A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: millfred

Stats all / Review

We thought it would be rude not too finish off our blog with a stat round-up and also answer some questions (in an attempt to reduce the number of boring travel stroies that we will inevitably tell!)

Favourite country = R: India P: Brazil
Favourite city = R: Singapore P: Cartegena
No. of photos in total = 27,218
Biggest delay = 3 days (flight Auckland to Santiago)
Biggest delay after departing = 2 days (Boat Manaus to Belem)
Biggest challenge = R: Climbing a volcano in Chile P: Everything!
Best beach = Jacuma, Brazil
Most expensive beer = £7
Cheapest beer = 7p
Best beer = James Squire Porter, Australia
Best bargain = Croissant the size of Richard's face in Mancora,Peru (5p)
Worst rip-off = Taxi from Hanoi bus station to city centre (20USD not much by the sounds of it but 10 times too expensive for Vietnam)
Best hostel = This old place, Xingping, China
Worst hostel = Chau doc, Vietnam (mice poo in bed, nuff said)
Funniest moment = Pauline falling flate on her face in the street in Ushuaia, Richard trying to drive a scooter in koh samui
Best experience = Seeing a tiger in the wild, India.
Pairs of sunglasses lost = 3
Times richard's sister had to drive around the car park in Heathrow when picking us up to find a space = 6
Tune of the trip = On the Road Again - Willie Nelson
Most drunk = Bamboo Island, Cambodia resulting in multiple vomits
No. of Malaria tablets consumed = 602
Length of Richard's hair = 7 inches

Also, here's our official traveller's point stats (Although the number of days feature isn't working correctly!)

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More of my travel stats on Travellerspoint.com

Posted by millfred 11:00 Comments (2)

Two gallons go a long way

Day 310 - 333 Colombia to Venezuela

sunny 34 °C
View World Wide Wander on millfred's travel map.

Average age of a police officer in Colombia - 16
Number of arepas (fried corn cakes) consumed - 35
No. of passport checkpoints crossing from Colombia to Venezuela - 9
Price of petrol in Venezuela - 8 pence per litre
No. of murders per day in Caracas - 26
No. of Piranhas we caught fishing in Los Llanos, Venezuela - 7

So our first experience in Colombia was getting ripped off! We arrived with a handful of dollars from Ecuador and after being advised not to change them at the border because we would get short changed, we ended up getting short changed at the local bus station! You'd think we'd be wise to it by now.

Our spirits picked up, however, in our first destination of Pasto. Whilst, only a one night stopover, a gent in the street offered to pay our bus fare (about 50p!) bacause he was so happy to see tourists visiting. After politely refusing we moved swiftly through the rest of southern Colombia, stopping in colonial Popayan, which was neat and tidy but with not much to do and onto Bogota, the capital. We hit the town on Friday night to sample the apparently famous Septimazo, when the city's inhabitants come out to party on the streets. Unfortunately we seemed to be too early and unfashionably late after heading out at 6pm and then again at 10. All we saw was a drunk guy singing on a kareoke machine to four people in one of the main plaza's! The next day the sights got a little less bizarre although the Police Museum was strange enough. Escorted through the four floors by one of the typically juvenile officers felt a bit formal and it wasn't much 'cop' to see one exhibit showcasing a modern british police uniform that you could see anyday at home.

Moving onto now 'safe' Medellin, the home of former drug baron Pablo Escobar, we found a typical 'aussie' style hostel decked out with pool, bar, home cinema, table tennis table etc. Due to this and the constant afternoon downpours most of our time was spent watching 'flight of the conchords' repeats or getting too competitive 'one on one' on the a basketball court. We did still get out sightseeing which is more than we can say for most of the other backpackers who had been there for weeks!

A freezing (air-conditioned) night bus further on we finally hit the caribbean and Cartegena. Pauline had been looking forward to getting here for ages due to being an avid fan of 'Romancing the Stone' only to find out that none of the film was actually shot here! Even so, we 'forced' ourselves to go out for dinner in one of the picturesque plaza's and even pushed the boat out for a bottle of wine, probably spending 3 days budget in the process! Desperate for a taste of Caribbean beach we headed east to Taganga only to find that the place was less than idyllic, packed with local tourists and you couldn't sit on the beach without hiring a deck chair! Scandalous. A good atmosphere around town was then drowned out by a torrential downpour that left our hostel flooded. Can't win them all eh!?

The next day we packed up and headed for our penultimate country, Venezuela. It promised a lot, a rendevous with Pauline's sister, Laura, (hopefully putting an end to our 'exciting' discussions about what to put in our sandwiches the following day!), beautiful beaches and the highest waterfall in the world. So far it's delivered but before we got there we had to negotiate the border crossing which the foreign office 'advises against all travel to within 80km'. Determined and oblivious to the fact it was Sunday we took a bus to the border town only to find there was no onward connection. We were left with the only option of taking a share taxi (beaten up cadillac with a Jaguar badge and a boot that didn't close) for the 3.5 hours across the border to Maracaibo. After an hour and a pot hole too many the headlights failed and we we're left crawling along in no man's land. A monotony of police checks later we arrived and then jumped straight on a night bus to Caracas. After a night spent in a 'safe' area we picked Laura at the Airport and not wanting to hang around because of it's repution, ventured a relatively simple route (4 buses, 2 metro's, 8 hours) to the coastal town of Puerto Colombia. One note however from the third most dangerous city in the world, I did manage to sample the best doughnut I´ve ever had. Bursting at the seems with caramel and just the right side of crispy!

Finally we found a caribbean beach worth the travel. We spent a day soaking up the sun, chewing on belly pork (available beachside, mad!) and collecting about 20 bites from sandflies on each leg. To further entertain, Pauline initiated another of her famous drawing competitions. It backfired on her however when she suggest a catchphrase theme and all she could come up with was ´Calamari´. Funny, we´d never heard of that catchphrase! That night and with Laura´s funding we let ourselves loose on the town. After sharing 3 quid bottle of vodka with our new norwegian friends we sampled the local brew of Guarapita. The thick passion fruit liquor was all the more weird as the unlabelled bottle was purchased via a barred unsigned door in a back alley. Illegal maybe?

We left Puerto Colombia on Laura`s first night bus and headed for Merida in order to visit the animal paradise of Los Llanos. After being signed up for a tour we headed out with guide Juan and fellow tourist Simon. After 12 hours in the back of a jeep, getting lost in the savanna (home to caimans and anocondas) on the way, we arrived at Campamento Rancho Grande and met our host family led by Ramón. The accomodation was basic but the location right on the river bank, amazing. On the way Juan insisted on sufficient ´refreshment´, we all thought he meant water but infact he meant beer! He was good at drinking it too, but not so proficient at paying!

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The place was as hot and humid as we´ve had and our first experience sleeping in hammocks turned out to be a blessing, much cooler than a bed. We´d never seen so many insects however and the floors were crawling with beetles, crickets and cockroaches.

The next day, watching Laura embark on her first horseriding experience and just mounting the animal on our first morning was as entertaining as it gets. She was bricking it though and there was death in her eyes when Juan decided to give her horse a slap on the arse to get it moving a bit faster! Safe and sound back at the ranch we set out on an afternoon Jeep safari and after 15 minutes were face to face with a giant anteater, attempting to lasso a group of caimans and just failing to catch an anaconda.

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We also saw pink river dolphins cruise a few meters past our dinner table, capybyras, iguanas and a shedload of rare birds. Day 2 saw us head out on the swamp by boat and then piranha fishing where Pauline embarrassed everyone else by catching 4 before any of the others got a sniff.

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We´ve since headed out onto our second Venezuela tour and into our final country Brazil but as I´ve already rambled on a bit here it´ll have to wait till next time.

Posted by millfred 20:26 Archived in Venezuela Comments (3)

The Pecan Brief

Day 270 - 286 Cuzco to Lima

sunny 16 °C
View World Wide Wander on millfred's travel map.

No. of courses (food) consumed on the Inca trail = 38
No. of potato varieties cultivated by the Incas = 2000
No. of pisco shots 'necked' in a minute = 5
No. of own goals Richard scored in a 5-a-side with kids all under 11 = 2

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We survived the Inca trail! It was amazing and well worth totally blowing our budget for. The views were phenomenal, so green, lush and steeped in history, we felt very special to be there. Yes, there are plenty of people to share the experience with, as in it's pretty popular, but that didn't spoil it for us. Especially since our trekking group was great and everyone got on really well. We had two sets of honeymooners (crazy!) and a good mix of nationalities and good banter. We all helped each other along and it was lovely to all make it to the sun gate together and take in that stunning first sight of Machu Picchu which signaled the end of our slog. The 4 day trek wasn't as challenging as we had feared but the lack of oxygen at altitude and the millions of 'gringo killer' steps take their toll. I (Pauline) did suffer a little from altitude sickness apparently due to my incredible ability to sleep too deeply. An oxygen boost and a bit of special treatment were required on Day 3 morning but having missed pizza for lunch that day (devastated), I pulled myself together in the afternoon and made up for lost time during our last supper. Richard would need to write an entire extra blog just to cover the food on the trip. He's still talking about it now. We don't know how they do it but the porters are unbelievable, they literally run passed you to set up camp, carrying at least 4 times more than you and they even give you a round of applause when you finally catch up with them at camp. Cute but a little embarrasing! We ate so much and it's all really really good food, as the only vegetarian I was very well taken care of, I could name several restaurants in Liverpool that could take a few hints on Vegetarian fare from these creative peruvian (very carnivorous) guys. The chef even baked us a cake on our final evening, it really was 5 star camping. Special thanks to our guides, Elistan and Saul, they were legends, so enthusiastic, caring and knowledgeable, they helped make it the experience of a lifetime. So wearing our loud and proud 'We survived the Inca trail' T shirts we enjoyed a final guided tour of The Lost City with Elistan then made a bee line for the exit as the day trippers crowded into Machu Picchu. It was a bit much battling the crowds so after soaking up the culture until lunch time, a few of us had some well deserved beers by the river in Aguas Calientes and reminisced about the trip.

After a couple of days recouperating and challenging our fellow trekkers to pool back in Cusco, we carged off back to Bolivia to see more of Lake Titicaca. We'd had to rush through it en route to Cusco so we decided to make the short (ish) hop back to Copacabana as we'd heard that music and passion were always the fashion there. I can't remember who told us that, Barry someone I think. It turned out to be a fine pit stop to take in the World's largest high altitude lake.
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We day tripped to Isla del Sol and walked the length of the island. A little rushed in the end to catch our boat back to the mainland. Although the views there were beautiful I was more interested in the baby donkey i'd spotted on the beach! Apart from the lake itself, the highlight here for me was the fresh Trucha Frita (trout), the porridge in a bag went down well for the breakfast obsessed Richard and the glasses of cream topped with beer (not the other way round!) were a meal in themselves.
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On a sad note, the rubbish at the shore was a big dissapointment. It's a theme that has followed us everywhere we have been (except Oz & NZ) but it doesn't make it any easier to accept.

Back accross a border crossing that was by now all too familiar and onwards to Arequipa. Peru's second largest city doesn't feel too overwhelming. We found a lovely hostel and were much happier on our second day when we downgraded our room for a more managable price but were still able to take advantage of the great facilities on offer. We chilled out in the TV room and watched some live tennis and dvds, a real luxury in our hobo lifestlye. We met some lovely fellow travellers here and got some great tips on where to go and we finally had a breakthrough in our so far fruitless quest for short term volunteering.
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Traveller not Tourist is a relatively small charity set up by an English Woman to help support children in Arequipa who's families have moved there in search of work. They run an afterschool club and an orphanage and they have a 'volunteer for a day' project as well as opportunities for longer term stays. We helped out for the day and spent the morning cleaning up the afterschool and painting the outside walls as well as organising the donated library books. When the children arrived in the afternoon (literally running to the doors) we helped a new volunteer teacher get to know her new class and then played games down at the playground. Great fun and really rewarding, the children aren't guarded at all and they welcome any newcomers that have a bit of time to get to know them. Oh and we got another free t-shirt, bonus!

Next stop was Ica and the small town of Huacachina. Literally an Oasis in the desert surrounded by gigantic sand dunes, Huacachina is a strange place. We had been told about the wine and pisco tours and the sandboarding trips here and decided not to miss out. We had a fun filled day and crammed both trips in to one day. In hindsight we should have done the wine tasting last, but at least it made falling off the boards a little less painful, although our bruised arms claim otherwise. Absolutely great fun but a little dangerous (sorry mam's). The pisco tasting was only marginally less dangerous since they were serving up big shots of different types of pisco at each bodega and we hadn't had any breakfast! Fair to say we were speaking Spanish more freely with Ricardo (our guide) than our usual morning banter, and we had to smuggle some crackers in the car between visits.

To rest our battered bodies we spent a few days chilling at the beach in the sleepy fishing village of Paracas. Part of a national park, this part of the Peruvian coast is awash with birdlife and we got up close and personal with some gigantic pelicans on the beach. We owe a lot to a lady with a basket of delights here too, for she introduced us to our new favourite treat. Pecans with caramel covered in chocolate, they are divine!

We are now into our final quarter and just about ready to come home. But first, we are really looking forward to Ecuador and Colombia and we are too excited about meeting our special guest in Caracas in less than 5 weeks!

So, onto Lima! ¡Viva el Peru!

Posted by millfred 20:56 Archived in Peru Comments (5)

To recline or not to recline...?

The dilemma facing long-haul travellers across the globe

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The decision to take a long-distance bus notwithstanding, a dilemma faced by many a traveller including ourselves is how to cope with the posturing and politics of reclining seating on buses, trains, planes and even ferries.

I have travelled on many a bus with so much space between the seats that this is a non-issue. However, as is the case with most, if you are faced with a confined space between your arse and the seat in front ( made all the worse if you are 6 foot plus ) then the journey can turn into a trial for both body and mind.

So what is the correct strategy for dealing with this difficulty? As far as I have mapped out in my mind during many laborious, nocturnal trials there are a few options.

Initiate the recline - Sitting at the front? Then you might have no option, but this is hardcore if your anywhere in the middle.
Recline and recline again - Sensible, but how patient are you going to be on a 16 hour slog.
Don´t recline at all - Big risk unless your a pygmy (is that PC these days?). DVT anyone?

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Then, what about the etiquette of consulting with your fellow passengers? A potential mine field especially if there´s a language barrier. Do you confront your recliner ahead, ask permission behind you or just pretend to stare out the window during your own or someone else's movement. Illustrating the gesture that the person infront has already reclined can be difficult to master.

An additional complexity, if you have plumped for a more horizontal approach is how far do to take it? Fair enough on a lot of transport you'll be limited to a couple of centimetres but with the business class option now within reach of some penny pinchers, your view of the air conditioning unit above can be significantly improved.

My personal thought is that timing is everything. If its a standard day bus venture then matching any reclination from your fellow strugglers is probably ideal. However if a meal is involved and you push it to the limit, the (sod's law, portly) amigo behind is likely to find that seeing his meal beyond his chin is nearly impossible. It's important to add that this scenario can also be beneficial if, as in Pauline's case you rarely take precautions and prefer to store mushroom foo yung in your ponch. Careful consultion is clearly necessary at this time.

Night time can open up other possibilities. Under the cover of darkness, (often pitch black when your in the middle of nowhere) most feel safe to let go of their inhibitions and hit full reverse.

So, after debating this, mostly in my own head but also with the long suffering Pauline, I have to question how we have ended up with this dilemma. And as is often the case it's a money issue. If you can afford it you won't have the problem but because fully flat is out of most people's reach, economy carriers are going to take the sardine approach as far as they can. Hence, the design and layout of seating recognises a need for maximum occupancy over comfort.

As with most things in life best laid plans can come unstuck (or stuck in this case) and even with a strategy (if you have Pauline's luck) the chair with a broken reclining mechanism will always find you. Either that or some lass with a bag of fish will lump it on your lap redering any thought's of comfort defunct.

Posted by millfred 12:38 Comments (1)

Dorm Wars: Return of the Tosser

Day 246 to 269 Asuncion to Cusco via Bolivia

sunny 15 °C
View World Wide Wander on millfred's travel map.

Height of the second largest Christ statue in the world (Cochabamba, Bolivia) =40.4m
No. of hours on spent on Bolivian buses prior to Uyuni = 65
No. of hours in Bolivia in total prior to Uyuni = 240
Height of 'second' highest city in the world (Potosi, Bolivia - Lonely planet claimed it was the highest but apparently there's one higher in China) = 4692m
Height of highest capital city in the world (La Paz, Bolivia - finally a first!) = 3760m

So, just to tie up loose ends. The 'chop' that I was heading for in Asuncion is the local brew and a really smooth tasting lager. We had a chilled out time in Asuncion and it was well worth popping into Paraguay if only for a short time. Next stop Bolivia and the first of 5 night buses in the space of 10 days. In all likelyhood I'll need a reconstruction of my tail bone when we return! Pauline says she has more 'cushioning'! Obviously, I'm keeping quiet on the subject.

After a 24 hour journey we arrived in Santa Cruz. The next day after generally doing nothing touristy (going to the cinema and eating ice cream) we eagerly awaited another night bus to Cochabamba. After getting all excited at our luxury seats due to shelling out for Bus Cama (nearly fully reclining seats) we were left scratching our heads when turfed of the bus by the police due to protesters barricading the road out of the city. Weirdly, after plenty of gesturing from the other traveller locals, they decided a smaller bus (with cardboard walls and breeze block seats) would be allowed through the blocade. Unsurprisingly we were stopped at the blocade. Only after bribing the protesters and having to pay extra for petrol (apparently) were we taken on a route around (dirt track, potholes and no street lighting hence further bum pain!).

The highlight of Cochabamba was mainly the cheap pizza restaurant we found, oh and the statue of Christ towering above the city that's bigger than Rio's and only second to one in Poland!
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We did get chatting to professional gambler, Rui, in the restaurant but no worries Pauline didn´t get dragged along into his world. The next day we took another night bus to Sucre which was no more comfortable. The city however, was a pleasant suprise. Cracking colonial architecture and great food made our stay all the more pleasant.

Moving on to Potosi was less of a mission, only a 3 hour day bus this time. The difference there though was the altitude. Just for punishment we chose a fourth floor dorm room and we were in heart attack territory by the time we got to the top. The hostel was a friendly place with a great brekkie but ruined by a group of intruding gallic blokes who arrived in the middle of the night and checked into our dorm. All eight of them seemed to have a cold and a 'tos' (cough in spanish, hence the title) and kept us up half the night. This might not have been so bad had it not reminded us of an aussie 'tosser' who kept us up in Puerto Iguazu with the worst cough i´ve ever heard.

Our arrival in Tupiza was a little startling. We are more than accustomed to the odd delay, especially on nocturnal transport, so when we were turfed off the bus at 4am (3 hours earlier than thought), we were a little dazed and confused. Luckily for us, a wisened hostel owner had his door open and lights a blaze to attract us from the deserted main (only) street and after brief negotiations and greetings we were tucked up in bed in no time. Tupiza was an inspired stop off and soon became on of our most memorable destinations. The main reason was our Wild West horse riding experience which is now firmly in our top 10. The pictures just about do the scenery justice and we felt like Butch cassidy and the Sundance kid for sure. This area is allegedly where they met their makers in the end.
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Discovering train tracks and a real life train station was a delight as we couldn´t face another night bus. Change of transport secured we headed off for Uyuni on board the Expreso del Sur. Another late night arrival and this time not such a welcoming hotel, FREEZING! Enough of an excuse for Pauline to stay in bed all day under the covers while I wandered the streets in search of snacks! The next day we joined forces with a Spanish couple and two Uruguashos and toured the amazing Bolivian Salt flats. Our compadres were great company and further helped us with our growing spanish vocabulary.
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More clichéd 'perspective' photos in the gallery. We had a great couple of days and the scenery was unforgettable. Shame about the plastic rubbish creeping in to such a precious area though.

Back on our preffered method of transport we railed onto La Paz via Oruro. Hassle free journey and we were glad to have spent time acclimatising first as La Paz truly is breathtaking. Unfortunatley, or fortunatley depending on your view, we misunderstood directions to the best viewpoint in town and ended up taking the local bus way past it. We like to think we found a better photo op though, what do you reckon?
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We are now in Cusco having crossed the border in a bit of a rush to keep our appointment with the Incas. We loved Bolivia despite travelling a bit fast through it and it making our skin drier than a Llama's fart. We plan to pop back after Machu Picchu and explore Lake Titicaca and surrounds. We are so excited about the Inca trail which starts tomorrow. Our backpacks are full of coca leaves so we'll be fine!

Posted by millfred 21:20 Archived in Bolivia Comments (1)

Overheard: Travel Talks

Our favourite soundbites from around the world.

We thought it would be interesting to share a few of the funny things we have said or we have heard other people say on the trip. We hope you find them slightly amusing too. Here´s some from the two of us first...

Richard to friend of his Uncle on the phone: 'Its Richard, Gary and Lee's niece...' - Dopey!

Pauline: 'Is the IMF Australian?' (INTERNATIONAL Monetary Fund, Doh!)

R: 'It would be awesome if we could get some dairylea for the street yams.' - Beijing Geek

Conversation:

P: 'Do you want some moisturiser?'
R: 'No thanks, I've got my own.' - A freebie I might add.

P: 'We're on the periphery of Mortal Combat!' - At the end of a 'small' dispute on the streets of Beijing

P: 'I couldn't kill a no-legged cow.'

P: 'I've just done a self-portrait of you' - Slip up by the maestro herself when drawing in bus window condensation.

R: 'Quick let´s commandeer that picnic table' - One of several free in a deserted campsite.

R: ' Can you focus on the driving please Pauline?' seconds later... R: 'Check out that tractor coming out of the sea!' - During a road trip on the Coromandel Penisula, New Zealand.

P: `Excuse me sir, where do I pay for the food and drinks?´ Business class lounge receptionist: ´You don´t madam, it´s complimentary. You can pay me if you like´ spot the backpacker!

And here´s a few from some people we met or overheard:

Heman (Our host in Chennai) to Richard: 'I must show you the toilets.' - During a trip to a posh cinema.

Chinese tea scammers in Shanghai to Richard: 'You have big nose.' - No shit.

Radio Presenter on Triple J in Australia to his colleague: 'I'm not talking to you cos you punched me in the nob!'

Staff member at Taupo Bungy, New Zealand: 'Forget the duct tape, i'll get a harness for the bear, it'll be safer!' - After Richard had requested that Pauline´s soft toy mascot come along for the ride.

Hopefully there´ll be plenty more to come.

Posted by millfred 09:35 Comments (0)

Chile, Chilly and too much Chilli

Day 206 to 221 Auckland to Chile Chico (via Los Angeles)

sunny 7 °C
View World Wide Wander on millfred's travel map.

No. of volcanoes in Chile = over 3000
Height of Vulcan Villarica = 2847m
No. of meals eaten in one day = 7 (technically 48 hours since we crossed the international date line!)
No. of meals in Chile without bread = 2 out of 34
Hours taken to cut and shave beard using swiss army knife and lady shave = 2
Beard length prior to cut = 2 inches
Total no. of dogs in Santiago = 1.25 million
No. of stray dogs = 260,000
Percentage photographed by Pauline = 70!

The far reaching ash cloud from the angry Vulcan Puyehue didn´t cause too much of a delay for us. We got 3 extra days to explore futher north of auckland and, thanks to Qantas´ very generous approach to expenses, got to stay in a posh hotel and have our meals paid for while we were inconvenienced. To top it off, we then got re-routed via Los Angeles, adding about 20 hours to our juorney but giving us the opportunitiy to pop out to Santa Monica Beach to stretch our legs!
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A pretty cool detour we thought. Oh and I nearly forgot, Qantas felt so bad about our delay that they upgraded us to Business Class for our trans-pacific flight. Needless to say we took full advantage of the complimentry drinks and lunch in the lounge before boarding, having just devoured a substantial buffet breakfast. The flight was an experience to remember for two grungy looking backpackers, lets just say we didn´t exactly ´blend in!´. We are still trying to get our heads around the time travel too. Our flights from Auckland to LAX then from LAX to Santiago both departed at 1pm on Monday 27th June. Weird indeed.

So we embarked on a new continent thoroughly refreshed. Santiago, although a little grey and rainy, was a good starting point. Especially since we met two Mexican friends in the hostel and toured the city together.
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We are all travelling together now and it´s great that they can help us with our Spanish. Our walking tour was rained off but our first taste of the South American favourite ´Pisco Sour´in a cosy pub was a welcome alternative.
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For the few soggy hours that we wandered around with our very animated guide, we picked up a few good snippets of info. Strange the things that stick in your head though. My favourite being the´Cafes con Piernas´ that were popular until very recently, kind of tame(ish) strip club for the businessmen of Santiago where they could get a coffee before work and stare at the waitresses legs! Apparently it´s died out now but I reckon there were some pretty shifty looking bankers around there!

The first thing you notice in Santiago are the street dogs, thousands of them. Friendly though and most in fairly good nick all things considered. I spent most of the time taking pictures of them which I will upload and name accrdingly, much to Richard´s disgust I imagine. He has softened slightly though.
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On one occassion when I got particularly upset at the sight of a very old and weary looking dog crossing the road Richard suggested we buy him some ham (along with some for himself!). Great, we can´t help them all but lets at least make this dog happy for a few hours. Ham in hand off we set to stalk him. We had just about given up and were nearing our cosy hostel when we spotted him limping off down a side road. We got his attention and dropped the ham right in front of him, he gave it a thorough sniff then buggered off! Not interested. You can lead a dog to ham.....

The plan was to head south to Patagonia so after the capital we went to Valparaiso and Viña del Mar. The former is a higgldy piggldy port town with loads of colourfully painted houses adorning the hillsides.
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I imagine it´s usually a fairly tranquil place but our timing coincided with the huge student protests that are taking Chile by storm. Mostly friendly we are told but we kept our distance anyway. Our only mistake was to go back to the bus terminal shortly after they had dispersed the crowds with tear gas. Strong stuff, it lingered for a while. Viña del Mar is a popular summer holiday spot for the Chileans, we found it a bit deserted being winter now and headed to the casino to mingle with the old ladies and Carlos & Abiel (our Mexican pals). You´ll all be surprised to learn that we didn´t gamble a single peso, the machines were too confusing!

An overnight bus brought us south to beautiful Pucon. The Villarica volcano dominates the scenery here and after fresh snow fall the previous day it was looking its best for us.
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I can´t say it was looking too inviting the next morning when we set off with our tour group to climb it. Richard, a freakishly fit German girl and two other men made it to the top, some of us didn´t quite make it and I managed to get seperated so had my own prersonal guide called Jorge. Richard got some amazing pics from the crater edge and later confessed to making some yellow snow (Biggest loo in the world?) as there was nowhere else to go. I hope it doesn´t trigger another eruption. It is actually still an active volcano but we were told it was pretty safe. The last major eruption was 1984 and it only flattened a few nearby towns.
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From Pucon we spent a couple of days in Puerto Varras, similar scenery to Pucon with the even bigger Osorno volcano hogging the limelight. There is also a very pretty lakeside view and old German style buildings, apparently there was a big German settlement here in the 1950s. Now we find ourselves a little further south in Chile Chico (a border town with Argentina). Back on solid ground after our Navimag ferry adventure from Puerto Montt to Puerto Chacabuco. During our 1 night voyage through the Chilean fjords we were invited to visit the bridge and by some freak timing coincidence, a blue whale popped up to say hello, twice! That was pretty spectacular, Richard enjoyed it nearly as much as the free buffet breakfast.
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We will pass through Chile again further south but Richard insisted on giving it a humourous send-off at this point by overshooting his hotdog and squirting half a bottle of Chilli sauce all over his pants! A trek through Argentina to come and the jury is still out on how far we´ll get, especially as there is new snow every day and the roads have seen better days, about 100 years ago i´d say. Still it´s great to be making progress towards the furthest south that roads go in the world. More on that soon. Hasta Luego!

There´s loads more photos in our album so make sure you check them out!

Posted by millfred 12:17 Archived in Chile Comments (4)

Kiwi come, kiwi go, kiwi stay by the looks of it!

Queenstown to Auckland Day 194 - 206

rain 14 °C
View World Wide Wander on millfred's travel map.

Chess score = Brazil 6 England 0 (Typical)
Weight of scroggin' mix (nuts, raisins, chocolate raisins and peanuts, chocolate buttons, smarties) consumed = 4kg
No. of meal breaks on the Franz Josef to Nelson bus journey (10 hours) = 6
No. of kiwi fruit for the equivalent of a pound = 15

After our day in Milford which was the highlight of our NZ adventure so far (did we mention the all you can eat buffet on board the cruise ship?) we decided to hotfoot it up to Franz Josef Glacier on the west coast of the sound island mainly because of the fear that we’d spend the rest of our budget on shotski’s (four shots of suspended in one ski)! We we’re joined on our bus journey and subsequent night-time glow worm hunt by brazilian chess wizard Felipe. The next day we tramped up to the foot of the glacier all the while amusing ourselves with the 20 questions Animal game (scraping the barrel, I know, but our lanky brazilian compadre is a vet so it seemed apt). Its was a great site even without shelling out for the guided tour.
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After a strenuous days hiking I thought I (Richard) would laud it up in the Sauna that was advertised by our hostel as a bonus freebie. However instead of a steaming paradise I ended up sweating for 45 mins in what resembled a garden shed with a couple of electric heaters strapped to the walls. (I couldn’t duck out of it after committing the manager to set it up for me!)

A longer bus journey awaited the three of us (Felipe in tow) the following day as we wound our way north to Nelson. What could have been 5 hours turned out to be 10 due to the insistence of the bus company to provide their drivers with a meal break every 40 mins. Its was like we were on a Café tour (most of which had a hunting theme to Pauline’s dismay) that also happened to take us to our destination. This would have been right up my street if I could afford it or hadn’t just pilfered half the items on the hostels free food shelf! To top it all our hyperactive driver (think Danny Devito in One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest) and his high pitched, village idiot, sidekick sitting behind him wouldn’t stop telling grandad jokes all the way. I had to restrain Pauline who turned to me with death in her eyes and commented ‘I think I might murder him’.

After all that the city of Nelson turned out to be a nice, chilled out stop. We checked in to ‘The Palace’ hostel (bit of a contradiction in terms maybe, but one of the best we’ve had) and were immediately offered the owner’s car to take on a day tour for free, even though we hadn’t yet paid for our room! This amused Felipe no end. We therefore hopped in the old Nissan estate the following morning (complete with our Portuguese linguist and another English traveller – Gurnam - who we hunted down after meeting her on the bus) and drove to the Abel Tasman National Park to walk the much hyped coastal track. After witnessing 3 hours of torrential rain we turned back.
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We thought we’d make up for the disappointment by getting a few free tasting sessions in at the area’s famous wineries but they we’re all closed. In the end we had to settle for a self made beer tasting in a local pub (I’m trying to make it sound better than going for a quiet drink alright!)

An early morning start took us back to the North Island and the capital Wellington on the ferry.
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Here we said our goodbyes to the kiwi fruit guzzling samba star. We spent an afternoon nurturing our minds at the vast museum as well as getting to know two old ladies after chancing upon an event where you had to hold hands with a stranger and chat whilst a blob of plaster hardened in between your paws. DSC_0054.jpg
Strange I know but it’ll all be part of an exhibition in a few weeks so we couldn’t resist leaving our mark here.

Heading north on the North Island we entered our next destination of Lake Taupo (an ancient Super volcano caldera) for one reason alone. Bungy. I decided to throw myself off a 47m high platform the next day and I definitely don’t regret it. It’s worth pointing out that I picked this site over the more famous Queenstown jump because I had a voucher for 30% off (my ma would be proud) but found it to be a more picturesque location anyway. Not that you notice on the way down. I did have another jumping with me, although it wasn't Pauline but her soft toy travelling companion Boss strapped to my arm!
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We’re now in back in Auckland and stuck because of some volcano erupting in Chile so the next blog might be all about supermarket arguments and hostel gripes. What’s that? Can’t wait. Until then folks.

Posted by millfred 14:54 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

You can't be serious, you bloody peanut!

Day 154 - 174 Brisbane to Melbourne

No. of Greyhound bus journeys = 8
No. of Greyhound bus drivers without a moustache = 0
No. of everyday english words shortened and an 'o' added = infinite (e.g. Servo, Bowlo, Veggo, Bottlo)

Favourite overheard:

" You can't be serious, you bloody peanut" - Fan shouting at ref during aussie rules game.

So we're at the end of our Ozzie adventure and heading to New Zealand tomorrow. We were in Brisbane when we last 'blogged off' and have travelled down to Melbourne. Back in 'Brizzie' I (Richard) was forced to take part in the XXXX factory tour which included four beers as a taster. However, most likely due to a lack of english on the tour, three of us ended up with about 15 each when everyone else left! Hence I was a little late for my rendezvous with Pauline.
The day after next we were whisked off on another adventure with tour guide Jo who this time drove us to Lone Pine Koala sanctuary. Highlights included Pauline getting to hold a koala, Jo being chased by an ostrich as well as feeding and sitting amongst the kangaroos mimicking their porn star style poses.
Leaving Brisbane we headed south on the Greyhound again and stopped for the day in Coolangatta which was well worth it because we finally saw a pod of dolphins. We didn't even have the binoculars out scanning the waves tirelessly as on previous days. We picked up the bus again late afternoon to Byron Bay where we finished the night 'a la carte' with a cheese sandwich dinner. Classy! Byron had quite a hippie vibe going on and was a bit different to a lot of the previous stops. There was plenty to do and we took bikes up to the easternmost point in Australia (only to be overtaken by a retired german couple we met in the hostel) complete with lighthouse and, judging by the photography exhibition, the scene of some pretty rough storms and amazing wildlife. Not that we we're fortunate enough to see any that day. We did however witness a dramatic surfer rescue which at one point had seemed doomed. A couple had swam out to catch the best waves on the headland and got washed up onto the rocks. While one guy clung to the rocks and was repeatedly engulfed by the waves the lifeguard tried in vain to get close enough on their jetski's. In the end he got washed off but was also, fortunately, carried out by the tide during a brief lull and was dragged onto the jetski. Dramatic stuff. Later that day we watched the yearly triathlon which was a big event with some international stars (apparently!) and we're destroyed by the sea attempting to bodyboard.

Yet another night bus later (no sleep for me, plenty for Pauline) we arrived in Sydney and straight away hit the tourist spots of the Opera House and the Bridge, Pauline was delighted to prove the Teesside heritage of the Sydney harbour bridge. We then boarded a double or even triple decker train (counting the vestibules) to the suburbs to stay with the Skinners. Probably a good time to thank all of our great hosts in Australia, our stay would have been a lot duller, not to mention much more expensive, without your beds, meals, company and advice. We had a great time in Sydney and filled the rest of our few days with an extremely rough ferry crossing to Manly, a coastal walk from Bondi to Coogee and some people watching and window shopping in the lively centre.

On to Bulli to stay with Eric. The week started out action packed with regular picnics, walks and slightly scary abseiling, crab races in city pubsand failed attempts at waterfall leaps. We explored a bit more of New South Wales and even took a stroll along infamous 'Summer Bay' (home of 'home and away', for the more cultured readers). The rest of the week was a real chill out, for us more than Eric as he had to go back to work. We ate like royalty and had plenty of Aussie gold to quench our thirst too. Eric's truly Austalian pad was home to us for the longest time since leaving England nearly 6 months ago. It was really hard to put those backpacks on again but more fun awaited us in Melbs.

We stopped off briefly in Liverpool, NSW, mostly for the surreal feeling that using the internet in Liverpool City Library would bring. Then spent the day in Canberra. Certainly doesn't have a capital city vibe but was worth a look. It's easy to see why Melbourne and Sydney fought over the Capital City title, Melbs like Sydney is a bustling metropolis with plenty to do. Our hosts, the newlyweds James and Lauren were great and with them we experienced a real highlight of the trip so far, an Aussie rules footy match and The Melbourne Cricket Ground. We enjoyed the great food on offer here and overall in Australia it has been great to feel like normal people and not so 'backpacker' for a while.

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Nearly forgot, Pauline satisfied another 'must do' here and went on the official neighbours tour. More on that soon. SANY0109.jpg

Posted by millfred 11:42 Archived in Australia Comments (3)

Stat's all Asia!

Day 1 to 139

sunny 28 °C
View World Wide Wander on millfred's travel map.

Total Days = 139
No. of Countries = 9
No. of beds = 57 (not including nights on trains,planes and automobiles)
No. of islands stayed on = 6
No. of times cooked for ourselves = 0
Cheapest meal in a restaurant = Plenty of freebies but otherwise 30p
No. 7-Elevens in Thailand = 5790 (half are in Bangkok alone)
No. Fireworks in Hong Kong's New year show = 31,888
No. 'Killing Fields' in Cambodia = 343
Height of Petronas towers in Kuala Lumpur = 509.01 metres (186x Pauline's height)
Southern most point in continental asia = Sentosa Island, Singapore
Current rummy score = Pauline 25, Richard 23
Current pool score = Richard 21, Pauline 18

Blogging from the free internet in Singapore Airport, signing off from Asia.

Bring on the barbies!

More stats and photies to follow, time to board flight no. 5!

Posted by millfred 20:23 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

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