A Travellerspoint blog

April 2018

Los Colores de Sudamerica

rain 8 °C

Our journey to the end of the world and back took us through an amazing kaleidoscope of colours that began with James and his son, Ian, swimming with the sharks in the warm aquamarine seas surrounding the Galapagos Islands...
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Their next adventure was zip-lining high above the verdant canopy in the tropical cloud forest of Mindo, Ecuador. It was there that they encountered thousands of flambouyant butterflies...
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The South American continent is vast and it is some 15,00 kilometres from our home in the North Pacific to the tip of Patagonia at the other end of the world. Our first stop together was in Peru where 65,000 indigenous dancers and musicians in their brilliant costumes took nearly 24 hours to dance their way through the streets of Puno, more than 12,000 feet above sea level on the shores of Lake Titicaca...
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The perpetual sun that followed us to the end of the world and back warmed us as we visited the floating Uros islands on Lake Titicaca and shone on the brilliantly painted reed boats of the Aymara peoples - and from there the colours just kept getting more vibrant. First there were the stalls laden with all manner of carnaval paraphernalia on the chaotic streets of La Paz, Bolivia, followed by the incredible reflections on the surface of the salt flats in Uyuni...
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And then to Valparaiso, Chile, where elaborate murals adorn almost every building in the old port city...
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Following the tree lined avenues and boulvards of Santiago we headed to southern Patagonia where this solitary king penguin was showing off his brilliant plumage to his black and white megellanic cousins. We imagined him saying, "O.K. Clear the runway. If Wilbur and Orville could do it..."
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The starkly white Perito Moreno glacier of El Calafate in Argentina led us on to our next stop, Buenos Aires, where the parks and gardens were festooned with blossoming trees. But then the vineyards and leafy avenues of Mendoza drew us back to the Andes. From Mendoza we headed north to Cordoba and then on to witness the incredible vistas of the Iguazu falls...
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Next stop, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and the colourful favelas that festoon the hillsides. Sheila couldn't resist buying this shawl on the beach at Copacabana for our dear Cuban friend, Lourdes...
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For the statisticians: this journey of 75 days took us more than 24,000 miles (the earth's circumference at the equator) by a total of 29 flights. We stayed in 27 hotels and guesthouses and ate in more than 150 restaurants. Now we are back home for the summer – just one bed and one restaurant and time to plan our next adventure in this wide and wonderful world. But first, a big thank you to all the terrific people who helped us along the way and listened patiently to our garbled Spanish. After several years of trying we have finally grasped sufficient so that we no longer begin each conversation with, “Hables ingles?” (Do you speak English?).
A special thank you to our very good friends in Cuba – Leyani, Osvedi and their sons in Vinales, and Las tres amigas, (the three friends); Lourdes, Marisol and Rita in Havana. Muchos gracias to them for their kind hearts and incredible generosity, and thank you for coming along for the ride. We hope to see you soon on our next Blissful Adventure somewhere in this wonderful colourful world. Adios for now.

Posted by Hawkson 16:56 Archived in Canada Comments (8)

Cuban Friends

sunny 28 °C

Daily life for Cubans is a challenge, yet they are among the most generous and warmhearted people in the world. Here we are enjoying dinner with our friends Lourdes, Marisol and Rita at a restaurant in Havana...
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And this is Sheila with Heather, a childhood friend from England, in front of Revolution Place and the images of Che Guevara and Jose Marti – two of Cuba’s most admired figures...
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We met up with Heather at the end of her tour of Mexico and Cuba. Touring is easy and relatively inexpensive for foreigners in Cuba and it is easy to overlook the difficulties and privations suffered by the locals. Shopping for even basic foods like flour, butter, cheese, coffee and tea, can be a frustrating, time consuming, and sometimes a fruitless exercise. However, there is a thriving black market, (known here as ‘the black bag’ (bolsa negra)). For instance: there were no eggs in the stores but we saw dozens of people carrying trays of eggs like this...
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We then discovered that each tray cost just $1.30 (about a pound) off the back of a truck. Anyone with a few dollars could buy hundreds of eggs and make a tidy profit by selling them individually for a few cents to friends and neighbours.
In the face of 60 years of American blockade, and numerous attempts by Washington to destroy their economy and morale, the Cubans have become incredibly ingenious at keeping old machinery running. We were in Vinales at the time of the annual carnival and were surprised to see American fairground rides from the 1930s still going strong...
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Even the portable toilets looked like leftovers from World War II...
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Thousands of battered yank tanks from the 1950s, with more than a million miles on the clock, ferry locals around Havana for 50 cents a time, while a ride in one of the superbly restored cars from the same period is reserved for tourists with deeper pockets...
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The streets of Cuba are filled with old cars that would be on the scrap heap almost anywhere else in the world, but here they are incredibly valuable. Imagine having to pay nearly $20,000 US (14,000 UK Pounds) for a 1980 Lada. Yet, despite the inconveniences and shortages the Cubans know how to enjoy themselves. These are our Vinales friends, Osvedy, Leyani and their two sons, treating us to a pizza lunch...
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After a couple of months of daily sightseeing and travelling throughout South America our ten days in Cuba were spent simply relaxing with friends and practising our Spanish. We are now home. The temperature has plummeted by more than 20 degrees and spring doesn’t seem in a hurry to arrive – a good time to reflect on our summer in the Southern Hemisphere. .

Posted by Hawkson 15:33 Archived in Cuba Comments (2)

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