Crazy Bike Competition in Valparaiso

Crazy Bike Competition in Valparaiso

Crazy right?

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I am becoming a beach bum?

So basically I never wanted to leave Iquique. It is a perfect beach city, big, but not too big. Perfect weather and perfect beaches. Locals say it rains two or three days a year! I stayed for several days and then finally got myself on a bus to Santiago. The bus to Santiago was supposed to be 24 hours but ended up being 26. Yup it was long. Luckily I sat next to a nice older woman with a large bag of food who shared with me the whole way.

Santiago is gigantic, hot, busy, pretty clean, remarkably safe, and modern. I no longer feel like I am in South America. Santiago feels like Europe? I enjoyed the city a lot and I found a good hostel with a pool in a cool barrio only a few metro stops from the center. I took two different free walking tours to see as much of the city as I could! I met a nice group of American girls from California that I hung out with for the day. When I left Santiago I wanted to head to the beach again and knew Valparaiso (2 hours west of the city) was nice. I reasonably assumed that the buses to Valpa left from the main bus terminal but after arriving I found out it has its own terminal and so I walked several blocks with my backpack through the Santiago heat. I needed a fruit smoothie when I got there before I could find a bus.

Valparaiso is amazing. I could totally live in this city. I love cities on the water and especially this city on the water. Valparaiso is bigger than I expected but I love it none the less. Basically the city is built on a hill with many staircase streets, UNBELIEVABLE street art (check my facebook for pictures), cute little boutiques, and cafes. What more could you need?

I met a nice French girl in the bus station in Valparaiso and together we found a cheap and fantastic little b&b. The first night we met a nice shop owner when we stopped to play with his cat. He told us if we waited for him to close the store we could go out with him to see his friend play music in a bar. He made us tea and we hung out in the store for a while until his friend came and then we all went to a pub with enormous food portions and watched his friend play guitar.

At the b&b we also met a German girl and today the three of us went to the neighboring city of Vina Del Mar to check out the beach. It’s no Iquique but it was quite nice. Back in Valparaiso we saw a bike event going on where bikers were biking down the stairs of the city and over crazy jumps. Pretty nuts..

I have now bought my Argentinian Visa and bus ticket and will be off to Argentina tomorrow. I have so much more I want to see in Chile so I will have to come back I guess! I am excited to go to Argentina and to see my mom and sister soon who are coming to visit me 🙂 Much lurvv xxxSienna

ChileING

Hey everyone I am safely in Chile now. It is hot and I am happy!

Last time I wrote was in La Paz. The buses weren’t running because all the bus drivers were still Borracho (drunk) from Carnaval. Luckily the next day I was able to head out in a collectivo for the village of Coroico which is only a few hours from La Paz. The town is so much hotter than La Paz but I managed to do a little hiking. Coroico is super gorgeous up on a mountain overlooking a valley. I met a nice Argentinian in my hostel and we found a cute restaurant and hung out all night. Unfortunately I had to leave the next day and head back to the city.

I was going to head to Chile that very night but all the buses were full. Instead I tried out a new hostel in La Paz (by this point La Paz is starting to feel like home). I ended up glad to be in La Paz that night because it was valentines day and there was a big party. I helped set up and met a lot of cool people in the hostel.

The next day I got on a bus with James and Chad, two Australians from my hostel and we were off to Chile! The Chilean border was the most legit border I have experienced down here. They had actual bag scanners! Fortunately everything was pretty smooth and we arrived in Arica Chile in the early hours of the morning.

Arica was super hot but I loved it. We spent most of our time on the beach and eating food. I have some beautiful beach pictures here on facebook if you are interested. After that we all headed to Iquique, a beach town a little farther down the coast and a little larger. I am really enjoying it here. We spend most of our time in bathing suits, sandy and wet. Not too much more to report on but as always you can check my pictures 🙂 soon ill be going even further south to Santiago. Much love! xxxSienna

CarnavalOruro, supposedly the best after RioBrazil!

Hey there! I have some time to blog today because I am stuck in La Paz…there are no buses today for no apparent reason. I guess there are worse places to be stuck! Hopefully tomorrow I will be on my way.

I had just gotten to Oruro last time I updated. I was lucky enough to meet a really nice Dutch couple and we found a nice and basic place to get rooms for Carnaval. I twas exciting to be there just a few days before Carnaval and see all the preparation and set up. They were mostly building huge bleachers in the street and hanging decorations.

I went back to La Paz before Carnaval started just to be back in the city for a day. I ran into a friend from Ecuador in La Paz and he decided to join me in Oruro for Carnaval. When we got to the bus station friday morning it was an absolute mob of people trying to get buses to Oruro. I think we got really lucky…after waiting only a short time we ran into a nice English couple and two English brothers. We were able to pay slightly more and get a collective down to Oruro! It was a fun car ride and we all become friends. It was an awesome group to spend the weekend with.

Arriving back in Oruro was really exciting and the city was totally different. Transformed into a big crazy Carnaval! The next three days we basically just watched parades all day, ate food, and drank in the street with everyone. The parades are pretty fantastic. 35,000 dancers! The costumes are quite amazing. Another fun part of Carnaval is foam spray. Yes the entire city turns into one big foam spray and water gun fight. You cannot really go anywhere without being covered. It’s a pretty epic battle I have to say. You all will just have to trust me about how cool the foam fights and parades looked because I really didn’t take out my camera at all during the weekend. It’s sad not to have pictures but at least my camera wasn’t stolen like two of the people in my group!

After Carnaval we headed back here to La Paz. I love this city and we had a lot of fun going out last night but today my friends headed out on a plane for the jungle and I am ready to leave because I have been here so much! I hope the buses are running tomorrow..Oh well. Everything is great and pretty soon I will be off to Chile. Much love and hope everyone in Maine is enjoying the snow I’m jelly! xxxSienna

MMM Salty

I am now in Oruro Bolivia, one of the best places to experience Carnaval…So I have to figure out what I am doing but okay I will back up because last time I wrote I was in the scorching hot Santa Cruz.

Santa Cruz Is a really modern and lovely city. Especially at night when the temperature drops a bit. I had some of the best ice cream I have ever eaten in Santa Cruz. Other than wandering around there wasn’t a ton to do but somehow I still really enjoyed the city. The hostel I was at had a pool and nice people.

I met one guy in my hostel and we decided to go to a village outside Santa Cruz called Samaipata together. Collectivos will drive people there whenever they have five or more passengers. We waited on the corner were the collectives meet for maybe an hour before getting six passengers and heading out. I fell in love with this sleepy little town the minute I saw it. It is cooler than the city and has a shady plaza and a few dusty streets and some tasty food options. We found a really nice hostel with a delicious breakfast and also a nice bar with good mojitos.

The next day we took a taxi just outside the village to las cuevas which was a short hike with beautiful waterfalls and pools to swim in. It was a gorgeous day and we walked upriver a ways and saw a lot of cows and horses. When it was time to go we hitchhiked back to Samaipata and then took a collectivo back to the city.

From Santa Cruz I took a bus to Sucre. The bus was extremely late leaving and all the passengers were getting really annoyed and yelling “vamos vamos” over and over again which probably wasn’t helping. Finally we boarded the crowded hot bus and we were off on a really long drive. A nice boy on the bus who was from Sucre tried to buy me some snacks and chatted with me for a while which was nice. He was wearing a shirt that was clearly from the tv show true blood and said, “it’s all about the blood.” He asked me to tell him what it meant in Spanish because he didn’t know!

Sucre is a very tranquillo city. When I arrived it was a sunday so it was extra quiet. It is a lot colder than Santa Cruz. It was also during a festival type time where everyone in the streets throws soap and water balloons and shoots water guns at each other. They particularly liked to get gringos. That was interesting for a day.

In my hostel in Sucre I met a bunch of great people and we went out to the mirador of the city and to eat some food and then a late night karaoke bar. One of my friends from Sucre met up with me again in Potosi a few days later.

From Sucre I took a micro to Tarabuco, a small town two hours outside the city on Sunday morning for a big market. It was a nice drive and a pretty cool market but I didn’t buy anything. I was more interested in taking pictures of all the donkeys.

After Sucre I took a short bus ride to Potosi which is supposedly the highest city in the world…It was certainly cold at night. It’s a really photogenic location. I liked the town because it had a nice energy to it.

The town has 200,000 people and 12,000 of the men work in the silver and lithium mine. This mine is insane and I got to tour it! The mine is like something out of a movie. When I went in we wore helmets with headlamps and big boots. It is muddy and dusty inside. The passageways are small and super dark. It is not a tour for the faint of heart. At some points we climbed down rickety ladders. Our tour guide was an ex miner and it was interesting to talk to him and the other guys down there. The conditions are pretty bad and most people only live 15-20 years working there. We met guys down there as young as 13. Very sad. The day we went was a festival so the miners had decorated parts of the mine and were drinking down there and happily invited us to join. They pray to the devil/god Tio in the mine and there was a statue of him there which they feed cigarettes too.

After the mine tour I went to Uyuni with a nice group of Argentinians I met on the tour. I think Uyuni is a bit of an odd small town and there are so many pizzerias! I booked my tour of the salt flats and next morning I was off.

When I arrived at my tour agency in the morning I was immediately disappointed because my jeep had a young family and an older couple. I thought, great I got the best group! But I got the front seat of the jeep, control of the decent music selection, and was able to chat with our nice guide. The two French boys who were three and six were cute and the Australian couple was if nothing else entertaining. I have never met people so well traveled who seemed to literally not enjoy anything about traveling! The woman had really good spanish but somehow I had negotiated paying 150 bolivianos less than her 🙂

The first thing we did was visit a train graveyard. This was a really cool place to take photos of old broken down trains and we got to climb all over them. Then we went to the salt flats. I am really glad I got to visit during the rainy season because at this time the salt flat is covered in water and it turns the area into the worlds largest and most beautiful mirror. It felt like we were driving through the sky. I got to sit on top of the jeep while we drove. We have really cool pictures and we ate lunch in the middle of the salt flat.

In the afternoon we drove to a small village where we spent the night in a small little hospedaje. There were some cute little girls who lived there, Claudia and Andrea, about five, they talked to me and the little French boys for a while.

The next day was a full day of beautiful scenery. Lots of driving through desert and mountains. We saw a lot of gorgeous lakes. One was lago rojo the red looking lake. Some of the lakes had pink flamingos 🙂 We also saw a lot of cool rock formations that we got to climb around and explore. It was a long exhausting and gorgeous day. I loved it. We slept in the national park in a refuge and woke up very early the next day at around 5.

I woke up not feeling great. I think it was the altitude. I didn”t want to eat breakfast which is not like me, normally I eat like a champ…After watching the sun come up over the desert through the jeep window, and a few advils I was feeling great again.

On the third day we went to some Geysers. It was hard to capture in photos so you will have to trust me that seeing the smokey steam come out of the ground is pretty wild. After, we went to a natural hot spring to soak for a while.

Then we drove to the Chilean border which is just a little shack in a random spot in the middle of the desert…everyone in my jeep besides me got out to go to Chile. We started driving back and Faminko, our guide, asked me if I knew how to drive. I told him yes but only a standard. He asked if I wanted to learn to drive automatic. Well that was an offer I couldn’t resist so right there in the Bolivian desert I learned to drive stick! He let me drive for several hours through the mountains and desert in the enormous jeep, it was exhilarating, When we got close to Uyuni he took over again at the wheel.

Flaminko was a super cool guy and we chatted a lot. He played the song, Where is the Love, probably five times. He loves that song and I do too. He knows where is the love means donde esta el amor and he knows we only got one world y’all means tenemos solo un mundo y’all. Hah but he wanted me to translate the rest of the whole rap to spanish for him, so I did. It was fun to remember how great the black eyed peas were.

In Uyuni I found a great hostel with two funny Canadian guys and we spent the next day hanging out and had a lot of fun in that dusty little town. I said goodbye to my friends and took a night bus to where I am now Oruro! Much love I don’t have a ton of time on this internet so more update later 🙂 xoxox Sienna