Archive for February, 2013

Well, heaven on Earth if you a) believe in heaven and b) picture perfection as long, rolling plains with endless, massive skies.  Wildlife everywhere, huge mountains, glaciers that groan and moan as they slowly melt, quirky small towns with great food and delicious beer.  Walking trails through national parks that can only be termed jaw dropping, divine campgrounds with great facilities, and the views……….

Arriving in El Calafate, one of the major gateways in to Southern Patagonia, we were both prepared for horrendous rain, famous Patagonian winds, and freezing temperatures.

Concerned....

Concerned….

Yep, Mirella is concerned!

Yep, Mirella is concerned!

10 days later, we have come up with a theory.  The locals have realised they are on to a seriously good thing.  They have decided to swamp local and international media with concerns about the weather conditions to ensure that tourism numbers stay low, and the locals are then left to enjoy paradise alone.  I would imagine after these 10 days that a lot of water needs to be imported to fill the lakes and rivers, as none seems to fall from the sky.

Torres del Paine

Torres del Paine

As per the previous post, our first visit in Patagonia was to Perito Moreno Glacier, truly one of the natural wonders of the world.  We left El Calafate on a bus travelling to Chile, and a small town called Puerto Natales, where we would stay for two nights.  Natales is the jumping off point for Torres Del Paine (pronounce pie-knee, who knew?) National Park.  I was very keen to do the circuit in the park, a gruelling 10 day, 110km walk, and Mirella was insane enough to trust me in joining me in this endeavour.

We arrived in the park after a 3 hour bus ride, and had to contend with scenery like this:

Torres del Paine

Torres del Paine

We were willing to push on regardless of the terrible views, and we walked 20km to our first campsite.  The campsite was beautiful, middle of nowhere, and we had had a big day.  Unfortunately we ran in to some issues with our feet, as they were not prepared to walk 20km with laden packs.

Foot damage

Foot damage

The blisters on both of our feet were too severe to push on for the next nine days, so we thought laterally, and came up with a plan that would keep us in the park for a few more days, and allow us to do some simple day walks sans packs and boots.

We spent the next four days camping in the park, at some great campsites, and were able to see and experience incredible sights.  The gallery below highlights all the park had to offer.

After seven days in Paine, we reversed back to El Calafate, and then caught a bus on to El Chalten, Argentina.  Another famous trekking area in Patagonia, and with our feet recovered, we were ready to test them out on a 2 day hike to Laguna Torre, with hopefully some astounding views of the local mountain range.  We arrived in dense cloud (no rain though!), and could not see any mountains.  With our hike the next day, Mirella was convinced that her innate ability to create great weather (as it has been for our entire trip to date) would hold up, and we would wake to cloudless skies the next morning.

El Chalten

El Chalten

Was there ever any doubt?  Sunshine beat down on us as we walked 16km in to the park and enjoyed stunning views of mountains and glaciers, more pictures in the gallery below.

So, back now in El Calafate, we hop on a plane tomorrow to Ushuaia, the southern most city in the world.  In two days we board a ship for Antarctica, a life long dream fulfilled for us both, upon our return we may have a photo or two to share….

DSC01036

Superlatives are lacking in being able to adequately describe the wonder that is Perito Moreno Glacier.  This monolithic, ancient block of ice leaves you awestruck as you view it from a variety of angles.  The options for viewing are from some well designed board walks high above the glacier, or on a boat getting in close so that you can listen to the groaning and cracking of the advancing ice, and for a fortunate few, a walk upon the glacier itself!

We decided to flashpack it up, and took a tour with the only company that is allowed to walk on the ice, and were able to view the glacier from all three angles described above.  To be honest, I had not even heard of the glacier prior to arriving in El Calafate, and had come down to Patagonia with the express purpose of hiking in Torres Del Paine National Park.  Mirella had to convince me that is was worth springing the extra dollars for the trek on the ice, and I am so grateful that we had that conversation!

The glacier would rank as one of the most amazing sights I have seen on the planet, the sheer scale alone dwarfs anything I have seen (in the league of Grand Canyon big!).  No matter what way it was viewed, it was a great reminder of humans being a mere speck on the evolutionary scale of Earth, a truly humbling experience.

As you can see from the gallery above, a truly amazing natural wonder, and I felt like apologising to the glacier every time I took a photo, as I knew it was doing it no justice at all.

Buenos Aires, Argentina!

Posted: February 12, 2013 in Argentina, South America

We boarded QF27 on Saturday, 9th February, 2013 for the first of our flights on a business class round the world ticket.  We knew we were extremely fortunate to be travelling on the front of the bus, and we were only able to do so as we had accumulated a lot of frequent flyer points over the past few years.

The flight was outstanding, sitting in the upper deck bubble of the newly refurbished 747, and the views as we took off were ably caught by Mirella and her trusty Iphone.

Sensational Harbour

Sensational Harbour

Sensational Harbour

Sensational Harbour

Sensational Harbour

Sensational Harbour

12 hours later, after a great meal and some sleep, the sun rose over the Andes as we started our descent in to Santiago, Chile.  We would stop here for four hours waiting for our connecting flight to Buenos Aires.

photo (6)

After landing in Buenos Aires, the smooth sailing that has been a hallmark of the journey to date all unravelled before our eyes.  Our luggage did not make the connection and was temporarily lost in transit.  Whilst not a disaster it is always unnerving to walk out of the airport without your luggage.  In my jet lagged stupidity, I then went to the bank to get some pesos from the ATM, and left the card in the machine after collecting the money, shocker!  A quick call to Citibank to cancel the card as we whizzed in to the city sorted that misdemeanour.  As we arrived at our guesthouse, more bad news, as the front door was locked!  Another quick phone call revealed all would be well in an hour or so, not a great start to a great continent!

Over the next couple of days we relaxed in what is one fo the great metropolises of the world.  I will post a small gallery including our visit to San Telmo markets and Recoleta Cemetary, and then next stop is El Calafate, in the heart of Patagonia.

We have two months planned for Argentina, should be amazing!

 

Sydney, Australia

Posted: February 12, 2013 in Australia, Photos

Sydney, Australia

Posted: February 12, 2013 in Australia

How good is Sydney!

We were extremely fortunate for the 48 hours we were in Australia’s largest city.  The weather was perfect, the traffic was non-existent, and Mr and Mrs Bates looked after us in style.

Arriving in a 6am from our overnight flight, we hopped on the 400 bus to Bondi, and after a great breakfast at a small cafe in Randwick, walked down the hill to a friend’s place in Coogee to rest and relax.

That night, Matt and Rach joined us for dinner at Matt’s restaurant, Cafe Sydney.  The view was sensational as we sat on top of Custom’s House and looked out at the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House, and we enjoyed some sensational food and a few beers in great company.

The next day was super relaxing, as we wandered around the Eastern suburbs of Sydney, enjoying a walk from Bronte to Bondi and a great pub lunch at Clovelly.

DSC00868We topped off a great couple of days by destroying a huge sirloin steak with Matt and Rach for dinner, and were off to bed knowing that tomorrow would bring a business class flight to Buenos Aires, Argentina via Santiago.  South America, here we come!

Malaysia and Singapore

Posted: February 12, 2013 in Asia, Malaysia, Singapore

Air Asia was gracious enough to transport us back from Colombo to Malaysia, after a quick two and a half hour drive from Unawatuna to the capital of Sri Lanka.  Flight went smoothly, a fellow traveller entertained me for the greater duration of the journey by being disgusted by the service and seating of the world’s best low-cost carrier, what people pay and then expect is sometimes just too great a differential…

Kuala Lumpur was a short visit, as we had just time to jump on a bus/train combo from the LCC terminal to KL Sentral, grab some dinner, and then hop on our overnight train to Singapore.

Train journey was great, we splurged for a 1st class two berth cabin with ensuite at a cost of $80, and it was a super sleep.

Singapore is by far one of the easiest countries in the world to travel, after a simple immigration process, we hopped on a bus from the train station to the airport, and left our bags for the day.  We spent 8 hours in the city, using the MRT train system, super simple and allowed us to grab some last-minute things that we needed for the next part of our adventure in South America.  I think the only thing Mirella saw for the day was a sign like this:

DSC00843

Back to the airport 9 hours later, a good day in Singapore all round.

Time to hop on our national carrier, an overnight flight to Singapore with 409 other souls on a Qantas 747.

Galle, Sri Lanka

Posted: February 11, 2013 in Asia, Photos, Sri Lanka