A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: mike_rona

Argentina and Southern Chile

all seasons in one day
View Mike and Rona's Big RTW Trip on mike_rona's travel map.

From Lima we flew down to the very southern tip of Argentina to spend our final 7 weeks travelling through Argentina and Southern Chile to eventually reach Buenos Aires and the flight home. Argentina is a very big country with huge distances between towns in the south.

We started in Ushuaia 'the town at the end of the world' in Tierra Del Fuego, which is the starting point for most Antarctic voyages. So yes it was freezing cold and pretty windy. Would have loved to go to Antarctica but is hugely expensive so will have to save that for another time.... so went for a cruise on the very scenic Beagle channel instead and had fantastic weather, clear blue sky and no wind.... Still had to wear fleece, gortex jacket, woolly hat & gloves though!!

Wreck_at_Ushuaia.jpg3Lighthouse..channel.jpgRona_and_M..channel.jpgIMG_6252.jpg

We were surprised to find that Ushuaia is surrounded by mountains and glaciers. We went on a day trek in Tierra Del Fuego national park as we were in training for the Torres Del Paine circuit at this point so needed to start upping the exercise level!

Mike_at_Ti..uego_NP.jpgTierra_del_Fuego_NP.jpg

Heading north, on the first of many long bus journeys to come, we crossed the border to Punta Arenas in Chile. There's only really one reason to go here .... 100,000 penguins! Isla Magdalena has one of the largest colonies of penguins in South America. On the island you can walk around completely surrounded by penguins going about the day-to-day business ... Very funny to watch!

penguins_a..dellena.jpgpenguins_4.jpgpenguins_2.jpgIMG_6295.jpg

After Rona got her penguin fix, we headed north again to Puerto Natales, the service town for our Xmas / New Year special treat... s 10-day trek around the Torres Del Paine circuit in Chile. Yup we really know how to treat ourselves!

So loaded up with tent, sleeping bags, food, the works... we headed off into the wilderness. The trek is one of the most famous in Patagonia, it is a circumnavigation of the Torres 'towers', huge mountains with sheer rock faces at the top. We trekked past huge glaciers, iceberg filled lakes and over a pass with knee deep snow. Beautiful scenery. Weather was ok most of the time but pretty baltic for camping. Woke up on boxing day surrounded by snow. Managed to secure some wine from a refugio for xmas day... but we had a dry hogmanay!!! Made up for it after the trek though, after 10-days of eating pasta and rice we were dying to get back to town for some decent food & wine. We had walked 150kms and its fair to say we were pretty knackered!

IMG_6324.jpgMike_on_th..rcuit_2.jpgRefugio_Dickson.jpgPaso_John_Gardner.jpgIMG_6353.jpgIMG_6364.jpgmike_in_fr..er_grey.jpgIMG_6403.jpgIMG_6427.jpgIMG_6420.jpgcamping_in..cuernos.jpgThe_Torres.jpg

Back on the bus again, we headed across the border to El Calafate in Argentina for a bit of R&R. Treated ourselves to a cosy little hostel where we generally lazed around, slept, read and stuffed our faces basically!! So no... we´re not going to come home all fit and trim! In between lazing around, we went to visit the huge and spectacular Perito Moreno glacier. Where you can both walk and take a boat trip very close to the face of the glacier and watch big chunks of ice fall off into the lake.

IMG_6559.jpgMike_at_Pe..glacier.jpgIMG_6486.jpgIMG_6543.jpg

From El Calafate we headed further north to El Chalten which is next to the Fitzroy and Cerro Torre mountains. So... it was time for trekking again... Can't say we were too excited about this prospect... but these mountains are very famous so we thought we´d better take a look. So off we went loaded up with more pasta.... sneaked in a wine box this time as only 3-day fairly easy trek (it´s all relative when you´ve just walked 150kms). Weather was ok the first day, saw partial views of the mountains for about half an hour before we had to get in the tent as it was so cold. Day 2 freezing, gale force winds, sleet & hailstones.... Stayed in tent and drank wine! Day 3 trekked out... no views! Fair to say we didn't see the area at it's best.

FitzRoy.jpg

We'd had our quota of mountains and trekking by this point! So we did a long-haul 32hr journey north in search of some sun and sea... This involved 3 consecutive bus trips including 2 overnight buses... Fair to say we got off the other end pretty wiped out.

Got to Puerto Madryn and it was hot... yippee! After sleeping all day... got the shorts out and soaked up some heat. Main reason for coming here was to visit Peninsula Valdes for the wildlife. Unfortunately wrong time of year for the whales but saw loads of big sea lions, elephant seals and more penguins. No walking involved either.

IMG_6628.jpgIMG_6600.jpgIMG_6586.jpg

Headed back inland on yet another overnight bus to Bariloche in the Argentinian lakes district. Surrounded by lakes and mountains, this is the outdoor adventure capital of Argentina. Went cycling, took a cable car for views over the mountains and just generally admired the scenery.

View_from_..riloche.jpgMike_nr_Vi..gostura.jpgMike_at_Quila_Quina.jpg

We travelled from Bariloche via the seven lakes route staying at Villa La Angostura and San Martin de Los Andes enroute. This is the heart of Argentian summer holiday destinations, went mountain biking, went on a lake cruise and met lots of friendly Argentinians. The Spanish spoken here is very fast with different pronounciation from the rest of South America so communicating was a bit of a challenge at times. Everyone really wanted to chat to us but we just couldn´t understand half of what they said.

Only a week left to go so we had to head north (yes another overnight bus) to San Rafael and then Mendoza in the heart of Argentinian wine country. So naturally had to sample some of the local produce, we went on a bike tour of the vineyards. Then to compensate went whitewater rafting the next day to get some exercise. After whitewater rafting in crazy grade 5 on the Nile this was pretty tame in comparison, lots of fun though... didn´t even come out the raft just got soaked!

mike_in_the_cellar.jpgwine_cella..mendosa.jpgWine_tasti..mendosa.jpg

We´re now in Buenos Aires for our final few days before heading home. Argentina is a great place, very friendly people, great food and wine, beautiful scenery and lots to do. Even got used to eating at 10pm by the end!

So that's the end of the big trip... back home today to Sydney and reality calls... until the next time!

Posted by mike_rona 06:24 Archived in Argentina Comments (1)

Ecuador & Northern Peru

From Quito to Lima

all seasons in one day
View Mike and Rona's Big RTW Trip on mike_rona's travel map.

PC031733.jpg

After leaving the Galapagos, we spent a couple of days recovering in Quito with PGD... Post-Galapagos depression. Missing all the wildlife.

Quito was pretty unexciting as cities go. So we quickly headed to the ´jungle´ in the far north-east of Ecuador, where we visited the Cuyabeno reserve which is in the Amazon basin, right on the border of Columbia. Did a 5-day "jungle tour" there. This involved 2 bus journeys and a motorised canoe trip from Quito.

IMG_5843d.jpgIMG_5815d.jpgIMG_5698d.jpgIMG_5894.jpg

It was a nice place to spend a few days, we generally toured about the rivers and lagoons by motorized canoe looking for wildlife. The wildlife was pretty hard to find, we did see a few different types of monkeys, lots of birds, some freshwater dolphins, an anaconda and even some tarantulas (in the roof of the restaurant!). Went fishing for piranhas one day. We visited the local village of the Sionas tribe where we met the Shaman (medicine man). The jungle adventure culminated with the bus breaking down on the way back to civilisation.

IMG_5863.jpgIMG_5764d.jpgIMG_5747d.jpgIMG_5702b.jpgPB231563.jpgPB261589.jpg

We then headed south to Tena, a nice little town on a river beside the jungle, also happens to be the whitewater rafting capital of Ecuador. Where of course we had to go rafting on a beautiful river in the middle of the jungle. Mike loved it, Rona was a bit scared as usual!

PB281592.jpg

Spent the next week or so in the highlands of Ecuador mainly to look at, and trek in, the mountains and to see some of the local indiginous tribes in their traditional costumes going about their daily lives. We started off in Banos which is next to the live Volcano Tungarahua. There was a street festival on when we were there with people dancing in the streets in their traditional costumes.

PB301669.jpgPB291641.jpgPB291629.jpgPB291613.jpgPB291608.jpgPB291593.jpg

We then headed to the Quilotoa area, which is at 3,900m. We trekked around the outside of Laguna Quilotoa which is a beautiful greenish blue. Great hike, shame about the altitude though which made it hard work trekking when you can´t breathe! The whole area has spectacular scenery and big snow-capped volcanoes. We would have liked to have climbed a volcano but since they are all about 6,000 metres this would have involved a serious amount of acclimatisation time so we skipped it for next time!

PC031717.jpg

IMG_5991.jpgIMG_5942.jpgIMG_5940.jpgPC021698.jpgPC021706.jpgPC021713.jpg

From the highlands we headed south for the Peruvian border on a long and tedious 24hr series of bus journeys. Stopped off half way down to visit Trujillo and the coastal town of Huanchaco, famous for surfing and where the local fisherman still use traditional reed boats. Kicked back by the beach for a couple of days before heading for the mountains again.

IMG_6022.jpgIMG_6019.jpg

We were keen to spend some time in the Peruvian Andes, so we headed for Huaraz in the Ancash area. Spent 5 days there in our element mountain biking and trekking and generally admiring the beautiful scenery. Great spot.

IMG_6026.jpgIMG_6061.jpgIMG_6123.jpgIMG_6080.jpgIMG_6131.jpg

The last stop in this section of the journey is Lima for a couple of days before flying south to Ushuaia, in Tierra Del Fuego, the very south of Argentina. This will be the final leg of our 10 month trip, we´ll be spending about a month and a half in Argentina and Chile before heading home to Sydney on 2 February.

Posted by mike_rona 14:05 Archived in Ecuador Comments (3)

The Galapagos, Ecuador

sunny 24 °C
View Mike and Rona's Big RTW Trip on mike_rona's travel map.

There is only one way to describe the Galapagos... Fantastic!

We did an 8 day cruise around the islands and had such a good time. It far exceeded our expectations ... And our expectations were pretty high. The scenery was really diverse and many areas reminded us of the west coast of Scotland, beautiful deserted islands with great coastal scenery.

IMG_5168.jpgIMG_5233.jpgIMG_5451.jpgIMG_5548.jpgIMG_5637.jpgIMG_5639.jpg

We chose to go on a boat called the Samba, a medium sized motor sailer taking a maximum of 14 passengers. We only had 12 of us on board.

We could not have been happier with our choice, our guide Juan was fantastic ... Really knowledgeable, great attitude to conservation and actively avoided the crowds (mainly by us having to get up at 5.30 every day... Worth it though to get the wildlife to ourselves most of the time).

PB151384.jpgIMG_5147b.jpg

We took loads of books with us thinking we'd have plenty of time to read.... Nope.. Too busy! Everyday consisted of a combination of walks ashore to see wildlife and birds, snorkelling trips and trips in the dinghy. We mainly sailed at night.

On our first day we visited South Plaza island, where large iguanas and sea lions were lazing around everywhere. You had to be careful not to stand on them because they sat in the middle of the path and didn't move when you approached them. We then sat on the cliff for ages watching huge numbers of sea birds including the enormous Frigate birds. Beautiful scenery.

PB111181.jpgIMG_4787.jpgIMG_4809.jpgIMG_5114b.jpg

The next day we visited the main port and the Charles Darwin Research station to learn about the islands. We saw mainly giant Tortoises.... Including the famous Lonesome George who is the last in his species. The tortoises are huge and not concerned about people at all. Spent sunset watching them settle down for the night in a big pond!

IMG_4835.jpgIMG_4906.jpgPB121223.jpg

That night we did a long overnight sail to Espanola island.... The sea was pretty rough and everyone was on sea sickness tablets... Stuff was flying around the cabin... it was so rough in our cabin with things flying everywhere in the dark that Rona couldn't sleep for laughing!

Started the next morning walking on a beautiful white sandy beach with a sea lion colony. We just sat and watched them for a couple of hours playing, fighting, sleeping.. they would come right up to us for a nosy, especially the baby sea lions... all the time turtles were swimming offshore ... it was difficult to know where to look there was so much going on! Then time for a swim and snorkel. Having just been to Belize we thought the snorkelling was pretty average at first.. then 4 sea lions decided to come and join us for a play... There's nothing like swimming along with a sea lion next to you staring straight at you as if to say... come on, do something interesting....Great!

IMG_4928.jpgIMG_4951.jpgIMG_4957.jpgPB131253.jpgIMG_5525.jpgIMG_5584b.jpg

Every day just kept getting better but it was always different. The animals are just not scared of people and generally ignored us... We have so many photos it's scary.

Our boat went around most of the islands and around the outside of the biggest island Isabela, where few boats go so we spent a few days with almost no other boats. A huge highlight was when we went snorkelling to see the turtles. We snorkelled into a sea pool where there must have been 10 or more turtles, we just floated around with them ... amazing experience!

IMG_5140b.jpg

IMG_5271.jpgIMG_5279.jpgIMG_5404.jpgIMG_5654.jpgPB151364.jpg

Hard to know where to begin with the rest of the wildlife.... Sat on the beach with the marine iguanas, watched an albatross feeding it's chick, went on a dinghy ride in the mangroves watching turtles floating past and mating. Watched white tipped reef sharks and penguins swimming.... Yip, altogether an absolute must destination for people who love wildlife!
IMG_5055b.jpgIMG_5067b.jpgIMG_5182.jpgIMG_5310.jpgIMG_5457.jpgPB151421.jpgPB161503.jpg

After we left the Galapagos we spent a couple of days in Quito with PGD... Post Galapagos Depression.... Missing the wildlife! Then we got our act together and headed to the Amazon for the next part of the trip.

Only 2+ months left to go now, time is flying past but we're having a ball!!!

Posted by mike_rona 13:56 Archived in Ecuador Comments (1)

Mexico, Belize & Guatemala

Pyramid_at..ihuacan.jpg
PB091140.jpg

With 5 weeks to travel in Central America, we really only had time for a bit of a snapshot view. We spent the first 3 weeks in Mexico and then a week each in Belize and Guatemala.

Mexico was absolute bliss to travel in compared to Madagascar... buses were big, comfortable, air-conditioned and had reclining seats! They had published timetables, you could book your ticket yourself online and the roads were tarmac! Trust me, after 3 months in Africa this was complete luxury!

We spent the first few days in Mexico city with serious jet lag having come from Africa. Wandered about in a jet lagged daze, then did a trip to visit the Teotihuacan pyramids, some of the largest pyramids in Mexico. It was a really impressive place, also managed to sample some Tequila along the way which was a bonus!

Overview_o..ihuacan.jpgMike_at_Teotihuacan.jpg

Spent 5 days in Oaxaca studying Spanish half a day each morning and doing the tourist stuff in the afternoons (visited Monte Alban, walked around Oaxaca, chilled out in the central square, etc). Mike hated every minute... Rona really enjoyed it. We learnt a lot and it was definitely the best thing to do with 4 months of Spanish speaking countries coming up!

We travelled south all the way to San Cristobal De Las Casas, which is up in the mountains. This involved an overnight bus and we both woke up with the cold.... slight niggling doubts about swine flu at this stage, but it went away in a couple of days so all was well! San Cristobal is a pretty little colonial style town with loads of churches, we went for a trip to the Sumidero Canyon where we did a boat trip through the canyon.

San_Cristo..estival.jpg

Then we headed off to Palenque to see the famous ruins, it´s a pretty spectacular place set in the middle of the jungle and next to some small waterfalls. There are huge pyramid-like structures and temples. We stayed at El Panchen, a great place in the middle of the jungle where we were treated to a live local band.

Palenque_T..iptions.jpgMike_at_Palenque.jpg

Did another overnight bus trip as Mexico is a big place and needed to cover a lot of ground. Went straight to Merida then Valladolid to see the archaeological site at Chichen Itza. Chichen Itza is an amazing place (although it was a little spoilt by the bus loads of tourists on day trips from Cancun... there must have been 30 buses there). It was one of the most spectacular sites we visited though.

Serpent_He..en_Itza.jpgChichen_Itza.jpg

After all this looking at ruins we decided it was time for a break and headed for the beach at Tulum. Tulum is a beautiful beach south of Cancun so not as busy. It was almost deserted when we were there but a bit expensive for our backpacking budget. We got almost a whole resort to ourselves which was great and indulged in some R&R, swimming, reading and chilling out by the beach.... of course we had to do the obligatory trip to the Tulum archaeological site whilst we were there, it is in a spectacular setting right next to the ocean and the whole site is covered in huge iguanas.

Tulum.jpgIguana_at_Tulum.jpgRona_kicki..t_Tulum.jpgTulum_beach.jpg

Headed south to Chetumal on the border of Belize, stayed there for the night, not a very exciting place. Set off early the next day to get the express bus across the border to Belize City. Bus didn´t turn up (even though we had bought tickets for it). Walked to another bus stop to get the local Beliza bus "chicken bus", first one broke down before we even left the terminal, so had to catch the normal bus (not the express), it stopped every 500 metres to pick up passengers and then dropped us off only half way to Belize City. Eventually got to Belize City at 5pm, having left our hotel at 9am and we only travelled about 100 miles!

On arrival jumped on the last water taxi out to the Cayes. We were going to stay on Caye Caulker for a couple of nights but it was such a relaxing place we stayed four. Just generally chilled out in hammocks, swam and went on a sailing / snorkelling tour one day. The snorkelling was great, saw turtles, sharks, rays and loads of fish.

Our_jetty_..Caulker.jpgCaye_Caulker_front.jpgSunset_at_..Caulker.jpg

Eventually had to drag ourselves back to the mainland where we went directly inland to San Ignacio. San Ignacio was hot, humid and reminded us of the Malaysian weather. So we headed off on a caving trip to get wet and cold... had to swim into the cave and wade through a river in the cave... great fun!

Entrance_t.._Belize.jpgCaving_San.._Belize.jpgSwimming_i..he_cave.jpg

Time to leave Belize and cross the border into Guatemala. Managed to avoid paying the ¨entry fee¨ into Guatemala by demanding a receipt... headed south to Flores. Flores was a nice little town but completely deserted of tourists... think we discovered why the following day when we went on our ¨sunrise¨tour of Tikal! It´s fair to say there´s not much point in getting up at 4am to see the sunrise when there´s a torrential rainstorm happening! Got absolutely soaked. Tikal was an amzing place on a huge scale... once we dried out we could enjoy it, saw loads of spider monkeys and also some other little animcal which we forget the name of.

Tikal_Overview.jpgMike_at_Tikal.jpgTemple_at_Tikal.jpgSpider_mon..t_Tikal.jpgwee_beastie_at_Tikal.jpg

The next day we headed off to see our last Mayan ruin at Yaxha, very different to Tikal, hardly any other tourists and the site has had little restoration work and is still covered in jungle.

Yaxha.jpg

We headed south on the overnight bus via Guatemala City and Antigua to get to Lake Atitlan. Was a day of dramas, got ripped off... thought we were busying tickets for the big fancy bus and ended up on the scummy bus... arrived at 5am and had to wait 2 hours on the shuttle bus, arrived in Antigua to get a direct shuttle to the lake... but the shuttle didn´t turn up... eventually got the local ¨chicken¨buses, which was fine... but we got off at the wrong stop... which turned out to be 8kms too early! It´s fair to say the patience was wearing a bit thin by this point.

The lake is very pictureque and surrounded by volcanoes...

Lake_Atitlan.jpgMaya_in_Guatemala.jpgView_of_Lake_Atitlan.jpg

Spent a few days at the lake then headed back to Antigua for our final few days in Guatemala. We are flying out for Ecuador tomorrow and spend the first week in the Galapagos islands... can´t wait!

PB071113.jpgPB081138.jpg

Posted by mike_rona 11:51 Comments (3)

Mexico, Belize & Guatemala Map


View Mike and Rona's Big RTW Trip on mike_rona's travel map.

We haven´t had time to update the blog yet, but here is the map of where we´ve got to. We are off on the overnight bus to Antigua tonight.

Posted by mike_rona 14:56 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

Madagascar


View Mike and Rona's Big RTW Trip on mike_rona's travel map.

madagascar_384.jpgmad16_boab.._sunset.jpgmad1mike_in_pirogue.jpgmad9_zebu_..bananas.jpg

Well Mike has been obsessed with Madagascar for years and we finally made it here!

Our lasting impression: lemurs, more lemurs, challenges of speaking French, and endless hours of hassle and discomfort travelling by 'taxi-brousse', otherwise known as small overcrowded minibuses! Roads are a nightmare and travel distances are huge. We had fun though but it was a pain getting around.

Madagascar has been very different to East Africa, kind of more like a cross between Indonesia and Africa but with a French twist! Great food!

Main reason for coming here was to see lemurs and we have seen loads! Can't believe how many different ones there are, we have some great pics to upload which will try to do soon. Very cute, lots of different species varying from something like a possum to more like a big koala.

mad19_diademed_sifaka.jpgmad17_redb..d_lemur.jpgmad13_red_lemur.jpgmad12_Sifaka.jpg

Spent the first week on a tour with a French couple, which proved interesting as our French isn't too good and their english was better than our french but not great (let's face it anyone's english would be better than mike's French!).

Travelled down the Tsiribinna river on a 3-day dugout canoe tour looking for lemurs, chameleons and generally just watching the world go by, camping by the river in the middle of nowhere at night.

mad6_rona_..pirogue.jpgmad3_pirogue_by_river.jpgmad4_pirog.._sunset.jpgmad5_campi..e_river.jpg

We then got a lift back to the road in a zebu cart (cart with old wooden wheels drawn by big cows with horns).

mad7_zebu_cart_ride.jpg

Then a 4x4 trip into the Tsingy park which is a massive area of wierd rock formations where you scramble through caves, tunnels and up ladders.

mad8_4wd_f..rossing.jpgmad10_Tsin..rossing.jpgmad11_mike_at_Tsingys.jpg

Then we did 8hrs in a 4x4 down sand tracks eventually arriving at the apparently famous 'Avenue De Boababs' to see the boabab sunset along with loads of other tourists, took the obligatory photos of course.

mad15_ave_de_boabab.jpgmad14_village_life.jpg

Then we had to get back to the starting point.... a 16hr taxi-brousse journey back to Antananarivo.

Spent a day recovering in Antananarivo before heading to the east in search of more lemurs in the rainforest and the 'Indri', biggest of all lemurs which looks like a small panda and makes weird screams in the forest. Amazing sound.

madagascar_452.jpgmad23_Indri.jpgmad24_Indri_close-up.jpgmad21_woolly_lemur.jpg

Spent a few days kicking back in the forest to conclude this part of our trip. Saw more than just lemurs....

mad20_boa.jpgmad22_tenrec.jpgmad18_pars..ameleon.jpg

Now back in Nairobi, for the 5th time in 3 months, waiting on our connection out to Mexico via London.

Will upload pics when somewhere with faster Internet connection.

Posted by mike_rona 08:10 Archived in Madagascar Comments (1)

Africa Photos & Map

... at long last


View Mike and Rona's Big RTW Trip on mike_rona's travel map.

Well we're back in Sydney for a week so thought we'd take this opportunity to sort out the photos on this site.... (when i say "we", I would mean the royal we... i.e.Rona.... fair to say Mike's contribution to the blog has been fairly minimal so far... or nonexistent!... oh, maybe that's not fair.... he helpfully comments from the sidelines sometimes!!!).

Also tried to upload some videos but have failed the initiative test obviously as I can't work out how to do it!

I've pasted most of the photos into the blog below but have also uploaded some more which you can see if you click on the photo gallery on the right hand side of this page.

Subscribe: If you want to receive an email to let you know when we've updated this blog then you can subscribe to updates. Just click the subscribe button on the right hand navigation bar of this webpage. (This also let's you write rude comments about our travels..... which we get to moderate and delete if we don't like them!).

Posted by mike_rona 21:29 Comments (0)

The Kenyan Coast

... back in kenya again...


View Mike and Rona's Big RTW Trip on mike_rona's travel map.

Flying back into Nairobi in Kenya it's fair to say we felt a lot more confident than our first visit nearly 2 months ago... our third time in Milimani backpackers... they were beginning to treat us like old friends.

We did a fleeting trip to Nairobi to dump all our gear, left the rucksacks at Miliamani and just took our day packs to the coast as lots of matatu rides (crazy packed to the brim Kenyan minibuses) to negotiate along the coast.

Caught the lunchtime bus out to Mombasa, a long 9 hour trip on not very great roads. Arrived in Mombasa at the beginning of Ramadan in the dark to check into our guest house.... which was conveniently across the road from the local mosque.... fair to say we didn't get much sleep over the next couple of days. Mombasa is very hot and humid and felt extremely like Malaysia... even the language sounds the same. Great street food, barbecued chicken, etc.

P8240320_edited-1.jpg

Spent a couple of days there before heading down the south coast. Caught a ferry across the channel then a matatu to Shimoni.... about an hours drive but took 2 and a half in our matatu which stopped every couple of km's to try and squeeze more passehgers onboard.... even when we had 2 people hanging out the door and double the normal capacity they still tried to squeeze more people in... crazy!

Arrived in Shimoni to be met by the usual touts offering boat trips to the island, got ripped off by a nice couple of island locals, but hey they were friendly about it! Wasini island is a small island surrounded by mangroves. Great spot, really quiet and we were the only guests.

Took a dhow trip out to the marine park the next day to go snorkelling, was really windy and not exactly what you'd call ideal snorkelling conditions with waves washing over your head! Anyway, trip was great fun, albeit the snorkelling was pretty average.

P8260343.jpgIMG_3118.jpgIMG_3144.jpgIMG_3073.jpgIMG_3105.jpg

The next day headed back up the coast via Mombasa to Watamu on the northern coast. We were told this was a bit of an italian beach resort.... no kidding.... locals were trying to talk to us in Italian in the streets and the local greeting to Mazungus was Ciao!

PS. Mazungu is a very frequent East African word directed towards us, according to wikipedia it means....
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Muzungu is a word that has become to mean "white person" in many Bantu languages of east, central and southern Africa. There are a number of variations depending on the location. It should be noted that any light-skinned non-asiatic person could be addressed as Mzungu/Muzungu in the region.

Most commonly used as.... "Muzungu, Mazungu, where are you going mazungu? taxi? Boda boda?" as you're walking down the street.

Fair to say that Watamu and Malindi have beautiful beaches but both places have just been turned into huge resort towns.... every inch of waterside space has a resort on it.... and not a resort that people on our budget can afford. So we didn't stick around for long. Couldn't step on the beach for 'beach boys', touts trying to sell you boat trips.

Got the 4-hour bus to Lamu that they warn you on the government websites not to get as they have been hijacked by somali pirates.... anyway, after 2 months in east africa we'd met tons of people who got the bus and the general consensus was that it was safe..... 2 hours after we got on the 2 armed guards joined us! Oops! Maybe it wasn't so safe?? Apparently the pirates aren't attacking the buses anymore!

So... arrived in Lamu safe and sound, what a great spot! The old town is full of small winding alleys with donkeys the main mode of transport. We were a bit worried that lamu might be a dissapointment and just a big beach resort like malindi, but far from it. What a great place. Went on a whole day dhow trip, sailing, fishing and snorkelling. The snorkelling was rubbish but we had a great time... one of the crew was catching fish with a spear!! huge fish too! Sailed back in the sunset and thought what a great place... why did we waste all that time on the other coastal places! Stayed in a great Swahili tower house with open air bedroom and roof terrace... fabulous!

IMG_3175.jpgP8300379_edited-1.jpgIMG_3191.jpgIMG_3205.jpgP8310382.jpgP8310385.jpgP9010433_edited-1.jpgIMG_3213.jpgP9010414.jpgP9010421_edited-1.jpg

Then back to reality... i.e. Nairobi for the fourth time.

Now we unfortuantely have to go back to Sydney for a short break as Mike has been called back to work, but only a short interlude then we're off to Madagascar!

We're sad to leave East Africa, had a great time hear and definately will be back.

Posted by mike_rona 06:53 Archived in Kenya Comments (0)

Rwanda


View Mike and Rona's Big RTW Trip on mike_rona's travel map.

Our trip in Rwanda didn't get off to the best start, got dropped off at a hostel recommended in the guidebook to find it was a complete dive and about twice the price we expected..... this marked the beginning of an overpriced trip around Rwanda. Costs were about double those in Uganda which played havoc with the budget.

Eventually found somewhere more decent in town. Rwandan ATM's don't accept international cards so we had to withdraw enough money from the bank in cash to last our whole trip in Rwanda! So we were walking around loaded up with loads of cash expecting to be mugged! Thankfully that didn't happen!

Booked a couple of nights in Kigali to have a look around and visit the memorial centre on the genoside. Unfortunately it was a public holiday and the memorial centre was shut... so end result was we were stuck in Kigali with not a lot to do.... and frankly Kigali is not the most exciting city we've ever visited.

We initially thought everyone in Rwanda was really unfriendly compared to Uganda..... until we eventually worked out they just couldn't understand us as they mainly speak French..... of course our french is pretty diabolical! So it took us a while to get to know people.

IMG_2907.jpg

We headed off to Gisenyi at Lake Kivu (on the border with the Congo), spent a couple of days there, debated about going to the Congo but glad we didn't as met other people who had been and they said the streets are full of soldiers and UN people!

Really didn't enjoy our first few days in Rwanda, it was ok but not really geared up for tourists, there wasn't much to see and do really.

We headed to Parc National De Volcans where we were to go gorilla trekking. Climbed a volcano there, it was like a mud slide the whole way up and down... poured with rain at the top and we couldn't even see the crater lake.... you get the general idea? Not the greatest of treks!

Eventually the gorilla trekking day came around so off we set to find the gorillas with some trepidation as thought we might have to walk through the mud for hours again.... found the gorrillas in 10 minutes! Great expereince, they are habituated to people so just sit around and generally ignore you, we were with a group of 10 including some baby gorillas.... very cute! A great experience which made up for the not very exciting time we had in Rwanda.

P8210246.jpg
IMG_2930.jpgIMG_2938.jpgIMG_2975.jpgP8210266.jpg

Yes... we couldn't resist the pic with the gorillas... just to show we were really there!!

P8210289.jpg

Headed back to Kigali, visited the memorial centre, pretty hard to come to terms with what happened in Rwanda. Difficult to understand how people can live side-by-side every day considering their past. There's evidence of the war everywhere with disabled people missing limbs all around Kigali in particular. Pretty upsetting really.

Flew back to Nairobi to head to the swahili coast.

Posted by mike_rona 05:19 Archived in Rwanda Comments (0)

Uganda


View Mike and Rona's Big RTW Trip on mike_rona's travel map.

We headed across the border into Uganda from Kenya not sure what to expect.... 3 weeks later and it's fair to say we had a ball in Uganda. Took a while to get into the swing of things. We really loved the people in Uganda, really friendly but not too pushy (like the kenyans were constantly trying to scam you... but the ugandans just seemed genuinly friendly).

P7270025.jpg
We started off in Jinja on the edge of Lake Victoria where the "source of the nile" is... whatever that may mean. We of course took the obligatory boat trip to see the source of the nile... not quite sure what we were looking at but it was a good trip anyway!

P7280034.jpg

We then went white water rafting down the Nile. What a great day.... grade 5 rapids, some of the biggest white water in the world! We even went over a waterfall! Rona was a bit freaked out at first but Mike of course thought it was fantastic! After getting thrown out the raft twice, body surfing down grade 5 rapids and getting rescued by a kayak twice then Rona got used to the fact that she wasn't going to drown! We've got a great mini video which we might try to upload to the site now we've worked out how to insert photos and videos properly. We're about 3 months behind with our photo uploading i'm afraid.

From Jinja, we went briefly to Kampala before joining a 3-day trip north with a bunch of other backpackers to Murchison Falls where we went on safari, a river cruise to the base of the falls and a walk along the top of the falls. Pretty impressive place but very hot and humid. Stayed in safari tents and there was a massive thunder and lightning storm one night at 3 in the morning.

IMG_2613.jpgP8010061.jpg

Everyone we met in Uganda seemed to be either working or volunteering for a Not for Profit... it's fair to say there seem to be an excessive number of small NFP's in Uganda.

Back to Kampala again... one of Uganda's many surprises was the great indian food, we had great food in Jinja and also Kampala... a real treat after eating bland beef stew in Kenya for weeks on end.

Caught the bus from Kampala to Fort Portal, met a spanish/polish couple on the bus who we travelled with for the next week.

From Fort Portal we got a "shared taxi"... basically a shared car to Kabale Forest National Park. the car had 3 rows of seats and we had 13 adults and 3 kids in it by the end! Unbelievable.... rucksacks were tied to the roof with rope and came off orange... it was a dirt road obviously. So we endured an hour in the car with people sitting on top of us, then walked 45 minutes through local villages with lots of friendly kids... to where we were camping at Chimps Nest. A great place on the edge of Kabale Forest.

P8050134.jpgP8030075.jpg

Got up early the next day to try to secure some "chimp trekking" permits. Had to take a "boda boda"..... Uganda's name for a motorbike taxi, down a dirt road 10kms to the national park. Turned up to find all the permits were fully booked but they felt sorry for us... so we went chimpanzee trekking through the forest.

Took us about an hour to find the chimps and we were only allowed to stay with them for an hour. It's a very wierd feeling watching a chimp shimmy down a tree then following it through the forest jungle! We spent ages following the chimps through the trees then they eventually stopped, just sat on the trees lounging around and watching us... who was watching who? Great experience. Cadged a lift back to the junction with the people on the posh tour... then walked back to the campsite. Met 3 troops of monkeys on the way back to the campsite jumping from the trees on one side of the road to the other.... great fun to watch... and we were the only people there.

IMG_2690.jpgIMG_2674.jpgIMG_2760.jpg

The next day headed back to Fort Portal... took a private car for the 4 of us this time as decided we could do without people sitting on top of us for the whole trip.... Then caught the bus south to Kasese before getting yet another "shared taxi" to the base of the Rwenzori mountains.

Stayed at Ruboni Community campsite, a place run by the local community for the benefit of the community. It was in a stunning location at the base of the mountains surrounded by hills and terraced farmland. Spent a few days there hillwaking and visiting the local village where we got to see people basket making, farming and met the "story teller" who told us a few stories about the history of the tribe, etc. Really lovely place, could have stayed for ages.

P8070182.jpgP8070158.jpgP8070181.jpgP8070175.jpgP8060151.jpgP8060144.jpg

Headed back to Kasese town, a not very exciting place, where we aimed to get the bus south to Kabale and Lake Bunyonyi. Were told 5 different answers by 5 different people about what time the bus left in the morning. In the end turned up at 8am, bus came at 10.30.... packed to the rafters of course. We parted company from our new travel buddies as they were going on safari and we had pretty much had our safari quota for one month.

Headed to Lake Bunyonyi, a very pretty lake, where we went on a dugout canoe trip and visited a market where everyone arrived with all the goods in canoes... have some great pics so will try to upload soon... spent a few days kicking back, watching the otters and the birdlife.

IMG_2862.jpgIMG_2808.jpgIMG_2816.jpgIMG_2825.jpgP8100184.jpgP8100188.jpgP8100194.jpgP8110211.jpg

We were sort of killing time by this point as we had secured gorilla tracking permits for Rwanda but not for another week so were sort of hanging around waiting before crossing the border.

Arranged a lift across the border with the newspaper delivery guy... who told us we didn't need to wait in the queues since we were with him??? Anyway, after a bit of queue skipping we got across the border pretty quickly and arrived in Rwanda.

Very sad to leave Uganda, had a really good time here and really liked the whole feel of the place, really friendly and nice people. Lots to see and do.

Posted by mike_rona 07:22 Archived in Uganda Comments (0)

Kenya


View Mike and Rona's Big RTW Trip on mike_rona's travel map.

Well only about 6 weeks behind on the blog entries now. It's fair to say that internet connections in Africa are easily available but ... the connection is so slow that you want to scream! Uploading photos is virtually impossible and finding a computer that has the right software to view everything??... a challenge. It takes ten minutes just to get your email to load.... fair to say we're learning a bit of patience on this trip! Or trying to!

Had a fantastic time in Kenya. A bit scared on arrival in Nairobi (otherwise locally known as Nairobbery! But managed to survive intact).

Started off with a 9-day safari to ease us in gently to the pace of life. Visited the Masai Mara, saw loads of animals including cheetah and lion and all the usual safari things.... would upload some photos... but... see note above! (10-9-09- have updated photos today, R)

Picture_728.jpgPicture_836.jpgPicture_779.jpgPicture_854.jpgPicture_808.jpgPicture_785.jpg

Visited a Masai village which was really interesting. Very hard to believe people still live like they do, in mud huts basically. The people were lovely, really friendly and happy with their lot in life.

P7131086.jpgP7131089.jpg

Then we went cycling around Hells Gate National Park next to giraffes and buffalos.... quite scary cycling past a herd of buffalo i have to tell you. We had the worst bikes on the planet, no gears and chains kept coming off..

Picture_939.jpgWent on a boat cruise to see the hippos. Then on another safari in Samburu national park.... you get the general idea.... more elephants, giraffe, camping in the middle of nowhere... great!
P7161114.jpg

So after lazing around in a safari van for 9-days (basically a 2WD minibus that went places we'd be scared to take a 4WD!).... we decided it was time for some exercise and climbed Mt Kenya, Africa's second highest mountain and nowhere near as busy as Kilimanjaro.

Mt Kenya is a beautiful mountain and we had great weather the whole 5 day trip. The first 2 days were pretty easy but then the altitude started kicking in. Last day was a challenge. Altogether a great expereince and fabulous scenery.

Picture_022.jpgP7221159.jpgPicture_047.jpg

We then headed back to Nairobi for the start of the real trip.. i.e. no more tour guises, just us. Caught the overnight train to Kisumu on the western side of kenya, got dinner on the train, travelled first class in our own carriage (it's fair to say there was nothing first class about it... lights didn't work, food was terrible, train was rocking all over the place... but it was a fun thing to do).

From there we got the bus across the border to Uganda... but that will have to wait for another day as been stuck in this internet cafe for far too long already... besides it must be beer 'o' clock by now!

Posted by mike_rona 06:43 Archived in Kenya Comments (2)

Travel Map


View Mike and Rona's Big RTW Trip on mike_rona's travel map.

We've updated our travel map so you can see where we've been..

Posted by mike_rona 02:15 Comments (0)

Switzerland, Spain & France

... yup better late than never... eventually updating the blog..

sunny
View Mike and Rona's Big RTW Trip on mike_rona's travel map.

We got too busy travelling and enjoying ourselves to sit in internet cafes updating this blog... so here's the summary version....

After Austria spent about 10 days in Switzerland, based in Lausanne, Interlaken, Zermatt and Lake Geneva. saw some fantastic scenery, took the train up to the top of the Junfrauchoch (spelling?) saw the north face of the eiger, climbed some great hills.... albeit still too much snow. Took the highest funicular in Europe at Zermatt, fabulous to be up in the snow surrounded by the Matterhorn and other mountains and glaciers.

P6020825.jpgP5300755.jpgP5280694.jpgP5170627.jpgMikes_phot..-09_560.jpgMikes_phot..-09_545.jpgMikes_phot..-09_535.jpgMikes_phot..-09_503.jpgMikes_phot..-09_499.jpgMikes_phot..-09_450.jpgMikes_phot..-09_421.jpgMikes_phot..-09_391.jpgMikes_phot..-09_366.jpgMikes_phot..-09_358.jpg

Rona very excited to see marmots... yes.. simple things!

Then flew from Geneva to barcelona as beginning to run out of time in Europe. By this time languages beginning to drive us nuts... been speaking Italian, Greek, serbian, Italian again, German, French now Spanish! Spanish definitely the easiest.
Spent 10 days travelling along the spanish pyrenees then popped over the border into France to visit the French pyrenees at Bareges.... definitely a bit of a mountain theme happening here...

Mikes_phot..-09_569.jpg

Spent a week or so travelling around France, carcasonne was great... beautiful old walled city. had to visit Bordeaux of course to sample some wine.... wine was ok but seriously overpriced... 85 euros per bottle or more and tasted the same as a $20 bottle in oz....

Mikes_phot..-09_592.jpgMikes_phot..-09_622.jpgMikes_phot..-09_631.jpg

headed north to the loire valley to visit castles and cycle along the loire, nice area, keen to go back there. Then off to Paris, great city, really impressed, our favorite city in Europe.

Mikes_phot..-09_721.jpgMikes_phot..-09_705.jpgMikes_phot..-09_640.jpgMikes_phot..-09_638.jpg

From France flew back to Manchester to catch up with family and friends in the Lake District. There was a heatwave in the UK and we even went swimming in lake coniston! And... it was actually warm in the lake! Great time catching up with everyone and generally kicking back before Africa.

Posted by mike_rona 01:56 Archived in Switzerland Comments (0)

Croatia, Italy and into Austria

yup... 3 countries in 1 week

sunny

ok... we´re now getting lazy and combining 3 countries into one entry!! We didn´t come on holiday to sit in front of a computer and beginning to think this blog was a stupid idea!! Besides... Mike refuses to write any of it and just sits in the chair next to me helpfully "commenting"!! but yes... we are still talking!

Enjoyed Croatia, albeit have seen enough walled cities to last us a while! the islands were nice did a bit of cycling and generally chilled out between walking around walled cities...

Got yet another overnight train, this time to Venice.... yet more immigration posts in the middle of the night... getting used to it now... no sleep that is... between the tent and the trains....

Rona loved Venice.... Mike not so sure.... very expensive for us poor backpackers though!

IMG_1515.jpgIMG_1495.jpgIMG_1453.jpgIMG_1447.jpg

So we headed north to Cortina in the Dolomites (border of Italy and Austria). fabulous mountains and great scenery..... unfortunately we were there about a month too early as tons of snow and couldn´t get above the tree line.... entire town had shut down.. great walking around so will definately return one day. Loads of long distance trackes at high altitude with handy mountain huts .... fully catered to stay in ... sounds like my kind of walking (rona).

Mikes_phot..-09_351.jpgMikes_phot..-09_358.jpg

Chucked it with rain one day... nearly reverted to seeing a movie in Italian... but decided we weren´t that desperate yet so sat in the tent in the rain instead! Yup, that was a fun day! Only our second day of rain in 7 weeks so we can´t really complain!

dolomites2.jpg
We then headed across the border to the Austraian Dolomites, to Lienz.... fabulous weather, really hot... great place, camped in a valley surrounded by snow capped mountains.... chairlifts all shut.... same old, same old story.... we´re hear a month too early!! But we still had fun, went cycling instead!

Currently in Salzburg..... staying in a hostel with a bunch of 20 something yr old´s folk.... god it makes you feel old..... been having a great time here .... Mike got soaked in the trick fountains today... hee, very funny! Found a huge beer garden.... met a few locals and had a bit of a laugh...

P5220650.jpgMikes_phot..-09_391.jpgMikes_phot..-09_366.jpg

Supposed to be off to Innsbruck to the mountains next... but might be going via Munich, not sure yet.... just kind of making it up as we go along!

Will try to update our travles every now and then...

Rona and Mike

Posted by mike_rona 12:36 Archived in Austria Comments (0)

The Balkans

Montenegro and Croatia


View Mike and Rona's Big RTW Trip on mike_rona's travel map.

Spent the day in Belgrade yesterday, fely great to be on the road again, probably stayed in Greece a bit too long. Didnt help the weather was pretty cool.

The people in Belgrade and now in Montenegro have been fantastic, really friendly and helpful. the train stations actually have timetables ... in english too... yippee! How easy is that!

the sleeper was fun, albeit exhausting as kept being woken up in the middle of the night to go in and out of immigration posts!

Got to Bar on a Sunday, everthing shut! Decided to move on. caught the bus up the coast to Sveti Stefan and Budva, beautiful stretch of coastline with old fort cities and beautiful bays. Great weather here too, much warmer than Greece.

Spent a couple of days in Kotor where we did some hill walking and climbed around the old city walls.... got down off the hill to great red wine and pizza! fait to say weve sampled our fair share of red wine in the last month and its all been pretty good! Mikes been on a bit of a beer tasting also!

Moved on to Dubrovnik in Croatia, nice old walled city, then caught the boat today to Korcula island. Were going to spend a couple of days here before heading up to Hvar then up the coast to get to Italy.

IMG_1419.jpgIMG_1342.jpgIMG_1335.jpgIMG_1315.jpgIMG_1303.jpgIMG_1260.jpg

Excuse dodgy spelling... computer keyboard proving to be a challenege with letters all the wrong way round... promise we.ll try and post some pics soon.

Posted by mike_rona 09:50 Archived in Croatia Comments (0)

(Entries 1 - 15 of 19) Page [1] 2 »