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Archive for December 2011

Tupiza: A town in pictures

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Tupiza was our first stop in Bolivia, after crossing the border from Northern Argentina. It was such a lovely town we ended up staying for 6 days rather than the 2 days we had planned. Giving a flavour of the town via photos seemed most appropriate, so here goes …

Street in Tupiza

Local shop in Tupiza

Church in Tupiza

Train track

Bolivian Mercado

Fresh orange juice

Central Plaza, Tupiza

Lightning storm in Bolivia

Horse riding

Bolivians in a jeep

Written by Emily

December 24, 2011 at 11:13 pm

Posted in Bolivia

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You know you’re in Argentina when …

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It costs more to die than to live.

A fascinating ‘city of the dead’, the Recoleta Cemetary in Buenos Aires is possibly the world’s most elaborate graveyard. You have to be extremely wealthy to get a plot in Recoleta: even the city’s most famous resident, Eva Peron (Evita) wasn’t considered classy enough to be buried here and her body had to be snuck in 30-odd years later by her adoring fans under the cover of night.

Recoleta: city of the dead

Recoleta: city of the dead

All you can find to eat is faux Italian food.

Argentina has a sizeable Italian population but even this doesn’t explain the almost complete homogony of its restaurant scene. Want to eat anything other than Italian? Good luck.

Italy-crazy

Italy-crazy

You never have enough small change.

If you think you can pay for a 6 peso item with a 20 peso note, forget it – you’ll be asked for a 10 and made to feel pretty bad if you don’t have it. Many a cold stare came our way in the supermarket when the poor cashier had to leave her desk to hunt down change for our 100 peso note. Coins are even more rare: in fact, they are often melted down by the bus companies (which only accept coins) for their higher value in metal and not re-circulated.

You want to live on the buses.

Really, Argentina’s buses put National Express to shame. Your own personal TV, full meal service with alcohol, and a fully reclining seat are all standard features on the luxurious ‘cama suite’ long-distance buses. Better than many hostels and a great way to travel overnight.

Cama-suite bus with all mod cons

Cama-suite bus with all mod cons

Last year’s Lonely Planet is woefully outdated.

If Lonely Planet tells you that something costs x in Argentina, assume it’s at least 3x. We were not the only shocked travellers to be caught out by the rampant inflation of this country; nor were we the first to hurry on up to much-cheaper Bolivia … new blog piece coming soon!

Written by Emily

December 24, 2011 at 9:56 pm

Emily and Adrian’s Day at the Beach

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Going to the beach is no big deal, right? Wrong! Dear blog readers, in 7 years of holidays with Adrian, I have until now failed to get him anywhere near sand. He has always refused to spend holiday time undertaking such an “unproductive and futile” endeavour. However, I managed to persuade him that it would be a cultural offence to visit the Australian East Coast without going to the beach at least once and arriving in beach paradise Noosa gave us the perfect opportunity to experiment with sand-based enjoyment. This is the result …

Hey, sand is fun!

Hey, sand is fun!

Nap time

Nap time

Paddling is nice ...

Paddling is nice ...

... but watch out for jellyfish!

... but watch out for jellyfish!

Shadowy figures

Shadowy figures

Scary face in the sky

Scary face in the sky

Written by Emily

December 5, 2011 at 3:45 pm

Australian Road Trip: Part Two

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Missed Part One? Read it here!

Day 6: Finch Hatton Gorge – Rockhampton

After two glorious days of rainforest relaxation, we were feeling pretty upbeat about the remaining section of our road trip. Our optimism was, however, to be short-lived. Given that the Platypus Bushcamp was unpowered there was no possibility of booking any ongoing accommodation online. Wazza kindly rang around a few places in our intended destination (the town of 1770, where Captain Cook first alighted Down Under) but no-one had availability. We therefore drove into nearby Finch Hatton, which had a small local museum with a couple of internet-connected PCs. 1770 is a popular destination and there was very little available at short notice, so we settled on Captain Cook’s Holiday Village, which we booked through lastminute.com.au, paying in full for two nights.

Half-way there, just outside the Australian beef capital, Rockhampton, we pulled over to make a phone call to the hotel, as we’d experienced quite a few delays due to roadworks and thought we had better arrange for a key to be left for us, as we now did not expect to arrive within the reception’s desk hours. What happened next was truly astonishing: a confused woman answered the phone, and told us she did not really know how to use the computers, her boss was away, and she had never heard of lastminute.com.au. Furthermore, she said, she could not “let us stay” without a booking. Our protestations that we definitely did have a booking and had paid in full fell on deaf ears and the exchange ended with an abrupt hanging-up of the phone (her not us).

Night driving

Night driving

Unwilling to drive a further 200 kms through the night to a tiny town which may or may not have alternative places to stay, we instead decided to look for a hotel room in Rockhampton. The first listing in Lonely Planet was for an old period hotel just a few kms down the road called The Criterion, so we headed there and were pleased to be met by a friendly and helpful receptionist who was glad to accommodate us and even loaned us a DVD player free of charge. We concluded our day with a well-deserved steak dinner.

Day 7: Rockhampton

Rockhampton is a curious place. The reason we’d intended to drive through it rather than stay there was because Lonely Planet and everyone we met in Australia said there was nothing to see or do. However, when we stepped outside of our lovely hotel onto a street of gorgeous Victorian buildings lining an attractive quayside, it occurred to us they might be missing a trick. The staff at The Criterion were so friendly, and the room so comfortable we were keen to stay another night if we could find something to do. There just happened to be a tourist information office a few doors down from the hotel, which is where we learned about the Dreamtime Cultural Centre just outside of town: a museum dedicated to Aboriginal history and culture, including digeridoo demonstrations and lessons in throwing a boomerang. Far too good an opportunity to pass up!

Adrian throwing a boomerang (it didn't come back)

Adrian throwing a boomerang (it didn't come back)

After a fascinating couple of hours at Dreamtime, we headed for the local zoo to check out the crocodiles, kangaroos and koalas, and then had dinner at a local pub. Conclusion: if anyone tells you not to bother with Rockhampton don’t believe them!

Koala bear - so cute!

Koala bear - so cute!

Day 8: Rockhampton to Noosa

Having secured our refund from lastminute.com.au for the failed attempt to secure a room at Captain Cook’s Holiday Village, we checked out of the Criterion Hotel and headed for the local library where free internet and cheap food – both rarities in Australia – awaited us. Our next destination was Noosa, where we managed to book an online special for a holiday apartment near the beach. After calling to make sure they’d definitely received the booking, we headed off for some traditional Aussie beach fun!

Day 9: Noosa

We have to admit, Noosa is gorgeous. It’s the kind of picture-postcard beach resort paradise most of us dream of throughout the drizzle and cold of the UK winter. Definitely a rich-kids’ playground, Noosa is packed to the brim with plush resorts, holiday homes and marinas for yachts and sailboats. That said, it makes reasonable provision for the budget traveller, and our apartment was of a surprisingly high standard considering we didn’t pay much above hostel prices for it.

Our day in Noosa began with a swim in our complex’s pool and a soak in the hot tub before heading down to the beach. Those of you who know Adrian will be aware that he’s not really the sit-around-on-a-beach type (Emily is much more amenable to this concept!) but on this occasion he was persuaded to spend a full 10 minutes lying in the sun and enjoying doing nothing! This is such a rare occurrence that we decided to create a special picture blog all about our day at the beach.

Day 10: Noosa to Brisbane

Brisbane is only 1.5 hrs estimated drive from Noosa. Based on our experience of driving on Australian roads, we decided to allow 3 hours – which still gave us most of the day in Noosa. Unwilling to spend large amounts of money on expensive watersports, we were pleasantly surprised to discover that it was actually fairly cheap to rent a small motorised boat to self-drive along the Noosa Sound. Thus was our morning spent – and with glorious sunshine, incredible views and a clean, bright white boat, it’s hard to imagine having made better use of our time.

Boat people

Boat people

Arriving in Brisbane in the early evening, we were struck by its hills and busy streets, which seemed oddly reminiscent of San Francisco. Our hotel for the night was the delightful Annie’s Shandon Bed and Breakfast: a Victorian inn that is still owned by the grand-daughter of its founder Annie. The couple managing the inn were Jan and Murray, from New Zealand, who made us feel extremely welcome and even invited us to have tea and cake with them: a very satisfactory end to a wonderful road trip.

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