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.
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!
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.
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?
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!
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.
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.