A Travellerspoint blog

Best of Borneo

sunny

This organised trip was 3 weeks long and took in what it said to be the 'Best of Borneo' through Sabah and Sarawak. It said in the dossier that reasonable fitness was required for part of the journey. Having experienced the pain and tiredness of Patagonia and The Inca Trail, we felt quite prepared for what was ahead. Hhuummmmm - very wrong indeed.
Landing in Kota Kinabalu, Borneo it was evident that this was a country that would charm in ways we have not come across before from a whole Nation. From start to finish the Malay people and thier culture amazed us. Infectious smiles, happy personalities, genuine interest from the locals in the street. A kindness that only comes from within and living amongst it for generations. These people have someting to turly be proud of. Our guide Basil, was amazing and a what every guide should aspire to be like. Having an indepth knowledge and practice into his countrys beliefs and ways, he passed on his passion to us.
The group we was with was a good crack, most being like minded people and easy to get on with, which all adds to the enjoyment factor. We Initially headed for Mount Kinabalu National Park. Stopping at a suspension bridge with grand views of Mount Kinabalu (4'095m), reminding us of the daunting hike we had ahead of us. Our accomadation in the rainforest was in a wooden cottage upon stilts. The pouring rain made us hope for good weather on our treck. Nightly sounds that we have become well accoustemed to now and acssociate with only areas like this, almost deafing and phenomenal to listen to. Our early morning rise was blessed with good weather for the 8km hike, I know it doesnt sound too far does it........ after constant steep climbs and large steps all the way it takes its toll. Passing many beautiful plants, trees, flowers, insects, noises comming from the tinyest frogs or cricket, incredible views, and animals made the weariness more bearable. After 3pm and still having over 1km to go it started to rain. Rainforest rain! Hard and continuous. The last km the hardest bit of hiking we have ever endured and hope to again, the rain slowed us down so much it took us almost 2 hours. The faster part of the group reaching the mountain lodge before the rain. Many people broke bown at the excruciating exhaustion they were feeling and one lady not completing it until well in to the night (who had to be carried down the last few km the next day). Our motivation was diminishing with every step, but we knew that with the 1km ahead it was nothing compared to tunring back - this was not an option, all just being a battle of our stamina. Overwhelming joy hit when we saw the mountain hut. P5190121.jpg
The horrendous storm that night kept everyone awake - just what we needed. An early rise of 2am to make it to the top 3km away before sunrise. High winds still surrounding the mountain made it a scary walk up to the summit gates. Dissapointing closed due to the circuling wind and rain up on the peak made it too dangerous to climb. These rules put in place for our safety made us think it was a blessing in disguise however gutted we all were. Staying in the lodge until it was light enough to walk, revealed a fantastic view over the land below. This alone had made the effort of the climb worth it - the first time we had been high enough without the aid of transport to see above the clouds. Awsome, it looked like you could see to the worls end. The climb back down not as tiring but more painful with the repetitive impact it has on your knees. You could see the shroud swirling cloud covering the summit once we reached the bottom. Basil told us that it was the first time the summit gates had been closed this year, confirming just how dangerous it would of been to climb. Having a well earnt relax at the natural hot springs that night. P5190144.jpg
We got to see the largest flower in the world, common name Stinky Flower! It was 2 1/2 ft in diameter. A huge bright red beauty with amazing textuers and pattern to it. Having a bit of a love of different flowers this was a highlight for me. P5200180.jpg
Heading to Kinatabangang jungle for a few days it was evident how much natural rainforest had been lost to palm plantations and mans greed. Devestating and hard accept when you see it up close like this. We went on many boat trips during our time here and short trecks seeing many different species of monkey in the wild, snake, birds (the great hornbill), butterflies and lots of interesting insects that only the jungle and this himidity provides - Oh not forgetting the fun with the leeches!
Choosing Borneo for the opportunity to see orangutans in their natural habitat was the best. The large Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary releases orphaned and injured orangutans back into the wild once being nurtured back to health. The sanctuary having no perimiter fences means they can come and go as they wish once healthy and old enough, knowing that they will always be cared for and have access to food here. A wonderful place. We were 2 of 4 people lucky enough to whittness one of these incredible creatures within a meter of us. We watched in amazement at their gentile and graceful movements. Known as the 'wild men of borneo' their humanlike actions and drawing eyes capsulate you. P5230556.jpg
Manaku Island was a nice 'beach' day. Snorkeling, hiring a rubber ring and bobbing up and down ont the sea, and scubadooing, yes hor read it right scubadoo! A manmade underwater moped with an astronaut like helmet on to regulat the air 5 meters underwater. We was swarmed by many fish, and got to feel the coral reef and home of a clown fish. A wierd sensation, briliant and good fun. P5250669.jpg
Our first taste of staying with a local family here in their longhouse was a delight, accessed only by longboat and a rememorable journey up the river. Revealing a little into the lives and ways of these incredible people, seeing them wash, play and catch thier food in the river. At one point we had to get out and push the boat as the waters were too shallow - great fun. Basic living requirements meant the Iban tribe we was stopping with had an amazing lifestyle - intrigue, love and kindness to offer. Young children making their own amusement by playing with stones and seeing how many they could fit between my toes! Whilst the elders went about their daily routine of making fishing nets (taking 2 months to finish in some cases) and prepare wood for weaving baskets etc. Only too happy for you to join in and have a go. The local boarding school being well equipped. Night activities involved trying your skills at the blowpipe, with a bit of practice Sean managed to do well on the target. When it came to me people tended to move far away! An amazing world away from what we know as civilisation. P5270744.jpg
Trecking to Camp 5 through the beautiful rainforest to the base of the Pinnicals in the heat and humidity was welcomed by a refreshing swim in the river with clothes still on to freshen them up too! The dorm style open air shelter was a good resting place. Having the protection of a mosquito net, not stopping the incredibly close calls of the loudest frogs on earth looking for a mate! All part of the fine memories that will last forever.
Mulu National Park an area of natural beauty. Full of cave networks streatching for thousands of miles. Visiting Clearwater Cave and swimming in the clear waters, Wind Cave, Langs Cave all having their own unique and special charachter. P5290957.jpg
Deer Cave houses a phenomenan that was unbelievable to see. Living inside this enourmous cave are millions of bats, many spicies. Walking throught the cave seeing, hearing the sounds, and the foul pungent smell of the mound of excrement those little bats made was an experiance in itself . Let alone the nightly act they encounter to search for food. They start to leave the cave around 5.30pm in swarms of thousands at a time. Lasting for up to an hour each group intermittently leaves the cave in thier search. for protection each swarm creates its own snaking line across the sky, almost looking like a large cobra in the the air to deter its predators. Incredible. P5301022.jpg
Bako National Park rersident to wild pig, native monkey, crocodiles and green vipers was an area that was once a dream. The 5km walk to the peninsular breathtaking. P5311151.jpg
Our last night was spent in Kuching. It was the Harvest Festival there and we was lucky enough to be invited to to another longhouse to join in with the Celebrations of the tribe. With the veavy gambling and drinking already well underway we was soon welcomed into the atmosphere of things. The Chiefs son was quick to get me and a few others playing the gongs and teaching us traditional dancing too, much to the amusement of the locals. I think we was thier entertainment for the night. With each song, as a way of thanking us for taking part we was given a shot of the strong homemade rice wine!
An unexpected and brilliant finale to our time in this happy, fantastic and wonderful Country. Thankyou borneo.

Posted by CarrieSean 21:58 Archived in Malaysia Tagged ecotourism Comments (2)

New Zealand - North to South Island and back again.

sunny

Well Déjà vu! I've just spent over an hour on this damn computer writing our New Zealand entry and loosing every word of it. Give me a pen and paper, technology really gets my rag. I guess I was the idiot for not saving it, hey!
Anyway rant over!
Flying in to New Zealand in the Autumn season was a suprisingly time of year to visit. We was lucky enough to follow the good weather around most of the time. From a creative point of view a good time to be lifted by the rich variety of stunning colours that the autumn leaves on the trees provide.
Hearing so many great reports about New Zealand, it was hard not to build high expectations of this place and we was unsure of where to start first with so many choices. We was not let down by others impression of this beautiful country - we can see why you love NZ so much sis and Jamma. The North island being our first port of call, before heading down to the South and back again. It was in the North I realised that I love to visit very mountainous areas for holidays and inspiration, but prefer to live in undulating countryside where you can see long distances. Living in the flat Fens had more of an impression on me than I realised! When high mountains tower over you, you loose alot of daylight hours in the shadow of a mountain, and i found myself missing the good light - natural for an artist I guess.
Starting our journey in Auckland, we done a good deal of preparation and planning here for the next leg of the journey as well as visiting the popular and worthwhile Sky Tower. 360 degree views over the city as far as the eye could see, eating mouth watering food in the revolving restaurant. Visiting in the late afternoon allowed us to see the city in the daylight, it transforming gradually as the sun sets and the whole city lights up. Beautiful. P4060172.jpg
We decided we wanted to see a bit of culture initially, away from the usual touriust areas and more off the beaten track so headed over to the East Coast perninuslar.
Travelling to Tauranga and Mount Maunganui along the way. We stayed in Papamoa a quiter area, known for its stunning long beaches. Here we caught up with Katie and Mark, friends (and chiropracter) from home. Funnily enought they are also away for a year and Katie has had a dramatic new hairstyle too-like it Katie! We do not recommend climbing the mount in flip flops!! (Not our intention - we took the wrong path). Its a steep climb but worth it with great panoramic views from the top. Visiting MacLaren Falls and kayaking in the lake during our stay there. As the sunset we paddled up the lake past the turbulent currents of the powerstation in to the still waters of the gorge. By this time the stars were out and our eyes had adjusted to the moonlit night. The gorge only a few meters wide, long and very dark. The main form of light now that the moonlight had been lost from the high walls of sheer rock face was from the mass of glowworms. Magical. Later learnig that the light emmited from their little bodies was actually feases - not quite so magical! The chilled down stream float back to the lake looking up at the large night sky was perfect.
Driving to the East hugging the coastline, shouting for attention with its constant hissing and smoking vapour, was the beautiful White Island. An active off shore volcano.
The further we drove towards the East Cape the more rugged and amazing the scenery got and the more evident the Maori culture was. It was not unusual to see a teathered horse, sometimes their only form of transport. The Maori cravings to the entrance of homes and meeting places became more noticable and intricate. At first we felt almost as if we were intruding with no smile or greeting being returned. Later learning that eye contact is not common practise there - and with the bad way the Westerners have treated these people and their land i'm not suprised. With an insight into the lifestyle of the community of these private people, we began to respect them rather than feel uneasy. One of our favourite areas being Hicks Bay, families would turn up on the pier to fish. Charming. P4100244.jpg
Heading for the Capital we passed the Raukumara range and Napier. The range quite a symbolic part of the journey - Mount Hikurangi being the first place on earth to be touched by the sun each day - a very calming area. Napier known for its Art Deco - The Cathedral the biggest draw for me dissapointingly closed! I have never quite understood how Religion and an "open" House of God can have opening hours? But the architecture still impressive from the outside.
Wellington was a brilliant City. Lots to do and the people friendly. We had our Chinese and Indian visas to obtain here too, so gave us a good opportunity to get to know the area. Whilst on our travels in the south we met a guy hitchhiking. Mark was from Wellington whom we later met up with for the evening. He was in a band, Sons of Midas - good if you get chance to listen and also gave us a great insight to the music scene in Wellington.
From there we went down to the South Island, Picton via Charlotte Sound. This area was so beautiful and picturesque- pretty much like the rest of the whole of the South Island - absolutely stunning, all of it. I could go into real detail about everyting here but im sure youve got things to be getting on with and we have got the rest of the year to be enjoying!! So here's some of our highlights in brief.
Kaikora - The quadbiking here with Alistair was so much fun. His farmland consisted of many hectares set upon the hilly coastline where he takes you up and donw valleys through creeks and on random dusty dirt tracks - getting covered in it!
Lake Tekapo and Mount John Observatory - Amazing view from the top looking over the lake and towards Mount Cook-worth the steep climb and long walk back. Visiting the observatory at night was incredible. Seeing Saturn up close, many galaxies and shooting stars. The solar system just jaw dropping from the darkness up there. P4180431.jpg
Mount Cook Range - Wow! Nothing else need be said. P4200503.jpg
Queenstown, Nevis Bungy - On of the scariest things ive ever done 143m jump from a bit of string in to a valley (Sean agreeing that the first few seconds fear hit - longer than that for me!). Brilliant - big smiles!! The luge is worth a look too, fun karts on a downhill track and the view from up thyere good.
Sea kayaking at Milford Sound - Just the drive down to the sounds was so memorable and epic, snow capped mountains lining the skyline at times. The sea kayaking was the most scariest thing Ive experianced. A storm whipped up whilst we was out in the sounds and battling against the 3ft waves was terrifying. We capsized and I couldnt get my skirt (rubber water protector) to release and was underwater for what felt like eternity! Sean said that I had forgot how to breathe when I surfaced and quickly come to my support. Memorable in more than 1 way!
Doubtful Sound - A mixture of sun, mist and rain (usual) made it a perfect day to explore the area by boat. Mystical and very magestic, rainbows galore lined the curved tops of the islands and mountains. P4250738.jpg
Ice climbing at Franz Joseph - Fun and good preparation on a rainy day for the adventure ahead on Fox Glacier.
Fox Glacier - Booking a helihike was the best option. Unsure of wether it would run at all due to bad weather and landslides from the previous 5 days we was lucky enough to be the first on the glacier in days. The helecopter ride amazing taking you to the top and dropping you 1/2 way down thye glacier for the treck. Exploring was such a buzz, especially as the guide didnt know the teritory himjself as it had changed so much over the past week. Stu (guide)managed to seek out a new cave, carved out by water that went on for as far as you could see and wiggle into the glorious blue ice passage. An incredible day. P4290891.jpg
Pankake Rocks and Punakaki area - Interesting and mesmerising rock formations. When we was there the wind was in the wrong direction for the blow holes to create a blast but a beautiful area anyway. We spent quite a bit of time exploring the beaches around here and laying on picnik benches at night star gazing.
Able Tasman National Park - Spent most of our time in one area here. The costal bays stunning, very thought provoking and as the tide of the sea goes out your drawn in to the false sence of security that the shaw is not too far! Strolling for long distances along the sand with a backdrop of lush mountains and the odd horse being ridden past you. So easy to while away the time here not realising the tide has changed and surrounds you fast. Beautiful.
From there we headed back up to the North Island as we flew out from Auckland on to the next part of our adventure- borneo.
Tongariro National Park - although we didnt get to climb, it was quite bad weather on the mountain tops and was unsafe to do, but the views were unbelieveable. The top being covered in cloud initially we couldnt make out if it was covered in snow or the reflection of the sun off of the rock. Snow, and although it didnt look cold outside once you stepped out of the comfort of a heated car you definately needed several layers of thermals on! You could tell winter was on its way. A gentle reminder of what we have to welcome us back on our return in December!
Orakei Korako Thermal Cave and Park - Being accessed only by driving off the beaten trac and then getting a small boat over the river. This was a serene place full of dramatic colours formed from an active volcano. Silica, algae, bubbling water, mudpools, pungent sulphur, unusual rock and spurting steam made us wonder around in amazement. A wonderfully bizarre experiance. P5080300.jpg
Coromandel Perninsular and Cathedral Cove - A dense green area of rolling valleys and mountains. We spent a good to spend a few days relaxing here and walking the Cathedral Cove. Walking along the track you catch the odd glimpse of the turquoise sea and steep cliffface that awaits you. Down the steep cliff track to the cove is covered overhead by large trees the cove only being revealed in your last few steps before hitting the sand. Wow....... this place has to be see to be apperciated. We spent a long time here thinking, chatting and creatively talking about some new ideas and designs for our glass - missing my artwork I set about a bit of sand drawing.
We managed to catch up with another friend in Hamilton who is from back home, Will who has now moved to NZ. He is loving it, looks happy on the NZ air with only good things to say about it. Everyone in New Zealand seems to have a nice slow pace of life and a friendly additude. A county that has alot to offer and a charm of its own - This is another one to add to the ever growing list of "would visit again!".
We did have some very sad news towards the end of or time here. A good friend from home passed away. Our thoughts and hearts go out to Morris and Sylvia. You'll always be rembered for the good times we spent together and your happy personality Sylv, Rest Peacefully. Hugs and take care Mo xx

Posted by CarrieSean 03:27 Archived in New Zealand Tagged round_the_world Comments (3)

Australia Independently

sunny

The long flight fron South America into Sydney could of been worse but it was bad enough. A baby directly infront, oh no was our first reaction - but she was such a little sweetie, not making much fuss at all. It was the bloody adults we were jam sandwiched between that were the problems! Nice guys but boy, once on the sleeping pills they couldnt half snore!! They were big guys two who took up their own seat and more! The funny thing was when we got chatting to them they knew eachother, but chose to not sit near eachother because one of them said his mate snored badly! We soon got to hear how badly he snored too. Cheers guys!
Anyway we did find the funny side of it after loosing a day through the time zone and catching up on some Zzzz.
We had no definate plans for Australia, lots had been recomended by fellow travellers we have met along the way and friends from back home. The only couple of things we had wanted to do is go and watch the first Grand Prix of the season in Melbourne (Sean is a fan of it, this being the year to fufill some of our wish list-why not?) catch up with Alex, an old Uni buddie of mine and a few other travelling friends who live here if theres the opportunity.
So a couple of days before we flew in to Sydney I e-mailed Al to say we were on our way form Santiago and if he fancied meeting us at the airport at 7.30am it would be great to see him, if not wed cathch up later in the 4 weeks we were in Oz. Me knowing the old Alex from uni days was absolutely blown away to see him at the arrival lounge. That was the last thing we expected - if that was the only good thing in Oz id of been satisfied. Got to see him a few times whilst in Australia and catch up which was just the best (love ya Alex-dont ever change).
Totally unaware that the day we were entering Sydney was their Mardi gras. Great! We had a relaxing coffee & chat with Alex before he took us to Newtown (city suburb), where he had got us a place to stay for a couple of nights to get us on our feet. What a cool guy?! He was then off for the rest of the afternoon to prepare for Mardi gras himself! Performing in the street parade as a gay geisha. We dupmed our belongings and headed off to grab something to eat and get to the festival ourselves. We had so much fun sitting in the bar opposite where the parade started watching everyone turn up in costume (or no costume was sometimes more like it - just glitter! The vibe was electric, so much fun. Apart from one incident we whittnessed with the police, everyone was out for a good time. The costume, makeup and glamour incredible. A good day to arrive!
We done some sight seeing in Sydney, the Opera House, Harbour Bridge, Museum of Comtemporary Art and a short visit to Manly and Cremorne by ferry to catch up with Katherine, Kristy, and Rebecca who we had met whilst travelling in Peru and Galapogus (great to see you too guys). Stopping in Newtown was the best, a cool atmosphere in a hip part full of the wierd and wonderful where people like to be different, so a great place for a relaxing coffee to people watch.
Not wanting to be restricted to timetables of public transport we hired a car from Melbourne for the remainde of our time there.
We didnt get to see the Grand Prix live. Booked the flight to Melbourne, and then found out afterwards that they had moved the dates to two weeks later, Oh...... after several explicits we decided to not hang about in or aroung Melbourne for this period of time and to get on the road and enjoy. Being in Sydney for a few days was good, but it was good to be out of the city too! Collecting the car and heading away from Melbourne we had one great road trip ahead of us. Covering 7500km in 3 weeks, Phew - but experiancing a vast amount of Australia too. We loved the people, so full of character, lively and friendly. The only place we felt unwelcome in was Cooper Pedy, a small mining town full of natives (and tourists! that probaly explains why!).
So on the road we made for the Great Ocean Road. A long tourist route takes you along the coast, the most well known point being the 12 Apostles. We managed to get off the beaten track a couple of times and find some very remote places with incredible lava rock formations carved out by the ocean. We spent hours exploring areas until we reached signs of life. The famous 12 Apostles were great, huge scupled pieces of rock jutting out from the endless coastline in the pristine turquoise sea. Even more beautiful for me i think was Lochard Gorge, definately quiter and there is a pathway down the cliff face to a pristine sandy beach where initially you are faced with a cave and limestone formations, and then turning towards the ocean the perspective drwaing you to the shaw you notice around the corner yet another magnificent cave with more colourful stalicmite formations. Along the route we found many quaint villages and ports, one being Portland where we saw our biggest ray fish to date just gracefully gliding along the coast. Mount Gambia concludes the Ocean Road, with 2 dormant volcanoes close to the town one with eye dazzling blue water in it (hence being called the Bule Lake) only this blue at sertain points of the year and the other Lake Victoria which had water sports on. Otway Fly canopy tour is a few km off the route but well worth a visit. The highest being a 40 meter structure for you to see through the tree canopy and experiance the high life.
Until this point we had omly encountered kangeroos as road kill-pretty sad really. So being intuitive we headed for Kangeroo Island in hope of seeing some alive! Alive and kicking the were both wild and in sancturarys. If you ever get over there go to Pauls Sanctuary near Stokes Bay also worth spending time there. Paul had lots to show us and it was very full on having to bottle feed a joey, hand feed the walabees, kangeroos, deer, goat, laamas, emus, ducks etc. Got to hold a koala, possum, birds, snake and prickly freshwater lobster! Sean had an emu eat off of his head too!? after Paul put seed on it-what a character. Found some great places to stay, cabins and a retreat where
youd get the local kangeroo and walabees peering through your window! We went sand surfing on Little Sahara(fun), Admirals Arch Peninsular(lots of seals and beautuful), and Koala Walk(cute).
We travelled up through Adilaide, Port Agusta, Cooper Pedy (where we stopped underground), and in to the norterh teritory crossing several time zones since leaving Sydney! The vast distanses between towns where full of flat open desert with the odd beautful salt lake. We ran out of things to eye-spy!
Soooooo hot! Never felt intense heat like that. we had all the windows open in the car going along and was still sweating. Up to 40 degrees somedays and more once we got to Ayres Rock. I had all my hair cut off - infact Sean shaved my head (the heat and wind Pi**ed me off! - Sean knows what comming if he ever does the same to me) no, really its something ive always wanted to have done but never the guts and it was leukemia week here where people were having thier heads shaved and donating it to charity to have wigs made for leukemia sufferers-all in a good cause. It is great, no more knotty hair, quick to style(actually there is no style, even better) it keeps me cool, lets face it ill need it in some of the places we will encounter and an added bonus that i like it.
Kings Canyon first, then the Olgas, and then The Awsome Uluru. We saw the sunset and rise over these magnificent forms. We didnt walk up Uluru as we respected that the Aboriginals believe this to be sacred ground and prefer pepole not to. Once we was up close, we wondered why you would want to?! The steep climb and deathly descent looked almost impossible. It was closed due to high winds and temperature when we were there.
You can apperciate it for all its glory and grandure. A very magestic from with a huge presence to it. The walk through the Olgas and around Kings Canyon was also jaw droppingly geourgous. The big pitfall to this area is the ridiculous amount of flies that love to try ang get in to your ears, eyes, mouth and up your nose. Quite discusting and can only be tamed by wearing sexy fly nets over you head, which does tend to mask the textures and colours of everything around you. But a must if you still want some sanity left by the end of you time there.
From there we headed back down again, across to the Murray River, through the Snowy mountains(Yarrangobilly Caves-the most decorative caves weve ever been to-up close and personal), up the coastline to Narooma, Bulli, and Jervis Bay (a National Park which is meant to be the 2nd best area to the Barrier Reef) and up to the Blue Mountains(Katoomba, for the 3 Sisters and it stunning craggy canyon, turning powerfully mystical when foggy) before heading back to Sydney. Each one holding its own little amazing memorie for us and all places we would love to spend longer in. We knew that 4 weeks in Australia would never be enough to see it all being such a vast country but we think we gave it a good shot and hope to come back one day to do the Western Teritory, Northern Teritory and Queensland.
Thanks Australia for letting us share some amazing moments, an epic journey through your land which would make or break alot of couples and for letting us experiance some real dunnies! Their a whole new story.

Posted by CarrieSean 20:34 Archived in Australia Tagged backpacking Comments (7)

Chile, Patagonia

sunny

Wow, Wow, WOW! These being the main three words used on this trip gives you a bit of an insight of what we thought.
We flew into Sangiago and was welcomed by the sun. Nice weather is good for the soul, it going to be such a shocker comming back to England in winter!! We found the city of Santiago just beautiful, a great vibe to it. There is lots of "green" areas to escape the hussle and bussle of the busier areas, the architecture quite stunning with sculpture dotted around. You could expect the unexpected around most corners here, one charming little area was an artists square surrounded by lovely monumental type buildings and in the centre, undercover were lots of people playing chess on the permanant area set out for them. A good atmosphere to catch a gimpse of the locals. The government here protect all the dogs on the street here, quite incredible how many of them there are - most of them in good condition, lots of cute little characters. One of our highlights in the city was going up Cerro San Lucia (which our hotel overlooked). This is a delightful area where we passed many hours away. A mount full of tiny pathways that lead you past incredible old buildings, huge trees, pretty landscaped areas, cobbled walls, and eventually up very steep steps to the tower where at every day (except Sunday) a cannon goes off about two meters below your feet! This is to signify it is midday to all the surrounding areas, as far as the Andes, which you can see in the far distance. A tradition that they have been doing for years, and can come quite unexpectidly if your not aware of it!!
We flew to Puerto Montt, a fishing port with lots of character once again. The Chilian people are amazing. Spending quite a bit of time in Angelmo at the port there. Passing many side street shops, well more little huts with lots of interesting stuff - dishevilled stacks of woolen clothing, wood carvings, and trinkets etc. The port at the end of the street sellers and local artists had a great fish market (smell not so good!) we just got so absorbed there watching all the locals and their ways, they would chop a head off of a fish - toss it to one side on the concrete ground and a dog would come along grab it and run off to have a nibble. All this listening to the sounds of the locals playing music for fun at the quay! So much to see and fill your sences with.
We caught a cargo ferry which decided it can make a bit of money out of travellers who want to get to the south and converted a deck or two into cabins. The 4 day "cruise" became quite monotonous and we was glad to get off and walk around for more than 10 minutes. Having beautiful scenery and some good people on the same trip was our only sanctuary! We did pass some wonderful areas you wouldnt get to see otherwise, the Cotopaxio shipwreck, the Narrow Englis Canal, small islets, sea lions, and Pio XI Glacier. This beast is a stunning 1270sq km and 15km long, 5km at the front of the waters edge which we could not believe. We thought we was quite close to it until the crew got a life boat and went off in to the distance closer to it to get some fresh glacier ice for the pisco sours and they became tiny dots!! One night the waters were very turbulent - entertaining trying to watch people walk! tiresome if youe trying to sleep, being rocked to sleep is 1 thing but come on!!
Docking in Puerto Natales was a pleasant relief.
You cant get a sence of the grandness of Patagonia until your actually there. Seeing pictures of Torres Del Pianes (torres meaning towers) gives you an apperciation of it beauty but being there makes you feel humble. A place of such beauty that literally does tower above you. we completed part of the W circuit camping in the grounds of hostels with those views was fantastic. We covered 60km in 4 days Auch! We think it was harder than the Inca trail, double Auch! I cannot really begin to describe the scenery here - You and I have got things to be getting on with, id be here forever!! We trecked the base of Las Torres 1 day, ferried around to the otherside and trecked the other the next and saw the French Glacier, trecked up to the Grey Glacier the next and back the next. The treck up to the Grey Glacier was our favourite - the most incredible sights weve experianced so far - the 3 hour climb to the top was mindblowing, such huge grins on our faces - our first glimpse of the glacier! We was meant to camp in a tent at the base of the glacier but once we saw the tents had no reat protection from the cold air basically just a mosqi\uito net we wimped out and stayed in the refuge with the open fire! Glorious and layed in a real bed still with excellent views of the valley. We hope to explore a glacier in a later part of our world tour, but for now being at the base of one was spectacular.
This was an incredible part of our journey that we will treasure for the rest of our lives.

Posted by CarrieSean 15:09 Archived in Chile Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

Brazil Journey

sunny

Flying in to Sao Paulo we had no real plans - just to enjoy! One place we did want to try to get to was Iguaza falls. We had just 1 week in Bazil - we knew this wouldnt be long enough even to get a taster so decided to get a flight straight into Foz Do Iguaza. Perfect.
This will probably be a fairly quick entry as we spent a couple of days around the town of Foz itself, running some errands and catching up on the more practical stuff you tend to forget about whilst travelling. Foz as a town for us had some great little quirky shops, but not much else. Comming from several weeks in Spanish speaking countries and going into Portugese without a "language bible" was a struggle. Eating out was hard with not eating meat, nearly all were fast food type places. Most nights we had something with cheese, as this was about the only word we had picked up! Lame I know. We did meet a lovely Irish couple, whom we went out with 1 night and on their departure the next day they left us their, dictionary. Bliss!
We had a couple of days around Iguaza Falls itself. Most people told us that 1 day would be enough, but we didnt find this to be the case. There was so much to do and see.
The first day we spent some of it in the parks bird sanctuary - crazy little characters! There was some very beautiful birds, some of which we had never seen before. The walkways set out wonderfully in a forest leading you through some of the cages to get up close to the birds if they allow you to, or for them to suprise you bu landing feet away - great! In the Mackaw section you almost needed ear plugs, the noise was incredible. Their game for the day was to see how close they could swoop to your head! Quite nervewracking but a good buzz to have these 4ft wing spans come flying to your face. There was a butterfly enclosure - nice, but even better was the tiny humming birds you would find hovering around you. Oh and we both held a snake.
We then done something completely unexpexted. We had a helicopter ride over the falls, circuling it several times. This was an unexplainable feeling - the smiles on our faces stayed with us for the rest of that day. What an awsome experiance, lots of rainbows in the morning sunshine and spray from the waterfall - a gigantic spread of stupendosity!!!! ( is this a word?) The expanse of this beast is very unbeliveable. The walk on the Brazillian side to the base of the falls is good. It gives you little glimpses of its glory along the way, but the thing you notice most beings you cant see it along all of the track is its roar. The closer you get the louder it becomes until you end up shouting at eachother and still cant hear the other person - all you know is its something good their trying to tell you with the wide grin on their face! The spray from the falls was just like having a shower with your clothes on. That was a first. The second day got had a safari trip by jeep through the spider infeste forest. That was ummmm interesting. And walked down to a smaller waterfall to where we caught a speedboat under the falls. It started out quite gentle, i was lulled into a false sence of security! As we got closer it became quite turbulent and fun and then trip under the waterfall was quite different again. This time it was like having a bathtub of water over you - over and over, oh and over again! Couldnt stop laughing - water in every orifice! Lucky the sun was out we dired off quickly for the rest of the day. Enjoyed another walk and then done a fun canopy tour on logs, wires, rope bridges and zip lines etc.
We had hoped to go to the argentinian side too but I fell ill and had the remainder of our time in bed. Apart from the 18 hour bus ride back to Sao Paulo to catch our next flight to Chile - the bus broke down making us two hours behind schedule only just making it for the flight. All part of our adventure! We would love to return to Brazil in our future and explore more of it (north and east), we was left feeling we hadnt done it justice at all, but had an excellent at the falls.
OK maybe entry was not so short.
(if I spell any thing oddly you will have to overlook it - sometimes I spell fonically if im not sure how is spelt! - guess thats a bit of the artistic licence in me!)

Posted by CarrieSean 19:44 Archived in Brazil Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

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