Atacama Desert Bolivia

South America Part 1 – Bolivia, Argentina(Buenos Aires & Ushuaia)

This month long trip took us from the high altitudes of Bolivia – Uyuni and its salt lakes across the Atacama Desert and then down to Chile, Buenos Aires and finally the ultimate goal – Patagonia for trekking, challenging weather and hopefully some photography.

I was not happy in Bolivia – a combination of long travel time from Hong Kong(54 hours), struggling with altitude(up to 5,000 metres), low temperatures, very average food and so on.

I picked up in time to enjoy the mountains of Patagonia from El Chalten, El Calafate to Torres Del Paine – see  South America Part 2

Firstly Bolivia

(see featured image above – the Atacama desert squeezed into a 4X4)

Atacama Desert Bolivia
Atacama Desert Bolivia – underfoot – you have to be tough to hang on here

I wasn’t going to include the dry Salt Lakes near Uyuni here as even HSBC Hong Kong has a large one on the Pacific Place branch wall. But – ah well – here goes another salt lake photo.

The tour guide livened it up a bit by doing silhouettes, setting up photos of plastic dinosaurs chasing the tour group into a Pringles container etc etc.

Uyuni Salt Flats
Uyuni Salt Flats
Uyuni Salt Flats
Uyuni Salt Flats – my silhouette – not Clint’s
Atacama Desert
Atacama Desert – geothermal area
Atacama Desert
Atacama Desert

Buenos Aires

After a fascinating city walk, which on the day happened to focus on Political and Economic aspects of Argentine history, the mural below seemed to sum it all up for me.

Wall Mural - Buenos Aires
Mural – Buenos Aires – a ‘potted’ Argentinian political history for me

And while the barricades around the Pink House (Casa Rosada) now have openings for visitors to stroll through the police vans and water cannon are parked obviously nearby – a reminder. The openings in the barriers were not that large and could clearly be closed off quickly at any time.

Something I had not previously realised about the Grandmothers of Plaza Mayo who regularly gather near Casa Rosada(water cannon against grannies?) is that the scarf they sometimes wear and their symbol is a baby’s nappy – the nappy worn by the missing child. A perfect symbol but the ‘disappeared’ sadly remain mostly missing.

Recoleta

Much is made of the Recoleta Cemetery and Evita’s tomb but what struck me instead was in the midst of impressive monuments to the formerly rich, powerful and famous were obvious signs of decay and neglect including exposed caskets, some monuments being used as rubbish receptacles and caved in roofs.

Maybe the later generations did not care for Grandad/Grandma, an old crumbling tomb, or maybe the family fortunes had taken a turn for the worse ….

Recoleta Cemetery
Recoleta Cemetery
Recoleta Cemetery
Recoleta Cemetery
Recoleta Cemetery
Recoleta Cemetery

Patagonia

Christmas Day in Ushuaia – most of the shops were closed for the day. We heard of a famous bakery in Tolhuin. We arrived to find they were doing a great trade – take a number and get in line …. it also seemed to be the social centre of town with photos of large fish from the lake proudly displayed. Our number is  called – fresh bread, cakes and Churros to enjoy in the sun by the lake(with the inevitable Patagonian wind blasts of course).

Tolhuin - Patagonia
Tolhuin – Patagonia – had to wait for a break in the wind for the tree and flowers to stop waving around

Tolhuin Volunteer Fire Brigade – would hope their equipment was in better condition than the building. The bumpy pot holed road between  their base and downtown Tolhuin indicated a rapid response was unlikely.

Tolhuin - bomberos voluntarios
Tolhuin – bomberos voluntarios

Back to Ushaia for Boxing Day and a chance to explore the Tierra del Fuego National Park close to the Chilean Border.

Ushaia with its snow, wind and grey white capped sea looked to me rather like the entrance to Hades and this was summer!

The park was a welcome change – sheltered and slightly warmer on the day. But a tough environment softened by flowers and grasses in the sun.

Parque Nacional Tierra Del Fuego
Parque Nacional Tierra Del Fuego
Parque Nacional Tierra Del Fuego
Parque Nacional Tierra Del Fuego – seen it all
Parque Nacional Tierra Del Fuego
Parque Nacional Tierra Del Fuego – they build them tough here but in the end all eventually succumb.
Parque Nacional Tierra Del Fuego
Parque Nacional Tierra Del Fuego – hanging on

next – South America Part 2

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