Bolivia, Argentina, and Chile
Man-O-War, Aug 2009
I've been to most of the countries in Central and South America but this is my first time to Bolivia.
I'll show my route in pink as I progress.  Here are some of the places I think I'd like to visit:
    Sucre - supposed to be similar to
             Cuenca but maybe a little
    Salar de Uyuni - large salt flats in
             the Altiplano.
    Tupiza, San Vicente - last haunts of
             Butch and Sundance.
    Salta - supposed to be some very
             pretty country.
    Mendoza - heart of wine country.
             Malbec and Argentinean beef..
             ahh.. heaven on earth.
    Chiloé - Looks pretty interesting..
             very salty.

Where I've been on this trip
 La Paz
La Paz, 26 Aug 2009
  I arrived in La Paz on Thursday.  The bus from the airport dropped me off a couple blocks from my hotel.  On my way to the hotel, I ran into this parade.  I believe it is local to the Oruro region of Bolivia and celebrated in earnest during their carnivalHere are 3 photos of these costumes from a museum in Cuenca, Ecuador (click on "Next" on that page) from my last trip.
La Paz, Bolivia
In La Paz, I've been going to a film festival each evening.  It has been running for a week.  Each evening they show about an hour of short films in a very nice 40 or so seat theater in the Cinemateca Bolivina, a nice cinema with 3 theaters. 
Sucre, 3 Sep 2009
  From La Paz, I took the overnight bus to Potosí.  Silver was discovered there in 1544 and in it's boom years Potosí was the largest and wealthiest city in the Americas.  In 1572 the Spanish started forcing the indigenous and African slaves to work 12 hour shifts, staying underground for 4 months at a time.  They estimate that 8 millon miners died over the 4 centuries since the mines started operating.  Working conditions are still pretty rough.  Our guide said they start working at 13 or 14 years old and after 20 or 30 years, a lung disease called silicosis is pretty common (when they stop working and receive a meager pension).
Mine tours are a popular attraction.  There were 23 tourists on the tour I went on.  We were split up into groups of 6 or 7.  The guide for our group spoke very good English and was very personable.  There was 1 additional helper (who had driven the bus).
  Our tour went into the mine a fair ways on the 1st level.  Here, our guide is showing how the miners make offerings of alcohol, cigarettes, and coca leaves to this effigy in the hopes of improving their luck.  The miners themselves get through their work day drinking the (96%) alcohol, chewing coca leaves, and smoking cigarettes.
Silver mine, Potosí, Bolivia
I was having a lot of trouble with the altitude and turned around at the end of the 1st level.  Here I am leaving the mine, lead by the helper and in the company of 2 others who also needed to turn back.  The rest of the group descended 2 levels to where this mine is still being worked. 
This is where the silver (and one other mineral - I think the guide said tin at this plant) is extracted from the ore.
Sucre, 8 Sep 2009
  I was having trouble sleeping in Potosí.  While lying in bed each of the 3 nights I was there, it seemed like I couldn't catch my breath.  I would stay up until 3 or 4 in the morning until I finally passed out from exhaustion.  Altitude and age, I guess.
Sucre is a 3 or 4 hour bus ride from Potosí.  I had talked to several people on my last trip who recommended it.  One or two said it was sort of a simpler version of Cuenca.  I got here about a week ago.  I found a nice hotel room about a block from the main square - a bit nicer than I usually get but it has good WiFi in the room and is still within my budget.  I got a chance to catch up on my journal, do the laundry, get a haircut, veg out a bit.
  Usually I walk around a little in the afternoons.  Maybe stop at a café for café con leche or a cappuccino.  Here is a nice café across from the cathedral. 
Joy Ride Café, Sucre, Bolivia
On Saturday and Sunday evenings there were parades in town.  They consisted of school groups dancing what looked to be the local traditional steps.
On Monday night, there was this concert on the plaza.. 

Plaza 25 de Mayo, Sucre, Bolivia
complete with fireworks.
Plaza 25 de Mayo, Sucre, Bolivia
Tomorrow morning I'm taking an early bus to Uyuni.  From there, I can join a tour of the Salar de Uyuni - the large salt flats that take up southwest Bolivia.
 Salar de Uyuni
Santiago, 26 Sep 2009
In Uyuni, I joined a 3-day, 4WD tour of the Salar de Uyuni.  It's very picturesque, and I had a hard time deciding but here are my favorite photos.  
Salvador Dali Desert, Bolivian Altiplano
The tour returned to Uyuni on the third day.  From Uyuni I took the late-night train to Tupiza.  Tupiza is very easygoing and the spring-like temperature was most welcome after the freezing nighttime temperatures of La Paz, Potosí, and Uyuni - most of this trip so far.
Reportedly, Butch and Sundance hung out in Tupiza.  I wonder how much it has changed since then.
Tupiza, Bolivia
 Salta, Cafayate and Mendoza
Santiago, 26 Sep 2009
From Tupiza, I took the train and bus to Salta.  Then on to Cafayate and Mendoza - Argentina's wine-producing centers.  Between them, I visited a half dozen bodegas and tasted a bunch of good Malbec, Cabernet, and Torrontés.  The beef is as good as the last time I visited Argentina.  Prices, in general, are maybe double what they were back then (which was shortly after the peso crash).  I had read that Argentina's economy has recovered.  There seem to be a lot of Argentina tourists travelling.  In some places like Salta it was hard to find a reasonably priced room.
Santiago, 26 Sep 2009
From Mendoza, it's a 7 or 8 hour bus trip over the Andes to Santiago.  It took 2 hours for our bus just to cross the border.  They do a very thorough inspection of the luggage for people bringing contriband and fruits/vegetables over.  There was an unfortunate local who had a couple things confiscated from her baggage.  This added an hour to the crossing while customs was apparently sorting out the situation and deciding on the fees and fine.
Headed to the border between Argentina and Chile
Here's the cathedral on Santiago's Plaza de Armas.  I like the plaza - it's not real fancy but is very clean and has a lot of very comfortable benches.  There are quite a few streets around the plaza reserved for pedestrians - all nicely paved with tiles, lined with useful stores and restaurants and again, very clean.  Quite nice.  
Plaza de Armas, Santiago, Chile
Valparaíso, 2 Oct 2009
Valparaíso is on the coast, a couple hours west of Santiago.  I've been here a couple days now - just sort of getting a feel of the place.  I took one of the city tours which also included Viña del Mar and Reñaca, ritzy towns just to the north. 
Here is the view of Valparaíso from the study of Pablo Neruda, one of Chile's Nobel prize winning poets.
Valparaíso, Chile
And here's some time-lapse street video, taken from Cerro Concepción.
I had been hoping to get a (cheap) ride on the supply ship to Isla Robinson Crusoe.  But I'm told (by the very gracious official) that they changed the rules this year so that only residents are allowed to do that anymore.
Tonight, I'm taking the overnight bus to Chiloé, about 14 hours to the south.  It's an island on the northern edge of Patagonia.  I had been planning to rent an apartment here in Valparaíso or nearby for 5 months.  But maybe I'll see if I can find something in Chiloé for a couple months, then push on into Patagonia at the start of summer (December and January).
Melborne, 25 Dec 2009
Here is a video of the elevators used to get up and down the bank in Valparaíso.  On one (shown in the first part of this video) the workers were doing their welding on the tracks between runs of the elevator.  A little scary.
Be very careful in Valparaíso.  I'd recommend that if you go there, do it as part of a day-tour group from Santiago.
Ascensor Concepción, Valparaíso, Chile
 Chiloé and return to the Bahamas
Melborne, 25 Dec 2009
It was the start of springtime and kind of cold in Chiloé.  I stopped for a couple days in Castro, then took a bus down to Quellon on the southern tip of the island.  From there I could take the ferry boat over to the mainland to continue south into Patagonia.
Maybe it was the color of the water, but I got to missing the Bahamas.  I've been to Patagonia before and I guess the attraction just wasn't there.  I couldn't think of a place I'd rather be than "back home" in the Bahamas so I turned north again.  I took the bus to Chillán where I caught the very nice train to Santiago and a flight back to the Bahamas - woo-hoo! 
Then back to the dinghy project.
Palafitos (fisherman's houses on stilts)
Castro, Chile

Boat building
Castro, Chile

Quellon, Chile
Quellon, Chile