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Wellington to Picton & Blenheim, South Island - Day 71

Windy Wellington

16 °C

After staying in another paid for campsite last night called Camp Wanui, which was cheap at sixteen dollars and close to Wellington, we drove in Wellington and had a look around. It's not called Windy Wellington for nothing! We only had a time for a walk around the harbour area, but being overcast and very windy, we didn't mind too much.
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The ferry from Wellington to Picton was a steady and easy 3 hour journey. We went out on deck when it wasn't raining to look at the scenery and there were some lovely rainbows.
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At the other side we travelled a short distance towards Blenheim for our camp site by the sea, and on the way we saw some more funny post boxes - this time with faces and made from the outboard motor of a boat?!
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It's noticeably colder here on the South Island, and because we want to keep tent on the back rather than sleep in a stuffy van, we have decided to wear our thermal leggings and long sleeved tops to sleep in...I hope it's not too cold to sleep!
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Posted by staceywaugh 05:42 Archived in New Zealand Tagged bridges buildings boats rainbows post_boxes Comments (0)

Santiago - Day 52 & 53

And relax...

27 °C

We've been having a relaxing time here in Santiago. Yesterday we explored the city a little, taking us to a beautiful cathedral where a ceremony was taking place. It sounds so much more interesting in Spanish!
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A lot of the major buildings we went to see, following the map we had picked up from tourist information, had works being done so we didn't get to see too much. On the way round, we walked straight into a protest or riot! People we're being held off the street and there were so many police and fierce looking riot vans, it was actually a bit scary.
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We spent the afternoon up on the roof, sunbathing and swimming, which was just what we needed. The view from up there was fantastic too. We even came back up later that evening to see the sunset, which was lovely too.
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Shame about the crane in this one!!
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Today we found an Irish pub to watch the England v Wales rugby match in the six nations. I was missing a sunny day for it, but Andrew really wanted to see it so we went. Andrew got us there an hour too early for kick off, but 'coincidentally' Aston Villa were playing at that very time too - good for Andrew, not so much for me! Just before the rugby started the pub got a lot busier, but we were outnumbered massively by Wales fans. As you will all know by now, England lost, the Welsh men and women in the pub were shocked but deliriously happy. We left the pub. Good job Aston Villa had won (minor miracle?) beforehand...

We made the most of the lovely day by exploring a bit more of Santiago, in particular a place called Cerro Santa Lucia, which is a pretty viewpoint out to the city. This must be the place to go if you're courting (as Andrew's Dad would say!), as everyone was cuddling and kissing. So now you know what's going to happen if your Chilean boyfriend takes you to Cerro Santa Lucia in Santiago!
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It was Saturday late afternoon and all the shops in the main area seemed to be almost empty. We wandered down to the main square again and that's where everyone was - it was packed with people watching street artists, musicians, dancers. There was a whole group of people playing chess in a pavilion. It would be so nice (if not slightly damaging to the economy) if more places in English towns and cities were like this!
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Posted by staceywaugh 05:06 Archived in Chile Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises churches buildings skylines landmarks Comments (0)

Valparaiso - Day 47

Very cool Valparaiso

24 °C

We changed rooms this morning so now we have a balcony looking out on to the street and in the distance the port and sea.
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The weather was lovely today, so we went on a free (aside from tips) walking tour of the city, with a Where's Wally guide (stripy tshirt) We met in a square near the port and had an ice cream while we waited for the others tourists to turn up. The tour guide was a Californian girl living in Valparaiso and she took us to the port, telling us the importance of it for Valparaiso, showed us the buildings and statues in the square and took us down an old 'wealthy' streets that are now almost derelict. We even had a dog follow us for this first bit.
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Because the city is built on a hill, there are ascensors (wooden elevators) everywhere but only a few now work, which is a shame as I am sure some of the older people living here struggle to get around or have to pay for taxis. You can see from the picture of the steps why you need them! We took an ascensor to the top of a hill and the view out to sea and along the coast was really pretty.
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The buildings on the hills are colourful, apparently painted years ago using left overs from the ships and now the city is a unesco site it has to keep this way. I love it went seaside buildings are painted this way, it gives them real character.
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I tried to take a picture of all the colourful houses on the hill above, but this cute couple caught my eye <3
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The guide stopped us at the door of a man who sells alfajores - a biscuit, best described by saying its a Wagon Wheel without the marshmallow but with caramel - and we all had one for free (she must pay him later on her tips) and you could buy more if you liked.
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Street art is massive here in Valparaiso and you can see it almost everywhere. We were told that people were tagging houses here (that rubbish spray painting of your name), so the homeowners have been paying street artists to create something on the side of their house instead as taggers won't spray over art out of respect. The first couple of pictures here are from the 'wealthy street', a roof from the viewpoint at the top of the ascensor and from the down the alley near the man selling alfajores, but the rest are in and around the concepcion area:
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The guide also told us that Red Bull do an extreme sports event here called the Valparaiso Downhill, where people bike around the city, down ramps like below. Check it out on YouTube, it looks crazy.
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We finished the tour at a bar that had more street art all around it and we drank a Pisco sour - out first in Chile - while the guide gave us lots of information about places to eat and visit. It was a good tour for 'free' and definitely worth doing if you have a free afternoon in Valparaiso.
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Posted by staceywaugh 05:21 Archived in Chile Tagged art buildings skylines statues ports street_art Comments (0)

Uyuni - Day 41

Uyuni Tour, Day One

22 °C

The starting day of our trip and Andrew woke up ill. He was throwing up and on the toilet, and in between, laying on the bed with a Dioralyte. Not a great start for Andrew unfortunately, but after another dioralyte and an Imodium instant, we got on our way to Red Planet.

As well as me, Andrew, Lucy and George, there were a couple of English girls, Caroline and Tash (who are in our jeep), three Canadians, Ken, Alan and Leah, a Welsh guy called Roger and a 62 year old American called Barry on our trip. Our guide Gonzalez speaks amazing English and our drivers Leonardo and Javier don't really speak any, but we can understand each other easy enough.

After picking up our sleeping bags, and changing into shorts as apparently it will be hot today, we get into our jeeps, which are a lot nicer and more comfortable than I expected. They have a lead so we can plug our iPhones in to play music, which meant that rather than listening to the drivers Bloodhound Gangs song, 'You and me baby ain't nothing but mammals...' we could enjoy Lauryn Hill, Marvin Gaye and other better music!

First stop was not very far from the town - the train cemetery, which was basically a dumping ground for old trains that used to run on the line from La Paz to Chile*. We were able to sit and jump on the trains, and some had swings, so it was quite fun and weird to see in the middle of nowhere. While we were there, they were filming some Bolivian dance routine and their outfits were pretty fancy!
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We then headed over to the salt factory, and the little town there, and on the way we saw our first of many Llamas on the trip.
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At the town, we were shown salt block buildings, statues (yes, of course Andrew would do this...see below!) and souvenirs, then the salt factory (fancy word for room here) where they make the salt blocks. We had a big lecture from Gonzalez, the first of many actually, about what Bolivia is best known for - someone said cocaine and he got a bit upset and told us why this wasn't true...for a long time. We bought a bag of salt from the man in the factory, who was showing us how they seal the bags of salt, for 10p and then left.
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We had lunch in a room with salt tables and chairs and we ate Llama for the first time. It was really tasty! After we had an amazing homemade apple pie/crumble (pie bottom and sides, crumble top), best dessert in South America bar none. Then it was on to the Salt flats.

In the car Let's Stay Together by Al Green was playing as we drove on the Salt Flats, so I think this will always remind me now of the blindingly bright white 'lake' of salt for as far as the eye can see. Gonzalez told us it's only 120cm of salt and then something like 60 metres of water underneath, so you're almost walking on water. The salt also forms a hexagonal shape pattern on the surface, which apart from here is only seen in nature in honeycomb.
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The salt flat was really beautiful and a bit surreal - I really did start to feel so far away from home - and we spent about an hour on there taking funny pictures that play with the perspective.
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There is also a salt hotel, where everything is, you guessed it, made of salt. They have a bunch of flags outside but no Union Jack - next person who is British and goes there, please sort this out!
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It was then took a hour or so journey to the place we were staying and throughout it there was fork lightning. I'd never seen so much, it was amazing.
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We arrived at the tiny town, it seemed like pretty much one street with a few coming off either side, and the house was just for us 11 so we all got a room each, which was nice as we all expected dorms for both nights of the trip. A group of young Bolivian boys were at the gates and wanted the guys in the group to play football with them, so they headed to the football pitch and took them on. I think the guys would admit that even with their 2 foot height advantage, the boys were much better than them! When it went dark, George got his camera and tripod and took some amazing pictures of the lightning - we'll try and get one from him to show you all.
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After showers we all gathered round the living area waiting for dinner and Gonzalez came in to give us lecture number two! I am joking around when I say this, as it was pretty interesting and he has a great speaking voice that sort of cuts the words he wants to emphasise in two (a bit like Barney Stinson in How I Met Your Mother with 'Legend...wait for it...Dary!', which kept us entertained. The talk tonight was on Bolivian history, which believe it or not started with talking about how there is no McDonalds in Bolivia, and consisted of it's former president and its new one, how what sounded like a civil war broke out in Bolivia in recent years because of the former president selling off Bolivian land, amongst many other things, and how children now have ID under the new president which helps keep them safe. Apparently people used to buy Bolivian children either to adopt them or - and I still cant quite get my head around this - use their organs for their own children. There was a lot more, it went on for about an hour, but it turns out McDonalds is no longer in Bolivia because people couldn't afford their burgers - they'd be getting 10 Bolivianos a week wage and a burger would be 70 Bolivianos. This seems unlike McDonalds to me, not to have thought about this before setting up there, so Gonzalez may have upped the price of a burger for dramatic effect.

With 11 of us from 6 different countries around the dinner table, we talked turned to our accents, our ways of saying certain things (e.g. apparently Canadians don't say half eight as a time, just eight thirty), the difference in horse riding techniques, major crimes of the last few years and some funny words we use for different parts of the body! But the 'Pierre de Resistance' (not forgotten you Jackie Kough) was Roger, who decided to wow everyone with his ability to tell you the day you were born on - he got them all right...even for Barry! - and told us he could recite Pi to 100 decimal places?! An interesting day, with lots of interesting people.

  • NB all the knowledge from the Uyuni trip was given to us by Gonzalez so we just trust it's true!

Posted by staceywaugh 05:08 Archived in Bolivia Tagged buildings trains football funny salt llamas salt_flats Comments (0)

Buenos Aires - Day 16

La Boca and Puerto Madera

32 °C

Today we visited a two neighbourhoods, La Boca and Puerto Madera. This meant taking a bus to La Boca from a couple of blocks from our hostel. The bus driver was trying to tell us something when we handed him a note, but we couldn't understand quickly enough and we had to get off the bus. The phrase book came in handy here, as we searched for words that sounded similar to what he was saying. What we didn't know was that in Buenos Aires you need coins for the bus - 3.70 pesos each - for the bus, but in a country that has 2 pesos notes, 7.40 in coins is not the easiest thing to come by! We had to go and buy tictacs for change, so in the end it was win win!

La Boca is a colourful area of the city, with bright buildings and art on every corner. The main street was full of restaurants and bars, with entertainment - Tango dancers, an elderly Argentinian crooner and some men doing some sort of Latin-style tap dancing in what looked like cowboy boots - I could have sat and watched all day.
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There was more dancing when a local band took to the streets
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Andrew was more excited to see the Boca Juniors stadium. A few streets from the main area was an enormous blue and yellow stadium, La Bombonera, the home of Boca Juniors who are apparently a really famous football club!?
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We also saw Messi hanging around in one the shops
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We took another bus and walked to Puerto Madero. This is a really modern part of the city, on the riverbank with apartments, offices, shops and cafes. You can tell from the cafes alone that it must be an affluent area, and I can imagine an apartment with a balcony on the riverbank would be a lovely place to live here. As a side note here, we've come to love Starbucks already. Not for their coffee or sweet treats, but that their staff always let you use the toilet even when you're not a customer :)

As well as the modern buildings, there is a pretty white footbridge bridge ("better than the millennium bridge in Lancaster", Andrew Waugh 2013) that turns to let boats passed, called Puente de la Mujer, "Woman's bridge". It is supposed to look like a couple doing the Tango?
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Over the bridge was a old training ship, Presidente Sarmiento, which is now a museum ship. It was built in the late 1800s in Birkenhead and has travelled the globe six times.
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After a long walk back we headed back to the hostel for dinner and Argetinian red wine. We had a night time walk around the plaza and saw the Argentine National Congress building, amongst others. So many people we're out running and walking their dogs - I don't blame them when it's 32 plus degrees in the day, but it's still late 20s/30 late at night!

Posted by staceywaugh 12:27 Archived in Argentina Tagged bridges art buildings boats colour tango dancing Comments (2)

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