San Pedro de Atacama to Salar de Uyuni – Day 3

The last day of the tour, and the day of the salt flats! Everybody felt better than the days before and we were happy to see the final and most anticipated event, the salt flats!. The night before our guide had told us that we could start the tour one hour later because of the rain. But 06:00 am our guide hadn’t showed. All the other drivers were ready but where was Richard? Around 08 am we spotted him in the kitchen barely able to sit up, he was still a bit drunk from the day before…

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After some coffee and a cake he was ready to begin our last day. It felt a little bit odd that the only drunk person out of the seven in the car was the one to drive. Fran in the front seat tried to have a conversation to help him to stay awake. But just after a few minutes the cars in front of us forced him to stop. The other drivers talked to him. Diego in our car said he could drive if Richard only showed him the way but if the police in the area caught us – it would not be good. So we continued slowly to the first stop.

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The salt flats had the mirror-effect the day we visited and it was so freaking cool.

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Jons only concern was that the mirror effect in the flats didn’t gave any private room to take a leak. But somehow he managed and was this happy.

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The problems for Richard didnt end with a hangover, Jon discovered a flat tire just before departure to the next stop. An extra tire was found and after a little time we were on our way again. To see the dry part of the salt flats. This phenomenon with both mirror effect and dry parts are very rare we were told. Still amazed by the view Fran and Diego in our car asked Richard to ride on the roof. And yes, we could sit on the roof if we took responsibility. Glad we did. Maybe the best ride this trip.

Before we needed to say goodbye to our new friends in Uyuni (they were going back to San Pedro with another car) we saw a train graveyard. Lots of hugs and “see you” we went to our pre-booked hostel and slept a few hours before we had dinner. Completely exhausted, but such a great experience from the trip, and with lovely people everyone of them!

San Pedro de Atacama to Salar de Uyuni – Day 2

The night was a pleasure since the magical pill I got from our guide the day before. My head felt heavy but no headache. All six of us had a coca tea for breakfast just to be sure, and then some pancakes. And just before we begin, this day all pictures in this post are taken by Fran or with her camera (except the last one).

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07.00 am it was time to get going to the first stop of the day, Árbol de Piedra.

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Árbol de Piedra, or the rock tree, is a stone that has been shaped into looking like a tree by the wind blasting it with sand from the desert around it.

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We had lunch at one of the lagoons (this one with some flamingos). I don’t remember what was special about this one (And yes, I was a little tired of all of the lagoons. Don’t misunderstand me, they were beautiful and they were uniquely placed in the landscape, but they may have been a few too many on the tour for my taste).

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Our guide stopped the car and showed us a some a rabbit-like animal called Viscacha on our way to the hostel for the night. And we saw some llamas as well.

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This was a day with lots of time in the car, and Jon told me later that we could have been at the hostel long before we actually arrived. Richard took a detour to show us the view!

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Over all we are surprised by the quality of the food, before we went on the tour the agency we booked with said that there will just be some basic food so make sure to bring lots of snacks. We had pancakes for breakfast, some kind of protein at lunch and a three-course dinner, every day! And the last night we got a bottle of wine. (As did our driver…)

Before we went to bed we went to a small carnival near by (as did our driver…). It was some dancing, music and some fire in the rain. We went back to to go to bed and get some sleep after 30 minutes (but our driver didn’t…).

Antofagasta

During our stay in La Serena we heard that our next planned stop, Antofagasta, is not a nice place to visit. Nothing to do and hard to find hostels. And a quick look around the internet it seemed to be right. After a discussion we decided to stick to the plan. Antofagasta is one of the most important industry cities in Chile and a big port city.

Jon found a B&B pretty close to the beach. And it was hot during the days. The two days we were in the city we stayed on the beach. No sand at the beach and a bit chilly but still nice.

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Jon forgot the sunblock and the result? The next day we spent in the mountains (in the shadows) and eating Chinese food that was good and very cheap!

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You’ll notice pretty quick that you are in desert.

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We are a little allergic to touristic tours and the last evening we were planning where to go next. The plan: San Pedro the Atacama. This city sounded very touristic to me. A place that exists just for people like us to do tours. Expensive and not worth it. But it was the best option for our coming events and a good place to adjust to the height (more about that later).

Valparaiso

We left Chatto and his family after one day with lots of good advice of the nearby cities, what to do and which hotels to stay at. We took a local bus to Valparaiso, very cheap and we got the chance to see lots of places on the way (the bus took three hours instead of one and a half). We had been recommended a hotel but we didn’t find it, an old man pointed us to a bed and breakfast nearby and they had room. A bit expensive but very nice.

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After a good nights sleep we decided to visit the old part of town. Jon was very fascinated by the acscensores which is all over town. So we just went out to take a look.

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Valpariso have a beautiful view since the lots of hills.

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It was market day when we were there and everything looked delicious. We only bought 0,5 kg strawberries (for like €1,2) and Jon found a game machine that reminded him of his childhood holiday at the Canary islands and wanted to play a few times.

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Catemu

When we decided to do this trip Jons colleague Bosse told us to talk to his sister Agneta and her husband Luis who has a house outside of Santiago in a small village called Catemu. As it turned out they were not there at the moment but she told us to visit Luis’s brother Chatto. After many phone calls back and forth to Sweden and Catemu everything was arranged.

We went to the bus station in Santiago, this time the one called San Borja, and bought tickets at the very reasonable price of €3 each. After one and a half hour we arrived, and using our default modus operandi we got out of the bus and started to look a bit lost. Seconds later a Chilean man greeted us and let us know that he is Luis’s brother!

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We managed to more or less speak to each other and understand most things even though my Spanish was as bad as his English. After getting some rest in his house in downtown Catemu we went to buy some food for the evening and Chatto found us all a “Collectivo” which is a taxi that works like a bus with a defined route, and is dirt cheap!

After a quick brush with death as the driver got very creative when making a u-turn on the main road a bit outside the village we arrived at El Cobre which is the small village on the mountainside just outside of Catemu. Here we got to meet a big part of the family, and maybe most importantly Chattos mother who went to great lengths of making sure that we knew that she was the boss there. They offered us some traditional Chilean sandwiches which we accepted and then forfeited our own food we had bought.

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When the night arrived we moved to Agneta and Luis’s house right beside the house of Luis’s mother. It is not completely finished but is starting to look really nice. And it has a view that is not bad at all!

The day after Chatto bought us lunch at the local restaurant, they did not have a menu but rather a choice of beef or chicken. Both turned out to be good! After this Chatto wanted us to meet the lady who runs the local radio station. It turns out she lived a few years in Sweden and therefore speaks Swedish. Jon was put in a chair with a microphone in front of him and asked questions about how he liked Catemu and what Spanish words he knew. The most advanced Spanish that emerged was something along the lines of “Una cerveza, por favor!”.

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All in all it was a great experience to visit Catemu and meet Chatto and the others. The village was very relaxed and Chatto literally knew everyone there! It was also great to meet people with a connection to, not a close one but very different from meeting people in hostels.

Sushi club

As all you know we both love food and the most of our budget is spent on food. To find the best food we use the app Foursquare. Maybe one of the better apps for finding what you looking for (Yelp and TripAdvisor are way behind).

One of the best sushi we’ve had since Rio is this one on Sushi club. A little bit fancy and expensive for a lunch but still worth a visit (or in our case two or maybe three).  Hehehe.

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Salmon teriyaki.

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A mix sushi.

New hair

My hair had been a mess the last month but I hate to go to the hairdresser because I always panic. It has been a while since a real bad experience but it’s still on my mind and I do everything I can to avoid the hairdresser.

But inspired of Millie when she was here and the fact that my hair was in really bad condition I found a place. Maybe not the best place but they had time when I asked so I couldn’t change my mind. And then something happened in my mind: cut it all off. Okey, not all of it but shoulder-short? Said and done.

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Guess how skeptic I was when he started the shaver and cut the hair. The poor man who was cutting my hair tried to calm me but Jon said I looked very afraid.

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Finally finished. And happy. It’s very nice to have shorter hair – especially when you have forgotten your hairbrush somewhere in Argentina.

 

 

New year/Mar del Plata

The main question the last two weeks were “where to celebrate new year?”. We had some parameters to consider: beach vs city, the distance from Buenos Aires (Tim had a flight to catch on the 3rd of January) and the weather. After more or less endless discussion we decided on Mar del Plata.

Mar del Plata – on the one hand, a big tourist city (but a little cheaper than for example Punta del Este) on the other hand the water is blue and the city is big. Maybe we decided a little too late because most of the hostels were sold out. At the last moment we found one pretty close to the beach.

Still no plans for the big evening Jon talked to the owner of the family hostel. They were going to have a big dinner and watch fireworks at the beach. For a little amount of money for the food we were invited to join. A funny mix of people had a late dinner with lots of food.

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Around 2am the dinner was finished and we decided to go to a bar/club. The place we first went to was closed so we took a cab to the beach for a beach party. A little disappointed because the beach party was 8 clubs located close to the beach we paid too much and went in. After one or maybe two hours of dancing we hit the beach to see the sunrise.

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The first morning of 2016 and we were pretty happy with this view. And then we had only one mission left: find a cab home. And exactly as in Stockholm it was impossible. We walked all the way home in the morning and fell asleep around 8.30 am.

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1st of January: sleeping, McDonald’s and more sleeping. And feet that hurts. Happy 2016 everyone.

Chascomús

The last days in Buenos Aires were finished off with some food poisoning after which Linns friend Emilia flew home (not because of the food poisoning, she was scheduled to do so anyway). After this we wanted to find a place to experience more nature, and also go horseback riding.

After studying the map our choice landed on the small village of Chascomús, both because it was adjacent to a lake and because it was perfectly in the right direction towards our next planned stop at Mar del Plata for New years eve.

We arrived in the afternoon at the small bus and train station that serves the village, as it was only 2 kilometers from the station to the city centre we chose to walk. It was very hot and Linn was a bit unsure about how positive she felt about the walk. But we made it!

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Arriving to the city centre we placed Linn at a cafe and I along with my brother Tim started the search for a hostel. As no hostels had any online booking facilities we decided before going that we were going to find something as long as we got there. We asked in every hostel or hotel we found for the prices. This included a tidy place in the city center with prices a bit too high for our taste.

Our second finding was a hotel that when we entered met a lady who were so old she could barely walk by herself, upon trying to get a price list out of her she got up from her chair and started to slither using a walker. When she finally made it to the next room she got a cellphone and called someone. When someone answered she gave the phone to me, a Spanish voice answered my “Hablo Ingles?” with hanging up the call. After trying to leave without offending the old lady a younger guy comes along, he quickly finds us a price list which turns out to be in the expensive range as well.

After this encounter we agreed that we would find a place where the personnel is able to walk by themselves. The third place was also the one we chose in the end, Hostel Chascomús. Ironically enough the manger of the hostel was limp because he hurt his foot a few weeks before we arrived. So much for agreeing on walking personnel.

The manager, Martin, was very friendly and helpful, even though he was a bit limp for the time being. The hostel was also good to us, except two things. The first being the ever present problem of agreeing on a temperature on the AC, people from hot countries always seem to think “The colder the better” and we, being Swedish prefer at least 23 degrees. Our other incident was a bit more interesting.

We spent some time in the hostel lobby, watching TV, having a glass of water. My brother Tim got more and more comfortable in the sofa and was suddenly more or less lying down with his shoes and socks taken off and put in a small pile on the floor.

All of a sudden a big angry man jumps out from nowhere, shouting in Spanish. We didnt understand much of what he said, Martin tried to tell him that we do not speak spanish. He seemed most upset that Tim was lying down, that we had glasses of water on the table, and the main problem was that we were too comfortable. He finally took our glasses and walked away with them to the kitchen. It later turned out that he was the owner of the hostel. We are not sure why he got so angry, but it might be because he wanted the lobby to look presentable for potential guests.

The other things we did in Chascomús was search for a place to go horseback riding, and we did go kayaking on the lake. We didnt bring a camera on the kayak trip because it was very wet, but Linn took some great snaps of me and Tim watching the sunset.

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Cabo Polonio

Both at the hostel in Punta del Este and in a lunch restaurant we got a recommendation to go to Cabo Polonio, about four hours from Punta del Este. Cabo Polonio is a little town with out electricity and no roads. A perfect place to relax, away from the civilization. We were a little to late because of a severe case of  hangover to take the direct bus so we had to improvise the route. This ended up needing three stops (waiting time and a Jeep-tour) before we arrived just in time to realize we missed the sunset and it was all dark.

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We had dinner in one of the restaurants in the village, it left us wondering why we ever left civilization, but it was a funny experience. Later in the night we took a walk to the beach and the lighthouse. We heard some sea lions but never saw them in the dark.

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Tim found this little beauty right above his pillow, two decimeter from him. Jon had to do a rescue operation before everybody could sleep. By the way, I have never ever been in a room that dark.

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Jon and I decided that since we missed the sunset we wanted to see the sunrise. After 4 hours of sleep we went back to the beach. It was a bit cloudy and I’m not sure it was worth it in retrospect. This picture shows the hostels backyard. Yes, it might look like a big party tent but no, it is actually some kind of building. The dark is a blessing for the looks of this hostel but the hosts are really great. We just stayed one night – had be great to explore more and maybe stay another night but Millie arrived to Montevideo the same afternoon so we were in a hurry to get back.