Friday, May 18, 2007


Yes, surprisingly the landscape was also pretty good in Australia. So, as well as trying out several new activities here including rock climbing, sand boarding and whale shark swimming, I was able to appreciate some of what nature had to offer. I hope the following gives a taste of what I've seen here...

Victoria coastline as seen from above (from a brief helicopter trip over the Great Coast Road)..

Wet man with rock formations, Grampians, Victoria..

Novice spiderman tries (and mostly fails) to find his feet in the Grampians..

Sunrise at Monkey Mia on the Western Australian Coast..

..And sunset from sand dunes on the Western Australian coast..

And yes, I did get to meet skippy's cousins...

And some of his perhaps slightly too friendly chums..

Anyway, that's probably it from crazy Australia for now- Next and final stop is Hong Kong, before the return to merry old England, now less than a month away!! Bye for now..

Thursday, May 17, 2007

New Zealand South Island landscape..

I guess the most impressive thing about the South Island of New Zealand is the landscape of mountains, and the very varied coastline. I was able to experience quite a lot of this in my wanderings over the 3 weeks I was there, the following being some of the highlights (as always, click on images to get full size and effect!)...

Mount Cook on a clear day! (fairly unusual apparently)..

Doubtful Sound on a not so clear a day (fairly usual apparently)..

One of the many water falls in Doubtful Sound (also fairly usual with all the rain!)..

Snow on the pass to Doubtful Sound- the first for me since Patagonia back in December..

The sky off the coast of the Catlans..

More sea and sky off the coast of the Catlans..

Railway station and sky, Oamaru

Yellow Eyed Penguin gets a look in on the Otago Peninsula, near Denedin

The sky also dominates in Abel Tasmin National Park

And yes, before you ask I was there (and didn't just get the pictures from the internet)- I hope this kayaking action shot from Abel Tasmin proves it...!

Salt, water and clouds in Bolivia..

Some of the most amazing scenery I saw on my trip back down was in Bolivia, especially the Salt Flats near Uyuni, which I reached via train from Oruro (once the road blockade outside La Paz was lifted, thankfully just before I needed to go there..). The following are sights from the train trip, and the 3 day jeep trip I did over the Bolivian Salt Flats..

Water and sky from the train, near Oruro, Bolivia

Sunset from the train, near Oruro, Bolivia

Saltflats, near Uyuni, Bolivia

Cactus (some over 2000 years old!), Saltflats, near Uyuni, Bolivia

Flamingo browses lake, near Uyuni, Bolivia

Deadly lake (!!), near Uyuni, Bolivia

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Old buildings of South America...

Yup, there's some fairly old man-made stuff out there in north-western South America, and I got to see a few examples on my trip from the Carribean Coast of Colombia back down to Santiago in Chile. Just to give you a taster, this is some of the things I saw (nice colours I hear you say)....

Colourful buildings, Cartagena, Colombia

More colourful buildings, Cartagena, Colombia

Inside of ancient Pyramid, Trujillo, Peru

Ancient city of Chan Chan, Trujillo, Peru

Terrace, Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu Picchu in the Mist, Peru

Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu Picchu, Peru

Cathedral at night, Cusco, Peru

Cemetry, Cusco, Peru

Colourful street, Valparaiso, Chile

Last couple of months...

I have not uploaded anything for a while, so thought I would put up some photos while I'm still on the road. So, following Colombia, headed back to Ecuador, dashed down to Cusco in Peru and then headed into Bolivia to see the famous salt flats. Then went back into Chile to get down to Santiago for flight over to New Zealand. Having spent around 3 weeks on south island of New Zealand, came to Australia, firstly around Melbourne and then to the West Coast where I am now.. Many of my photos from this time are buildings and landscapes (surprising really..), so the following posts have a lot of these sorts of photos (as always, if you want to see them bigger, just click on them) ...I hope you enjoy!!..

Friday, March 16, 2007

Colombia part 2- The Lost City...

In northern Colombia I decided to do a 6 day trek into the jungle to see the famous cuidad perdida (lost city). So, having paid up my money for the tour (apparently included security money to the government and militias to secure our passage), 11 of us set of in an obvious tourist looking truck (which had to be helped along in places) up a mountain and towards the village which is the starting point for the trek..Below is a (brief) day by day account of the fun...

Day 1

Mainly uneventful afternoon of walking up step mountains/hills and getting used to sweating in the 30 degree humid heat..Before camp stopped at last shop for a few days (which was actually more of a hut) and drank coke for a while. Actually turned out to be for slightly too long, as the last 30 mins of steep down-hill walking to our camp for the night were pretty much in the dark. Still, we all made it for cold showers (bliss), chicken stew and an early night in our hammocks...

Day 2

Up early for bread eggs and chocolate-coffee combo, before heading off for an up and down walk through misty hills towards our next campsite. On the way we saw quite a large native village of huts surrounded by barbed wire, presumably to keep the tourists out...Still, our guide managed to trade some cookies for bananas which I thought was good for us, though not so sure for them..Actually, in this brief stop we managed to find out quite a bit of info about their life. The males have satchels for putting all their good stuff in, females have necklaces (and also satchels sometimes). They also live separately, and head off to caves should they need to meet up on a personal level.
Arrived at campsite around early afternoon, which was thankfully close to a large river with a pool, great for cooling off after hot walking..Also met the previous group that had just returned from the lost city and were also staying the night. This included the Kiwi guys I had met in Bogota and San Gil, so good to catch up and hear all the scare stories of our next day of walking..

The local village...

..though I'm not sure if the locals were greatly impressed with us tourists..

Day 3

Up early again, for the final push towards the lost city. The morning involved following the river up stream, including wading accross it up to the knees around 6 times, which was all fun. At lunchtime, made it the foot of the infamous 2200 steps leading towards the top of the lost city directly from the river. Mustering unknown energy reserves (and helped by the cheese sandwiches just consumed) we crossed the river for the last time and headed up the steps. 2200 steps later we were there and had found the ´lost city.´ Views from the top (apparently the rich part) pretty stupendous, out accross forested valleys with little sign of habitation. Our accommodation close-by also pretty swish- A 3-floor cabin with mattresses (no hammocks here) and a great view. Having settled in, I decided to go for a walk before dinner and to my surprise I found 2 ´lost American tourists´ in the lost city. Apparently they had made it there by themselves! Bringing them back to our camp, our guide Rodrigos was also surprised as he said that they were the first tourists he had met in 2o years who had got there ´sin guide.´ Luckily for them, we had shelter and food (which they seemed to lack for some reason- travelling hopefully came to mind here). After super cold shower and carb dinner of pasta and rice settled down in our semi- mosquito free ( but cozy) compound for a relatively late night (8.30 pm..).

One of the several river crossings on the way to the lost city..

The only way was up once we got there...

Day 4

Up early (6.30 am) for cheese empanadas, before heading off on exclusive tour of the lost city (I say exclusive as there was only the 13 of us and the guide there). Apparently, the city had around 10,000 inhabitants between 700- 1500, when the influence of the Spanish imported diseases seems to have been felt. The city was built on a number of terraces, some of which have been cleared of forest. The richer people lived higher up, and the clever children had their own special areas to grow up in and learn to be spiritual leaders. We also saw signs of current inhabitation, in terms of the shaman's hut (kind of indigenous communities doctor), where he comes with his 2 women from time to time. Left city around midday, and headed down the steps towards the river and the campsite from 2 days ago. Fairly uneventful walk back, though did foster the spirit of European unity in a break, when I helped the Dutch guy Martin build a dam across the river..

This seemed like a particularly popular picture of the lost city...

Another one of those photo opps in the lost city...

Day 5

Retracing steps of 3 days ago, a fairly long walk back to first campsite. Perhaps most exciting thing was the guide promising exciting fruit and then not being able to find the fruit that had been hidden in the undergrowth for us by the porters for quite some time....

Day 6

After last night in hammocks for a while, we headed up hill for around an hour, getting to the mini-shop encountered on the first day for canned drinks and chocolate (luxury!). However, when we eventually set off again, I realised that something wasn´t quite right. In fact, my travel washing line was missing (I had been using it to hold my sleeping bag onto my rucksack securely, so was slightly annoyed). Thinking I need the exercise anyway, I decided to turn back to camp to get it. Leaving my rucksack at the shop, I therefore started to walk-run down the hill we had just come up, not wanting to get too far behind the others. However, I soon realised that I was not alone! Circling above me was a police helicopter. At first this did not greatly phase me, as we had seen helicopters on the first day and our guide had said that they were looking for cocoa plants rather than errant tourists. Despite this, it did seem slightly strange to me that they kept coming over the path, and low enough for me to see the guys in the helicopter.

Undeterred, I carried on to the camp, where I found my washing line, tried to explain to the women at the adjacent house what I was doing, and then headed back up the hill to catch up with the others. Only later on did I find out from the guide that the police had been looking for a drugs barron that was fleeing to the jungle to hide, and that they may actually have been checking me out to see if I fitted the profile. Guess I was too tall and gringo looking, though may have been nice to get a lift back in the helicopter to town as by that point was getting a bit tired!..In the end made it back to Taganga on the coast unscathed (despite a few minor problems with our truck), and was able to spend the next day relaxing and recuperating on the beach...

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Colombia- part 1

Yes, I finally made it the far north of South America and the Caribbean coast of Colombia. Noted for its slightly turbulent history, most people I met travelling around seemed to note it more for the Colombian fondness for plastic surgery and the friendliness of the people. I seemed to note that the Colombians said ´a la order¨(or something like that) in reply to what ever you said. I could never quite work out exactly what it meant, but perhaps something along the lines of right, OK, super, no probs etc..(or at least I hoped that's what it meant!)...


Spent a couple of days in Bogota, including checking out the Police Museum where you can find out about the killing of the noted drug barron, Pablo Escobar, look at a selection of guns, and view various Police memorabilia from around the world. Slightly surprised that this included a police badge from the old East Suffolk constabulary, but I guess such a noted and crime-busting former police force must be held in high regard by the Colombian police. Also went on a day trip via steam train to an underground salt cathedral. Was quite impressive, and journey also noted for live train bands, and line-side fire which we started and then had to rush to put out..

The Colombian Orient Express gets ready to depart...

San Gill

Then moved on to San Gill, 6 hours north of Bogota, where I was persuaded by the New Zealand guys I had met in Bogota to go rafting for the first time in my life. Slightly concerned that the rapids were rated up to 4+ (which can be fairly difficult apparently), and by the guy at the hostel´s instruction to the others to make sure I get wet. Nevertheless, I decided it would be a good idea to try it out (I also asked how often people fall in, and was told reassuringly that no one fell in the last time..)

Following a slightly bumpy van ride and a brief safety talk, we piled in the boat and were off. To start with everything seemed to be going well, and we were all following instructions well. However, after around 40 minutes we unfortunately got stuck on a rock in the middle of a rapid. Following the instructions to hurl ourselves from side to side did not seem to budge us, though after several minutes did result in the boat tipping over! Happening so fast, I was not able to hold onto the boat as had previously been instructed, and therefore went straight down the river rapids. Trying to follow the instructions to keep my trainered feet in front of me to provide protection, I realised that I was also following the other guy who had been in front of me in the boat...Luckily after several mouthfuls of water, the rapids subsided a bit, and we where both able to be picked up by the safety canoe who had come after us and be deposited on a rock with just a few cuts and bruises. The other guys on the boat had not drifted so far and had managed to scramble on to rocks further up, and after some time the guide got the boat upright again and came to pick us up with the other guys..

Thankfully soon after this, we stopped for lunch. However, the fun was not over, as we still had the difficult 4+ rapid to negotiate. Before this, we actually stopped so that the guide could assess whether it was safe or not (though I suspected it was just to scare us a bit before going down, which in my case I think he succeeded!). Luckily, by this time we were well drilled and negotiated the rapid with skill and precession (or perhaps we were just lucky..), and were able to make it to the river bank and a small bar not so far away to enjoy some alcoholic concoction which if my memory serves me correctly was slightly strong..
All of this story you will have to take on trust as we were only able to take one camera with us on the trip (fitting in waterproof bag), so was one of the New Zealand guys cameras, so have no photos myself!...However, I can show you a couple of pictures of the pretty and tranquil colonial town that I visited near San Gill..

How peaceful I hear you say..

Though there was one guy coming through on his horse...


Following San Gill, I headed up to Barranquilla for carnival, which was 3 days of great dancing parades and concerts and drinking at night. Generally uneventful, apart from staying in a slightly dodgy hotel (but hey, it was cheap and therefore had quite a few gringo travellers staying..). Then headed over to Taganga, a small fishing village and traveller hang-out close to Santa Marta on the Caribbean Coast. Not one to hang out on the beach too long, I decided that it would be a good idea to get some exercise after all the carnival partying and signed up for the 6 day hike to Cuidad Perdida (lost city) in the Sierra Nevada mountains behind the coast...(see Colombia, part 2)

Scary goings on at Barranquilla Carnival..

I think this dancer in Barranquilla was waving to me in the stands, but not entirely sure...

The only people that seemed to be in a bad mood at the Barranquilla Carnival..

Passing time...

Oh, I have not done a blog for so long, the version of blogger has changed- though still looks fairly familiar though....

Since December, spent some more time in Patagonia and the lake district in southern Argentina and Chile, including hiking, biking etc. Then managed to get passport etc stolen just before new year, meaning an unexpected couple of weeks in Buenos Aires in January. Then flew to Lima in Peru due to time constraints, headed up to Quito and went off to Galapagos for a week. This was great, involving looking at much wildlife both on the islands and off-shore snorkeling...What follows is a few pictures of what the wildlife was like (click on image to make it bigger should you be so inclined)....

Marine Iguana hanging out on the beach....

Land Iguana hanging out on the land...

Blue footed boobies wondering what all the fuss is about...

Sea Turtle comes in to land to lay her eggs....

Crab starring me out...

Giant tortoise also looking slightly evil (though I know I can run faster than him anyway..)

Not sure if this was necessary, but everyone else was going for the shot...

I think everyone else has also got this shot too, but oh well, blog entry doesn't seem complete without a sunset....