Machu Picchu

October 30th, 2008 by Eddie

We´d decided that we were too lazy to do the five day Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu that we´d been considering before, especially given the miserable weather (it had been cold and rainy around Cusco and the Sacred Valley area since we´d arrived and snowing up on the trail we were considering) so we booked two nights accommodation in Aguas Calientes, the town at the foot of the ruins, and took the train.

Around the Central Area of Machu Picchu

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The Road to Cusco

October 30th, 2008 by Riona

Our bus from Puno to Cusco left at 8.30am and by 1pm we were sitting outside it in a place called Sicuani (two hours south of Cusco) playing cards and waiting, along with hundreds of other tourists and locals. We were stuck behind a long line of buses and motorcycles which were all prevented from moving by a blockade which consisted of about thirty young men, armed with stones in their hands, apparently ready to take aim at anyone who tried to get past them. The idea of being held up by a road block was exciting for about five minutes but as time went on, it just became very boring.

Scars of a demonstration

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From Chile to Peru… Arequipa and Lake Titicaca

October 27th, 2008 by Riona

While we were in San Pedro de Atacama, we decided that we had enough of being inland and wanted to boot it on up to the coast. A big part of our motivation for this trip had been to improve our surfing somewhere nice and warm and we were both itching to get diving again. So we decided to skip Bolivia, leg it up to Cusco in Peru, see Machu Picchu and then fly on up to the beaches of North Peru, continuing slowly up to Ecuador. We had relaxed plenty in Chile and Argentina so we felt well-rested and in the mood for a bit of speed travelling again. Funny what happens to the best made plans… just when we decided to speed things up, fate intervened.

Mother Mary

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Through the desert on a horse with no name

October 26th, 2008 by Eddie

In the desert

Well he had a name, but it didn´t matter, because he wouldn´t listen to it when I was shouting it at him to stop. There´s something about me and horses, they don´t ever seem to listen to me, it´s as if they know before I even get on them that I´m going to be a blowover!

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Sayta Ranch

October 25th, 2008 by Eddie

Enrique and Eddie in the Gunroom

Our main reason for going to Salta in the first place was because of a recommendation from Mark and Eimear who we met on the Stray bus in New Zealand. They wanted to do some horse riding in Argentina so they spent a day and a night out in the Sayta Ranch, a Gaucho station about 40km south of Sayta. The promise of horses that were easy to ride, meals of as much steak as you could eat and a never ending supply of local wine sounded perfect and a month after hearing about it, we´d arrived at the ranch hoping that we hadn´t built it up too much and wouldn´t be disappointed – we weren´t!

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Salta

October 17th, 2008 by Riona

Red Rocks on the Road to Cafayate

Argentina has been an absolute highlight of our trip so far, and Salta was a real highlight of Argentina. We spent a busy and wonderful five days here in the northwest of the country, close to the borders with Bolivia and Chile. During that time we did two excellent days trips outside of the city (in the wider Salta province and a bit of Jujuy), spent one day in the city itself and spent two fantastic days on a local ranch doing some horse riding and a lot of eating and drinking.

Fun on the Salt Flats

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Iguazu Falls – lots of falling water, a very fancy bus journey and a brush with a smuggler

October 16th, 2008 by Riona

For about 8 quid extra each we decided to travel the 24 hours from Buenos Aires to Puerto Iguazu in style; on a ‘cama’ bus. ‘Cama’ means bed and for all our bus journeys up to that point we had taken the ‘semi-cama’ option – basically a bus with seats that recline half way. But for this trip we went all out and what a treat it was: Spacious leather seats that turn into fully horizontal beds, personal tv screens for movies and first class food, drinks and service. When it was time for dinner, our trolly dolly drinks server began by offering us a pre-dinner aperitif and canape, which was then followed by a really good three course hot meal with wine, followed by champagne and shortbread biscuits. After watching a really good movie ´Mad Money’ (rent it!), we settled down for the night and when we awoke, a rather fancy breakfast was served. We almost didn´t want to arrive!

Falls After Rain The Brothers

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Recoleta

October 15th, 2008 by Eddie

Main Street, RecoletaAt the edge of Buenos Aires´most affluent neighbourhood, just beyond the Gucci and Armani shops, there´s an exclusive gated community full of Argentina´s rich and famous. Cemetaria de Recoleta is literally “uno Ciudad de los Muertos”, a city of the dead where each porch-like masoleum contains the coffins of multiple generations of well-to-do families, clearly visible through their glass panelled windows and doors. The only living residents of this place are a group of feral cats who have made Recoleta their home, often choosing the dark, dilapadated masoleums to eat, play and sleep in. In some of these crypts, the windows have no glass and the door lie ajar, you could literally touch one of the gothic, dusty caskets if the thought hijacked your mind. Even when visited on a bright, sunny day, Recoleta is a foreboding and creepy place.

 

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Buenos Aires

October 14th, 2008 by Riona

I wasn’t feeling the best for much of our week in Buenos Aires (just a bad cold but it really knocked me out) but still we managed to have a great time. Buenos Aires is a wonderful city, full of history and character and really big and spread out -it takes a good few days to get around to all the different areas, but the transport is good and easy to use. There’s lots of dramatic old European-style architecture; some large old buildings had front-facing iron balconies, which reminded me of New Orleans. In many ways it’s like being in a misplaced European city but with an added edginess which makes it quite different from being in Paris or Berlin. The Argentinians have had a bad time of it in lots of ways and often take to the streets to voice their concerns. We saw four or five street protests during our week there, and we regularly saw police riot vans and barricades waiting to be deployed. Also, like the other cities we’ve visited in South America so far, there’s quite a bit of really good graffiti art & murals adorning the walls as you wander around the city.

Riot Proof Government Building, BA Night Protest, BA

Ssssh... Street Art Street Art

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Back to school in Bariloche

September 28th, 2008 by Eddie

We were lucky to come across Casa de Mara! After crossing from Pucon to San Martin de los Andes in Argentina (beautiful scenery, Riona is constantly overwhelmed by the Andes), we decided to slow things down a little and spend some time doing a Spanish course. We did some research and found a lot of good things said about La Montaña, a Dutch owned school in Bariloche. A number of people who´d written about the school also wrote about the immersion programme that they organised, where you could stay with a local family for the duration of your course. One home in particular sounded nice, with a great cook as host and large double room with its own bathroom and kitchenette – it sounded ideal and staying with a local family would be something different, so we rang the school, booked four days classes and a week’s homestay, and after taking another bus down to Bariloche were in our new home for the week trying to make sense of our surrogate madre, Mara!

Riona outside Mara´s house With Mara on her kitchen balcony

Top of Nubles, Cerro Catedral

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A week in Chile

September 19th, 2008 by Riona

The second part of our trip began as we touched down in Chile on the 7th September, five hours before we left New Zealand (we crossed the date line so we left at 5pm and arrived at 12.30pm the same day!). We had heard that Chile was one of the most expensive countries in South America so we only spent a week there, even though we really liked it. We had also heard that Santiago (the capital) was not the most exciting place to visit, although an immediate positive for us was the sense of history exuding from all the old buildings and monuments. These things are so rare in Australia and New Zealand, and you don´t realise how much they add to a place until you spend time in countries that don´t have them.

Street Art, Valparaiso Grassy Road, Valparaiso Tangle of Wires

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New Zealand – North Island

September 19th, 2008 by Eddie

Ten days on the South Island left us with only four days on the North Island but it was enough to do what we went for, a bit of skiing and surfing! After flying from Christchurch to Auckland (the cheapest way of getting there, tickets worked out at 50 NZD each – to get a ferry and bus would have cost us almost twice that much), we rented a car from Ace rentals that even my old Corolla would have given a run for it´s money, but it was cheap and better than relying on the NZ public transport which wouldn´t have worked given the time we had. We left the airport and and headed for Whakapapa, the main skiing area about 6 hours drive away.

The scenery on the North Island is very different to the South, not as pretty (or at least for the parts we managed to see) but very green nonetheless. After doing a few food and coffee stops (the Kiwis do great coffee, make sure you try their ´flat white´ if you´re over there, it´s like a latte but with more coffee and less milk), we visited the Huka falls for a look. Huka falls aren´t very high or wide, but the volume of water that passes through them is ridiculous (about a quarter of a million litres per second!) and worth experiencing – not somewhere you´d want to fall in.

Huka Falls

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New Zealand – South Island

September 13th, 2008 by Eddie

We only had ten days planned for New Zealand´s South Island and wanted to see a lot so we looked into joining a hop-on hop-off touring bus (after chatting to a few people who´d done the same) and ended up going with Stray. There are quite a few companies that do these trips in New Zealand, but this one had the reputation of having a slightly older crowd (with the average age being about 25 instead of 19 – sometimes when you´re at the other end of your twenties you really notice it!). We and about twelve others were whisked around the South Island over ten days by a bus driver and guide called Spike who proved to be a blessing, as he was an ex-driver for the company who was filling in for someone for a few weeks and didn´t hesitate in telling us what was worth going to see or do and what was a complete rip-off (something that most of the other drivers don´t do apparently). He also had a diploma in Maori and knew every legend and story about the place, kind of like a younger, less hairy Eddie Lenihan ;-)

Dirty Glacier

Ten days to see the main sights of the South Island seemed like a very short time at first, but it worked out pretty well as New Zealand requires a healthy budget if you want to spend any amount of time there. (more…)

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Fabulous Fiji!

August 31st, 2008 by Riona

For some bizarre reason Eddie and I had thought that nine days in Fji might be too long and we had actually considered shortening it, but it wasn’t worth the cost, so off we went over the pacific ocean with very low expectations and absolutely no plan. But after a bumpy start (avoid the tour desk woman in the Nadi Bay Hotel, actually avoid the place in general, stay at the Blue Water Lodge, fabulous place) we developed a love for Fiji. I don’t want this post to go on and on about the places we stayed, so I’m going to bullet point the main things, but basically we loved the place! I can see so clearly why its a honeymoon destination – it is the most relaxing place I have ever been!

Wai Lai Lai Island

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