So as you can see we decided to resurrect this blog for our summer 2012 holiday. We are off to Canada with a stop over in Iceland. We have been enjoying Iceland so far. Louisa has got a “learn Icelandic” app on her iPod and says she wants to come and live here.

Yesterday was a busy one, with Whale Watching in the morning, a lunch of Icelandic specialities and a visit to the local swimming baths with outdoor hot tubs etc. We also spotted Puffin fillets in the nearby supermarket. It looks very dark, more like liver than anything else. Today is a coach trip to see some of the famous sights near to Reykjavik, the so called “Golden Circle”.


Chilling in Reykjavik

We’re having a brilliant time here in Reykjavik. Just come back from the outdoor thermal pool!! πŸ™‚ having s really good tome so far!! Went whale watching today to see well….. Ummm…. Whales! A couple came really close to the boat!! Feeling quite at home here! I’ve decided that I want to
learn Icelandic! Have noticEd lots of unique things about Reykjavik! Several people dressed in doc martins (v jealous!!) and geeky glasses and mini skirts with rainbow colour hair dos! I felt really embarressed cause I just could not stop gawping at their turquoise, lady gaga style hair!! πŸ™‚ We have a nice apartment and have the pool and shop nearby!! Goi g on a tour of the golden circle tomorrow! Oh, and yes I did try the putrified shark meat!! 😦 I suppose since I’d put a really bad picture in my head it was a little better
than I had expected. I am not though, under ANY circumstances, saying it was nice though because it had a strange off after taste that tasted like mouldy cheese! Blaaagh! πŸ™‚ can’t wait for more Reykjavik adventures!!! πŸ™‚ Louisa

Iceland (not Finland!)

Very excited about our flight to Iceland tomorrow! (Mum keeps accidentally mixing up Iceland and Finland, hence the title!) It has been a while since I’ve had a chance for a real small-suitcase, long-flighted, prim and proper adventurous holiday with all of the extra frills of camping and songs around the campfire and canoeing and famous sights that you never knew where famous and some people blabbering strange words in strange languages but also people speaking english and log cabins and big lakes and wildlife spotting! Well, Iceland and Canada have got it all! From the sight-seeing and style of Iceland to the tree-blanketed peaks of Algonquin, Canada I think this holiday is possibly one of the best! (I’m not bragging, honestly!)

We’ve nearly finished packing! YAY! (This may sound like we are very organised but may I remind you it is only 12 and a half hours until the taxi comes to pick us up for the airport!?!!?) I have managed to shove in 2 swimming cossies (1 old, 1 new!), new (NEW!?!!?) sunglasses and sunhat and my (ALSO NEW!?!?!) playsuit and maxi dress! I can’t wait Aaaaaaaaaaaaaagh! πŸ™‚ πŸ˜€ Need to get an early night! Bye Bye! x P.S- zzzzzz!

End of the odyssey

So we finally made it home to Oxford. There’s nothing like flying in from SΓ£o Paulo to make the air at Heathrow seem clean and the M25 seem civilized. We seem to have been lucky with the weather too – it’s been sunny and warm since we got back. It’s taken a while to get used to being home – we’ve been travelling so long that it just felt like just somewhere else to stay at first. The girls complained that it “didn’t feel like home”. But I think we’ve settled in now.

Since we gave some lessons learnt at the halfway point, I thought I should come up with some more. So here goes:

  1. If we were planning this trip with the benefit of hindsight, we probably would have done it in reverse, with South America first. Travelling is more work there, especially with the language barrier, so it would have made sense to have tackled that straight away. By the last few weeks of the trip we (and especially the girls) were running out of steam a little, meaning we didn’t see quite as many things as we might.
  2. Don’t rely on hotel internet connections being any good. Just because they provide one doesn’t mean it’ll be cheap, fast or reliable.
  3. Take one of these pegless washing lines – invaluable.
  4. Don’t carry a monopod in your hand luggage. It can look like a telescopic baton as used by police. I was told at Rio’s Santos Dumont airport that I couldn’t take it on the plane. Luckily they let me go back out of security to check it into the hold. I can imagine if that happened in the UK it would be a case of “tough luck, mate”.
  5. Your children may be more concerned about how fashionable they look when travelling than you are. You might need to supplement their wardrobe as you go, just for your own sanity.
  6. The BA in-flight map thinks that the translation of “Aberystwyth” into Spanish is “Alberto Lea”. Not sure if that’s some kind of in-joke or what.

All I have to do now is process the gigabytes of photos into some sort of sensible shape. This may take some time! Thanks for following along on the journey…

Relaxation Time

Imbassai, a small village on the Coconut Coast, about an hour north of Salvador in Bahia. The last destination before flying to SΓ£o Paulo to pick up our flight to the UK. Warm sunshine, a Pousada set in gorgeous tropical gardens with its own pool and only 10 minutes stroll to a golden sanded beach backed by a line of coconut palms. What did we do? We chilled. The girls spent every hour they could in the water. They were not fans of our enforcement of the no sun exposure between 11.30 and 3pm rule!

We all enjoyed the delights of dozing in a hammock, watching the monkeys playing in the trees.

Slightly less fun were the biting insects at dusk. We managed to get nibbled despite long trousers and shirts, repellents and bed nets. Thankfully there was no health risk, just nuisance value, but it did make me appreciate that bite avoidance tactics are not infallible.

We dined out at the local restaurant, then walked home in the darkness, serenaded by the chorus of frogs in the nearby river.

Back from the Pantanal

We’re back from five days spent in the Pantanal. We have a ton of photos, but the hotel internet connections we’ve had since are not going to cope with my trying to upload them all. So they’ll have to wait for now. We stayed in a lodge which was really in the back of beyond. By which I mean an hours drive on an unsealed road from mains electricity. The girls found it slightly difficult at times as the temperature in the middle of the day was getting up in the high 30s and there were a few beasties around. But our guide, Roberto Queiroz, was excellent and we saw a giant anteater, a couple of anacondas, rheas, jabiru storks, coatis, capybaras and more cayman than you can imagine. The food at the lodge was also better than at our hotel back in ‘civilization’ in the city of CuiabΓ‘. We had trouble finding any decent accommodation as there seemed to be a couple of conferences in town. It’ll be interesting to see how they cope when they host World Cup games in 2014…

Belated thoughts on New Zealand

I’ve been so busy travelling recently that I’ve had no time to record my thoughts. Now however the opportunity presents itself – I am taking a siesta in the cool of our room while the hot Pantanal sun beats down outside.

There is a lot to talk about.

In this post I’ll talk about New Zealand. We spent two fantastic weeks there. It is a country with spectacular scenery and nature. I’d love to return in the future. Our first stop was Queenstown in the South Island – you’ll have seen the amazing views we got as the plane approached in an earlier post. Crosscountry skiing was brilliant fun – so much so that we are seriously considering a future trip to Scandinavia to do it again!

We had a lovely time with Keith and Jan in Dunedin. Keith took us to his Marine Lab on the Otago Peninsula. We saw the aquarium there ( the girls specially enjoyed the touching pools)and also had the good fortune to see some carpet sharks that were being monitored as part of a research project. We also took a boat trip out to Taiaroa Head where it is possible to get really good views of the only Royal Northern Albatross colony on mainland. We saw albatross soaring around plus young albatross being fed and taking their first faltering steps. There were seals and some little blue penguins too. We also visited Allan’s Beach on the peninsula in search of sea lions. We didn’t see any but it was the most fantastic beach – golden sands and wild spume. One of my favorite beaches of all.

Jan took us to the Moeraki boulders and then on to see a colony of yellow eyed penguins that live on the cliffs surrounding a lighthouse nearby. We were able to get really close to them in the dusky light. When I get a chance I’ll upload a video.

We also visited Baldwin Street which is officially the worlds steepest street.

Another trip was taking the girls to NZ Cadbury’s World. Rather ironic as we haven’t been to the one in Birmingham. It was very entertaining and we left clutching a bag of Cadbury’s freebies most of which were things we hadn’t tasted before because they are only available in New Zealand. Almost all chocolate bars seem to contain marshmallow – makes them very hard to eat discreetly!

Next up was Rotorua in the North Island. Wow. I had high expectations and they were met. We visited Wai-O-Tapu an amazing geothermic area with clouds of sulphurous steam rising from boiling lakes, spouting geysers and bubbling mud pools.

We all loved luxuriating in the spa pool at our motel looking up at the stars and watching the steam rise from the hot water into the chilly night air.

Learning a Haka and sharing a Hangi meal at Mitai Maori village was another very memorable evening.