All posts in "UNESCO"
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Tiwanaku Ruins: The Enigmatic Civilisation of Bolivia

By Owen / August 2, 2017

Everyone who travels in South America knows the Inca, undoubtedly one of the mightiest empire in its time; so much so that periods have been defined as pre-Inca or post-Inca.

Many also know about the Mayans and the Aztecs.

But hardly anyone has heard of the Tiwanaku. Admittedly, neither did I, before I came to Bolivia.

Yet, the Tiwanaku was the longest-running civilisation in South America, from AD 300 – AD 1000; and one of the most important pre-Columbian cultures in the Andean region.

The Tiwanaku site was also the spiritual and political centre of the Tiwanaku civilization. The history lover in me just had to visit the site.

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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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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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Ischigualasto Provincial Park: Moonwalking with Dinosaurs

By Owen / June 14, 2017

It was eerily silent.

There were only the white crumbly ground, dry desert shrubs and sedimentary rocks of otherworldly shapes. Lots and lots of these irregular rock formations; almost like they’re trophies in an outdoor natural museum.

Time and again, I thought to myself, “Where am I?”

If it wasn’t for the 15 or so tourists, I’d have imagine being lost on another planet. I wouldn’t be surprised if a one-eyed, four-legged monster dripping green gooey saliva jumped out from under the rocks and attacked us.

Indeed, this looked like a scene out of a Starwars movie, on one of the desert-like planets with alien inhabitants.

We were walking under the beaming sun towards the Cancha de Bochas (The Balls’ Field) in Ischigualasto Provincial Park.

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50 Shades of Red: Awe-Inspired by Talampaya National Park

By Owen / June 13, 2017

I tilted my head up, and stared at the majestic red canyons.

All 150m of it.

Like a 7-year old in a candy store, I was in absolute awe. The canyons surrounded me on both sides, like all sorts of colourful candies surrounding the little boy, and I gasped in all its glory.

Millions of years of wind, rain and erosion form a dramatic landscape of red hills and bizarre rock formations. Layers of different shades of red painted the walls of the canyons, almost in a parallel fashion. How do they look so smooth, like a natural art masterpiece, is a mystery to me.

Now I understood why this place – the 215,000 hectares (a half-million acres) Talampaya National Park – is declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000.

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Cuevas de las Manos: Time-Travel with Ancient Art

By Owen / May 3, 2017

I remember back when I was a kid in art classes, we would place our hands onto a piece of drawing paper, and trace the outline of the fingers with coloured pencils.

We would repeat it over and over again – with the other hand – until the whole piece of paper is filled with the outlines of our hands. Some were smooth, others were shaky.

I’d look at it with a satisfied smirk, submit it to the teacher and rush out to play with the other boys.

I never gave much thought to art classes as a little boy, which makes it ironic now that as a young man, I love to see ancient, tribal art. The Cuevas de las Manos (literally Caves of the Hands) in Argentinean Patagonia is just that: ancient artwork of hand outlines, yet the instance I knew about it, I went out of the way to see it.

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