Summary of the trip: Americas

I was always going to give some awards at the end of my trip, but so they stay relevant I am going to do some as I go along. So I’m going to split my trip into thirds. Firstly the Americas, then Oceania and Japan, and finally mainland Eurasia. Then finally I’ll sum up the whole thing.

Best site

Iguazu, Argentina and Brazil, although Machu Picchu was pretty special out didn’t quite take my breath away in the same way.

Honourable mention

Machu Picchu, well that much is obvious. It is an epic site.

Best museum

The Holocaust Museum, Washington DC, it tried so hard to just give the facts. I learnt a lot about the recent history of the Jews and that reflects heavily on the middle east today. Well worth a visit.

Best tour company

Layana, San Pedro as they gave detailed explanations in English of the sites we were seeing. They also weren’t too pricy.

I have to admit in general I haven’t been too impressed and was going to give it to the Sinh Cafe from my last trip to Vietnam.

Best city

New York for it’s incredible range of stuff to do in the day. having half decent nightlife as well and also having excellent transportation.

Honourable mention

Santiago, a hidden gem that I didn’t expect to be great. But aside from all it’s attractions seemingly shutting on Sunday and Monday every week it is actually a pretty nice place. Though its worth noting that even in Providencia it does have a sinister feel sometimes, especially after dark (though nothing personally happened to me or anyone I know in Santiago).

Best non-family accommodation

I’m not ranking my family/free accommodation as you all looked after me well so I’m picking the best accommodation I paid for.

Sunny Days, Arica Chile provided all you can eat breakfasts, excellent rooms and good advice on the city as well as a kitchen and lounge area with good cable TV.

Best food for under US$25 (excluding service)

Just in case I get taken to the local equivalent if La Manior I’ve stuck a price limit on this but the winner is Steak in Buenos Aires at a small restaurant at Defensa and Independencia which was above and beyond anything I’d had before.

Honourable mention

Pacha Papa, Cusco for it’s excellent food and exquisite service.

Best nightlife

Chicago, Buenos Aires is close but frankly it’s too late for me to start clubbing at 2am.

Friendliest People

El Soberio. After falling ill I was looked after really well by the people of El Soberio. And I improved my terrible Spanish a bit too.

Best transportation company

Via Barriloche, Argentina for providing good food, drink and comfortable seats for only a little more than the competition.

Most useful material possession

iPod Touch for letting me write these blog posts when on buses and public transport and having lots of other useful information on it.

Best bargain

Plastic playing cards in Cusco for US$0.67 that are fully plastic so should last well.

Biggest rip-off

Postada la bonita for accommodation worth a generous US$10/night costing US$100/night.

The Patrick Levy award for cinematography

When I went to South East Asia my friend Patrick (who doesn’t need much sleep) would watch films before going to sleep in the evening. Therefore I am dedicating this award to him. However even though films you watch while travelling are usually bad I’m giving this award to the genuinely most entertaining film.

And the winner is SHOOTER which was an excellent and clever movie about a presidential assasination. I really want to see the end of it as we arrived in Tacna so I missed it.

Honourable Mention

Don’t mess with the Zohan I quite enjoyed this movie about the Israeli superspy Zohan but my friends I was with thought it wasn’t that great.

The valley of the moon and the Tatio geysers

Over the past couple of days I’ve been busy here in San Pedro. Firstly two days ago I went to the valley of the moon. The valley of the moon is a deserty valley that is around 10km from San Pedro, as it is so close I decided to avoid the tour companies and go myself on a hired mountain bike.

I set off after lunch to do this, so I’d hopefully have a chance to see the sunset. After cycling down the fairly flat road to the valley itself, the road was the emptiest I’d ever seen and mostly you could see any cars in either direction. Then after paying the entrance fee I got to the first explanation point. From there they explained that there was a cave and canyon nearby to explore and for the cave I’d need a torch. Fortunately I had one with me and I set off to explore the cave, that let you crawl under rocks, and at times I had to take off my bag to make it underneath the rocks. In places you reemmerged into the light and got to see some strange but cool scenery.

After that I headed down the canyon where I had some fun with the timer and tripod for my camera, it took about 6 shots to get it straight and me in the picture, the insane brightness in the canyon doesn’t help you see the display on the camera. After that I headed further into the valley up a steep hill on my boke to see the great dune, the view from the top was incredible. Afterwards I headed onto see some more stuff but that wasn’t that interesting. By the time I headed back the sun was starting to set giving great shadows on the rocks, but as I was getting up at 4am the next day I thought I should be getting back and as I’ve seen more epic sunsets than I’ve had hot dinners on this trip I thought I’d give this one a miss.

Anyhow so the next day I got up at 3.45am and headed out of my hostel to head over to the geysers. We had to get up so early as geysers are more impressive when there is a large temperature difference between the water in the ground and the air temperature, and coupled with pressure below ground that is what causes them to spray water all over the place, as we were so high up and in the desert as soon as the sun appeared from behind the mountains the air suddenly heated up by several degrees so it was good that we had got there so early. After that I had a lazy afternoon and went to bed early at about 10pm. Today I’ve also had a fairly lazy morning as I was still tired, and I’ve had a few too many disturbed nights recently. Later today I’m off on the bus to Iquipe.

The Rest of Arica and San Pedro

So on my last day in Arica I headed to a nearby archeological museum. To get there I cycled up the valley, which although the gradient uphill was subtle it was still hard work. Also I couldn’t get the highest gear to work which I usually use practically exclusively which slowed me down. The scenery on the way was also nice. The museum (aside from some noisy school children who I shared the museum with) was very interesting and had a full English translation.

Then that evening I caught the bus to San Pedro, the journey was more complex than I’d like as the police checked our ID and bags in the middle of the night.

After arriving in San Pedro I had a lasy day and saw their pre-columbian museum which was also excellent. Then the next day I went on a tour to the south of San Pedro and saw Flamingos on the salt plain which I have some great photos of, a pair of fairly saltly glacial lakes and part of the original inca road to Cusco (so if you had 3 months and a huge amount of water you could walk to Cusco) which was still a clear path through the desert.

The next day I went Sand boarding which is like Snow Boarding but slower and on sand (we went down a slope almost straight away which would definitely be a red run for skiing). I did fall over lots but am now unhurt but tired.

I’ve got some more time here in San Pedro to explore the nearby Geysers (but now we are on summer time you’ll leave at 3am!) and the nearby Moon Valley for sunset and possibly the nearby observatory if I go a day later to Iquipe and essentually miss it. Though money is a definite issue here, its almost as expensive as Oxford!