Greatest Photos

March 28, 2011

Tips: staying alive on the road

Since we started our trip last August, we came close quite a few natural disasters. We avoided some serious hurricanes in Mexico, left behind already Christchurch when the earthquake struck, evaded Yasi in Australia, I actually felt a 6.5 quake shake in Bali while I was writing this blog, just to learn one day after, that an even more serious quake was hitting Japan, crossing out our plans to visit this fascinating country. At the time of writing this, another 6.8 hits Myanmar, just north of Thailand, where we are.

How can one be prepared while on the road?

Obviously you have to check the news every now and then, and have your friends and family check it at home, while you are sleeping or kitesurfing in the other side of the world:) If you have a specific searchword, you might even set up Google Alerts to message you whenever there is a new hit for your search.

In contrast to earthquakes, tropical storms are predictable. There used to be a nice little iGoogle gadget, called “Tropical Storms”, which warned me quite efficiently every time I logged into my Google account. It was showing storms in Mexico and Queensland, but just recently it stopped working. The JTWC website is still useful until the author fixes this, and a quick search revealed two other useful gadgets worth looking at: Hurricane Watcher and DisasterMonitor.

Earthquakes on the other hand are pretty much unpredictable, all you can do is verify if you felt one, and be informed if there is one where you plan to travel to. This website comes quite handy as it shows all the major quakes in the past 7 days. The stunning thing when you check this site is, that since the major quake of March 11 in Japan, there is not a single day without a bunch of 4/5/6 magnitude quakes “NEAR THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN”!

March 26, 2011

Devastation in and around Cairns

Just a few days before our visit to North Queensland, cyclone Yasi came and changed the landscape somewhat. By the time we arrived, we found lots of trees decapitated or completely twisted out, damaged houses, and sand from the beach everywhere. Entering Mission Beach was like entering a ghost town. The wind gusts here reached a speed of 290 km/h.



Heat wave in Sydney

Six consecutive days of 30+ degrees Celsius. A thing that had not happened in the past 150 years in the history of Sydney, but occurred during our visit.

The city was generally nice and clean, and after New Zealand we were not surprised any more by the presence of many Asians. Thanks to them there is a great variety of food, not only the standard fish n chips or the local Burger King which is called Hungry Jack at this part of the World.

The bay bridge and the opera house are probably the most impressive parts of the city, they just want to be photographed day and night:)


The monorail is quite useless for real transportation and is funnily overpriced. The price of two tickets is 9.80, and since the credit card payment limit is 10 AUD, you will need to buy an extra lollipop from the cashier in order to be able to pay. (Note: they only sell tickets and the lollipop, nothing else)

To get out from the city, you can do a daytrip to the Blue Mountains. They are not really blue and not really mountains, Green Canyons would be a much more appropriate naming. Nevertheless just for the world’s steepest railway it is worth once a visit:)


Music: the funniest from New Zealand

In case you don’t know yet Flight of the Conchords is a great two-man band/comedy duo from New Zealand. Bret and Jemaine are actually more famous outside New Zealand, but oh well, who cares?

Internet access in New Zealand

Just a small note about our difficulties of Internet access in New Zealand.
Everywhere we have travelled so far, hostels usually offer free Wi-Fi/Internet access as part of the package. Free Wi-Fi in New Zealand however does not exist. In fact there are a number of companies that provide access point setup to all of the hostels and campsites, and you have to be a subscriber of this company in order to access the Net. Now the problem starts when you buy a 3-hours access of company A at campsite A, then you don’t use all of your quota and move to another campsite B, to find out that their system has a contract with internet provider B, etc. In the first few days we managed to be a customer of 4 different Internet providers, being trapped by the pattern above. Amazingly enough there was even a Hungarian company billing our Internet access in New Zealand!

The access was usually time-restricted, thus we started to make good use of offline Gmail: we wrote our emails offline, then connected only to send them. At some providers the access was traffic restricted. Switching off images on websites was the trick in this case, as with pure text we could browse for extended times.

Since then we have learnt that the situation is not much different in Australia. The hunt for free Wi-Fi in McDonald’s restaurants was fun though:)

March 10, 2011

On the road: from Christchurch to Auckland

Day 1: After picking up our fabulous mini campervan, we had a long drive ahead of us to drive south to Te Anau. As soon as we got used to do it on the left side, the driving was quite enjoyable: on the south island there are some cool roads winding thru the hills, and very little traffic, making it perfect to do some rally-style driving:) On the road the most spectacular things were the lakes around Queenstown and the turquoise blue waters of Lake Tekapo.


Day 2: In the morning we headed early to Milford Sound. Milford Sound is rated #1 thing to see in New Zealand, and probably it is very nice on a clear day, but we had no luck with it because of the big dark clouds. On the way back we visited the picturesque city of Queenstown and successfully arrived on our last drops of fuel to Wanaka.


Day 3: After a short but spectacular hike to Mt Iron, we visited a site called World of wonders, and solved the longest (of course) maze of the World. It took us only 50 minutes:) This was probably the last time we had seen the sun, because as we crossed to the west side of the island, heavy rains started to pour upon us. The dark and calm water of Lake Matheson normally reflects Mt Tasman and Mt Cook as seen on any postcards, in our case all it reflected was clouds:) In the evening we took refuge at the feet of Fox glacier.


Day 4: Waking up at the campsite, we met a few hundred, luckily not so hungry mosquitos inside our car-mountable tent. Spraying the infamous DEET on them had absolutely no effect.Fox glacier was closed down due to some roads were washed away, and the Franz Joseph was also not that spectacular in the weather conditions. After the glaciers we headed north to see the pancake rocks of Punakaiki and the seal colony near Newport.


Day 5: Since the Interislander ferry was fully booked that day, we decided to stay on the south island one more night. We slowly cut thru the mountains from Newport to Picton. The rain was still falling on us heavily and a lot of the mountain roads were covered by mudslide. In the evening we decided to rent a cabin to dry all our clothes and the not-so-waterproof canvas of our campervan.


Day 6: Finally the sun came out, ironically on the day we were to leave the South island. We took a short trip to Marlborough Sounds, then drove onto the ferry that took us to Wellington. The city was nice and definitely had more road traffic than anywhere else on the South island. We checked out the botanical garden on the top of the city and caught the last rays of the settling sun on the peaks of Mt Victoria.


Day 7: Bit of a long drive up to Taupo. In the afternoon we went to see the Huka falls and took a dip in the thermal springs nearby.


Day 8: We gave jetboating a try on the rapids of Waikato river near Taupo. After that we checked out the volcanic geysers at Orakei Korako and another one at Whakarewarewa. (No, I am not joking, these are actual names:)) It was here where we had our first kiwi encounter. A pair of kiwis were held in the national park in a dark room, and to avoid disturbing them, photography and videos were not allowed. Well, we tried anyway, but it was way too dark to get a good kiwi-shot:) To close the day we had some fun on the luges of Rotorua. The fast track is really enjoyable and I recommend it to all speed-junkies:)


Day 9: Rainy days were coming again as we headed east to visit Andras (or Andrew for the locals), who is a big buddy of my brother and lives in Gisborne for the past few years. Andrew and Agi welcomed us with great hospitality, some great bottles of wine, and some home made lekvaros suti:) Thank you guys again!:)

Day 10: After a visit to the World’s most easterly McDonalds, we had a short and rainy tour around Gisborne. Leaving the town (and quite unfortunately my raincoat behind), we drove a few hundred kilometers northwest. All day raining.


Day 11: Finally a sunny day unfolds as we head north to visit the Coromandel peninsula and the picturesque Cathedral cove. We spent the afternoon on the famous hot-water beach nearby. It is a spot where people dig a little hole right next to the sea, and enjoy the hot water bubbling up, or alternatively, dig another hole a few meters away if the spot is only lukewarm:)


Day 12-14: The next three days we spent in Manukau lagoon, near Auckland, sleeping in our van in the front-yard of Andrew, our kiteboarding instructor. Andrew and Nick did their best to transform us into pro kiteboarders in the matter of three days and I have to admit, Paul did way better in this subject than I did, it was good fun anyways:)


Day 15-16: Finally we reached Auckland. After driving 4000 kilometers, we said good bye to our campervan. Rachel showed us around and introduced us to the Hokey-pokey ice-cream (thanks for that:), we spoiled ourselves with some Korean and Japanese delicacies and crashed into a bachelor party near the infamous K-street:)


Day 17-18: We pulled off a short visit to the Karikari peninsula, and the next day we signed up for some dolphin watching in the bay of islands. Good luck with the weather this time, and also with the dolphins:)


Day 19: Departing from Auckland. It was fun, e noho rā, Aotearoa!

March 3, 2011

New Zealand: the first experiences

After our date-jump flight to Auckland and then directly to Christchurch, we managed to get a few hours sleep, then headed out to breathe in some kiwi culture.

First and most striking thing you will experience when arriving to New Zealand is the way they speak. They suppress the “e” in favor of the “i” or “ee” whenever they can. Don’t be surprised to be advised to take bus number teen (ten), return to dick (deck) number 5 or have a pin (pen) ready. The kiwi accent is really enjoyable though and its not that hard to mimic:)

The food was quite a shock after arriving from Peru. The great variety (khmmm) of British cuisine is an everyday reality, lamb shank and fish and chips are probably the meals we can call the national dish. (Ah, and pies, lets not forget the pies:) The very first day we took refuge in a Korean restaurant to have some of those delicious Korean pancakes that we discovered in Toronto back in August.

Speaking about Korean, the other striking think for us was the many Asian people on the streets. Koreans, Chinese and Japanese are numerous in the big cities like Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland. Accordingly, there are many restaurants catering for them, and many signs and advertisements are written in Korean, Japanese or Chinese. Unfortunately a lot of kiwi girls tend to dress with a lack of good taste or sense of self-criticism. Some of them do actually walk as if they were still wearing rubber-boots. Refreshing exception are the Asians who tend to dress with a much better taste.

The kiwi mentality as we experienced is a bit of an ego-centric: New Zealand is in the center of the World (also depicted on the maps like that), and has all the greatest things of the World. Everything is the best, the biggest, the greatest here. We can find the southernmost city here, even though it is in Argentina, the fastest advancing glacier, even though its not really advancing, and other interesting stuff. The easternmost McDonalds we visited was probably a scam also:) The kiwis also invented all the extreme sports: jetboating, skydiving, bungy jumping, you name it. Apart from the ever popular rugby and cricket, it is little known that there are other sports in the world. If the kiwi team is not participating, it is not shown on TV. Thus the Olympic games are rather short here:) Ah, and if you know where Captain Cook landed first, you are wrong: in every city there is a place where Cook first landed, making him the official record holder of being the man who landed at the most places at the same time.

The Maoris. Maoris tend to walk around without shoes even in the supermarkets, and to be honest during our stay we had not seen a single slim Maori. They are an interesting topic to discuss with the non-Maori locals. While they are officially regarded as the aboriginals, their aboriginality is often questioned. The theory is that they were pedaling over on their boats from some Polynesian islands (some say from Hawaii), thus they only arrived a few hundred years earlier than the British. Nevertheless claiming back “sacred” Maori land is a national sport and a good business for them:)



Lima for the second time: still full of surprises

We happened to have a few days of layover in Lima and the luck to enjoy the hospitality of Vane and her family again. We have been invited to the fiesta de la negraria, which is a celebration held yearly, and the main spectacular is the men dancing around ringing a bell with one hand, wearing devil-like black masks. Of course, we didn’t miss the opportunity to participate a bit:)


We have also visited the grandiose fountain park of Lima (Circuito magico del agua) and we didn’t stay dry at all:)


Culinary speaking we have tried the best anticucho (cow-heart) of the country in the Panchita restaurant, the best ceviche in the “El Rey” cevicheria in the market, and the best Lomo saltado in Hikari. We have also discovered the cremolada, which is a mix of different fruits and ice, something like the acai in Brazil, but more variety.


The last night we also made a huge Peruvian-Hungarian-French dinner, with causa, crepes, tres leches, goulash and more crepes. All drained down with home made chicha morada and Chilean wine. Needless to say we were already full after the appetizers:)


Oh, and by the way, I had my hair cut:)