NZ has begun…1st stop Auckland :)

Luckily I had a friend that picked me up at the airport at 5am after the 13hour flight. To beat the jet lag I decided to stay up for the whole day and it worked!
I stayed with friends about 30mins West of Auckland for a night. We went to a nearby beach for a walk. The scenery immediately is so different from S.A. and a lot of the scenery reminds me of home.

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Weather cleared up so we went to Devonport village for a traditional NZ pie.

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Spent the evening drinking some home brewed cider, hot tubbing and eating steak 🙂
The next morning we took a drive around the city in the lashing rain. Museum looked amazing and it was surrounded by gorgeous gardens.

I checked into my hostel ‘Nomads’ and braved the rain for a walk around the Aqueduct area and Queen Street. Even in the rain it looked nice with all the fancy yachts and cool bars and shops.
Nightlife is really good here but drinks are so expensive. Cheapest drinks I could find were 9dollar vodka and mixer! Bit of a change from S.A. prices 😦 Luckily I was in NZ for the rugby match so I got up at 4am to watch it in a local Irish pub. Atmosphere was good but thought it’d be better. It was no All Ireland! 😉
Thankfully the sun came out the next day so I could see Auckland in all its glory. I started with the Sky Tower which was very good. Amazing views from the top and a lovely cafe to sit off and take in the views.

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After the Sky Tower I took a bus to Mission Bay because the weather was so nice. I regretted not walking it, it’s a 10k walk by the sea so I walked halfway back until it got too cold and windy for what I was wearing. Mission beach is gorgeous and I sat here and watched people play volleyball and eat ice-cream.

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Back to the hostel to cook dinner and chill out with a few people on the rooftop. Early morning ahead of me to start the Kiwi Experience.

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Santiago again…:)

It was back to Santiago to watch the rugby before my flight in a few days.
This time I stayed in La Chimba hostel, bit more expensive but I had heard good things about it. It’s a really nice hostel, easy to meet people, brilliant kitchen and still in the central area.
We got back in time to get to an Irish bar which seemed to be the only pub showing the rugby match. There was a great atmosphere and a lot of French supporters! Very disappointed I couldn’t get a Bulmers though.

As it was a Saturday there was a great buzz around and all the bars were full of people eating and drinking.

just about dragged myself out of bed for the Irish rugby match at 9am the next morning. Thankfully the hostel was showing it so didn’t have to go far! I had to watch it with a few Kiwis and 1 Irish lad from Wexford, everyone else stayed in bed! To get over the disappointment of the loss we went for a pastel Choclo. My favourite Chilean dish by far! Creamed corn with minced meat, olives, raisins and a boiled egg. so weird but so good!

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Pastel choclo

Spent the evening strolling around the really nice Bella Vista area and had another authentic Chilean bean stew with hard boiled beef for dinner. Liking the Chilean dishes in Santiago.
Up the next morning to find it was lashing rain! Weather here is so unpredictable, nearly as bad as Ireland!
So after catching up on Skype to a few friends and family (about time! :/) I did the only thing I could do on a rainy day. I got the tube to the massive shopping centre for some window shopping torture. I treated myself to a frozen yoghurt before paying the 5000pesos to go to the 64th floor to the viewing tower. It was very very good would definately recommend such a good view of the city and surrounding mountains.

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Shopping centre and viewing tower

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Photo doesn't do it justice 😦

Went back to the hostel to cook dinner and have some cheap but delicious red wines with a few in the hostel. We later found out how quiet the area is on a Monday night when we just about found a karaoke bar to finish the night off.
Sun came out the next day thank God for my final day in Santiago. So I did a self guided walking tour and saw climbed St Lucia hill, checked out Plaza de Armas and surrounding areas. Santiago actually has a lot more to it than I initially thought.

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One of the views from St Lucia

I had time to fit in my last pastel Choclo and pack up before sharing a taxi to the airport to finish my South America trip and start my tour of New Zealand. Have to say I’m feeling really sad to be leaving South America. The language, culture, salsa, food I’ve loved it all and will hopefully get back at some stage to explore it even more.

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Celebrating with the Kiwis.

Valparaiso- Colourful City

As soon as I got off bus I knew I was going to like Valparaiso. Even lugging the heavy bags up the steep hill to our hostel didn’t turn me off. This place is full of steep hills and hundreds of steps but the walls are so colourful and your distracted by amazing wall art all the time.

Our hostel was in the Alegre area which is a very cool area with lots of bars and near one of the many ascensors. We made the mistake of deciding to go out for dinner but it started lashing rain while on the search for a restaurant and most of them were closed because of the expected rain! We got fed eventually but unfortunately the rain didn’t stop all night and went on through the next day. 😦
In the very few breaks of the rain we attempted to have a walk around and see some graffiti,took the local ascensor.

We got fried empanadas from the trip advisor renowned shop with over 50 flavours. Delicious!

During our walk we were followed by so many friendly well kept Street dogs. We later found out it’s a known tradition to have lots of street dogs that everyone takes care of.
We met some friends for some wine and pisco sours. The pisco sours in Chile are meant to be the best. They were fairly tasty!! Then it was more wines and kebabs back at the hostel because the town was pretty quiet again.
Next morning we did the walking tour which was really good. We got to see lots of graffiti and learned about the history and the story of Valparaiso which is actually really interesting.

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We then hopped on a 10minute bus to a nearby beach town called Vina Del Mar. Lovely town for a walk along the sea front and has lots of restaurants and cafes. Lucky it was a nice day when we were th

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ere

Not much else to do there really.

When we got back Valparaiso was definately a bit more lively as it was a Thursday night. We went to the local brewery to taste some beers and then cooked dinner.
Trip Advisor had Pablo Nerudas house as the number one thing to see here so we went for a look. He was a famous poet and had 3 houses in Chile. I didn’t know of his poetry but I know why his house is so famous. The furniture is very quirky and everything has a st

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ory.

It helped that we ended up crashing a free wine and cheese reception by accident afterwards!
After this we went to the markets for a really good seafood lunch and then onto another ascensor to the maritime museum which was unfortunately  closed but there was a nice view of the military ships.

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With the museum closed there was nothing left to do but try the famous terremoto. A drink made of white wine, grenadine and ice cream that you can only buy by the jug!

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Tasty but so strong!! Trying it once was enough. There was sore heads the next morning but we made it to a bus to head back to Santiago. Very sad to say goodbye to funky Valparaiso.

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Chilly in Chile

After a 5 hour bus and 4 flights later I finally arrived in Santiago, Chile. Before you Google it 4 flights is not normal!! I bought cheap flights and then one was cancelled so had a very crappy few days but made it safe and sound eventually to a nice, quirky hostel The Bellavista. The hostel is located in the busy Bellavista area where all the streets are lined with people sitting out eating and drinking and playing music. Great atmosphere.
By the time I had a shower and settled it was easier to cook and chill with a bottle of wine with people in the hostel. Chilean wine is delicious!! Like being back in Argentina again 🙂
First stop the next morning after a much needed lie in,was San Cristobal Hill. We decided to get the free city bikes and cycle up instead of the easy cable car. Why I thought it was a good idea to challenge myself after heavy travelling the day before I don’t know!! But I still enjoyed it, bit challenging but really nice walk or cycle to the top. Views are worth the trip and there’s a nice church and large crosses to see also.

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It was at the top of this hill I tried mote, the local popular drink made with wheat, peach and peach juice and I’m sure a pile of sugar! It was really nice even though it didn’t look it!

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Went for a wine and some local food to reward our hard work and discovered the famous local dish, chorillana. Chips,meat,eggs and meat. Very healthy! :/

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This was the small portion!

We decided to go to Valparaiso the next day as we had to come back to Santiago anyway for our flights. But before leaving we had to visit the food markets to stock up. The markets here are amazing, so fresh and so much to choose from. Fruit, veg, dried fruit, nuts, granolas, meat, fish you name it! We had a tasty almuerzo here for less than 4 euro for a soup and meat dish with rice and salad before getting a bus to Valparaiso. 

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Vegetable soup in the market

Santiago looks like a cool city, looking forward to coming back and exploring some more.

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Top of San Cristobal Hill

Diving in Taganga

We got off the very bumpy boat from Tayrona sore and drenched! We couldn’t wait to get to our hostel to hop into a shower. Thankfully our hostel was only a short walk from the beach, but the walk was a challenge. I have never seen roads as bad in my life! So annoyed I forgot to take a picture! They’re just dusty, stoney tracks that are completely uneven and should be undriveable!

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We decided to pick up a few groceries for the days ahead and eat in the hostel restaurant that night which was actually delicious. Our hostel Divanga had a lovely pool right in the middle not that we got to use it much.
Our reason for staying in Taganga was the cheap PADI certified diving course. We booked it with Poseidon diving school after a recommendation. It’s a 3 day course and it is intense!
1st day we watched a 3 hour video in the morning. Unfortunately there was WiFi in the room so I may have got a bit distracted! :

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Back to school

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After lunch we met our instructor Jorge, he was so nice and really made us feel at ease and was so patient. He needed to be with us two! We learned how to assemble all the equipment and then had to complete a lot of different techniques and exercises in the pool. It was a very long day we didn’t finish until after 6pm.
In the lashing rain we ran to a recommended restaurant around the corner Babbaganoush. OMG the food was cheap and amazing! We quickly realised that the food in Taganga is really good!

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Day 1 over!

Home after dinner to study and do an online exam before collapsing into bed. Our poor roommates thought we were hermits!
Day 2 was straight in early morning with a written test and then it was wetsuits on and on the boat!
Again we had many tasks we had to complete in and out of the water to pass the next stage. I didn’t expect such hard challenges and there was so much to remember. It was good to get into the sea though and remind ourselves why we were doing it in the first place.

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When we got back we decided to work through lunch and complete the next two pool stages so we could finish a bit earlier. We were exhausted but at least we got to explore Taganga a bit. It’s a very small beach town but has a chaotic charm about it. We went for an early fish dinner in another really good, cheap restaurant.

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Grilled local fish

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Home then for more study and another online exam.
Day 3 was the most enjoyable by far. We still had our early morning written exam but then it was on the boat again. We got all our tasks finished and passed in dive 1 so we got to just have a fun dive for the 2nd one which was brilliant! Finally got to enjoy and relax and take in

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the aquatic life.

After all our fun we had to go back and face the dreaded 60question final exam. Definately was a lot harder than I expected but luckily I passed 80% 🙂 We were so relieved after an intense 3 days it was all worth it!
Back to the hostel to pack up and have a celebratory drink by the pool. We went back to Babbaganoush for our last Colombian meal because it was so good the 1st time.

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On to the local nightclubs to celebrate, don’t know how we did it. The 3 days really took it out of me. Not used to this working thing! 😉
Now it’s off to Chile on a bus and two planes with a very tired

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Go great with a glass of red 😉

body and sore head :/

P.S. Discovered these in Taganga. My new favourite crisps made from Yuka and cheese. Don’t know it until you try it! Typical I’d discover them in my last few days here!

A night in Tyrona

We dropped our bags to the hostel in Taganga and then hopped on the 8am bus to the Tayrona National Park. I hadn’t done much research so didn’t know what to expect. We got a talk before entering on the park and respecting the Wild life etc. Then it was the 2 hour hike to the beach we were staying at.

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The walk was actually quite easy and well laid out with gorgeous scenery the whole way and iguanas scampering around at your feet.

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By the time we got to the beach it was seriously hot! We sat in the shade for a bit and ate a few of our snacks and waited to queue for a good hammock up in a high terrace. Luckily we got one of the best hammocks with the best view and best breeze! 🙂

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We celebrated our success with a long dip in the crystal clear sea and dried off on the course,white sand. This place is traveller paradise!

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Nothing more to do here other than chill out, sunbathe and swim so that’s what we did. The restaurant is reasonable enough for dinner but snacks and drinks are very expensive. Dinner is only served between 6.30 and 8.30 which is a bit annoying but at least everyone is together for meal times which is nice and social.

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We were apprehensive about how comfortable the hammocks were going to be but I slept surprisingly well. We were also nervous because the bathrooms were a good 10mins walk away in the dark!
It got a bit windy and cold at times but whenever woke up I looked up at the full moon and listened to the waves and I didn’t mind too much 🙂
Up early for more snacks we brought and then I went for a walk to a nearby beach for a look. Not a patch on ours at Coba San Juan! But was nice for a change and they had cheaper water!

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Back to Coba for more swimming, sunbathing and snacking before getting our 4pm bus to Taganga. At first we were disappointed we didn’t have two nights here but I think 1 night is enough but definitely worth it!

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Cartagena has it all

Another windy, cold, uncomfortable bus later and wer in Cartagena. Our hostel Mamallena is on a busy street of shops, hostels, small restaurants and food stalls.  We checked into our spacious, air-conned 8 bed dorm and had a much needed shower. Cartagena is hot and humid, very humid! But luckily for me it wasnt as bad as usual over the few days I was there.
We went for the evening walking tour to see the old town. The old town is gorgeous! It’s protected so there’s no modern architecture. There’s a great buzz around the old city it’s touristy but not pushy. The people here are so friendly.

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Unfortunately the walking tour was not the best we learned very little about the history of this walled city but we did get to walk around and see the beautiful squares and expensive houses. We finished just in time to get a glass of wine while looking at the sunset

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.

Back to the hostel then to predrink.with others in the hostel before the weekly Wednesday rooftop party in the hostel across the road. Great night good mix of Gringos and locals 🙂
Next day was pretty relaxed. We walked to the nearby rich town Bocegrande to have a look in the shopping centre and walk along the beaches. We ended up in a salon getting our eyebrows done for less than 3 euro! Sure you couldn’t take advantage of that! 😉
When we got back we walked to Trindad square to see the street performers and all the locals gathered eating and drinking and watching the entertainment outside. So cool to see such social occasions happening everynight and everyone supporting eachother. Love the cult

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ure.

The next morning we got up early for our boat trip to the islands. We snorkeling near Rosario Island in the crystal blue

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waters.

We relaced with a seafood lunch and a cocktail on Playa Blanca. The beach has powdery white sand and the water is warm and crystal clear. Definitely worth

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Playa Blanca

the trip!

Had dinner with dew from the hostel when we got back and ended up having a few drinks and going to a nearby club with a live salsa band. So I got more than a few

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Havana Nightclub

dances in! 🙂

Luckily the next day the volcano mud baths didn’t go until 1.30. I had been warned in advance about the mud bath thank God! It was the weirdest experience I have ever had. Climbing down a ladder into a tiny crowded mud pit where ur offered massages by Colombian men. The mud is so thick it keeps u completely afloat. Afterwards you walk down to the river where there are women waiting to offer to wash you. No thanks! I’m still gladly did it though such an experience and it got rid of the hangovery, my skin was fairly soft

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The Volcano

after it aswell!

By the time.we got back I was craving some local food so went for a local 3 euro menu. Soup, steak, salad, rice, plantain beans and a lemonade. Hit the spot before hitting a night club in old town to say goodbye to Cartagena

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Local food is best! 🙂

on our lastnight 😦

P.S. I’m still loving the Colombian arepas available on every street corner. In Cartagena I discovered ‘arepa con huevo’. An arepa filled with egg and sometimes meat. Reall

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Arepa con huevo

y good in the mornings.