A Travellerspoint blog

New Zealand -- The south

Rainbows, Glaciers and adrenaline rushes!!!

all seasons in one day

So after a long and teary goodbye to my cousins we headed for Wellington once more for the Ferry. With Escape Campers you get a discount on the Bluebridge line classing you as a car rather than a van, and thank god because otherwise I think it might have bankrupted us!! We ended up getting the 1.30 because the weather was too bad in the morning for the ferries to run but it was still a bit of a hairy crossing with huge waves running in between the North and South islands. Once you’re into the Sounds on the top of the south island though the sea goes calm again. The Sounds are stunning!! Literally breath taking and this was only from the ferry. I wish we had had more time to spend there but because we got the later ferry it meant we had to sacrifice the half day we had planned. Once we got to Picton we took a wrong turn and ended up a bit geographically embarrassed ending up at the info sight...... It’s got loads of maps for the south island there and DOC camp site maps, so worth a stop in. once we got our bearings we headed to the nearest Doc site about half an hour to forty five mins north west of Picton. The first one is Momrangi Bay, and the cheaper one that we stayed in is in Aussie Bay. Aussie Bay's a really nice spot, basic but beautiful to wake up to. Keep an eye out for Kiwis too we had our first encounter when i nearly crashed the van trying not to hit it.....

After a quick fish in the morning we were off again towards Nelson. There’s a lookout point called Cullen Point that has amazing views of the Sounds but it’s a bit of a trek to get to the highest point, worth it though. Once we got to Nelson we found out that the Pass south was closed because of too much snow so not thinking that much of Nelson we headed for Kaiteriteri, again North West. It’s really pretty but a little backwards?!?! There’s meant to be surf up that way but no luck, loads of wineries and cider places to stop in though. After an extensive search of the coast line we gave up and headed to the pub. There’s a free campsite in Motueka just on the coast and really easy to find, its next to the swimming pools in the sea and looks more like a car park than a camp site but it’s got BBQ’s and toilets. The next morning we attempted the pass, stocking up on essentials beforehand of course...... $5 dominoes strikes again...... The pass is really nice to drive not to technical and you go from green meadows and forests to snow caped peaks and white wonderlands and then down into what seems to be dense jungle and forests again. Take it easy though there are lots of blind corners and no fuel stations. Bullers gorge Swing Bridge is worth a little looky if you’re going Westport way, huge suspension bridge with zip wires and things. Westport itself is more just a pit stop after the pass crossing as there’s not much to see but it does have places you can stock your van up cheap. There are also some good surf spots at the harbor mouth if you catch the tide on the push. Just south about forty mins is Charleston, there is a cheap powered camp site there and a couple of Doc, needless to say we opted for the heater!!! It’s freezing.

The next bit of the drive was costal and is probably one of the most picturesque areas i have ever driven through, it’s also rated one of the top 10 in the world to drive!! Loads and loads of Surf to be had as well!!! Make sure you stop at the Irimahuwerd view point, you can’t miss it with a name like that, it gives you views of nearly the whole costal road, primo photo spot and cheeky lunch stop. Also just up from there is the Truman Track in the national park which takes you to a secluded little beach with a wicked little overhang waterfall and a totally secluded little beach. Punakaiki Cavern as well is just off the road and is a really impressive cave system; make sure your torch has batteries though...... We ended up not being able to go too deep. The last stop on the highway before it heads back inland is the Pancake rocks!!! A must see. Basically a load of rocks stacked like pancakes but if the seas a bit stormy like it was for us the water smashes up between them and launches into the air. once we had finished at the Pancake rocks we headed for Greymouth, again just a little town with not much to do but about 30 min’s south is a secret surf spot with long running waves and totally deserted, from there you can get amazing views of the mountain ranges. We settled for the night in Hokitika, well just north, again opting for power to get our heat on!!! you literally can’t miss the camp site, I cannot remember the name of it for the life of me but, it did have a whopping big white and red sign saying CHEAP POWER SITES so just look for that.....

So we headed further south trying to out run the storm that we had been dragging with us from the north island stopping at the lakes and viewpoints we headed through Hokitika, Ross and Okarito ending up at the Franz Joseph glacier. Beware when you’re looking for Okarito of taking the wrong turn into the National Park, we nearly rolled the van when we hit one of the bridges with more speed than we anticipated...... the beach was worth it though. The Camp sites in Franz are really expensive and you definitely need the heater on!!! I decided i wanted to do the Sky Dive over the Glaciers.... Wooooop ....and somehow managed to combine booking it with our camping. All the camp sites run off commission on stuff like that so if you book the sky dive through them they will usually give you a free night’s accom too. Once we had sorted where we were staying we went and did the walk to the Franz Joseph Glacier. You can’t get right up to it unless you pay one of the tour companies or jump the fence like i did but the half hours walk is well worth it the glacier is impressive!!! Check out the hot springs there too, not too pricy and a really nice way to start your night, once we were sufficiently prunified we headed for a drink to polish the night off.
JUMP DAY!!!! The Sky dive was by far one of the most exhilarating things I’ve ever done. Clear blue skies, a shaky looking plane, 13000 feet and a guy strapped to my back!!! 50 seconds of free fall and a tandem sky dive instructor that looks like Roach out of Point Break, all in all one of the most memorable experiences i have had!!! Worth every penny!! Once i had got my adrenaline fix for the week we headed down to the Fox glacier, personally this was my favorite hitting it just as the sun set makes the walk feel like you’ve just walked into Lord of the Rings and then when you round the corner and the glacier comes into full view its breath taking. You can get a lot closer to this one as well, do not miss it. with not long before we lost the sun we headed for Gillespies Beach, a free Doc site with an amazing beach and access to some of the lakes that give you some of NZ standard brochure photos i.e lake Matherson, try to catch it in the morning with the frost over the lakes it’s an eye opener.
Aware the weather was starting to catch up again we gunned it for the Haast Pass stopping at most of the view points and some of the walks of course, my recommends are Lake Moeraki, Monro Beach (bit of a walk but there’s penguins at the right time of year, we were in the wrong time nice walk though) and Knights Point. Make sure you fuel up before the Haast Pass as fuel is a major rip off, we got stung!!! Crossing the Pass is really good fun but a little sketchy. Icy roads and other bad drivers make it interesting, nearly lost it behind a gritter!!!! That’s how bad the ice can be. We broke the journey up by stopping at the water falls and the blue pools (swim if you’re man enough it’s a glacier run off!!) it took us near on 3 hours to warm up after. The drive through the pass is picture post card though with amazing view after view, i think we must have taken about 100 photos!!! After clearing the pass we headed for Lake Wanaka for a cheeky snow board at Treble Cone, super cheap and a really nice place to board even this early in the season!! The camp sites are expensive around Wanaka so we hid Lu in one of the back compartments of the van and paid for one person.... ooops cheaper though! On the front by the lake there’s loads of nice bars too. If you get there early enough in the year you can still drive up to the bottom lift. It was like driving on the clouds. You start the dirt track in grey miserable weather then you go up through the clouds and emerge into this blue skied playground, it was almost empty as well with the ice not becoming noticeable till some of the runs started to get shadowy. Starting to run short on time we decided to drive to Queenstown overnight to save time. Not taking into account the ice and extra time it takes to drive at night we made it 3 quarters of the way and camped for free at the Kawarau Bungy sight car park...... then drove in in the morning before anyone got there.

Queens town is AMAZING it’s like an adrenaline junkies play ground with pretty much every adrenaline buzz sport available at your fingertips / Visa card!! You can also do the 3rd highest bungy in the southern hemisphere, The Nevis 134 m..... How can you turn that down..... I even did a second jump. We spent the night in town sampling some of the local beers and spirits and then had a small 4th of July party with some Americans which consisted of standing around a camp fire drinking Bud and eating burgers. The next day we decided to walk to the top of Sky Line that overlooks the whole of Queenstown with amazing views, we even managed to blag a free lift back down in the sky line….. it’s not hard luckily they don’t check your ticket at the top. Cookie time and Ferg Burger are NZ famous and are well worth a look in, the burger was the size of my face!! After spending a few days in Queens we headed for Dunedin and the home of Speights beer.

Dunedin has got some really good surf spots around and the water is a little warmer than the west coast, check out St Claires beach for a nice break...... still caved and bought some booties though as my first surf lasted all of thirty mins before i couldn’t feel my feet. We spent the next few days surfing and seeing what the town had to offer. The Otago Peninsula is worth driving out to for albatross and penguin sightings, got the albatross but still no penguins!!! There is a second beach on the peninsula called Sandfly Bay about a half hour walk loads of sea lions and from the penguin hide at the end of the beach we caught our first glimpse of the o so elusive penguins!!!! We nearly gave up after our two hour wait but it was worth it, they are like kangaroos in the way that they just jump up the rocks. We managed to camp for free in Dunedin as well just using car parks and residential areas no one seemed to care. After one last cheeky surf and a stop off at the Cadburys museum we started to head north stopping at Shagg Point, we stopped for a funny photo but then found out it’s just a type of bird that looks a lot like a penguin, disappointing….

From there we headed to the Moeraki boulders, huge spherical chunks of rock and to an amazing restaurant called Fleurs Place in moeraki village, all I’m going to say is that it was like a foodgasm. The restaurant is just next to the pier overlooking the sea, really picturesque. It is world famous, Rick Steine has even done a cook book on her!! There’s a really good and cheap camp site there called Moeraki village Holiday Park and if you ask nicely you can get directions to a really good penguin hide by the light house, Katiki Point. We headed further north.
On the way north we stopped off in Oamaru to see the SteamPunk HQ which is a working museum where they’ve taken anything and everything metal and turned it into working steam stuff from trains to colideascopes, bizarre. They were closed by the time we got there but the owner is a really nice guy and showed us the train on fire and stuff… There’s more Penguin spotting to be had here too...... yes we have a bit of an obsession with penguins...... but don’t pay for the sanctuary as its a bit of a rip off go to the scenic reserves up on the hill for guaranteed sightings, or beating that just stand outside the fence at dusk when all the penguins are coming in we had about ten off us there. The next stop was Christchurch.

Not wanting to get into Christchurch at night we ended up free camping in a residential area in a town just outside called Ashburton. The next day when we got to Christchurch we were stunned by the amount of damage and destruction the earth quakes had done. The RED zone looked like a bomb site and was zoned off so you could only walk around it unless you paid for a tour. We decided we wanted to look around Christchurch properly before we left so we jumped back into the van and headed for Kaikoura. We spent a few days in Kaikoura surfing and building bonfires and generally just chilling. Its really bohemian up there with a slow pace of life. Also one of NZ biggest seal sanctuaries just to the north and we saw killer whales and dolphins just off the coast line. We also did the peninsular walk way, which is part of the seal sanctuary; it gives you amazing views all the way up the coast line. You can scale the cliffs there to get down to the beaches to get a close up look at the seals; the climb back is sketchy as hell though. Realizing that the surf wasn’t going to improve though we headed down the back roads to Hamner Springs, crazy windy roads but like anywhere in NZ the scenery is worth it.

Hamner Springs is a really good day out, we spent almost four hours in there!! There are fifteen thermal pools ranging from freezing up to forty five degrees and three huge water slides, one which you use a rubber ring and it fires you out into a bowl which then spins you around in circles and then spits you out the end with your swim wear around your nipples. Admittedly we spent most our time on the slides but the thermal pools are a nice to relax in, especially when it’s cold!! If we had had a bit more time we would have stayed the night there as its quite a picturesque little town but hey ho so we started to head back to Christchurch.

Just North of Christchurch in Spencerville we stopped and free camped in the residential areas again as we wanted to hit up the Adrenaline Forest. It’s a bit like a play park for adults. With over 6 km of high ropes challenges ranging from simple rope bridges to huge zip lines and sliding snow boards it makes for a challenging and exciting 3 hours. There are 6 courses to complete all ranging in difficulty and height the last one being 30 meters and obscenely difficult. A little shaken up but totally buzzing we decided to try and fit in one last surf in Sumner.
Just outside of Christchurch it made for the perfect little place to stop the night before we dropped the van off, and conveniently it’s also one of the best places to surf in Christchurch. Even though it was a little crowded the waves were perfect and breaking super clean!!! My last surf in NZ lasted almost three and a half hours and had Lu wondering if I had been drowned but it was by far one of the best surfs I’d had in NZ apart from in Ragland, what a way to finish this amazing country!!

We wanted to enjoy the last night in the van so we decided to go and get a huge smorgas board to eat in the van with champagne to see the old girl off right. So we found ourselves a little spot in a residential area overlooking Christchurch, which at night is stunning from a distance, and ate cheese and salami til we passed out. The next morning we found a car park and packed all of our stuff back into our bags, which seemed to have doubled since we unpacked. As it turns out trying to pack six weeks of stuff, ship a surf board back to the UK, drop your bags at the airport, give the van back and look around Christchurch in one day was quite ambitious. We managed to fit it in though just making the drop off time for the van. The guys at Escape Campers are really good and I would definitely recommend using them, everything is just quick and easy with them. Turned out as well that we had broken the record for the total amount of distance ever covered in his six years of working there weighing in at 6032km in six weeks 2 of which we were at my cousins!!

Looking around the Red Zone in Christchurch was a real eye opener to the amount of damage and destruction caused by the earthquakes. A lot of the really damaged buildings have either been pulled down or are hidden under a network of supports and scaffolding poles. We must have spent half an hour watching this giant digger with a claw going at the side of one of the office blocks. The amount of flowers and messages of support for the peoples families that died are phenomenal and just goes to show the amount of community sense in NZ. To cheer ourselves up we decided we would walk back out to the airport passing through the botanical gardens, four bars and a cinema we eventually arrived at around one in the morning. We figured with such an early flight there was no point in getting a room for the night so we were going to try and sleep at the airport, apparently everyone does this!! They actually have a person whose job it is to walk around all night telling you can’t lay down and that you’re not allowed to sleep here so we spent most the night playing hide and seek with that guy, eventually settling down with a group of other travellers, safety in numbers and all that. The flight was on time.
Bye Bye New Zealand we will see you again!!!
Loz x x x x

Posted by Lulu-Bug 23:07 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

New Zealand Part One

The North Island - New campers, surfboards and family

We arrived into Auckland after crossing a world time line, so although the flight was on 11 hours, we lost a whole day, leaving on 31st May and arriving 2nd June! We had hired a camper van and got a shuttle bus into town to pick it up. We hired it from a place called Escape Campers, they're really cool as they've all been individually spray painted and you get to pick which one you want. We picked one that had loads of landscapes and flowers all over it. We chucked our bags in and our first stop was a supermarket, where we went a little over the top on snacks! It was so nice to find nice cheeses, breads and salt n vinegar crisps after 3 months in South America!

Armed with a giant AA road map and a bag full of flyers we'd picked up at the airport, we started to drive north, not really having a set destination. We lucked out and passed a nice beach in Orewa, where Loz got to have his first surf in New Zealand. The beach there is beautiful and so clean. We camped up the first night in Wendelholm Park, a few K's up the road from Orewa. A beautiful little spot on a river and 100m from the sea too. We got the hammock up in a tree and chilled out for a bit before getting our first taste of Kiwi hospitality after being invited to have beers with a couple from the local area, Debbie, Steve and their baby Sam. We then got invited into another couples huge motorhome for a meal, as they were worried we would be too cold and jet-lagged to cook! You gotta love the locals!

We both woke up at 5.30am the next day, having not got used to the time difference! Went for a walk along the beach and watched the sunrise, then had our first breakfast in our little van... it would definalty take some getting used to only have one little gas hob on a camping cooker! We explored the area on foot. They really look after their walking trails in NZ and they're all free too. I think we both half expected someone to appear with a little ticket book demanding money after so long in South America! After our walk, we hit the road again around lunch, stopping at another beach to cook a curry and lounge in the afternoon sun. Ended in Paiha the second night, where we paid for a powered campsite and tried out our little heater, quite impressed something so small puts out that much heat! The next morning we got the passenger ferry over to Russel for an explore then drove north to Taupo Bay, a beautiful little beach town that was practically deserted. We tried our hand at fishing here with a reel we had bought at a second hand shop (they love charity shops in the Northlands!). However, we only managed to catch loz's hand! We also had our first of many cheeky free camps here. We were both a bit nervy we'd get moved on, but it was fine. Moving further north, we spent the day exploring more destered beaches down bumpy old roads and sleepy little towns, stopping off at 90-mile beach (which is actually more like 63 miles) for another free camp. The weather was pretty bad up north, with torrential rain, not much fun when to cook you had to open the back door of the camper... It is so desolate up in the northlands, we nearly ran out of fuel a few times, as you never drive through populated places most of the time! A place on the map that looks like a town often turns out to be nothing more than a tiny farm.

On the way back south, we found a lovely, peaceful campsite in Tinopai where we got a bargin for a site with power, right on the lake. There was only one other camper there and it was so peaceful and serene. This campsites, as with others we found later, was great as they have kitchens so you don't have to faff around with one hob! On our way back to Auckland, we stopped off at Simon and Debbie's house for the night for a meal, was so nice to stay in a bed in a house for the night and great to meet a local family and see how locals do things. I loved all the fruit trees they had, being able to help yourself to fresh satsumas every morning is great.

Passing through Auckland the next day, Loz ended up doing the 'SkyJump'. This is where you jump off the sky tower on a harness, about 192m freefall! He loved it and it definately cured his hangover! We drove south of Auckland after, making another stop at our favourite supermarket, Pak n Save. Kinda like a Lidl, but slightly classier! Drove all the way down to Ragland on the west coast which is renounded for its surf. We wandered around the town, then headed out to a Maori campsite, which is bascially a field with toilets and very cold showers for $5 a night! Quiet eerie after sunset but the stars are incredible there! The next day, we cooked up our defrosted hash browns (the camper only had a cool box/esky/chilly bin) and headed into town. After what seemed like an eternity to me, Loz finally picked out a surfboard to buy for the trip. He got a really good deal, including all the extras like a wetsuit, I even got a discount on a brand new Volcom Jacket... I had no idea at the time how much use that jacket would get on the South Island! We drove out to one of the surf beaches and Loz tried out the new board in a ver stormy sea and loved it immedialty! In the evening, we ended up watching the All Blacks - vs - Ireland at a local bar, couldn't believe how chilled it was compared to an English pub when the rugby's on! W ended up staying 3 nights in Raglan in the end as the surf was good and it had a great vibe about the place. We spent many rainy hours sat in the camper watching people at the professional surfer spot, some of the locals were amazing!

After we left Raglan, we headed south to Waitomo, where we went underground rafting with a company called 'The Legendary Black Water Rafting Company', doing a tour called 'The Black Labyrinth'. You get suited and booted in the thicket wetsuit gear I've ever seen and get given a rubber tube, then scramble down underground through a series of caves and 2 wateralls (which you jump backwards over), finishing by floating serenly through glow worm caves and out into the bush. We even got given marshmallows to eat as we floated through in the pitch black, nice touch! Amazing day, but I was so bloody cold by the end of it! Luckily, you get hot showers, soup and bagels afterwards! We didn't stay in Waitomo, but drove east to Matamata and a little place called Hobbiton. Hobbiton is where the new Hobbit movie and parts of Lord of the Rings set in 'The Shire' were filmed. We blagged staying for free in the carpark over night off a guy who is the baker Hobbit in the movies! The next day, we were woken up by cows at the window! Loz did a tour of The Shire and loved it, he even got to go in Bilbo Baggins house and stole a leaf from the party tree!

After Hobbiton, we drove south to Rotorua. Rotorua is famous for its thermal springs, and you can smell it a mile off! The sulphur comes up from the ground all over town, resulting in a eggy mist that hangs over the town. I went to the Polynesian Spa for the afternoon, which was amazing! Seven hot spring pools ranging from 38 - 42 C, set on the edge of a beautiful lake, it even smelt nice! Feeling very refreshed and finally clean (cold showers on campsites hadn't been in abundance lately), I met up with Loz. We went for a walk around the local park, where dozens of springs pop up and sputter hot water and steam into the air. Loz decided to go for a dip in the public hot springs in the middle of the park - classy! After, we drove for quite a long stretch down to Lake Taupo, another thermal spring area. It was quite late when we arrived, so we parked up for another sneaky camp in a picnic area by the lake. I couldn't believe the stars were even more bright and twinkly here. The temperature had definatley started to drop as we headed south too and we awoke the next day to our first of many frosty mornings. As Loz scraped ice from the windscreen, we wondered why it wasn't clearing, before realising it was on the inside too!!
We had cooked but not washed up the night before so parked up in another picnic area over looking a misty Lake Taupo to wash up. I lost the feeling in my fingers after about 30 seconds but the views were spectacular. That's the thing with NZ, you think it couldn't be more beautiful, then you arrive at the next place and it takes your breathe away that little bit more.

We drove south along route 1 to the coast, stopping to check out the surf at a few places we'd picked on the map. We ended up stopping at Foxton Beach, where Loz went for a surf while I went for a jog, followed by a little picnic in the van. It was still to cold to sit outside, even though the sun had peeped out. We arrived in Waikanae Beach in the late afternoon in search of family. Loz's great uncle and auntie and their 4 children had moved here about 30 years ago, and the 4 kids have since all married and had kids, so there is about 30 of them now! We'd heard so much about them from family in the UK and were really excited and nervous to meet them all. After getting a little lost, we finally found Maria's house. Maria is one of Loz's mum's cousins and has 3 teenage children. We immediatly felt so welcome and at home. They have a beautiful house with fantastic views of the beach. We had our own room all ready for us, complete with electric blanket! After cups of tea and warming up in front of the fire, Ursala and her family and their parents, Richard and Maureen all turned up. It was a bit overwelming at first, but it soon felt like a family meal with Loz's family in Leicester.

We spent the next two weeks at Waikanae Beach getting to know our extended family. The two boys, Richard and Paul, both live in Upper Hutt, which is in Wellington around an hour away, so we also speant time there with them. They have such a nice way of life and are all so lovely and welcoming. They all wanted to show us around, so we spent many days visiting local places, beaches, walking trails, the famous Te Papa musuem in Wellington, local footie matches with our cousins playing and enjoying dozens of family meals and drinks. We even got roped into doing the Waikanae Mid-Winter Dip. This involves getting dressed up (we all chose santa suits) and going for a swim in the sea! It was bloody freezing but such fun, we even made it into the local paper!

Needless to say, after feeling like one of the family, we were both reluctant to leave. We had an amazing last day with the family. With the sun finally warming up, we spent the afternoon lazing on the balcony at Maria and Andrews, eating, drinking and laughing. Followed by a final meal there, with everyone in the family under one roof. There was only just enough room!

The next morning, with only 3 weeks left in NZ, we said our goodbyes and vowed to save to come visit again as soon we could. We drove down to Wellington and got the Bluebridge ferry to Picton, on the South Island. The journey takes just under 4 hours but was so expensive. I was beginning to realise why no-one on the North Island travels to the South very often!

We were both excited about getting back on the road, this time armed with a wealth of information and tips from the family on where to visit on our second leg of our NZ adventure...

Lucy xxx

Posted by Lulu-Bug 01:41 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Pichilemu and Santiago

Rain, more rain and goodbye South America


The bus to Pichilemu was not as easy as we thought! There are not any direct buses so they kick you off outside a town called San Fernando at 3am on the motorway and point you in the general direction to walk... Luckily we managed to flag a taxi into town after only walking for half hour!!! Once in San Fernando we booked the first bus out at 7am after hanging around like hobos in the bus station for 3 hours.

The bus stops just outside Pichilemu, recomend you get off there as the actual main bus station is miles away from anywhere! We donned our bags and after a good hours scout for a descent/open hostel (the town closes in winter), we settled for a place called Cabanas Waitera. Its right on the point overlooking the main town with awesome sea views, the surf looked amazing too... bonus!!! We went out for supplies, beer and cheese, and sat in the room watching out the window as the heavens opened and the wind started to pick up.

We woke the next morning to find ourselves in a monsoon, so much for the sunbathing and surfing!!! The waves were HUGE and the rain now horizontal. We decided to chill out and finish the beer and cheese whilst watching movies, until the power went out! Not wanting to be defeated, we got into our beach clothes and went exploring. Big mistake by the time we got to town we were drenched and the weather was only getting worse. The place was a ghost town, i think we only saw two other people either brave enough or stupid enough, depending on how you look at it, to venture out in the storm. We took shelter in the only restaurant we could find open. Even though the power was out, the guy still managed to give us a smack up meal, candlelight and cold beer - legend! Just as we finished, the power came back on so we headed for more supplies and back to the hostel to finish the day how we had started it, with beer, movies and more cheese! The wind and rain got so bad it started to flood the room, with the water being forced in horizontally under the door and any hole it could find.

The next morning we checked the forecast and checked out. The storm was here to stay so we decided we weren't!!! We packd our stuff and waited for a gap in the weather then legged it to the bus station. We caught the firs bus we could to Santiago...

The bus was uneventful so when we arrived in Santiago, we booked a hostel on the net and caught the tube out to where the hostel was, we eventually found it only to discover they had overbooked us... Fuckers considering they had full availability online still. However the guy was kind enough to check us into one of his friends hostels close by. Once we checked in we found a much better hostel so we did a runner! The hostel, called Don Santiago, was wicked. Really chilled out and the owners are sound. We spent the next few days chilling out at the hostel with other travellers we met there, getting ready for New Zealand and exploring the city by foot (including a whole day spent at markets looking for trainers for Lu!). There are loads of markets though and some really good food markets and street food. Also, in the local supermarkets, you can get 2L of wine for about 3 quid, go for the Merlot, its way too easy to drink! It was the perfect hostel to finish on in South America...

Bye Bye South America, Bring on New Zealand!!!

Loz xxx

Posted by Lulu-Bug 17:39 Archived in Chile Comments (0)


Snow storms, Volcanos and a cold Lu Lu


We arrived at Pucon to find the hostel owner waiting for us, South America still has its little surprises!!! The hostel was more like little log cabins in the Alpes, 3 bedrooms surrounding a living room with a little log fire and what can only be described as a dead animal as the carpet. The cabins were really nice though and at first we were only sharing it with three German’s. They spoke no English and we speak no German, made for interesting conversation….. Then ended up having the whole place to ourselves for the rest of the time we were there. Most people just come to Pucon to climb the volcano and it turns out they had done it the day before, or so we guessed. Not wanting to waste the day though we headed straight out to explore the town.

Pucon is literally just shops and accommodation and walking around, it didn’t seem like there were any actual houses as every building either had a sale or a vacancy sign in the window. After looking around a few of the shops and discovering that even sale prices weren’t cheap enough for us, we headed down to the main lake which is on two sides of the town….. Its that big though it seemed more like the sea!!!! Then off to haggle a cheap price to climb the volcano. Turns out they don’t like to haggle, so we booked with a company called Agua Ventura that a few of our friends had recommended to us before we got to Pucon. The main reason to go with them is that they will only climb on good days, pretty much guaranteeing you will hit the summit, whereas some of the other company’s have got a reputation for climbing in bad weather and then having to turn back with no offer to climb another day, BOOOOOO. One of the guides in the shop also told us about a waterfall hike we could do even though it was already mid day so we grabbed a map and headed for the bus station.

When we got to where we thought the hike started, well where the bus drops you off for the start of the hike, we got ambushed by the local camp site owner demanding her little bit of tax for crossing her land to get to the start of the hike. Being forever thrifty we quickly did an about turn and walked down the road and jumped a fence, I mean it is a free hike…… We ended up on the wrong side of the river so scouted for a place to cross, eventually finding a rock pool to use to jump across the river where Lucy fell in! Once we figured out which path was the right one we set off. Turns out that where the bus driver had dropped us was not the start at all so we ended up doing a trek and a half. Five waterfalls later, one bleeding forehead and an ever so damp Lu Lu we found ourselves lost again…. It seemed like the local land owners have decided that the trail shouldn’t be there anymore so they’ve built fences and styles across the path. It only took around thirty minutes though to figure out what was going on so we jumped a few more fences and found our way back to the road and our bus home.

We woke the next morning to find the weather had closed in. Not wanting to risk missing the hike though, we dragged ourselves out of bed at 5am and headed for the shop… we were back in bed by 5.30am, the climb had been called off. We spent the rest of the day stoking the fire and watching movies whilst the snow and sleet came down, managing to muster just enough energy to go to the super market and get the ingredients for a good old English roast.

The next morning, the weather was still on the turn but the guides were sure it would clear before we started hiking so we jumped in the mini bus and headed for the foot of the volcano. Just as we arrived the sun broke through and we set off, ice axes and bum boards in hand. The first two hours of the hike are reasonably easy, just zigzagging up the foot of the volcano but once you get above the snow level and into the more icy areas you have to put on the crampons, huge snow shoes with spikes. Your feet are now equipped to the max and after a quick safety briefing about what to do when you fall over and how to avoid stabbing yourself in the back of the ankles, you continue up. From this point on though the views just got better and better!!! By the third hour however Lucy was starting to struggle a little so we put both our rucksacks into one and continued upwards. By the fourth hour I was ready to give her them back….. After losing about a quarter of the group at the last rest stop we headed for the summit on the last push of the day. The last hour is up over sheer ice plates and wind shaped icy monoliths that seem like they are ready to swallow you up at any point but once you hit the summit it makes it all worth it. It’s a 360 panoramic of the whole area with the other 4 volcanoes in full view. Looking back at where you started I found myself a little breathless, STUNNING!!!!! The only down side is that it’s about -10 up there and the sulphurous gasses released by the volcano are poisonous so a few quick photos and a look down into the smoldering abyss and back down you head.

The route down is a lot more fun than the way up because it is easier but also because you can almost bound down through the snowy bits, a little what I would imagine moon walking to be like (still high of the fumes I think!) You also catch your crampons on each other, causing you to face plant, well I managed to anyway much to Lu’s amusement. About half way down you swap your crampons for your bum board and bounce the rest of the way down cruising into big snow drifts to slow yourself down and smashing into rocks with only your ice axe to control your speed. Amazing fun but your ass is bruised like a peach the next day, take extra padding!!! 5 hours up; 2 hours down!!! Climbing an active volcano - Check!!! Once back you’re greeted with an ice cold beer and a pat on the back, in return you get to give them all their soaking wet and sweatie snow clothes back. We headed back to the cabin for a cheeky hours kip and then headed out for dinner. We ended up at ‘Mamas and Tapas’ well worth a look in especially as they have two for one cocktail’s on most nights and they don’t hold back on the spirits!!!!

We spent the next day recuperating with a short walk around the lake again and caught the bus out that night to Pichilemu… Bring on the surf and the beach!!!!!

Loz x x x

Posted by Lulu-Bug 21:04 Archived in Chile Comments (0)


Fish, hotdogs and crazy cameramen


The journey across the border turned out to be another interesting one. After a beautiful drive through snowy mountains, we got turfed off the bus and into the freezing cold snow and started the rigmorale that is Chilean customs. Firstly, you have to queue up to get stamped out of Argentina, then again to get stamped into Chile. Then they have to check your customs declaration, you then all get lined up like a police parade as they x-ray your bags. They called one guy up and started going through all his stuff, and just as we were having a little giggle at him, my bag got pulled out! After a lot of Spanglish and hand signals, I finally managed to convince customs my homeopathic kit was infact medicine and not drugs, my marmite was for ‘hot bread’ and the mint tea was not ‘herbs’. All very funny, except for having to hastily repack my bag and jump back on the bus before it left without me. The rest of the drive was a bit scary, with huge, steep bends on the roads. The border is so silly, as it can take up to 5 hours to cross due to the amount of traffic, and the fact it is in the middle of a mountain! There must have been 50 lorries waiting to cross from Chile to Argentina.

We arrived in Valparaiso in the late afternoon and had pre-booked a hostel. After a bit of street food, a local bus and 20 minutes wandering around a back alley, we finally found Casa Aventura. It was a really nice hostel, in an old building not too far from the town centre. There was a big communal kitchen and nice shared bathrooms. We lucked out on the room too as we had got an online discount and it had a huge double bed and sofa! Having had a bit of a long day crossing the border, we made some dinner and watched movies in bed.

We woke up the next day to a beautiful sunny morning, and the free hostel brekkie was awesome (minus the screaming kids that were staying there!). We headed out to explore a route the owner had recommended. Valparaiso is really hilly, so we trekked up the hill a bit first and had an awesome view of the whole city. We walked all up around the back of town and through the outdoor museum. This consists of lots of really colourful buildings and steps that have been painted with scenes of fishing villages etc. Well worth the walk. We then walked the whole way along the harbour, which stinks of fish, but is very pretty! We saw lots of sea lions chilling out in the sun too. We popped into the big fish market there, but were a bit overwhelmed with the new currency conversion when we tried to buy stuff (800 pesos is £1). We settled on a tub of Ceviche, which was yummy in Peru, not so good in Chile! We looked at several restaurant menus for lunch, only to discover Chile speaks yet another different kind of Spanish to everywhere else, and not making much sense of the menu! On our way back, we ended up finding a great spot for lunch, where we just guessed on something to have! It was a cute little yacht club bar, with a big sunny terrace overlooking the sea. The picks were good, and both of us had really nice, fresh fish dishes. On the way back, we found a boot market, with all sorts of crazy bric-a-brac and hilarious clothes. In the afternoon, I was lazy and chilled out while Loz went for a run. In the evening, we had heard there was some local entertainment in the main square, so took some beers down. Turned out to be a bunch of very strange people dressed up in what can only be described as a cross between Michael Jackson in thriller and sixties disco wear, doing a very strange dance then asking for money?! Needless to say, we didn’t stop for long and instead, went for some famous Chilean hotdogs! Now we had heard a lot about hotdogs in Chile from other travelers and we were not disappointed! It’s all they eat and it’s about £1.30 for two, including a juice and these things come heaped in mayo, fresh salsa and guacamole! Very yummy but not very attractive to eat!

We decided to head off the next day to Pucon, but as the bus was not until the evening had some time to kill. We explored the old town, which turned out to just be a dirtier part of the new town and didn’t feel particularly safe. With not much else to do, we headed to the cinema to see ‘The Avengers’ which was really good. We hit the hotdog place on the way back for yet another round and more guacamole stains on our tops, then went back to the hostel to use the net. I had a funny experience when I popped to the supermarket. As I was walking down the road, these two guys started taking photos of me on big cameras, I tried to ignore them but then they came over and started following me and asking if I was with anyone etc. I was like ýep, my fiancé is just up the road etc’, they said I was really pretty and continued to follow me and ask me to move into the sun for better snaps! Very strange!! I was pleased when I got to the supermarket and they left!! We decided to walk to the bus station in the evening and get some street food on the way. We had got addicted to these little breads that cost about 15p and are deep fried then you put homemade salsa all over them – yum! The walk took about 20 mins, and after a short wait, we were off to Pucon.

Lucy xxx

Posted by Lulu-Bug 21:02 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

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