Chile, Bolivia · 32 Days · 35 Moments · April 2017

Aarohi's adventure in Chile+Paraguayan detour

23 May 2017

It wasn't too high but the combination of desert sun, dust and altitude made it moderately challenging. The view from the top was so so worth the climb though! We got a proper birds eye view of the gorgeous landscape with multiple sand dunes and mountains in the distance with their snowy peaks- stunning. We then climbed back down and drove to a look out for sunset. And this is when the magic of the valley really begins. The harsh sunlight softens to a gorgeous, golden orange. The air starts becoming chilly. And as the sun goes down, it paints the sky the most beautiful pinks, purples and indigos, finally darkening to a navy blue. The landscape soaks in all the colours and becomes even more surreal, like an artist's crazy imagination. We even had the moon come out as bit was so full. The scenery was majestic and completely imposing, somehow managing to retain its air of calm despite all the tourists milling around. Absolutely brilliant and the perfect end to Chile.
Day 31- after a very lazy start to the morning, I went into to town to stock up on provisions for the salt flats tour and packed. My valley of the moon tour started at 2pm- its so called because a priest going through it felt the surface of the moon must look like this. Our guide was called Eduardo and he was lovely and very funny. Our first stop was the Salt Caverns- cave like structures made from salt which sparkled like diamonds in the sun! We then drove further into the dessert and stopped at a salt rock formation where you could hear the salt cracking! It was so cool! Eduardo explained it was due to the intense heat during the day- the salt expanded and then contracted at night in the cold causing the cracking sound. We then drove to the Tres Marias- salt figures that look like nuns. The landscape is amazing- surreal rock formations moulded by wind and water, dry lakes that cover the ground with a white "frost" and giant sand dunes.It was at one of these that we stopped for a hike
We were taught how to use sky maps, shown some constellations and then got to see open and closed star clusters, Saturn with its rings- shimmering slightly and beautiful red colour, and Jupiter and 4 of her moons. The telescopes are so powerful, its amazing how far and clearly you can see. We also got to look at the surface of the moon and see all the craters and formations. The moonlight was so bright, it felt like looking at the sun. We even had shadows! The atmosphere was brilliant too- complete silence apart from when we asked questions about what we were seeing, cold air and the open wide sky. Truly special. Once we'd looked to our heart's content, we were taken to a tent where we were given a glass of wine and some cookies and Manuel explained a bit about the life cycle of stars, how clusters, red giants, white dwarfs, super novae etc are formed- and some of my A level physics did come flooding back as he talked. Such an interesting night, I'm so glad I did this tour!
I spent an hour or looking looking at the different agencies. Charlotte and Ben from Santiago had done the Uyuni tour with Gree&White and had a great experience and I was very impressed by the professionalism of the lady I met in the agency so I booked with them. I also found another agency I liked and booked a star gazing tour and Valley of the Moon tour with them. Then headed back to the hostel to cook a quick dinner before 9pm for the star gazing! We were driven roughly an hour into the desert to an observatory where we met Manuel, Professor of Astronomy at the university. The sky in the dessert is incredible! I've never seen stars so bright and patches of the Milky Way! The moon looked amazing as well as it was nearly full moon. There were only 3 of us doing the English tour so we had a wonderfully personal experience.

14 May 2017

Day 30-not the best start to the day. I landed in Santiago at 23.30 yesterday and my flight to Calama was at 06.15 so it was logical to stay at the airport but omg Santiago airport is horrible. It was freezing, there's no where to sit down and they have loud music and bright lights on ALL the time so I obviously didn't get any sleep. The cherry on the cake was the check in queue for Sky airlines-winner for most painful process. There are no self check in machines and they only have 2 counters despite having a lot of flights. I was in the queue for 2 and a half hours! I passed out on the plane and the bus from Calama to San Pedro but couldn't check into my hostel until the afternoon (I reached at 11am)I had no energy for wandering so waited there till check in. After a quick nap, I headed into the town. San Pedro is not what I was expecting- its a tiny, dusty, desert town that seems to solely comprise of hostels, tour agencies and restaurants. The actual town doesn't have any character
I was again picked up quickly when hitchhiking by a local who had 2 friends visiting from Spain and was showing them around. They were going to Orongo but stopping at a cave on the way first which I was only too happy to see. It was another stunning location, right on the coast with the waves crashing in. He showed us some cave paintings and explained this was were some of the birdman cult followers would spend the night before the contest as preparation. We then drove to Orongo which is just past Ranu Karu crater and has amazing views, over the crater and the sea itself. The village and its history are really interesting to see and the views are amazing but again, I wasn't blown away by the petroglyphs. I then hitch hiked back to the airport-given a lift by an Argentinian tourist and his mum who were both lovely (she shared her mate with me!)- and was told our flight was delayed by 2-3hrs but we had to stay at the airport. Not ideal but I would have had to wait in Santiago anyway.
Day 29- I said goodbye to Caro and Alé early and headed into town for some coffee and to get an Easter Island stamp in my passport. My flight was at 15.30 but the hostel's airport transfer was at 11.30(!) However, the airport is really close to town so you can easily walk out again. Once checked in, I still had about 3hrs to kill so decided to hitchhike again (yes, brave/stupid) to go see Orongo as we didn't make it there yesterday. It's a ceremonial village based around the birdman cult, who worshipped Make Make, which became the major religious power that overtook the maoi (and by extension, ancestral worship) in the island's history. The chiefs of each tribe would nominate a champion who would dive from the Ranu Karu crater, swim to a tiny islet near the coast where sooty terns would come to nest and the winner was whoever came back with the first egg. That chief would then become the birdman (and the head of the religious power) for a year.

9 May 2017

We looked at the petroglyphs and then each other and I was the first one to say what everyone was thinking "what is it supposed to BE?" They're slightly rubbish petroglyphs and the signs explaining their significance have broken so we had no information. We found this hysterical and couldn't stop laughing, made worse when we got to the car and found cows having sex on the road right next to it. Eventually managed to make it to the beach where we had lunch and swam in the calm, azure sea- and all under the gaze of yet more beautiful maoi. It was amazing. We drove to a couple more archaeological sites but nothing stood out and then it was time to return the car. The girls and I cooked dinner together (pasta con salsa crema con verduras because I was cooking lol) and bonded some more over our frustration with Chinese tourists. Brilliant end to the best day in south America so far.
From Tongariki, we headed to Ranu Raraku, the giant crater where the stone for the maoi was quarried and where they're believed to have been carved. Another amazing sight- dozens of maoi heads, in various states of finish, all scattered across a vast crater. You can really see the love and effort that went into carving these megaliths. We had a fun time, taking some silly photos and walking around. Our conversation was better than expected because the girls are very patient, will speak slowly and don't mind repeating themselves. My Spanish has come along a fair bit too but we did use the dictionary fairly often and they loved "ay caramba" too- found it hilarious. We bonded over that and taught each other Spanish and English swear words but every time that day something went wrong, the response was "ay caramba!" We then drove to the northern part of the island towards the beaches (Anakena and Ovahe), stopping at Papa Vake site en route to look at some petroglyphs.
Day 28- we had an early start today as we wanted to see the sunrise at Tongariki- maoi on the eastern end of the island. We made good time to the site- it was the busiest I've seen on the island and there were still only about 20 people there. Tongariki has 15 huge maoi, with varied expressions and carvings. The sky was cloudy but that just added to the dramatic colours as the sun came up. The small amount of chattering going on died as the sun rose, painting the sky vivid purples, oranages and reds in contrast to the black clouds, lighting up the maoi steadily. That sunrise alone was worth all the effort of coming to Easter Island- it was beyond spectacular. The maoi, which are amazing to see at any time, really take on a special presence at sunrise and you can easily see why they're said to be holy protectors. We stood there, just watching, mesmerised as the light revealed the maoi in their full glory. The photos really don't do it justice.
All went smoothly with my first hitchhiking attempt and I was dropped off at Tahai, another set of maoi along the coast, 20min walk from my hostel. These ones are carved differently and some of them have eyes! After spending some time there, I walked back in time to sign the car paper work with Caro Ale and Dennis (the girls didn't mind him coming too)We decided to go to Ranu Karu to watch the sunset. It's a big crater at the southwest of the island. It was an easy drive and the girls are great fun- we were singing along to AC/D.C. and Aerosmith on the island radio. The crater is amazing to see- huge, filled with water and right at the edge of the sea. We weren't as lucky with the sunset unfortunately as it was too cloudy but we all enjoyed the drive anyway. Back at the hostel, I made porotos for dinner but added broccoli as well- not traditional but I like it so why not? They found this absolutely hilarious (as well as how much veg I eat overall) and porotos con broccoli was born.
On the way, I was adopted by 2 dogs who followed me the whole way there and back. Such gorgeous doggies, can't wait till I can have one of my own! I named them Kira and Estaban and we had a great hike all the way to the top where the view was indeed amazing and totally worth the climb. Again, didn't meet a single person going up and only 2 people coming down. Once back at Akivi, I realised that I was going to be late for the car if I walked back the 2hrs to town so I decided to do something brave/stupid and hitchhike. Jin had told me it was completely safe and relatively common on the island when I was looking for car alternatives. I've never done it before and felt like a complete prat initially. The first couple of cars were going a different way but the 3rd car stopped and let me jump on. It was driven by a local called Benjamin who had a gorgeous golden retriever with him. Kira and Estaban were incredibly upset to be left behind and actually chased the car for a bit.
Before the walk, I stopped for coffee in town-ouch! The prices are horrific(£3.50 for my espresso), I'm so glad I brought food with me. It was a beautiful walk through the island to get to Akivi and I didn't meet a single person on the way- such bliss! It's so rare these days to find a beautiful place that hasn't been commercialised and full of tourists. The island scenery is stunning and so peaceful- blue sky, lots of wide open spaces and greenery. I reached Akivi and saw my first maoi. There is something so compelling about them, you can sit and look at them for hours. I ate my lunch guarded by the maoi and enjoying the sunshine. I also met the only other tourist there, a French guy called Dennis. He was in a similar situation to me in that he was travelling alone and trying to arrange a car so I invited him to join us and he accepted, agreeing to meet at our hostel in the evening. I then hiked from Akivi to Terevaka, the highest point on the island where you can get a 360 view of it
They were initially a bit sceptical (I must have sounded mentally retarded and a bit crazy when I spoke to them) but agreed when they realised splitting a car rental 3 ways was the same cost as hiring a bicycle- yay! This had been my main concern and now it was sorted, I could fully enjoy the island. The hostel arranged the hire and we would get the car at 6.30pm for 24hrs. I set off for a hike to see the only maoi facing the ocean. No one knows exactly how or why the inhabitants of island starting carving these giant statues hundreds of years ago but the widest held belief is that they are carvings of ancestors or gods who are protecting the island. The mystery is how these statues were carved and moved all across the island with no technology or machinery. All the sets of maoi, except one called Akivi, face the inland. This set on its ceremonial platform called an ahu face the ocean, again for unknown reasons.

8 May 2017

Day 27- having looked forward to Easter Island so much, I didn't have the best start. I slept really well and woke up to perfect weather- sunshine, warm but not too hot and a nice breeze. I walked to the kitchen, looking to meet some other people who might want to share a car for sightseeing and didn't meet a single person who spoke English. There was a group of maybe 10 Korean tourists (some of whom did actually speak English) who were NOT friendly at all and a few Spanish speaking couples. Undeterred, I went to the hostel reception where Jin the owner told me about the highlights on the island and how best to see them. Which was by car (I already knew that). Which I couldn't afford to do by myself. I was mentally resigning myself to having to sign up for a crappy and expensive tour when luckily, two young Chilean girls came into the office. I let Jin explain the sights and then in my terrible Spanish (they didn't speak English), asked them if they would be up for sharing a car.
Day 26- had a manic first half of the day. Woke up early again to see the sunrise but it was not only cloudy today, there was actual fog. I'm obviously not meant to see a Valpo sunrise. I then put some laundry on but the dryer took FOREVER! I ended up having to run to the bus stop to catch the bus to Santiago- turtle-esque again and out of breath. Luckily all smooth sailing after that and I easily caught the airport bus from the terminal with plenty of spare time. Checking in was the usual tedious painful process but the plane was really swish. I watched 2 films (I've actually missed tv!), ate some awful plane food and the journey was over before I knew it. The hostel people were at the airport as promised, ready to welcome us with a lei (garland of flowers) I had booked into a dorm but got upgraded to a twin room. I was sharing with a Chilean nurse who'd just moved to the island- she seems lovely but doesn't speak English and isn't exactly interested in sightseeing so not ideal...
Day 25- woke up early to catch the sunrise from the terrace but obviously, knowing my luck, it was the first cloudy day we had. So I went back to bed for a bit before I headed out to buy all my food for Easter Island- food there is incredibly expensive (understandably as it all has to be flown in) so it's best to take everything. I then walked to the other side of Valpo where there is an abandoned pier that's been taken over by sea lions. They're such funny animals to watch! The space on the pier is very limited so they're constantly pushing and shoving each other into the water- all except the oldest animals in the middle who don't move anywhere. They adore the attention of everyone watching and definitely show off for the crowd. It was a nice mix of locals (families, couples on dates, teenagers) and very few tourists. It was really fun to sit and watch them for a bit but eventually the smell got too much and I headed back. Played exploding kittens in the evening- great end to Valpo.
Day 24- had another chilled day today, Valpo is the perfect city to do nothing in because it's so beautiful to just be here. And the hostel's terrace is the perfect place to chill and read, make some friends and just hang out. The weather has been so perfect, making it easy to laze around. And after all the hectic last few weeks, it's lovely to have a calm few days. I did some over due life admin, read for a bit and then wandered to one of the weekend artisan markets. I found some lovely earrings (I've bought some in each country now!) and an original canvas art work by one of the city's street artists. It's so beautiful and I can't wait to hang it up in the flat. Met some lovely people in the evening at the hostel but all couples...makes me really miss Austin lol. One of the girls is a SALT in London so we had some NHS chat which we stopped as soon as we realised what we were doing!

7 May 2017

Day 23- had a really lazy start to the day with a lie in and reading. We had 3 tremors in a row, the last of which was quite strong! I don't know how people here are so used it, it still stresses me out. Found a good coffee shop near the hostel which made my day. I then explored the city, walking around the cerros and fell completely in love. It's such a gorgeous city with such beautiful colours and art everywhere- amazing sunshine too which always helps. In the afternoon, I went on a walking tour- wasn't the best one as the guide wasn't great but he did show us around the city and explain about some of the street art and history. All the houses are built using a clay material which is earthquake resistant but is very prone to damp. To counteract this, they started using corrugated iron from cargo ships (Valpo was a major port) which they painted with leftover paint from the ships- always bright colours and that's how Valpo got its character. Hung out on the terrace in the evening.
But a transformation occurs as you walks towards the cerros (hills). The traffic and noise reduce, the dirt disappears, the graffiti turns into stunning street art murals and the bland buildings turn into character laden ones, painted all colours of the rainbow. I walked nearly 5km, most of it uphill, with all my luggage before I reached my hostel in cerro Alegre but loved every second of it. And the hostel was lovely too! Lots of wall art, super friendly owner who showed me around and real duvets on the beds! But the best bit by far was the amazing terrace with stunning views over the whole city and sea. I went to buy some food and then just chilled on the terrace. I met a medic couple travelling on their F3 year and we had a great evening, chatting about everything except work and drinking beer. We made dinner together- guacamole and quesadillas. Is there a better food than avacado?
Day 22- unsurprisingly, I overslept and still only had 4hrs of sleep. I had barely enough time to shower and pack (my stuff was everywhere EXCEPT my rucksack) before I had to rush to the station to catch my bus to Valparaiso. I looked so ridiculous turtle-esque again with a coffee in my hand (finally found good coffee! Place called Santiago Coffee roasters) and I swear my big bag has become heavier. I did make my bus but in my rush, had forgotten to look up directions to my hostel or download the map offline. Luckily I still had the paper map from the tour. It's a pretty drive through wine country and we reached quickly. I couldn't see any taxis so decided to walk- probably a dumb choice since its such a hilly city but I was in the mood for some exercise and its the nice thing about travelling solo- I can do whatever I want! Valparaiso doesn't make the best first impression. The flat area near the bus station is noisy, dirty, full of graffiti and traffic and bland buildings.

6 May 2017

After the class, I walked back to the hostel and got chatting to Angel (guy who works at reception) about the class. He offered to teach me how to make Venezuelan arepas to prove his food was better than Chilean food. So that night, he taught me and another girl at the hostel how to make arepas (plain and with carrot dough) and we ate them with avacado, tomatoes and scrambled eggs-yummy!! A couple of the other guys who work there came round to socialise even though they weren't working-this is why I love this hostel! I met an English guy who'd had ALL his things stolen- poor bloke, we felt so bad for him we took him out for a beer and then carried on drinking at the hostel. By the time I went to go to bed, it was 4am. But there was a random fat, drunk snoring man in my bed!! Luckily, Angel found me another bed in a private room because we could not wake this guy up! Slightly weird end to my time in Santiago!

4 May 2017

Day 21- I had a lazy start to the day with a proper lie in and chatting with other people at the hostel. At noon, I walked to my Chilean cooking class (managed to book last minute yesterday) Rodrigo normally runs a class for tourists but invited me to come to the locals class instead (as it fit in with my schedule and was cheaper!) as they were learning Chilean food that week anyway. Of course it was all in Spanish but I'm understanding more and more everyday and Rodrigo was my personal translator! We learnt how to make porotos grandes (Chilean bean stew with pumpkin and corn), empanadas, sopapillas (pumpkin bread), pebre and poached pears in red wine under the expert guidance of chef Luis. The others in the class were lovely and so friendly towards the tourist in their midst. We then ate all the delicious food we'd made, accompanied by local wine. And for the finale, Rodrigo taught me how to make a pisco sour and I finally got to try pisco!

3 May 2017

Day 20- finally managed to sleep properly! After a lie in I went to the Bella Vista museum. As there is major renovation taking place (ironically, secondary to earthquake damage!) you have to enter through the contemporary art museum. I did walk through some of the exhibits but its really not my thing. And the fine arts museum was a disappointment too. Due to the renovations, they have barely any exhibitions open. There was an amazing statue though which really made me giggle, of an imperious old man pointing at his feet. And the roof is absolutely stunning so worth going just for that. I then walked to the fancy shopping centre (Costanera) all the way across town to find a sleeping bag liner. It was a great walk and I got to see parts of the city that I guess most tourists don't get to including a gorgeous dancing fountain. But no liner :/ on the way back, I found Chilean poundland and bought a thin blanket instead- will do the job and saved me money!

1 May 2017

Valpo- Chilean navy base Has separate fire stations from each country e.g German, American, French etc not the rich. In conjunction The cultural centre was built with volunteers and in record time from the first socialist president. The biggest flag is 26m and 18m Racism solved with WiFi God will always provide ans afterGod la vega Animita- Romualdito. Police horse killed Union of clowns has a mausoleum Eccentric mausoleums- Egyptian pyramids, Alhambra, Notre Dame, Apple store
Valpo- Chilean navy base Has separate fire stations from each country e.g German, American, French etc not the rich. In conjunction The cultural centre was built with volunteers and in record time from the first socialist president. The biggest flag is 26m and 18m Racism solved with WiFi God will always provide ans afterGod la vega Animita- Romualdito. Police horse killed Union of clowns has a mausoleum Eccentric mausoleums- Egyptian pyramids, Alhambra, Notre Dame, Apple store
7. The main cultural centre was initially built completely by volunteers (as the economy was going through a bad time) and in record time for an international conference at the request of Allende. It was later taken over by the dictator and burnt down. However, it has been rebuilt in recent years with focus on transparency and integration. 8. Racism solved with WiFi God will always provide ans afterGod la vega Animita- Romualdito. Police horse killed Union of clowns has a mausoleum Eccentric mausoleums- Egyptian pyramids, Alhambra, Notre Dame, Apple store
5. The roof of Mercado Central was designed and built at great expense in Glasgow by leading architects (as a way of showing Chile's wealth) but they couldn't work out how to put it together when it arrived so had to send it to France for instructions. 6. Chile had the first democratically elected socialist president in the world (Allende) He introduced 3 major reforms (universal education, foreign companies mining copper had to pay back dated taxes which led to the nationalisation of copper industry and a cap on land ownership if not being used)- made him popular with the poor but not the rich. In conjunction with Nixon's government (capitalist), the military, led by Pinochet, declared a coup, bombed the presidential palace, killed 12 politicians with a firing squad and brought his body wrapped in a carpet declaring he had committed suicide. Chile then entered a dictatorship for 18 years, with a pseudo-democracy in 1990. The threat only only ended in 2006 due to Pinochet's death.
Facts about Chile 1. Chile has 1 million stray dogs but they're called quiltros (Maapuche term) and treated like public pets not strays. People feed them, take them to the vet if needed, even dress them with clothes in the winter (including boots!) All the parks and public spaces have dog shelters. Government tried to introduce dog catchers a few years ago but it didn't work as people liked the dogs too much. Even the police protected them. So they now have a neutering programme instead. 2. Chile is the most seismically active country- on average, they have tremors every 3 days 3. They have a drink called terremoto (earthquake in Spanish)- wine, rum, sorbet and grenadine. Doesn't feel like you're drinking alcohol so gets you so pissed you feel you're in an earthquake. 4. Chileans have no concept of personal space- everything is everyone's business and everyone is the best friend you just haven't met yet.

28 April 2017

Post tour, I decided to walk instead of taking the subway. Stopped at one of the tiny restaurants in the market for lunch- definitely an experience! All have people trying to lure you into their cafe and bad mouthing each other lol. Wandered through the city for the rest of the afternoon and it's really lovely. Nice mix of old and new architecture, lots of street art, feels buzzy but not frantic like BA occasionally did. It's a place you can relax or party. At the hostel, I found some super cheap tickets for Easter Island so booked them at once! So excited about it :)and then there was an earthquake! Only lasted about 30sec but it was quite strong- the whole hostel was swaying, things fell off tables/kitchen counters. The hostel staff were very blasé- this happens a lot here. They did say this was much stronger than normal (later found out it was 6.2 on the Ritcher scale). Obviously no one was hurt but it brought back memories. At least it made for good conversation in the evening.

27 April 2017

Day 19- had another early wake up today for no good reason but as I was awake anyway, decided to go for the morning walking tour which takes you through a different part of the city. Our guide was hilarious- so sarcastic. He took us through Mercado Central (seafood market, beautiful roof, but completely overrated market I think! Although we were there on a Monday which is quieter and I'm not their target demographic but still!), La Vega Chica (meat but also has small restaurants upstairs) and La Vega (fruit, veg, nuts) He introduced us to sopapillas which is a fried pumpkin bread (bit like puri yum!) eaten with pebre (Chilean version of salsa, also yum). We then took the subway to the general cemetery. It's a bit like Recoleta but much nicer I think! Anyone who is Chilean can be buried here (not just rich people) and it has lots of greenery. The mauseleoms are just as showy offy as BA though. We finished at a cafe where he poured us some terremotos! Best end to a tour so far.
Day 18- despite the horrific bus ride, I didn't sleep that well so headed down early. The hostel is amazing! So clean, brightly painted and has a fantastic breakfast and semi-decent coffee! The staff who work there are also some of the nicest I've met. I met other travellers at breakfast who seem fun. Jacob (Swedish guy I met) and I both wanted to climb Cerro San Cristobal- big hill which has a giant statue of the Virgin Mary on top. It was a beautiful day and the walk is fun but quite steep! We were both out of breath by the top but the view totally makes it worth it. We then stopped for lunch before heading off for the afternoon walking tour. The girl doing the tour was funny and so passionate about her city which makes all the difference. For dinner, we got Buffalo Waffles at her recommendation- a waffle sandwich with cheese, salad and garlic sauce. Sounds weird but omg its yummy. Sat in the hostel till the wee hours, drinking wine and chatting.

23 April 2017

The driver pulled over to the side and investigated. In the meantime, a flurry of Spanish exploded in the bus- much too fast for me to understand. Eventually, I worked out that the clutch had burnt out and they were trying to repair it. Like that was going to happen! Two hours later, they admitted defeat and called for a replacement bus. Which took 3 hours to arrive. In the meantime, it's freezing and I was not dressed appropriately. I ended up wearing a hoodie, Aladdin pants, socks and flip flops. As one of the guys on the bus said, I had swag. The silver lining was I used my shit Spanish on my fellow passengers and they used their shit English on me and we all made friends. Whether I was a curiosity or it's their nature, they were all very kind to me and looked after me. The Chilean border crossing took an age- they're so strict about checking bags etc. Finally, 38hrs after we set off, we made it to Santiago. My friends helped me get a cab and I made it to the hostel at last!
Day 16 and 17- woke up early and had breakfast with the family before saying bye to Marila. Marta drove me to the bus station and even came into the terminal to make sure I got on safely! So sweet to be coddled a bit, made me mumsick! And then I settled in for my 31hr bus ride. Initially, it was smooth sailing. We left on time, they had veggie food (not tasty but edible), there was no one next to me so I could sleep despite it being semi-cama. We made it to the Andes with no problems and the scenery was stunning!! Worth taking the bus just for the crossing, it's some of the most beautiful landscape I've ever seen. Steep, snowclad mountains with winding roads, rocks of amazing formations and colours, the odd wildlife. Every turn brought something even more beautiful. The temperature started dropping as we climbed and there were patches of ice and snow along the roadside-it felt ethereal. And then reality intruded with a nasty crunching sound as the bus shuddered and groaned to a halt.

22 April 2017

Day 15- woke up refreshed, having had an amazing sleep. I met Marila's mum (Marta) who is lovely and wanted to know absolutely everything about my life! She's a typical Paraguayan mum apparently and is horrified that I'm taking the bus all the way to Santiago by myself. She insisted on looking up flights for me, despite the expense. She also doesn't like the fact that I'm only staying for a day lol-I should have stayed for at least a week! She did relent about the bus in the end but insisted on driving me to the station so I could buy my ticket. Its only a weekly service but luckily the next bus leaves tomorrow. Ticket safely bought (after a detour back to the house because I didn't bring enough money...oops!) and having insisted that I do need veggie food (again, looks of complete incomprehension), we set off to explore Asuncion. Turns out, there's nothing to see here. Really nothing. We bought some chocolates for Marta to say thanks and had dinner before my last sleep on a real bed!