A Travellerspoint blog

The Next Step

sunny

Its been about 6 months since I updated this or something. I know, I know I dont really deserve a TP blog do I? I'll try harder, I promise.

It's high summer here in New Zealand.

Christmas_NZ_299.jpg]
Auckland is just HOT and sticky most days and it's actually a relief to get into work just for the aircon! Still though, i'm not complaining. Apart from the odd torrential downpour it's fanstastic sunny weather and you are never far from a beach here. Auckland is pretty much surrounded by water, being on a narrow isthmus between the Tasman Sea and the Pacific.

Ive been a busy girl in the last 6 months. I've tried to see as much of the country as I can , racking up two speeding fines in my overzealousness to cover ground. Work has gotten in the way somewhat and made it difficult to be a tourist here, but Ive managed to do a lot, including a 15,000ft skydive, IMG_5729.JPG whalewatching, tramping and lots more. Im planning a dive to the wreck of The Rainbow Warrior over Easter Wknd which im really looknig forward to. :)

My family made the long trip over my Ireland to see me for Christmas. I knew my Mam and Dad were coming but when my two brothers said they wouldnt because of money and work issues, I was disappointed but made up my mind that I wouldnt be seeing them. So, it was a BIT OF A SHOCK when they turned up outside my office one Monday morning before the Christmas holidays! It took me at least a few minutes to actually register that it was them! What a great Christmas presnet though! So, I had my family for a month which was fantastic - we did a lot of travelling and Mum and Dad and I saw a lot of the South Island which is one of the most beautiful places I have visited. It was really great to have a conversation with people who really knew me for a change. After a year on the road, you get tired of having the same one the whole time. "Hi, I'm Evelyn, I'm IRish, yes Im travelling, ive been to Peru, Chile....." you get my drift ;) Its nice to have a giggle with someone you have a bit of history with.

It was hard to say goodbye to them again in January, not really knowing when I would see them again. At that time I had no real plans other than to stay in NZ for another few months. Since then, however, I've put some wheels in motion. Last weekend I wandered into STA travel, more out of curiosity than anything, to price airfares. 20 minutes later I emerged beaming with my airfare tailored and secured with a deposit. The beam faded pretty quickly when I checked my bank account and realised I was broke for the week! But never mind!
So, I leave NZ on 01 Aug, the day before my VISA runs out, stopping in Sydney for a week. Then it's off to Singapore and overland in Asia for about 3-4 months taking in Malaysia, Brunei, Thailand, Burma, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and some of China. I'll be back in Ireland next Christmas. :)
At that point, I will have been away two years!

I'm getting the familiar tingling in my spine now just thinking about the next phase in the journey. NZ was a nice long break in the middle and it's been really great getting to know the Kiwis and make new friends, but I cant wait to really get stuck into travelling again. 4 months in Asia just isnt enough but at this stage it's all I can do. India, Nepal and Tibet are just going to have to wait until I can do them properly.

Its six whole months away yet though! So I still have a lot of time left to enjoy here and lots of places yet to see. I'm moving house this weekend and going to be living with some new ppl for a while in a different area of Auckland which will be a nice change.

Posted by samsara_ 14:52 Archived in New Zealand Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

North Island in a NIssan

continued

Well, Andy and myself eventually stopped driving when we reached Wellington. I'd been behind the wheel so long there was literally an imrpint of my ass on the driver's seat! Driving into Wellington City was easy enough, although we did get initially confused with the one way system and ended up out in the Ferry Terminal. But we were just too tired to keep going to the South Island!

Found some great accommodation in Wellington. The YHA hostel there is like a 2 or 3 star hotel! And so, we spent two nights there, cooked some good dinners and even did our laundry! (It;s always a mini-celebration when you get laundry out of the way!) Unfortunately, the eather in Wellington was ANTARTIC while we were there, so it was difficult to get any real sightseeing done. Every time we put our heads out the door iof the hostel there was a gale force wind howling and rain battering the docks, so most of our two days was spent indoors in the excellent Te Papa Museum! Its a must see if you go to Wellington, but you need at least a couple of days to do it any justice.

The first day, we thought we'd do the tourist thing and visit the Lord of the Rings exhibit! When in ROme and all that....
But it turned out to be areally great exhibition, with very little focus on the Hollywood stars, providing a really in-depth look at how the film was made and the artists behind it. A great way to spend an afternoon if you are a Tolkien enthusiast! The following day, we returned to look at some exhibitions on New Zealand and Maori culture (of which the Kiwis are extremely proud!) and to learn about what's causnig NZ to move a little every year! Here we are right on the Pacific Ring of Fire! Without doubt, Te Papa is one of the best museums I have ever been in. It;s really interactive...having lots of computer screens for you to play with and keep you interested during the long hours there. And to make it even better, ITS FREE!:)

While, we were in Wellington we also managed to get out and see some of the nightlife. Sunday night was a bit dead, understandably, but we stumbled across an after party for a hip hop/gangster rap band called Mobb Deep. Mobb Deep ..lington.jpg

Apparently, the band had \, in fact, never showed at the venue...but there were a few hopefuls lining up att he after party in the hope that they were there. Mysefl and Andy forked out $15 to check it out. The night had great potential - if the band had showed and there were more people, it would be have been great, but as it was, the place was a bit empty. We still enjoyed it though, and since South America I'm really starting to develop more of a taste for this kind of music. It was funny to see all these Kiwis dressed up in their ganster gear.

Our second night there turned into Lord of the Rings fest in the TV room. Due to the sub-zero conditions outside, no-one from the hostel was venturing anywhere! so we cooked dinner, made some tea and settled into our beanbags for the 9 hr marathon! I lasted until the end of the second movie before I started nodding off.

Rain was hammering down the next day as we left the hostel. We tried to pull a not so ingenius car park scam before leaving, but it went against us! but it was worth a shot! As darkness fell, the traffic started to jam up on Route 1 out of Wellington. Landslides and fallen trees. An hour later, we had clearde the other side and were on the open road, heading for wine country of Martinborough. The drive over the mountains was quite treacherous in the fog and slippy conditions, and it was a relief when we FINALLY reached Martinborough, which appeared to be in total darkness except for the hotel and a small restaurant with a glimmer of light behind its fogged up windows. In we went, in search of food. We were met by a nice old man and his wife who served us up some good food and wine and even helped us out trying to find some accommodation for the night.

In the end, however, after long hours driving , passing what appeared to be ghost towns in total darkness, stopping at many a hotel and motel with no results, we arrived in Napier, about half way up the east coast of the country. Every hostel, hotel and B&B said "No Vacancy", and about one in the morning we were starting to accept the fact that we would have to kip down in the local car park for the night. Ugh. As we were driving up a side street, we suddenly spotted a lit up sign in a little alleyway. "Toad Hall". It was or last resort. Andy hopped out and rang the bell, and after what seemed like hours, a creature vaguley resembling Mole from Wind in the Willows opened the door and peered out at us. She has small wirey, thick glasses and interesting slippers. "You're lucky I'm a night owl", she winked at us. She guided us up the stairs to her office where a half empty glass of wine and some accounts sat on the table. A ginger cat regarded us from the corner of the room. Before long, she had provided us with a room, some sheets and blankets and bade us a good sleep. Toad Hall, Napier.jpg

In the light of day, Andy said she looked so much older and he was right. Also, she seemed less like a mole. She and her husband ran Toad Hall, which definitely has the most character out of any of the hostels Ive been in so far. They also owned an art gallery and cafe around the corner, which we paid a visit to before we left. They were extremely helpful and friendly, and very relaxed vis a vis checking out, etc. If anyone is heading towards Napier anytime, I recommend checking it out.

Napier is a really interesting little town - full ofArt Deco style buildings, which were constructed in the 30's after the earthquake that devastated the city. Art Deco, Napier.jpg

It's situated right in the heart of Hawke's Bay wine country, where you can sample the best reds in New Zealand! And we did. We booked a half day wine tour and were picked up by a lovely old man called Graham Ferguson. We really didnt feel we were on a tour with him - he was so laid back and chatty. It was just myself and Andy, and after the wineries he took us on an extra little tour of Napier to point out the historical sites and places of interest. The wineries were great! Some of the best I have been to so far..which is saying a lot after Napa Valley, California and Mendoza, Argentina and Chile! The first one was called Mission Estate. It was originally set up by an order of priests who used to make altar wine, but they eventually sold up and moved. The woman who arrnged our tasting was really informative and had a sarcy sense of humour. Probably my favourite of the three we visited. NExt, was Trinity Hill wineries..which wasnt as good but they did give us around 10 different bottles to taste. Finally, Graham took us to Church Rd. where were met a lovely man called Don who seemed really interested in what we thought of his Malbec compared with the Argentinian varieties. It was a really enjoyable afternoon and we bougght some really nice Reserve bottles in each of the estates.

And so, that brings us to nearly the end of the week. We left Napier the next morning and drove back towards Taupo again. Just North of Taupo we stopped, on recommendation, at the geothermal site of Wai-o-Tapu. This was excellent! and you really could get an idea of what the earth was probably like millions of years ago before humans came along.Time for s..Roturua.jpg We enjoyed boiling mud pools, simmering water holes, and multicoloured lakes with steam rushing up from the 100 degree water underneath the earth. We were hoping for a swim, but were told that if the boiling water didnt kill us first, the acid definitely would. Hmm..right so. No swimming then! Geothermal..Roturua.jpg

Further up the road, we spotted some cars pulled in on the side of the road next to a little bridge and saw one or two ppl draped in twoels running furtively from the bushes! So, we had to check that out. It turned out to be a natural hot spring in the middle of the trees, deep enough to swim in. Off with the clothes, on with the wet swimwear yet again! It was a overall a nice experience, marred slightly by two pervy local NAKED types paddling in the water. They seemed friendly enough to begin with, but just got a bit weird on us, so after an hours soakage, we fled their nakedness!

Hamilton was, once again, a stopping point and we bedded down there for out last night, tired from our weeks adventures. We edned up sharing a room with a lovely SIngaorean girl called Madeline, who is here in NZ to set up her own jewellery business. She talked A LOT! but was a very nice genuine person. The next morning she dragged us out of bed and frog-marched us to the kitchen for breakfast with her, before piling various jewellery samples upon us and sending us on our way back to Auckland.

And so, I'm back in Auckland. Andy flew out to Oz on Monday, leaving me to the seriuos business of job hunting. UGHHHHHHHHHHHH!

Posted by samsara_ 18:06 Archived in New Zealand Tagged round_the_world Comments (3)

North Island in a Nissan

..this could be long....

rain

Well, here I am in New Zealand. I finally managed to tear myself away from the great South American continent, but it was not easy. Every day since then I have missed something about it. In fact, I miss everything. My senses are filled with my experiences there, and New Zealand initially felt like a rehab facility. In order to cope with the shock to my system, I listened to downloads of Manu Chao obsessively, gradually weaning myself off and now Im down to just two plays a day. It doesnt help at all that Lan Chile are trying to entice me back to South America by telling me how many air miles Ive earned and dangling hot deals back to Buenos Aires in front of me. WHY DO THEY TORMENT ME THUS?? WWHHYY? I JUST WANT TO LIVE IN NZ IN PEACE FOR A WHILE AND DETOX!!

Two weeks after arriving in Auckland, I'm slowly starting to adjust. My friend Andy and I spent the first week here touring the North Island. First impressions were great - New Zealand is so beautiful and the people are really friendly. I think I'm really going to enjoy living here for a while.

Sky Tower,..t night.jpg

We set off from Auckland last Thursday in a Nissan sunny (the most desired of all rental cars, tis true!), armed with a map and a full tank of petrol. Neither of us really knew where we might end up.

The guide book informed us that we would smell Roturua long before we would see it....and we did! GOD THE PLACE STINKS! They say it's the sulpher....We found a hostel with a car park, dumped our stuff and wasted no time in getting to the Polynesian Spa. The water in the natural springs is 42 degrees! and there we soaked our tired limbs for 2 long hours. I had a particularly disturbing time in the ladies changing room when a flapping bunch of naked japanese ladies descended upon my quiet time in the shower...but that's another story. Quick shower.

Next morning, we had an early breakfast and headed for the local forest for a 3hr trek. Packed a lunch and off we went. It was great to get back into the outdoors again, breathing clean air (both us noticed the difference in the air between here and SA immediately upon arrival). After lunch, we checked out the local Zorbing centre...What's Zorbing? Well, basically you get into a giant plastic-like ball and roll down a steep hill! This time around though we decided to participate only as spectators...$45 for 1 minutes fun was just out of our price range this time. But we will be back! ;) In the afternoon, we were back in the car again bound for a little place called Waitomo.

When we arrived in Waitomo darkness and a dense fog were descending on the area. The town is literally in the middle of nowhere and would surely b bypassed by most travellers were it not for the famous glow worm caves. The landscape is quite unique - full of hills and saucer-like depressions indicative of vast subterranean cave systems. We found some cheap but adequate accommodation for the night in the form of a cabin. Andy took himself off for a soak in the hottub while I indulged in an hour of girlie pampering before we hit the hay, both of us hugely looking forward to the next day's planned activities.

Saturday morning - up bright and early ready for action! We got ourselves to the Black Water Rafting Center for about 9 and decided, after some deliberation, to sign up for the Black Labyrinth tour. Part of me was quite terrified, as those who know me know that Im not so great in the dark or in deep water. But, I decided to face my fears! The trip sounded quite intense, involving two backward jumps down waterfalls aided only by a rubber rube, not to mention the floating into pitch darkness and some serious scrambling about in the underground rocks. Gulp! However, the thought of gazing up at glowworms in the dark was enough to spur me on. Having half an hr or so to wait around before our tour, we headed into "town" to the Museum of Caves for a bit of a run down on what makes glowworms tick (and other interesting stuff about limestone and so on). At 10:30a.m. we were met by Lucas our guide for the morning....good looking Maori guy with a slightly unhinged sense of humour. I had a feeling he was just going to suddenly disappear into the black abyss leaving us in the dark....because it would be funny....thankfully, he didn't!

Caving, Waitomo.jpg

Next, came the most unsavoury part of the week so far...stripping off, donning an already sopping wet bikini, and then struggling (and I mean STRUGGLING!) into a wringing wet, freezing cold, icky wetsuit. Ugh! Not only did it take me an ETERNITY to wriggle into the accursed attire, but in one of my usual ingenius moves I managed to put it on backwards. Off to a great start! This didnt bode well for the rest of the tour.... A short van ride brought us to the mouth of the caves where we had to select a rubber tube big (or small ) enough to fit our respective bums. I'n telling you, if looking sexy or dignified matters in any way to you, Balck Water Rafting is not for you! And, then came the hard part....we watched as the group in front of us vaulted backwards on their tubes into the 10 degree water. I looked desperately for possible escape routes through the trees...but suddenly, it was my turn. As Lucas counted down 3, 2, 1, I tried to think about diving into a vat of warm chocolate or something. That didnt help at all! It only made the shock of the ice cold water on my body 10 times worse! But it did wake me up! We paddled after Lucas like a trio of physically challenged swans to where the water disappeared into the black underground. No going back now...as Lucas disappeared into the darkness. We stumbled over moving unsteady rocks, fell into holes, and waded through rushing waist-high water until we came to our second waterfall. My adrenaline levels were pumping as I launched myself backwards and down into the water far below. The current took me and swept me further into the caves, as a thrashed about looking blindly for a rope that Lucas swore existed on the side of the cave wall. I found it and clung for dear life as I waited for the boys to follow. Lucas then directed us to form into a line each of us holding on to the white boots of the person behind us. He took hold of my feet, turned off his headligth and pulled us gently in the dark through the caves as we lay back and gazed transfixed at the sight above our heads - thousands upon thousands of glimmering lights clinging to the black canopy above. It was a thing of rare beauty.

An hour later, we emerged into the daylight again shivering and teeth chattering but on a high after our experience. Lucas took us straight back for hot showers, followed by soup and bagels, and our bodies slowly warmed up again. An excellent adventure! Worth every penny. Once we felt human again, we boarded the Nissan again, this time bound for Lake Taupo and the skiifields. I couldnt wait to go snowboarding! It was quite a long drive that evening through bad weather to Taupo. We stopped there for some sustenance and to weigh up our options re where to stay. The Whakapapa skiifield is about an hr and a half south of Taupo so we decided to look for somewhere to stay in a nearby town. We happened upon some great accomodation and spent the evening soaking our still chilled bodies in the heat of the jacuzzi and sauna.

HOwever, sadly, our skiing trip was not to be. Next morning, the weather on the mountain was wet, extremely windy with almost no visibility and only the lower pistes were open. We sat at the base of Mount Ruapehu in dismay watching a few hardy skiiers and boarders battling against the high winds. Back on the road again, having no real plan for where to go next. We had planned 2/3 days in Whakapapa. What were we going to do now??

As we drove, the weather worsened and driving became tiresome. This part of the north island is a bleak place \, populated only by forest. After some hours, we arrived in a little town called Waiouro. Just outside the town, we spotted a sign for an army museum. I really wanted to check it out, so we decided to get out and stretch our legs for a bit. The museum was maassive and covered NZ's involvement in all the major wars..so we ended up spending a few hours there. I really enjoyed it! Before we left, we had some lunch...and stole some cake from a group of veterans who were there on a tour! Hee hee.

And so, back into the Nissan YET AGAIN! not knowing where we might end up........

Posted by samsara_ 22:52 Archived in New Zealand Tagged round_the_world Comments (2)

A Summary of South America

...not an easy thing to do....but here goes

Well, I havent gone next, nigh, or near my TP blog during the last 6 months in South America, but today I find myself with some time on my hands as I wait for my impressively slow computer to download some music.

It´s coming to the end of my time here, I am sad to say. In about 6 weeks time, I am flying from Rio de Janeiro to Auckland, NZ to start a new chapter in the great journey. By then, I will have been here for 7 months, and those months have absolutely flown by! During that time, there have been mostly ups with a few episodes of bad luck, some fleeting periods of homesickness, and a BAD OLE DOSE of Typhoid to contend with, but I wouldn´t trade any of it "for the world". Boom boom.

January saw me arriving me in Peru, nervous and excited, having no clue what lay ahead of me. It is impossible to encapsulate in a few sentences what this country meant to me. Peru has gotten under my skin, and I feel that I will never be satisfied until I go back there. The Peruvians I met led me to look inwardly and examine many aspects of my own life, and since then I have been on a continual learning curve. My time in the Peruvian Andes will always be with me. This part of Peru is an ancient, mystical place, and you dont quite feel that you are on the same planet. (No, I didnt take any drugs!)

After two months in Peru (almost 3 of those weeks being spent in bed, smote down by Salmonella typhi, otherwise known as TYPHOID ) I ventured tentatively into Bolivia. If pushed to pick a favourite country from the continent, I think Bolivia may have to be it. Bolivia was an eye-opener about the kind of poverty and injustice that exists in the world, and fear coupled with excitement and wonder led to feelings of being really alive in this place.

Chile ended up being my home for almost 3 months, and I really fell in love with this country that has it all (from the desert of the Atacaman north to the serene lake district and the dramatic peaks of Patagonia). Patagonia and Isla de Pascua (Easter Island) were the absolute highlights of my time in Chile, and in visiting these I managed to realise some lifelong dreams. At the same time, my lowest times on this trip have happened to be in Chile. I have been robbed in an internet cafe (losing all my photos of Patagonia :( ) mugged twice in the same night by the same guy! (long story ) and had my MP3 player (with over 2000 songs) lifted from my lap while I slept on a bus (oh wait..that was in Argentina...hee hee). So, how did I end up spending so long in Chile? Not sure really...I think I hit it at a time when there was a great bunch of people around and stayed longer than planned. That resulted in my making some Chilean friends whom I grew quite fond of, which led to me getting a job teaching English. Also, I was surprised to find that I actually liked Santiago, having not expected to at first.

During the months spent in Chile, I crossed into Argentina a few times and, on one such trip, travelled all the way to Ushuaia in the south of the country. Now, I find myself back in this crazy country on my way to Brazil. However, it wasnt an easy crossing this time around! My friend, Ringo, on the bus to Mendoza realised that he didnt have his tourist visa slip. Of course, without this, one cannot leave Chile! And so, we had to bribe the Chilean border officials! I ended up being an accomplice as Ringo hadnt a word of Spanish! The Argentinians are great, very friendly and completely laid back. Nothing seems to get them in a twist, except...of coure....FOOTBALL!!! Right now, the country is in th grip of world cup fever and everyone is behaving slightly nuts, but ít´s good to be part of it, even if Ireland aren´t in it. :(

South America has been my biggest challenge yet, and it has been fantastic in so many ways. Im sure that when I leave I will pine for it for quite a while. But, its onwards to NZ, and in many ways it will be a relief to get to an English-speaking country once again and relax again. 7 months of constantly wathcing your own back does get tiring, and I´m looking forward to a new continent and some new experiences! :)

Posted by samsara_ 13:08 Comments (8)

North to South

sunny 28 °C

Lima 07.01.06

Well, I made it! I arrived below the equator in one piece and minus Enrique! (more on that later..) I've finally found a few spare minutes and some energy to sit down and update the blog. The last few days have been an assault on my body and senses, and I slept like a stone last night finally.

Leaving home was harder than I thought it was going to be. I choked up when I had to say goodbye to my family, as the reality hit me that I might now see them again for a vry long time. As I drove to the airport in the dark and fog of the morning, I had some difficulty working up ANY enthusiasm about what I was doing. \\\

But that didnt last long... :-)

I slept for most of the 7 hr flight to NY, in an effort to charge the batteries for what was ahead. Getting through anything in the States is pretty effortless - everything is signposted, and people, for the most part, want to help.

Arrived at my hostel, Jazz on the Town at about 3 in the afternoon. The website described it as "cosy"...hmmm. It was very cramped, sharing a tiny room with 3 others (although I didnt mind - I met some cool ppl there). The hostel has no communal area which is a big drawback and its very very small. One thing I did like was that the rooms are ensuite. \

Anyway, headed straight out to explore mid-town, armed with Anne's subway map (THANKS ANNE! Proved to be invaluable to someone with limited time!) Managed to see Empire State, Rockerfeller Centre,m Radio city, Grand Central, Chrysler Building and Times Sq all in the first night. Popped into an IRish Bar called O'Quilligans just off Times Sq in the hope of meeting some other backpackers. Ended up chatting to the barman, who, of course, was IRish and it turned out that his Dad does business with my uncle! Small world. He couldnt do enough for me after that! A good first night in the Big Apple.

The seond day, I got up early and walked downtime. The weather was bright, sunny and COLD! As I walked along the water's edge towards battery park, I couldnt stop smiling. The realisation that I was finally "doing it" sank in! Visited Ground Zero, World Financial Centre, queued for AGES to get on a ferry to the Statue of Liberty, saw Wall St., Trinity and St. Pauls Churches, Brooklyn Bridge, Bleecker St., Washington Sq. Gdn and lots of other stuff. Spent the evening back in the mid-town area. When I got back to the hostel, some new ppl had moved into the room, so chatted to them for a bit before crashing out exhausted.

Final day in NY - I went to the Met and walked all around Central Park. Checked out the shops uptown and had to fight really hard to keep my credit card in my pocket! Later that afternoon, made my way back to JKF forthe 8 hr flight to Lima.

Was looking fwd to just getting some rest on the flight, but ended up sitting beside this overly-friendly Peruvian guy, ENRIQUE, who just wouldnt shut up. At first, I think he was just trying to be nice, but then he became a real pest, and when we landed he started following me around the terminal, and suggesting that I stay at his "friend's hotel"..where, naturally he was also staying! He even wanted toi tell the driver who was picking me up at the airport that I was going with him instead. YIKES!!! I managed to give him the slip by going to the bathroom and then legged it to the arrivals hall where,, thankfully, the driver was waiting!!

Lima is crzy! No traffic laws, by the looks of it. I'm in the Miraflores area, which seems safe enough, but have been warned by shopkeepers, etc not to venture further afield unaccompanied. I've booked a tour for today downtown, which hopefully will help me to get to know Lima a little better. The hostel isnt bad - overdescribed on the net, of course, but the staff are helpful and its relatively clean, so I'm not complaining.

Not having the langauge is a drawback but I'm getting by. Tomorrow I hope to go to Nazca where I'm going to stay in a hotel which operates flights over the Nazca lines.

So, that's about all for now. It's great having free internet here = makes a change to $1 for 10 mins in NY!

Posted by samsara_ 09:09 Archived in Peru Tagged round_the_world Comments (3)

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