Valparaiso: a Colourful City for the Arty and Fit

On the Pacific coast a few hours from Santiago, Valparaiso is famous for its incredible street art. The town is also very hilly. Valparaiso residents would have to be some of the artiest and fittest people around as I found out in April.

Valparaiso has an excellent produce market and one morning I met up again with Cami and Sara to wonder around both the permanent market and nearby street market.

Valparaiso, Chile

A green vegetable stall at Valparaiso’s produce market with outer leaves and husks discarded on the street Continue reading

The Chile Adventure Begins – La Serena and Coquimbo

Following the Salar de Uyuni tour, in early April I crossed the Bolivian border and took a bus down to San Pedro de Atacama. Chilean border procedures are conducted in San Pedro, not at the isolated border itself.

Chile’s quarantine regulations reminded me of Australia’s with no fresh fruit, vegetables, meat or plant products allowed in. After immigration formalities, incoming passenger bags were lined up for a quarantine dog to enter and sniff. On this occasion the dog didn’t find anything suspicious although it did pick out a bag planted later by the customs officer.

Desert town San Pedro de Atacama is a major backpacker destination and outdoor activity base. After seeing many amazing landscapes on the Salar de Uyuni tour, I wanted a change of scenery and travelled onto La Serena via Calama. On the overnight Calama-La Serena bus I slept my best in four days as previous nights were spent at sleep-disrupting high altitude (~4,000 metres).

Founded in 1544 La Serena is Chile’s second oldest city (after Santiago). The existing buildings are however newer as the original city was destroyed by a 1730 earthquake.

Chile is noticeably wealthier, tidier and more organised than Bolivia. Chile also has some of Bolivia’s former coastline, won in a 19th century war between the two nations. The lack of coastline is controversial in Bolivia and subject to dispute. After being landlocked for two months, I was ready for seafood!

One evening I visited Jack Fish, a Peruvian inspired ceviche and sushi restaurant with fellow hostel guest and Pearl Jam fan Natalia. The restaurant owner was also a rock music fan, naming different menu combinations after bands and that night playing music from Touring Band 2000.

La Serena and Coquimbo, Chile

Rocking on with pisco sours and ceviche at Jack Fish, La Serena Continue reading

Sucre, Bolivia’s Constitutional Capital

Founded by the Spanish almost 500 years ago, Sucre’s historic rise and decline was linked to the  Potosi silver mine. With its year’s round mild climate and lower altitude (2,800 metres), Sucre was the preferred place of residence for the wealthy involved with Potosi’s silver trade.

Sucre is Bolivia’s constitutional capital and home of the high court (La Paz is Bolivia’s seat of government). Sucre is also the capital of Chuquisaca Department. With its historic buildings, museums, good restaurants and pleasant climate, Sucre is a popular place to visit and stay. After Santa Cruz, Sucre became my home for four weeks this March as I took Spanish lessons (gracias Faby!) and enjoyed the atmosphere of the city in general and The Beehive Hostel in particular.

Sucre’s Mercado Central (Central Market) was a regular destination with its fruit and vegetable, general produce and juice stalls.

Sucre, Bolivia

One of many juice stalls lined up next to each other at Mercado Central Continue reading

Tropical Relief in Santa Cruz, Bolivia

Being bedridden with altitude sickness in La Paz, I knew I had to escape to a lower altitude. My chosen destination was Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia’s second largest metropolitan area and home to the country’s largest international airport. Viru Viru International Airport lies away from city centre and on the taxi ride in, I saw several rhea, large flightless birds related to the emu and ostrich.

Santa Cruz is in Bolivia’s tropical lowlands and shares the same climate classification as Darwin, Australia. Although Bolivia is famous for its high altitude, two-thirds of Bolivia’s land mass is actually lowland.

Santa Cruz, Bolivia

The city of Santa Cruz as seen from my approaching plane Continue reading

An Amazingly Situated City – La Paz, Bolivia

From Carnival in Cochabamba, in mid-February I caught a day bus to La Paz, Bolivia’s political (but not judicial) capital and most famous city.

Bolivian buses often feature salespeople temporarily coming on board to sell their wares, usually drinks or snacks. However, I have also been in the audience of a man selling a tonic (ginseng?) and cookbooks and a boy busker singing. On the Cochabamba-La Paz bus I bought Charque de Llama from a woman. Charque de Llama is a traditional Bolivian meal featuring dried llama meat, white cheese, corn kernels, boiled potato and hard boiled egg.

La Paz, Bolivia

Charque de Llama on the bus from Cochabamba to La Paz

The road to La Paz passes by spectacular Andes scenery and high mountain passes, including one over 4,500 metres above sea level, or twice as high as Australia’s highest mountain, Mount Kosciuszko. Continue reading

El Calafate, Southern Patagonia, Argentina

From Bariloche I took a 27 hour Marga late January bus ride south to El Calafate. For much of the ride I was the only person in the lower, more expensive cama level. The scenery varied throughout with the most interesting being between Bariloche to El Bolson and El Chalten to El Calafate. The food provided on the bus looked very average and I didn’t even bother unwrapping it. On a poignant note, Marga was also the nickname of my dearly departed maternal grandmother, adding extra meaning to the ride.

The highlight of a visit to El Calafate is seeing Perito Moreno Glacier and my two visits to the glacier will be covered in an upcoming blog post.

El Calafate, Southern Patagonia, Argentina

The Marga bus between Bariloche and El Calafate

El Calafate, Southern Patagonia, Argentina

Lamb is the meat of choice in southern Argentina and the bulk of a Patagonian “asado” (barbeque). This photo is from the first of two delicious and filling meals at “La Marca”. Thank you Anadia for finding this place Continue reading

Bariloche, Northern Patagonia, Argentina

In January I flew south from Buenos Aires to Bariloche, a picturesque town in northern Patagonia. Bariloche is place of lakes, mountains, chocolate, ice cream, berries and inappropriate signs (for anyone fluent in English).

Bariloche, Northern Patagonia, Argentina

Inappropriate sign # 1: Salon Cultural de Usos Multiples (SCUM) approximately translates to Multi-Purpose Cultural Centre. I’m sure most people who use it are not scum

Bariloche, Northern Patagonia, Argentina

Bariloche is located next to the navigable freshwater Nahuel Huapi Lake. In fact, the region is full of freshwater lakes Continue reading

Mariza Epicentro, Tucano, Bahia, Brazil, Food and Crops Part 2

Continuing on from Food and Crops Part 1.

Mariza Epicentro, Tucano, Bahia, Brazil, crops and food

This species of cacti is grown in the Tucano area for both animal and human consumption. The shrubs behind the cactus are grown for a windbreak

Mariza Epicentro, Tucano, Bahia, Brazil, crops and food

The final cashew fruit left on the Mariza Epicentro trees. The monkeys later devoured this fruit

Mariza Epicentro, Tucano, Bahia, Brazil, crops and food

Kamyla and Marcio playing with fallen cashew tree leaves. We bagged the leaves from a neighbouring farm for incorporation into Epicentro composting

Mariza Epicentro, Tucano, Bahia, Brazil, crops and food

A corn paddock we harvested. The corn cobs are harvested dry and hard. Note the cacti planted as a second crop

Mariza Epicentro, Tucano, Bahia, Brazil, crops and food

The corn harvesters standing behind the trailer of bagged corn

Mariza Epicentro, Tucano, Bahia, Brazil, crops and food

Luis Carlos’ brother and Kamyla harvesting cassava by digging out the edible roots

Mariza Epicentro, Tucano, Bahia, Brazil, crops and food

Acacia pods and blossom on a tree. The acacia pods are harvested for feed

Mariza Epicentro, Tucano, Bahia, Brazil, crops and food

Marcio driving the car towing a trailer load of firewood. Driving through the sandy road with the trailer took multiple attempts

Mariza Epicentro, Tucano, Bahia, Brazil, crops and food

A huge unripe cashew nut. The cashew fruit will develop above the nut