torsdag 27. august 2009


After a short flight to Amsterdam, about 11 hours from Amsterdam to Lima, 6 hours of waiting in Lima airport, 1 hour waiting inside the plane and a couple of more hours flight, I arrived in La Paz, Bolivia 2 am local time. A taxi drive through empty streets brought me to the hotel I had booked, which in fact was closed, but I managed to wake up the night porter and got myself to bed. La Paz is about 3600m a.s.l so I took it very easy the next days, both to recover from jet lag and to prevent high altitude sickness. So I took a lot of rest, drank my mate de coca, and used some time to look around in La Paz. I got a bit headache, and had a little heavy breathing, but in fact it got better when I got outside La Paz, even if I ascended to a higher altitude with about 400 m. I guess this is due to that La Paz is placed in a valley going down from the high plateau (altiplano), with a lot of polluting traffic which give the body even less oxygen than in the high plateau itself.

Pics from La Paz


Most of the long distance buses in Bolivia is night buses. So also with the bus from La Paz to Potosi. Most of the bus companies have quite good buses, and some are excellent. I chose a bus with “beds” which means seat more or less like the first class seats in long distance planes. Maybe a bit lack of space for a long legged European like me, but I slept well and had a very good trip.

Many, many years ago I read about the mines of Potosi in a book of the Uruguayan historian and writer Eduardo Galeano called “Open veins of Latin America”. I read about the Cerro Rico (rich mountain) the richest silver mines in history, where the Spanish took out or stole silver enough to build a bridge from Potosi, across the Atlantic Ocean and to Madrid (this is not my words). They first tried with slaves from Africa to work in the mines, but they could not make this hard work in these altitude and relative cold temperatures, so they started to enslave the indigenous people both around Potosi and from other parts of the Andes. While the people living there when the Spanish came was mostly Aymaras, you will today also find a big Quechua-speaking population in Potosi, descendants from slaves from the Peruvian parts of Andes. But the life of a miner was – and is – short. They worked – and work – 24 hours a day, with nothing else than the chewing of coca leaves as food. Lots of people have died in and of the mines. Eduardo Galeano writes that after a while the name of the mountain – in Aymara – changed from the “rich mountain” to “ the mountain that eats people”.

The silver from Potosi paid, to a large extent, the industrialization of England and thereby also much of the rest of Europe. Ships loaded with silver sometimes went on Spanish ships directly to England as payments of the industrialized goods which the Spanish aristocracy bought a lot of in these years. Today there is almost no silver left in the mines of Potosi, but the town still live of mining. But today they take out what is left there, which mostly is sink Thinking of what amount of riches and wealth Potosi has created on another continent, it is quite a contrast to see the poverty in this city today. The miners work with just hand tools (and dynamite, but the holes for the dynamite is made with hammer and chisel), life expectancy for a miner is about 10 years after starting to work in the mine. A miner might earn about $35 for 14 days, those working outside earn less I think.

Well, I guess you have figured out that I have had a special interest for Potosi, and finally I have also been there, not only read about it. The tour to and in the mines included some playing with dynamite, saying hello to Supay (El Tio in spanish, which means uncle but is hardly the original meaning or source of the name El Tio, it is a bit more complicated), and the day I was there was the day they sacrifice lamas to Pachamama (Mother Earth). The lamas in the pics are already dead, and their blood is thrown over the entrance of the mine and other places that need the blessing of Pachamama. If you think Supay reminds of a familiar guy from the christian myths, it is not coincidental, there is also a story behind that. I can tell more to those who are interested, or you can google for more info.

Pics from Potosi


Another night bus, this time not quite the same standard, but fair buses. You can't say the same about the road though. While it is paved road on the altiplano from La Paz to Potosi, the road from Potosi to Tarija is a dust road, and what we call a wash board road in Norway. Also a night bus, but not too easy to sleep.

Tarija is the capitol of the wine district in Bolivia and of course I had to see some of the vineyards and bodegas. They consist of both some industrial bodegas and a lot of traditional bodegas. In my opinion the industrial wine production of Bolivia can be compared to their more famous neighbours in Chile and Argentina. In the traditional ones they make more sweet wines (but not only that), and the locals mostly prefer the sweet wines I was told.

Pics from Tarija

Pics from wine bodegas

There is a lot of beautiful nature around the city, and for those who like trekking and hiking, Tarija has a lot to offer. The so called “Inca trail” which is a road built buy the Incas in pre-Colombian time, is believed to have gone from the north west parts of Argentina to somewhere in the Colombian Andes, through La Paz, Cusco in Peru and Quito in Ecuador (if this does not tell you anything, then look on the map). The first part, if you go from south to north, which is still visible and in good condition, is just outside Tarija. I did a one day trip along this beautiful road here, together with a guide and a French couple, Aurora and Simon.

Pics from Inca trail Tarija

The Inca trail El Choro

One of the better preserved parts of the Inca trail starts at Cumbre not far from the La Paz, in the deserted landscape at 4900m and descends to about 1300m at El Chairo, about an hours drive from Coroico. This is a 3-4 days trip, I made it in 3 days. You won't really need a guide on this trip, it is impossible to get lost, but I took one for safety reasons. I had no one who wanted to go at the same time as me, and as one of the hiking rules is in Norway: Never walk alone! It turned out to be the best, my guide, Milton, was a very nice guy and we had a great time together. We also met some other groups on our way.

The first day we descended to about 2800m, and in the afternoon we had our dinner and put up our tents at Challapampa, one of the tambos (a place that offered shelter and lodging for the travellers on the road) along the road. In pre-Colombian times these roads had a messenger or post system. The chasquis were postmen that would service an average of 10-15km of the road (the distance depending on the land and challenges) and there was always a running mail man at his post. In these days it is estimated that news from Quito in Ecuador reached Cusco in Peru in 6-7 days, which is less than a letter sent by mail takes today!

Pics from Inca trail El Choro day 1

Well, enough of that, you can find more about this if you google the Inca trail I guess. The next day was a lot up and down, which also included to go up the so-called Cuesta del Diablo, which means Devils Hill or Slope. I think I was a bit better fit for this than Milton, because he got completely exhausted after this. We were supposed to stop at a tambo called Bella Vista, but here the lady in charge had taken a visit to La Paz so it was all closed. In stead we had to go on to Sandillani, a place where a Japanese settled down 50 years ago and have made himself a beautiful Japanese garden where you can camp with a spectacular view of the valley hundreds of meters below (800m or so). At this place there is also some sort of a hostel or inn, where you can get a bed in a dormitory (which I gladly paid 25bs - $4 -for in stead of another night in tent). But first we had a good meal and some beers after the hardest part of the trail – and the longest day of trekking.

Pics from The Inca trail El Choro day 2

The next day started with a visit to the Japanese garden, and the old Japanese told us the story about how he came there, showed us maps drawn by hand of all the countries in the world with points to where his visitors in these years came from. He also had a huge amount of postcards from all over the world (which reminds me that I must send him one when I get home), and about 15 from Norway, among them one from Stavanger and one from Sand in Ryfylke, about 3 hours drive from Stavanger.

After saying goodbye to the Japanese, we descended down to El Chairo at about 1300m, from where we hired a mini bus to Coroico. I would have loved to stay at Coroico, but had a bus ticket from La Paz to Arequipa in Peru the next day and had to leave short after we arrived there.

Pics from The Inca trail El Choro day 3

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Brügge, the Cactus Festival and Tracy Chapman

After the Roskilde Festival and Copenhagen Jazz me and Steinar and another friend, Helge, drove down to Brügge in Belgium to see and hear Tracy Chapman who was going to play at the small Cactus Festival here. First of all; Tracy Chapman was worth the long car trip!! Great concert!! And the small and intimate Cactus Festival suited her a lot more than I think any of the stages at the Roskilde Festival would have done. The Cactus Festival was quite a contrast to Roskilde, but we all liked the atmosphere here, both at the festival and the beautiful city of Brügge. Not much more to say about it, if I have the chance I would like to go there another year as well.

Pics from Brügge

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onsdag 26. august 2009

On bicycle in Denmark and Roskilde Festival

Since 2004 I have been every year to the Roskilde Festival. The first years I went there with my daughter, but the 3 last years I have been allowed to go there on my own, or with friends. Also the 3 last years I have made the trip to Roskilde by bicycle, together with my friend Steinar. This year his daughter, Katarina, and one of her friends, Linn, also joined us, and a second friend of hers, Katrine, joined us for the last 2 days. All in all it is a 5 days trip by bicycle if you do it our way, take it easy, and take the ferry from Århus to Sjællands Odde. The first ferry is the ferry from Norway to Denmark though, the port we have left from has been a different one every year, this year it was from Risavika a bit outside Stavanger.

We have not been blessed with such a marvellous weather as this year before, the sun was shining from start to end. There is not so much to say about the trip except for that we all enjoyed it, but in spite of that the girls insist on that they will go by car or plane next year. There is some pics from the last night before we got to Roskilde that might seem a bit strange, but the hoods on the girls and the hardly “trimmed” tent was caused by a lot of mosquitoes and since they did not start to put up the tent before after sunset there was quite a performance going on before they rushed into the tent.

Except for that the trip went on with cycling, eating, beer-drinking and eating and a night on town in Århus. We all stayed at the flat to Katrine who is studying in Århus, but there was no spare key, so when me and Steinar came to the flat the girls where sleeping steady, and no one heard either the door bell or cell phones. The flat was on the floor over a shop at street level and since it was hot the windows where open. The shop had a gitter and by climbing this and out on the shop sign I managed to climb in – still without waking up any of the girls. I still wonder what went through the minds of those two drivers that passed us when the climbing was going on.

Well... then it was the Roskilde Festival. Great as usual.. though I must say that in spite of better “names” this year that last year, I did not have as many really good concert experiences as I have had the other years. But still enough to go next year as well.

What also has become a tradition for me is to go to a concert at the Copenhagen Jazz Festival which starts the last weekend of the Roskilde Festival and last for some more than a week. 3 years ago I went with my mother, the last 2 years also some of my siblings, nephews and niece have joined us. This year we went to a great concert with Roberto Fonseca band (Cuba), which really was a great experience.

Pics from bicycletrip

Pics from Roskilde Festival

Pics from Copenhagen Jazz Festival

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This is in fact the first time I have been travelling by train in Europe, except for Norway, Denmark and a single trip from Newcastle to London many years ago. I have always preferred train to bus or car, and sometimes even to plane, so it is maybe a little strange that I haven't travelled more this way. On my list was some of the cities in Europe that I have never been to before, like Prague, Budapest and Berlin. I would also very much liked to go to Italy, especially Rome, but I had to make some choices to get some more time on the places I visited, rather than rush through a lot of places and cities. And there will be more chances.

I will not write a lot about each city, you can have a look at the pics, just some words about the travel in general, the route I took and what I think about it.

Well, I started with a trip by plane though, my interrail ticket could not be used in my own country, so then I could as well start with a cheap flight to London. I have been to London some times before, but never to other places in the UK, so this time I wanted to see at least one more city on her majesty's island. My choice was Manchester. Unfortunately I have no pics from there, and I guess Manchester is not a tourist magnet, but I got what I wanted; to see one of the old industrial towns of UK, which also has its China Town. Not like the China Towns in South East Asia, in Manchester it is more some streets with basically oriental restaurants. But they call it China Town.

Then back to London and the Eurostar train to Brussels You don't get free passage with your interrail ticket on the Eurostar train, but you get a very reduced rate, the earlier you book the more reduced (I think). It is quite amazing that this trip don't last more than 2 hours.. so why on earth do someone fly from London to Brussels?

The centre of Brussels is nice to walk around in, especially the area around Grand Place with its street cafes and restaurants and beautiful old buildings. Not once did the food disappoint me, which I can't say about UK, or any other places I have visited (though most of the times I have been satisfied). One day, when I went out from the North train station, I was suddenly in what I guess is the “red light district” of Brussels I feel really bad when I see the prostitutes sitting in shop windows like some other merchandise. This way of looking at women is really disgusting, and I started wondering... this is the capitol of the European union; why is this not more discussed in a city that hosts politicians from all these countries? Or maybe a city like this need to cope with the “demands” of all the powerful men visiting the city? In my own country, in Europe and the rest of the western countries there is a lot of talk about the womens position in Islam And there is, in my opinion, a lot to criticize in this matter, but we certainly have a lot to do in our own countries. And in either Malaysia or Indonesia, big Islam countries, I found the poit of view which says that women, or women's bodies, is something you can buy or sell. 

Another thing... after having seen the centres of power, the areas around the EU commission, the EU parliament and different financial institutions, it is obvious what today's “cathedrals” are made of. It is dark glass, in fact this is also the case in South East Asia. This is what symbolizes power today. And maybe there is a symbol in the fact that you can see out from these buildings, but you can't see in. What is inside is hidden for us who have no access to them. In Brussels the women for sale is highly visible in their windows, but the men (and women) with money and power is not visible.
We just know they are inside there some place.

Pics from Brussels

From Brussels to Budapest

If you have bought an interrail ticket you can travel without additional charge on most trains throughout Europe, but if you want to be sure to have a seat, or if you travel on trains where seat or sleeping place is compulsory, you have to pay for the seat or couchette. It takes some time to find internet sites with reliable information about timetables and costs, but I ended up with the conclusion that the web site for Deutsche Bahn is far the best. And far better than the experts at the booking office at the main train station in Brussels I came there with a suggestion, but they managed to convince me that another route to Budapest would be far better. This “better” option included a 5 hour stop at Frankfurt Airport (I took the train to the Frankfurt Central and catched the next train from there). My next stop was Stuttgart from where they had booked me a night train to Budapest. To my surprise I discovered that this night train in fact started in Frankfurt where I had just been, and stopped in Stuttgart on the way. So from that time I used the Deutsche Bahn web site to plan my travels and did not ask anyone else for advice!

It was also a little amazing to discover that unlike most of the other long distance trains (which sometimes was just a few hours travel), this train did not have a restaurant or bistro car. The service if you were thirsty or hungry was rather poor. Maybe I also was a bit extra disappointed since this is in fact a part of the old Orient Express, and from the film of this old Agatha Christie story I know it was far better before. When I disembarked in Budapest I managed to forget my cell phone on board, I had put it for charge, so for the rest of my euro trip I experienced how life was when we did not have this thing by hand all the time. And also how stupid it is to let the phone be the only place you store numbers when you are on travel.

Well, but what about Budapest? Budapest is a wonderful city, I don't have to say more. And I have to say many thanks to Eszter, the cs'er who hosted me there, and which I managed to get in touch with even without the cell phone.

Pics from Budapest

From Budapest to Berlin

The reason that I went to Berlin before Prague is that I wanted to join a festival for members of CS and similar web sites (Hospitality Club etc.), the BBC (Berlin Beach Camp). After having been there I think I might make this an annual occasion to go to Berlin. It was fun to meet all these persons, and especially the polish friends I made there. So now Poland is definitely on my “to do” list. I also got the opportunity to visit some relatives a little outside Berlin, though a short visit.

One of the things I did during the camp was to take a guided tram trip, we had two experts on trains and trams with us during our travel in the eastern parts of Berlin (there is no trams in the west part, except for one who starts in the west part and goes to the east). I also got to see and join some of the carnival which was going on in Berlin at the time. I did not see so much of the central parts of Berlin though so I am looking forward to do that some other time.

Pics from Berlin

Berlin to Prague

Also a night train with rather poor service. But I had an all right sleep and arrived Prague in the morning. I had booked a hotel here since I got no response on requests on CS (the cs'ers in Prague get a lots of requests so I should have made my requests a long time ahead of my arrival). It was a little surprising to come to locked door at the small hotel, but after some calls (which had to be made from an old fashioned telephone box), it turned out to the best. Nice room and friendly owner.

I think Prague is the most beautiful city I visited. But also most crowded with tourists. Nevertheless I had a great time there, with good food in nice and small restaurants, lovely walks in narrow streets. When I needed to escape a bit from the worst of the tourist crowds I just walked over the Carl's bridge and went around in the streets on the other side. Prague is also easy to get around in, if you have a map of the city together with a map of the transport systems, it is easy to find the way. I will highly recommend the trams, they go everywhere, and you also get to see a lot from them.

Pics from Prague

From Prague to Amsterdam

Again a night train with rather poor service, though it in fact started from Prague in the late afternoon and did not arrive before late morning hours the next day. I have only been in Amsterdam once before, when I, together with a friend, drove through a part of Europe some months after I got my driving license at the age of 18. 

Amsterdam is just as beautiful as I remember it. To be a big metropol it has a calm and relaxing atmosphere. Some of it reminds me of Copenhagen, and it is not only the brick stone buildings. In Copenhagen you will also find a huge number of bicycles, but Amsterdam exceeds this number by far. But just watch up so you don't walk in the bicycle lane... I can tell you that it is not appreciated!! And when you walk around in this relaxed atmosphere and look at the beautiful buildings and canals, you might suddenly find yourself in a bicycle lane – and the atmosphere is not so relaxed any more...

Pics from Amsterdam

Amsterdam to Hamburg

There is no direct train and the best way to go is to take a train to …. and then to Hamburg. When I wanted to book a seat, which in Germany is not to much of a cost (2€) and you can do it also on the ticket automates, there is no such option in the Netherlands and they have a gigantic fee of 10€ + the seat for it. So just forget it and go on the train and find an available seat.

Even if these trains does not take too many hours they have a good restaurant car. So this is a very pleasant way of travelling. In Hamburg I had a CS-contact, Bettina, that was to meet me at the station and that would host me. I only had a day here and Bettina took me a little around in Altona where she lives, a tour in a park and alongside the Elbe where it was possible to see both the charming river front on the Altona side, and the impressing shipyards and container harbour on the other side.

Pics from Hamburg

And with a café visit in the charming centre of Altona my euro trip was at its end – the next day I took a plane back to Stavanger.

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Jo Jenseg Web-album by Jo Jenseg is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Norway License.

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