Get off the beaten path » Seeing the world from a different point of view

Masthead header
Get off the beaten path bio picture
  • Get off the beaten path

    It's so easy to stick to the tourist trail, stay in hotels the Lonely Planet recommends, eat where everyone else eats and visit all the famous sights you've seen on telly and in magazines. While these experiences can be nice, you'll have the best adventures if you wander off the trail. Who's to say that just because a sight is famous, that it's actually any good? In fact, as soon as you discover what else the world has to offer that is not in the guide book, you'll realise that most famous sights are astonishingly underwhelming - if you can get through the crowds to see them.

    As well as the fact that the greatest sights you'll see, people you'll meet and experiences you'll have are off the beaten path, it's also much cheaper to get off the tourist trail than to stay on it.

    I realise that as soon as you find a place that’s genuinely off the tourist trail you want to keep it to yourself, but if you share, then others will share, and the world will open up around you. I’m not talking about taking three flights, two boat rides and a lift on the back of a donkey cart just to find an empty beach, I’m interested in the gems that are simply hidden away from the regular tourist areas, be it a lesser-known Thai island, a unique area of a big city, an unusual hotel or just a sight that no one seems to have noticed.

    If you've ever come across anything like this, let me know and I'll share it on this site!

    That's me, by the way, jumping in the air at a sand dune in Punta Gallinas, the most northerly point in Colombia.

Getting hot in Chile

Coming straight into desert of San Pedro de Atacama, Chile, from the Uyuni salt flats tour, we were treated to more of the same stunning landscape as south east Bolivia. Said to be the driest place on Earth (although it rained just before we got there, sparking arguments among a group of Chinese tourists), I spent my two days there biking through the red-rock desert and getting my tan back, as well as going stargazing at night at the planetarium. They have about 10 massive telescopes outdoors, two of which the enthusiastic Canadian astrologer built himself, and through them you can see Saturn, the Milky Way, clusters of billions of stars invisible to the naked eye and all the visible constellations. It was incredible, although slightly ruined by the fact that I had a tummy upset (thank you Bolivia) and had to keep running to the bathroom – a bathroom that had a massive Jacuzzi I might add, although one which I barely noticed in my panic to reach the loo…

San Pedro de Atacama town was really beautiful although extremely touristy, and I loved it a lot even though I could only spend two nights there due to time constraints and a need to be in Buenos Aires by the 22nd May latest. For a start, the town is teeming with massive dogs – absolutely huge, all with collars, neutered, well fed and looked after. There were tubs of dog food left outside shops and they all happily wandered through the dusty desert town looking for cuddles. There were also tons of big fluffy cats – three were staying in my hostel, one in my room – every time I opened the door she came in, pulled over my glass of water, spilling it all over the carpet, then gave me the innocent ‘it wasn’t me’ look. Then when I needed to leave the room she would position herself firmly under the bed so I couldn’t get her out and just meowed at me when I made to leave without her. Cats…

Everything in Chile is so much more expensive than Bolivia. I know this is obvious but it’s a real culture shock. After spending no more than £2 a night on accommodation in Bolivia, to fork out £10 on (admittedly much nicer) hostels in Chile was hard to do. Then there’s eating out – in Bolivia I was shocked to have to pay £2 for a big meal; in Chile you’re lucky to find something for under £6. And drinks here are expensive too: you get two cocktails for £10, and that’s during Happy Hour. It’s worth it though, as the quality of food in Bolivia makes you have to run like Usain Bolt for the nearest bathroom (read: hole in the floor) whereas in Chile the food is so good I could marry the steak sandwich I just ate.

As I write this I’m on the bus from San Pedro, Chile, to Argentina. It’s the most scenic bus ride I’ve ever taken and I was lucky enough to get the top front seat with panoramic views of the volcanoes, mountains, lagoons, desert – as well as some worrying lorry accidents. Some are from a while ago, with the only indication being a road-side cross, and some happened only moments before we passed, with cargo spilled all over the edge of the road. I promptly put on my seatbelt and tensed up.

The border crossing from Chile to Argentina has been the most time-consuming yet, mainly because (much to the pleasure of some of the girls on the bus) there were about five buses full of Latin American volleyball teams on their way to play in a tournament in Argentina. It’s fascinating travelling from Bolivia to Chile to Argentina in a matter of days as the contrasts are incredible. Everything keeps getting better looking – the landscape, the people, the animals. Streets are increasingly cleaner, food is better, service is more efficient (except maybe at the borders…), people are so much friendlier and things feel a lot more familiar. I’m currently sitting on the bus looking down out of the top front window at the border control men and the golden retriever jumping and rolling around at their feet. The Peruvian girl next to me is commenting on how good-looking the Argentinean men are (and blowing kisses at her favourite one) while I’m getting soppy over the gorgeous, shiny dog. Meanwhile, we’re all discussing how we’re going to have our steak cooked tonight. Gonna love Argentina.

Facebook Share|Tweet Post|Email Post|Contact Me
May 11, 2011 - 7:45 am

Katherina - That first picture of yours is breathtaking! I can’t wait to go to Chile myself…
Enjoy the delicious steaks in Argentina!

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *

*

*