A Travellerspoint blog

New Zealand

It didn't look that far on the map

Well 21 days later and we've finally finished the New Zealand leg, apologies for the delay but I was just too busy in New Zealand to write this. New Zealand was an amazing place, yet we only had 3 weeks to do it in, in that time though I reckon we saw 3 quarters of what she had too offer. We did everything from climbing glaciers and volcanoes, to sailing down fijiords and even a sheep show. What follows is an attempt to fit everything in from memory using the Filofax and the guide book....

So after a crazy flight we landed in Auckland airport at 4am, minus the 3rd May. Also disappointed as the plane had absolutelty pants films and my tv didn't work for like an hour, all I can say is that my customer survey definately brought the average down. So anyway by the grace of god there was a book shop in the arrivals lounge with a guide book. So it was actually between the hours of 4am and 8am, waiting for a shuttle bus, that we actually planned the whole thing, ish. Which I think is pretty impressive. The plan we'd figured was hire a car and make it too Christchurch for the 23rd May for a flight on the 25th. Now one problem which didnt make itself apparent was the distances, the map in the Lonely Liar wasn't too accurate, something which we would learn the hard way. So the distances didn't look too bad, that was until the night before we got the car when we brought a REAL map. Also as I was the only one driving it meant Chris would have to navigate, this being the same guy who managed to get lost in Buenas Aires getting to my hostel from his (a 10min straight walk turned into 1 hour 50 minutes detour around Buenas Aires' slums). Thus a few last minute lessons were in order (actually he did a bang up job in the end of it).
So anway we spent a couple of days in Auckland, which I thought was a really nice city, there was only just over a million people there (only 4 million in the country). Checked out a few of the museums, the National one was pretty good. Watched the sunset from the sky tower, basically the biggest tower in the southern hemisphere, built primarily for tourism and to outdo the Aussies. Didn't do anything too eventfull as it took us two days to get over the flight, we'd worked out that we were 15 hours ahead of where we'd just left in South America, talk about a killer. We did arrive for the start of the NZ Comedy Festival, ended up seeing Dougle from Father Ted.
So, we picked up the car on the sunday (we ended up calling her Maggie as we had a history and a polotics graduate there), and decided to head south to the Waitamo caves. Now in regards to the car we weren't expecting anything decent, it only cost us $33NZ per day for the car, about 6 quid, not including petrol (but then it only just us just over $40NZ to fill her up). She wasn't too bad though, a crappy 1.3 Daiatsu Siern, yet it did have a CD player.
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So we set off to these caves, stopping off in a place called Hamilton, whose sole claim to fame was a big garden.
The Waitamo Caves we actually pretty cool, we went to the ones where Attenbrough filmed part of the TV series called Planet Earth. It was pretty cool when we switched the tourches off the whole caves were lit up by the glow worms. Pretty amazing thing to see. So did that in the morning, however when we got back it was unfortunately too late to see the daily shaving of the Angora rabbits at the Angora rabbit place, dam.
So we headed to the Tonganiro National Park that night to hike the trail the following day. An 8 hour trek over one massive volcano, the one next to was classed as 'dormant'. That one was actually Mount Doom in Lord of the Rings. The whole trek was pretty amazing, except it stank or rotten eggs due to all the sulphur. You could see the steam coming out of fissures in the rocks. The sulphur lakes were another pretty impressive site.
Arfter that we then headed to lake Taupo, then onto Rotorua the next day. As we were in a bit of hurry we didnt stay long in Taupo, however again it was a pretty cool place. Checked out the massive lake which had a few small thermals running into it. In parts on the shore when you touched the water in the lake it was actually warm because of it. It was also here that we randomly ended up finding the worlds only inland thermal fresh water prawn farm, now thats one I can tick off the list finally. We ended up shooting golf balls overt the prawn pools or fields or whatever you call them, also had the nicest prawns of the trip.
So after that we headed to Rotorua where we managed to catch a sheep show, was actually pretty good (also where we picked up Dolly the mascot, went Zorbing (absolute quality) and had a go on a race car (got the fastest lap of the day and only spun off twice). It was after this that we decided to head across to Napier. Now here was where lonely liar became a massive pain in the ass. On the map in it, it has a main road going straight from Rotorua all the way to Napier, which was our next destination. Great we thought. However this 'main road' consisted of over 100km of dirt roads and gravel treks which snaked road mountains and through valleys, you dont want to know big some of the drops were, and the route it took had little if no ressemblance to the book.
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You don't want to know how far down that was. So what should have been a 3 hour trip turned into a 6 hour mission. Yet we did see some pretty cool stuff and I managed to refine my powersliding skills, the back end just loved to come out. We ended up finding this stunning looking lake which no one really knows about.
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I believe this is called Lake Waikaremoana. It was actually a pretty cool detour as we saw things that no one else gets to see, also managed to have some fun on a gravel track in a hire car.
So anyway we got to Napier after 6 hours driving, its a town on the Eastern Coast of the North Island. It was a pretty nice place as well. Nothing too exciting happened there, we did play a bit of crazy golf though, the Pacific Pro Am to be precisie.
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This is from Bluff Point looking out over Hawkes Bay.
After that we headed down to Wellington but stopped off in a place called Palmerston North as it was too far drive in one go. Now this place sucked ass. Apparently John Clease, i.e. Faulty Towers, took the piss out the place on a podcast last year while he did a tour of it. To be honest though he was pretty right when he claimed it was the suicide capital of NZ. However the locals didnt like it too much and decided to name a rubbish tip after him, seriously it even made the evening news while we were there.
So the next day we headed to Wellington to get the ferry across to the South Island. Wellington wasn't too bad a place, kind of like Auckland but with less people in it. Didn't do too much there, caught Spiderman 3 though.
So we caught the ferry over on sunday morning, ended up bumping into these Irish guys I'd meet in Buenas Aires, then again on the flight over to NZ and now again on the ferry.
The trip across the straits was alright, got to watch the F1 highlights. So basically the ferry stops in this tiny ass place called Picton, which we soon discovered was not all that tiny for the south. Apparently more people live in Auckland than in the whole of the South Island.
The plan was to head off and do one of the glaciers which meant driving along the West coast. We were going to stay in Nelson for a day but it made more sense to get out to a place called Westport. We did drive though Nelson and it did look quality, the problem was that we were just so pressed for time. So hooked up in Westport, not very memorable, got out as soon as possible the next day. We managed to stop off in a place called Greymouth for a few hours, again not a very memorable place, to sort out the glacier stuff. We decided to check out Fox Glacier just cause it was cheaper.
However going back to the stretch from Westport to Greymouth we did see some pretty cool stuff.
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Also found these buggers near the car, kind of like kiwis but not.
So after Greymouth we headed down to Fox, and did the unusual thing of actually spending two nights in the place, everwhere else we'd only spent one. The next day we did the full day hike thing on it, was pretty cool actually but bloody cold at times even though it was sunny.
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The following day we set off for Lake Wanaka, which I thought was pronounced Wanka. It was actually a pretty scenic drive through all the valleys and lakes. Heres another lake, no idea which one though.
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It was that evening that we rocked up in Lake Wanaka, which is a really nice place, a month later and we'd have hit it for the ski season. It was here that Chris decided to do his skydive, but as it was too windy the first day we ended up spending two days there. Again this place has a lake next to it, a pretty nice one as well.
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When we saw the video of his skydive it was pretty funny, he looked like he wet himself a couple of times on it.
Unfortunately as we spent too long in Wanaka we had to cut time short from Queenstown as we had a tour on the Milford Sound to do. Which meant we had 4 hours there, talk about a whistle stop tour. Heres the view of Queenstown from the Skyline Gondola.
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Pretty amazing, and Im not just talking about myself, also round the back they had a luge track, not the ice one but with tarmac and sleds with wheels. Some guy gave us a family ticket as he'd run out of time, quality. That was so much fun, also discovered that Chris is not a natural driver. It was also here that we bumped into the same Irish guys again, I swear they must have been stalking us.
So after the whirlwind tour of Queesntown we headed to Ten Anau to do the Milford sound thingy. Basically you drive through these crazy valleys and see some quality sites, then end up at this Fijord where you sail about there for a bit then come back.
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Pretty cool but after all the sailing stuff Ive done I actually found the bus trip more interesting. While back in Ten Anau we stayed two nights as on the 2nd night it was their anniversary and they were having a free BBQ, never turn down a free meal. It was also here that we had the Spagetti incident, where by I cooked some spag bol, only Chris wanted to do something so I left him incharge to do the pasta as he was making a big fuss. Only to come back 30 mins later to find the sauce burning with the kitchen smoking and Chris starring at a pan full of boilding water insisting that it was not yet boiling. Looking back it was actually quite funny.
After Ten Anau we decided to take the Southern Scenic route, its a highway which goes directly south till the coast and then follows this all the way round till you get up to Dunedin, through the Catlins. It was along here that we saw some pretty amazing sites.
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Such as these guys we found on Shag Point, well we thought the name was funny. We also saw an albotrose and a load of pengiuns coming off the beach at night.P5200391.jpg
While this bits self explanatory.
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We also managed to spend the night in an extremely lush place which we got for bugger all as it was low season. Made a pleasant change from crappy dorm rooms.
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The last stage was a particular high light of the trip just because we got to chill out a bit and see stuff that nobody else gets to, basically the real New Zealand.
Unfortunatelty though all things come to an end and so we had to get back to Christchurch to drop Maggie off. It was while driving down that we read the contract and nearly shit ourselves, they wanted $50 to clean her. Now after 18 days of driving over dirt roads and mud tracks, involving numerous hand brake skids, she was absolutely filthy. She also had a good deal more scratches and chips, luckly the guy never noticed them, including the marks underneath where I'd managed to beach it on a curb. However we did find a car wash and vacuum thing, best $8 I ever spent. So we managed to drop her off, and as she was nice and clean we didnt get screwed over and the guy never noticed the extra chips we'd added.
So New Zealand... well we had a quality time, a bit rushed, but still an amazing time. We saw so much stuff and did so many things I've lost count. In the end it worked out that in 21 days we'd driven nearly 4000km and seen 28 sperate towns/cities. Crap thats a lot.

http://manchester.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2123836&l=d3e12&id=61407689

Posted by Snow21 25.05.2007 02:32 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Chile

Well at least it lives up too its name

semi-overcast 14 °C

Again, the pictures on the link below

http://manchester.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2118533&l=4f5ed&id=61407689

The plan was not too spend too much time in Chile, I was only going there to take a flight to New Zealand. I intended to head across to Valprassio for the weekend and then too make it to Santigao for Monday. However a couple of things intervened. Firstly I brought the wrong bus ticket, I went to town just above it , Vina del Mar, I think. Basically Vina Del Mar and Valprassio are two towns on two bays which are right next too each other, Vina is the beach resort area while Valprassio is the port part. However Valprassio is well known and a fav tourist spot because of all the houses built on the hill.
So got on the bus from Mendoza in Argentina, which meant crossing the Andes, though most importantly, another ruddy boarder crossing. The drive through the Andes was pretty surreal as we passed snow capped mountains. You could see a lot of ski lifts which weren't in use, I was a month or two early for the season. All was going well until the border crossing, 3 1/2 hours later we finally got out. However while there got chatting to a couple of people which I ended up with for a good few days, one all the way to Santiago.
So we finally got into Vina del Mar at some good awfull hour, ended up in yet another crappy hostel. However it did have the most comfortable beds ever so it can be forgiven. Also had one of the best Caprinias of the trip, you could tell it was good as after two you had trouble walking in a straight line.
Only stayed there for a day and ended up in Valprassio on the saturday. Stayed in a pretty cool hostel and we ended up going out with them all. Which brings me back to the second factor which played against the time table, I got absolutely trollied. What made matters worse was that all the dorms had locks on. There was another English guy who got locked out, so being a fellow countrymen I tried to help him. After about 5 mins we gave up and I went back to the dorm, however all those other w@#$%%s in the room had passed out, along with everyone else in the hostel. Which wouldnt have been bad had I not left my key in the room and was only wearing shorts.
So me and the other English lad retired back to the living room and remembering those Ray Meers programmes which watched went in search of sustinance, i.e. booze and something warm to wear.
Now I think I need to go back a good few years now, see for something like 8 crappy years I had to learn Latin at school (I know its random but stay with me on thise one), and at every lesson I always wondered what the hell the point of learning it was. Now, god knows how many years later it has finally proved its worth. While looking through the fridge we found a bottle of Caprinia, now both of us knew bugger all Spanish, as on the front was written Libre. However using those crappy Latin skills I figured out what it meant and the next few hours just wizzed by.
My god though the mother of all hangovers kicked in and so didnt get out of that place till Monday. However I did get to check the place out on Monday morning though so not too bad.
We got in to Santiago with the two I'd meet, however one buggered off as she knew a family.
Now there isnt much to do in Santiago, so when its a bank holiday theres even less. We were there for 1st May which is pretty big down this end. Everything was shut, it was like a ghost town. We did manage to occupy ourselves there, theres a statue of Mary on a big hill, like a poor mans Christ the Redeemer in Rio. Was pretty cool. Also managed to check out this big park on a hill, again pretty cool. Apart from that though it was really just about killing time till the flight to Auckland on the 2nd.

Posted by Snow21 04.05.2007 22:18 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Argentina

When you die you go to a nightclub in Rossario

Again, all the pictures are on the link below

http://manchester.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2113907&l=4c4ae&id=61407689

http://manchester.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2117663&l=609c5&id=61407689

Well, my passport says I spent 14 days in Argentina but can´t seem to recall most of them. Got to Buenas Aires from Colonia and checked into the Millhouse, bad idea. The Millhouse is a quality place but ure gona see shit all of BA if you stay there. All you do is drink and party there, my mate Finn managed to go for 37 hours straight there. The earliest I got out of the hostel was 11.54 am, and that was pushing it.
Did manage to see a bit of the city though, its a really cool city. Managed to restock on all the stuff I´d managed to destroy or lose, crap its cheap there.
BA itself is an amazing place, its quite a European city, and thanks to currency crash in 2001 its absolutely dirt cheap. Could pretty much go to any restaurant, bar or shop and could quite easily get whatever.
Ended up spending 8 days there which really should have been enough had I been able to drag my ass out of bed before noon. However what I did see was quality. The port area was really nice, sort of like Salford Quays and the Albert Docks, only nicer. It was really good alking down there at night with all the high risers lit up. Also managed a bit of culture, yes dad culture, went to National Art Gallery, was pretty cool, though they had some strange stuff. Apparently a model of a KISS concert qualifys to be National Gallery along with the Monet and Van Goughs (I think I spelt that right). Also checked out the Falklands memorials and exhibts. One the end of the main shopping street theres a collection of pictures taken during the battle, however its a tad one sided. Seems to present them as a liberating force and completely omits the bit about them getting them losing the whole thing. However every map in Argentina has it down as theres, someones abviously needs to have a word with the boys down and printing place. However not to worry as it seemed like every English guy was willing to correct it on any map they saw.
So after 8 days decided I needed to see some of Argentina so headed off with a few people in my dorm to Rossario. Its a town or city, not too sure, which is North West of BA on the river. Also the claim to fame is that its where that Che guy was born, Castros mate. However the main reason people guy is due to what everyone says of the women, that they´re stunning, and yes.... I can confirm tha rumour as being true. I have never in my entire life been in a club with so many stunning looking people. Crap.
So anyway after the delights of Rossario we headed to Mendoz, the area where they make all the wine. On one day we hired some bies and cycled round this massive park, now until then I hadnt been on a bike in around about 10 years. Luckly you dont forget. So did that for an afternoon. Was quality. Then the next day we headed to the vinyards and did a cycle tour on a couple of high quality bikes, my back brake didnt work, neither did the gears and the chain kept slipping. However was still mazing, got to cycle all around the different wine places and try all the red wine. So now after a few tasting sessions I can now class myself as a wine expert and will no doubt actually know what Im doing when I order the stuff in a restaurant.
However all good things have to come to an end and so I headed off the following day to Chile where I am due to fly out of all the way to New Zealand.

Posted by Snow21 14:00 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Uruguay

Salto-Montevideo-Punta Del Esta-Colonia

Most the pics for Uruguay are on facebook so just use the link below

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2114573&l=555a5&id=61407689

So headed to Uruguay from Ascuncion, Paraguay, but instead of going to Montevideo me and Finn got off in Salto which is right in the North. So the bus rocked up at 0600 there in the morning on the edge of town, where by the bus driver told us to walk in the wrong direction. Anyway finally rocked up in this town tired to buggery.
The only reason to check out Salto is for all the thermal springs which surrond the area. However we decided to spend the saturday in the town and sunday in the springs. From what I can remember the town was pretty quiet, but I think we were just too tired to notice where it was happening. So the next day ended up in the springs, was kind of cool. Ended up spending the day at the water park place. It was quite strange as the water was warm. While the next day we were due to head down to Fray Bentos to see the meat packing factory, yes there is a place called Fray Bentos and it was where the meat pies used to be made. However I was too lazy to get up at 0500 so Finn buggered off there and I went straight to Montevideo.
The first few days I spent in Red Hostel, pretty nice place. Had a wonder around, is actually a really cool place. 0_227.jpgHowever from Wednesday till I left for Colonia next week I stayed with a family that my parents knew. They were so kind I couldn´t do it justice here. Went to all the best places around the city and sampled all the local food, man its soooo good. Unlike back home they eat all the cow, and I mean ALL the cow. Crap turns out we´ve been wasting some of the best bits. Have discovered a liking for the salva glands, man they´re good, hopefully will be able to pick some up in the local butchers. When you go the restaurants we ordered a slection of all the different bits of meat then had an even bigger piece of meat for mains. It was the nicest beef I have ever tasted (and that also is including Argentina).
When the weekend came, Gus, their youngest son, took me down to Punta del Esta for the weekend as it was Easter weekend and Monty was going to be pretty quiet.
Punta del Esta is an absolute quality place, even though it was the off season it was still pretty busy. This is a really famous hotel there, wasn´t so much built as desgined by a really famous artist.0_264.jpg On the saturday hit one of the local clubs, but did it local style. Had a bit of a snooze till midnight then went out. Apparently the cooler you are the later you turn up, so we hit the club like 2ish. A few other english people joined us, Matt, Mauranka, Paula and Marc. Went to a club called Soho which was a really good club. We haven´t got anything back home like the clubs out here. Everyone in there was stunning, so we fit in pretty well.
As an illustration on how much money there is in this place we were driving down the front when a red Ferrari F430 with Brazilian plates bombed it by us. Decided to try and catch them up, only they were´nt trying much, pulled by them only to find to girls who couldnt have been older than 30 behind the wheel. We guessed rich husband or dad. Headed back the following day but still had a good look round the place, is def. a place I´d like to go back too, however when its in season December-March.
Spent a couple more days looking around Monty before said goodbye to the family who´d been so nice and wouldnt take anything in return. Ended up in Colonia on Wednesday lunchtime and was due to catch the ferry across to BA on Thursday evening. Colonia was a pretty nice place, not much to do there though. P4120004.jpg
It was nice in the evening with the sunset, was quite strange at night time as across the estuary the sky was lit up from all the light pollution from Buenas Aires. It was almost like the sun was starting to rise. Would only give it a day, though some people were spending upto 4 days there, strange people. Hostel wasn´t too bad but there was a right cock in the room, won´t go into it but man he was a cock. So got the ferry into BA, another county, 5 countries down and only 2 more to go.

Posted by Snow21 22.04.2007 21:00 Archived in Uruguay Comments (0)

Paraguay

South Americas best kept secret

sunny 40 °C

Ask any traveller about Paraguay and they will tell you two things. Firstly that theres nothing there and secondly that theres nothing there and thirdly that we´ll be shot. However ask if they´ve actually been there and 10 times out of 10 they haven´t. Theres enough here to keep you occupied for a good few weeks but thats if you know where to look for it.
The ironic thing was that I never intended to go to Paraguay. It was only because Chris persuaded me to go while over in Igauzu. Even then I only expected spending a few nights there before heading down to Uraguay. Instead I ended up staying nearly two weeks and found South Americas best kept secret.
So on Sunday the 18th of March 2007 the four of us crossed into the great unknown and I finally came to county where no Kehoe had been before. Instead of crossing at Ciudad del Este where the border at Iquazu is we crossed in at Encarnation in the South, via Pousadas in Argentina. The main attraction for this town/city is the Jesuit ruins at Jesûs and Trinidad, which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The first thing we discovered when entering Encarnation is that Paraguay is dirt cheap, and I mean dirt cheap. The hotel we stayed in may have looked like a former prison but for $4 your having a laugh.
The next day we got the bus up to Jesus to check out the ruins, took about 2 hours and cost us $3. The ruins themselves are former Jesuit settlements, one in Jesûs and one in Trinidad. They were settled around the 1760´s but they all got kicked out of Paraguay not too long afterwards. The first thing which hits you though is that the Paraguayan Tourist Board must consist of 1 guy in a small office somewhere in the capital. Despite being a UNESCO site the Jesus location is completely underfunded. There was one sign and that was pretty much it. If UNESCO gave them some money I´m pretty sure the site never saw a penny. The ruins were different from anything that you get in the UK, they let you walk anywhere without a guide. It was here that we bumped into another Brit traveller we´d meet back in Rio a guy called Finn. Who originally only planned to spend a few days in Paraguay but joined us for the full 12 days instead.
Now I realised Paraguay was cheap but on the way to the bus to Trinidad we actually found a car for sale cheaper than the bus ticket. It was tough call but the possibilty but we ended up getting the bus. The Trinidad site seems to be where some of the money must have gone as parts of it have been restored.P3180072.jpg
The following day we ended up heading out to the San Rafel National Park, strictly speaking it isn´t one yet cause all the money the government had to buy the land all mysteriously disappeared. Getting there was an adventure in its own. We ended up waiting a the smallest town ever for 4 hours to get a lift from one of the rangers to the park.
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It was quite funny when we turned up as one of the other guests was an ex-scoucer who lived out in Paraguay.P3200105.jpg It also turned out he wrote most of the travel guides so he def. came in useful. Ended up spending a few days there just chilling out, was pretty cool.
After that we again hit the road for the capital, Ascuncion. It wasn´t a Rio or a BA but it was still pretty cool and had a few things there to do. One thing which stood out was how rich some were and how poor the others were.
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The picture above is the presidents pad, yet right behind it are shant towns. Also behind it we got a bit of a shock, turns out Paraguay actually has a navy.
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While in the city we ate like kings, 3 course meals in the poshest restaurants in the county (black tuie waiters and everything) for like 7 quid. Ive never eaten so well.
After a few days and a few late nights we lost 2 fellow travellers, Chris and Louise, while me, Claire and Finn decided to this quality park that I cant spell. To get there however we had to hire a 4x4 as most of it was off road.
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All I can say is off-roading in Paraguay in a Jeep is the most fun you can have with your pants on. It was absolute quality. Half of the trip was on dirt roads, and I mean propper ones.
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We were flying over bumps and bridges, power sliding road bends, absolutely amazing. So anyway we rocked up at another park, this one was miles better, apparently Bono and Madona gave them a shed load of cash.
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To get around we had to have a guide and drive, which meant more off-roading. We did a couple of quality stages which had been cut out of the forest and were over grown. It was also then that had a minot prang, some 16 year old in a pick up tried to over take me while a was over taking some else on the dirt road. However big feck off hole meant had to jam on the brakes and he ended up in the back of us, so wasnt technically my fault.
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As you can see was only a minor one, guy at the hire shop didnt care about it, though Im pretty sure we added a few other dents a scraps.
Again after a few days of walks, canoeing and a few other things we had to head back to catch the bus to Uraguay the next day. Which meant night time off roading, quality!! Also meant the highways were pretty dead, except you couldnt really get it past 130kmph as the steering wheel started to shake violently. Anyway, the Paraguayan road trip was absolutly amazing, driving in the middle of nowhere, at night, with shooting stars above you is a once in a life time experience which will stay with me.

Posted by Snow21 26.03.2007 16:59 Archived in Paraguay Comments (0)

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