Thursday, December 30, 2004

Walking In Patagonia

Before I start I would like to offer my sympathy to the people affected by the tsunamis caused by the earthquake on Boxing Day. I hope none of you have friends or family there and if so that they are safe and well. Boxing Day really doesn't seem to be a very happy day lately, as only a year ago there was the earthquake in Bam which killed around 40,000 people (it also made me sad because Bam was a beautiful city that I had not yet had the chance to see, and now never will).

Anyway, back to the journey. You only truly appreciate the size of Argentina once you get down into Patagonia: it took us two long driving days (made all the longer by one puncture and one complete blow-out) to get from Bariloche to El Chalten, which is next to the great southern ice field, a vast expanse of along the southern Argentina-Chile border. The landscape is impressive by its size and uniformity; huge undulating plains, covered only by hardy grasses, stretch out as far as the eye can see, with the odd mountain peak way off to the west. The wildlife is also correspondingly bare, with only a few groups of rheas and the odd guanaco punctuating the monotony. El Chalten is a strange town: it is Argentina's youngest and was quickly cobbled together (and it shows) so as to have the upper hand in a land dispute with Chile.

The town is next to the Los Glaciares national park where there are some beautiful hiking trails taking in some of the most stunning scenery in the continent; glaciers and their associated lakes, sheer, craggy mountain peaks, and gnarled old forests. I got to see my first glacier up close and personal (well, from a distance of about 100m. Any closer and you're at risk from falling ice) and it didn't disappoint. I also tested my walking limits. Just after 2pm I reached the turnoff to head back to town (distance: 10km, walking time: 2hrs), but I thought that that would get me back too early and I'd spend the rest of the day twiddling my thumbs (as there is absolutely nothing to do in El Chalten). So I decided to add a detour to my ramble and take the long way home. Perhaps not the wisest decision I had ever made as by the time I got back to camp it was half past seven and I had covered well over 40km, some of it over difficult terrain (up and down steep hills, along large boulder-strewn moraines, and even through a marsh), and had accumulated 3 blisters (which have gone away surprisingly quickly). Ah well, at least I know roughly how far I can manage to walk in a day.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Why I'm An Atheist; Or It's Been Far Too Long Since My Last Rant

I think the title is rather self-explanatory, so if you aren't interested, can't be bothered or might be offended, feel free to skip this post and move on to the previous one which talks about Christmas, Santa and dogs.

Seeing as it's the holiday season, and the time for introspection amongst other things, I've been thinking a bit about religion and suchlike. The majority of people in the world profess some sort of religious belief or faith, in fact us atheists are a statistically insignificant minority. So why do I persist in thinking as I do? Well there are several reasons which I shall try and put forward as best I can (by the way, if you have any comments or disagreements please feel free to voice your opinions, as there's little I love more than a good discussion). Now although most of my remarks are based on my knowledge of Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam), I'm sure that with a little bit of tweaking they could be applied to other religions as well.

1) The Diversity Of Religions
There are so many mutually exclusive religious belief systems in the world. It's impossible that every single one of them is right, yet it is possible that they are all wrong. Even within one religion there can be many different viewpoints and interpretations. As somebody clever once said: "you tell me why you don't believe in every other god, and I'll tell you why I don't believe in yours."

2) The Self-Perpetuating Dogma
Many people profess to belong to a certain religion, and yet when asked why, the best reason they can come up with is "I was brought up in it (the religion)" or "my parents are...". There their religion is due to their cultural surroundings. And when you consider that most religions were spread down the barrel of a gun (or the blade of a sword) it makes you wonder if anybody anywhere ever browsed through all the possible religions and chose the one they liked best. But surely that's what belief ought to be: a conscious choice. You can't choose where and when you're born or your family, but you sure as hell should be able to choose what you think.

3) Inability To Stand Up To The Light Of Science
Religions are old, and therefore the knowledge of the world upon which they are based is old as well. When Copernicus first proposed his heliocentric model for the universe, the church fought tooth and nail to discredit the idea. When it became obvious that it was true the church just changed its doctrines as if nothing happened. Similar examples can be found throughout history. If a religion has to change its tune with every new scientific discovery how can one trust anything they say? Just as our knowledge of geology and astronomy has shattered every creation myth, our understanding of evolution, genetics and DNA have blown away the special pedestal religions hoist our species onto (and the creationist argument that evolution evolution is "just a theory" holds even less water than Higgs' elusive boson). The problem with religions is that they are dogmas that cannot bear being questioned because they don't have adequate answers for the discoveries made by science. And it's not just questions posed by science that make religions uncomfortable, very often questioning from within is also heavily suppressed.

4) The Moral Fallacy
Many religious apologists will perhaps agree with what I've said above (or at least parts of it), but still argue in favour of religion saying that religions always preach moral and social rules and codes of conduct, and therefore are important in maintaining the social fabric. Although I agree that religions contain moral rules I disagree with the argument. Consider the following hypothetical situation. You bring up a group of people, but without teaching them either morals or religion. Now if you give them enough time these people will almost certainly develop moral rules and probably religion as well. The moral rules will probably be familiar to us: treat others as you would like to be treated (the Golden Rule), don't kill, don't steal, don't lie, etc. The religion will almost certainly be something new that we will not have seen before. Therefore the universal human constant isn't religion, but morals. In fact organised religions often obscure moral principles when it suits them (see next argument). Furthermore the hypothetical example above shows that religions that profess to be The Truth (i.e. immutable, constant and universal) are false because universal truths should be able to be independently arrived at, whereas religions only exist by continually promoting themselves. By this measure the only Truth is morality and not religion.

5) The Hypocrisy Of Religion
The majority of people who claim to follow a religion do really adhere to the precepts in either spirit or deed. Similarly, an uncountable number of reprehensible, evil and self-serving acts have been carried out in the name of religion that I would much rather not be associated with them. Although this is more of an argument against the people that follow a religion and the leadership of religions rather than the founders and the philosophy of a religion, but for me mud sticks, especially when caked on over centuries and millennia.

6) The Underlying Motivation Behind Religion
Religions generally exhort their followers to behave in a certain way: do good deeds, don't steal, don't kill, etc. This is thoroughly laudable, however when one looks at the reasons given by religions to persuade people to carry out this sort of behaviour they invariably appeal to peoples' sense of greed and self-preservation. In the Abrahamic religions if you do something good you are rewarded with Heaven, if you do something bad you are punished with Hell. And in religions that believe in reincarnation a good deed improves karma leading to a better life next time around, whereas a bad deed does the opposite. Therefore a thoroughly religious person, when helping someone (cross the street lets say) wouldn't be helping them because it's the Right Thing To Do, but rather to further their own spiritual points tally. The atheist, on the other hand, who believes that death is the end, is the only one who carries out truly altruistic acts because they do not believe they will reap some future metaphysical reward.

That's about it really. I know it's very easy to criticise without offering a solution, so I only think it's fair that I give some alternative to religion seeing as I've tried my best to knock it down. Personally I would consider myself a secular humanist. I'm not going to bother explaining it when the link above does it far better than I ever could (by the way, that site is a mine of objective information about all sorts of things concerning religion and philosophy and I highly recommend it if you are at all interested in that sort of stuff). Another article you might find interesting is the following speech by Richard Dawkins (the biologist who coined the term Selfish Gene) just after the World Trade Centre attacks; for me it is incredibly impelling and impassioned.


Christmas Eve and Day were passed in San Carlos de Bariloche, a town that really takes the biscuit for Alpine-ness. Of course it has the obligatory chalet-esque architecture, but it also has fondue restaurants, chocolate shops aplenty and even saint Bernard dogs with casks of brandy round their necks. I decided to break with tradition and had a steak for my Christmas meal, seeing as I'm in Argentina, the land of the steak, and I wasn't at all disappointed; it must have been the tastiest steak I have ever eaten (and I'm looking forward to trying some more).

Christmas Day was surprisingly traditional (especially given the absence of TV) in that most of the day was spent doing very little, and what little activity there was usually centred around food. Instead of a bird though we opted for another spit-roast, and although we started at 7am (and when I say we, I mean other people from the group, as I was sound asleep until way past 10 o'clock) the meat wasn't ready until half past four in the afternoon.

After dinner we all got together to get our presents. We had organised a secret santa, whereby people pick a name out of a hat and have to buy a Christmas present for that person. I ended up being given a big bucket of random snacks from Lorna as I have acquired a reputation within the group for being a consummate glutton.

P.S. It is now a few days after Christmas (I didn't get to finish writing the post in Bariloche) and we have penetrated deep into Patagonia, but I'll recount what has happened there in my next diary post (as I've still got my rant to finish).

Thursday, December 23, 2004


A few days ago if you had mentioned hydrospeed to me my probable response would have been "huh?". In fact hydrospeed is a sports activity where participants don wetsuits, flippers and a helmet and plunge headfirst through white water rapids clinging on to a polystyrene board reminiscent of those you're given when you first learn to swim. I don't know what crazy individual first came up with the idea, but I'd like to shake him (or her) by the hand, as it is definitely one of the best adrenaline rushes you can get, especially when you get submerged by oncoming waves and buffeted around like a little doll. So if any of you get the chance to try this exciting new activity jump at the opportunity, I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Otherwise I'd like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas (especially to those that I have not managed to send a Christmas e-mail to), I hope you all gorge yourselves on food and wine and yet remain free of indigestion and hangovers.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

River Deep, Mountain High

The adventure sports capital of Chile is, without a doubt, Pucon, some 500 miles to the south of Santiago. Sitting in the middle of verdant, rolling countryside, on a large lake and with the ever-present Villarica volcano keeping watch over the town, smoking to keep itself occupied. For many the volcano is the main attraction as it is one of the few in the world to have a permanent lava lake, which contrasts with the permanent snowcap around the summit. Climbing the beast was too tempting to resist and so I signed up for a tour the other day.

We were kitted out head to toe in climbing gear, including mountaineering boots, gaiters, an ice axe, heavy duty trousers and jacket and crampons, and then headed off to the base of the mountain. There was a chairlift that could take you up the first 400m, but I decided not to take it because I thought $5 really was far too excessive, and so I had to trudge up along with a handful of other misers, and it was no mean feat as mountaineering boots are fantastic for walking up snowy slopes, but are absolute hell for scree and rocks because the sole is completely rigid. Once we reached the snow the going was much easier, but there was still over 1000m of mountain to climb, trudging Indian file through well-worn tracks in the snow, zig-zagging up the mountainside (I was quite surprised that there was still that much snow on the slopes). After 4hrs we finally got to the caldera and were greeted with lungfuls of noxious gas that billows out of the caldera, but through the billowing smoke we could also see the lava spurting up in irregular bursts from the pool at the heart of the mountain. We couldn't stay at the top for long though due to the smoke and the piercing wind, so we headed down after about 15mins ... and that was the best part of the whole excursion. Whereas climbing was a slog, the descent was ridiculously easy as we spent most of the time sliding down through the snow on our arses. Definitely the highlight, even though by the end my bum was soaking and numb from the cold! and at least now I can say that I've looked into an active volcano.

Other activities in the area include cycling, hiking, lounging in thermal springs, rafting and hydrospeeding. A few days ago if you had mentioned hydrospeed to me my probable response would have been "huh?". In fact hydrospeed is a sports activity where participants don wetsuits, flippers and a helmet and plunge headfirst through white water rapids clinging on to a polystyrene board reminiscent of those you're given when you first learn to swim. I don't know what crazy individual first came up with the idea, but I'd like to shake him (or her) by the hand, as it is definitely one of the best adrenaline rushes you can get, especially when you get submerged by oncoming waves and buffeted around like a little doll. So if any of you get the chance to try this exciting new activity jump at the opportunity, I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Otherwise I'd like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas (especially to those that I have not managed to send a Christmas e-mail to), I hope you all gorge yourselves on food and wine and yet remain free of indigestion and hangovers.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

More Oddities

Before leaving Santiago the other day I tried out another Chilean oddity: one of their notorious coffee shops. The coffee shops in Chile are famed, but for a different reason to the Dutch ones. In Chile the coffee shops are recognised by their tinted windows, and inside you'll be served by young women...wearing nothing but skimpy bikinis or underwear. Apart from that they are normal cafes (albeit with a decor relying heavily on mirrors) with nothing untoward happening there. I actually got talking to one of the servers (seeing as we were the only people there because it was midday on a Sunday) and she was quite friendly and hospitable. The rest of the day in Santiago was a bit of a downer as a group of us went to the municipal park that occupies a hill on the northern edge of town, however the things we wanted to see were either closed or horribly overpriced, and then we got lost and so we were walking for ages.

Anyway, we've left Santiago now and also had our final change of members on the group until we reach Rio. Now we are in Pucon, the adventure sports capital of Chile nestled between the (still-active) volcano Villarica and a lake of the same name. Pucon had many Swiss and German immigrants at the end of the 19th century and so it has a distinctively Alpine feel, with wooden chalet-like houses. So I might try out a few new activities before we head over the border to Argentina where we will be spending Christmas.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Change In Chile

We are now in Santiago, Chile's bustling capital. In fact, more than anywhere else so far, Santiago could easily be mistaken for any European metropolis. It's chock full of shopping malls, department stores, pedestrian zones and the like. The feeling is heightened because it's so close to Christmas, and so all the shops are packed not only with people, but also decorations and special offers. Despite being the capital (with a population of around 5 million) and almost 500 years old, Santiago doesn't have any outstanding sights as such. It's pleasant enough to walk around the streets and parks, and there are a couple of hills that can be climbed to give you views of the city, but nothing really stands out and grabs you. Therefore I'll mention a few Chilean oddities that I've noticed so far.

So far on my travels in Latin America I've been overwhelmed by the variety and quality of the food and regional specialities, from tamales to tortas and caldos to cuy it's been a taste adventure; until getting to Chile, where the national dish happens to be hot dogs. Ah well, at least the wine is decent (and very cheap, of course!). Another Chilean oddity is change. The unit of currency is the Chilean peso, and there are almost 600 pesos in a US dollar, and furthermore the 1 and 5 peso coins are in rather short supply (they probably cost more to make than they are worth). This fact does not stop Chilean shopkeepers from marking prices to the nearest peso (especially for groceries). When, however, you go to buy said groceries, and end up being owed 3 pesos change, very often there is no change small enough there, so instead you get given a sweet in lieu! Ah, poor Chile, it seems rather hard done by as they are disliked by most of South America and need to look far afield (Britain and the USA) for friends: Peruvians and Bolivians still bear a grudge after losing wars (and territory) to Chile in the late 19th century (depriving Bolivia of its coastline) and some of the epithets I've heard used to describe Chileans by people in the two Andean countries are quite vitriolic to say the least; and the Argentinians aren't too fond of them either as Chile supported the UK during the Falklands war.

Our group is also changing a bit here in Santiago as a 10 of them are leaving to be replaced by another 10, so there'll be fresh faces and new stories, which I'm looking forward to.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Means And Ends

Pinochet was finally charged yesterday for murder as part of Operation Condor (although of course he is appealing). This has got me thinking. Chile is easily the most developed country in South America, but a lot of the progress occured during Pinochet's reign after he (along with the help of the CIA) toppled a democratically elected government. Not only did he instigate a coup and rule as a dictator for over 15 years, but during his rule many political dissidents "went missing" and were horribly tortured. Though it's also true that Chile wasn't in a great shape (economically at least) when he took over. So my question is: do the means justify the ends?

As a political liberal and idealist I would say no, but what do ordinary Chileans think. Should one follow a purely utilitarian philosophy where one must try to do what benefits the greatest number of people, whilst doing the least harm to the smallest number of people (a simple equatyion really: Benefits x Number > Harm x Number). But then again what is the value of human life? how many people need to be able to go on holiday abroad and buy Levi's to outweigh a political assassination? I really ought to try and ask some local Chileños.

Enough of my political ramblings. This part of Chile is also an astronomers' mecca due to the clear night skies (although the mornings on the coast are more reminiscent of Britain: grey fog every day until midday), and so there are many observatories dotted around the countryside, such as the imaginatively named VLT (Very Large Telescope). So last night we went to an observatory to have a closer look at the stars, where we had the good fortune to come on one of the most astronomically interesting days of the year because it was the day of the Geminid meteor shower and so we saw lots of shooting stars. It also rekindled my childhood interest of astronomy, especially when the guide showed us one of the computer programmes for identifying the stars at night (it would make a lovely and original Christmas present if anybody's stuck for an idea (and if you're as tight as I am you might also be able to find freeware versions on filesharing networks)).

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Dry And Chile

In the evening of the same day that we visited the geysers the group went to a small national park close by called the Valle de la Luna (Moon Valley, there seems to be a moon valley in every South American country) with big sand dunes to watch the sunset and have a cheese and wine party (because we're that posh). On the way back several of us ran down the dunes back to the truck. However this is forbidden in the park, although there are no signs or anything to inform you of this and there were a great deal of footprints already leading down from the dunes. Consequently our truck has been banned from several Chilean national parks! Woops.

We left promptly the next day (it probably wasn't best to stick around) and headed south. It was a long drive through the desolation that is the Atacama desert, the driest place on earth (it hasn't rained in places for about 400 years). As far as the eye can see there's just rocks and dust. There was a bit of light humour on the truck when somebody put on a Christmas songs CD and it played "Let it snow", something that it almost certainly wasn't going to do there.

Friday, December 10, 2004


San Pedro is a small, sleepy town on the western edge of the Andean cordillera. It's very dry and dusty and everything is made of mud-brick giving it a Middle Eastern feel to it. There is, however, very little in the way of on-site entertainment, although there are a couple of natural sights not too far away. One of these is the geyser field at El Tatio, which has some of the highest geysers in the world. Unfortunately they are only active around sunrise, this therefore requires a 4am departure from San Pedro to be able to observe the spectacle. This leads to a lot of yawning and sleeping on the minivan, which is a pity as the surrounding countryside is quite spectacular. The geysers are very pretty, but also dangerous, as the water in them is boiling (though only at 85 degrees due to the altitude) and several tourists have actually been boiled to death when they fell into them. I'm no geologist so I can't tell you why the geysers only spout at sunrise, but it is quite impressive to see them all begin to bubble as if someone had flipped some giant switch. There's also a pool fed by a couple of geysers up there and it made a pleasant change from the sub-zero temperatures of the high Andes to take a dip in the hot mineral springs.

Tomorrow we head down south through Chile and in about 5 days or so we should be in Santiago. I hope you're all having a good run up to Christmas, although it certainly doesn't feel like it's December here with 30 degree temperatures.

Thursday, December 09, 2004


Happy birthday to me!
Happy birthday to me!
Etc, etc. Yay, I turned 24 yesterday, although I don't feel mature enough to be that old, but anyway... It turned out to be a rather pants day, though not through anybody's fault. It just so happened that my birthday fell on a rather long driving day (and there will be more of these now as the distances between destinations in southern South America become ridiculous) from Salta to San Pedro in northern Chile. All in all it took 14 hours to get to our destination, however this was partly due to a very long and stringent border control, mainly because of an outbreak of foot and mouth (aftosa) in Bolivia that the Chileans are hell-bent on keeping out.

Once we finally arrived at the campsite at 9pm, we quickly set up our tents and headed out to a (overpriced) pizza restaurant. There was also a bit of acrimony at the end about how much should be paid and by whom (your standard bistronomics situation). The day, luckily, did have a silver lining as at the restaurant there was also a group of college girls out on a field-trip and so there was a bit of dancing and chatting before the restaurant closed.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004


The past couple of days have been rather extreme, both in my activities and the elements. I've ticked off a couple of things off my list of "things to do before I die", namely white-water rafting and paragliding (actually, I'm not even sure if my insurance covers paragliding, I'll have to look it up). Both were sufficiently exhilarating, although I personally preferred the rafting, even though it wasn't sufficiently life-threatening (the river was graded 3 on a 6-point grading system; next time it'll have to be 5!). I also got some kick-ass photos that I shall post as soon as I am able. The paragliding experience wasn't perhaps as intense as the rafting, but sitting strapped to a piece of cloth whilst floating hundreds of metres above the ground is a feeling that's very hard to describe. It's difficult to tell whether you are climbing or descending, or whether you are going fast or not. It was quite relaxing yet eerily scary at the same time.

Last night we also had a bit of unexpected (and unwelcome) excitement when a heavy thunderstorm decided to unleash itself upon us in the middle of dinner. Understandably dinner was cut short and we rushed to put everything away (including ourselves) to wait for the storm to abate. Unfortunately it didn't and the ground soon became waterlogged and the water level kept rising; this led to some desperate rescue operations as people strove to save possessions from fast sinking tents (my passport got soaked for the second time on this trip and I'm unsure as to whether it will survive it intact). This led to the night being spent either in the truck or in the shower building of the campground.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Little Europe

My first impressions of Argentina are very positive: the people are very friendly and laid back, things are generally well organised, the music is good, and lets not forget that they have paved roads as well. Actually Argentina seems, in many ways, to be very much like Europe. There's a large middle class, a more predominantly white population (the only area where indigenous people form a sizeable portion of the population is here in the north west) and a strange fondness for French cars. This Europeanness is a source of dislike for some other Latin Americans who regard the Argentines as being quite snobby and "too good for the continent", but to me they don't seem big-headed (although that could have something to do with the economic crash of a few years ago which may have humbled them). Similarly I thought they might harbour some resentment towards the English/British as demonstrated by a sign at the border: "Las Islas Malvinas apartienen a Argentina" (the Falkland Islands belong to Argentina). But they seem genuinely phlegmatic about that and the only dislike I've heard professed by an Argentinian has been against the Americans (and I can completely understand that).

My only problem with the Argentinians is the way they speak: far too fast and very often missing the end of the word (especially if it's an "s"). This has been one of my bugbears whilst travelling through Latin America; I thought that having got with the lingo in Mexico I'd be fine for the rest of my trip, but no, not only are the accents different (annoying but understandable) but several everyday words are completely different as well. For example parking in Mexico is estacionimiento, in Peru it's playa, and in Bolivia it's parqueo. Luckily for me I don't drive. What's more the slang is different too, so even though I can insult people pretty well in Mexico (which of course I wouldn't do, this is only a hypothetical situation you understand) the same words mean nothing in South America. Ah well, I'll have to learn to be rude in every country's particular slang then.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Faded Splendour

I am writing to you all from Salta in north west Argentina, but a lot has happened since leaving Sucre.

On leaving Sucre we travelled to Potosi (along, what is a rarity for Bolivia, tarmacked roads), which has the distinction of being the highest city in the world at 4090m. Potosi also has a very turbulent history. The Spaniards found silver in the mountain overlooking Potosi (named cero rico, or rich mountain) early in their conquest of South America, and it turned out to be the richest silver mine in the world. By the end of the 16th century silver from Potosi was underwriting the Spanish monarchy and the city had become one of the largest in the world at the time (third I think). Conditions in the mines were incredibly harsh and in the 300 years that the mine was exploited on an industrial scale it is estimated that 8 million people died as a direct consequence. The silver gradually ran out and the city's fame and wealth faded with it. Lately other minerals such as zinc, tin and lead have been found and the mountain is home to small-scale co-operative mining.

The buildings of the old town point to its glorious past, but most of them need slightly more than a lick of paint. The town's main highlight is the old mint which has been converted into a museum chronicling the history of Potosi and the mines there. One of the major ironies is that for about 250 years a lot of Spain's money was minted in Potosi, nowadays most of Bolivia's money is minted in Spain.

On our second day we went on a tour of the mines, which was a real eye-opener. After getting kitted out in boiler suits we headed off to the miners markets to buy some provisions for the miners we would meet. The miners market in Potosi is probably the only place in the world where you can buy dynamite on the street, and since we can't pass up an opportunity like that we duly bought some! Then it was on to the mine. The work conditions are horrible: low ceilings, constant dust in the air, oppressive heat that sometimes exceeds 30 degrees and long hours (working in excess of 12 hours a day is not uncommon). Although the conditions in colonial times must have been far worse at least it gave an idea of what it must have been like. What was perhaps most shocking was the fact that some of the miners were as young as 10 years old! To see these children (because that's what they are) push heavy carts full of ore and weighing over a tonne was quite difficult. However after the grimy horrors of the mine there was place for some light entertainment when we blew up our dynamite. The highlight being when someone had the bright idea of shoving a stick up the ass of a stuffed toy (Pooh) that we happened to have with us. Contrary to popular demand Pooh survived the dynamite encounter unscathed and so we stuck a blasting fuse in the poor bugger and finished him off.

After our mining adventures we were back on the road towards Salta. It's amazing that the main road between Bolivia and Argentina is little more than a dirt track. Due to this we were unable to reach the border before it closed and decided to camp by the side of the road. When we finally reached Argentina the next day (today) we were overjoyed to be greeted with tarmac. Aaaah, I had missed the luxury of being able to sleep on the road.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

New Pictures

I've just uploaded some more pictures to my album again. These are considerably smaller so should take less time to upload. Look out especially for the Uyuni and guinea pig photos.

Also we've just spent the day in Sucre, Bolivia's constitutional capital i.e. seat of the supreme court. It's an OK town I suppose, it's main attraction being the well-preserved colonial era buildings in the town centre that, by law, must be painted white. Apart from that there's nothing particularly special about it, but it's good enough for a little wander. The day was enlivened by a political demonstration. Although I didn't find out what they were protesting about the procession had a carnival atmosphere, with erratic bands playing as they saw fit and lots of good-humoured shouting and joking. From here it's down to Potosi and then on to Argentina.