Saturday, 22 February 2014

Santiago, Chile: Welcome to South America

After a 12.5 hour flight I had actually travelled back in time to Santiago, due to the time difference and not a new futuristic aircraft. Once I passed customs I squeezed through a mob of a thousand taxi drivers all wanting a fare, the bus is the backpacker option. I soon arrived in the city, this time I had CS host lined up for 4 nights, a much better start then Paris. I experienced the kindless of Chile immediately, I asked a local for directions and instead he walked me over 1km to the office of tourism. I grabbed a map and took a nap in the park before heading off to meet my host... Santiago parks are full of couples making out so not the funnest place to sleep.

Santiago is a major city with over 7 million inhabitants. The entire city can be seen by eye from a mountain in the centre of the city. All the buildings stop at the bases of different mountains which surround the entire city. Seeing nature end the limit of a city truely is a beautiful sight. The city is a mix of old (not Europe old) and very modern architecture, including the tallest building in South America. If you've been to Europe the architecture won't impress you but the people will. Metro, bus, bike and the shoelace express are the modes of transport... Drivers are also extremely courteous to pedestrians but super aggressive towards other drivers.

It was finally time to meet my host, Francisco. He had an apartement in Providencia, the centre of the new city. He is an ex-vegan that attends yoga class every night of the week, possibly the most chilled out person I've ever met. Our nights mainly involved cooking and watching Game of Thrones over dinner.

Since Francisco worked during the day and went to yoga straight after work I would do my own think and return at 9 or 10pm. I spent my first couple of days exploring the city.

The tallest building in Latin America

The beautiful river
On one of my days of touring I met up with a French girl, Esther, to walk around, have lunch, drink beer, hike and drink more beer. I also tried to typical Chilean foods/drinks; Cazuela (stew) and Mote con Huesillos (a drink of wheat and peaches).

Esther pouring the beers

The centre market

On my last day in Santiago I enrolled in a Language school in the beach town of Viña del Mar. I said farewell to my host and headed to the bus station.

Next stop Viña Del Mar.

Lessons Learnt:
Frenchies are everywhere.
Most large cities have a similar feel.
South America is more developed than I expected.
Couchsurfing works in South America.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Brisbane (and other places), Australia: Home Sweet Home

Home! After 7 months of eating, drinking and sightseeing my way across France, Spain and Portugal I was back in Australia for 1 month. Within 2 hours of getting off my 25 hour trip home I was at a bar drinking with friends.

The first couple of weeks involved many catch ups with friends, family and ex-colleagues. However, the adventure didn't stop. For my birthday I headed north with an old friend, Sora, to explore awesome landscapes and hike through subtropical rainforest. The destination was Montville, a little town in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland that is known for lakes, national parks, crafts shops and wine.

The 2 days involved relaxing on a secluded property with a spa bath, a bottle of wine waiting in the fridge and a deck with sweeping views from countryside to ocean. We also squeezed in some hiking in a subtropical rainforest... The perfect recovery from a long trip.

After another week of normal life I was off again, this time camping in the unbelievable national park of Girraween, a place I had been wanting to visit for over 2 years. Girraween N.P. is famous for its incredible and gigantic rock formations. It is situated on the boarder of NSW and QLD and over 3 hours drive inland from the coast. So far it is my pick for Australian National Parks.

My team of camping enthusiasts and close friends comprised of Sora the Explorer, Isis and Yui. After a good night's sleep we were up early for breakfast, one good thing about camping with girls is not having to live off baked beans and noodles. We were soon off to explore these amazing volcanic granite rocks that surrounded us and see many kangaroos along the way.

How many girls does it take to cook my dinner?

The campsite

Girraween National Park
Balancing Rock

Isis using her powers

A little edited


After a half day of hiking we drove to a little near by town, Stanthorp, a town very famous for wine and apples in Queensland. After lunch and unsuccessfully trying to find an open winery Isis and Yui drove back to Brisbane. Sora and I decided to stick around for another day of camping and hiking.

Again we rose early ready for 10 hours of hiking. We decided to do the entire southern circuit having done the much shorter northern circuit on the previous day. We walked many kilometres on the hot granite drinking many litres of water while taking in the spectacular sights.

Why did we wear black for a day of hiking in the heat?

At the end of the day Sora and I were extremely exhausted and decided to drive 3 hours back to Brisbane. The awesome camping car broke down twice on the way back. Sora asked why I was so calm and not worried when we were stranded on the side of the highway with no phone. I said it's fun and challenging when things go wrong and if worst came to worst we could camp the night. It also tests the strengh of real relationships and the character of people. If people fight when something goes wrong it's a weak relationship. If two people work together and enjoy destroying the problem together it's a strong relationship...  This was a minor problem and I got the car started again.

After more goodbyes and catch ups it was time to embark on my journey once again but not before Sora organised and hosted a Korean BBQ farewell at her place with some of our close friends on my last night back in Australia... The perfect send off!

Next stop Santiago, Chile via Sydney

Lessons Learnt:
Good friends will always be there.
One month home is very short.
There are always new experiences and discoveries near and far.
I will always feel at home in Brisbane.