#potd – Birds on the Beach in La Serena (at the Mouth of the River Elqui)

If you walk down Avenida De Aguirre some 2km to the coast from the city of La Serena (central Chile), and head north along the beach for another 25 minutes, you’ll be in for a real bird-life surprise. At the mouth of the River Elqui and on the surrounding beach you’ll find flocks of birds of numerous different types, to the extent that it’s an almost eery place to be – alone amongst so many birds.

looking south

On the occassions we went it was just us, the odd lone fisherman a little upriver, a rather windswept lone nudist, too much polluting rubbish, and a hell of a lot of birds. Initially timid, they soon ignored us (the birds that is) and regrouped all around, waiting we presume for the sea tide to bring them some fish for lunch. It was fascinating to sit quietly and just watch their movements & behaviours (note – we know sod all about birds!). 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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Tour Day 2: Volcanos, Lakes and Deserts on the Bolivia / Chile Border


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

Bolivia’s constitutional crisis may explode onto the streets on #21F

21fdiadelamentiraThe deepening constitutional crisis in Bolivia may just get worse this week, as both sides of the argument take to the streets on the 21 February, or #21F (or #21FDia de la mentira), exactly one year after the Referendum result that initiated the crisis. At the same time, President Evo Morales, arguably Bolivia’s finest President, seems to have lost his magic touch, becoming increasingly known as ‘Ego’ Morales.

conevosiOn 21 February 2016, in a Referendum organised by Morales & his MAS controlled Govt (MAS – Moviemento al Socialismo, or Movement towards Socialism – history or in brief). People were asked to vote Si (Yes) or No to a proposal that would allow any President a 3rd five year term of office. And MAS made it clear that Morales, elected President in late 2005 & already elected twice more, would be their candidate in 2019 (Morales first term in office has already been discounted under a previous constitutional change, so technically he’s only on his 2nd term now!). To the surprise of many, the NO votes won, by a vote of approx 51.3% to 48.7%, on a turn out of approx 85%. Continue reading

#potd: As high as a kite in La Paz for just 35p

elalto_yellowviewFloating through the air high above the urban sprawl of La Paz, Bolivia, is an exhilarating experience. When the wind blows rocking you from side to side, it becomes a somewhat more terrifying time! Welcome to Mi Teleferico, the urban rapid transit system of La Paz comprised of cable cars flying through the air upto 100m above the city roofs below, and perhaps 200m above the ground. The views across the city are magnificent.

Suspended from a single metal cable (or monorail), perhaps 2inches thick, by just one arm, each of the 443 cable cars presently in use seats upto 10 people. There are clear instructions not to muck about in transit, and to spread yourselves equally around each car. But each sideways movement results in us gripping onto our seats tightly – a pointless reflex action really because it’ll do nothing to save us if the car should fall. Which of course it won’t…

mitelefericoMi Teleferico (official website) is not some fancy new tourist attraction though. It’s a modern bit of urban planning in La Paz designed to address numerous transport related issues. It’s modernity & sleekness is in stark contrast to the chaotic sprawl below, and the often desperate state of people’s homes. First conceived as an idea back in the 1970’s, the plans only became reality in July 2012, financed internally by the Bolivian state, and construction started soon after. The system is being built by a an Austrian firm, using mainly local workers (1200 in the first stage). Continue reading

Taxi jams, black carbon, melting ice caps and climate change in Peru

a traffic jam of taxis

a traffic jam of taxis

Take a walk down a busy street in any of Peru’s larger towns & cities and the problem soon hits you – in the back of the throat, up the nose, in the eyes. It’s the choking stench of black cardon, fine particles like soot, pumped out of the exhuasts of Peru’s many older diesel combi-collectivos (small busses, people carriers, minibuses), taxis & lorrys of various sizes. It blackens the streets & buildings, causes serious health problems for the people, and contributes to climate change (read – the effects of black carbon).

Climate change – the causes of it and the problems it excaberates – is a real time problem in Peru and across Latin America. The 33 Latin American & Caribbean leaders meeting as the Community of Latin American & Caribbean States (CELAC, founded in 2010 – report here) in the Dominican Republic since Saturday, may well be looking nervously north to the Trump fantasist & bully, but they should also be looking closer to home before man-made & natural disasters sink their economies for good.

Arequipa the 'white city' now just dirty white

Arequipa the ‘white city’ now just dirty white

This late-2014 report ‘Dumping Dirty Diesels in Latin America: Reducing Black Carbon and Air Pollution from Diesel Engines in Latin American Countries’ (opens as a 48page pdf), written for the US based Natural Resources Defense Council (about NRDC), sets out in detail the short to long term impacts on public health & the environment, and provides a wealth of frightening statistics. It also calls for & suggests available solutions. Sadly, history indicates that the vast majority of the ruling elites (and their corporate buddies) of CELAC are unlikely to give a damn about anything except amassing their own power & fortunes, and will never commit to the necessary infrastructure and changes, never mind the funds required, to turn back climate change. Continue reading

A Critical Mass in Cusco Peru

cmcusco_30decComing up at 7pm tonight Cusco time, on 30 December, we’re delighted to see there is a local Critical Mass bikeride. Cusco sure needs events like this, as it’s streets are distinctly unfriendly to bicycles. Many roads are very uneven, but worst of all is the density of traffic in the often very narrow streets combined with a rather ambiguous attitude to traffic lights & rights of way. Plus the heavy pollution at street level. We don’t think we’ve seen a single bike lane here yet!

The flyer translates as: ‘Celebrate the culture of the bicycle and reclaim the right of cyclists to share the streets with the rest of the vehicles.’ CM’s will continue the last Friday of every month.

Unfortunately for us, not only are we in Spanish classes until 6.30pm some distance away from the start, but we have no access to bicycles. We’ll see…