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Entries about sunsets and sunrises

Waitomo Caves to Uretiti Beach Camp, Northland - Day 64

Black water rafting with glow worms

20 °C

Good morning!
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Today was our trip to see the glowworms in Waitomo Caves. Instead of walking or taking a boat in the caves, we decided to tube it instead. This is basically a rubber ring you sit in as you navigate the caves, which is called black water rafting. I have been a bit nervous about this for the last two days, just because the woman at the isite said there are eels and spiders down there!

At the Black Water Rafting Company office, we were taken to get our gear for the trip. Wet suits, socks, booties and helmet...I wished there was gloves too so my hands didn't have to touch anything down there! Our group had a mixture of ages, from teens to 50+, and from places like Seattle and Malaysia, as well as quite a few of us from England and Scotland and was led by two women guides who were young, enthusiastic and funny. It took us a while to get suited and booted, then we hopped in a van to take us to the caves.
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We got to a parkland area and picked up our tubes, making sure it fit us.
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Then we walked to the river and one of the guides said "Right, in the caves there are a couple of waterfalls that we need to get down. The safest way to do this is to jump away from the waterfall, facing backwards with your bum in the tube, ready to land in the water". I thought she was joking, but clearly she wasn't when she made me take the first practice jump in the river! I did it and apart from a face full of water as I landed, it was fine and quite fun! I was unsure how easy it would be the save, given it was dark and has a low head height...not something I usually worry about.
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Everyone had a go - apart from one girl who refused and subsequently had to climb down the waterfalls inside the caves - and then we were off to the caves!
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The hole to get in was tiny but I managed just fine, Andrew had to watch his head constantly...something he is always worrying about (particularly because he is quite clumsy!). Inside we turned on our head lights and sat for a while to get used to the dark.
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The women told us lots of information about the cave as we made our way through, walking, wading through water and tubing. It was so much fun jumping backwards into water in the dark!
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We stopped to sit in one of the tunnels in the cave, ate a chocolate and marshmallow fish they gave us (which made the next bit slightly better) and turned our head lights off. My least favourite part, as I wouldn't be able to see spiders trying to attack me! But we looked up and saw the luminous green, glowing worms on the ceiling! They looked beautiful and strange, like a sky of green stars. But they're not pretty at all. One of the guides told us that they're not worms, they're actually Arachnids with no legs that cling on to the ceiling and dangle their web to catch insects to eat. They live for quite a long time then wrap themselves in their web to eventually hatch into a blind moth without a mouth. Realising they're not going to live very long without a mouth, they forget their hungry and just mate for two days before it dies. I think the female glow worm has the children and then gets eaten by them?! (I could have made that last bit up!)
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We made an 'eel', by sitting in the tube while the person in front holds your legs and you hold theirs, and travelled through the cave looking up at the thousands of glow worms, which were somehow nonetheless beautiful because of the gross story we just heard. And then finally we spilt and tubed ourselves to the end of the cave, in the dark, using our arms to move through the water, which was really tiring!

We got out of the cave and had a group victory shot! I was surprised how much I enjoyed it and would definitely like to try other rafting now.
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Out of our stinky wet suits, we had a hot shower and ate tomato soup and a bagel, before setting off on a long journey to the Northland area of New Zealand. There were no other DOC campsites on the way and we didn't want to pay for a holiday park yet, as we would need to stay at a few in the bay of islands and later in the trip on the South Island. This meant us driving through Auckland at sunset and the view from the bridge was lovely.
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Arriving in the dark at Uretititi Beach Camp, we couldn't really tell what it was like, but the sky was so clear that the stars and moon were beautiful and bright.

Posted by staceywaugh 05:45 Archived in New Zealand Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises lakes caves caving tubing 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)

Isla del Sol, Copacabana - Day 32

A real floating island, a faux one and an amazing sunset...

23 °C

Today we took a boat ride to Isla del Sol, which is in Lake Titicaca. We bought the tickets yesterday, which includes drop off and pick up on the island and a trip to the floating islands in Lake Titicaca before heading back to Copacabana. We'd never heard of the floating islands here, but we figured as we missed the islands in Uros it was worth a try.

At 8.30am we were on our way, on a packed, super slow boat. It takes 2 hours to get there, which is unbelievable given I can see the island. I started to feel sick towards the end.
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Isla del Sol is stunning. Over the street where the boat docks was a small beach with people camping for £1 a night. I'm not suggesting they were all like this, but we saw a group of proper travellers in hippy clothes (for want of a better description), juggling and playing the accordion!
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The next part of the island was lush and green, with a neat path and lovely views across the water. There were crops in the gardens as well as pigs and donkeys. It was really peaceful and pretty.
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Out in the lake then, I saw the strangest thing. It was another much smaller island that looks like its floating on the water. See what you think...
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This part of Isla del Sol was more barren, with stone paths and bare rock, which led us to the ruins. I think the pictures speak for themselves, but it was so tranquille and beautiful we could have stayed there for hours.
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Back at the pick up point we had some lunch. I was still full from dinner the night before, so just had a sandwich, but Andrew had what seems to be a common snack in Copacabana, chopped up hot dogs, chips, ketchup and mayo?! Apparently it was nice!

There were much fewer people on the boat on the way back, which was much better for the heat and sea sickness. I actually laid down and fell asleep for an hour, waking up just before we got to the 'floating islands'. This must have been a joke! It was like Copacabana's version of Lapland UK. The 'floating islands' were wooden rafts, made to float by plastic barrels, and part covered in reeds and straw. There were three or four rafts with a couple of huts, and a couple of reed creations, one a miniature traditional boat that they had the cheek to ask you to pay to take a picture of! They certainly weren't lived on, just there for us tourists, but they didn't fool anyone. We sat with an Australian couple, laughed about the 'floating islands' and then chatted about our travels. There were fish being farmed on there too, so Andrew paid for some fish food and fed them, which was about the best bit!
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Returning on the boat...
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Back on Copacabana, we decided to walk up the mountain for sunset. This was the hardest walk we'd done yet, I thought my lungs were going to burst!! It was a steep walk up but once again, worth it. The view was amazing and only almost spoiled by a drunk Bolivian man rambling at us and then taking my picture without asking.
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Posted by staceywaugh 05:40 Archived in Bolivia Tagged landscapes sunsets_and_sunrises mountains lakes beaches animals Comments (0)

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