A Travellerspoint blog

Fiji

sunny 30 °C

So then we headed onwards to Fiji, spending our first night on the mainland in the city of Nadi where we booked our two weeks island hopping. We started on Beachcomber, an island in the Mamanucas which is so small you can walk around the perimeter in 5 minutes. This was our first stop in paradise and is renound for being a party island. It was no Ibiza, but we had a good night dancing on the beach! Next we went to Naqalia Resort, which was extremely basic, with electricity for only 5 hours a night, but was really personal, and we spent the evening playing cards with the locals and having a competitive game of musical chairs!

We headed upwards though the Yasawa Islands to Octopus Resort, our next stop. This place was beautiful, a proper holiday destination, with a gorgeous beach and pool, and incredible food. Next was Mantaray, which had the best snorkelling, and we saw tons of cool fish, as well as Nemos in their anemone home, stingrays, jelly fish and sea snakes over beautiful coral reefs. We also went swimming with giant mantarays. This was an incredible experience, chasing the mantarays as they swam against the current, feeding on plankton. They were between 5-10 metres long, yet were so elegant and we saw 4 different ones over the hour.

Next we headed north again and stayed at Blue Lagoon and Oarsmans Bay Lodge on Nacula Island. Blue Lagoon was our favourite resort, and we spent time kayaking, paddle boarding, snorkelling and tanning! We also had a fun array of evening activities including the 'Survivor' quiz and Internation Crab Racing! A wonderful place, with the best staff- they upgraded us from a dormitory into a private bure lodge!

Fiji was extremely beautiful, and a nice relaxing holiday before we head to Australia and start working!
Vicki x

Posted by vickismith 15:54 Archived in Fiji Comments (0)

New Zealand

sunny 9 °C

Okay so we have been useless at keeping this up to date, but here we go in retrospect!

So after arriving in Auckland, we jumped aboard the Kiwi Experience Bus and headed to the Coromandel Coast, where we first stopped at Hot Water Beach. Here, at low tide, you can dig holes in the sand, which fill up with geothermally heated water and make your own hot pools. This was a very cool thing to do on one of our first mornings as the sun rose. We then headed onto Waitomo, where we expored the limestone caves, and then Rotorua, where we visited the Mauri Village of Tamaki. Here we were shown many things about the Mauri culture, including how to do the famous Haka dance! We then had an incredible Hungi dinner, which is a feast cooked underground by fire. After here we headed downwards to Taupo where we had planned on doing the Tongararo crossing, a 9 hour hike in the snow between a range of volcanoes, however it was closed due to bad weather. The weather, however, did not stop Vicki from doing her skydive; jumping out a plane from 12,000 feet! This was such a terrifying, but enjoyable experience, with 45 seconds of free fall before a 5 minute parachute down with views over the entire of the North Island and the huge Lake Taupo. We spent the next night in River Valley, in a tiny lodge in the middle of nowhere, with an interesting sleeping set up of giant 32 people bunk beds! Then it was onto Wellington before heading onto the South island.

Once on the South Island our first stop was Kaiteriteri in the Abel Tasmin National Park. Here we did a short walk along the coast, before having a competitive game of mini-golf and then fish and chips in the pub! The next town along was Westport, a funny little place, which was just an overnight stop before getting to Lake Mahinapua, better known to all Kiwi Experience travellers as the Poo Pub. Here we met the wonderful Les, an 89 year old publican who holds the infamous fancy dress party. The night started with an awesome BBQ cooked by Les himself, before the fancy dressing and drinking began. Our theme was a T Party. The costumes were ridiculous, with our winner being Darren dressed up as the Tooth Fairy! The next day, with some horrific hangovers, we headed onwards to Franz Joseph. Here we turned into ultimate "flashpackers", jumping in a helicopter and flying onto the Franz Joseph Glacier. We were appropriately dressed in winter jackets and waterproof pants, with crampons on our boots, ready for a 3 hour hike across the glacier, climbing through ice tunnels and caves as we went. The views were spectacular and it was our highlight of New Zealand.

Our bus then took us onwards to Wanaka, and then Queenstown, where we settled down for a week. This is known as the Adventure Capital of the Southern Hemisphere, and rightly so. We both went skiing (which was fun, despite the lack of snow!) and Vicki did a canyon swing across the Shotover Canyon. Queenstown is also known for its amazing nightlife, and it didn't disappoint, always finishing in the infamous World Bar! Here we said a sad goodbye to our original bus, and the few who remained headed up to Christchurch. This is still a devastated city from the Earthquake in 2011, with a large "red zone" in the city centre, which is still unsafe and is waiting to be demolished. However it was interesting to see the Re:Start shopping mall made from shipping containers, and we spent one evening at the temporary stadium watching a rugby match, where the Christchurch Crusaders were victorious over the South African Bulls. From here we headed upwards through Kaikoura and back into the North Island to Auckland before flying onwards to Fiji for some sunshine and beaches.

Vicki x

Posted by vickismith 15:19 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Brazil and Back to Argentina

sunny 15 °C

After Iguazu we headed to a city called Campo Grande, from which we did a 3 day tour of the Pantanal, a jungle/wetlands in western Brazil. We started our trip on a safari, sitting in the back of a pickup truck, driving through the wetlands and looking for animals. Before too long we spotted a toucan flying above us and after hitting the river we saw hundred of caymen and crocodiles. Our tour guide explained that they werent dangerous, and proved it to us by forcing us to have our photos taken about a metre away from them! He was right, they were more scared of us (just!) After arriving at our lodgings we headed out on the boat for a night safari. We took turns using the torch to spot the caymen eyes glowing in the dark, and even saw tiny caymen babies in the shallows. As we were looking, the motor decided to cut out on our boat, and as it did we heard a sudden crashing in the trees next to us, and the sound of something running away. We think it was a jaguar! Luckily the motor restarted, and we made it back safely, but not before a school of sardines decided to jump in our boat!

The next day we went on another boat trip down the river where we saw an iguana, more caymen, storks, vultures, kingfishers, giant otters and capybara. After a long siesta we braved the hot sun to catch ourselves some supper- piranha fishing! At first we were a bit wimpy, but before long we were standing knee deep in the piranha infested waters, dodging the anacondas and caymen, and managed to catch ourselves about 10 that were big enough to eat and plenty of small ones that got thrown back (or cut up as bait..) Once fried, the piranhas tasted quite nice, although very bony! On the last day we went on a jungle walk, despite the torrential rain, where we saw monkeys, macaws, and plenty of mosquitos! We had some lunch and then drove back to Campo Grande. We then headed on our 25 hour bus to Rio de Janeiro!

Our first stop in Rio was Santa Teresa, which is up the hill from the centre of town. A nice area, but surrounded by Rios famous Favellas (city slums). The hostel was beautiful, with amazing views all over the city, a walk in wardrobe, and monkeys that came in the window and shared your breakfast! The friday night we attended the weekly Lapa street party, which was an interesting experience as it was still pouring with rain, and perhaps sensibly, many of the locals had decided to stay at home! In Lapa we visited the tiled stairs and the very strange cathedral, as well as the white aqueduct arches. We then moved to stay in Ipanema and then onto Copacabana from where we decided to go see Christ the Redeemer. Unfortunately after two attempts, He remained surrounded by cloud and after our fourth journey on the bus we decided to give up and go to Sugarloaf mountain instead! This was much more succesful, as we ascended the cable car in time for sunset and some drinks at the top as darkness fell. It was truely beautiful. The next few days were spent lazing on the beach as the sun had finally arrived and on our final night, went to the June Festival street celebration in Flamengo.

We were sad to leave Rio but our flight date was getting closer, so we took the bus down the coast to Florianopolis, a tropical island in southern brazil, where we had a stopover for a day. We spent our brief time off the bus walking through the jungle to hidden beaches and drinking Caipirinhas on the terrace. Another 27 hour bus later and we were back in Buenos Aires. One last weekend in South America before we fly onwards to New Zealand. It been an incredible two and a half months with many once in a lifetime experiences, but we are excited to move on, and for the next step of our journey!

Lots of Love
Vicki and Claire

Posted by vickismith 11:35 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Chile and Argentina

storm 14 °C

Sorry its been a while since we last blogged, but the last few weeks have been busy! Once we arrived in Chile we left San Pedro de Atacama to head for La Serena, a seaside town enroute to Santiago. Our short stay here consisted of watching the football in the pub and watching the sunset at the beach. Sadly it was too cold for sunbathing but Claire was excited to have finally dipped her toes in the Pacific! The next morning we had to get up early to get our next bus, and unfortunately the lady running the hostel had not had time to run to the bakery yet, so she gave us cake for breakfast- AMAZING! Despite this early start we ended up having to wait at the bus station as our bus was 2 hours late, but the bus company redeemed themselves by playing The Notebook during the journey! The locals on the bus seemed to find it hilarious that we were all crying so much! On arrival in Valparaisso we found out that it was Rememberance Day in Chile, and the President was coming to give a speech, right outside our hostel! That night we went to an amazing fish restaurant where we tried cerviche for the first time (raw fish marinated in citrus juice, nicer than it sounds!) The next day the entire city was closed due to the Presidents arrival and we watched a big military parade. Sadly our Spanish was not yet good enough to translate his speech, so instead we headed to the furnicular railway and went to explore the hills, where the buildings are covered in street art and graffiti. A two hour bus ride that evening took us to Santiago where we spent a whirlwind day seeing all the sights, including the zoo and San Christobel hill. The evening was spent having a nice meal in Bellavista and a few cocktails.

The next leg of our journey took us into Argentina, with a very cold border crossing in the mountains. Mendoza is the heart of wine country so we took the opportunity to explore by doing a cycling winery tour. At first we were very civilized, testing red wine, olive oils and liquers, but the fact we were given shots of absynthe at 11am showed what was in store for the rest of the day! By the afternoon the bikes were a bit wobbly, and as we cycled home down the busy main road we were joined by a policeman on a motorbike who escorted us back! This was probably neccesary as not long after Claire fell off her bike, twice! From Mendoza we travelled to Buenos Aires, arriving just in time for Vickis birthday! As it was a saturday, we celebrated that night, meeting up with some friends we had travelled with previously and going to the biggest club in Buenos Aires. As can be expected, a few too many drinks were had by the birthday girl, resulting in one less camera on the trip! This meant that on Vickis actual birthday she spent 3 hours of it in a police station trying to get a report for the insurance company.. oops! Once finally recovered from the hangover we went to see a percussion and drumming show called La Bomba del Tiempo which was amazing! Our final day was spent in the cemetery which was so grand, almost like shrines rather than graves, and is where Eva Peron is buried. We will be returning to Buenos Aires, so more exploring will be had then.

We then headed upwards to Puerto Iguazu, the Argentinian base for Iguazu Falls. These were incredible. Even in the dry season I have never seen so much water! The first view of the Devils Throat took our breath away and the views of the other falls were equally mesmorising. Although the falls can also be seen from the Brazilian side, these are not supposed to be as impressive so we skipped this and headed straight to Campo Grande, Brazil!

Ciao amigos!
Vicki and Claire x

Posted by vickismith 10:33 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

Bolivia

sunny 30 °C

So since we have last blogged its been a while. After the Inca trail we left Cusco and headed to Lake Titiacaca to a town called Puno. Here we did a day tour of the floating reed islands, which was really interesting but so set up for tourists it was a little strange. However well worth a visit- we went to the islands of Uros and then Taquile.

After this short stop we headed over the border into Bolivia to La Paz. We had heard very mixed reviews about this city and weren´t sure what to expect. It turns out the city is big and dirty with not much to do (we had already decided against doing the "death road"- the name gives it away!) We enjoyed a big night out with various friends we had met along the way, and took a visit to the Witches Market where there are lots of shops and stalls selling all sorts of touristy and downright creepy stuff! We soon discovered that there was a strike going on in La Paz and surrounding villages due to the minors wanting better working conditions. We did, however manage to get a bus out of the city, so took the opportunity to move on. Unfortunately at 6am on the night bus we realised that we were no longer moving and had hit a road block set up by the minors. And, not only were we not in Sucre, but we were actually outside a different town, 4hours away! After deciphering some Spanish we realised the road block would be there for another 12 hours and our best bet was to get off and walk, hoping there was a taxi that could take us into Potosi, so after much debate, that is what we did. Luckily a taxi did pick us up, and we eventually managed to get another bus to Sucre (going through another road block and having to change buses enroute!) Unsurprisingly the journey took us much longer than expected!

Sucre was a lovely town which seemes very European and we stayed for a few days just chilling and visitng the local park and market. Unfortunately our stay was extended due to a sick bug which spread around the 6 of us currently travelling together! However after a bit of recovery time we got the bus back to Potosi and onwards to Uyuni. Here we started a 3 day tour into Chile.

Six of us set off in a 4x4 landrover starting with the steam train graveyard (actually as weird as it sounds!) and onwards to the salt flats. These were amazing, flat and white in every direction, like snow or sand with massive mountains in the distance. Here is the perfect place for some perspective photos and we enjoyed messing around with various props! That night we slept in a hotel on the edge of the Salar made completely of salt. Day two took us to see a smoking volcano and lots of different coloured lagoons where we saw flamingos, as well as visiting some rocks which were completely weird shapes due to the wind. By the time we reached the hostel it was already zero degrees and our tour guide said overnight it hit -20degrees! Needless to say getting up at 5am on day 3 was rather cold! However after an hour of driving we went to see some smoking geysers and then onto some hot springs. Getting into your bikini when there is ice on the floor is very unnatural, but the springs were so hot they warmed us up instantly, and even when we got out we stayed warm for a long time. After this we just headed down into Chile, and across the border to San Pedro de Atacama which is our current destination.

All in all Bolivia was an adventure, with some tricky travelling and some beautiful sights. Next, bring on Chile!
Vicki x

Posted by vickismith 10:17 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

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