Perito Moreno Glacier

We travelled very far south in Argentina to get to a town called El Calafate. As we were getting further away from the equator, the temperature began to get cooler. To be perfectly honest, I was freezing! While we were in El Calafate it even snowed. That’s how chilly it was! 

These cold temperatures create some amazing landscapes though. There is a glacier called Perito Moreno here, and we went on a trek to find it. My jar dropped as we walked around the final corner and the glacier came into full view. Wow!!! What a sight it was…

A glacier is a huge sheet of ice that begins high up in mountains and slowly drips down. They often feed into lakes and rivers. This glacier is 5km wide and 14km long. That’s bigger than Portsmouth! It is up to 100m high above the lake, but there is also a lot of ice below the water too. 

Sometimes the ice melts and sometimes it cracks and breaks off. We were very lucky to see huge chunks of the glacier crack and fall into the lake below. When a chunk of ice cracked off it made a huge roar like thunder! It fell into the lake and made huge waves and ripples in the water. The whole day was magnificent! 

Buenos Aires

I know I say that lots of places are my favourite places or the best place ever. But the thing with an adventure around the world is that there are surprises around every corner! We arrived in Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina, and I instantly fell in love. This city is very very cool, and here’s why….

Tango
Tango is a style of dancing that you have maybe seen on Strictly Come Dancing before. But instead of dancing in a hall or somewhere special, people dance the tango everywhere in this city, including out in the streets. It’s not just the dancers who practise and perform in the streets, it’s the tango singers and musicians too. It’s so fun to just sit and watch them. However, the real fun came when Luke and I had a go. Safe to say, neither of us will be winning Strictly come dancing anytime soon, but it was a giggly time having a go! 

Art
As well as dancers and musicians, Buenos Aries is full of artists and painters. Their paintings are often bright and colourful, and they often have dancers in their pictures. Street art and graffiti spreads across lots of the walls in the city making the buildings and streets feel vibrant and alive. The houses in the old parts of the city were brightly coloured and made of metal which looked so cool. 

Theatre

We went to a theatre to see one of the most famous shows in Argentina called Fuerza Bruta. It was a dance and music show with lots of gymnastics and crazy outfits. We had to stand up for the whole show – there were no chairs! We had to dance along with the dancers and actors too. My favourite part was when the ceiling started to move and it filled with water. There were dancers on top who were acting like mermaids and bouncing around on the swimming pool trampoline ceiling! It was so fun to watch! 

Friends and Barbecues!
We made some friends who live in Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina. Their names are Lautro, Maxi, Miranda, Maria and Maru. They invited us to their house for a barbecue which is the most popular thing for families and friends to do together on the weekends. It’s a bit like us in England in summer. But the food on the barbecue is a bit different! Argentina is famous for having the best barbecues because the meat is so tasty. Instead of burgers and hot dogs, they cook ribs and steak and lots of other tasty meat. Some even has melted cheese on it! Mmmmmm. We have missed our friends at home a lot, but making new friends has been very special. 

Horse riding

We headed from Bolivia through to north Chile to finally arrive in north Argentina. We spent some time here living a ‘gaucho’ lifestyle. A gaucho is a bit like a cowboy. They live on a ranch (a place with lots of fields and stables) and look after horses. We went horse riding with a real gaucho and a few other tourists. It was great fun. 

When I was younger I used to spend a lot of time horse riding, but unfortunately I haven’t found much time for it since being a grown up. Luckily, I had remembered many skills and what to do. Luke, on the other hand, has ridden a horse once or twice in his life, so he was a little unsure. Unfortunately for Luke, he was also given a horse who was a bit lazy. So I had to help him quite a lot. 

My horse was called Malambo and was quite excitable. He was extremely quick, and when we got to a big field and I told him to gallop he REALLY sped off. It was a cool feeling. I was so proud of Luke for having a go at something that he was unsure of and for doing so so well and eventually getting his stubborn horse to canter! 


Bolivian salt flats

Millions of years ago, lots of South America used to be under the sea. Then the surface of the world started to change and the bottom of the sea rose up out of the water and became land. Most of the Andes mountains were part of this. When this became land a lot of salt was left over from the sea. The rivers and salt lakes began to collect huge amounts of salt. Eventually, the salt flats were formed. This is what they look like. It looks a bit like snow. And actually it made a crunchy sound when we walked on it a bit like snow too. 

It is very popular to use the huge space to create funny photographs by playing with something called ‘perspective’. Some things are closer to the camera, and some things are further away. Luke and I had a few props to use and it was great fun! Lots of you who were in lion class might recognise Lenny the lion. 



Close up, the salt flat looked like this. It’s about 3m thick in some parts, and underneath is a lake filled with pretty cold water. 

It was the weirdest thing, but as we were driving across the huge white salt flat, we found an island filled with cacti. This type of cactus only grows here, where it is always sunny and bright, but usually cold and windy too. How strange? 

One night on this adventure we stayed in a house that was made out of salt. The walls and floor, and even the bed, were made from salt blocks! 

When the Andes rose up out of the sea, many volcanos also became active. The land here in the south of Bolivia is mostly made of volcanic rocks, lava that has exploded out of volcanos a long time ago, cooled down and formed as rocks. There are also lots of lagoons. The landscape is truly beautiful. Unfortunately, some of the lagoons contain sulphur which can small a bit. Actually it can smell a lot, and mostly like rotten eggs! There are not many animals that live here as it is usually very windy and it gets extremely cold at night. The only animals that live here are flamingos! 

We often felt like we were walking on another planet, like Mars or Jupiter perhaps. It was such a different looking place!

Cholitas wrestling 

We had such a funny time at a wrestling show. But this wrestling was a bit different from normal wrestling. In Bolivia the girls who take part in the wrestling wear their full traditional clothes. As you can see from the pictures, they don’t look like the most sensible clothes for wrestling. Even so, they were incredibly strong and they were wrestling against other men and women. I was very impressed with some of the big throws and flips! 

The Amazon Rainforest

One of my life long dreams has been to visit the Amazon rainforest. I cannot believe that it has actually come true. Luke and I spent three days with a guide called Carlos exploring along the Yacuma river on the edge of the Amazon rainforest.

We stayed in a jungle lodge that is built above the river. It was so cool staying actually in the jungle like this. In the evenings and mornings there were caiman crocodiles floating and swimming beneath us! Here is a picture that I call ‘spot the croc’. You should be able to see two…

  

There were also thousands of tiny insects in our room, but more excitingly there were lots of bats that would swoop through the gap between the wall and the ceiling and they flew around us as we slept! How crazy is that?
  

The Yacuma river flows into the Amazon river which is the longest river in the world. Every day we got in a small boat and explored the river and jungle. We were incredibly lucky to easily spot many different animals, birds and fish in our three days. As well as caiman crocodiles and bats, we saw capybara, pink river dolphins, otters, turtles, herons, vultures, toucans, eagles, birds of paradise, small yellow capuchin monkeys, two different types of parrots, howling monkeys, piranhas, tarantulas, and a black anaconda snake! YOU WOULD HAVE ABSOLUTELY LOVED EVERY SECOND OF THIS TRIP!! I sure did. I couldn’t stop smiling from ear to ear the whole time. Some fun highlights include:

  • Seeing caiman crocodiles swimming under our bedroom. 

  

 

  • Little yellow capuchin monkeys raiding our boat for our bananas and climbing on our heads. 

  

  

  • Listening to howler monkeys and seeing a mother and baby one in a tree.

  
 

  • Having bats flying around us as we slept at night.
  • Watching turtles sunbathe along the edge of the river. 

  

  • Holding a wild tarantula on my arm and Luke letting it crawl on his head!

  

  

  

  • Finding a black anaconda in a tree and then running away when it slithered down into the water we were standing in. 

  

  • Swimming in the river next to the pink river dolphins. 

  

  

  • Watching toucans in the trees along the river. 

  

  • Seeing endangered blue throated macaws fly above us as we floated down the river. 
  • Floating below parrots as they soared above us. 

  

  • Fishing for piranhas and seeing their teeth. 
  • Finding a baby crocodile in the grass at night. 

  

  • Spotting a giant 5 metre long black caiman crocodile carry a dead crocodile away from some vultures! Crazy!!!!

  
I really really REALLY wish you had all been there. It took a lot of guts for me to even pluck up the courage to go to the jungle, but once we were there I was conquering fear after fear! The final picture I have is the stunning sunrise on our final day in the rainforest. This really has been the trip of a lifetme!
  

Lake Titicaca

We went to visit the highest lake in the world. As you know there are lots of mountains and valleys in Peru. This lake sits high up and is right on the edge of Peru next to another country called Bolivia. Because it is so high, the clouds look quite low and really cool. Some of the lake belongs to Peru and some of it belongs to Bolivia.
  

One of the most unique things about this lake is the floating islands. Peruvian people build these islands using grass reeds that grow in the shallow parts of the water. They live in grass huts and many of them don’t have electricity. Some of them use solar panels to collect energy during the day so they have lights at night time. The children have to get in a small grass woven boat to get to school. 
  
  
We visited a few floating grass islands and then we visited a large island called Amantani. About 4000 people live here. We stayed with a family and Emiliana was the mother of this family. She was like our mother for two days too. She cooked us breakfast, lunch and dinner and she gave us the spare room to sleep in. 
  

  
Emiliana and her family grow most of the food they eat in their gardens around their house. They have a cow who makes milk for them and this means they can have milk and cheese. The room that we stayed in was made from mud rocks. They use mud, straw, llama hair and even human hair to mix together to form rocks to build houses. 
  

The islands get very cold at night so families either stay inside in one room together with a log fire OR they fiesta! Fiesta means party. One evening the family dressed us up in their traditional clothes and took us to a fiesta. There was a traditional band with drums and guitars and pipes. It was in a huge hall and we had to dance and dance and dance! It was excellent fun. 
  

Here are some pictures of Emiliana, her kind family and their home. 
  

  

  

The Sacred Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

When the Spanish invaded in the 1500’s, they tried to find all of the secret Inca towns and cities in the jungle and in the mountains. The Inca people tried hard to defend these places because they didn’t want fighting and they didn’t want to change the way they lived.

They weren’t too successful, but one extremely important Inca city managed to stay a secret. It wasn’t until 1911 when an American explorer called Hiram Bingham heard a rumour about a secret city and he finally found Machu Picchu. It is one of the biggest and most well hidden old cities, found in the middle of a valley between many tall mountains.

Only very important Inca people used to walk from Cusco to Machu Picchu and they used to walk along one very special route called the Sacred Inca Trail. The important people would be people like priests or priestesses, Inca royalty or wise teachers and leaders. 
  

Luke and I decided we wanted to know what if feels like to be a special Inca person so we made the four day trek to Machu Picchu along the Sacred Inca Trail. Only 50 people a day are allowed to begin the Sacred Inca Trail, as Peru wants it to remain special. It takes four days to walk to Machu Picchu along the sacred trail. We were in a group with 13 other people, as well as our guides Percy and Ernesto. Percy and Ernesto love the history of Peru and the Incas, and they both still believe what the Incas used to believe – that nature is the most important thing in the world. There was lots of nature to see along the way.
  

We had to camp in tents at night time along the way. We had to wash in a river and we had to carry lots of our camping equipment on our backs.
 

   

It was EXTREMELY hard work! I like to think I do lots of exercise and stay active and healthy. But I was so exhausted and my legs were hurting and aching every day. 
  

We walked up and down three tall mountains, the tallest was 4200m high. The Sacred Inca Trail is not a straight line though, and on the second and third day there were thousands of steps that the Incas had built to make the walk easier. Well, honestly, there was nothing easy about it. We walked through the rainforest, along the Urubamba river, and even through a cloud forest. 
  

  

Although it was tough, it was such an incredible experience. Percy and Ernesto taught us lots about the Incas and helped us to learn more about nature. We spotted lots of wild llamas and alpacas, spiders and hummingbirds. I am so excited to tell you all, especially year 6, that I saw a toucan!! I couldn’t believe it! I was so busy smiling (and almost crying happy tears) that I didn’t manage to get a picture. But the black feathers and bright beak were unmissable. We were all so delighted to see such a special rainforest bird. 
On the fourth morning we had to wake up at 3.30am to walk until 5.30am to get to a place called the sun gate in time for sunrise. This is where you can see the sun rise up and light up the beautiful secret city. Check out our view!
  
Yes, what a shame. It was very misty and cloudy and slightly raining. All of that walking to find this! I was devastated. We walked to the main entrance where they have built real toilets and some of my devastation disappeared as it had been four days since I had used a real toilet. Luckily, by the time we had all excitedly used the nice toilets, the clouds slowly started to drift away. 
  

Here is the view of the whole secret ruined city. What a sight!
  

Percy walked us around the city showing us the different parts. There were four temples near each other called the temple of wind, the sun temple, the temple of the earth, and the water temple. These four natural elements were very important to the Incas. As you can see from the pictures, many mountains (or guardians) surround the sacred city. One of them is called Happy Mountain. I like that one the most. 

There were also a few wild llamas roaming through the city. One of them even managed to photobomb us!
  

The Sacred Inca Trail and Machu Picchu was one of the most special adventures I have ever been on. I will always have so many wonderful memories of walking the special trail that many Incas walked years before me, as well as memories of the clouds lifting to reveal the beautiful secret city that Peru and the guardians managed to protect for so many years. If you choose to travel to South America in your life, I seriously recommend you take the trek and see Machu Picchu. I know that there is at least one other teacher at St Columba who has also been here… Can you find out who? 

Inca History

Peru has a really interesting history. As I mentioned before, most countries in South America speak Spanish. But we aren’t in Spain! In the 1500’s the Spanish navy and armies sailed from Spain across the Atlantic Ocean to take over the land in South America. They were successful and they introduced lots of Spanish things in South America, including speaking Spanish and going to Christian churches. 

 
   

Before Spain invaded though, Peru already had a very interesting culture (that sort of means ‘way of life’). They spoke a different language called Quechua and they wore different clothes and had different beliefs. They were called the Inca people and here is a picture of what they used to wear. 
  

They used to, and still do, play lots of cool instruments too. Can you spot any in the picture? Peru has lots of natural gold and silver, so the men used to wear lots of gold and the women used to wear lots of silver. When the Spanish came and found out, guess what they did? They started to take all of the precious metals. 

The Spanish also built huge churches. Some of these are really beautiful. But the Incas didn’t go to church. They believed something different. Lots of Peruvians still believe something different now too and they call it Inca beliefs or Andean beliefs. Instead of believing in God and Jesus and other important things from our bible, they believe in the natural world. Their gods are the sun and the moon. They believe the Andean mountains are their guardians (like angels). They believe that nature is the most important thing in the world. 
The Andean people have this very important special saying:

“The earth does not belong to us. We belong to the earth.”

This means that we cannot just do whatever we want. We need to always be thinking carefully about looking after planet earth. 

The Incas had some sacred (very special) animals, which include condors, pumas, llamas, alpacas, guinea pigs and healing dogs. Here are some pictures of some sacred animals we have seen…
  

  

  

  

The dog here is called Pisco. He is a Peruvian hairless dog, also know as a healing dog. He was so friendly and loved cuddles. It’s a bit weird cuddling a hairless dog, but he was lovely. 

Another slightly weird fact… Although guinea pigs are sacred animals, people in Peru also eat them for dinner! It is a sign of being rich and healthy if your family can afford to eat guinea pigs for dinner. I made sure Luke and I didn’t eat any as I just didn’t fancy it! 

Chocolate workshop

After exploring the museum, Luke and I took part in a chocolate workshop to have a go at making our own chocolate, from cacao bean to bar! 

First we tasted a cacao bean. Oh my goodness, you will not believe what I am about to say… It was disgusting! I LOVE chocolate, you all know that. But a fresh cacao bean is not very tasty. It smells like mud and a bit like stinky socks. Then it tastes a bit like banana, which is nice, then weirdly the flavour turns into coffee and olives. It’s so strange! 
   

 

  

After tasting them, we roasted the cacao beans in a terracotta pot. This made it easier to pick off the shells – this part is called winnowing. We used the shells to make chocolate flavour tea. Mmmm tasty! 
 
 

Next we had to use a pestle and mortar to crush the beans into a paste. This is called grinding. This is how Peruvians used to make chocolate years ago. We also had a go at using a grinding machine which was much easier!
 
 

  
After that the cacao paste is pressed and separated into cocoa powder and cocoa butter. 
  
Here is some cool information about ingredients for different chocolates…

  • For dark chocolate, you don’t need to separate the paste. Just use cacao paste and sugar. 
  • For milk chocolate, you don’t need to separate the paste. Just use cacao paste, sugar and powdered milk. 
  • For white chocolate, separate the paste and use the cocoa butter, sugar and powdered milk.

I chose to make my chocolates out of dark chocolate and Luke chose to make his out of milk chocolate. The next stage is to temper the chocolate. This needs a highly skilled professional chocolate maker and lots of time. When chocolate is tempered it makes it a bit shiny and stops it from turning white (that sometimes happens when a chocolate bar melts and cools again). We didn’t have time for this, so we were told we will need to eat our chocolates within a couple of days to stop it going white. I was confident that wouldn’t be a problem. 
Once we had added sugar to my paste and sugar and milk powder to Luke’s, we had to pour the chocolate into moulds. 
  

We were also allowed to add flavours. Luke made four different types of milk chocolates: some with raisins, some with hundreds and thousands, some with salt and some with chilli powder! I made four different types of dark chocolate: some with smarties and crunchy bits, some with salt, some with chilli and some with nuts. We had to put them in the fridge to chill and harden. 
  

Well, unfortunately I won’t be able to bring any chocolates back for you. Mostly because I don’t have enough space in my backpack. But also because I’m not sure Luke or I will manage to save any. They were utterly scrumptious!
I wish you all a very happy Easter. Luckily there are lots of churches here in South America so we can celebrate Easter too. There is also lots of chocolate!