A Travellerspoint blog

January 2014

Auckland and the Waitakere Ranges

sunny 30 °C
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My first days in Auckland were how to say it... quite relaxed. I had been travelling non-stop for the last 6 months and a half and I needed to rest a bit (especially after that tiring flight). Besides I had no idea yet about what to see in New-Zealand, nor how will I see it.
So the first days were spent visiting a bit the Kiwi biggest city, catching up with my friend Dave I had met a few months before in Peru, trying to establish an itinerary and so on...

One of the ideas I had in mind was to find people in order to rent a camper-van or something similar. At that time it seemed the best option to travel freely without too much constraints. However as I would find out, there were a few issues to that last point. Indeed we were in the high season, when all New-Zealanders are also on holiday and that meant that renting wasn't an option anymore. Buying could have been ok but it would have meant that I needed more time to find the right vehicle and also allow time at the end of my trip to sell it back. And last issue, the costs for petrol is quite high here, and also the cost of the ferry in order to cross from the North Island to the South Island (and back again). Even with 3 or 4 people with me it wouldn't have been worth it.

Another idea was to use the bus networks like Intercity or Naked Bus but the problem with that is that you can indeed go to the cities or big villages but once there you are kind of stuck and cannot go to that nice spot a few kilometres further that you have heard of. Besides I would have had to book everything in advance to avoid the transportation being too expensive.

Finally someone (thanks Daniela!) recommended a bus company called Stray which offer different fixed itineraries throughout New Zealand in a hop-off / hop-on basis. Basically it means that if you find a nice place, you can easily decide to stay a few more days and to take the next bus passing by. Besides they allow time everyday for a few activities (which you are free to do or not if you don't want to) and are going "off the beaten track" which means that they make you discover some non-touristy places, which is always appreciable. It wasn't the best option but definitely the "least worse" and therefore I opted for that one.

During that time, we took the opportunity with Dave and his brother to go for an afternoon of waterfall jumps in the bush, in the Waitakere Ranges off the Lone Kauri Road, not too far from Auckland. And it was quite fun actually, even if we almost ended up lost in the middle of nowhere...

The Sky tower in Auckland

The Sky tower in Auckland

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Welcome to the Bush!

Welcome to the Bush!


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Caution, freezing water ahead!

Caution, freezing water ahead!


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Just before we got lost...

Just before we got lost...

Posted by manolo84 18:23 Archived in New Zealand Tagged waterfalls cities nature buses bush english Comments (0)

New-Zealand, finally!


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Yeah! I can finally write about this wonderful country, after having landed here a bit more than a month ago. Sorry for the delay but maintaining a blog up-to-date is a lot of work... ;)

On the 11th of December then, I made my way to the airport in Santiago de Chile and was ready to check-in, but only to be told that in order for the Quantas Airways agents to check me in and allow me on the flight I had booked and pre-paid, I needed an exit flight from New-Zealand. Yes, the New-Zealanders are really welcoming and as a European you don't need to arrange a visa beforehand (a tourist visa lasts for 3 months), but they also want to make sure you won't stay longer...

So in a bit of a panic, I had to run in the airport and find an internet spot and book (and pay) an exit flight from New-Zealand to Asia for 2 months later... Fortunately I had thought in the previous days about how long exactly I wanted to stay in Kiwikand but maybe I could have saved a bit of money trying to compare different flights if I had had more time. Anyway 30 minutes later, I came back to the check-in desk and could board the the plane without issues.

Conclusion: ALWAYS plan enough time to check-in to avoid panic rush and last minute urgencies like that. I had arrived 1 hour and a half before my flight and I was lucky I did otherwise I might have lost a lot of money and have had to book another flight...

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However the flight I had booked wasn't direct so after flying over the edge of Antarctica (see picture of the icebergs on the right) I landed in Sydney and immediately boarded another plane in direction of Christchurch where I would spend the night (in the airport) before boarding another flight in the morning to Auckland. Not sure why the flight comparison website I had used to book my flight wanted me to do a stop-over in Christchurch but it was probably the cheapest flight combination at that time. Of course with that many connections, there is always something going slightly wrong and my backpack didn't follow me to Christchurch but instead was sent directly to Auckland the next morning. Not a big deal but I had to explain the problem to the immigration officers, persuade them that I wasn't a drug lord trying to smuggle illegal things in their country from South America, and manage to trace my bag to be sure I could collect it (after a full bag search obviously) in Auckland the next day.

Finally, on the afternoon of Friday the 13th of December, I arrived in my hostel completely exhausted, after having spent more than 2 days (technically you "lose" one day when flying from South America to New-Zealand) in the air and airports. But I was here and my luggage as well! Phew! :)

Plane ready to be boarded! Yeah!

Plane ready to be boarded! Yeah!


First leg to Sydney, 13 hours... Hopefully the movies on-board selection is good...

First leg to Sydney, 13 hours... Hopefully the movies on-board selection is good...


The route the plane will take

The route the plane will take


On the edge of Antarctica...

On the edge of Antarctica...


Auckland, finally!

Auckland, finally!


Oh I forgot it was almost Christmas!! It's definitely a weird feeling to think of spending Christmas when it's hot and sunny... Where is the cold and snow??

Oh I forgot it was almost Christmas!! It's definitely a weird feeling to think of spending Christmas when it's hot and sunny... Where is the cold and snow??

Posted by manolo84 14:01 Archived in New Zealand Tagged english flights immigration Comments (0)

Six mois plus tard, petit bilan de voyage...

English version of this post available here.

Le temps est maintenant venu de jeter un coup d’œil sur ces derniers 6 mois (et demi) car c'est maintenant la fin de mon voyage en Amérique Latine... :( Franchement, je n'arrive toujours pas à croire que cela fait déjà 6 mois que je quittais Paris en ce matin gris et pluvieux. Le temps passe si vite...

En 6 mois, j'ai donc parcouru plus de 14 000 kilomètres (sans compter l'avion) et visité 13 pays différents, parfois juste en les traversant très rapidement, mais parfois en y restant plus d'un mois. A l'exception du Bélize, tous sont des pays hispanophones mais malheureusement je dois avouer que je ne parle toujours pas l'espagnol couramment, même si je peux maintenant me targuer de pouvoir tenir une conversation basique (c'est déjà ça). Il est sûr en tout cas que le fait de maitriser le français me facilita les choses (surtout quand je compare avec mes amis anglophones), français et espagnol étant assez proches.

J'aurais sans-doute aussi dû l’écrire plus tôt mais par le biais de cet article je voulais remercier toutes les personnes rencontrées durant ces derniers mois, ami(e)s de quelques heures ou pour certain(e)s, ami(e)s pour la vie. Quelques amis en France me demandaient avant que je ne parte à l'aventure si je n’étais pas un peu effrayé de partir tout seul, et bien sûr que je l’étais quelque peu. Mais je dois dire que je ne me suis rarement senti seul durant ces derniers 6 mois. Voyager seul ne vous force pas seulement à vous ouvrir à toutes sortes de voyageurs rencontrés sur la route, mais aussi à interagir avec les habitants locaux et ce dernier point est sûrement la chose la plus importante pour un voyageur. Parler la langue locale rend votre voyage totalement différent et j'aurais aimé pouvoir communiquer encore plus en espagnol dès le début mais je suis sûr que je reviendrai un jour... J'ai n'ai seulement fait qu'effleurer la surface de l’Amérique Centrale et du Sud et il y a encore tant à découvrir!

Donc merci à tous!! :) Je suis tellement reconnaissant de toutes les expériences et moments partagés ensemble et espérons que nous puissions garder contact dans le futur.

Je voulais aussi revenir sur quelques paroles que j'ai entendu plusieurs fois durant cette première partie de voyage. En effet certains voyageurs se plaignaient du fait que beaucoup de leurs "interactions" qu'ils avaient avec d'autres durant leur périple étaient pour la plupart "superficielles", car étant des rencontres de quelques heures ou de quelques jours, avant que chacun ne continue vers un endroit différent. Bien que cela ne soit en partie vrai, je ne qualifierais pas ces amitiés de "superficielles". Bien sûr qu'il est impossible de garder contact avec la centaine de personnes que vous allez rencontrer durant un long voyage. Même aujourd'hui avec l'aide des réseaux sociaux, il est impossible d'envoyer un message régulièrement à tous ses contacts, mais personne n'attend aussi de vous que vous le fassiez. Qualifier ces relations de superficielles c'est aussi nier un point important je pense. Le fait que tout le monde puisse vous enseigner quelque chose (directement ou indirectement) et que vous ne saurez jamais exactement quoi avant de faire ces rencontres.

Tout au long de mon parcours j'ai rencontré tant de personnes qui ont partagé leurs histoires avec moi, que j'ai en fait plus appris en 6 mois à propos des différentes cultures du monde que durant mes dernières 29 années. Et en voyageant il n'y a aussi plus cette "pression sociale" qui vous fait vous comporter de la manière dont tout le monde (famille, amis, collègues, etc...) attend de vous, ce qui fait que vous pouvez vraiment être vous même sans avoir à plaire à tout le monde autour de vous. Par ceci je ne veux pas dire que chez vous, tout le monde est un peu "faux" mais vous voyez ce que je veux dire, il y a des conventions sociales qui vous font parfois agir d'une façon que vous ne voudriez pas, qui pourraient vous empêcher de dire tout ce que vous voudriez (au boulot, dans vos cercles d'amis, etc..). Et en se libérant de ce carcan social vous réalisez en fait qui vous êtes vraiment, ce que vous aimez vraiment, ce que vous n'aimez pas, et plus encore... En d'autres termes vous vous découvrez vraiment (ce qui est aussi pour moi une des raisons de voyager).

D'un coté vous êtes plus égoïste mais d'une bonne manière si je peux m'exprimer ainsi. D'un autre coté vous devez aussi garder à l'esprit qu'il est possible d'apprendre de tout le monde, et même de certaines personnes dont vous ne vous attendriez pas (c'est d'ailleurs probablement de ces personnes-là que vous pourriez être le plus surpris). Et inversement, il est aussi plus que probable que beaucoup de monde apprendra de vous et de vos expériences, aucun doute sur ce point-là.

Tout cela pour dire que voyager est avant tout partager, s'ouvrir au monde et aux autres. De ne pas juger les apparences. Et comme souvent dans la vie, les meilleures choses et expériences arrivent quand on s'y attend le moins...

Pour finir cet article, voici quelques statistiques à propos de ces 6 mois passés sur la route:

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Posted by manolo84 15:51 Archived in Chile Tagged french review Comments (0)

Six months later, trip review...

Version française de cet article par ici...
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Time has now come to look back on the last 6 months (and a half) as this is now the end of my trip in Latin America. I honestly cannot believe that it has been more than 6 months since I left Paris on that grey and rainy morning. The time flew so quickly...

In 6 months, I have covered more than 14,000 kilometres on the road (without counting the flights) and visited 13 different countries, sometimes just crossing them, sometimes staying more than a month. At the exception of Belize, all were spanish speaking countries, but unfortunately I have to report that I am still not a fluent speaker, though I can now manage a basic conversation. Certainly being a native French speaker helped a lot as the two languages have a lot in common.

I should have probably wrote it sooner as well but by this post I want to thank all the people I met during that time, friends of a few hours or for some, now friends for life. Some of my friends back home were asking before I started travelling if I was not actually scared to travel alone, and of course I was a bit, this being the first time I was going to travel by myself. But I have to say that I hardly felt alone during the last 6 months. Travelling alone not only forces you to open up with all kind of travellers you meet along the way, but also to interact with locals and the latter is probably invaluable as a traveller. Speaking the local language makes your whole trip totally different and I wished I could have been fluent in spanish from the start, but I know I will come back one day. I have only scratched the surface of Central and South America and there is still so much to discover!

So thank you all, I am so grateful of all the experiences and moments we have shared together and let's hope that we can keep in touch in the future.

I also wanted to come back on some words I heard several times during this trip. Some people I met were indeed complaining that a lot of the interactions they were having during their travels were superficial because most of the time when they met other people, it was only for a couple of hours or a few days, before each moved on to a different place. Whilst this is partly true, I still wouldn't call these interactions or short friendships "superficial". Of course it is impossible to keep in touch with the hundreds of people you meet during a long travel. Even with the help of the social networks, you cannot send a message regularly to every contact you have, but no one expects you to do so as well. Calling these relationships superficial are denying one important fact I think. The fact that everyone can teach you something and that you will never know beforehand what it is.

Along the way I met so many people who shared their stories with me, that I have also learnt more about the different world cultures in 6 months than in my previous 29 years. And while travelling there is also no "social pressure" of having to behave like everyone (family, friends back home) expects you to, so you can really be yourself without constantly trying to please everyone around you. By this I am not saying that back home, everyone acts "fake" but you see what I mean, there are social conventions which make you sometimes not behave like you would like to or to not say everything you would like (at work, in your friend's circles, etc...). And by freeing yourself from these social chains, you actually realise who you really are, what you really like, what you really don't like, and many more other things. In other words you really discover yourself.

In one hand you are a bit more selfish but in a good way if I can say so. On the other hand you need to keep in mind that you can actually learn from everyone, even from the people you wouldn't expect to (it's probably those ones who will surprise you the most). And it is also likely that some people will probably learn from you and your experiences, no doubt about it.

All that to say that travelling is all about sharing, about opening up to the world and to the others. About not judging on the appearances. And as usual in life, the best things and experiences happen when you least expect them...

To finish this post here are a few stats about these 6 months spent on the road:

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Posted by manolo84 15:49 Archived in Chile Tagged english review Comments (4)

Santiago de Chile, end of the road...


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A few days later, after a short stop in Punta Arenas in the south of Chile, I decided for once to throw my principles out of the window and to take a plane to Santiago, to avoid spending again hours and hours in buses and also avoid having to cross again the border between Chile and Argentina (the whole Chilean region in the south being full of fjords, there is no direct road that links Punta Arenas to the cities north of Puerto Natales). One option would have been to take a cruise boat and admire the magnificent fjords of Patagonia but alas there was not enough time for me to do so and this would have been quite pricey as well.

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So once arrived in Santiago, I decided to spend the next few days to relax whilst waiting for my flight to New Zealand. In 6 months and a half I had seen countless museums, taken 10,000 pictures, hiked I don't know how many trails, so it was enough and I really felt the need to not to anything. Funny fact, when I had first arrived in Mexico city, I had met two guys from Chile in my first hostel. We had exchanged our contact details when I had told them that I should be finishing my trip in Latin America 6 months later in their capital and they had offered for me to contact them at that time. So instead of spending a few more nights in a hostel, I therefore stayed with my friends Walter (and Max), which also offered me the possibility to test my new spanish skills... Well, hum... I still have some progress to make but at least I can have now a (very basic) conversation! :)

The feeling I got from Santiago was actually quite good. The city is surrounded by high mountains offering a nice sight (according to Walter, the views are also more amazing in winter time when snows cover them all) and even though it is a big city, there are lots of local bars and restaurants which give you a true feeling of the Chilean culture. Apparently the Chilean capital is also economically booming so I will definitely keep an eye on it in the future. The weather was also a lot warmer than the previous weeks spent in Patagonia so definitely a good place to spend my last days on that continent.

The last few beers in South America with Walter

The last few beers in South America with Walter


Punta Arenas

Punta Arenas


Cormorants colony in Punta Arenas

Cormorants colony in Punta Arenas

Posted by manolo84 23:28 Archived in Chile Tagged towns english Comments (0)

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