A couple of days in Sucre, a pretty Andean town at 2,700m, were a welcome break from bus trips and flights. The air was cool and dry but the sun still warm as we explored the cobbled streets with colonial buildings. Bolivians seem to like their marching bands and we stumbled across one following a statue of Jesus (and a little angel?) through the streets.
We didn’t suffer any adverse side effects of the altitude, but did suffer our first freezing cold showers – something we’ll no doubt be getting used to! A couple of Germans we met getting off the plane in Sucre became our travelling companions for these days and as we set off for Uyuni and the Salt Flats. We soon came to rely on their Spanish abilities as they went a bit beyond our “hola” and “hablo ingles?”!
Our bus trip from Sucre to Uyuni was uneventful, apart from a stopover in Potosi, the highest city in the world, where Lizzy was verbally accosted by a drunk Bolivian man who seemed to take objection to her having curly, blond hair.
WOW! Definitely one of the most impressive sights we’ve ever seen. Hundreds of waterfalls thundering down into a chasm of whiteness. It was utterly awesome – if only our photos did it justice. Thankfully one of the staff at the hostel we stayed in gave us loads of excellent advice about which parts of the falls to do and when. First, we did the Brazilian side of the falls (the falls span the border between Brazil & Argentina), and ended up getting about 8 buses taking nearly 3 hours to cross the border and get there. Being a little wiser to the process with the local buses after our earlier experience, on the way back we took only 3 buses and under 1 hour – phew! We had a fabulous time on both the Argentinean (definitely the better) side and Brazilian side, walking, spotting monkeys in the trees, trying to identify other strange animals and looking at the most amazing array of waterfalls pretty much anywhere in the world. All in all, two very excellent but very long, hot and sweaty days – we have no doubt this will be one of the highlights of our trip.
After a surviving the taxi ride to the hostel, and having a slightly hysterical jet-lagged laugh at a sign in our room saying “I would like to wash my shits thank you” (we presume it was meant to be sheets) we went out for a wander. Unfortunately, the first trip was cut short by a bird poo’ing on Lizzy’s head (punishment for laughing at the sign perhaps?) but the second attempt, after a quick wash, was worth it as we stumbled across a carnival that was going on in the centre which was pretty impressive. Not as impressive as the antiques market we went to the following day though. Hundreds of street performers (opera singers, tango dancers, drummers, ventriloquists, human statues to name a few), market stalls- a proper cacophony of noise and colour for which BA no doubt gets its reputation for being such a cool, vibrant and arty place to be.
A Tango show was next on the agenda, though our attempts to re-enact weren’t quite so graceful :-S. Then the following morning we bussed our way (all the guide books advise against walking) to La Boca for some ‘shanty chic’ (well, shanty’s probably an exaggeration but the buildings are very run down, particularly outside of Caminoto road itself). They have painted all the buildings bright colours here meaning it was photogenic even in the drizzle that was coming down most of the day.
Another must-do was ticked off the list when we visited the cemetery in La Recoleta district – it’s like a small town of mausoleums – an oddly impressive and eerie place. Evita is entombed here which draws the crowds, but it seemed notable even without that.
As we write this we are in the first few minutes of what we hope will be less than 18 hours of a bus ride from Buenos Aires to Puerto Iguazu. In summary we found Buenos Aires to be a vibrant, arty and attractive place – definitely one of the nicer cities we’ve visited on our travels.
Just over two years ago, we arrived in New Zealand not really sure what to expect or whether we would settle in this strange country where it’s not uncommon to see people walking around with no shoes on and where speaking the native language sounds like you could be swearing a lot of the time. Whatever we imagined, we didn’t expect to fall in love with New Zealand or to make so many amazing friends and wonderful memories. In the two years we’ve been here we’ve seen some of the most beautiful places on earth, we’ve lived beach-front and enjoyed the most amazing sunrises, swims and general beach living we could ever have hoped for. We’ve hiked on glaciers, volcanoes and mountains, been campervanning, camping and car camping (!), swam with dolphins, surfed at Piha, SCUBA’d at the Poor Knights, been whale watching (and inflatable whale rescuing for Lizzy), celebrated with the rest of the nation as the mighty All Blacks won against France in RWC 2011 (thank goodness!), enjoyed several trips to nearby Waiheke island with all its vineyards, had lots of BBQs, nights and days out and in short have made the most of every opportunity we’ve had. Whilst our time in New Zealand has been some of the best years of our lives, we’re both really looking forward to seeing family and our UK friends. We’re also looking forward to cold Christmases, proper pints (that’s for Alex not Lizzy), the BBC, good chocolate (thanks to all our dealers that have kept us supplied whilst we’ve been away 🙂 ), shorter days (none of this 8am start business), affordable decent clothes and shoes and generally seeing all the places that we used to go.
And have we changed much? Hmm… we don’t really think so but I guess it’s hard for us to tell in some ways – you’ll have to let us know what you think. One of the biggest things would have to be that Alex now knows what he wants to do for a career and has proven to himself that he can find work enjoyable and rewarding. That and we probably know quite a bit more about wines, say “sweet” often, call flip flops “jandals” and may have become more slack in our driving 🙂
So, here ends our time in New Zealand, now starts our time travelling back (and yes we really have time-travelled. We had a 40-hour 10th March) through South and Central America. Please let us know if you are on the blog e-mailing list from our travels over here and would like to be removed, otherwise we’ll keep sending you our blog entries as we go. If you’ve seen this on Facebook or on the blog itself and would like an email each time one comes through, also let us know. They won’t be as nostalgic (or probably as long) as this entry- we promise 🙂
Here are a few final photos of our last few days in NZ… we’ll be putting all our photos here on Picasa.
Famous for whales, dolphins and Albatros, Kaikoura must have been a tiny village no-one had ever heard of before they realised that close to the shore, there’s a deep ocean ridge which brings all the ocean’s big stuff within easy reach. After debating for several hours, we chose to swim with dolphins rather than to go whale watching. The dolphins are of course wild and the boats aren’t allowed to do anything to attract them so after a sickening few hours (oh yes it was rough- but fortunately we’d both taken the Kaikoura Cracker beforehand so no buckets were required by us) we spotted around a hundred. We jumped into the water and were straight into singing mode to attract them- Don’t think I’ve ever sung anything so badly but the dolphins seemed to like it and would appear a few feet in front of us out of the murky water, circle us and then swim off. It was a bit surreal because the water visibility was so bad that it was a bit freaky seeing nothing and then suddenly being within touching distance of a few big dolphins- still pretty cool though. Wonder what else we were close to that we couldn’t see!!
So, whale watching is on the list of things to do in the future… although we’re reliably told that Orcas (killer whales) circle the bay where we’ll be living, so maybe we won’t even have to pay to see them!
The Marlborough sounds have such a convoluted coastline (think fingers of coastline pointing out to sea) that it took us a pretty much a day to drive half way up one of them. We collected another hitchhiker en-route who’d gotten so disorientated by the sounds (because until you can see the end of them, both directions look the same) that after one day walking, woke up and walked back in the direction he’d come from for 4 hours by mistake- oops. Having said it’s disorientating, he didn’t seem to be the sharpest tool in the shed as he was carrying an 80kg rucksack with him including a four person tent…
Anyway, the next day we spent cycling round the vineyards in Renwick and after that, we weren’t too sharp either (no comments about Lizzy never having been sharp please!). We’d managed 12 vineyards in 5 hours- tasting about 60 wines (Don’t worry parents- they really were only little tastes!) . A small vineyard called Gibson Bridge was our favourite- everything we tasted was amazing and no, it wasn’t the last one we went to!
We spent the night at Robin Hood Bay – it didn’t remind us of Nottingham in any way other than the name.
We spent two days and nights in this northern coastal area, mainly walking parts of the coastal route and taking in the views- which of course where stunning (starting to sound like a broken record I know but it’s true). Unfortunately, due to the camera having an impromptu swimming lesson, we had very few photos from our first day’s walk as we left it to recover (it didn’t seem to like swimming much as it gave us all sorts of funny pictures after it’s little dunk). Fortunately, it decided to forgive us and the next day it was back to normal working order, and we were able to avoid getting camera number 3! (yep- we have got through 1 waterproof one and 1 normal one already). Abel Tasman is probably the place we’d most likely go back to for a summer hol. as there’s just so much to see here and it’s all beautiful!