Friday, 28 May 2010

Iguazu Falls and on to Rio

We're in Rio now, and have had a good few days of beachtime, but haven't yet said anything about leaving BA and heading to Iguazu. Once back in BA, we satyed an extra night to see Nube 9 - a band recommended by Merrie who play at Beatle week who were playing the next day. It was amazing, they did a best of the 60's night with everything from the Beach Boys, Beatles, Jefferson Aiplane, Diana Ross - a real mix all done brilliantly! We're looking forward to ctahing up with them again this at the Mathew St Festival in August.

From then, it was on the next day to Puerto Iguazu, another overnight bus of about 18 hours or so - easy! We got wine on the us which was a new one, although we have not done the "Super Cama" bus, which is supposed to be literally a bed, with champagne, whiskey and you're own selection of DVD's. We're a bit sad about that but there's always next time!

We arrived at Iguazu, checked in and then headed straight to the national park - we'd arrived a little late, and a friendly chap suggested us a route so we could see as much as possible with nearly not enough time! We got the train once we'd arrived which takes you around the park, and went straight to the Devil's Throat waterfall, the big one (of several massive ones!). We passed loads of butterflies flapping about, all different colours but sadly hard to get a picture of! Once off the train, we had to try our hardest to race oast Team Santiago", who were walking very slowly in their green team hats and taking up all the walkway! We had no time to dawdle, so probably wound them up a bit weaving in and out to get past!

The waterfall itself was mindblowing - looking at the middle actually made you feel a bit sick, it looked like a chocolate fountain pouring down to the bottom that you coudln't even see! The spray created an incredible rainbow - we were so glad we'd got a sunny day to come and see the park as it made everything shine!

Having taken our pictures, we raced back for the next train so we could start on the lower trail which would take us past more waterfalls, and down to the boat ride. We past some incredible smaller waterfalls and saw some of the parks wildlife too - 'racoon things', before making our way through the spray down to the "port" - actually just a plank and a rock with some steps cut into the rock.

We were already soaked, and quickly changed out of our shoes and put our stuff in the dry bags they have for you there, and finally used the poncho's Jenni had given us before we left. 6 months of carrying and finally we made good use of them! The boat ride itself was insane, we whizzed right up to the falls several times - i've no idea how our little camera survived, we might as well have dropped it down the loo! It was so wet! The finale was to rushes right into the falling water of the Devil's throat. Just trying to open your eyes was hard, but we tried! We both drank far more dirty water than can be good for you, but had such an incredible time before getting back off and assessing how soaked we were. Sara did ok, I was wrecked.

From there we whizzed up a bit further, where one of the platforms got you nearly as close as the boat had to the falls. I headed out onto the platform in my already soaked state, and the wind created by the falling water was vicious! There was a school trip there too, all of whom wanted a go when I was there!

From the lower trail, we headed on up to the upper trail to see the falls from the top but it had just closed. We obviously looked heartbroken, because the guy let us go through as long as we were quick! We whizzed along with cameras out, and it was wonderful to watch the sun go down over the park and see the spray turn a different colour. We mustn't forget the monkeys, which we saw leaping from tree to tree over the river which amused us for a little while before we had to rush on!

Even with our late arrival, we think we saw what the park to offer and it really was worth every minute we whizzed along. That night we went for our last Parilla or Argy Barby, which served up some amazing Steak, gorgeous chicken, a nice sausage, some questionable black pudding, some dodgy kidneys and some sort of gross intestine thing that really wasn't great! I tried everything, but sadly only the steak and the chicken was finished!

Next day we were off to Brazil, with the plan of crossing the border and heading for the bus station to get to Rio and the beach asap! On a local bus crossing the border however, you have to ask them to stop at Brazilian immigration, so we whizzed through without a stamp and were officially illegal immigrants in Brazil for the next hour and a half! A bus journey back for the stamp and card, and then another back to the town was a silly hour we needn't have spent! Next, we looked for our bus, only to find the long distance terminal was another bus ride away, probably about 8 km's out of town! We finally arrived at 11.50 having left at 9, to find a bus ready and waiting that left at 12. We were straight on it, but sadly buses in Brazil aren't as good as in Argentina, and are more expensive so it wasn't quite the ride we'd been used to! 24 hours, several awful films and about 3 hours sleep later, we were in Rio.

We headed straight to Ipanema, checked into the first hostel we found and hit the beach and that pretty much brings us up to date - we've had four days of beach-eat-sleep! We're going exploring this weekend a little, although Big Jesus is covered in scaffolding so I doubt we'll bother heading up there, especially when the beach is so near! Not sure about the favelas either, no real desire to go round slums. We did go to the Maracana stadium last night to see what can only be described as pub football without the bellies as the Flamengo-Fluminese (Fla-Flu) derby took place. Flamengo (Brazilian champs) were appalling - their keeper did however score a great freekick in the 90th minute, but Fluminese won 2-1 with their second goal also a screamer.

We can't believe it's our last week away - 6 and a half months has flown by, and we'll see everyone soon!


ps piccies of Iguazu...

Thursday, 20 May 2010


Was epic.

Every time you opened your eyes you were surprised by the size of a new mountain, or the amount of snow falling overnight, or the amazing blue of the glaciers we saw! Words can't really do the scenery justice so you'll have to have a look at the photos of El Calafate and the Perito Moreno Glacier here...

And of El Chalten, Mount Fitz Roy and other awesome landscapes here...

Once in El Calafate, we had a day of relaxing and sorting out our glacier trip - the bus ride there from Ushuaia was a long one, interrupted by a 5 hour wait in Rio Gallegos bus station which we could've done without. We woke up to a great view from our hostel out onto the lake and the mountains beyond which were all covered with snow, back by a pink sky - the sun didn't rise properly until about 9.30 am!

The next day was our day on the glacier. We had an hours ride to the national park, where we were then given a couple of hours to explore the boardwalks, looking at both the North and Suth faces of the glacier. We were wuite lucky to see several small ice falls, and then an absolutely huge one where what looked like 3 houses worth of ice just cracked off and fell into the lake. The cracks were like gunshots, and we could constantly hear the creaking of the ice as it moved forward. We passed a sign en route which said 32 people had been killed by flying ice shards, even though we were still a fair way from the actual face of the glacier. Scary stuff! It was massive, and wound back up into the mountains - apparently it's 70 metres above the water and goes up to 140 metres below the surface of the lake. Amazing.

After lunch, we then headed out on a boat, past several icebergs and onto the other side of the lake where we got onto our second glacier of the trip! Our guide, Diego, was a bit of a mountain goat scrambling up and down with ease while we plodded about like Godzilla (his words), digging the crampons in and trying not to slip! It was so much more blue up close, and looking into some of the drain holes and crevasses again reminded us of being on a different planet.

The next revelation was that he water was drinkable, so we immediately found ourselves some nice icecubes to suck and mini waterfalls to stick our tongues under. The trek ended with a whiskey, cooled by glacial ice Diego hacked out of the floor! Whiskey's not really our thing, but we filled our glasses up with more ice and water instead! It was a good end to what had been a brilliant day!

El Chalten was our next stop, and we left early the next day to catch the 3 hour bus up there. Once there, we stopped off at the visitor centre to be given a map and an amazing view of the mountains. Once out of the hostel, we headed for Lago Torres, as the weather was amazing and we'd have a good view of the mountains on the way. At the main viewpoint, we were greeted by the sight of clouds literally rolling down the mountain and glacier in the distance. Unfortunately it was too far to keep going after we'd stopped for lunch at the viewpoint, and while the others continued a little further down the path, Sara and I headed back to town to do an "easy" walk up to the waterfall - Chorillo del Salto. It was worth it, the waterfall was amazing, and it was another chance for me to stick my head into a stream and drink like a dog which is always good!

Next day Sara was feeling a bit under the weather so we relaxed in the morning while the others (some of whom were even worse for wear!) headed out to do a couple of the shorter treks. After an hour or two, we decided to head out anyway, Sara braving the wind to head up to the Fitz Roy viewpoint - one of the hardest walks, with a steep climb for much of the way. 2 hours there and 40 minutes back says it all really! The view was spectacular, although Fitz was covered by clouds, there were two glaciers, one of which was that special glacier blue, resembling a wave coming down the mountain. Then a rainbow appeared as the sun poked through and we were glad we'd made it out after all!

On the way back down, I shattered the dreams of a Korean family, who asked how long it was to the viewpoint. They had literally come 20 minutes out of town, and when I told them it was probably and hour and a half at least they all looked a bit gutted. Sara tried to reassure them that this was the worst and steepest bit and glumly the trudged on. We didn't ask if they made it when we saw them, later, they might've been upset if they hadn't!

Then it was back to Calafate and onto the plane the next day back to BA having said goodbye to Em, Dom, Katie and Carolyn. We were looking forward to a bit of heat again!

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Glacier Tomorrow!

Enough said really, we're all really excited! We're doing a trek on the Perito Merino glacier, it's going to be awesome. Then on to El Chalten for a night where we'll hike fr a coouple of days around and about the national park at the foot of Mount Fitz Roy, and then we're back to El Calafate and flying back to BA, leaving the others to make their way North. We'll be going from a glacier to the tropics in three days. We're so excited!

Also here are some more photos of BA and Ushuaia, the Glacier Martial and the Tierra del Fuego national park, click on the pictures for the albums!

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

The Ends Of The Earth

We arrived today in Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world. It's not as cold as England! We flew in over some incredible mountains and then headed up to the Glacier Martial - not as impressive as Franz Josef in NZ but still icy and something special! The walk up to the glacier was supposed to be a ride in a chairlift - the surrounding area becomes a ski-piste come the snow, but unfortunately it wasn't working so we wandered up instead. A little wolfy/husky type puppy followed us up which was fun, we called him/her Jeff/Petunia.

Today we went to the Tierra Del Fuego national park, where we went on a coastline hike for 4 hours, with the most amazing views of snowpeaked mountains stretching right down to the crystal clear water. The weather was perfect, with a bit of sun and no rain until we were having a cup of tea at the meeting point for the shuttle back, it was ideal! We may have seen a whale, we're not sure, but it was definitely surrounded by seals and all sorts of sea birds. Later on we saw some large scavanger birds along with what was apparently a buzzard - i'm turning into a pigeon fancier.

It's the off season here at the moment, so some of the activities aren't happening, we wanted to kayak but the companies aren't running any kayak trips at the moment so we're off to El Calafate tomorrow on a bus that'll take us in and out of Chile, on a ferry and then overnight to EC. We might look to change our flight back to BA so we can have bit more time in the sun once we're all glaciered out!

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Bolivia - Amazon Pampas Tour

Picasa added a new Blog this option so here's a direct link to the Pampas pictures!

Friday, 7 May 2010

From the Jungle to BA

We had an absolutely amazing time in the Amazon Basin, the pampas tour was incredible and we saw so many different animals and birds - there are about a million photos to prove it! The journey there however was a different story.

We set off on the Tuesday morning in our Jeep that we'd hired, driven by Armando who was the boss of the tour company! Three hours out of La Paz, we hit a roadblock, a glorious Bolivian tradition where the small winding mountain roads are covered with trees, rocks and people stopping all the traffic from passing. Apparently they had been promised a "machine" (digger/strimmer/wheelbarrow?) by the government and they hadn't got it so why not bring the country to a standstill!? Anyway, we retreated to a hotel nearby to wait it out, hoping that Evo would dig deep and sort it out so we could get on the road again. 8pm arrived and Armie told us there'd been no progress and now there were 200 lorries backed up on the side of the mountain! We spent the night to see if it was different in the morning, and the same rice and steak meal for lunch, dinner and then breakfast!

Come the morning, there'd been no change, but Armie had found us a route! Brilliant. The bad news was it was a 10 hour detour to get to just beyond the roadblock. We set off along what appeared to be an even more questionable "road" through clouds and over rivers and up the sides of some of the biggest mountains we've seen so far. A lot of other people were taking this route the other way, which involved reversing round some very scary corners to get out of their way.

After 10 long hours, we were back on track for another 6 towards Rurrenabaque. This was the bumpiest road we'd ever been on, and we were progressing nicely before coming across another roadblock. Disaster had struck! Thankfully, this roadblock wasn't as militant as the other one, and we were able to pay our way through - a pricey £2.

From then on it was plain, bumpy sailing, until 2.30 am at which point the drug squad stopped us, searched our bags (badly) and asked for our passports, all the while shining torches in our faces. No dog, which was wierd, and we weren't smuggling kilos of fine Bolivian prodcue so on we went, finally arriving in Rurrenabaque at 3.30 am. We were up 4 hours later to head out on the tour.

We headed for 3 hours to Santa Rosa, grumpily managing to make the Aussie chap who'd joined our group feel most unwelcome! We saw Toucans, eagles and cows being herded by a team of Bolivian cowboys. Arriving in Santa Rosa, we made our way onto our longboat to take us to the eco-lodge. Within minutes we had seen alligators, caymen and turtles! We then spotted kingfishers, herons, birds of paradise and a family of capybara, or rat-pigs as they were known for the duration of the trip! The long journey in the jeep had already been forgotten, and when we saw the monkeys life couldn't get better!

The ecolodge itself was basic, and there was bat poo on Sara's pillow, but we ignored that and spent some time getting aquainted with the camps resident cayman. We could sit at the foot of the steps and it would be merely metres away, and feed the resident monkeys who hung about at the back of the camp - a favourite part of the trip for me!

Next day we were off into the pampas to see if we could find an Anaconda. We did, well, an Aussie lady did after about 20 minutes, so we were quite happy and lucky it turned out, the roup the next day spent 3 fruitless hours searching in the blistering heat. We quickly got out of the pampas which was a grassy muddy stink bog, and headed back to camp, Sara's one foot soaked thanks to a leaky welly, not that it stopped her spotting everything there was to be seen - the tiniest frog on a leaf didn't escape her eagle eyes! On the way back to the boat parrots flew overhead - everyone was happy.

That afternoon we (I) went swimming with the pink dolphins. It was more a swim near the dolphins, and as the water was muddy you couldn't really see them. It wasn't a highlight of the tour, although the proximity to the alligators was more of a talking point - they were not very far away at all!

That night we went out with our torches looking for the alligators - their eyes shine back. It wasn't that interesting, but the stars above were incredible, and this was coupled with the presence of thousands of fireflies twinkling in the trees. It was a magical moment! Then, Armando (who'd turned up earlier) invited us to a workers party he was throwing up the river, so off we went to spend a few hours with a load of Bolivian people! The two Dnaish girls shone, Sofie reading people's palms (Gypsy granny) and Sandra loving the cows they had there a bit too much, jumping in the pen with them every so often. Sara was tempted in to stroke a cow, before making a hasty exit through the fence when the crazy viking ran into the middle of them!

Next day we spent the morning piranha fishing and feeling a bit worse for wear. Sara caught a red piranha, the agressive ones (I'd swam in that water!), although it just grabbed onto the meat and didn't let go rather than getting hooked! It fell on the floor of the boat to the sound of girly squeals! All I managed to catch were catfish and what appeared to be the smallest fish ever caught by any man. Our guide had a good laugh at my expense.

Then it was back to Santa Rosa for the journey back to Rurrenebaque where Armando (who was driving us again) popped a tire on the jeep - the curse of the Team England/Denmark again! We arrived back to find out that the roadblocks were still going on, and we would have to fly back to La Paz. We stumped up the cash, and had a farewell dinner with our new Aussie chum (the initial hostility had all been forgotten!).

Next day, we headed to the airline office to get the bus to the airport, only to find it had already left. They told us not to worry, they'd get us a taxi. 6 motorbikes turned up, and bags on backs, we hopped on and whizzed to the airport. It was a field. There was a man with a pistol firing it to scare the animals off the "runway" (flattest bit of the field). Our plane arrived - a 19 seater twin propellered beast.

40 minutes later we were back in La Paz, wondering why we hadn't flown both ways!

Tuesday came and we said goodbye to our chums - we were off to Buenos Aires, on what turned out to be a 55 hour journey. We took the bus and then the train through Bolivia to the border - the train passing through the salt flats at night (we'd sat on the tracks 2 weeks previously!) and thereby being freezing! At the border at 7am, we crossed over into Argentina, not even bothering with an exit stamp from Bolivia, and headed to the bus station. From there we got a 5hour bus to Jujuy, where we changed to a 2 hour bus to Salta. At Salta we were gutted to find out none of the super comfy Cama Superieur buses were leaving until the day after, so we hopped on a Semi Cama to BA - a 22 hour ride. I was shouted at for pooing in the chemical toilet - after 18 hours you've got to do what you've got to do! We arrived in BA about 4pm ish, and got a taxi to the hostel where we hoped we'd meet with Em, Dom and their friends! Success! We even got in the same dorm as them! Last night we headed out for our first taste of Argentinian steak which was brilliant, and now we're off to plan our travels over the next week or two - the question is how far South to go, and whether we want some more glacier action or not!

Saturday, 24 April 2010

We're going to the Amazon!

We've been in La Paz a few days now and were planning where to go from here before we meet up with Em and Dom in Buenos Aires on the 6th May, when we met up with a friend from uni, Chris, who suggested a Pampas tour, which is a trip to the Amazon. We've had a look and we're going! We're still traveling with Caroline and Charlotte, two English girls, and Sandra and Sofie from Denmark who are all great. It was thanks to them that we all laughed our way through the vomit bus from hell! So come Tuesday we'll be of to Rurrenabaque from where we head into the Jungle.

La Paz itself is a great city, although very busy and very polluted. We've explored a bit, and were stunned by the view of a snowy capped mountain that you get as you cross over one of the main roads! Yesterday we went to the "Witches" market, where you could by all sorts of "witchy" type stuff, the most obvious being a dried llama foetus which you bury under your patio/front door for all sorts of witchy benefits. These freaky things were of course sold by the ubiquitous traditionally dressed Bolivian women with their bowler hats, plaits and frilly skirts.

Although we didn't buy a dried llama, we did get a load of other bits and bobs, scarves, woolies etc ready for Patagonia. Some of the stuff is lovely and it's all reasonably cheap, so coupled with the fact that a place to stay here is a bargain, we've felt less like backpackers and more like tourists on holiday which has made a change!

Anyway, we're off to pay for our jungle adventure!

Thursday, 22 April 2010

South America so Far

It's been amazing so far and quite the culture shock having come from New Zealand! We arrived into Santiago and spent a few days there trying to get over jetlag and exploring the city. We were stayng really near the University next door to a dance school, so the area had a good feel to it. We also headed up the funicular/cable car up small mountain to get an amazing view of the city and the sunset over the mountains. The city looked quite European although seemed more manic and there were signs of the earthquake, with bits of rubble dotted around along wit some cracks in the pavements and buildings. Having counted about a million Santander banks around town, we headed on to Valparaiso on the coast.

It was a 2 hour journey on an amazing Chilean bus - they're incredible comfortable even on the "classico" which is just a seat, but a very comfy one! We've since taken others that are even better - the long distance ones pretty much put you in a bed! Valparaiso was basically an old port town which had really colourful houses up on the hills. We did a bit of shopping there and donated coins to the football fans - they collect money on the street to pay for the journey to the stadium!

From Valpairaso we headed 7 hours north to La Serena, another town near the coast but very different from where we'd just come from. It was a nice little "churchy" town, with a nice local market and a weird garden/zoo where we saw all sorts of birds - vulture-type things, owls, eagles, chickens, sheep, ostriches. It was pretty strange but we saw some things we've never seen before! In the hostel we met a few people over a beer or two, and have been traveling with two of the girls ever since.

It was a 16 hour journey up to San Pedro de Atacama, a small, really dusty town full of dogs and dog poo in the middle of the Atacama desert. We did a trip to a salt lagoon, where it was impossible to sink - the water was 80% salt, with lithium too which is supposed to relax you. The next day we went to the valley of the moon and the valley of death, two amazing rocky/sandy areas in the desert. We also investigated a tour into Bolivia and booked a trip with a recommended agent.

We then spent 3 days touring the Bolivian highlands, seeing lagoons, flamingos, llamas, vicunas, geysers and live volcanoes before ending at he salt flats, and expanse of white literally as far as the eye could see! The first night was tough - we were told to be ready for altitude sickness, and we spent the night at 4700 metres above sea level, breathing was an effort and the night was absolutely freezing. We survived! The next night was much better, although we stayed in a "salt" hostel, with a salt floor and salt bricks. It was fine, but dried us out completely - our soaking towel was dry the next morning as the salt absorbed all the moisture.

The last day was spent on the salt flats, taking ridiculous pictures and seeing a thousand year old cactus on an island in the middle of the flats. We also got hit by a few spots of rain, which for a place that gets 5cm of rain a year was quite an achievement. The last stop on the tour was the train graveyard. Just a load of rusty old trains covered in graffiti. It was an unspectacular end to what had been a great trip!

The tour ended in Uyuni which on first impressions was a bit of a dump, but it wasn't as bad as first thought, though we were glad to only stay there one night. It was our first encounter with the Bolivian traditional ladies, who wear all sorts of colourful dresses and wear bowler hats perched on t heir heads.

From Uyuni, we endured the "nightmare bus from hell", Bolivian vomit galore from the 2nd minute, and 10 hours with one loo stop, and an old smelly woman who was sat in the isle next to us. She was so old so I stood and gave her my seat, at which point she proceeded to fall asleep on Sara dribbling and smelling unsavoury, and then refusing to move once another seat became available. The road, if you can call it a road, was 7 hours of dirt/sand up and down mountains. The toilet stop was actually a bush, in a place which had toilets but no running water. The last three hours were on a tarmac road which was better, although as the sun went down we drove in complete darkness, with the driver only putting on the lights if there was no-one in front of him. We were still traveling with the girls from La Serena and a couple of Danish girls and an Israeli, just laughing our way through the trauma of the bus ride! As the driver turned the lights off, he put "turn around" the song on which spooked everyone, as we imagined turing around to be face to face with a nutter. The girls we're nervously laughing and then just decided to sing along.

We arrived about 8pm ish in Sucre, the old capital, which is really very nice! We've spent a couple of days here, the first night struggling to find something to eat and having fried chicken in what was basically someone's living room! An "authentic Bolivian experience" we later read.

We've also explored a bit, been up to a view point over the city and seen the main markets, along with the Casa de Libertad, which is where the government used to be, and still is ceremonially. We've found it to be very cheap here, and have had some lovely food in some of the "upmarket" places for less than £5. We've paid more for a bus with a toilet for tonight to La Paz, so wish us luck!

Monday, 5 April 2010

New Zealand...

Has been absolutely incredible. Everything about our time here has been absolutely fabulous. In 3 and a half weeks we've managed to tour both the North and South Islands seeing kiwi's, whales, glaciers, mountains, volcanoes, lakes, seals, dolphins not forgetting the albatross. It has been brilliant.

Having left Gill in Wellington, we headed on the Ferry across the Cook strait to Picton where we picked up our bus (the Magic Bus!) and carried on to Nelson. There, we walked to the "centre of New Zealand" and got a good view out over the city, and played around with the new camera. Nelson was a lovely littleish city, and we stayed a couple of nights. We wandered along the river which was very idyllic, and the water was freezing cold. From Nelson we headed to Greymouth, stopping a couple of times to see a seal colony (myself and one other girl bravin the pouring rain to grab a photo) and at the pancake rocks, some strange layered rock formations.

That night, we headed to the Montieth's brewery, where we saw how the beer was made which wasn't very interesting, and then got to try the 7 different beers and new cider. It was great, and once we'd tried them all, we were allowed to pull our own beer form the taps. I should say beers, we had half an hour to go wild and we did! The tour included dinner in town where we met some locals and had some great food, before heading back tp Noah's Ark Hostel where we were in the giraffe room. Most odd.

It was then on to Franz Josef, where we'd decided to do a glacier hike. It certainy blew the hangover away as we put on our crampons and climbed up the glacier, seeing crevasses, caves and wild and wacky ice formations. It was like being on the moon, and we slipped and slid our way through a blue ice cave. We were the last people on the ice which was great as it was empty as we made our way back down, and as the mist descended as the sun went down, it really looked rather mysterious! We spent about four hours on the ice which was enough to knacker us out completely and we were asleep by 10pm!

Next morning we were off to Queenstown. We'd heard of people getting "stuck" there, because the night life is great so we were looking forward to a good night out. On the way we travelled through the Southern Alps, going round lakes and over mountains and seeing some of the most amazing scenery we've seen so far. Once into Queenstown, we went for a wander and then tried a legendary Fergburger for dinner. Sara the the classic Ferg with Cheese, while I went for the Big Al which was and American's dream. 2x half pound burgers, 2x cheese, 2 x eggs, and enough salad to feed a family. By the end of it I could feel my lungs filling up with meat. Brilliant! So brilliant in fact we exclusively ate there for the two days, having onion rings and chips for brunch the next day, and a different burger for dinner, the Little Lamby and the Cockadoodle Oink. Yes really. We also headed up on the cable car, Sara laughing at my fear of heights all the way, to get a great view a Queenstown and the Remarkables range of mountains, and also to have a go on the luge. Downhill go-karting at it's finest. Sara went so slowly I though she was going to stop. We also got some great photos of the surroundings from the top of the mountain, and managed to make ourselves look mental with the ridiculous luge helmets on.

Then we were on to Dunedin where we accomplished little other than trying some of New Zealand's finest cheap sparkling wine over an early dinner, and falling asleep. We arrived into the town quite late and got a few pictures of some of it's "Scottish" style architecture - all the road names are the same as in Edinburgh.

From Dunedin it was on to Lake Takepo, an incredible blue lake with a tiny little church on its shores. The view form the church window is amazing! We hired a Kayak and paddled about for a an hour or so, seeing geothermal bubbles coming up from the bottom, and chasing the odd duck.

Form Takepo it was on to Christchurch where we went round the botanic gardens and the cathedral and enjoyed a lovely day in what is a lovely city! We stopped to listen to some german students in the cathedral square playing a healthy dose of britpop, though left as they butchered Wonderwall!

Kaikoura was next on the agenda, where we decided to go whale watching rather than dolphin swimming, the two big attractions. Within 30 minutes of leaving the land behind we were within 15 metres of a sperm whale expelling the carbon dioxide before diving back down Although difficult to see much (only 10% is visible) we watched it for a while before getting the classic shot of it diving down. We then watched the wandering albatrosses which we circling and landing near the boat. They were absolutely mind blowing. Skimming across the water with a 3 metre wingspan they were just incredible birds and to be so near to them was amazing. Then up popped the whale again and we watched him for another twenty minutes before Sara got him diving down on video, here. It was then onto a fur seal colony. There were some very cute little ones as well as some big lazy sunbathing ones, one of which waved at us. At least that's what we told ourselves. I have to mention the smell as well, the combination of seal and seagull poo was gross, and the seagulls had done their best to colour the large brown rock white. Sara nearly threw up.

From Kaikoura we headed back to Picton, stopping at another fur seal colony and seeing some seals that had hopped right up the bank. A seal in a bush is an odd sight! From Picton is was back to Welly on the ferry where we once again met up with Gill and her boyfriend Callum for cheap drinks and free food in the bar next door! She may be coming to the UK next year so hpefully we can return the favour and give her somewhere to stay for a while!

From Welly it was on to Napier where we went to the Aquarium to see the shark feeding. A scuba diver fed them whilst others snorkellyed with the sharks - we saw one snorkeller panic and jump out as one of the bigger sharks came near him. Hilarious for us, not so for him! We also saw a kiwi in the aquariums nocturnal kiwi enclosure. They're much bigger than we tough, about the size of a chicken, and their feathers look completley different from other birds. It was very difficult to get a good photo in the dark, but we got one which shows the odd beak and feathers ok. We then went around Napier which ws flattened by an earthquake in the 1930's, and rebuilt in a completely art-deco style which was quite cool to see.

From Napier we went on to Mount Manganui, where we met with a friend from home Sam who we know through Sara's chum Coral. We saw her at work for a chat and then went to the rugby before meeting up again afterwards for a bottle of wine! The rugby was great, we saw the Chiefs (local) play the Higlanders (from Dunedin) and the Chiefs won! The locals have cowbells to ring at the games for some reason! Back with Sam, we had a gossip about home and living in New Zealand - she's been away ages!

We're now back in Auckland having finished on the Magic Bus yesterday. We also popped to see anoter of our Asia kiwi chums Lisa who now lives and works here, and have been catching up with uploading photos and plannin a bit for Chile and South America in general. We fly tomorrow at 4pm and arrive at 12pm the same day travelling back in time 4 hours which will be most odd! We hope the last chunk of our trip has been as good as the last month here and in Fiji!

Saturday, 20 March 2010

New Zealand So Far

We'll finish Oz later and have got a whole wedge to write about Fiji so that'll come soon too! Anyway, we arrived in Auckland on the 11th March and have since spent a coupe of nights there, been in the hot springs and smelt the volcanic geothermal stinkiness of Rotorua and been to a Maori feast/song/dance/party. We've seen NZ's biggest volcanic crater - Lake Taupo, a lake bigger than Singapore, the LOTR's Mt. Doom, and been into a cavern full of gloworms that lit up the ceiling like a starry night. We're now in Wellinton and have met our friend Gill from the trip around Asia, and seen the Sea Shepherd anti-whaling ship dock in the harbour and got a photo with its "Captain" Paul Watson which was funny because it's the first time i've met someone who South Park have taken the mickey out of. It's been incredible so far and the Kiwi's are a lovely bunch!

Right, we'll do some more asap!


PS have slotted Fiji in below so it makes sense!

Friday, 12 March 2010

Fiji Time!

Miles late as always, here's what happened in Fiji! We spent a night on the mainland before heading out to the Yasawa islands to the North West on an island hopping pass. This meant we could pick and choose where to stay, and jump on and off the "big yellow boat" as many times as we wanted for the duration of the pass. We started with a full 5 hour journey as far North as possible, so as to hop back every day. We stayed on Nacula, which had a beautiful beach, hammocks galore and our hut (bure) was overlooking the ocean. I achieved the impossible, opening a coconut with a swiss army knife and Sara loved the sea which in the shallows was warm, almost like a bath! That night we learnt some Fijiian dances from a big man called Loulou. Then we did the conga and musical statues. It was like a kids party! A German girl said Sara was her inspiration as we danced, while I ended up at the head of the conga, and everyone had to copy what I was doing. After 5 minutes I was out of ideas and the pressure got to me, but the German chap that took over had us skipping around fast. If we had been in lederhosen we wouldn't have looked out of place!

Next we were on to Nanuya Lalai Island and Sunrise Lagoon resort, probably our favourite, where our bure was metres from the sea which was crystal clear with soft sand underfoot. Magic. There we trekked over the top of the island to the Blue Lagoon - a film was made there apparently, we haven't seen it! It was baking hot, and we managed to take the wrong "path" twice, but arrived eventually without mishap. I snorkelled in the lagoon for a while, but the reef was very shallow, and while the fish were beautiful, I didn't want to wreck any of the coral so didn't go too close! We walked back around the beach as the tide was out, and crossed three or four deserted beaches, seeing no-one apart from a man with a machete and a few dogs running about. That night we had Kava, a Fijiian traditional drink that makes your tongue numb. Made with rain water and a plant root, it tastes like a puddle and doesn't look much better. Sara gave up after two "low tide" cups, while I polished off a few Tsunami's, to go and play with a little baby.

Next morning was my birthday! I woke up far too early to see the sunrise, and sat in he dark for at least an hour! We spent the morning swimming and relaxing before getting on a boat to head to Bay of Plenty resort on Matacawalevu. It was different to everyhwere else, surrounded by mangroves with the accommodation up on a hill. There was no water, which we didn't mind until we realised that we couldn't flush the toilet. Always a problem. There were only 4 of us staying there that night, another couple called Heather and Phil were our company and they bought me a beer and made me a card from an old Christmas card of snowy York they had. Random. The family running the place sang us some Fijiian songs that night, their two children were particularly good! The youngest gave me a little seed necklace as a birthday pressie, and they sang happy birthday and "happy long life to you" which was different!

Next morning, with the water still off, I went to the loo down at the bar/dining room, only to find a rat doing the breaststroke in circles around the toilet bowl. Our hostess was swiftly in with a stick, whacked it on the head and threw it in the sea, and then came back to serve us tea. We then went to the local village which had a boarding school for the children of the islands, and met some of the children and one of the teachers. He was teaching both Year 5 and 6, running between the two classrooms to make sure they weren't up to mischief! We walked back through the mangroves which was a stinky experience, and I spent the afternoon looking at fish and chasing crabs, finding ratty on the bottom of the lagoon and steering well clear. We were then off to Naviti at Korovu Resort. We had a pay a little extra but were rewarded with a brilliant dinner which made it well worth it, and we ate and watched the sun go down.

The next day we bumped into the chap who ran our hostel on the mainland, Junior, the boss of Drift In. He was buying a resort just further down the beach, and was well into his 8th beer of the day when he saw us and got me involved. An hour later, he was asleep on the big yellow boat as we made our way to Wayalalai. We had a lovely room there, an spent the evening watching a traditional Fijiian dance show and fire show. Then they made us dance, with a variation of the conga/snake dance ending with a fellow dancer putting his bum right on Sara's arm - she swiftly did a runner.

Our last island was Kuata, where we had dinner with Moses. Next morning we managed to sunbathe and get ourselves burnt on the last morning before heading back to the mainland, and we arrived back at Drift In that night glowing. We spent the next couple of days relaxing there and shopping in the town. We had no idea how many Indo-Fijiians there are in Fiji, and Nadi was more like India than what we'd got used to on the islands.

We had an amazing time in Fiji, it's just a shame it's such a huge flight away otherwise we'd be back there every year!

Sunday, 28 February 2010

Melbourne, The Great Ocean Road, Adelaide and back to Sydney!

This is a bit of an epic, it's been a work in progress since the last post, we've both contributed to this one!

Our monster bus journey is over as we arrived in Melbourne a few days ago! Over 3000kms down the east coast on the Greyhound with three horrible night buses but we've made it! Only one of the buses we've had the pleasure of using has not broken down or had something fall to bits! This journey was no exception, although ridiculously we were stranded in Oz's BIGGEST city for 3 hours waiting for a new tyre, 3 hours! Luckily Tina Turner's concert dvd was on - the best of - so I was content (L - I was less keen)!

We had a glorious end to our stay in Sydney. We spent a gorgeous day exploring the city and botanical gardens behind the opera house! They are massive and really beautiful, we started our relaxing sun bathing session watching a man that looked like a mixture of the Hulk Hogan, Crocodile Dundee and the Hoff bully fitness freaks around the park! Running, press ups, sit ups, all in 35 degree heat!

We arrived in Melbourne late morning and looked for the correct tram to our hostel, a lovely Indian woman helped us to Flinders Street and we found our hostel easily after that! Our room wasn't available until 2pm so we decided to relax on a couch next to an Irish fella with our swollen feet up high, I joked to Louis that we should go on the city walking tour that was leaving then, I had no intention of leavin my comfy seat to walk around after hellish busy night bus. Then the Irish fella piped up, "You should go, that tour is really good!" We tried to get out of it saying we'd go on it tomorrow, "No, its once a week, you should do it!"

It was actually good way to see the city and find out some random facts about the architecture, and also have a free coffee in one of Melbourne's "iconic" alleys. Everything in Melbourne is iconic according to the guide, from clocks to skyscrapers to these magical alleyways. Some are less magical, they have bins in them and the like.

We checked in, pooped, but needed some grub and were delighted by the nearby Aldi. In a country as expensive as this, it was great to find a bargain! The host was in the suburb of St.Kilda, which was nice enough although we didn't really explore until the next day. We headed to the beach which is ok as beaches go, but Melbourne is in a bay so there are no waves, and it's fairly industrial so there were some interesting smells wafting over the sand. We wandered along the prom prom prom, and were taken by a sign saying - come and see 100 years of history, just 300 metres this way! Well, 100 years of history is quite a lot over here so they've got to be proud of any old-ish thing so we investigated.

It was at the end of the pier we came to the "old" building, a quaint looking teahouse type thing that would've looked at home in Brighton/Margate/Any old English seaside type place. We read the sign we proceeded to tell us of how the building was infact 5 years old, and a replica of what had been there before and burnt down in a fire. Is it wrong we felt a bit cheated!? Not only that, there was a quote from a local saying, "we could have built something new, grand and majestic like the opera house, but there's no need when we already had the magic right here". Hmm...we questioned his judgment but wandered on, where we saw part of the marina was a haven for penguins. We saw several babies in the rocks behind the 5 year old teashed, and found out that they came out at night so planned a return visit.

The next day we saw our friends in the evening, Emma from Leeds and her boyfriend James. We went to a rooftop cinema on the sea front to see 'Where The Wild Things Are' projected on a giant inflatable screen that looked like an old telly. Everyone slid down into their low lounging seats to watch and listen to two girls playing piano and cello and singing who were quite good, and watch the sun go down before the film started. It began, and I was unluckily behind the one chap who had the doubly bad luck (for me) of having a chair that was higher than the rest and (for him and me!) of having a huge head (no offense JP!). We weren't too sure about the film, it was really very very weird, and a bit of a kids film, but the setting was spectacular and we enjoyed it nonetheless, although in such a prone position, it got very cold very quickly once the sun went down, and the seagulls drifting overhead were a constant menace, the fear of a messy present from above kept us from talking too, no-one wants to be lying back with their mouth open ready for what may fall!

The next day, we headed for Frankston on the train to meet James who would pick us up and then take us past where he and Emma live, and on to her work before getting the ferry across the mouth of the bay at 7pm. We picked up supplies, and then had the best ferry ride ever, as dolphins appeared within minutes and surfed the wake of the ship for about ten minutes, jumping in and out of the water and putting on quite a show. On the other side, it was a short drive until we reached the sign proclaiming the Great Ocean Road, although it was quite dark so we wouldn't see some of the more spectacular parts until the next day.

We arrived at the cabin we were staying in for a couple of days, and got cozy, lighting the log burner. We tried for a while to get the gas connected to the cooker, failed, and so had ham and cheese sandwiches for dinner! Next day, we were able to appreciate where we were staying, the cabin had a deck overlooking the sea, and we were 2 minutes from the beach. We headed further along the road, admiring the views and stopping first at a rainforest walk, seeing some massive Australian redwoods and cooling off in the forest, before heading on to the 12 Apostles, some huge sandstone rock stacks jutting out of the sea. They were very impressive, and from the viewpoint we saw a lonely penguin on the beach, a local thought it looked unwell, but he seemed happy enough from our vantage point 100 metres or so up a cliff.

There's more to come....

Saturday, 13 February 2010

We're in Sydney!

Hello from Sydney! It's an amazing city, small enough to wander around and see all the sights but big enough to to feel a part of something. So many of the places we've seen have had so few people there it's been a bit of a joke!

Anyway, we've been round the harbour, took pictures of the bridge, opera house and techno Aboriginies, and then hopped on a ferry to Manly, mainly for the photos of the city from on the water. Manly itself was nice, with beaches in the harbour and onto the ocean - the surfers beach. We watched volleyball and surf types for a while which was cool, and then got some barrumundi and chips to take on the ferry back.

The ferry of our more ridiculous moments occued on the ferry back. Queuing up, we got there early and to the front so we could rab seats outside (of which there aren't many) at the front of the boat. The gate was opened and we raced on, heading to the front, and there we sat, front row central, still facing Manly but ready for the boat to turn around and head to Sydney central.

It didn't.

We went backwards for about ten minutes, both of us keeping each other's hopes up for the big turnaround that never came. It was only as the other ferry came past us, we realised that the boat was double-ended, like a train, and like a pair of buffoons we'd ran on to grab seats at the back of the boat! We sheepishly walked up the front to join the standing masses all snapping away as we once again passed the opera house and the harbour bridge. We're glad it happened because we laughed about it the whole way once we'd realised we were eejits.

That evening, we went to a place which served free pizza from 8pm, so being cheapo backpackers we popped in and had what turned out to be a good sized pizza! Then we went to meet Laura, a friend from university who's working here and some of her chums at a bar overlooking Darling harbour for some cheap cocktails. Apparently Prince Wills visited the very same bar recently. We might've even sat in his seat, who knows!

Yesterday we went to Bondi beach with Laura, for a glorious early afternoon and stormy evening. The waves weren't too crazy and the sea was perfectly clear, you could see your feet on the bottom even a chest height, and the sun was beating down - it was the hottest we've felt since we've been here. It was a case of swim, dry off, heat up in 60 seconds and swim again until the first clouds started to show up.

At first they were a welcome relief, shading us a bit and then letting the sun back out, but then things became much greyer as a storm rolled in. We watched the lightning fork out to sea which was incredible while we waited for the bus home.

Our plans to see the opera house at night were foiled as the rain came down in torrents, the streets flooded and the water running like a river down the middle of the roads. The storm lasted all night, although was at its worst just as Laura wanted to head home. She left, came back soaking and stayed until it had eased off hours later!

Today the plan is to avoid the rain and explore a bit more, and also have a look at some of the Chinese New Year celebrations which have started already. The official date is the 14th so hopefully there'll be some stuff going on - there's quite a large Asian population. We'll keep you posted...

ps. Loads more photos are up...

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

It's been too long!

Sorry one and all, it's been far too long since the last post! Right, here's what we've done!

Been to the Barrier Reef from Cairns and snorkeled there.

Sat at Mission Beach deciding that we didn't want to skydive after all - doing it in the rain left physical damage on some fellow travelers!

Stopped at Townsville to go to Magnetic Island where we saw an Achidna wandering about our hostel.

Stayed at Airlie Beach before going on a 2 night sailing adventure round the Whitsunday Islands and seeing the 2nd Best beach in the world, loads of little Nemo's, the odd turtle and assorted other fish types...

Headed to Rainbow beach, from where we went to Fraser Island on a 3 day camping 4x4 driving safari. I was the only one the got the car stuck in sand - I'm quite proud. A Dingo chased a German girl, and it pissed down with rain...

Stopped in Noosa to check out the surf dudes and dudettes...

And Now we're in Brisbane, finally in the sun. The recurring them so far has in fact been rain, with only 2 days before today where it hasn't rained. We're loving it here, although still missing Asia a little bit, but hopefully a bit more sun will see to that! Anyway, more will follow soon, although Australia doesn't have wifi everywhere and I'm too tight to pay. On that note, my 4 dollars is running out...until next time!

Sunday, 17 January 2010


It's 4.17 am and we're sat (well, Sara's fast asleep on a big sofa thing, covered with her scarf and with an eyemask on, I wish I could take a photo but she's sleeping on the camera!) in Darwin airport waiting to get on another little 3 hour flight to Cairns! Nearly there! I wish we could say we'd seen a kangaroo already but we haven't.

We had to stay an extra night in Singapore - our flight was cancelled or some such nonsense, still, we were put up in a 4* hotel in the city centre with meals included - an amazing buffet which had everything from local stuff to roasties to lobster. Hopefully the rest of our journey is as uneventful as the first bit, though the stopover is a bit of a pain and doesn't seem to serve any purpose!

We'll catchup with some of the other stuff asap - it's all in the journal! Oh, and all our photos are up, although we've not edited them so expect 3 or 4 of the same thing - usually us blinking/squinting like moles having taken our sunglasses off.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

A Belated Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to everyone, once again we've been slacking on the blog front somewhat so here's what we've been up to...

30th - Brilliant day, we took a local bus out to the botanical gardens, not only was it cheap but we got to see a bit more of the city. Outside the old colonial UNESCO heritage bit, it's much like some of the other cities we've seen in Asia. We were walking across the carpark as I said to Sara, "You know, i'll be gutted if we don't see a monkey today...oh my God, look up there, there are loads of them!" They were up in the trees, climbing the fences, and generally mucking about near the entrance of the park. We soon rrealised why, ou could buy nuts for them at the entrance. We watched them lark about for a while, and then jumped on a little tram thing that took you round the gardens, my foot still aching a bit and it was only 20p so laziness prevailed! We did a short tour around, seeing various caged plants (cacti, herbs, ferns), but really the gardens were just a really nice park.

The tram dropped us back at the entrance where I gave in and bought some nuts and set out on my mission to become a monkey god. They were loving me withing 2 seconds of opening the nuts! Both Sara and I started out throwing them the nuts, and some of them caught them without letting them hit the floor which astonished me. We then got down on our haunches and held the nuts out to them, and the little scamps ran up and grabbed them. Obviously this kept me entertained for about an hour - some of them were braver and would sit within easy reach, while others would rab and run, especially the mums carrying their babies underneath.

Once out of nuts, we went for a wander, through the "Japanese" garden, which had a little river which we (Sara) paddled in, and then found some huge leaves with well positioned holes that became masks for the next few minutes. We hunted round until we found one that we could get both eyes and mouth visible for a silly photo, and then wandered back, past the masses of jogger who had descended on the place. As we were walking back, Sara asked "I wonder if there are snakes here" and then exclaimed and pointed as we saw a great big black and yellow monitor lizard just chilling out under a bush. It must have been about a metre from head to tail and t was right next to me as we were walking and I jumped out of my skin. The odd thing was, no-one else we pointed it out to seemed bothered. They must be common over here...

Back in the Old Town, we had street food, trying some Malaysian specials, Wan Tan Mee, Curry Mee, then chapatis with a dhal mix and some corn on the cob. It was all delicious, and we spent £2 in total and were stuffed.

31st - Was well timed to be my first day off antibiotics! We didn't do much all day until I went out to get some cash, and the ATM swallowed the money but debited our account! We spent the next two hours trying to sort that out, only to find out that the money would be credited to us at a future date, it was a real pain, and also meant that we'd used our card the maximum for the 24 hours and got no money. We used a different card, which also didn't work, and finally got some cash about 7pm having tried 3 cards and ATMS. Panic over, we grabbed some food and then went back to wait until later for the fireworks and world record attempt for the most people at a dance class at one time. We missed the record attempt due to my shoddy timekeeping, but we did make it down to the promenade to see the fireworks and some of the lve music that was on. We were sat on the sea front, and suddenly fireworks started further down the coast, right behind a tree. I panicked and thought we'd chosen a blind spot to watch the fireworks from, but then the countdown started and the fireworks began. Shortly, they were all over, and we grabbed an ice cream for the walk back as it was still roasting hot even approaching 1am.