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Dunedin to Milford Sound - Day 78

18 °C

I couldn't have my shower too hot this morning because the warmth burnt my ice cold hands and feet. It's safe to say it was pretty cold last night.

Baldwin Street is the steepest residential street in the world and it was mine, Andrew's and Mary's first stop for the morning. It was really busy, which I'm sure the residents love - maybe they get a discount on their council tax or something? - and some of the ladies and gents on Mary's tour were there walking up the street. It was really very steep, although the pictures don't do it justice. We decided to drive up as we saw a couple of people do it and it looked fun coming down!
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We then headed to Larnach Castle, billed as New Zealand's only castle. This is a little bit of false advertising if you ask me, because it would barely warrant manor house status in the UK. We should have known from the ticket booth that it wasn't going to be an imposing building when the seller said "Oh you're from England, where they have real castles".
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The building was very pretty though, with a cafe in a barn that had log burning fires, and the views were beautiful.
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And the gardens had an Alice in Wonderland theme, which was very cute.
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Mary had to rejoin her tour for the afternoon, so we dropped her off at the coach stop and set off for our own long drive to Milford Sound. We stopped in a small town for lunch and got an ice cream too. At the beginning of our trip we tried a Meltdown ice cream - pretty much like a magnum, but this first one had two layers of chocolate covering it and caramel in the middle, delicious! - and since then we've been trying all in the range. Hokey Pokey (honeycomb) and Brownie were the last varieties and today we tried Raspberry and Bikkie (Oreo style). They were delicious but none have yet beat the simplicity of the caramel. We'll update you if we have a breakthrough.
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Once we got to Milford Sound Road the scenery became fantastic, but with the sun low in the sky, pictures were difficult to take. We're driving back this way tomorrow, so I hope to get some better shots then. We stopped off at Mirror Lakes, to get some pictures of the mountains reflected in the water but its not much of a mirror when ducks are swimming through it!
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Arriving at Lake Gunn campsite we realised we were back to basics again! There was a lake to one side and a forest to the other with a long drop toilet somewhere inside (see the picture of me in the woods - I'm on the right in blue and the green hut on the left is the toilet!). A guy was trying to make a fire in one of the brick BBQs, like Andrew had on the North Island, but the rain had made all the wood wet so it was proving difficult. Andrew joined in, which led to almost 4 hours of trying to make the fire light properly!
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The guy and his wife were from New Orleans and were on a 9 month trip. Apart from their trip length, they were very similar to us - they'd sold their house, left their jobs and came away, to then go back to a new area in America and settle down. It's always reassuring to hear were not the the only ones who left everything!

Oh, and the fire did get going, sort of, eventually...I think it was the talk of Guy Fawkes and Bonfire Night!

Posted by staceywaugh 05:37 Archived in New Zealand Tagged landscapes mountains lakes castles roads campsite Comments (0)

Arthur's Pass to Franz Josef Glacier - Day 73

This shall be known as the day after the coldest night of our lives.

18 °C

Well, last night was freezing. Literally. The window screen on the van was frozen when we woke up and it was only 1 degrees, so it must have dropped below zero during the night. All night we kept waking up because we'd turned and moved into a freezing (not just cold!) spot or uncovered a thermal-clad arm from the two duvets we were under. I felt so sorry for the people in tents. We made some porridge for warmth and everyone on the campsite gathered together to share hot water for drinks to try and get some warmth.
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We drove through Arthur's Pass this morning, which had some really beautiful scenery along the way. It was almost worth freezing for!
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At the dramatically named Deaths Corner, we stopped to see some Kea, which are apparently slightly destructive - they can chew all the rubber from around your windows - but they were really friendly, sitting on the fence in front of us, and cute.
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The next big stop would be Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers, so this took us through a small town called Hokitika, where we needed hot food. This came in the form of an enormous sausage roll.
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After yet another unsuccessful attempt to get some photos uploaded - we did get our camper and first hostel booked for Australia though - we travelled towards the glaciers.
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We stopped for the day at a campsite by a peaceful lake. The sun was shining and it was lovely and warm when we arrived, but as soon as the sun went behind the trees it was really cold again. Another night in the thermals!
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Posted by staceywaugh 05:21 Archived in New Zealand Tagged landscapes mountains lakes birds food roads arthurs_pass Comments (0)

Uyuni to San Pedro de Atacama, Chile - Day 43

Tour Day 3

20 °C

4.30am. I'd already been up for 2 hours though with massive stomach cramps. I could still taste the onion lasagne and thought that was to blame. We packed in the dark, save for a few torch lights, and I felt so sick and bloated too. I couldn't eat breakfast either, which anyone who knows me understands is really unusual! There was even fruit salad and pancakes and I still couldn't eat!

We set off in the dark to the geysers. The sunrise in the desert was lovely. When we arrived at the geysers it was cold and windy, and we were getting higher in altitude. The geysers were cool but after a while I had to let Andrew stay and take the pictures as I headed to one side as i thought i was going to be sick. Alan was there too, also thinking he was going to be sick, but from alcohol! We couldn't be sick so we wished each other luck for the journey ahead.
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The next stop was an early morning dip in some hot water springs.
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First stop for me was the back of a building to be sick though :( I thought this might help but it was the start of the end! Luckily though I was well enough at this point to get in the pool. Here, we were at almost 5,000ft above sea level, the highest altitude we'd been at, and it was cold and windy outside but getting into that hot spring was like walking into boiling water. It was almost too hot to stand, but slowly your body became used to it and it was really nice. Once I got out I started to feel horrible again and had to use the loo!

It's not fun being sick and needing the toilet in a bumpy jeep driving through the desert. I drank dioralyte and took Imodium and Imodium instants, but everything was coming back up. There was another lagoon and the Dali landscape, which signaled the end of our tour, and I was annoyed to have been ill for them and also for our goodbye to everyone on the tour that was going back to Uyuni instead of on to Chile, which included Lucy and George.
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I somehow managed to get through the journey to border control out of Bolivia and into Chile, and the bus drive in the middle to San Pedro de Atacama. The bus driver was so nice to me though, Gonzalez told him I was sick and he let me sit up front with him and drove really slowly.

We arrived at hostel Mamatierra at lunch time and it was like my body knew I was near a toilet! I couldn't stop being sick and going to the loo for about 4 hours, I couldn't even keep water down and nothing was working. So the £40 medical kit finally came in to good use! I took some antibiotics that were in there for just this reason. I then managed to sleep for a few hours and when I woke up I felt a little better (I could lift my head off the pillow!) and could keep a dioralyte down. Thank you Nomad for making us buy the really expensive kit!

And that was the story of my first bug abroad!

Posted by staceywaugh 05:27 Archived in Bolivia Tagged landscapes desert hot_springs geysers Comments (0)

Uyuni - Day 42

Tour Day 2

20 °C

It was a 7am start for an awesome day ahead. After a quick breakfast we set off to the first stop, which was some quinoa fields. Along the way we saw the snow capped mountains ahead and lots of Llamas. The quinoa plants are in beautiful colours and made for some lovely pictures. Unfortunately the old lady who owns the crop wasn't too please that we were taking pictures for free, so we all ran straight back into the car!
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We then drove to an area called Valle de Rocas, the result of a volcanic eruption. It was vast. You could climb around them and Andrew decided to go up to the other side on top of the large rocks. He got up there ok but ended up with a few grazes up his arms :(
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While he was climbing, I was chasing one of the only animals that live there, to try and get a picture. I got one! It's like a rabbit but with a long tail:
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A bit like cloud spotting, see if you can see the faces or creatures in the rocks:
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Moving on, on the journey we saw a volcano, which I think is called Ollague, with steam coming out of it!
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The day was really about all the different landscapes here in Bolivia, and the colours in the rocks, mountains, hills, fields and waters around here are unbelievable.

The next stop was a lagoon, that smelt of sulphur but had flamingos swimming on the surface. We must have been getting higher up as it was getting windy outside.
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A drive then took us through sandy desert like roads and the sand clouds blew so hard that you often couldn't see the car in front and the trail behind was like something out of a movie.
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We then had lunch by another lagoon, with ruins next to it that apparently used to be used for making cocaine. I guess in the middle of nowhere like this, you were unlikely to get caught?! Lunch was schnitzel, but the driver told me it was flamingo wing! After yesterday's Llama I almost believed him!! The thing about being in the middle of nowhere is that there are no toilets so the group are now accustomed to using Bolivia as our toilet. Here most of us went behind another set of ruining that must have been a building of some kind, but Barry decided to go inside this chimney ruin, which was possibly something important?! Anyway, looking out over the lagoon the reflections of the mountains in water were really beautiful and there were lots more flamingos too.
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Higher up still, we stopped at another lagoon with lots of piles of rocks in front of it. Everyone got out the car, the strength of wind hit us and Caroline's hat went flying in the air and was spinning through the desert. She started a run for it, but it was going further away. We thought she was going to stop but she didn't and Gonzalez went with her. It seemed like an impossible task to get it back but they carried and soon they were over the sand dune and out of sight.
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In the meantime we carried on and looked at the lagoon. The idea behind the piles of rocks is that it was an offering to Pachamama - Mother Earth - to say thank you. Now, people generally build them to get a cool picture, and that's what Andrew and George did. The built the biggest one then, and in the wind it was quite a feat.
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We'd all finished building and taking pictures, but still no sight on Caroline and Gonzalez. Eventually, two tiny stick figures came over the horizon, walking in completely the wrong direction it seemed, and it was them. This is a super zoomed in picture of them! The poor things had been walking in the heat and wind for about 45 minutes and didn't even get the hat!

Back in the cars, we drove to another lagoon with flamingos and the colours of the water, mountains and flamingos were almost surreal. We walked around the edge to get some good pictures of the flamingos and I managed to get one in flight.
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The next destination was to get a picture of a famous rock, the Arbol de Piedra. The rock looks like a tree in shape as the gusts of wind have shaped it that way.
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There are some other rocks there too and Andrew climbed to the top again, giving us some fantastic catalogue poses?!
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The final stop of day was at the red lagoon, which is this colour because of the algae and the sun. Apparently you have to get there by a certain time of day to see it this colour. It was much more red that it shows on the camera, but it still looks pretty cool.
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We headed to our hostel for the night, in the middle of nowhere, at about 5pm. Unfortunately, we didn't have a reservation and they were booked up! Luckily there was another next door (as there was really nothing else around for miles!) so it all worked out fine, but even the driver looked worried for a while. The hostels here had hot showers until 8pm but you had to pay, which was fine, and they only have electric from 6-8pm at night, so we had to get our beds ready before the lights went out. We all sat around having a drink and waiting for dinner. Roger got his guitar out and, in our most 'traveller-type' moment yet, everyone in the group started singing along to Oasis and Beatles songs.

We were told we were having lasagne and everyone was looking forward to it. Turns out it was vegetable lasagne, which sounded good too. What came was onion and tomato, but predominately onion lasagne. It was disgusting, which was a shame after the nice meals we'd had on the tour so far, and most people couldn't even finish one tiny piece.

After 'dinner' we were given hot water bottles - we already had sleeping bags and duvets so I wondered how cold it was really going to be?! - and then the lights went off. We all decided to get our coats and hats on and go outside, so we took benches, drinks and Roger's guitar and just hung out until it got too cold Roger and Ken couldn't strum the guitar anymore.
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This is when we first saw the stars properly in South America. It was absolutely breathtaking! The sky was lit up so bright with thousands of stars, you could see the Milky Way sweeping across it, it was incredible. George took out his camera and tripod to get a shot, but even with his amazing camera, it didn't show half of what was actually there in the sky (again, we're going to try and get a picture of this for you). This made us really excited about our Stargazing evening in Chile in a couple of days, where we get to see the stars through massive telescopes too.

It was about 11pm when we were all frozen and tired enough to come inside. We got our thermals and socks on and got into bed. I'd put everyone's hot water bottles in their beds for them and Andrew's had leaked - oops! but I was glad it wasn't someone elses - so his sleeping bag was a little wet!

Then to sleep, ahead of our 4.30am start tomorrow!!

Posted by staceywaugh 05:13 Archived in Bolivia Tagged landscapes mountains animals birds desert volcanoes llamas flamingoes lagoons Comments (4)

Sucre to Uyuni - Day 40

Another bus journey...

19 °C

Another day, another bus. Today we headed to Uyuni, from where we'll start our 3 day tour tomorrow, setting off at 9am and not getting in until 5.30pm. Not the longest bus journey we've taken but it sure felt like it. Before we got on, they had to load the luggage onto the bus (like in La Paz we had to leave our bags at the ticket office) and they had a novel way of doing it. Lowering them one by one from the second floor on a hook!? Needless to say, we were late leaving.
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Half way through, they put a TV programme on called Spartacus - a shockingly bad show with orange corn syrup 'blood' shooting everywhere - that had violence and nudity every few minutes and they didn't seem to mind that the bus was full of children and teenagers. We stopped for a toilet break and grabbed some potatoes and chicken from a women on the side of the road, but we ended up feeding the chicken to the dogs it was so bad.

Back on the bus, after they almost left George and Lucy as they were last on, we took in some really different scenery - a desert-looking landscape, mountains with multicoloured rock and ruins, rows of cactus. On the way, we were watching a programme when the left hand side of the bus turned and gasped. We looked and there was a a coach just like ours overturned on the opposite side of the road. It was scary and reminded me how dangerous some of these roads were. I made a little friend after that though, which cheered me up - me and the sweet little Bolivian girl played hide and seek behind the seat.
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Pulling into Uyuni the amount of rubbish everywhere was the first thing I noticed, it's ridiculous. The town is, well if you can call it a town, just a few dusty streets. In the centre of the main road we were dropped off on, is a roundabout made of rubbish and dogs all around it. Two dogs were obviously overcome by the beauty of the spot and began humping, to which Andrew said "reminds me of my first time". Romantic!

The four of us headed straight to Red Planet to check in with them and pay for our tour. The streets weren't well marked, and we were navigating our way around roads called Arce and Colon that were making us giggle. We went the wrong way and Andrew said "we've gone too far up Arce and ended up the Colon". He was on form today!

After finding and registering at Red Planet we went to the hostel to find they didn't have our reservations. They tried to offer us a worse room (no bathroom) for more money so we left and found somewhere else. It was all really difficult with limited Spanish and reminder that I really want to learn when I get home. Lucy, George, Andrew and I had dinner at Minute Man Pizza, which is in a hotel and the only place tripadvisor recommends, and then went back to our hostels to prepare for the tour tomorrow and sleep.

Posted by staceywaugh 05:10 Archived in Bolivia Tagged landscapes mountains cactus baggage_handling Comments (2)

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