ARGENTINA, CHILE, BOLIVIA (1994)

After graduating from University, and delivering daily morning newspapers, I disappeared for a while to South America. The main part of the project was a two-month walk from San Miguel de Tucuman (Argentina) via San Pedro de Atacama (Chile) to Huallacalla (Bolivia) to see the solar eclipse in early November 1994.
Slide 1324 Spring is due in the Valle de Tafi, crossing the Eastern slopes of the Andes.  
Slide 1347 Quilmes is not only a beer, but also one of the last strongholds of the indigenous people of this region. Their village was levelled in the 17-th century by the spanish colonists.  
Slide 1363 Morning light breaks through the clouds, gradually warming the wine ranks in the Valles de Calchaquies. The wine comes in 1 litre cartons, which is very convenient when hiking and makes nice sunsets even nicer.  
Slide 1375 Cutting through the cliffs near Angastaco.  
Slide 1390 Near Molinos, looking North towards de Nevados de Cachi (6380m).  
Slide 1392 Closer to Cachi, where the Nevados de Cachi now lie in the West.  
Slide 1395 The upper reaches of the Rio Calchaqui, at about 2500m altitude.  
Slide 1410 These people made their own delicious goat's cheese. I bought a chunk of it from them, but I found out (too late) that I had left it on the bench in front of their farm.  
Slide 1413 This farm looked abandoned, saving myself having to mount the tent.  
Slide 1416 The first snowfield...  
Slide 1417 Just below the Abra de Acay...  
Slide 1419 ... and on it.  
Slide 1447 Blue rocks on red sand, near the Salar de Cauchi on the Argentinean altiplano (about 4000m) West of San Antonio de los Cobres.  
Slide 1458 And red sand with blue skies, a bit closer to the Chilean border.  
Slide 1459 The morning after sleeping in the village school of Catua. Children raise the flag and sing the anthem.  
Slide 1460 Catua was a former border town when the road to Chile still passed through the Portezuelo de Huaitiquina. Now it is extremely peaceful and friendly - perfect to rest before a five-day hike through uninhabited and unvisited territory.  
Slide 1461 The school's mascotte: an armadillo.  
Slide 1465 Here the road is still in good shape.  
Slide 1466 Looking ahead towards the volcanoes on the Chilean altiplano.  
Slide 1467 There isn't much water out here...  
Slide 1468 ... but in such a gorgeous deserted canyon, who needs water anyway?  
Slide 1472 Welcome to Chile: sunbleached bones, and clouds moving in.  
Slide 1473 Like the previous Andes hike, I had found a bamboo stick early on (must be an omen of some sort). This was especially handy when I had to make an emergency bivouac with my tent cloth. I had decided to sleep in the open in a small rocky gully, when it started snowing. Makes a very beautiful morning, though.  
Slide 1474 End of September on the Chilean altiplano, I can recommend it.  
Slide 1483 After a freak snowstorm forced me to set up camp, I bivouaced in the open. The next morning my boots were frozen solid, but I didn't care: dawn was magical. Volac Lascar (5641m) was still asleep, when pink hues lit up Laguna Lejia.  
Slide 1484 I'm not sure which volcano this is, because I didn't bring detailed maps of the Chilean part of my voyage. I was looking South from near Laguna Lejia, and I think it might be Chilliques (5778m).  
Slide 1485 Laguna Lejia reflecting the images of what I believe to be the volcanoes Aguas Calientes (5924m) and Cerro de Pili (6046m).  
Slide 1486 At last, on the half-frozen waters of Laguna Lejia the flamingoes are waking up. Lazy buggers.  
Slide 1488 This lava bomb of a few metres diameter was spit out by Volcan Lascar (seen in the background). It had a major eruption in the 1980s, visible from Catua.  
Slide 1491 The road becomes visible again as I descend towards the Salar de Atacama (2500m).  
Slide 1494 Toconao. Later that day I would check in at the Chilean customs in San Pedro de Atacama, who were a little puzzled because I had officially left Argentina (San Antonio de Los Cobres) a fortnight ago.  
Slide 1497 Dead person in urn. Archeological museum in San Pedro de Atacama.  
Slide 1501 Church in San Pedro de Atacama. On the brink of becoming too touristy, this ancient village was founded by Pedro de Valdivia in about 1540 in an area occupied by indigenous peoples - of whom the nearby ruins of Quitor and Tulor are definitely worth a visit.  
Slide 1503 Typical neighbourhood in San Pedro de Atacama, with the Volcan Licancabur (5916m) looming in the background and Colera looming in the streets.  
Slide 1505 Hm, this is not the best picture...  
Slide 1510 On the three-day walk from San Pedro de Atacama (2500m) to the geysers of El Tatio (4400m), the road passes Volcan Sairecabur (5971m) on the border with Bolivia.  
Slide 1518 The good thing about October is that many of the (often sulphur) mines are abandoned, safe for a guard who is invariably happy to have a visitor passing by. This one had a passion for Tango.  
Slide 1522 And the puppy in the geothermal plant near El Tatio was also happy to see a strange face for a change.  
Slide 1531 Just beyond the geysers (for decent pictures of those, please see the 2000 trip), looking West. This area features some beautiful volcanoes and lava "pancakes", but I don't know their names until I buy myself a proper map of the area.  
Slide 1534 Lonely boulder. The range of mountains and volcanoes (about 5600m) in the background forms the border with Bolivia.  
Slide 1541 I guessed that if I crossed in between Volcan San Pablo (6118m) and the mountain to the East (Azufre?) the col should give me a splendid view of Salar de Ascotan (3700m). I would enter Bolivia a couple of days later at the other side of Volcan Ollague (5868m), which is visible just beyond the saltlake.  
Slide 1543 Chile and Bolivia haven't been the best of friends since Chile denied Bolivia access to the Pacific Ocean. Their border is heavily mined to keep out soldiers as well as the illegal Bolivian immigrants that come to work in the Chilean borax mines.  
Slide 1544 Despite the harsh working conditions on the saltlake, these miners were a jolly bunch and very hospitable.  
Slide 1549 Salar de Carcote, with Volcan Ollague on the right. The saltlake is crossed by a railroad, providing a nice shortcut.  
Slide 1564 Fluffy-topped cacti somewhere on the pampa South of Salar de Uyuni (3653m), Bolivia.  
Slide 1573 Happy children in San Pedro de Quemez, at the Southwest bank of Salar de Uyuni.  
Slide 1585 The family of this farm on the Western shore of Salar de Uyuni were very nice.  
Slide 1587 In exchange for some paracetamol - which my mother had insisted on taking with me but which I knew I wasn't going to use anyway - they gave me a pile of Coca leaves to chew on.  
Slide 1595 And in the fields beyond Canquella, someone with a pan full of warm cooked Quinoa gave me a bagful. It's very good, and very nutritious. And unlike rice it doesn't need much water to grow.  
Slide 1601 The town of Llica (3700m) seemed like a city to me, but with farmers doing their thing in the middle of the street. I stayed two days here, one of which I spent in bed after playing soccer with the local kids - or was it the icecream I had before (or the litre of pretty disgusting sweet wine)?  
Slide 1605 Little church between Llica and Salar de Coipasa (3657m).  
Slide 1607 Tiles of salt covering Salar de Coipasa.  
Slide 1609 Beneath the sheet of salt is a layer of water and, like with ice, one has to be careful not to plunge through it.  
Slide 1610 Artesanal cooking of a pancake type of bread.  
Slide 1611 The cook, and owner of Estancia Allituma, lived in isolation on the edge of Cerro Villa Pucarani (4910m), an "island" in the Salar de Coipasa. He had two rooms, and let me have one of them for the night.  
Slide 1621 In the land of the Chipaya. Situated in the middle of a swamp, and warned in the Lonely Planet guide to be hostile to visitors, curiosity got the better of me and I simply had to see this relic of the ancient Tiahuanaco culture.  
Slide 1622 Cheese, bread, sweets and beer: a fine meal. The only time I met people here was in their main town. Although friendly (they let me sleep in an untidy room behind the village shop) they were very shy and didn't like being photographed - which is why you won't see any pcitures of them here. The chieftain considered it an independent nation, and made me pay (a small) "tax" in exchange for a stamp in my passport accompanied by some text in illegible handwriting.  
Slide 1623 The village noticeboard featured cartoons (of which you see here the first half) explaining that the upcoming solar eclipse wasn't going to announce the end of the world, and how to protect the eyes to safely watch it.  
Slide 1625 A little shrine for sacrifices.  
Slide 1629 Not quite back in "modern-day" Bolivia: unchartered ruined tombs near Escara, about 20 km North of Chipaya.  
Slide 1630 A small step for Man... but quite a walk for me. After two months and some 1500 km, I had finally arrived in Huachacalla (3700m), one day ahead in time for the solar eclipse.  
Slide 1646 I had carefully selected this place as a quiet spot, not targetted by tourists who planned to witness the eclipse in Sevaruyo to the Southeast, yet offering connections with Oruro in the East. It was a little shock to see that this garrison town hosted a large camp, divided into international and national areas, full with weirdos listening to Pink Floyd and bringing their heavy telescopes. I only had my bamboo stick and a piece of carton with two holes, to make a perfect pinhole camera.  
Slide 1647 Don't you agree optics is amazing?  
Slide 1653 This picture of totality was taken with my normal camera. The bright "star" near the "black-holed sun" might be the planet Venus (I would have to check, to be honest with you).  
Slide 1663 The dark, low ridge beyond the llamas grazing the pampa is in fact the rim of a meteor crater called Cerro Culloma. I found many sherds of broken pottery on its slopes, and if it is true that the impact occurred 10,000 years ago then accounts of the event may have survived, making it a sacred place.  
Slide 1665 Dust devils. Very annoying, especially when they sneak up on you from behind when you think you are sitting at the safe side of a wall and are about to put your teeth in the last sugar-and-butter sandwich left.  
Slide 1675 About a week after All Saints - which is taken very seriously here - many locals, men and women alike, are still drunk, such as here in Opoqueri. From here I caught a bus to Oruro, and from there on to Cochabamba.  
Slide 1683 The bus from Cliza to Torotoro had broken down (we would later pass it lying in the gutter), so I joined a truck, which after spending a few hours on the market place in the hope of more passengers finally set off for a stomach-breaking five-hour ordeal.  
Slide 1689 When we were only three passengers left, the driver refused to go any further. The beautiful valley made a nice walk, though.  
Slide 1705 With these nice indians I had a few mugs of Chicha - certainly not my favourite of all drinks.  
Slide 1709 The rock formations around Torotoro are quite interesting; the one in front looks like a bird - or so they say.  
Slide 1715 But apart from the scenery, the caves and the pittoresque town, what I really had come to see in Torotoro were the many dinosaur footprints that litter the place. Here we see direct evidence for the evolution of sea creatures into amphibians emerging from the sea to become the first mammals. Right.  
Slide 1716 Torotoro airport. I accepted the invitation by a group of Israelian students (drugs tourists) to charter this plane on the cheap, to be back in Cochabamba about a hundred times quicker than by traditional transport. The swedish pilot made some "excursions" to make fun of the frightened girls amongst the party.  
Slide 1725 Typical farm between Monte Punku and Collpa, East of Cochabamba.  
Slide 1732 The Easternmost known Inca ruins, Incallajta is a short walk Northwest of Collpa (camp along the path, amongst zillions of fireflies). Surprisingly, this settlement was not destroyed by the spanish but by a local indian tribe.  
Slide 1742 Transport from Collpa to Totora.  
Slide 1743 Totora on a Sunday. People saw it had been raining in the hills, and were now waiting for the flashflood to rush through the riverbed, scaring the living daylights out of the pigs scavenging on the bottom.  
Slide 1744 The ornated poles support giant swings, probably as part of the All Saints celebrations (two weeks ago). An old man came to talk with me. He spoke Quechua, and he was quite drunk, neither of which helped our conversation.  
Slide 1756 Che Guevara was brutally murdered by a USA-backed assassination squad near Sucre (2800m), the first place in South America to declare itself independent from Spain in 1809 (by former spanish colonists, of course, not by indigenous people).  
Slide 1778 Pre-inca rock art in the Cordillera de los Frailes (Sucre): extra-terrestrials?  
Slide 1784 An Inca road.  
Slide 1791 Rainy Potosi (3900m), at the edge of the altiplano. Past glory of the silver mines exploited by the spanish colonists remains in the form of majestic buildings - but little else.  
Slide 1796 Besides the grey substance that helps extract the "tasty juices" from the Coca leaves, the market offers anything you need in Potosi. The cheap gin and cigarettes are probably at least as dangerous as the dynamite (those brown sticks) they sell. This was before "9/11".  
Slide 1799 Anno 1994, children still worked the private mines.  
Slide 1802 Tupiza, not far from the border with Argentina.  
Slide 1805 The region around Tupiza features heavily eroded red rocks, shaped into bizarre fins and pinnacles.  
Slide 1806 More of it.  
Slide 1811 A little reminder for the british web-surfers amongst you...  
Slide 1819 Tilcara, in the Quebrada de Humahuaca North of San Salvador de Jujuy (Argentina).  
Slide 1820 A bit windy...  
Slide 1833 The prosperous city of Salta can be considered the "capital" of Northern Argentina.  
Slide 1834 It's very green here.  
Slide 1837 Either the ancient artists weren't very good at it, or people really were that ugly in those days.  
Slide 1842 Back in Buenos Aires, at last...  
Slide 1843 ... birthplace of Che...  
Slide 1845 ... and a vibrant artistic community.