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The final furlong!

We are currently in a very rainy Buenos Aires. We´ve had a couple of hectic days that have involved far too much political demonstration and not enough shopping and eating....

It took longer to leave Bolivia than expected. Blockades in the South meant that we left via the Salar de Uyuni, a last minute decision and one of the best tours we´ve done during the trip. This involved travelling across an area of the Bolivian altiplano that is covered in vast dried salt beds, multi coloured lakes, flamingo´s and volcanoes. It is like travelling through a Salvador Dali painting. Mind blowing. It was a great way to leave Bolivia.

Our time in Argentina has been brief but interesting. Three days constant bus travel took us via Salta for one night in the North East of Argentina and then to Buenos Aires two days ago. We fly home at midday tomorrow!

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In the picture

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Bolivian Immigration

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Salt Flat Freeze!

We think this last photo adequately somes up our feelings about our journey.......

Hasta Luego from South America.

Jim and Han XX

Posted by TheBones 15:50 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

South America

Santiago - La Paz

Hola!

After leaving Fiji very early in the morning, we caught a flight to Auckland to wait a good few hours before our flight to Santiago, the capital of Chile, eventhough this was practically a 24hr journey, due to time differences we arrived at lunchtime the same day!! Needless to say this played havoc with our body clocks.

We decided it was now time to make a conserted effort to learn some spanish! Our phrasebook was put to very good use that first week as virtually nobody understands English. With this newly found worldlyness we managed to efficiently order a KFC for dinner and purchased a bottle of wine for around a pound, this would do for one day!

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Santiago, the smog, the Andes

Fortunately, we were staying at a hostel run by a legendery bloke named Pato who gave us many tips on latin american attitude, language and made some top notch pisco sours (a cocktail made from grape based spirit and lime)! Aswell as this he let us tag along when he went to the market and generally made us feel very welcome. It turns out that Jim looks Chilian, which was a bonus when trying to act non-gringo!

After a fun acclimatisation period in Santiago, we took a 30hr (!) bus ride North to a town called Arica near the Peruvian border. During this we travelled through the Attacama Desert said to be the worlds driest area where there are places that rainfall has never been recorded!

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A roadside shrine in the Attacama desert

Our original plans had included heading into Peru.... our bank balance suggested otherwise. So from here we went straight to Bolivia where are currently staying in La Paz, the highest capital city in the world at nearly 4000m above sea level. The lack of oxygen at this altitude can take some getting used to and a couple of days of taking it easy were needed. When we originally thought of coming to Bolivia, it was to definitely make a journey into the amazon basin and this is what we have recently returned from.

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The La Paz perspective!

To get to the Amazon basin from La Paz you can either take a 20hr bus ride along the most dangerous road in the world or take a 40 minute ride in a twenty seater plane. Despite Jims misgivings about flying the extra dosh for the plane ride was clearly the wiser choice. So after a stunning flight over the Bolivian Andes we could see the basin stretch out some 3000m below. After cutting through the clouds we could see the Amazon tributaries curling around beneath us! We landed on a grass runway and went through the little wooden jungle airport and then caught a bus to Rurrenebaque which is the base town for various tours out into the jungle and "pampus" areas. Our tour was to the pampus which is a rainforest wetland area generally accessed by motor canoe.

The following morning we met up with the rest of our group at the tour office and then bundled into an aging jeep to make the bumpy 4hr ride to the river. Here we helped load all the provisions into a canoe and bought supplies for the evenings. As soon as we set off we saw alligators, black caymans, paradise birds, terapins, capybaras (the largest rodent in the world) and eventually pink river dolphins! The amount of wildlife in this area is staggering. After a further 4hrs of cruising along the Yakuma River we arrived at our riverside lodge.

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The capybara - You´ve got to love ´em!

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Prize winning pirahna!

The next three days were spent hunting anacondas, pirahna fishing, going on night cruises and swimming with the river dolphins!!! This was all mind blowing plus our group all got on really well which made it the perfect tour.

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What just brushed passed my leg?

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Our group out side the lodge with our guide Uri

We were all still in high spirits back in Rurrenabaque when Jim was struck down with his first dose of Bolivi-belly shortly before we were supposed to get our return flight. Fortunately medication and TLC admistered by Han meant that he hobbled along to the airport just in time. Hurrah!

We are now back up top in La Paz and planning our last couple (?) of weeks that will lead us to glory into Argentina and the fair Buenos Aires.

Mucho Amo Amigos,

J&H XX

Posted by TheBones 13:15 Archived in Bolivia Comments (3)

Fiji

Bula! Welcome to our slightly late Fiji blog...

We left New Zealand in high spirits having had a splendid time, added to the thought of the impending tan top up we would recieve in Fiji.....

Not quite.

Our flight out of Auckland was delayed for nearly five hours without reason or apology. Nice! We arrived just as the travel agents were closing in Nadi airport... our travel/accomodation plans at this stage were flimsy at best. Fortunately we were met by a very large friendly chap in a skirt who took us back to his office and booked our entire trip for us. His name was Francis and he had the most calming voice we have ever heard. A tranquil nature that we discovered is common amongst fijians.

The next morning we boarded a speedy catamaran to make our way to the furthest of the Yasawas group of islands. The sun shined for the entire four hours of this journey and then stopped! It didn´t reappear until we got back on the same boat to return four days later. Despite this we were staying at a very chilled out resort called Nabula Lodge. We set about readjusting to "Fiji time" which runs at about half the speed of "English time".

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Our "bure"

The night we arrived we were treated to a lovu(?) meal, which is cooked in hole dug in the sand covered in palm leaves so that everything smokes together. Tasty. We also took part in Bula dancing each night with Jim forming the head of the snake dance more than once! Aswell as this we got to try Kava, which is a local custom of serving a mildly narcotic muddy looking root drink to newcomers that is said to ward off any bad spirits! Attending the sunday church service was amazing as we got to go to the local village and see some very cute kids and hear some very impressive singing!

We met some great people while on the island and still managed some snorkelling between rain showers at a great beach just around from the bay we were staying in.

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Our island buddies

We spent one further night in Nadi at a hostel owned by a fantastic slightly crazy lady called Mamma.

Then we began our mammoth journey to South America!

J & H XX

Posted by TheBones 11:45 Archived in Fiji Comments (0)

New Zealand

A month on the road

Our flight from Sydney landed in Christchurch on the south island where we picked up our sizable camper van. We headed South straight away to the Mount Cook National Park region. This would be the first of the many impressive national parks we visited in the country. The weather was bright and clear and the autumn colours were absolutely amazing. The photography began in earnest as Jim was seemingly determined to get to triple figures with pics as soon as possible (watch out - there's a lot of mountains to look at when we get back!).

We were now in complete control of our culinary needs. Supplies were bought. Much can be achieved with a tin of tomatoes and some chilli and garlic.

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Quite a view from the campsite

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Another "fresh" morning.

The south island is rugged to say the least. A spine of mountains seperates the landmass that is evidence of it's position above some serious tectonic action. Our plan was to drive through these areas stopping to walk whenever we felt like it. Firstly it's free and secondly we were both in dire need of some exercise. Walkers are very well catered for by the Department of Conservation with loads of tracks running through the parks plus there are campsites with "basic facilities" (a composting toilet hidden behind a bush - gets a bit spooky in the dead of night).

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Us and Mt Cook

We gradually made our way to Milford Sound - one of the gems of the South which is in the Fjordland, an enormous national park that takes up the entire south western corner of the island. It was unfortunately surrounded in mist when we got there. The good thing is that the journey is always just good as the destination in this place. We walked up a mountain instead!

Our route took us along the South coast Via a place called Bluff which is famous for its oysters (jim ordered one with our fish and chips and it came deep fried - nice). We made lots of stops along the way to look at things including a petrified forest, some penguins and a sealion asleep in some long grass.

A place that Jim had been to 10years ago on his first trip was the Fox Glacier. We made the journey to the north west coast and spent an afternoon hiking up to the terminal face and walking on the ice! From here we made our way to Picton and caught the ferry to Wellington.

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On the Fox Glacier - Mint ;-)

After a rocky crossing over the Cook Strait (8m swell - that's big) we arrived on the North island and the rains greeted us. Apparently we had just arrived after their hottest summer for 100yrs! Anyway this did not deter us...much. As you can see from the pics below, it wasn't all rain and the ridiculously rolling green countryside is great fun to drive through. As the driver for most of this Jim perfected a swift jerk of the neck movement to take in the many views as safely as poss.

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We dropped in on quite a few Lord of the Rings filming sites as they are all over the place and marked on the map. The most spectacular being the site of Mount Doom which is a volcano in Tongariro National Park. We would have put a pic in but we've now exceeded our monthly upload limit.

We pretty much limited ourselves to one decent activity per island. Rafting in Rotorua was top of the list in the North. We did this on the Kaituna river that flows through gorges and plantlife, it was pretty swollen due to the amount of rain they'd had. The rapids include the highest commercially rafted waterfall in the world at 7m!

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One of the finest days we had on the North island was in a place called Raglan on the West coast but two days ago. It's a pretty bohemian town by kiwi standards and is one of their best surfing venues. The weather was great and the main beach called Manu Bay is staggering with chocolate brown sand. Jim managed to hire a surf board and wetsuit and spent five hours(!) trying to surf (with some success) and Han spent the day relaxing in peace!

We say goodbye to NZ tomorrow and head to Fiji for a few days (!) to try and regain some tan before the last leg of the journey.......

Us x x

Posted by TheBones 00:17 Archived in New Zealand Comments (4)

Australia - East coast and out

After the Whitsundays epic we journeyed further down the coast to Hervey Bay, 'The Gateway to Fraser Island". Cos we're posh, we decided to hire a 4x4 of our own to get around the island on. It is the norm to join a group of 9-12 well meaning backpackers in a large wagon and bounce around for three days. We are too old/stubborn. So... we got the keys to what would be named "The White Buffalo" and took the beast to Woolworths to stock up on supplies. This didn't mean we bought a job lot of budget trainers and some penny sweets..Woolies is an actual supermarket in this country. We took the ferry across nice and early in order to make the most of our two day adventure.

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Jim with Buff

The island is the largest sand island in the world and is the only one of it's kind to support such varied habitats. This includes dense rainforest, swamps, fresh water lakes and expansive beaches. The largest beach - '75 mile beach' is seventy five miles long! Either side of low tide it is used as the main highway for the island and also as an airstrip so it's best to keep an eye in the rearview for a landing plane - seriously.

Much fun was had driving along the beach and the soft sandy forest tracks visiting the lakes and lookouts. We spent the night parked up at the back of the beach. With a strong wind coming in off the sea and dark closing in we had a surprisingly succesful barbecue of kangaroo steaks and stir fried veg. Instead of putting up the tent in the gale, we decided to sleep in the back of the buffalo. Besides, Hannah was convinced that we would be mauled by dingoes despite not seeing one the entire time we were there! The only injury she did sustain was when the wind blew the essky (icebox) lid into her poor nose. Anyway... we loved it.

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Han at Lake McKenzie

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Our beach spot

Further down the coast, we spent two nights in Noosa, an upmarket surfer town. Here we saw retired bank managers cutting gracefully through the waves. An inspiring sight. It rained constantly for the time we were there, this however was not going to stop us from going Koala bear spotting! We spent four hours walking around the Noosa Head National Park with not a single sighting. Bless 'em.

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Koala spotting...or not

Something we had been looking forward to doing was meeting up with some friends that we had met in Thailand. Giving them very short notice we turned up in Brisbane for a couple of days to catch up. We were treated to a guided tour of their fine city and entertained both nights! Thanks Emma and Darren ;-) Needless to say we really enjoyed Brizzy and would liked to have been able to stay longer. Alas we pressed on...

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Bris Vegas

Byron Bay is a hippy stronghold from way back when hippies were real. It is also a fine place for surfing. So we decided to treat ourselves to a half day surf lesson. Again the weather had been unkind most of the time but the sun was shining on our wetsuited backs that day. Han was convinced that she would not be able to get the hang of it but after two waves had already stood up! Gnarly. Fortunately we have photos to prove that we performed heroically on waves of up to 500mm. A day was spent on the beach before heading off again for the bright lights of Sydney.

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Whoa! Dude! The guy came off worst.

Another enriching overnight coach ride took us the remaining distance to Australias largest city. We had booked ahead for once and had managed to find a gem of a backpackers in the formerly infamous Kings Cross area. We'd scheduled a week to play with here and immediatly set about buying some warmer clothes and footwear. We realised that we may well have seen the last of the hot weather up there nearer the equator. Flip flops were no longer de riguer. Hannahs new Ugg boots have possibly been the best money we have spent as a couple as her mood is directly related to her level of warmth.

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Two of the things we'd decided to do while in Sydney were a Blue Mountains trip (Jims idea) and a Hunter Valley wine tour (guess). Unfortunately the weather wasn't great for the Blue Mountains although what we did see through the fog was very impressive. The wine tour on the other hand was a roaring success! Our driver was very amusing and we got to taste and learn about a wide array of different wines. Tiring work as I'm sure you can imagine.

One of the essentials while in Sydney is to take the Manly Ferry from circular quay over to Manly beach. You get a spectacular view of the harbour as you float passed the opera house with the bridge (coathanger - as the aussies call it) in the background. Manly beach is one of the most famous in oz. Jim took the opportunity to have a second surf lesson. Hannah was charged with the task of capturing her man in action although it turned out that half the pictures were of the wrong bloke! That evening we booked our campervan for New Zealand and celebrated with fish n' chips.

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Strong currents give rise to a large exhale.

More site seeing took us to the end of our Australian leg. A beautiful and expensive place which we enjoyed immensely...

Us xx

Posted by TheBones 20:36 Archived in Australia Comments (2)

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