After leaving Fiji very early in the morning, we caught a flight to Auckland to wait a good few hours before our flight to Santiago, the capital of Chile, eventhough this was practically a 24hr journey, due to time differences we arrived at lunchtime the same day!! Needless to say this played havoc with our body clocks.
We decided it was now time to make a conserted effort to learn some spanish! Our phrasebook was put to very good use that first week as virtually nobody understands English. With this newly found worldlyness we managed to efficiently order a KFC for dinner and purchased a bottle of wine for around a pound, this would do for one day!
Santiago, the smog, the Andes
Fortunately, we were staying at a hostel run by a legendery bloke named Pato who gave us many tips on latin american attitude, language and made some top notch pisco sours (a cocktail made from grape based spirit and lime)! Aswell as this he let us tag along when he went to the market and generally made us feel very welcome. It turns out that Jim looks Chilian, which was a bonus when trying to act non-gringo!
After a fun acclimatisation period in Santiago, we took a 30hr (!) bus ride North to a town called Arica near the Peruvian border. During this we travelled through the Attacama Desert said to be the worlds driest area where there are places that rainfall has never been recorded!
A roadside shrine in the Attacama desert
Our original plans had included heading into Peru.... our bank balance suggested otherwise. So from here we went straight to Bolivia where are currently staying in La Paz, the highest capital city in the world at nearly 4000m above sea level. The lack of oxygen at this altitude can take some getting used to and a couple of days of taking it easy were needed. When we originally thought of coming to Bolivia, it was to definitely make a journey into the amazon basin and this is what we have recently returned from.
The La Paz perspective!
To get to the Amazon basin from La Paz you can either take a 20hr bus ride along the most dangerous road in the world or take a 40 minute ride in a twenty seater plane. Despite Jims misgivings about flying the extra dosh for the plane ride was clearly the wiser choice. So after a stunning flight over the Bolivian Andes we could see the basin stretch out some 3000m below. After cutting through the clouds we could see the Amazon tributaries curling around beneath us! We landed on a grass runway and went through the little wooden jungle airport and then caught a bus to Rurrenebaque which is the base town for various tours out into the jungle and "pampus" areas. Our tour was to the pampus which is a rainforest wetland area generally accessed by motor canoe.
The following morning we met up with the rest of our group at the tour office and then bundled into an aging jeep to make the bumpy 4hr ride to the river. Here we helped load all the provisions into a canoe and bought supplies for the evenings. As soon as we set off we saw alligators, black caymans, paradise birds, terapins, capybaras (the largest rodent in the world) and eventually pink river dolphins! The amount of wildlife in this area is staggering. After a further 4hrs of cruising along the Yakuma River we arrived at our riverside lodge.
The capybara - You´ve got to love ´em!
Prize winning pirahna!
The next three days were spent hunting anacondas, pirahna fishing, going on night cruises and swimming with the river dolphins!!! This was all mind blowing plus our group all got on really well which made it the perfect tour.
What just brushed passed my leg?
Our group out side the lodge with our guide Uri
We were all still in high spirits back in Rurrenabaque when Jim was struck down with his first dose of Bolivi-belly shortly before we were supposed to get our return flight. Fortunately medication and TLC admistered by Han meant that he hobbled along to the airport just in time. Hurrah!
We are now back up top in La Paz and planning our last couple (?) of weeks that will lead us to glory into Argentina and the fair Buenos Aires.
Mucho Amo Amigos,