The day that time forgot… (Wed 11th Sep)

Day 204, Thu 29th Aug

Arrived in Mendoza (wine country) at 2pm. Back to a nice warm climate! Signed ourselves up for free wine tasting at the hostel that evening and then went for a walk to explore the different plazas around the town.

The tasting was so enjoyable that we completely forgot about eating dinner until 10:30, mad dash to find somewhere still open… I guess they do not eat as late here as we hear they do in Buenos Aires…

Mendoza appeared lovely, especially after 3 glasses of wine!  It was built around a number of squares; the blue tiled ‘Espana’ being our favourite.

Day 205, Fri 30th Aug

Decided to do our vineyard tour of Maipu on bicycles today – it sounded like a bad idea to me, I am not known for my cycling skills at the best of times and attempting to ride on the main road half-cut seemed like a disaster waiting to happen. Swallowing my fears, we embarked (a bit late) on our journey, had a full tour at the first vineyard with the option of 4 glasses of wine – I very sensibly only had a few sips, leaving the remainder for Keir :-) – then off for an olive oil and (yuckily sweet) chocolate tasting.

We had a fabulous lunch in the cerveceria (a very tasty off-menu salad) followed by a (failed) attempt to go to the big winery. At this point I had drunk very little and actually fancied a glass of wine – a desire unfortunately thwarted when we found we had missed the last tour and couldn’t join in half way through; bloody bureaucrats. Decided that I was far too uncomfortable to cycle another 2km to a different winery, so we jacked it in and returned to Mendoza for dinner before our night bus to Santiago :-)

Highlight of the day was having a go on a Tandem bicycle (another way around the world :-) ) plus the lunch in the beer garden – out in the countryside surrounded by nature & lots of birds – of the feathered variety!

 

A bicycle made or two... but who's in charge...?!

A bicycle made for two… but who’s in charge…?!

The main road through Maipu isn’t particularly nice, but once you get out into the countryside it’s worth it.  On the bus home we found that you needed their version of the oyster card to buy a ticket, which obviously tourists can’t buy anywhere sensible, so T appealed to the bus & a very nice lady was our saviour & helped us out!

Mendoza, Argentina

Day 206, Sat 31st Aug

A beautiful border crossing over the Andes… T usually hates daytime buses but the Andes was so beautiful that even she couldn’t grumble.  The old, disused, railway ran alongside for most of the way hinting at past splendours… we’d have happily taken it if it was still running. :-)

Just on the Chilean side of the border crossing was a ski slope – we gazed on enviously!

Top of the world Ma!

Top of the world Ma!

Arrived in the Brasil area of Santiago to stay in our new hostel – lots of quirky design and decoupage – and went for a daytime walk around the slightly ‘edgy’ streets. Street art and nice old buildings – it felt just like home. We found some great little restaurants and bars around Constitucion in the slightly more upmarket areas too.

The architecture through-out Santiago was really interesting & quite cool – there were so many beautiful buildings just slowly crumbling away… I was itching for the DIY tools… :-)

Another way around the world was ticked off when we found some pedalo’s in the park – childish but fun.  T even let me drive… & provide most of the pedal power of course!

I might be steering, but we know who's in charge...

I might be steering, but we know who’s in charge…

Day 207, Sun 1st Sep

Another walk today, around the Italian quarter – it did not seem particularly Latin, more akin to Brick Lane in fact – before meeting up with Eleanor and Tom, the English couple we met in Honduras, to take them up on their very kind offer of lodging in their flat for a few days. The flat is on the 22nd floor of a Canary Wharf style tower block in the suburb of Las Condes – where we were greeted by a beautiful sunset.

 

Fantastic dinner at a French restaurant nearby, possibly the best cooked slab of fish (Halibut?) that I have ever tasted, followed by crème brulee.

It was fantastic to meet up with Tom & Eleanor again. Since we last met in Honduras Eleanor carried on travelling & we’ve been following her blog avidly & were looking forward to catching up with them both to see where they were going to settle next.

One good thing that came out of the Maipu wine tasting was a bottle of ‘Reserve’ that we’d picked up to thank them for our stay.  The idea was that they’d be able to celebrate their return from the Amazon, where they were off to take some mind bending natural drug, Ayahuasca, in a Shaman ritual in a couple of weeks (T was obviously very interested in joining them!). However, in true English style, they put aside that they were meant to be following a strict alcohol free diet & opened the bottle straight away! :-)

Santiago, Chile

Day 208, Mon 2nd Sep

Valparaiso here we come; 2 hour bus ride & we were in the land of pastel shaded corrugated iron houses stacked on hillsides forming a smorgasbord of colour.

The trip to our fantastic hostel  was livened up when a car coming in the opposite direction hit a pothole & it’s wheel literally snapped off of its axle… the taxi drivers only comment was that ‘that way will be blocked for a while…!’

We dropped our gear off & hit the town to join a tour to see the sites; we even added another method to the ’80 ways’ when we hopped on an electric trolley bus.

A glorious day in Valparaiso today. We decided to join a tours4tips to get to know the city – our guide Marcia was great and made the whole thing fun for us – including hopping on the 1947 trolley bus, the funicular, and sneaking into a stunning, but seriously rundown, turn of the century apartment block; I recommend them highly.

Day 209, Tue 3rd SepValparaiso, Chile (70)

We wandered around Valparaiso, up to the cemetery & then into Pablo Neruda’s house on top of one of the many hills. This appeared to be another house, like many others, each floor stacked on top of each other like cardboard boxes. However, inside it was delightful. Neruda, a famous Chilean poet (I hadn’t heard of him either!) was very nautically focused & this was reflected in the décor inside.  Fantastic views from every floor as well.

We made our own list of things still to see today. Neruda’s house was very cool, 5 stories of little rooms perched on a hillside with incredible views. The museum de Bellas Artes was also very nice, though we had only 30 minutes before our bus and were interested in the Arts & Crafts house rather than the art; it was not quite as stunning as Voewood (in Norfolk), but definitely worth seeing.

Valparaiso, Chile

Back to Santiago for dinner with Eleanor, Tom and a couple of other friends that Eleanor had met on her Central & South American trip, Locki & Melinda, who had announced their engagement mere hours before… we were not sure they were going to show!

 

Day 210, Wed 4th Sep

Last day in Santiago started with a lie in, domestics & then quick visit to an artesenal (for that read cheap touristy things) village & monastery.  Dinner courtesy of Eleanor ended a chilled day before the off tomorrow.

Managed to wake up at 11 today, breakfast at 12, oops. Lots of rearrangement of New Zealand plan needed due to feedback from Keir’s friend (thanks Bill :-)). Made it to bed at 1, we have a 4:45 wake up for our flight; why, oh why do we do this to ourselves?

Day 211, Thu 5th Sep

Up exceedingly early to catch our flight to Easter Island. I didn’t even notice the flight go by, as I was plugged into the on-demand films – sheer bliss.

Dropped off the gear at our hostel, which looks nice, & spent the day looking around the main town – Rapa Nui – in the sun.

A nice, but hugely expensive, meal rounded off the day… everything is imported, so the prices reflect that.

A bit of a disaster on the plane for me when the meal I was told was vegetarian, and checked twice, turned out to have bacon in it. Way to go LAN – apparently it is necessary to confirm your vegetarian meal request 48 hours before the flight, just in case – one assumes – you have changed your mind since booking. I was VERY upset. I can only imagine what sort of scandal might have ensued had I been Jewish or Muslim…

Arrived in Easter Island at lunchtime, having lost another couple of hours, it is a beautiful, sunny day, though apparently they are expecting rain L

Day 212, Fri 6th Sep

What started out a blustery day hiking round the west part of the island ended up as a pair of drowned rats as we walked the last hour back in torrential rain!

To be fair we had equipped ourselves with the right wet weather gear so heads & torso’s were dry & we saw some fantastic things along the way. 

We started well when I befriended 2 stray dogs who then decided to join us on our hike all the way round.  We saw numerous moai (giant ‘heads’) on ahu (platforms).  Even better was the lava tunnel that ended suddenly at the cliff face with 2 vertical openings high up overlooking an angry ocean… we didn’t get too close to the edge!

P1410609

Another lava tunnel was a huge crypt-like place with banana trees growing at one end where the roof had caved in.

All in all a great, but exhausting day – we probably walked near 20km. Getting rid of our new canine buddies proved difficult…. I even walked them back to their homes, but one followed us all the way back to our hostel… I want a dog!!!

BIG walk today, with 2 complete soakings and our canine guides. I still haven’t seen any large moai though; they are all a lot smaller than I expected…

Day 213, Sat 7th Sep

A long lie in followed by a walk to the top of the volcano (extinct).  Got drenched again in a ‘scattered’ shower – according to the forecast (I’d hate to see what torrential rain looks like…, oh yes – we walked in that for 45 mins yesterday!)

Was worth the climb as the crater is filled with small lakes & one side has views over the ocean – very beautiful.

A genius on the dance floor at work...!

A genius on the dance floor at work…!

An evening at a traditional Easter Island dance ended up with them requiring a little lesson in how to move those hips… I kindly volunteered… yeah baby!

Disappointingly started raining cats and dogs just as we reached the volcano lake, we had to fight to stay upright. The evening ‘must do’ cultural performance would definitely not feature on my Top 10, but Keir enjoyed being on stage; bloody show-off :-)Day 214, Sun 8th Sep

The uncertain weather meant that we’d cancelled the scooter, in favour of hiring a car.  However, we woke up to beautiful blue skies – typical.  Our hostel manager (Hostel Avatai – v nice place) kindly re-arranged said scooter & off we went at 11 for a tour of the island.

The Maoi workshop (Rano Raraku) where we saw unfinished giant statues half carved out of the volcanic rock was the highlight to me along with the beautiful beach at Anakena. 

We even managed to finish the day with only one slow speed mishap on the scooter that left us both slightly muddy but with only pride dented. :-)

The two other unforgettable things about Easter Island apart from the culture – the cost (ouch) & the windy weather!

BIG MOAI today, beautiful weather certainly made the whole trip more appealing and the Island look very beautiful.

 

Keir kindly tipped us into a muddy puddle, but luckily we were en route to the beach at that point and did not have to wait too long to clean up. Fortunately our little accident was at about 1mph, a bit less damaging than my last cycle accident!

Oh, and EXCELLENT lemon meringue pie at the café on the main strip, I wish I could remember what it was called, maybe ‘slice’ something?

Day 215, Mon 9th Sep

The final day was a day of glorious weather; we decided to head back up to Orango to see the volcanic crater lake in brilliant sunshine & a reconstructed traditional temple site.  Then we headed for a long walk round the airport seeing other archaeological sites – a gentle but relaxed day.

A surprisingly lovely Japanese meal at the ‘Chinese’ (?!) restaurant that our hostel owner had sent us to used up the last of the currency before we headed off to catch the flight to Tahiti.

Another beautiful day with muchos photos. The village we had missed on our last volcano excursion was really interesting and we topped it all off with a fantastically unexpected Japanese meal at Konaki, just a few minutes walk from the airport. A midnight flight, not so great, but at least we get to sleep a bit before arriving in the early hours.

Easter Island, Chile

Day 216, Tue 10th Sep

Arrived at 0200 in the morning, a quick sleep before we rushed off to catch the ferry to the island of Mo’orea, followed by a bus to… anywhere with a beach & snorkelling please!

A passenger & bus driver duly helped us out & we ended up at the Hilton on a day pass – perfect; great beach, facilities, sun lounger, cocktails (for T) & food… a lesson in how to spend your only day in Tahiti. :-)

Saw the most futuristic yacht back in the harbour in Tahiti on our return – Abramovic, eat your heart out!

Stumpy's next command...

Stumpy’s next command…

Arrived, slept, got up early and ferried over to Mo’orea, not having much of a clue where to go, but my small amount of internet research had suggested getting out of Tahiti and onto the other island asap. Rescued by a nice French guy who sent us up to the Hilton for a very expensive, but sort of worth it – given the included lunch and snorkelling equipment – day pass.P1420273

Back to Tahiti for a swift tour and gorgeous sunset, then incredible desserts by the waterfront. Keir seemed extraordinarily happy with the size of his coffee ice cream sundae.

Tahita & Mo’orea, FRench Polynesia

Day 217, Wed 11th Sep

Another early flight, this time to Auckland. We crossed the international dateline & suddenly the UK went from being ahead of us to behind us as we lost a day (?!)… bye bye Wednesday!

Damn, I thought our flight was 11:25, but that is the arrival time :-(. Up at 5 again.

Day 218, Thu 12th Sep

Auckland hostel seems really well situated.  Brunch in Ponsonby followed by an afternoon morning spent walking around the town; not very inspiring but a few nice sights.

Arrived in Auckland, having lost Wednesday on the plane. We are staying at Freemans, a nice hostel between Ponsonby and the city – the owner very kindly introduced herself when we arrived and made sure that Keir’s photo driving license and rucksack wheel had arrived (Caribee: a thoroughly disappointing rucksack, but great customer service).

Felt a bit rough and it was raining, so we ended up falling asleep with no dinner.

Day 219, Fri 13th Sep

Caught the ferry across to Devonport (just like being back in the Navy!).  Loved this place; very sleepy & quiet with lots of Colonial style houses.  Saw some old forts with ‘disappearing’ guns & lots of old tunnels – perfect.

Dinner in Ponsonby was a perfect end to the day.Auckland - Devonport Island (7)

HUGE and fabulous breakfast in Ponsonby (bubble & squeak, yum) – I was absolutely ravenous after missing my supper! We tried a rather uninspiring Lonely Planet walking tour of the CBD, there basically is not much to see, followed by a lovely afternoon in Devonport with a nice glass of gewurtztraminer and dinner with saffron gin cocktails in Mekong Baby :-)

Day 220, Sat 14th Sep

We caught the shark bus (a very excited T) to Kelly Tarltan’s – a fantastic aquarium where you can see penguins, rays & sharks right up close.  Sounds quite tacky, but it was amazingly fun, interesting & educational – gets a Stumpy ‘tick in the box’!

The weather caught up with us in the afternoon so we only managed the Auckland museum which was again surprisingly interesting before we had to rush off for dinner & then a mad rush to catch the late bus to Rotorua.

Hostel was great in having everything ready for us when we arrived at 2300 – we collapsed into bed.

Auckland - Kelly Tarlton's Sea World (1)SHARK BUS!!! Then a fantastic interactive aquarium trip, including a photo op in a shark’s mouth; easily the highlight of my week. Well, maybe the moai on Easter Island too…

Auckland, New Zealand

Day 221, Sun 15th Sep

A walk around thermal springs, mud pools, then a trip around the lake on a paddle steamer followed by the circus & a visit to the thermal spa (with 7 different pools)…. You can see that Tracey organised this one!

Having decided against further ‘cultural experiences’ we decided to forgo Whakarewarewa (shortened to, and pronounced Faka… to our amusement) and wander around the free Kaurangi park instead. Had a nice day riding on a paddle steamer, seeing black swans and geysers and spent our hard-Whaka-saved money on dinner instead.

Rotorua, New Zealand

Day 222, Mon 16th Sep

Arrived in Wellington after an overnight bus (terrible – S American buses were so much better?!). A quick breakfast then the ferry to Picton in the South Island where we picked up the tiny Jap-crap hire car.

Said hire car turns out to be amazingly easy to drive (even after 7 months without being behind a wheel) & we head on the scenic coast route to Motueka for the Abel Tasman park. Stopped in Havelock for some mussels & chips en route – I love NZ south island already; such beautiful scenery.

Hostel is very nice & we pop out for a quick curry before bed.

Uncomfortable overnight Intercity bus dropped us in Wellington about 7am, where we discovered that the train station and the usually safe option of the backpackers opposite had nowhere to store our baggage while we explored, damn . After some breakfast discussion, Keir decided to stay where he was while I explored for a couple of hours.

Wellington - Cable Car

Unfortunately when I finally managed to open the ferry booking on the cable car, I discovered I had a mere hour to get to the port rather than 1.5 hours and had to effect a hasty turnaround at the top of the hill. Shame, Wellington seemed nice…

Wellington, New Zealand

Very pretty journey to Motueka, with numerous quick photo stops, before arriving at our hostel. No time to try the hot tub though :-(

Day 223, Tue 17th Sep

Boat drops us off in Bark Bay at midday after taking us all the way up the Abel Tasman coast to Totaranui & back.  A 25km hike then ensued across beautiful cliffs bays & forests.  To be fair we blitzed it; London walking kicked in & we did the supposed 7-8 hr hike in 6 hrs including a stop for lunch & backtracking so we could see Cleopatra’s pool – supposedly a must see.. but just a nice river pool.  Walking across Torrent’s bay a low water was cool & the feeling as we had a hard earned chocolate/ liquorice stick when we got back was heavenly… have a feeling we are going to feel it tomorrow! Billy ray/ Helen – thanks for insisting we did this. :-) x

A lovely boat ride (including tractor drop off) and walk in Abel Tasman today. We decided having a Magnum to start us off at 10 was necessary for the additional energy – well, I did – and started out. Lots of nice forest with beautiful beaches and bays, it was a little like Tayrona National Park in Colombia, but with absolutely freezing sea, must be bliss in summer. Knackered; I really must get to the gym…

Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand

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