Month: May 2020

Patagonia 1 – adventure wilderness

intro

Still on our cruise around Cape Horn, we visit Patagonia.

But when you’re on a cruise ship, you stop at destinations and you usually only get to spend a day there. Not to state the obvious, but it would be hard to see much of Patagonia in 1 day.

pat

So, I’ve taken several day trips and put them into 1 section. What you’re about to read is made up of day visits to Puerto Montt, Puerto Chacacabuco and Ushuaia (Tierra del fuego). I’ve also included the Amalia Glacier, cruising around Cape Horne and a catamaran trip through the Beagle Chanel.

We had been deliberating a 1-day trip to Antarctica that they offered for £3000 each from Punta Arenas. In the end we decided not too. Not only expense, but I really want to see Antarctica, and when I do it will be for at least a week, so its on the special AHP (after house paid for) list.

As it was, it worked out for the best, as we didn’t visit Punta Arena due to bad weather.

coach

In Puerto Montt, we signed up for an official tour, organised by Princess Cruises. They are expensive (comparatively) but the argument is always made that on an official tour, if something goes wrong, the cruise ship will wait. We found later, that this is flawed for 2 reasons.

1. Independent tours, know how important it is to be back on time, they’ve been doing this for years, have backup vehicles etc so the odds of getting stuck are pretty slight.

2. The idea that a cruise ship with 3000 guests and 1000 crew will wait in port and pay 100’s of thousands of pounds to delay the trip and stay overnight for a coach with 40 people on it is a fallacy (the staff told us this). If the coach breaks down, they’ll just put you on a plane to the next destination anyway.

We did both official and independent tours and found them all to be informative, interesting and very professionally run.

vis_centre

Our first stop is to visit the Petrohue waterfalls. We arrive at the Vicente Peres Rosales National Park and  are taken to a sort of museum. You could book canoeing trips and treks. They also sold souvenirs, but best of all coffee, so I had a look around and drank some coffee.

sign

We head outside to explore the park.

wander

They have obviously staggered coach parties so for about half an hour, there were only our group there.

There were lots of well-worn trails to explore.

view1

Once out of the trees I got to see the kind of beautiful untouched wilderness that makes Patagonia so popular as an adventure travel destination.

bridge

We cross a bridge and getter a better view of the canyon and the Petrohue river.

bridge2

And the main thing we’ve come to see, the Petrohue waterfall.

Nothing like as powerful as the things I’ve seen in Iceland but impressive all the same.

The other thing that needs to be said is how clean the water was. If you’re good enough at bushcraft, you could live out here indefinitely.

space building

Heading to Osorno Volcano, up the V-613 highway we see this sort of  bar/restaurant with a space age feel to it (and unfortunately closed).

coach

Considering your driving up a mountain, the journey is very comfortable.

ccar

A sort of Ski resort at the top.

And then the big reveal. Were not actually going to visit Volcano Osorno.

We’re going to visit Mnt. Calbuco, which offers the optimal viewing point of Volcano Osorno.

nikki_uphill

You have the option to walk to the cable car and stand on the top of Calbuco, but with the time we had, that didn’t seem a good idea

Instead, we wandered around exploring. The peaceful country air and the mountain silence were a welcome change from a busy cruise ship shared with thousands of people.

hilltop

After an hour, we’ve still got 45 minutes, so we head to the restaurant and have some glasses of Chilean Merlot while looking at the view.

sorno

The view.  Across a sea of clouds, Osorno volcano. A spectacular sight.

town1

The final stop on our trip, Puerto Varas on the shores of lake Llanquihue.

town2

Puerto Varas was colonized by German settlers and is known for it’s German traditions, beer, seafood, natural scenery and luxurious hotels.

fire_station

We’d seen a talk the previous day on Puerto Varas and been told about this fire station.

Now disused, it’s the oldest building in the town.

col

Much had been made of traditional German beer, and I was looking forward to trying some, but the town was full with coach parties so at that moment, every pub was packed.

I managed to find somewhere with free space at the bar. I couldn’t really relax in a pub that busy, so I only stayed 10 minutes. I still can’t remember which beer I had, but it was very nice.

coach_station

Nikki wanted some coffee, and we found that the coach station sold café and it practically empty.

I took this picture of the waiting room. In these times, when everyone throws things away, they had re-used old coach seats as waiting room benches!.

beach_view

From the shore of the lake, the perfect cone of Osorno Volcano and the snow-capped peak of Mnt. Calbuco

Back to our boat, another day of exploring complete.

arr

Our next destination – Puerto Chacabuco on the Aysen Fyord.

This time we’d chosen an independent trip and glad we did. It was nice to meet the local people and know that we’d contributed in some small way to their livelihood.

The port was busy and noisy (as I suppose ports are) so we decided explore.

domes

We were told to walk up the hill and meet our tour group at the “white domes”. Although they look like they’re for farming or suchlike, they are put there by the town council and stalls inside sell local arts and crafts. It was still an hour before the tour was due to start, so we went in search of refreshments.

lob_sur

There is only 1 hotel in Puerto Chacabuco (and it’s 5 star !).  The Loberias Del Sur is where a lot of science and research expeditions begin and end. Nothing so “David Attenborough” for us, we had some coffee and bagels.

boats

Our tour begins (2 comfortable mini-buses) and we visit the town of Puerto Aysen.

We stop at the town. We told to have a look inside the visitors centre and it’s possible to get a free map.

pa_map

I have a look around the visitors centre and collect my map (picture above) and then we just drive off. To this day, I’m unsure what the point of that exercise actually was.

scenery

As we drive along, we get this incredible view of the Simpson River.

waterfall

A highlight of the day was the Cascada Velo La Nova waterfall.

waterside

The great thing was, with 2 minibuses we were able to stop in a lot of places where a coach couldn’t.

We disembark and have an hour wildlife trek in the Parque Alken del sur by the Simpson river.

bridge

The Presidente Ibáñez Bridge. At 210 metres, it’s the longest suspension bridge in Chile.

walk

It’s getting to late afternoon. To see how the locals actually live, we visit this working farm (where they grow all their own vegetables).

lunch

We all sit down for our Pangal lunch. The atmosphere is amazing and all the food is grown on the farm or localy sourced.

It’s 1 bottle of delicious Chilean Merlot between 2. But once it’s gone, a replacement is only £5 a bottle !.

roast

The pork barbecue in the outhouse, where our food was cooked (although there was lots of other stuff and vegetarian options).

dancing

Traditional Chilean Huasos dancing performed by a farmer and his daughter.

Huasos are Chilean cowboys. I’m not normally big on traditional dancing, but it was a really relaxing environment and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

animals

After 2 hours of fun, we head outside to see the Lama farm.

Not at all what I’d expected, but an amazing day when I got to experience what it would be like to live in Puerto Chacabuco.

Patagonia 2 – adventure wilderness

nikki_lake

Phase 3 of our Patagonia adventures and we visit Ushuaia and Tuera del Fuego.

dock

As our boat pulled into the port, you could see the Patagonia mountains in the distance.

sign

Ushuaia is the closest port to the Islands Argentina call the Malvina’s and which they claim as occupied unlawfully by the British. The staff on the cruise ship very diplomatically referred to location to Port Stanley, avoiding causing offence to either nation.

As we pulled into port, the ships tannoy said not to wear any overtly British clothing or symbols so as not to cause offence to the local population.

I don’t normally travel with a bowler hat, so that presented no problem for me. I’m proud of my country, but I’m an adventure traveller, I don’t go to other people’s countries looking to make a point.

This sign was the first thing you saw as you walked along the causeway (I’ve put it up, as I’ve shown similar signs with the opposite view on my section on the Falkland Islands). It was also obvious, that someone had tried to vandalise it.

arc_cru

On a more adventure travel note, this is the main port for ships visiting Antarctica, so the harbour was completely full.

bus

Wandering around, it felt a bit like Blackpool.

view

And looking out to Sea, superb views of the Beagle Channel and the mountains beyond.

belg

We found this sign, about the sinking of the Argentine ship General Belgrano on the 2nd of May 1982.

323 men died after a torpedo attack by HMS Conqueror. The site is now designated a war grave.

town

We carry on wandering, the place is quite colourful and the people were certainly friendly, even though they could tell we were English.

ev

A remembrance garden to people who were “disappeared” by the Argentine Junta, and in the corner a section dedicated to the beloved Eva Peron.

mem

Finally, this memorial to people killed during the Falklands conflict.

After a sobering moment of reflection, we head to the meeting point to join our first tour of the day Tierra del Fuego National Park.

alakush3

Our first stop is the Rio Lapataia river.

alakush1

Overlooking it, the Alakush visitors centre – the familair museum, cafe & souvenir format.

bn_goos

Our guide spots this rare, Black Necked Swan on the river outside.

po_end_otw

In Zaratiegui bay, the post office at the end of the world.

They call Ushuaia the town at the end of the world, as its the most southern place in South America.

lake2

On the bank of the Acigami lake.

walkway

The lake was very popular, and even had this “1 way” system to reduce congestion.

trail

A 40 minute countryside walk with our guide.

Not many animals to see, but she tells us about the history of Yaghan people, the original indigenous people of the region.

highway_end

We stand at the end of the Pan American highway.

Running 19,000 miles from Prudhoe bay in the United States to Ushuaia.

sa_for1

A 45 min walk through a sub Antarctic forest.

sa_for2

With views across the beagle channel.

More of a fast hit tour than the ones were used to with lots of “see for 10 minute” sights. But I suppose that’s the only way a half day tour of all these things can work.

Main reason we’d picked the half day tour, was to fit in a boat trip to the Beagle channel. So back on our bus heading for Ushuaia docks .

intro

What we call The Beagle Channel is basically, the straits between Chile and Argentina its 150 miles long and 3 miles wide. It was made famous by Charles Darwin is something I’ve wanted to experience all my life and I could hardly contain my enthusiasm.

cat

We board our Catamaran.

A group of older Americans were sat near us. One chap in particular was really loud. I realised his hearing aids hadn’t been configure properly.

He couldn’t hear himself accurately, so was shouting all the time. I thought for a moment about offering advice, and then thought better of it.

beagle

In Nao Victoria Museum in Punta Arena, they have an actual size replica of HMS Beagle.

Their exploratory mission was so isolated, that the first captain committed suicide. He was replaced by Robert FitzRoy on the 2nd voyage of the Beagle, but this time took Charles Darwin who had funded his own passage.

cabin

A recreation of Darwin’s tiny cabin, which he shared with 2 other people.

It was so small that he had to remove a draw from one of the cupboards so he could lie down to rest and recover from sea sickness (which affected him frequently).

It’s in this cabin where the ideas of Evolution through natural selection and his first book On the origin of species were formed.

And his most famous quote (which has inspired me throughout my life) “It is not the strongest of the species, nor the most intelligent  that survives, but the one that is the most adaptable to change” must have been coined.

fboat

We cast off. At this point, I’m very conscious, that were in the “footsteps” of Charles Darwin.

The Beagle Channel, the Straits of Magellan and the Drake Passage are the three navigable passages around South America between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.

bino_wine

Nikki prepares her binoculars and I get a glass of red wine (ok, were embarking on an adventure, but no reason not to enjoy ourselves while were doing it).

scenery1

One of the little islands (which actually, are just rocks) and the mountains in the background.

lhouse

Les Eclaireurs lighthouse. Sometimes called the lighthouse at the end of the world, an iconic symbol.

little_island

We visited so many Islands, that I lost track. The one I do remember, is this one, Sea Lion island.

nikki_outside

We pull up on an island loaded with wildlife.

Nikki decides to leave the sanctity of cabin and the smell is atrocious.

lone_seagul

Time for our Catamaran to head back. Retracing the steps of one of the definitive explorations of all time.

My lasting memory, this Island with just 1 seagull on it.

ag1

Some parts of Patagonia, we were able to see from our Cruise Ship. As we sailed through the Bernardo O’Higgins national park we got to see this incredible sight.

me_deck

But it came at a cost -we had been told the night before, that we would pass by the Glacier around 6am in the morning.

I’ve never known a trip where one minute I’m wearing shorts and next a -10 down jacket. But it was that cold !.

ag2

A bit closer, the Amalia Glacier up close.

ch1

Another famous location, the Cape Horn, located 56 deg south and 67 deg west, the meeting of the Atlantic an Pacific Oceans.

But there’s not actualy anything there, we only knew it’s significance, as the bridge (using GPS) were able to tell us where we were.

ch3

That’s what causes most of the confusion. Next outcrop along, there are buildings and the like.

This is actually a Chilean Naval Station and Lighthouse, manned all year round. But, even though you can visit it, it’s not the Cape Horne.

ch2

Elsewhere on the rock, is an  albatross shaped monument to the 800 ships and 10,000 mariners lost at sea in this region.

I’d love to get a Land Rover and spend 2 weeks exploring Patagonia. But since I haven’t won the Lottery, nor sold a Kidney, I think I’ve seen a lot off cool stuff, in 3 days 🙂

Indonesia by train 1 – Jakarta & Pangandaran

intro_boat

For only the 2nd time in my life (the other one ending in a fantastic trip to Namibia) I found myself with time and resources for a trip, but I just couldn’t decide where to go.

To be more specific, I’ve always had lists (if you saw my bedroom wall as a small boy, there were lists of things everywhere).

In this case, many of the places on travel lists, were either already booked, in hand for future years or I’d costed them AHP (after house paid for !).

So, I resorted to reading through a brochure. A train trip across Indonesia looked interesting. I’d had no previous plans to visit the place and since I knew so little about it, seemed quite exciting.

indomap

The 1500k journey would take us from Jakarta, by train and minibus to Kalilbaru, where a boat would take us on to the Island of Bali.

As usual on tours like this, we arrived a day early. You need to be rested and ready to go, when a trip like this starts, so the obvious options are:

  1. Fly business class, and arrive 3 hours before the tour starts
  2. Arrive 24 or 48 hours early, to acclimatise and get some rest

1 or 2 extra nights in a budget hotel are far cheaper than business class, so we always pick option 2.

nat_mus

We arrive in Jakarta, get some rest and then visit the National Museum.

It had too many interesting things to show here (ranging from canoes to dinosaur bones).

tuctuc

Three wheelers (or Tuc Tuc’s as they were originally known in Bangkok, and now practically everywhere else) are a cheap and quick way to get around.

monas

The National monument.

A symbol of Indonesian independence from the Dutch.

The park it’s in was enormous.

old_town

We wander around the old town.

Our organised tour included formal visits to all these places, so we just used the time to relax and find somewhere nice for coffee (were on an Island called Java after all :).

tourintro_dinner

At 6pm, our tour begins in the hotel reception.

Although I’ve already filled in my insurance and NOK details onto the web portal I end up being handed a form and told to fill them all in again (this happens on every trip).

Although everyone in the group has been told how much the tip kitty is and in what currency, half the people have to go back to their rooms to collet the money etc. (this also happens on every trip).

Enough of my moaning, our guide introduces himself, gives an overview of the trip, and then takes us to a local restaurant to try a local version of Thali (which washed down with cold beer, is quite delicious).

market

Up early the next morning, and we start our city tour with a trip to the local antique market.

None of the antiques are too my liking, but I find a useful knife sharpener in the hardware stall.

temple

After an uprising against the Dutch by the Chinese, they were moved to an area just outside the city call Glodok.

Here we visited the Dharma Jaya Toase bio temple.

can

Wandering into Fatahillah Square in old town Batavia.

The Si Jagur is an old Portuguese canon with a sort of rude thumb arrangement at the back.

col_rest1

Across the square, the exclusive Batavia café where we have lunch in Colonial surroundings.

col_rest2

Cafe Batavia had this strange urinal in the gents toilets with a full length mirror.

port1

Sunda Kelapa port.

They only allow smaller ships now, which travel between local Islands.

port2

Standards of health and safety fall a bit short of what we’d expect in the UK, as shown by this “ladder”.

port3

And this unusual way of transferring people from dock to boat !.

mos

One of the most incredible sights I’ve ever seen, the Istiqlal Mosque.

As the largest Mosque in South East Asia its 4 stories has and the size of a football pitch.

cath

And just for religious balance, a picture of the Cathedral Church.

Italian

Jakarta was quite a modern city. Although our hotel wasn’t in the centre of town, we managed to find this nice Italian Restaurant with an excellent selection of wine.

train

The following morning, and it’s time to leave Jakarta.

The train is spotless, the seats comfortable and there’s even a film on the screen for those who don’t have anything to watch on their tablets or phones.

Best thing about it ?. It’s a train, so I can read without getting motion sickness as I would in a car or minibus.

train_view

And the view out of the window.

tow

After an easy five and a half hours on the train, the next leg of our journey to Pangandaran is by minibus.

Although air-conditioned it was another three and a half hours and very tiring.

Moral lifted briefly, with this amusing scene of a man on a bicycle, holding onto the back of a lorry and being towed home.

pang_map

We finally arrive. The peninsula is beautiful, but we’ve arrived late and its about to turn dark.

So we go straight to our first activity a tour of the Penanjung Nature Reserve.

 

ant

Pangandaran is 80% secondary rain forest and I’m really looking forward to a couple of hours in “proper” nature.

The park was about to close, but they let us in all the same.

tina

Near the entrance, these beautiful friendly animals introduce themselves to Tina.

tree

A bit deeper inside the secondary rainforest, I see the sort of tree’s common to the Daintree rainforest in Australia.

trail

Trekking along through the trails. After hours in a minibus the sense of exploration and adventure was a welcome relief.

cave

We wander into the mouth of a cave, where lots of bats and small creatures live (quite difficult to photograph in the dark unless you work with David Attenborough).

As we continue through the cave, there is an opening at the other end, which leads out onto the beach.

beach

We wander back along the beach to our hotel.

light_car

After getting changed and having dinner, Nikki and I wander around the town.

Not much going on unfortunately, but lots of local tourists, were driving around in these pedal cars with music “blasting” from phones.

Surreal.

beach_morning

In the morning before breakfast, we go for a walk along this beautiful beach.

tsu_sign

But all around were these Tsunami Signs – our guide said to make sure at any given time, we knew which direction to run to reach high ground.

Didn’t seem particularly dangerous to me, but thousands had died during the Tsunami so it made sense to take it seriously.

veg_market

A visit to the village to see local culture and commerce.

The vegetable market. I only really like potatoes and I’m frequently criticised for my lack of variety.

A stall holder took his through her entire selection. There were over 30 kinds of vegetable. I’d lost interest after 4, but I kept quiet so others on the trip could immerse themselves in the experience.

shark

In the fish market, they even have Shark.

vil_tour

We wander into the main village.

There’s a special celebration today ! Several young boys are being circumcised.

Were asked if we’d like to join in. Err, no.

rice_crackers

Away from the disfigurement, were shown how palm sugar is made and see these rice crackers drying in the sunshine.

pupet_man

Wayan Golek puppetry is very popular in Indonesia.

The puppeteers have to make their own puppets, and this chap gave us a demonstration (he even had 2 apprentices).

He gave a brief demo of a scene from the Ramayana. In a “fight scene” he made a loud clicking sound, did some background music with symbols (while still operating the puppets).

nurses

A school in the village where nurses were trained.

The nurses were thrilled to meet visitors, but unfortunately, only females were allowed inside the school.

Also, the nurses weren’t allowed to be photographed, so our womenfolk got this picture with the Director of nursing.

green_boat1

The final excursion of the day, a bot trip up Green Canyon.

green_boat2

As we got further into the canyon it was right out of Dr Livingston.

We finally stopped and people were allowed to disembark the boat and swim the remaining 200 metres up the canyon.

me_rock

It sounded like a fool’s errand to me, so I relaxed in the boat.

People sometimes see pictures of me relaxing and think I look bored. I’m not, its just when I relax, I relax my face as well.

green_swimmers

Meanwhile, the swimmers reached the top of the canyon and took this picture.

Daft buggers.

Indonesia by train 2 – Yogyakarta & Seloliman nature reserve

me_yog

Leaving Pangandaran, we head to the next destination on our journey across Indonesia.

Yogyakarta is described by Explore.com as the hidden gem of Indonesia, so I’m really looking forward to seeing it.

We get taxis from the train station to our hotel. Quickly checked in and then headed out for some sight seeing.

yog1

The opulent Sultans palace.

I really enjoyed it there, there were loads of interesting things to see and the present Sultan still lives there.

yog2

Next the Taman Sari bathing complex with loads of areas like this one.

After a couple of hours, we head back to the hotel and get a couple of hours rest (were all exhausted).

Delighted I find a steak house in the town for dinner.

borob1

The next day, were off out to see Candi Borobudur, the largest Buddhist structure on earth.

borob2

Our local guide follows route of the ancient pilgrims, through the mandala shaped structure from the early realms towards nirvana.

borob3

We’re given a chance to relax in a place of enlightenment.

pool

We’d arrived at 7am, so about 10:30am we headed back to the hotel.

Time for a soak in the pool.

pram1

Later, we visit the Prambanan temple complex.

pram2

The area suffered during the 2006 Yogyakarta earthquake. It had caused all kinds of damage, and hundreds of researchers had worked to put many of artefacts back together.

But a lot of work still remained to be done and our guide showed us piles of hundreds of stones that were being catalogued.

Machine learning computers were trying lots of permutations to see how the blocks could fit back together.

pram3

Some of the amazing frescos. This one is a scene from the famous Ramayana.

pram4

Inside one of the temples, this Ganesh statue.

pram5

Wandering around, you can see the size of the site.

pram6

That evening, Nikki attended performance of the Ramayana (I’d already seen it, so I went out for a few drinks in Yogyakarta).

After the performance, Nikki was able to take this photo of the sun setting over Prambanan.

bikes

But later that afternoon, we pedal out of the city on a 6k bicycle tour visiting local villages.

One of our group didn’t fancy cycling himself, so he had a sit down cyclo and got to see the place at leisure.

tof

A small “factory” where Tofu is made.

pad_field

A typical paddy field you can see the houses in the background where the people who tend it live.

me_bike

A break on the trail to enjoy the beautiful countryside.

bricks

Bricks made of clay. Placed into moulds then dried in the sun.

Back to our hotel and our final evening in Yogyakarta. Being quite international, we were able to find an Italian Restaurant for dinner that served Moretti beer.

train

In the morning we’re back on the train.

sel1

Leaving the train and travelling by minibus, we see some of the countryside that will make up our next stay.

sel2

The Seloliman nature reserve is located on sacred slopes of Penanggungan volcano.

It is run by the Seloliman Environmental education centre and it’s volunteers.

odbathroom1

We’re shown to our chalets and our bathroom although private, is actually outdoors !.

sel3

One of the centre volunteers shows us around the garden.

All the food consumed at the centre is grown here along with various herbs and local medicine.

steps

Income is generated for the reserve by tourists (like me) staying in nice accommodation and eating and drinking at their restaurant.

For the volunteers, its simple dormitory accommodation and were shown around one.

I thought these stairs (in a house built by volunteers) were particularly clever in their design.

sel4

Wandering out of the camp, we go into the village to find out about local life.

icecream_man

Tours of the village are done each day from the Nature Research at 9:30am.

… And the local Ice cream “van” isn’t daft. He knows the route so is able to tout for business (and seemed to do quite well out of it).

coffee1

A woman in the local village makes her own coffee.

She runs a small business with her daughter (who is 70, she is 90 and still going strong).

coffee2

Were offered a cup. It tastes like mud.

But she’s a simple woman, and very kind, so purely to reward her enterprise, I buy some coffee to take away (and give to someone I don’t like).

sel5

The main trade in the area is rice production, so we begin wandering through the rice terrace’s.

Local people are working hard to harvest the rice. We don’t want to interrupt them, so were on our way.

sel6

 All the electricity in the area is provided by this Mini hydroelectricity plant.

sel7

The rice terraces are that rare thing, completely practical and beautiful at the same time.

We head back to the Nature reserve and this picture is my lasting memory of that place, which I’ll never forget.

medicine

We have lunch and then a short lesson on Javanese herbal medicine.

Were shown how the herbs are crushed and prepared. At the end, this concoction will help with cold and flu symptoms.

I’ve no idea if it works, but when I took a sip of it, it certainly tasted like medicine!”.

Indonesia by train 3 – Mnt Bromo, Permuteran & Ubud

me_mntbromo

Getting towards the end of our trip to Indonesia, but with some of the most exciting things still left to see.

volc1

Up at 3am, we climb into trucks and head for the viewing point of Mount Bromo.

volc2

It’s still dark when we get there and the sun is just starting to be visible (as well as the screens of several camera’s and mobile phones.

volc4

The view of mount Bromo and surrounding vista from Mount Penanjakan.

volc5

Thinking that the fun is over, I climb back into the truck expecting to head back to the hotel for breakfast.

But no, we head out into the desert.

volc6

Mount Bromo. At 2329m, its the most well known location in the Tengger valley. Now in the valley we get a chance to walk up it and look inside.

Someone was even renting out horses to ride to the volcano (one of the Americans on our trip had worked with horses all her life and briefly considered hiring it, but we were told not to as there were “well-being” issues with the animals there).

There was no way I could make it there and back in 45 mins, so I bought some coffee off the local traders and a Gollock jungle knife which I’d use later in the trip.

inside_volc

Nikki however did manage to get to the top, and took this excellent picture.

Finally, back to the hotel for breakfast, a dip in the pool and then off to the train station.

bags at station

This time were headed for Kalibaru.

Our guide always got us to the locations in plenty of time, so there was time to get out my kindle and catch up on some reading.

bat

Our hotel in Kalibaru was so close to the station that we were able to walk.

I have to say, the hotel was excellent, but the town of Kalibaru itself, didn’t have much going on.

In the hotel grounds, when I went for breakfast, this bat was hanging from a tree near our room. Honestly, it must have been 3 feet long (but perfectly harmless).

rubber1

We visited a plantation to see how the locals make Coffee, cocoa and rubber.

This picture shows the rubber being harvested from the tree.

rubber2

And this one the finished rubber after processing.

Afterwards, we had to chance to try Kopi Luwak coffee with fried bananas.

ccat

Said to be the best coffee in the world and nicknamed Civetcat Cofffee (as it is digested my a Civetcat and the “output” is processed into coffee).

Its also the most expensive with a Kilo costing upto $700. We got a cheaper version to take home. I have to say the coffee was very nice.

port

A minibus to Gilimanuk, we wait for the ferry across the Java Strait.

odbathroom2

We’ve now left Java and are on the Island of Bali.

Staying in a place called Pemuteran, the best hotel of the trip, with another outdoor bathroom.

There were various options for activity’s for the day like Yoga and Snorkelling.

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We decided to go on a jungle trek. It was organised by the hotel and the trek was lead by a local park ranger.

The route we’d be taking would be from Tegal Bunder, visiting Prapat Agung and circling clockwise around the coast of the West Bali national park.

The intention was to stop at Waka Shorea at an isolated hotel reached by boat for refreshments then follow the trail around Tluk Terima to finish at Labuan Lalan.

8 miles. It seemed an awful long way to me in baking heat.

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We arrived at the start of our walk and were introduced to our guide. We’d brought plenty of water but were given 2 extra bottles each by the guide.

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We’d been told to bring packed lunch. The night before we went out shopping for supplies. We had mostly fruit and biscuits, as you can’t buy M&S sandwiches in a place like that.

We needn’t have bothered, when we arrived, they gave is these really nice chicken salad things, wrapped in leaves.

This is mine, opened out later for lunch, with the Gollock I used to chop through the jungle.

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In some places, the jungle was quite dense…

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… and in others, just brush-land.

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After several hours of trekking, I’ve had an amazing time, but I’m exhausted (my companions are raring to go).

Nusa Bay is normally only reached by boat and is an exclusive resort. I have to say we didn’t really look like the G&T crowd when we arrived, but we had a coke and a well earned chance to relax.

At this point, I realise I’m really struggling and regretfully, I consider getting a taxi back the 2 miles to Labuan Lalang. But wait! what taxi?. There isn’t a road, it’s meant to be a secret hideaway.

Our guide is able to help. The staff boat, taking people home who have finished their shift has just left, so they are radioed and come back for me.

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Some of the staff seemed quite interested to hear where I’ve been.

Others just looked tired after a day at work and annoyed I’d delayed their journey home.

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My companions and guide, continued the last 2 miles on foot, while I hung around for about 90 minutes relaxing.

Finally, were all reunited and and treat ourselves to coconut milk.

A really memorable day. Exactly why I love adventure travel.

music

In the evening we have dinner at the hotel and the staff entertain us with music and traditional dancing.

breakfast

The hotel was quite stylish with a really elaborate breakfast on offer.

They wrote our names on the plates, but unfortunately, got Nikki’s name wrong.

Just after breakfast and were back in a minibus heading for Ubud (sadly, the last destination on our trip, before home).

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Driving along we get to see views like this.

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After stopping for lunch, we visit Taman Ayun temple.

It had loads of open spaces and tree’s and stuff like that. The spirituality of it was perhaps lost on me, but the connection with nature wasn’t.

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Unfortunately, there’s very little time available to spend in Ubud.

We quickly put our stuff in our room, then head to town.

A few coffee’s and a walk around the shops.

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Before you know it, its dark and we have a wander around a few bars.

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It’s the last night of our tour, which officially finish the following day after breakfast.

I’ve met some pretty cool and interesting people on this trip (a German psychiatrist, An American woman who worked for 20 years in a prison and in her youth did Rodeo, a New York city guy who wanted to try something different).

Also, our guide Abe (pronounced Abi). A modern young processional who’s still in touch with his countries culture and history.

Excellent food, excellent wine and excellent company (but sad all the same, I’ve really enjoyed this fantastic trip).

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The next morning, we get packed and ready for home.

Our flight is leaving about 2pm, a friend from the trip has booked a local guide to drive him around some interesting places and invites us along.

So, the adventure is back on.

We spend an hour visiting the Tegalalang Rice Terraces. Like the shires from Lord of the Rings.

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The Turtle temple (which looked like a sort of cartoon turtle to me).

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We wander down the many levels of the Elephant cave temple of Goa Gaja.

There’s even a nice cafe, and some traditional Indonesian coffee.

Our bags are in the guides car, so he drives us straight to the airport. The morning turned out ok after all.

home

And to top it all, the flight is overbooked, so were upgraded to business class.

The chap serving us wine, is delighted to speak to Nikki, as he finds someone who appreciates just how knowledgable he is.

Indonesia, somewhere I’d never thought of going, but what an amazing trip.

Montevideo – the birthplace of corned beef

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Continuing on our Cruise around South America, we stop at Montevideo in Uruguay.

Nice thing about this stop, was the boat could dock, so we could just wander on and off it rather than having to use tenders.

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We arrived at about 7:30am, so the streets were pretty quiet.

Word had spread that a cruise ship was arriving, so there were quick a few beggars and pan handlers. Once we got further into the town, the pretty much disappeared.

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Solis theatre, opened in 1856.

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Montevideo Metropolitan Cathedral.

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I could write loads of stuff here, but lets face it, its a Cathedral, so you know what it’s all about.

We find somewhere to relax and get a coffee to kill time until 9am.

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The thing I most wanted to see in Montevideo, was the Andes museum.

A bit of a strange name, as it wasn’t a museum about the Andes specifically, rather the 1972 plane crash in the Andes immortalised in the film Alive.

The visit begins with a 30 minute video with English subtitles.

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The story of the plane crash, the tragedy and the rugby teams escape and rescue is told with lots of artefacts (including large sections of the plane).

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There are lots of interesting newspaper articles and memorabilia. While reading about it, I was struck by just how hopeless the whole situation must have felt. They had a radio and knew after 8 days the search for them was called off. In temperatures of -20 centigrade,  13 of the original passengers who survived the the crash.

Those that remained resorted to eating the dead.

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Two survivors hiked over mountain terrain for 10 days to civilisation and after 72 days the remaining passengers were rescued.

One section of the museum I thought was really good were these small children’s shoes. They had been bought before the flight as a christening gift.

When the 2 men set off, they took 1 of the shoes and left the other behind. A simple ritual, but they were determined that the 2 shoes would be re-united.

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The main square, Plaza Independencia.

You can see that the weather was fantastic.

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Quite an impressive square, the “man on a horse” statue is Jose Gervasio, nicknamed the father of Uruguay.

Underneath the statue, is the Artiga Mausoleum you can visit, where his remains are interned.

It’s here that we joined the “free” tour and would be shown around the city.

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We stop in Zabala square where out guide gives us an orientation talk and tells us about the history Montevideo and Uruguay.

I’m always surprised by these free tours. They are not technically free, as you are only expected to pay what you think the tour was worth.

It always shocks me at the end of a 2.5 hour tour that people will hand over 1 Euro. I always give at least 10.

statue

Zabala Square has another horse statue, Bruno Mauricio, who founded the city of Montevideo (that’s, the rider, not the horse).

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Plaza Matriz with it’s fountain.

The oldest Plaza in the City.

market

They had Market stalls selling all sorts of cool stuff (I nearly bought a uniform from the Nepolionic wars).

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Some colourful Murals around the town.

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With the tour now over, we wander around exploring. It’s a very slow paced, polite and friendly city.

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De los Pocilos beach.

I’m always envious of city’s next to the ocean.

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Heading back to the port, we visit Mercado del Puerto (basically, the port Market).

They had loads of nice food and wine to drink and we hung around here for about 3 hours visiting different places.

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I check my watch and its time to go.

As we wander back to the port, I look out across the water. The first sea battle of world war 2 took place here.

The famous battle of the river plate. The Admiral Graf Spee was scuttled here by her captain, and lies at the bottom of the ocean in the harbour.