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Owen

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Samaipata: El Fuerte Ruins and Las Cuevas Waterfalls

By Owen / July 24, 2017

“The echo in the valley is our mountain wifi,” said Cecilio, the guide we hired.

We took turns to shout, and the verdant mountains shouted back at us. Echoes always make me smile.

Or maybe, it was the clear blue skies and stunning mountain views that accompanied us as we walked the easy mountain trail to the ruins of El Fuerte, located just 9km from the tranquil town of Samaipata.

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Humbled in Potosi, Bolivia: Cerro Rico Mine Tour

By Owen / July 12, 2017

What would you do if you knew you’d die at 45?

Would you continue working hard in your job which pays peanuts?

What if your job is the reason you’d die at 45?

What if… there are no other options?

This is the fate of the 12 000 miners of Cerro Rico (Rich Hill) in Potosi, Bolivia. And I had the chance to visit these miners on a tour to the mines.

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From San Pedro to Uyuni: Salt Flats and Colourful Lakes

By Owen / July 11, 2017

The background sound muffled. My head became heavier. I squeezed my nose and blew.

POP.

The pressure escaped through my ears and the sound became clear again.

In that 45min drive from the Chilean border in San Pedro de Atacama to the Bolivian border at Hito Cajon (4480m), we gradually gained 2000m in elevation.

Welcome to the Bolivian Altiplano.

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Pukara de Quitor: The Driest Bike Ride in San Pedro de Atacama

By Owen / July 7, 2017

The desert sun was beating down on me. The strong winds were hitting my face. I pedalled hard on the overused bicycle.

By the time I arrived at my destination, I felt a little light-headed.

I was riding a bicycle on the driest place on earth, at an altitude of 2408m above sea level.

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A Different Valley of the Moon in San Pedro de Atacama

By Owen / July 6, 2017

We stood on the edge of the cliff, eyes firmly locked on the horizon.

The bright orange sun slowly descended, as it blanketed the sky with an orange hue, followed by a gradient of deep blue, pink and purple. Finally, the valley turned dark and the moon shone bright.

It was the most magical sunset I’ve ever seen. I haven’t seen an aurora borealis, but this felt as unreal to me.

The only thing that broke the spell?

The dozens of tour groups standing beside me. And there are HUNDREDS of tour operators in San Pedro de Atacama, all providing the popular Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon) tour which ends with the sunset at the Piedra del Coyote viewpoint.

Almost every tour operator follows the same route, but mine is different.

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Bolivia Visa on Arrival: Get it For Free Without the Hassle

By Owen / July 4, 2017

Ah Bolivia.

Y u so troublesome?

Singaporeans, and other Group 2 countries that require a visa on arrival, need to pay a hefty USD $92 to USD $160 if applying for a visa at the land border and go through a lot of hassle if they do not have the required documents.

I’ve read horror stories about people running back and forth between the border and printing shops for their documents, holding up the entire bus, and almost getting left behind at the border.

Thankfully, there is a way to avoid all that and even get your visa for free.

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Purmamarca and The Hill of the Seven Colours

By Owen / June 30, 2017

Once upon a time, in the far away mountainous region of Northern Argentina, a group of nomads decided to form a small town at the bottom of the hills.

These surrounding hills looked just like any other unimpressive mountains – dull, with no colours. “Boooring!” said the creative and imaginative children of the town. This is unacceptable to them and they complained to the adults. What is life without colours?

Their pleas to the adults fell on deaf ears. To the adults who had lost passion in life and hated their 9-5 day jobs, it was normal and something to ‘get used to’.

“Go do your homework!” the adults snapped, as they continued binge watching their boring TV and munching on Andean Potato Chips.

What happens when you ignore kids and tell them to do their homework? They rebel, of course! These kids formulated a plan to decorate the hills.

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In the Valley: The Pucara de Tilcara and the Devil’s Throat

By Owen / June 30, 2017

Just follow the dog shit.

Or were they llamas’?

The path to Garganta del Diablo was not well-marked, but animal wastes littered the well-trodden path. It is impossible to get lost.

Cacti and a sprawl of hardy sagebrush blanketed the wide plain as I climbed under the relentless sun.

The heat and the thin mountain air form a potent recipe for panting easily. Each time I felt my energy dipped, I turned around to look at the gorgeous colourful mountains of the Quebrada de Humahuaca and I instantly felt rejuvenated.

Such is the awe of the magnificent valley of the UNESCO declared Quebrada de Humahuaca in the North of Argentina. And what I was doing was starting a roughly 7km hike from the small mountain town of Tilcara.

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Trinidad Ruins: Paraguay’s Lonely Jesuit Gem

By Owen / June 24, 2017

It was 4:30 pm when I stepped onto the ruins.

The sun was beginning to set on this winter afternoon, casting a light orange glow over the remnants of a once thriving community.

Bright green moss covered the red sandstone structures, adding a slippery touch to it. I watched my steps while admiring the Spanish-styled architecture embellished with native Guarani influences.

There were not many people: I counted fewer than 10. Yet, these ruins were declared UNESCO World Heritage Status back in 1993; a title that usually comes with a horde of visitors. Not so with these ruins.

There was a rumour that this site – the Trinidad Ruins and its sister site the Jesús Ruins – is the least visited UNESCO site in the world. Is it true?

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San Ignacio Mini: A Culture Union of Jesuits and Guarani

By Owen / June 23, 2017

I walked to the side of the ruins to avoid the huge group of middle-aged tourists strolling to the entrance of the church.

At this area, and to the back of the ruins, I was alone.

No matter how damaged they are, these sharp, edged red sandstone structures look photogenic from every angle. I had my own mini-photoshoot. No photobombers, no weird stares, just me and my trusty Gopro.

The sun was beaming strong in San Ignacio, a small town 56km northeast of Posadas, capital of Misiones Province. This unique town feels different from the rest of Argentina.

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