Sunday, February 04, 2007

On the Inca steps !

Ola amigos,

Here we are, on the road again, on the inca´s steps !

Where were we ?
Ah yes, after Danielles´ couple of months in Australia spending some time with friends and family, meeting up in Chile, Santiago, was exciting. Not just the reunion after the time apart but to continue our travels together.

We made our way for New Years Eve to the Valley de Zapallar, a small beach town surrounded by mountains in order to spend some time in a cosy villa overlooking the kingdom of Zapallar de Roja, founder of the city. The idea of a quite romantic evening went out the door when we realized that our 19 years old rich Chilean neighbours were having a party, well as they say...” If you can´t beat them, join them”

After those few days celebrating the arrival of the new year, we made our way north through the Atacama desert to reach its capital: San Pedro.
It took us a few days to acclimatise to the dry desert climate and organise the famous crossing of the Bolivian border through the Uyuni desert.
And there, for 4 days, a perfect show for the eyes took place. From green lagunas fulfilled by bright pink flamingos, to red volcanoes overlooking yellow canyons and of course the surrealist Uyuni salt desert with its water reflexion and its feeling of end of the world. What a show !

A few hundreds kilometres north of Uyuni, we found the Bolivian city of Potosi, famous for its former silver coin industry but even more for its silver mines exploitation. Thousands of workers from any ages or sexes work all day long, all year long, under extremely harsh conditions within those mines to subside their family.
They find the courage and energy to deal with this labour chewing coca leaves, smoking cigarettes and drinking the strongest alcool that ever penetrated my body ….. tough, really tough.

After Potosi, we finally reached the Bolivian capital of La Paz (4000 m) where we enjoyed a bit of city life and getting ready for our long expected Amazonian experience.

Reading the famous book “Marching Powder” about the life inside the La Paz prison, we decided to make our way down there. Not sure what to expect having no information regarding the formalities of entering the prison, we gave it a go.

After a few talks, a lot of pleads, and yes.... some luck on our side we entered the prison after a ¨strict¨ body search which allowed Nico to keep his pocket knife and our bags untouched.

We spent four mind taking hours inside the prison, with a short tour by Ernesto, a Spanish prisoner, the rest of the time was spent talking to other foreign prisoners over a couple of games of snookers and a few cigarettes.
Their stories were incredible. We learnt so much about the operation of the prison, basically run by money without any glimpse of fundamental rights for the foreigners. For example one man will live with just the clothes on his back that he arrived with and 2 meals a week while another (Bolivian drug lord) will have a three story cells, decked out with a plasma TV, computers etc and the possibility to buy his way out of prison.

A few hours later we were on our way up, direction the long expected amazon jungle.
We took a small army plane that flew over the dramatic andes cordilleras to finally reach the non ending amazon forest. Landing on a small grass strip, the minute we stepped off the plane we were greeted with humid hot weather and green rich forest surroundings.

We met some wonderful fellow travellers as we made our way to the camp site in the jungle. As wejumped in the boat (which firstly needed to be emptied of water) we were greeted by a pink dolfin escorting us to the deep pampas.
We spent 3 days there, fighting with mosquitos, wrestling alligators, playing with monkeys, hunting anacondas, sighting eagles, condors and swimming with the pink dolphins.

From there we made our way to the world famous lake Titicaca on the Bolivia-Peru border where we spent a couple of days admiring some inca ruins and learning about the birth of the sun and his loving sisiter, the moon.

As we write you this account, we just came back from a real dirt bike adventure that brought us to one of the most amazing man made monument: The Machu Pichu ... but that is another tale that will be counted on our next episode of : On the road again !