Race Across the World has quickly become the highlight of our week. By now, we’ve all picked our favourite team and we find ourselves yelling at the television every Sunday night, willing them to win each leg – or is that just us?
This week’s episode initially saw the contestants explore the fourth checkpoint, Lake Titicaca, altogether. Although everyone (including us) was mightily impressed by the man-made islands constructed from simple reeds, the highlight was undoubtedly Dom playfully slapping Sam in the face with a fish.
Nevertheless, as soon as the fifth checkpoint of Cafayate, Argentina, was revealed, the earlier camaraderie was swiftly replaced by renewed competitive spirits. Three teams opted to travel via Bolivia. The sole pitfall to this plan was that they only had three days to clear the country as the impending elections would shut the entire nation down.
The gorgeous Lake Titicaca © Pakhnyushchy, Shutterstock
For Jo and Sam, Jen and Rob, and Emon and Jamiul, this piled on the pressure and the cracks in their relationships began to show. After a few arguments, tearful confessions and much-needed reconciliations, each of the couples safely crossed the border into Argentina, with Emon and Jamiul claiming victory at the checkpoint.
Dom and Lizzie were a little way off the pace and opted to travel via Chile in a bid to claw back time on the rest of the pack. However, disaster stuck when Dom suffered a seizure due to the high altitude. After 24 hours of bed rest, he was thankfully given the all clear to resume the race. Unfortunately, their troubles did not end there.
Following a relaxing swim in the crystal clear lagoons near San Pedro de Atacama, they were alerted to the growing civil unrest in Chile and were told to evacuate before the borders closed. We were left on tenterhooks at the end of the episode as to whether they made it to Argentina in time.
While we’re waiting for next week’s instalment to discover Dom and Lizzie’s fate, here are our pick of the highlights from Episode 5. And if you find your bucket list growing with each nail-biting episode, why not take advantage of our 50% online discount (using the code DREAM50) to help you research that trip of a lifetime? Dream now, travel later!
La Paz, the world’s highest capital, is arguably the most fascinating metropolis in all of South America. Architecturally, the city is no beauty, nor does it have many classic tourist attractions, but what sets it apart are the sights, sounds and smells of the streets and the phenomenal views of the surrounding mountains.
© saiko3p, Shutterstock
Colonial terracotta, modern red-brick and high-rise blocks with glass in rainbow hues press together, metamorphosing at night into a canyon of stars as the lights come on. Much of old La Paz appears to be one gigantic street market. Every square inch of pavement is taken up by Aymara women in traditional bowler hats and voluminous skirts selling their wares. There is a vast array of handicrafts, markets devoted to food, drink and bags of coca leaves, even a Witches’ Market for talismans, cure-alls and spells.
Valle de la Luna
© saiko3p, Shutterstock
To the south of La Paz is Valle de la Luna, a lunar landscape of eroded cliffs. The vistas can be inspirational and most of the local travel agents organise tours to this magnificent landscape.
Uyuni lies near the eastern edge of the Salar de Uyuni and is one of the jumping-off points for trips to the salt flats, volcanoes and lakes of southwest Bolivia. With the arrival of regular flights and the paving of the Uyuni-Potosí road, tourism in the area is changing fast.
© Sun Shine, Shutterstock
Still a commercial and communication centre, Uyuni was, for much of the 20th century, important as a major railway junction. There is a railway cemetery of sorts outside the town with engines from 1907 to the 1950s, now rusting hulks.
Salar de Uyuni
With the uplifting of the Andes 25 million years ago, the altiplano, formerly at sea level, became an immense depression between two mountain ranges. Salt deposits scattered about the surface were dissolved and transported by water courses to the lower lying areas to the south.
© Mockup Cloud, Shutterstock
A series of flooding and drying circles followed, the most recent of which were Lake Minchín, which flooded the southern altiplano 40,000 to 25,000 years ago, followed by Lake Tauca about 15,000 years ago. Drilling in the Salar de Uyuni has revealed successive layers of salt and clay 120m deep and geophysical studies suggest salt accumulation 500m below the surface.
This desolate region is one of the most striking in Chile. The desert stretches 1255km north from the Río Copiapó to the Chilean border with Peru. The all-encompassing yellowness is punctuated by small oases, clefts of green such as the beautiful Quebrada de Jere or the Alto Loa, from where the lifelessness of the surrounding desert seems somehow impossible.
© D 39 July, Shutterstock
These days, mining is by far the most important economic activity. Fishing is also a major industry, with agriculture limited by the lack of water and poor soils. Life in the area is artificial. Water has to be piped for hundreds of kilometres to the cities and the mining towns from the Cordillera de la Costa; all food and even all building materials have to be brought in from elsewhere.
San Pedro de Atacama
San Pedro was important as the centre of the Atacameño culture long before the arrival of the Spanish. There is a palpable sense of history in the shady streets and the crumbling ancient walls that drift away from the town into the fields and on into the dust. Owing to the clear atmosphere and isolation, there are wonderful views of the night sky from just outside town.
© Mateus Felix, Shutterstock
San Pedro is a good base from which to visit archaeological sites displaying millennia of history, such as Pukará de Quitor, as well as natural wonders like the salts flats of Salar de Atacama, the altiplanic lagoons (pictured above) in the Los Flamencos National Reserve, and the geysers of El Tatio.
The salt flats of Salinas Grandes are astonishing: a seemingly endless, perfectly flat expanse of white, patterned with eruptions of salt around regular shapes, like some kind of crazy paving. Against the perfectly blue sky, the light is dazzling.
© Anibal Trejo, Shutterstock
It’s safe to walk or drive onto the surface, and you’ll find men mining salt, creating neat oblong pools of turquoise white water where salt has been cut away, and stacking up piles of white and brown salt blocks, ready for refining.
Salta is one of Argentina’s most charismatic and historical cities; its colourful past is tangible in palm-filled plazas lined with crumbling 17th-century buildings. Its fine museums chart the city’s fascinating past, including the amazing finds from an Inca burial site on remote Mount Llullaillaco.
© Globe Guide Media Inc, Shutterstock
Salta buzzes with life in the mornings, grinds to a halt at lunchtime and comes alive again at night. Balmy evenings are perfect for wandering the streets to find live music in the local peñas of Calle Balcarce. Or sample the superb food, such as locro, tamales, empanadas and humitas, for which Salta is famous, accompanied by a glass or two of the area’s fine ‘high-altitude’ wine.
Checkpoint 5 – Cafayate
Cafayate is beautifully situated in a broad stretch of valley at the confluence of the Santa María and Calchaquí rivers. There are mountains on all sides, and the valley is filled with vineyards, which produce first rate wines.
© Yuri Burykov, Shutterstock
Cafayate has long been a popular destination for visits to the bodegas, which open their doors to tourists with free tours and wine tastings. There are superb red grapes grown at high altitude here, and it’s worth asking specifically to try the white Torrontés grape, which is grown in few other places other than Argentina and flourishes in the annual 350 days of sunshine and the cool nights.Read more...