Salar de Uyuni, or Bolivian salt flats, or funny photos

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The salar de Uyuni is the biggest salt flat in the world. Most of the time you are on it you can look in any direction and see nothing but an unending field of white. I think it’s about 12,000 sq km big and the salt in places is over 100m deep. It is a pretty spectacular place to spend a day. Which is what we did. We hauled into a Jeep with five other lovely people and mildly scared (this route and place is renowned for dangerous driving and death unfortunately- we saw one accident on the way from San Pedro) set off under the care of Atacama Mistica, who we highly recommend. We had a very good safe day (don’t worry mum and Carolyn), one day late as egg was a bit altitude sick and we used a day to acclimatise, probably a good idea.

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This is my favourite.

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This is me riding a llama, of which we saw lots.

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Human scale

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Egg is always very thirsty.

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This, if you can’t tell, is an homage to the lion king

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I really do love the llama.

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There was also an island covered with cacti in the middle of the salt flats, a bit like a mirage.

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In case it wasn’t clear, egg was far less keen on posing for these photos.

Desert

From salta we got a bus to San Pedro de atacama in Chile. San Pedro is an oasis in the desert. An oasis split into two parts: the bit where the tourists stay, which is full of ho(s)tels, tour agencies and restaurants, and the other part where the 6000 inhabitants live.

From the overwhelming number of things to do around San pedro we decided to go Sandboarding, visit a salt lake where you can float effortlessly and take a early morning trip to see some geysers. I’ll let the photos talk for themselves.

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You have to go pretty far south to find penguins!

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Punta Arenas is a town where they sometimes tie rope to the streetlights so you have something to hold onto when the wind blows. It is cold, and a little bleak. Lots of people only come as they pass through from Ushuaia to Puerto Natales. We came specifically as there is a large colony of Magallenic penguins a boat ride away. And we both think that a waddling penguin is one of the best things in life (egg would put it differently but the feeling is the same).
That being said….
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Only other thing of note (seriously) is Arturo, the stylish hostel dog. I really like him. Today he is wearing a tartan blazer. I know, I know, tartan in the summer is insane, but he pulls it off.
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Torres del Paine- walking the “w”

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Egg and I decided that with the spare time that comes from overreacting to a dog bite in Chiloe, we would undertake our first proper walking adventure. Everyone in south america has heard of the w trek, it is the 5 day walk that takes in the most beautiful areas of Torres del Paine national park.
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Hardcore walkers can do the “o” at around ten days but we are so not ready for that.
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Torres del Paine has the reputation for being the most beautiful park in all of south america and don’t let my awful photos disenchant you, it is spectacular. We walked west to east, which meant on our first day we saw grey glacier, and we finished with the granite towers that give the park their name ( torres = towers).
Photo highlights:
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This is a photo of an avalanche on Paine Grande. It was incredible. They happen quite frequently but this was a bogie and we were lucky to see it.
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We stayed in refugios the whole time, and ate dinner there, so all we carried was our breakfast and lunch for the five days, a change of clothes and extra layers, and some toiletries and sun cream and water. I have no idea how much that weighed but I’d guess around 5-10 kilos each. People who camp can easily carry about 25!

As we brought out own breakfast we started our walk each day and stopped to eat when we found a beautiful spot. So morning one by the glacier
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Morning two on the beach
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And morning three on the trail
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The final morning we were cold and it was wet; we ate in the drying room of the refugio by the fire and I didn’t take any photos of that. It didn’t seem worth it.

The refugios were really quite nice; Grey is the fanciest and the newest and resembles a ski lodge, Chileno the worst but only because so many people stop there to warm up it is really overcrowded.
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We walked between 3 and 8 hours a day, and despite our lack of preparedness we handled it just fine, enjoyed everything and consistently beat the recommended timings by some distance. The weather was as it will always be this far south in Patagonia, pretty nippy, pretty windy, and with a little bit of snow. Casual reminder that it is the middle of summer here now.
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It was an amazing experience, I think I could have happily wandered around the park for longer, if only they let you of the set trails. Even the parts of the walk that aren’t meant to be that special are really beautiful. Really blue lakes (from melted glacier), lush green woodland, waterfalls, flowers and fallen trees, every minute there was something interesting to look at.
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One night we stayed in a cabin (due to booking so late we had to take whatever accommodation we could get. This is the most expensive). It was the best night we have had so far on our trip. Relaxing in the hot tub, yes hot tub!,
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admiring the lake, the waterfall, the cuernos, was amazing, and such a treat after three walking days, and it was nice to have our own space (all the other accommodation is shared).
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The only downside was that it was rather cloudy the whole time, sometimes beautiful clouds that I kept taking photos of, but sometimes no visibility kind of clouds. This many when we got to the end of the climb up to the towers, the end of or trek and in many ways the supposed highlight, we were effectively in a cloud and could make out only the scantest outline of a tower. And it was showing and we were freezing. It isn’t really a down side though. The park is famous for its changing weather and it was very atmospheric on the day we saw it so we can enjoy that instead!
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When we finished we even had enough energy to walk the 7km back to the bus stop (normally a shuttle takes you), thereby getting another view of the park, doing it all alone and saving ¬£5, yes! (It’s petty expensive this far south so any saving counts!)

We returned to the warmth of Tin House hostel in Puerto Natales, which we just loved and then took ourselves of to El Living, where they have a gluten free menu and it is veggie. The food and atmosphere is amazing, if you are nearby just go right now. NOW!

Heading south!! Chiloe to Puerto Chacabuco, 28 hours on a boat

This is something I really nagged egg for us to do. The journey to el Chalten can be done faster and easier direct on a bus from Bariloche. Instead, we are getting a boat and then many many buses to and from tiny towns until we reach the same location many days later. But as I keep saying, this way we get to see less visited places, and if we were lucky with the weather the boat provides an amazing trip through the archipelagos on the coast of Chile.

And the weather was great! We were very lucky.

But nearly a day and a half with no coeliac friendly food so we packed our own. Cold jacket potato and an avocado anyone? For all three meals? No?
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At least the hot drinks were surprisingly cheap
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But look at the views…….
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And we didn’t get at all bored…
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Yep. Egg is more beard than man now.

Chiloe – a week on the island of potatoes and rain

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Arrive at another farm for wwoofing
Emma does work and gets bored
I help cut down a few trees
Emma plays with the four kittens
I help build a workshop
Emma plays with the four kittens
I get a little bit bitten by a dog and panic
Emma panics
We leave to go to the capital of Chiloe, Castro
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Arrive in Castro
Find out we forgot to transfer money so can’t take any out
Try to not spend any money for a day
Emma eats a milcao*
Walk around trying to find somewhere to stay
Find a hostel in a palafito (house on stilts over the water)
Emma gets excited about a seagull
After extensive googling we realise we are being silly worrying about the dog bite
Emma eats a milcao*
Try the local dish Curanto. Emma doesn’t like it, I do. I eat hers
Go to cultural centre for music
Emma eats a banana split
Go to a town called dalcahue and see sea lions, or something we believe to be sea lions
Emma eats a milcao*
Try to walk to Castro art gallery 2KM out of town, get a taxi when it starts raining and find out it’s closed when we arrive
Ask the taxi to take us back into town
Emma looks a seagull
Buy unusual looking potatoes and make mashamole (mash with avocadoes). Emma doesnt like it, I do. I eat hers
Go to national park and kayak in the rain
Emma eats a milcao*
Go to a feria, Emma buys a bag that’s falling apart but has a nice pattern
We get the Bus to Quellon where we get the ferry
I buy an empanada and Emma buys a final milcao* just before getting on the ferry

* A fried potato cake popular in this part of Chile

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