Category: Americas

I am short on time. I have to be in New York in only four days for my flight back home. In fact, I should not visit Canada at all but I want to have a short peak over the border. Better to get a quick impression than not getting any impression at all. I visit beautiful Toronto (skyscrapers always make me happy) and Niagara Falls (not bad) before heading back to the US. I also have to endure a moment of despair. […]

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The United Nations has its headquarter in New York. It has extraterritoriality status, meaning it is not ruled by the laws of the United States. In a smart move, the famously rich Rockefeller Family had gifted the building site. Proximity is influence. The headquarters is a joint design of a group of architects based on two competing proposals by the French architect Le Corbusier and the Brazilian Oscar Niemeyer. […]

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Because of trouble with the bus crossing from Mexico to the US, I end up crossing the Mexico-US border on foot in the middle of the night in one of the most crime-ridden areas on earth. Two border guards await me. One takes care of my passport and the other one wants to see my bag. I keep my attention with the one with my bag. I get my passport back, welcome to the United States, you are done. I ask if he has stamped my passport, it is more a rhetorical question but the answer is a surprise: […]

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As we leave the boat in Chetumal we are told to put all our bags on the ground in one line. The dog comes and sniffs around, searching for drugs. No results. I spend too much time visiting Valladolid, the Cenotes (sinkhole lakes) of Zaci and X-Canché and the Maya ruins of Ek Balam so I have to cancel my planned visit of the famous Chichén Itzá. Just no time. On to Mérida. […]

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I start by taking a boat on the tranquil Rio Dulce. This is both enjoyment and a way to move on. The Maya Ruins of Tikal are one of the most impressive sights I have seen in my life. One of the mayor cities in the classical Maya period (3rd to 9th century) it has six major temple-pyramids of up to 70 metres of height. It has been inscribed into UNESCO’s World Heritage list as early as 1979. Tikal has thousands of structures, […]

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At the time of my visit, Honduras is known as one of the most dangerous countries on earth. San Pedro Sula, its second biggest city has the distinction of currently being the city with the highest murder rate in the world. Out of 100,000 inhabitants, 180 get murdered per year. As San Pedro Sula has about one million inhabitants that means 1,800 people killed. As a comparison, the rate for the United States is 4.7, for Germany it is 0.9. […]

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I head to the small village of Perquin, home to the Museum of the Revolution and during the Salvadoran Civil War one of the centres of guerrilla activity. In nearby El Mozote, 800 people, half of them children, were massacred by government forces. The American journalist Raymond Bonner, making the atrocity known to the wider world, was vigorously attacked for his entirely correct reporting, that was dismissed as Communist propaganda. […]

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I am on a whirlwind tour of Central America; time is short as I have to be in New York soon. But better to get a quick impression of the countries than not getting any impression at all. Still, planning such a trip is sometimes painful, I can only visit places that bring me further north, no time, for example, to visit beautiful Ometepe Island with its two volcanic cones rising from the sea. […]

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“It’s a problem of the past, there used to be robberies of buses but not anymore”. The taxi driver reassures me that the night bus ride to Popayán is safe. “I always used to carry a second wallet with just a little money, I would give that wallet away. They were always in a hurry grabbing some things and leaving quickly”. He sounds as if he was travelling numerous times on buses that got robbed. Fortunately, Colombia’s decade-long armed conflict between government forces, leftist guerrilla groups and right-wing paramilitaries has lost a lot of its intensity. […]

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The first task after crossing the border is to find transport to the small town of Zumba. I need to get there in time, I have seen all the games of Germany in the Football World Cup so far. We are playing France today in the quarterfinal and I want to see the game. I have managed to be in South America at the time of a World Cup being played in a South American country. Six out of the ten Latin-speaking countries in South America were qualified but I managed to spend most of the time of the World Cup in Peru, which was not qualified, and only reached Ecuador after their team had been eliminated. A TV can be found, Germany wins and I can move on. […]

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To see the Nazca Lines at their best, you have to take a plane. Small, four-seater aircraft leave every half-hour. To allow everyone a perfect view, the plane turns once to the left and once to the right while overflying the giant geoglyphs. They were created by removing the top layer of reddish-brown pebbles and thereby revealing a yellow-grey subsoil. In the arid climate of the Sechura desert the lines have remained undisturbed. As they were hardly visible from the ground (they can be seen from the foothills though) they went unnoticed for a long time. […]

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Half a year earlier, I had visited the Brazilian Amazon travelling on a boat from Macapá to Sanatarém. Back then, I had learned that some ocean-going vessels can navigate the Amazon up to Iquitos about 3,600 kilometres inland. The Amazon is a river like no other, its average outflow is five times higher than the second mightiest river on earth. The Amazon Basin is huge, covering 35,5 percent of the South American continent. Although mostly associated with Brazil, the basin also covers Bolivia, Peru, Colombia and smaller parts of Venezuela, Guyana and Suriname. […]

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Traditionally, Peru is divided into three geographic areas. The highlands of the Andes, the low-lying coastal areas and the Selva, the forest, the Peruvian part of the Amazon basin. I enter along the coast but immediately take a bus to the highlands. After mostly spending the last months close to or at sea level, I have to get myself used to the altitude again. […]

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On my way north, I stop at the beautiful Elqui valley with its vineyards producing some of the best pisco in Chile. Pisco is a specialized form of brandy produced in Chile and Peru. Mixed with juices it is pretty tasty and can be bought widely across Chile. In the Elqui Valley, the desert is announcing itself. The valley floors, with irrigation, are fertile but the hillsides are dry and barren.

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Easter Island is small. Shaped like a triangle it is about 25 kilometres long and 13 kilometres wide at a maximum. At 163,6 square kilometres it is about the same size as the country of Liechtenstein. But unlike Liechtenstein, which sits right in the middle of Europe with connections in all directions, Easter Island is one of the most remote places on earth. The nearest inhabited land with around 50 residents is Pitcairn Island, 2,075 kilometres away; the nearest town with a population over 500 is Rikitea in French Polynesia that is 2,606 kilometres away; The nearest point in Chile, to which Easter Island belongs, is 3,512 kilometres away. […]

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I have to start with a confession: Despite calling this post Central Chile I am still, at least at the beginning, in Patagonia. My next stops, the island of Chiloé, Puerto Montt, Puerto Varas and Pucón are all south of the Bio Bio River which marks the end of Patagonia. I grouped them into the Central Chile post as for me, personally, I had left Patagonia behind as I was crossing from the Carretera Austral to Chiloé. And anyway, my post on Patagonia contains enough highlights. 😉 […]

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Punta Arenas is the world’s southernmost city with more than 100,000 inhabitants. Established in 1848 as a tiny penal colony, it was a modest harbour that served ships crossing between the Atlantic and the Pacific Ocean. Before the opening of the Panama Canal (1914) the Strait of Magellan, along which Punta Arenas is located, was the easiest way to cross between the Oceans. A gold rush in the late 19th century let the city grow and a bit later the sheep farming boom on the Patagonian steppe brought prosperity. Several mansions in town are reminders of that era. […]

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