South America: unforgettable moments

SOUTH AMERICA_Unforgettable Moments

I have loved sharing my weekly blog posts about my backpacking adventure around South America. It was truly an incredible trip with so many amazing experiences.

However, I tried to keep the best until last; here I have collated all the funny, terrifying and absolutely bonkers moments during the 3 weeks.

C H I L E

Sandstorm in San Pedro de Atacama: Having to go against the sandstorm to make it back to our accommodation. It didn’t matter the sunglasses, the neckerchief around my entire face, my hat and all the layers, I was absolutely covered in sand! Make-up wipes came to the rescue to remove the sand from inside ears and nostrils! Yuck! Definitely not cut out for desert life.

 

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C H I L E – B O L I V I A   B O R D E R

One guy came in on a passport that needed to pay a 150$ visa. He did not have 150$ on him and the closest ATM was all the way back in San Pedro. Solution? Haggling. 50$, some Bolivianos and a frozen chicken (donated by a driver)….he got through!

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S U C R E , B O L I V I A

We arrived by bus to ‘Bolivia’s beautiful capital.’ We haggled for a 50p shared taxi-ride to our hotel. We got in, it all looked okay, our companions were two Swiss guys who had quit their jobs that they hated to travel the world – they were teachers (ha…ha…ha…wah). Then, we discovered that the driver’s dashboard was not on the side of the steering wheel…aND it didn’t even work. The driver was just driving blindly not knowing how fast he was going. We survived though! #bargain

In the Plaza de Armas, I loved the little, 8 year old entrepreneur who was trying very hard to get our custom with his shoe-shining business. He told me that my trainers were filthy and I should be ashamed of walking in them. Well we had just left the desert so, he wasn’t wrong. But his leather shoe-shine kit wasn’t going to help me much!

C U S C O , P E R U

We spent our final day  in Cusco buying everything in the amazing markets – which I absolutely adore by the way. Somehow we both ended up buying massive floor rugs and managed to actually get them to fit in our already full-to-the-brim backpacks #skills

L I M A , P E R U

Walking along the coastal path in Miraflores, a group of screaming teenage girls ran after us. They thought J. was Ed Sheeran because of his red hair. They begged for photos, even after me explaining that this was NOT Ed Sheeran. There was a full on fashion shoot going on before I dragged him away. I was so tempted to ask for 5 soles for the photos, like how the ladies with the llamas do when tourists take photos of them in Cusco…

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And the best of all…

Rocking up to the business-class check-in desk  (#freeupgrade) to fly back to London in our scruffy backpacks and equally scruffy outfits, while everyone else was queuing looking at us like ???How are they in business class??? Even we didn’t know, but it was the best flight ever. I slept a solid eight hours!

So that’s it for my second trip to South America. It is an incredible continent to travel around and I cannot recommend it highly enough. You can spend weeks, months, years and only scratch the surface. I cannot wait to return hopefully in the not-so-distant future to explore destinations like Brazil, Argentina, Columbia and Ecuador. After all, it’s all good Spanish and Portuguese-speaking practice too!

What’s your favourite place/where do you want to go most in South America? Let me know in the comments!

Robyn

 

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Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to my lovely readers.

2017 was a wonderful year of travel for me – the busiest yet, travelling to three continents and exploring places new and old. Looking forward to what 2018 has to bring!

Berlin in February

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Making it to Japan for sakura (cherry-blossom) season

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Exploring the beauty of Kyoto!

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Camping in Pembrokeshire, Wales. Survived the downpour of the first day…

Exploring Prague in July – the wettest/coldest spell you could have asked for!

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All the food in Chile.

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Celebrating my 23rd birthday in the Atacama Desert.

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Experiencing the wilderness in the Bolivian Salt Flats and its surroundings.

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Visiting Machu Picchu for the second time!

Soaking up the last of the sun in Spain in Autumn.

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Thanks 2017, let’s make 2018 even better!

How to visit Copacabana on your Bolivia-Peru travels

When I revealed the big itinerary to my family and friends of my upcoming South America trip, the one part where everyone stopped was – wait, Copacabana?! Isn’t that in Brazil? But you’re not going to Brazil?!

Copacabana, the Brazilian beach which even has a song named after it. However, the Copacabana I was going to was not in Brazil, it was in Bolivia. The more off-the-beaten-track kind-of Copacabana. It is only a few hours north of La Paz, and sits beautifully on Lake Titicaca and a short drive from the Peruvian border. It is a great stopover for travelers making their way into/from Peru and enjoy the laid-back lakeside lifestyle.

We decided to stay the night to break up the journey from La Paz before a long overnight coach journey to Cusco. That alone was worth it. After grabbing lunch when we first had to find our hostel.

The hostel was on an unmarked road and I couldn’t get online directions to it. After a lot of guesswork, asking anyone and everyone along the way, we climbed (crawled) up the massive hill to the hostel. Of course it had to be the one most furthest away! With a 20kg rucksack on and the high altitude, it was a struggle. Note: just get a taxi in future.

We dropped our bags off and had a quick look at the room. Although the climb up the hill was brutal, and we would have to do it later when we got back, the views were incredible of the lake – especially with our own terrace.

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We raced down the hill to catch the boat to hike the south-side of Isla del Sol. The sun was shining and the hike was beautiful. It was a one-hour boat ride each way, so by the time we got to the island, I was exhausted, and still had to hike an hour up and around the thing!

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Copacabana has many options for food and drink, and its restaurants on the lake-front with sun terraces are a big hit. The food is nothing special by any means – but it is cheap and the sunset was the best of the trip.

You could also just stay an afternoon in Copacabana between La Paz and Cusco to make the most of Isla del Sol – this is the most popular option; however we enjoyed having a extra day there to relax and enjoy a bit of the sun. Even though it was still not that warm, it was the warmest it had been of the entire trip as we were bit by bit edging farther north and closer to the Equator.

Next stop, Peru!

 

1-day Itinerary: La Paz, Bolivia

When planning the itinerary with the intention to travel from Chile, through Bolivia and into Peru, it was difficult to avoid La Paz. It is the easiest and in our case, the most affordable way to cross the land border into Peru, coming from Sucre and the Salt Flats.

However, reading up about La Paz beforehand, and hearing accounts of travelers who had just come from there, it did fill me with a mix of wonder and anxiety about what I would find there.

We had an afternoon to see the main sights before continuing  on our journey to Copacabana on Lake Titicaca. La Paz is a stark contrast with the capital, Sucre; poverty much more striking and its size is overwhelming. Only a 50 minute flight though, we got there very easily and the taxi drove us straight to our hostel no problem.

Our hostel was on the main street in the centre and close to restaurants, a church which we would visit and the market. The hostel was cheap but cheerful, and they cleaned our laundry which was in great need of being done!

An afternoon in La Paz was more than enough. Everything was in walking distance. Our first stop was the Iglesia de San Francisco – a guided tour was included and it was a fascinating place to visit, especially for its incredible murals and paintings. We also rode up the teleferico (cable car) which, for a few bolivianos you can hop on and really appreciate the grand scale of this city. We walked around the market but nothing stood out to us, except for the dead llamas hanging above one or two stalls…

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On the Church roof…

La Paz was the one place on the trip where I did not feel safe at all. A lot of poverty and you didn’t know who you were going to bump into on the street. There were political protests where people were sitting in the roads all day, meaning no traffic could circulate. Mostly peaceful except for one area where the protest was more lively. It came with some relief that our BoliviaHop bus collected us early the next morning to move on to our next destination…

We actually had a good time in La Paz, but I was very weary the whole time. I do urge anyone considering travel there to read up on what to expect and be prepared!

Next stop…Copacabana (the Bolivian one)

 

Bolivia: Why you shouldn’t miss out Sucre

La Paz and the Salt Flats – that is the basic itinerary for most travellers to Bolivia that we met along the way – yet Bolivia is such a diverse country and what better way to see a slice of its history than by visiting its capital?

Sucre is so small compared to the giant La Paz, however it has a lovely charm and it would be easy to spend a few days to weeks roaming its streets. In comparison to La Paz, Sucre and Uyuni are much safer places to visit and I never once felt uneasy there.

We arrived at the bus station in Sucre and bargained for a taxi – 50p each for a 30 minute taxi journey – okay..? It turned out our taxi driver had no dashboard – it was on the wrong side of the car and didn’t work and he had to wind the windows down to be able to open the doors. We shared the ride with two Swiss guys, who informed us that they had just quit their stressful jobs and felt liberated – of course they were teachers (ha!). The car managed to get there in one piece to our hotel! Welcome to Sucre…

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Despite the rather crazy taxi journey, Sucre is home to beautiful colonial architecture and museums which are well worth visiting. The Museo del tesoro on the main square is worth a visit if you are interested in the history of mining precious metals in Bolivia and its jewellery. We arrived just after the museum opened in the morning and received a private tour of the museum included in our ticket.

On our first morning however, we left our hotel to the sounds of a procession of some kind in the street. Bolivia really likes brass bands, especially with processions we found out during our trip.

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Just a procession, in the street, holding up the traffic, totally normal…

We spent just one day in Sucre which we felt was sufficient – but it is worth visiting the most beautiful city in Bolivia!