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Tom's Travels 2007

a travel blog by tevans1

Hello there all! Welcome to my travel blog, detailing all of my travel tales from New Zealand and South America. To those of you that said I'd never write one- ha! I have. To those of you that said I'd never write one each week- well done! Was never really gonna happen.
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New Zealand, South Island- Parties, Poems and Pies

Christchurch, New Zealand

The first thing I did upon arrival in NZ was went straight to the hoody shop to kit myself out for the NZ summer- which I have since discovered is fairly similar to Scotland's. We have had some rain every single day for the last two weeks, and often very little else other than rain. This plays havoc somewhat with activities which are weather dependent- which are most of them.

Anyway, after a day acclimatising to being on my own and genuinely living out of a backpack rather than living in cushty appartments in Oz, I got on the Kiwi Experience bus from Christchurch on Friday 12th Jan.

The bus goes up the east coast of teh South Island and then around the West Coast to Queenstown, where I am now for the next few days. To run through the whole itinery would be too boring to read (and much to boring to write..) so I will give a few highlights.

Kaikora- Dolphin Swimming.
Went out in a boat and find a pod of about 200 dolphins (not something I previously knew existed) then jump in a nd go swimming with the pod and play with them. Very cool- but after about 10 minuts you have to get back in the boat and drive past the pod as they are wild so constantly on the move.

Abel Tasman National Park- Kayak Safari.
Two lads and I took these three Irish girls (from here on referred to as "the Irish") out on a sea kayaking trip round this gorgeous national park on the northern tip of the South Island. I sensibly took all of my worldly possesions and put them in the "waterproof section" of my kayak at the back- our guide, Oreo (his parents liked cookies), having given us a 99.9% guarantee that we wouldn't capsize. As you can imagine, within 5 minute we were the 1 in a 1000 that prevented the 100% guarantee. My passport has just about dried now...
The other highlight of the trip was the tie-4-kayaks-together- and hold a big sail up technique so you fly home with no effort- which having paddled an amusing, but paddle shy Irish passenger out into the wind and waves- was a most welcome surprise.

Franz Josef Glacier Hiking
When we left Nelson, "NZ's sunniest place" as our driver shouted at us over the thunderous noise of the rain on the roof of the bus, we were forecast some excellent weather for our trip down the West Coast.
Arned with this information we booked a heli-hike over the Franz Josef Glacier. Unfortunately, the forecast weather actually lasted half a day, so our heli-hike was cancelled. This meant we were forced to stay an extara day in Franz to hike up the Glacier the day after most of our bus had moved on down the coast.
Anyway, the Glacier was well worth staying for. It is a "dry Glacier", which for the non-Glacier experts amongst you, means it is not surrounded by snow, and thus looks bizarre surrounded by greenery and rocks etc. Anyway, I spent a day on this Glacier open mouthed just staring at the extraordinary scenery. Never seen anything like it- big waves of white blue ice getting progressively higher as you go up throught the Glacier which is 13k long and 800 m deep in places.

"P" Party fancy dress
One of the stops on the bus is at a little place in the middle of nowhere between the sea and a lake, where it is just Kiwi bus people that go there. Everyone has a big dinner, gets dressed up and then has a big party in the evening. Our party was a "P" party- so I bought a white sheet and some marker pens and went as a poem about all the people on the bus. As expected for a poet with my ryhming ability I took the first prize- a 200m canyon swing worth $160- which I am about to go and do now ( doesnt bode too well for my one remaining pair of clean pants...) Anyway, I'm thinking that I may have technically earnt more than Example from rhyming in the last week...? Chelsea's answer to Fulham's Example!

permalink written by  tevans1 on January 21, 2007 from Christchurch, New Zealand
from the travel blog: Tom's Travels 2007
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New Zealand part 2

Rotorua, New Zealand

Milford Sound

Milford Sound is a fjord- despite the name- which has steep Glacier carved cliffs plummeting into a deep harbour. It is surrounded by rainforest, and is in an area where rainful is measured in metres rather than milimetres. Luckily for us we got one of the few days in a year when it was sunny. Mitre Point whish is in the photo, is 1600 metres high- higher than Ben Nevis. Our cruise driver told us how one man climbed it and came down in less than 8 hours once, although his explanation of how he did it ("what can we say guys- he's a Kiwi") sounded somewhat strange given that he was a Scouser...
The waterfall here is 150 meters high, and looks like a spiders web in this picture

Invercagill and the South Coast

Mark Twain or someone similar descibed Invercagill as "the arsehole of the earth" or something along those lines. This was not entirely unfair- it was not fun. We (my new Brazilian friends and I) hired a car to travel round for a couple of days and the picture above- taken immediately after a shark attack on the south coast was about the only highlight.

Queenstown (part 2)

The picture above sums up my return couple of days in Queenstown quite well. There was a large group of us, many of whom were either born with, or had acquired, a taste for tequila- in large quantities. As a result we did a lot of partying and the credit card came out a lot (see above). A lot of fun. In terms of achievements, I did manage to go River Boarding (like white water rafting but on a body board) one day. This is a lot of fun and can also be used as an effective hangover cure.


I left Queenstown and a lot of my Kiwi Experience pals for some well earned detox days in Wellintgton with the Janes'. Young Jed(i) proved to have perception well in advance of his 5 years by telling his mum after just a few hours of knowing me how "cool" i was. Out of the mouths of babes... In Wellinton, other than not drinking and going for a couple of runs, I played golf (badly- not unexpected in the "windy city"), valued a hair salon for Rebecca's friend (always using my expertise to help others...) and watched a lot of footage of me and brov from 1987 that's been tarnsferred from beta max to the modern world. From the footage, 1987 seemed to be a year dominated by bouncy castles, building igloos and wearing red trousers. No wonder Jed thinks I'm cool.


Headed north from Wellington on Friday morning and have since skydived from 15,000 feet above the lake, which was awesome and yesterday walked the Tongerero crossing (Mount Doom from LoTR's). As the pictures show, it was absolutely awesome- 19km's but worth all of it. Even for me that prepared for the 5.30 alarm call by going out til half 3... I also discovered the sepia setting on my camera yesterday- so there's a lot of arty shots like this!

Just got to Rotorua- the geyser capital of New Zealand. It smells of sulphur. This is good if you want to squeeze out cheeky farts, but less good if you don't like the permanent smell of cheeky farts all day...
Tomorrow I go boack water rafting and then fly out of Auckland on friday. All good!

permalink written by  tevans1 on February 3, 2007 from Rotorua, New Zealand
from the travel blog: Tom's Travels 2007
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Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

The most noticable thing that struck me upon arrival in South America was my utter inability to either understand or comunnicate with locals. Obviously the fact that they speak a foreign language came as no surprise, but the genuine lack of English has come as a shock. Still, just 3 weeks after arriving in Brazil, I have mastered at least 21 words (I know this as we had it as a category in categories recently), which means by the time I am 2,759 years old- I may well be fluent.

My first South American port of call was Santiago for a night. A city more developed and altogether less scary that I had imagined. I made a few friends and enjoyed dinner, drinks and a club before allowing myself the luxury of 3 hours sleep prior to leaving for Rio the next morning.

I say Rio. My flight actually went via Buenos Aires so I spent most of the day travelling. With the 2 hour loss of time by virtue of flying east, despite leaving Santiago quite early in the morning, by the time I got to Rio the sun was setting over the city. This meant for spectacular views from the plane window, but on the ground upped the scary stakes a few notches.

Prepared as ever, I failed to make a note of my hostel address or in fact anything that may be of use on arrival. So I first had to locate an internet cafe, get my address, then debate a 70Real taxi (nearly 20 quid- and apparently dad´s account doesnt work in Rio...) or a 6Real bus. Uncharacteristically I selected option b- which saved me cash but caused much traumatised sweating as I searched through the Botofogo streets in the dark on a saturday night with all my wordly belongings on me. Nothing happened to me, but I was dripping with sweat through nerves (and it was about 100 degrees) when I arrived at my hostel. Taxis are the new golden rule when carrying all my stuff.

Rio highlights included-

Christ the Redeemer and Sugar Loaf

These are the two most touristy things that are done in Rio. The statue of christ on the top of the Cocovarde gives panaramic views of the whole city and the sugar loaf at sunset lets you watch the sun set over christ and the southern beaches- Copacabana and Ipanema. Rio is undoubtedly the most beutiful setting for a city I have ever seen. Having said this, the buildings are not pretty and look like they could use a clean. But it is still spectacular- the mountains, sea and islands in the bay. People seem to settle where the geography allows.


Carnavale in Rio comprises a lot of blocos (which are street parties with parades etc) and other concerts, beach parties etc but the most formal event is in the Sambadrome where the 13 best samba schools are allowed to parade for an hour or so in front of over 80,000 people. The sambadrome is effectively a 1km street with stands all down it. 6 schools parade on sunday and 7 on monday- the thing lasts all night. Literally. 8pm til 6am. The locals are mad for it. I thought it would be all tourists- but not at all. The locals are dancing away- all the family- for the whole night. We only had the stamina for 4 schools on the night we went, which I still felt was commendable. If you dont understand the words or the theme of the samba, it is quite easy to make the case that if you´ve seen one parade you´ve seen them all, as some of our hostel buddies did. Still very spectacular, over 35,000 people parade each night too- and half of them leave their gear behind afterwards so you can really get involved on the street at the end. All good fun.

Favela Tour

Favela is the name of a shanty town or equivalent where Rio´s poorest 20% of inhabitants live. Having watched City of God in our hostel, I felt that I should go on a tour and visit one. We went to Roshina- which holds 200,000 people and is the biggest in Latin America. We had an exceptional guide, who made us feel safe and told us a lot about the various aspects of favela life. Of particular interest to me, were the proximity of very affluent appartments to the favelas- literally next door (although I suppose London has shades of this too), the house prices 5 to 80 thousand Real in the one we were in (this is up to 20k pounds) quite a lot, due to the proximity to the city apparently, also the drugs and the gangs that control them. Apparently there are 3 gangs in control in Rio- this one was run by ADA as you can tell from the grafiti. 3 million dollars of drugs pass through it every month- and the police basically dont go in. 2 years ago, 40 people turned up in vans with machine guns trying to steal power away, but didnt manage it. Stakes are quite high.


Despite the warnings of our hostel staff that we would be ´crazy to go on our own´- I reasoned that years of schooling at Chelsea Millwall fistures and the like, would adequately prepare me for a local Rio derby at the Maracana. We went to watch (our beloved) Botafogo against Flamengo in the pouring rain in front of around 50,000 people. Interestingly, even though there was lots of aggro between the fans- gun shots at the metro station after the game etc- as a gringo, it was one of the safest I´ve felt as no one is interested in the foreigners. Just each other and nailing one another. Game was a 3-3 thriller and we were only denied a winner by the linesman in the last minute. From a footballing perspective, I noted Brazilians cant defend- and the Makelele position doesnt seem to have been invented here...

permalink written by  tevans1 on March 2, 2007 from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
from the travel blog: Tom's Travels 2007
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Buenos Aires, Argentina

Foz Íguazu

In my extremem ignorance about the falls, I assumed that Foz d´Iguazu literally meant "Iguazu Falls". Turns out this is not the case, it means "End of the Iguazu River", which is the reason the town is 20km or so from the falls. On discovery of this fact I began something of a rant about "biggest tourist attractions in Brazil" and "you could at least put the town near it" etc etc. However, this only highlighted further gaping holes in my local knowledge, namely the existence of the world´s largest dam, and one of the 7 modern wonders of the world, Itaipu. The constuction of this dam in the late 70´s to early 90´s is the reason Foz dÍguazu´s population swelled from 35 to 400 thousand, and that the waterfall is not central to everything that happens there. Even when the 3 gorges dam is completed in China, Itaipu will still produce more electricity than it over the course of a year. All of Paraguay´s and one third of Brazil´s.

Anyway, enough of the history, on the same day we visited the Brazilian side of the falls and did a guided tour of Itaipu, which took us into Paraguay as well. The following day we left Brazil for the Argentinean side of the falls, so got three countries ticked off in 2 days which was nice. The Argentinean side of the falls are much more spectacular than the Brazilian side since you get much closer and can stare into the abyss that is the "Devil´s Throat". We also took a boat ride under some of the falls which was a bit like going on the log flume at Thorpe Park, but got you wetter. Still all in all, a world class tourist attraction.

Buenos Aires

After Iguazu, I spent just over 2 weeks in Buenos Aires. Primarily learning, perfecting and then forgetting a lot of Spanish, but also partying a fair bit. I mean "necessito practico mi Espanol con las Portenas" or something. Anyway, all good fun. Had a class of 6 of us in Spanish, all of whom were starting from scratch. Throughout the week everyone had moments, my favourite of which came from Australian surfer (and professional daydreamer) Troy.

During our "play" we had written starrinng my mate Dan as the taxi driver, and Troy and myself as foreign tourists learning Spanish, we were all set to steal the glory over our fellow classmates, with a well written (comedy sketch about girls in various countries and our taxi driver sleazing on them) and expertly acted scene. However, Troy had other ideas and in act 1 scene 1, he realised that him having only written down his parts of the play, he had no idea when he needed to come in. When, on the third time of asking, "el taxista" said, "HOLA, TROY, DE DANTE ESTES" he finally picked up, but our hopes of amateur-dramatic-pigeon-spanish glory had well and truly gone.

Other noteworthy things about BA (the city not the airline, as one 18 year old numpty couldnt work out from the context) include:

Tango- they love it. Managed to drag Cuffe there to Cafe Tortoni, this great old French cafe place on my last night in the city. Would have been poor form had we not made it.

City of the Dead, Racoleta- where Evita's grave is. No one is buried, all just in houses, with coffins just sat there. Some open. Some in drawers. Lot of cats around. I´m a dogs man myself.

Boca and the Juniors- one of the things I´m never likely to miss is a trip to the local football team. Especially when its Boca Juniors. Saw them and River play (separately, not together unfortunately, missed that by a week), and I´m definitely on the Boca side of the city. The area where the ground is too is full of coloured houses too. Very exciting.

Going out- lots of great clubs in BA, by far the most European city in South America. Lots of attractive girls but everyone refuses to go to clubs before 2.30 or 3 o clock. You can imagine the impact that this timetable had on my midday Spanish classes. We were also there for St Patricks day, and I am now slightly more famous than before as I was filmed on national Argentine tv, drinking, looking uncool waving at the camera, trying to pretend we were all having a great time for Paddy´s day. Yet more fame heading in my direction.

permalink written by  tevans1 on April 1, 2007 from Buenos Aires, Argentina
from the travel blog: Tom's Travels 2007
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Torres Del Pines

Puerto Natales, Chile

After Jamie´s arrival on Saturday night, we left BA on Monday morning to do some trekking and outdoor activities in Patagonia. A good way of keeping him off the booze and taking some pretty pictures if nothing else I reasoned. Monday morning arrives and Jamie has somewhat overlooked his responsibilities to the alarm-setting team, and has made us late for our plane. We frantically check out and rush to the airport, only to discover everyone else about is showing very little concern at the fact that our plane is due to leave in 25 minutes. An hour and a bit later, still very much on terra firma in BA, we discovered why. Aeroleneas Argentineas, now Spanish owned, much to the annoyance of some locals, doesnt seem to operate punctual flights. Ever. They also lost Jamies luggage more amusingly.

Anyway, we arrived at El Calafate at 6pm Monday evening to our hire car, where the lady informed us in no uncertain terms would we make it to Chile before the border closed at 10. This obviously riled the macho elements of Jamie and I (unlike muggers or wasps which rile the much larger wimpish elements in the pair of us) and we made it our goal to hoon it to the border and prove the car lady wrong. So we did, in our little car, which had 85,000 miles on the clock, a non functioning driver side door, and so many cuts and bruises that the man gave up writing them down on our pre-hire scan of the car. We made it to Chile, via some beautiful scenery and sunsets in an area which is closer to the South Pole than Buenos Aires (maybe).

On arrival in Puerto Natales, which is the gateway to the famous Torres del Pins national park, we had a day to acclimatise (buy some stupid hats and drink wine), and then set of for the Torres. One of the most difficult one day treks I have ever done. One of (the 3).

Had a lucky day with the weather, and saw the Torres in all their glory. We even ran down large portions at pace, eventually breaking the 6 hour mark for the 8 hour trek. Strong apes. Exceptional day, almost ruined by the friendly petrol station attendant who had decided to go on holiday and not tell anyone, in the only petrol station for about 100k. Luckily we nursed our little car 100k´s in the worng direction at optimal consumption speed and she just made it. Although, having got up at 6.30am and arrived home at 2am the following morning, when one of my contacts fell out on the approach back to El Calafate after 7 hours at the wheel, I thought it best not to alert the other passengers of the fact. Especially the ones in the back with no seatbelts.

permalink written by  tevans1 on April 10, 2007 from Puerto Natales, Chile
from the travel blog: Tom's Travels 2007
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El Calafate, Argentina

Having arrived back from Torres the previous day at 2am, we were stright into action the next day at 7, to make our 8.30 leave for the Todos Glaciers tour round Laco Argentinea. This was effectively us and a bunch of old people sat on a sea cat all day, trying to avoid icebergs and look at Glaciers. Both of which we achieved successfully, but as you can imagine post trekking, we all managed to thrash out some Zzz´s on the trip too...

Particularly interesting on the trip is the milky colour of the water (GCSE geography 4 marks available), and the temparature- around 2 degrees by the Glacier faces. Apparently giving one around 2 minutes before dieing if you fall in. Don´t worry, no one has. It was my first question to our guide.

After reaching port again at we drove to the most famous of the Glaciers in the region, Perito Merino. This is a step above the other Glaciers as large chunks fall off regularly and you can see it from land too. Really quite spectacular, although Jamie and I managed to be turning away as the largest chunk fell off when we were there. Sods law. If you´re ever there they also do very tasty coffee and chocolate. Nyum nyum.

The following day we treated ourselves to a lie in and a long lomu (steak) luncheon before heading to the airport to fly back to BA. As expected our flight was 5 hours late and so Jamie and I took the mature approach of drinking through the problem, with the help of his highly original "Astrological Phenomena" top trumps. Those around us enjoyed several rye grins as we read out exactly why the "milky way" beats "the meteor" and so on. I think they were grinning anyway.

We also met a dutch couple in the airport who we chatted to for hours outside, who insisted on taking us out in Buenos Aires for lunch the following day to meet their 18 year old daughter and friends. All highly amusing and random. Daughters mates didnt show mind.

permalink written by  tevans1 on April 10, 2007 from El Calafate, Argentina
from the travel blog: Tom's Travels 2007
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Mendoza, Argentina

permalink written by  tevans1 on April 10, 2007 from Mendoza, Argentina
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Salta, Argentina

permalink written by  tevans1 on April 10, 2007 from Salta, Argentina
from the travel blog: Tom's Travels 2007
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