Summary of the trip: Pacific Islands and Australia

I was always going to give some awards at the end of my trip, but so they stay relevant I am going to do some as I go along. So I’m going to split my trip into thirds. The next logical third is the Pacific Islands including Easter Island, Tahiti, New Zealand and Japan (technically its an island chain at least mostly in the Pacific.) as well as Syndey Australia. I know I haven’t posted my final Tokyo post yet, that is still to come after this one.

Best site

Milford Sound, South Island, New Zealand, Milford Sound was an absolutely stunning place to visit and it was well worth doing the excellent overnight cruise on the Fjord.

Best museum

A Bomb Museum, Hiroshima, Japan, though flawed as I covered in the Hiroshima post the A bomb museum was very good and covered the important facts about the first use of the nuclear bomb. All of the signs were also in English and the audio tour covered most of it and was available in 20 or so languages.

Best tour company

Oz Trails, Sydney for managing to organise and excellent and full one day tour of the Blue Mountains in Australia for a reasonable price as well.

Best city

Tokyo, Japan for its excellent public transport, great sites and it appears to have strong nightlife as well (though I didn’t experience it myself.). It is also a modern and vibrant city.

Best non-Family accommodation

Te’ora, Easter Island, this award has been practically guaranteed since Easter Island, but Te’ora was amazing and I would definitely go back for the accommodation, unfortunately Easter Island is really the sort of place you only go once, I recommend it to all levels of traveller, whether you stay in youth hostels (well it is a little expensive) or the Peninsula.

Best food for under US$25

Creviche in the blue restaurant on Easter Island, assuming you stay at the recommended accommodation this should be enough to go on, creviche on Easter Island was absolutely delicious.

Honourable Mention

Okomomiyaki, Hiroshima, although I didn’t speak English at the restaurant this was absolutely amazing, and was better than the Tokyo version which I had today (and haven’t discussed yet).

The Lee, Mohan and Tim award for the best burger

Burgers seem to be turning into a staple on this trip and in honour of my time in Chicago when I had four burgers in six days with the guys from Chicago (including two for two successive meals.

Burger Hut at Le Petit Village, Mooera for being absolutely delicious and a bargain for Tahiti.

Honourable Mention for South America

As the award started in Chicago, the USA is exempt so it goes to the BK Argento, Argentina.

Best nightlife

Queenstown, New Zealand, because I actually went out there, and unlike Sydney it had character and wasn’t full of non-descript hotel bars.

Best Activity

Shotover Jet, Queenstown for being great fun (especially the 360 degree spins), not too expensive for New Zealand and for finishing just when you wanted it to.

Honourable mention for the Americas

Mountain biking in Arequipa, Peru which was great fun on bumpy roads, and I even managed not to fall off!.

Friendliest People

The Japanese the Japanese, especially those I have stayed with have all been very friendly, even when there is a language barrier between us.

Best Transportation Company

Japan Rail, Japan, any train company which can make you forget to photograph something as cool as the Shinkansen because it “just works” so well is incredible, every train has been virtually on time in the entire country and the transportation system here in Japan is nothing short of incredible. Japanese trains are how it should work everywhere.

Best bargain

The free temples in Japan for often being as good as some of those you have to pay to enter.

Biggest rip-off

Tahiti for being totally overpriced for what it was. It was even a total rip-off in comparison to the utterly remote Easter Island, and Japan whose currency has gained 70% over the pound this year. This is really reflected in it only having 2.5 times the tourist numbers of Easter Island which is much harder to get to.

The Patrick Levy award for cinematography

When I went to South East Asia my friend Patrick (who doesn’t need much sleep) would watch films before going to sleep in the evening. Therefore I am dedicating this award to him. However even though films you watch while travelling are usually bad I’m giving this award to the genuinely most entertaining film.

The winner is Dan in Real Life for being the only romantic comedy I have ever seen that didn’t disappoint its genre by being a) funny and b) about real love.

Honourable Mention

The counterfeiters which was very interesting, but a little short for my liking.

Arequipa again

After leaving Puno I spent a couple of relaxing days in Arequipa. I left there a day later than planned as the accommodation in Tacna was going to be really expensive so I stayed in Arequipa for an extra day. On Sunday afternoon I went to a food festival in Arequipa and tried stuffed peppers which is a speciality while I was there. Other than that I went out on Saturday night and lazed around the hostel.

On the bus to Tacna I saw the romantic comedy “Failure to Launch” which was predictable but still funny. I also saw the Cruz del Sur “tour Peru” (but just point the camera at the attractive female presenter) video that includes a detailed look at some inca baths the presenter in a bikini for the third time. Frankly I’m bored of it now. We did get to see Shooter which was a really good film.

After the bus arrived in Tacna I took a collectivo for the short trip across the border into Chile where I now am. Chile is much richer and nicer but also more expensive.

The Colca Canyon and Arequipa

So on Thursday after our first day in Arequipa we went on the bike ride. We did get up at 6am and after breakfast we went to the bike shop. Then after they got the bikes and we got up the mountain we then had to cycle down. None of us had ever cycled on a non-metalled before and the others both fell off and we all had a fair few near misses. The main challenge was staying on when the road became either sandy or bumpy with rocks and you had to keep a good grip of the handlebars. Regarldess of the falling off we all enjoyed it and the scenery on the way down was amazing. By the time a had finished it was also nearly dark so that took the whole day.

The next day we got up at 6am again and headed out on a tour to the Colca canyon. This involved a 4 hour drive over the mountains and we stopped off on the way to see wildlife including llamas and alpacas. We also went up to nearly 5000m above sea level to the roof of the Andes. The height was in fact fine though we all had minor effects as we drank lots of coca tea, which helps with the altitude. Coca is the plant that contains Cocaine but is entirely legal here and it also doesn’t contain very much of the drug. Later in the day we had lunch at our hotel which was very good before setting off on a walk and then going to some excellent hot springs. I was a little disappointed that the pools were all the same temperature but that was a minor issue.

Then we went back to our hotel for dinner and an early night as we were getting up really early at 5am the next day so we could go and see Condors.

So after waking at 5am and having breakfast we left the hotel at 6am and headed towards the canyon seeing more amazing scenery. At 8.30 we went on a walk towards the condor viewing place and at 9am we weren’t disappointed by the view of the birds. Given my cameras 10x optical zoom we also got some great shots of the birds. After that we headed back to Arequipa for an early night and for one last day in the town. We are leaving tonight for Cuzco which should be great but first we are having a lazy morning by staying in bed a little later than 6am!

Rest of the time in Lima and Arequipa

So I spent another couple of days in Lima with my friends. My friend Danny was supposed to arrive at 11pm on Saturday night, but his plane was via Miami so was unsurprisingly 2 hours late. (Flightstats.com gives Miami airport a 30% on time rating with American Airways who he was flying with.). Then my other friend Jamie’s flight was on time so I didn’t get much sleep that night.

After procrastinating getting out of bed we went to the supermarket and then to a museum on pottery called Larco Hererra, this museum had a lot of interesting stuff from the Incas and before in Peru, it also had an interesting collection of erotic pottery. This was especially interesting as it didn’t just refer to fertility and also showed purely pleasureable sex.

After that we headed to the city centre and had roast chicken for lunch (along with cake this is one of the most popular dishes in Peru). We then looked around the city centre and went to the San Francisco church on a gudied tour around the building which included a look around the catacombs where they used to bury the dead in Lima.

The next day we tried to book our bus ticket with Cruz Del Sur to Nazca, unfortunately they had sold out so we went to Arequipa instead at 7.30pm. In the meantime we went to the national museum which included some more pottery and an interesting exhibition on the bloody history of Peru in the late 20th century. This was fairly unbiased and was critical of the government as well as the marxist rebels. After that we went to Miraflores to see a pre-inca pyrimid and headed down to the coast. Miraflores is the rich part of town and the buildings remind me of Singapore.

After that we headed back to the bus terminal to get our bus to Arequipa. The bus was quite good, but we only got “semi cama” seats, unlike the cama ones I got in Argentina with Via Barroliche. The first film was Charlies Angels Full Throttle and only in Spanish, though we saw Ratatollie the next day, which was also shown with English subtitles. It was pretty good. Its also cool that Pixar seems to convert all its films into Spanish as Wall E is also translated.

Then we arrived in Arequipa this morning and had a look around the town, it has a lot of white buildings made of silar which are very beautiful. We went to the Santa Catalina monestory which was good but expensive ($10). I had a good time as I went on a guided tour which my friends didn’t want to as it was extra ($7). Then for supper I had guinea-pig which is a local speciality.

Tomorrow we are up at 6am for a bike ride before it gets too hot so I’m now off to bed.