Well, Claire and I are entering the last week of the first leg of my trip. Just arrived in Chile and am spending a day taking it easy before we start across the Atacama desert (the driest place in the world, or so I´m told) to end up in Santiago by the end of the month.
Bolivia was really great although not as full on as Peru. The most dangerous road in the world was a 76KM mountain bike ride all downhill!!! on the tarmac section we must have reached speeds of 50mph on the off road bit we were slower but not by that much!! I had two blow outs which were fortunately on straight sections. The road wasn´t too dangerous for bikes but busses and lorries are a different matter. The road was only as wide as the trucks and passing places were sparse in fact we witnessed an amazing feat of driving when a truck had to reverse to allow a bus past!!
After the bike ride we left La Paz and travelled south through an amazing variety of terrain. From fairly fertile areas we soon entered the desert and visited a working mine in a place called Potosi. The mine was at one time the largest silver mine in the world but now, although there is as much silver in the mine as has been extracted, it produces mainly zinc as the silver is all in small veins. The conditions were awful and it never ceases to amaze me what people will tolerate. It seems that people put up with the conditions in the hope they will strike it rich!
From Potosi we moved on to the salt lakes and the alti plano which is really beautiful. The scenery is very surreal as it was created by volcanic eruption and erosion. because of this you get areas where there is nothing but fine ash and all of a sudden there are rocks that have been discharged through eruptions. We visited a number of salt water lakes and saw flamingos!
At 5000m the alti plano was bloody cold but once we descended to the atacama (2300) we were much warmer. anyway, as I said earlier off on the last stretch to Santiago so will write later in the week
Thinking of you always (NOT!)
Matt somewhere in South America !!!
Telephone: switched off