Suitcase on wheels     stuck in the snow   sniffer dog

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

57. Glaciers (El Calafate, Chubut, Argentina)

Puerto Madryn sits at 42 degrees south which is about the same as Hobart, Tasmania, or, a little bit north of Christchurch, NZ. From Puerto Madryn I caught a night bus another I think 12 hours south to Rio Gallegos. Rio Gallegos is at 51 degrees south, which makes it a lot further south than anywhere in Australia or NZ (Invercargill's at 46 degrees south - source).
I'd planned to go to Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego from there, but the buses were booked out for 3 more days. As were the flights. So I changed my plans a bit and decided to head to El Calafate for a few days.
El Calafate is 80km from the entrance to Parque Nacional Los Glaciers on the map (see map in entry #56 below). Of the 5 glaciers in the National Park, Moreno Glacier is the most famous and accessible. To see the others you need to take a boat tour, whereas you can reach the lookout for Moreno Glacier by bus. So once again I set about finding the cheapest way to get there, and once again I met a couple of girls (this time Irish) doing the same thing and suggested we hire a car as it should be cheaper. Well, it would be if we could find 2 others to fill the car. By the time we'd hired the car that night it was too late to find 2 others, and unfortunately nearly everyone in my hostel had already seen the glacier. But I managed to find a couple of German guys in the bus station early the next morning, who were up for sharing the car.
Last time we'd hired the car one of the Amercian girls had done all the driving as she was used to driving on the right, but this time I'd already signed up to be the insured driver, so on the way there it was slowly slowly as I got used to driving on the other side of the road. We duly arrived, the sky had cleared, and the 60m tall, 5km wide, and 30km long Moreno Glacier didn't disappoint:

Glacier Perito Moreno - 02 - Glacier pano
3-shot panorama

Glacier Perito Moreno - 03a - Michelle Bri Matt
The Irish girls and me in front of Moreno Glacier

The glacier advances 1 or 2 meters a day, but as it advances pieces of it fall off, which make a great cracking and then splashing noise that echoes around the lake. It's spectacular, and everyone's waiting around with their fingers on their shutters hoping to get a picture of the ice falling. I got a splash:

Glacier Perito Moreno - 06 - Splash
The splash from an ice fall

At the viewpoint we had lunch before heading down to the lake shore a while, checking out the icebergs - the first time I'd seen one. The bluish tinge the ice has is from the sunlight filtering through.

Glacier Perito Moreno - 15 - Icebergs
Icebergs in the lake

Finally, we took a boat ride which took us within about 60m of the ice face.

Glacier Perito Moreno - 20 -
The ice wall as seen from the boat

The drive back to El Calafate was a pleasure, I'd gotten used to driving on the right and the gravel roads were fun. We filled the tank and returned the car, and it worked out a lot cheaper for us - a tour bus to the Glacier costs $90 pesos, a normal bus $60, but we paid $35 each including petrol.

El Calafate is a pleasant but very touristy town. The surrounding landscape and climate feels a lot like the South Island of NZ. The town is pretty enough, with a pinetree-lined main street and lots of nice restaurants and hotels. But it's pricey - food in particular seemed to cost twice that of Buenos Aires. A local told me 5 years ago there was 2500 people living there - now there's 18,000, with 400 new residents arriving a month. There's now 42 4-star hotels, and in December they'll open the new International airport which will accept planes straight from Europe. All this growth is because of the tourism upswing in Argentina, and everyone's coming to see the glaciers.

Another afternoon there I went and checked out the bird sanctuary on the edge of town, it was OK, but I froze in the strong cold Patagonian wind. There's flamingos there (I didn't expect them this far south) although the viewpoint is too far from the lake that they stand around in for me to get a photo. So for me the highlight was when I passed what must have been a harrier's nesting area, as the male screamed and then swooped on me to scare me away. It happened again later in another part of the sanctuary, but the second time I stood my ground trying to get a shot of the female coming in... it got real close, almost whacking my head, and I was outta there!

Laguna Nimez - 08 - Harrier
Hovering over me in the wind

Laguna Nimez - 09 - Harrier
Swooping in

Shout-outs to my former MARCS colleagues who've been emailing me to say hi.

Friday, November 25, 2005

56. Penguins! (Puerto Madryn, Chubut, Argentina)

Many travellers I meet tell me they love Buenos Aires and would like to live there, and I can see why - theatre, culture, nightlife, a European feel, those are all things that drew me there way back in January, and it is a great city to visit. But to live there? - I don't think I ever enjoyed it. To begin with, I was trying to live off my English teaching wages which was a meagre $1100 pesos a month on average. I soon realised that was almost impossible, and had to dip into my savings to spend around $2000 pesos a month. Even that didn't allow me a great lifestyle - going out about once a week, eating out a few times a week (mostly in the cheapest places), and maybe one splurge a month (leather jacket etc). Then there's San Telmo, the barrio where I was living. I was only living there because my hotel was so cheap, but it does have a certain charm, for a visitor. But living there - well, I don't think there's a single tree in San Telmo. Or a park. I need a bit of green in my living environment. But the worst thing about where I lived was the buses. On my narrow "colonial style" street 4 bus lines passed. The bus system in BA is both a blessing and a curse - on the one hand it's a blessing as there are thousands of buses so you can get anyway at almost any time. I never have to wait more than 5 minutes for any bus as there's so many, that's something I'll miss wherever I decide to live next. But the curse is the noise and pollution they create. The buses aren't that old, as the government made the bus companies upgrade their fleets only a few years ago - but the drivers seem to redline the bus through every gear so they make A LOT of unnecessary smoke and noise. They also have a weird air suspension that hiss-hisses a lot. Roof-level exhaust pipes like they have in Australia and Chile would alleviate the smoke problem a bit, or adjusting the automatic gearboxes so they change gear earlier might help too. As it is, when 3 buses roar past in a convoy the black cloud they leave is horrible.
Anyway, as I was saying, most visitors who come would spend my monthly salary in about a week, so yeah, on that budget BA is a great place to visit, but to live there...

Gaiman - 05 - Roses
Random pic: Rosebush in a plaza in Gaiman, Chubut

For the third time I said goodbye to BA and my girlfriend, with the intention of returning in about a month. I headed south, to visit the great blankness of Patagonia. I say blankness because that's about what it is - thousands of kilometres of lush flat green windswept farmland, and not much else. My plan was to go whale-watching in Peninsular Valdes, then head south further to the Glacier region, maybe a visit to Tierra del Fuego at the bottom if I could be bothered, then back up a bit to Bariloche (near Parque Nacional Nahuel Huapi on the map), and finally back to BA.

map of argentina
map stolen from

My first destination was Reserva Faunistica Peninsula Valdes, which is visited from the city of Puerto Madryn. That's about 2000km south from Buenos Aires, so I broke my trip in half with an overnight stay in Bahia Blanca. I could have taken an overnight bus direct from BA but I never manage to get a decent night's sleep unless I can sleep flat by lying across two seats. On the way I passed a lot of the farmland I'd seen on the way to Mar del Plata with Juan back in February (see #11. Beach road trip), and it was a lot greener now in springtime than at the end of summer when we'd gone.
In Puerto Madryn I set about looking for the cheapest tour agency to visit the Peninsular - most were charging about $90 pesos (US$30) which seemed a bit much... so when I met a group of American girls in the street I suggested we hire a car and visit it ourselves, which we did the next day.
First stop was Peninsular Piramades, where until December you can take a boat tour to see whales - something you can do in both NZ and Australia but I'd never gotten around to doing.

Peninsular Valdez - 04 - Matt whalewatching
"What do ye do when ye see a whale, men?"

Visitng the bay there at the moment were about 500 Southern Right whales, on a stopover on their annual migration from Antartica to Brazil. I think they return here to mate on the way back. Out we went in our boat with about 60 other tourists, into the waters of the bay where there were 3 other whalewatching boats circling 3 whales. Present was a mother and her calf, as well as another male whale. The guide was telling us whale statistics over the loudspeaker in Spanish, most of which I understood. What I remember best was when he started going on about the mating process. Unlike other species, the female will mate with multiple males, so he with the strongest sperm wins the natural selection race. For this reason the males have the largest testicles in the animal kingdom, at around 500kg each. Also he with the longest member has an advantage, as he can plant his load deeper thus giving it a head start. Their cocks can measure up to 3m long. Finally, since whales don't have hands to grasp the female, thrusting is difficult, but no problem, their cock is self-thrusting.

Peninsular Valdez - 06 - Whale
"Sing out for him!" was the impulsive rejoinder from a score of clubbed voices.

The whales were cool. And not surprisingly, huge. We saw the most of the baby whale, who was only 6 or 7 weeks old. The guide said the infants drink 600kg of milk a day, and grow about 2.5cm a day. That's a lot of plankton the mother must have to eat daily to feed them.

Peninsular Valdez - 08 - Whale
"And what do ye next, men?" -"Lower away, and after him!"

Enlightened, we drove half an hour the wrong way before backtracking and then headed to another bay where there was a small penguin colony, before heading off to to another bay to see a sea elephant colony. Male sea elephants are the big 4000kg fat buggers with the big noses, the females are a bit smaller and about 1000kg. One dominant male usually has reign over the whole beach, while the others hang around waiting to get some leftovers or knock him off his perch.

Peninsular Valdez - 20 - Elephant Seals fighting
Two males fight

Peninsular Valdez - 20 - Seal
A female sea elephant (I think)

After that we headed back to Puerto Madryn for the night. The next day we drove a few hours south to Reserva Provincial Punta Tombo, which is the site of the largest penguin colony in the world outside of Antarctica. Supposedly, there's around a million penguins there but we probably saw less than 1000.

Punto Tumbo - 01 - Penguin with chicks
A penguin with a couple of chicks

It was pretty cool nevertheless, the penguins are completely unafraid and waddle their funny walk from the beach up the cliffs, passing amongst the tourists, to their nests amongst a forest of bushes. I guess for this reason we couldn't see too many of them, most were hanging out in their nests out of sight.

Punto Tumbo - 03 - Penguin beach
Penguins on the beach

They were pretty funny, the way they waddled around the place. Most of them didn't seem to be bothered at all, and sat there sleeping and even snoring with their beak open, minding the nest while their partner was out feeding.

Punto Tumbo - 07 - Matt Penguin
Me with a penguin in his nest

From there we headed back north, to Gaiman, one of a handful of former Welsh towns. Well, the Welsh settled this region back in the day, and supposedly Welsh is still taught in some of the schools. Note the Welsh town names - Gaiman, nearby Trelew, Rawson, and of course Puerto Madryn. There's a handful of houses you can visit for afternoon tea and scones, and although it was a tourist trap it was still a nice stopover on the way back to Puerto Madryn. See the photo at the start of this entry.

Whaling quotations from Moby Dick, by Herman Melville

Saturday, November 12, 2005

55. Isla del Sol and Hotel Carlosfornia (Copacabana, Bolivia)

I arrived back in Copacabana from Machu Picchu, and bumped into the same bunch of Irish travellers I'd first met in Potosí, and then again in La Paz. A couple of us decided to take a tour of Isla del Sol (Sun Island) the next day.

Isla del Sol sits in the middle of Lake Titcaca, and the Incas believed it to be the birthplace of the Inca Adam & Eve, who they called Manco Kapac & Mama Ockllo. The island also has a number of archaelogical sites dating from a pre-Inca people.

Isla del Sol - 08 - Terraces
Agricultural terraces on Isla del Sol

So at 8:30am the next morning we set off on a very slow boat which took an hour and a half to drop us off at the northern end of the island. We spent the day walking to the southern end, where our boat picked us up at 4:30pm and took us back to Copacabana. Throughout the day we passed a couple of the archaeological sites which were mildly interesting, but the main reason the trek was worth it was the amazing views of Lake Titicaca. Never have I seen such sparkling water. Check it:

Isla del Sol - 02 - Sparkling
The sparkling water of Lake Titicaca

Isla del Sol - 11 - Montañas
Snow-capped mountains on the Bolivian side

Isla del Sol - 12 - Trail pano
The walking trail

Isla del Sol - 15 - Women ploughing
Women hoe the terraces for replanting of crops

It's possible to spend the night in the hostels on Isla del Sol, and I'm sure it would have been worth it, but I was running out of time. And it was Friday night, so I caught a 3 hour bus ride back to La Paz and met up with Gabriel the Argentinian for one last night of partying.

I'd originally planned to head north, to Rurrenbaque, to visit the Amazon jungle. But it's at least a 15 hour bus ride on dirt roads, (and I'd had enough of buses after Machu Picchu) or a US$50 flight which I hadn't organised, so I decided to give it a miss and head back to Argentina.

So, what was pulling me back to Argentina? Well, my Argentine girlfriend, who'd wanted me to start a business rather than spend all of my savings travelling, had found me something. A friend of hers owns a bunch of properties, hotels mainly, but didn't have time to manage all of them. So he needed someone to open and run a hotel he owned in Villa Carlos Paz (which we'd visited and enjoyed in blog entry #45. Down on the farm). I'd have to put some money in on refurbishments to get it visitor-worthy, but then it would be mine to run. It sounded like a good deal, and something I'd enjoy more than teaching English, so I had to return to sort out the paperwork and assess the state of the hotel, etc. Time was running out as the high season starts in December and we were already approaching November. With this in mind I'd down the flying visit to Machu Picchu, left Copacabana early, and didn't go to Rurrenbaque, and didn't visit the animal reserve with Gabriel.

So from La Paz I caught a bus to Oruru, where I was told the train might be running or might not, since there were roadblocks in protest over something or other in place. Luckily the train left as scheduled at 7pm. In fact it left so on schedule that I almost missed it! 17 hours later I'd arrived at the Bolivia/Argentina border wrecked. I'd travelled in first class, but the dinner I'd ordered on the train had given me a slight dose of food poisoning. From the border I caught a 3 hour bus ride to Jujuy (blog entry #47. Into Bolivia), slept the night there, then caught another bus the next day to Termas (blog entry #45. Down on the farm), and the next morning from there to Villa Carlos Paz, where I'd arranged to rendezvous with my girlfriend and her friend Gaby the owner, that day. Well, I'd arrived but they hadn't. Gaby hadn't met her at the bus station as planned, and she hadn't been able to get hold of him. I told her to come and meet me in Carlos Paz anyway, as we'd been apart six weeks and I wanted to see her. So she caught a night bus and we met up the next morning. That day we went and checked out the hotel, and to our surprise there was a manager there, although it was closed. He didn't know who Gaby was and told us the owner was a lawyer and real estate agent, and that the hotel was for sale, not for rent. So we went and visited the owner of another hotel, who Gaby had said was his cousin. Well, the owner of that hotel didn't know him either. Finally we went and visited the lawyer/real estate agent, and she told us that she owned 50% of the hotel along with another two guys, and that it was for sale. She showed me the electricity bill for the hotel, with her name on it.

Well, it seemed we'd been scammed or lied to at the very least. I'd cut short my Bolivian holiday and travelled all that way back (hurriedly) for nothing. At least I hadn't put any money into it. Meanwhile Gaby, the "owner" still hadn't returned my girlfriend's calls or emails. We then went and visited Pablo, the guy we'd stayed with the first time, and received an ear-bashing from his landlady, as Pablo and his girlfriend had moved out leaving the place wrecked and a few months rent owing. A day of all bad news!

Hotel Comodoro
The hotel

Depressed, we headed back to BA, where I've been ever since, sorting out a few things like an insurance claim for my stolen camera (another story...), and shopping for a new one. I'd like to get another of the same model, the Pentax Optio S I'd had for 2 years. It served me well, 3.1 megapixels is plenty, 3x zoom, and a tiny take-anywhere body.

We finally heard from Gaby a week later - he'd been in jail all week! Some clients of his had sued him over another property deal he'd done. Surprisingly, he maintained he was the owner of the hotel. He told us that the lawyer/real estate agent was lying, and that he was the real owner. I asked him why no one had heard of him and he said he always does business that way, with a fake name or with a partner of his posing as the owner, because he owes too many people money. I told him what I thought, that he was a hijo de puta for getting us involved in his shady deals.

After Gaby had left, my girlfriend told me he could be telling the truth - the same thing happened to him a bunch of holiday cabins he owned on the coast. He'd left them closed for the winter and someone had moved in pretending to be the owner, had rented out the cabins to tenants, and was on site posing as the owner/manager. He'd done a runner when Gaby showed up, but not before stripping the empty cabins of everything. TVs, furniture, fittings, the kitchen, everything. Still, I didn't think the lawyer/real estate agent in Carlos Paz was lying, and my girlfriend then told me that just last year her brother had gone house shopping and an agent had shown him a property which the agent said he owned. Her brother got talking to the neighbours who put him in touch with the real owner, and guess what, the property wasn't even for sale. All this has made me realise that doing business in Argentina is not for the faint-hearted. It's certainly not for me. They say that Argentina is one of the most corrupt countries in the world (actually they've improved lately, to 97th position) and now I've seen a bit of it.

I'm not sure where I'll go next. I think now that I'm here I'll visit the south of Argentina, with it's lakes, mountains and glaciers. Should be some good photos.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

54. Machu Picchu (Cuzco, Peru)

From La Paz I headed to the town of Copacabana, on the shores of Lake Titicaca, which straddles the border between Bolivia and Peru. Maybe not "the hottest spot North of Havana", as sung by Barry Manilow - I think he was referring to the more famous Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. They say that the Copacabana in Rio was named after this Copacabana.

Copacabana - 09 - Hilltop pano
Crosses atop the hill overlooking Copacabana and Lake Titicaca

At around 3800m Lake Titicaca is said to be the world's highest navigable lake. It's big enough - 180km long and 90km wide. Lake Titicaca was believed to be the birthplace of the sun by the Inca people, as well as all sorts of other spiritual things - the earth's vagina, with Mt Everest being its penis. It depends which tour guide you talk to, they'll tell you anything to keep you listening. Whatever, I needed to chill out after La Paz and a bit of Titicaca action was just what I needed. A gorgeous sparkling blue lake, sparkling so because of the altitude, a lakeside beach (although the water's too chilly to swim in), lots of good restaurants, and best of all - fresh trout! The trout was the best fish I've ever tasted, because it was so fresh - taken from the lake that morning. I had trout for just about every lunch and dinner. I splashed out and stayed at one of the nicest hotels in town, the lakefront Hotel Mirador, for only $40Bs (US$5), I think it was so cheap because it was still being constructed.

Copacabana - 16 - Sunset
Sunset over Lake Titicaca

My 30 day visa for Bolivia was almost expired, so a visit to immigration was necessary to get an extension. But knowing what a hassle that can be to get done in Argentina, I figured in Bolivia it would be even worse - so I decided to cross the border into Peru and then re-enter to get me another 30 days. I found out later I needn't have bothered, an English friend told me the immigration in La Paz gave him an extension quickly and easily... oh well.

So from Copacabana I caught a tourist bus to Puno, in Peru, stopping at the border on the way. On the bus a lady was selling tours of the floating islands near Puno, which I planned to visit, so I signed up. Half our bus were visiting the floating islands, the other half were carrying on to Cuzco, in Peru. Cuzco?, I thought. Hmm, that's close to the famous Lost City of Machu Picchu. I was due to head back to Argentina in about 2 weeks so hadn't planned on visiting Machu Picchu or Peru at all, but now I was only a 7 hour bus ride away from Cuzco. Maybe I could give Machu Picchu a flying visit... but I didn't have any clothes, just the clothes on my back and a small bag with my camera recharger and a change of socks, as I'd only planned on visiting Puno and then returning the next day to Copacabana. Didn't even have a guidebook. I thought it over for the rest of the bus ride to Puno and decided to do it!

map of peru
Map stolen from

But first we were to visit the floating islands of Puno, which were interesting themselves. The Uros people construct these islands by binding together layers of reeds. Obviously they didn't grow food so they lived a fisherman existance, living on their island and trading fish for fruits and vegetables with the Incas. Nowadays there's 40 of the islands, as whenever there's a family feud or whatever they cut off a piece of island and tow it to somewhere else in the lake! The islands are about 2 meters thick and do indeed float - so they're held in place by long poles anchored to the lakebed. During the rainy season they have to tow their islands to shallower parts of the lake or risk floating away.

Islas Flotantes - 03 - Reed boats
Reed island, reed boat, reed house, reed tent, reeds for breakfast

They constantly replace the layers of reeds from the top as the underwater layers rot away. They use those reeds for everything - they even eat them raw for breakfast. I tried a reed, peeling it like a banana, but it tasted like nothing. An interesting way of living they have. Only two of the smaller islands are open to tourists visiting (and live off souvenir sales), the rest prefer to carry on living quietly as they have for the past few hundred years.

So, on to Machu Picchu, the famous Lost City of the Incas which wasn't discovered by the Spanish until 1911... by an American. From Puno I caught a 9pm night bus to Cuzco, arriving at 5am... taxi to another bus station... bus to the town of Ollantaytambo... arrived at 8am, was told the next train to Machu Picchu would leave at 9.05am. Had a decent breakfast before walking to the train station... a queue to buy a ticket. The prick in front of me had a big list of names, evidently buying tickets for a tour agency. I watched the train leave the station whilst I was waiting for the guy in front of me to finish buying tickets - I couldn't believe it. The next train was at 10:30am which meant an hour and a half of waiting and an hour and a half less time at Machu Picchu. By the time I caught the 10:30am train I was still fuming about the guy in the queue and the special "foreigner price" for the 2 hour train trip (US$34 one way for 3 hours- a 17 hour train trip in Bolivia cost US$17 in first class), that I didn't even want to go to stupid Machu Picchu anymore.

Machu Picchu - 04 - Train view
The train to Machu Picchu

I was soon blown away by how green everything was - being in the start of the wet season. I was used to the brown empty windswept plains of Bolivia's altiplano. Here at around 2400m altitude everything was a lot greener, and wetter. It seemed to be raining all morning.

The best way to get to Machu Picchu is to do the 4 day Inca trail trek. Still, the train passed the trek's campsites and large parts of the trail, so I at least got to see a bit of what the 4 day trek is like. From the train we could see trekers or porters trudging along in the rain on the trail.

Machu Picchu - 08 - Porters
Peruvian porters. Strong buggers

Finally the train arrived and I was keen to get there, but from Aguas Calientes it's still a way to get to the ruins. The bus charges US$6 for the 20 min ride to the ruins. To put that in perspective, I could buy a 6 hour bus ride in any other part of Peru for that much. But as with the train (and the 4 day Inca trek) they suck the money out of the tourists. But that's what you get when you go to probably the most popular tourist attraction in South America. So I decided to walk up, figuring I'd get a taste of the 4 day Inca trail along the way. If I'd have known what I was in for I would have taken the bus and walked down instead! What I had was 2 and a half hours of this:

Machu Picchu - 10 - Steps
2 and a half hours of this

I definitely got a good taste of the Inca Trail, at least Day 2 of it which I'd heard was 6 hours of steps.

Machu Picchu - 12 - Hill
I started walking from around the corner, by the river

The town of Aguas Calientes where the train ended is alongside the river on the other side of that mountain in the photo above. From where I've taken the photo I'm at about the same height as the mountain.

Finally I arrived at Machu Picchu itself, at around 3pm. Straight into the middle of the ruins.

Machu Picchu - 23 - Matt ruins
Me and yesterday's clothes at Machu Picchu

From there I treked another hour or so up the official Inca trail, to the Sun Gate, which is where the trekers get their first glimpse of Machu Picchu, after 4 days of treking.

Machu Picchu - 24 - Terraces

Machu Picchu - 21 - Matt Sun Gate
View from the Sun Gate. You can see the bus' road below

At the Sun Gate I met a tour guide leading a group of American girls on a tour and he said I could join their tour group the next morning at 6am for a guided tour of the ruins. I would have liked to do it to learn more about the place, but I'd already booked my return train ticket for the next morning.

So the next rainy morning (NB. for those planning on visiting in October: it poured down all night and morning) at 5.45am I was back on the train to Ollantaytambo, then back on the bus to Cuzco.

Cusco - 07 - Old man
Peruvian geezer next to me on the bus to Cuzco

I knew I couldn't make it back to the cross the Bolivian border from Cuzco before the border closed at 6pm, so rather than camp a night at the border I decided to spend the daytime checking out Cuzco and catch a night bus to the border that night. Cuzco has a reputation for being a great traveller's hangout, so I spent the rainy afternoon wandering around, just to get a taste of it.

Cusco - 04 - View
Cuzco's Plaza de Armas on a rainy afternoon

Although a beautiful city with some nice colonial streets and buildings reminiscent of say Sucre in Bolivia, to me Cuzco felt too touristy. Because it's the gateway to Machu Picchu, there's heaps of tourists. More annoying is there were too many people in the streets trying to get money out of the foreigner - by shining shoes, selling drugs, selling tours, selling hippie bracelets, being a tour guide. And if you give them some they ask for more. The shoeshine boy told me he needed a big tip so he could go to the football game that day. He really sold it, saying it was a big game and if he could have a big tip he'd be able to go. He suggested I check out the stone of 2 angels, which I went on a wild goose chase for. Turned out I'd misunderstood the translation - it wasn't the stone of 2 angels but the stone of 12 angles - a brick in a wall which instead of being a regular square was cut in 12 angles. Big deal! Didn't even waste a photo on that one. Of course, there was a local guy on hand to tell me the history of the stone for a tip, which I gave him, but he wanted un pocito mas (just a bit more).

Finally caught the night bus out of there and crossed the border back to my beloved Copacabana on Thursday morning, and it was just as I'd left it on Monday at midday. I spent a couple more days there recovering from my 3 days in Peru, well in Peruvian buses. That's the first time I've ever travelled so fast, yet many people come to South America and travel like that for a month (Hi Trent!). I couldn't do it.