Archive for the ‘Central & South America’ Category

Calving Glacier

21st July 2013 by Helen

We’ve been to see a huge glacier. It’s so big and famous it’s even got its own name – it’s called the Perito Merino Glacier. It’s in Argentina, close to the border with Chile. And it’s famous because every day it is possible to get really close and watch pieces of the glacier break off and fall into the lake. The word used to describe the pieces of ice falling off is “calving”. Have you heard that word before? It’s also used in farming to describe some animals giving birth.

The glacier is really really big. The front where the bits break off is about 60 to 70 metres above the water of the lake. That’s more than twice the height of an ordinary house. And the ice is about three times as deep below the water.

The ice forms high up in the Andes mountains. There is so much of it that it is force very slowly down the mountains towards the river. You can’t see the movement with your eyes because it is growing and moving so slowly – only a few millimetres a year.

When we stood in front of the glacier we heard lots of loud noises – cracks and bangs. These were caused by the movements in the ice. This is the sign that the ice is breaking up slightly and pieces will break off soon. Sometimes the ice falls from the very top and lands in the water with a loud crash and a big splash. Sometimes the ice falls off from lower down and makes less noise because it doesn’t have to fall so far. Sometimes the ice breaks off from underneath the water. Then it floats to the surface with lots of noise and rushing of water. We saw one very big piece of ice suddenly appear from under the water in front of the glacier. It rolled over right in front of us, just like a huge whale rolling in the water. We could see the bright blue and white colours of the ice, but this block of ice also had mud stuck in it from the bottom of the water and we could see that too.

Once the ice has broken off the glacier it begins to float away and then starts to very slowly melt as it sits in the water. Eventually these pieces of ice disappear completely and become water again.

Do you need a haircut?

22nd March 2013 by Helen

Down on the farm I met some sheep that definitely needed a haircut.  So I went out with the farmer to see what happened when the sheep went for their haicrut.  Watch the video to see what I saw.


sheep shearing in Chile from Going Overland (KidSpace) on Vimeo.


Some facts:

Almost all sheep have WOOL not hair (some special breeds have hair but not many)

The cutting of the wool is called SHEARING

The wool that has been cut off each sheep is called a FLEECE

After shearing the fleece is cleaned, spun into woollen yarn and can made into things like clothes, blankets and carpets

Sheep are normally SHEARED in Spring when the weather is warm, but the sheep in the video are being sheared in autumn.  That’s why the young ones have not been sheared.  It will be harder on them with the winter if their wool coats are too short.

After the sheep have been sheared they are said to have been SHORN - that is where Sean the Sheep got his name from.  Shorn and Sean sound the same.

Where has all the sunshine gone?

7th February 2013 by Helen

It was cold when I walked to the shower block today. It’s been so sunny and lovely for weeks and weeks now. Where has all the sunshine gone? I asked.

Then I realised. Normally there is a snowdrop in my garden in February but I’ve not seen any snowdrops here. There aren’t any signs of daffodil leaves in the parks. In fact there are no signs of Spring at all!

Blackberries ripening on the bush at the end of summer in Chile in February.

Blackberries ripening on the bush at the end of summer in Chile in February.

Instead I’ve been eating fresh raspberries picked from the raspberry bush next to my tent. And I’ve been eating apples and plums picked straight from the trees. The blackberries are nearly ripe. Soon I’ll be eating them too. These are all fruits that are ready to eat in late summer.

And here’s another sign: leaves are dropping from the trees as the trees prepare for winter.

Here the children have not yet started looking forward to their next holiday at Easter. First they are getting ready to back to school after their long summer holidays!

How can it be the end of summer and the beginning of autumn in February?


World Globe.  You can see South America here.  South America is in the bottom half of the globe, called the southern hemisphere.

World Globe. You can see South America here. South America is in the bottom half of the globe, called the southern hemisphere.

I am in Chile in South America.  South America is in the southern half of the world – called the southern hemisphere.  And in the southern hemisphere the seasons are opposite to the northern half of the world, the northern hemisphere. You might have seen a world globe at school: see how most countries are opposite another country.You might not have recognised picking and eating fresh apples and blackberries straight from the tree or bush is a sign of the end of summer. That is because we can buy fresh apples, plums and blackberries in our shops in winter. The reason we can do that is because they have been grown in another part of the world where it is summer. Then they are picked and quickly flown to us for us to buy and eat even when it is winter where we are.

What other fruits and vegetables can you think of that might be grown somewhere else and flown to you so you can eat them all year round?

Getting in to hot water

6th January 2013 by Helen

The earth is just amazing isn’t it?

We’ve been to see an amazing place today.  Here in Chile we are close to lots of volcanoes (remember we talked about them before?).  Very very deep under the ground it gets very very hot.  Too hot for us to even imagine!  600 degrees centigrade in some places!!  That’s very very deep though.  It’s not that hot nearer the surface so don’t worry about burning your toes.

Sometimes that very hot ground comes to the surface and bursts out in volcanoes.  But sometimes, in places where there are lots of volcanoes, very hot water comes out of the earth in what are called “hot springs”.  Another name is “fumaroles”.

We hiked up a steep mountainside, through lots of forest.  Eventually we reached the top and found the hot springs.  We could see the water bubbling up out of the ground, making small pools of hot water.  We paddled in some of the pools.  Then we got some mud out of the bottom of the pool and painted our faces!

This desert is HUUUUUUGE!!!!!

27th December 2012 by Helen

We’ve been in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile and northern Argentina.  And it is HUUUUUUUUGE!!  Bigger than anywhere we’ve ever been before.  It’s bigger even than the whole of England.  We could never have imagined anywhere that big before we came here, so to help you see how big it is we’ve put a few photos together for you.  Click on the video link below to watch them.  See how tiny Landy looks.  And watch out for some of the insects and animals we saw.

The Atacama Desert is HUGE! from Going Overland (KidSpace) on Vimeo.

Ghosts and where people once lived

24th December 2012 by Helen
What do you think of when you hear the words “ghost town”?

Do you think of scary sounds in the night?  Do you think of white sheets floating through houses and scaring the people there?

Well, we’ve been to a different type of ghost town.  One where people used to live many years ago.  Now all the houses and shops are empty.  Nobody lives there.  Very few people visit these towns.

We’ve also been to a ghost mine and followed the track of a ghost railway line.

Can you find Salta in Argentina and Antofagasta in Chile. The red line shows where the railway used to run between the two towns.

Way back in 1921 the people of Argentina and Chile started building a railway line.  It ran all the way from Salta in Argentina to Antofagasta in Chile.  It crossed a big line of mountains called the Andes.

The people finally finished building the railway in 1948. Can you imagine it taking 27 years to build a railway line?  A lot of things can happen in 27 years.  Do you know anyone who is 27 years old (an older brother or sister, or a parent, or an aunt or an uncle, or even one your teachers maybe)?  Ask them if they can remember some of the things that have happened to them in 27 years.

Not many trains carried people travelled along the railway.  The railway was used mainly for carrying freight. That means it carried lots of goods used in industry.  The most common goods it carried was for the mining industry.

We think the railway line was used for about 50 years. That doesn’t seem very long does it? Lots of things can change in 50 years.

We stopped to see two of the old towns that people used to live in alongside the railway line.

Paul is pretending to use the old machinery at abandoned town of Laguna Seca.

One was a tiny town with only 16 houses in it.  The town was built to provide a stopping point for the trains. There the trains could get water and repairs done there.  There were lots of towns along the way but the one we stopped at is called Laguna Seca. That means “dry lake”.

Here are the remains of the houses at Laguna Seca. It was a tiny town wasn't it?

Is there a railway station in your town?  Do trains still travel on the track there?

A bit further on we stopped at another town.  This one was called Tolar Grande.  It too used to be a railway town.  Now all the old railway buildings are broken down because they are not used any more.  But this town was not a ghost town.  There were people living and working there.  And we stopped to buy some cold drinks and some food to eat.

Can you find Mina la Casualidad on this map?

Along the railway line there used to be a big mine.  The miners took sulphur out of the ground.  Mostly the sulphur was used in agriculture (that’s farming).  But by 1992 the mine was not making enough money so it closed.

We went to see the old mine.  Right up close to the old mine was the town where the miners and their families lived.  At one time as many as 3,000 people lived in the town.  The men worked in the mine and lived there with their families.

We could see where there were all the usual things you might find in a town. Things like running water in the kitchens and bathrooms, and sewers to take all the waste away.  We saw an old abandoned church on top of the hill.  It overlooked the mine and the houses.  We went in the old community centre.  There people would have parties and celebrations. Sometimes visiting mine officials would stay and sleep in the special rooms set aside for visitors.  And there was a school for the children.

Most of the houses were built up on a hill but right down near the road that ran next to the mine were some more buildings.  These looked like old shops.

Here we are arriving at the abandoned mine called Mina la Casualidad.








Can you see the old houses in the front of this picture? What about the remains of the old mine in the distance?







Even these modern homes now stand empty.





The driest desert in the world

15th November 2012 by Helen

We have been staying in a little town called San Pedro de Atacama.  Atacama is the name of a huge desert in Chile, which is in South America.  The desert runs a long way down the western coast of Chile (the yellow bit on the map below).  Parts of the desert extends right into Boliva, Peru and Argentina (the orange bit on the map below).  The desert measures 105,000 square kilometers (that’s 40,600 square miles).

File:Atacama map.svg

The Atacama Desert is the driest place in the world.  The average rainfall in the Chilean part of the desert is 1mm per year.  There are some weather stations that have not recorded any rain at all.  It is so dry that even mountains as high as 6,885 metres don’t have any glaciers.  British scientists think that there were some rivers here 120,000 years ago.

In some places the soil of the Atacama Desert has been compared to the planet Mars.  Because of this film makers have used the Atacama Desert for filming Mars scenes (eg Space Odyssey: Voyage to the Planets).  In fact it’s not just how it looks that makes the Atacama Desert like Mars.  Just like Mars scientists have not been able to find any microbial life in the soil.  Scientists from NASA use the Atacama Desert to test the instruments they will put in the spaceships they plan to send to Mars in the future.

You would think that without any water and with such a dry soil people would not be able to live in the Atacama Desert.  But a very few have managed to live here.  The Atacemeno tribe have lived here for a long time.  We know the Spanish lived in San Pedro de Atacama since 1577 because they build the church here then.

People have also been finding precious minerals in the ground and

In the last hundred years there has been lots of mining done here.  People have been digging for copper, nitrate and other important minerals.  Small towns grew up around the mines but the people left the towns when the mines closed.  There are about 170 abandoned nitrate mining towns in the Atacama Desert.


Information taken from:

Map facts

25th August 2012 by Helen



We use maps printed on paper when we are driving.  It’s a bit old fashioned but we like it because we lay the map out on the floor and see where everything is in the country much more easily this way.

Maps of all different parts of the world can be seen on a website called Google Maps.  You can probably even see your house the maps are so detailed.

But how did we get maps in the first place?

Right now we are travelling in Chile in South America.  We are using modern paper maps but in the early 1800′s it took Alexander von Humboldt five years to prepare the maps of South America.

With two modern satellites it takes just three years to make a map of the whole world.

The satellites are called TanDem-X and TerraSAR-X.  They orbit the earth at a height of 319 miles.  That’s about the same distance as it is from London to Liverpool!!  Despite being so far away from the earth they can see reall good detail and scientists are using the data from the satellites to make a 3D map of the earth.

Over three years the two satellites will send 1,572,863 gigabytes of data.  That’s really hard to imagine.  If you were to put all that data on to DVD’s you would have so many DVDs that if you put them one on top of each other the pile would be 430 metres high!!



Red Lake

8th June 2012 by Helen

Southern Bolivia has lots and lots of salts and minerals.  We’ve just told you about our adventures driving across the salt flats and getting stuck in the mud there.

But there’s some other fantastic stuff here in Bolivia.

There are so many minerals in the soil that they turn the lakes different colours.  One is red and another is green.  All because of the minerals.  Hardly anybody lives here.  With all those minerals and salt the water is not very nice to drink and not even very good for you.

One night we parked and camped right next to ‘Red Lake’.  Look closely – those little dots are flamingoes.  They are a long way away from us though.

Stuck in Salt

7th June 2012 by Helen

The Bolivian salt flats are HUGE, so huge it takes a couple of days to drive right across them.  And that’s driving really fast without traffic lights or roundabouts or anything else to slow you down.

But we found something that slowed us down – A LOT!!  Salt.

Now, when the water in the huge lake in Bolivia evaporates there’s lots of salt left.  There’s so much salt that it forms a crust on top of the water and mud.  That crust is so thick that it’s possible to drive over most of it.  But at the edges it gets a bit thin.  And where it gets a bit thin it’s possible for the crust to break.

That’s what happened to us when we got to the edge of the salt surface.  Landy is very heavy.  The crust broke where it was thin and we got stuck.  It was partly our fault because we had missed seeing a rocky road that had been built out from the land to where the salt is safer.  It took us nearly two days to get out again.  Take a look at the pictures below: