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Cath & Andy

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A journey to the alter and South America

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Join us on our journey to our wedding and our 2-month South American honeymoon. We will be married on 31 March 2007, in Narooma Australia and are honeymooning through Chile, Peru, Bolivia and Argentina in April and May 2007.

49 hours in transit... and a new home

Canberra, Australia

Well, we have made it home to good old wintery Canberra, but not without some unexpected travel adventures.

We arrived at the airport at 7:30pm Thursday night only to be told that our flight home had been cancelled. Lan Chile were actually pretty good about it and organised for us to stay at the Crowne Plaza for the night, with an anticipated flight out the next morning at 11am. It was really interesting to see just HOW BAD people are when unexpected things happen, people were so rude and demanding to staff, others were crying, some japanese fellow was snorting & spitting and others just generally carried on like pork chops - many I think wanting upgrades, but how can you upgrade an entire full plane?? Really is their any point in complaining? They said the plane was 'broken', there was no way we were wanting to get on a broken plane!

Cath was pretty sick with a head cold by this time & just sat on the floor in the airport, not really fussed by what was going on around us as we waited for our hotel and transport vouchers. By the time we got back to the city & to the free dinner it was midnight, and all we really needed was a bed.

Our 11am flight was delayed by an hour (because the transport company didn't get everyone back to the airport on time), and finally we were on our way. The flight for Cath was a nightmare as she had really bad sinus congestion and her ears screamed and squealed and her head felt like it was going to explode for the whoe 15 hour flight, Andy was lucky enough to get some sleep.

We couldn't get a connection to Sydney, so we had to spend a night in Auckland (once again on the airlines budget) and had to get back to the airport at 4am. Whilst we were in Auckland for almost 12 hours we didn't get to see anything as it was dark by the time we got out of the airport and unfortunately Cath was too sick to go sighseeing - we struggled through another free meal with Cath almost falling asleep at the table.

Eventually we did make it home with 2 more agonising flights for Cath and only just making our connection to Canberra with 10 mins to spare.

Much to our delight, Cath's parents had moved almost all our belongings from the old flat into our new apartment before we got home, meaning that we could spend our first night in our own place. We were outstounded at how much space we have, and cupboards and more than one room (I'm sure the novelty will wear off soon), very exciting! Now for the fun of decorating and actually buying some furniture...

Anyway, we will update again soon with some statistics from the trip - until then ciao ciao

permalink written by  Cath & Andy on May 29, 2007 from Canberra, Australia
from the travel blog: A journey to the alter and South America
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Andy = old

Santiago, Chile

Yep, yesterday Andy turned 30. We are back in Santiago and have been checking out other parts of the city that we missed the first time.

For Andy´s birthday we started the day with a very cultural visit to the Museo de Bellas Artes, an amazing beautiful old building with plenty of classical and modern art. Then it was time for a coffee and the birthday cake at a local coffee shop before heading out to the Providencia area for some shopping and a ride on the subway. Its incredibly easy to use, fast, cheap and clean and is recognised as one of the best subway systems in the world! It is, however, incredibly busy with over 1 million people using it daily!!!

We had lunch at a bustling Italian restaurant and were fascinated by the speed and efficiency of the staff covering four floors and about 100 tables with only 6 wait staff. The food was amazing and its popularity is well deserved with a great dining atmosphere. We cruised down through the parks that afternoon back to the centre of the city before heading out to Off The Record, a hip and popular restaurant where the President is known to dine. There we had arguably our best meal in South America with an entree of some of the best calamari we have ever had and a main of a shared platter with various meats, stir-fried vegetables, potatoes and a great bottle of Chilean wine. Our photos don´t do justice to how GOOD the meal really was. The atmosphere was like an old cinema with ticket booths as bars and old cinema seats for chairs around the tables and photos of famous people all over the walls. Very cosy and a great way to spend your birthday dinner.

This morning we awoke to see the bazarre sight of mountains in Santiago! Usually the smog is so thick you can barely see their outline but today, even though still smoggy, at least on the Eastern side of the city, the snow-capped Andes loom large over the city - a magnificent sight and one that many people don´t see.

We fly home tonight and miss Seumas´ birthday due to crossing the dateline, but we will have a beer for him at some stage. Cath has a bit of a cold, we are a bit sad that our trip has come to an end but are also excited about our new apartment and seeing everyone.

permalink written by  Cath & Andy on May 24, 2007 from Santiago, Chile
from the travel blog: A journey to the alter and South America
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Rumbling earth, Penguins and Pisco

La Serena, Chile

After another 7 hour bus adventure we arrived in the small, but not without charm, town of La Serena and promptly booked ourselves on two tours of the surrounding area. We spend the first afternoon just wandering around and sussing out the place along with getting back into the swing of having a big, late Chilean lunch.

The next morning, just before we were to be picked up for our tour, we were greeted by an earthquake! Very strange experience that lasted about 45 seconds with slow rumbling climaxing to a reasonably big shake at the end, but nothing damaging. Our hostel host informed us that it was almost a weekly event!!! We now know why all the pavement around town is a bit uneven.

Our tour took us north of La Serena to Reserva Nacional Pinguino de Humboldt where we hopped on a boat out to Isla Choros and Isla Damas to see the wildlife and beautiful surroundings. What a great experience, we saw Sealions, Dolphins, Humboldt Penguins, thousands of birds, a massive whale bone and some beautiful coastline and on the way we finally saw some Guanaco! We´ve seen plenty of Llamas, Alpacas and Vicuñas in our travels but the fourth member of the family illuded us until now.

Today we took a tour inland into the Elqui Valley famous for being a fabulous Pisco growing area, and also having a fog that stayed around until lunch time. Unfortunately today turned out to be the Chilean day of the Mariners or something like that so every town we went to had a parade going on which closed the only road through it and most of the museums and pisco factories we were supposed to visit! Nonetheless, we found some places open and saw some things that we didn´t expect so not all was lost. The valley is beautiful with lots of patchwork farming and fabulous barren pre Cordillera mountains as a backdrop. Also, this area is famous for having only 3 rain days per year, and guess what happened! Not a lot mind you, but we´ve seen something a lot of people haven´t.

Tomorrow its another long bus trip back to Santiago for our last two days before coming home - can´t wait to see you all.

Andy & Cath.

permalink written by  Cath & Andy on May 21, 2007 from La Serena, Chile
from the travel blog: A journey to the alter and South America
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Valpo - city of escalators

Valparaiso, Chile

After an early morning start in Mendoza for our border crossing bus to Valparaiso, we found out why it had been so cold the last few days. By the time we got to the border we saw that a snow cover of at least 20cm had fallen since we came up here on a tour three days ago. The views were spectacular but, given what we know about Argentine drivers, we had a few misgivings about choosing a bus company called El Rapido with a few crazy passing maneouvers and some fresh fingernail marks in the seats....

We made it through ok and landed in the warm and colourful Valparaiso after getting off the bus a town too early and set about walking the hills and riding the Ascendors (railway cars that defy logic and gravity to get you up impossible slopes). Valpo is a perculiar town, they don´t have window washers at traffic lights, instead they have performance artists juggling and doing crazy ball tricks. Also artists of all description sit at every vantage point across the city and paint the view selling their wares once they are finished. It also is a town kind of bipolar, the hills are very haphazard and quiet but as soon as you step down onto the flat area of El Plan its all hustle and bustle with a blocked street pattern and heaps of traffic and noise, but at least you can switch between the two with relative ease if you´ve had too much of either.

Unfortunately, other than wander the streets and admire the view, there´s not a whole lot else to do in Valparaiso so after 2 days of boheimian relaxation we decided to hop on a bus and head up north to La Serena for one last town and area to explore before heading back to Santiago.... because we haven´t had enough bus travel yet.

permalink written by  Cath & Andy on May 18, 2007 from Valparaiso, Chile
from the travel blog: A journey to the alter and South America
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Mountains, cañons, wineries and food...

Mendoza, Argentina

We arrived in Mendoza after an overnight bus from Cordoba, bus travel here is very comfortable with some busses having fully reclining seats the size of a business class seat in an aeroplane. To our surprise when we arrived at 7:30am it was still dark with the sun not showing itself until 9am. It was also freezing cold and when we went into town at midday on Saturday, everything was closed. Suffice to say, it took us a little while to warm to Mendoza but we´ve spent the last 5 days in and around the city and its quite nice and strangely a bit like home with its tree lined streets. We are often reminded of Garema Place as we stroll around from coffee shop to steak house. We think we should have visited Argentina first on our trip as now we don´t have the major culture differences and everything is so civilised, it is a little harder for us to find things of interest which is strange as it really is beautiful here.

We did a tour of the mountainous regions around Mendoza all the way to the Chilean border stopping at Aconcagua, the highest peak outside of the Himalayas at 6962m, and Puente del Inca, a natural formed bridge stained by sulfur in the thermal waters that run over it. Predictably it was very cold, have a look at the frozen lake behind Cath in the photo, but being surrounded by such large mountains with a dazzling array of colours and shapes was makes 6 hours in a bus and a sore neck worth it. The colours in the mountains here are nothing like anything else we have seen in the Andes and the barrenness makes it very beautiful.

We couldn´t come to Mendoza without doing a winery tour - they have over 900 wineries in the area and supply 70% of Argentina´s wine. We were very lucky to book a tour that had nobody else on it so we were chauffered around with a personal guide to 4 wineries that included a 5 course wine matched lunch and also barrel tastings and full tours through their production including seeing people labelling bottles by hand. The wineries here are quite different to Australia and to get into a winery you must have a booking as there are security guards and big locked gates at each winery. The tasting is quite different too as you pay for the tasting but there is no ´big sell´ trying to get you to buy anything, its just an excuse to sit around and appreciate the wine that they make. The wineries here would have to be in some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. Its also amazing to see that within approximately 20kms and probably 50m elevation they have quite different microclimates around each wine region due mainly to their proximity to the Andes.

Yesterday we did a tour to the south of Mendoza through Cañon del Atuel which is kind of a mini grand canyon that has had 4 dams and hydroelectric plants built in it. Would have been good without the dams but still an amazing canyon with interesting rock formations (some look like elephants, penguins, monks, turtles and of course male anatomy) and once again beautiful colours in the rock. It was freezing (again!) and our guide didn´t speak english but it was still a good experience, just a shame that the sun wasn´t out to light up the colours it the rocks.

We have done some of the best eating here of our entire trip with each dinner including a full bottle of wine. The weight we have lost over the rest of the trip from all the exercise we have done will surely be back on by the time we leave Argentina. We are booked on a bus tomorrow across the border into Chile to see the Pacific Ocean again and spend a few days in and around the coastal town of Valparaiso.

Still having a ball and can´t believe its been nearly 2 months!
Andy & Cath.

permalink written by  Cath & Andy on May 16, 2007 from Mendoza, Argentina
from the travel blog: A journey to the alter and South America
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More randomness...

Mendoza, Argentina

Some more random observations from South America:

- Salt - we will need a detox when we get home
- Men like to sing in the street in public and loudly
- You never need to order bread, it comes free with every meal (lots of it)
- Busses and Trucks are faster than cars, the bigger the bus, the faster it goes
- Gum trees everywhere
- Speed humps are sometimes in the middle of the highway for no apparent reason
- Argentinian highways have street lights
- Every bus we have been in has had a cracked windscreen
- Potato, you can never have enough ... apparently
- Argentinian steak thoroughly deserves its reputation as the best
- Asking for the bill - it will never, ever, come if you don´t ask for it.
- Long lunches, a standard lunch lasts about 2 hours with a 1 hour rest afterwards.
- Smoking, everyone everywhere - is there such a thing as a non-smoking hotel room?
- Its perfectly normal to leave your home and go nightclubbing at 2am
- The sun rises at 9am in Mendoza (all of Argentina is on one timezone)
- At cafes in Mendoza people drop pens/torches/stickers/lollypops/lottery tickets on your table every 5 minutes trying to sell them to you - quite annoying.

permalink written by  Cath & Andy on May 14, 2007 from Mendoza, Argentina
from the travel blog: A journey to the alter and South America
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Paragliding in the Argentinian Sierras

Cordoba, Argentina

Yep, in an effort to conquer Cath´s fear of heights, and test out Andy´s stomach, we decided to go paragliding - Cath´s fear of heights is still intact, Andy´s stomach, predictably, made a bid for freedom. It was a fantastic experience though despite almost losing our fingers to frostbite and the giddying twists, turns and ups and downs.

There is certainly more to look at and do in Cordoba than there was in Rosario although our trip here was a little interesting with the choice of movie being the Texas Chainsaw Massacre - we´re glad we weren´t travelling at night with some unexpected stops on the side of the road...

We´ve had a lovely time here just chilling out and eating. We´ve had amazing food and our choices of local wines keep getting better and better ... and we still haven´t made it to Mendoza which is supposed to be the capital of wining and dining! Although the food has been fantastic, we still can´t find vegetables or fibre in any great quantity. Meals seem to be served with a side of potato, be that chips, wedges, potato gems, mash or bake. We did try to order a side plate of vegetables last night, but they were pretty tasteless and even that came with potato on it! The other cool food related thing you can do is walk into a shopping mall food court and buy a 1Litre beer from every single food outlet (though we didn´t look at Maccas). It is a strange feeling to be sitting inside a mall drinking a 1L Heiniken as everyone shops around you at 7pm on a Tuesday night (the malls are open until at least midnight).

We have also decided that Argentina is closed for renovations. Just about every Museum, public building or tourist attraction, right throughout Argentina, is covered in scaffolding and a troop of workmen being renovated. In 12-18 months this place will look like new!!! Suffice to say, we haven´t been to one Museum yet, but the food is keeping us company.

After a bit of tooing and froing with the internet and a travel agent we have decided that we will give Iguazu a miss on this trip. It was going to cost us a bomb to get there and back from where we are by plane, and we didn´t have 3 days just to sit on a bus if we had taken the bus option. Even if we had gone from Buenos Aires it would have cost us about 1200AUD to fly and that´s the cheapest place to go from. So we´ll take it easy in Western Argentina and we might even have a bit of time up our sleeves to see some more things around middle Chile before our flight home - maybe we´ll sample another wine or two?

We are booked on an overnight bus to Mendoza - the heart of wine country - tonight so there should be more fantastic dining experiences on the way. There are also a lot of National Parks and volcanoes in the area so we should get back to nature again. We have been reminded that we are home in 2 weeks so probably not many more entries till we see you next.

Andy & Cath.

permalink written by  Cath & Andy on May 11, 2007 from Cordoba, Argentina
from the travel blog: A journey to the alter and South America
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Perfect Argentinian town ... I think not

Rosario, Argentina

Yesterday we landed ourselves in a town that the Lonely Planet describes as possibly the "Perfect Argentinian Town". The city is made up of entirely square blocks that are actually quite small and manageable, unfortunately it makes trafic flow a bit of a nightmare and everything looks the same. If we hadnt seen so many amazing cultural and scenic other cities on this trip we might have quite liked this laid back town but we just couldnt find anything to do on a Monday, even most of the shops appeared to be closed at 3pm!!

They did have a big river front with some big ocean-going ships tied up in it which was interesting to see and also the burial place of the designer of the Argentine flag. Che Guevera was also born here. We did find the electric busses (exactly like a tram in Melbourne but on wheels) a bit of a novelty but we seriously only took one photo and that was Cath in front of the flag monument.

We had planned on spending a few days here but had decided to hot foot it out of there on a bus to Cordoba. Despite the cities being around the same population, there seems to be heaps more to see and do here than in Rosario. However we have discovered that after 11 hours on a bus, Argentina is really very flat in the middle (unlike Andys belly after eating a 400g steak tonight).

We will probably spend a few days in and around Cordoba with possibly a side trip to Iguazu Falls if we can swing it from a travel agent before heading to Mendoza to drink more wine and eat more of this fabulous Argentine bovine.

Stay Tuned,
Cath & Andy.

permalink written by  Cath & Andy on May 8, 2007 from Rosario, Argentina
from the travel blog: A journey to the alter and South America
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On the mend...

Buenos Aires, Argentina

We left the big city and slums of La Paz and landed in the big and very much more modern city of Buenos Aires and found a few surprises. We remembered quite quickly that Argentinians (especially the men) are very competitive. Nowhere is this more evident when riding as a passenger in a taxi racing between sets of traffic lights for a single lane opening ahead. Unfortunately, due to their rather relaxed adherance to lane markings, the one single opening quite frequently allowed both cars to fit, much to our dismay. The other thing that became apparent was that they speak a different kind of Latin American Spanish than in Chile, Peru and Bolivia. In all other countries we have been fairly well understood whereas here it seems nobody understands us. Often they even repeat back to us the correct pronunciation which to us sounds like what we have said but they still don´t understand us.

We managed to get a nice hotel room one block away from what claims to be the widest road in the world ... and at 9-10 lanes (each way!) we´re not going to argue! For such a large road, its actually quite nice with parks separating every three or four lanes.

We have spent the last few days here chilling out and letting Andy get a bit better which he is doing slowly. And before you all start going on about all the crazy stuff he´s been eating, he probably picked something up from either scrambled eggs or some fried chicken skin - nothing out of the ordinary there... La Paz doctor said that this is the most common source of salmonela.

We went to a soccer (futbol) game last night which was certainly an experience. To say Argentinian fans are fanatical could be a bit of an understatement. The crowd, the noise and the smells were overwhelming. At either end of the ground behind the goal posts were the opposing teams fanatical supporters with very large fences between them and the pitch. On the side where we were there were more home team supporters but not part of the official cheer squad, though no less noisy. The sides of the ground were separated from the playing surface by a 3m wide and 5m deep trench filled with some revolting ooze at the bottom which really stopped you thinking about a pitch invasion. We were frisked on the way in and there was a riot out the back at half time when one side pushed down a security fence but we were in the safe confines of a tour with tour guide who assured us that we were safe as long as we stayed in the stands. We didn´t see a goal as we left just after half time because Andy was feeling (and being) unwell but apparently, according to our taxi driver, it was a 2 all draw by the time we had gotten back to our hotel.

Tomorrow we head north to Rosario, we have put off Iguazu Falls until maybe another week or so just to make sure Andy is well enough before we head back into the Amazon.

We think that a lot of our friends would like Buenos Aires, its quite a beautiful city and has some amazing shopping (we didn´t know you could make that many things out of cow) and interesting street performances including Tango. We will upload some photos when we can find a good internet place.

Bye for now.
Cath & Andy.

permalink written by  Cath & Andy on May 6, 2007 from Buenos Aires, Argentina
from the travel blog: A journey to the alter and South America
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La Paz gives me the poos

La Paz, Bolivia

We left Copacabana on a bus for La Paz which was 5 hours to cover 160km. We did get a ride across Lake Titicaca on a punt watching our bus on another which was kinda cool. The entry towards La Paz was a bit daunting through dirt streets, and lots of poverty but that was just El Alto, a city above La Paz itself. Once we got through that, the views of the city were simply spellbinding, Pity that view was the only highlight of our time in La Paz.

We had a bit of a walk around the city but there was not much on offer, the coca museum was interesting and the witches market was smelly and disturbing with all its llama foetus´on display. Apparently you bury one under the cornerstone of a new building for good luck - they just grossed us out a bit.

It only took us half a day to see the highlights of town and we were wondering what we would do for the rest of our time there before our flights to Buenos Aires.

As luck would have it, the next morning Andy fell ill with some salmonela and spent the entire day with his head and backside on the toilet fulfilling one of Cath´s fears of one of us getting sick in Bolivia. Cath had to call for a doctor which was daunting as the Lonely Planet guide says "In a medical emergency, don´t go to the hospitals..." The doctor, who was actually quite good and recommended by the hotel, gave Andy a needle which stopped him vomiting and promised that we´d be fine to fly the next morning. He even returned to check up on him late last night just to see how he was faring. Amazingly, with some antibiotics, plenty of water and a small amount of food, Andy is feeling much better today ... and we´ve made it to Buenos Aires.

Tomorrow is a new day and Andy is set to have his first meal in two days tonight so its all looking up from here. Despite it raining here, the city looks quite interesting with lots to see and do. There are also plenty of parks for us to laze about in till Andy fully recovers.

The other good news that we got was that our unit will settle on the 18th of May so we will have a new house to come home to after all!!!

Cath & Andy.

permalink written by  Cath & Andy on May 4, 2007 from La Paz, Bolivia
from the travel blog: A journey to the alter and South America
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