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Having Your Cake and Eating It: Travelling Alone Together

There is a path trodden by that once-rare and now common phenomenon, the solo female traveller. She is intrepid and full of wisdom picked up by years of travelling alone on long trips to beautiful and remote places. Hats off to her! I've read many an amazing piece, Instagram caption and hilarious anecdote from these strong females. If I get anything close to what they achieve I'll be happy. Some of my favourite bloggers happen to fit into that bracket. However, I have to admit that, sorry, she just isn't me!

Uyuni Tour Bolivia
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A Hot Minute in the Atacama Desert

I have a true love for warm places, so the desert is pretty much my heaven on earth. But truly, the Atacama Desert surpassed all my expectations! I have never seen such pristine skies. I would stand for a good few moments each night I was there, just enjoying the view. A blanket of twinkling stars, which seem so low you can almost touch them and see the earth's shape as it curves away. Light pollution is so low here that the Milky Way is visible to the naked eye.

 

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Oruro: The City That Tourists Forgot

Oruro, Bolivia
Onlookers at an outdoor union meeting in the Faro du Conchupata square. In a city surrounded by farms and filled with poor workers, the unions are an integral part of life in Oruro

Nobody likes Oruro. Bolivians from other places sneer when you tell them you've been to Oruro. Why did you go there? The guidebooks hate Oruro. They only include it because it´s big. Oruro is a place to avoid. Pass through if you have to. Famous only for it's annual carnival when the population swells to more than double the size. At other times of the year they say Oruro supposedly has nothing to offer. But forget the haters - this is a real slice of Bolivian life, this is authenticity. This is dirty, smelly, unapologetic, cold-stares Bolivia proper. 

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Valparaíso: A Bohemian Rhapsody

Valparaiso cerro, street art

Valparaiso is having its day in the sun. Once an unknown port on the Pacific coast, this bohemian, colourful city is now a must-see spot on the Chilean trail. Valparaiso turned out to be my favourite city in Chile. Maybe even my favourite city on this trip so far!

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Chiloé: Your Next Island Break

Every mention of this island off the Pacific coast of central Chile to Chileans brings about a glazed faraway look in the eyes and an exclamation of 'Que bonita!/How beautiful!'  I'd never heard of this place before I decided to travel to Chile. It's something of a traveller's secret. Connected to the mainland by a small chugging car-ferry Chiloé has it's own distinct culture, history and nature. It's Chilean but then not. Mid-way through the country and an excellent halfway house between Patagonia and the North, there is something for all types of traveller.

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4 Ways To Make the Most Of Santiago de Chile

I love capital cities for what they show about a country. Santiago is a city of contrasts, where all of Chile collides in a sprawl. The centre is a cluster of antique crumbling facades of churches, government buildings and museums, hemmed in by new glass skyscrapers of varying shapes and sizes. The metropolis is surrounded on all sides by the Andes. Sitting in a basin, tower blocks abound against the clear sky whilst the mountains loom, blue and calm in the distance. I only had a couple of days in the city that houses 40% of the Chilean population. Having arrived from the buzzing kaleidoscopic port city of Valparaíso, Santiago is starkly different. It's flat as a pancake, there is a glitzy banking district, huge cathedral on the main square and what has to be biggest flagpole I have ever seen, in the governmental part of town! Whilst I should say my visit wasn't an complete fail, but there are some aspects I would change in hindsight. Here's my alternative must-don'ts for a successful stay.
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Surviving Chile as a Vegetarian

It's tough being a vegetarian in these parts. So if I come across a little overtaxed in the next few paragraphs, it's because my blood sugar is low and I've got a serious cravings for anything green or some tofu or a dollop of houmous! I was in the middle of nowhere with zero possibility to create my own meals or purchase any ingredients, I was fully at the mercy or the (mis)understanding of my lovely hosts. This was Patagonia country living proper. I should make it clear at this point that a Chilean meal is not complete without meat. Meat twice a day, everyday. Breakfast seems to be the only meal that escapes a meaty fate. 
Vegetables in a shop window
My kind of shop window!
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Patagonia Unplugged

I stayed with a Chilean family in rural Patagonia for ten days. There was no internet, no town within walking distance and only a single bus each day. Did I get cabin fever or was this be the perfect way to round off my visit to a beautiful part of Chile?

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Sacking the Secretary

Up until this point all aspects of the trip had been planned with military precision. Every possible detail of hostels, workaways, homestays and transportation had been pre-booked, double-checked and ticked off by the trip administration department (I'm talking about me and my not-so-inner secretary!) So now the admin was taking an enforced holiday. She wasn't happy, she is a workaholic. To get from El Chaltén in Argentina to Coyhaique, a day or so away in Chile, the whole journey was not possible to plan in advance. Back home in London my life was scheduled, regimented almost. I worked 9-5, I went to the gym three or four times a week. Friday and Saturday nights were for friends. This is the trap of millennial city life. Don't get me wrong, I loved that life. I revelled in the security that it brought, but something else beckoned. With travelling you can't know what will happen next week, next month. This is both the ecstasy and the downright terrifying agony about it. I already don't know when I'm coming back to England and now I have to try not to end up sleeping on the side of a dusty road in remote Patagonia!

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All Roads Lead to El Chaltén

The allure of Patagonia is unending wild beauty. I was not prepared for the vastness of the space and the wealth of natural riches on offer. It's possible to travel for two days on a bus and still be in Patagonia! Coming from a small island where you can go coast to coast in just a few hours, it's hard to comprehend. Spanning Chile and Argentina, the southern part of this large continent is dotted with national parks, glaciers and stretches of almost untouched landscape. I can truly say that I caught the hiking bug. I like being outside but I've never been a huge walker. And I've walked more in Patagonia than I thought I would.
Fitzroy El Chalten
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Torres Del Paine Cheat Sheet

The mini W

Torres del Paine is the top hiking destination in Chile. People fly to this part of the world solely to hike its trails and spend a few days amongst the glacial lakes, rushing waterfalls, imposing mountains and deep-cut valleys. There are two famous trails, the W and the O. Named after the shapes that the each hike forms, they both take several days with the W being the 5 day one and the O, 10 days.

 

As this is the start of a long journey, which will hopefully take me all the way to Mexico (!) I'm restricted on two fronts. First, to stay on the road as long as possible I can't do every expensive activity going. It's not cheap to stay in the park. Second, my packing has to take me through all seasons, terrains and time zones. I've got stuff for the beach, the mountain and the city. I don't have the stove, tent and walking poles that are practically obligatory in these parts.

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Puerto Natales

the little town that could

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Dusk in the City of Sky

Naples Piazza Plebiscito

Piazza Plebiscito at Dusk 

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Naples: 5 ways to explore a winter wonderland

Naples’ reputation precedes it. The best food in the world, the beating heart of Southern Italy, a gypsy superstitious soul. This was my first trip to mainland Italy, I can’t believe it took me so long to get there! Naples is a beautiful, rough-hewn, unapologetic and sensuous place. An immediate assault on the senses! Nestling on the Bay of Naples, overlooked but the hulking volcanic Mount Vesuvius, this is a city of views. Absolutely jam-packed with ancient sites, churches, palaces, art and it can be overwhelming trying to take it all in. I soaked in whatever I could, taking it slow so whatever I did see was a highlight as sampled my way around the city.

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