My Third Month in South America

Hi, me again. I know you’ve probably been wondering what I’ve been up to, so allow me to ramble on at you for a thousand words or so about what a fun month it’s been.

After two brilliant weeks in Santiago, I said goodbye to the pals I’d made and headed off to Valparaiso for some coastal fun times. The city is only two hours away from Chile’s capital and is renowned for its street art and good vibes. I arrived at my hostel in the afternoon and was immediately befriended by two French girls named Julie.

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Boozing with one of the French Julies

 We rode one of the funiculars up one of the many hills (seriously, there are so many bloody hills) and did some sightseeing in the sunshine. Back at the hostel, some of the other guests had bought food for a BBQ and invited everyone to join them. So, the rest of the afternoon was spent on the rooftop terrace eating meat and drinking beer with my new hostel-family. Later on the drinking games began (I lost at King’s Cup/Ring of Fire), then we headed out to a club for some reggaeton and ass-shaking. The rest of my weekend in Valpo was spent eating, drinking and sightseeing, and when it was time to pack up and go I was pretty gutted to be leaving my new group of buddies.

Next on my agenda was La Serena, a town around 15 hours by bus to the north pf Valparaiso. By the time I arrived I’d come down with a pretty terrible cold, so most of my five days there were spent working, napping and eating all the biscuits I could get my hands on. The area is known as one of the world’s best places to see the stars, so I dragged my snotty, aching self out of bed for a night and went on a trip to a nearby observatory. As well as seeing galaxies and planets, I saw the brightest shooting star of my life. My wish was to not have a cold anymore; not particularly inventive or inspiring, but at the time I was feeling very sorry for myself. After a while I was feeling kind of guilty for my lack of productivity, so I came up with a plan. Whilst in my empty dorm room (the hostel was dead and I was one of about six guests), I decided to start making videos for my website. I shot the first one, called “how to make the most of an empty dorm”, and will be sharing it as soon as I edit it (don’t hold your breath, it’s unlikely I’ll get round to it any time soon).

After five semi-miserable days of feeling very unwell, I got on yet another night bus and travelled 16 hours or so to San Pedro de Atacama.

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The view from my hostel

The Atacama Desert is the highest and driest desert in the world, and is a practical place to cross into Bolivia, so it seemed like a logical place to head to next. My hostel was small and super friendly, and by the end of the first day I’d made a new group of wonderful mates. Two girls in particular, Cindy and Ariane, became very good friends and we spent most of our time together going on trips and cooking meals. One of those trips was an afternoon of sandboarding, which turned out to be an afternoon of feeling faint and humiliated. A combination of my cold and the altitude (Atacama is 2500m above sea level) made breathing quite tricky, and walking up the steep sand dunes proved to be too much for my crappy lungs. Couple that with my inability to stay upright on my sandboard for more than a meter at a time, and anyone who knows me will know how grumpy I was. Still, at least now I can say that I’ve tried it (not that anybody is likely to ask me).

Next up was a real bucket-list adventure: the Bolivian salt flats. Me and my ‘Atacamates’ (yes, we gave ourselves a nickname after the place that we met), Cindy and Ariane, headed off on a three day tour. On the morning of our trip I had two altitude-related nosebleeds, so the prospect of being 5000m above sea level later that day was daunting to say the least.

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Salt flats fun times 

At the Bolivian border we met our driver for the trip and loaded our stuff into his jeep, ready for the adventure of a lifetime. And so began three days of incredible nature, beautiful scenery, and running around with our tops off (anything for Instagram). I’d wanted to do this trip since I first started thinking about South America, and despite feeling pretty dreadful throughout (sunburned lips really put the icing on the altitude-sickness cake) it was as incredible as I’d imagined it would be. And, it was made even better by sharing it with such fun gals.

At the end of the trip we said an emotional goodbye to Ariane as she was heading to Argentina, before Cindy and I bussed it to Sucre, the constitutional capital of Bolivia. We arrived at 5am and were immediately blown away by how cheap things were. We got a taxi from the bus station which cost less than £1, and we later learned that we’d been ripped off! I can practically hear my budget breathing a sigh of relief. The first day in Sucre was spent shopping and exploring, before heading to our hostel’s Halloween party. What started as a few cocktails quickly turned into rounds of tequila, and our night was spent drunk-dancing with some rad Bolivian girls who were all in fancy dress as Amy Winehouse. Day two in Sucre was spent eating pizza and complaining to anyone who’d listen about how hungover we were.

Once we were done with Sucre, we boarded yet another night bus to check out Cochabamba, another Bolivian city we’d heard good things about. Our hostel was actually in a small town outside of the city, and it was super peaceful and relaxing. Most of our time was spent reading, doing yoga and eating brilliant food. We did try and venture out once to see a waterfall, but after a very sweaty local bus ride, a wildfire, and a thunderstorm, we decided enough was enough and headed back to our sanctuary for more lovely rest before heading to loco La Paz for the start of my fourth month.

My third month has been a challenge at times, thanks to altitude and illness, but that’s not stopped it being bloody brilliant (discovering coca leaf tea has made life worth living on more than one occasion). So many wonderful people have entered my life, and I’ve ticked off the salt flats; a dream of mine since I first started thinking about this trip. My budget is getting tighter and I’m acutely aware that my trip will soon be coming to an end, so I’m trying not to panic whilst attempting to live on bread and eggs to keep costs down. Knowing that my days are numbered makes each one count all the more, though, so I anticipate month four being crammed full of even more awesome experiences.

 

 

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