A) prior to bus departure do a power walk up a hill to the bus station at 3600m above sea level as you're running late for the bus
B) embark on a 16 hour bus journey through Bolivia where the seats are a little tight and your legs are way too long to get anywhere near comfortable. Ensure the person sitting next to you likes to push his elbows out when sleeping
C) ensure the bus stops every 3/4 hours to pick up passengers. Whilst at bus stops ensure people arrive with dodgy smelling goods/food that then stinks out the whole bus
D) upon arrival at border control at 8am ensure it takes 3 hrs for customs clearance and 2 passport stamps ... again make sure you have a look of worry that it might run out of space! Plus as you're going from Bolivia to Argentina always worry about the rubber glove treatment
E) jump on another bus for 8 hours to destination
Voila ... arrive smelling bad, with glazed eyes from lack of sleep plus malnourishment as the buses don't have toilets so you don't eat or drink for extended periods!
And I enjoy this because?
As I said before, the last week has been a lot of buses to make tracks to Salta in Northern Argentina for my flight to Buenos Aires tomorrow. Therefore in order to try and see everything I crammed lots in...
- In La Paz, I went to the Moon Valley and did 2 hours of off road motorbiking through beautiful countryside and only 20mins downhill from La Paz. As I was riding relatively quickly this meant I killed time riding through some Bolivian council estates... which meant riding with my legs up to avoid the stray dogs chewing your ankles!! I always love a bit of additional danger...not like riding off-road across mountain passes is safe!!
The reason for choosing Salta for this week is the "Tren a las Nubes" or train to the clouds ... now I am not a Malcolm or Nigel and like train spotting, I just enjoy the mode of travel as I can walk around and it is more pleasant than bus. This didn't stop me wearing a parka and having a spotting jotter though! It's the 2nd highest railway in the world!! It has 217km of track, 21 tunnels, 13 viaducts and 2 zig-zag and starts at 1187m and rises to 4220m!! It was the opening weekend so we had a marching band to wave us off . It runs weekly and first time of the season had cars of people following us for a glimpse of the train and it's journey! The scenery and engineering are stunning but the train looks more like a Cape Town commuter train than tourist luxury travel hence it was odd to see all these cars wanting to get a glimpse of the train...but then I realised there are no trains in Argentina so there is a novelty element to the journey for them. Singing the national anthem at the top was unique and made me realise how patriotic they are...I didn't mention I was British!
- I succumbed to an old trait...I was craving Crunchy Nut Cornflakes with cold milk FOR DINNER!!...I couldn't find any but saw "Honey Graham" instead as a good alternative. It's a bad habit I know but when all you have for breakfast is bread and Dolce De Leche spread I needed cereal and cold milk. I guess it was karma for buying the cereal as I accidentally picked up soya orange juice to go with it!!
- Salta is a nice enough city but want to highlight one museum on the square. MAAM - in 1999 some European geologists went to Volcano Llullaillaco at 6739m which was an Inca sacrifice site...they found 3 fully preserved children from the -20C temperatures with face, skin and clothes all in tact...seeing it was quite remarkable especially as only 15 years ago...imagine how many more are out there!
Time for reflection...
Wow ... my 6th month travelling milestone has now been reached. Do you miss me? Even know that I've gone? Remember my name?
For me the time has flown by, but in a fantastic way. My energy for travelling has ebbed and flowed as it naturally would but as I write this blog and now list my highlights it brings a smile to my face and real sense of achievement ... to see what I have seen ... done ... what great characters I have met and what experiences I have shared.
Some highlights so far:
- Quad biking with my 5 year old nephew Rex on my dad's farm in South Africa
- Sharing afternoon tea with my 91 year old Nanna
- Reaching the peak of Africa in Kilimanjaro at 5895m to the most Southerly tip of Africa at Cape Agulhas
- Teaching children in South Africa to read and helping adults to use a computer
- Travelled by plane, train, bus, taxi, tuk-tuk, rickshaw, motorbike, quad bike, bicycle, underground, horse, boat and ferry
- Reconnected with family and friends from all parts of the globe from Sydney, Bali, Cape Town and even Wales
- Swam with whale sharks, held a lemur, seen 200 elephants at a watering hole, had a monkey climb up my leg (not a euphemism) and heard a sea lion roar
- Drank 'mate' with the portenos of Buenos Aires and Melbec with the bodega owners in Mendoza, Argentina
- Driven a 4x4 through the Atacama desert in Chile and cycled down the road of death in Bolivia
- Been overwhelmed by the beauty of Patagonia and the Salar de Uyuni
All in all I have covered 12 countries so far, I have the passport stamps to prove it ... although I cant really say I know Zimbabwe that well!
When I started the trip I wanted to track my progress with daily photos ... this proved harder than planned and has been dropped. What i have got immense pleasure from is this blog, it allows me to think about what I've recently done and put down my experiences and thoughts and will become a permanent record of my sabbatical journey. Amazingly to date I have had 7700 views of my website (7699 of those views from my mum) so thanks for following the story.
When I look at this extensive list it feels great to have taken a 12 month sabbatical and it is a real sense of achievement ... not in a ticking box way but having the impetus to utilise this opportunity and to feel that I am making the most of my life. It has been a time for me to think, share my ideologies with fellow travellers and plan not just for the short term but what I want to get most from life in the long term.
On a bus journey in Peru I was reading via the Longform app an interesting article regarding a child with autism and how he dealt with it via Disney films. They say you read something to share ... hence a quote from Laverne, the gargoyle from “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” “Quasi,” he says. “Take it from an old spectator. Life’s not a spectator sport. If watchin’s all you’re gonna do, then you’re gonna watch your life go by without you.”
The exciting thing is I am now only half way...
The 1st April is the start of the next arrival on Palmer Tours ... my mum...3 weeks of Buenos Aires, Igauzu Falls and Peru, which also means no hostels for 3 weeks! After that I'm going to Ecuador, Galápagos Islands, Brazil (for England first game), Venezuela, Columbia and Central America.
It's great to reflect on an amazing 6 months so far but also to now look forward to the next adventures I have installed ... to which an open invite is always there for any of you to come and join me.
Keep reading this blog for future installments ...