A Travellerspoint blog

New Zealand - North Island

We get to speak in English again rather than use hand signals!

sunny 17 °C

We arrived in Auckland very early in the morning after a very long flight...............well we came from a -12hrs time zone to a +12hrs so we lost a day somewhere during that flight. Gutted. The sun was shining and we were ready to pick up the campervan and experience life on the road.

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We picked it up from Rental Car Village in Auckland, who I might add were the most unhelpful people we had ever met and if anyone was thinking of renting from them think again...you get what you pay for! But hey we were off, with our bed, kitchen and cupboards all neatly packed into a 1.5m by 2m box on wheels....we won't talk too much about the campervan as we will do a short summary at the end of the NZ section.

Day 1

The first day we checked out some of Auckland and the amazing harbour and marina village - this place was well into its sailing! It was great to have a city so close to all the action on the sea, I (rob) would love to live here! We then checked into a campsite just north of Auckland called Takapuna Beach with a great views across the harbour. That night we cooked our first meal in the camper and went to bed on our lovely 1 inch thick foam bed!

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Day 2

Woke up to bright sunshine beaming through our curtains, but what a view!!! Went for a lovely stroll along the beach before a breakfast of cereal and 2 fried eggs! One of the first things we noticed about NZ was that everyone is seriously into there fitness and in particular speed walking! I laughed at the few people doing this in Clapham common but here it is the norm.. The second is how friendly people are here, the couple next to us on the campsite had commented on how cosy our van looked as they peered down from there mansion of a camper (this was something that happend quite frequently). We then got chatting and explained we had just started out and didnt really have a plan of where to go! The next morning they had prepared a list of where to go in the north island and places to stay, wicked!

After packing the camper we headed for the supermarket to stock up on supplies and then started the drive north along the coast towards the bay of islands. On the way we stopped at a couple of places for a swim and lunch, loving the freedom to go where ever we liked.

That night we planned to free camp, but after not finding a suitable spot (the campervan experience is sold on the idea that you can camp anywhere in NZ, in reality this is not true!) we parked up in a campsite next to Huka Falls near the town of Paihia. We also booked ourselves onto a coach tour for the following day of the 90mile beach.

Day 3

Woke bright and early to be picked up by the specially adapted coaches that can drive on the 90mile beach, we now knew what it was like to be on a pensioners day out (average age 60) !!! The driver was hilarious, an all singing, driving, joke telling, and poem writer Maori dude who ended every sentence with heyyyy! In no time we were driving along the 90mile beach (actually not 90miles but 90km in length), we stopped a couple of times to take pics and for the driver to collect his dinner of shell fish..yummy.

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Most Northern point of the north island

We then drove slightly in land and did some sandboarbing down the dunes. After a quick lunch at Houhora our next stop was the Puketi Kauri Forest, home of the largest Kauri tree in NZ. The trees are over 2000yrs old and were rather big.

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That night we drove down to Paihia and caught the quick ferry over to Russel where we camped for the evening.

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Day 4

Woke early and caught the ferry back to Paihia (we did this part to quickly as we thought we would be short on time!). Then we headed back down to Auckland, on route we stopped to use the famous Kawakawa toilets designed by the architect Friedrich Hundertwasser.

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Arriving in Auckland we swapped vans, as our one was drinking fuel at an alarming rate and over heating! However our new van needed its wheels aligned as it veered to the right so that meant we had to stay an extra night in Auckland.

That afternoon we were booked on the America's Cup experience aboard the NZL 40 sailing boat!!!

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These sailing boats are the Ferrari's of the sea, they're fast! And the best bit is you get to take the helm! The conditions were nearly perfect (more wind needed) and even with not the strongest of winds the boat was flying. With a little of help from Em and I doing some heavy grinding!!

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We even saw the Americans entry 'Oracle' training for this years race, they tried to catch us but with Rob at the helm they stood no chance!

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We stayed at the Takapuna Beach campsite again and for the first time went out for dinner.

Day 5

The morning was spent sorting the van, with it needing tracking and 2 new tyres. They had sent us out with 2 badly worn tyres at the front, which was not particularly reassuring!! With everything fixed we sped down and around to the Corromandel Peninsula, stopping for lunch at Tapu Bay.

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The sun was shining and the Peninsula looked stunning, the drive was amazing with incredible views, Rob wished he had is Corrado here! That night we stayed at Cooks beach at another campsite.

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Day 6

Went for a lovely swim in the morning and took a walk along the coast to Cathedral Cove, it was beautiful around here and looking back we should have spent more time here!

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But we were on a mission to do the North Island in a week as we had heard from many people that the South Island was better! So by lunch time we were back in the van and heading inland for Rotorua, a town surrounded by volcanic activity. We arrived at 2.00ish and we immediately hit by the eggy sulphur smell, which bought back memories of Bolivia and the salt flats. However in Bolivia the volcanic activity was miles away from civilization, but here the sulphur pools and steam vents were all surrounded by houses and people, it was bizarre!

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We discovered a natural water spring!

That night we found a great little campsite next to Lake Rotorua on the northern side, with a stream next to it and the free use of kayaks and boats. As soon as we were there we jumped in a boat with some beers and snacks and headed down to the lake. The lake itself was well known as a great place to catch Trout with people catching huge fish easily.

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Day 7

In the morning we were feeling more adventurous and we took out the single kayaks for an early morning row over the lake. When we got back we got talking to a lovely couple who had just finished cooking there catch from the morning, they gave us one smoked and one normal trout to take with us for dinner...yum!

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We stayed at the southern part of lake in a rather pikey little campsite, but the lovely trout we had for dinner more than made up for it! Thanks guys!

Day 8

We now headed south to Wellington, we stopped on the way at the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland in Taupo, mainly to see our first Geyser called Lady Knox. We had got there early to get a good seat on the front row. We had been told that this erupted at 10.15am daily, no nature is not that accurate, it is helped on by a man with a bar of soap! As the time drew closer the park ranger appeared, and after a brief explanantion he dropped the soap into the throat of the Geyser. It takes roughly between 5-10mins for the Geyser to get going, climaxing with a jet of water reaching heights of up to 20metres. It did not dissappoint as you can see, it was awsome!

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After the Geyser we took a walk around the park, the thermal area has the largest concentration of surface thermal activity in the Taupo Volcanic Zone. It is literally covered with collapsed craters, cold and boiling pools of mud, water and steaming fumaroles. I was very similar to the landscapes we had seen in Bolivia on the Salt Flat tour.

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Then back on the road for the long journey down to Wellington. That night we camped just outside the cityas we had an early start to catch the ferry over to Picton and the South Island!

Day 9

The ferry left port at 8.00am, it was the perfect day for sailing with clear blue skies and calm waters! With the beast (campervan) securely parked below we headed up deck for some sun and amazing views! Bring on the South Island!

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Quick washing of clothes before hitting the south island! The camper had many uses.

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Posted by robandem 00:35 Archived in New Zealand Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

South America

Summing up of South America

Our experience of South America and a few things we will miss ...... or not!

Realisations and obsevations
1. Dogs rule South America. Dogs are everywhere! Every street is owned by a dog or two! They chase cars, bark at everything in site including us.
2. Buenos Aires has dog poo everywhere! Two squeezes of the hand meant 'dodge the poop'!
3. Bus drivers are kings of the road. They are faster than any car and they are the best means of transport (the seats were like beds and food and drink served to you!). We became bus nerds checking out each bus!
4. Family comes first. Not work and money. Each night most houses have big family gatherings outside their houses, eating and drinking with family and friends.
5. South Americans enjoy kissing! Everyone kisses upon meeting, even if for the first time. Men too! Rob didn't take part.
6. Every new courner is a photo. It must be the most diverse beautifull country. From beach, lake, mountain, and glacier to cities, streets and plaza's.
7. Vast open spaces We would travel for hours and not see any means of life, human or animal. Huge areas of desolate land.
8. South America is huge! A 24 hour journey just became too easy!
9. Electrical wiring is not exactly the best! Hundreds of low lying wires from one building to the next. La Paz was the worst case. We felt sorry for the electricians.
10. Argentinan Steak! Nothing will beat it.
11. No cultural diversity. For example, Argentina only had argentinians, Peru only peruvians, etc.... We only saw 1 coloured person during our 3 months.

Odd things!
1. Argentina is obsessed with pizza and ice cream! Where did that come from! The ice cream lovely, the pizza disgusting!
2. Everyone in short. Robs head had a battering on many door frames!
3. The number of peruvians wearing black bowler hats! huh
4. Most streets were named after a town or city
5. Never any traffic jams

We will miss
1. STEAK
2. Hot chocolates in La Paz (a whole choc bar in hot milk! - Submarino)
3. Cheap beer and wine
4. Cheapness in general
5. Empanadas - like cornish pasty's but with bread like outside and yummy fillings.
6. The combination of amazing landscapes and beautifull people.

We will not miss
1. Cheese and ham sarnies
2. Dulche Leche - toffee spread with everything and in every cake!
3. Bread - like pastry
4. POO BINS! Sorry if we continue to do this at home!

Classic quotes
"The tide is coming in" - while sat by lake in Bariloche - Em

"I'm not coming any further, my bum is starting to twitch" - Walking high on the mountains surrounding Machu Picchu - Rob. Yes Emily did walk alone to take the pictures!

"We would get a good sun tan if we stayed here!" - while sat inside a cafe on the inside of the glass - Rob (remember he has worked for many years in the light industry!)

"Can I have la quenta por favour!" - Mixture of english and spanish commonly used by Em and Rob when asking for the bill

"I shouldn't have eaten all that...........I feel sick........I fancy something sweet" - Em after most meals eaten!

Goodbye South America, you were amazing....we will be back!!!
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Posted by robandem 07:50 Comments (1)

Santiago

Last stop in South America!

sunny 29 °C

We had 6 days left in South America, and they were spent in Santiago the capital of Chile.

We booked ourselves into a rather nice apart hotel with a mini kitchen
so we could cook for ourselves. The room had a great view of the city with the Andes in the background. It really is quite surreal having a large city with the back ground of the mountains, and yet the coast was only 2 hours away.
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The lucky residents have the benefit of great skiing and snowboarding in winter and the coast nearby for summer!

For a few days we checked out the city, exploring the various districts and getting the cable car up to the Cerro San Cristobal, which is a put basically a hill looking over the city with great views, oh and a rather large Virgin Mary statue!

Statue of the Virgin Mary on Cerro San Cristobal in Santiago, Chile
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Nice pic here of two virgins!!!!

To be honest whilst we were in Santiago our minds were focused on planning for New Zealand and sending back-up cds and other items back to the UK so there really was not much to write about.

Posted by robandem 07:50 Archived in Chile Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Pichilemu

Surf at last!

sunny 27 °C

After leaving the humid heat of Mendoza we were off to Chile and the beaches of Pichilemu. The beach with the longest left hand break in south america, or something like that...basically it had really good surf and perfect for a pro´s like Em and myself!!!! After crossing the border and collecting a connecting bus from Santiago, we headed south. We arrived at the small seaside resort of Pichilemu. We had already booked accomadation with Laguna Cabins and for some reason only known to myself (Rob) I had assumed that they were by the sea! We arrived in the dark and although you couldnt see the sea you could hear the rumble and crashing of the waves on the shore, it sounded awsome! Ok so we werent on the sea but we were only 5mins walk away. The cabins were owned and run by a great family with Eduardo the father in charge, they made us feel really welcome throughout our stay.
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They offered to give us lifts down to the beach to surf as his two daughters went everyday at 10am and 4pm! The first day we didnt quite make it but checked out the town, which to be honest was like a mini version of Western-Super-Mare with loads of arcades and not much else. But we were here for the beach so we got some supplies and headed back to the cabin. That afternoon we rented bikes and headed along the coast to the beach of Punta de Lobos, where all the surf action takes place! Wow the waves were huge!

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The following day we headed for the surf, slightly apprehensive about the size of the waves!! We rented our wetsuits and surfboards and were ready for some action. Now the guy who rented us the gear had warned us that the rip current was very strong, and that conditions were not great for learning...but we headed out anyway. We lasted about 1hr, spending most of our time battling against the current but it was great to get wet and catch a few waves! We went again a couple of days later when conditions were better and caught a few more waves! It really is an amazing place for surf!
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The following day we rented a car and headed into the mountains, as Emily and I tend do on our road trips we managed to end up on some very dodgy tracks and this bridge in particular!!
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Still our sporty little fiat made it across, thank god they are made of paper!
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On our travels we visited a watermill in a town called Rodeo, and were shown around by a really great little kid!
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We had never seen a mill work but were quite surprised by how effective it was! It was great to see all the inner workings, it could shurn out serious amounts of flour.
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After the short tour we were asked if we wanted to try what was basically a wheat and water drink. As Ems two favourite pass times are drinking and eating bread she jumped at the chance.....it was turned out to be really nice, tasted like sugar puffs!!
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After that we drove to various other places along the coast and a nice picnic. That evening the car came in use as Emily not to be out done by Rob by going to a South American hospital, developed some really bad stomach pains which would not go away! So Eduardo (slightly drunk) and his daughter very kindly accompanied us to the local hospital and acted as our translaters! Emily was put on a drip for an hour, and no matter how hard I tried I was not allowed to see her - in Chile it is against the law to be in A&E unless you are the patient! Eduardo imformed us that she had a dose of ´Chilititus´, which quite a few people get when they arrive, something to do with the oil! The next day she was feeling better so all was good.

After a few more days we were ready to head of to our final destination in South America, Santiago!

Posted by robandem 10:17 Archived in Chile Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Where to go next....?

......San Juan......Barreal

sunny 30 °C

We wanted to get into the more rural side of Argentina so headed to San Juan, north of Argentina. We were not sure if this was a good decision but it was only 3 hours away so why not?

We arrived in San Juan and immediately spoke to the tourist office to see what the area had to offer. Wow it all sounded fantastic and all only a few more hours on a bus ride away! Great!

We took the advice of the tourist office lady and booked onto a bus to a town called ´Barreal´. Unfortunaltey we had to wait 2 days to get a seat. Yes once again our lack of planning didnt help. San Juan itself was not brilliant but a normal typical large town. During the day the typical siesta starts at about 1. Shops close down and the town becomes like a ghost town. At about 6 pm the town becomes alive again. We can only describe this area like Elephant and Castle!

We were up early the morning of the bus determined not to miss our journey out of San Juan. It was absolutely pouring down, thunder was fantasic and the sky was lit by lighting bolts. The taxi arrived and we slowed ploughed through the rivers formed on the roads to the bus station.

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The journey to Barreal took about 6 hours! We had the oldest bus of the lot and a group of young kids going camping without their parents so you can imagine the atmosphere on the bus. I´m sure I was never like that. To top of the journey we had a flat tyre. Off we all got and watched the extremely quick tyre change.

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Back on the road again and we thought the journey was never going to end. For 6 hours it was desolate dry land, winding dirt tracks and a speed of about 40mph.

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We arrived in Barreal and dropped off by the toursit office. We headed for a hotel that was recommended by the tourist office. Barreal was definatley a typical small Argentinan town. Everything was so spread out, everyone knows everyone, people sitting outside their houses having lunch, horse carts on the roads, many push bikes carrying the supermercado shopping and kids playing in the streets. South America has the most beautifull scenery, I know we keep going on about it, but its true. From Barreal you can see the Andes mountain range.

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We arrived at the hotel. It looked lovey, a bit quiet, but this is what we wanted.

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No one spoke english, not even a little. We now realised this is why travellers tend not to come off the typical travel path, its very difficult to get around and communicate! The rather weird lady took us to the 60s style room, smelling of funny herbs may i add, and we were set for the night. Where had we come too?? No other travellers were here at the hotel or the town, the hotel appeared to be run by young kids, weird ladies, and to be truthfull ´mingers!´. We tried to book some horse riding (I was still dying to do this in Argentina as in Mendoza the bad tummy and need for the toilet would´nt allow me to go). After a good hour walk to the stabbles they were shut. Great! No horse riding once again. That night a lot of beer was drunk to make the most of our stay!

The next day we were off back to Mendoza to plan our journey to Chile for Rob to do some surfing (at last!)

Posted by robandem 09:58 Archived in Argentina Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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