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 Cuiabá. 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.

Chilling in Rio

We’ve been enjoying our time in Rio. It’s just like you’d expect. The traffic is a bit crazy, the beaches are lovely and there are lots of beautiful tanned people jogging along them. We’ve had no problems with beggars and haven’t felt unduly worried about crime. It’s fun just relaxing, having breakfast in a juice bar and shopping for Havaianas. So much fun that it looks like we will be cancelling a side trip to stay in the city and do more of the same…

Sunbathing, shopping and lots of steak!!!!

Rio can be so many places all moulded into one. Hong Kong, Brisbane, Dunedin and yet when you look at the beaches you feel like you are on one of those far off islands in the middle of the ocean where it is always sweltering hot!!! Due to the fact that we have friends living in Rio we went to there house for lunch. Cesar, (the man of the house) who is an extremely good cook, made us a typical brazillian meal of rice, salad, steak and chips. It can get up to 23 degrees but it is not very hot. I hope that all is well at home. louisa 😀

Culture Shock South America

We’re now in South America. The contrast with New Zealand has taken some getting used to. It could have been a bigger shock as we are in Santiago and Chile feels quite European in many ways. (Imagine a version of Spain that took an extra 15 years to emerge from dictatorship and never joined the EU). Santiago is not a huge city by Latin American standards, but it still has more inhabitants that the whole of NZ. It is also quite noisy and busy and our previous stop was in the out-of-season Coromandel peninsula, which is neither of those things. Finally, we’ve got the language barrier to deal with. Our Spanish is mostly based on our knowledge of Portuguese, so it probably sounds pretty odd.

Unfortunately when we arrived here tired and jetlagged the apartment we booked turned out to be lacking in several respects and cold in the night. Put that on top of the culture shock and you have a recipe for some unhappy campers. Once we’d booked ourselves into a nice hotel instead, things started looking up. Now I wish we had longer here so we could see a few more things around the city…

I was struck by the games of chess and checkers going on in the centre of Santiago, with groups of men standing around watching. In this case the competitors seemed to be a beggar and a man in a smart business suit, so I couldn’t resist taking a photo. (Large version to appear on Flickr in due course)

Game of Checkers in Centro, Santiago


Champagne Pool, originally uploaded by Chrstopher.

We are now up in the North of New Zealand. Our first destination was Rotorua, which is famous for its geothermal activity. It’s not half as smelly as it was when I visited as a child. Apparently so many homes and businesses have tapped into the hot energy below the ground that much less of it just comes out of the drains or beside the road. So the place doesn’t stink of rotten eggs quite so much any more. We went to Wai-o-tapu and saw the famous champagne pool (pictured), the bubbling mud, the geysers and so on. But best of all, our motel had a geothermally heated spa pool which we made good use of, sitting in it under the stars while the temperature was only a few degrees.