Monday, 26 February 2007

Road Trip

We picked up Betsy on the 22nd, and after stopping to clear out most of the contents of the local supermarket, we made our way to our first destination, Raglan, a world renowned surf spot on the west coast of the North Island. Betsy wasnt the fastest on the road, and despite Carl's best efforts we arrived at Raglan at dusk, just in time to see some lovely rollers and the last few surfers catching them. That night we headed out and found the one bar in town still open, but it was a cool if slighlly strange place with a good Ragae band playing. We debated staying longer in Raglan but decided to push on as we wanted to concentrate more on the south island. En Route though we had one or two little challenges awaiting.

First up was Zorbing, which involves climbing into a large ball containing some water and trying to stand up as it rolls down the hill. We did it in 2 groups of three and I loved it. Poor Julie didnt so much as Colie and I apparently stood and sat on her the whole way down. I went up for seconds on my own, but it was definitely better first time round, maybe the novelty was wearing off.

The next challenge was in Rotorua, and was a chance for me to take on the 7 meter waterfall that had capsised our raft 12 years ago. I was successfull in instilling the fear of god in everyone before we started, especially Sue who kept her eyes closed most of the trip. The scenery was really beautiful, not something I remembered from the first time. The first couple of small waterfalls were surprisingly tough. When the moment came for the big one I felt quietly confident, but still made sure I had a vice like grip on the holds as we went over the drop. As soon as we went over though I knew we were fine, there was no sickly tilting of the boat which flew straight and true and landed beautifully, though the guide at the back gpt sucked out much to his annoyance.

Later we met Ray and Amanda for some drinks, and in the morning headed to Taupo for out next task, a 15000 foot tandem skydive.
It was a bit cloudy so the jump time kept getting pushed back, so we passed the time sailing a pair of small catemarans on Lake Taupo, which was great fun if a little cold (i kept getting soaked).

The skydive was awesome, a full minute freefall (but still too short). There was a little cloud which we dived through and the scenery was really stunning (surprisingly enough I was looking around quite a lot).
Afterwards we headed south to Wellington, we parked outside Dee's, a friend of Coleys, who had gotten us tickets to the pub for the Ireland England match at 6:30am the next morning. Needless to say we were in good form after that game, but as we were catching the ferry to the south Island we couldnt celebrate too much.
I still had some stomach problems so became the designated driver. Betsy was a bit of a challenge but quite good fun to drive. The ferry crossing was lovely, smooth and sunny, with some nice scenery especially through the sounds on the south island.
First stop after the ferry was the wine region and some wine tasting, which I only partially sampled, and then we headed on towards Able Tasman area.

Today was a lovely relaxing day sailing around the Able Tasman park, which I had seen previously while hiking, but the sailing offered a really different perspective on it. The weather again was fantastic, since hitting New Zealand its been really excellent, warm and sunny every day ... long may if last.

Hei konā rā,


When planning this trip initially the one important date I had to plan around was this one, Feb 21st, the day Raymund (with a u) was giving up his life of drunken debauchery in exchange for wedded bliss with Amanda. The venue for the big day was a small village on the edge of a lovely vineyard outside Aukland. I arrived very early on the 19th, having left South America on the 17th. As for the 18th, well it kind of got wiped off the records by the international date line. Jet lag wasnt too bad going this way (even though it was 8 hours difference), so spent a lovely day with Ray and Amanda and some of the wedding party which included climbing a little volcano (i got to climb one!). To add a little challenge I agreed to push up the buggy containing Frank's daughter Ciara which was harder then it sounds on that gradient. All Frank's kids were great posers and I spent some time practising my portrait skills.
Nerves were definitely starting for the happy couple to be, but they were both keeping them under wraps well enough. Next day saw most of the others arrive, and we spent the day getting suits and stuff together, and later having a few final drinks in the aptly named O'Hagens bar.
The day itself was lovely, and the setting ideal. There were just enough clouds to keep the sun from burning too much, and both Ray and Amanda looked chuffed and pretty relaxed, and Iain's performance for best man speech was top notch - thanks for all who contributed ideas, I'm only sorry we couldnt use all of them...

Later on we even managed to get Ray on the floor (he's famous for his lack of dancing, but the sounds of Disband's hey baby got him out). All in all it was a really great night, and one of the most laid back weddings I've been too.
Ray even stayed pretty sober, until the shots tempted him...

Next day we were bussed back to Auckland. I hadnt really got any concrete plans for New Zealand travelling, and as Damien, Coley, Julie, Sue and Carl were hiring a 6 berth camper van for the next few weeks I was able to invite myself along for the trip, much to their dismay. It should be top notch.

Friday, 16 February 2007

No Volcano

I arrived in Pucon, a smallish touristy town in the lake district of Chile, with the main goal of climbing Villarica, but it appears the gods are not in favour of it just now. I booked to do the trip yesterday, and we awoke to pretty nice clear skies, but by the time we had made the 30 minute trip to the starting point, the clouds had rolled in and the wind was picking up, so we didnt even attempt to start it, dissapointing but at least we didnt have the same fate as the people 2 days before who got to within 100 meters of the summit before they had to turn back.
Pucon is pretty well set up for all kinds of adventure activities, so instead I passed the morning doing "Canopy" which is basicially sliding through trees on a flying fox, which was a good laugh, and then in the afternoon I did Hidrospeed which is basicially running white water rapids in something resembling a tobaggon, and was pretty scary (reminded me a bit of Kayacking, but with less control) but also great fun.
Today I was booked into the volcano climb again, but it was chucking it down at 6 30 so I didnt even bother going to the office. Oh well, at least my phone arrived safetly by bus, and theres lots of nice enough resturants and bars to while away the day. I tried to sign up to do some canyoning but it seems that no one wants to do much in this rain. Had to content myself with visiting the thermas (hot springs) which were a good antidote to the weather.

I´m now in Santiago having arrived this morning on the bus cama. It seems the weather has followed me from Pucon, as just as I reached the top of the statue of the virgin mary (a good lookout point for the city) the heavens opened again.
So instead I made a different pilgramage, to the vineyards of Concha y Toro and the pictured Casillero del Diablo cellar where much of the wine that I drink is made. It was certainly a spiritual experience. I just had trully excellent Thai food and plan on hitting Santiago's nightspots for my last night in South America.
Tomorrow night I´ll be heading off to the land of Jafas for Rays big day.
See ya,

Tuesday, 13 February 2007


I arrived in Pucon to grey skies and light rain, so not the best conditions for the Volcano climbing tomorrow, but its brightning a bit so it might be on. Will be good to get some exercise after lazing for so long on the boat.

I wasnt sure what to expect from the Navimag ferry, I had heard some great reports and some so so ones, but it sounded like a bit of a laugh and it certainly turned out to be. The start wasnt great, we were delayed boarding for 7 hours as the ferry couldnt dock due to high winds, so passed the time having dinner with the Danes from TDP.

When I eventually got on board I recognised I had the first symptoms of travellers diarohea so was glad I plumped for a room with a view and a loo. As you can see from the pics, things in cattle class were a bit more crowded.

Much of the first day the clouds hung to the shoreline, and the dramatic scenery didnt realy materilaise. I spent a lot of it in my bunk anyway. By evening it had cleared a bit, and as we reached the main glacier in the evening light it really was magical, with chunks of ice floating by, you could almost be on the titanic. Next morning was beautiful weather and the scenery really was excellent under blue skies.

The ferry docked at the tiny village of Puerto Eden, the only stop in the 3 days, which was a cute little place. I spent most of the trip out on deck enjoying the sun and shelterning from the wind, and spotting Whales (including Blue) Dolphins, Seals and countless birds. I had missed out on the big brother style bonding on day one due to my illness, so endeded up talking with some of the more quirky people, including Phil from Nottingham who had gotten here via a really long meandering motorcyle ride from Canada, and Gasper from Paris who had sailed from Senegal to Brasil and hitched mostly from there. After too much Concho Y Toro I accomponied Anita from Holland in a wonderful rendition of Radioheads creep and climbed onto the bow of the ship to do the "im the king of the world" titanic bit. The excellent weather also meant that the notorious Golfo de Penas (the open ocean part) was as smooth as a milkpond.

I left the boat in Puerto Montt with the intention of going straight to Pucon, but all buses for the day were full, so stayed the night and visited Frutillar, a cute little German looking village on the lake, where you could swim, walk in the forest and enjoy Kaffee und Kuchen.

Back in the Hospedaje I bumped into John from Mayo, who it turns out was on the boat but I hadnt met him. He is very kindly sending on my phone which i left behind this morning. One of theses days Ill get my act together.

Friday, 9 February 2007

A little Chile

OK, initially I was kinda chuffed to feel cool weather again after high 20s - mid 30s, but i´m pretty much ready to head north to warmer climes, so its good that I´m jumping on a ferry heading to Puerto Montt (lake district) in a couple of hours. En route I´ve been promised panoramic vistas of fjords and icebergs, and a lot of heavy drinking. Its a good way to spend 4 days after stumbling through Torres Del Paine for the last 5. But the experience was definitely worth it, even if the occasionally howling winds, rain, hail, sleet and snow made it a fair challenge. But we also got lovely sunny spells and sometimes the wind even stopped. Its a beautiful park, and feels like its almost in Antartica (its not all that far) but to really do it justice you need clear blue skies, and they were fairly rare.

Still I had a ball and met some great people along the way, at various times trekking with English, Irish, Brazilian, Danes, Italians, Americans and even a couple of Chilleans. Got chatting to Nicole from Seattle about the Camino De Santiago de Compostella in Spain, and it sounds Awesome so considering tacking that on to the end of my trip.
Heading off to dinner with some of the folks from the trek here in Puerto Natales, and then its all aboard the Navimag.

Saturday, 3 February 2007


The word has always given me goosebumps, evoking images of huge wilderness, beautiful lakes and towering mountains. And wind. Lots of wind.
I arrived in El Calafate via Barialoche and some delays yesterday, and was instantly mesmorised by the place. Not Calafate itself, which is just a ramshackle town thrown together to populate an area near Chile, and in more recent times has taken on the mantle of gateway to the Moreno glacier, according to the guide the only growing glacier in the world. I though that the Kiwi ones were also expanding, but maybe I´m wrong. In any case, is a pretty spectacular sight, with large chunks of ice calving (love that term) frequently into the torquise blue milky Lago Argentino.

Was heading to bus station yesterday to sort out tickets for the bus to Puerto Natales. Chile when I heard a rendition of "dirty old town" and spotted Gerry and Steph from the BA tango, so will likely accompany them on the Torres Del Paine trek in a couple of days.

In BA I managed to get to a musem at last, though it was the Boca Juniors museum, so thats sort of cheating really. Quite a few players known to us on our side of the pond have played there, including Requelme, Nolberto Solano, Sebo Veron, Caniggia, Batistuta and of course Maradona.

Last day in BA I met up with Jan the dutch pianiast and Kiana and Anna from Norway. There pretty much doing nothing for 3 weeks in BA, which seems to suit them.

Tonight I´m planning on having Fondue with some Swiss I met on the trip to the Glacier, so should be a change from Steak (which aparently isnt as good down here anyway - climate makes them tougher aparently)
Hasta Luego,