35 days of travelling in south america

You probably wonder why i didn’t write anything in more than a month now. In one point its because I was lazy and on the other hand I was in a hurry crossing Argentina and Chile, well that led me to injure my ankle in Amaicha, Argentina. You ask people for the way, turn around and “bam” twist you ankle with more than 20 kilos on your back. But thats not the beginnig of the last 35 days.
After leaving busy Bariloche I went once again on a night bus to Mendoza, the wine capital of Argentina. To be honest I wasn’t really in the mood for wine-tastings or getting wasted, which didn’t stop most of the other people in the noisy hostel. But anyways the time in Mendoza was well accompanied by some girls from Buenos Aires and an Israeli guy in my dorm.

After the weekend exploring the beautyful city of Mendoza I was leaving to Puente del Inca. This is the place to go if you want to climb the amazing Cerro Aconcagua, the highest mountain in the world outside of the Himalaya with 6.962 m…. and no,I did’nt climb it, but to see this beauty from far was also an amazing experience. I walked among the foot of the mountain and the lagunas, the mountain in front of you. Usually people plan trekking tours from Mendoza, because you need a permit to climb it. I was spending the night in Puente del Inca, a former mecca for hot springs now a bit run down and out of tourists, but for me the right way to travel. The village is named after the amazing natural bridge formed by stone and sulfide. I took the path along the old trainlines towards the mountain. Its very hot, you get the feeling you are part of an old western movie you will find dead dogs and even dead mules on the way. On my way back to the old train station hostel i took the mule walkway and the weather changed dramaticly with wind and some rain and a condor moving in circles aboth me. You are in the middle of nowhere in the andes, what an amazing day.
The evening I spent with Nico, half argentinian and russian, a climber and running the hostel drinking wine and eating tortilla.

The next day I took the bus back to Mendoza and to San Juan over night. In the morning I didn’t really want to stay in San Juan, another city, so I took the bus to San Agustin to see the valle de la luna. The guys from the hostel campo base are nice but also greedy, I really don’t recommend this hostel. I booked an official tour the see the valle de la luna, instead they tricked the company and took us in a private car, which broke down half way and we waited for two hours in the sun for another car to pick us up and go to the valle. What a mess, maybe I’m really to european for that, well the fun was ruined or I had do find my adventure spirit again, in Bolivia you aspect stuff like this but in Argentina its just screwing the tourists in my opinion. So the valle de la luna is great nature to see, a deserted land going back to the times dinosaurs ruled this planet. You will find the stoy of the dinosaurs in this area, crazy shaped rocks and a big red rock/wall reminded me of Uluru (Australia). Back in the hostel the whole story got out to the tourist board by accident. Besides of that I had a great time there, especially talking to Federico from Buenos Aires, the only argentinian vegetarian I ever met so far. The next day we shared a busride back to San Juan and from there I took a over night bus to Tucuman.

Tucuman a hot place in summer, not really pleasant to visit in the heat, so I took another bus in the morning along the scenic route through Tafi del Valle, Amaicha del Valle up to Cafayate and then to Salta. An amazing valley between mountains, microclimate cloudforest up a steep road, giant cactus and the pachamama festival in Amaicha, it’s carnival after all.

So don’t ask me the details, but right in Amaicha on the road moving towards the camping site to rest after several hours on the bus now, the small village was already filled with a lot of people to celebrate carnival, I made a wrong turn on an uneven road and twisted my ankle falling forwards on my knee like a stone to the ground. Yes sounds funny, looked for sure funny, but after people realised, she is not laughing, came to help me sit, to get rid of the more than 20 kilos bags and waiting for the ambulance, lucky under this circumstances they had an ambulance in Amaicha because of the Pachamama Festival. I knew when I fell, the sound in my ankle is not a good sign. So after giving me an injection for the pain and taking a look the doctor ordered to rest and put ice on it every 4 hours. So it didn’t seem the tendons broke, but anyways with pain I managed to get back on my feet to find a camping site that has a reasonable price and ordered myself to rest for a couple of days. Not an easy task with the festival going on and of course I wanted to see the festivities.
So I did stay for the weekend, had a look at the folklore concerts while sitting down and putting some ice on my ankle. So cute the children in their folklore uniforms and doing traditional dances. On saturday the whole village was covered in colors, people dancing in the streets, drunk and having fun. That’s also when I got an email from Julia telling me about a dream she had, this kind of was an out of space moment for me. Sorry I can’t give more details here.

The camping site was more than full and my ankle still didn’t get any better, but worse. I had to rest properly, but in this spot as sad as it was, impossible. So on early sunday morning after the whole night raining and almost swimming in the damn f… tent I took all my strength to leave for Cafayate. The bus took a detour through Santa Maria and broke down shortly after we left Santa Maria. So we all had to leave the bus, I had Mate with three girls from Cafayate sitting next to the road, which was nice. Then a new bus came and the journey continued.

In Cafayate it didn’t feel like the right place either, the carnival was still going on, so after sitting down for an hour putting more ice on my ankle in more pain I decided to go to Salta. A super nice woman brought me the ice, I couldn’t walk any longer with the bags and some guys invited me to a lomito sandwich, I was totally crying and they where so nice to me, thank you so much to help me in this painful situation. So once more I took all my strength to get on the bus to Salta, a city seemed the best choice for now to rest for a week or so. But who knows how long it might take until I can walk again without painkillers.

The busride to Salta was unbelievable beautyful and amazing and so stunning. The canyons, mountains, rivers crossing the road because of to much rain, birds flying in the dawn, indio families sharing a meal outside.

In Salta the people to lure you to a hostel already waited for me one after another, but for some reason they really respected my “thank you, but that is to much”.
In the busstation there was another girl telling me about a hostel and it seemed a nice place and a good price and the transfer was included, so I told here what I need for a couple of days, a bed in a dorm on the ground to rest and take care of my ankle in a more quiet place. I took the offer and it was a good deal, I even had the dorm for myself for a couple of nights. I did rest in bed. I was concerned, still no change with the leg after some days, so I did contact my insurance that I can go to a real hospital, to see what’s going on. That as usually was not so easy to manage, they always play dumb at first, of course it was night in austria and they dont know anything about your contract even you tell them the insurance number, sometimes I wonder why they have computers and a network, if they cannot look it up. In the end I did pay the ambulance fee to see the doctor. But they can’t do anything or tell you how bad it is, just to rest more as often as possible and that it might take about 3 weeks to heal. So in some ways my journey seemed to be over. I did stay more in bed, tried to find a way what to do if I can’t continue travelling, a week passed by.
I was ready in my mind to continue again slowly with a lot of resting, so I thought trekking sticks could help me, but in all the shops for camping gear they didn’t have any, so I got creative and in the end bought a broom stick. Now I walk around looking like Ghandi.

With the stick I could go and see the museum of the inca mummies and another one with a lot of artefacts of pre-inca and other indio cultures of northern Argentina, Bolivia and Peru. It was fascinating, the mummies seemed as they could open their eyes any minute. Tradition made the incas to send their kings children from all four directions of the inca empire to Cuzco especially when change of leadership is close or just happend. The children are getting married symbolically and return to their hometowns afterwards. Sometimes this journey could take months over the highest mountains in the andes of the whole inca empire. In order to honour the gods they made the children to fall asleep and buried them up on the highest mountains, the most precious sacrifice to make. 500 years later they found more than 27 children or young women.
That was all I could do at this point, to see their settlements in natura was not possible for me now and it was really interesting artwork. The incas made amazing fabrics. They also domesticated the Llamas.

After Salta, I took the bus to Jujuy and from there to Tilcara, the northest I did go in Argentina. I really liked Tilcara, it is a touristy place put has also a strong indio culture, a wonderful market at the main square and the last day of carnival was still going on there. People in costumes, music, throwing colors at each other or flour, wandering around the square dancing.
I did eat local food like the Humitas, Tortillas and bought some souvenirs at the market.

After that I did return to Jujuy for one night, walked around a bit in Jujuy and left the next morning to go to Chile, San Pedro de Atacama.

Finally I left Argentina behind me, I tought I might even stay there or go to Bolivia or Peru for a while, but time demanded to go to Chile and I was looking forward to it.

The last day I spent crossing the andes, I saw the high altitude salt lakes, herds of Llamas and of course the majestic andes and snow peak vulcanos of Chile.

On the other side is San Pedro the Atacama. This desert touristy city looked like a permanent camp in the desert, strange place but very interesting in the same way. I really got to like it there. This is the place to arrange tours to the vulcanos, valle de la luna de chile, sandboarding, salt lake flamingos, springs and much more. Because of my better getting but still weak leg I decided to do the seniors tour to the salt desert flamingos, altiplanic lagoons and some surounding villages. It was a good tour, we also saw a herd of Llamas and even Guanacos chasing each other in the fight for the alpha male at the high altitude lagoons aboth 4000m. I spent the evenings in the hostel with some really nice people and we also tasted the coca leaves to prevent us from getting high altitude sickness.

The last day I finally got to see the pre-inca settlements in the area. There is also a mountain or hill with historic relevance, the Spanish conquered the local indios who tried to safe their people on a last stand on the top of the hill.
Even though it is a desert, there was a lot of rain just a couple of days ago so the river was still very difficult to pass. I also got into a small sand storm.
At night I left to go to Iquique to see the beach and the north of Chile.

In the morning I waited at least 2 hours for the sunlight befor leaving the bus terminal. Wise idea, not the best area at night. I checked in to a hostel, a house from the 1920ies. The guy at the hostel was a Chileno talking with swiss german accent, interesting. The first day I was bretty lazy, but went for a walk to the beach in the evening. Sunday, so a lot of people were at the beach. I had mote con huesillos and walked along the prominade to see the aquariums, Llamas and some people practising capoeira in the dusk. Sunset was great, finally I’m at the sea again. The next days were relaxing, I was still taking care of my leg but could already walk easy without the walking stick. Then I met Miguel from Spain in the hostel we shared the same dorm and decided to see the ghost town of Humberstone in the middle of the desert together. What a creepy place, you try to imagine how people lived there working in the salitre (sodium nitrate) mines with the whole family living in shanties. An awesome place to take pictures and they also play music from the 50ies at the main plaza, told you, creepy.

To Iquique we did hitchhicking in the back of a truck for almost 50km. There is really nothing, no tree or plant. Just desert land and shrines for the gods.
We shared some realy good meals together in the hostel, and then it was time for me to leave for La Serena and the Valle de Elqui.

In La Serena the next noon I took another bus to Pisco Elqui, a 2 hours ride towards the argentinian border. Awesome landscape, the valle is in between steep mountains giving some shade to the pisco vine stocks. This is also the area for the best star gazing, former Nobel Price winner Gabriela Mistral is originally from this area.
I did spent some more days relaxing in hammocks, watching the stars, eating organic ice cream and enjoying the lovely friendly village of Pisco Elqui. I had good company of a guy from the states, a girl from Switzerland and a Chileno couple from Valparaiso, wow the husband had the crazy eye, you don’t want to met him in the dark.
On my last day there I went back to La Serena to see a movie in 3D before going on a busride again.

Valparaiso is an awesome place, the Venice of Chile just without the water but steep hills and bendy roads, well there is water in the harbour. The city of graffities, amazing stuff you can find there hidden behind houses. The first impression was not the best, I came there in the morning of course, then a dog jumped on me made crazy stuff, another dog almost killed himself crossing the street and around the corner at the market there was a guy laying face down on concrete, I really thought at first he is dead. Then I realized what the crazy dog was all about, a guy cut the raincover of my backpack. He didn’t steal anything there was my tent underneath, welcome to Valparaiso.
Most of the time I did spent walking around in the hills of Valpo taking pictures of Graffities with David, the founder of the first online graffiti museum in the world. I also met some of the graffiti artist watching their work being done, having some wine and a street asado with the guys and girls. Valpo is a cool place, the cultural capital of Chile.

Soon my journey will come to an end, am I excited to go back home? Not really, but on the other hand I’m a bit tired of moving all the time, so a pause should be good ;) .
My last stop is Santiago de Chile, the capital, just 2 hours from Valpo.

Posted in tita-logue 11 years, 8 months ago at 06:46 AM.

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