand where hostels have been putting up “no Israeli Groups”. They tend to travel in big groups and have a reputation of being arrogant and having no manners. To be honest, I have met few travellers who have not complained about them.











Potosi – Bolovia

Taken on the 27th of April 2003

The bus stops at a restaurant. No air-con of this vehicle.

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Potosi – Bolovia

Taken on the 27th of April 2003

The locals play Foosball (table football) at the bus station.Foosball (from the German Fußball = soccer) is also known as table soccer, table football, babyfoot, or gettone. It is a table-top game based on soccer invented by Alejandro Finisterre, a editor and poet from Galiza.

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Players attempt to use figures mounted on rotating bars to kick the foosball into the opponent’s goal. A foosball may travel at speeds up to 35 mph in competition. The sport requires quick reflexes and fine motor control.

A winner is determined in foosball when one team scores a predetermined number of goals, say 5 or 10. A two goal victory is often required.

A foosball table can vary in size, but is typically about 4 feet long and 2 feet wide. The table usually contains 8 rows of players, which are plastic or wooden figures mounted on horizontal metal bars. Each team of 1 or 2 human players controls 4 rows of figures.

Foosball is often played for fun in pubs, bars, workplaces, schools, and clubs with few rules. “House rules” often include a ban on spinning your foosmen, so one’s hand must maintain continuous contact with the handle.

A Garlando style table with a game in progressFoosball is also played in official competitions organized by a number of national organizations. The two main table types used in official tournaments are “Italian-style” Garlando and “American-style” Tornado.

Garlando tables have ramped sides and use smaller, thinner foosmen with blocky feet, which leads to an open, flowing style of play.

Tornado tables use bigger foosmen with wedge-shaped feet. This allows balls to be pinned to the surface of the table, before skill moves like the “snake” are executed.

Foosball strategy varies greatly. With teams of one human each, it is impossible for each person to control all four rows of foosmen simultaneously. Some players keep the left hand always on the goalie or defensemen and move the right hand among the other three rows. More aggressive players may take up an attack with the offense and midfield, leaving the goalie unattended.

With practice, it is possible to learn very fast “set-piece” moves, including the “snake”, “pull-shot,” and “tap-bang.”











Potosi – Bolovia

Taken on the 27th of April 2003

Potosí is a city, the capital of the department of Potosí in Bolivia. It is at an altitude of 3967 meters and has about 115,000 inhabitants. It lies beneath the Cerro Rico (“Rich mountain”), a mountain of silver ore, which has always dominated the city. Founded 1545 as a mining town, it soon acquired fabulous wealth. In Spanish there is still a saying vale un Potosí meaning “being worth a fortune” and, for Europeans, “Peru” was a mythical land of riches. It is here that most of the Spanish silver came from and Indian labour, forced by Francisco de Toledo through the mita institution, came to die by the thousands. After 1800 the silver mines became depleted, making tin the main product. This eventually led to a slow economic decline.

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Potosi – Bolovia

Taken on the 27th of April 2003

During the War of Independence (1809-1825) Potosi was frequently passed from the control of Royalist and Patriot forces. Major blunders by the First Argentine Auxilary Army (under the command of Castelli) led to an increased sense that independence was needed and fostered resentment against the Argentine. During that occupation there was anarchy and martial excess, and Potosi became unfriendly to the point where it could not be defended.

When the second auxillary army arrived it was received well, and the commander, Belgrano did much to heal the past wounds inflicted by the tyrannical minded Castelli. When that army was forced to retreat, Belgrano took the calculated decision to blow up the Casa de Moneda. Since the locals refused to evacuate this explosion would have resulted in many casualties, but by then the fuse was already lit. Disaster was averted not by the Argentine who at that time were fleeing, but by locals who put the fuse out. In one stroke the good feelings Belgrano delicately built were destroyed. Two more expeditions from the Argentine would seize Potosi.

Zacatecas in Mexico was the other big silver mine of the Spanish Empire.

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Potosi – Bolovia

Taken on the 27th of April 2003

Thw city is scarred by mining.

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Saturday the 26th of April 2003 – Day 67

Saturday the 26th of April 2003 – Day 67

Again we got up at 7.30am for 8.00am breakfast. We visited the Uyuni Salt Flats, Pescado Isalnd, the salt hotel and the graveyard of trains. This was the hightlight of the trip.

The Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia’s largest salt lake, was created forty thousand years ago as a flat bed into which the salty mineral residue drained from the mountains.

Today, the remnants of the ancient lake are two smaller lakes (or two enormous salt plains, depending on the season). The Salar de Uyuni, with over twelve thousand square kilometers, is one of the largest salt flats in the world; during the wet season it appears as a mirror lake that can be traversed not by boats but by four wheel vehicles– it is only six to twenty inches deep. We visited the Salt hotel . Nearby we visited the village of Colchani sitting virtually alone atop billions of tons of easily accessible salt deposits.

With the thickness of the salt layers up to six meters deep there is plenty of raw material for commercial purposes. This little settlement extracts and processes nearly 20,000 tons of salt each year, most of which is marketed for human consumption.

Despite the vast salt resources, the operations in Colchani are essentially primitive. Workers chop and shovel and the salt by hand from the flats onto lumbering old dumptrucks which haul it to the processing plants town.

BTW, the flats are even better under water beacase of the reflection. We arrived in Uyuni at 16.00 hours. We visited the graveyard of trains before finding a hostel. Very small town with maybe 500 inhabitants. Tipped the driver-cook 5 US. He was a real coca leaf addict. The dried coca leaf, a sacred South American plant used by locals for several thousand years, was first processed into cocaine in a German laboratory in 1860. Everybody here chews it and the driver made us chew to combat altitude. It had no real negative effect unless chewd along with ash from another plant. It is very cheap here. Five Boliviars will give up a pound bag. It is chewed for about four hours at the side of the mouth and replaced with new leaves after four. Most of the shops sell the leaf. The plant is commonly grown in peasant kitchen gardens and its leaves are used to make tea, cakes, and natural medicines, and are used in ritual fortune-telling. Coca leaves are also used as part of the local economy, and can be traded to buy potatoes and other staples, she said. All the tea I have drank here has been coca leaf tea. The US government is putting terrible pressure on the government here to get rid of the cultivation, which is a crime as its so engrained in the local culture. For more information please check out this interesting site with a good background on the problem. Also this is good .











From San Pedro to Uyuni

Taken on the 26th of April 2003

Day 3 of the trip to Uyuni in Bolovia.Coca (Erythroxylon coca) is a plant which is traditionally cultivated in the lower altitudes of the eastern slopes of the Andes. Since time immemorial, its leaves have been used as a stimulant by the indigenous people of Peru, Bolivia, and northern Argentina; it also has religious and symbolic significance (see Cocomama). Since the 1980s, the cultivation of coca has become controversial because it is used for the manufacture of the illegal drug cocaine.

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In the Andes, the indigenous peoples have been chewing the leaves of the coca plant for millennia. They traditionally carried a woven pouch called a chuspa or huallqui in which they kept a day’s supply of coca leaves, along with a small amount of ilucta or uipta, which is made from pulverized unslaked lime or from the ashes of the quinoa plant. A tiny quantity of ilucta is ingested with the coca leaves; it softens their astringent flavor and activates the alkaloids.

The practice of chewing coca was most likely originally a simple matter of survival. The coca leaf contained many essential nutrients in addition to its more well-known mood-altering alkaloid. It is rich in protein and vitamins, and it grows in regions where other food sources are scarce. The perceived boost in energy and strength provided by the cocaine in coca leaves was also very functional in an area where oxygen is scarce and extensive walking is essential. The coca plant was so central to the worldview of the Yunga and Aymara tribes of South America that distance was often measured in units called cocada, which signified the number of mouthfuls of coca that one would chew while walking from one point to another. In fact, the word “coca” itself most likely originally simply meant “plant.”

Coca was also a vital part of the religious cosmology of the Andean tribes in the pre-Inca period as well as throughout the Inca empire. Coca was historically employed as an offering to the Sun, or to produce smoke at the great sacrifices; and the priests, it was believed, must chew it during the performance of religious ceremonies, otherwise the gods would not be propitiated. Coca is still held in superstitious veneration among the Peruvians, and is believed by the miners of Cerro de Pasco to soften the veins of ore, if masticated and thrown upon them.

The activity of chewing coca is called chacchar or acullicar. Doing so usually causes users to feel a tingling and numbing sensation in their mouths, similar to receiving Novocain during a dental procedure. Even today, chewing coca leaves is a common sight in indigenous communities across the central Andean region, particularly in places like the mountains of Bolivia, where the cultivation and consumption of coca is as much a part of the national culture as wine is to France or Guinness is to Ireland. Small bags of coca leaves are often sold in local markets. Commercially manufactured coca teas are also availible in most stores and supermarkets.

The parmacologically active ingredient of coca is the alkaloid cocaine which is found in the amount of about 0.2% in fresh leaves.

Booked into a a hostel (twin room with en suite toilet) for 30 B. I shared the room with Rob. The hostel was called the Marith. The town is my first taste of Bolivia and is very different from Chile and Argentina. the women here wear traditional dress which is very different. They have long pigtails and bowler hats. I walked to to Diana tours to book my bus trip to Potosi. It is a seven hour journey and costs 15P on bad roads (but I hear it is scenic).











From San Pedro to Uyuni

Taken on the 26th of April 2003

Day 3 of the trip to Uyuni in Bolovia – Picture of the town of San Juan

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From San Pedro to Uyuni

Taken on the 26th of April 2003

Day 3 of the trip to Uyuni in Bolovia – Cemety of the dead in San Juan

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From San Pedro to Uyuni

Taken on the 26th of April 2003

Day 3 of the trip to Uyuni in Bolovia.Salar de Uuyni, is the world’s largest salt flat. Sitting 3650 meter high, Salar de Uyuni sits in the Departmento of Potosí in southwest Bolivia near the crest of the Andes.

40,000 years ago the salt flats were a part of Lago Minchin, a giant prehistoric lake. When this lake dried, it left behind two modern lakes, Lagos Poopó and Uru Uru, and the two major salt deserts, Coipasa and the larger Uyuni.

Salar de Uyuni is estimated to contain 10 billion tons of salt of which less than 25,000 tons is extracted annually. Every November Salar de Uyuni is also the breeding grounds for three breeds of South American flamingos – Chilean, James and Andean. Salar de Uyuni is also a significant tourist destination in western Bolivia.

Retrieved from “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salar_De_Uyuni

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From San Pedro to Uyuni

Taken on the 26th of April 2003

Day 3 of the trip to Uyuni in Bolovia.

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From San Pedro to Uyuni

Taken on the 26th of April 2003

Day 3 of the trip to Uyuni in Bolovia.

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From San Pedro to Uyuni

Taken on the 26th of April 2003

Day 3 of the trip to Uyuni in Bolovia.

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From San Pedro to Uyuni

Taken on the 26th of April 2003

Day 3 of the trip to Uyuni in Bolovia – Cemetry of Trains

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Friday the 25th of April 2003 – Day 66

Friday the 25th of April 2003 – Day 66

We got up at 7.30am for breakfast of eggs and rice with rolls which was nice. We visited the “Tree of the Stone”, three high Plateau Lagoons and got to our seconds nights accommodation in San Juan around 4.00pm. A small town of many be 50 people. A nice military style dorm. Electricity is rationed, and only comes on between 6.00pm and 9.00pm. We had dinner of chicken and chips, and again played cards after the lights went out. At about 11.00pm Rob, I and the two Germans (Willie and Michael) went to the local pub. Small place where the drivers drank. Cost for a bottle (pint) was 6,000 CP.











From San Pedro to Uyuni

Taken on the 25th of April 2003

Day 2 of the trip to Uyuni in Bolovia

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From San Pedro to Uyuni

Taken on the 25th of April 2003

Day 2 of the trip to Uyuni in Bolovia

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From San Pedro to Uyuni

Taken on the 25th of April 2003

Day 2 of the trip to Uyuni in Bolovia

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From San Pedro to Uyuni

Taken on the 25th of April 2003

Day 2 of the trip to Uyuni in Bolovia

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From San Pedro to Uyuni

Taken on the 25th of April 2003

Day 2 of the trip to Uyuni in Bolovia. Lots of Flamingos on day two. They are gregarious wading birds, usually 3–5 feet in height, found in both the western and eastern hemispheres. They are more numerous in the latter, but there are four species in the Americas against two in the Old World. Flamingos live in large flocks in aquatic areas.

The Chilean Flamingo (Phoenicopterus chilensis) is a large species (110-130 cm) closely related to Caribbean Flamingo and Greater Flamingo, with which it is sometimes considered conspecific. This article follows the treatment in Ibis (2002) 144 707-710.

It occurs in temperate South America. Like all flamingos it lays a single chalky white egg on a mud mound. The plumage is pinker than the slightly larger Greater Flamingo, but less so than Caribbean Flamingo. It can be differentiated from these species by its greyish legs with pink “knees”, and also by the larger amount of black on the bill (more than half).

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From San Pedro to Uyuni

Taken on the 25th of April 2003

Day 2 of the trip to Uyuni in Bolovia

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From San Pedro to Uyuni

Taken on the 25th of April 2003

Day 2 of the trip to Uyuni in Bolovia

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From San Pedro to Uyuni

Taken on the 25th of April 2003

Day 2 of the trip to Uyuni in Bolovia

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Thursday the 24th of April 2003 – Day 65

Thursday the 24th of April 2003 – Day 65

We arrived at the office at 8.00pm as planned. Myself, Arron and Rob were doing the tour. San Pedro is at 2,400m above sea level (against 1,200m at Salta), but all our 3 day trip would be over 4,000m. In comparison Carrantuohill – Ireland Highest Mountain is only 1050 metres high. What is meant by high altitude? Some “formal” medical definitions:

– High Altitude: 1500 – 3500 m (5000 – 11500 ft)

– Very High Altitude: 3500 – 5500 m (11500 – 18000 ft)

– Extreme Altitude: above 5500 m

Practically speaking, however, one generally should not worry much about elevations below about 2500 m (8000 ft) since altitude illness rarely occurs lower than this. Acclimatization is the process of the body adjusting to the decreasing availability of oxygen. It is a slow process, taking place over a period of days.

Certain normal physiologic changes occur in every person who goes to altitude:

– Hyperventilation (breathing fast)

– Shortness of breath during exertion

– Increased urination

– Changed breathing pattern at night

– Awakening frequently at night

– Weird dreams

We would be over 4,000m throughout this trip. More information on this can be found here and here . Anyway a bus would bring us to the boarder (1 hour away) where we would meet our guide (who is also the driver and cook). As well as the 3 of us, there were 3 Germans and a Suiss.Food is included in the trip (3 meals per day), so we had breakfast at the crossing. Entrance to the National Park (5 US) was also included. Easy and straight forward formalities at the boarder. One thing that isn’t included is water, which you should bring (approx 5 liters). We also brought snacks like biscuits and chocolate with us. We switched into our jeep and off we headed.

We visited the Green Lagoon, hot springs, and Colorado (red) Lagoon during day 1. We arrived at our destination (well a shepherds house) at 16.00 hours. It is located close to the red lagoon and is situated at 4,300m. It was hostel type accommodation. The dinner was fine (pasta). As the house was only electrified by generator, it was cut off at 9.00pm. Rob and I played cards with the 2 German lads until 11.00pm. Everyone had a pretty good nights sleep even though temperatures drop to minus five outside at night. People do wake up alot to catch their breath because of the height.











From San Pedro to Uyuni – Day 1

Taken on the 24th of April 2003

Day 1 of the trip to Uyuni in Bolovia.

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From San Pedro to Uyuni – Day 1

Taken on the 24th of April 2003

Day 1 of the trip to Uyuni in Bolovia.

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From San Pedro to Uyuni – Day 1

Taken on the 24th of April 2003

Day 1 of the trip to Uyuni in Bolovia.

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From San Pedro to Uyuni – Day 1

Taken on the 24th of April 2003

Day 1 of the trip to Uyuni in Bolovia.

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From San Pedro to Uyuni – Day 1

Taken on the 24th of April 2003

Day 1 of the trip to Uyuni in Bolovia.

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From San Pedro to Uyuni – Day 1

Taken on the 24th of April 2003

Day 1 of the trip to Uyuni in Bolovia.

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From San Pedro to Uyuni – Day 1

Taken on the 24th of April 2003

Day 1 of the trip to Uyuni in Bolovia.

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From San Pedro to Uyuni – Day 1

Taken on the 24th of April 2003

Day 1 of the trip to Uyuni in Bolovia. More Gysers.They were pretty good when one really large vent where one could disappear.

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From San Pedro to Uyuni – Day 1

Taken on the 24th of April 2003

Day 1 of the trip to Uyuni in Bolovia.The lake and mountains outside the place we stayed for the night.

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From San Pedro to Uyuni – Day 1

Taken on the 24th of April 2003

Day 1 of the trip to Uyuni in Bolovia – A llama was been bleed and skinned outside our door. The bladder and instines were removed and the carcus dropped into a wheel barrow.

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Wednesday the 23th of April 2003 – Day 64

Wednesday the 23th of April 2003 – Day 64

The bus collected us from the hostel at 4.00am as promised to deliver us to the remarkable Geysers del Tatio (4,200 meters high). To observe the geysers at full, the best time of the day to get there is at dawn. Some geysers reach up to 3 – 4 meters high. There were 10 people in our mini bus. About 7 mini buses were travelling from the town to here in total. We arrived in total darkness after travelling on a very bad road for 2 hours. We watched the bus come up and walking around for 1.5 hours. We then had breakfast out of the back of the mini bus. It is high here and some people may experience dizziness or breathing difficulties.

At 8.00am, we went to another geyser. The thermal waters near this geysers allow you to enjoy a wonderful thermal bath, while watching the dawn. The water temperature may reach up to 54 degrees Celsius, but we stayed in an area of water of about 35 oc. Very few of the people on the buses joined us in the water which was warm and refreshing. We stayed in there 40 minutes before taking the bus back to town. We went back a different route visited some shepherds villages and watching flamingoes, foxes, llamas and ostriches.

After a puncture at 12.00 noon, we arrived back to town at 13.00 hours. We decided to check out the companies that were going to Bolivia. the trip takes 2 nights, 3 days and visits some great spots along the way. lonely Planet recommends 3 companies, which we visited. We choosed Cordillera. The cost was 70 US or 54,000 CP. The cost includes accommodation ,meals and entrance to National park. After booking the ticket we found a pub and watched the Manchester United Vs Real Madrid. All the locals were happy to see United knocked out. Only 1 Manchester fan in the pub. We grabbed lunch there and tried to change money, buy food for the trip etc. Paul was staying on a few days to climb a volcano.











Geysers del Tatio – Chile

Taken on the 23rd of April 2003

Geysers del Tatio at daybreak. El Tatio Geyser Field (locally known as Los Géiseres del Tatio) is located within the Andes Mountains of northern Chile at 4,200 meters above mean sea level. Tourists often visit the geysers while touring the nearby Atacama Desert and the village San Pedro de Atacama. With over 80 active geysers, El Tatio is the largest geyser field in the southern hemisphere and the third largest field in the world, after Yellowstone, USA, and Dolina Giezerov, Russia (Glennon and Pfaff, 2003).

Though possessing numerous geysers, none erupt very high. The highest eruption observed has been around six meters in height. The average geyser eruption height at El Tatio is about 75 centimeters (Glennon and Pfaff, 2003).

“El Tatio” roughly translates to “the grandfather”.

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Geysers del Tatio – Chile

Taken on the 23rd of April 2003

El Tatio Geyser Field (locally known as Los Géiseres del Tatio).

“El Tatio” roughly translates to “the grandfather”.

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Geysers del Tatio – Chile

Taken on the 23rd of April 2003

El Tatio Geyser Field (locally known as Los Géiseres del Tatio).

“El Tatio” roughly translates to “the grandfather”.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size











Geysers del Tatio – Chile

Taken on the 23rd of April 2003

El Tatio Geyser Field (locally known as Los Géiseres del Tatio).

“El Tatio” roughly translates to “the grandfather”.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size











Geysers del Tatio – Chile

Taken on the 23rd of April 2003

El Tatio Geyser Field (locally known as Los Géiseres del Tatio).

“El Tatio” roughly translates to “the grandfather”.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size











Geysers del Tatio – Chile

Taken on the 23rd of April 2003

El Tatio Geyser Field (locally known as Los Géiseres del Tatio).

“El Tatio” roughly translates to “the grandfather”. Arron, Paul and Rob Cotter

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Geysers del Tatio – Chile

Taken on the 23rd of April 2003

Geysers del Tatio – On the way back to San Pedro

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Monday the 21th of April 2003 – Day 62 to Tuesday the 22th of April 2003 – Day 63

Monday the 21th of April 2003 – Day 62

I see two fans died yesterday (Sunday) at a Soccer match which involved River Plate fans (the team I went to see while in Buenos Aires). A good background to trouble in the game in Argentina can be found at this site . Other news from Argentina include the the elections and more economic woes.

I decided to take it easy after yesterdays rafting. The town has a great buzz but altitude is 1,200m so some people may get nose bleeds. I changed my ticket from Santiago to New Zealand to June 16th (an extra 3 weeks). I did some surfing (1 P per hour) here and went by Gondola to the mountain overlooking Salta. It costs 8P return. I also went to the bus station to inquire about buses to San Pedro de Atacama. I found out that the bus only goes Tuesday and Friday for 21 US or 63 P. I decided to book there and then. Even thought I wanted to stay in this excellent town a few more days, I decided to go now and come back when I am returning to catch my flight from Santiago. I was sorry to book my the ticket as I was booked in to go paragliding (60 P) tomorrow. There were 6 Irish people travelling solo staying in the hostel that night iincluding James from Dublin and Andy from Longford.











Salta – Argentina

Taken on the 21st of April 2003

Statue on the hill overlooking the town

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Salta – Argentina

Taken on the 21st of April 2003

Overlooking the town of Salta – Argentina

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Salta – Argentina

Taken on the 21st of April 2003

Overlooking the town of Salta – Argentina

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Tuesday the 22th of April 2003 – Day 63

The hostel management woke me at 6.00am. There were 5 others from the hostel taking this bus. Its a route nearly taken exclusively taken by tourists as San Pedro only has a population of 2,800 so has no great person or trade links with Salta. The bus left on time at 7.00am. Beside me was Paul from Australia, and in front us us was Arron from the US and Anthony from Australia. Rob Cotter, from Waterford, Ireland was a few rows up. All had been at the hostel. The 12 hour journey was hard with bad roads all the day. We drove over the Andes through what was basically desert and salt flats. This route is not passable during the winter.

The village of San Pedro de Atacama, located at 2,450 meters above sea level, near the north side of the great salt deposit of Atacama (the biggest of the country), is perhaps one of the places in Chile which offers the widest number of attractions.

The village is located in one of the many oasis originated by the ‘Bolivian winter’, in the driest desert of the world: the Atacama Desert. That’s why it is even more incredible to find, in the middle of it, a place with really exuberating vegetation, formed by cha?ar trees, carob trees, and capsicums.

San Pedro is located at the foothills of the Andean cordillera, which reaches 6,100 meters high in this area. As soon as we arrived, the five of us visited various hotels in the town centre, deciding on the Residential Chiloe at 5,000 Cp per night. The town was dark when we arrived, but it is a very small village with few resources. Many of the services (restaurants, agencies) are directed squarely at tourists. As soon as we has left our bags, we decided to book a tour for the next day and get something to eat. We decided to visit the local Geysers with the San Pedro Atacama. The cost was 10,000 CP (including breakfast) each. No banks, ATM´s por even open money exchanges in the town. Very hard to change money. Make sure to bring Chilean Pesos with you.











San Pedro – Chile

Taken on the 22nd of April 2003

Local person at the Argentina -Bolivia Boarder on the way to San Pedro – Chile. San Pedro de Atacama is a village in the Atacama desert of northern Chile, bordering the Altiplano (high plain) region and the Bolivian border. It is overlooked by the 19,000-foot volcano Licancabur.

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San Pedro – Chile

Taken on the 22nd of April 2003

Local person at the Argentina -Bolivia Boarder on the way to San Pedro – Chile. San Pedro de Atacama’s church is recent, having been erected by the Spanish in 1577, but archeological evidence indicates that the San Pedro area was the center of a Paleolithic civilization that built rock fortresses on the steep mountains encircling the valley. The Escondida Mine is also located within the Atacama.

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The Atacama desert of Chile is a virtually rainless plateau made up of salt basins (salares), sand, and lava flows, extending from the Andes mountains to the Pacific Ocean.

The average width (east-and-west) is less than 160 kilometers (100 miles) but it extends from the Peruvian border 1000 kilometers (600 miles) south to the Bolivian Altiplano. The mountains nearest the ocean are the Pacific coastal range, with an average elevation of 800 meters (2500 feet). The Cordillera Domeyko, a range of foothills of the Andes Mountains, lies east.

The Atacama Desert is the driest desert of the globe (except perhaps for the McMurdo Dry Valleys in Antartica) and it is virtually sterile because it is blocked from moisture on both sides by the Andes mountains and by coastal mountains. The average rainfall in Antofagasta per annum is just 3mm per year, and there was a period of time where no rain fell there for 40 years. The Atacama is 15 million years old and 50 times more arid than California’s Death Valley. The driest part of the Atacama is an area called the ‘double rain shadow.’ In 2003 a team of researchers published a report in Science magazine titled “Mars-like Soils in the Atacama Desert, Chile, and the Dry Limit of Microbial Life” in which they duplicated the tests used by the Viking 1 and Viking 2 Mars landers to detect life, and were unable to detect any signs in Atacama Desert soil. The region may be unique on Earth in this regard.

The Atacama has rich deposits of copper and other minerals, and the world’s largest natural supply of sodium nitrate, which was mined on a large scale until the early 1940s. The Atacama border dispute between Chile and Bolivia began in the 1800s over these resources.

The Atacama is inhabited, though sparsely populated. The Pan-American Highway runs through the Atacama, and in the center of the desert, at an altitude of some 2000 meters, is the village of San Pedro de Atacama. Its church is recent, having been erected by the Spanish in 1577, but archeological evidence indicates that the San Pedro area was the center of a Paleolithic civilization that built rock fortresses on the steep mountains encircling the valley. The Escondida Mine is also located within the Atacama.

Sunday the 20th of April 2003 – Day 61

Sunday the 20th of April 2003 – Day 61
The bus arrived at 8.50am as promised. I had only 3 hours sleep and the I had asked the hostel manager to wake me, which he did. I slept in my clothes but had packed insect repellant, sun screen, water, spare clothes for the day. The mini bus had about 10 people. It took 2 hours to get to the Salta Rafting base and river. After an hour getting lessons and advice as to what to do when paddling, how to take instructions from the lead guy on the boat, what to do if you fall in, how to drag some one back in, we were ready to go. We got tops, helmets and life jackets (see pictures). The trip takes approximately 4 hours, and it includes:

– Rafting introductory course.

– Security introductory course.

– Supply of the necessary equipment, such as helmet, life jacket, water proof trousers and jackets.

See their webpage for more details. They are recommended (an I would recommend them). A guide on each boat shouting instructions (8 people per raft), two guys on kayaks in case of an accident. It was all about fun!











Rafting in Salta

Taken on the 20th of April 2003

Rafting is a recreational activity utilizing a raft to navigate a river or other body of water.

Whitewater rafting can be a dangerous activity if the proper precautions are not taken. Below is a generally accepted classification system used to classify rivers for rafting and boating difficulty:

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Rafting in Salta

Taken on the 20th of April 2003

This was Class III – Intermediate. Strong eddies and current, requiring skilled maneuvering

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Rafting in Salta

Taken on the 20th of April 2003

Click on the picture to see it in its original size











Rafting in Salta

Taken on the 20th of April 2003

Rafting. Basically on a grade 3 (medium), there is little chance of the boat overturning by accident (hmm, well it did happen to the other boat), and the one we experienced was man made by Emiliano the guide who shouts instructions from the back (paddle forward, reserve, stop etc). Basically he directed us to a rock which caused the capsize. You can see him in the picture forcing the issue (green helmet). We drifted a few hundred yards and were picked up, dragged from he water by another raft. It was fun!!!!! I met two English teachers working in Salta doing the rafting. Everybody else was Argentine. Alot of the instructions were in Spanish so brush up. The guy on the boat only spoke Spanish but explained slowly. Some good rapids caused by water been released by a dam upstream. The main thing to watch out for are the rocks underneath. I was placed in front (one other guy on the boat) and had great views of the on coming rapids. Very little to keep you in the boat. I had (just the two in the front) had a place where I could secure one foot because we had to alot of the paddling up front. Two girls in the back were falling out the whole time. Its a nuisance as if somebody falls out, its very hard to reconnect with that person as you are travelling so fast. that’s why the Kayaks were there to grab the fallen person to your raft, where one of us drags them back in.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

We got back around 7.00pm. I had dinner and uploaded the pictures taken by one guide on Kayak. They were 2P each and were given to me on a 1.44 MB floppy.

Saturday the 19th of April 2003 – Day 60

Saturday the 19th of April 2003 – Day 60
Arrived around 9.30am to the bus station. I took a taxi to the hostel (10 blocks south). I shared a taxi to “the backpackers hostel” with the Canadian. Check them out at here . Pleasant management and nice hostel. Not too packed even though it is Easter. We were lucky as he thought it would be booked out. Had breakfast next store and went walkabout. Salta, sits in the Lerma valley with an eternal springlike climate, a town boasting Argentina’s best preserved colonial architecture reflected in its churches, government buildings, and houses. Wandering its narrow streets and charming plazas, you will get a sense of how Salta has existed for centuries–quiet, gracious, and reserved. Without doubt, the Tren a las Nubes is Salta’s main attraction, a 15-hour journey into the sky that takes you across the Northwest’s magnificent landscapes.

The town is like Galway. The exact right mix between tourists and locals (population 500,000). They are very relaxed here and people say they aren’t as stuck up as those from Buenos Aires province. The predestined streets were full and fun. I visited the tourist office, played Counter Strike on LAN with a few teenagers which was fun. Also had a great meal on St Martin. I took some pictures of the GAUCHO below. It was because of Easter that a ceremony was taking place. They look the business. I also booked a rafting (grade 3 river) with Salta Rafting for 65 P including pick up and lunch. I got back to the hostel at 9.00 and met Andy from Longford and James from Dublin who were travelling separately. We decided to go for a meal along with a South American guy, an English guy and a Belgian girl. after we headed to Centrale, a bar downtown. We stayed there with 2 Argentine locals until 2.00am listening to a band. The night only gets going at 2.00am and goes onto 8.00am the next morning. At 2.00am, we headed to a disco called Metropolis. It was good (3 P in), but I knew the rafting was coming so headed home at 5.30am.











The Gaucho Cowboy – Salta – Argentina

Taken on the 19th of April 2003

Salta, city in northern Argentina, capital of Salta Province, near the Río Arenales in the irrigated Lerma Valley. Salta is the commercial center of an area rich in oil and natural gas and producing: sugarcane, tobacco, grain, livestock, wine grapes, and timber. Industries in the city include: meat packing, tanning, sawmilling, sugar and flour milling, and the manufacture of leather goods and cement. The cathedral and numerous churches, government buildings, and private mansions throughout the area reflect the Spanish colonial past. Today the city has particular appeal to tourists who are interested in colonial architecture. Two outstanding fiestas are held here annually in September. Among the city’s educational institutions is the Catholic University of Salta (1967). The city was founded in 1582 as a convenient stop on the road from the Bolivian silver mines. During the war of independence from Spain, the city became a commercial and militarily strategic point between Perú and the argentinean cities. In 1813, the Spanish were defeated in Salta by Argentine general Manuel Belgrano. Between 1816 and 1821, the city was led by local military leader General Martín Miguel de Güemes, who under the command of General José de San Martín, defended the city and surrounding area from Spanish forces coming from further north. Population (2001) 472,971.

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The Gaucho Cowboy – Salta – Argentina

Taken on the 19th of April 2003

A gaucho is a South American cattle herder, the equivalent to the North American “cowboy” in Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and (with the spelling “gaúcho”) southern Brazil. Like the word cowboy, or the Mexican vaquero, the term often connotes the 19th century more than the present day.

There are several conflicting theories of the origin of the term. It may derive from the Quechua “huachu” (orphan, vagabond) or from the Arabic “chaucho” (a type of whip used in herding animals). Other hypotheses abound. The first recorded uses of the term date from around the time of Argentine independence in 1816.

Gauchos were generally nomadic and lived on the pampas, the plain that extends north from Patagonia, bounded on the west by the Andes and extending as far north as the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul. Most gauchos were either criollo (South Americans of Spanish ancestry) or mestizo (of mixed Spanish and Native American blood), but the term applies equally to people of other European, African, or mixed ancestry.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size











The Gaucho Cowboy – Salta – Argentina

Taken on the 19th of April 2003

A gaucho is a South American cattle herder, the equivalent to the North American “cowboy” in Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and (with the spelling “gaúcho”) southern Brazil. Like the word cowboy, or the Mexican vaquero, the term often connotes the 19th century more than the present day.

There are several conflicting theories of the origin of the term. It may derive from the Quechua “huachu” (orphan, vagabond) or from the Arabic “chaucho” (a type of whip used in herding animals). Other hypotheses abound. The first recorded uses of the term date from around the time of Argentine independence in 1816.

Gauchos were generally nomadic and lived on the pampas, the plain that extends north from Patagonia, bounded on the west by the Andes and extending as far north as the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul. Most gauchos were either criollo (South Americans of Spanish ancestry) or mestizo (of mixed Spanish and Native American blood), but the term applies equally to people of other European, African, or mixed ancestry.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size











The Gaucho Cowboy – Salta – Argentina

Taken on the 19th of April 2003

The gaucho plays an important symbolic role in the nationalisms of this region, especially that of Argentina. The epic poem Martín Fierro by José Hernández used the gaucho as a symbol of Argentine national tradition, in contradistinction to Europeanizing tendencies and to corruption. Martín Fierro, hero of the poem, is drafted into the Argentine military for a border war, deserts, and becomes an outlaw and fugitive. The image of the free gaucho is often contrasted to the slaves who worked the northern Brazilian lands.

Like the North American cowboy, gauchos are generally reputed to be strong, silent types, but arrogant, and capable of violence when provoked. There is, perhaps, more of an air of melancholy about the classic gaucho than the classic cowboy.

Also like the cowboy, the gauchos were great horsemen. Typically, a gaucho’s horse constituted most of what he owned in the world. During the wars of the 19th century in the Southern Cone, the cavalries on all sides were composed almost entirely of gauchos.

Gauchos dressed quite distinctly from North American cowboys, and used bolas (three leather bound rocks tied together with aproximately three feet long leather straps) in addition to the familiar “North American” lariat or riata. The typical gaucho outfit would include a poncho (which doubled as saddle blanket and also as sleeping gear), a facón (short, double edge sword), a rebenque (whip), and loose-fitting pants called a chiripá, belted with a tirador.

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The Gaucho Cowboy – Salta – Argentina

Taken on the 19th of April 2003

Murphy for president. Nice to see an Irish man going for the job as president of this country.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Friday the 18th of April 2003 – Day 59

Friday the 18th of April 2003 – Day 59
Had decided not to stay in Corboda for a third night. It had rained for two days solid and the next few days were not looking either. the “animated festivities” that Lonely planet had promised over the Holy Weekend had not materialized. In fact it was a very boring city with no bars, clubs or nightlife in general. Therefore I had changed my ticket so as to leave at 20.15 tonight. I spent the day ducking and hiding from he rain and tried to see some of the city. The churches were packed as they had been yesterday. From 5.00pm onto about 12.00 midnight on the Thursday, hundreds of people were coming and going from the twenty five churches in the city centre. People are very, very devout here and many were touching particular statues etc. Folk music was been played in many of the churches. From an Irish point of view, we don’t come near. You could get into the churches they were so crowded. This was repeated on the Friday. All this, and no confessions or masses taking place. All shops etc were closed, so little do do except walk around and wait for my bus. I met a Canadian gentleman (aged 45) who spent the first 5 hours of the 13 hour journey talking about his wild exploits. He had been married 3 times. He spent 6 months working in Argentina as a resort manager and 6 months in Canada doing the same (he has done this for 17 years). Ash well, he made the time go although he kept buying beer at all the stops (and I had to do the same) and bringing cider on the bus. Very little sleep had and no movies showen (bummer)











The Iglesia Catedral – Cordoba

Taken on the 18th of April 2003

Cordoba – the rival to Buenis Aires

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Cordoba

Taken on the 18th of April 2003

Statue to the fallen during the Falklands War. It is a very touchy subject here with memories fresh. The statue is dedicated to those from Corboda province. Alot of English people over here travelling say they they are Irish. I have heard bus drivers etc give abuse to English people over the war. A girl was telling me that a local was asking her name “Harriet” but as he couldn’t pronounce it, thought she said Harrier. The next thing he says ” there the jets you murdered our soldiers with”.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Monday the 14th of April 2003 – Day 55 to Thursday the 17th of April 2003 – Day 58

Monday the 14th of April 2003 – Day 55

Got up at 8.30am. The hostel is fine although close to a busy road intersection. It is spacious, lots of wood and management were nice. Bariloche is the “Killarney” of Argentina. It is a lake district tourist own. If I had the time, I would stay a couple of days, but the only things to see are the lakes. I am a bit sick of scenery at the moment so have decided to get a bus to Corboda (a city of 1 million) and skip Mendoza for now. Baricloche is a nice “Swiss type” town offering lots of chocolate shopping. There are streets called “Dr. John O Connor Street” and “Edward O Connor Street”. Lots of the buildings are wooden and the town is situated beside a lake.

Most of the people on the bus to the town were Israeli. It seems they are the biggest visitors to this area after Argentines and Chileans. I heard they are gathering here for passover. The Jewish communities in Argentina is the biggest in South America at 200,000. Israelis are the biggest backpacker group. It seems they all come here (not Europe or Asia) after there stint in the army. They are pretty clannish and really only associate with themselves. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon wants to encourage the immigration of some of the Jews of Argentina to Israel.











Baricloche – the Lake District – Argentina

Taken on the 15th of April 2003

This is the main square in the town. Its the surrounding scenery, not the town that attrzcts visitors.San Carlos de Bariloche in Argentina is situated on the foothills of the Andes, surrounded by lakes (Nahuel Huapi, Gutiérrez, Moreno and Mascardi) and mountains (Tronador, Catedral, López). It is famous for skiing but also great for walking and climbing. The “Cerro Catedral” is one of the most important ski centers in South America.

You can get to Chile a couple of ways, one way is across the Andes to Puerto Montt via 4 buses and 3 boats, another way is via the Samoré International Pass to Osorno.

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Baricloche – the Lake District – Argentina

Taken on the 15th of April 2003

The name Bariloche comes from the Mapuche word Vuriloche and it means “people from behind the mountain” (furi=behind, che=people). The Vuriloche pass was used by the Mapuches to cross the Andes and was kept secret from the Europeans for a long time.

Settled primarily by Austrians and Germans about 1895, San Carlos de Bariloche has the appearance of an alpine town. Population (1991) 77,600.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Tuesday the 15th of April 2003 – Day 56

The bus journey started at 12.00 noon. The cost was 98 P with TUS. The journey time 22 hours. They showed three movies on the trip. The dreadful Desert Heat with Jean-Claude Van Damme. God, I hate that guy. How is he still on film. We saw the comedy Stealing Harvard with Tom Green which had 2 or 3 great funny moments. I like Tom in this movie and finally de Niro in

Showtime with Eddie Murphy (another actor I can not stand). What a terrible movie. Don´t bother seeing it or renting it.

Back to the bus. They gave us the usual sandwich lunch and cold dinner. A coke and a whiskey before bed. No blankets were available and the seats were not great so a uneasy sleep was had by all. Overall it was OK. I wasnt screaming to get off the bus and time passed quickly. The scenery isn’t worth mentioning. We passed some very poor and downrun towns as we moved north

Wednesday the 16th of April 2003 – Day 57

Arrived at 10.45am. Tired and vegeted at the bus station for an hour checking out buses to Salta. Argentina’s second city, Cordoba, long rivaled Buenos Aires for political, economic and cultural supremacy; indeed, while Buenos Aires languished through neglect in the 17th century, Cordoba was the country’s architectural treasure house. Today, a fine collection of colonial buildings is concentrated in its compact center. They include the old market, the Iglesia Catedral (featuring a Romanesque dome) and the Jesuit Iglesia de la Compa??a. The Museo Hist?ico Provincial Marqu? de Sobremonte is one of the most important historical museums in the country.

I booked into the Hotel Claridge (25 de Mayo 218) recommended by the Lonely Planet. That’s the problem with the Lonely Planet handbook is the best hotels they recommend are still dumps. The hotel is a dump but its private room in a VERY central area and it has a balcony. The bathroom is a disaster and the bed, sheets and blankets have seen much better days.

Spent much of the day walking around. Its nice to be back in a city and warmth. I could walk around in a T-shirt all evening. Had a shave and a haircut as well. Nice to be back to good weather. Temperaturee was 26 Oc during the day. Went on the City tour that leaves every 3 hours from the central plaza. Took two hours on a open top bus. The normal price was 12 P but only 8 P with my student card (fake). This city is supposed to the the “most” catholic in the nation. There are twenty five churches in the city centre alone. Many of these are contained with closed convents whicha re not open to the piblic. The city has also one of the biggest student populations. The tour guide said there were 130,000 third level students in the city.

Had a nice dinner in a restaurant. The city is cheap comapred to Buenis Aires (is this possible). For a beer and a chorizo (beef – finest cut) and chops, the cost was 13P. The city is famous for its pastry pies (empanadas) which I had a few during the day. The nicest were in La Canddela. They were only .80p each. You can get them in chicken, beef etc.

Went back to the hotel at midnight. The city is a bit like Dublin!!











The Iglesia Catedral – Cordoba – Argentina

Taken on the 16th of April 2003

Cordoba – the rival to Buenis Aires. Córdoba is a city in central Argentina. It is in the center of Argentina’s most productive agricultural area, and is the capital of Córdoba Province. Córdoba is located on the “Suquía” river (yesterday “Rio Primero”), in the foothills of the Sierra Chica mountains. The city is a major industrial center, but retains many historic buildings from the Colonial era. In 2003 Córdoba had a population of about 1,350,000 people, making it Argentina’s second largest city (after Buenos Aires).

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Bird of prayer – Cordoba – Argentina

Taken on the 16th of April 2003

Córdoba was founded in 1573 by Jerónimo Luis de Cabrera, named after Córdoba, Spain. It was between the firsts Spanish Colonial capitals of the region that is now Argentina (The oldest was Santiago del Estero, founded in 1553). The University is the second oldest in South America, founded in 1613.

After the end of World War II Córdoba became a major centre for the Argentine aircraft industry, and the site of Argentina’s military aeroplane factory, the Fábrica Militar de Aviones.

Argentine Government offered positions to German technicians from the Focke Wulf company at its aerotechnical institute, the Instituto Aerotécnico in Córdoba. Many moved there in 1947. The Instituto Aerotécnico later became the Fábrica Militar de Aviones. It employed the Focke Wulf men until President Juan Perón fell from power in 1955.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size











Bird of prayer – Cordoba – Argentina

Taken on the 16th of April 2003

I saw this gym on the way in on the bus. I noted the street number. I know its sad but I walked about 20 minutes today to find it and take a picture. You never know, I might have to come back here in a few years so that I can work my liver out and regain my drinking ability. Every town in Ireland should have a “Liver Gym”

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Thursday the 17th of April 2003 – Day 58

Was tired so did not leave hotel until 11.00. Was raining all morning. Went down to the shopping area or pedestrian street called San martin. Bought a top, flip flops and some small things. Went to La Vieja Esquina recommended by Lonely Planet for a Locro (meat, corn, potatoes) – is a stew. Not very nice. Lunch was only 6 P. Raining all day, so little done today. Went to the bus station to buy the ticket to Salta. It departs at 20.15 and cost 50P. Rain just has not stopped all day.