A Travellerspoint blog

Patagonia

A Freezing Summer in South America

semi-overcast 18 °C
View RTW - South America & RTW - Australia on MyriandKodi's travel map.

For our first week in Chile we had rented a comfortable small apartment in Santiago, where we stayed over New Years.
After three months of campervaning (with short intermezzos in tents and hostels...) we TOTAL DOLL enjoyed the small comforts of our own living space, kitchen and TV.
We went to markets to enjoy the local sea food and shop fresh ingredients four our own cooking.
New Years Eve we celebrated twice, once in GMT+1, watching the gigantic golden ball drop at Place de Sol, Madrid; thanks to satellite TV and TVE. We even had our traditional twelve grapes at the tolls of the Spanish bell. Then we had a delicious home made dinner. The second New Years we spent four hours later on the roof of our apartment building, where we met about one hundred other tenants BBQing, drinking and dancing...
IMG_6408.jpgIMG_6409.jpgIMG_6432.jpgIMG_6449.jpg

After Santiago we spent a few days in beautiful Valparaiso. Paradise Valley has earned it's name. Cobbled stoned streets with colourful houses hug the hills around a natural harbour. We spent a few relaxed days before boarding a bus to the south, Patagonia was calling!
IMG_6477.jpgIMG_6457.jpgIMG_6479.jpgIMG_6481.jpg
Chile is divided in four regions, the north, the centre, the south and ... Patagonia!, which is the several thousand kms of mountains fjords and islands, glaciers, seals and penguins that can be found south of Southern Chile...

We arrived at its northern end, Puerto Montt, by bus. From here we took our first of many ferries to the tranquil islands of Chiloe. After the busy cities of Santiago and Valparaiso we enjoyed our first few days of Patagonia's laid back lifestyle and beautiful landscape. We also tasted delicious local specialities, like seafood with sausage and boiled potato...

We took a 24h ferry From Quellon to Puerto Chacabuco, close to Coyhaique the centre of the Carretera Austral.
On this trip we got our first taste of the Patagonian time difference. We arrived with a light delay caused by unfavourable tides, after about 40h on the boat. The bunk beds were booked out and the seats rather uncomfortable, so we made our beds on the floor.
IMG_6515.jpgIMG_6528.jpgIMG_6532.jpg

La Carretera Austral

The Carretera Austral is a rather famous road, that rumbles for 1500km from Puerto Montt southwards to the Southern Glacial Field. The locals are rather separated from the rest of Chile. The further south you travel the less the signs of civilisation become. The last few hundreds km's are all on gravel, It's end, Villa O'Higgins not much more than an agglomeration of a hand full sheds. When visiting the local grocery shop, one realizes how far off one is. The vegetables on sale were onions, potatoes and peppers. The fruit: pears. Quite different from the filled shelves we are used to from home. Well, if the locals need something special they travel to the next bigger village, Cochrane, 300km of gravel and a one hour ferry ride to the north, where they can find a general store, selling everything from foodstuffs to chain saws, from medicine to wood ovens...
IMG_6560_pano.jpgIMG_6634.jpgIMG_6705.jpgIMG_6718.jpg

From Villa O'Higgins, the plan was to take two ferries, a bus, a couple of horses and do a 12km hike to cross the border towards Argentina. After a beautiful crossing of Lago O'Higgins with Amazing views of it's glacier we were told that the horses would have the day off or something. So we had to take a Jeep instead (after we spent the night in a nice local Hospedaje). The actual crossing we did on foot.
The next surprise awaited us at Lago de Desierto: The ferry is broken and probably won't go today... You might have to overnight on this side of the lake somehow... No there is no beds for rent. No idea where you can sleep...
We were very happy when the ferry arrived in the end to take us to the other side and a bus to El Chalten.
IMG_6810.jpgIMG_6818.jpgIMG_6834.jpgIMG_6839.jpgIMG_6847.jpgIMG_6853.jpg

Argentina

El Chalten is a nice little touristy town and considered Argentina’s Trekking-Mekka. We enjoyed the Argentinian beef, the local beer and the overall availability of everything a tourist wishes for.
We did two beautiful day trips around Cerro Fitz Roy before heading on to El Calafate.
IMG_6887.jpgIMG_6901.jpgIMG_6916_pano.jpgIMG_6922.jpg

El Calafate, another little town catering for tourists. We only tackled the main attraction: Perito Moreno (and some more Argentinian beef).
The glacier Porito Moreno is an amazing white tongue of ice and snow, stretching out of the southern glacial field into a beautiful lake in Argentina.
The 60m high ice wall is a stunning sight, but the sound track makes it even more impressive. The glacier is creaking and rumbling, as it slowly melts in the sunshine. Hundreds of spectators don't take their eyes of it, waiting for the moment when once again one of the ice towers tumbles in to the water.
IMG_6941.jpgIMG_6948.jpg

The next day we took a bus back to Chile, but this time to the part of Patagonia south of the huge glacial field, that forbids overland travel from northern to southern Patagonia in Chile. We arrived in Punta Arenas, Chilean Patagonia's capital.
Near to Punta Arenas we had a very special encounter with Patagonia's wild life. We visited Isla Magdalena, a penguin colony about an hours boat ride from Punta Arenas.
On Isla Magdalena we could chatter away with the approximately 60'000 couples of Magellan Penguins that stay there to breed in the summer, before heading north to Brazil to spend the winter in warmer waters.
IMG_6958.jpgIMG_6960.jpgIMG_6967.jpgIMG_6982.jpgIMG_6993.jpgIMG_7011.jpg

After a few days in Punta Arenas we boarded a Broom ferry to Isla Navarino, the southernmost point of our travels. On the 30h cruise through Patagonia's channels. We enjoyed the ever changing scenery, green hills, rocky cliffs, a labyrinth of waterways and in between a handful of startling blue glaciers.
IMG_7026.jpgIMG_7030.jpgIMG_7263.jpgIMG_7268.jpg
The wild life delivered further entertainment; penguins, seals and sea birds abound. And as a highlight, Myriam saw a black and very big fish. Ah, not a fish, it was a mammal indeed! Sadly it was gone within a few seconds, so that Andreas didn't get more than a glimpse of it's back.
IMG_7215.jpg

Isla Navarino

Puerto Williams on Isla Navarino is about 20km south of Ushuaia in Argentina, which claims the title "World's southernmost town"... It's mainly a naval base plus civilian appendage, a few fisherman and approximately three B&B's. There is not much to see, but the world's southernmost yacht club and a beautiful museum about the indigenous. The life of these people wheeled around the fire that kept them alive in this freezing landscape. When Magellan upon discovering these islands saw their fires from afar, he called them Tierra de Fuego, "Land of Fire".

Our main reason to visit Isla Navarino was the rugged mountains in it's centre, las Dientes de Navarino, "Navarino's Teeth". An (according to our guide book) easy five days trek leads around the teeth. The challenge lying mainly in it's remoteness, we would have to sustain ourselfs without any civilisation, carrying tent and food for the five days. So we rented a nice wind proof four seasons tent, sleeping mats, warm sleeping bags and what else one needs on such a trip and set off. Luckily the nice guy at the rental shop also gave us a compass: the trek turned out to be much less well signed than hoped...
IMG_7305.jpg

The Circuito Dientes de Navarino started with a very long day, climbing up through forests that slowly recede. After a few more kilometres through moss the ground turns to rubble. And not a signpost to be seen in miles and miles... Throughout the trek the sights where stunning, on the first day of the Beagle Channel, which separates Chile and Argentina, later of the rugged Navarino Teeth.
IMG_7320.jpglarge_IMG_7307_pano.jpg

Our well tried diet of porridge, muesli bars and pasta kept us going, the water from the countless rivers is clear and drinkable.
Once again, the feeling of leaving civilisation kicked in. In five days we met seven other human beings To be away from all man made noise is a relief. The easy routine, having breakfast, breaking camp then walking, climbing through a beautiful landscape to reaching the next camp site, setting up tent and enjoying a well deserved hot meal before falling asleep shortly after dusk... All this is a welcome change from the bustle of civilisation.
IMG_7367.jpgIMG_7389.jpgIMG_7412.jpgIMG_7423.jpg

The only buildings to be seen were countless beaver dams. Introduced in the 19th century, these cute beasts have become a pest. Huge areas of destroyed forests filled with dead white trees create an eerie, ghostlike atmosphere.
On the third day we got lost for an hour or so. The weather changed between snow and fog, reducing the visibility, which made it hard to navigate with our rather bad map. The compass saved us here, as we knew the rough heading of the trail from a textual description of the trek.
IMG_7457.jpgIMG_7450.jpg

On the fourth day we feared for our lives (or at least for the health of our legs) as we descended about 300m through a steep rubble field. In parts we switched from walking to sliding down the slope.
IMG_7466.jpg

We returned dirty and smelly, tired, exhausted and very happy to Puerto Williams Seven kilometres before reaching town a small truck gave us lift. Enjoying the views of Beagle Channel and Argentina without having to use our feet was a welcome change. And the prospect of a hot shower in our cute hospedaje in Puerto Williams made us even happier (not to talk mention the toilet, the soft bed and the big chunk of meat that were waiting for us).
IMG_7473.jpgIMG_7478.jpg
large_IMG_7437_pano.jpg

To add some glamour to our travels, we celebrated our return from the wilderness in the yacht club, a grounded german river boat, with pisco sours and three co-survivors.
IMG_7486.jpgIMG_7490.jpg

Ushuaia

The next day we took a boat to Argentina. Ushuaia is much more lively than Puerto Williams, were we had had our lunch in the same/only restaurant every day. We tried to go for a few hikes around town, but our legs turned out to be too lazy for anything but a short stroll.
We spent the days talking to other travellers and making plans for the next part of our trip. On February 2nd we boarded a flight to Buenos Aires (the 40h bus ride would have been more expensive...).
IMG_7501.jpg

Posted by MyriandKodi 06:18 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Down Under

Two Islands on the other side of the world

overcast 20 °C
View RTW - South America & RTW - Australia on MyriandKodi's travel map.

Weeeell, we already arrived in Brazil.
Having left NZ eight weeks ago it might be time to update our blog a bit. And as we are a bit lazy at the moments we'll spare you the big words and tall thoughts and just treat you to some Pictures. Mainly. So that one of the next days we'll still have the time to write about Chile and Argentina. Maybe ;-).

We only had three weeks to explore the two islands, south to north, enjoying the freedom of campervaning. A total of 4000km on winding roads meant a lot of time on the streets, but also just a lot of awesome scenery while driving.

Here are our high lights:

Southland

We arrived in Christchurch, which is still under construction. The central km² with the nice old town is not accessible, we left the next day for Dunedin.
IMG_6278.jpg

Dunedin's main attraction for us was the Otago Peninsula with lots of great wild life:
Seals, Dolphins, Sea Lions, two kinds of Pinguins, huge Albatrosses and hundreds of other birds live on and around the peninsula. And sheep. Lots of sheep. The nicest corner of this nicest corner of Southland is Sandfly Bay, distinguishable by Christmas Hats and lots of flying sand.
IMG_5905.jpgIMG_5938.jpgIMG_6033.jpgIMG_6141.jpgIMG_6100.jpgIMG_6103.jpgIMG_6106.jpgIMG_6114.jpgIMG_6065.jpgIMG_6153.jpglarge_IMG_6148.jpg

From Otago we made a round around the rest of the South island: Milford Sound, Queenstown, Mount Cook, up the east coast and across the channel. We stayed in lots of free camping places in stunning settings. One evening we met a couple of french on one of these. They went to the ocean with an empty bucket and returned with a few kilos of mussels. Tastiest free dinnner of the hole whole trip!
IMG_6311.jpgIMG_6313.jpg
IMG_6180.jpgIMG_6184.jpgIMG_6214.jpgIMG_6243.jpg
IMG_6258.jpgIMG_6273.jpg
IMG_6279.jpgIMG_6289.jpg
...and more sheep...
large_IMG_6262.jpg

Northland

The northern island is more populated and a little less ruggy than the southern. We took it in a bit of a rush, just peeking at Wellington, Napier and some volcanoes before we headed for Auckland, where we met Andreas Cousin Stefan.
IMG_6331.jpgIMG_6335.jpgIMG_6386.jpgIMG_6369.jpg

We spent Christmas on a nice camping on the beach. Sun, sand, BBQ. And red hats. Merry Xmas!
large_IMG_6378.jpg

Posted by MyriandKodi 04:43 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Meet the locals II

Wild (and some tame) life down under / Part II: Biggish cities, Tasmania and the East Coast


View RTW - Australia on MyriandKodi's travel map.

Melbourne

While the others had a nice 8h bus trip back to Alice Springs in front of them we had booked a flight out of minuscule Uluru Airport. We said our goodbyes and boarded our plane to Melbourne. Well, plane to Sydney, actually, where we had a connection to Melbourne. Seeing all the nicely dressed business people was a bit weird. We had been out of western civilisation for a few months (Darwin and Alice hardly count as civilized...) and the people in suits and business dresses reminded us of how lucky we are, to have stepped out of this thread mill for a while. I'm not sure what kind of impression we made on them, Karmen's motto at the Rock Tour had been "You will get smelly, you will get dirty, but it’s so worth it!". Well, we certainly lived up to that...

Back in Melbourne Anna (a friend from back in Barcelona, who has recently moved to Melbourne) waited for us. At her nice home, with red wine, pan tomaca, tortilla de patata and home made Croquetas! Yummi.

So started our short visit in civilisation, we had our first shower in days and then Anna told us, that we were in visited to a party. An opening of a posh stretch of Restaurants and Bars by the river Yarra. And here our problems started. Even after abusing her washing machine, the clothes we found in our backpacks were hardly posh party garb. Well, in the end we made do, Myriam borrowed a nice dress from Anna and Andreas let himself be convinced that, the motto of the party being "Pirates" dressing up in white cotton shorts and short sleeved shirt would do. Well, there was approximately one other person at the party wearing shorts, so he wasn't the only one totally under dressed..

Nevertheless, being on the guest list got us in easily, so we whiled away between Melbourne's bold and beautiful, sipped champagne, accepted hors d’oeuvre and slurped oysters as if we hadn't ever done anything else in our lives.

After a few days in civilization (we really enjoyed staying in a proper home for a change) we moved on to Australia’s southernmost wilderness, Tasmania. We really had enjoyed Melbourne. We didn't do or see too much, just spent our time enjoying the restaurants. We also went for a nice run on the Melbourne GP circuit, to prepare for the city to sea run, which we were planning to do when returning from Tasmania.
In this nice little town, you could really feel that summer was coming, which opens up the people at any end of the world!

Tasmania

We landed in Launceston, with about 50'000 inhabitants Tasmania’s second biggest city. A nice small town, with nice small people. We stayed in Batman Fawkner Inn, a heritage house, in which Mr Batman (not to be confused with his cousin from Gotham City) and Mr Fawkner had decided to found a new city on the mainland. This city was to be called Melbourne later...

Launceston was mainly our stop over to get our equipment for the overland track together. We had our basic tracking gear, but for this six day walk through the wilderness we needed a tent, sleeping bags and mats, cooking utensils, better rain gear and gaiters. We were very happy to find Jenni from Wild Island Adventures. A former trekking guide herself, she now rents out state of the art trekking equipment. And not only that she also had a million good tips for our trip and offered to send all the stuff we didn't want to carry with us to our hostel in Hamilton, where we could also return the equipment. One of the nicest things she gave us on our way were her parting words: I really envy you guys.
We had become a bit nervous, that we might have picked a walk that was too hard for us, so some cheering up helped.

The Overland Track

The Overland Track was the main reason, that had brought to this remote island. It is about 70km long and traverses the Cradle Mountain National Park. The track is at not more than 20km a day not too hard. But it takes you through a region in which the height of civilisation are compost toilets and rain water tanks for drinking water. We mostly slept in simple huts on wooden berths. As there is virtually nothing in terms of resources but water, we had to carry food for seven days (one day as buffer...) with us. We did, especially considering our lack of experience, a very good job with our supplies. Nearly all our food was dehydrated, from milk powder and muesli for breakfast, noodle soup and muesli bars for lunch, to pasta, rice and dehydrated minced meat and peas; the only water we carried outside our drinking bottles was that in a few bags of tomato concentrate, two onions and some garlic.
This way, we where able to keep the weight of our backpacks down to about 12 and 16kg, including tent, etc. (and were the envy of all the other trekkers that we met on the walk). So we were ready to go!
IMG_5029.jpg
The first bit of the track leads through rough alpine terrain. On our first day we walked through sunshine and snow along cradle mountain. After a long day with two long climbs we reached our first hut. And while we did our first look around we saw our neighbours. Wallabieeeees! Grazing directly next to the hut. We jumped to get our camera out!
IMG_5046.jpgIMG_5053.jpgIMG_5063.jpgIMG_5067.jpg

Then we made ourselves comfortable in the primitive but cosy hut. One nice thing about the track is, that most people do it in the same direction and on a similar schedule. So, while you walk on your own, you often meet up with the same people you spent the last night with in the next hut. It being shoulder season we rarely were more than 10 people in the huts. Enough to give us some company and the chance to chat about last days walk and next days plans; but never so many, as to make it crowded.
In one of the following pics you can see, Jason, Steve, Steve, Dave and Alex (and Andreas) whom we also met after the trek in Hamilton, for steaks and lots of drinks.
IMG_5073.jpgIMG_5187.jpgIMG_5199.jpg

During the first few days we were incredibly lucky with the weather. According to the locals it rains 300 days a year in this region. Out of the 60 nice days per year we had four in our week! Our second night we stayed in our rented tent (we had paid for it, so we wanted to at least try it out one!). That night the temperature dropped -5 °C. No problem for us and our sleeping bags! Even if the frozen hatch of the tent opened like a piece of cardboard in the morning we had stayed nice and warm at night!
IMG_5072.jpg
The landscape during the first days really was amazing. But one of the most memorable moments was in the morning of the second day. We had just stopped to look around the gorgeous landscape when we turned around a black snake, about 150cm long, slithered over the path in front of us. Myriam had just time to yell and Andreas time to take one picture before she appeared in the under brush right next to the path.
IMG_5074.jpg
The good thing about Tasmanian snakes is, that there is only three types, which all have the same venom. The not so good thing is that they are all potentially deadly. It wasn't easy to convince Myri that we would not turn around (and quit the whole trip...) and that we would not run past these bushes either, but walk on slowly... The (deadly) black tiger snake probably was several miles away before we passed the bushes nervously...

Apart from this small shock in the morning we enjoyed the walk and the landscape thoroughly. Wide plains, intermingled with rough mountains and deep blue lakes, interchanging with green brown swamps and enchanted forests. The walk offers a new and beautiful view after every other bend...
large_IMG_5123_pano.jpg
IMG_5078.jpgIMG_5098.jpgIMG_5101.jpgIMG_5108.jpgIMG_5111.jpgIMG_5129.jpgIMG_5137.jpgIMG_5158.jpgIMG_5173.jpg
large_IMG_5148_pano.jpg

Only in the last days did it start to rain. One day it was really pouring down on us non stop. In some places the way turned into a small river, in others huge mud puddles appeared. We both sank knee deep into mud several times. Here we were truly happy about our rented (and our own) equipment: We managed to stay relatively dry, even after 10 hours of rain and wading through mud...
IMG_5174.jpgIMG_5176.jpgIMG_5181.jpgIMG_5184.jpgIMG_5204.jpgIMG_5216.jpgIMG_5220.jpgIMG_5228.jpg

After a week of walking we reached Lake St Clair.
large_IMG_5234.jpg
Tired, cold, smelly (did we mention that the huts had nothing but rainwater tanks and NO showers?) and very happy about our adventure. After a first celebration beer, we took the bus to Hamilton, Tasmania’s capital, where we first had a shower and then some meat and quite a bit of celebration wine with the new friends we had met on the track!
large_IMG_5237.jpg

The rest of Tasmania (and a broken ankle)

We rested a couple of days in Hamilton, enjoying cheap oysters and seafood. Then we rent our second camper van to further explore Tasmania. A hippy camper!
large_IMG_5244.jpg
Tasmania is very relaxed regarding free camping. We did not spend a single night in a proper camping. We just explored the beautiful east coast and stopped wherever we liked the view.
IMG_5245.jpgIMG_5249.jpgIMG_5252.jpgIMG_5269IMG_5279IMG_5333IMG_5337
We also visited a nature reserve where we met Tasmanians most famous local, the Tasmanian Devil! Cute little buggers, that look something between a big rat and an aggressive pig, they are now under threat by a contagious form of cancer. 75% of the wild population died during the last few years...

IMG_5304.jpgIMG_5294.jpg
In the reserve and on the road we met some more locals... (the last one is a Echidna, the local version of a hedge hog. But not related at all. His closest relative is Platypus, the "Schnabeltier").
IMG_5301.jpgIMG_5302.jpgIMG_5316.jpgIMG_5366.jpglarge_IMG_5329.jpg

On Nov 6th we did a nice walk to beautiful Wineglass Bay.
IMG_5347.jpg IMG_5363.jpg
For the way back we decided to go for a run, still the preparation for Melbourne's City To Sea run on our mind. After about 500m Andreas stepped on a root and twisted his ankle. Badly. It would later turn out that he had an avulsion fracture of the left ankle. But at that moment we didn't know what it was.
Attrackted by his yell, a couple of helpful people provided us with tape and pain killers.
After cooling the ankle in the freezing ocean Myriam taped it and we started hobbling back the one hour walk over a small mountain. Luckily Douglas, an incredibly helpful young man from Hobart who had seen us shortly after the accident came back to check if everything was OK. It was not... Supported on two sides we went back to the car park. The walk took us two hours.
Douglas then invited us to his "shack", only a few kilometres away. We were happy for the chance to take a shower and just rest on his sofa...
large_IMG_5369.jpg
It was an incredible experience meeting someone who so selflessly helped someone he didn't know at all. So everybody who ready this: send a nice thought to Douglas Finley, maybe it will help him find that final varnish for the perfect violin he is trying to build...

The next day we drove to the next hospital, in Hobart, a good 100km away. There we spent a delighting afternoon waiting. And waiting. And some more... After the diagnosis the doctor wanted to put the broken leg into a plaster. Yes, the white stuff we thought they stopped using ten years ago. Maybe we shouldn't have gone to a public hospital. After a lot of begging a wailing we convinced the doctor that we'd come back the next to to put the foot into a "moon boot" instead. Light, removable, and much better for quick recovery and enjoying our further travels!
Best thing was, that in the hostel we were staying we met Alex and Jason again and had the chance to dance a little...
large_IMG_5372.jpg

The Great Ocean Road

The next day we flew back to Melbourne, where we stayed in the Marriott for a day (to meet Anna and her sister). In Melbourne we hired a car (with automatic transmission, hitting the clutch with a crutch doesn't really work...) and drove down the Great Ocean Road for a few days.

Fantastic landscape and very relaxed locals abound...
IMG_5376.jpg IMG_5377.jpg IMG_5471.jpg IMG_5491.jpg IMG_5526.jpg IMG_5539.jpg IMG_5554.jpg
We spent several hours searching for Koalas. Most of the time you can see nothing but their backsides...

The following Saturday we had to back in Melbourne, where we met Andreas little (not so little any more...) Cousin, Stefan, with whom we were going to spend the next three weeks. On Sunday Myriam and Stefan ran 14km from Melbourne's centre to the ocean "The City to Sea" run is trying to compete with Sydney’s "City to Surf". Well, in Melbourne only about 13'000 runners started, compared to 50'000 in Sydney. Still some way to go.
Andreas did the cheering and documenting, as he could not run too well in his moon boot...
IMG_5566.jpgIMG_5579.jpg

The East Coast

From Melbourne we flew to Cairns where we got ourself our third camper van.
IMG_5615.jpg

From Cairns it took us three weeks to drive down about 2000km of the east coast to Brisbane. One thing that is slightly annoying is, that the ocean up there is really infested with dangerous animals, crocs, stingers and other wild things make for a rather nervous swimming experience.
large_IMG_5626.jpg large_IMG_5628.jpg IMG_5634.jpg

Down the road we saw a lot of beautiful beaches, but also -to our surprise- a lot of beautiful back country national parks. We stayed half of the time in nice (and expensive) private camping places with wifi, pool and all amenities and in the other half in rather basic government run places in national parks. The latter often were only reached by unsealed gravel roads, but in truly beautiful settings.
IMG_5620.jpg IMG_5672.jpg large_IMG_5674.jpg IMG_5726.jpg IMG_5735.jpg IMG_5740.jpg IMG_5779.jpg IMG_5855.jpg

We also spent a couple of remarkable, ah that is AWESOME, days sailing the Whitsunday Islands on "Hammer", an (not so) old racing boat that had been turned in to a tourist haul. Just the feeling of freedom and tranquillity that sailing gives you is wonderful. We left the boat dreaming of doing our next great trip on our own sailing yacht...

IMG_5789.jpgIMG_5828.jpgIMG_5792.jpgIMG_5836.jpg

We spent the days lounging on deck, snorkelling with giant turtles and, yes, doing all our swimming in extremely fashionable "stinger suits", the only protection against poisonous jelly fish... For Andreas it was great, he had visited his first in a series of physios a few days before and had gotten the OK for swimming and snorkelling. Finally out of the boot and some water fun!
IMG_5844.jpgIMG_5824.jpg
On the second evening on board we could watch the dark shapes of dolphins zipping through the water, hunting for squid. Time and again their backs would brake through the surface. The speed of these guys is really amazing!

Sydney

After disposing of Stefan and the camper van in Brisbane (we would meet one of the two again for Xmas in New Zealand!) we flew down to Sydney.
Thanks to the rather bad weather we did neither see nor do much. An evening with Manoj and Divia, two friends who had moved there from India, and one at the Sydney Opera House, where we saw a beautiful one man piece "Story of a Rabbit", were the high lights, before we flew on to New Zealand after only four days.

IMG_5860.jpgIMG_5885.jpgIMG_5889.jpgIMG_5894.jpg

Awesome Australia

Lots of sun shine, the people relaxed and sometimes a bit disconnected from our world, impressive landscape and beautiful beaches. Even one very European city. And so much wild life in all corners. Some dangerous but much of it also very cute. Two month in Australia have made an impression and left much more to explore!

But please, beware, and don't break a leg!

large_IMG_5786.jpg

Posted by MyriandKodi 12:57 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Meet the locals I

Wild (and some tame) life down under / Part I: The sizzling Northern Territory


View RTW - Australia & RTW - Asia on MyriandKodi's travel map.

Darwin

Arriving to Australia was a shock. Not for the heat or humidity (we were used to that from Asia) and neither for culture (Australian cities are much to European to give us culture shock). No, what shocked us were the prices.
After staying in nice hostel rooms for something between 1 and 10€ per night, prices starting at 50€ for a double and 20€ for a bed in a dorm are hard to get used to. Food also is even more expensive than at home. So the first thing we had to get used to was not dining (and lunching, brunching and breakfasting) out any more everyday. Even like this our daily expenses rose from about 20€ to about 60€ per day and person...

Our first taxi ride from the airport (we had tried to take a local bus, but it being a school holiday, there were none...) was with an Indian immigrant. We were able to negotiate a good (non meter) rate. Our Asian experience already started to pay off.

For our first week in Australia we had booked a small camper van to explore the tropical national parks of Australia’s Northern Territories. It was very small indeed, but with a comfortable bed, a small gas cooker and an eski (Aussie for ice box) all we needed.
IMG_4745.jpg

Darwin itself had a very weird atmosphere. On one hand it was a nice American looking small town with lots of green (very hot though).
IMG_4785.jpg IMG_4787.jpg

Then we saw our first Aborigines. They were taller than expected (I guess we had confused them with pygmies, or something...). And they all had a sense of loss around them. Many were sitting somewhere in the shade, drinking booze if they had, or just sleeping, but many others were just walking along the street with an empty expression on their face. To us, they looked like they had lost their way and were trying to find the way home to an Australia that does not exist any more. Next to them the white life goes on as if they didn't exist. Whenever the topic came up in conversations with (white) Australians, they seemed embarrassed and helpless. The government is trying to help them with free flats and monthly payments (i.e. trying to enable them to survive in a westernised world) but one can see, that most indigenous still were far from integrated into the western culture.
Later, in the centre of the continent we saw Aborigines, that were still able to live in their traditional ways, using modern tools, but still following the ways of their ancestors in their semi nomadic lives.

After we got our van (and supplies from the next supermarket) we headed out to Litchfield National Park, were we had our first encounters with Australian wildlife.
IMG_4743.jpgIMG_4741.jpg
Well we didn't see any actual termites, but their mounds can be quite impressive. The mounds in the first picture are called "magnetic". They are flat and are all aligned in the same south-northernly direction, pointing to the magnetic north pole, to improve temperature regulation. They warm up quickly in the morning and stay warm long in the evening, but do not expose too much surface to the hot midday sun.

Btw, the mound behind the small red girl is not magnetic, just big...

The other locals we didn't meet were the crocodiles. All lakes in rivers in the national park have signs along the lines of "There should be no salt water crocodiles present at the moment, but you can never be sure. Be careful." As we learned, in Australia only salt-water crocodiles ("salties") are dangerous to humans. Sweet water crocodiles only eat fish. Most of the time... The problem with the salties is, that during floods, when ocean lagoons and sweet water lakes are connected they tend to immigrate inland. So, as the signs told us, you can never be sure.
Actually, Australia is a big island, surrounded but deadly animals. In the tropical north crocodiles roam the beaches. Along the eastern and western coasts, deadly jellyfish ("stingers") are present during the hot half of the year. During the colder half and along the south coast: sharks. On the mainland you have deadly spiders and venomous snakes. Something like 80% of the worlds deadliest snake species live in Australia (percentage not validated, it's probably more). Well, and if the animals didn't kill you, the heat will...

Well, I digress. Litchfield is one of Australia’s many beautiful national parks. We didn't do too much, just bathed in beautiful (croc-free) pools and met some more locals...
IMG_4765.jpg IMG_4751.jpg IMG_4761.jpg

Alice Springs

From Darwin we took The Ghan to Alice Springs. On the 2000km journey we stopped once, at the one town on the way...
IMG_4788.jpg
Alice Springs is a dusty town at the heart of Australia. It has a river, some Aborigines that tend to sleep in that river and ... Yubb, that's about it. Ah, yes, once a year the Solar Challenge, a 3000km race through central Australia passes through. We only saw some one of last years cars and got some drinking bottles (which accompanied us through the rest of our trip through Australia/NZ), as we were a few days too early for the race.
IMG_4789.jpg IMG_4790.jpg IMG_4792.jpg
After three nights in a nice hostel we boarded a small tour bus to The Rock, about 400km away from Alice.
IMG_4910.jpg

Uluru

Aka Ayers Rock

"The Rock Tour" seems to be what most backpackers seem to book from Alice. We were the oldest of about 13 people from around the world plus Karmen, our excellent Australian tour guide, who drove the bus, entertained us on the trip, set up our camps and cooked for us...

On our first day we visited Kings Canyon, with our first chance of shooting about 1 mio pictures of red "puli" (rock). Micro-, Macro-, MEGA-puli!

Three hours walking in the sun. We were happy to happy to have bought our silly hats... The air was hot and very dry, each of us drank about three litres of water in these three hours.

IMG_4816.jpgIMG_4801.jpg

After another couple of hours of driving (and a visit at a nearly deserted desert bar for beeeeer and a short look at the dead poisonous snake they had killed last night in the bar) we went to the place of our camp for that night. A small flat area in the middle of nowhere. We set up camp, stacked up the wood we had collected earlier and enjoyed Karmens chilli con carne, prepared in big pots over the camp fire!

IMG_4820.jpgIMG_4829.jpgIMG_4975.jpg

That night we slept in "swags", heavy sleeping bags with integrated sleeping mat, under Australia’s desert night sky We've never seen the milky way soo clearly before (yes, they have a milky way, too, down there).
Apart from an ant tribe, which had decided that Andreas face looked like an interesting new place for a grand night out, it was a nice a quiet, if rather cool, night.

On the next day and after a hearty breakfast of muesli, fruits, toast and coffee we set out to visit some bigger Puli. First on the list (Kata Tjuta,which means "Many Heads" in the local Aborigines language). Another long and hot hike took us to the summit with impressive views.

large_IMG_4857_pano.jpg
IMG_4875.jpgIMG_4898.jpg
large_0img_4906_pano.jpg

Well, this all had been nothing but a prelude to the big one...

large_IMG_4907.jpg

In the middle of the desert, the top 350m of a 7km long rock is sticking out of the earth. Its naturally white coloured stone transferred to deep red by the oxcidating iron inside.
The sight from far is impressive, but only upon coming close up its size hits your brain.
We spent several hours walking around Ayers Rock. It's skin is covered in many marks, in which you can read the stories of the local Aborigines. As Uluru is a sacred place to them they ask you not to climb it, especially as it is their duty to look after anyone visiting and they absolutely cannot keep tourists from falling down...

IMG_4928.jpgIMG_4930.jpgIMG_4931.jpgIMG_4994.jpg

In the evening we went to a lookout close by for dinner and lots of sunset shots. Especially two girls from Brazil and Poland went crazy. They must have shot 1'000 pictures of themselves with the rock, each other with the rock, themselves without the rock, the rock with the rock...
Well, it is amazing to watch Uluru change its face every minute, as the evening shadows creep over it, its colour changing through different tones of yellow/orange through ever darker shades of red to black, a small lizard joined us in enjoying the evening sun... Definitely a great place to spend some hours and have some cold beers.
IMG_4948.jpgimg_4950_by_Kay.jpg
large_IMG_4953.jpg

After spending the night in another camp under the stars we returned on the next morning for sunrise over and a closer look at Uluru. The whole place, is really magical. Even if you don’t give too much for the energy of places like this, the atmosphere is truly astounding. For us the slow approach and close contact to the desert in the nights before had surely helped to open us up for this experience. We won't forget our encounter with Ayers Rock easily.
large_IMG_4978.jpg

Posted by MyriandKodi 12:46 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Goodbye Asia

City Lights II

semi-overcast 29 °C
View RTW - Australia & RTW - Asia on MyriandKodi's travel map.

On our way to Australia, we had two last stop overs, Hong Kong and Singapore. Even if we stayed only four days in each we got a first impression. Well, for Myri a third impression of Hong Kong, as she'd been there twice before.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong is crammed with buildings, über modern (there is free wifi in some city buses...) and very commercial. In all the streets neon signs flash at you like in New Yorks Times Square and the malls are endless labyrinths. One of the most amazing things is that you dont really have to go out on the streets, to get from one place to another. All public buildings are connected through covered - and often even closed and climatized - walkways on the second or third floor. It feels like you can walk from one end of the center to the other without ever seeing the sky...

We indulged in a few (free) nights at the Marriott Harbourview. The city centre is so overcrowded, that hostel prices are insane. The nicer places start at about 60€ per night and room, where "room" means 6sqm walk in cabinet without windows...

So we spend a few more of our precious Marriott points and got good value for it: A nice room on the 32nd floor, directly over the Exibition Center in the harbour. The views where spectacular.
IMG_4717.jpgIMG_4685.jpg
On the first evening they celebrated our visit with a huge firework over the water, which we enjoyed with our complimentary Champagne and tapas... (well, maybe the firework also celebrated the Chinese National Holiday...)
IMG_4713.jpg

We didn't do too much in the city, just walked around in the center. On one evening we went out with some local friends of the Velasco sisters. The Hong Kong speciality "Spicey Crab" was delicious.
IMG_4695.jpg

Singapore

In Singapore we did even less than in Hong Kong: Some sport (having inscribed for the Melbourne City2Sea 14km run we stepped up our training programme) and a little sightseeing. The four days passed like one...
IMG_4726.jpg
One really amazing impression that we had in Singapore was that of its internationality. China Town, Little India, lots of immigrants from all over Asia.
IMG_4738.jpg

Goodbye Asia

So, there ended our five month in Asia. A truly amazing time, with lots of culture and history. But most of all with lots and lots of really nice people. Never before in our lives have we been met with so much genuine friendliness. Sure, there where also a lot of people trying to get money out of us, but that seems only natural in countries where so many (relatively) rich tourists come to get milked for their dollars... But apart from these "specialists" in the tourist centres everybody just welcomed us with open arms and went beyond themseves to make our stay in their country a beautiful experience. From the girl selling freshly squeezed fruit juices to the old lady grinning at us from her streetside shop, from the tea house owner in Kathmandu to tea picker in Sri Lanka: Smiles smiles smiles and a warm welcome greeted us everywhere.
It would be a great change if we could welcome strangers in our countries with a quarter of this friendliness.

Australia and South America will have a hard time to compete with the experience we made here!
large_IMG_3658.jpg

Posted by MyriandKodi 20:42 Archived in Hong Kong Comments (0)

(Entries 1 - 5 of 20) Page [1] 2 3 4 »