A Travellerspoint blog

NZ

The Eagle has Landed...

sunny 20 °C

On Thursday 7th March he arrived in one piece after 36 hours of no sleep and having lost his luggage. But after a beer and a shot of Jameson duty free, all was well with Colm!

Day two and after a good night's sleep we headed out to explore the post-earthquake Christchurch. About 70% of the city centre is, or will be, razed after the earthquake. Seeing the city in it's current state is definitely sobering (even for us!...). But they have made the best of things and have made very imaginative use of old shipping containers now housing trendy coffee shops, galleries and designer clothes stores. Very imaginative and funky. Had to buy some new clothes for Colm while we waited for his bags to be located!!! Of course this suited us also and we all "acquired some new clothes".

We headed to the coastal suburb of Sumner (similar to Killiney) where we saw designer houses teetering on the edges of cliffs. We walked up the Flowers Walk, past some fabulous architect designed houses, many of which were boarded up due to the earthquake. The views from the top are amazing in this beautiful city.
Sumner bay Christchurch

Sumner bay Christchurch

2 days later, having collected Colm's bag which was lost somewhere in the middle east, we head south and west via Fairlie, towards Mount Cook, NZ's highest peak. On the way we stopped at the ridiculously turquoise blue waters of Lake Tekapo where we walked for a few hours in the forest and along the lake side. That night we stayed in a cabin at the bottom of the mountain along the edge of lake Pukaki at the base of Mt Cook. The next morning we took a boat ride out onto the glacial lake at the base of Mt Cook. The glacier had calved a massive berg the previous week so we were privileged to see the aftermath floating in the lake. A smaller berg had just rolled over so we could see the golf ball like surface which was still glacial blue before the sun light turned it white. In the afternoon we hiked to the bottom of Mt Cook via 3 suspension bridges and bathed our feet in the freezing glacial waters.

blue lake

blue lake


How blue is that lake???

How blue is that lake???


Mt Cook

Mt Cook


on the bridge at Mt Cook

on the bridge at Mt Cook

Newly calved berg

Newly calved berg

harp shaped ice

harp shaped ice

the gang at lake tasman

the gang at lake tasman

Leaving Mt Cook we travelled to Alexandra via the town of Cromwell where we found street names such as Erris, Killala, Killarney, Sligo etc. Apparently the second surveyor had a sense of fairness and decided to call the newer streets by names in the south of Ireland to balance out all the northern names given by the first surveyor! In Alexendra we did a 45km cycle on an old railway route which was built to carry gold to the coast. Thankfully it was mostly downhill but fair play to Colm for his stamina as I was out of breath at the end.
Colm on bike

Colm on bike

After Alexandra we headed south east towards Dunedin where we stayed in cabin on the beautiful Otago penisula. There we saw furred seals, yellow eyed penguins and albatrosses, all within a few kilometres of our campsite.

After Dunedin we headed on a long drive via the Catlins forest and Invercargill to the town of Manipouri in Westlands. This area is located in the south west of the South Island and has no roads to speak of. It is totally impenetrable due to the vast mountain ranges there. Very similar to the south west of Chile. After some nice walks in Manipouri and drowning the shamrock on a very wet St Patrick's Day, we headed towards Milford Sound, the only road to the coast in this part of NZ. The sound, which is really a fjord, is spectacular. We took a 2 hour cruise out the fjord and were rewarded with unimaginably steep cliffs which take your breath away, and also took Colm's hat away! Oh well, it was worth it! On the way back we had to stop at the sign for Hollyford Village, founded in the 1830s by a man who hailed from the very same Tipperary mountain village where Colm was born.

Sunlight on Milford

Sunlight on Milford

Heading for home

Heading for home

Milford cliff looming

Milford cliff looming

More Milford

More Milford

Milford Sound Fjord

Milford Sound Fjord

Milford Sound Fjord

Milford Sound Fjord

Aaah!!

Aaah!!

The man from Hollyford

The man from Hollyford

After Milford we headed toward Lake Wanaka in the middle of the island where we did a 4 hour hike towards Mt Aspiring and the hanging glaciar of Rob Roy. Fantastic scenery and walking amongst the native beech forest with cattle crossing the vast glacial spillways. Real cowboy country.

Drowning the shamrock on Paddy's Day

Drowning the shamrock on Paddy's Day

Rob Roy hanging glacier

Rob Roy hanging glacier

At the glacier

At the glacier

If I hide behind this tree she won't find me....

If I hide behind this tree she won't find me....

View to Rob Roy Glacier

View to Rob Roy Glacier

Rob Roy Glacier

Rob Roy Glacier

Climbing to Rob Roy glacier

Climbing to Rob Roy glacier

Another day and another journey, this time through the wilderness and forests towards the west coast and to the Fox Glaciar where we walked to the face of the glaciar. Then today we climbed to another glacier - the Franz Josef glacier.IMG_4719

IMG_4719

Clowning around

Clowning around

On way to Franz Josef glacier

On way to Franz Josef glacier

Beautiful algae

Beautiful algae

Posted by Loodersatlarge 00:33 Archived in New Zealand Tagged coast west to christchurch Comments (0)

They say lightening doesn't strike twice.

sunny 22 °C

Well could you believe it! !!!!!!

After getting over our little escapade of having our bags stolen at Santiago on the 10th January at the bus terminal, we got a lovely apartment in one of the nicer districts on our return on the 12th February (for 4 days) before our onward flight to New Zealand. We took in some of the highlights the city has to offer, of which there are many. Our apartment was located backing on to the Cerro San Cristobal. This is where the zoo is located. There are also outdoor swimming pools and green parks.

As it was on our doorstep we decided to explore it's attractions. We were told by the receptionist at the apartment that there was a walkway close by and that it would take about 40 minutes to get to the top, where we would have some wonderful views of the city. Off we went, I took my back pack with water, my camera, phone, passport, wallet etc. Aine had her handbag containing all her valuables. As we were 15 minutes into the walk 2 fellas were walking down against us. Aine thought that they looked fairy innocuous, but when they were a few feet from us they pulled 2 knives on us. Aine couldn't comprehend what was happening. They wanted our "mochillas", (backpacks). One tried to grab Aine's bag but she managed to hold on to it. The other fella pointed the knife at me, demanding the backpack. I thought to myself "not again". I refused to take it off me and lots of shouting ensued.

Aine managed to get on the higher side of her assailant and went down scree and loose earth off the side of the path. She tripped and fell. But she managed to get back on her feet and was shouting for the policia. Meanwhile the 2 fellas faced me down. I got so mad that I started roaring at them that I would kill them. They made several attempts to try and grab my bag but I fended them off. One of them caught my t-shirt and ripped it. And anyone that knows me knows not to mess with my clothes, I flipped and became as aggressive as them. All the while looking for an escape. I pretended to take off the back pack as if to hand it over but in doing so I bent down and grabbed a fist of dirt and dust and threw it at them. They became more aggressive so I took off the backpack and threw it down the hillside towards where Aine had gone. They stalled for a moment and I took the opportunity to chase my backpack down the hill. At that stage they ran off. Aine and I were covered in dirt and poor Aine had a lot of cuts, scrapes and grazes. But nothing broken thankfully.

We managed to compose ourselves and clammered back up the dirt slope. As they had gone down the hill we decided to climg the remaining 20 minutes or so. When we got to the top we were sweaty and covered in dirt. We tried to clean ourselves up as best as possible and tried to enjoy the views but after a while we decided to go home and clean ourselves up and go out for a meal and drinks. We found a very good restaurant and ate heartily and drank more than we should have.

What a Valentine's Day, never to be forgotten.

Posted by Loodersatlarge 22:58 Archived in Chile Tagged santiago Comments (1)

New Zealand

Lazy days

sunny 25 °C

"What's happened to the blog?", says Colm. The answer is New Zealand happened. After the chaos of South America New Zealand is a culture shock in reverse. Everything works, everything is clean, signposts everywhere, clean toilets with toilet paper on all road sides. It's shocking! Europe is only trotting behind NZ.

After arriving from Chile we checked into our hostel (or backpackers) as they calll them here . Not just any old backpackers - this one was a rambling old house that once had been home to the queen of Tonga! We wandered around Auckland and wondered at the cleanliness and general niceness of the city.day 2 and we hired The Beast. - a well serviced 13 yr old Toyota Camry with plenty of boot space. On our last day at the hostel a very generous young english couple who were on their way to Japan offered us their tent and other camping accoutrements, which we gladly accepted as NZ is none too cheap.
Beauty and The Beast

Beauty and The Beast

We hit the road in The Beast and headed for the Coromandel Peninsula where our friends from Nantucket, Aveen and Terry, and their kids Rosha and Finn, were holidaying in a friend's beach house. The house was like something out of House & Home - all glass and metal with tropical views to die for. We fitted right in! Then we were joined by Drew and James who arrived from London via Sydney. Before the evening was out much wine was downed and we were all getting on like a house on fire. So now you can maybe understand our lack of blogging. Too much good NZ pinot noir!
Room with a view

Room with a view

A & A on beach

A & A on beach

Our days on the Coromandel were spent on the beach, climbing the Giants Head and generally enjoying the company of great friends. One of the highlights was meeting Terry's parents Jack and Isobel. Jack, a proud 95yr old Irishman, left Ireland in 1926 at the tender age of seven. They were forced out by the old IRA who took umbridge to the fact that the family had members in the British army. Jack's dad was shown a hole in the ground and given 3 days to leave his farm in Westmeath or otherwise he'd end up in the hole. Jack's dad took his young family and eventually ended up in Te Kawata NZ where they now run a successful farm. And if that wasn't enough excitement Jack joined the NZ forces and was a Prisoner of War for 4 years during WWII. He has some amazing stories to tell and we enjoyed hearing a few of them although it was plain to see that they took their toll on Jack. All the while he still thinks of Ireland with fondness and we think he enjoyed having an Irish ear for a few days. Isobel is a tower of strength, no nonsense woman and in fine fettle for her mid 80s. They both made us feel really welcome and for that we will be forever grateful.
The giants head

The giants head

Not looking bad for a 95yr old and Jack looks well too!

Not looking bad for a 95yr old and Jack looks well too!


Seamus, Jack, Isobel and Aveen

Seamus, Jack, Isobel and Aveen


boys chewin the fat on the deck

boys chewin the fat on the deck

After a few great days hanging out we hit the road around the coast and tried out our camping gear. After night one of back breaking sleeplessness, we figured we might need a mattress so next day we purchased 2 blow up mattresses which were luxury compared to the 2 foam mats. Ah, the simple pleasures. Our route took us along the east coast which is like the north Mayo of Ireland. V untouristy but v beautiful and real Maori country. We then headed inland to the rainforest around Lake Waikaromoana where we slept a night in the rain but survived pretty much unscathed. I met the local wildlife ranger who told me he had performed The Haka on the Kenny Live show in 1990. It's a funny old world! We drove inland which is scorched due to a drought since November. We passed geothermal hot springs, geysers and boiling mud pools, and waterfalls - wonderous!Natural geothermal boiling stream

Natural geothermal boiling stream

UrsulaAndres eat you heart out...

UrsulaAndres eat you heart out...

Hauka Falls

Hauka Falls


New Zealand Rainforest

New Zealand Rainforest

Tomorrow Seamus is booked in for a tandem skydive but I think that deserves a write up of its own.....

Posted by Loodersatlarge 22:19 Archived in New Zealand Tagged island north Comments (3)

The Peruvian Jungle

A few days of jungle therapy

sunny 36 °C

Walking down the street in Cusco deciding where would we go after our visit to the Peruvian Jungle I get a brain wave ( yeah I can hear ye all now.... gosh that must hurt!) that maybe we could fly from Cusco to Puno in Peru or La Paz in Bolivia saving us time if we could get the flights at a very reasonable rate.

As we had booked our flight in to the jungle through Star Peru airlines maybe they too could give us a good deal for the intended next leg. So we walked into the Star Peru office and enquired if there were any flights to either of these cities but alas there was not. So as we walked out I said to Aine lets make sure the flight to the jungle scheduled for the following morning is still leaving on time as during the wet season the flights are sometimes rescheduled and you are urged to check with the airline 24 hours prior to departure. So we turned back to the attendant and asked him to check the flight time. He confirmed that it was leaving as planned and asked if we wanted to check in there and then saving us the bother in the morning at the airport. So we did same and then we enquired if our return flight booked for the 1st February was ok also. He looked at us, and said that our return flight was booked for the 1st March. Aine looked at me, I looked at her, we both looked at each other and we both looked at the attendant, disbelievingly. PANIC set in immediately and we both tried to explain to him simultaneously that there had to be a mistake. That we had booked our return flight for 1st February. He was adamant that the flight was for 1st March. He showed us the screen and there it was in black and white, 1st March.........Sh*t, Sh*t, Sh*t.

We explained to him that 'I' booked our tickets in Arequipa when we were there. One of his colleagues came over and between them they hit many keys on the computer but the result was still the same - 1st March. He then told us that we could change them for a fee of 70 US dollars each. They only cost 90 US dollars each so we were being screwed again. We told him that it was not our fault and that it was the travel agent in Arequipa who had made the mistake. We asked him if he sould ring them and try to sort something out but he said that he couldn´t as he could only make local calls. Though he did give us the number of the agency. We again begged him to ring them as he could explain to them in Spanish what the problem was. To our surprise and relief he rang them, 'even though it was not a local call'. They accepted that they had made the mistake and agreed to right the wrong at a total cost to us of zero!!!!!!! Yippeeee.

Next morning we flew to the Peruvian Jungle, flying in to Puerto Maldonado. Puerto Maldonado is a city in Southeastern Peru in the Amazon forest 55 kilometres (34 mi) west of the Bolivian border on the confluence of the Tambopata and Madre de Dios River, a tributary of the Amazon.

Nearby is Tambopata national park. It hosts some of the most pristine primary rain forests in the world, which include several oxbow lakes and clay licks, where hundreds of birds including macaws feed on clay.

Puerto Maldonado is in the tropical Amazon Basin. The climate is hot and humid at all times. The average annual temperature is 26 °C (79 °F). Temperatures on our arrival were in the high 30s. Annual rainfall exceeds 1,000 millimetres (3.3 ft). The wet season is from October to April. Road travel often becomes impossible during this time.

Downtown Puerto Maldonado

Downtown Puerto Maldonado

We had booked into an Eco Lodge trying to be somewhat eco conscious. It was only a 40 min flight but the change in the landscape was amazing in such a short space of time. From Cusco which is sub-tropical highland climate to tropical rain forest, absolutely stunning!!!!!

We were met off the plane by our guide, Frank. And to be frank(!), he was excellent throughout our stay. We took a 30 min taxi ride to our lodge and along the route Frank filled us in on the local politics, climate, conservation and all things associated with the area. The lodge was set on the banks of the Tambopata river, idyllic.... We met the owner and his wife who are Peruvian. But unfortunatly that was the last time we saw them until we had to pay the bill on the day of our departure. Frank was the main man and we really wanted for nothing while he was around. Our 3 night 4 day stay was planned out for us in advance so when we arrived at the lodge we had lunch and then a little lie down. by the time we got from the dining/kitchen to the bedroom we were soaked in sweat. The humidity sometimes reaches 100%. Aine´s sweaty pants tell the story. Sweaty Betty.

Sweaty Betty

Sweaty Betty

After our rest we went for a walk in a reforestation area on the 16 hectare site. Frank showed us some very interesting insects, flowers, trees and birds on our walk and after dinner we went for a ´night walk´along the same track we had done earlier. But the difference in the type of insect, wildlife to be seen was such a contrast.

IMG_1390

IMG_1390


I swear it's this big

I swear it's this big

Big Ant

Big Ant


Night sky

Night sky

Day 2 up at 5am to get a good spot at a nearby clay cliff where various species of parrots come almost every morning to lick the clay. They do this to get minerals and salts that are missing from their diets.

Then some lunch and a kayak trip down stream on the Tambopata river and return to the lodge by mountain bike just in time before it gets dark and for dinner.

Wasps nest

Wasps nest

David Attenborough eat your heart out.

David Attenborough eat your heart out.

Easing down the river

Easing down the river

Sunset

Sunset

Day 3 awake 5am again but its raining so Aine cries boo hoo, boo hoo.. She was so afraid of getting a few drops of rain on her that she was near throwing a hissy fit (joke). but luckily I managed to soothe her sufficiently to come out from the locked bathroom. We went and had breakfast while we were waiting to see if the weather would clear. Someone was still boo hooing after the breakfast but I won´t say who it was. OK it was Aine. Two and a half hours later and the weather seems to break and there is a hint of sunshine but someone still doesn´t believe that the day will stay dry and we MIGHT GET WET!!!!!! more boo hooing just for effect. We take a boat ride down the Tambopata river for 2 hours and gain entry to the Tambopata National Reserve. Of course at this stage the weather is stiffling hot and Someone is complaining about the heat....... Guess who????? the person formerly known as boo hoo.

Our guide Frank

Our guide Frank

Giant Fig Tree

Giant Fig Tree

Journeying through the swamps on way to Sandoval Lake

Journeying through the swamps on way to Sandoval Lake

Long Nosed Bats sleeping

Long Nosed Bats sleeping

Tambopata National Reserve is a nature reserve in the Peruvian Amazon Basin. It has a superface area of 1,478,942 hectares (3,654,550 acres). It was created in 1990, to protect the forests adjacent to the rivers, heath and Tambopata that have two important ecosystems and are noted for their biodiversity; representing native flora and fauna with 165 species and 41 families of trees, 103 species of mammals, 1300 species of butterflies and 90 species of amphibians. The protected area features eight life zones: subtropical humid forest, tropical humid forest, subtropical high-humidity forest, subtropical high-humidity foothills cloud forest, subtropical rainforest, tropical cloud forest foothills, subtropical lower foothills cloud forest and semi-flooded subtropical cloud forest. Average annual temperature is 26 °C, ranging from 10-38 °C; with average annual rainfall of 1600–2400 mm. Rainfall in the protected area is typical of most areas in the Peruvian Amazon. The climate is humid and (3000 mm and 25 °C on average).

Our destination in the reserve was Sandoval Lake. There is a circuit of canoeing around the lake which is considered one of the most exciting and beautiful circuits of Peru. This was to be our treat for the day. So after alighting from the boat we donned our wellingtons and trekked 4 km along a very muddy path which led to the lake. Along the way we saw numerous multi-coloured butterflies, an abundant of lizards and so many ants that the would stretch all the way back to Ireland, including the deadly bullet ant. Some monkeys, and many types of birds that are native of this reserve.

A 'wellington flutterby'

A 'wellington flutterby'

Hoatzin bird, the missing link

Hoatzin bird, the missing link

Hoatzin Bird

Hoatzin Bird

Eagle-eyed Frank rowed us around the lake and pointed out various species including 2m long Cayman, various monkeys and birds which are a link between reptiles and birds, having blue scales around their eyes. Mad looking things. Lunch by the lake in much needed shade and then back across the lake in the steaming heat. Back through the forest and on to the river boat for the 2 hour journey up river and against the current. Had a good snooze in the evening sunlight.

images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQAcjS7SGwwWXPcWoI7NctGJ3k86vbbvYUZQyKDKkSBca90Ta7Gimages?q=tbn:ANd9GcQP9CjFlNV0sWwYr558tvsst3hJBrlakGABmIR13xM_cVLEQJ4b
Next morning, our trip to the jungle was ending and prior to leaving on the plane we visited the local market which, like all markets over here, sells absolutely everything. "Original" rip-offs, second hand goods and all the riches that the jungle produces. A feast for the eyes. Goodbye rainforest or should that be hasta luego.

Posted by Loodersatlarge 17:40 Archived in Peru Tagged national reserve tambopata Comments (0)

Leaving South America

Sad, but looking forward

sunny 26 °C

Our time in South America has come to and end and we are sad. Twelve amazing weeks in a most beautiful continent and we have barely scratched the surface. You could spend a lifetime here and still not see it all. It is so VAST. Six weeks in Argentina and we still only made it 1/3 of the way up.

Not only is the scenery amazing but the people are fantastic too. In the little time we've been here we have been treated with kindness wherever we went. (Well, there were a few frustrating moments but you expect these). South Americans are generally extremely polite and of course mostly always smiling. You can trace the heritage in the peoples faces from the more european traits in Argentina and Chile to the indigenous peoples in Peru and Bolivia. They are all so proud of their countries and everyone is so hard working even though many have very little in comparison to us. Hard work is the name of the game here and nothing comes easy.

Happy faces

Happy faces

We are currently in Santiago and taking advantage of our very modern apartment where we have flushing toilets, hot water and we can even put the toilet paper in the toilet (and not in the bin) for the first time since we came to South America!! The simple things in life...

Having a rest

Having a rest

We have stayed in some amazing places: mountain huts, huts made of salt, adobe huts, rainforest lodges and so many hostals we can't count. But in all we met some great people with whom we shared lots of laughs and lots of information. (We know we will see some of you again). The few times we have stayed in hotels we felt kinda lonely and longed for the company of the hostal. It is the way forward we think!

With the gang at the salt plains

With the gang at the salt plains

So while we are sad to be leaving, we are looking forward to our next great adventure - in New Zealand. And we are expecially looking forward to meeting Dad and catching up with our great friends Aveen and Terry & their kids Rosha and Finn. Our livers have had a rest for the past 12 weeks but we think they might be suffering for a little while after meeting up with Colm!!!

Thanks all for keeping track of our travels through the blog. We love hearing from you and miss you all.

As they say here - hasta luego.

Bring it on!

IMG_1047

IMG_1047

Posted by Loodersatlarge 08:44 Archived in Chile Tagged santiago Comments (0)

(Entries 21 - 25 of 49) « Page 1 2 3 4 [5] 6 7 8 9 10 »