Michael Batson

Travel Writer





Every Breath You Take - 16 May 2011

La Paz is one of the highest capital cities in the world. Life there is highly stratified, culturally, economically and geographically. Affluence is measured in altitude, with more of the former equating to less of the latter. The higher up you live, the poorer you are. By the time you get to the city airport, life is barely subsistent.La Paz was founded in1548 under the name of La Ciudad de Nuestra Señora de La Paz (The City of Our Lady of Peace). The city is Bolivia’s de facto capital whereas the colonial centre of Sucre to the south is the official seat of justice.From the Peruvian border crossing on the shores of Lake Titicaca it’s a short drive to the lakeside town of Copacabana. A group of Canadians failed to make the cut by Bolivian immigration, and were summarily dispatched back to Puno to acquire the appropriate documentation.My traveling companion’s views of the approaches to La Paz were somewhat different to mine. After a hastily eaten fish lunch the day before came back to haunt, as their journey over rough Bolivian roads – few outside the towns are paved – was made worse by violent retching out of the window. Each lurch of the vehicle, each movement of the suspension, brought forth more abdominal contractions.La Paz descends from the satellite city of El Alto at 4000 metres to the more affluent districts hundreds of metres below.The descent takes you past stands of eucalyptus trees, imported from Australia, the so-called “Lungs of La Paz” pumping

Living Between Water and Heaven - 30 April 2011

Lake Titicaca is the second largest lake in South America and at 3800 metres above sea level the highest navigable lake in the world. The lake is part Bolivian and part Peruvian, the border between the two snakes its way across the waters which are 80 kilometres wide at the broadest point and almost 200 kilometres from end to end. At over 8000

Stone Temple Pilots - 25 April 2011

Cusco, the ancient capital of the Inca, sits high in an Andean valley. The modern name is a Spanish corruption from the Aymara and Quechua languages, which drew on mythical origins to name the city.The origin of civilisation in Peru can be traced back 20,000 years before the Incas, making the country one of the cradles of ancient cultures

The Temple of the Sun - 20 April 2011

Peru’s Machu Picchu has survived 500 years of rain, earthquake and landslides. The mountaintop religious retreat and citadel city is one of the world’s greatest archaeological achievements, built by Inca emperor Pachacutec probably in the 15th century, to prove his place among the gods.It’s an early start in the cold morning at Cusco railway

Secret on the Desert - 10 April 2011

Nazca is a dusty town located on the Pan-American Highway between Peru’s second city Arequipa and the capital Lima.  People usually pass through on their way from one city to the other. Just outside town is located one of the mysteries of the world, the Nazca Lines. The Nazca Lines are a series of ancient hieroglyphic drawings and symbols

El Misti and The White City - 3 April 2011

The road from Chile to Arequipa, Peru’s second city, takes you along a famous highway and through the dusty provincial centre of Tacna.San Pedro de Tacna, the southern most city in the Republic of Peru, is connected to Chile by road and by rail. The rail line was built in 1855 and is one of the oldest in South America.The road is part of the

The City of Eternal Spring - 27 March 2011

 Arica is the northern most city in Chile and the jumping off point for Tacna, in Peru. By measured rainfall, Arica is one of the driest inhabited places on Earth. Oxford academic Nick Middleton came here when filming for the television series, Going To Extremes, on the trail of the coldest, wettest and hottest places on Earth, this

The Most Perfect Desert in the World - 24 March 2011

The Atacama Desert is often described as the world’s most perfect desert. Parts of the desert haven't seen a drop of rain since recordkeeping began. It is the second driest place on Earth after Antarctica. The desert stretches 1000 kilometres from Peru's southern border rising from a thin coastal shelf to the pampas—virtually lifeless plains

Red Gold Fever - 11 March 2011

Copper accounts for almost one-third of all Chile’s foreign trade. At one time the figure was a massive 75 percent. These days Chile produces about 450,000 tons of copper per year.Not for nothing then is copper known as “Chile’s salary”.Mines come complete with their own cities to house the workers, their own water and electrical plants