A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: brynster

Monkey Business, Love Motels and Keeping Your Head

Lessons Learned and the Best and Worst of Latin America

View Central and South America on brynster's travel map.

The clothes are washed, the backpacks stashed and the photos (all gazillion of them) stored on the computer. Mentally, though, it's been a slow readjustment from life in Latin America to life back in our Brooklyn apartment.

For our farewell posting, Geoff and I thought it would be cool to intersperse some of the things we've learned over the last three months, a few recommendations for travelers who might find themselves in some of the same countries and a final batch of fun pictures that never made it onto our previous blog entries.

Like this one, in which Monkey, our fearless travel mascot, makes new friends at a bird sanctuary in Copan, Honduras (they're rescued red-lored parrots, by the way, and were rather friendly despite keeping their distance in this photo).

Travel items we're really glad we had: duct tape, rope (surprisingly handy), a Leatherman and pocket knife, Nalgene water bottles and a battery-less handcrank LED flashlight (particularly useful during Central America's frequent power outages).

Items we could have done without: our mosquito netting and water purification filter, both completely unnecessary and a big waste of space.

Chile's Torres del Paine National Park and the Argentinian side of Iguazu Falls were probably our favorite natural wonders, with Guatemala's Lago Atitlan, Nicaragua's Isla de Ometepe and the high mountain passes along Peru's Inca Trail claiming honorable mention.

Machu Picchu in Peru, Copan in Honduras and Antigua in Guatemala had the best ruins and the Galapagos Islands were by far the most spectacular location for wildlife, though Corcovado National Park in Costa Rica and Chalalan Ecolodge in Bolivia's Madidi National Park were also remarkable. And, of course, Geoff's Holy Grail of birds (the resplendant quetzal) appeared to us in the vicinity of northern Panama's terrific Amistad and Volcan Baru National Parks.

As for our more intimate wildlife encounters, here's a peek at one of the smaller tarantula specimens that shared a cabin with us on Nicaragua's Isla de Ometepe, here gracefully posing near an arrangement of local flowers.

Not to be outdone, this white-faced capuchin monkey gave us a nice view of its pearly whites while blocking our way in Costa Rica's Corcovado National Park (we eventually had to detour around the rather grumpy monkey rather than risk being pounced on).

And who could forget the chickens? What, you don't remember them? Here's a picture of Geoff generously feeding trail mix to some chickens in Chile's Huerquehue National Park. Note the ones flocking to him from half the country. Our original posting of that intimate encounter has a follow-up photo in which we're running for our lives. OK, actually jogging as I was laughing too hard to go very fast.

Of the 11 Latin American countries we visited for more than a few hours, our favorite is still Guatemala. Beautiful handicrafts, a strong and vibrant indigenous culture and incredibly friendly people have made us vow to go back someday. As for South America, we'd love to explore the northern half of Chile (no more chickens, though, please) and see more of southern Peru and Bolivia.

In Bolivia, we learned from a mural celebrating the joys of polio vaccination that painful or uncomfortable experiences can ultimately be good for you (note the gray sponge-like flying viruses and the delighted smile on the child with the syringe protruding from his rear end).

Of the several dozen hotels, inns, guest houses, lodges and hostels where we stayed, we would steer other folks well clear of only three: Hotel Modelo in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala (at least the sketchy wing where we stayed), the dismal and warren-like Hostal Jose Luis in Lima, Peru and El Castillo in Santiago, Chile (more on this gem later).

On the other hand, we loved Casa del Mundo in Jaibalito, Guatemala (on the shores of Lago Atitlan) and the Los Quetzales Lodge-owned cabins in the cloud forests of Guadelupe, Panama, for their jaw-dropping locations and views; La Montana y El Valle in Boquete, Panama, for its obsessive attention to detail and incredible pampering; and the boutique hotels of Indigo in Puerto Natales, Chile, plus Buenos Aires' BoBo Hotel & Restaurant and Vain. In the budget category, we were particularly impressed with Hotel Aranjuez in San Jose, Costa Rica, despite its ridiculously complicated reservation policy, and with Lazy Bones in Leon, Nicaragua (rooms are bare-bones but the place has tons of perks for the price).

In Nicaragua, we also learned that you should never, ever lose your head - like the headless priest lovingly portrayed at a museum dedicated to local legends and folklore (the giant golden crab is a whole other story).

As for restaurants, the only big disappointment was in Uruguay's Colonia de Sacramento, where an attractive and well-located restaurant called Pulperia Los Faroles served food that was only a half-step up from a high school cafeteria lunch. On the other end of the scale, we had fantastic meals at Ego in Panama City's Casco Viejo; La Montana y El Valle in Boquete, Panama; Buenos Aires' Cabana Las Lilas and BoBo; and Hacienda San Lucas in Copan, Honduras.

In Honduras, we also learned that it's often best to hang in there, even upsidedown and especially on ziplines positioned well above the Copan River Valley.

As for cities, we absolutely loved Antigua in Guatemala and were able to find something we really liked in nearly every other city: the partially restored elegance of Nicaragua's dueling colonial powers, Leon and Granada; Panama City's equally fascinating colonial neighborhood, Casco Antiguo; the revitalized Calle Ronda barrio in Quito's Old Town and the terrific new Malecon 2000 waterfront promenade in Guayaquil; Lima's great pre-Columbian museum treasures and La Paz's vibrant street life; the Recoleta cemetery, San Telmo antique fair and cafe culture of Buenos Aires; and the remarkable mix of Catholic and Quecha cultures in Cuzco.

If pressed, however, we might admit to being less than infatuated with the razor wire and metal bar-fortified capital of Tegulchigalpa in Honduras or Chile's capital of Santiago. Our feelings for Santiago, sadly, might have been tainted by our accidental stay in a glorified love motel our first night there - the kind of place, a motel worker informed Geoff, where most clients prefer to pay by the hour. If early-morning sounds are any indication, several other guests were definitely getting their money's worth.

Oops. Live and learn.

In Argentina, we also learned that sometimes you have to risk taking a plunge to really get the most out of a vacation. Or rather, monkey did.

And in Ecuador, we learned that sometimes you just have to stick you neck out. Or not. At least not while silly tourists and their freaky monkey are around. Er.

Thanks for staying tuned these past three months. It's been a great ride.

Geoff and Bryn

Posted by brynster 16:16 Archived in USA Comments (1)

Galapagos Dreaming

Hooray for Boobies!

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Maybe it was when we were hovering three feet above a dozen white-tipped reef sharks, parked on the shallow seafloor like race cars at a drive-in. Or surveying the odd mating rituals of blue-footed boobies who were so close we could tell their sex from the size of their pupils. Or trailing a Pacific green sea turtle seemingly flying through a crystal-clear bay, or snorkeling with playful Galapagos penguins or witnessing the melodramatic reunion of a mother Galapagos sea lion with her frantic pup.

It's so hard to pick one defining image from our week in the Galapagos Islands, because we were surrounded every day by brand new scenes of mating, courtship, territorial disputes, hunting, death and just about every facet of life mere feet in front of us. Flightless cormorants protecting their eggs from water-starved mockingbirds, known to steal tourists' water bottles. A bright orange Sally lightfoot crab scavenging a dead marine iguana while a spotted Eage ray glides by in a shallow cove. A blue-footed booby diving at top speed amid the boats in a harbor to hunt for fish. Wave albatrosses jousting with their beaks like a re-enactment of a Shakespearean sword fight. Even Bryde's whales - mother and calf - breaching so close to the boat that we could see her twist in the water so her calf could suckle.

For the most part, the wildlife treated us as harmless curiosities - or in the case of the sea lions and the penguins, as potential playmates (this lack of fear of humans, unfortunately, has contributed to the extinctions or near-extinctions of several over-hunted species). Remarkably, though, we also saw new species at every stop, a testiment to the unique flora and fauna not only of the entire island chain but also of specific islands within the archipelago.

I've included a bunch of photos that will hopefully give a glimpse at the amazing wildlife we were lucky enough to observe during our week-long voyage on the Letty (part of the fleet of Ecoventura; ironically, our cabin was on the booby deck). During our trip, we were also continually reminded of Darwin's keen observations from his chapter on the Galapagos in "The Voyage of the Beagle" (for anyone who's interested, you can read the chapter here.)

We were particularly struck by the following passage, which ends the chapter:

In regard to the wildness of birds towards man, there is no way of accounting for it, except as an inherited habit: comparatively few young birds, in any one year, have been injured by man in England, yet almost all, even nestlings, are afraid of him; many individuals, on the other hand, both at the Galapagos and at the Falklands, have been pursued and injured by man, yet have not learned a salutary dread of him. We may infer from these facts, what havoc the introduction of any new beast of prey must cause in a country, before the instincts of the indigenous inhabitants have become adapted to the stranger's craft or power.

Despite the prescient warning, the Galapagos archipelago really is a dream-like place, full of life and wonder and the kind of inspiration that would fuel Darwin's landmark theory of evolution. But enough rhapsodizing. Here's a sampling of what we actually saw.

A Galapagos sea lion basks in the sun on the tiny but beautiful islet of Mosquera.

A nesting red-footed booby reveals its colorful face and beak on the birder's paradise of Genovesa Island.

A bachelor Nazca booby male croons for a potential mate (actually, more of a throaty whistle).

A male frigatebird also does his best to impress the ladies by puffing out his enormous red airsac. We saw so many of these across Genovesa Island it was like a scene from Nena's "99 Luftballoons" video.

Monkey (our travel mascot) made some new friends as well, but was careful to avoid being sprayed as his marine iguana buddies sneezed saltwater across the rocks.

Yes, a face only a mother could love. Or perhaps not, since they are reptiles after all.

The Galapagos Islands aren't just about wildlife. Here's a view from the beautiful but nearly desolate island of Bartolome looking toward Santiago Island. Recognize the view? It figures prominently in the movie "Master and Commander."

There are actually two species of sea lions in the Galapagos. Here's a mother and pup Galapagos fur seal (actually sea lions despite the name) spending some quality time together on Santiago Island.

Not to be left out, here's one of the island chain's famous icons, a Galapagos tortoise, posing in a Santa Cruz pond with a white-cheeked pintail duck. Of the tortoises we saw, all were either in breeding facilities or in semi-wild conditions, where maintained pools of water would lure them within easy viewing distance of tourists.

We did see Lonesome George, by the way, though he is notoriously anti-social and hasn't been persuaded to father any progeny or even to donate some tortoise sperm, despite the best efforts of a Scandinavian woman who valiantly tried to get him to do just that, even going so far as to cover herself in female tortoise feces while massaging his tail. Can you imagine what her resume says?

Seriously, though, the extinction of several tortoise subspecies on specific islands due to overhunting and to introduced species such as goats is heartbreaking, though we heard about several success stories in rescuing some tortoises from the brink. Here's hoping that trend continues.

On the island of Espanola, where a breeding program founded in the 60's has prompted a remarkable tortoise comeback, blue-footed boobies often steal the show, such as this potential couple. The male, on the right, is "sky pointing" with his wings. He whistles, she honks, he presents her with twigs. It's all very endearing.

The island chain also features some dramatic rock formations, like this one known as Leon Dormido, or "Sleeping Lion." It's also referred to as the name of a popular brand of shoes, which is perhaps more fitting. Either way, we saw a pod of Bryde's whales surface right in front of the formation, then took a thrilling inflatable boat ride around the rocks and through an opening between them, spying sea birds, Sally lightfoot crabs, fur seals and Spotted Eagle rays.

Our wildlife sightings continued through the final day, where this sea lion pup that had almost completely recovered from a nasty shark bite surveyed us from the dock on Baltra Island.

Some fellow tourists on our boat complained that we really hadn't seen a land iguana in the wild (only some in a breeding facility). On cue, we spotted one slowly ambling across the airport runway just moments before we took off.

Our week in the Galapagos was bookended by brief stays in two of Ecuador's major cities: Quito, high in the Andes, and Guayaquil, a lowland riverside metropolis. Each city is vastly different, but we really liked both of them and were impressed by recent revitalizations of funky neighborhoods and Guayaquil's fantastic riverside promenade. Here's a view of Quito's Plaza de la Independencia in the city's up-and-coming Old Town, looking toward the Cathedral.

Sadly, our Ecuadorian adventure capped our 97-day-long odyssey through Central and South America. Perhaps I'll recap some highlights, lowlights, and helpful suggestions tomorrow. But for now, this picture perhaps sums up our feelings about three amazing months coming to an end.

Yes, we're both a bit crabby. But we'll get over it - eventually.

Posted by brynster 16:29 Archived in Ecuador Comments (2)

Finger Puppets, Sketchy Massages and Captain Cuzco

Maybe later? Maybe next year?

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We hadn´t gone more than a dozen steps after returning to Cuzco, exhausted from completing the Inca Trail and toting our backpacks, when we heard it:

"Amigo, masaje?" (Friend, massage?)

We´ve since heard the pitch maybe 40 times, and are all but certain that massages are not what´s really being offered.

It´s virtually impossible to cross the very pretty main plaza in Cuzco without encountering frantic requests to buy a "massage," or perhaps attend an adult-oriented show, or contribute to a child´s foreign coin collection, or invest in finger puppets, postcards, "original" paintings or a woolen alpaca hat. At some point, a light jog becomes necessary to evade the hordes, who have yelled out on occasion, "Maybe later? Maybe next year?"

The llama-like alpaca, incidentally, seem to have copied their faces from the Ewoks on "Return of the Jedi." Or maybe vice-versa.

Anyway, Cuzco has continued the theme of strange but intensely fascinating cultural pairings in Bolivia and Peru. At some stores, for example, you can buy dolls of sobbing children who have bloodied their feet after stepping on large thorns. Based on our limited Spanish, the symbolism seems to be both religious and superstitious. At others, you can purchase explicit paintings of the Virgin breastfeeding baby Jesus. Still others offer grotesque masks of colonists (used during festivals), including one of an ugly man with um, his private parts where his nose should be.

The real show-stoppers, though, are the amazing Inca walls (one large stone boasts 12 precisely carved sides to allow it to fit precisely with its neighbors) and the elaborate Catholic churches, the latter often purposefully built upon the solid foundations of destroyed Incan temples.

We´ve tended to agree with the common sentiment here that it´s very fortunate the Spanish conquistadors never found Machu Picchu. Otherwise, the Inca Trail might lead to nothing more than another extremely large cathedral.

Here´s the obligatory picture of us after finally reaching the site. Fortunately, it´s not possible to smell us:

And here´s another of our first glimpse of the ruins, once the thick morning fog finally began to dissipate.

And here´s a sample of the amazing orchids we saw along the way. This one is called "Forever Young," and a great Incan ruin not far from Machu Picchu shares the same name.

In the Bolivian town of Copacabana, home of the famous Virgin of Copacabana icon and the daily blessing of the cars, the gigantic cathedral has borrowed heavily from Moorish designs, while old women sell Ekeko dolls (god of plenty) right in front of the large cathedral plaza.

First, the cathedral:

And the Ekeko-themed stall with miniature homes and cars:

The cathedral, by the way, was located in the town because of the supreme importance of the nearby Isla del Sol, where the Incas believed the sun was born. We spent a night there, and couldn´t resist snapping a picture of a local boy riding his somewhat stubborn donkey.

The significance of other oddities has been mostly lost on us, but makes them no less interesting.

In the Cuzco church of San Blas, where a beautifully carved cedar pulpit includes cupids with arms bent backwards and (according to legend) the skull of its creator, the custodians have apparently forgotten to turn up the heat. A statue of a bishop or other important church figure comes complete with bright red knit gloves, while a small statue of Jesus sports a knit woolen hat.

Perhaps our favorite bizarre moment of all came on the train from Aguas Calientes (a town below Machu Picchu from which nearly all travelers depart). At one point, our train porter went to the bathroom and reemerged as ... Captain Cuzco!*

  • (Very likely not his real name)

The cultural significance of this transformation was lost on us, but we think it may have had something to do with selling alpaca wool products. At any rate, he danced down the aisle in a red hat and white ski mask (made of the finest alpaca wool, no doubt) and wielded a large stuffed alpaca that he would thrust in the faces of passengers, inviting them to pet it.

Here´s a close-up:

After his spirited show, our two stewards also disappeared into the bathroom and re-emerged ... for an alpaca wool fashion show, set to the disco remix of the flowerchild classic, "If You´re Going to San Francisco."

You just can´t make this stuff up.

Posted by brynster 17:35 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Icons of Power

The Inca Trail, Ekeko and an Unlucky Guinea Pig

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After four incredible but exhausting days, we finished the 45 kilometer-long Inca Trail to Machu Picchu yesterday. Despite our sore thighs and aching calves, the whole experience was exhilarating and unforgettable (pictures coming soon).

On our trek with the local outfitter United Mice, we started hiking with our guides Sol and Josef through a semi-arid Peruvian landscape dotted with cacti and Spanish moss-covered trees, then climbed 1,200 meters to a 4,200 meter-high pass (named Dead Woman Pass after the suggestive shape of the mountain peaks).

Then down to a cloud forest dense with orchids and wildflowers and finally down yesterday morning to the well-preserved religious and farming complex of Machu Picchu. Along the route, we passed some beautiful mountain vistas and more than a half-dozen other Incan ruins of varying size, nearly all requiring large and well-shaped rocks to be hauled up steep slopes. Nearly as amazing (and a tad guilt-inducing), we feasted on surprisingly good and fancy food the whole time and watched in awe as our group´s 15 porters nearly sprinted past us on the trail while carrying tents, tables, chairs, food, propane tanks and our extra bags.

Machu Picchu itself was humbling. Dozens of terraces thought to be used like greenhouses for domesticating crops climb up the side of a mountain, with interspersed religious buildings and the remains of housing for an estimated 600 people. The wood and grass roofs are long gone, but some of the solid and precisely-built walls look almost new (Incan walls have apparently survived numerous earthquakes in Cuzco while many of the city´s colonial buildings collapsed).

As a final test, we climbed up the steep Wayna Picchu mini-mountain that overlooks the site. Unbelievably, there are well-preserved Incan ruins there too - at heights that required holding onto a cable to ascend and made more than a few hikers cry.

The experience was marred only by learning that Machu Picchu´s incredible Incan aqueducts and fountains, still fully functional after nearly 600 years, have been reduced to a mere trickle by a luxury hotel that has received permission to redirect the water for the exclusive use of its pampered guests. Nearly as outrageous, we learned that the famous Inca sun dial, vaguely resembling a modern chair and positioned in one of the most important religious temples, was chipped on one corner when a camera fell on it during the filming of a beer commercial.

During the past week, from Bolivia to Peru, we´ve learned a lot about the power of icons and symbols, and how easily they can be manipulated. The Inca Trail, we learned, represents just a fraction of tens of thousands of kilometers of Inca-built trails, designed to help rulers consolidate and retain their power as the empire grew.

Back in Bolivia´s Madidi National Park (last week´s adventure), we learned just how incredibly diverse the Amazon jungle can be when we saw three monkey species we had never seen before, including up-close views of brown capuchin monkeys, red howler monkeys and common squirrel monkeys. If anything helps preserve the Amazon, maybe the ecotourism promise of seeing cute monkeys - icons of the jungle - may do the trick.

In La Paz, we learned that it´s possible to receive an obviously fake 100 Bolivianos bill (about $12 US) ... from a bank´s ATM machine. Needless to say, the country has a teensy problem with counterfeit currency.

In the small town of Copacabana, Bolivia (the original Copacabana, by the way), we learned from a colorful wall mural celebrating polio vaccinations that the only truly happy child is one with a large syringe protruding from his bare bottom. In the same town, it´s possible to buy small statues of Ekeko, the mustachioed god of household plenty, who carries a bundle of miniature cash, food, comfy bedding, and other longed-for domestic goods. If you don´t fancy him, you can buy dollhouse-sized stores, homes or a tiny suitcase with international money and passports to increase your chances of a round-the-world trip.

Right behind the stall selling Ekeko and his accessories, incidentally, is the town´s humongous Moorish-style cathedral, where you can have your car blessed in the mornings and where the famous carved Virgen de Copacabana icon can be seen in all her glory on a large lazy Susan that swivels out from a small upper chapel to the main altar of the cathedral on special occasions.

The unusual set-up, according to our guide, is intended to prevent actual movement of the icon, since the last time someone tried to transport the Virgin (to the Vatican to be blessed by the Pope in the 1800s), a huge storm shipwrecked the boat and killed all but two priests who salvaged her and managed to swim to what they subsequently named Copacabana Beach in Brazil. According to legend, moving her again will trigger catastrophic floods.

Next door, in a crypt-like chapel where the walls have been blackened from all the candle-lit prayer requests, devotees have drawn some of their specific requests to the Virgin with candle wax on the walls, including a very artistic drawing of a home with a huge satellite dish.

It´s remarkable to me how often South American cultures, from the introduced Catholic religion to the homegrown Incan empire, assimilated the icons of defeated civilizations to help convert and control people. The Incas, for example, borrowed heavily in their architecture and iconography from earlier cultures that they eventually overran, even taking as their own an existing god of creation to be worshipped by nobility. The Catholic church, for its part, frequently allowed Incan symbols to appear in religious art in order to smooth the way for converting new followers. Over and over, we´ve seen Mary depicted as the equivalent of Pacha Mama (Mother Earth), complete with a large sun behind her head, a moon at her feet or bosom, and a flared-out dress that resembles a mountain in shape.

And in the Cuzco Cathedral, a famous painting of the Last Supper contains a local specialty as the main course: whole roast guinea pig, with its legs sticking up from the platter as Jesus and the disciples look on. In another painting, a serpent appears beneath the Virgin and child (snakes were important Incan symbols), with tropical birds and what look like llamas behind her. Finally, the wonderfully detailed choir stall in the cathedral contains carvings of important saints and martyrs. Beneath them,though, are what look like naked pregnant women. Upon closer inspection, the naked statues contain both female and male parts, symbolizing the important Incan concept of male-female duality.

It´s not entirely clear whether the naughty wood carver pulled one over on the church, or whether the powers that be simply looked the other way.

Posted by brynster 17:10 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Wild Pigs and Dried Llamas

Fun with animals in Bolivia

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Below, I´ve posted some new pictures from the past few weeks of our travels, but first, let me set the scene from our recent foray into Bolivia´s portion of the Amazon jungle:

"Sandro, I can´t climb trees!"

That was Julia, the extremely pleasant but more than slightly nervous British tourist who had accompanied her husband and son as well as Geoff and I on a hike through Madidi National Park.

Sandro was our amazing guide, whose indigenous community has lived in the park for 500 years and now owns and wholly operates Chalalan Ecolodge, a jungle lodge located five hours up two tributaries of the Amazon River.

And the concern over climbing trees was voiced because we were being approached by a herd of 150 white-lipped peccaries, sharp-toothed wild pigs prone to unsettling grunting and clacking noises - and of a more immediate concern, the same type of wild pigs that once ate an unlucky hunter from Sandro´s village.

"Don´t worry," Sandro said, and grinned.

One of the great successes of the lodge - apart from not having to deal with five recently eaten gringos - is that conservation of the jungle has fundamentally altered the dynamic between humans and animals.

Peccaries, for example, were highly aggressive when hunted. Like stinky Hoovers, they´ll eat anything they encounter, especially a hunter threatening one of their own.

Left alone in Madidi, however, they have lost their aggression toward people and are now rather skittish when they smell the unfamiliar human scent. Mortal danger has now been replaced with the thrilling, though undeniably heart-pounding spectacle of having an enormous herd of wild animals milling within yards of you, and then counting them when they dart across the trail in front of you like dirty sheep on speed.

More broadly, the creation of the park in 1995 and of Chalalan in 2000 has provided a model for low-impact and community-run ecotourism and lifted Sandro´s village out of dire poverty. The lodge now employs about 80 of the village´s 450 residents. They have a health clinic and are practicing sustainable agriculture. And last year, the village celebrated its first high school graduating class (of five students).

Of course, most people come to the jungle to see birds and animals, and the lodge didn´t disappoint. Apart from our close encounter with the peccaries, Sandro helped us see more than 70 species of birds, including several species of brilliantly colored macaws. On the banks of the River Tuichi, we saw capybaras (a rodent the size of a small pony). And on a night canoe trip across Laguna Chalalan, we saw the glowing red eyes of dozens of caimans (like adolescent crocodiles). Best of all, we got up close and personal with four Amazon tree boas hanging from branches around the lake and waiting to ambush bats and birds. The largest of the snakes was more than nine feet long.

Here´s a picture of Geoff bravely paddling across the lake by day. We also swam in it, though not at night.

We´re now back in La Paz, Bolivia, after our jungle adventure, readjusting to the altitude. At 3,660 meters above sea level, it´s the highest capital city in the world and enough to give you a pounding headache. From our high-rise hotel, the city appears like a huge stadium, with the city center in a high basin and the poorer suburbs crawling up the even higher hillsides all around it. At night, the lights on the hills all around the city are absolutely enchanting. And by day, there are plenty of exotic sights, like the stalls in the witches´ market that sell love potions, dried herbs, candy, talismans, figurines of Pachamama (Mother Earth) and dried llama fetuses.

We held back on buying any fetuses, but were told that burying one in the foundation of a new building or home will offer protection. So now you know.

Tomorrow, we´re off to northern Bolivia and Lago Titicaca (highest lake in the world). But first, here are some scenes from the past two weeks.

Here´s an interesting street mural in Santiago, Chile that depicts the initiation rites of the now extinct indigenous tribe of Chile´s Tierra del Fuego island (on the right). Adolescent boys would dress as incarnations of various gods as part of their journey to manhood. Sadly, only a few old photos and artistic depictions remain to document them.

And here are two views of the spectacular Iguazu Falls. First, note the location of the catwalk on the Argentinian side of the mind-blowing Garganta del Diablo (Devil´s Throat).

Here´s an overview of another section of the falls (Union Falls) from the Brazilian side.

And finally, here are two scenes from Buenos Aires. The first is of a well-fed cat scratching amid the statues and mausoleums of the Recoleta Cemetery, where Evita Peron is buried.

And the second is of the much livelier (sorry, couldn´t help it) Sunday antique market in Buenos Aires, where stall displays are like works of art. This one was selling antique soda siphons.

Posted by brynster 16:10 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

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