A Travellerspoint blog

Our final farewell to New Zealand!

Geraldine, Christchurch and Kaikoura

After leaving Queenstown we had the choice of either continuing onto Christchurch or hopping off early at the Rangitata River in Geraldine for some white water rafting. The rapids there ranged from grade 1 to 5, grade 5 being the strongest and most dangerous grade available to the public to raft in. We decided we'd hop off....

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There was two rafts that went out and I have to say things did get a bit competitive!! It was pretty tough at times but the key was to keep paddling no matter what. EXCEPT now and then when the instructor tells you to sit down on the floor of the raft with all arms, legs and oars inside. Now to be fair you do feel quite safe in this position so one time I stayed down there for a little bit longer than I was supposed to! ..The other team leader sitting next to me was screaming 'GET THE F**K UP!!''GET THE F**K UP!! ...so I did eventually have to get back up and start paddling again! Thankfully we were celebrating at the end as no one in our team fell out. Unfortunately though some people on the other raft fell overboard! (LOL)

That awkward moment when you put your oar the wrong way round ...

That awkward moment when you put your oar the wrong way round ...

The following day we headed back to Christchurch. It was to be a nostalgic night as most people were leaving New Zealand and heading off in different directions around the world. So we all re-grouped and had a bit of a last supper. It was actually quite an eventful night as myself and Di managed to get lost in a park on the way to the restaurant. (Just an hour detour!) To be fair it was pitch black and we weren't from the area ....

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So after saying our goodbyes it was back to the hostel to make our plans for our last day in New Zealand. There was 1 more activity that we REALLY wanted to do ...dolphin swimming! Kaikoura is known as one of the best places in the world to swim with dolphins so we knew we couldn't miss it! Our only issue was that in order to make our flight from Christchurch we would have to do a round-trip to Kaikoura in 1 day. The problem we faced here was that buses stopped in the afternoon so we'd have to take a chance and hitchhike back that night. We decided to go on ahead and cross our fingers that someone would be kind enough to bring us back to Christchurch. (only a few hours drive sure!!)

Well I have to say swimming with the dolphins in Kaikoura was one of my favourite things that I did in New Zealand. I especially liked that your boat sails out to the ocean so that you're swimming with the dolphins in their natural habitat. I'd much rather that than in a small confined area where the dolphins are trained to do tricks etc. I actually couldn't believe how many dolphins there were ...these dolphins can swim in pods of a few hundred so your actually just swimming along with dolphins under you, beside you , jumping around you...it's unreal! We decided not to take an underwater camera out with us and I'm glad we didn't. Sometimes you can get caught up in trying to get a good photo rather than embracing what was such an amazing experience.

...I took a few from the boat though! ;)

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So after a successful day swimming with Dolphins all we needed was to somehow find a lift back to Christchurch. So we walked to the nearest main road and stuck the thumbs out. Now I'd hold back if there was a dodgy looking car/van or if it was one of those giant container trucks in horror films that pick people up from the side of the road and kill them. But no no Diana doesn't ...so next thing you know are bags are in and I'm hopping into the back of a 9 tonne waste container truck with Wayne. (not scared at all I swear ...)

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Well Wayne ended up being quite the tour guide .... after arriving back in Christchurch he brought us around on a tour of his beloved city. He also showed us the devastating effects of the earthquake in 2011. When he realised we were faced with sleeping in the airport he kindly suggested we come back and stay with him and his family! Not wanting to take any more advantage of his hospitality we got dropped of at the airport. So we put ourselves on standby and tried to get a few hours kip. The following morning we got on the 6am flight to Auckland which gave us plenty of time to then catch our round the world flight to Bangkok.

.....to Asia!!!!

Posted by Julie Kavanagh 04:41 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

New Zealand - Queenstown ...not for the faint-hearted!

Thankfully our hitch-hiking was a success and our mountain-bike champion Chris dropped us off safely in Queenstown that afternoon. Considering we arrived alive and well we decided to head out that night to celebrate! (Any excuse I know!) Coincidentally the first people we bumped into on the side of the street were our English mates we met in Peru...James, Chris and Louis!

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That night we also had a reunion with Emma, Kelly and Colin from our original Kiwi bus and headed to Queenstown's popular World Bar! (We ended up there most nights and got a tad addicted to their teapot drinks!)

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Oh ...I forgot to mention we stopped off in the infamous Fergburger restaurant even before we checked into our hostel, we also went after our night out ....and the following day for dinner!! After realising we had been 3 times in the space of 24 hours we had no choice but to declare a Fergburger ban .....sad times!

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The first adrenaline pumping activity we did was the Canyon Swing. Now about a year ago my boss Mary showed me a hilarious video of a 90 year old Irish granny plunging into the canyon.... I announced that I was going to go to New Zealand and find the swing. Unfortunately for me a promise is as promise so off we went .... You can choose from a variety of options of how to be thrown into the canyon. We decided that having paid quite a bit we wanted to get our moneys worth ...so we picked the scariest one ....'Gimp boy goes to Hollywood' Basically your dangling by your ankles upside down until they decide to pull the lever! ....well there's no other word to describe the experience other than HORRIFYING!!!

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We got a video made but as it was just filled with extremely vulgar words from start to finish I decided to put a soundtrack over it before uploading it anywhere!

Canyon Swing Video

The following day we headed off to Milford Sound along with most people from our Kiwi bus. This is one of the world's UNESCO heritage sites and was definitely worth taking a day trip to. The boat ride was really scenic..... but I have to say compared to jumping into canyons it did get a lil bit boring!

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Our next activity was the Nevis Bungy Jump ...just a quick jump off a 134m drop ....easy peasy!!! To be fair I think it really helped that we were out the night before and were still quite giddy!!! ....I literally had the time off my life up there!! After our first jump we asked could we do it again ....so the second time we jumped head first with our hands held behind our backs ...was great craic altogether!!!

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Nevis Bungy Jump Video

It was another celebration that night ....this time it was that we were alive after plunging 134m!! At this stage everyone from our 2nd Kiwi bus had got to Queenstown so everyone was out and about!! Some of the bungy instructors also joined us and as the night went on we wondered were we right in trusting these guys with our lives!!!!

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That same night we met Shane who lives in New Zealand and works at Buffalo bar. He kindly gave us a fair amount of drink vouchers ....and it was this generous act of kindness that we decided to blame for us missing our bus the following morning!!!

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Seeing as we now had an extra day in Queenstown we decided to meet a friend from High School Ciara ....who brought us out on the K Jet boat. Not the best when you're hungover but still great fun!! That night myself and Di spent a romantic night 'chilling' in the local Ice bar so all in all ....
.....Queenstown was really not the worst place we could have been stuck in!

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Thankfully the following day there was a few spare seats on the Kiwi bus so it was finally time to leave Queenstown ...and give the ole livers a rest for a few days!!

Posted by Julie Kavanagh 04:25 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

New Zealand - South Island (Picton to Queenstown)

After catching the ferry across to the South Island we hopped back on the Kiwi Experience bus. As we had stayed a few extra days in Wellington most people from our original bus were already gone ahead. But fortunately all was not lost as we would all be reunited again once we reached Queenstown!!

The odd person opts to fly from the North Island across to Picton but I'd recommend getting the ferry as the views going through Cook Strait are pretty amazing plus it's cheaper!! The drive along the coast from Picton to Kaiteriteri was beautiful, in particular through Marlborough Sounds which offers gorgeous picturesque coves and beaches.

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After a short stop off at Nelson we arrived at Kaiteriteri. The following day myself and Diana got a boat taxi over to the well known Abel Tasman National Park and went for a stroll . It's surrounded my golden sands and blue water and with Kaiteriteri having some of the best year round weather in New Zealand ....it was safe to say we had an above average 'walk in the park'! Close to the park was the split apple rock, one of the world's most fascinating rock formations.

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Next on the itinerary was to the old gold miners town of Westport. Considering it's a verrrry small town we managed to have quite a BIG night out! We met the cutest of leprechaun couples from Cork...Denis and Jess. ... so I suppose when the Irish get together it's always a bit mental!

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There were some options to do activities in Westport like horse trekking, jet-boating and quad- biking but with New Zealand being on the expensive side we limited our activities to the main things we really wanted to do ...and most of them were in Queenstown!

The following day we headed off to Lake Mahinapua via the spectacular State Highway 6. The diverse landscapes that you see on the West Coast vary from farmland, deserted goldfields, green rainforests ....and the snow capped Southern Alps! (..ah ye!!)

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One of the stops along the way was at Tauranga Bay where you can see one of News Zealand's largest seal colonies! We also stopped for a few scenic walks along the coast - my favourite being to the Pancake rocks. (Basically stacks of limestone that have eroded to look like a pile of pancakes ......yummy!!!!!)

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That night we were treated to a BBQ at the 'Poo pub' followed by a fancy dress party. The theme was 'anything but clothes'. Judging by the theme I'm guessing the idea was for people to dress up kinda sexy and show a bit of skin ...with this in mind Diana and myself dressed head to toe as showers.....

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  ....needless to say we didn't win any prizes!!

To be fair one of the winners Peter managed to make a full suit and hat from newspaper! (ah heaare!!!! .....)

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Denis and Jess, the Irish couple did us proud dressed up a bottle of wine and a bunch of grapes!

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After recovering from our lil dress up party we regrouped and headed off to Franz Josef. Here we decided to trek the amazing Franz Josef glacier, the world's fastest moving glacier. The weather conditions for the previous week meant no tours were going up the glacier BUT the day we got there the weather picked up so we were able to go up ...so we were verrry lucky!! We got a helicopter flight over the glacier that dropped our group off to trek the glacier for about 2 hours.

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There was some really tight spaces at some stages where you literally had to squeeze yourself through by pulling a rope ...ideally not for people with claustrophobia!! (or morbidly obese - luckily for me I was only a few months into travelling so hadn't quite reached that stage .....yet!)

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After spending a terrific day on the glacier we decided to relax in Franz Josef's hot pools at night - great call!

After 2 nights in Franz Josef it was onwards to Wanaka. To be fair Wanaka was a very pretty place ....just not a whole lot to do there. And we were so close to Queenstown that we decided to skip the stop over night in Wanaka and hitchhike (sorry Mum!) We were slightly worried getting dropped off at a random road by our Kiwi bus driver because we knew if we didn't get picked up it was a LOOOONG walk back with our bags!!! (plus we didn't actually know the way and we had no phones!) But our driver said we'd be fine so we took his word! Low and behold the 2nd car that drove past us picked us up! (They're awfully friendly in New Zealand!) It was a lovely guy called Chris, who happened to be one of New Zealand's downhill mountain bike champions...pretty cool!

.......to QUEENSTOWN please!!!!

Posted by Julie Kavanagh 19:13 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

New Zealand - North Island

After a 2 day delay from Santiago, Chile our flight FINALLY landed in Auckland, New Zealand and from there we got a connecting flight to Christchurch. We had two options for transport around New Zealand, either rent a camper van or book onto one of the hop-on hop-off buses. We only had 3 and a half weeks in New Zealand so we were conscious that we needed to move around quite quickly! With this in mind and considering myself and Diana aren't a loved up honeymooning couple (...not too far off though!!) we decided we'd be social and hop on the Kiwi Experience bus!!

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So it turned out the buses leaving Christchurch were all full for the next 5 days but there were seats on the buses leaving from Auckland! Soooo we put ourselves on standby and got a cheap flight BACK to Auckland!! (We must of looked like absolute loons in the airport that day flying back and forth!) After one night in Auckland we hopped on the bus and headed to our first stop, Hot Water Beach. En route we stopped off for a lovely coastal walk along the white sandy beach of Cathedral Cove.

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After another short bus drive we arrived at Hot Water beach. (Voted as one of the world's top ten beaches by Lonely Planet!) Here you can rent a shovel and at low tide dig your very own hot water pool in the sand (pretty cool! ...well hot actually...like ROASTING!!) It was this day that we met the 'Griffindors'... our New Zealand partners in crime ...Sue and Charlie Griffin! ...it was pretty much love at first sight!! That night we treated ourselves to some amazing fish and chips at Hot Water Beach Holiday Park as well as a few drinks to wash it down! ;)

The following day we headed off to Waitomo. Along the way we stopped off at Karangahake Scenic Reserve and tunnel walks. You walk along the river, over two swing bridges (there's warning signs for ten people max but of course everyone goes at the same time ...and of course you always have the rebellious ones who jump up and down!) So In fear of my life I legged it across both bridges and into the long railway tunnel. It would have been handy to have known it was going to be pitch black and you needed a torch!! (Diana took a few pics so we tried to use her flash as our light!)

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That afternoon we got to Waitomo and myself, Di and the Griffindors went on the AMAZING tubing cave tour. ....It's too much fun!! Each person is given a tube and you just float through the cave staring at all the gloworms. It's pitch black so it looks like your surrounded by stars - very romantic! ...but in fact your actually looking at glowing worm shit! (..Maybe not so romantic!)

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The caves were so much fun, at some points we had to turn off our headlights to see the full effects of the glowworm's shit, of course my light was the ONLY one that failed to turn off so each time we did that little exercise the tour guide had to hit me over the head with a rock ...bit weird but it worked every time!

Next stop was to the unusual town of Rotorua. Also known as Sulphur City the place smells like REALLY bad rotten egg!! ...I don't know how people live there! During the day all us ladies visited the geothermal hot pools. Although it was quite relaxing the lingering smell was just a tad off putting!! At night we visited the Tamaki Maori Village for a night's experience of Maouri culture. We learnt a few Maori words, the Haka, played some games and had an AMAZING buffet! (Probably our best feed since we starting travelling!!) Our "hangi' meal was cooked on hot stones underground! ...might have to give it a go in the back garden when I get home!

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We were all dropped home by a hilarious/mental bus lady. At one point she kept driving around a roundabout whilst singing 'The wheels on the bus go round and round...'. I thought the bus was literally about to topple over! Luckily enough our very own One Direction (a group of very entertaining 'gap yah' English guys) took over the singing and blasted out a few 1D tunes. (Fair play to them - they knew every word!!)

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The following morning we left the smell of Rotorua behind and headed on to Taupo. Taupo is known for it's awesome skydiving so a few of the group signed up. I had done one before and considering the price and my budget I opted out! (It wasn't because I was scared I swear! ;) ) ...anywho Miss Brave Diana Donnelly decided to tempt her fate ....

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To celebrate that night we headed out to a UV glow party...the following day was St. Patrick's Day so the plan was take it easy so we could fully enjoy our National holiday. (We were in bed until 3pm ......)

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So eventually the Irish arose to celebrate Paddy getting rid of the ole snakes ..... There was Guinness hats, face paints, alcohol and A WHOLE LOT of Irish dancing!!! So much so that people actually asked us whether we were proper Irish dancers at home (they had obviously never seen the Riverdance!!)

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'Unfortunately' the weather the next day was too bad for us to trek the Tongariro Alpine Crossing (I think St. Paddy knew we'd be hungover and had a word with God!) So off we headed to our next stop .... River Valley! For me this was a bit of a random stop but for Lord of the Rings fans it was CHRISTMAS! A lot of the trilogy was filmed here so they were in their element ...snapping away! Unfortunately the water levels were too low for us to go rafting, one of the main activites that River Valley is well known for. So instead myself and Diana took it upon ourselves to do our own activity ...a RUN ... (the first 1 since leaving Ireland) ...we'll say no more!!

After a night at River Valley we headed to New Zealand's vibrant (but incredibly windy!) capital city of.... Wellington!!!! Whilst in Brazil we we're lucky enough to have met a hilarious Scotsman called Andy Sweeney ...who said..."Get in touch when your in Wellington and you can stay at mine for a few nights". Never ones to turn down an invite we arrive with our backpacks at Andy's doorstep in Wadestown...and he let us in! #Success

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The following night we head out in Welly to Mishmash, The Etablishment and Mini Bar with Andy, Mike (met in Peru) and a few of their friends!

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The following day 'the fear' was lingering about the house! It took a particular liking to Diana who convinced herself that she had bed bugs and decided to put her entire backpack in Andy's dryer for 2 hours. ....shrunk her runners, flip flops and most of her clothes ...it turns out she didn't have bed bugs! Of course this was a difficult time for Diana who had shrunk most of her belongings for no apparent reason at all ...but for those spectacting it was highly entertaining!!

That afternoon we took a scenic tour of Wellington followed by a trip to the cinema (Django - great film!) I was chauffeured in Andy's fancy motor whilst Diana joined Paddy on his Harley Davidson. (Horrifying!) ....I put the helmet on in the house and that was enough adrenaline for me!!

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So after a fantastic few days in Windy Welly and the North Island it was time to catch the ferry across to the South Island and hop back on the Kiwi bus.....

Posted by Julie Kavanagh 20:24 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

My South America Top 10

...in no particular order!

1) Rio de Janeiro - New Year's Eve

Brazil certainly knows how to through a party so I would definitely recommend going for either New Year's or else Carnival. Ringing in the New Year with 3.5 million people all dressed in white watching an unbelievable firework display was the perfect start to our trip!

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2) Peru - Machu Picchu

An absolute must if your visiting Peru! There are a number of different trek options to choose from. We chose the Jungle Trek as it involved cycling and zip lining as well as A LOT of hiking. (And it was also the cheapest!) Usually the jungle trek attracts a younger group of people so you can have the LOLs during the trek! The 4 day trek is tough enough but well worth it once you reach the top! The views are absolutely incredible..we just sat at the top in awe!!

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3) Huacachina - Sandboarding

Huacachina is so beautiful and 100% worth going for a few days. It was my first time seeing an oasis and doing sandboarding ....so two ticks there!! I'd recommend to try go sandboarding in the afternoon as you can stay and watch the sunset from the dunes...which is pretty amazing!

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4) Bolivia - Salar de Uyuni

I had seen people's pictures here (the world's largest salt flat!) but its unimaginable just how amazing it is until you are physicaslly standing there. Due to it's reflective surface the sky and ground merge into one creating a spectacular dreamy/heavenly look. You could literally spend days there making funny pics!! We just had a few hours ......

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5) Bolivia - Potosi mining tour

We all absolutely loved the mining tour in Potosi! I really don't know how its not more well known with backpackers! So normally on guided tours its all very relaxing and comfortable ....no no ...not this one ..for the most part of it your on your hands and knees crawling through tiny spaces with dust covering your face. (but apart from the slight discomfort its actually so much fun!) .... Sure on what other tour are you allowed to legally buy dynamite!!?

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6) Punta Arenas, Patagonia - Magellan Island with the Penguins

If I've learnt one thing whilst travelling it's that impulse decisions to go on detours are always AMAZING! Originally Patagonia wasn't on our planned route but we met too many people along the way that said we had to go ....so we decided we HAD to go! I'd never met a penguin before so you can imagine my excitment when I bumped into hundreds of them at the same time!

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7) El Calafate Patagonia - Mini-trekking on Perito Moreno

The main reason we detoured to Patagonia was to see the world famous glacier of Perito Moreno. I'm so glad we did as it still remains one of my favourite things I've done since I've started travelling. It's not often you get to put some spikes on and trek a giant glacier...and drink Jameson on the rocks using ice from the glacier!

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8) Iguassu Falls

Its no shock that Iguassu falls was voted as one of the new 7 wonders of the world! When you first get there you nearly go into a trance just staring at all that water! (There's a hell of a lot!!) You're kind of speechless for awhile...which was a first for us as usually people are desperately trying to get us to shut up!!! I've two recommendations if you visit 'Iguassssuuu' (you have to pronounce it like that otherwise people haven't a clue what you're on about - I learnt the hard way!)

1) Visit both sides (Argentinian annd Brazilian)
2) You have to take the boat ride that brings you right under the waterfalls!! You get absolutely soaked and you lose the ability to see for awhile as the water is smashing into your face ....BUT it's hilarious!!

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9) Buenos Aires - food, drink and nightlife

Although I loved every second of South America, Palermo in Buenos Aires was the first place that I could really imagine properly living in. I like big cities so with it's trendy parks, cafe's, clubs and pubs I was in my element! Apart from the fact that they only go out at night at about 2am (which is a killer for the ole hangovers!!) and apart from the fact that every single woman there is the most beautiful person you've ever seen in your life (...just a tad depressing!!) it really is a fantastic place!! We were lucky enough to be there for Ultra music festival which was great craic and we also spent some time in the La Boca area which is known for it's colourful decor and amazing tango shows. All in all Buenos Aires just has everything!!

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10) Mendoza - Vino y bicicleta

Mendoza's main industries are olive oil and wine production ...two fantastic reasons to visit! Rent some bikes for the day, (from Mr Hugo as he' s hilarious and gives you free wine!) ...cycle around the different wineries and enjoy the numerous diffrent wine tastings available. For those that may not be that into wine you can also participate in the olive oil tour. As I was travelling with an olive oil lover we spent a good bit of our time there!

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WILDCARD - The Amazon (Rurrenabaque, Bolivia)

As I wouldn't exactly classify the Amazon as an 'enjoyable' experience I felt I couldn't put it into my top ten list. HOWEVER on reflection it is probably the 'experience' that we laugh about the most from South America so I've thrown it in as my wildcard (controversial I know - Diana may kill me!!). But as the saying goes ....... “Sometimes it’s the mistakes that turn out to be the best parts of life”.

With this in mind I would reccomend going but NOT during wet season when the mosquitoes are out in full force! If you do go in rainy season bring about 20 bottles of 100% deet (you will probably have to purchase this at home!) and in the likely event that the tour guides don't warn you: Sit on your towel on the boat as the mosquitoes like to BITE YOUR BUM!!! (.....eerrr apparently!!)

Oh and cover yourself in clothes head to toe ...you may look ridiculously stupid but believe me that will be the least of your worries!!

Blues Brothers arrive at the Amazon!

Blues Brothers arrive at the Amazon!

Posted by Julie Kavanagh 01:15 Tagged south america Comments (4)

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