Where in the world is Katie?

Salt Pools

Salt Pools, Bolivia

At the beginning of the year, grade one teacher, Katie Braemar, traded the classroom in Kew for hiking boots and a very big adventure. So far, Katie’s travels have taken her from Rio de Janeiro and Bolivia to Buenos Aires and Argentina and she has kindly shared some of the details of her trip with us.

Confession: as soon as Katie’s email arrived, I put my Jealous Hat on (there is such a thing!). The pictures are spectacular and it sounds as if she is having an amazing time – I’m sure the kids will be excited to hear more details when she returns.

So, hot off the press from Bolivia, this is what Katie had to say –

I am originally from Upwey, in the Dandenong Ranges, and grew up camping with the family which cemented a love of nature and travelling. I’ve been at KPS for four and a half years and had the opportunity to take a year’s leave without pay. It seemed like the right time to scratch the travel itch and go to South America. I could have visited in our six-week holiday break but it is such a big continent with so many sights, I wanted to go for longer. Iguazu Falls in Argentina, Machu Picchu in Peru and Patagonia are just a few places that I had seen pictures of and always wanted to visit.

My story so far…

Leaving friends and family in Melbourne, I set off for a night in Sydney before jetting off to South America. I was like a little kid before Christmas, knowing that I would finally be setting eyes on the places I had always dreamed about visiting. I flew to Santiago, Chile for a two-day stop-over and then to Rio de Janeiro, where I felt my adventure really began. The next month was spent travelling through Brazil – sight-seeing, soaking up the sun, trying new and delicious foods and meeting many like minded travellers. The weather didn’t disappoint and I learnt a new language, ‘point-uguese’ (Brazilians actually speak Portuguese but I was limited to only a few words and found that pointing and smiling helped with communication!) And I hiked! I hiked for views of Rio, sunrises, to waterfalls and around many cities.

Lunch time in Brazil

Lunch time in Brazil

Mount Fitz Roy, in the Southern Patagonian Ice Field in Patagonia

Mount Fitz Roy, in the Southern Patagonian Ice Field in Patagonia

Iguazu Falls was next (it all starts from one drop of water) where the roar of the water thundering over rocks was unbelievable. Buenos Aires followed, then Patagonia where the weather was unpredictable but the scenery of snow-capped mountains and aqua blue lakes was consistent.

Hiking in Patagonia

Hiking in Patagonia

At the top of an active volcano in Chile

At the top of an active volcano in Chile

Weaving through Chile and Argentina, I found myself climbing an active volcano, winding through the Andes and wine tasting on a self-guided bike tour. Northern Argentina surprised me with rugged mountains, coloured hills and lush green valleys, confirming my belief that Mother Nature is the best artist in the world.

Catching up on the gossip in Tupiza, Bolivia

Catching up on the gossip in Tupiza, Bolivia

And then I entered Bolivia, where the old meets the new in a way I hadn’t expected. Ladies, stuck in the past wearing what was fashionable back in colonial times, mix with teenagers wearing the latest sports gear and talking on mobile phones. Market stalls are everywhere and so are internet cafes. Babies are carried around on backs while the women go about their daily business.

There's a baby in there!

There’s a baby in there!

I could have spent days people-watching but Bolivia also boasts amazing landscapes that vary from salt flats and rugged mountains to the spectacular Lake Titicaca. I have just spent the last few days wandering through lakeside villages, playing with the local children and soaking up this beautiful, tranquil place. In a few days I head to Cusco in Peru and then to make the trek to Machu Picchu , which I can’t wait to see. I will then travel through Peru and Ecuador before flying out of Bogota, Colombia.

The beautiful Lakes District, Chile

The beautiful Lakes District

I’m often asked what it’s like to travel alone and my answer is usually that you’re never really alone as there are many people travelling through South America. Saying that, there are times when it gets tough and I would love someone else to make a decision or translate for me. But then I think, the challenge is also part of the adventure.

Finally, here are a few travel facts from my journey so far…

  • So far I have spent over 150 hours on  buses!
  • I have been stung on the inside of my mouth by a wasp that hitched a ride on my sandwich
  • I have now travelled through five countries with five different currencies and two different languages
  • Rats climb trees and eat your food while camping if you put the bag against the tree trunk
  • South America has its own system of time
  • I understand how my students feel after taking Spanish lessons for a few days – it’s hard!
  • I am constantly learning about the history of countries and realising how lucky we are in Australia
  • The only time I have wanted to cry so far is when I was trying to post some souvenirs home that I bought in Brazil. Between the language barrier, trying to find a box and getting to the post office when it’s open (and not siesta time), I ended up carrying them with me for five weeks before finally posting them in Bolivia.
  • I can’t remember the last time I flushed toilet paper down the toilet!

I hope you have enjoyed reading about my travels and I look forward to coming back to KPS next year.

Katie Braemar
Year One Classroom Teacher
Kew Primary School

Llamas in Bolivia

Llamas in Bolivia

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