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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)

San Pedro de Atacama to Valparaiso - Day 46

Flying through the desert

23 °C

We journeyed from San Pedro to Valparaiso today, and sensibly we decided on a few hours flight to Santiago and a 2 hour bus ride, rather than a 24 hour bus journey on a normal (not lie flat) coach. We got an airport transfer to Calama airport and the roads were long and straight, with nothing much on either side.
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The airport was tiny and we met Caroline and Tash at the gate, who were heading to Mendoza, Argentina, via Santiago to meet Tash's boyfriend who was flying out to start his trip with them. Tash looked particularly clean and well dressed, unlike the rest of us, in preparation for seeing her boyfriend after 3 weeks away! Andrew said I nearly missed the flight because I was in the toilet but I swear they hadn't called us yet...needless to say I was the last one on the plane! The flight was pretty uneventful but the views of the desert from the plane were awesome.
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The journey to our hostel in Valparaiso was easy too. A bus from Santiago airport to Pajaritas bus and metro terminal, then a bus straight to Valparaiso and a short taxi ride to the hostel on one of the many steep roads in Valparaiso. We were there a little earlier than we thought and no one was answering at Hostel Destino Bella Vista, which meant we spent the first 20 minutes sat on the doorstep! We found a phone number and the owner Patricia met us with hugs and kisses, apologised and said her English wasn't very good but she spoke German as well as Spanish. She showed us around, gave us a map and talked us through the city, and we got through fine with bits of English, Spanish and German! We were given our room for the first night (as we came a day early and couldn't get the room for the whole time) and it was a bit like a sauna with wood clad floors, walls and ceiling!

We were tired from the journey so went to the supermarket to get food to make at the hostel. Going down the hundred or more steps to get the food was fine, but the walk back up with a few bags and a 6 litre bottle of mineral water was not easy! It felt like we were at altitude again! The hostel has a balcony out back that looks on to the hills of Valparaiso, so we ate and drank wine there, looking at all the houses lit up in the distance.

Posted by staceywaugh 05:52 Archived in Chile Tagged planes desert roads Comments (0)

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