A Travellerspoint blog

Home Sweet Home

A quick transit through the ‘island of smiles’ and before we knew it we had landed in Auckland “the city of sails”. For us - just “home”. Home after 8 months of travelling, and home after 8 years living overseas. We couldn’t see much out of the window with all the cloud and rain, but that’s what you get arriving in the middle of winter I guess. 3 summers in a row so we’re overdue. There were a few tears at the airport -mostly from the parentals. Mike and I are thrilled to be back; we’ve met so many travellers to have been to and loved New Zealand which makes coming home so much easier. Our next adventure will be New Zealand based for sure - time to explore our own beautiful country.

So for now, here ends ‘The adventures of Mike and Keely’ (stay tuned though, we’ll be back one day!). Lol.

1. 6499 miles to go.  LA to Auckland

1. 6499 miles to go. LA to Auckland

2. Destination Auckland

2. Destination Auckland

3. International arrivals

3. International arrivals

4. A few good stamps

4. A few good stamps

Keely and Mike xx

Posted by Mike.Keely 14:31 Archived in New Zealand Comments (2)

Land of the free, home of the brave. 4 days in Los Angeles

Disney, Rollercoasters and more buses

sunny 24 °C

It’s going to take a while for us to stop saying “hola” and “gracias” all the time. These small sayings simply roll off the tongue. Luckily so many people in LA speak Spanish so it wasn’t totally out of place but still - we had 4 days to cut it out. I’m guessing “Buenos dias” won’t go down so well in New Zealand in a few days’ time. One thing that didn’t take long to stop doing was look around in the bano for the rubbish bin for the toilet paper. Won’t be missing that. Back in the first world was feeling pretty good. Two things were clear immediately: South American prices are a thing of the past, and we were feeling (and looking) a bit unkept in our worn holey travel clothes. Lol.

Our first day was spent at Disneyland. You’re never too old to appreciate Disney Magic but we did feel a tad self-conscious lining up for photos with Poo Bear and Tiger. We were older than everyone else in the queue by at least two decades but never mind - tiger is cool! The fireworks display at the end of the evening was awesome with a flying Tinkerbelle and Dumbo all part of the show. Mike was feeling particularly pleased with the day as I didn’t make him line up for either the ‘Dumbo’ ride or ‘it’s a small world’ ride, both of which we had queued for ages at Euro Disney years ago, and both of which he feels he’s too cool for! The park closes at 11pm but we hadn’t really thought of our exit strategy to get to our next hotel. Disneyland is miles away from the rest of downtown LA and we just assumed we’d get a taxi. Had we researched it (at all) we would have discovered this would cost over $120. The fact it being mid-night and many miles away not registering at all with us. We managed to negotiate the ride for $90 but even still - that sort of money would last days or even a week in South America!

Tiger!!!!!!

Tiger!!!!!!

Almost every single American we met and spoke to wanted to know “why didn’t you hire a car”? Our reasoning of not wanting to battle LA traffic, driving on the other side of the road and car, and thinking it would all be a bit too stressful for the end of our holiday all seemed like good reasons. But with cabs costing a fortune, and public transport being so shit - hiring a car would have been a bloody good idea. Especially considering what we got up to over the next two days.

For our second day we had pencilled in Magic Mountain: another theme park that specialises in roller coasters. Mike somehow managed to convince me to go, despite the fact that I DO NOT LIKE roller coasters. Terrified in fact! Maybe I should have made him endure “it’s a small world” at Disneyland after all. But to get to Magic Mountain on public transport was going to take a lot of planning. We set off with a hand full of printed maps and directions for various bus and train stations, and soon discovered that the last train home was much much earlier than we had thought. Since it was already quite late and considering we had absolutely no idea how we were going to get home we decided to shelf Magic Mountain until the following day so that we could get more information.

With the rest of that day free, we set off to Santa Monica Pier followed by a stroll along Venice Beach. Mike lived in LA for 6 months when he was 10 - in the general Venice Beach area, so before we knew it we had found his old street and his old apartment block. Memory lane - tick.

Just like in the movies

Just like in the movies

Walk down memory lane for Mike

Walk down memory lane for Mike

So day 3 we tried again to get to Magic Mountain. Armed with even more maps and directions plus bus numbers and an insane list of connection times we set off at 7.30am. 3 ½ hours later we arrived at Magic Mountain. I kinda figured the longer it took to get there the better; less time for scary rollercoasters. To get there we walked, bussed, trained, bussed then bussed again. To get home we bussed, bussed, metroed, walked then cabbed. What a mission - but according to Mike the rollercoasters were well worth the effort. I have to admit I did enjoy a few of them, although I did have a small freak out at a particularly scary ride where they didn’t even have a proper harness, just a bar across the knees. No thank you - not for me! Even Mike found that one pretty insane. The worst/best roller-coaster (depending on your viewpoint) was called X2 - check out this video of it:

You tube link (skip the ad): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3-y-0IFiZqY

Again - thanks but no thanks.

For our fourth and final day we decided to do one of those ridiculously touristy ‘hop on hop off’ bus tours as there was still so much to see, and not much time. From the comfort of an open top bus we checked out Hollywood town, downtown, China town, Korea town. Every town! We couldn’t ‘hop off’ quite as much as we would have liked but did manage a few stops. A walk around Rodeo Drive, where the only thing we bought/could afford was an ice-cream, and a walk down Hollywood Boulevard with the sidewalk of stars, where we found a star with ‘Keely’ on it (a 50’s singer apparently).

Time for some shopping....

Time for some shopping....

Why didn't you get the large slice

Why didn't you get the large slice

I have a star along Hollywood Bvld

I have a star along Hollywood Bvld

Our four days in LA were jam-packed and as we headed to the airport we realised that it was the first time we were leaving a place before we were ready. All the way through South America we caught the next bus only when we wanted to. Nothing was pre-booked. Leaving LA felt premature. So we will definitely have to go back, one day, maybe on our way to the UK? Who knows when that will be though? Finishing the trip in America, we felt, was just perfect.

Keely

Posted by Mike.Keely 21:46 Archived in USA Comments (0)

“Hasta Luego” South America - it’s been unreal!

As clichés go -this one is pretty appropriate: time flies when you’re having fun. Where have our 5 months in South America gone? How to put into words our thoughts on it all, how we feel now that the end is almost upon us? Impossible really! When we first landed in Buenos Aires we were happy to be travelling by ourselves again. Now we’re totally shattered and looking forward to being back at home. We’ve had so many incredible experiences with hardly any setbacks. That first week in the jungle was pretty tough, and Mike probably still has a jungle parasite in his guts (no joke), but all things considered I think we’ve done a bloody fine job. Nothing got stolen, we didn’t miss a single bus and overall we haven’t come in ridiculously over budget. Over budget for sure, but we’re putting that down to all the drinking in Africa and ding things like skydiving which were never on the budget to begin with. Absolutely no regrets though!!!!

So South America - all the details:
• Favourite country: Bolivia. Why? Scenery in national park, cheap, met some lovely people and had some great nights out, the animals.
• Best beach: Lopes Mendes, Ilha Grande, Brazil. Why? After hiking for hours in baking heat the first swim was the best ever!
• Number of bus/train trips taken: 33.
• Hours spent on buses and/or trains commuting. (This doesn’t include small local trips or transfer time. Literally bum on seat time): 365 hours.
• Longest single bus trip: 29 hours (Rio to Corumba), Brazil.
• Best steak: tie between The Steakhouse in La Paz and La Cabrera in Buenos Aires.
• Best meal in a restaurant: La Bourgogne Vineyard, Mendoza, Argentina.
• Best saltenas: Santa Cruz, Bolivia (curried chicken with raisins, egg and black olive).
• Most uncomfortable bus trip: Tie between Santa Cruz to Sucre and Uyuni to La Paz. Both horrendous bumpy roads and shit buses.
• Favourite experiences: 4 day tour from Tupiza to Uyuni, Machu Picchu, walking a puma and Iguacu falls (both sides of the border).
• Most surprisingly enjoyable experience: horse riding in Tupiza (for Mike especially).
• Best day walking: tie between Lagoona Esmeralda in Ushuaia, Argentina and Day 3 of the W trail in Torres del Paine National Park, Chile.
• Best animal encounter: puma’s of course!
• Worst animal encounter: the dog that bit Mike in Ushuaia (it’s still pretty funny though).
• Biggest disappointment: volcano in Pucon being closed so we never made it to the top.
• Hardest decision: not to do a 3-5 day hike to Machu Picchu.
• Number of times our guide book has been wrong about something: to many to count.
• What we won’t miss: not being able to flush toilet paper down the toilet.
• How we think our Spanish is now: still really really bad.
• Unexpected delight: booking a dorm room but getting upgraded to a private room.
• Place we most want to re-visit: Ecuador. Basically ran out of time to see much of the country so will have to be another time.

In a nut-shell:

South America you’ve been truly unreal! Hope to see you again some-day but for now “adios”. Next stop Los Angeles for Mickey Mouse, shopping and scaring myself shitless on (insane) rollercoasters.

Keely

Posted by Mike.Keely 02:44 Comments (1)

Vilcabamba, the only part of Ecuador we had time for….

sunny 23 °C

I’ve written the blog in all sorts of places:

• In the back of our Oasis Truck in Africa: bumping along dusty dirt roads, dying from the humidity and usually dead tired and/or hung-over.
• In the middle of the night on top of my hostel bunk bed: listening to one (and sometimes several) people snoring their heads off.
• In cafes in picturesque town squares: sipping coffee or freshly squeezed juice, mildly distracted with people watching.

But this is one of my favourite settings: the breakfast bar/restaurant terrace at our place in Vilcabamba. Pretty nice I reckon.

1. Prime blog writing spot

1. Prime blog writing spot

Vilcabamba was pretty nice for a variety of reasons, not least the view over breakfast. We had our first massage of the trip after over 8 months on the road. And we got upgraded to a private cabana complete with balcony and hammock. We did have to suffer a flying ant infestation in our previous room to be moved but hey, a free upgrade is a free upgrade after all.

We set off on a short but sweet 3 hour hike of the valley and surrounding villages, map in hand. It took us all of about an hour to get lost, the water tanks we were supposed to be walking past way off in the distance on another ridge line completely. The path was meant to be marked with red dots, but did we see any? No! A minor detour + a bit of backtracking = no harm done. The views were lovely all the same. Just meant we had to walk for longer before it was ice-cream time.

3. Off on a (short) walk

3. Off on a (short) walk

4.  Is this the right way to go .....

4. Is this the right way to go .....

We had booked 2 nights in Vilcabamba but stayed an extra night knowing we would cut our time in Quito short. We could have stayed a week, or even a month. It’s the perfect location to do next to nothing. A bit of hammock time was just what we needed.

2. Sleeping beauty

2. Sleeping beauty

One more bus trip up to Quito where all we really did in our 12 hours there was a spot of shopping. It wasn't until we attempted to check in on-line that we discovered our flight had been delayed by 5 hours. Thanks for telling us LAN air!

Keely

Posted by Mike.Keely 22:47 Archived in Ecuador Comments (1)

Bus + Bus = Beach

Happy_hour.jpg

A picture says a thousand words…….

After Machu Picchu we seriously needed to haul ass north. So 20 hours on a bus overnight got us to Lima, small 4 hour stopover there, then 18 more hours on a bus overnight got us to Mancora: a little slice of heaven on the Northern Peruvian coast, and our home for the next three days.

Sunset, as seen from the veranda of our beach front bungalow!

Just perfect!

Keely

Posted by Mike.Keely 12:32 Archived in Peru Comments (2)

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