#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

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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 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

Tour Day 1: The Salar de Uyuni – salt flats at 3700m?

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This gallery contains 22 photos.

Hmmm…sea salt at nearly 4000m above sea level? Yes indeed! The Tour we’d booked ages ago would take us from the town of Uyuni, in south-west Bolivia, to the town of San Pedro de Atacama, in north-east Chile, over the … Continue reading

Civic strike in Cochabamba / #ParoCivico en #Cochabamba

What a strange day! Awaking in the morning in #Cochabamba Bolivia, to the sound of almost silence? No roar of traffic nor murmur of voices. What is going on? Out on the streets, in the city’s central district, it is eerily quiet. A quick hunt for coffee & wifi access, and a scan of a morning paper, reveals that…today, Thursday 16 March, is a 1-day #ParoCivico or Civic Strike. Organised by the Civic Committee of Cochabamba & supported by the local mayor, it´s specifically against a complicated legal section of a certain law, but more generally against narco-trafficking, and also the sense that the ‘Cocaleros’ (coca growers) receive preferential treatment (ie in relation to taxes).

This is a complicated issue! But we find the city, and probably the whole region, has been shut down by civic action since the very early hours, primarily by the simple tactic of blockading the roads – the key bridges into the city, the key intersections – and therefore ensuring there is no transportation. The blockades are a mix of ‘public transport’ vehicles (busses, taxis/trufis), bins & rubbish, and of course people in the middle of the road. Simple, and very effective. The streets are eerily quiet here in the city centre, and for as far as we are able to walk. Others are walking too, or moving by bike & motorcycle, and a few vehicles circulate within the blockaded areas. (See local media reports here and here in Spanish).
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