The Devil in the Mines of Potosi

See all the Potosi pictures here…

Diego Huallpa had searched everywhere for the lost llama but there was still no sign of him. ‘Stupid animal,’ Diego thought, ‘and he was just about ready for market! My father will kill me’. By this point he was far from home, the sun had set and so Diego decided to build a fire to keep himself warm. As the fire grew hot, Diego noticed as a shiny trickle oozing from the ground beneath the fire. ‘Holy Incan Sun God!’ He exclaimed, ‘Those strange-talking, bearded white folk are going to be SO happy with me – they love this stuff!’ It was 1544 and Diego Huallpa, a local Inca had just discovered the wealth of silver that lay beneath Cerro Rico (or Rich Hill) as it came to be known. And indeed the Spanish Conquistadors were so grateful that they called in more of their friends, enslaved the locals and began hollowing out the mountain.

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The Uyuni Expedition

See all the pictures from the Uyuni Expedition here…

God damn borders. Ever since I was about nine, they’ve triggered an uncomfortable feeling in my gut. The reason? From a young age, I had collected a large array of knives. It started as the standard going-away-to-camp-for-the-first-time Swiss Army knife but soon evolved to more unique additions including a kuhkri that my sister Victoria had bought me in Nepal and a goat-skin sheathed machete from her time in Africa. Even my parents had given me knives – it wasn’t a weird fetish, just an honest, affection for the shape and design of the instrument.

So there I was, in Heathrow Airport, surrounded by 3 security guards, one of whom was gripping a semi-automatic weapon. I had just walked through the metal detector and had apparently triggered the ‘this guy has a large piece of metal on him’ alarm. My mother approached the metal detector:

Madam, please wait right there!” The guard with the gun blurted. I instinctively put my hands up.

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Into the Atacama Desert

See all the pics from San Pedro de Atacama here…

Valparaiso, in the days post-earthquake. Even with the current situation, I could tell the Pata Pata hostel owners were getting a little tired of me ringing the bell, using their kitchen and being a wifi parasite – all under the pretense that I was visiting Alessandro, my friend who was staying there. After only sleeping at Pata Pata for one night, I’d moved to another place around the corner where I had my own room and avoided their screaming child, all for only a couple of dollars more. So in a cunning move, after a couple of days of ‘hanging out’ in their cozy lounge, I bought them gifts of chocolate and wine; this offering was well received and prevented the imminent and awkward ‘what are you still doing here’ conversation.

The TV news coverage of the earthquake became increasingly more dramatic as the situation in Concepcion spiraled into what resembled civil war. People were looting and burning stores, the military were enforcing a curfew by firing shots into the air and numerous buildings were in a state of collapse, all while the death toll continued to rise. I looked into options of heading south to offer my help but was told that the addition of my non-fluent and hungry mouth might not be the best help in this situation. However, my Chilean friend Matias suggested I share link a for people to donate and I promised to post various options here… Even if you can spare only $5, that would be a huge help!

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