I sped out of Cusco on a wildly fast route south. I was in a hurry, trying to catch the new moon at the salt flats in Uyuni. Overnight bus to Puno, across the boarder and into to La Paz before another overnight bus to Uyuni and then onwards to the salt flats and the surrounding desert.
I linked up with a wonderful group, the five of them consisting of representatives from France, Portugal, Spain, Italy and Peru. Together we headed out to Bolivia’s most famous tourist destination: Las Salineras de Uyuni. An ancient sea turned to dust, depositing its salts across a vast expanse.
The experience was as unbelievable as the photos you've undoubtable seen; endless, crystalline, eye-bleaching whiteness of salt, and equally endless blue sky above. Reaching down I pluck off a small piece and pop it in for a try… super salty salt, the saltiest of salt. Raw, unfiltered, full of lithium – think batteries and antidepressants.
La Paz, the highest capital city in the world. 3,650m (11,975ft) is the official figure even though the city sprawls over a vast and topographical diverse area. One afternoon I hiked up to the Kili Kili Miradorto have a look around at the indistinguishable barrios below. The next day I went even higher, taking the public transit cable cars above to El Alto. Perched at an impromptu mirador I observed the city below.
An endless ramble of ramshackle, thrown together, nonsensical array of mudbrick structures and rusted metal roofs reaching up the valley, around the bend as far as the eye could see. Through the fog and choking smog your eye can just make out the forms of skyscrapers, strewn equally illogically across the landscape.
"Oh shit city, reveal your secrets."
Urbanism. This isn't a city but a mega sprawl of urbanism, 2.3 million souls, growing and spreading still, beyond sight to an unseen and indefinite edge. Everything looks perfect from far away, but I think I've found an exception. Too harsh of words? I'm trying to be real, not idyllic, grasping at all forms of inspiration as they come.
This is part 3/3 - Read the full story here.
I laid awake waiting for the morning to warm up just a little bit more. I was in that moment thinking about what a good trip this has been. Tough and challenging, and also how great it had been to trek with my little sister. To show her a bit into my life, to take her higher than she’s ever been before, to let her in on the evanescent secret of backpackers that can’t be told, only shown.
Out of the tent I watched as the sun descended down the steep valley walls in a flood of light. My sister joined me just in time to let the first suns rays wash over us, a baptism of solar warmth.
“Awwwww….. the Sun, oh how’ve we missed you.”
This is part 2/3 - Read the full story here.
I unzipped the rain fly carefully as it was soaked from the midnight rain. I walked out into the cold mountain morning and saw that the clouds had cleared. From were I stood I was greeted with a view of pure glacier superiority. I stared for a while before wandering off to fetch some water from a nearby stream. When my sister emerged I caught her glance and gestured dramatically towards the glaciers. She spun around wildly as if they were about ready to fly away, and I could see the excitement in her pose.
Fly away they did not, but the clouds came back soon enough to hide the jagged peaks from our view. We made a simple but fortifying breakfast and then we were off again, starting the day with a climb over Ipsay Pass. It didn’t take to much time but a great deal of effort, lugging our packs over 4,550m (15,000ft).
At the pass the wind picked up into a fierce icy blow. We stayed only long enough to take a few pictures, marvel at the views, and for our noses to go a little numb. Then the decent began, steeply at first, rejoining the meandering mud paths that were such a mainstay of the previous day. We passed a small alpine lake, more alpaca herds, and a few more isolated stone houses – there wasn't a tree in sight.
We rounded the bend and the entire valley opened up before us in both directions. A winding road lay far, far below passing through a conglomeration of houses in the distance...
This is part 1/3 - Read the full story here.
My sister came to visit me in Cusco and asked if we could go on a trek together. “Certainly,” I said with a big smile on my face. Over the subsequent days we loosely planned a route from Lares to Ollantaytambo, town square to town square, walking the whole way – an almost 65km (40 mi) journey through some pretty rough and rugged terrain. This was to be a very special trip, not only was it with my sister, but I it would be her first ever backpacking trek. It would be difficult, but I knew she was tough and up for the challenge.
The first day we headed out Cusco early, hiking up to Cristo Blanco for a quick sunrise glimpse. Then we flagged down a passing bus and made our way to Calca. Once there we crammed in a colectivo and drove the rest of the way to Lares, where our trekking part was to begin. True to style and form we were winging most of the logistics, my unwavering faith in my abilities to figure things out along the way had treated me well thus far, or maybe I’d just been extremely lucky – time will only tell.
I’ve been busy with life, with work and having my family visit. I therefore will be spending the next couple weeks catching up with the things I’ve been doing.
Last night we opened the first art exposition at Mutu Art and Eatery in Cusco. I am honored to have been given the privilege of directing the gallery as well as the opportunity to display some of my own work here. Like any major project this one was built on the ingenuity, diligence, cooperation of many people and I hope to continue with this style of collectivism as we aim to enhance the art experience here in Cusco.
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