Street Art in #Chile no.2 – La Serena’s murals and politics

A friendly middle-aged Chilean told us in #LaSerena (Chile – central coastal area), that when the US & UK backed military coup in Chile occurred on 11th September 1973, afterwards the dictatorship of General Pinochet “turned off the art”. All art & political slogans were cleared from walls across the country (and ‘art’ generally was repressed), and so it stayed for many years. Since the end of the dictatorship in 1990, from what we can see Chileans have been making up for lost time! Street art & painting remains technically illegal unless you have the permission of the ‘wall owner’, but given the number of individuals & small groups we’ve seen busy in the streets then it’s a law that’s about as ineffective as, say, the law banning cannabis in the UK. (See pics gallery below).
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Street Art in #Chile no.1 – San Pedro, Vicuna and Pisco Elqui

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This gallery contains 13 photos.

Since arriving in #Chile from #Bolivia three weeks ago we’ve been struck by the enormous amount of high quality, detailed, #streetart, and in particular large murals covering entire walls. We’d been impressed by the many fine works of street art … Continue reading

#potd: The Peppercorn Trees of Chile

Since arriving in Chile we’ve been very much taken with the Peppercorn trees of #Chile – we saw them in the Plaza Mayor of San Pedro de Atacama, throughout the beautiful & fertile Elqui Valley and in La Serena. With their slightly bent lower branches providing welcome shade they remind us a little of the weeping willow back home in the UK near to rivers. But what really struck us was their attractive pink’ish flowers, looking rather like grapes, that to our surprise contained a small hard fruit….that smelt of pepper! Er…we thought our traditional ‘black pepper’ grew on vines, as indeed it does! Continue reading

Clear skies and ancient history at San Pedro de Atacama in Chile

view southeast from Quitor to San Pedro

Leaving aside the the iffy tourist scene in San Pedro de Atacama, there are three very good reasons for coming here – the clear skies day & night; it’s stunning geographical location; and some very ancient history dating back to the 9th century BC. The clear skies are there most days & nights, but especially at night – find a darker space to sit back and stare at the beautiful and clear array of stars, and indeed galaxies. To see the sky even better at night, we took a late evening tour with SpaceObs out to their site south of San Pedro, where there’s no ambient light, and had access to 12 telescopes of varying strengths – to see clearly things far away that we’ve never seen before. Recommended – see website!

entrance to Quitor site

We took in the local geography at the same time as the local history, by walking 4km from our hostel north alongside the Rio San Pedro (or Rio Grande), to the ‘El Pukara de Quitor’ (in Quechuan – the Fortress of Quitor, where Quitor is an ancient indigenous community – see wikipedia history in Spanish). The walk, and the views from the top of El Pukara and nearby viewing points, were breathtakingly beautiful on a clear sunny (very hot!) day – see pics below.

San Pedro, like all the villages & small towns in this region, sits beside a river or other water source (such as an oasis). Many are in river valleys, in San Pedro’s case between the mountainous Andes border between Chile/Bolivia (and Chile/Argentina) to the east, and a further mountain range (the Cordillera de Sal) to the near west. And so despite the heat & harshness of this remote desert region, there has been human habitation in these areas for a good 11,000 years – from hunter-gatherer groups, to herders and agricultural communities. And situated as it is on an ancient river, that feeds into the even larger Rio Loa – that travels from higher up in the Andes to the north, all the way to the Pacific sea (Chile’s longest river – info) – San Pedro is also on an ancient trade route dating back several thousand years.
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#potd: Drink Coka Quina not C#c@-C#l@ in Bolivia

Travelling around Peru and then Bolivia (and now Chile) we’ve been gobsmacked by the domination of the soft drinks market & industry by C#c@-C#l@. Their signage & promo material is omnipresent, and their drinks are absolutely everpresent. We hardly ever drink their main brand on principal, so it was a pleasant surprise to come across an alternative – Coka Quina. Unsurprisingly a similar taste, and colour, but not bad. Certainly better than Peru’s C#c@-C#l@ part-owned Inca Kola, which was the colour of piss and not much better tasting!

C#c@-C#l@ dominate the sales of bottled water (con gas – fizzy, and sin gas – still), and also carbonated (gaseosas) drinks to a huge extent. In Peru in 2013 C#c@-C#l@ and it’s subsidiary/partner Corp JR Lindley (CCC-CRL) had a 49.8% share of the soft drinks market; in Bolivia in 2013 C#c@-C#l@ and its subsidiary/partner EMBOL took 58.3% of the market. Interestingly in the same year PepsiCo & it’s partners/subsidiaries took 9.2% & 17.2% respectively. Which is why when combined C#c@-C#l@ & PepsiCo globally control 35.7% and 71.7 % (by value) of the soft-drink and carbonated soft-drink markets respectively in 2014. And in 2013 their combined spend on global advertising was a whopping $7.27 billion! (See this report on Trade & Investment Liberalisation and the Soft Drinks Market in Peru & Bolivia). Continue reading

Tour Day 3: A thermal pool on a chilly sunrise, then onto Chile

It’s pitch black and bloody cold at 4.30am as our trusty band of gringos emerges groaning from our overnight hostel, in the middle of nowhere for Tour Day 3 (see Days One and Two). Awakening wasn’t a problem as nobody had slept well – deep sleep breathing had proved impossible at this altitude. By 5am we were on the ‘road’ in the darkness, our amazing driver somehow knew which of the identical tracks to take across the desert, aided only by his headlights.

Before 6am, still dark, we’d reached the steaming geysers of Sol de Manana, white hot air blowing up into the sky. They’re best seen at sunrise, but we had other plans, namely a hot natural bath! So off we went towards Laguna Polques with its hot springs contained in rudimentary pools, arriving about 6.30am to find the loos still shut & the changing rooms very basic. We weren’t the first there, but it wasn’t crowded. Still bloody cold there was time for just one quick foto (see top one) before entering the relief of the hot baths. Bliss. Continue reading

Tour Day 2: Volcanos, Lakes and Deserts on the Bolivia / Chile Border

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This gallery contains 17 photos.

On the move by 7.30am on Day 2 of our Tour from Uyuni, #Bolivia to San Pedro de Atacama in #Chile. We left our salt hotel and the Salar de Uyuni behind and travelled south along the edge of Cordillera … Continue reading