Lake Titikaka

October 16th, 2009
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Lake Titikaka is the worlds largest lake above 2000 metres and sits on the border between Peru and Bolivia. It’s home to a variety of different cultures and languages with both Incan and Pre-Incan sites.It’s also an absolute treat for your eyes. It’s quite literally stunning backdrop after stunning backdrop.

Our first two nights were to be spent in home stays with the local people, something I was slightly apprehensive about given my neglible amount of Spanish. Our first stop was the community of Luquina on the mainland overlooking the lake. We were split up in to twos and so, me and Rav, headed off with our “new family” to their home. Luckily the family had three children, Felix, Benjamin and Melissa who were more than keen to sit with us and play cards prettyPlaying Cards much all day. Our first task was to eat lunch with the two boys and were quite happy when they brought out a lovely bowl of vegetable and rice soup. We were less happy when they then followed that with a plate of rice and two different types of potatoes. We ate as much as we could before going with the children up to the school football pitch for a game with the local kids. We’d felt slightly breathless walking up the hills in La Paz but it’s amazing what a 10 yard sprint at 4000m can do to you. After that we headed back to the house for more cards and a dinner consisting of more soup, rice and, this time, pasta. It was at about this point that Ravi started to realise his body wasn’t exactly agreeing with the altitude and so pretty much just crashed for the night.

With nothing to do I was asleep by half 9 and, sleeping on my barbie pillow, had a really great nights sleep. We woke up early and were greeted by a breakfast consisting of yet more rice, a fried egg and some things that resembled bran in taste. With Ravi unable to eat I began my day of eating for two and so gallantly made it through my rice and egg, half of Ravs plus quite a few of the bran cakes. After that it was off to the port to head to Isla Taquile.

Taquile Island is a fairly big island on Lake Titikaka with around 2000 people living on it. It’s a fairly touristy place with quite a few restaurants and a cooperative shop selling high quality (more expensive) Alpaca goods. Our main reason for being there was to get some lunchView from lunch on Lake Taquile. Yet again another awesome location for lunch, on the back of the island overlooking the lake. While the lake is home to around 7 local species it’s also home to trout (introduced from Canada) and Kingfish (introduced from Argentina) and with only two choices for lunch everyone went for the trout which was really really excellent. I also had a try of Inka Cola, which tastes a lot like Vimto in my opinion, and also some Coca Tea. Coca leaves are the leaves responsible for Cocaine and are chewed widely in the Andes as well as being used in tea.

After Taquile we headed to Isla Amantani to meet our second families. Me and Rav were not quite so lucky this time with us barely speaking any spanish and very quickly using our quick introduction to Quecha, the local language.Lake Amantani Fiesta Having a bit of a rest we then headed up to play football again. We played for far too long but it was great fun and definitely a good way of aclimatising. We just won’t mention the wall that I knocked down. After that we headed back where we had dinner, yet more soup and rice which by now I was eating far more of Ravi’s than he was. After dinner Ravi called it a day so on my own I headed to the fiesta. I, and everyone else, was given an Alpaca hat and poncho to wear and then walked down to a hall for some local music and dancing. Thankfully they put on a bit of a demonstation showing some “local dancing” based around agricultural practices. My cynical side would suspect that this was in fact a bit of a show purely for the tourists and as a result I didn’t really stay too long. I did, however, buy the hat. It turns out that while GAP like to believe they practice sustainable tourism they actually barely, if at all, give enough money for the families to cover the costs of having us stay.The following morning we had an early breakfast of pancakes and then headed off for the three hour boat trip to Puno via the floating islands of Uros.

I had no preconception of the floating islands of Uros but have to say that the community as a whole is probably the most amazing community I have ever seen. Floating Islands of UrosThe islands are completely man made, being about two metres deep and almost completely made out of reeds. There are about 40 islands and the one that we visited housed 9 families and 30 people. It’s truly amazing, they have little fish farms within the islands, kitchens and homes which they have to replace every six months. My first contact with the island was jumping from the top of the boat on to the island at which point I realised that it’s basically like living on a giant cushion. It’s probably best to have a look at all of the photos. The one unfortunate, and I guess inevitable, thing is that with the youth going to the mainland for education it’s only a matter of time before the islands are not inhabited anymore.

After that, and a £13 original Uros rug later, we headed off to the mainland and the town of Puno. We also had some much needed meat and vegetables on the boat. Having eaten for two the past two days as well as basically being a carb fest I was feeling a little unhealthy to say the least.

We stayed in Puno one night before heading off to Cusco in the morning. Puno is a fairly nice town but nothing amazing to write about so I won’t!

Author: Mark Jerzykowski Categories: Uncategorized Tags:


October 16th, 2009
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We’d heard some horror stories regarding the border crossing at La Quiaca and Villazon with some people describing how it took three hours to cross the border and a further three hours to queue for the train ticket onwards out of Villazon. With that in mind we headed to the border fairly early expecting a similar amount of pain. While we did experience some pain it was not of the same sort. I mentioned earlier that on the way in to Buenos Aires we’d had a few problems, one of them being the fact that there had been no immigration control at all. This had been playing on my mind all night and meant I’d gotten very little sleep. Unfortunately my fears came true and on showing our passports they looked for the entry stamp and obviously could not find it. Some hand waving, complete miscomprehension (our spanish not being great), a return trip to an ATM, and about an hour later we were through the Argentinian side, albeit £50 poorer. The Bolivian side, on the other hand, was easy. There was no queue, quickly filled in the form and the guy stamped our passports with barely a glance at either the forms or our, now large number of, passport stamps.

Once we were in to Villazon we quickly realised that, actually, Villazon was probably the busier of the two border towns, contrary to what the Lonely Planet had said. Anyway, I got a few Pesos changed which gave me about 360 Boliviianos and we set off towards the train station hoping to spot an ATM on the way. As others have mentioned the ATM was out of service and so, with Steve skint, we walked the 30-40 minutes to the train station and then spent 304 Bolivianos on the tickets to Uyuni; they were apparently all sold out of the second class! Having had no breakfast and with several hours until the train we decided to find somewhere to grab some food. With Steve still feeling seriously worse for wear and the temperature at least 30 degrees we were not in the mood for walking far with our backpacks. On a side note there was a sign in the station stating that white type 2 people (guess that’s us) should not stay in the sun for more than eight minutes at noon due to the high altitude and resulting lack of UV protection from the atmosphere. Anyway we managed to find a little restaurant which sold only one thing and grabbed a burger, rice and salad each with a two litre bottle of water for 40 Bolivianos, about £3.80. That left me with 16 Bolivianos left, ten of which went on a bottle of water and some biscuits, and no guarantee at all that we’d be able to get any money in Uyuni.

The train ride to Uyuni was actually a good, albeit slow, journey. While we’d been annoyed that we couldn’t get second class (as we were skint) you couldn’t really complain as we were travelling nine hours for £13. Not sure you can do that in many countries. The ticket included a meal, which was chicken with gravy and chips and a coke! The main reason for taking the train had been the fact that the buses are described as not only uncomfortable but more importantly down right dangerous. I’d also read that the train goes through some wonderful scenery but that, at night, it’s best to just shut the curtain. How wrong can you be? While the scenery during the day was indeed superb the scenery at night, once the inner lights are off (and you can see outside), is simply stunning. There’s terrific canyon landscapes, mountains, flats and at one point a very real feeling that you’re on a completely different planet. If you’ve seen Total Recall it’s very similar to the train that goes between colonies and overlooks the martian landscape. I only wish I had a camera good enough to record the views.

On arriving in to Uyuni (an hour late) we were latched on to by various locals offering us accommodation. At 1am in the morning we were not too bothered with quality and followed a local women to a twin room in a hotel and were charged 30 Bolivianos each for the privelege (about £2.80!) That morning Steve managed to get to the ATM and, having paid, we made for the tour companies office to begin our Salf Flats tour. The receipt said that the tour would start between 9 and 10 but on arrival we were told 10.30. That sat quite well as we’d had no breakfast and found a little restaurant and several eggs to eat.

The Salar de Uyuni is the world’s largest salt flat at about 10,500km2
and is 3,650m above sea level. It’s the result of the evaporation of a prehistoric lake around 40,000 years ago and contains around 10 billion tons of salt. The Bolivians do not actually export any of the salt, using it solely for domestic purposes. The salt flat, however, does contain around half of the worlds lithium reserves but are not currently mined.

We booked our one day tour through Kanoo Tours mainly because they had a good looking website and so obviously put a bit of effort in. In all honesty I thoughtSalar de Uyuni they were pretty damn good. We’d been told the driver would speak English and act as a basic guide. Sadly that wasn’t really the case but he did help as much as he could. Our tour consisted of a travel agent, a Brazilian couple, a German and Argentinian couple and Me and Steve. We were packed in to a landcruiser and driven off for the day. Our first stop was the train cemetary, the remnants of the steam era and a large collection of old steam engines. After that we spent most of the day on the salt plains and looked at the Salt Hotel before going to an “island” full of cacti where we had some steak for lunch.

Due to time constraints we’d booked a bus to La Paz ahead of time to ensure that we’d get there with plenty of time to spare for the start of our GAP tour through Peru. Horror stories abound on the internet convinced us to book the “tourist” bus which turned out to be decent. Sadly even the worlds greatest suspension can not save you from the journey from Uyuni to La Paz. You’re given a warning beforehand but nothing can prepare you for the 180kms of unpaved road. It’s like receiving a massage chair from the devil and then being made to sit in it for 5 hours. Anyway, somehow we turned up an hour and a bit early so, it being early, we headed straight for the hostel to get some well needed sleep. Unforunately a lot of sunlight and multitude of alarms prevented me getting much sleep so at 9 I got up and grabbed a shower. On that note I have to recommend the hostel, Wild Rover Backpackers, as the beds are great, the bathrooms spotless and the food in the bar good.

La Paz is the economic capital of Bolivia and, I think, a pretty nice city. It’s absolutely packed with people, cars, markets but has some really gorgeous architecture and a great feel to it. The Plaza MurrielPlaza de Murriel is a favourite with some lovely buildings while the Church of San Francisco was interesting mostly due to the fact that it was holding a World Press 09 exhibition with some truly excellent photography. That first night we decided to head to a Thai restaurant, that was recommended, for dinner. However, on arrival, it didn’t really look all that special so we went in search of something else. While there’s plenty of fast food chicken joints there’s not that much in the way of “cuisine”. About an hour later, feeling slightly dejected, we started making our way back towards the Thai but managed to stumble upon an arabic restaurant serving mainly Turkish food. It was brilliant. I had a tomato soup (large), a shish kebab, some tzatsiki and a litre of coke for about £2.80. I was full.

The following day we met back up with Ravi in our hostel and watched Man Utd draw with Sunderland. After that we headed over to the hotel for our initial GAP tour meeting at 6.30. That first night we met the rest of the group, a whole other two people (Linville from England and Christian (or Indy) from Germany), and the tour leader before grabbing some food someway out of town.

The following morning we got on a bus and headed off to Lake Titikaka and the Peruvian border.

Author: Mark Jerzykowski Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Salta and on to the border

October 16th, 2009
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We left Puerto Iguazu at 11am and were confronted with a 23 hour bus trip to Salta. We did this in two stages and this time used Flecha Bus. Pretty good but not really at the same standard as Andesmar. During the day was horribly hot on the bus with the night being uncomfortably cold. You couldn’t win. We were also stopped three times with the bus searched, by dogs, for drugs on each occasion.

We arrived in to Salta two hours early and made straight for the hostel that we’d found on Thankfully they had a couple of beds free, albeit in different dorms, and we took them. It has to be said, at this point, that neither Steve nor me have/had a guide to South America or a Spanish phrase book with barely a word of Spanish between us. Anyway Salta is quite a nice town, with some lovely European looking architectureSalta Cathedral (see photos) but in all honesty not much else going on. It did, however, have an excellent buffet restaurant where we ate a lot (really loads) for no more than a fiver each. I can’t remember the name but it’s located diagonally opposite the New Cafe (which I didn’t go in??) behind the Cabildo.

Our next port of call was to get to Uyuni in Bolivia to see the salt plains. Unfortunately it’s just not that easy. Using the internet we discovered that we needed to get to the border at La Quiaca before crossing the border (just a short walk) to Villazon, Bolivia, before getting a train to Uyuni.

The buffet meal had seemed like a perfect opportunity for Steve to start his malaria drugs but when I woke up in the morning it turned out that it had not been. Steve had been sick most of the night and was barely able to stand up let alone carry his bag. We’d booked the bus so jumped in a taxi to get to the bus station for an eight hour bus journey to La Quiaca. This bus, Balut, was pretty crap, basically a run down version of the others. It also stops at every single town on the way adding at least two hours to the journey.

La Quiaca is a tiny little town but the guide books had said that it would be better to stay there than go over the border to Villazon for the night. We walked down the main street and hopped in to the first hotel paying AR$60 (about £9) for a twin room which was actually pretty good. Steve was not too good so I ventured out for a table for one and went in to a little place where I had an absolutely delicious steak, with tomato, onions and a fried egg on top. Not only was it good, it filled the plate and another plate was required for the chips. With a bit of bread and a coke it came to a staggering £4. Brilliant.

We then crashed and in the morning headed for the border.

Author: Mark Jerzykowski Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Iguazu Falls

October 14th, 2009
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Having decided to finally leave Buenos Aires we got an overnight bus to Puerto Iguazu in the North East of Argentina. As far as I can tell there is absolutely no reason to go there other than to see the magnificent Iguazu Falls.

The bus journey did not, on the face of it, look like the greatest of ideas. Only half the price of the flight and taking 17 hours didn’t exactly fill us with enthusiasm. However, reports from other people suggested that Argentinian buses were, in fact, fairly good with one guy going so far as to say that it was his best nights sleep during his entire 8month trip. We got the bus with Andesmar and went First Class, which is not quite Full Cama (ie beds) but is pretty damn close. It was pretty good; we were given dinner, breakfast and lunch and the seats were comfy with pillows, blankets and films provided. I wouldn’t say it was the best sleep of my entire trip (far from it in fact) but it could have been a whole lot worse.

The Iguazu falls are situated literally on the border between Argentina and Brazil with Paraguay just a few miles away. On the Argentinian side you have Puerto Iguazu while on the Brazilian side you have Foz du Iguazu. The town itself is nothing special, purely built up due to the tourism but it provides you with everything you’d want. We arrived at about half 4 and quickly checked ourselves in to a little hostel, where I got some much needed laundry done, before heading out for dinner. Our first night of dinner was pretty horrific. Still not fully aquainted with spanish food vocabulary I went for a pepper steak and potatoes while Steve went for milanesa with chips. We ended up with the same awful croquette-like potatoes while Steve’s milanesa barely contained chicken at all. Being fairly shattered we decided to call it a night in preperation for our visit to the falls the next day.

Having seen the tourist information guy the day before and been given a full run down of the options we decided to simply take the cheap bus (AR$4) to the entry point before paying the current entrance charge (AR$60.) We’d spent some time checking out various blogs and guides all mentioning that you should see the falls from both sides but to be honest I’d say that it’s far better to go to the Argentinian side. Especially when there’s been a lot of rain.

On arrival we were told that it would be best to do the upper and lower circuits first before going to the Devil’s Throat as most of the guided tours go to the Devil’s Throat first. I’d say this was probably a great idea as the Devil’s Throat is really the best bit. The first view of the falls is pretty sensationalIguazu Falls, seemingly going on forever and falling a quite ridiculous height. I can’t really mention much more, you’ll simply have to look at the photos or go view them for yourself. The Devil’s Throat sectionDevil's Throat is a little train ride (included) and a 600m walk away but is truly awesome. With the heavy rainfall the bottom of the falls was not visible but it didn’t matter. Other highlights include the crazy monkey-racoons which ate everything, a big Iguana, thousands of butterflies and Steve’s sighting of a brown snake next to the track.

Having finished with the falls we headed back to Puerto Iguazu for the evening. As it wasn’t really all the late we decided to go for a little walk down to the river. Not much to see there really but quite cool to stand at the intersection of two rivers with Argentina on one side, Brazil on another and Paraguay on the other! We then chilled out at the hotel for a bit before deciding to see what the town had to offer.

I’d had a look for restaurants on google maps (given the previous nights dreadful experience) and found one called Aqva not too far away from our hotel. It looked fairly swanky but the food was absolutely tip top. The chef was obviously well trained and the sort that likes to experiment with flavours. Steve had the lamb which looked fantastic while I went for the Pork in honey and dried fruit with potatoes. My only problem was the lack of quantity but thankfully the bread and fantastic white chocolate mousse covered brownie more than made up for it.

Once we’d finished we decided to hit a bar (or two) and check out the local scene. Our first problem was finding where all the locals were (literally all of them) and realising it was a ticketed event. Ignoring that we popped in for a drink in an outdoor bar and, having stuff ourselves, Steve had a whiskey and coke while I had a Caipirinha. We had a couple of those but were mostly entertained by the table next door. One couple had left while the other couple and a man were attempting to get through an entire bottle of whiskey. At about 11.30 the woman was asleep, her partner had his head in his hands and the other (very fat) guy had just ordered a meal and was still drinking. About 20 minutes later the guy threw up all over a nearby tree before heading home. We left and made our way up to another bar where it was considerably more expensive and I switched to whiskey with Steve. We stayed for a bit before heading to the club, Cuba Libre, but with a AR$20 entrance fee decided to call it a night, which was probably wise as I was not too good the next day.

Author: Mark Jerzykowski Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Buenos Aires

October 14th, 2009
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Buenos Aires is the capital of Argentina and the “Paris of South America” or so quite a few guidebooks say. In fairness, they’re not far off; take some of the architecture of Paris, add a heavy dash of spanish culture and you’ve pretty much got Buenos Aires. It’s really rather very nice.

Our arrival in to Buenos Aires, on the other hand, could have been better. Having nearly slept through our flight in Sao Paulo we were greeted by a late departure from Sao Paulo airport which meant that our one hour to connect in Montevideo (Uruquay) was looking optimistic at best. Once we arrived in Montevideo, about an hour late, we obviously legged it through to the departure lounge and were greeted by way too many people in far too small an area. Unfortunately it looked like no flights had left the airport in sometime which meant a serious backlog of Pluna flights out of the airport. With, seemingly, a flight almost every hour to Buenos Aires we thought it would be easy to bump up the queue but unfortunately we had to wait another two hours before getting on our original flight. On arrival in to Aeroparque, the domestic (and Uruquay!!) airport we had to walk a fair distance from the plane to the terminal before strolling through an empty passport control. We then had to wait somewhere near 90 minutes for our bags to come through. No idea what was going on but the airport was dead. Have yet to leave Argentina so having no entry stamp in the passport may make things interesting….we’ll see. Also, don’t bother with the taxi booths, they’re expensive, just grab a meter taxi out the front.

Our first night in Buenos Aires didn’t really get much better after that. We’d checked out a few days before and found a good hostel with a quality safety record in the Palermo neighborhood. We assumed we could just turn up and get a room…….no no no. So, we managed to rock up at the right place, a feat given that they have no markings to suggest they’re a hostel. We rang the buzzer and asked if they had any rooms. We got a swift reply, no. We then saw the pizza place next door and they took a bit of pity on us once we asked if they knew of another hostel/hotel in the area. In the end the guy said that they only took reservations online and it had to be through It being just past midnight we were in a bit of trouble. He suggested we try the pizza restaurant round the corner as they had wifi. They were shut. We mentioned this to him, and asked if we could borrow his computer. Hell No, but there was a bar round the corner. We went round to the bar and managed to use the wifi, with Steve buying a brownie from them. At that point we couldn’t book for that night but thankfully they didn’t mind when we finally got back and crashed.

In total we ended up spending six days in Buenos Aires basically checking out the different tourist sites as well as trying to check out quite a few of the different neighbourhoods. As we didn’t have a guide book we started off by asking the guy in the hotel what we should see and, as he’d been asked this a few times, he gave us a list of his top 30 things to do/see in the city.

For our first day we decided to head towards the centre of Buenos Aires to the Obelisk. At this point I’ve got to point out that the underground system in Buenos Aires is excellent; it can, at times, be as crowded as the tube but it costs about 20p to go anywhere on the network. From the Obelisk, which is just that and nothing more, we walked down Diagonal Norte to the Cathedral, Cabildo and Palace. The CathedralThe Cathedral is fairly interesting, resembling most cathedrals on the inside, but looking more like a greek temple from the outside. Having had a quick look at both of those we decided to walk up Calle Florida, which is a main, pedestrianised, shopping street catering for almost anything. Nothing particularly special down here but it leads quite nicely to Plaza San Martin which is quite a peaceful little park area.

Our second day was a Sunday, and still feeling a little jetlagged, we only managed to get up at midday (this became a bit of a pattern) but made our way to the San Telmo neighbourhood to check out the Sunday antiques market. It’s a really excellent market along calle Defensa which sells many things, not just antiques. It’s an absolute must, in my opinion, if you’re in Buenos Aires on a Sunday. The atmosphere in the place is just brilliant with musicians along the length of the street playing various kinds of music to keep people entertained.San Telmo Street Music With the market dying down we eventually decided to just relax in the main San Telmo square and sat on the street with a couple of jugs of Quilmes while we watched the world go by. Eventually the market disappeared and was replaced by restaurant seating as well as a dance floor where people danced tango while others looked on. We finished off the night with a cracking meal overlooking the square before heading back to the hostel.

On our third day I was feeling considerably worse for wear, possibly the result of the previous nights beers (although we didn’t have that much) or I was actually coming down with something. It was probably the latter as I didn’t feel too great the day after either. Anyway, we decided to have an easy(ish) day and went to look at the district of Recoleta in the north of the city. This area contains a lot of green open spaces as well as some of the most expensive parts of Buenos Aires. Unbeknown to us it was also the first day of spring and, coupled with the stunning weather, it meant that a lot of people were out in the parks enjoying the sun and generally having a good time. Unfortunately for us the reknowned cemetary, with exquisite tombs, was not open at the time of visiting. We did have a really great day though, just chilling out in a cafe and watching the world go by.

The rest of our time in Buenos Aires was done at a seriously slower pace. We spent another three days, one of which we spent walking the whole bloody city, just chilling out. We visited Palermo Soho and Palermo Hollywood with it’s more trendy feel and designer shops which was cool but a tad annoying when you’re on a budget. We also, eventually, got round to walking down to the Hall of CongressEl Congresso Nacional on Avenida de Mayo 5 and couldn’t believe we hadn’t done it sooner. The avenue itself, we knew, was full of impressive architecture but the Hall of Congress is a real treat. Our final day we spent going down to the Boca neighbourhood which is seriously deprived but has the famous Boca Juniors football stadium. It’s also home to a spectacularly touristy couple of blocks, the name of which I can’t remember, but it’s not really worth going to in my opinion. We pretty much just turned straight round.

Author: Mark Jerzykowski Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Sao Paulo

September 26th, 2009
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Sao Paulo was more of a necessity for me and Steve than an actual scheduled stop. As I’ve mentioned before budget travel does absolutely nothing for global warming. On leaving New Zealand the plan was to go to Buenos Aires to catch up with Ravi. Unfortunately flying direct to Buenos Aires from Auckland was prohibitively expensive whereas flying to Sao Paulo was not. Amusingly, or not, the flight that we took from Auckland to Sao Paulo actually stopped in Buenos Aires before continuing on. Weird, but at least we got another stamp in the passport!

Sao Paulo is, for starters, bloody big. Unfortunately I did just about sod all research in to Sao Paulo before going there so I wasn’t really the greatest of tourists while there. Mind you, the central information centre wasn’t much better. We popped in there on the last day and asked them what there was to do. She could only come up with three things, the third of which was to visit a mall! Yes, there’s not a lot of point in going to this city. There’s many other places that are far better and you feel that your wallet’s a lot safer too.

Anyway, we basically had one day in Sao Paulo, which we spent by walking around of load of the city, somehow coming across the Municipal Stadium and football museum (which was kind of cool) before going to the centre and visiting the top of some building.

The only possible point of interest from Sao Paulo was the fact that we didn’t fully appreciate the jet lag from New Zealand and slept in until 12.30, almost missing our flight. I think this sums up Sao Paulo fairly well……

Sao Paulo

Author: Mark Jerzykowski Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

New Zealand - North Island

September 24th, 2009
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We arrived in to Wellington off the ferry and immediately headed to the hotel that Ravi and Steve had stayed in on their way down to the South Island. Our (well Steve´s) first cock up of Wellington happened when he managed to put the wrong date on the parking ticket which resulted in him having to walk the 10 minute walk to the car five times. Once he’d managed to get the correct date we went in to town and spent an hour or so playing pool before hitting the sack.

Wellington didn’t exactly have much going for it so we drove up Mount Victoria, overlooking the harbour, for a few shots in the morning before driving up towards Wanganui for a little pit stop. It was on the way to Wanganui, some 70 minutes in to the drive, that we spotted Steve’s second cock up. Underneath the windscreen wiper was a little ticket. Wondering quite how we’d got a parking ticket, given the previous nights fiasco, we stopped and checked it out. Apparently, for parking facing the wrong way Steve was charged $40. Crazy.

Wanganui was a little dead to say the least. We’d never intended on staying there but thought it might be a nice stop off. There had been mention that there were nice walks/scenery around the area so decided to ask in the DOC (Department of Conservation) office what was available. Unbelievably the woman on the desk had absolutely no idea what there was to do in the area. She suggested the iSite would be better: it was. Our aim for the day had always been to get up to National Park near Tongariro. Unfortunately they couldn’t suggest any walks on the way up so we basically just took off in the car taking it easy so that we could take in the scenery which was, as usual, pretty stunning.

The journey up to National Park would take a little under two hours to drive. About 45 minutes in to the drive we spotted a lookout point and, seeing as they’re usually pretty impressive, decided to stop to take a look. It turned out to be a fairly large waterfall, Raukawa Falls in fact, and there was a small wooden lookout just off the road. Seeing as it was late afternoon the sun was low which meant that our photos were a bit rubbish. Obviously needing a great picture we went down through the bush (about 100 yards) to the river. To say it was a slippery slope is an understatement: I fell over several times covering my jeans and camera in mud. Once we’d taken our mediocre picturesRuakawa Falls we returned to the car to be greeted by a couple telling us that we had a flat tyre. Realising that the noise we’d heard, going around a corner earlier, was in fact the tyre going we “popped the trunk” and got the spare out. Neither of us had changed a tyre before but a few minutes later we had the “space saver” spare on. Unfortunately, this meant a maximum speed of 80kmh. We crawled in to National Park and had a bit of a chat with the hostel owner.

The flat tyre was not so much of a puncture, more of a health hazard. While the outside of the tyre had passable tread the inside of the tyre was completely bald, so bald, in fact, that Steve cut his finger on the metal. Spotting a possible insurance/rental rip-off problem we decided to cover our backs as we didn’t want to pay for the obviously terrible tyre. We popped to the police station and asked the onduty guy to have a look at the tyre and he said he’d back us up if the rental company refused to pay for it. Excellent, we thought, grabbed some food and hit the sack.

The following morning we’d signed up to do the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, New Zealands best one day walk. Tongariro national park is all about volcanoes. Mont Ruapehu being the largest with Mount Tongariro, now inactive but responsible for an absolutely monumental explosion several hundred thousand years ago, and Mount Ngauruhoe, the volcano best known for being Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings. We’d been told by several people that the Alpine Crossing was not safe during the winter and that we should use a guide. So £50 later we were in a group of 10(ish) kitted out with crampons and ice axes and heading up the volcano. Either unfortunately or fortunately we had an absolutely stunning day and while this meant amazing views it also meant that me and Steve felt we could have just done it on our own. Anyway, it was a very good day, with the group’s pace not being too bad (a little slow at times.) We did at one point shoot off just to get the adrenalin going. We also had a bit of fun on the way down, sliding down about 150 yards of the volcano on our arses! I’ve got a video somewhere…Me on Tongariro in front of Ngauruhoe (Mount Doom)That night we somehow managed to get ourselves in to a pub quiz with the hostel owner. Neither me nor Steve really wanted to be in his team but it turned out to be an ok night. It was also quite fortunate because, had me and Steve done the quiz on our own, it would have been quite embarrassing. Our knowledge of New Zealand contemporary culture just isn’t quite there.

The following morning we (well the car) limped round to the garage so that we could blow up the now flat spare tyre. Realising we only had limited time on the spare we went as quickly as possible down the road hoping to spot the garage that the hostel owner had told us about. Thankfully we came across it and managed to get a new tyre pretty quickly. The mechanic even spoke to the rental company for us and sorted it all out!

Having been told by the hostel owner that the 42 Traverse bike ride wasn’t actually all that good we left National Park to go to Rotorua and try the mountain biking there instead. Rotorua is best known for its location on top of a seriously volcanic area. It’s so volcanic that people have geysers in their back gardens and hot bubbling pools pop up all over the place. It also stinks of Sulphur so quite why you’d want to permanently live there is beyond me. While we’d come to see that we’d also been told that the mountain biking just outside Rotorua was top notch as well.

We crashed for the night in Cactus Jacks, a wild west themed hostel (!!) but not before I’d visited Hell Pizza for dinner: love that place. Not very early the next morning we drove off to Whakarewarewa Forest in search of a mountain bike rental place and alledgedly the best mountain biking in New Zealand. Arriving at the car park we noticed a load of tree huggers but not much in the way of mountain bikes. Hedging our bets we started walking off towards the forest visitor centre but soon realised that it didn’t feel right. A couple rode past who told us that the guy is usually waiting in the car park but to try his warehouse round the corner. We did, and we found him (Planet Bike) and not long after were on some pretty decent bikes (disk brakes, 27 gears plus decent front suspension) and heading off in to the forest. This place is brilliant. I’ve done a fair bit of mountain biking but nothing anywhere near this organised. The forest is reserved for bikers only and has numerous semi-artificial tracks, both downhill and uphill, to enjoy. It’s amazing; if I grew up there I’d probably be on it every day.

Having spent three hours throwing ourselves around the forest we spent the rest of the afternoon on a little drive out to see the “green” and “blue” lakes just outside of Rotorua. To be honest not really worth it but for completeness! We spent another night in Rotorua before heading off fairly early up towards the Coromandel peninsula.

At this point we were pretty much running out of tourist attractions to visit what with it being winter and therefore not really beach weather. Regardless of that I wanted to see some of the northern area of the North Island so we first drove up to Whangamata, a fairly big but essentially lifeless town, before driving on to Thames for the night. Thames was actually smaller than Whangamata and our hostel was up for sale. I couldn’t really blame them, I’m not sure how they’d even cover their costs. It was, however, lively enough to give us a good Indian before we went back to the hostel and watched a couple of videos.

The next day we drove up to Whangarei and the Bay of Islands, and, more specifically, Paihia. While I’m sure this place is amazing in the summer it’s an absolute waste of time when it’s blowing a force 10 gale and raining cats and dogs. So we didn’t exactly stay long, just one night, before heading down to Auckland to finish our road trip.Goat Island Marine Park

Auckland, despite the amount of abuse it receives, is actually a fairly nice city. Nothing amazing, by all means, but it´s got some nice areas, is pretty clean and has pretty much everything you´d need. That, I´m afraid, is about as much as I can sell it.

As we had to return the beast (the rather sarcastically named hire car) on the Monday at some point we decided to make the most of that morning and head to the golf course before returning it, plus we had to move the car before 8am so decided to just head off then. Chamberlain Park Golf Course is just off highway 16 as you go west out of Auckland. We knew this very well but neglected to take a map or directions with us so just headed west out of the city. Unfortunately we managed to get on highway 1 heading over the estuary in completely the wrong direction. I took the first possible exit in order to get back on the highway in the opposite direction. However, what with it being rush hour, there was a considerable queue and we decided to “wing it” by trying to go around the opposite, albeit longer, way. This proved to be very fruitful, we did in fact get straight to the golf club, it just took 80 minutes longer than the 15 minute journey should have been.

Anyway we turned up at the golf club and got some hire clubs ($20 for a half set) and paid the green fee ($30, about
£12.50) and headed out to the first tee. At this point I was a little anxious as I hadn´t swung a club in a while and I hate playing golf when I´ve got no confidence in my shot. Things were made worse when a guy rocked up and we ended up playing a four ball with two locals. Anyway, in the end, my driving (just a 3 wood, left the obscene driver well alone) was pretty bloody good and my irons weren´t too bad. Putting, and short stuff, was, as always, useless. On a more positive note you´ve got to hand it to Auckland. Given the price the standard of the course was excellent. Very well maintained, fairly decent greens but, due to the clientele, a bit of a mess in places with irreplaced divots and unrepaired pitch marks. Oh, and the weather was amazing.

Having played an almost agreeable round of golf we headed back (the quick way) to the city centre in order to hand in the car. They managed to notice that a couple of hub caps were missing, and were going to charge us for them, until we mentioned that we needed reimbursing for the tyre, and then the manager said “No worries boys, forget what you owe us and le me pay you”. Ok, will do.

Auckland Sky Tower

Without a car we were then pretty much confined to Auckland so the next couple of days were pretty chilled out, just checking out the city and, for me, trying to get a replacement Yellow Fever certificate for South America.

Author: Mark Jerzykowski Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

New Zealand - South Island

September 20th, 2009
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Having said my goodbyes to Em I boarded a flight to Christchurch in order to get to my final destination Queenstown. As per usual I had taken the cheaper route although whether it’s worth it I don’t know. I stayed the night in Christchurch airport (which was not nice) and then had my connection to Queenstown delayed by an hour in the morning. Apparently, a computer fault in Auckland was to blame for my Christchurch to Queenstown flight being delayed, who’d have thought!

Queenstown is the activity centre of New Zealand. It provides great access to Fjordland, Mountains, Skiing (in the winter), the Lakes District as well as crazier things like Bungy jumping, jet boating and generally throwing yourself off stuff. The arrival, by plane, in to Queenstown is definitely one to remember. There’s no easy glide in to the airport, oh no. Instead the pilot basically has to swoop in to the runway, flying down in a valley. It’s a pretty amazing view as you come in on a fairly big commercial jet. I met back up with Steve and Rav at the airport and we promptly hopped in to our amazing set of wheels: a Mazda Familia 1.5 Automatic. This is quite possibly the worst car I’ve ever been in. I may even do a seperate post on it’s finer points.

We spent the first day in Queenstown catching up on their time spent in New Zealand as well as a bit of planning for the time ahead. We also drank cocktails out of teapots in world bar but that, quite frankly, is a bit too surreal to remember clearly. The second day, however, we spent on the slopes. Cunningly (or accidentally depending on how you look at) we’d timed our visit perfectly with “The Winter Games 2009″, the precursor to the Winter Olympics. While Ravi and I had skied before, Steve had snowboarded only a few times, so we decided that we would all board for the day. Ravi and I booked ourselves in to a lesson in the morning and collected our hire stuff. Unfortunately, as I suspected, the lesson was with around 7 others and really far too slow paced. As a result I left the lesson a little early to go throw myself down the slopes in the hunt of boarding nirvana: I did not get it. As my sister had pointed out it’s just not as much fun as skiing, and hurts a whole lot more. We did, though, get to see some of the games while we were boarding. One particularly impressive site was Shaun White throwing himself down the half pipe pulling off consecutive 1080s of some variety.

The next couple of days, what with the terrible weather, were spent visiting Arrow Town and not a lot else really. Arrow Town is a town created during the recent gold rush. It’s described, by everywhere, as being “Quaint”. This is certainly true, but a more apt description would be dull. There’s a chinese settlement there as well which barely heightens the experience. Anyway, on the third day we were actually going to go down to the Milford Track/Sound but due to the recent snowfall the road had been closed. We’d pretty much given up with the thought of the slopes but this new snowfall coupled with promising weather conditions tempted me and Steve back to the slopes. Ravi, by then, had left us on his one man mission to South America.

Our second day on the slopes was much better. With the new snowfall (30cms) Pout it baby!and the promise of better weather we took to the slopes. This time I went with skis as I actually wanted to see something of the mountain and take in the scenery. Fortunately the weather man got it wrong; the weather wasn’t improving, it was perfect. Beautiful clear skies with great fresh powder mean’t that the skiing was great. Unfortunately, that also mean’t that, being a Saturday, the entirety of the south island was also on the slopes. Queue long queues!

The following day, what with the Milford road still shut, we decided to head to the Routeburn Track, alledgedly number 9 on the worlds greatest walks list. Ordinarily it’s a four day walk but given the high avalance risk we were advised to only do the one day up to the Falls Hut just below the snow line. The problem with backpacking, or my backpacking at least, is that you try to pretty much cater for every eventuality. Unfortunately for me, that meant hiking in a moderately waterproof jacket with a pair of cords on. Thankfully my hiking shoes were a cut above, mind you porous trainers would have been a cut above. No sooner had we started the walk the skies opened. We made it to the first shelter in relatively good condition and met a couple of guys there. One, who was obviously set up for the hike and had been in that shelter a night already. The other, was worse than us, with no food and only a hoodie on! Routeburn PlainWe had a quick snack and then took off up to the falls hut. Half way up we met a couple coming down (the only other people this high up) and asked if it was possible to get above the trees. They, dressed in full waterproofs with walking poles and 70kilo backpacks, took a look at us, Steve in shorts, and said we could but probably not a great idea. Anyway, we kept on going, and managed to reach the falls hut in 40 minutes, a full 20 minutes before the quicker suggested time. At this height it was snowing, and snowing good. We had a quick look about before deciding that going higher was virtual suicide and made our way back down. The way back was far worse. By now, my “waterproof” jacket was completed soaked through and my cords had started secreting some substance. I was getting cold and pretty bloody miserable. We managed to get back to the car in record time at which point I attempted to get dry and changed. It took me a full 15 minutes to undo the first button on my cords (my hands were terribly cold) and not much less to undo the rest. I can now fully appreciate waterproofs, it was horrific being that wet in that cold. From there we drove straight round to Lake Wanaka for a stop off and a much needed shower.

The following morning we took off early in order to get up to Franz Josef in time for the afternoon glacier half day trek. Driving on the west coast of the South Island is an absolute treat. The views are stunning and the roads a joy to drive down. If only we’d had a quicker car. On that note, later on in the trip we were outpaced by a Toyota Prius; oh the embarassment! Anyway, the Franz Josef glacierFranz Josef Glacier is fairly unique in two departments. Firstly, it finishes very near to sea level (less than 300 metres above in fact) and coupled with the warmth and rain is surrounded by rain forest. I spent the afternoon doing a trek up to and on to the glacier, which moves at around 3 metres a day, through a guide company. It was a pretty amazing experience, especially as I’d never used crampons before. We were also fortunate in that recent developments had meant that the half day route was “very interesting” with lots of nooks and crannies!

We spent the next day basically driving. Unfortunately there are some bloody big mountains down the west side of New Zealand and nobody’s had the foresight to put a tunnel through them. That means that to get 70 miles you’ve actually got to drive about 500 miles up and down. Anyway, what with the stunning scenery it’s not actually that bad a thing. It was just made all the more worse by the fact that we only had a radio in the car and every time you search for a station (which it fails to do) it makes a beeping sound. This was tedious at best. In the end we made it to Lake Tekapo, via SpringfieldSpringfield, in good time.

Lake Tekapo is famous for its slightly surreal creamy blue colour, the result of finely ground minerals in the glacial waters. We spent the morning having  a look at the lake, and chapel, and sheep dog statue (!) before making the quick trek up Mount John overlooking the lake. Walking through snow we made it to the summit where it was a little windy (to say the least.) Thankfully they’d, to accompany the observatory, put a cafe on top so we had a hot chocolate before heading back down. Once down we decided to treat ourselves to the hot springs just near the lake and spent a good few hours hopping between three pools of 37, 39 and 41 degrees. That afternoon we drove to Mt Cook village where we basicall relaxed in the YHA Hostel, which included a Sauna, while the weather outside bashed the hostel!

Thankfully, that morning we woke to glorious sunshine which gave us the (almost) perfect opportunity to head off for a walk. Unfortunately the nights snow meant that most of the walks were closed due to avalanche risk. Anyway we took off for the walk, in what was sometimes over a foot of fresh snow, and made it further than anyone else before feeling we could gain no more and heading back. It was a wonderful view of the tallest peak in New Zealand and really rather lucky. That afternoon we drove to Christchurch for a bit of city time.

Mount CookChristchurch is the “garden city” with a very english feel. It’s the biggest city on the South Island but at just over 350,000 people isn’t exactly huge: it definitely feels that way. We did the usual tourist stuff, including visiting the crazy modern art museum (some of the stuff these people get away with) and failing to find a Bonsai enclosure in the botanical gardens. We also saw a shell house and went to a mexican cafe for dinner and drinks. The night was topped off by a visit to a cuban bar with a live band. A guy, on guitar, and a girl playing a few tunes done with a south american vibe. They were great, the $4 whiskey and cokes were not bad and we had a pretty good night, apart from a couple of guys chatting us up.

The following day we headed off to Picton, on the north coast, to get the ferry over to the North Island. Picton, is generally seen only as a transit town for access to the ferries. However, it’s got some real beauty itself. The bay is lovely, with some gorgeous rolling hills and islands within the natural harbour. We had a little bit of a drive on our second day and were lucky enough to see a couple of seals, very close to shore, playing and rolling about.It's a Seal!

Author: Mark Jerzykowski Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

East Coast Australia

September 20th, 2009
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With only a small amount of time we had to do some serious cutting down on the whole East Coast Australia experience. In order to get everything sorted in advance we decided to use a Peter Pans travel centre to book all of tours, accommodation and travelling for us. With that in mind we flew off to Brisbane on the 12th with, yet again, Emma taking a lovely Quantas flight (pre-booked) and me taking virgin blue (no free food on that then.) As soon as we got in to Brisbane we got ourselves straight on a bus down to Byron Bay.

Byron Bay is quite a quirky little town with a slightly alternative feel. It feels a bit like where eco-warriors would live if they had a load of money i.e. it’s got a care free attitude but with some really nice architecture and the usual upmarket deli’s and cafes. We spent two nights in Byron Bay in total, both of which were spent at the Arts Factory. As it was winter time it wasn’t really that amazing a place, especially given all the hype that surrounds it; it had been suggested by various people as well worth a visit. Anyway I can imagine that in the summer it would be buzzing, and the surf would be a whole lot more appealing.

After that we caught a bus straight up, back past Brisbane, to Rainbow Beach. Rainbow Beach is not, in itself, that much of an attraction. The only reason for going there is that it allows cheap access to Fraser Island. Anyway, out of necessity (we had to view a safety briefing) we spent two nights in Rainbow Beach and a fair bit of time on the actual beach itself. It’s a very quiet little town but quite a nice one at that. Basically consisting of about 100 yards of high street with barely a restaurant in that it did however have a little bakery that does an excellent pepper steak pie: definitely recommended.

For our visit to Fraser Island we had decided to do a self drive tour. Basically it’s a group of eleven 18-30(ish) people camping on the island for 2 nights while driving around in a toyota 4×4 people carrier type thing. Fraser Island is the worlds largest sand island. It’s about 90 miles long by 15 miles wide and contains awesome sand dunes, tall rainforest and some really beautiful lakes.

Em and I ended up in a group consisting basically of teenagers which was actually not that bad, despite my moaning at the time. The only reason this was a problem is that you had to be over 21 to be able to drive the 4×4, which meant that I did all the driving (pretty much.) Again, at the time, I may have pretended to moan slightly about this fact but in all honesty I much prefered doing the driving as it was really pretty good fun to drive on the beach and even more fun to drive on the inland tracks.

Our first day saw us visit Lake McKenzie almost straight away. Lake McKenzieThis is a freshwater lake with pretty stunning visibility and sits 100 metres above sea level inside one of the sand dunes. The drive to the lake is pretty amazing as well, taking around 30 minutes to drive inland from the beach through awesome rainforest. Having done this we then headed straight for our first nights camp site. The problem with driving along a beach is that the tide tends to ruin your road every now and then. To compensate for this we were handed a map with low tide (and high tide) times so that we were always on the beach at the right moment. Unfortunately nobody bothered to listen to the exact itinerary so we’re not sure we ever camped in the correct place. Anyway, the “proper” campsites on Fraser Island operate a silence rule after 9pm which didn’t sit too well so it’s also possible to simply camp off the back of the beach. You can be as loud as you want but there’s no facilities!

Our first night camping was pretty cool, Jodie, one of the fellow campers, took it upon herself to do the cooking, which was nice! We had steak for dinner and were then treated to the most amazing night sky. Getting over the sand dune away from the camp lights basically put you in complete darkness, except for the sky which was absolutely beautiful. You could make out (I think) the horizontal plane of the milky way. Amusingly, while we did have a few beers that night we didn’t actually make it past 9pm! The thing with camping is that you had to be all set up before sundown and then it’s quite a long time until 9pm.

We were supposed to get up very early the next day but what with our complete lack of sleep, due to the cold, we weren’t exactly hasty. We left the sand dune after everybody else but thankfully, due to my driving4x4 on Fraser Island, were able to beat everyone to India Head. In fairness, one of the trucks (there were three groups) had to return to the campsite in order to pick up someone that they seemed to forget! India Head is a pretty little headland at the northern end of the island and it’s possible, given time, to see Rays, Sharks and Whales from the top. We did see a few Whales but they were so far away it wasn’t really all that worth it. From there we walked 40 minutes up the beach to visit the Champagne Pools, a few rock pools containing fish. These were fairly nice, if not bloody freezing. We finished the night by camping near the wreck of the Maheno, a shipwrecked boat about halfway up the 70 mile long beach. Yet again Jodie cooked, which was great, and then one of the guys proceeded to get absolutely trolleyed which made for some good entertainment.

The final day involved a quick trek to Lake Wabby, where you can have fish eat away your dead skin (if you can take the cold), and then a drive back to the hostel to handover the cars. That night is then supposed to be spent partying in the hostel but me and Em had to get a night bus straight up to Airlie beach so that we could see the Whitsundays.

The Whitsundays are a group of islands off the east coast of Australia at the southern tip of the Great Barrier Reef. They’re a national park and protected area which means that what little development there is is done well and all of the wildlife is protected. When presented with a selection of boats to sail on it’s quite hard to pick one. There’s loads of the things to choose from but in the end we ended up on Boomerang. Boomerang was an ocean racing yacht, is built entirely out of carbon fibre and is 83ft in length. It’s quite a cool looking boat, but to say it’s functional is an understatement. Whilst the “party” boats get chairs Boomerang pretty much has nothing. It does though have an awesome crew, who do amazing food and keep you really well entertained. We had a full compliment of 3 crew and a group of 28 so space was at a premium but it was a good group and lots of fun.

The first afternoon was basically spent getting over to the first anchorage spot for the night. Luckily we had a fair bit of wind so the sails were hoisted and we headed, at 45 degree tilt, over. Unfortunately the rest of the trip was not so kind and, while we did do a little more sailing, we basically spent the rest of the trip on power. This was a great shame as Boomerang is really designed to be sailed at full pelt and it’s a wonderful sensation when it’s tilted on it’s side and you’ve got the wind in your, now a little too long, hair.

The next day was spent basically getting down to Whitehaven beachWhitehaven Beach, once the worlds best beach (and maybe still is, who decides this?) Whitehaven beach is not only very beautiful and remote its also ridiculously pure silica. Just under 100% pure silica gives it the most amazing feeling in between your toes. The rest of that day was spent snorkelling, which was very cool, literally and otherwise. We spent the evening getting yet more drunk and listening to ridiculous antics of a guy called Tree, interspersed with the spotting of a whale and some sharks just metres from our boat. The following morning we snorkelled some more before heading back to Airlie. That mornings snorkelling was pretty cool, in particular, as I ended up swimming with a giant turtle.

Due to the short nature of our trip we had to leave Airlie that afternoon (not before a spot of sunbathing near the lagoon) on a flight to Brisbane. We’d booked a night in Base Brisbane which was obscenely, in fact too easy, to find. It’s literally opposite Central station, something that me and Emma failed to spot as we walked off in the opposite direction. That night was pretty late and we essentially wanted to grab some food and crash. Unfortunately, my lack of foresight, in wearing flip flops, and the lack of restaurants, resulted in us getting a McDonalds (yikes) and then turning in.

Early the next morning we went to the airport to get flights back down to Sydney. True to form I got on a pretty crap plane ahead of Emma before meeting up in the airport. We jumped in the Airport Shuttle and headed off towards Libby and Jasons near the Surry Hills part of Sydney. A little word of advice: while the airport shuttle is indeed cheap it is certainly not quick. If you’re at one of the major hotels then you’ll get dropped off quickly. Otherwise you’ll be the last person to be dropped off and what should have taken 30 minutes took almost 4 times as long!

Once we’d dropped our stuff at their house and said our hello’s we all went to Paddington where we caught the tail end of a fashion week. Both Paddington and Surry Hills are some of the trendier suburbs within Sydney and both have a really great feel. We had a lovely walk through Paddington before heading down to the Opera House for drinks overlooking the harbour. This is a really beautiful location and one made all the more important for it’s the location of Libby and Jason’s wedding in January. I’m sure it’ll be amazing.

Our final day in Australia was spent around the Rocks and Circular Quay, taking in the Botanical gardens in the afternoon as well. It’s a very touristy part of town but to be honest you really can’t fault it.

Author: Mark Jerzykowski Categories: Uncategorized Tags:


September 15th, 2009
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I took a slightly long-winded route to Sydney. Being on a budget does absolutely nothing for global warming. Instead of taking the fairly obvious flight straight to Sydney I first took a flight to Perth (the wrong side of Australia) before taking another domestic flight over to Sydney. This saved me considerable amounts of money but sadly not time; I had to wait in Perth airport overnight. So what should have taken 7 hours took me 18 hours, lovely.

Emma caught up with me in the airport and we headed straight to the hostel that we’d booked. Turns out that while it’s perfectly easy to get a really nice room in Asia it’s not so easy cheap to get a nice room in Australia. This place was a bit of a culture shock: a hostel for starters but sharing bathrooms as well, crazy?! Located in Wooloomooloo (that’s a real place) it was actually in a pretty good location, not too far from the main tourist attractions and within striking distance of King’s Cross, alledgedly the centre of the nightlife. That night we headed off to catch up with Ravi, who we’d not seen since Hong Kong, and went for an Italian fairly nearby. It was at this very early stage that we first realised that you really have to do early dinner in Australia. They just don’t seem to eat past 8.30pm.

The following morning we set off like good tourists and decided to check out as much of the city as possible. The obvious attractions are the harbour bridge and the opera house. More importantly though we headed over to Pitt St so Emma could get a photo on “her” street. After that we headed off down to Circular Quay and The Rocks to take in the views of the harbour. We decided to check out the harbour bridgeHarbour Bridge and Opera House walk (essentially walking over the very top of the bridge) but at AU$200 declined to take it up. In fairness I don’t think you can really see much more from the top and it’s also possible to climb up one of the towers instead for around AU$10! Anyway, we went over the bridge, decided not to do the tower as well, and then went for some fish and chips. Even though the British are renowned for their fish and chips it seems that the Aussies like them just as much!

That evening we met up with Steve and his new “acquaintance” Carolyn before joining in with a pub crawl arranged by our hostel. In terms of value for money the pub crawl could not be faulted. We headed to four different bars, scubar, the world bar and a couple of others; I forget! We got in to everyone for free and had a lot of free drinks for only AU$10. The night was slightly marred by the fact that Ravi decided to recklessly throw himself off a 6 inch pavement and twist his ankle. He took himself home while the rest of us (Me and Emma in particular) tore up the dancefloor instead.

The following morning Ravi, Emma and I packed our bags and went to Bondi. Famous for it’s beach Bondi is also the location of choice for many of Sydney’s young. It’s not hard to see why. A very cool beach, a laid back village atmosphere plus good restaurants and shopping make it easy to enjoy. In the end we spent quite a few days down here with our trip coinciding with the Sydney “City to Surf” run which sees several thousand run from the city down to the beach.Bondi BeachUnfortunately Emma was not feeling her best while we were in Bondi but, with Ravi’s ankle recovering, we managed to do most of the walk from Bondi Beach to Coogee Beach. This walk had been recommended by quite a few people but in all honesty was not that amazing, especially given the stuff we’d been up to. One thing that we definitely regret about our time in Sydney was going to see GI Joe; we knew from the start that it was going to be bad and it certainly was.

Author: Mark Jerzykowski Categories: Uncategorized Tags: