New friends

You do meet some fabulous people in odd places, and Chile had its fair share. We flew into Santiago, then headed west to Valparaiso on the coast for a few days. Then south by overnight bus (love the semi cama fold right back seat option) to Pucon, a lovely lakeside town with a spectacular view of the mighty Villarica volcano (more on that shortly). Last two stops were Puerto Varas in the Lake District, and then south to Castro on the island of Chiloe before heading across the Andes to Bariloche in Argentina. A bit of a whistle stop tour, and summary, but time is running out with only two and a half more weeks to go, so finding time to update the blog has been a little short!

Anyway. My/our favourite people deserve the credits below šŸ™‚

ValparaĆ­so

Top place goes to Boris, my Chilean cooking instructor for the day, who taught me how to cook pebre (a kind of salsa), razor clams with parmesan, Chilean corn pie and then poured pisco sours and wine down our throats. Tough day that one…

Bottom of the pile in the loveliest, craziest city Chile has to offer goes to the dog who followed us for a whole 45 minutes whilst we were doing a sight seeing walk in the hills around the city, and who we had to dodge into a shop and hide for 15 minutes to get rid of. Never say hello to a stray dog in Valparaiso unless you want a shadow for the day – those of you who know me and my love for animals can quite rightly point the finger at me for that episode.

Pucon

Lots of lovely people to mention here, including the fabulous Tamara, the Austrian/Egyptian girl working at Ruka Rayen, a fantastic farm twenty minutes outside of the town where we stayed for four days or so. She not only helped me make a birthday cake for Alex, but taught us how to belly dance and Viennese waltz at the subsequent celebrations round a campfire, ably assisted by Pablo, horse rider extraordinaire and also the son of the local Mapuche chief. Pablo, it turns out, does a mean salsa. Couldn’t make that night up…

Special mention has to go to ‘mi amiga’ Connie, the adorable five year old niece of the owners, who lives next door, clearly didn’t care about the language barrier and gave great cuddles. She nearly got kidnapped.

Final Pucon credit has to go to Mauricio, the president of the Pucon Mountain Climbing Association who got me (Alex was storming it) through five hours of climbing in the snow and ice up the Villarica volcano, crampons, balaclava, ice pick and all. If I’m honest, the climb was horrible, and the chlorine and sulphur being pumped out at the crater lung crippling, but the views were unbelievable, and the slide back down in the snow on a plastic tray (!!) was the best way ever invented to get back down a volcano. Awesome fun.

Puerto Varas

Got to hand it to Jess, our white water rafting guide, who got us down the biggest white water I’ve ever seen and who was in training to raft full time. Only problem came when she was doing some impromptu ‘how to get back into the raft unaided’ drills to test herself on a quiet part of the river, and couldn’t get back in. In fact, all of us were in the river happily floating past the landing point at that moment, admiring the three local snow capped volcanoes and waving merrily to the people on the bank. Last time I rafted that river was ten years ago at the end of summer and it was a LOT quieter…

Chiloe

Our host at our hostel in Castro was fantastic, but did look quite a lot like Smeagol from Lord of the Rings. Slightly unnerving. I had a couple of days really good horse riding with Wilkie, who, despite his limited English and my limited Spanish, was the perfect guide. My horse, Llavan (I think that’s how you spell it), was just brilliant – a really forward going chestnut quarter horse, who took the instruction to canter gently along the beach as a full on invitation to switch up the gears and gallop for Chile. Compare it to getting in a car and finding out it’s a Ferrari for all you non riders out there šŸ™‚ happy days…

NZ – North Island.

The adventure continued…

Hubble bubble toil and trouble... geothermal action in Rotorua.
The gases may turn the branches a pretty colour near the bubbling bits but it still all smells.
CasĀ“s patented stopping the smell technique. Either do this or take a gas mask. You donĀ“t get used to it no matter what the people who work there say.
Right by horrible smelling sulphur-y smoke. It was quite impressive in a molten bubbling kind of way.
Green lakes? ItĀ“s just not right. No food colouring used promise.
One of the many Martinborough vineyards in the Wairarapa valley just outside Wellington.
Vines to make wines.
Tongariro National Park, North Island. First volcanoes of the trip.
Tongariro NP
Maori war canoe at Waitangi. This is still put to sea, and takes (if I remember rightly) over 100 people to paddle it. Fabulous, and not a little intimidating.
The head of the Maori war canoe, Waitangi.
The flags of Britain, the first flag of NZ, and at the top, todayĀ“s NZ flag. Waitangi.
Waitangi Treaty Grounds. Where NZ as we know it was born.
Detail from the Maori Treaty House, Waitangi.
Paua shell eye decoration on the Treaty House.
A little blue penguin doing its own thing in the Bay of Islands.
Bottlenose or common dolphins. We saw both in the Bay of Islands and my zoology degree was a long time ago.
Our boat went through the hole in the rock. Madness.
Happy to be out the other side. Top driving lady boat captain.
Orca, Bay of Islands
Alex takes some great photos...
Orca and the scientists studying them. A good day at the office.
Orca. Done.

NZ – South Island.

Some of our favourite places in South Island. North Island to follow…

At our friendsĀ“farm. Lush.
My first motorbike. Out with Ken on the farm - I held so tight to the handlebars that the grips left an imprint in my hands. DidnĀ“t get out of first gear either! Will do better next time...
One of my favourite places. Lake Wakatipu from Queenstown beach.
Head of Lake Wakatipu - think Lord of the Rings
Two very happy campers at Lake Wakatipu on the way up to Glenorchy. One of the best places IĀ“ve ever been.
Spot the tourists. The bum bags were to hold our crampons, so at least thatĀ“s a bit mountaineering-y. On the glacier at Franz Josef.
The awesome Tasman Sea at Karamea at the northern end of the West Coast, South Island.
Mirror Tarn, Oparara Basin, north of Karamea.
Alex and our kayaks, Abel Tasman National Park, post orca visit.
Dinner time for them or me? At the Acquapackers, Abel Tasman National Park
The Japanese garden in Nelson, north end of South Island. Spot the Cas.
Cas, garden, Nelson.
The centre of New Zealand. Only itĀ“s not really, itĀ“s about 50k away. ItĀ“s a nice plaque though.
Big pointy thing pointing to the not centre of NZ (Alex explored all this - I was lying in a hammock in the sunshine at the backpackers).
The gorgeous Kennepuru Sound, part of Marlborough Sounds.
Alex at Kaikoura, swimming with dusky dolphins. It was just a *little* bit cold.
Dusky dolphins, Kaikoura
Wandering albatross, Kaikoura. Wandering.