Tag Archives: Photography

Avenida de los Volcanes – Ecuador

After three days in Quito, it was time to pack up and head south down the Avenida de los Volcanes. Aptly named, this is a long stretch of volcanoes between Quito and Latacunga which includes some of the highest active volcanoes in the world.

The departure from Quito was a struggle after a 6am finish the night before, but the hefty breakfast at the hostel did the trick to make me feel slightly more human. The Secret Garden Hostel had a sister version in the middle of an area known as Parque Cotopaxi – a 3 hour trip south, so I booked a room there as this was situated perfectly in a park at the basin of the main volcanoes. I shared a minibus from the hostel in Quito with an American girl called Joanna and an English girl Clare. As we headed toward the nearest town, Machachi, we were treated to some beautiful green scenery along the way. I hadn’t imagined Ecuador to be so lush, but the hills and countryside were en par with anything you see back home. Hidden in amongst the greenery, however, were droves of small shanty towns and dusty roads leading to real estate areas under development. The country was still under transformation, with mass engineering and construction sites seen all the way down the motorway to Machachi.

Road-to-Machachi, Ecuador

Road to Machachi – Ecuador

Quito-to-Machachi, Ecuador

Quito to Machachi – Ecuador

Market-of-Machachi, Ecuador

Market of Machachi – Ecuador

After stocking up with food and water supplies at Machachi, we swapped to a 4×4 Jeep and took a sharp detour off into the surrounding volcanic hills. Parque Cotopaxi is central to the huge dormant volcanoes, “El Corazon” (The Heart – 4,788 metres), Ruminahui (4,712 metres), Pasachoa (4,190 metres) and the dominating Cotopaxi itself which sat at 5,897 metres above sea level. Cotopaxi itself is one of the highest active volcanoes in the world but hasn’t gone off since 1940.

At the end of the road, we arrived at the Secret Garden Hostel at a nice lunchtime. The hostel was situated at the bottom of Pasachoa, smack bang in the middle of the Cotopaxi valley. The setting was magnificent with the landscapes a picture of the south-west of England, but with the dominating volcanoes as a backdrop.

Parque-Cotopaxi-Countryside, Ecuador

Parque Cotopaxi Countryside – Ecuador

Cloud-Cover-over-Volcan-Cotopaxi, Ecuador

Cloud Cover over Volcan Cotopaxi – Ecuador

Secret-Garden-Hostel, Parque-Cotopaxi, Ecuador

Secret Garden Hostel – Parque Cotopaxi – Ecuador

The hostel was run by an Australian and Ecuadorian couple and it was a sweet little set up that they owned. Two volunteers – Sam and Ben – helped out for the season, with the family’s children and pet dogs also buzzing around. They had 2 Dalmatians called Oreo and Basil and two Dachshunds called Mash and Daisy. The dogs kept us company throughout the next couple of days, charging around the landscapes wherever we went.

After lunch, the hosts took us on a very rewarding trek up the nearby waterfalls and streams which gave me a chance to bond with a few of the guys that were staying there – Joanna and Clare as well as Will, Tyler, Sascha and Marta, the quadruplet coming from Canada. We also met Dale, a 50-year old nurse from the UK who was out on a sabbatical break from work in Australia. Clare was my main partner in crime for the day helping each other over the precarious jungle gym setting, with Mash, the tiny Dachshund leading the way out front with his pal Basil.

Me-and-the-Waterfalls-of-Pasachoa, Parque-Cotopaxi, Ecuador

Me and the Waterfalls of Pasachoa – Parque Cotopaxi – Ecuador

Mash-in-the-Wilderness, Parque-Cotopaxi, Ecuador

Mash in the Wilderness – Parque Cotopaxi – Ecuador

Waterfalls-of-Pasachoa, Parque-Cotopaxi, Ecuador

Waterfalls of Pasachoa – Parque Cotopaxi – Ecuador

Climbing-the-Waterfalls-of-Pasachoa, Parque-Cotopaxi, Ecuador

Climbing the Waterfalls of Pasachoa – Parque Cotopaxi – Ecuador

Interlude-at-the-Waterfalls-of-Pasachoa, Parque-Cotopaxi, Ecuador

Interlude at the Waterfalls of Pasachoa – Parque Cotopaxi – Ecuador

Group-Ascending-Waterfalls-of-Pasachoa, Parque-Cotopaxi, Ecuador

The Group Ascending Waterfalls of Pasachoa – Parque Cotopaxi – Ecuador

As we descended back to the hostel, we were then presented with a clear view of Ruminhua to our left with the snow-capped peaks of Cotopaxi also gleaming off in the distance.

Volcan-Cotopaxi, Ecuador

Volcan Cotopaxi – Ecuador

Peaks-of-Volcan-Cotopaxi, Ecuador

Peaks of Volcan Cotopaxi – Ecuador

With little to do in the evening, time was spent in front of a blazing fire after dinner playing games with a few drinks. All very peaceful and surreal and almost like we were back home in many ways.

The following morning, a few of us decided to go for some hiking around Pasachoa for the day, which was quite a brisk, if not long, six hour walk. Ben was the main guide who took us, again with the presences of the dogs, taking us right up to the peak of the volcano at 4,190 metres. The start of the walk took us through part of the waterfalls again before we swung a left up towards the peak. Wildlife was pretty scarce and as we headed up towards the peak, the fog started to pull in from afar. It got colder and colder at every step and once at the top, the winds and fog encapsulated us. We were hoping to get a view of the huge dormant crater, but the fog filled its deep crevice obscuring the view. Oxygen was quite thin at this altitude so a few of the guys really struggled with the weather and the steep walks. Half way down, the ultra-competitive Will and I decided to spice things up a bit and carve out our own little route away from the main walkway. We seamlessly bounced our way down the spongy greenery and at times had to build new tunnels through rugged terrain. Eventually, we got to the bottom, joined the rest of the group and headed back to the hostel.

Ben-Leading-the-Way, Pasachoa-Waterfalls, Ecuador

Ben Leading the Way – Pasachoa Waterfalls – Ecuador

Climbing-up-Pasachoa, Parque-Cotopaxi, Ecuador

Climbing up to Pasachoa – Parque Cotopaxi – Ecuador

Top-of-Pasachoa-Waterfall, Parque-Cotopaxi, Ecuador

Top of the Pasachoa Waterfall – Parque Cotopaxi – Ecuador

Ascent-to-Top-Pasachoa, Parque-Cotopaxi, Ecuador

Ascent to the Top of Pasachoa – Parque Cotopaxi – Ecuador

Hills-of-Pasachoa, Parque-Cotopaxi, Ecuador

Hills of Pasachoa – Parque Cotopaxi – Ecuador

Walkway-up-Pasachoa, Parque-Cotopaxi, Ecuador

Walkway up Pasachoa – Parque Cotopaxi – Ecuador

A-View-from-the-Pasachoa-Crater, Parque-Cotopaxi, Ecuador

A View from the Pasachoa Crater – Parque Cotopaxi – Ecuador

Hidden-Crater-Pasachoa, Parque-Cotopaxi, Ecuador

Hidden Crater of Pasachoa – Parque Cotopaxi – Ecuador

Hidden, Pasachoa-Peak,  Ecuador

Hidden – Pasachoa Peak – Ecuador

In-the-Fog, Pasachoa, Ecuador

In the Fog – Pasachoa – Ecuador

Daisy-Onlooking, Pasachoa, Ecuador

Daisy Onlooking – Pasachoa – Ecuador

Top-of-Pasachoa, Parque-Cotopaxi, Ecuador

Top of Pasachoa – Parque Cotopaxi – Ecuador

Windswept, Pasachoa, Ecuador

Windswept – Pasachoa – Ecuador

Waterway, Pasachoa, Parque-Cotopaxi, Ecuador

Waterway – Pasachoa – Parque Cotopaxi, Ecuador

The-Fog-Descends, Pasachoa, Ecuador

The Fog Descends – Pasachoa – Ecuador

Volcano-Face, Pasachoa, Ecuador

Volcano Face – Pasachoa – Ecuador

That night, the clouds that had circled us throughout the day cleared to leave a beautiful night sky. The number of stars that I could see was astronomical – the most amount I’ve ever seen. So I spent most of the night with a beer and the guys, looking out into the night. The only strange thing about this whole experience though, was how we were completely isolated from local human life. We really could have been anywhere had it not been for the obvious volcanic surroundings!

The last day in Parque Cotopaxi was saved for a trek up Cotopaxi itself.

Me-and-Volcan-Cotopaxi, Ecuador

Me and Volcan Cotopaxi – Ecuador

Will, Tyler, Sascha, Marta, Dale, Clare and myself loaded up in the 4×4 Jeep with some bikes strapped to the roof. The day started off with clear blue skies, so we were all extremely excited to be trekking up the active volcano. However, as we approached the furthest point by road at the bottom of the hiking trail, the weather took a turn for the worst. The Jeep was surrounded by thick fog within minutes and as we parked up, huge gales and torrential rain pounded down on us, rocking the Jeep as we sat in it. You could hardly see a few metres ahead of you as conditions kept on deteriorating. The guys taking us on the trek then gave us the option – do we stay, or do we attempt the hike? We of course had to give it a go but I didn’t last more than ten minutes. I hate wind at the most of times, but the gales had picked up to hurricane levels of at least 100mph. I didn’t have a decent rain jacket on me, just a big poncho, so I put that on in the hope that would do the trick. After struggling to even get the jeep doors open, we started ascending the volcano face. There was absolutely no grip under foot with the red sands of the volcano just eating our feet away. The wind was ferocious and every step I took resulted in my poncho being filled up with air, lifting me off my feet and dumping me back five feet back from where I came from. At the top of the ridge where we were risking being thrown off the edge, it was like a movie setting where I eventually had to give up, shouting, “you guys go on without me”, like I wasn’t going to survive. My hands froze in minutes and I couldn’t feel my face as temperatures plummeted in the wind. Tyler and Sascha had already given up and head back to the Jeep, and faced by the intensifying cold winds, I decided to join them. Will, Dale and Clare kept on going towards to peak. After about an hour back in the jeep, the guys then returned frozen, wet and battered. They managed to reach the refuge hut a little higher up from the ridge, but were quite sensibly turned away back down the volcano by the rangers as the peak of Cotopaxi was experiencing electrical storms. As enticing as it sounded, they had a quick cup of tea and came back.

Car-Park, Volcan-Cotopaxi, Ecuador

Car Park – Volcan Cotopaxi – Ecuador

Fighting-the-Wind, Volcan-Cotopaxi, Ecuador

Fighting the Wind – Volcan Cotopaxi – Ecuador

Frozen-Gang, Volcan-Cotopaxi, Ecuador

Frozen Gang – Volcan Cotopaxi – Ecuador

Frozen-Dale, Volcan-Cotopaxi, Ecuador

Frozen Dale – Volcan Cotopaxi – Ecuador

Jeep-Ride-Cotopaxi, Ecuador

Jeep Ride up Cotopaxi – Ecuador

Bike-Ride, Volcan-Cotopaxi, Ecuador

Bike Ride down Volcan Cotopaxi – Ecuador

Chattering away, we made a move back down to camp. Half way down, we exited the hurricane conditions so took to the mountain bikes to head down the rest of the volcano. I managed to keep detaching my chain on the way down retiring about half way down along with a couple of the others who had just given up because of the uncomfortable feedback on the handlebars that cramped them up from the bumpy ride.

Then back at camp, it was time for lunch before we prepared to head off further south through Ecuador…

Further Reading

Avenida de los Volcanes

Parque Cotopaxi

Secret Garden – Cotopaxi

More Photography :

“The Photography Collection” by Antematters

Posted in Ecuador Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Quito Part Two – Ecuador

After a good night’s sleep to make me feel slightly more human, I had a decent serving of breakfast from the terrace area at the hostel with Sarah and a guy called Ewan from Bristol. We then headed over the the “Mitad del Mundo”, a museum about half an hour outside the centre of town to check out the aptly named Centre of the Earth.

Ecuadorian-with-Pork-Pie-Hat, Quito, Ecuador

Ecuadorian with Pork Pie Hat – Quito, Ecuador

The Mitad del Mundo museum was an interesting place accessible by an expensive cab or, as we decided, by taking a couple of local buses. Way up on one of the stretching hillsides outside Quito, it’s a museum sitting in the middle of a deserted zone – an area you didn’t want to be thumbing for a ride home should you miss the last bus back. Although gimmicky, it was still interesting to see an array of magic tricks which arguably identified whether you were stood on the northern or southern side of the Equator – this included water swirling clockwise to anti-clockwise, eggs balancing on the pin head of a nail and varying strength tests on and around the Equator line. The basic premise of the strength test was to exhibit how gravity is at its most powerful and balanced on the equator line itself. Another big lesson I learnt was not to take a piss in any rivers – we were introduced to the unpleasant Candiru Fish (the locals call it Earth Worm) – a creature that hones in on urine and makes his way up the urethra to implant itself. The only way out is by dragging it out…

Equator-Line, Mitad-del-Mundo, Quito, Ecuador

Equator Line – Mitad del Mundo – Quito, Ecuador

Sun-Clock, Mitad-del-Mundo, Quito, Ecuador

Sun Clock – Mitad del Mundo – Quito, Ecuador

Egg-Balancing, Mitad-del-Mundo, Quito, Ecuador

Egg Balancing – Mitad del Mundo – Quito, Ecuador

Perfectly-Balanced-Egg-on-Nail, Mitad-del-Mundo, Ecuador

Perfectly Balanced Egg on Nail – Mitad del Mundo, Ecuador

Finger-Force, Mitad-del-Mundo, Quito, Ecuador

Finger Force – Mitad del Mundo – Quito, Ecuador

Sun-Dial-Mitad-del-Mundo, Quito, Ecuador

Sun Dial at Mitad del Mundo – Quito, Ecuador

Mitad-del-Mundo-Guide, Quito, Ecuador

Mitad del Mundo Guide – Quito, Ecuador

Tribal-Statue, Quito, Ecuador

Tribal Statue – Quito, Ecuador

Candiru-Fish-Bottled, Quito, Ecuador

Candiru Fish Bottled – Quito, Ecuador

After a couple of hours, we started walking down towards the bus stop to head back into town, pausing at a deserted dusty road side restaurant for some eggs on toast. There were no paths en route, so it felt like we were fugitives thumbing down the highway. At the other end of the bus journey, we wandered back to the hostel via the new town which turned out to be a shocking area created for western gravis. There was even a Chelsea bar in one of the central squares flying the Lion flag relating to Chelsea Football Club. It however, wasn’t actually a football bar – just a Euro pop bar. As we walked through the expanse of the Parque Ejido which acted as a natural border between the old and new town, police presence started to pick up. As they put you instantly on edge as you suddenly couldn’t help but be wary of onlooking eyes, we quickened the pace until we arrived back at the hostel safely for a night of Andean music.

El-Mariscal-Streets, Quito, Ecuador

El Mariscal Streets – Quito, Ecuador

Bars-of-El-Mariscal, Quito, Ecuador

Bars of El Mariscal – Quito, Ecuador

Ecuadorian-Band, Quito, Ecuador

Ecuadorian Band – Quito, Ecuador

On the final day in Quito, I decided to walk back into the old town to check out the huge Basilica del Voto Nacional de Quito before trekking back over to the new town of El Mariscal to see if I’d missed anything on the previous day. For the first time, I woke up with a little bit of altitude sickness which meant I spent the rest of the day in a bit of a blur. At the Basilica, I bumped into Chris – one of the guys who woke me up at the first hostel – so I hung out with him for the rest of the day. The Basilica itself was quite amazing. The most precarious part of the visit was when we decided to head to the clock towers way up high so we could get a decent panoramic view of the city – like the crumbling buildings of the city, we had to make our way across a dodgy rickety wooden bridge that spanned the church eaves, before carefully trudging up a steel ladder without any safety around you to stop you plummeting to impending death. But it was worth the fear for the spectacular views.

Basilica-de-Quito, Ecuador

Basilica de Quito – Ecuador

Facade-of-the-Basilica-de-Quito, Ecuador

Facade of the Basilica de Quito – Ecuador

Aisle-Basilica-de-Quito, Ecuador

Aisle of the Basilica de Quito – Ecuador

Inside-the-Basilica-de-Quito, Ecuador

Inside the Basilica de Quito – Ecuador

Clock-Towers-Basilica-de-Quito, Ecuador

Clock Towers of the Basilica de Quito – Ecuador

Precarious-Gangway, Basilica-de-Quito, Ecuador

Precarious Gangway – Basilica de Quito – Ecuador

Clock-Towers-Basilica-de-Quito, Ecuador

Clock Towers of the Basilica de Quito – Ecuador

Quito-New-Town-Skyline, Ecuador

Quito New Town Skyline – Ecuador

School-Playground, Quito, Ecuador

School Playground – Quito, Ecuador

Quito-New-Town-Skyline, Ecuador

Quito New Town Skyline – Ecuador

Quito-Architecture, Ecuador

Quito Architecture – Ecuador

Quito-Skyline-View, Basilica, Ecuador

Quito Skyline View from the Basilica – Ecuador

Later, we took a bite to eat in the main Plaza Grande before making our way over to El Mariscal. I was still feeling heady from the altitude, so we stopped off at a shisha bar for some local remedy which instantly did the trick.

For the final night back at the hostel, having felt frustrated at not really left the hostel at night for fear of being attacked, a group of us took part in the hostel quiz before buying some tickets to hit some bars in El Mariscal. It was a bit of a tourist shepherding into the safest of the local bars, and really the the only logical way of going out. I wasn’t confident enough yet in myself to go into central Quito at night.

The bars we headed into also introduced me for what was to come on most nights out. Everybody talks about the stereotype of Latin blood – how much they like to dance, drink and party, take drugs and have sex liberally. As westerners, walking into some proper local bars meant that the focus around us was exemplified. At each and every bar, guys and girls would flock to check us out and show us their moves like a special episode of a BBC Nature programme. Locals weren’t fearful of getting down and dirty with scenes of couples needing to be pulled off each other most of the time before tearing each other’s clothes off. The dance floors were cramped, smoky, sweaty and full of life. And I loved every minute of it.

Further Reading

Centre of the Earth – Mitad del Mundo

La Basilica del Voto Nacional de Quito

Quito and the Conquistadores

More Photography :

“The Photography Collection” by Antematters

Posted in Ecuador Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Quito Part One – Ecuador

Waking up suddenly in sweats, I found myself on top of a bunk bed staring down at two guys who were showered and getting changed. They were clearly hung-over and couldn’t help but clatter around the room making as much noise as they possibly could. I still felt completely nauseated and it took me a while to introduce myself to the guys and explain I was a bit disorientated as I’d just come over from Auckland.

It was a strange feeling – I was finally in South America but my body and mind just didn’t react to it positively. I headed round the corner for breakfast with the two guys before I took a shower and a cab into the centre of Quito where I was to stay for the next three nights. In between, I then suddenly realised – I forgot my sister was expecting her first child so I quickly logged onto the internet to see if there was any news. Roman Thomas Wise was born at 9.01am on May 2nd weighing in at 7lbs 1oz! I fortunately managed to have a one way excitable Skype call with my sister Deborah and my brother-in-law Laurie, but the connection was terrible. I never felt so far away from home in my life at that point. Although I was about to start the best part of my journey, the one I had most looked for too, I also yearned to be at home to see Roman. Compounded by my biliousness, it took me a while to get to grips again and head out into the old town to check into the Secret Garden Hostel.

As I checked in, I then suddenly came to life again. Turning round from the reception desk, I was hit by a stunning view of Quito. The city sits 2,800 metres above sea water in amongst the hills of the top of the Andes and is the highest legal capital city in the world. Quito itself was born following the invasion of the Spanish conquistadors and the Real Audiencia back in the 1530s and developed from basic farming and peasantry to a rich trade in textiles. The hostel was situated high up on top of one of the surrounding hillsides so we could see for miles out into the distance. I then also twigged why I was still so nauseated – I was forgetting that I was most likely acclimatising to the altitude.

Quito wasn’t quite how I imagined it. I expected the city to be a huge ragged cosmopolitan, but, for some reason, it completely alluded me as to its setting high up in the hills. The city was sprawling – everywhere you looked, you could see Quito’s suburbs eat away at the lush green forests around. But, at the same time, its expanse felt quite isolated and compact. The hillsides seemed to hold the city in its cup, protected from the outside world.

La-Victoria-Suburb, Quito, Ecuador

La Victoria Suburb – Quito, Ecuador

El-Sena-Suburb, Quito, Ecuador

El Sena Suburb – Quito, Ecuador

El-Sena-Suburb, Quito, Ecuador

El Sena Suburb – Quito, Ecuador

The buildings weren’t particularly overbearing either. The streets were narrow, long and windy, with old white unkempt Spanish empire buildings crumbling away. They were cobbled like any central or southern Spanish town. The central areas themselves were generally well kept in terms of cleanliness – the buildings themselves just had old rustic and enticing character. Shops were open selling all kinds of merchandise, food and textiles – almost lining up like markets, but housed in bricks and mortar. The Ecuadorians themselves were also quite petite in general. Wandering around, I was of course anxious as to my safety, knowing the tales of danger that lurked on every street corner. But grasping my camera in hand, I didn’t feel at all perturbed by the city. It seemed quite peaceful – it was bustling in parts, but generally, it didn’t feel like a capital city.

Streets-of-Quito-Central, Ecuador

Streets of Quito Central – Ecuador

Streets-of-Quito, Ecuador

Streets of Quito – Ecuador

Calle-Chile, Quito, Ecuador

Calle Chile – Quito, Ecuador

Streets-Heading-up-to-the-Hills-of-Quito, Ecuador

Streets Heading up to the Hills of Quito, Ecuador

Calle-Venezuela, Quito, Ecuador

Calle Venezuela – Quito, Ecuador

Colonial-Buildings-of-Quito, Ecuador

Colonial Buildings of Quito, Ecuador

Schoolgirls-Walking, Quito, Ecuador

Schoolgirls Walking – Quito, Ecuador

Looking-up-the-Streets-of-Quito, Ecuador

Looking up the Streets of Quito – Ecuador

As I passed through the Plaza Grande in the centre, taking in the old cathedral and Palacio del Gobierno (Town Hall), the locals all seemed quite pleasant.

Later, I walked down the Calle Garcia Moreno, passing the beautiful gold filled Iglesia de la Compania de Jesus (Church of Jesus’ Disciples) towards the Museo de la Ciudad (City Museum) which backed off the hills of El Panecillo where the statue of the Virgin Mary overlooked the city. The evidence of the Spanish pilgrimage was rife. As I stepped into the museum, camera hanging round my neck, I was then forewarned by the ticket seller – do not walk towards El Panecillo looking like that or you won’t come back in one piece. Note taken.

Plaza-Grande, Quito, Ecuador

Plaza Grande – Quito, Ecuador

Independence-Statue, Plaza-Grande, Quito, Ecuador

Independence Statue – Plaza Grande – Quito, Ecuador

La-Plaza-Grande, Quito, Ecuador

La Plaza Grande – Quito, Ecuador

Catedral-Grande, Quito, Ecuador

Catedral Grande – Quito, Ecuador

Iglesia-Merced, Quito, Ecuador

Iglesia Merced – Quito, Ecuador

Palacio-de-Independencia, Quito, Ecuador

Palacio de Independencia – Quito, Ecuador

Capilla-de-La-Iglesia-Merced, Quito, Ecuador

Capilla de La Iglesia Merced – Quito, Ecuador

Base-of-the-Capilla-de-la-Iglesia-Merced, Quito, Ecuador

Base of the Capilla de la Iglesia Merced – Quito, Ecuador

Iglesia-de-la-Compania, Quito, Ecuador

Iglesia de la Compania – Quito, Ecuador

Banco-Central-de-Quito, Ecuador

Banco Central de Quito – Ecuador

Quito-Museum, Ecuador

Quito Museum – Ecuador

Hills-of-El-Panecillo, Quito, Ecuador

Hills of El Panecillo – Quito, Ecuador

As I then visited the Plaza San Francisco, the earlier warning from the ticket booth seller at the museum started to plague me. Paying more attention to what was going on about me, I started to realise that the crumbling buildings actually surrounded a bigger issue to its people. A lot of the Quitorians were still poor – if this was central to the city, one could only imagine the suburbs. People did seem to be wandering around without objective. They were people searching for scraps of work or food. On street corners, shifty characters would lurk around. People would be transferring textiles and other merchandise on their backs from one place to another. The worn faces of the locals showed their struggle for survival. Wandering around the city market, I felt prying eyes on me. It could have been intrigue, it could have been more.

Plaza-San-Francisco, Quito, Ecuador

Plaza San Francisco – Quito, Ecuador

School-Bus, Quito, Ecuador

School Bus – Quito, Ecuador

Catch-up-Time, Plaza-Grande, Quito, Ecuador

Catch-up Time – Plaza Grande – Quito, Ecuador

Courting, Plaza-Grande, Quito, Ecuador

Courting – Plaza Grande – Quito, Ecuador

Old-Man-Walking-to-Work, Quito, Ecuador

Old Man Walking to Work – Quito, Ecuador

Thoughtful, Quito, Ecuador

Thoughtful – Quito, Ecuador

Toddler-Wandering, Plaza-Grande, Quito, Ecuador

Toddler Wandering – Plaza Grande – Quito, Ecuador

Shoe-Shining, Quito, Ecuador

Shoe Shining – Quito, Ecuador

As night drew in, I headed back to the hostel. I met a mother and daughter from Canada, Janvier and Beverley as well as a girl from London called Sarah. In the evening we sat up in the rooftop bar overlooking the Quito skyline. A couple of fellow hostellers came back to report they’d been mugged just down the street – their cameras and wallets stolen. After meeting a couple of other people, Joanna and Ewan from the US as well as three or four others from Europe, they all had tales of being attacked or threatened. And I thought it was a peaceful place…

Further Reading

Quito Tourist Guide

UNESCO World Heritage Site

Quito and the Conquistadores

More Photography :

“The Photography Collection” by Antematters

Posted in Ecuador Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , |

New Zealand Adventure Final Part – From Wanaka to Auckland

Back on the bus at Franz Josef, we then kept heading south towards Wanaka via the beautiful sights of Lake Matheson and the towering Mount Cook. The weather wasn’t too favourable unfortunately which meant the serine view of both was disappointingly overshadowed.

Lake-Matheson-Stream, New-Zealand

Lake Matheson Stream – New Zealand

Shrub-Reflection-on-Lake-Matheson, New-Zealand

Shrub Reflection on Lake Matheson – New Zealand

Misty-Morning, Lake-Matheson, New-Zealand

Misty Morning – Lake Matheson, New Zealand

Forest-Peek, Lake-Matheson, New-Zealand

Forest Peek – Lake Matheson – New Zealand

Lake-Matheson-Reflection, New-Zealand

Lake Matheson Reflection – New Zealand

Mount-Cook-Peak, New-Zealand

Mount Cook Peak – New Zealand

Clouds-over-Mount-Cook, New-Zealand

Clouds over Mount Cook – New Zealand

Waterfall-Near-Mount-Cook, New-Zealand

Waterfall Near Mount Cook – New Zealand

A-View-From-the-Bus, New-Zealand

A View From the Bus – New Zealand

Just before we reached the huge Lake Wanaka, we stopped off to check out Lake Havea and yet another stunning viewing point.

Lake-Havea, New-Zealand

Lake Havea – New Zealand

Roadside, Lake-Havea, New-Zealand

Roadside – Lake Havea, New Zealand

Layby, Wanaka, New-Zealand

Layby – Wanaka, New Zealand

At Wanaka, Poncey organised a game of touch rugby which was enjoyed by all, and the evening was then spent watching Sherlock Holmes in one of the best cinemas I’ve ever been to! The auditorium was like your front room, with loads of comfy sofas and chairs to lounge in. Strangely, it even had a Morris Minor car which you could sit in too! Homemade cookies, hot chocolate and tea in proper mugs made it even more homely.

As we continued further south, we then hit the mad party town of Queenstown for 3 days. It almost also felt like we were about to reach the peak of our New Zealand visit, with the most enjoyable parts spent here in terms of general partying. The guys really had a chance to take stop and get to know each other even better, so much so it felt like we’d known each other for years. To me again, even amongst some of the most beautiful parts of the world, the people really made this experience come true.

Queenstown itself is built in a stunning setting of lakes and mountains, and was a town built around the majority of adventure activities and partying. The nucleus of people who live in Queenstown seemed to be those who worked in season – the rest were just there to enjoy what the town had to offer.

Lake-Wakatipu, Queenstown, New-Zealand

Lake Wakatipu – Queenstown, New Zealand

Lake-Wakatipu-Beach, Queenstown, New-Zealand

Lake Wakatipu Beach – Queenstown, New Zealand

A-View-from-Sunshine-Bay, Queenstown, New-Zealand

A View from Sunshine Bay – Queenstown, New Zealand

Sunset, Queenstown, New-Zealand

Sunset – Queenstown, New Zealand

Queenstown-Docks, New-Zealand

Queenstown Docks – New Zealand

Queenstown-Centre, New-Zealand

Queenstown Centre – New Zealand

Shopping-Parade, Queenstown, New-Zealand

Shopping Parade – Queenstown, New Zealand

Streets-of-Queenstown, New-Zealand

Streets of Queenstown – New Zealand

World-Bar, Queenstown, New-Zealand

World Bar – Queenstown, New Zealand

Commerce-and-Landscape, Queenstown, New-Zealand

Commerce and Landscape – Queenstown, New Zealand

Queenstown-Hills, New-Zealand

Queenstown Hills – New Zealand

Quay-and-Andy-in-the-Cable-Car, Queenstown, New-Zealand

Quay and Andy in the Cable Car – Queenstown, New Zealand

Sunset-on-Lake-Wakatipi, Queenstown, New-Zealand

Sunset on Lake Wakatipi – Queenstown, New Zealand

A-View-from-the-Hills, Queenstown, New-Zealand

A View from the Hills – Queenstown, New Zealand

A-View-from-the-Luging-Track, Queenstown, New-Zealand

A View from the Lugging Track – Queenstown, New Zealand

Sunset-on-Lake-Wakatipi, Queenstown, New-Zealand

Sunset on Lake Wakatipi – Queenstown, New Zealand

Cable-Car-to-the-Luging, Queenstown, New-Zealand

Cable Car to the Lugging – Queenstown, New Zealand

Just outside town, a few of the guys decided to hurl themselves off the world famous bungee jumping spot – the place where it all began. I was far too cowardly to even attempt hurling myself towards the ground on a piece of rope.

Bungee-Jumping, Queenstown, New-Zealand

Bungee Jumping – Queenstown, New Zealand

Bungee-Bridge, Queenstown, New-Zealand

Bungee Bridge – Queenstown, New Zealand

Gal-Jump, Queenstown, New-Zealand

Gal Jump – Queenstown, New Zealand

On the first night after some decent lugging fun up in the Queenstown hills, the guys hung out in the Nomads hotel for a traditional game of “Kings” – a card drinking game that always gets you into the swing of things. From there, we headed to one of the main bars called Altitude down the main high street to meet up with the rest of the guys off the buses, before moving onto the famous World Bar for some proper drinking and dancing. This also introduced us to the Tea Pot which became a consistent feature of our stay in Queenstown – this is simply some spirit concoction served in a tea pot. The second and third nights pretty much stuck to the same routines, although in all honesty, the sandwiched second one was a much quieter affair following licking our wounds from the night before. We also managed to over-indulge ourselves in what was probably one of the tastiest burger joints in the world – the Fergburger. Not only were these fresh homemade burgers a juicy affair, but they were only slightly more than paying for a Burger King.

In between the night life, Pauric, Quay and I joined in on some Canyoning. It took some huge effort to drag ourselves out of bed, but as soon as we zipped ourselves up in the diving suits, the hangover was immediately eradicated as we plunged ourselves of the edges of cliffs into dark, cold pools of water beneath us. Not only that, but we zip lined our way around the canyons like a jungle jim, abseiled down some rock faces and also slid down rock faces from one canyon jump to the next. The highest jump was around 8 metres, which doesn’t seem too high – but when the instructor tells you that you need to hit a spot the size of 2 men to avoid injury from a standing jump, this added a little more fear to it…

On the last day, we were meant to take a visit to the Milford Sounds just outside Queenstown, but the weather had decided to spoil our plans by sending in some fog and rain that meant we had to turn around when we were half way there.

For me, as I was due to fly out of Auckland for South America in a weeks’ time, I had to keep moving on toward the North Island after the three days in Queenstown. The others had the opportunity to stay for another couple of days to try and get to Milford Sounds which they decided to take, which meant that the final night of partying in Queenstown was my swan song with the majority of them. Only Team Israel and Michaela headed onwards with me. The rain continued throughout the day which meant that Poncey just kept his foot down until we ended up back at Christchurch a few hours later which gave me the chance to recharge some batteries before setting off for my second visit to Kaikoura. Team Israel and Michaela were due to fly to Australia from Christchurch, so at this point I completely said goodbye to everybody. For me, it was all about South America from here on in, although there were a couple of more sites to check out en route to Auckland.

From Kaikoura, we headed back up to Picton and took the ferry across the cook strait to the university town of Wellington on the southernmost tip of the North Island. This took up most of the day which meant I really only had the one night in Wellington to enjoy – having said that, most people commented that this was enough really, as there isn’t much to do there. I met a new guy called Try who I stuck with all the way to Auckland, and in the evening we headed down to a student bar to teach them a lesson or two at pool billiards.

From Wellington, we then headed up to Taupo. En route, we stopped off for lunch at an intriguing town called “Bull”. The town was themed with all the shops and local conveniences named using “Bull”. So, there was “Inform-a-Bull” for the tourist information office, “Relieve-a-Bull” for public toilets, “Socia-Bull” for the local pubs and “Read-a-Bull” for bookstores. They even had “Const-a-Bull” for the Police Station!

Bull-Town-Sign, New-Zealand

Bull Town Sign – New Zealand

Mothered-Goose, Bull-Town, New-Zealand

Mothered Goose – Bull Town, New Zealand

Trash-and-Treasure, Bull-Town, New-Zealand

Trash and Treasure – Bull Town, New Zealand

Bank-a-Bull, Bull-Town, New-Zealand

Bank-a-Bull – Bull Town, New Zealand

Soci-a-bull, Bull-Town, New-Zealand

Soci-a-bull – Bull Town, New Zealand

Rocking-Bulls, Bull-Town, New-Zealand

Rocking Bulls – Bull Town, New Zealand

Rat-Hole, Bull-Town, New-Zealand

Rat Hole – Bull Town, New Zealand

The bus then continued onto Taupo, passing through the Central Plateau which was the location for the filming of the Lord of the Rings and the famous Mount Doom.

Central-Plateau, Mount-Doom, New-Zealand

Central Plateau – Mount Doom – New Zealand

At Taupo, we headed straight for the Skydiving centre. I had been quite apprehensive about jumping out of a plane all the way through the trip, especially with the financial cost that came with it. But a lot of the guys had taken the plunge at Franz Josef – the second best location in the world after the Himalayas – as well as Wanaka, with everybody trying to convince me to do it. So, I’d mustered some guts to finally do it at Taupo which is also one of the best places in the world for it. But someone else was telling me I shouldn’t be doing it. As we arrived, the heavens opened up which meant all dives were cancelled for the evening. We had to wait until morning to do it. And this would be my last chance. The next morning, I woke up at 5am to the same scenes. My chances of skydiving ended.

Slightly deflated, I jumped back onto the bus for the final length up to Auckland. En route, we passed through the small town of Little Hobbiton which was the place where Peter Jackson bought his first plot of land for filming the Lord of the Rings before stopping off at Rotarua to check out the atmospheric bubbling mud pools.

Me-at-Little-Hobbiton, New-Zealand

Me at Little Hobbiton – New Zealand

Little-Hobbiton, New-Zealand

Little Hobbiton – New Zealand

Rotarua-River-Canyon, New-Zealand

Rotarua River Canyon – New Zealand

Rotarua-Mud-Pools, New-Zealand

Rotarua Mud Pools – New Zealand

Auckland itself was very similar to Melbourne in its layout and feel. The streets were built on grids, with shops on either side. There were little lanes in between where all the main drinking holes were located. It didn’t really open my eyes to anything new with very little to offer in terms of new experiences.

Downtown-Auckland, New-Zealand

Downtown Auckland – New Zealand

Streets-of-Auckland, New-Zealand

Streets of Auckland – New Zealand

Auckland-Museum, New-Zealand

Auckland Museum – New Zealand

Auckland-Tower, New-Zealand

Auckland Tower – New Zealand

Apart from the excitement of the impending South America, what was also important to me on the second day here was that my sister was going into labour to give birth to my first nephew! This was all very mentality strange for me being on the other side of the world whilst this change of life was happening back home, especially with my sister whom I’m very close to.

Whilst she was preparing to give birth, I was preparing for a 2-day transit to Ecuador…

Further Reading

Lake Wanaka Guide

Mount Cook

Queenstown Guide

Unforget-a-Bull – Bull Town

Lake Taupo Guide

Little Hobbiton

Auckland Guide

More Photography :

“The Photography Collection” by Antematters

Posted in New Zealand Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

New Zealand Adventure Part Three – Franz Josef Glacier

After the heavy night of drinking at the Poo Party, Poncey had decided to get us all to Franz Josef as quickly as possible with only one quick stop for a bacon sandwich at the bizarre Bushman Centre. This was a museum that was full of dead stuffed animals that ended up as a pretty eerie stop off on a hang over. Once at Franz Josef, we checked into the amazing Rainforest Retreat Lodge which was beautifully hidden away at the mouth of the surrounding mountain ranges. Pauric, Lydia, Andy and me decided to head off for some Kayaking in the afternoon on Lake Mapouria which was the first time I’d done any proper kayaking for years. The scenery for it was breath-taking, with us taking a trip down some beautiful gorges and canals in the surrounding area.

Franz-Josef-Lake, New-Zealand

Franz Josef Lake – New Zealand

Kayaking-at-Franz-Josef, New-Zealand

Kayaking at Franz Josef – New Zealand

The following day was, however, the main highlight of Franz Josef with the chance for us to go Ice Climbing on the famous glacier. I went against all photographer’s rules by leaving my SLR camera at home, fearing the worst of smashing the kit up into smithereens half way up, so all my moments were captured on my trusty old Canon Ixus 50.

The early morning start greeted us with some amazing cloud capped mountains withe the early morning sunshine peeking through.

Dawn, Franz-Josef-Glacier, New-Zealand

Dawn – Franz Josef Glacier – New Zealand

After kitting up at the Ice Climbing centre, we took the minibus up to the base of the glaciers to start walking up through the lower rocky terrain. The views were remarkable as expected, with the huge glacier carving its way through the middle of the mountains. It was completely surreal seeing it – this huge glacier thousands of years old melting away right in front of us. What was strange is that it was relatively mild – we were kitted up for climbing the ice, but in reality, temperatures weren’t too low.

Bottom-of-Franz-Josef-Glacier, New-Zealand

Bottom of Franz Josef Glacier – New Zealand

The-Walk-to-the-Glacier, Franz-Josef

The Walk to the Glacier – Franz Josef

Waterfalls-of-Franz-Josef-Glacier, New-Zealand

Waterfalls of Franz Josef Glacier – New Zealand

Me-at-Franz-Josef-Glacier, New-Zealand

Me at Franz Josef Glacier – New Zealand

Embarking-on-the-Glacier, Franz-Josef, New-Zealand

Embarking on the Glacier – Franz Josef, New Zealand

As we began climbing the glacier, the fun really began as the group leaders started hacking away at the ice, building stairs and pathways through the encapsulating blue scenery. We faced huge dominating ice walls, dozens of water pools, loads of gushing ice cold water rivers and some ice tunnels carved out in beautiful glassy blue formations.

The-Face-of-Franz-Josef-Glacier, New-Zealand

The Face of Franz Josef Glacier – New Zealand

Commencing-the-Climb-of-Franz-Josef, New-Zealand

Commencing the Climb of Franz Josef – New Zealand

Onwards-and-Upwards, Franz-Josef-Glacier, New-Zealand

Onwards and Upwards – Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand

Franz-Josef-Valley. New-Zealand

Franz Josef Valley – New Zealand

Leaders, Franz-Josef-Glacier, New-Zealand

Leaders – Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand

Half-Way-up-Franz-Josef-Glacier, New-Zealand

Half Way up Franz Josef Glacier – New Zealand

Quick-Stop, Franz-Josef-Glacier, New-Zealand

Quick Stop – Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand

Steep-Climb, Franz-Josef-Glacier, New-Zealand

Steep Climb – Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand

Thumbs-Up, Franz-Josef-Glacier, New-Zealand

Thumbs Up – Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand

Up-Through-the-Glacier, Franz-Josef, New-Zealand

Up Through the Glacier – Franz Josef, New Zealand

Keep-on-Moving, Franz-Josef-Glacier, New-Zealand

Keep on Moving – Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand

Jumping, Franz-Josef-Glacier, New-Zealand

Jumping – Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand

Aqua-Tunnel, Franz-Josef-Glacier, New-Zealand

Aqua Tunnel – Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand

Inside-the-Aqua-Tunnel, Franz-Josef-Glacier, New-Zealand

Inside the Aqua Tunnel – Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand

Jagged-Edges-of-Franz-Josef-Glacier, New-Zealand

Jagged Edges of Franz Josef Glacier – New Zealand

Building-Pathways, Franz-Josef-Glacier, New-Zealand

Building Pathways, Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand

A-View-of-the-Glacier, Franz-Josef, New-Zealand

A View of the Glacier – Franz Josef – New Zealand

Rock-Face, Franz-Josef-Glacier, New-Zealand

Rock Face – Franz Josef Glacier – New Zealand

Precarious-Franz-Josef-Glacier, New-Zealand

Precarious Franz Josef Glacier – New Zealand

Moving-up-Franz-Josef-Glacier, New-Zealand

Moving up Franz Josef Glacier – New Zealand

In the distance, we also got to witness a huge avalanche as the side of one of the glaciers came apart before our eyes, crashing down below. After around an hour or so, we then stopped at one of the three main ice climbing glaciers that we were to take on today. This was great fun, with the first climb a chance for us to get our techniques right and get to grips with the task at hand. Equipped with a couple of ice picks and some climbing shoes, we then strapped ourselves onto some abseiling ropes before pounding our way up the glacier face. It was an exhausting affair, especially if you didn’t get the technique right or got your ice picks jammed in the glacier face. You also needed to get the toe kick right to ensure you put most of your weight on your lower body, without exerting pressure on your upper body by holding on for dear life with the ice picks. This took me a while to master, especially as my lower body strength is quite weak, so I exhausted my upper body quite quickly!

The tallest of the glaciers was around 18 metres high and there were two walls to climb – one with an “Invisible Barrier” three quarters of the way up. This barrier basically meant that the glacier face started to curve convexly outwards making it very difficult for the climber to get over it. After I completed the easier one in just less than 5 minutes which was quite a quick time, the team then set a challenge for me to try and beat Or to the top, with me climbing the harder glacier face. So with the adrenaline pumped, off we set on the walls to large cheers and jeering from the guys. I got off to the quicker of the starts but as we reached the top we both really started struggling for pace. Having reached the Invisible Barrier, I thought I’d lost the game, but with a little bit of help from my guide who yanked on my abseiling rope, I managed to get over, but Or had pipped me at the post at the death! At the top, we had a moment were we celebrated the climb which was around 4 minutes, completely bemused by what we had just completed!

Gal-Awaiting-the-Climb, Franz-Josef-Glacier, New-Zealand

Gal Awaiting the Climb – Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand

Preparation-at-the-Ice-Climb, Franz-Josef, New-Zealand

Preparation at the Ice Climb – Franz Josef, New Zealand

Ice-Climb, Franz-Josef-Glacier, New-Zealand

Ice Climb – Franz Josef Glacier – New Zealand

Oren-Ready-to-Go, Franz-Josef-Glacier, New-Zealand

Oren Ready to Go – Franz Josef Glacier – New Zealand

Half-Way-Point-of-Climb, Franz-Josef-Glacier, New-Zealand

Half Way Point of Climb – Franz Josef Glacier – New Zealand

Glacier-Summit, Franz-Josef, New-Zealand

Glacier Summit – Franz Josef – New Zealand

Conquered-Glacier, Franz-Josef, New-Zealand

Conquered Glacier – Franz Josef – New Zealand

On-the-Descendancy, Franz-Josef-Glacier, New-Zealand

On the Descendancy – Franz Josef Glacier – New Zealand

Intermediate-Climb, Franz-Josef-Glacier, New-Zealand

Intermediate Climb – Franz Josef Glacier – New Zealand

Abseiling-Down-the-Glacier, Franz-Josef, New-Zealand

Abseiling Down the Glacier – Franz Josef – New Zealand

Lydia-Ready, Franz-Josef-Glacier, New-Zealand

Lydia Ready – Franz Josef Glacier – New Zealand

Oren-Booting-Up, Franz-Josef-Glacier, New-Zealand

Oren Booting Up – Franz Josef Glacier – New Zealand

Strapping-up, Franz-Josef-Glacier, New-Zealand

Strapping Up, Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand

Advanced-Climb, Franz-Josef-Glacier, New-Zealand

Advanced Climb, Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand

Happy-Smiles, Franz-Josef-Glacier, New-Zealand

Happy Smiles – Franz Josef Glacier – New Zealand

To complete the day, we then headed back to the Franz Josef Spa Resort which was a great way to relax our bodies after an action fuelled day.

Happy-at-Franz-Josef-Glacier, New-Zealand

Happy at Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand

Further Reading

Franz Josef Glacier Guides

Glacier Country

Franz Josef Heli Hike

More Photography :

“The Photography Collection” by Antematters

Posted in New Zealand Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

New Zealand Adventure Part Two – From Nelson to Lake Mahinapua

After breakfast in Nelson the following morning, it was all about dashing to get onto the bus as a group driven by a guy called Poncey. After a tip off from a girl at Kaikoura, she told us that out of the two coaches available, his was by the far the most fun and active. And she wasn’t wrong. From the off he was jeering us all on and making sure we kept our energy levels up whilst telling stories and jokes to keep us from passing out whilst on the road. He was also a strange mix between Harry and Hill and Freddy Kruegar which made his personality ever more intriguing…

From Nelson, we headed off towards Westport, aptly on the west coast. The weather was impeccable for our first stop off which was a nice relaxing visit to Lake Rotoiti in the Nelson Lakes National park – one of the most beautiful and peaceful lakes in the world.

Lake-Rotoiti, Nelson-Lakes-National-Park, New-Zealand

Lake Rotoiti – Nelson Lakes National Park, New Zealand

Calm-Lake-Rotoiti, Nelson-Lakes-National-Park, New-Zealand

Calm Lake Rotoiti – Nelson Lakes National Park, New Zealand

Mountains-of-Lake-Rotoiti, Nelson-Lakes-National-Park, New-Zealand

Mountains of Lake Rotoiti – Nelson Lakes National Park, New Zealand

Pauric-Flight, Lake-Rotoiti, Nelson-Lakes-National-Park, New-Zealand

Pauric in Flight – Lake Rotoiti – Nelson Lakes National Park, New Zealand

Following a daring swim, we then headed over to Murchison to tuck into some of its famous delicious ice cream before winding through the lush green landscapes of the Buller Gorge for our next activity – the Buller Jetboating!

Buller-Gorge, New-Zealand

Buller Gorge – New Zealand

Kilkenny-Lookout-Point, New-Zealand

Kilkenny Lookout Point – New Zealand

On the bus, we then recruited another member to our gang – Quay – a british Chinese guy from Essex. He is one of the guys I still keep in contact with today and he became my photography buddy, so much so, we were unsurprisingly known as Team Photo after we continuously slowed down the group from moving on by taking shots!

The Buller Jetboating was an adrenaline filled ride through the jaggy cliffs of the gorge. Packed onto the boat with our goggles and safety gear, the driver sped through the gorge whilst continuously performing donuts and 180 degree turns, sliding round dangerous bends and generally ensuring we didn’t leave the boat dry. The gorge was only around 1-2 metres deep, so he had to be pretty accurate with where he was steering the boat. It was dry season and we were told that in the wet season the gorge can rise up to 8 metres and beyond, the dry marks clear to see on the cliff faces. The danger that lurked high above on the winding roads was evidently clear when we also sped past a car that had plummeted 10 metres from the road above. The driver had lost control a couple of weeks ago and fractured his spine as a result.

Buller-Adventure-Tours, Buller-Gorge, New-Zealand

Buller Adventure Tours – Buller Gorge, New Zealand

Team-Photo, Buller-Gorge, New-Zealand

Team Photo – Buller Gorge, New Zealand

Kitted-Out, Buller-Gorge Jet-Boating, New-Zealand

Kitted Out – Buller Gorge Jet Boating, New Zealand

Behind-the-Driver, Jet-Boating, New-Zealand

Behind the Driver – Jet Boating, New Zealand

Flying-Past-the-Rock-Face, Buller-Gorge-Jet-Boating, New-Zealand

Flying Past the Rock Face – Buller Gorge Jet Boating, New Zealand

Car-Submerged, Buller-Gorge, New-Zealand

Car Submerged – Buller Gorge, New Zealand

Cliff-Roadside, Buller-Gorge, New-Zealand

Cliff Roadside – Buller Gorge, New Zealand

Back at Westport, Quay and I then headed off to check out the town and get snapping. It was a dead town really, with very little to do. Again, similar to Christchurch, it had an abandoned feeling, almost like walking into a Midwestern town in the USA, with nothing but tumbleweed and some doors of a local bar slamming in the wind.

Westport-Streets-at-Sunset, New-Zealand

Westport Streets at Sunset – New Zealand

Local-Services, Westport, New-Zealand

Local Services – Westport, New Zealand

Westport-Residency, New-Zealand

Westport Residency – New Zealand

Westport-Church, New-Zealand

Westport Church – New Zealand

Westport-Youth-Base, New-Zealand

Westport Youth Base – New Zealand

Street-Signs-of-Westport, New-Zealand

Street Signs of Westport – New Zealand

Red-Sky-Over-Westport, New-Zealand

Red Sky Over Westport – New Zealand

Sunset-Silhouette, Westport, New-Zealand

Sunset Silhouette – Westport, New Zealand

West-Coast-Bar, Westport, New-Zealand

West Coast Bar – Westport, New Zealand

Westport-Industry, New-Zealand

Westport Industry – New Zealand

Later that evening, we then headed to one of the local bars with the rest of the troops and Poncey to play some drinking games and killer pool. Pauric managed to win out of the 20 odd people taking part, with me coming a half decent 6th. As the night went on, we then met Andy, Lydia, Tamar and Jordiana, so the group just kept on expanding.

The following day, Team Photo was off to a flying start as we stopped off at Cape Foulwind not too far from Westport. The weather was pretty scabby with rain and wind pounding down on us in waves as we walked along the turbulent coastline.

Morning-Sunshine, Cape-Foulwind, New-Zealand

Morning Sunshine at Cape Foulwind – New Zealand

Huts, Cape-Foulwind, New-Zealand

Huts – Cape Foulwind, New Zealand

Lighthouse, Cape-Foulwind, New-Zealand

Lighthouse – Cape Foulwind, New Zealand

Coves-of-Cape-Foulwind, New-Zealand

Coves of Cape Foulwind, New Zealand

Cape-Foulwind-Coastline, New-Zealand

Cape Foulwind Coastline, New Zealand

Cape-Foulwind-Countryside, New-Zealand

Cape Foulwind Countryside, New Zealand

Rocky-Cape-Foulwind, New-Zealand

Rocky Cape Foulwind – New Zealand

Ways-to-Exit-New-Zealand, Cape-Foulwind

Ways to Exit New Zealand – Cape Foulwind

Algae-Rocks, Cape-Foulwind, New-Zealand

Algae Rocks – Cape Foulwind, New Zealand

Beaches-of-Cape-Foulwind, New-Zealand

Beaches of Cape Foulwind, New Zealand

Foggy-Road, Cape-Foulwind, New-Zealand

Foggy Road – Cape Foulwind, New Zealand

Later, we also had a chance to wander around the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks – this was like a little fantasy grotto land with the rock formation seemingly formed artistically rather than naturally. Nearby, huge blow holes would shoot water out into the air spectacularly soaking everything and everybody around them.

Beaches-at-Punakaiki, New-Zealand

Beaches at Punakaiki, New Zealand

Punakaiki-Cove, New-Zealand

Punakaiki Cove, New Zealand

The-Gang-at-Punakaiki, New-Zealand

The Gang at Punakaiki, New Zealand

Blow-Holes-of-Punakaiki, New-Zealand

Blow Holes of Punakaiki, New Zealand

Punakaiki-Pancake-Rocks, New-Zealand

Punakaiki Pancake Rocks – New Zealand

Punakaiki-Pancake-Rock-Formations, New-Zealand

Punakaiki Pancake Rock Formations – New Zealand

From there, we then moved onto Lake Mahinapua for the main party event of the trip – the Poo Party. The theme was Bright But Tight or Bad Taste and we had an hour or so in the nearby town to do a quick sweep of any gear for fancy dress. I dressed up as an old granny in a disgusting stained pink jumper, a stained tea cosy for a hat, some fake glasses and some amazing yellow trousers. Pauric dressed up like a Noddy-cum-fireman, with Quay buying the tightest clothing he could possibly find.

Sunset-at-Lake-Mahinapua, New-Zealand

Sunset at Lake Mahinapua, New Zealand

Lake-Mahinapua, New-Zealand

Lake Mahinapua, New Zealand

Dressed-up-for-the-Poo-Party, Lake-Mahinapua, New-Zealand

Dressed up for the Poo Party, Lake Mahinapua, New Zealand

Steak dinner was later served up to the hungry rabble in preparation for the ensuing drinking session that left us all in disarray for the next day’s trip to Franz Josef.

Further Reading

Nelson Lakes National Park

Buller Adventure Tours

Lake Mahinapua

More Photography :

“The Photography Collection” by Antematters

Posted in New Zealand Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , |

New Zealand Adventure Part One – From Christchurch to Nelson

After my final chilled day in Melbourne following the 24-hour bus ride back from Sydney, it was time to catch my flight to Christchurch at an early 8.45am. Upon touching down and flying through customs, I booked myself into the Coachman’s Hostel in Christchurch for the one night, with plans to jump on the Kiwi Experience bus for the following 10 days.

The weather had quite dramatically changed from what I’d been used to over the course of the past couple of months, with Christchurch having a crisp late autumn feeling to it, with beautifully clear blue skies and a slight chilly breeze. Christchurch itself is a very quaint, laid back city with a similar feeling to any typical British town. The main church was central to its foundations with shops lining high streets around it.

Christchurch-Church, New-Zealand

Christchurch Church – New Zealand

Christchurch-Convention-Centre, New-Zealand

Christchurch Convention Centre – New Zealand

Christchurch-Streets, Sunset, New-Zealand

Christchurch Streets at Sunset – New Zealand

Peaceful-Street-Lighting, Christchurch, New-Zealand

Peaceful Street Lighting – Christchurch, New Zealand

Coming from the towering skyscrapers of Singapore and Sydney, it was a welcomed contrast to see the one or two storey blocks. But aside from the pleasantries of middle England, Christchurch had an eerie feeling to it. Even though it was a Thursday, the town felt deserted, almost like an abandoned seaside town. The buildings were generally old and grey concrete blocks, in dire need of modernising. And there really wasn’t much to do. So after a couple of hours wandering, I retired back to the hostel and hit the sack in preparation for my 7.30 am bus pick up.

After breakfast the next day, I rendezvoused in the central cathedral square ready to set off on the Kiwi Experience. I instantly met a guy called Dave from Welwyn Garden City in the UK who was half way through his Experience having completed the South Island tour over the past week or so, and we pretty much stuck together for the next couple of days before he headed to the North Island and I continued on through the South Island. Although he was a bit of a posh boy, he was pleasant enough and we exchanged our experiences so far and both looked forward to South America – he too was planning on travelling there after New Zealand with his girlfriend for a couple of months.

Upon embarking the bus, I was at first a little apprehensive of deciding to tour New Zealand on a Kiwi Experience. I’d have much preferred to travel round the country at my own pace, but with a tight schedule, it seemed to be the most efficient way to see the sights whilst meeting people. But, as I’d heard, it was quite a young crew on board, with guys on there as young as 21 which instantly made me feel a little saggy at the edges!

As I sat back and got comfortable, I found myself just gazing out the windows for the next couple of hours or so before we arrived at our first destination, Kaikoura. The scenery was as imagined – instantly stunning with miles of lush green countryside tucked beneath snow-capped mountains far off in the distance. The roads that cut through the countryside were brilliantly winding, with every corner throwing up beautiful sites. This was a piece of country that would have been amazing to motorcycle through.

Upon arrival at Kaikoura, I was even more blown away by the beautiful coastline. The air had got even chillier complementing the cold looking sea crashing into the rocky borders. The hills nearby undulated out towards more ice capped mountains in the distance.

Kaikoura-Coastline, New-Zealand

Kaikoura Coastline – New Zealand

Kaikoura-Mountain-Range, New-Zealand

Kaikoura Mountain Range – New Zealand

Cold-Stream, Kaikoura, New-Zealand

Cold Stream – Kaikoura, New Zealand

Storm-Hit-Coastline, Kaikoura, New-Zealand

Storm Hit Coastline – Kaikoura, New Zealand

After checking into our hostel, we then charged off in a hurry to my first activity – swimming with dolphins. Although the activity maybe more clichéd as people become more travelled, it truly was one of the best things I’ve experienced. However, the event was almost completely cancelled as the weather wasn’t particularly favourable with the high winds driving up huge waves towards the coastline, almost preventing us from heading out. Fortunately, they took the chance, warning us of how bumpy the ride would be to get out there.

Once fully suited up and prepped with instructions, we all jumped in the sea to greet the dolphins that had joined us. It was unbelievably cold after crashing in and it took me a good 5 minutes or so to acclimatise to it. With the sea choppy, I also had to get used to the waves crashing into my face, often forgetting to close my mouth in time and having to chuck some back up after swallowing mouthfuls. It was often disorienting whilst you tried to navigate the snorkel and goggles and trying to tread water. Although I’m not a bad swimmer, I also sometimes get a bit claustrophobic when wearing snorkel gear, but once I got over the initial barriers, I finally settled into meeting some dolphins. The site both above and below the surface was incredible – there must have been around 50 dolphins in our vicinity, all charging around us, teasing us into play. We had entered their territory, their playground and it was up to us to entertain them – not the other way round!

So, the 17 of us humans started to swim around and imitate them. We had to try and swim just using our legs and also make as much noise as we could to try and attract their attention. For some reason, I started bellowing Sergeant Pepper’s by the Beatles as loud as I could, and within minutes I was surrounded by around 8 dolphins, each of them swimming within touching distance. They circled round me intrigued, with one the group taking particular interest in me. A few of them brushed past my feet, and a couple bumped into my side. It was quite a strange feeling, all the more so as we weren’t meant to touch them!

Dolphin-Swimming, Kaikoura, New-Zealand

Dolphin Swimming – Kaikoura, New Zealand

Jumping-Dolphin, Kaikoura, New-Zealand

Jumping Dolphin – Kaikoura, New Zealand

Dolphin-Race, Kaikoura, New-Zealand

Dolphin Race – Kaikoura, New Zealand

After around 45 minutes, we got back on the boat. Mesmerised, we headed back to shore with the dolphins leading the way. But the scenes on the boat turned bad as sea-sickness spread – with the majority of people throwing up in buckets as our brains tried to come to terms with the thrashing waves.

Back on shore and energy sapped, I headed off into town with Dave to grab some food and check out the coastline. The fish and chips we had were some of the best and cheapest I’ve tasted, with the fish freshly caught hours earlier. Later in the evening, it was then time to head to one of the local pubs to get to know some of the others. This is where I met Pauric, Lynsey and Sheika who became part of the core group going forward. They’d been out checking out on a fishing activity earlier and were already a few beers ahead of Dave and me, but we spent the rest of the evening pissing around, later heading to another bar with some late night dancing.

Crayfish-Bar, Kaikoura, New-Zealand

Crayfish Bar – Kaikoura, New Zealand

Sunset-on-Kaikoura, New-Zealand

Sunset on Kaikoura – New Zealand

Waking up on a slight hangover, I was raring to go for what was to come next. We headed out of the hostel at around 9am north up the coastline towards Picton. En route, we also stopped off to check out a seal colony lazily sitting enjoying the morning sunshine down below us on the rocks.

Rocky-Kaikoura-Coastline, New-Zealand

Rocky Kaikoura Coastline – New Zealand

Seal-Colony, Kaikoura-Coastline, New-Zealand

Seal Colony – Kaikoura Coastline, New Zealand

Sleeping-Seal, Kaikoura, New-Zealand

Sleeping Seal, Kaikoura, New Zealand

Relaxed-Face, Kaikoura, Seal-Colony, New-Zealand

Relaxed Face, Kaikoura Seal Colony, New Zealand

Dozing-Seal, Kaikoura, New-Zealand

Dozing Seal, Kaikoura, New Zealand

Sunning-Face, Kaikoura, Seal-Colony, New-Zealand

Sunning Face – Kaikoura Seal Colony, New Zealand

Morning-Stretch, Kaikoura, Seal-Colony, New-Zealand

Morning Stretch – Kaikoura Seal Colony, New Zealand

Baby-Seal, Kaikoura, New-Zealand

Baby Seal on the Move – Kaikoura, New Zealand

Posing-Seal, Kaikoura, New-Zealand

Posing Seal – Kaikoura, New Zealand

Morning-Yawn,Kaikoura, New-Zealand

Morning Yawn – Kaikoura, New Zealand

The bus then continued onto Lake Grassmere stopping off at the picturesque walk of the Kerengu Forest where I had a chance to start to really get to know the guys.

The scenery we passed through continued to dazzle, with the terrains changing quickly over very small distances. As we hit the northern parts of the island, it was becoming much greener with bushy forests covering the terrain.

At Picton, we then dropped off half the group who continued to the North Island, switching places with another half coming in the opposite direction. Dave and I said our farewells as he went off with a slim but hopeful chance we may cross roads in South America later. From there, we pretty much hammered through to Nelson without stopping too much, crossing through the Marlborough Sounds wineries where some of the best Sauvignon Blancs in the world are produced. We also randomly passed through a town called Havelock which claims to be the “Greenshell Mussel Capital of the World”.

At Nelson, I checked in with Pauric whilst Sheika and Lynsey checked in with a new addition to our group, Michaela. We then headed off up to the Centre of New Zealand which stood in the beautiful hills of Nelson, high above the location of the first ever rugby game in the country. It was there we also then met our Israeli contingent – Or, Gal and Oren – three charming lads who were (like most young Isralies), travelling round the world after their Military Service. These guys became very central to the rest of the trip, always pissing around and up for a laugh and getting the most out of every second out there!

Nelson, New-Zealand

Nelson – New Zealand

Hills-of-Nelson, New-Zealand

Hills of Nelson – New Zealand

Nelson-Coastline, New-Zealand

Nelson Coastline – New Zealand

Centre-of-New-Zealand-Plaque, Nelson, New-Zealand

Centre of New Zealand Plaque – Nelson, New Zealand

Centre-of-New-Zealand, Nelson

Centre of New Zealand – Nelson

The-Gang, Nelson - New Zealand

The Gang at Nelson, New Zealand

Team-Israel, Nelson, New-Zealand

Team Israel, Nelson, New Zealand

Back at the hostel, we then huddled round for dinner with a free beer tasting evening leading us onto another night of drinking.

Further Reading

Visit Christchurch

Dolphin Encounter – Kaikoura

Nelson Guide

More Photography :

“The Photography Collection” by Antematters

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Sydney – Australia

The main reason for my visit to Australia was really to see my friends Owen and Amy whom I hadn’t seen in over 18 months owing to them settling in Manly in Sydney. It was also a perfect break in my travels to see some familiar faces, to relax and not worry too much for a few days.

Upon arriving in Sydney following the 12-hour bus journey from Melbourne, I headed to the Sydney Quays Harbour to catch a short ferry ride over to Manly. It was early morning, and the sunshine lit up the Sydney Harbour Bridge to my left, with the arches of the famous Sydney Opera House to my right. With a slightly fuzzy head having come off the overnight bus, it was all a bit surreal seeing the sites as we cruised over to Manly.

Sydney-Opera-House, Australia

Sydney Opera House – Australia

Skyline, Sydney, Australia

Skyline – Sydney, Australia

Owen and Amy were at work, so after grabbing the keys off one of their neighbours, dumping my stuff and taking a shower, I headed to the beach to chill out for the afternoon. The area Owen and Amy lived in was beautifully perched on the edge of a rocky beach, opening out to sleeping boats in the harbour. The town itself was quaint – the small streets with stunted buildings resembling a British seaside town, with shops, cafes and bars lining the main strip up to the stretch of beautiful white sandy beaches on the other side of the island. But what I was really looking forward to was seeing Owen and Amy.

Manly-Harbour, Sydney, Australia

Manly Harbour – Sydney, Australia

Beach-Huts, Manly, Sydney, Australia

Beach Huts – Manly – Sydney, Australia

Manly-Diggers-Swimming-Club, Sydney, Australia

Manly Diggers Swimming Club – Sydney, Australia

Manly-Beach, Sydney, Australia

Manly Beach – Sydney, Australia

Manly, Sydney, Australia

Manly – Sydney, Australia

Beach-Dwellers, Manly, Sydney, Australia

Beach Dwellers – Manly – Sydney, Australia

Manly-Streets, Australia

Manly Streets – Australia

Local-Off-Licence, Manly, Australia

Local Off Licence – Manly, Australia

One of the things I had learned so far on my trip was that no matter where you are in the world, it’s often the company that really makes the experience come alive. Jon, Hannah and Roberto made India aside from the wedding of my friend Harps. Meeting Matt off the plane in Bangkok aided my stay in Thailand. Jake and the guys in Saigon made me feel at ease there. Mui, my motorcycle tour-guide made the rest of Vietnam for me. Then I had a reality check through Malaysia and Singapore where I was alone in my thoughts – the chance to share my experiences lacking. So when I finally caught up with Owen and Amy, it had a nice to be home feeling to it. The first night we went out for dinner before sharing a few schooners (beers) together with some of Owen’s work colleagues. The following day, we headed to the local derby football match that Owen played in for Manly F.C. Although Owen played for my team in London, the facilities he was experiencing for his current team were exceptional in comparison. The investment in the club was clear to see, with a great infrastructure. The local community even came out to watch – there must have been a hundred or so watching. In the evening, we simply chilled out with some drinking back at Owen’s flat with a few of his friends.

The following day, Owen and Amy then treated me to a local Manly vs. Sharks rugby league game before we chilled out walking down the seafront in the evening.

The final day in Sydney was spent downtown whilst Owen and Amy went to work on the Monday. This was mainly spent strolling around taking in the sights of the Opera House, Pitt Street, Market Square, St James’ Park, the Town Hall and Darling Harbour. The city itself had a nice feeling to it – maybe even more relaxed than what I experienced in Melbourne, but that could be owing to how stretched out Sydney was in comparison. With the expansive harbour backing out to the main business district, it had a strange feeling of new town Barcelona, Spain, to it. But, it lacked the slightly edger historic side to its European counterpart. Again, however, like Melbourne, as nice as it was to tick off the boxes, it was far removed from the Asian experiences I’ve had so far due to its westernisation.

Martin-Place, Sydney, Australia

Martin Place – Sydney, Australia

Pitt-Street, Sydney, Australia

Pitt Street – Sydney, Australia

Pitt-Street, Sydney, Australia

Pitt Street – Sydney, Australia

Sydney-Town-Hall, Australia

Sydney Town Hall – Australia

Town-Hall-Clock-Tower, Sydney, Australia

Town Hall Clock Tower – Sydney, Australia

Strand-Arcade, Sydney, Australia

Strand Arcade – Sydney, Australia

Shops, Strand-Arcade, Sydney, Australia

Shops of Strand Arcade – Sydney, Australia

St-Mary's-Cathedral, Sydney, Australia

St Mary’s Cathedral – Sydney, Australia

St-Mary's-Cathedral, Sydney, Australia

St Mary’s Cathedral – Sydney, Australia

St-James-Park-Fountains, Sydney, Australia

St James’ Park Fountains – Sydney, Australia

Sydney-Tower-from-St-James'-Park, Sydney, Australia

Sydney Tower from St James’ Park – Sydney, Australia

Queen-Victoria-Statue, Sydney, Australia

Queen Victoria Statue – Sydney, Australia

Queen-Victoria-Building, Sydney, Australia

Queen Victoria Building – Sydney, Australia

Sydney-Tower-Above-Monorail-Tracks, Australia

Sydney Tower Above Monorail Tracks – Australia

Sydney-Tower-Above-Monorail, Australia

Sydney Tower Above Monorail – Australia

Spiral-Fountain, Darling-Harbour, Sydney, Australia

Spiral Fountain – Darling Harbour – Sydney, Australia

Docks-of-Darling-Harbour, Sydney, Australia

Docks of Darling Harbour – Sydney, Australia

Darling-Harbour-Skyline, Sydney, Australia

Darling Harbour Skyline – Sydney, Australia

Darling-Harbour, Sydney, Australia

Darling Harbour – Sydney, Australia

Ships, Darling-Harbour, Sydney, Australia

Ships of Darling Harbour – Sydney, Australia

Cruiser, Darling-Harbour, Sydney, Australia

Cruiser in Darling Harbour – Sydney, Australia

Sydney-Monorail, Australia

Sydney Monorail – Australia

Sydney-Harbour-Bridge, The-Rocks, Australia

Sydney Harbour Bridge from The Rocks – Australia

Sunset, Sydney-Harbour-Bridge, Australia

Sunset under Sydney Harbour Bridge – Australia

Late-Afternoon-Sydney-Harbour-Bridge, Australia

Late Afternoon Sydney Harbour Bridge – Australia

Boat, Sydney-Harbour-Bridge, Australia

Boat Under Sydney Harbour Bridge – Australia

Beneath, Sydney-Harbour-Bridge, Australia

Beneath the Sydney Harbour Bridge – Australia

Later in the evening, I caught up with Rowena, an ex-work colleague of mine, for dinner down by the harbour, before departing late on back towards Manly for my final night before leaving Owen and Amy to head back to Melbourne in time to catch my flight to New Zealand.

Further Reading

City of Sydney Guide

Sydney Opera House

Visit Manly

More Photography :

“The Photography Collection” by Antematters

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Melbourne – Australia

With the flight from Singapore to Melbourne in Australia at 10pm, I hadn’t managed to grab much sleep as the journey lasted an awkward six and a half hours, so I landed in quite a nauseated state. After a surprising body search and interview with the customs guards at passport control, I was glad to hop onto the bus and check into Flinders Backpackers Hostel in downtown Melbourne.

Having come from the economical way of life in South-East Asia, I was brought crashing back down to earth after Singapore in terms of western pricing, with Australia following closely behind. Flinders Backpackers was by far the cheapest of downtown offerings in Melbourne but still cost four to five times more than South-East Asia. I had also gone from my own private room to a cramped 8 people shared hell-hole. The Hostel was in a dank, dreary and quite haunting 10-storey building right in the centre of town. The reception sat in the middle of a huge communal area which was predominantly surrounded by spotty teenagers lounging around. After socialising with a few over the next couple of days, I was bewildered at the amount of them that had simply sought escapism to Australia, but that in-turn resulted in isolation within the depths of the hostel, scrapping for survival. The room I stayed was humid and stank of sweat. The windows hardly opened to let in fresh air. The corridor between bunk beds resembled a cramped cabin on a warship. It was a depressing place. But, I hadn’t much option either unless I wanted to chuck money down the drain at another more expensive hostel for a 1-night stay.

After a couple more hours sleep, I then escaped into town to buy a return bus ticket to Sydney to visit my friends Owen and Amy in Manly. Later, I then checked out the Flinders area and visited Federation Square, snapping the impressive skyline along the riverbank.

King-Street, Melbourne, Australia

King Street – Melbourne, Australia

Swanston-Street, Melbourne, Australia

Swanston Street – Melbourne, Australia

Flinders-Street-Station, Melbourne, Australia

Flinders Street Station – Melbourne, Australia

Sugar-Station, Melbourne, Australia

Sugar Station – Melbourne, Australia

Downtown, Skyline, Melbourne, Australia

Downtown Skyline – Melbourne, Australia

Yarra-River, Melbourne, Australia

Yarra River – Melbourne, Australia

The city had a small and much more European relaxed feeling to it than I expected. It was quite leisurely, with people going about their business in a very chilled out manner. The streets were lined in blocks, with rows of shops, restaurants and fast-food chains, the roads wide with tram lines splitting through. It had an American feel to it. Heading out from Federation Square, I walked through the sprawling Victoria Park, past the Governmental Buildings and through the beautiful Botanical Gardens. As I walked on, I past the Olympic Village and Rod Laver Stadium – home to the Australian Tennis Open. Back at Federation Square, I just sat and watched the world go by. A busker kept me company outside Flinders Station making what looked like at least £50 an hour playing some out of the box Acoustic guitar.

Rod-Laver-Stadium, Melbourne, Australia

Rod Laver Stadium – Melbourne, Australia

Federation-Square, Melbourne, Australia

Federation Square – Melbourne, Australia

In the evening, I ate at an all you can eat buffet in Chinatown – probably the most reasonable value at $12. The obvious shock was how it was five times more expensive for much worse food than Asia. I then headed toward Section 9 of The Lanes area to try and mingle with some locals at a couple of the bars. This proved difficult at first, with the vibe similar to London in terms of approaching people for a chat. Eventually, I settled in a more American style bar which allowed me to start up some conversation with the bar staff and a few of the locals whilst seeing the night away watching some local comedy.

The following day, I met a couple of Israeli guys at breakfast called Ofer and Yuval who had just started their travelling following completion of their 3-year military service. Having come from a 3-week trip in New Zealand and en-route to Asia, they were clearly in admiration for their freedom, talking about how much they had embraced their adventures so far, and how much they were still looking forward to Asia. Their endeavors in the army, although valuable in terms of life skills, seemed also costly in terms of self-expression and exploration.

After breakfast, we headed to the Queen Victoria Market area in the Italian Quarter near Fitzroy Street. It had a 19th century old English feel to the area, resembling parts the Eastern Coast of the U.S. We managed to pick up a delicious pie that reminded me of home and some amazing Gelato ice cream from one of the many parlours in the area. This followed a much needed carb fix in Spaghetti Bolognese, a substantial dinner before I jumped on my bus to Sydney in a couple of hours.

Queen-Victoria-Market, Melbourne, Australia

Queen Victoria Market – Melbourne, Australia

Souvenir-Signs, Melbourne, Australia

Souvenir Signs – Melbourne, Australia

Stoneman's-Butchers, Queen-Victoria-Market, Melbourne, Australia

Stoneman’s Butchers – Queen Victoria Market – Melbourne, Australia

Inside-Queen-Victoria-Market, Melbourne, Australia

Inside Queen Victoria Market – Melbourne, Australia

Butchers, Queen-Victoria-Market, Melbourne, Australia

Butchers – Queen Victoria Market – Melbourne, Australia

Charlie's-Butcher, Queen-Victoria-Market, Melbourne, Australia

Charlie’s Butcher – Queen Victoria Market – Melbourne, Australia

Beef-Butchers, Queen-Victoria-Market, Melbourne, Australia

Beef Butchers – Queen Victoria Market – Melbourne, Australia

Italian-Quarter-Stop, Melbourne, Australia

Italian Quarter Stop – Melbourne, Australia

Corner, Italian-Quarter, Melbourne, Australia

A Corner in the Italian Quarter – Melbourne, Australia

Ofer, Yuval, Italian, Gelato-Shop, Melbourne, Australia

Ofer and Yuval – Italian Gelato Shop – Melbourne, Australia

Fitzroy-Street, Melbourne, Australia

Fitzroy Street – Melbourne, Australia

Brunswick-Street, Melbourne, Australia

Brunswick Street – Melbourne, Australia

Tram-Carriage, Melbourne, Australia

Tram Carriage – Melbourne, Australia

As pleasant as the city was, Melbourne was a town that held no real surprises for me due to its obvious Western foundations. However, the fruits of the city are probably best tasted after a much more lengthy stay.

Further Reading

City of Melbourne Guide

Queen Victoria Market – Melbourne

Visit Melbourne

More Photography :

“The Photography Collection” by Antematters

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Singapore – The Malay Financial Heart

After an excitable visit to Kuala Lumpur, I checked out my hostel and headed to the main bus terminal to catch a ride to Singapore. The bus was a mere £10 for a 6-hour journey, but came equipped with a full in-built massaging seat and personalised televisions, with legroom that could have accommodated the tallest man in the world!

Having checked into my first shared dorm room of my journey on Dunlop Street on the outskirts of the city centre, I quickly showered and headed downtown. I only had the afternoon and the following morning in Singapore; but to be honest, it was more than enough, especially seeing as it was one of the most expensive places I’ve ever been to.

Upon wandering into town towards Raffles City and Marina Bay Sands, I noticed immediately how the streets were immaculate, without a single piece of litter in sight, the streets so clean it almost seemed like they’d just completed tarmacking the place. There was no gum stuck to the pavements. No leaves on the ground. It even felt like there wasn’t even a speck of dust in the air.

Raffles City - Singapore

Raffles City – Singapore

War Memorial - Singapore

War Memorial – Singapore

Raffles Place - Singapore

Raffles Place – Singapore

Esplanade Theatre - Singapore

Esplanade Theatre – Singapore

Singapore Skyline

Singapore Skyline

The Wheel - Singapore

The Wheel – Singapore

Marina Bay Sands - Singapore

Marina Bay Sands – Singapore

Expensive cars casually breezed through the long boulevards lined with tall skyscrapers similar to Kuala Lumpur. It was a city that lacked any kind of suburban feeling, one full of wealth and grandeur. A city built heavily on its rich Central Business District of 6 Battery Road and the UOB Plaza – areas full of financial institutions and corporate dividends. Having come from impoverished parts of Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, this was a heavily contrasting world. Restaurants and bars would line the glitzy streets full of businessmen and women darting about in meticulous suits. Lunchtime dinners were accompanied by overpriced cocktails and aperitifs. A bar I walked past near the UOB Plaza even had an overly priced Happy Hour – a bottle of beer for $12SGD (roughly £6) or a Whiskey Bottle for $158SGD (roughly £85). Money was no objective here.

Singapore Skyline from Marina Bay Sands

Singapore Skyline from Marina Bay Sands

Marina Bay Sands Skyline - Singapore

Marina Bay Sands Skyline – Singapore

Bars of Singapore

Bars of Singapore

Downtown Singapore Rush Hour

Downtown Singapore Rush Hour

Happy Hour Expense - Singapore

Happy Hour Expense – Singapore

Aside from the city’s obvious financial prowess, it still offered an endearing experience – albeit, a complete contrast from other areas of South-East Asia. It had a romantic feeling to it and felt extremely safe. The Cavenagh Bridge backing onto 6 Battery Road is a beautiful piece of engineering. The towering buildings of the UOB Plaza with the human ants darting through their shadows were breath-taking sight to see, especially by night. The meandering river canals splitting the island offer a peaceful romantic setting for a leisurely stroll.

Cavenagh Bridge - Singapore

Cavenagh Bridge – Singapore

Colonial Building - Singapore

Colonial Building – Singapore

UOB Plaza - Singapore

UOB Plaza – Singapore

A View of the Bay - Singapore

A View of the Bay – Singapore

UOB Plaza - Singapore

UOB Plaza – Singapore

Fullerton Hotel - Singapore

Fullerton Hotel – Singapore

Cavenagh Bridge  - Singapore

Cavenagh Bridge – Singapore

6 Battery Road - Singapore

6 Battery Road – Singapore

The bright saturated colours of Chinatown and Pagoda Street in the evening brought with it the most exciting of the atmospheres, with traditional housing host to cafes, restaurants and drinking holes together with traditional food hawker stalls lining the streets offering all kinds of delicacies. The streets were narrower and quaint, the atmosphere tranquil and welcoming.

Pagoda Street - Singapore

Pagoda Street – Singapore

Pagoda - Singapore

Pagoda – Singapore

Club Street - Singapore

Club Street – Singapore

Club Street - Singapore

Club Street – Singapore

Bottom of Ann Siang Road - Singapore

Bottom of Ann Siang Road – Singapore

Ann Siang Road - Singapore

Ann Siang Road – Singapore

Shopping in Chinatown - Singapore

Shopping in Chinatown – Singapore

Chinatown Buildings - Singapore

Chinatown Buildings – Singapore

Light Shop - Chinatown, Singapore

Light Shop – Chinatown, Singapore

Chinatown Stalls - Singapore

Chinatown Stalls – Singapore

Coliwa Department Store - Singapore

Coliwa Department Store – Singapore

Street Food - Chinatown, Singapore

Street Food – Chinatown, Singapore

Chinatown Stalls - Singapore

Chinatown Stalls – Singapore

Chinatown Stall - Singapore

Chinatown Stall – Singapore

Singapore by Night

Singapore by Night

Underpass - Singapore

Underpass – Singapore

Singapore River by Night

Singapore River by Night

Fullerton Hotel by Night

Fullerton Hotel by Night

Cavenagh Bridge by Night

Cavenagh Bridge by Night

Skycrapers of Republic Plaza by Night - Singapore

Skycrapers of Republic Plaza by Night – Singapore

Republic Plaza by Night - Singapore

Republic Plaza by Night – Singapore

But with prices still astronomically high, much of the joys of Singapore for me were seen street side. A trip to the luxury shopping district in Orchard Street gave me a glimpse at the glamorous brands such as Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana decorating the streets in lush stores.

Boutiques of Orchard Street - Singapore

Boutiques of Orchard Street – Singapore

Orchard Street - Singapore

Orchard Street – Singapore

Tube Commute - Singapore

Tube Commute – Singapore

Little India Tube Station - Singapore

Little India Tube Station – Singapore

But the glitz was all too much for me on this kind of trip – it ticked off the box to have seen the famous Singapore skyline, but I looked forward to what was to come next.

Further Reading

Time Out Singapore

Venere Travel Blog – Singapore Street Markets

Travel CNN – Singapore Buildings

More Photography :

“The Photography Collection” by Antematters

Posted in Singapore Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , |