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45
 
...two travellers in search of the world's wildlife

26 June 2011

Up high again

23rd June 2011

Grr… stupid Hertz. That’s definitely the last time I ever use them. For definite.

This time they had our reservation wrong. We went on-line a few days ago, following our Puno delays, and changed the rental dates. But something is obviously squiffy in their systems, because the Arica office only had the old rental dates. The guy triumphantly showed us the little print-out with the old date and the words “NO SHOW” stamped on it. We couldn’t work out how to say “your computer system is crap” in Spanish. He indicated this was no problem and he could rent us a car now, then produced a quote almost double what we had quoted on-line. That whole captive market thing really annoys me: if you’re going to book a car in advance then we’ll give you a competitive quote so you come to us instead of someone else, but if you’re going to sit in front of me and say “I need a car today” then oh-ho-ho I can pretty much milk you for money! So we walked.

Which is how we ended up at a local rental agency where a friendly lady rented us a clapped-out old Korean import for less than Hertz’s original quote. One of the doors doesn’t work and it shows signs of an unprofessional respray at some point in its history, so let’s hope it’s all good under the bonnet. Because we’re taking it into the mountains.

This morning we were in Arica, on the seashore. This evening we’re in Putre, only 135kms inland but now at 3,500m. Everything in this strange part of the world seems inverted. Down near Arica the sky was swathed in low-lying cloud and the roads were damp, yet the hills are utterly barren of vegetation and away from the valley you feel like you’re in purgatory. But once you climb up through the clouds there is nothing but blue sky above and the high mountain slopes begin to somehow support life – first the lonely candelabra cactus standing sentinel in the dust, and then more scrub and grasses. Up at 3,500m in the village of Socoroma we found humming-birds.

Our lodge in Putre is friendly and welcoming, only five or six rooms and run by an Italian chap called Flavio who has previously run small hotels or lodges in Langkawi and Lithuania. Very eclectic. I’m on a diet of simple food and no booze, to try and overcome another gut bug picked up in Arica. This isn’t a great problem as the food in Chile is generally uninspiring, so I don’t feel I’m denying myself any treats. Interesting, though: SE Asia, one gut bug in three months; S America, three gut bugs in three weeks. Make of that what you will.


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