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Lake Wanaka - Day 75

And more driving...

18 °C

After the glaciers yesterday we drove to a campsite on Lake Paringa, near Haast, so we could get a head start for today.
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We had a lot of driving to do to get to the East coast of the South Island today. The rural nature of New Zealand was never more evident than when we had a cow road block on the main road! A bit like cows being herded down the M6.
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Along the way, we saw Mount Aspiring. We almost missed this fantastic view because it was side on to the road, but we stopped to fill our water tank directly across from it and was hit by this really imposing mountain.
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I've also been desperately trying to get a decent picture of one of the many birds of prey that fly around here, but they're too quick. I did manage to get a couple of ok shots today though, which I hope I will be able to edit when I get home.
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On the way towards Lake Wanaka, where we'd stop for lunch, the scenery was typical beautiful. We've seen a lot of lakes and mountains by this point!
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Lake Wanaka is a really pretty town and probably my favourite so far in New Zealand. I am sure it is even better during the ski season. We had lunch by the lake and fed the ducks, which is where we spotted this massive fish in the water!
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There was a Gypsy Fair on in the town, so we had a walk around it. I expected Gypsy Rose Lee telling fortunes and pretty painted wagons but it was just caravans, stalls selling rose quartz and had a little stage for people to perform on. One young boy sang an Of Monsters and Men song while playing the guitar, which was quite impressive and he tried really hard.
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We were about to continue our journey when Andrew spotted yet another viewpoint, this time of Mount Aspiring, which ended up taking us ages to get to and the view was nowhere near as good as early. The first picture is of the mountain, the second of me looking impressed!!
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The rest of the day was spent driving to the Glencoe Reserve campsite near Oamaru, passing more mountains and we managed to get another picture of a bird of prey eating road kill!
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Posted by staceywaugh 05:18 Archived in New Zealand Tagged waterfalls mountains lakes birds fish views gypsy_fair Comments (0)

Mount Ruapehu to Arohena - Day 63

Cloudy Mount Doom and a crystal clear lake

20 °C

This morning we drove up two mountain roads in the Tongariro National Park for some good views and to see Mount Ruapheu better. The first went straight up Mount Ruapehu to a closed ski resort, which looks really odd in the off season but I bet is beautiful in the snow. There was no view of the top of though because if the cloud.
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The next was up to another ski resort through Whakapapa village (which is funny, as 'wh' in Moari is sometimes pronounced as an f), and the view from there was lovely. Mount Ruapheu's peak was still covered in cloud though :(
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We had lunch in a car park at the bottom of the road, we made soup and decided there and then making hot food from the tiny camper was too much effort at lunch. After we took a trail to see another waterfall in the National Park, which was pretty with crystal clear waters again.
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Back in the car again, we drove a few hours to a DOC campsite as close to Waitomo Caves as possible in a place called Arohena. We were the only ones there, and it stayed that way all night. It was lovely and warm, so we got changed and Andrew had a swim in a lake while I chased butterflies (new obsession of mine) and I got these pics.
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Andrew making us dinner at the lake
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At the site they had brick BBQs so Andrew collected wood and when it went dark, made our first camp fire. We played cards by firelight and used head torches when it got difficult to see!
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Posted by staceywaugh 01:13 Archived in New Zealand Tagged waterfalls mountains lakes views butterflies bees camp_fire Comments (0)

Rotorua & Lake Taupo - Day 61

Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Park, Rapids Jet, Huka Falls & Aratiatia Dam

24 °C

This morning we went to Wai-O-Tapu thermal park in Rotorua. Walking around the park we got to see craters, boiling mud pools, unnaturally (although of course they were) colourful lakes and steaming vents. I had never seen anything like it before, it was amazing! I'm not the best at geography, but Andrew tells me it's all to do with magma being closer to the earths surface here. I didn't even mind the continuing stench of sulphur too much because it was so interesting! We spent a an hour or two walking around the area...
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In between, we watched a geyser blow, as they stimulate it at 10.15am every day to show you one erupting. The story goes that it was discovered by prisoners many, many years ago who were planting forests in the area. They found this hot water and decided, as they didn't have hot water in the prison, to bring their clothes down to wash them. They put the clothes in the water - all fine - they put soap on the clothes and put it in the water, and the geyser blew water in every direction sending the clothes and the prisoners flying! This is how they discovered soap can stimulate a reaction and apparently they did it often afterwards for entertain. Now the people at the park use some Eco friendly stuff that's similar to soap. (NB We'll upload a video of this, and other videos, when we get home and post, post-trip)
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After the park we drove to Lake Taupo, which isn't very far from Rotorua. We had lunch at a lookout point over the town - apparently LakeTaupo (the lake itself) is the size of Singapore?! Singapore must be small! I'll let you know in a couple of months. We booked ourselves onto a jet boat ride this afternoon, as we needed to move on tomorrow - we have a very tight schedule here in New Zealand as Andrew's mum will be here soon and we want to meet her in the Bay of Islands on 1st March (today is 24th March) then get on the ferry at Wellington on 3rd April.
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Before the boat, we stopped off to see Huka Falls on the way. It was a nice waterfall, with crystal clear blue water.
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The rapids jet took us down Aratiatia River, which is now controlled by the dam there. I think the flood gates open twice a day normally but the amount of water let through and the time of day can be changed, which is why Peter Jackson used this river for The Hobbit. Apparently there is a scene in the film with barrels tumbling down a river and it was here! Unfortunately we couldn't take our camera with us as the company wouldn't allow it due to water damage or loss and, of course, they sold pictures on the way out. We didn't get them though because they were just of us in the boat, not of the scenery around, so it seemed a waste. Check it out here though - http://www.rapidsjet.com/

The jet boat was awesome though. There's only 12 people inside the tiny boat including the driver, whose girlfriend was on the boat with us so he was totally showing off. We did 360 spins, jumped the rapids and, as it only needs 4 inches of water to sail on, the driver whizzed us so close to the bank of river underneath a bent tree! It was so quick. The river is beautiful too, very 'Yogi Bear', if that's makes any sense to anyone else? The water was so clear you could see right to the bottom, the trees lined the bank and rocks and boulders were scattered down it. There was a section of the river bank where you could see old, dead trees in the mud that had been covered in ash from the last volcano, which was thousands of years ago. The clear water was also thanks to the volcano, as it was being filtered through volcanic rock from the eruption.

Exhilarated, we left and Andrew wanted to see the Aratiatia Dam in action. Sounds a little boring - I definitely thought it was going to be - but it was actually cool as it replenished the river to what it used to be. We stood (with lots of other people) on one side of the bridge to watch the flood gates open, ran across the road to see the river start to fill and then ran down a track to see it from another angle further down the river. We must have had lots of energy from the rapid boat!
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We stayed close to Lake Taupo on a free campsite called Riley's Farm. The long drop toilets weren't the best kept but it was next to a river so after dinner we went and fed the ducks.
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Posted by staceywaugh 05:47 Archived in New Zealand Tagged waterfalls lakes birds rivers geothermal geysers Comments (2)

La Paz - Day 34

Mountain biking down Death Road was Unboliviable!

21 °C

We got up at 7am, had a quick breakfast of jam and bread - getting bored of this as a breakfast option now! - and headed over to Vertigo Biking. Apparently we were late, as the woman last night had given us the wrong time (there was due to be a blockade so they needed to set off earlier), so we were ushered straight into the van and hit the road.

There were only two others on the trip, Joshua and Amy from Sydney, then the driver and the guide. It only took an hour to drive to the top of the mountain but as there was no blockade we stopped for snacks. I needed the toilet and it has to be the worst I have ever been to - no toilet seat, no flush and no door! We all just had to laugh and get on with it.

At the top of the mountain, 4600m, it was cold but fresh and the mountains were snow capped. The driver and guide got the equipment out, we dressed in shin and knee pads, thick trousers and jacket, elbow pads, gloves and our helmets, and tested the bikes on the flat. We looked great ;)
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The first 25km of the 63km downhill ride was on wide tarmac roads, that still have vehicles going up and down, but you have enough space not to worry about them. This part was exhilarating, a smooth downhill ride with the wind in your face, winding down through the top of the mountains. The scenery was beautiful. Andrew and Joshua were zooming down, Andrew copying the guide's aerodynamic riding position! Amy wasn't far behind and I was taking my time at the back!
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You stop every 20 minutes or so, so you never feel really tired, and it wasn't long before the tarmac ended and we jumped in the car to do the short uphill journey before starting Death Road.

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The next 38km section was a mixed bag for me! It was still fun and I got up to speed again on some parts, but the rocks and gravel made it so bumpy and I couldn't keep 'stood up' on my bike for that long! It was quite foggy up top so the heights didn't bother me and most of the way the road was actually quite wide, so there wasn't much of a few of falling off - my bike or the mountain! As we descended it got hotter and hotter in our jackets but the waterfalls running on to the road really helped keep you cool when they soaked us through. It was a long way down but thankfully all but 15 minutes (on the flat, much more tiring than you would expect!) was down hill, otherwise I don't think I could have coped with the 4 hour bike ride!

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Andrew loved the entire thing! He was going fast, which meant he did come off his bike at one point but luckily into the mountain rather than off it. I'm glad I was trailing behind and didn't see that!

At the bottom, I was sore and relieved, but happy to have ridden safely down Death Road! They really have done a fantastic PR job on that as we've met so many people who are terrified to do it, but I feel if I can do it, literally anyone can. The only thing I would say is that I was slow and steady all the way down, and so I imagine if you take the road quickly and don't concentrate the entire time I am sure it is easy to come off. But, of course, accidents happen all the time. Apparently 2 people a year still die on the road. I am glad I found this out afterwards, otherwise I probably wouldn't have done it.

We jumped in the van and celebrated with an ice cold beer, while the driver took us to a local hotel for a shower, a hot buffet and the opportunity to use their swimming pool. The journey back was 3 hours, which was filled mainly with talk of TV shows and films we all liked, except when the guide saw other Death Road biking company's vans and moonied them through the passenger side window as the driver overtook! He got up to seven on the journey and he was so proud!?

Back at Vertigo Biking, we got our tshirts, which say - Front: Unboliviable (our new fave saying now!) Back: I've got what it takes to cycle down the worlds most dangerous road - and made arrangements to meet Amy and Joshua for dinner tomorrow night. On the way out, we saw a newspaper clipping and memorial on the wall for an English boy who had died on Death Road only a few years ago. I definitely don't think I could have done it after reading that. It was so sad but he loved biking and his parents said he died doing what made him happy. I said to Andrew later that night, it was great and I'm glad I did it, but I wouldn't do it again, it would feel a bit like tempting fate.

At 8pm that was the day done, we were already starting to ache a lot and were so tired, we didn't have dinner and just went to sleep.

Posted by staceywaugh 11:33 Archived in Bolivia Tagged waterfalls mountains mountain_biking death_road Comments (0)

Puerto Iguacu - Day 13

Iguassu Falls from Argentina

33 °C

The Argentinian side of Iguassu Falls, we've been told, is the best side to see the falls from so after yesterday's amazing trip to the Brazilian side we were so excited about today.

We were up at 6.30am to catch the first bus to the Falls, as we'd been advised it got really busy as the day went on. Andrew was on a mission to be one of the first at the Devil's Throat - the main, large section of the falls that we saw yesterday from a distance - so after an uneventful bus trip and park ticket purchase, we power walked to the first train of the day that took us to the start of that trail. Unlike yesterday, the park felt like more of a safari or ecological park than a zoo and there were four trails to take rather than one. Oh and no open top buses, a 15kph train instead.
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Jumping off the train to start the 2/3 mile walk to the Garganta del Diablo (Devil's throat in Spanish), I practically had to run to keep up with Andrew's massive strides, passing swiftly any of the few couples that had managed to get off the train in front of us. He was ruthless! I wasn't even allowed to stop for photos along the way as "you can take them on the way back!".

It was so worth it though. We were two of the first five people up there that morning, and the waterfalls were incredible, just breathtaking. The power and sound was immense. I couldn't believe how close we were to the largest part of the falls and from here you could barely see the platform we stood on yesterday through the mist they created. As they fell, the falls looked like they were bursting like fireworks, it was memorising. We really didn't want to move on from them.
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Soon there were tens of people on the platform at the Devils Throat, with more constantly piling in, and picture taking became difficult. The peacefulness of before left and made me even more glad we got there early. One guy must have got a taxi up to the falls and then walked from the entrance as he was up there on his own for half an hour before we arrived, which must have been incredible. I think Andrew was a bit jealous!
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Walking away from the falls more and more people kept going towards it. Mostly it was grey hair, after beige safari waistcoat, after wide brimmed hat and for a moment I thought we were on the set of Cocoon! I joke, of course!! It was fantastic to see that at 70 year old plus, these people were travelling the world to see new sights. It reminds you that you don't need to rush to see and do everything in life, health allowing, there's time for it all.

The next 1/3 mile trail took us above and around the other waterfalls in the park, with viewpoints hanging over the top of the waterfalls and looking out to the larger falls.
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The third mile long trail took us below the same waterfalls, some feeling so close you could touch them!
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This also led us to the spot where we took a boat (for an extra cost) under the falls. I was wearing my bikini under my shorts and vest top, as we'd been told we'd get wet in the boat and that we could swim in the falls from this side, so I changed into some 3/4 leggings, so not to get my denim shorts wet for the rest of day, changed my converse for havaianas, but left my vest on - mistake! We put on a life vest, got into a rib full of other tourists and after sailing into the middle of the water, the boat stopped for everyone to take photos and then told us to put our cameras away.
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We sailed down the falls towards the Devils Throat (first picture above, after the dazzling shot of me and Andrew in life vests!), stopping at a relatively small waterfall (2nd picture!), and the boat got as close as they could to it, wetting us through! After a couple of these we then sailed back the opposite way, towards a very large, powerful waterfall (3rd picture) but stopped before it - for the boats crew to put on full jacket and trouser waterproofs on! The boat then powered towards the waterfall and turned into it (see 4th picture, which is of course of someone else doing it!), the force was incredible and we could barely open our eyes - if you go, definitely sit on the left side like we did, you get the most wet! It was so much fun and definitely worth the £20, even if just to say you've been under a massive waterfall! I came off more soaked than id ever been, the Australian couple we met on the boat had kept their trainers and socks on and she was literally wringing her socks out afterwards.

From there we then took the 'ferry' over to the island in the middle of the lake. It had a tiny sandy beach and we walked up to the top of the island via steep steps to look out at the waterfall we'd just been under (first shot) and back over at where we'd been stood on the Brazil side yesterday.
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Up there we saw a massive lizard, dragonflies the size of the palm of your hand, white and yellow butterflies (Andrew says to add I spent about 20 mins running up and down the little beach after a shot of butterflies!) , vultures. And across the park itself itself we saw lots more wildlife - more colourful birds, turtles, fish, spiders, geckos, and something like looked like a guinea pig or gerbil?! Here are some shots:
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After some much needed lunch - a couple of empanadas and a spicy chicken tarta, which is a bit like a pie without the lid - we then headed out onto the final trail. This was a 4 mile (round trip) woodland walk and at 32 degrees in the afternoon, it felt long! Along the way we saw the most enormous ants and a massive black and blue butterfly the size of my hand. Finally, after going down some steep wooden steps, we got to a waterfall that we could swim under. There were a few other people there, sat on the rocks, but Andrew got straight in and under the waterfall - he said he was like the old Timotei advert?! I got in eventually, after Andrew gave me a piggyback away from the fishes, and even though the waterfall was tiny in comparison to the ones we had seen earlier, the pressure on your hands and legs was immense!
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By the time we got back to the entrance we'd spent 9 hours walking around the park, and back at the hostel we were tired, sweaty and hungry. Only problem was the shower wasn't working and the hostel receptionist didn't speak English. We used Google Translate to communicate to each other - so handy! - and now she understood us. Noone came to fix it, so we went back, used the translator and then we understood she would get the technician out...what had she been doing about it before?! This went on and more than an hour later, still no technician so we gave up, went down the road for a pizza and by the time we got back it was fixed :) Thanks Google!

Posted by staceywaugh 14:26 Archived in Argentina Tagged waterfalls animals Comments (2)

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