A Travellerspoint blog

Horse Trekking with Crazy Bryan

NZ South Island - Abel Tasman National Park

sunny 15 °C
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One generally is fulled with nothing but romantic ideas when thinking of horse riding along the beach - 2 newly weds, alone, galloping along a beautiful stretch of untouched pristine coastline...

This is clearly not the case when one signs up to go horseriding with Bryan - the village psycho, who comes across from the outset as being a few chocolates short of a chocolate box and disturbingly a bit too attached to his horses!

Bryan lives in a caravan in a paddock with his 4 horses looking out at the beautiful entrance to the abel tasman national park and its coastline - but he intends to move very soon due to the fact that he wants to settle high up on a hill somewhere due to the imminent threat of a flood. Also he is highly pissed off with how society screws every last cent out of everyone and charges people for electricity and water usage - he wants to build himself a well.

I tell him I am an engineer - which goes down like a wet fart. He then proceeds to tell us how his beautiful horses will only play up when they can sense if someone doesnt know what they are doing. Enter novice riders Dee and Drew... I can see my horse hates me already and I haven't even gotten on him yet. Dee is looking like she wants to run for the hills.

Nevertheless we get a brief 1 minute speel about how to ride these precious horses interspersed with plenty of rantings about government and corruption and the end of the world stuff. Charming! I think he mentioned somewhere in there George Bush but I am not concentrating on him now as I am merely trying to send happy thoughts to my horse who looks ready to bolt at any second.

We manage to get on our horses without falling and off we trot - luckily Dee's and my horse are quite used to just following Bryans horse so we dont have to do anything - except hold on and act like we know what the hell we are doing. The kicker to our romantic ride is that Dee's horse hates my horse even more than my horse hates me - so we are separated by at least 20m at all times - very romantic! Any infringement on this causes both horses to rear up and buck madly - which is great news for us as we have no clue how to control or hold on to our horses.

My horse luckily for me fancies Bryans horse and sticks to him like glue, so I get to have a 1hr lecture on how screwed up the world is and how armageddon is coming (Nostradamos predicted it after all) - all the while my horse is continually thrashing his head up and down covering me in spit! Bryan seems unphased by this and by the fact that Dee is doing her own thing 20 odd metres behind us.

I tell you romance doesnt get any better. The hour lesson seems to drag on for days and at the end of it all we scuffle off our horses , thank crazy Bryan for his lovely horses and scintilating commentary and bolt off as quickly as possible to our campervan, aches and pains all over from trying to sit correctly on the horse without having a clue how to do so.

"Hurry up love - we r leaving NOW!" as we speed off as quickly as possible in our clapped out combi - all too keen to get the hell outta there - which is a pity as it was a really beautiful neck of the woods - as shown in the photo below.

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Hint to fellow travellers - GO HIKING IN ABEL TASMAN! Far more enjoyable - unless you know how to ride skittish horses that is...

Posted by doubledrtw 00:46 Archived in New Zealand Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Dolphin Swimming & Killer Whales

Bay of Islands - New Zealand - North Island

rain 10 °C
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When we signed up to go Dolphin watching, we never thought that we would get the experience of getting to swim with them. That kind of stuff only happens on Walt Disney movies, and when it does, the Dolphins come right up to you, cure you of all personal hang ups and illness, let you ride on their backs, flip you in the air, and give you a new lease of life.

So when the giant Maori skipper of "Dolphin Adventures" offered us to jump in and have a swim with these critters, I was only too keen. The fact that the water was about 5 degrees did not phase me, and neither was the fact that we had to get changed into wetsuits in front of the entire boat. But hey, whats a bit of bum cheek and boobin flashing going to harm anyone??

The Dolphins were swimming madly in and around the boat, this was going to be my Disney moment. Irish mate April and I waddled to the side of the boat in our luminous yellow flippers, goggles and snorkles, and in we leapt reeling from the cold of the water.

They say that you have to interact with the Dolphins if you want them to play with you and it is amazing how this reduces people to their lowest level. People were making noises that sounded like a dying cow, some were letting out high pitched squeeks, some were clapping, some were flapping their flippers around and others were just choking and hyperventilating from the salt water.

Drew stayed behind as chief "Dolphin-Pointer-Outer-From-Birds-Eye-View". And kept shouting "they're behind you, they're infront of you, they are underneath you, swim left, swim right" It felt a little bit ludicrous and after a short while and a lot of energy the dolphins seemed to disappear.

So with the waves splashing salt water and hair into eyes, we made a very unglamourous exit shivering, coughing and spluttering, and started making our way home.

Next thing a 2m dorsal fin appears on the horizon, and skipper, starts skipping and getting excited about killer whales lurking about in the sea. He then excitedly tells us that Dolphin is the food of choice for this big guys which is possibly why they disappeared.

Lucky the sheer lack of grace in the water made it easy for the Orcas to see which was which on the menu and we all got off unscathed.

So double whammy for us. Whales and Dolphins in the same viewing.

And with that, we headed back to our Campervan for another night of 2-minute noodles under the stars.

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* Couple of extra pics of the 90 mile beach, our campervan, hole in the rock, larking about on the beach

Posted by doubledrtw 17:25 Archived in New Zealand Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

A Bar Called Mute

Barriloche, Argentina

sunny 3 °C
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Having gotten used to the queuing system in South America (there isnt one - its a push in, thrust yourself to the front - free for all culture) we waited at the taxi rank after a furiously long journey across the Andes to Barriloche.

Tired to the core, we made sure our places in the front of the taxi queue were well retained and hairy eyeballed anyone who looked like they may "accidentally" step in front of us.

Barriloche is a town which specialises in chocolate making... It is made of Apex wooden ski chalet's, set on a lake that reflects the snowcapped Andes lying behind it. Sounds terrible hey ;-)

But a trip is not a trip unless you have brilliant company..

For Sale: Dan & April (Answer to O Keefe or O Gorman, depending on who your asking). Quality Irish couple who love a pint and a laugh.. brilliant fun for all types of backpacking trips, please enquire within for price list.

It was a brilliant arrangement. Each night someone would cook, we would drink loads of red wine, play cards, speak rot and solve the worlds problems.

And the skiing was brilliant too, We were lucky to catch the last good snowfall of the season. Laura and Dan, two Americans on tour with us were demons down the runs and left us chasing them as they whizzed down any slope type. I guess you have to grow up on the slopes to have that kind of grace as a skier. No intense snow ploughs for those two!

And then there was the bar called mute. Its set at the base of the ski slopes in Barriloche. One would mistake it for the den of Apre Ski. It has a "no ugly chicks can work here" policy and as such only Argentinas next top models seem to serve you beer.

No problem at all for our male counterparts who purposefully placed their glasses across the table so that she would have to lean over to pick them up, they asked for one too many beers, jaws dropped to the floor, and waited for their next pint, panting with the anticipation of her return. Pathetic I tell ya.

Its all good times and good fun, and at the end of the day, its all about the laugh.
And so back to Santiago on a loong loong bus journey.

We had our last "Once's / Elevenses" with Liz and with that we boarded our plane to Auckland.

What a journey.

Posted by doubledrtw 00:06 Archived in Argentina Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Chile

Things to do, places to go, people to see

sunny 15 °C


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As we came through the border between Bolivia and Chile we sighed a massive sigh of relief as the dirt roads turned to tar.

At last a country where, in comparison to Bolivia, there seems to be a sense of law and order.

Our first few nights were spent in San Pedro de Atacama. Right up north, it was a right little treat for travellers coming in from Bolivia having done the Salar de Uyuni.

Lots of cute little restaurants, some with open roofs where they would light a fire at night, and you can sit around it on cushions drinking red wine until your head starts nodding and you mooch your way home.

Its amazing how you crave creature comforts when you have been travelling for a long time. Tea, toast, toilets that flush and hot water seem like 5 star luxury after spending time without them.

We were lucky to stay with some mates when we arrived in Santiago. They were amazing to us and so generous with letting us use their home as a base while we gallavanted north and south of Chile.

We lurked around Santiago for a few days, went to Pablo Nerudo´s house who is a famous Chilean poet who won a Nobel Prize for literature. His house is one of the funkiest you will ever see. Lots of trinkets which he collected from his journeys around the world, its a great place to just spend an hour checking out all the junk in his trunk!

We also tried our hand at a bit of wine tasting at one of the more well known wine estates in Chile called Concho y Torro. After a separate wine tasting session with Liz and Felipe we reckon we are quite pro and can come up with all kinds of wino talk that makes us sound like experts. Not quite!

After a short break in the US for my sisters wedding we arrived back in Santiago, and went to a gorgeous little fishing villiage called Horcón. The guidebooks dont rate this place very much, but all the better as it was completely off the gringo trail and sold the best seafood empanadas in South America.

La Serena was another gem. We were lucky with the weather, and hired bikes and took off into the sunset. One beach picnic and a bottle of wine later we tried to fumble our way back to the main village only to have Drews pedal fall off his bike. An interesting style of cycling when you only have one pedal.

Star gazing in Vicuña was another highlight. We got to look through these kick ass telescopes in a observatory which was very high tec!, I have never seen the milky way so clearly pointed out and also got to see Jupitor, different types of star clusters, and Scorpio which was pretty mean!

Bike rides through the vineyards of Pisco Elqui, checking out the quirky coloured houses of Valparaiso, hiking through the Andes, getting panoramic view of Santiago from the top of San Cristobel, watching the local fishermen sell fresh fish at a fishmarket in Valdivia and throw the scraps to the sea lions that come up out of the lake, Red wine, great steak, great seafood!! Have you booked your flight yet?

This has been one of the most surreal countries, and the best part has been that our trip has been a little different to the average gringo. Because we stayed with Liz and her Felipe, we got to hang out with Felipe´s Chilean family. Very funny Spanish misprounciations which end up being massively insulting but we have had some serious belly clutching laughs which is always good.

So we wrap up this quirky little continent with one week left to go skiing in Barriloche Argentina will be the cherry on the top of what has been the most kick ass trip through South America.

Posted by doubledrtw 12:50 Archived in Chile Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Pachamama and the Oxygen Mask

3 Weeks in Bolivia makes the hard man humble

all seasons in one day 5 °C
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When a stray dog takes its chances and chooses to lie down in the middle of a main road to take a nap, its a sign that La Paz and its inhabitants are not your average city slickers.

3 months into our marriage, my husband, otherwise known as the Minister of Finance.. had recently updated the travel budget and announced that our days of clean sheets, warm showers and decent food were over.

And so into Hostal Gloria we walked, signed up to the room on the 3rd floor conveniently located next to a heaving disco by night and overlooking the unofficial black market by day. Aah peace and tranquility!

And oxygen deficiency seemed to be a common theme running through our experience in Bolivia. It seems to make people a little loopy to say the least.

If it wasnt the stray dog taking a nap in the middle of the road it was the village lunatic who went round telling people he had just got out of prison and needed some money to see him through the next few days.

We signed up to cycle "The Worlds Most Dangerous Rd". It goes from La Paz to Coroico and is a single lane dirt road with a sheer 500m cliff drop to one side of it.

Its claimed many a victim. Politicians running for government have been known to deposit their opposition over the side of this cliff, busses have overturned killing all their passengers, and cyclists admiring the view have lost control of their bikes and high tailed it off the edge.

Perhaps it was the little 94% alcohol toast to Pachamama (Mother Earth) at the start of the ride that had the gods on our side, but to be truthful, if you are cautious about the speed that you go, you will most likely arrive alive at the bottom. That said, there are some sections of it which are a little hairy, and a moment of lost concentration would add you to the roads list of victims.

I guess the scariest part of ride is not on the way down, but rather the trip back. Having already reached for the oxygen mask once that day we found ourselves with sweaty palms, gripping the seats, closing our eyes and attempting to think happy thoughts as the tour combi weaved in and out of traffic, overtook on blind rises, took corners on two wheels and narrowly missed people walking across the street.

The thing about Bolivian drivers is that they dont get upset with each other when they cut each other off. Its all just a hoot and a wave and we all move on .. heartrate and blood pressure all still in tact.

Upon arriving back into the "loving" arms of our hostel, we spent the next week lying in bed and hugging the toilet. One drop of Bolivias water (even on your toothbrush) will bring the hardest man to his knees. Lets just say it was altitude sickness at its worst. When Drew turns down food, and opts for herbal tea, you know the man is at an all time low.

But the mood quickly took an upward turn as we headed out of La Paz and south to Uyuni to start our 3 day tour of the Salt Flats.

We stayed in a Salt hotel. Literally all made of salt, Salt chairs, salt tables, salt floors, salt walls.. get the picture? It was one of the coldest nights I have ever experienced..we put every bit of clothing in our backpack on before going to bed. And with that, high fived each other, climbed into bed and said goodnight to the other 4 people sharing our dorm with us. Honeymoon sure has its little ironies some days!

It has to be said that the Salar de Uyuni was photographic wonderland. Train graveyards, pristine white salt flats, green lakes, blue lakes, red lakes (yep, when the sun shines on certain types of algae it can make the lake look red), pink flamingoes, a desert crossing and nights spent drinking red wine next to a bonfire with a sky full of more stars than we will ever see, add to that a couple of cacti and a woolly llama and you got yourself a pretty good travel recipe.

Posted by doubledrtw 08:31 Archived in Bolivia Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

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