A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: Big Adventure

Auckland, New Zealand

JAFA's, rugby, more French people than France.

all seasons in one day 12 °C

The airport looked like Heathrow, all upstairs and shiny with over priced tat shops. Our flight was with LAN airlines, very comfortable and smooth. Would defiantly fly with them again, I preferred them to BA. The 13 hours just literally flew by!

Immigration was exactly like you see on those TV programs, so strict, I was pleased to have a British passport, and the South Americans going through had a much harder time still. After getting through the bag scan (with chocolate biscuits and coffee that we forgot we had!) we got a super shuttle to our hostel. What an awesome service! From airport to door, with the friendliest drivers ever that told us the history of Aucland, New Zealand, about the different driving styles, where to go and everything you could want to know! Apparently Aucklanders are know as JAFA's (Just Another Friendly Aucklander) so true, they really are friendly!

Our Hostel is fab, although full of so many French people it's a wonder there are any left in France. For the first three nights we got complimentary upgraded to a family room, with en-suite and french doors opening up onto our own little decking area with table and chairs. We were planning on only being here until Friday, but the New Zealand post system is a little bit slow and we are still awaiting the delivery of our Credit cards, so we can hire a camper van and be free.

We are staying in Ponsonby, an area about 15-20minutes walk out of the city centre and it is very cool. Full of cool people, cool shops and cool bars. Thank goodness the hostel had laundry facilities and (Phil was too excited about this) an iron and ironing board, otherwise we would be the scruffiest! Went out last night to watch the rugby, New Zealand v Australia, New Zealand were all over Australia. Then went to a bar called Ponsonby social club, the bar that you would want to own if you wanted to own a bar. Great cocktails, wine list and service.

We also went up to the top of the sky tower, a huge tower in the centre of Auckland, you can see for 80kms all around. We went up during the day, then again a sunset and watched nightfall over the city. Very very beautiful. Also took a trip on a shark bus to Kelly Tarlton's under water world. There were penguins, huge huge stingrays and sharks, and lots of other fishy creatures too. Again, I returned to being a child for the afternoon.

Food and drink here is super expensive! Not sure if we have got too used to South American prices, but a red pepper costs NZ$5, like 2pounds fifty! Mental. So we aren't living like Kings and Queens anymore. But hey ho, we are in an amazing place, and I wouldn't change it for the world (other than the slow post).

We're hoping that our cards arrive in the post tomorrow and we can pick up our camper and head off to see the rest of New Zealand.

Phil says 'stay chooned for more'....

Posted by Big Adventure 23:14 Archived in New Zealand Tagged sky sunset tower world underwater cocktails auckalnd kelly tarlton's Comments (0)

Santiago, Chile

Last stop in South America.

sunny 2 °C

The bus wasn't so bad...lot's of police check points and a couple of bag searches, so we could at least get off and wander round a little bit. Still wouldn't want to do it again like!

Being a little bit organised, we had booked a hostel in Santiago (Hostel So Be), in the Barrio Brasil area. We managed to use the underground to get there from the bus station, and again we found everyone to be super friendly and helpful. The hostel was cool, had an outside courtyard area, along with a cosy TV room, and huge pool table (which Phil won on nearly everytime!)

Santiago is mind-numbingly huge, and we found the tube super helpful in getting around. The guidebooks tell you that pollution is a huge problem and will make your eyes water and throat sting, not so whilst we were there. A really pretty city, surrounded by the snow topped peaks of the Andes. Full of people that want to say hi to you, find out where you are from and more importantly to them, if you like Chile and South America. So many people spoke English too, which was refreshing (I know it's not supposed to be a good thing, but after 5 weeks of only Spanish it was a little bit of a good thing!).

We went to the Zoo whilst we were there, I was like a child! Running around and getting excited about the animals, I really liked to monkies and spent a little bit too much time working out how to steal one... We took a funicular to get up there, which was a little bit like the cliff lift a Scarborough, but bigger and better with a one man band (consisting of pan pipes and a classical guitar) singing you off.

The weather was a bit of a shock to the system, it was bloody freezing! We were lucky if it made it above 3*c and got out of the wind. This just meant we stopped for lots of coffees and walked a bit faster. Things were also much more expensive than we had become accustomed to, everything bar Chilean wine which was unbelievably cheap. Without trying to sound like an alcoholic, I took quite a fancy to Pisco sours too. They rock, the perfect combination of sweet and sour, sharp but smooth and just heavenly! I'm sure they are what made me crap at pool.

We arrived in Santiago just as the student protests were quietening down, well that's what we were told. If these were the tail end, the main ones would have been petrifying! Around the University of Chile, the road were stained with paint, Police had a big presence as did the riot vans which had a novel squirty water thing to clean paint of themselves (this could be normal, never seen a real life riot van in action before). A couple of times (after I had been nosy and wanted to know what was going on) we found ourselves walking away from flying rocks etc at a quick sharp pace.

Out last day in Santiago was a little sad. It was our last day in South America and who knows when we'll be back. It was a Sunday too, no where open on a Sunday and cities turn into ghost towns, so we were twiddling our thumbs a bit. I bought a new pair of shows, my old faithful Toms had died a death of six weeks constant wear and walking.

We caught the Centro Areopuerto bus to the airport at sunset and waived goodbye to what had been an amazing start to our Big Adventure.

Posted by Big Adventure 22:49 Archived in Chile Tagged zoo protests pool wine pisco funicular sour Comments (0)

Arica, Chile

Sun, sea, sand and surf in the driest city in the world.

semi-overcast 24 °C

So we got the bus, we got cama seats again, it was rather swish, with black leather seats and blankets. All good, we arrived in Arequipa at 6am, where we had to wait until 7:30am to get our connection. No one warns you how much time you will spend waiting for blooming buses, and how much longer you will spend on them! The next bus wasn't quite so nice, and a much longer journey ahead than we expected. We were sat right at the front, so had an amazing view, but no leg room and no side window to open (when the buses say they have air con, do not believe them! They lie!) As the day wore on, the sun really blazed and we moved further back to get some breeze from an open window.

We arrived in Tacna at 4pm, and decided that we had had enough of buses for one day and jumped into a taxi collectivo (shared taxi) to take us the hour and half journey across the border. I'd so recommend doing this, it's not much more expensive and our driver was great, especially at the Chilean border. Then again in Arica, put us in another taxi to take us to our hostel.

We stayed in the Arica Surf hostel which was beyond cool. The rooms were spacious and clean, with duvets instead of horrid itchy blankets. The kitchen was huge and there was an outside TV area, surrounded by surf boards and people that were there just for the waves, which are apparently best in July. We chose Arica as it is the driest city in the world (no rain, whoop!) and has a spring like climate all year round. I really fancied a day on the beach catching some sun. We did go to the beach, but we managed to be in Arica for 4 days and didn't see any blooming sun! Uncharacteristically overcast for the entire time we were there, although not cold by any means.

It was such a chilled out place, definite seaside vibe, and we noticed straight away how much more organised and friendly Chile seemed. People were actually really helpful everywhere we went. Although Chilean Spanish is a language all in itself....they spoke so so fast, punctuated by so much slang. We didn't stand a chance, and on more than a few occasions stood looking gormless when people spoke to us!

We spend over half of one day trying to plan our route down to Santiago, we were running short of time and wanted to spend a few days in the Capital. Flights were cheap, but only if you had a Chilean credit card. That was the only payment method they accepted, the buses were quite expensive, especially in comparison to Peru and Bolivia. All the cama seats were sold out of the next few weeks, so we had to book a semi-cama seat. For a 35 hour bus trip. In one go. 35 hours!!

We reluctantly got onto our bus, armed with books, iPods and enough food to feed an army. Santiago better be worth it!

Posted by Big Adventure 22:30 Archived in Chile Tagged sea taxi surf bus sun arica collectivo. Comments (0)

Cusco, Peru

Machu Picchu, Inca Train and super rain.

all seasons in one day 28 °C

The bus journey from La Paz to Cusco was superb, we opted for a cama seat ( almost fully reclining ) which had so much space. All this for 150 Bolivianos each, which is roughly 20 quid. We arrived at just after 3 am, about two hours earlier than expected so were at a bit of a loss as to where to go. After considering sitting in the freezing bus station until it was light, we jumped in a cab to take us into Cusco city centre and attempted to find a hostel with available rooms and who would let us straight in. Of course there is always a hitch and the first hostel we tried was completely full, however on the advice of the old Lonely Planet book we headed to a place called Casa de la Gringo two. It was down a tiny little street only just big enough for the taxi and took several attempts at banging on the door to rouse the night porter to answer. After a pretty tough exchange of broken Spanglish, he agreed we could use the room straight away without any extra charge. I have to say it was a brilliant feeling, although the bus journey had been comfortable, there's nothing as nice a real bed and not having to hang around.

After a couple of hours sleep we headed off for a look around Cusco and i have to say, we were quite impressed. There is a huge square with shops and restaurants round the edges and generally the whole town was very pretty. That night, Peru were playing Uruguay in the semi final of the Copa America cup so we decided to head for a bar and watch the match with the locals. We had a great time and were the only tourists in what seemed like quite a cool bar aimed at the local trendy set. After one or two Machu Picchu beers ( thats the truth!!!! ) we drunkenly headed back to the hostel in anticipation of heading to Aguas Calientes the following morning, our final stop before visiting Machu Picchu.

After some initial problems with our transport arrangements, we were on our way to a train station in Ollantaytambo to catch the Inca Rail train to Aguas Calientes. The train is the only mode of transport that can get you to Machu Picchu and that means its always really busy. We were really lucky as the Inca rail trains are beautiful inside and on top of that, provide you with snacks and coffee. The journey itself was stunning and really set the tone of what to expect from Machu Picchu. On arriving in Aguas Calientes ( just to be clear, Aguas Calientes is the closet town to Machu Picchu ) we headed out the station to find our hostel. We couldn't for the life of us find it anywhere, and it is a tiny town, nor had anyone heard of it. After about an hour and a half of wandering around, we finally found someone who had heard it and pointed us in the right direction. It turns out that there had been someone from the hostel waiting to pick us up from the station, but on the name board it had said Nicol Screeman and we hadn't clicked. All we did that night was head out for some dinner and then back to the hostel to try and get a good nights sleep before our visit to Machu Picchu the next day.

We had got up nice and early and as soon as we finished breakfast, went down to the bus station ( the only buses here are ones that ferry you up the mountainside to Machu Picchu ) and set off on the 45 min trip to Machu Picchu. We had planned this quite well as most of the " tourists" don't arrive until around 11 am and we were at the entrance gates by 8.30 am so meant that it was relatively quiet. Its quite hard to describe what Machu Picchu looks like and even harder to explain the feeling you get when you first arrive. Its so much bigger than either of us realised and tucked away high up in the mountains. We spent two hours exploring the area before heading back to the entrance to meet our tour guide, and join the throngs of the other "tourists". I have to say, although i normally don't enjoy these tours, it was great and answered a lot of questions that we thought of the first time round. Machu Picchu really is a must see for everyone at some time in life, it truly is spectacular and both of us were really glad we made the trip. After our tour we decided to head back to town as we had to catch our train back to Cusco. In our infinite wisdom, we decided to walk back to Aguas Calientes, which turned out to be, although amazing and breathtaking, a huge walk down thousands of stairs to get to the bottom of the mountain. On the way back down we say some others walking the route uphill and i have to say neither of us was envious of them.

We were going to visit the hot springs when we arrived back and sooth our tired feet however it started to rain, not you usual rain, but torrential down pour that lasted for nearly two hours. By the time it finished, we needed to get to the train station to catch our train back to Cusco. Lady luck must have been looking down on us as our carridge was one of the first class sections so our journey back was really comfortable.

The following day we organised the next leg of our trip, an overnight bus to Tacna, which is in the south of Peru. From there we would take another bus across the border into Chile and our final country in South America. Before we left Cusco there is a local dish that Nic had been dying to try, Cuy al horno is a traditional delicacy of Peru and has been around for hundreds of years and apparently has been the staple diet of locals ever since. I wasn't too keen on it however Nic thought it was great,and has said that she would quite happily eat it again. Just for future reference, if Nic comes round for dinner at your house, keep your Guinea Pigs hidden!

Posted by Big Adventure 22:17 Archived in Peru Tagged machu pig picchu aguas calientes rail cusco inca guinea tacna Comments (0)

La Paz, Bolivia

Broken bus (again), Marching bands and Spiderman attacks...

sunny 27 °C

The bus broke down. Again. Not as bad as last time, just on a corner of four lanes of busy early morning traffic. However on the outskirts of La Paz, so at least we actually made it this time! By now we have learned not to panic and take things in our stride a little more....so with this in mind we jumped in a taxi into town. Rich and Rebecca who we traveled with had a tougher time, Rich's day bag got stolen whilst he and all the other boys were pushing the bus (!) to the side of the road, so they faced a lovely trip to the poilce station and an afternoon of calls to their insurance company.

Not being organised in the slightest we hadn't booked a hostel so headed out to find one with availability. There is a big triangle that runs between three plazas where they all seem to be so we set out on this run. It was a bit tough going as the weather was warming up for the day, the altitude and our rucksacks made it a challenging combination, but we found one that looked clean, cheap, bags of character and in a great location.

We had a much needed shower then headed out to see what La Paz was all about. It is a huge city, lots of hills, winding roads, little cobbled streets combined with main roads with the usual South American driving (no headlights on, seatbelts forgotton about, and so many dangeling things handing across the dash boards) punctuated with frantic horn usage. Totally brilliant!
We walked past some government buildings, and saw the President of Bolivia's car and security, then a military parade. After asking around so see what was happening we found out that is was La Paz weekend. A big festival and celebration of the city. That night it really came alive, there were military parades, marching bands, street stalls aplenty and a general party atmosphere. After mingling in it all for a while, tiredness hit us, having not slept the night before, we headed back to our room which had a little balcony that looked over it all. Such a brilliant night, drinking a glass of red (out of a mug) watching it all unfold.

The next day the hunt was on for a Western Union, not normally a problem on a Saturday, they are all open until 12ish. Not so on La Paz weekend. Everywhere was closed. Mild panic set in, and we hit an internet cafe to get a list of all the offices, realising then that we couldn't call them as our Spanish wouldn't be strong enough over the phone. By luck there was a tourist information office close by, not a sure hit as some had been great and some appalling, but this was a success. The girl spoke so many languages and took it upon herself to sort us out. She phoned around until we found one that was open, in a supermarket right on the other side of the city!

So we headed off on our mission, the weather was gorgeous and our walk took us through the huge city park, some interesting neighborhoods and the stadium. Mission successful, armed with money and confidence that we could now achieve anything we headed back into the city centre for some much deserved lunch. In Bolivia, lunch is a big thing, and many places offer set lunches for a bargain price. We found the most gorg little bistro called La Casona which had an amazing lunch for 28Bolivianos each (about a fiver). We had steak, llama, salad, soup and fruit salad.

That night we headed out to a bar just up the road from our hostel. It was either a lover or a hater as it was a Brit owned bar....it was a lover! Full of travelers to get advice from, football on the TV, but all with Bolivian beers and atmosphere. It was 'Spidey Saturday' which entailed the whole bar getting dressed up in Spiderman outfits and running around the other bars. At first we were like, er no thanks, a few beers in it seemed like the best idea ever! And it was a giggle, full of drunken confidence we stole our spiderman outfits as a keepsake!!

On Sunday we had a really relaxed day, I nursed my hangover with ice cream and a trip to the Sunday market. That night we went to the cinema to see the new Harry Potter film. The cinema was great, an old theatre, with egg boxes on the wall for soundproofing, and old red theatre chairs. We had the works, popcorn, sweets, hot dogs and fizzy pop. The whole thing cost less than a tenner. I bloody love Bolivia!

Not much else to report, other than our usual getting lost looking for the bus station, lots of food, lots of sightseeing and a decent tan. Oh, and Phil caught a cold.

Next stop, Peru!

Posted by Big Adventure 20:24 Archived in Bolivia Tagged food bus day la bands sunshine broken paz marching spiderman Comments (0)

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