Day 114 – Hamilton’s botanical gardens and a Maori exhibition

After a great night’s sleep (that bed is so comfy), we were up around 8ish. Fingers crossed we’ve slept off our jet lag! We were welcomed again with another great breakfast of cereal, toast and porridge! Yum! Lounging around for a while, Lynda was keen to show us the local sights so we popped into Hamilton town centre. Hamilton is quite small yet it has a surprising number of pubs, good for students! And with the season just coming out of winter, it was still a bit chilly and the centre was host to a fake ice skating rink.

It didn’t take us long to walk around but we popped into a few shops including a great second hand book shop where we sold our South American Lonely Planet’s. With the 2011 Rugby World Cup on in the country right now, there was also a little rugby exhibition on so we also popped in there.

A statue of Richard O Brien in the Rocky Horror Show

A statue of Richard O Brien in the Rocky Horror Show

Lynda also took us to one of Hamilton’s famous sites – the statue of Richard O Brien dressed from the Rocky Horror Show. Yes, I found this a little odd but to be honest, with the amount of strange things we’ve seen in the past few months, this probably shouldn’t surprise me.

After visiting the town centre, Lynda drove us to the botanical gardens. Just coming out of winter, its not the best time of the year to visit but it was still beautiful, especially the international gardens.

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As I mentioned earlier, the Rugby World Cup is on and because of this, there was a special Maori exhibition adjacent to the botanical gardens. It was only small but it had several tents, each with a different activity on inside. They were workshops on for this week only. We decided to sign up as it was only NZ$50 each (c.£25) to sign up for 3 activities including  a hangi lunch (a traditional Maori meal cooked under ground). Although significantly more expensive than in South America, this was cheap for New Zealand. We decided to sign up to the Hakka workshop, weaving workshop and to go on the traditional Maori canoe called a Waka later in the week. Exciting times!

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Day 113 – Arriving in New Zealand and feeling at home

So we arrived in Auckland, New Zealand, early in the morning. The exact time was unknown, missing the last day and then a change in day light savings time in New Zealand meant we had no idea what time it was. After getting our bags and getting through customs with a special Rugby World Cup 2012 stamp we headed for the nearest information point to find out the actual time.

It was an hour earlier than expected at 5 in the morning. John’s Uncle Mike who moved his family over to New Zealand 20 years ago was to meet us at the airport and take us to Hamilton, where he lives, to stay for a week or so.

Mike had been at the New Zealand game where the All Blacks had beaten France 37-17.  He spent the night in his car and arrived at the airport lounge in his shorts and Lions top (bright red). We jumped in the car and headed back to Hamilton via the power station where Mike worked to pick up some work stuff. It was the first time I had met him and John hadn’t seen him for a good few years so these next few days will probably be spent having a nice catch up.

John has never been over to New Zealand to see his uncle, aunty (Lynda) or his four cousins. Periodically, they had been over to England apart from two of his cousins who had recently moved back to England.

The family home is located on the outskirts, well the country side, to the west of Hamilton. After a one and a half hour drive, we were met by the dog Ruby who was crazy excited to see Mike and meet new people. It was jumping up and almost knocked me over! The house was amazing with a long driveway, land at the front which used to have cows in and a garden round the back. Inside, it has an open plan design and is very homely! Just what we needed after a 12 hour flight!

The first thing Mike did was cook a huge English breakfast with baked beans, sausages, bacon, eggs with tea (proper english tea). Amazing! We’ve missed this! We were so full and then we sat watching English football highlights (well John did) as the family woke, John was loving it!  We also met John’s two cousins James and Elizabeth when they were up. It was so nice to be in a family home and we were made so welcome. We were very very grateful!

Having barely slept on the plane and with the time difference against us we managed to stay awake till midday and then headed to bed. We had the spare room to stay in which had a comfy double bed. It was one of the best afternoon naps ever until Lynda came banging on our door at 3pm to get us up! (we told her to get us up if we weren’t up by 3, just in case we couldn’t sleep that night).

In the evening, we broke out the selection of wine we brought over from Chile and started to make a dent in the wine selection.

Some of the wine we brought over from Chile

Some of the wine we brought over from Chile

Mike then started on the evening meal. Around 18 months ago John’s sister, Lucy and her boyfriend Kev backpacked around the world. They also spent time in New Zealand. During their stay at Mike and Lynda’s they helped to feed and maintain two cows at the house. Since then the cows had been killed and butchered, and most of the remains were still in their freezer! We ate them in a tasty BBQ which Mike made that evening and they tasted amazing! Well done Lucy and Kev!

The remains of the family pet - Cows that is

The remains of the family pet – Cows that is

After a couple of glasses of wine, we watched some TV but we started to fall asleep on the sofa and headed for bed around 9pm! Good effort I say!

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Day 112 – A non-existent day

Due to different time zones and flight time, September 24th never really happened for us. We boarded the flight on the evening of September 23rd and we’re due to land on September 25th (local time). Yeah, took me a while to try and figure out what happened. Weird.

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Day 111 – Goodbye South America

I’m feeling very sad today as its our last day in South America but at the same time excited to be heading to a new country, New Zealand. I love this region and I’ve had an amazing 3 and a half months! Right now, I can’t think of the words to describe how fantastic my journey has been so far, from climbing up a volcano and cartwheeling across the salt flats to white water rafting in Mendoza and eating the best steak of my life! I feel so lucky and grateful to be on this journey and fully recommend South America to everyone.

With a relaxing day on the cards, we headed into the centre and sat in the park soaking up the sun and reading. With prices in New Zealand being similar to home, John had another haircut. Haircuts are always funny; again we had to use books in the hairdressers to show the hairdresser what he wanted. It came out well and only a couple of pounds, see the results below.

We then decided to treat ourselves with a meal in the posh area which is north of the river near to the student area. We went for Chorrillana which we had seen a young lady in Valparasio attempt to eat.

A new hair cut and a huge beer!

A new hair cut and a huge beer!

A huge pile of chips with beef, onions and eggs on top! Not healthy but damn good!

Chorrillana, and we ate it all

Chorrillana, and we ate it all

We packed up at the hostel and had a snack before our flight. Keeping in line with our willingness to use public transport, we caught the bus to the airport which was much cheaper than a taxi. We jumped on a tube to the stop and then onto the bus.

After 5 minites we hit traffic. After 10 minutes in traffic John started to become a little nervous. We had about 3 hours before the flight but the traffic was enough to cause John to panic. He was there just saying to himself “I knew we should have got a taxi”.

We then started to see people walking and running down the street with scarves over their faces and gas masks. It was the student protests. We had to to be diverted from the main road as up ahead the protesters were throwing Molotov cocktails and trying to set anything alight. The police were responding with tear gas. At this sight, John started to panic thinking we would miss the flight and trying to think of an alternative to getting to the airport.

We turned off the blocked road, then left and onto the motorway to be at the airport in 20 minutes flat – I knew that we would be fine! Panic over and  time to buy some more wine at the airport.

We stocked up on a couple more bottles of red then used the last of our Chilean pesos at Dunkin Donuts which felt just plain wrong but the change was perfect for donuts and a drink each.

There was a slight tear in each of our eyes to be leaving South America. Our first backpacking destination had lived up and exceeded our expectations. We already knew that we would like to return to explore more of Argentina in the far South and get further up north in the continent to experience more of this amazing region.

But for now, we boarded the plane ready for continent number 2 and country number 5, New Zealand.

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Day 110 – Student protests and Mexican food in Chile

It’s our penultimate day in South America and we decided to continue exploring the area but with a view to do a little shopping.  With our flight to New Zealand tomorrow night, we were looking to buy some wine for John’s Auntie and Uncle who will be picking us up from Auckland airport. We walked from the hostel in the west of the city to the city centre, keeping an eye out for some shops to buy a few bottles. Checking our baggage allowance, we are able to get 6 bottles between us, 2 each in our luggage and then buy a further two in customs at the airport. We managed to purchase three bottles of red wine and a litre bottle of vodka. The vodka cost £3 though I doubt its the good stuff!! We’re expecting New Zealand to be substantially more expensive than South America so we’ve decided to stock upon alcohol!!

Our bags at this stage were swelling and with the hope of warmer weather in New Zealand, we may be able to ditch some of our winter clothing soon. However, checking the weather it was colder in New Zealand than it was in Santiago, and it wasn’t that hot in Santiago!

A quick afternoon break, we sat outside of a cafe for a drink!

A great view of a junction

A great view of a junction

Another local beer ticked off the list for John

Another local beer ticked off the list for John

We walked back from the centre and managed to come across the start of another student protest. During our time in Chile, there had been several huge protests regarding education which had resulted in schools shutting down, sit ins and no lessons. In the capital, there had been huge protests and fighting with the police which had led to the death of one 16 year old. As the groups were gathering we were not allowed to walk the direct route to the hostel and had to take a detour. It was strange to see people walking around with gas masks in preparation for the use of tear gas.

Back at the hostel we met a couple from Australia, Stuart and Lisa. The couple from Melbourne had just got married back home and now were on their honeymoon, backpacking for 3 months.

They were mixing time with hotels and hostels but were able to spend a similar amount in three months than they would spend on a super honeymoon destination. Lisa had travelled before but this was the first time that Stuart had been backpacking. He was loving it!

Highly enthusiastic about his adventures, he was really looking forward to Peru but he had to call his parents almost everyday to tell them that that he was safe and sound. Very cute!

We headed out with them for a beer and then for some food. We had a Mexican with huge piles of food to be placed into our wraps.

Mexican food in Chile, Beans, Pork, Chicken and lots of sauce

Mexican food in Chile, Beans, Pork, Chicken and lots of sauce

There was even a little Mexican (might have been Chilean) to sing us a song whilst we dined!

Feeling a little awkward...

Feeling a little awkward…

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