A Travellerspoint blog

AUCKLAND

Happiness is ...New Years day on a beach near Mission Bay !!!

sunny 28 °C
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Thursday 1st January 2009

Up without a hangover ( even shocked at that one myself !!) and got a taxi to Mission Bay so that we could bring in the New Year UK time on a beach. Typical tourists !!!

The taxi ended up taking us out along Tamaki drive past Mission Bay and onto Kohimarama beach, which looked quieter and a bit more picturesque than the main Mission Bay beach.Got there with about 15 minutes to spare before New Year in the UK so we basically stripped, slapped on the suntan cream ( scarily hot today - pretty damn close to 30 degrees I reckon) and cracked open the champagne.

I was in my element - especially when a couple of older local ladies commented on our little picnic ( we had olives, crisps and grapes too). One of them said , "That looks very civilised !!" So, you see, we can even impress the locals !! Maybe she was just looking for a free galss ( it didnt happen !!!).

We did the obligatory texting and phoning home - yup, having a mobile again is amazing ( even if none of you guys texted me to wish me a Happy 2009 !!!) - and then sunbathed for a bit although it got too hot too quickly. I amazed myself by yet again swimming in the sea - thats twice this holiday !! Have to say the Pacific was way colder than the Atlantic around Brazil.

Loved all the families on and around the beach, and the pubs and cafes along Tamaki drive were all doing decent trade.Really nice laidback feel to the whole area, muc nicer than in the city. We grabbed some food at Mama Mia's before starting the walk home. Walked to Okahu pier and took heaps of photos before finally geting a bus back into the city. Met a lovely family from England who have been here for 4 weeks and gave us tips for the South Island - quite sobering the way they managed three children under 5 so effortlessly. Thank god I dont have kids - would ruin my holiday !!

Our last night in Auckland was spent having a fantastic meal at the Orbit restaurant in Sky Tower. The food was brilliant - and the views were astounding, although probably a bit too dark for decent photographs by the time we got to our table. The fact it was a set menu too meant it wasnt that unreasonable price wise either. My only complaint would be that the restaurant revolved round very slowly - think we only went all the way round twice.

Have to say Auckland has grown on me ; its taken a while but I think I sort of like it now. The suburbs on the outskirts of the city are definitely the places to be ( all the beaches were mobbed,and its a real family affair ). Oh yeah, and a nice bit of sunshine always helps - think another day or so here might have just done the trick, once evrything got back to normal and all the locals returned to the city.

Friday 2nd January 2009

We headed off mid morning to collect the hire care from Thrify, with a view to upgrading to a larger model to acomodate my ever growing luggage. Not an option - they didnt even have a car for us when we arrived, let alone an option to change it. Apoparently getting a hire care in the city at this time of year is almost impossible, thanks god we booked !!After a bit of a wait and a nervous 5-10 minutes where we put down the seats to try and squeeze in all the bags we were finally off to Rotorua. It rained solidly and we didnt stop for lunch o the way, chosing instead to just keep going.Didnt really see much enroute other than a wierd little town called Tirau, which had a bizarre fixation with corrugated iron models ( huge sheep on the way in and a matching sheep dog too ; Im not joking) The whole town seemed corrugated iron obsessed. Was quite busy though - maybe thats where all of Auckland was LOL.

Posted by Sparkster 03:33 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

AUCKLAND

Happy New Year and all the best for 2009 !!

overcast 20 °C
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Monday 29th December to Friday 2nd January 2009

Monday 29th December

Have to say I wasnt really up for much on the first day here in Auckland as I was so tired ; and I wanted to wait in patiently for my luggage , which Id been told should be with me by early afternoon. Got a bit concerned when I phoned the Airport at 2pm and an automated response told me that my bags werent even in the computer system. Went out with Valerie around 4pm for a quick squint around the shops near the hotel ( bought some toiletries and bits and pieces to tide me over) then headed down to The Viaduct for something to eat. Ate at Soul - very nice food, even better wine ( good extensive wine list) but some lacklustre service. I was in my element though as I got cider for the first time since Id been travellling.

You have no idea how good my bottle of Strongbow tasted - I savoured every minute of it !!!

Pretty crap weather though - it rained on and off for most of the day, quite heavy at times.

Completely broke the mould by hitting the gym at 9pm when we returned to the hotel ( thats one of the bonuses of travelling with Valerie - she motivates you to do stuff ; normally Id have stayed in the pub or crashed out in the hotel room LOL).

Tuesday 30th

Valerie went off to get her haircut at Toni and Guy so I slobbed for the morning in the hotel room (well, whats the point of having 5* accomodation and not using it ; swear I almost had the bathrobe on, just because Id paid for it LOL!!). The bags eventually turned up - intact and undamaged (I was convinced all my wooden carvings from Easter Island would've been confiscated).

After finally getting into some clean clothes we headed up to Ponsonby Road in some glorious sunshine to soak up the atmosphere and see what all the fuss was about ( friend Lynn raves about Ponsonby at every opportunity so I had very high expectations). Kind of liked the area - walked past some beautiful houses on the way there, but wasnt as impressed with the fact that every second shop/bar/restaurant on the street was closed for the holiday season ( most of then had signs uo saying "Back on 12th January" - talk about an extended break !!). It really does seem that everyone leaves the city over the Festive period - well, everyone apart frrom the tourists.

Did manage to find a nice bar open ( Chapel Bar- great service and a lovely friendly crowd of mostly locals) so chilled there for a bit before braving the top end . Everything there was either closed or totally empty so we headed back down to SPQR - one of Lynn's recommendations. The food was amazing, really good,, but I wasnt too impressed with the 'beautiful people' who sat outside posing and trying to look cool. Nearly everyone was smoking too - quite odd. Had the campest over the top waiter Ive ever seen ( and Ive seen a few LOL) - who proceeded to tell us all about having burnt himself at the beach a few days ago by wearing moisturiser instead of sunscreen. His arm looked like it had third degree burns on it - totally needing medical attention I'd say. Thankfully he covered it up, possibly after hearing Val say that she thought it was a health and safety risk him working there with raw skin hanging off his arm !!

All in all an experience though.

We strolled back to the hotel ( about a 20 minute walk) and had a reasonably early night after trying unsuccessfully to book the restaurant in the Sky Tower for a meal on 31st. Continues to feel like everyone in Auckland is away for NewYear ( its like a ghost town at times) - although we keep getting assured that the Viaduct area wiil be busy and that any Kiwi's not away for NY will come 'out of the woodwork on 31st'. Im not convinced, based on how quiet things are at present.

Wednesday 31st December

Both of us were awake at 5.45am for some reason - and I couldnt get back to sleep. Did the gym again ( I hope everyones impressed) before heading out for a late breakfast. We ate at the Imperial Bar on the Viaduct as I reckoned they had the best breakfast menu out of all the competition. Definitely worth a visit ( French Toast with Strawberries and Mascarpone was a bit sickly but still very good).

Should really say that I was on a bit of a high anyway as I has just confirmed buying tickets to see Olivia Newton John in February in Florida. Looks like I'll be travelling again in the not too distant future. Wayhey !!! Did my usual and rejoined the fan club to make sure Ive gotten decent tickets ( well, come on - I'll need something to cheer me up when I get home !!!)

As a stroke of genius we ended up booking a New Years Eve harbour cruise for later at night, and went off to do a bit of shopping quite happy with ourselves.

Stopped off for a few refreshments between the shops at Vulcan Lane ( Lynn, why didnt you tell me to go to The Queens Ferry Pub - we both really liked that one LOL !!). I also managed to find Spiced Captains Morgans in a Liquor Store which totally completed my day. And couldve spent a small fortune in the trendy clothes shops around High Street.

New Years Eve turned out to be fine - the 'cruise' ( well, it was no more than a boat trip really !!!) was the perfect way to see the fireworks from out in the harbour and it was busy - nearly all tourists but still quite lively. The boat was late in leaving but we were away around 9.15pm and cruised around the harbour until we positioned ourselves near the bridge at 11.50pm to see the fireworks.Cant really complain too much about the whole trip - although the BBQ was awful ( we both had coleslaw rolls as our last meal of 2008 because the meat tasted so bad!!). Anyway, we both had a real laugh drinking cheap Alcopops ( all inclusive LOL, so we had a few !!) Valerie has since reminded me that we actually paid for the not so cheap and tacky alcopops - shows you how drunk I was !!!! Val very concerned that people might think we booked a 'booze cruise' LOL !!!]and making our own entertainment whilst we waited for everything to kick off.

Val chatted to some Chileans who were on the boat but they were too excited about New Year to make much sense - funny to watch though !!

After the fireworks we docked and dis-embarked, heading up towards the throngs of people wandering drunkenly down Queen Street. Was a total shock for us to see it with people on it LOL !!!!And every so often there would be this kind of bizarre multi-cutural gathering - like the Banghra dancers we saw on one of the corners or the Haari Krishana crew who were giving it big licks on the way down to the Viaduct ( I am still confused at to why the HK's celebrate New Year - didnt think they did). They had a huge crowd of drunken young folk following them though - probably the biggest crowd of the night).

Valerie videod the whole experience - and we both noticed that everyone kept coming up and saying "Merry Christmas" to the camera - left me wondering if the Southern Hemisphere is a week or so behind everyone else and not 13 hours ahead !!!!

Called it a day around 2am when our favourite pub on Vulcan lane was closed. Happy 2009 folks !!!!

Posted by Sparkster 04:02 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

Flight to Auckland

The long way to get to NZ, so not a long haul traveller !!!

-17 °C
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I left Santiago early on 27th December, flying first to Buenos Aires then onto Sydney ( after a wee bit of a wait in BA airport) and finally on to Auckland.

Kind of a bit sick of the whole flying thing now - and although things started out well they deteriorated big time at Buenos Aires where I seemed to queue for ages to get through Passport control, customs, then check in and finally even had to queue for ages to pay the departure tax (which is a complete con by the way !!!). In total I was queueing for almost two and a half hours.

The final straw came at the gate where Quantas staff confiscated a bottle of water that Id just bought ( from a kiosk in the departure lounge right next to the gate !!!). As if that wasnt enough, a girl then asked to re-check my bag before boarding and decided that she had to confiscate the travel sized toiletries I had in my hand luggage cause they werent in a see thru polythere bag - and this was AFTER getting the bag screened and checked 3 times already !!!

To say I was biting my tongue was a complete understatement.

I also missed one of my meals on the long flight ( I was asleep) - which annoyed me too as everyone knows how much I love Airline food !! No seriously, reckon I'd paid enough for the tickets so wanted to get everything that was due to me. I asked one of the cabin crew if I could have my meal now that I was awake, but he politely but firmly said they were no longer serving food. Put my gas at a peep I can tell you !!!

The cabin crew were the 'old workhorse types' - relegated to the long haul flights cause they were no longer glamourous. Very efficient but tough as nails LOL !!! Amused myself by watching lots of obscure Aussie stuff on the personal TV screens in flight - including a documentary about a guy who tried to kayak between Tasmania and NZ but got lost at sea just off the Milford Sound ( very interesting but quite sad) and a film about surfer dudes - that was pretty crap really.

Finally got to Australia and completely forgot that I was in transit to New Zealand ( well, I was half asleep)- first thing I did was withdraw £300 worth of dollars from the ATM. Completely useless to me now - have added them to the pile of currency that I'll need to get changed back into sterling.

I arrived in Auckland minus all my luggage so had to hang about filing in report forms for a bit then decided to have a Mcdonalds before heading to the hotel ( and I cant even blame that one on Chris as he wasnt with me LOL). It tasted pretty grim to be honest - wish I hadnt bothered.

I got to the hotel at 1.15am on 29th December - managed to wake Valerie up, who had arrived earlier in the afternoon. We then spent the next 4 hours chatting and catching up so didnt get to bed til just after 5.10am. Am still reeling from the fact that Valerie managed to get upgraded to business class on the way out - cant believe that. So jealous - although she did only get it for one leg of the journey.

Hotel is nice - complete with bathrobes and fancy toiletries. Makes South America seem like it didnt happen. Hoping that New Zealand lives up to my expectations - if its even half as good as South America I'll be more than happy. Just need to do a bit of battery recarging first LOL.

Posted by Sparkster 22:27 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

SANTIAGO

The end of the road for my South American Travels

overcast 24 °C

( Should've done this over a week ago and posted it then - been having too much fun since I got to NZ !!! SORRY !!)

Thursday 25th to Saturday 27th December 2008

Unfortunately my time in Santiago was very limited ; it only really amounted to one full day as we arrived late on Christmas night and I flew out at 8am on 27th.

Having said that I did manage to cram in a fair whack into the 36 hours I was there.

We stayed at the Hotel Foresta on Victoria Subercaseaux , nice and central and perfect for seeing the sights. Right next to Cerero Santa Lucia, which I didnt mange to get up unfortunately, Its a nice quirky kind of hotel and Joe and I ended up with a little two roomed suite ; a nice way to end our room sharing. Bless, he hasnt moaned once about my snoring !!!

Marcello kind of messed up a little and didnt have a restaurant booked for Christmas Night and nearly everything was closed so we had to trawl the streets until we eventually found one (a fairly non descript bar/restaurant serving Mexican food). Kirsty was in her element as they had a live salsa band on after the karaoke - so it wasn't long before she was up there doing her stuff. I kind of watched what I was doing drink wise and decided to excuse myself from the trip to the winery the following day so I could explore more of the city on my own.

I set out sharp on Boxing day ( having been assured everything was open as normal) and apart form the unbearable heat I had a great day managing to do almost everything I wanted to do . Did the Museum of Visual Art first ( amazing photography exhibition - first class !!) as it was just along from the hotel, then nipped down to the Plaza de Armas to see the Cathedral and the Museo Historical Nacional ( which I didnt go into to save time)

I used the Turistik bus ( a red hop on - hop off bus not unlike London's) to get my bearings before venturing to Cerro San Cristobel, where I braved the very scarey Cable Car ride to the top ( my cable car door wouldnt close properly !!!). Saw the statue of the Virgin at the top - which sort of made up for not seeing Christ The Redeemer in Rio. Quite eerie really as they were playing choral music and the whole place felt quite spiritual given it was just after Christmas. Rather than brave the cable car down again I used the fenecular railway, getting off in the Parque Metroplitano. I sort of got a bit lost looking for the next Turistik bus stop, but it was fine really as I walked through a couple of the adjacent neighbourhoods leading to Bellavista. Really enjoyed the walk and manged to stumble across the restaurant that Jan from Australia recommended I went to ( Como Agua Para Chocolate - named after the film 'Like Water for Chocolate'). I only had a quick drink there cause Id already eaten but it was lovely !! Good choice Jan. Also found a lovely CD shop that I couldve browsed in for ages ( my CD buying has been very poor this holiday by the way - need to rectify that !!).

I finished my day by getting the bus back to an amazing shopping mall/centre called Parque Arauco on Avenida Kennedy where I made up for lost time in terms of proper westernised shoping ( some amazing shops here - definitely best Ive been to in South America !!). I really feel like I needed more time here in Santiago- sort of feel like Ive been cheated a little as its been so rushed.

I got back to the hotel at almost 8.40pm thinking I was late for our last meal. Not sure everyone was happy Id opted out of the Winery tour this morning ( well,l I mean, Im thinking I'll see enough in New Zealand eh ??) so I wanted to make sure I wasnt late for dinner. Turns out I was fine and after a false start ( where we ended up in a horrific Chilean themed restaurant with dancers in national outfits etc), we made our excuses and ended up heading to Como Agua Para Chocolate because Marcello had been before and overheard me telling the others about it. So I got to eat there in the end after all.

Actually the food was a little disappointing, maybe cause I was expecting too much - or maybe cause they did the same thing with starters and mains coming at the same time again ( wierd way to serve food !!).

Not really one for goodbyes and it was certainly looming over dinner - Ive really liked all the people Ive met whilst travelling but definitely feel like this lot have got on better as a group, and as a result we seem closer. Marcello was crying as he said his goodbyes over dinner ( cynical bit in me reckons he's going to miss some of us more than others LOL !!!!!!!).

Never got back to the hotel until after 1am so ended up staying up for the next 3 hours packing rather than go to bed.

Really cant believe that Im leaving South America - although it seems like Ive been here for ages in one sense, in another it seems as if Ive only just started to scratch the surface.

Need to have a think about what the highlights were and post that as a seperate entry - for now Im just thankful that Im not going straight home and that Ive still got 3 weeks in New Zealand with Valerie to look forward to . She should be safely on her way to Auckland by now.

Cant remember if I mentioned that Ive now resigned from work or not ?? Bit of a difficult decision thats been floating around for past few weeks ( actually, probably been around since the start of my trip really). Anyway, it all became definite just before Christmas Eve - long story but involved me getting the time off for going to New Zealand, and I sort of backed myself into a corner over it. Think its a good decision ; for now anyway Im just going to enjoy the last bit of my travels . If NZ is even half as good as South America has been I'll be more than happy - and who knows, given that Im now homeless and jobless I might just continue with the old travelling bit and bore you all silly with even more travel blogs !!!! LOL.

Have a great New Year when it comes - plan to buy a phone in Auckland so that I can at least text people to let them know Im still alive.

Mx.

Posted by Sparkster 04:24 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

PUERTO VARAS

( Also known as 'Little Germany' !!!)

sunny 25 °C
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Tuesday 23rd to Thursday 25th December

Umm , not sure what to say about Puerto Varas ; we arrived here early evening on 23rd December. Stayed at Hotel Wilder, on the outskirts of the town. Pleasant and the biggest room Joe and I have had - but very very German.

Had a reasonable meal in a fish restaurant in town which was mobbed ( Im saying reasonable cause it was almost entirely Fish on the menu, and as most folk know Im not a big fish fan). I also found it strange that they served starters and main courses at the same time, so those not having starters got their main courses same time we had our starters whilst we had a very lengthy wait after finishing before getting our main courses. So much so that Id almost lost my appetite. That might have been the dodgey local beer I had though - definitely not a nice brand !!

We started Christmas Eve off with a tour of the local 'hotspots' ; Marcello had arranged for a local driver to take us around and about and she brought her little grandaughter along for the trip. Morning started very poorly ; I didnt even get out of the van when we stopped to see Llama ( sick of seeing them after Peru and Bolivia), and the waterfalls we visited at Petrohue were absolutely nothing in comparision to Iguazu. It also got invaded by a coachload of Americans just after we arrived - very bad timing. By mid afternoon I was kind of wondering why we were in this area and why on earth we were staying here for Christmas ; thankfully the area redeemed itself substantially when we visited Volcan Osorno - an extinct Volcano, and completely snow capped at the top. Unfortunately although it was cloudy to start with we had some lunch then got the two chairlifts up as far as we could go before hiking up a bit further to get the coolest Christmas Eve photos Ive ever had taken - standing on the snow/ice at the foot of the Volcano. We actually climbed up a little higher than we should have and got whistled at by one of the guide/ranger type people. I will forever chuckle at Kirsty braving the way up in her flip flops - her feet mustve been like ice !!!

Really good views as well ; although it did reinforce the feeling I already had that Puerto Varas and the area surrounding it could easily be somewhere in a Swiss ski resort as oppose to Chile.

Marcello arranged for us to go to a Christmas buffet at the Mediterraneo Restaurant in town ( the buffet was anything but Mediteranean LOL) and we had a brilliant night, especially as Joe had managed to find the last remaining 4 Santa hats in the whole of Puerto Varas ( I reckon they were maybe the only 4 hats to be honest as no-one else had them on !!!).

Our drunken evening ended up in a lively bar called Bar O' Meter where we drank Mojitos and god knows what else til the early early hours. Lots of silly drunken photos of us dancing to 80's Chilean and Argentinian pop music - kind of reminded me of Eurovision actually, only not as tuneful, if thats at all possible !! The place got incredibly busy around 2am and turned into a bit of a sweat box ( my Santa Hat was soaking with sweat by this stage - dont think Ive ever been so wet in a bar/club). The night ended on a less than cheerful note when punches were exchanged between an off duty Chilean policeman and one of our group ( who shall of course remain nameless - he's the one with the black eye in all the photos LOL !!) so we made a sharp exit around 5am. I was ready to go by then anyway so no real hardship for me to leave then.

I made a few drunken phone calls on the Hotel reception phone on the way back - apologies now to my mum and dad and to everyone I spoke to at work LOL !!! At least I was thinking about you. And in the end my two calls cost me £42 so be grateful !!!!!

Christmas day was really just a 'Sleep off the night before' day - after a bit of dissecting of the previous nights events first. We had some Pizza and ate it down on the lake front along with all the locals before getting ready for our flight to Santiago at 5pm .

So overall, I wouldnt really rate Puerto Varas that highly - but the Volcano was an amazing way to spend Christmas Eve and the drunken night out rates as my best so far on this trip. I also met some really interesting people - the GAP guys were in town again with their guide Anne ( they were a very mixed group from a variety of backgrounds but seemed like good fun, and appear to be totally following our route).Before all hell broke loose with the punches, I was also talking to some really nice Chileans who all loved Scotland and were very knowledgable about Edinburgh. I certainly couldnt fault the people in Puerto Varas, but just felt like it couldve been almost anywhere.

It could easily have been removed form the itinerary and replaced by extra nights in some of the more interesting places Ive felt we've been rushed in - although I guess its probably strategicaly well positioned for breaking the journey between Argentina and Chile.

Posted by Sparkster 01:23 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

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