As a child I saw the movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and watched, enthralled as my heroes arrived in Bolivia. It seemed to be the wildest, most exciting place on the planet, I didn’t know where it was but I knew I wanted to go there. Twenty years later I found myself in Tupiza, surrounded by forests of cacti, wide gaping canyons and the rainbow coloured hills where Butch and Sundance carried out their daring raids.
Inhabiting an extremely remote region of South America, Bolivia is the highest of the Latin American countries, sweeping from the soaring peaks of the Andes in the north, down to the lush Amazonian basin in the east and across to the barren plains of the south.The dreary town of Uyuni in the southwest is the gateway to the Salar de Uyuni, the remains of a giant salt lake stretching 12,600 kilometres.We drive for hours across the blinding white plain. The glare creates optical illusions, volcanoes loom up on the horizon and appear to hover above the ground. We lunch on Isla dePescadores, a small island in a dazzling white sea, covered with tall and spindly cacti. Continue reading
In central Karnataka lies the village of Hampi. Here you find valleys rich in a dazzling array of brilliant colours. Huge boulders and hills of rock and sandstone dot the landscape and amidst it all are the scattered remains of a lost civilisation. Villagers make their home amongst the remnantsof the old bazaar, but monkeys and the occasional chilum smoking sadhu are the only inhabitants of the outlying ruins.
Hampi provides a constant assault on the senses. Women seem to glide effortlessly down he street in brilliantly coloured saris, carrying buckets and huge piles of firewood on their heads. The streets are lined with stands of powder dies, chilli red, saffron yellow and fluro orange. At the thali restaurants you are served curries to set your mouth on fire ~ even the tea is made with cardamon. The air is permeated with the pungent smell-of cow dung – it is watered down and thrown on the pavement to keep the chalk designs fresh and to keep the dust down.
Cows wander the streets, stealing fruit from the stands or lie sprawled across the middle of the road. They have no need to fear the traffic – to kill a sacred cow is almost as serious as killing a person. Dogs skulk around protecting their territory and spying out friendly foreigners in the restaurants. Everywhere cheeky monkeys play amongst the stucco ornaments of temples, pilfering food and chattering away in the trees. Continue reading