A Travellerspoint blog

The final chapter - Peru

Jungles, Deserts and Coast - A perfect Cherry on the top!

sunny 20 °C

We arrived in Puno by bus a couple of hours after being stamped into Peru. We met our first South American NBM of the trip at the bus station, while we did not want any of the services he had on offer as he was a nice guy we let him blag a free lift in our taxi back to his travel agency in the town centre enroute to our hostel. When we arrived at our hostel there was 'nobody at the inn'. We tried the bell a couple of time but no response. It looked like they had just nipped out for some lunch so we thought it best to wait as we already had a booking with the place. After 45 minutes I was not a happy chappy, I pressed the bell about five times and a minute later low and behold a girl appeared at the door to let us in - it appears that five rings of the bell is what it takes to wake her up!!!! We checked in and then went out in search of the England vs Italy game. Our luck was out on the football so we decided to go for pizza in support of Italy as we did not really want England to win the Euros while we were not at home to enjoy the celebrations. After some´dunch´we spent the rest of the afternoon doing some shopping, playing in an arcade and making onward travel arrangements for the next day to Cuzco (we did have a fancy oriental express style train booked but it had been cancelled due to a miners strike).

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We had another chilled one that evening getting ready for the action to come.

The following day we jumped on out bus to Cuzco at 08:00. About 1 hour in to the journey we came across a small town and we discovered the reason the train was cancelled! The main streets through the town were packed with a procession of thousands miners.

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We came to a sand still and after about 30 minutes the driver decided to take a detour down the tiny streets - the protest was generally well mannered however at one point the bus was pelted with stones. We eventually made our way out of that town only to be confronted by another horde of miners 15km down the road - this time the bus parked up out of town and waited for the masses to walk by.

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After negotiating the bus around all the rocks purposely left in the road by the protesters the rest of the journey went smoothly and we just laid back and enjoyed the scenery.

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We arrived in Cuzco later than expected at about 16:00. We took a taxi straight to our hostel and then went out on a wander of the town centre. On the drive in to town we could not understand why the guide book was saying Cuzco was such a good place. When we arrived in the town centre we realized why. On the way to the main square we walked down cobbled streets that almost had the feel of the back streets of York. We were then confronted by the huge main square with two large churches and some mood lighting which gave the place a distinct European feel.

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While checking out the main square we felt compelled to make our third (and final) painting purchase of the trip. We had dinner in the local rotisserie chicken joint near our hostel - the place was packed with locals and the food looked awesome, the only problem was that it tasted of 95% salt and 5% chicken!. That evening we attempted to book our Machu Picchu tickets online with no joy - we would have to make a trip to the office early tomorrow to guarantee a place to go to Huainan Picchu.

Up at 06:00 the next day I fired down to the town centre to get some last minute supplies for our trip to the jungle and to grab some cash to buy our Machu tickets. We then went to the ticket office together and made the all important purchase. Feeling pretty buzzed we made our way back to our hotel for a quick bit of breakfast and to pick up our gear for the trip to the Amazon. We arrived at the airport with time to spare and in high spirits. We approached the counter to check in and handed over our electronic ticket - the lady behind the counter looked a little confused and then proceeded to point out that we were actually four months late for our flight! Elaine booked the flight for the 26th Feb!!! With our heads in our hands we made our way over to the ticketing desk (about 1 metre to the left of the check in desk) and proceeded to feel the wrath of the lady behind the counter while all the other staff of Star Peru found our predicament highly amusing! Lucky they had some spare seats but due to our 'no show' and the difference in cost between our seat and the one available we had to bend over and pay another $240 (US) to get on the plane. While the woman was faffing about the final call for boarding went out; we hurried her along and eventually got our boarding pass and made a hasty dash through security to the gate. With seconds to spare we made it. Finally on the plane we both breathed a sigh of relief however I was finding it very painful to sit down!!!

The take off from Cuzco required a steep climb over the mountains and the landing in Puerto Maldonado gave impressive views over the canopy of the Amazon rainforest. The flight only took 45 minutes (at a rate of $8.6 per minute!). We were greeted at the airport by our guide Steven and made our way to the Wasai lodge in Puerto Maldonado (http://www.wasai.com/index.html) where we had a complimentary passionfruit juice before jumping into the minivan to go to the boat. Once on the boat we traveled for three hours up the Tambopata River deep in to the jungle while enjoying a spot of lunch. We also saw some Capybara´s chilling on the bank on the way.

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We arrived at the jungle lodge at about 18:00. First things first we were shown to our private lodge.

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We then geared up ready to go out on a night walk before dinner. The first expedition of the trip did not disappoint, we saw a range of different bugs including some cool crickets and spiders.

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Just at the end of the walk we were treated to a sighting of 2 metre long Rainbow Boa. Check this bad boy out:

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Dinner that evening was hearty and we retired early ready for an early start the next day.

Up at 05:00 the next day we jumped in the boat and headed five minutes down stream. We then trekked for 45 minutes into the jungle to get to the parrot clay lick (this is where all the birds go to lick\eat clay to sort out the digestive systems due to all of the tannins in the leaves and fruit they eat). After waiting for about 2 hours we saw a couple of Macaws perched up high in the distance and a range of smaller parrots filling their boots at the lick. We then trekked back to base and had some breakfast. We had about 1 hour to chill before we jumped back in the boat and headed up stream for 15 minutes where we were dropped off with some kayaks. We then spent the next hour slowly making our way back to the lodge, spotting about 6 different Caiman and a swarm of butterflies on the way. Lots of the butterflies followed us back, and when we landed at the shore by the lodge there must have been over 100 butterflies flapping about all over the place and licking up all of the minerals from the bank (the males do this because the minerals help the produce pheromones so they can smell good for the ladies). With so many butterflies we managed to get some really good shots.

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After taking a ridiculous number of photos we had a quick shower, some lunch and then hiked out to the zip-lining course in the jungle.

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First up was a walk over a bridge about 5 metres over the swamp, this was then followed by a 100 metre zip-line across the swamp - good fun. Next up was a cable traverse back across the swamp, it required a little bit too much upper body strength for Elaine but I jumped on and used an army style shimmy for the first half, and when the burn started to kick in used a simple traverse for the rest.

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After the cable traverse there was another easy little bridge to cross - the traverse did make you work up a sweat though!

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We had another go on the zip-line then went back to the lodge for a well deserved shower! After dinner we took a hike out to the mammal clay lick and sat up in the trees (in a hide) waiting for something to show. We were eventually rewarded with a sighting of a small dear but I think by that time we had both lost about a pint of blood each to the mozzies. From the clay lick we hiked on for another ten minutes back to near the swamp where we spent the night camping - the setup was basic but the 05:00 start to the day ensured we got a good nights sleep.

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Up at 07:00 the next day we went back to the clay lick for a couple of hours and saw two capybaras and a baby wild pig. We then had a spot of breakfast back at the lodge. The rest of the morning was free time so while Elaine chilled at the lodge I went out exploring the jungle around the edge of the lodge site trying to get some good photos - I saw some cool birds, lizards, vultures and butterflies. After lunch we went off on a short walk to the tree climb. I went first and got strapped into the climbing harness and started the 8 minute climb up 50 metres of rope up to the top of the canopy. The view at the top was immense, I was joined by Elaine 20 minutes later and we both spent some time enjoying the jungle canopy views in the late afternoon light.

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Both feeling hot, sweaty and tired we went back to the room for showers and some relaxation. Before dinner I went out looking for Tarantulas again and spotted a couple of beauties.

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After dinner we went out for a final night walk, this time seeing a giant millipede, loads of spiders and some grasshoppers undergoing metamorphosis.

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After a long day we hit the hay for the last time in the jungle.

We took the boat back to Puerto Maldonado early the next day and the jumped on a bus to the town centre lodge. Down by the pool we were lucky enough to spot a sloth in the tree tops.

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We arrived at the airport 2 hours early for our return flight (which we had booked correctly) only to find that it had been delayed by a further hour. We eventually arrived back in Cuzco at about 15:30. After getting some laundry done we spent the evening relaxing in and around the main square, and I treated myself to my final holiday haircut (job done in about 3 minutes and it only cost me 1 squid plus a 25p tip!).

The next morning we went out in search of a travel agent to make onward travel arrangements for Nazca. With our night bus and scenic flight over the lines booked we enjoyed some KFC for lunch (Elaine spotted it first not me) and then sought out a collectivo bus (something in between a taxi and bus) to Ollantaytambo. We arrived in the picturesque Ollantaytambo at about 15:30 giving us some time to check out the tiny town before our train to Aguas Calientes at 18:30.

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We went for a short wander round the market, enjoyed an ice cream then realised it was beer o`clock so savored a chilled one in the main square. We followed it up with a Pisco Sour then set off down to the train station. Just by the gates of the train station Elaine fell over and banged her knee and wrist, she was a little shook up but ok. All the Peruvian ladies came over asking if she was alright and while I was helping her up the kind people from Peru Rail seeing her plight came rushing over with a wheelchair to help her get to the train - Elaine politely declined and hobbled to the train. As it was dark the train journey was fairly uneventful. We arrived in Aguas Calientes at 21:00 and were greeted at the station by someone from our hostel. We nipped out to get some snacks then when back to the hostel for an EN - Big game int`mownin!

Up at 04:00 we quickly got dressed then had some breakfast. We bought our bus tickets and were in the queue for the bus to Machu Picchu at 05:10. We managed to get on the third bus up to the main gate, passing lots of extremely tired looking people taking an early morning trek up the massive hill. We were inside Machu Picchu shortly after 06:00. Initial impressions did not blow me away. We made our way straight through the site (via the main plaza and some llamas enjoying the sunrise) to join the queue to get up Huayna Picchu - we were first in line at 06:30.

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The gates did not open until 07:00 but we (I) chose to sit and wait as we (I) did not want to relinquish first place. On the board at the sign in desk the climb was listed as taking 45-90 minutes. We set off and Elaine soon let me off the leash to tramp up as fast as I could. Within 10 minutes I arrived at the 25 minutes to go mark, feeling quite knackered but determined to keep first place I powered on. 5 minutes later I heard some voices coming up behind me, I was concerned that it was the French people who were behind us in the queue so I dug deeper still. I then arrived at the base of the summit and had been caught by two young American lads, they had a spring in their step and looked set to fire past me but instead when they saw me slowing shouted words of encouragement to drive me on. With their encouragement I made the final scramble and arrived at the summit first, almost immediately followed by them (it tuned out that they set off from Aguas Calientes at 03:30 and walked all the way up the massive hill to Machu Picchu before running up Huayna Picchu - impressive). We made it in 25 minutes. We had 15 minutes to chill and take in the awesome views.

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Elaine arrived at the top in a time of 40 minutes - it was a really good effort as she beat the rest by another 15 minutes and did not look half as knackered as I did when reaching the top.

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We enjoyed the 15 minutes of quiet time at the top before the masses ascended.
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Feeling buzzed that we had both hammered Huayna Picchu, we made our way down to Machu Picchu for a spot of breakfast. We then took our time over the next few hours exploring every corner of the ruins - taking in some awesome views and capturing some of the classic photos of the very impressive ruins.

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We called it quits at about 14:00 and set off on the walk back to Aguas Calientes - 2km down a very steep hill and then back along the river to town.

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Once back in town we celebrated our success with ice cream, some beers and a couple of excellent pastries from the local boulangerie (run by an actual Frenchman). After having showers we went out in search for some food. We settled on Mexican and were treated to some of the worst food of the whole trip - after a 1 hour wait we were served tasteless burritos not in tortilla wraps but thick eggy omelette pancake things - I paid for it so I ate it though! After a long day we retired for the evening early for some well deserved sleep.

Next day we had a train booked to go back to Ollantaytambo at 09:00. We jumped on the train without a problem and set off on time. The views were awesome and we were glad that we got to do the journey during the day. Due to arrive in Ollantaytambo at 11:00 the train came to a halt at 10:30 and people to started to pile off into the nearby farmers field to relax in the sun.

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I was told by the guard that a train had broken down near the station and we had to wait for it to be moved. I thought it best to make the most of the delay so indulged in a spot of sunbathing. 30 minutes later I asked for an update and was told that the delay was actually due to a teachers strike blocking up the station and not a broken down train - by this point some people had already set off walking to Ollantaytambo. In no rush we decided to wait it out. At 12:00 we started to contemplate the walk ourselves but thought it best to wait a bit more as we had already waited so long. At 12:30 a procession of riot police marched past the train towards town - that made up our minds about walking.

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Finally at about 14:30 the train set off back to town - in all fairness the delay was not too bad as it was sunny outside and the Peru Rail staff kept plying us with food and drink. Once back in Ollantaytambo the town was in a bit of a state with people and vehicles everywhere. We joined a massive queue of locals waiting for a collectivo back to Urubamba - after some jostling for position and about a 40 minute wait we got a space in a packed little mini bus. Once in Urubamba the onward journey to Cuzco only required a walk to the other side of the station, a sigh of relief was let out. Back in Cuzco much later than expected and in need of some good food after last nights poor show we went out in search of a recommended Australian owned place from the guide book - we were not disappointed. Some Asian inspired tasty chili chicken rolls to start followed by a spicy Indian curry for me and some asian style crispy chicken with sweet potato for Elaine - washed down with a beer and a Pisco Sour - excellent. Feeling satisfied we made our way back to the hostel where we spent the rest of the evening relaxing.

With not much to do the next day we made our way down to the town centre and picked up our tickets to Nazca and for the over flight. We spent the day wandering round Cuzco checking out the different markets and plazas.

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We boarded our night bus to Nazca at 18:00 and set off on our way. The first driver was a bit of a mad man so sleep did not come until about 00:00 when the shift changed. Waking up at 06:00 we were treated to a viewing of Rambo II dubbed in Spanish for the last 2 hours of the journey. When we arrived in Nazca we were greeted by someone from the flight company. After tidying ourselves up we made our way to the airport only to find that the place was closed due to the fog. With time to kill we purchased some novelty Nazca lines cards and started to while the hours away playing cards. At 13:45 we were finally called for our flight. We jumped into our tiny six seater plane (two seats taken up by the pilot and co-pilot) and set off on our journey.

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Take off was smooth and the over flight was awesome (I don´t think Elaine will agree with me though). We got great views of the different geoliths - whale, dog, monkey, spider, astronaut, kingfisher and condor to name a few.

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About 20 minutes into the flight Elaine was looking a bit worse for wear. After all the sights were seen the pilot made his way back for a smooth landing. Once back at the office in town Elaine took some time to become at one with the solid ground under her feet while I went out in search of some onward transport to Ica. Once Elaine was feeling better we went out to find an ATM and some scran - it is the first time I have ever been served stir fried chicken and chips with rice on the side! We jumped on the bus to Ica at about 16:00 and a couple of hours later we arrived. Greeted at the station by a taxi driver we jumped in his taxi and went straight to our hostel in Huacachina. Arriving in the dark we could see that the place was small so we thought we would save the exploring for tomorrow and spent the evening relaxing at the hostel. Sleep came easy after the night on the bus.

We had a relaxed morning the next day, enjoying a spot of breakfast at the hostel then going out for a wander around the lagoon.

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We spent sometime chilling on the dunes and enjoyed a couple of beers and some lunch next to the lagoon. At 16:00 it was time to go out in a dune buggy and try some sandboarding. Our driver was an old dude and I was a bit dubious - it was quickly apparent that he had just had more time than the rest to hone his driving skills. We fired up, down and around the dunes at great speed then stopped off at some little dunes to try some sandboarding.

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I jumped straight in there and managed to get the hang of it (just) after coming off a couple of times. Elaine was a bit unsure and went for a seated run down the small slope. We then moved on to two more sandboarding spots, each getting progressivly bigger. The last spot was massive (Elaine was a spectator at this point), there was a wall of people lined up´at the top waiting for someone to go first - I gladly obliged and set off, quite quickly I face planted the sand but got up and dusted myself off and managed to make it the rest of the way (the dune must have been 100m high).

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Both the dune buggy and sandboarding were great fun but we were both appalled by the amount of litter scattered over the dunes. Once back at the hostel, with every orafice full of sand I took a shower and had some chill time. We went out for some dinner by the lagoon and with not much going on in the town went for yet another EN (I think we are both getting old).

The next day we went out in search of pancakes for breakfast, we found a purveyor of a ´famous, enormous fruit pancake´ and it did not disappoint.

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Both feeling suitably stuffed we spent the rest of the morning chilling on the dunes, topping up our tans. Around lunchtime we jumped in a taxi back to Ica and waited for the bus to Paracas. When the bus eventually arrived (so much for the Cruz Del Sur reputation) we took the short ride out to the coast. Once in Paracas we were greeted by a NBM and proceeded to book a boat trip to the Ballestas Islands for the next day. We walked down to the centre to find our accomodation only to discover a building site! We walked through the building site to find a working part of the hostel at the back.

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We checked in (after being assured the noise of the builders would not interupt our sleep) and then went to check out the tiny town centre and sea front. That evening we enjoyed some ceviche and other sea food at a little local restaurant (5 squid per head for two courses and beer - bobby dazzler).

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Up at 06:00 the next day we made our way to the tour office - after much waiting around we were informed that the pier was closed (as it had been for the last four days - supposedly due to a fishing boat with five men on it completely disappearing earlier in the week). We decided to skip the inland national park tour and try again for the boat trip the next day. With the whole day free we went back to the tiny centre and enjoyed some breakfast (the smallest chicken sandwich I have every had) while looking at the massive pelicans lured in for the tourists by some fishermen.

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We decided to checkout Pisco so jumped in a collectivo for the 15km journey down the coast. It was quite a sad sight to see as the town looked rather dilapidated and it was obvious that it was struggling to make a recovery from the earthquake which hit five years ago. We had some lunch by the main square and enjoyed a beer - I has Lomo Saltado, a beef, chip (yes chip) and onion stirfry with rice on the side while Elaine enjoyed some seafood rice. Both feeling carbed out we jumped in a taxi back to Paracas.

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Once in the little town we found a beach front bar and enjoyed some cocktails and cards while watching the sunset. Still carbed out we skipped dinner and had a relaxed evening at the hostel ready for the early start the next day.

Up at 06:00 again we packed up and made our way up to the tour office. At 08:00 it was anounced that the pier was open. We jumped in buses and made our way down to the seafront where we each paid our tourist tax. Once on the giant speed boat we set off to the islands. The sea was a little rough but not as bad as we expected. It took about 15 minutes to get to the islands (passing a candelabro geolith on the way), as we approached you could see thousands of birds in the sky. Once up close we got to see thousands of birds nestled up on the rocks, there were lots of different species: Peruvian boobies (shnee), Pelicans, Cormorants, Gulls and Humboldt Penguins to name a few. The islands were a bit smelly when up close - it was obvious how a guano harvesting industry could have formed. As a finale we were treated to an up close sighting of a sea lion colony.

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The trip was excellent and were were both supprised by the abundance of wildlife at the islands. Once back in town we had a couple of hours to kill before our bus to Lima (which again arrived late - cheers Cruz Del Sur!). We arrived in Lima at about 15:30 and took a taxi straight to the guesthouse. We enjoyed a couple of hours of chill time (and I enjoyed a few beers) then went out in search of some steak courtesy of Luke and Abi. We went to a place recommended by our guesthouse - we were not disappointed. When we walked in the door infront of the two massive charcoal grills was a butchers counter full of fine cuts of beef - now that´s what I´m talking about! We both enjoyed the best steak of the trip and a cocktail to wash it down (sadly the choice of establishment ment that Luke and Abi paid for my steak but only 1\6 of Elaine´s).

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Both feeling extremely satisfied we jumped in a taxi to the Parque de Agua. It is a large park where you need to pay 1 squid to get inside however once in there are thirteen massive fountains of all different shapes and sizes with lights and music to accompany. The atmosphere was like a fair ground with pople eating candy floss and children (and adults) runing in an out of the fountains getting soaking wet! It was a great way to spend the penultimate evening of our trip.

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Waking up on our last full day we enjoyed a spot of breakfast at our guest house. We then spent the morning checking out the centre of Miraflores. I had my shoes shined (finaly) and managed to find a jumper in the local market.

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Early afternoon we made our way down to the centre of the city to checkout the Plaza de Armas and some of the other squares.

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We had some lunch in a cheap restaurant packed full of locals before making our way back to Miraflores. In the afternoon we enjoyed some more retail therapy, visiting a chocolatier and some more jumper shops. Back at the guesthouse my gut management skills were put to the test big style. We spent the night relaxing at the guest house - not the ideal way to spend the last night as we had planned to go out for a nice meal however, the time to recuperate should place me well to enjoy the last day.

Up early the next day I was feeling a lot better (albeit a little empty). After packing our bags for the final time and having some breakfast we headed down to the seafront for a stroll in the rare Lima sunshine.

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We walked by the sea down into the town centre where we enjoyed a coffee and some churros with chocolate sauce. We then did our final bit of shopping and headed back to the guesthouse to freshen up. We decided on a meal at one of the top restaurants in the area to bring the trip to a close where we enjoyed an excellent trio of ceviche to start, followed by sea food fetuccini for me seared tuna steak for Elaine - some fine food to top off a damn fine trip!

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Peru has been excellent and a great destination to finish off the trip. While we stuck to the ´gringo trail´, some of the smaller places we visited gave us a real feel for Peru. We both would love to go back to the Amazon again as it was one of the highlights of the entire trip.

Well five months is up (net of 30 minutes to get to the airport). We have both had a brilliant time and have seen more sights and had so many different experiences that this will definitely be a trip that we will remember for the rest of our lives. Yes we have had a couple of low points (kobeeda withdrawl symptoms were difficult to deal with!) but the good times by far outweigh the bad. This trip has left us both charged with energy and ready to tackle the next challange that life holds - bring it on!!!

Posted by LaineyandChin 14:50 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

It´s chilly in Chile and baltic in Bolivia!

Viva America Del Sur!

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The start of the final chapter of our trip began with a 38 hour day and the longest of our lives! We left Auckland at 4pm on the 11th June and arrived in Santiago 11 hours later around 11am.

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After struggling with the Spanish ATM at the airport we managed to say the right things to get us onto a bus into the city centre. A 15 minute walk and we easily found our hostel. The rest of the day was a complete wash out as we just hibernated in our room not really knowing who or where we were! After a long nights sleep we woke up still blearly eyed and feeling the effects of the jet lag to a rainy Santiago day. We had some breakfast at the hostel then took a walk into the city centre, by which time the rain had stopped. There wasn´t too much to see there so we headed back to the hostel and just had a chilled evening.

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Next day it was still raining so it was another slow start. We headed to the metro and took a train to a nearby shopping mall to look for some warm clothing in preperation for our trip to San Pedro de Atacama. Found out it was a big, modern shopping mall with prices to match so after trying on a few items and managing to order some lunch in Spanish we headed back to the hostel empty handed, deciding we would be able to pick something up in San Pedro for less. We had three nights in Santiago which we used to aclimiatise and recover from jet leg, but from speaking to a few people we didn´t miss too much as there isn´t too much to see in Santiago itself.

Very early start the following day to catch our 7am flight to Calama. The early start was worth it as we had an amazing view of sunrise from the plane and a good view of the desest on our way down (and free plane food!).

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Arriving in Calama was a bit of a shock for the senses as we found ourselves in the middle of a desert, and couldn´t really believe we were still in the same country. We quickly found a minibus that would take us to our accommodation in San Pedro, 60km away, and up to 2400 metres above sea level. We spent the rest of the day looking round the small town enjoying the warmth of the sunshine. As a town that caters heavily for tourists we easily found several shops that sold alpaca wool knitwear, and it was cheaper than what we were looking at in Santiago so we got ourselves a jumper, hat, gloves and cowel each, and all for 40 pounds.

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After deciding to change our itinery to include Bolivia we also spoke to a few travel agents about tours to Uyuni and booked one to leave in a couple of days time. As the chill set in our first bottle of Chilean red was enjoyed in the evening along with a filling three course set menu.

A lazy start to the next day and after enjoying breakfast at the hostel we took a 3km walk to some nearby Inca ruins. After climbing up the smaller of the two hills and checking out the view Ramsey of course wanted to run up the bigger hill, so I took a slow walk down while he went off up the second hill; quickly realising the effects of the altitude when it comes to speedily going up hill! It was a nice walk and there were some good desert views.

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Having run out of time for lunch we snacked on some chocolate we had from New Zealand and waited to be picked up from our hostel for our trip to Valley of the Moon, Death Valley (which we found out was meant to be called Mars Valley but it was lost in translation and Mars was changed into Muerte (death in Spanish)), a walk to the top of a sand dune,

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and a beautiful sunset over the mountains.

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It was a good trip and we got to see lots of variations of the landscape. An early night was had ready for our early rise in the morning.

The alarm went off at 3am to wake us up for our sunrise trip to the Geysers del Tatio. We sleepily got on the bus at 4am for our steep climb from 2400 upto 4200 metres above sea level. I started to feel a little light headed on the way up and didn't feel myself again until we came back down, but still enjoyed the trip. I can't describe how cold it felt when we got off the bus but we were told it was -13 degress, and with the added wind chill we were absolutely freezing! It was just starting to get light when we arrived so we carefully followed our guide around the geysers, enjoying their heat and watching it slowly start to get lighter.

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In desperate need of some warmth we were very happy when the hot chocolate, tea and coffee came out, along with the boiled eggs for breakfast that had been cooked in a geyser. Warm drink in hand we watched the sun continue to rise.

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Once the sun was up we jumped back onto the bus to let our toes thaw out and travelled onto some thermal hot pools, which we declined to get in as we couldn't bare the thought of getting undressed in the cold, but it was a beautiful setting.

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After a brief stop at an old abondened town, on the way back to San Pedro we saw some ostritches and llama which topped off the trip.

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In preperation for our next expedition into the cold we went to buy some warm woolen socks, before stopping for a lunch of giant sandwiches while enjoying a replay of the England-Sweden match. For our final trip from San Pedro we went to Cejas Lagoons for a dip in a salt water lagoon. Having never floated in salt water before it was a slightly strange experience, but good fun once the layer of cold water had been penetrated to lay in the warm water below.

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After drying and warming up in the evening sunshine we enjoyed Pisco Sours while watching the awesome sunset over the lakes.

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(All our trips were booked with Desert Adventures, www.desertadventure.cl, and for each one we had a great guide who knew his stuff and spoke good English, would recommend this company for anyone planning a tour out of San Pedro). When we got back to the hostel we decided to go out for steak at a place recommended to us - Ramsey asked twice for the name of the place, and twice forget, so on the third time the guy offered to write it down, but Ramsey declined claiming he would remember. San Pedro is only a small place but somehow we ended up in the wrong (and much more expensive) restaurant! Note: don't ask Ramsey to remember anything after a 3am start and going up and down 2000m in altitude in a short space of time - he was also deaf in one ear for the evening due to the pressure change making dinner conversation a bit of a struggle.

We began the next day by getting a bus to the Chile/Bolivia border and waiting in a queue (for a long time) to be stamped out of the country. Once we had eventually set off into Bolivia it was a few miles to the Bolivian immigration for our next stamp. Here we had some breakfast and swapped to two 4WDs - unfortunately for us our driver didn't speak any English so we had to rely on the occasional translation from the Spanish speakers in our jeep. Our first stops were two lakes; Laguna Verde and Laguna Blanca for some nice scenery, followed by a stop at some geysers and a thermal hot pool for an optional dip.

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After we had reached our accommodation and eaten lunch we went to visit Laguna Colorada where there were plenty of flamingos to be seen. A beautiful sight and can only imagine what it is like in a couple of months when the lake is full of them.

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At 4500 metres above sea level we expected a cold night at our accommodation, and we weren't disappointed! As it started to get dark we turned on the one and only gas fire in the dining room and after some poor dinner sat and played some cards with the four Aussies who were also on the trip. At 8:30pm the fire was turned off and we were told the lights would be going out at 9pm! An early, uncomfortable and pretty sleepless night in our 10 layers of clothing.

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Wake up with a headache, partly from not sleeping and partially from the terrible pillows! After a hot drink and some paracetamol we hit the road and headed to Siloli Desert to see the rock formations and the coloured lagoons for some good scenery and more flamingos.

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Our second night was spent at the Salt Hotel, which was considerably better than the previous night's accommodation, and everything was made out of salt. Ramsey took a walk up a hill behind the hotel to watch sunset while I enjoy a much needed hot shower! After dinner some more cards are played by the fire before another early night.

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Following day a few of us are up to watch the sunrise over the salt flats, which was good but would have been better if we had actually been on the salt (as we were in Tunisia a few years ago) and if Ramsey hadn't lost his head torch.

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After breakfast we drove onto the salt flats and had a couple of hours to enjoy the unique environment, by taking lots of silly pictures mostly.

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We then had a stop at a salt museum and a small town before heading to Uyuni to a train graveyard (some abandoned trains from when the mining industry collapsed in the 1940s).

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We were dropped off in Uyuni where the tour ended. We had five hours to kill before our night bus to La Paz so we spent the afternon using the internet and enjoying some Bolivian food - Llama steak!

The night bus to La Paz was quite brutal for the first two hours but then the road smoothed out and we both managed to get a little sleep. Arriving in La Paz at 06:30 we made our way to our hostel. Feeling both a bit whacked from the journey we spent the morning relaxing at the hotel and making the most of the free breakfast, pool and internet. In the afternoon we went out for a stroll near our hostel checking out San Francisco Square and the local markets.

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That evening we took it easy and had a few beers in the hostel room while checking out some cable TV - bring on the SyFy channel!

The following day we arranged a city tour. We were greeted at our hotel at 09:00 by our guide Mauricio. He took us on a tour of the local markets we visted the previous day but gave us explanations for some of the things we saw - namely, dried llama foetuses on sale that are used in daily offering ceremonies by the locals where they burn them along with lots of other things. He took us down to the the main city square and showed us the parliament house and city cathedral.

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We jumped on a local bus and the next stop was the coca market - this is where coca leaves from all different regions of Bolivia are brought for sale to the locals in La Paz. It is large three story building and every corner is packed with coca leaves in massive 25kg bags - Ill have you know it is all for chewing and making tea though! We then paid a visit to San Pedro Prison (if you don´t know the history look it up, or read the book Marching Powder), we only looked in from the outside though. The last stop on the tour was up to El Alto - a small village at the top of the hills surrounding La Paz - It started off as a small village with a market but has now expanded to have a population of over 1 million. Up at El Alto we checked out the vast market and topped off the tour by me having my coca leaves read by a local warlock - I am going to be rich and have a happy life but I need to quit smoking!

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The tour was great and we would highly recommend the company (www.banjotours.com). In addition to being shown some sights off the beaten track it was good fun sampling some local street food and making our way around the city using various different forms of local transport. After being taken on the tour and feeling we had the measure of Bolivian markets we spent the afternoon browsing and shopping, and watching a parade go by. That evening we had another chilled one.

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Up early the next day we jumped on a bus to Copacabana (Bolivia not Brazil - It is a small little town on the shore of the massive Lake Titicaca). As part of the bus journey we had to take a ferry across the lake - the bus went across separatly on a dodgy wooden barge and we caught a boat, when we arrived on the opposite side we saw a cute little alpacca and proceeded to take a photo - we were hit with a 5 boliviano fee! 50p. The first time we have been caught with that scam on the whole trip!

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We arrived around lunchtime and spent the afternoon checking out the town and relaxing by the lake. We also took the chance to make arrangements for our onward travel to Puno and booked a boat trip to the Isle Del Sol for the next day. With the night being cold we went out for some food (steaks all round) and a couple of beers then called it an early one to get some rest.

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The next day we set off on our boat trip at 08:30 - there were about 50 people crammed onto a little boat with only two small outboard motors. The planned 45 minute journey to the northern tip of the Isle Del Sol took about 2.5 hours! When we arrived we took the time to walk around the village on the northern shores, check out some Incan ruins and take in the Mediterranean style scenery.

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We did have the option to walk the length of the island but with Elaine getting over a cold we instead decided to catch the boat back to the southern end of the island just after lunchtime. Once we arrived there we just chilled by the lake watching the locals offload all their supplies and load up the army of donkeys that were waiting to carry the load up the extremely steep hills.

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Back at town for about 17:30 we relaxed at the hostel for a bit. Elaine was feeling the effects of her cold and spending a day in the sun so I went out and did some shopping and brought back some food to enjoy in our room with some cable TV.

When we woke up the next day we both felt a bit rough. Elaine had a touch of sunstroke and the eggs I had for breakfast the previous day were causing me some trouble. Feeling a little bit jaded we packed up our stuff, skipped breakfast, and made our way for the bus to Puno. Within 30 minutes we were at the Bolivian border where we got stamped out with no troubles. A short walk over a bridge in no mans land and we arrived at Peruvian immigration - the first time we have entered a country without the official saying even a single word. Now we are in Peru for the final two weeks of our trip, bring on the Amazon, Macchu Picchu, the Nazca lines and sand boarding in the desert........

With our revised plans of visiting Bolivia we ended up not seing much of Chile, we would like to go back and in the right season to travel south to Patagonia and check out some glaciers. The places we visitied in Bolivia gave us a good feel for the country, the people are friendly and the scenary is unique. While we enjoyed our time in Bolivia and there is certainly more to see, I think we filled our boots and would not especially feel the need to go back.

Posted by LaineyandChin 06:54 Archived in Peru Comments (1)

G'day Australia

Where have all the Aussies gone?

sunny 18 °C

We arrived in Sydney early evening on our flight from Auckland and we were hit with our first taste of Australian prices when we got a 10 minute train from the airport to the city for $30 (20 pounds). We found our apartment easy enough and were very impressed with the standard - really smart with a nice kitchenette and living area and free washer and dryer - certainly an upgrade from hostels (at not much more cost).

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We walked down to the nearest supermarket and picked up some food for dinner and breakfast then enjoyed a nice meal in our apartment, cooked by our head chef.

Following morning with blue skies above we walked down to Darling Harbour, which doesn't have a great write up but we thought it was pretty nice.

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We strolled around then headed down to Sydney Fish Market where we picked up some big mussels to have for dinner and watched people being attacked by seagulls while having their lunch.

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In the afternoon we went to a nearby mall so I could get some shoes and a bargain $5 top to wear for my birthday the next day and in the evening we enjoyed a bargain bottle of Cloudy Bay (picked up in NZ) and some fresh bread and mussels. A chilled out first day in Sydney.

On my birthday we walked to Surry Hills to go to Bill's (Bill Granger's cafe) for brunch which was very nice. We then got the train down to Sydney Harbour so we could really feel like we were in Sydney and seeing the bridge and Opera House certainly did it.

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We spent some time walking round; enjoying the sights and sunshine, then after some ice-cream we headed back to our apartment.

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After getting changed into some smarter clothes we walked down to the Sky Tower so we could be at the top on the revolving platform for sunset. After spending 20 minutes trying to work out how to get to the top we were finally up there - and it was a really impressive view over the city. With champagne cocktails in hand we stood and watched while the sun slowly went down and the city lights came on.

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Another glass of fizz and a bowl of olives later we said goodbye to the view and walked back to our apartment. After spending all our money on champagne we enjoyed a bottle of sparkling wine and some of Ramsey's cooking for dinner. It was a lovely day, and I'm glad I got to spend my 30th birthday in Sydney.

Next day we went back down to Sydney Harbour and got a ferry over to Manley, which took a very picturesque route.

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Manley was a nice little place and we took a walk by the beach before heading back to the city.

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Once there we took a visit to the Museum of Contemporary Art, which was a nice change as we hadn't visited an art gallery in our whole trip (and it was one of our free activities for Sydney!) then we grabbed a quick bite to eat in Subway before taking a walk round The Rocks and a walk on the bridge to see sunset.

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We luckily had three sunny days in Sydney, which made the city stand out as a really enjoyable city to spend time in.

Following morning the weather had changed and we were greeted by a grey sky which slowly turned to rain. Fortunately we were leaving for the airport that morning with hopes that the rain wouldn't follow. Standing outside Sydney airport I said to Ramsey "haven't we been lucky with our flights, no major delays yet", now I don't usually believe in jinxing things but when the 1 hour flight to Brisbane took 6 hours I had to wonder. First our flight was delayed by an hour and a half then when we finally got on board and the flight team had done all their safety demonstrations the Captain said the ground staff had noticed a problem with the plane - 15 minutes later we were told we would have to get off the plane. We had to wait a few hours for another one, but we did get an $8 food voucher - which didn't go far in an airport in Sydney! When we eventually got onto our new plane they had a problem with the head count and then there was traffic when we needed to land, so all in all we could almost have driven the distance in the time it took us to fly! While waiting for our flight we did some ringing around to find some accommodation for when we arrived, and called the car hire place to check they would still be open. Fortunately they were still able to pick us up from the airport to give us our Ford Focus, which we used to head down to the Gold Coast and Southport. On arrival in Southport we realised we may have made a mistake as it was full of high rise hotels - not really our sort of place.

The next morning we got up at the crack of dawn to be confronted with grey skies and rain further compounding the sense that this was not the place for us. We thought it best not to give up hope for the Gold Coast yet so took a drive further south towards Surfers Paradise. We were faced with yet more high rise and the weather was just getting worse. With that we decided to sack off the Gold Coast and head north to the Sunshine Coast. Upon arrival in Caloundra it was still raining - Sunshine Coast?? That evening we spent time chilling at the hostel enjoying some good food, lots of wine and a few games of pool on the most challenging table of the trip so far.

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The following day the sunshine coast started to live up to it's name. The rain had stopped and the sky had started to clear. It was not quite hot enough for the beach though so we took it as our cue to head inland to the Glasshouse Mountains. The drive took us down Steve Irwin Way - nice! The first post of call at the mountains was lookout point.

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We immediately noticed that the mountains were very similar to the Marble Mountains in Vietnam - just not quite as impressive. We thought it best to take a close look so we headed down to the base of one of the larger Mountains (more like big hills) to go for a walk. We set off on a short 4km lap round the base of the hill - the walk was fairly chilled and took us through some nice woodland.

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After our walk we headed back to town to use the internet to try and look at some options for the remainder of our time in Oz. That evening we went in for another relaxed one enjoying some food and wine and chilling round the fire at the hostel.

Up early the next day we spoke to the chap at our hostel and proceeded to book ourselves a trip out to the Barrier Reef (Lady Musgrove Island) and a two day sailing trip on The Whitsundays. Feeling buzzed that we had got some good things lined up we made our way back down Steve Irwin Way to the Australia Zoo (Steve's place). Going to the zoo is something that we had both been looking forward to for quite some time. The zoo lived up to our expectations in every way. First up we saw some Kookaburras, large Lizards (including a Komodo Dragon), Alligators, Tasmanian Devils, Dingos, Cassowaries and Koalas.

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We then went to the wildlife warriors show - the show opened up with a VT of Steve giving out his message of conservation and environmental awareness - he was very passionate and it was quite emotional to watch. The show soon lifted the spirits though as we were treated to loads of well trained birds making appearances (including Macaws, Andean Condor and a very large Crane) and an impressive show put on by the crocodile handlers.

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After the show we went to make friends with some Kangaroos and then went to watch a talk about Koalas when we both got the chance to stroke one. Following a brief picnic lunch at the car we went to see loads more animals - more kangaroos, wombats, snakes, wetland birds, emus and a host of birds in the rain forest aviary. We went to see our final show of the day - the birds of prey and then headed to see the elephants, tigers, red panda, cheetah, rhino, giraffe and zebra.

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On the way back to the car we said goodbye to the Kangaroos and got the change to stroke a wombat as well. A top day. We were both really impressed with the standard of care for the animals, how happy they looked and how energetic and well informed all of the staff were. Good job Steve!

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After a action packed day we took a short drive up to Noosa and went straight to our accommodation. On the way were were treated to an excellent sunset. That evening Elaine enjoyed watching the Eurovision Song Contest (a full length replay because the Aussies love it so much?) while I knocked us up some dinner.

The next day we got up early and had some free breakfast at the hostel - cereal and toast but I'll have owt for nowt! With another sunny day beckoning we headed off to the Noosaville National Park for a walk. We set of down the 4.2 km tanglewood track through dense forest on our way out to the coast. The walk was peaceful and relaxed, just a shame that there was not much wildlife to see. Once we arrived at the coast the view was out of Hells Gates (A small peninsular) were fantastic - hitting the coast after a two hour walk through the forest was nice.

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Sheltering out of the wind, we enjoyed our picnic lunch (while Elaine was harassed by the local birds, EH - it was like a scene from The Birds!) and then made our way down the 2.6km coastal track back to the car.

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On Route we stopped at Dolphin Point but we were out of luck. We made our way out of Noosa (getting lost a couple of time trying to find a supermarket, EH - until Ramsey allowed me to navigate!) then hit the Bruce Highway on our way to Hervey Bay. After a couple of hours on the road we arrived in Hervey Bay - just as we entered town the storm clouds loomed on the horizon. We checked into our accommodation - although we only booked a double room we ended up with a whole unit to ourselves with a private bathroom and our own kitchen and lounge area - nice. We enjoyed the first evening in a while eating some Italian meatballs with pasta sat down in front of the TV with a glass of wine.

When we woke up the rain started (not what we wanted to see as the following day we were due to take a trip out to the barrier reef around Lady Musgrove Island). When checking out of our accommodation we called the tour company and they told us there was a 90% chance of cancellation and they would leave a message at the hostel we were due to stay at that evening. We had planned to spend the day at the beach and have a chilled morning before venturing North - the rain put a stop to that. As an alternative we decided to make our way to Bundaberg quick sharp so that we could have a tour of the Bundaberg Rum Distillery. The tour was quite straight forward, neither of us had seen the distillation process before so we had a bit to learn. They kept all the interesting stuff about filtration and aging secret though. To make up for their secretive ways they gave us a couple of free drinks at the bar at the end of the tour. I went straight in for the 5 years reserve over ice - it tasted like petrol and I had to go back to the bar with my tail between my legs and ask for a top up of coke. Elaine went in for the 1961 blend and it was good and smooth - a ginger ale top up was still required though. For seconds I had a Bundy Red with lemonade over ice - so smooth it actually tasted like bourbon (however as I was driving I only has two sips and passed the rest to Elaine), Elaine went in for the chocolate, coffee and caramel liquor - it was immense! After the tour we hit the road again and made our way out to Agnes Water and our accommodation for the night. Upon arrival we had a message waiting for us - not what we wanted. With the lack of a trip for the following day we quickly adjusted our reservation down to one night. We spent the evening coming up with some revised plans and enjoying the left over meatballs from last night. I did spend a portion of the evening sat outside our hut secretly drinking red wine out of a mug (as it was a licenced site and no alcohol was allowed to be brought in) while Elaine finished posting the NZ blog.

Having made revised plans the next day we set out to the Town of 1770. While in the neighborhood we felt it appropriate to go and check out the place where Captain Cook stood when he first discovered Australia. We took a stroll on the beach and had a look at the commemorative memorial. We had enjoyed sitting on the rocks and looking at the countless numbers of Rafael Nadal style crabs scurrying about.

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After a bit of a chill we hit the road and made our way north on the Bruce towards Rockhampton. Reading the travel guide we prepared ourselves for small streets with cowboys herding cattle everywhere - Rockhampton did not deliver. Seeing no cowboys we took the chance to fuel up the car and visit the supermarket before heading on to Emu Park. When we arrived on the coast the sky started to look gray again. We checked in at our accommodation then decided to go out for a drive around the scenic (at least that is what the guide said) coast.

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Just as we arrived at one of the many lookouts in the area the heavens opened - wipers on full speed. We took a slow drive (mandatory) back to the hostel and decided to chill in the room and watch some dodgy Aussie rip offs of English game shows. Hearing happy hour calling we headed down to the bar for a couple of jugs of beer and a game of pool followed by some table tennis. Thai red curry for tea and then an EN in front of the TV watching yet more dodgy Aussie TV.

As it looked like the weather was not going to lift for the next couple of days at least we though it would be much better to spend our time inland rather than at the coast. We called up the Platypus Bushcamp (http://www.bushcamp.net) and made reservations for the next couple of days. We spent a bit of time messing about with MP3 players before we set off (as we had finally managed to locate a cable to use with the car) and then finally hit the road for about 12:00. Then ensued the longest drive of the trip so far. We headed north on the Bruce through sugar cane country on our way towards Mackay. We had a brief stop for Tim Tams on route but apart from that it was a long old drive north. We turned off toward Finch Hatton just as the sun was setting and then following the badly scaled map on the flyer found ourselves down a small lane driving over several fords. By this time darkness had descended and when we arrived at the bush camp we needed head torches to find the reception. We managed to find 'Wazza' in the darkness and after storing our food in the bins in the kitchen to prevent the 'critters' coming to visit, we were then taken to our humble abode; which was a riverside wooden no-sided structure with a bed in - which wasn't quite what we expected from the flyer we saw! To get to the kitchen we had a walk through a wood and a cross a creek with stepping stones, so we felt pretty remote. After the initial surprise at our accommodation we headed over to the kitchen and relaxed with a book and some red wine by the light of oil lanterns. Ramsey cooked up some chilli in the surprisingly well equipped kitchen then it was an early night, trying to sleep with the sound of the river next to our lodge and rain pounding down on the roof.

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Next day it was still raining when we awoke and without proper waterproofs we were a little limited on what we could do for the day. Spent some time chilling with a book hoping for the weather to clear then realising it wasn't going to stop jumped in the car and took a drive out to the nearby town Eungella. Not too much to see and a steep climb up a hill just took us into some cloud (but would have probably been a good view on a sunny day) so we headed back.

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Early evening we went to the Platypus viewing platform with the hope of seeing some Platypuses, but unfortunately none appeared. In the evening we finished the chilli and red wine and chatted to some other guests and the two pet Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos who live there.

Next day it was still wet, which was not what we were hoping for as it was the day our Whitsundays tour was starting. We set off early so we could stop at another Platypus viewing platform - but only saw some turtles swimming around. Got on the road and headed towards Airlie hoping that the weather would be better towards the coast. The sky did start to brighten and after picking up some drinks for the trip, checking in with the travel agent and parking the car there was some blue sky to be seen out to sea. When we started motoring out of the marina at 16:00 the sun was out and we breathed a sigh of relief. Our 46 ft catamaran called 'On Ice' was better than we expected and with only 6 guests instead of the maximum 10 we had lots of space. After making ourselves at home and assisting with putting the sails up we sat down to enjoy some good food (cooked by the skipper's mate who fortunately for us used to be a chef) and a couple of drinks while enjoying the sunset. A few games of cards and we went back to our cabin as an early start was planned.

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Ramsey was awake for sunrise and I joined him on the deck shortly after to find a beautiful blue sky and calm waters. Some coffee and freshly prepared fruit salad set us up for the day before we made our first stop on Whitehaven at a viewing spot.

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A short walk up a hill and we had a great view of the beaches and coast.

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Back on the boat we got into our wetsuits and had a go at paddle boarding - which was easier than I thought it would be and didn't fall off once! Next stop was Whitehaven Beach, we stopped at a nice secluded spot so it felt like we had the beach to ourselves - beautiful sea and white sand, bliss.

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Not being able to sit down for more than half an hour Ramsey took the opportunity to take out one of the higher spec paddle boards - he saw lots of stingray while paddling up the coast.

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After a very nice lunch on the boat we headed to a secluded cove where there was lots of coral and some fish. I never quite managed to get the hang of snorkeling so instead went out on the dinghy where I still got a great view of the coral and marine life. When Ramsey got back from snorkeling we took out the see through kayak which allowed us to float above the coral and see it right underneath us. Ramsey went for another paddle board session before we sailed on and anchored for the night. After another good evening meal some more cards was played with a couple of drinks.

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Another sunny morning awoke us and after brecky we headed off to another snorkelling spot, where turtles lived. Ramsey managed to swim right alongside one while snorkelling and we saw some more from the dinghy on the way back to the boat. Even with wetsuits on everyone was a bit cold so back on the boat we warmed up with tea and coffee before heading back to Airlie Beach.

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Some sunbathing and lunch en-route and we were back by 14:00. We had a fantastic time on the catamaran, unfortunately the lack of wind meant we couldn't do much sailing, but the activities, sea-life, crew and food all made it a fantastic trip.

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Back at our car and we hit the road to Ravenswood. As we got nearer and it gradually got darker we started seeing kangaroos and wallabies on the side of the road and we started feeling more and more remote.

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We eventually found ourselves in the little mining town of Ravenswood - passing the nice looking Railway Hotel we continued onto our booked accommodation at the Imperial Hotel. After disappointingly being greeted by a Welsh girl (we thought here there may be Aussie staff) we went up to our very basic room to find 30 spiders on the ceiling (Mum - it was like being in Dad's old shed at the bottom of the garden!) Deciding a drink would make the amount of spiders more bearable we had a beer at the bar then headed down the road to the Railway Hotel for some dinner. A burger and beer later we had got chatting with the owners and locals and decided we would have a few more drinks there before heading back to our spider infested room! We spent the rest of the evening drinking Bundy and coke with the locals - an experience our Oz trip had been lacking so far. It was a fun evening and we came away with free beer coolers as a memento.

Up for sunrise the next day we went to the old mine lookout above the small town. We were treated to some good views of the surrounding area bathed in the warm morning light and a few wallabies taking in the view as well.

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are only 150 people living in Ravenswood and not many were up at that time so we took the opportunity to have a drive round the town and check out some of the rustic Auzzie buildings.

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We headed back to our hotel and enjoyed a very average breakfast before settling up and hitting the road to make our way further north.

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We hit the Bruce again and fired North. Around lunch time we veered off toward the Paluma National Park and went to check out the water hole at crystal creek. It was a nice spot but the day was not quite warm enough to warrant a dip in the icy waters.

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On the way back to the car we bumped into a couple of Kookaburras sat in a tree. Quite friendly and not afraid of the camera at all.

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After hitting some Tim Tams we got back on the road and made our way towards Halifax stopping at Ingham for an award winning pie along the way (I am not sure what award it got though!). Halifax Queensland is what you wish Halifax UK was like. A sleepy little town with sugar cane farms around and not a pound shop in sight!

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We made our way out to Lucinda on the coast and chilled at the marina in the sun for a bit. Feeling a bit hungry and with the time moving on to early afternoon we though it best to make our way up to Mission beach to check into our accommodation for the night. Turning off the Bruce down towards Mission Beach we entered a protected Cassowary conservation area - not what we expected. We took the road slow as there were loads of signs warning about running over Cassowaries.

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Low and behold we were in luck - about 5km out of Mission we spotted a massive bird by the side of the road, we were travelling a bit too fast to get a photo but still managed to get a good look. Arriving at Mission we first when to checkout the beach and realised that we had picked well - we weren't actually statying in Mission Beach but in a place called Wolonga Beach sandwiched between Mission Beach and South Mission Beach. We checked into our accommodation and told them about our sighting - they said we were very lucky as there are not many in the area at the moment and they rarely get seen - boom, nice one. After checking in we picked up some food from the local supermarket and then headed out for another round of Cassowary spotting - it must have been our lucky day as we say another two scampering along by the side of the road - in yer pipe! Not wanting to push our luck we retired back to the hostel to drink some wine, play some cards and enjoy a nice healthy salad - the massive 'railway burger' of the night before was still greasing the arteries!

Having missed out earlier in the trip on beach time due to the wet weather we headed down to the beach after breakfast to get a little sunbathing in. The beach was very quiet so we had a patch of sand all to ourselves where we could watch the skydivers decending down and enjoy the Aussie sunshine.

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After a couple of hours we walked back to the hostel to pick up the car and went on a drive up the coast to check out some of the other beaches.

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We stopped at Mission Beach for lunch then went back up to one of the other beaches with the aim to spend another hour in the sunshine but decided it was too windy so instead went back to the hostel and chilled on the grass for a while. The evening was spent enjoying another salad and some wine.

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We dedided to extend our stay at Mission Beach as it was a very relaxed place with good beaches, so in the morning we walked down to the beach again and spent a couple of hours enjoying the sunshine. We picked up some lunch and beers and spent the rest of the afternoon in the garden at the hostel trying out our beer coolers we were given in Ravenswood. Another relaxed evening and an early night as an early start the next day was planned.

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We got up in time for sunrise and jumped in the car to watch the sun rise over the sea. There was a little cloud but it was still a good view.

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Afterwards we had breakfast then hit the Bruce north. We stopped at Josephine Falls and went for a quick walk to the waterfalls - at 9am it was still a bit cold for swimming in a river!

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(If Luke doesn't fancy a move to New Zeland he can always find a home away from home in Auz....)
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Slowly heading north we stopped at Yorkeys Knob Beach where we had lunch then continued up the coast to Port Douglas where we found our first real costal road in Oz.

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We stopped in Port Douglas to book a tour for the following day and enjoy some good ice cream. Heading back south on the beautiful costal road we made a stop at quiet Ellis Beach before reaching Cairns early evening.

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We had a relaxed meal at our chilled hostel - the best one we stayed at in Oz.

We had a trip booked for our final day in Oz out to Green Island, a small coral cay in the Great Barrier Reef a 45 minute boat ride from Cairns. We arrived at the island just before 12 and straight away hit the beach for some snorkelling and sunbathing.

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This time I managed to get the hang of snorkelling and saw lots of beautiful coloured fish in the sea. We left the beach in time for our semi-submersable trip where we saw lots and lots of fish and a small shark. It was a worthwhile trip as we saw loads of fish close up.

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We grabbed a bite to eat then went down to a different beach. I got in some sunbathng while Ramsey went out and did some more snorkelling - where he saw and octupus, various differnt fish of all shapes, colours and sizes and to top it all off a stingray and another turtle! It was a fun day out and a nice way to spend our final day in Australia. We saw some impressive fish and although the coral wasn't as good as what we saw in The Whitsundays, between both places we were happy with what we saw of the Great Barrier Reef.

Today we got an early flight out of Cairns and are now spending the evening with Ramsey's family in Auckland before catching our flight to Santiago tomorrow to begin the final leg of our trip - only one month left now!

Australia grew on us as we travelled around. We saw some amazing wildlife and the trip to Australia Zoo and The Whitsundays were definitely the highlights. Driving was a bit boring compared to New Zealand but the scenery improved as we went North. We wouldn't mind going back to Auz and if we did, Melbourne, the West coast and the outback would definitely be on the list.

Posted by LaineyandChin 17:44 Archived in New Zealand Comments (2)

Stunning New Zealand

Pretty Good eh!

overcast 18 °C

When it was announced on the plane that it was a good day in Christchurch at 12 degrees and cloudy we knew we would notice the 20 degrees plus temperature drop! After having my walking shoes cleaned at customs, as they just weren't clean enough to enter the country, we found the bus to take us into the city centre. A 15 minute ride and the driver told us we were at our stop and pointed us in the direction of our hostel. The hostel found, the first thing I did was check for a heater and blankets; rather than the usual air con and fan! We decided to take a walk into the city centre but found that it no longer existed. Whilst looking at a map a friendly local asked if he could help, and ended up giving us a quick tour of the area; pointing out buildings that are scheduled to be demolished and what used to be his city. We had no idea of the extent of the damage the earthquake and aftershocks had caused. Of the buildings still standing, the majority are scheduled to be torn down as most aren't structurally sound. He took us to the area called 'Re:Start' which is some shipping containers that have been turned into shops and cafes and are currently all Christchurch has as a city centre. We thought it is a great idea as it brings some business into the city and is somewhere for people to meet.

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We walked to a shopping precinct a little out of the city centre and found a supermarket to buy dinner then headed back to the hostel to cook. Ramsey enjoyed cooking his first meal in a while (sausages, veg and sautéed pots), and the other guests enjoyed watching his chopping skills!

Next day we had a late start then headed to the Canterbury Museum to check out a photographic display they had on; unfortunately this building has also now been closed as they have found potential structural damage. As this was the remaining place of interest that was open we instead spent some time enjoying the autumn colours of the Botanic Gardens in the sunshine.

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We then strolled to the Re:Start area for some good coffee. Later on we walked to a shopping mall a short walk from town in search of some rain jackets; didn't find any but picked up some food for dinner. Evening was spent chilling at the hostel.

Next day Ramsey headed off to pick up our rental car, I wasn't feeling too good so stayed at the hostel. He came back with our Nissan Sunny - complete with radio-cassette player; unfortunate as we had picked up some CDs in Cambodia to play in our car! We headed off towards Oamaru which was our next stop (250km). En-route we found an outlet mall where we picked up a couple of rain jackets - we were certain we would run into some rain and if not they would provide some extra warmth. I slept half the way as still wasn't feeling great, but as it was a grey day didn't miss out on too much scenery. We arrived at Oamaru around 5pm - just in time to go and see the Blue Penguins. As we waited in the shelter for the penguins to return back to their nesting site for the night we were given some information about the penguins and the staff had to tell the Japanese tourists several times that they really couldn't take photographs! The penguins starting coming in and over 50 were counted in the hour we were watching. We saw them washed in from the sea then waddle up the rocks to their homes. They are only small but were very cute - especially the one that got lost and came right onto the viewing platform. We then hunted down some accommodation and relaxed by the fire in the living room.

In the morning Ramsey got up early to go and see the Yellow-Eyed Penguins going out to sea. I still wasn't 100% so didn't join him, over to him... I woke up while it was still dark and made myself a flask of fresh coffee while reading the map to work out where I was going. It only took about 10 minutes to get to Bushy Beach where the colony was located. I set myself up on the viewing platform at the top of the cliffs where I was faced with maximum exposure to the morning breeze. With there being only six breeding pairs on average, I had my binoculars ready in case I was lucky enough to see a pair getting ready to go out fishing for the day. I struck lucky, within about 15 minutes of being there a pair woke up and popped out of their hole, literally 10 metres away from me. I did my best to stand still and not shiver and watched them for about 30 minutes while they went through their morning routine of squawking, nuzzling each other and waddling around in little circles. Once they were suitably warmed up they set off down the incredibly steep hill side to the sea. In addition to this pair I also saw a couple of penguins marching into the sea in the distance. Because they were so close and the sun started to rise I managed to get a few shots of them without using the flash and disturbing them. While the little blue penguins were cute and small (about 30cm tall), these guys looked like real penguins standing at about 65cm.

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Next stop on our list was Te Anau (400km). We headed out around 10am and stopped for a coffee and several photo opportunities along the way before arriving at Te Anau early evening.

After checking into our hostel we headed out for the 7pm Glowworm Caves trip. We were taken by boat across the other side of Te Anau Lake, then a short walk into the cave and we got onto a small boat to take us deep into the cave to see the glowworms. There were lots of tiny lights and it was beautiful to see. Afterwards we warmed up with a coffee and were shown some pictures of and given some more information about glowworms before heading back across the lake on the boat. When we got back to the hostel, as head chef Ramsey cooked us some dinner which we enjoyed with a rum and coke.

Following morning we set off for Milford Sound. I again wasn't feeling fantastic so we skipped some of the longer walks but made lots of photo stops; the scenery was stunning, despite there being more cloud than we would have liked. The hills were snow capped and the lakes and waterfalls on the way added to it.

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We eventually arrived in Milford late afternoon, and the weather had cleared. We headed straight to Milford Lodge - the only accommodation in town and found ourselves a shared room. Finding rooms hasn't been a problem as we are here completely out of season; before the ski season and out of the summer season. We headed down to the waterfront where there was a beautiful view over the lake.

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After taking too long taking photos the offices for the boat cruises had closed so we couldn't book our boat trip for the following day; deciding they probably wouldn't be busy we weren't too concerned and headed back to the lodge to cook some dinner. Spent the evening in the lounge eating and reading.

Following morning we got down to the waterfront just after 9am and booked ourselves onto a boat trip. Unfortunately the weather had turned really overcast and drissley but this didn't prevent us from being impressed by the scenery, and the rain actually made the waterfalls better. The two hour boat trip showed us even more of the wonderful scenery New Zealand has to offer.

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We left Milford and headed to Queenstown (290km). The weather slowly improved on our way and we were able to enjoy more of the autumnal sights during the drive.

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We arrived in Queenstown late afternoon and found ourselves somewhere to stay. After heading to the supermarket to pick up some dinner and beer/wine Ramsey cooked up some food then we headed out into the town to a couple of bars. Queenstown definitely feels like a lively place and there were lots of travellers stopping there to work.

Next day Ramsey was feeling a little worse for wear and decided that his plans for mountain biking would need to be put on hold and instead a trip to Mc Donalds followed immediately by a trip to KFC were needed! We spent most of the day strolling round the town.

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Later in the day we took a drive up to Coronet Peak, a skiing venue with excellent views.

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In the evening we had a couple of happy hour beers - late hair of the dog - before going to Fergburger for dinner. Awesome burger place - Ramsey of course went with the double. The rest of the evening was spent at the hostel playing some board games before an early night.

The next day we had a relaxed start before we headed into town for Ramsey to rent a mountain bike to go downhill biking, over to him... The biking was awesome and seriously hardcore, I warmed up on the grade 3 runs (the easiest ones) and soon realised that even though I had some experience of downhill biking these runs were much more challenging than anything I had done before. I buddied up with a guy so that we could keep and eye on each other while flying down the tracks - he had much more experience than me and while trying to chase him down the easy run I misjudged a jump and face planted the hillside - nice. Good job I had a full face helmet on. After realising that falling off wouldn't actually hurt that much I stepped it up and moved on to the harder runs working up to a couple of runs down the expert tracks at the end of the day (I did ride them a bit like a Grandad and had to move over to let people past a couple of times, but I made it down without falling off or touching down(apart from once)). Overall it was a great buzz and I was happy that I managed to nail some sections of the easy and medium runs at full speed and gracefully took some of the cambered switchbacks. One of the best things about it was that you could take a cable car to the top with your bike so you could enjoy the downhill payoff without the hard work of peddling to the top. I want to go back and do it again!!!!

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While Ramsey was off throwing himself down hills I took the opportunity to take the car for a drive to Arrowtown, a pretty little small town on a river. I had a walk round and enjoyed a very large helping of ice-cream before heading back to meet Ramsey, hoping there was nothing broken!

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Luckily he walked into the coffee shop in one piece. After a quick coffee we headed to Wanaka, only an hour down the road (70km). On arrival in Wanaka we found some accommodation over-looking the lake, then the local supermarket to buy some dinner.

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Following day we got on the road and headed to the glaciers (285km) . What started off as a sunny morning slowly turned into a wet and miserable day, so by the time we got to Fox Glacier the views from the viewpoint weren't fantastic so we carried onto Franz Joseph Glacier and checked into our accommodation. We decided to cross our fingers that the following day would bring some better weather and went to the local coffee shop then onto the local pub umbrellas in hand. Food and pool at the hostel finished off the evening.

(For most people this won't mean anything... but look what we saw on the drive to the glaciers...)
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We were awoken the following day with blue skies and sunshine so we hit the road and went back to Fox Glacier where we had a much improved view.

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We decided against doing the walk to the face as we had a good view from the viewpoint and instead carried onto Franz Joseph Glacier. There we went to the viewpoint then walked part way to the glacier (it wasn't possible to walk all the way to the glacier without a guide) to get a better look.

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We considered doing a helicopter/trekking trip which would have taken us to the blue ice, but as we weren't sure of the weather and it was fairly costly we decided against it. I think Ramsey found the glaciers more impressive than me, but then I was expecting to see penguins and polar bears playing on the ice - even though apparently they don't live together! Quick coffee stop and we hit the road to Punakaiki (224km). We briefly stopped in Hokitika for lunch and to scour the beach for jade - we are now carrying round a bag of stones, some of which may possibly be jade! After a beautiful start to the day it gradually clouded over and by the time we reached Punakaiki, which is a very small little town with one tavern and a few hostels/guesthouses, it was grey and raining. We found our hostel down a small track - it was a cosy wooden building with a fire and homemade muffins - although no heaters in the bedrooms which meant it was freezing! We went out to the tavern for a couple of beers and a game of pool then went back to the hostel to cook dinner and enjoy a bottle of red wine.

Next morning the clouds had gone so we jumped in the car (with freshly cooked warm chocolate muffins) and went to see Punakaiki's only tourist attractions - the Pancake Rocks (layered limestone) and blowholes. Both were very impressive and there were some excellent views of the coast.

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With freezing cold hands we headed back to the hostel for some breakfast before getting back on the road for the long drive to Picton (335km). There were some nice costal views for the first part of the journey before the road took us inland. We headed towards Blenheim, just down the road from Picton so we could take a look at the Marlborough wine region and maybe buy a bottle - unfortunately we arrived a little late for purchasing wine but saw some beautiful views of the vines and coast.

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We decided to take the 'costal road' to Picton, which on the map looked like it should be a regular road, but after we had driven to the top of the first steep hill it turned into a twisty dirt track with lots of up and down and tight hairpin bends. We decided to continue on the road (with our fuel gage looking a little low for comfort) and an hour later and in darkness we arrived in Picton. Ramsey enjoyed driving more than I enjoyed being a passenger, if I was driving we would probably still be there now! We found a nice warm hostel to spend our final night on the South Island.

Following morning we checked out early and caught the ferry across to Wellington on the North Island. A three hour, and slightly bumpy ride later we arrived in Wellington and caught a shuttle bus to the train station that was opposite our hostel. After checking in we went straight out to make the most of our short time in the city. We caught the cable car up to the botanical gardens to get a decent view of the city before heading back down to walk around the city to get a feel for the place.

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Once it started getting dark we found a bar and ordered a jug of beer before having our first taste of fish and chips for a while - good fish, frozen chips!!! Disappointing (the fish was good though).

Early start the next day for our 12 train ride to Auckland. After checking in our bags we boarded the small three carriage train with a glass viewing section at the back of the rear carriage and enjoyed the views of the coast in the morning sunshine. In true New Zealand fashion the weather gradually got worse throughout the journey and the scenery was nice but what we saw wasn't as impressive as the South Island. We arrived at 19:20 in Auckland and we greeted at the train station by my cousins Muhaned and Ealaf. It was great to see Ealaf again and to meet Muhaned for the first time. We went back to my Uncle Dhia's house and received a very warm welcome from both him and my Auntie. Dhia cooked up some excellent 'Chalaby cuisine' for dinner, including a very tasty chilli sauce (Chi Cha sauce!). We spent the evening getting to know each other and enjoying the good food.

The morning of my birthday I was up early. I enjoyed breakfast with Muhaned and Dhia before talking with my parents on the phone - it was still the 18th back in the UK. After helping Muhaned and Kataber (Ealaf's husband)) fix a tile on the roof of the rented property they own (not your usual birthday activity but still good fun to get handy with something) we headed down into the centre of Auckland. First stop was One Tree Hill (but there is no tree there) where you get great 360 degree views of Auckland.

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Seeing a shower heading our way we jumped in the car and headed down to the harbour. We enjoyed a gelato then jumped on a ferry across to Deveonport and had a tasty lunch in one of the many trendy cafes. Feeling full we headed back to my Auntie and Uncle's house to relax for the rest of the afternoon. That evening we all went out for a rubi that went down a treat (Indian hot - just how I like it). I was treated to the surprise of a birthday cake to top it off.

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After the meal we headed back to to the centre of Auckland to check out the marina and skytower. We finished up the night playing pool until everyone was ready to drop - an enjoyable birthday.

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After a sleep in the next day I got up and skyped my parents and Alex - still my birthday in the UK. It was great to see them (and Spike) after traveling for over three months. After a hearty breakfast I said an emotional 'see you later' to my Auntie and Uncle and we headed down to town with Muhaned to meet Ealaf.

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We went out to North Shore to a picturesque memorial garden to get some more great views of Auckland, followed by fish and chips for lunch at the best place in Auckland which went down a treat. I said my goodbyes to Ealaf in town and Muhaned dropped us off at the airport. I am looking forward to seeing my family again when we stop of in Auckland after Auz.

The flight on to Sydney went without a hitch - the safety video from air New Zealand is a belter.

We both really enjoyed New Zealand and wish we could have allocated some more time to there. The scenery on the South Island is amazing - in one three hour drive it is like driving through all the national parks in the UK at once, and an extra week there would have meant we didn't have to rush around so much. Mountain biking in Queensland has to be one of the highlights of the whole trip for me. We both loved seeing the penguins in Oamaru and the scenery around Milford Sound. Seeing my family - my Uncle, Auntie and cousins (some of them for the first time) was an absolute pleasure. I can't think of a better and more memorable way to spend my birthday. I look forward to seeing them again soon.

Posted by LaineyandChin 05:26 Archived in Australia Comments (4)

Cambodia, Sumarta and Singapore - Goodbye South East Asia!

Tuk Tuk - Maybe later?

overcast 12 °C

(Chef A was Ramsey and chef B was Elaine)

The boarder crossing was smooth and we arrived in Phenom Phenh at about 14:00. Upon arrival we met our first Cambodian NBM, he gave us a ride in his tuk tuk (a tiny motor bike with a trailer - surprisingly comfortable though) and waved the fare until 09:00 the following morning as he said he would meet us at the hotel to take us on a tour of the killing fields and genocide museum - "don't worry about the price as I will undercut everyone that you get a quote from today". After relaxing in our brand new hotel room overlooking the palace and national museum we had some beer and food at the hotel. Out of time to visit the palace we recruited a new NBM and got him to take us to Wat Phnom (a chilled place with well kept grounds) and onto the central market.

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We spent the rest of the late afternoon strolling by the riverside checking the place out then we took a tuk tuk over to the independence monument so we could see it lit up at night. The evening was capped off with some Angkor beer and a take out pizza (with no cheese!) shared by the banks of the Tonle Sap river.

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At 09:00 the next day (day 69 of the tour!) our NBM was sat outside the hotel with a big smile. After looking round the different tour operators we thought his $15 fee was fair so thought we would go along. The first stop was the shooting range. The prices were double those in Vietnam and without a Colt Magnum on offer I was not interested. We then went onto the killing fields. Neither of us knew too much about the Khmer Rouge and the Cambodian genocide before we came here, we had been told about the place by friends but did not know the full background. Listening to the audio tour we heard details of the shocking atrocities committed and at the time felt quite emotional, we developed a new found respect for the strength and resilience of the Cambodian people. We then moved onto the genocide museum in central Phnom Penh, this was where the Khmer Rouge detained and tortured people. It was just as shocking as the killing fields but this time with images of the brutality and walls showing pictures of the faces of the countless number of people condemned.

In the afternoon to lite the mood we went out for some Pho Bo and Cambodian curry then on for a stroll around the palace and its grounds. It is a large complex with some very ornate buildings. It reminded me a little of Wat Po in Bangkok but a little bit more well kept and more spacious - quality over quantity.

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That evening we enjoyed beers in the hotel and down by the river. We had come mediocre food but the beer kept us smiling.

At 08:45 the next day we were on the bus to Siem Reap. An uneventful six hour journey and we arrived. We were dropped off on the edge of town and met our third Cambodian NBM. He took us in his tuk tuk to our hotel and did his best all the way to pitch us his Ankor Tour - when we arrived and told him that we had already sorted a guide his face dropped and I felt like I had just kicked him in the balls - anyway, chin up mate there will be another bus of tourists arriving soon! After chilling in the hotel we went out for a stroll around the old town and had a couple of beers on pub street followed by some food down at some of the street vendors (more like restaurants on the pavement) off to the side of pub street - the food was tasty and reasonably priced. Pub street felt a little bit like Magaluf after some of the places we have travelled.

The next day we got up fairly early and took a stroll out to one of the temples on the other side of the river, it was nice and peaceful early in the morning. After some breakfast at a vegetarian cafe we spent the rest of the morning wandering round the different markets and the small back streets in the old town area.

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After lunch at a boulangerie we did a bit more shopping then wandered back towards the hotel and on the way I had my second hair cut of the trip (of the 15 minutes it took the guy to cut my hair 12 of them were spent trimming the very edges! - he even gave me a shoulder massage when he was done, not bad for one pound sixty). At 16:00 our guide came pick us up so we could go and watch the sunset at Angkor Wat. After checking out some stupas in the town we bought our fancy photocard passes and headed to Angkor Wat. Sadly the sunset did not amount to much but we got our first look at the beast of a temple. That evening we went to a restaurant that our guide recommended and had some excellent food. Feeling suitably stuffed (as I ate half of Elaine's as well as mine) we retired for an EN as we were due to be up at 04:30 the next day to catch sunrise over Angkor Wat.

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Setting off at 05:10 we arrived with the masses at Angkor. The sunrise was ok and we managed to get some resonable shots. We spent a couple of hours at Angkor Wat then moved on to some of the other temples.

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Ta Promh was impressive with all of the trees growing around the ruins (stacked with tourists getting photos at the toumb raider spots though).

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Our favourite temple was Bayon, it has several towers and sculptured heads and is still in quite good condition - we found it more impressive than Angkor wat.

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After lunch we visited the palace and some other temples near by. We finished the day with a trip up to Preah Khan to watch the sunset. The sunset started well with some clouds giving off a rainbow of colours then the big boy clouds moved in and shut down the show.

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Overall we really enjoyed the day and felt we could have given another day to the temples. Angkor Wat was not quite as impressive as we expected but the other temples lived up to their billing. The thing that made the day so good was our guide Saron. He was a really friendly chap and full of energy, he has a very indepth knowledge of the temples and the surrounding area and I would strongly recommend anyone going to the temples to give him a call (www.sarontours.com).

Arriving back at our hotel at about 18:30 we were worn out after a busy day. After relaxing a bit we skipped dinner and went straight in for giant ice creams at one of the fancy cafes - just what the doctor ordered. We then had a good few beers down on pub street and took the first tuk tuk that approached us back to our hotel (a 10 minute walk but we thought we would make the most of what may be our last opourtunity to get a tuk tuk).

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At 06:30 the following morning Saron came to collect us from our hotel and took us to the airport. A long travelling day was to follow. We first flew to Kualar Lumpar and had a couple of hours to kill before our next flight. We got some cash and at Elaine's request had some dirty McDonnalds for lunch (they Spicy McChicken Deluxe was too spicy for Elaine!). The next flight took us onto Medan in Sumatra for about 14:00. We were greeted at the airport by our driver (I enjoyed having my name written on a board) and we set off on a 3.5 hour journey to Biwkit Lawang on the fringe of the Gunung Leuser national park. We arrived at about 18:00 and felt the need for a beer after 12 hours of traveling. We spent the evening relaxing at our lodge and enjoying some great local food. It was a nice change to be surrounded by rainforest next to a river - very peaceful. Our room that evening backed onto a waterfall and the soothing sound induced a wonderful nights sleep.

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Up at 07:00 the next day we prepared our day packs for our two day trek, and had some breakfast. At 09:00 we set off on our trek. Biwkit Lawang translates to mean gateway to the hills. After crossing the river on a very wabbly little boat we made our way up a very steep hill to the Orangutang re-introduction centre. We saw a huge alpha male and a mother with child, very impressive.

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After watching them for half an hour or so we set off to tackle some more hills. We spent the morning going up and down, seeing various different insects (some massive ants as big as my thumb), birds and some gibbons. We had a lunch of spicy rice down by a small stream in the middle of the jungle and then continued up hill to the highest point on our trek - on the way up we spotted a funny looking bug that our guide could not identify, a bit like a squashed beetle/crab with boxing gloves for front legs.

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We took a very steep decent down to the river and made the crossing to our campsite with Elaine on a big tube and the guide and I steering it accross. The guide advised me to get in the tube but I wanted to have a go at walking accross - half way accross I knew why he wanted me in the tube, the river was very strong and you had to go with the flow to get across and not get swept away. I had a couple of hairy moments but made it across in one piece and had good fun doing it.

The camp was basic but comfortable and we spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing by the river and having the odd swim.

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By late afternoon it started to rain, this drew out a giant monitor lizzard (nearly 2m long) that we saw down by the river. It also roused the leaches and the other people in our camp were being eaten while Elaine and I were left alone by the blood suckers to play our game of cards. After dinner and several cups of ginger tea everyone went to bed and I took this as my que to go off on a mini night trek looking for bugs in the forest by myself. I only went about 40m from the camp but managed to come across some cool frogs, moths, beetles, spiders, bats, leaches and even a jumgle cockroach - nice. I managed to get some shots but without Elaines skills to help me out I struggled a bit!

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The following day were were both up early feeling a little stiff thanks to the very hard floor. After a wash in the river and some breakfast our guide stumbled across a big millipede by the edge of the camp which I had great fun holding and having a close look at.

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After a bit more chill time we set off on a short trek to a nearby waterfall - I say short but we spent the first hour walking/scaling up a very steep and densely covered hill, the next half hour traversing accross the hill side through thick vegetation and over ravines and then the following 45 minutes walking/climbing down an even steaper hill than we climbed up in the first place - great fun! Once at the waterfall we took some time to paddle and swim and saw a very well camoflaged frog as big as my fist. We then took a tube down the river back to our campsite for some lunch (5 minutes down the river!). After lunch the guide tied togeter three tubes and strapped our gear on board. With our guide on the back, his mate in the front and Elaine and I in the middle we se off down the rapids back to Biwkit Lawang. We were instantly soaked as a huge wave of white water slapped us in the face and brought about huge smiles. The next half hour rafting down the river was great fun with the guide and his mate directing us into the the toughest rapids and making sure we got throughly soaked and thrown about - a great way to end our treking/camping trip.

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Back at our guesthouse we spent the afternoon relaxing after a busy day and a half - I made the most of the hammock on our balcony over looking the river while Elaine sat in the cafe drinking lemon tea. After a snooze we had a tasty evening meal and went back to the room early to relax some more among the sounds of the jungle and the river.

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After a lay in the next day we had some breakfast and went out for a stroll around the village. It is a very small and picturesque place along the banks of Bohorok river.

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While walking into town we got confronted by a troop of monkeys and when I stood my ground and stuck out my chest all of the big males came wandering over and we had a bit of a stare down. With my adrenaline pumping we slowly walked away and luckily did not get jumped on. After checking out the village we strolled back past our accomodation towards the jungle to check out a big waterfall, we never actually made it there though as we got distracted along the way by the countless number of butterflies including one that had each wing as big as my hand - no photo of this one though as it never landed. After some lunch we set off back to Medan. An uneventful journey saw us arrive at our hotel in the city at 18:30. We spent the evening relaxing in our room, had some dinner at the hotel and took a short stroll around near our hotel - Medan did not feel like a very safe place to wander round at night as there were lots of groups of blokes staring very intently as we strolled around. Time for an EN!

The next day we got up late again and spent the morning relaxing around the hotel (well needed after making the most of the buffet breakfast) and using the internet to research the next stage of our trip. After our 12:00 checkout we went for a stroll around the city to take in some of the sights; as recommended in our tourist brochure we went to see a water tower (wow), a mosque and a palace (with a corrigated iron roof - painted gold I'll have you know!).

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As it was really hot in the city and we only had a few hours to kill we made our way to a nice big shopping mall to relax in the A/C. We both picked up some Jeans in preparation for NZ and enjoyed a spicy lunch followed by some ice cream. We took a side car tuk tuk back to the hotel (I think it may be actually our final tuk tuk of the trip - not too sure about South America though) and made our way to the airport. After working our way though the most primitive airport we have visited so far we were on our way to Singapore. Arriving late we took the MRT to the city centre and found our hostel with ease. That evening, feeling a little tired we went out for a stroll for a couple of hours and enjoyed some street food.

The following day I was up early and Elaine enjoyed a little lie in. To make the most out of our short time in the city we bought tickets for one of the city tour buses. First stop the marina where we watched some dragon boat racing, we then took a stroll round China Town and went onto Little India for our final lunch of the Asia leg of our tour - it felt appropriate for it to be Indian - the food was the best we have had in a long time. We then tried to get our money's worth with the tickets and took on a full lap of the bus tour, with a brief stop off at the Singapore Flyer to enjoy some gelatto (I forgot to vass up before paying for that one - owch!) and a look at the F1 pits and part of the track. Back at our hostel we finished this blog update and then made our way to the airport for our flight to Christchurch New Zealand.

(we had some issues uploading pics - so sorry no pics for Singapore)

We have had a great time travelling through Cambodia and Sumatra - we would really like to go back to Indonesia to see more of it as we were only there for a few days - the food was good and the people were almost as friendly as the Indians! Cambodia was worthy of more time and the people there were the most welcoming in all of mainland South East Asia.

Goodbye Asia, hello Australasia!!!.......

Posted by LaineyandChin 03:52 Archived in New Zealand Comments (5)

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