We did a lovely little day trip to Colonia, Uraguay - it's a swift 1hr boat ride across the Rio del Plata. The town itself feels very Mediterranean, perhaps croation, and was a welcome, quiet distraction from chaotic BA!
The last place i visited on my trip was the falls, and I'm so pleased I've saved the best til last. They were absolutely stunning, the beauty and power (total cliché, sorry), were overwhelming. I've never seen anything like them. Plus my current travel buddy assures me they are better than the Victoria Falls.. which leaves Niagara as the only contender!
The last day of the tour was onto the Salar de Uyuni - the largest salt flat in the world. My god, it blew us all away. It was just incredible, the uninterrupted whiteness from horizon to horizon. Words can't really describe it, so i'll stop trying.
We did a four day Jeep cruise across south west Bolivia, and wow, it was incredible. We saw some of the most varied and dramatic scenery I've ever seen. Every day we'd get up at the crack of dawn in order to beat the other Jeeps to each highlight and then invariably arrive last - organising two Jeeps of 10 people wasn't easy. Still, it was AMAZING!
So, after driving the 200k or so down to Cafayate from Salta and sampling a large amount of the local vineyards, the next day we decided to return up the Rn40 - one of Argie's most famous, beautiful and difficult roads. The drive took 10 hours, all on the unpaved, muddy, gravelly and sometimes flooded road. But wow was the scenery amazing!
San Pedro's a lovely little village, in the middle of the driest desert in the world. The way to see the desert is by bike, and we went on a huge ride out into the Valle De La Luna. It was thirsty work, but with absolutely stunning scenery!
I made it! It was quite a trek - an overnight bus from Santiago, then a long, expensive taxi ride, then a swift hike through the desert - but it was worth it. Even getting blasted by sand and dust for 9 hours whilst watching it and having to hitch hike back to Copiapo to get on another overnight bus!
The art galleries are cool, showcasing some interesting Chilean artwork, although it's quite easy to sit pondering the constructivist-existential-performance art of a guy painting a wall, before realising he's actually just a guy painting a wall. Ladders, pain tins, high voltage boxes - all adorn the corners of the galleries here, making me wish someone would just have a bit of a tidy up.
This is a huge parky/hilly thing north east of the centre, with great views over the city and some lovely parks. They use so much water here in all the green spaces (3rd photo for example) - I've no idea where it comes from, but I hope it's just melt water from some of the (still snow capped) mountains around the city..
I'm so grateful to Heather and her father Mike for having me to stay whilst i'm here. They have a lovely apartment in Los Condes, it's a great base to explore the city!
Santiago feels quite different to the other major city I've visited (Buenos Aires), for one thing far more American - lots of malls, chain restaurants and big ugly concrete and smoked glass mini-skyscrapers. But also a lot smaller, even though it's not. Most of the interesting touristy bits are concentrated in one area, with the rest of the city being mostly residential with a few restaurants and bars scattered around..
...loving the graffiti street art. I really liked Valparaiso, it was such a colourful, lively, energetic place - the whole town was covered in great art, and there was always something going on, be it music, markets or street theatre. For a whole album of the street art, check out my flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/68817199@N04/sets/72157628528503943/
...for 7 hours. After a brilliant days horse riding, including a large amount of galloping, my back hurt rather a lot. The next day we decided to an 'easier' trek - turned out we ascended 1300m and walked about 24k in total. It was a great walk though, we visited an abandoned mine on the way up, and all this was thanks to our fantastic guide Elvio, and the stunning scenery around the tiny Andean village of Uspallata, where were staying. All in all a fantastic, exhausting few days!