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A round the world trip in more than 80 days.

Why this blog ?

Our aim : travel and discover the world during 353 days and through some fifhteen countries. We are hoping that this blog will allow us to share the experience with our family and friends thanks to the posts and photos that we will be publishing and also thanks to their comments.

Currently ...

now. For the moment, we are gently readapting from nomadic to sedentary life.


Photos : NZ Part II

Click on the picture below to see additional photos of our New Zealand trip :

NZ - North Island

Bye Bye Kiwiland

Our last stop within the South Island was in the small village of Takaka, where not only we did enjoy a few walks on the nearby Abel Tasman park but a nice Saturday night concert in one of the local pubs. There was also a great atmosphere among the people staying at the youth hostel : a British couple managing it during the holidays of the owner, a hippie New Zealander traveling with his gramophone and his collection of old records, a Spanish girl who had just finished a week of woofing at a yoga school lost somewhere in the surrounding hills. Then, as everywhere in NZ, some Germans, a couple of whom came back from a trip to the beach with two big bags of mussels that ended up in the dishes of everybody.

For those who have never heard about 'woofing', my case before coming to NZ, it is a system where you exchange few hours of work per day for accommodation and food. There are a few specialized web pages to put in contact people proposing activities with people looking for them. It seems to work very well in NZ where travelers, specially those on a long trip, use this system to minimize their expenses.

Since we had to be in Auckland a few days later for our flight to Australia, we took the ferry to cross to the North Island, where we continued our exploration of the country. The North Island is flatter, more populated and less wild that her Southern sister, but it has provided us with some very nice experiences I will probably still remember on my 100th birthday.

Napier was worth a visit since it has a unique art-deco architecture and atmosphere. In the town of Rotorua, there is so much geothermic activity underground, that even the city park is filled with sulfur smelling bubbling hot springs. Some neighborhoods have a distinct stench of rotten eggs, but for the chance of bathing in a creek where the water flows so hot that you become as red as a boiling lobster after 10 minutes, or yet, get to swim into a warm water lake, I did not mind at all to get my nose a little bit upset. Rotorua is also NZ's Maori capital, with lots of native diner-and-show packaged offers that we chose to avoid fearing the tourist trap. But the ceremonial village of Ohinemutu, with its traditional meeting house and its Anglican church with Maori carvings are definitely beautiful and worth to see.

We headed back to the coast for our last three days in Kiwiland, this time to the Coromandel peninsula, not too far away from Auckland. It is the only place where we have experienced a crowded beach (everywhere else we met 3 people in average per beach). Why the crowd? The name, Hot Water Beach, gives the key of the mystery. One hour before and up to one hour after low tide, if you dig a hole in the sand, hot water gushes out. Thus, it is possible to build your own thermal pool with sea-sights very easily. After all those deserted beaches, it was fun to see so many people in the same spot, spades at work. And ice on the cake, we even found a nice little waterfall in a cove I could bath under and fulfill one of my fantasies.

New Zealand will remain in my mind as a country of rivers and creeks, lakes, waterfalls and thermal springs, with a rather mild and unstable weather in summer, with very nice and unassuming people, with funny strange birds, with lush vegetation, where it would have felt so right to meet a 'hobbit' or even 'Gollum'. I would have preferred temperatures a bit higher, but I risk to have more that requested in our next country, Australia, where we have heard the sun beats down so strong during summertime that it is hard to stand. Not so bad though when I think that in Europe it is freezing now (even Spain has reached -15°C these last days).


Photos : NZ Part I

Click on the picture below to see the shots we made in the South Island and Auckland :

NZ - South Island

Welcome to Kiwi land

We landed in New Zealand on November the 29th while we toke off on the 27th, but after only a 13 hours flight. The plane was not a time machine, it is just that we crossed the international date line. Thus, we lost the 28th and all the lamb meat that would have come with it, as it was the day in which Aïd el-Kebir was celebrated this year.

During the first few days, the food, the road signs, the left-hand traffic, the vegetation and even the weather gave us the feeling that we were in the UK. But this idea vanishes as soon as you end up with New Zealand dollars in your wallet instead of British pounds .

We spent the first three days in Auckland, just enough time to get used to the Kiwi accent. After that we headed to the south island that we drove all over with our yellow match box during two weeks. The cities, except a few number, are of little interest. They are of a limited size compared to the ones in Europe. There are only 4 million people living in this country as big as the UK and the capital, Wellington, has 200 000 people living in. The tourists come primarily to New Zealand to enjoy the beautiful landscape and scenery but as well all the outdoors activities like “tramping”, kayaking or fishing. The sight and activities are often hard to reach by public transportation, which is by the way quite expensive. So, you better have a ride to take fully advantage of your trip.

The South Island charmed us with its natural beauty. After a visit to the most British kiwi city, Christchurch, we went to hike around Mount Cook that stands majestically in the center of the island and reaches an altitude of 3700 metres. We headed next to Milford sound and the lakes close to it that amazed us with some dramatic and very green scenery. But we found the setting greener with a dense rain forest while cruising the west coast, where the rain does no seem to ever stop, to the point that it is nicknamed the 'wet coast'. We met people who had been waiting a week for a milder weather to start visiting the area. Finally, Golden Bay and the Abel Tasman Park, up north, rewarded us with some very nice walks ended on untouched dream beaches with a turquoise sea (quite chilly though).

The first part of our trip in New Zealand was very pleasant thanks as well to the kindness of the Kiwis and to a very developed touristic infrastructure. The youth hostels that are aimed to people traveling on a budget are very well equipped : we treated ourselves to some sunny barbecues. Do not forget that it is summer over here even if Santa-Claus is on every corner. Talking about accommodations, we tried “Couchsurfing” for the first time and it has been a great experience : you make some savings, but the best was to hang out with the people living on the land, and all our hosts were always open minded and welcoming.

The only thing missing were the Maoris, the initial inhabitants of the country. Maybe the North Island will give us the opportunity to meet some.


The places visited in South America

View our itinerary in a larger map

Photos : Rapa Nui (Easter Island)

Click on the picture below to see the pictures we made in Easter Island :

Chile - Rapanui

Iorana koe Rapa Nui (Welcome to Easter Island)

We have arrived to the last stop in our South American wandering. Although, properly speaking, we are not in America anymore, but rather in the eastern border of Polynesia. Easter Island was the result of one of Mother Earth's whims : this particular time, her restlessness gave birth to a little 163 km² bit of land in the middle of nowhere.

Today part of Chili, it was first inhabited by Polynesians who, being great sailors, discovered and colonised it since the 4th century. Indeed, people features as well as the local language and folklore feels more Polynesian than Latin American. At our arrival to the airport we were greeted by the manager of the camp site we had booked into with a flower necklace and the word 'iorana', which in rapanui language can be used for 'welcome', 'hello' or 'bye bye'.

The island is an oasis in the middle of the ocean and the atmosphere is really laid-back, even if the population of the only settlement, Hanga Roa, has increased a lot lately together with the influx of tourists : from 3000 inhabitants in 2003 to almost 6000 in 2006. Prices, specially those of food, are 3 to 4 times more expensive than in the continent. In spite of it, the tourists we have met there looked like your average middle class guys. However, a 5 star hotel is being built and since resources are not unlimited and overpopulation is starting to be a problem (in terms of water supply and waste treatment) I am not sure whether this is going to last for long.

But for the time being, the atmosphere is really easy-going. Everybody says hello when crossing in the street, we got easily a lift to get from one side of the village to another (in the back of the pick-up when the inside is full) and we were even invited to come home for a coffee by a gentlemen who picked us in his car.

The weather was indeed quite rainy, mostly during the nights. We felt lucky to have been able to rent a room in the camping rather than just a tent. Specially when we could hear all night long the rain tap dancing on our roof and the wind blowing and, on the morrow, we saw half the people camping getting their sleeping bags out to dry.

Even with the occasional rain, Easter Island is much closer to my idea of a tropical paradise than Ushuaia will ever be. No waterfall, but we enjoyed a bath in the only sand beach of the island and we went diving with Henri (a french guy who used to work for Cousteau, but 30 years ago happened to be sent on a mission to the island, met a girl, and decided to stay).

To get to see the different moai sites spread over the island, we rented 4x4 for a few hours. It was a good choice at it happened because the roads have a beautiful collection of potholes and muddy puddles. I was surprised at the number of moais on the island, almost a thousand, and at the distance from the place they were carved, at the feet of a volcano, to the different points of the coast were they were erected. Another proof that human craziness has no limits.

Another mind-blowing thing is the number of horses. Practically the only mammal or farm animal we have seen : no sheep, neither goats nor pigs, just a few skinny cows, some hens wandering on people yards and, other than that, horses and more horses. What they do with them remained a mystery to us.

The time has come to kiss Latin America goodbye. It is a sour-sweet feeling. It is hard to leave so much we have enjoyed our 4 months here. On the other side, we are heading to New Zealand, so who would not be happy about it? We are eager to get to kiwi land and try our first couch-surfing experience there.


Photos : Valparaiso & Santiago

Click on the picture to see some of our shots of Santiago and Valparaiso :

Chile - Valparaiso and Santiago

Valparaiso Vs Santiago : 1- 0

We finally left Punta Arenas and the austral lands to go to Chili center, thinking that we have reached our “bad weather” threshold. The cold+rain+snow+wind was too much for me knowing that I grew up on a warmer region of the planet. At that time, I would not have imagined that someone could live in place where weather conditions are similar to what you find in a fridge.

After a 3 hours and half flight, one empanada and a 2 hours bus ride, we reached Valparaiso. At first sight, it looks like a cross-over between the Barrio Alto of Lisbon and the Montmartre neighbourhood in Paris. You see hills covered with houses painted in bright colors facing the wide Pacific Ocean. It was nice to walk around in the narrow cobbled streets and from time to time to take a funicular to go uphill and to save some breath.

In Patagonia, like in the far-west movies, we have been used to the one street cities where wind is chasing the few pedestrians. Hopefully, in Valparaiso, we got more than that. It is a charming city where many walls are covered with nice paintings making it a great open air museum. In the past, this wealthy port was a major stop for all the ships cruising between the Pacific and the Atlantic. At that time they had to transit trough the Magellan straight, but the opening of the Panama canal and an earthquake at beginning of the last century have put an end to the golden years of Valparaiso.

Our stay in Valpo (like the Chilean love to call it) was nice and I do not know if I am starting to be nostalgic of the time spent in my home town Casablanca, but I enjoy more and more the cities with an ocean view. Unfortunately, it was not the case of our next stop.

Santiago, looks like a fortress as it is surrounded by snowy mountains (yes, it is the Andes, once again!). Chile's capital failed to inspire me, I found it maybe too modern with its skyscrapers, its large avenues, its subway and its buses without “voceadores” (who literally shouts the destination at each stop). But still, the Chilean people are one the nicest and more helpful people we have met around South America (except the b..h at the LAN counter in Santiago airport). Anyway, do not take me wrong, Santiago is a buzzing city with punks, stands selling « mote con huesillos » (husked wheat (mote), mixed with sun-dried peaches (huesillo) that have been rehydrated in water for hours or a “completo” (a hot-dog topped with sour cream and guacamole), cultural activities (we missed Manu Chao concert by one day, argh !!!) and, of course, a nice weather.

Our next destination is still in Chile but we will have to fly more than 3500 km away from South America and I guess for the first time we will not be able to see the Andes. We cannot wait to be in Rapa Nui (Easter Island for the dummies) to say “iorana” to the Moais.