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Archive for April, 2010

Having had a recent taste of the finer things in travel life we decided to continue this trend…or at least Gem did, more on that in a minute!

Yesterday we visited the Sydney Fish Market. We had heard it was an interesting spectacle. When we arrived we were pleasantly surprised to see you could buy any kind of fish imaginable for consumption on the spot! So not only were the prices great, they would cook the fish how you liked it. We abandoned our original lunch plans and grabbed a dozen oysters, a selection of freshly cut sashimi and a bottle of sav blanc to wash it down with!! The catch phrase of the shop being “the only thing we overlook is the water…” Not exactly a backpacker lunch but it was relatively v v cheap, a dozen fresh oysters for AUS$14! We found ourselves a nice spot outside to picnic along with the throngs of other folk doing the same. The food was just excellent and again we realised how much we like Mondays at the moment, no idea what the Boomtown rats were talking about.

After the fish and wine Gem disappeared for 10 minutes before reappearing with strawberries covered in chocolate and a small bottle of champagne! Clearly she had no problems adjusting to this luxury lifestyle…not that I was protesting! Again we can’t understand why people don’t like Mondays!!

We then headed off to circular quay to watch the sun go down over a flat white.

Today we’re off to sample more culinary delights…the famous Aussie pies! You never know, there might be a steak and oyster option.

Oyster Slurping

Strawberries and Champers

Sydney Fish Market


Oyster Shop

Albacore


Fresh Salmon Sashimi

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Blue Mountains

After Hunter we jumped in our trusty steed and headed to the Blue Mountains. We took in the spectacular views on the drive over whilst listening to coldplay on repeat! It’s the only CD we have, given to us by someone in Argentina. Australian road signs look just like those in England so we felt at home on the road. The one difference we did note was a dual speed limit depending on whether it was raining or not. Clearly there is no need for a dual limit in England because it’s always raining!

We’ve spent the last 3 days trekking in and around the Blue Mountains. We’ve been pretty lucky with the weather because it looks like rain is on the way from later today. We’ve really enjoyed getting out and trekking again after time in the city and then Hunter. We feel the wine indulgence has now been burned off and we’re ready for some more city livin’! We’ll be heading back to Sydney for another 4 nights from tomorrow. Sunday is Anzac day and Monday a public holiday so the locals will be out celebrating with a few beers no doubt, it would be rude not to join them!

Here’s a few snaps from the Blue Mountains.

3 Sisters

3 Sisters


Roo's on the road mate!

Gem

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Backpackers go luxe!

We tried in vain to find some budget accommodation in the Hunter Valley. This was proving a little difficult to find. After a fruitless search we grabbed our tent, sleeping bags and headed off…… NO we didn’t!
We checked ourselves into a lovely lodge, had the deluxe room complete with spa bath! Travel heaven! We had a beautiful veranda overlooking the lake and vineyard. The stunning view added to the enjoyment of the wine tasting.

Backpackers go Luxe

Breakfast in Hunter Valley

On our arrival day in Hunter Valley we had just enough time to get to one of the vineyards and embark on some lovely wine tasting. The big bonus of wine tasting in Hunter is that the tasting is free!
We sampled some lovely whites, including a few new varieties like Verdelho.

First Creek

After tasting we went for a sunset stroll between the vineyards. We were interrupted at one point by kangaroos running around in front of us!

Roo's at sunset

Hunter Valley at Sunset

As we were getting accustomed to the luxury we decided to continue the splurge and booked ourselves a table at an award winning restaurant. There we fine-dined and enjoyed a lovely bottle of Hunter Shiraz. Hunter is most famous for it’s shiraz and semillion varieties.

The next day we set off for a full day of wine tasting. There are around 120 vineyards in the Hunter region. Several of which were in easy walking distance from our lovely lodge. We sampled a number of white wines in the morning… making notes on our favourites.
We took with us a lovely picnic hamper which had been prepared for us by the hotel lodge. We found a very picturesque spot right by the Tempus Two vineyard and enjoyed a lovely Italian inspired picnic.

Picnic at Tempus Two

After lunch we called in on a couple more vineyards for some final tasting before we made a decision on our favourite wine! This was by a man called Andrew Thomas and the chosen variety was Semillion blended with Sauvignon blanc! So off we returned to our first vineyard of the day and treated ourselves to a bottle of this fine wine. It turns out our tastes are very similar to the Hunter judging panel as Andrew Thomas is the 2009 award winner in Hunter. He is regarded as the new ‘hot smoking gun’, producing some great semillion and shiraz wines.

Our final night in Hunter was spent enjoying the delicious wine we treated ourselves too with a lovely pizza from the lodge restaurant.
What a treat.

When morning came it was time to pack up the car and say au revoir to the luxury and head off to the stunning Blue Mountains.

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G’day Sydney!

The Australian adventure got off to a good start, the “Brucie bonus” being an upgrade on the flight over. Unfortunately that didn’t help fix the jet lag, we now felt compelled to stay awake and enjoy the flight. Several movies and free drinks later we arrived in Sydney feeling refreshed and ready for our new adventure. A couple of hours after that we felt shattered and ready for some kip, jet lag had kicked in! We’ve just about adjusted to the 13hr time difference now.

It’s been quite strange adjusting to the western world once more, particularly the language. We find ourselves inadvertently speaking in Spanish. We wish the prices were South American though!

So far we are loving Sydney. We are staying in the Coogee beach area, just south of the center. On our first morning here we headed out for breakfast at one of many local cafes. I ordered a full English (or is it Australian?)…how good did it taste to have bacon and eggs after so long!! Pretty damn good I can tell you, especially when it is washed down with probably the best coffee I’ve ever had. All the Aussies drink “flat whites” so we ordered a couple and didn’t regret it!

The Best Flat White Ever

After breakie we took the coastal walk to Bondi beach. It’s a great walk, around 5km from Coogee beach. I think we were both happy we decided to stay in Coogee though. Bondi is nice but much more comercialised. The first coffee experience was so good we grabbed another before heading into the center. By this point we were already questioning why we lived in London and not Sydney…!

Coogee Beach

The city center has a great feel to it too. Much calmer than London but still lots going on, very modern and clean. We took a walk across the harbour bridge and grabbed fish & chips Aussie style for lunch.

We also picked up a new laptop, so as you can see we now have photo’s back on the blog! A great relief to me because my memory card was filling up!

The next day we visited our favourite breakfast spot again and then headed to the beach for some R&R. In the afternoon we returned to the center to watch the sun go down over a few cocktails near the Opera House. Not a bad way to end the day!

Sydney Opera House

Sydney Opera House

The day after we took a ferry trip to Manly beach just north of Sydney. We’re still amazed at the number of great beaches all within 30 minutes of the city. The lifestyle here seems very relaxed, I’m sure all the sunshine and wine helps!

Sydney Harbour Bridge

Today we headed to Darling Harbour for lunch. Another area filled with cafe’s and restaurants.

Darling Harbour

We’re hiring a car tomorrow and heading off to discover the wine region and further afield for a few days.

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Adios South America

So we are hours away from the end of our South American adventure and what an adventure it has been. We`ve had an amazing time, met some great people, seen some special places but now it must end. However we are very excited about moving on to Asia and also spending sometime in a little place called Australia. So whilst eating lunch on the roof terrace, enjoying the sunshine and reminiscing we decided to compile the South American Oscars! This is our definitive list of winners and losers in Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina.

Best Country
Tie between Ecuador and Argentina

Trip Highlight
Winner: Galapagos Islands
Runner Up: Iguazu Falls

Best Bus Company / Overland Journey
Via Bariloche in the Cama Suite

Best Culinery Experience
Edo Sushi Miraflores Lima

Best Steak Dinner
La Cabrera Palermo Soho Buenos Aires

Best Ice Cream
Yomo Rosario Argentina

Best Cake
Arequipa Peru …hmm yum!

Best Hostel
Winner: 1004 Bariloche
Runner Up: Plantos y Blanco for their awesome breakfasts and turkish bath!

Best Trek
Winner: Quilotoa Lake to Chugchilán
Runner Up: El Chalten

We could carry on making up these Oscars but we won`t!

Here`s a few other things we will miss about South America…

Ecuador

  • Amazing climate
  • Truncha a la Plancha from Mi Otavalito
  • Dirt cheap buses and crazy drivers!
  • The best fresh fruit juices in the world!
  • Toasted corn

Peru

  • Surprise luxury hostel in Huacachina
  • Cruz del Sur …the start of great buses
  • Cusqueña Beer – The Gold of the Incas
  • Inca Kola

Bolivia

  • Our first decent coffee in South America, not a norm for Bolivia though!
  • Watching sun rise from the natural hot springs

Chile

  • Great wines!
  • Best pizza outside of Naples
  • Good hostels
  • Donde Augusto
  • Taxis with all doors and windows attached
  • Dominoes, the best steak sandwich ever!

Argentina

  • More great wines!
  • Steak
  • Best ice cream in the world!
  • The start of consistently good coffee!
  • Havanas
  • Dulce de Leche
  • Medialunas

Now on to the things we won`t miss!

Ecuador

  • Bread and Jam for breakie…especially when the jam comes out of a ketchup dispenser!
  • Pink yoghurt instead of milk on our cereal
  • Badly dubbed Jackie Chan movies at full volume on buses!
  • Bad beer
  • Mosquito bites

Peru

  • Being robbed and shite police
  • Peruvian wine…there`s a reason you`ve never had it
  • Get a jam on man…story to follow
  • Food poisoning from the worst sandwich ever
  • Sandboarding injuries

Bolivia

  • Tour guides with psycho split personalities
  • Foam and water guns in the hands of kids
  • Food

Chile

  • Earthquakes, aftershocks and fake Tsunami warnings!
  • Inflated prices
  • LAN airlines in Iquique

Argentina

  • Retiro bus station
  • Calle No 5.
  • Dog poo everywhere!

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The home of El Che

After hanging around in Buenos Aires for a week we decided it was time to leave the big city and visit Rosario. Rosario is Argentina´s 3rd biggest city. The Rosarians like to think of it as 2nd though. It´s most famous for being the birth place of Ernesto “Che” Guevara. That said the city hardly pays homage to him, there is a plaque on the wall of the house he was born in but nothing else.

We really liked Rosario and ended up staying a little longer than originally planned. There isn´t a great deal to do here but it was an ideal place to relax and experience the Argentine way of life. This is essentially hanging out in cafes or confiterias as they call them and eating the occasional ice-cream…we took to this life like a duck to water! We also took the opportunity to catch up on a few movies. Gem went through a packet of kleenex whilst watching “The Blind Side” and “We´re All Fine”. We also watched the Mel Gibson movie “Edge of Darkness”, although it was a little confusing because at the start “Alice in Wonderland” came on! At first we decided I´d ordered the wrong tickets because the movie titles are all in Spanish. However we noticed all the natives looked a little confused too!

After Rosario we got on our final overnight bus in South America to Mar Del Plata. This is a seaside town 5 hrs south of Buenos Aires. It´s very popular in the summer with Argentines. The season is almost over now though so everybody has gone. We have our lovely hostel entirely to ourselves at the moment! The owners are great people and have a huge DVD collection (all legitimate of course…)! They also have the best medialunas so far! Yesterday we went to the beach which was very quiet except for a few local prunes. It seems like the Argentines have called time on the summer weather but to us Brits it felt like the best summers day we might see all year in England!

We only have a few days left in Argentina now before we head off to Australia. This means just a few days left to conclude our tour of steak houses, cafes and heladarias! We´ve spent much longer in the country than originally planned but really enjoyed it. Roll on the second part of our tour in Asia now, can´t wait for a Thai Curry! I also hear Australia is famous for pies, they will have to be good to beat Wigan though!

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Oh *!*!

Well we´re back in Buenos Aires again after the wilds of Patagonia. The bad news is we´re now a little over half way through our trip! Not sure where the last 3 months have gone! The weeks seem to be zipping by at the moment.

We had a really great time exploring El Calafate and El Chalten not to mention the Patagonian lamb and ice-cream! We´ve become somewhat addicted to ice-cream at the moment, especially the Dulce de Leche flavour. We stayed in a great hostel in El Calafate. We had a room with a balcony and view over Lago Argentino. We celebrated the half way point of our trip with a beer whilst watching the sun go down, not a bad way to end a day! It was a pretty good day too. We did the “big ice” trekking on the Perito Moreno glacier. This consisted of strapping on some crampons and hiking around the glacier for 4 hours. The views were just stunning and it was so special to be walking along surrounded by the huge ice field and mountains. At the end of the trek they give you a whiskey on the rocks using ice from the glacier. A nice touch, Famous Grouse never tasted so good!

After a couple of days in El Calafate we headed north to El Chalten. The town itself is nestled in the Parque National Los Glaciares. It consisted of just a few dozen houses less than 10 years ago but has now grown to accommodate the tourists, still it´s a small town compared to El Calafate. The beauty is you can walk out your door and be on the hiking trails within 5 minutes so we didn´t need to stay in any refugios this time. We did some awesome walks around lakes, glaciers and beautiful scenary. The weather was great so we got some good views of the Cerro Torres and Mt. Fitz Roy. After walking for about 8.5 hours the second day it seemed like the perfect excuse to try some more Patagonian lamb, washed down with a nice vino of course!

Over the last few weeks we keep bumping into various people we´ve met along the way. Yesterday we met up with a Danish couple from our Salt Flats trip in Bolivia. We arranged to meet in the evening for a few drinks and ended up going for French food in a nearby restaurant. We sampled a few delicacies like l´escargot and steak tartare. We also ordered a lamb dish which the manager recommended. He added that unlike the English they only kill the animal once, he said we killed it once with the bullet and the second time in the oven! It was a good night but we´re feeling a bit delicate today, luckily we only have to sit back in the hammock and watch the day drift by…on that note we must go. Happy Easter all.

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