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Wednesday, April 27, 2011


We made it in one piece to Argentina (Buenos Aires to be exact) our flight went off without a hitch and in fact the travel God´s have finally smiled on me. That was one of my best flights ever! We were sat in the first row of coach directly behind first class which meant we had a ton of leg room and we weren't sat next to any screaming babies at all and our flight was only four hours! All in all a great flight. But, when we landed was when the fun started.

Of course I had to pay the Argentian Government 140 USD as a visa fee ( I am just used to paying visa fees now because that is what America does to the foreigners who come in, sometimes I hate my government´s policies) but for some reason none of my cards would work and I had no cash! So there was no way I could pay their damn visa fees! I asked them what was going to happen and they told me they couldn't let me into the country. I was going to have to stay in the airport like Tom Hanks from that movie The Terminal. It was insane! Finally I asked them to try all of my cards again and they got it to work thank God.

So we got into the city safe and sound and are at our new CS host house. I really miss our last host though him and his family were so awesome. His mother loved cooking for us and she fed us great food! She also makes amazing handicrafts all by hand and she has to make 6000 per month of these things for only 212 USD per month! It is quite sad she has to slave away so hard just that little amount of money but by Peruvian standards they are semi wealthy and that money can go a long way.

We have walked around BA and had a good lunch and seen a movie that was pretty funny ( it was actually in English with Spanish subtitles) it was a new one with Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston about a guy who has to pretend to be married then get a fake divorce so he can get with another girl. Everything is good here so far and I really like this city. We have a lot planned for the next two weeks.

Oh ya one other thing about the buses in South America I know I go on about this a lot but I am constantly amazed by them. They are something else! In Australia/New Zealand they have tons of seats and only X amount of standing room with a specific number they will carry. In South America it is the exact opposite haha. They have very few seats and they will pack the bus until absolutely full (you can even stand by the driver) which is illegal in Australia/New Zealand. They don´t stop for you all the way you just hop on and off whenever you want once they yell out where they are going and it is so dirt cheap to ride them less than 20 US Cents will get you all the way across town! They also love selling anything and everything on the bus from food to trinkets and other junk and they even have guys who will play live music for money. It really is an experience! I quite like it although the road laws are very flexible here lol

Until next time,Tyler

Monday, April 25, 2011


Well Lima has been great so far! We have a great CS host here and he has showed us around the city and helped us out a lot. His mom doesn't speak a word of English but she is super sweet to us and she has fed us constantly! Ben and I are fat and happy haha. We have had some amazing food and the food in general here in Peru has been better than in Bolivia. Thus far, Cusco has been my favourite city but I really like Lima too.

Today we walked around the city and enjoyed our day with some other couch surfers it was really good. Tonight we had Cheviche. It is a Peruvian dish (raw fish cooked in lemon juice) it was pretty good and kinda similar to sushi. I wasn't extremely impressed but it wasn't terrible either.

Last night our host took us to one of the most amazing light/water shows I have ever seen in my life! It seriously puts any show in Vegas or anywhere else to shame. It cost us $1.50 for entry fee and that is a fair bit for the average Peruvian so most people were tourists there but some locals were there too. They had huge water fountains/jets of water that would show up and it was synchronized to music and lights. They projected images thru the water to make it look almost 3D!  It was one of the most amazing things I have seen in South America so far and it was only $1.50 USD! Not only that but, they also had a "water maze".

It was water jets that were timed to go off at certain times and you had to make it thru the maze without getting wet. I got shot by the water jets so many times haha I was soaking wet! All the locals were watching us and laughing at us haha. It was the most fun I have had in quite a while and I was so amazed that all of that was in Lima Peru. There is 8 million people in this city and over half of them don't have access to clean water,sewage etc but they have enough money to put on this amazing light/water show for the tourists. It is actually kinda sad to think about but also enjoyable to watch the show. The difference between rich and poor here in really large and unfortunate. But so it goes in 3rd world countries. It is humorous in a way that no matter how rich someone is in Peru no matter how much money they have they still can't throw toilet paper in the toilet even if they have a golden toilet because the sewer system can't handle it.

I also has my first experience in "Alternative Medicine"  we met a guy from Mexico studying to be a doctor in Alternative Medicine and I have never bought into any of that stuff but I let him convince me to shove some sticks with this gooey stuff all over them up my nose. It was weird and crazy but I think it actually did help even though they tasted and smelled horrible haha. It was an interesting experience and never say never I guess they aren't all full of BS because I do feel a little better! Also, our host Dante (he is awesome) his mom is a great cook and she doesn't speak a word of English but she keeps feeding and feeding us and it is so so good haha I am going to be so fat! But I am happy and she reminds me very much of my own mother in the fact that she loves to cook and cook well.

Tomorrow we fly off to Buenos Aires Argentina and leave Peru behind sadly. Machu Picchu was great and I had a really good time here. But I am really excited for BA! Next time I write I will be in a new country with a new currency :) talk at ya later,Tyler

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Cusco/on the way to Lima

Our time in Cusco has been both good and bad for me. The good: I got to see my second world wonder and I actually hiked up to Machu Picchu . The hike nearly killed me or so it felt like anyway. It was the second most difficult if not the most difficult hike I have ever done. My jungle hike in Chang Mai Thailand last year was extremely brutal too. It sure did feel good to make it up to Machu Picchu alive and in one piece (just barely). It is an extremely difficult climb up a steep steep mountain and it never seems to stop going up. The climb took me an hour and ten minutes. Funnily enough my mate Ben who smokes more than a pack a week of cigarettes made it up in just over 30 minutes. I guess I should pick up smoking huh? :P. I am not overweight or extremely unhealthy but I will be the first to admit that I am out of shape and this hike really showed me that. It is one of my goals to get back into decent shape again though.

The Bad: Our “Host” I put host in quotes because he wasn't really one at all and definitely didn’t show us the couch surfing spirit. When we got there at first everything seemed cool and he seemed nice but then when we found out he was a travel agent and he assured us he could us a good deal we stupidly decided to book with his company. We thought he might be nice and show us around Cusco or have a drink with us (we offered to hang out with him more than once) but after we paid our money for the tour we only saw him briefly for two other times. He basically said “here is your room” and that was that.

We have come to find out that he just uses CS as a business and that is totally wrong. The tour we booked with his company was both good and bad. It was cheap but, they assured us they would pick us up and they didn't so two and a half hours later we had to pay our own way in a taxi to meet the rest of the tour and that was just the beginning of it all... We had to walk over two hours to the city at the base of Machu Picchu . Which really wasn't all their fault as their was a rock slide in the road. (The Peruvian Govt makes over 15 million USD a year on Machu Picchu and they still only have one lane half paved death road).

Our driver on the way there was nice and pretty good although he loved to speed and pass everyone in sight on that crazy mountain death road with zero guard rails, we did get there in once piece to where we had to start hiking. So after two plus hours of hiking we made it to Aguascalientes (the tourist town at the base of Machu Picchu  and with the tour we booked they assured us dinner and a hostel for the night. Dinner was ok but the hostel we stayed at promised us hot water in the shower and there was none. That sucked but it wasn't life threatening or anything.

After dinner and a cold shower we went out on the town for a bit. I was super tired from our hike just to get there so I wasn't up for much and I was not impressed with Aguascalientes at all because the only reason it exist is for the tourist. It had no character or anything of value in my opinion but for some strange reason Ben seemed to love it there haha. The next day we were told to get up and start walking at 4am by our guide if we didn't want to take the bus to  Machu Picchu ( it cost 8 USD) and they said you had to start hiking early if you wanted to be one of the special 400 people only to get a stamp to go to this special view point on top of Machu Picchu I won't even begin to try and spell it. It was another hour and a half hike to the view point on top of what you already had to hike just to get to Machu Picchu.

So we get up at 3:45am to get ready to go and we hike for a good 15 minutes to the very base of Machu Picchu only to find out they don't open the gates until 5:00am so rather than getting more rest we woke up for nothing thanks to what our guide said. Not only that but the first bus left at 5:30am and was supposed to take about 30 minutes to get up there. So we had to beat all the bus people for this stamp to the lookout place. After all the delays the hike started out well enough for me. I kept up a good pace for about half an hour or so but then I started to get really tired really fast. I soon realised there was no way I was going to make it up there to be in the first 400. So rather than kill my body totally physically I decided just to go at my own pace. I slowed down and started to walk with some other people while Ben the Superman plowed ahead. It was a steep vertical ascent straight up there and after an hour and a bit just as I was seriously about to give up I made it up there!

I have no idea what possessed anyone to build an entire city way up there nor do I have any idea what possesses millions of people to go see it every year haha. This year is actually the 100th anniversary of its re-discovery so I am glad I did it this year and made it but I will never ever be doing it again lol. I had always thought that the Spanish came and killed all the Inca's and plundered all their treasure but that isn't actually the case. In 1532 the Inca ruler heard the Spanish were close so he ordered the entire city of 500+ people abandoned.

Back to me for a bit, I actually DID make it up there to be in line for the special stamp to go to the view point (I was number 123 actually) but by the time I got there I was so wrecked I realised I could never ever hike ANOTHER hour+ so I declined. At the time the weather was cloudy as it was early in the morning but our guided tour started and for two hours we had a good tour with our guide and Machu Picchu really is breath taking. The views and history are amazing. I will be putting pictures on Facebook soon. It is really hard to describe at all you just have to see it. It was once covered with gold but over the years all the gold has been taken.

Ben went up to that look out point and got some good pictures but I really don't regret not going. I am sure it was good but I saw everything I needed to see from right there in the city of Machu Picchu. The views to the surrounding mountains from the city are amazing just alone. We got some great pictures and I was happy. After I had seen all I wanted to see I decided to leave early while Ben was still up on the look out point.

There was no way in hell I was going to climb back down the mountain I had just recently climbed up so I ponied up the 8 bucks for the bus back to Aguascalientes. Once I got there I ate a good Desayuno (breakfast) and then paid 3 bucks for a nice relaxing time at the hot springs where I met some other cool Americans. I didn't know how to say hot springs in Spanish so I got creative again. I asked the guy at the restaurant I ate at, I said I wanted to find the house of hot water for tired people haha. After about an hour in the hot springs Ben had returned and everyone else up went up to the lookout point was filtering in. Our guide rounded us up and we got on the train (that was prepaid in our tour) back to the city where they would bus us back to Cusco. Our train ride was nice and uneventful. Everyone in our group was pretty cool.

Once we got to our van our driver proceeded to drive us back in the same crazy fashion that he drove us there in. I was just used to it at that point really. But at some point along the way he stopped to pick up two random guys we didn't know. We loudly protested in Spanish that this was our tour and not a taxi service (we were already nine people crammed into that little van with all our gear so it was tight) but, he was having none of it. He just had those guys pay him directly for a ride back to Cusco and lined his own pocket. So we were even more crammed into this van for 5+ hours with these randoms guys and all their stuff.

Eventually we finally made it back to Cusco in one piece and after dropping off those guys he was supposed to take us back to our accommodation well that is what was promised to us anyway. Well he didn't. He didn't take anyone where they were supposed to be. He just dropped us off in the main square and we had to walk from there. He was really a jerk. Well that is what you get for 130 USD in Peru I guess. I was seriously angry and even considered complaining but, this isn't America or Europe I knew there was no chance I would get any refund so I didn't even try. But you would think that the Peruvian Govt. would want to encourage tourism with good tour operators and not bad ones like we had. I would totally recommend to everyone NOT to book anything with Hiram Birmingham Travel in Cusco. Peru as a whole is much wealthier than Bolivia due solely to Machu Picchu but I really don't know where all that money goes because there is still a ton of poor people there.

The Ugly: The tour just really frustrated me a lot as did our CS host. I felt ripped off and used. I do want to mention a few good things though. Once we actually got to Machu Picchu the tour was good for that part. I also really enjoyed the city of Cusco a lot and wish I had more time there. In addition, the sister of our “host” didn't speak a word of English but she was super nice and helped us a lot since he was never there and avoiding us. I feel so sorry for her having to put up with all his crap. I talked with her some and I think she feels forced into all this and we will be reporting this guy to the couch surfing administrators.

I also want to back up and mention a few things I forget in my earlier blog. There is MASSIVE amounts of graffiti all over South America and it is quite interesting to look at because most of it is not gang related or anything. Most of the countries we have been to so far are having elections (new governments are really frequent here) so people actually use their own houses as billboards and spray paint stuff all over them. Our govt may not be the best in America but every nation has its problems and at least we have a govt decent enough that we dont have to have elections every year and nor do we have to riot in the streets for better pay. Don't take a stable govt for granted, it is a privilege not a right. Another thing I wish you could see is the power grids/power lines here. It is insane how many lines they have running all together! It would NEVER be allowed in America but it reminds me a lot of Asia and they just do what they have too just to get by. When you have power outage back home just don't be angry and don't take it for granted. Be happy you have consistent cheap power and hot showers because a lot of people don't. We can't even put toilet paper in the toilet here!

The last thing I wanted to mention was how horrible the movies were on the bus from Lake Titicaca to Cusco. Our first movie was one of the worst movies I have ever seen in my life hands down. It was all in Spanish and it was one of those movies that looked like it was made by some random guy and he just had all his friends act in it lol. It had no plot line or point and it was just terrible! It was so bad you couldn't look away haha. Our next movie was one of the first ever Tarzan movies made in the 1940's (it was black and white and all in Spanish). Oh ya of course there was a crying baby close to us on the bus. It never stops does it? :P But now we are on our 20+ hour bus ride from Cusco to Lima and both of us are still a little sick but still hanging in there in one piece.

We made it to Lima after 20+ hours on a hot bus but it was cheap. I am seriously considering now adopting kids. When they are nine. Haha I really want to skip the whole I am a screaming baby stage because I just had to sit next to one yet again on a bus for 20 hours I just can't escape it! Lima has been great so far though. We have a (really) awesome CS host this time. More on that later. The last thing I wanted to mention was how terrible the movies were on our bus ride. We had (In Spanish with no subtitles) a movie that looked like it was shot by a guy in his garage with no plot line at all and all his friends acted in it. You know the ones, really one of the worst movies I have ever seen haha. Directly after that we had the first Tarzan movie made in the early 1940's in black and white and also totally in Spanish lol some great movies those were!

Until next time,Tyler

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Lake Titicaca and more.....

Just letting yall know we made it out of La Paz alive (didn't get blown up by any dynamite) and we had a good time there. We went to Lake Titicaca for a day from there. It is one of the biggest and highest lakes in world. It was beautiful there and we had great weather. After 36 hours of agony I finally beat that stomach bug so I am back to eating and drinking like normal thank God. The altitude is still getting to me some and I still have that damn head cold but otherwise I am 100%. Ben and I and some people we met on the bus did a semi major hike up a big hill/mountain to watch the sunset over Lake Titicaca and it was a hard hike but so worth it because the sunset was one of the best I have seen in a long long time. I will put a picture of it on here soon and on Facebook too.

Now we have made it to Cusco Peru and we just got off the bus and changed our currencies (again!) but it looks like it will be a good city and our new CS host seems nice. Soon we will go to Machu Picchu and see a wonder of the world! It will be my second as I also saw the Golden Temples (Angor Wat) in Cambodia. Not doing too bad for 26 years old huh?

All of the cities we have seen so far have been pretty dirty and pretty poor very similar to Asia. I dont think that the people who live in these cities dont care about them or the environment I just think they are too poor for any kind of infrastructure to do anything about it. The divide between rich and poor is really sad and really makes you glad for what you have.

As I mentioned previously there is no subway,McDonald's,burger king or anything here. So if you want to eat (and everyone does) you have to eat like a local. I have eaten a lot of stuff I would never touch at home and eaten a lot of stuff by hand but so far (most) of it has been really good. Today on the bus I had chicken and potatoes out of a bag lol. Peruvian food is supposed to be amazing and this is one of the only countries in South America that doesn't charge me an entry visa fee so I have a little more money to spend! I guess that is it for now.

It rained here today in Cusco and even hailed for a bit! This was the first rain we have had really. It was super hard for just a bit and managed to flood the streets (the sewer system is not very good here, you cant even put toilet paper in the toilet or drink the tap water) but it dried fairly quickly. I am really enjoying this city and we have been having fun going out to eat and trying new foods and drink. I am LOVING the natural fruit juices they have here. Jugos de Darazno (Peach juice with milk and sugar) is my favourite! It is so so cheap (less than a dollar) and super fresh and super good. I haven´t been this healthy in quite a while haha. I got yet again some more meds today and I am hoping to finally kick all of my sickness before we make it Argentina next week. 

We booked our tour to Machu Picchu and have been enjoying Cusco so far. It has been one of my favourite cities thus far. I have noticed in South America there is a ton of stray dogs everywhere! They are loose all over the city and no one seems to mind. None of them have been aggressive thus far, they are just everywhere! I can see a big difference wealth wise between Peru and Bolivia. Cusco is a beautiful old city from the Spanish times with lots of great old buildings and it is real cheap here too.  We have a good host  and we have booked our 20 hour bus ride to Lima for 30 USD! But next time I blog it will be after we see a world wonder!

Yall don't work/play too hard. -Tyler

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Hello La Paz

 I will have over 200 blog entries now so this is a big milestone for me! I will try and make this as interesting as I can haha.

We finally made it to La Paz in one piece and the first thing I did was try and sleep off this stomach bug. I slept for a good solid 8 hours and felt better when I woke up. Now I am able to take some liquids and even eat some food. I am still not 100% but much better than before so if I am lucky this will only be a 24 hour bug. Being in the highest capital city in the world is hard on your body though. In addition to being sick I have to deal with the altitude and I am constantly out of breath even from just walking down the street!

Bolivia is a nice country and the people are really friendly but it is also incredibly poor here. There is a huge divide between the rich and the poor and you see beggars everywhere. It very much parallels south east asia for me. But, things are super super cheap here! Today we went shopping at this MASSIVE outdoor market and we paid 2 B's (Bolivianos) for the half hour "taxi" ride. We were crammed into a van with 13 other people but 2 B's is about 20 Cents (American!) Once we got there we were hungry and we needed something to eat. My stomach was feeling slightly better and I knew I needed to eat so we went to a local food stall there. (Westernized food just doesn't exist here so you have to eat like a local)

We picked a food stall packed with people and for just under 2 USD we got a quarter chicken,potatoes,salad,cooked banana and a coke. All of it was prepared under very questionable food health standards and we had to eat with our hands (there was no silverware) but it was actually really good and so far I haven't been sick again.  Everyone has to eat and you just eat what you can get. It is all cheap as chips anyway.

At the market I managed to buy a few things that I needed (because they sold everything under the sun!) and I got them for more than 80% less than what I would pay back home. On a little side note, we have found out there is riots here in La Paz. This is the second country I have visited where there has been political unrest. Apparently teachers,miners,doctors and a hodge podge of other workers are striking (I am assuming for better pay) there is police in riot gear everywhere!

The protest have been fairly small and not super close to us so we have never been in danger but you can feel that the city is a little high strung. The police have tear gas and rubber bullets so we know that they aren't intending to kill anyone and so far we have just seen them standing around. I am not really worried at all but, the miners are quite angry for some reason and they continue to blow up dynamite! I have no idea where they are doing it and how they aren't killing people/destroying property but they have something worked out because I haven't even seen an explosion of any kind but we sure can hear it! It is so loud sometimes it rattles the windows! We will be fine though :)

The other thing I wanted to mention was the fashion style of the ladies here. I have no idea how this got started but most of the ladies here wear basically like shawls/blankets along with random footwear and bowler hats! all of them wear these hats that look like they are straight out of the 1930's! Also, the taxis here are quite wild! They don't really obey any driving laws very similar to Asia. They will stop ANYWHERE AT ANYTIME if you flag them down and they are usually packed with more than ten people (they are usually vans) and they cost about 20 cents USD to get you all the way across the city! They just open their doors and shout out where they are going and how many people they can fit. They also honk constantly! (to let you know they have free space)

You really have to get used to the noise here. There is constant noise of people shouting and trying to sell you stuff and its kinda crazy but you get used to it.  La Paz is a nice city but like most 3rd world countries I have visited it is just really dirty. There is no rubbish bins anywhere so people just throw their rubbish all over the ground. You can't drink the water here as it is too polluted. But even thru all that I still like this city and it has a lot of character. It is also very cheap here. I got 3 scoops of amazing ice cream with toppings for under 2 USD! Everyone has been really nice here to us and patient with my bad Spanish haha. We are staying in a really cool hostel here that is really modern with hot showers and free Internet and it only cost 7 USD per night :)

When I first landed in Santiago Chile I was sleeping terribly trying to adjust from the huge time difference between New Zealand and South America so for about a week I couldn't sleep at all but now thankfully I am pretty much back on schedule. So, when I finally do make it home I should be ok.  Tomorrow we will be leaving La Paz for Lake Titicaca and we paid only $3.50 USD to get there! I will update you more later. I am still having fun and this city does have a lot of character if you don't judge a book by its cover. The only thing that will make this any better is when I am back 100% health wise. -Tyler

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The journey to La Paz

We had about 4 hours to kill before we left Uyunini to La Paz so Ben and I decided to get something to eat with a guy we met on the tour. Sadly for me we made an unfortunate choice. Now in addition to being sick with a head cold that I can't seem to kick I also have food poisoning/stomach bug. I spent 12 hours of our bus ride to La Paz in constant pain and on the toilet. Bolivia is a very poor country so outside of the major city centers paved roads just don't exist. Bolivia is now tied with Cambodia as having the worst roads I have ever traveled on. So as you can imagine that journey was not fun for me at all. Thank God I brought my own toilet paper and light because there was no light or toilet paper in the bathroom. 

We finally did make it (almost) to La Paz and our bus broke down. (not to surprising since we only paid 20 USD) for the whole journey. But we were technically in La Paz so I started talking with a lady who spoke only Spanish and we managed to piece together that she wanted to share a taxi was us so Ben and I along with her got a taxi into the city and even though she spoke no English and my Spanish is minimal we managed to make it to a good hostel where we are now thanks to her help. The kindness of strangers never ceases to amaze me.

La Paz is a loud busy city with everyone shouting at you trying to sell you things (very similar to Asia) but its good here. Just a little culture shock coming from New Zealand. I adapt quickly though. The buses/taxi just shout out where they are going and you board anytime/anywhere if you want too. They are dirt cheap and always packed with people. I have managed to get some good sleep and a shower and tried to hydrate myself so I am feeling a little better now. Not as bad as before hopefully this is only a 24 hour stomach bug. La Paz is also the highest capital city in the world so altitude is also something of a factor. But I am alive so I will make it.

The only other thing I wanted to mention is about unauthorised peeing. Back on our salt flat tour I had to go pee really bad but they were charging 50 cents USD for the toilet so I thought I would be sneaky and go in the bushes. I am a guy right? no harm there. So I peed close to what looked like to me just a big pile of rubble. I was wrong. Apparently it was some lady's house or something. I kinda pieced that together from her angry Spanish. So she proceeded to take all the Bolivianos (the local currency here) that I had! It equaled out to $4.50 USD for a pee! That is the last time I do that... and it wasn't even on her house! But live and learn I guess.

Talk at yall later,Ty

The Salt Flats and more

Today we left Calama almost as soon as we arrived. We decided to go ahead and catch a bus to San Pedro (which is one step closer to Salar de Uyuni The salt desert in Bolivia which is supposed to be absolutely amazing and we are really exciting to go see some of largest salt flats in the world. Our bus journey from Calama was only 1.5 hours and only costs us five American Dollars. This bus actually had Air Conditioning so that was great. It was a really good ride and we got to see an amazing sunset as we drove thru the mountains that is one view I won't forget.

San Pedro is a really neat city with tons of shops and cool stuff and lots of neat old architecture. It even has a plaza dating back to the old days! We are staying at a really cool family owned hostel in the middle of nowhere (the view of the stars here is pretty awesome) they seem really nice and only charged us 10 USD per night for a really good clean room and we hot water in our shower! (a luxury here and toilet paper is included!) for 10 bucks back in New Zealand you couldn't get any accommodation!

Ben and I had a good beer and a relaxing time at a neat cafe that had an open fire pit and we just discussed life and our plans and just reflected on the past year and half (it has been a great ride!) both of us are really going to miss this traveling once we have to finally go home. Being travels we really have less strings than most people, you know we can go where we want,when we want, with who we want and if we don't like a place we just move.

That is something not to take for granted but even traveling sometimes you just need a little time to relax and take a break just exactly what we did tonight. When you travel the world as I have you tend to see lots and lots of amazing stuff all over so I have to remember to keep myself grounded and realise that what I am seeing is amazing (sometimes even once in a lifetime stuff) and I have to realise that I am super lucky to see it all and not grow dull to amazing stuff or take it for granted. Even sometimes you just zone out and totally live for that moment only and just forget everything in the world except what is happening at that exact moment. That is really one of the things I will miss most when I am back at home. Tomorrow we are going to explore the city and study more Spanish and book our tour to the salt desert.

We got our tour booked for the salt flats and it looks amazing! We also managed to meet up with some friends of ours that we randomly met on the plane ride over to Chile from New Zealand and now we have randomly met them again so it looks like all of us will be heading into Bolivia together which is good :) Bolivia is supposed to be a really cheap country (which is good for me as Chile is fairly expensive by South American standards) but, Bolivia just like Chile and Argentina charge me 140 American dollars just for entering only because America charges that fee to them to enter. Sometimes I hate our govt. and their fees! It sucks for me as a traveler! :( Ben has to pay nothing :( But it will be fun anyway. I have had some great meals so far of stuff I would normally never touch and my Spanish is improving slowly. I have also become a huge fan of the natural fruit juices they have here in Chile. They are freshly made and cheap and they taste amazing! Tomorrow at 8 am we leave for our tour of the Bolivian Salt Flats. It should be a great time and I can't wait for the amazing pictures!

Our tour of the Bolivian Salt Flats was amazing! It was extremely touristy (you know stop here for a few photos then move on) but I still really enjoyed myself and there was so many amazing things to see and do. Our guide didn't speak a lick of English but luckily for us we had a guy in our group who was totally fluent in Spanish. We got to see “The Rock Valley” which was thousands and thousands of rocks just seemingly dropped into the middle of desert but it was all natural! It was really fun scrambling all over them and I got some good pictures which I will upload to Facebook soon. We also saw some really amazing beautiful mountains and scenery and lots of lakes with many different colours but the salt content was so high in them that there was no animal life really so, if you were quiet it was just dead silence! The scenery changed quite frequently it would go from green to total desert to something In between. It was pretty warm during the day ( I did get a little sunburn) but at night it got freezing! Luckily on the tour they provided us with enough of everything. The food was basic but good. I just ate what I was given. On the last night we did have meat which I am quite sure is a big luxury for most Bolivians as it is a really poor country. One of the guys had a birthday while we were on the tour so we surprised him with a party and our guides even made him a cake! It was really a good night.

The last day was finally the day of our salt flat tour. These salt flats are some of the biggest salt flats on the planet. It is 12,000 K's big or 7500 miles big! It is just massive and a bunch of the world's salt is mined here. We got to watch guys scraping it by hand from the ground into big trucks. That would be a terrible job but better than no job I guess. They were just coming out of the rainy season on the salt flats so rather than being totally dry there was actually a lot of water everywhere. It is so flat there that when you take pictures it is like a total optical illusion. We had a lot of fun with that! You can make it look like your a giant and stepping on your friends who like like midgets. It is all natural too! You are only limited by your imagination.

After that, we drove back to town and waited to catch our bus from there to La Paz Bolivia where I am now.

Until next time,Tyler

Monday, April 11, 2011

The days roll on....

You will have to bear with me I am getting used to this Spanish keyboard (and Spanish in general) so if I make any mistakes that is why. I believe I last left you when we were on our way to Valpo from Santiago. We stayed with yet another great host, Peter y Seba and they were awesome! Ben and I had a great time there hanging out and meeting locals and eating amazing sea food. I got to challenge myself by talking to locals only in Spanish and for the most part generally I understood what they said and they understood what I said!

I can now buy bus tickets and order food and do basic stuff without too many problems but, here in South America they dont do menus all that often mostly the waitress just verbally tells you everything so I have had to just blindly pick most of my meals and I have eaten a lot of stuff I would never ever eat at home haha. So far there has only been one thing I absolutely didn't like though. It was a huge hot dog covered in mayo and avocado and tomatoes called a Itialiano Completo. But I learned quickly how to order a hot dog con ketchup solo (with ketchup only). Still,Entiendo más de lo que hablan. ( Still, I understand more than I speak) but I am learning more Spanish in less than a week than I ever learned in high school!

The bus rides are interesting here in South America. The local city buses cram as many people as possible onto them (literally like over 40) and they are cheap. Less than one dollar usually. They will stop ANYWHERE at ANYTIME which is nice sometimes haha. They always have people on them trying to sell you something which is annoying and there is usually someone playing live music for money which at first was cool but is now annoying a bit too haha. I just got off a 25 hour straight bus ride from Valpo to Calama so long bus rides are normal. Other than having a terrible toilet and no air conditioning on the bus I couldn't complain too much but 25 hours on a bus is a long time! We are headed to Bolivia in a few days though.

I am slightly sick at the moment but just a head cold nothing serious and I did manage to get some medicine here. Our 25 hour bus ride only cost us 44 USD! :) Oh ya one last thing to all my readers. Toilet paper is a privilege in life not a basic right. Here in South America it is pretty rare outside of the big cities so I have learned quickly you should always travel with your own and also dont expect everyone to know English all the time,everywhere because they dont!

So far so good here though, it will be a good adventure :) Til next time,Tyler

P.S. I watched a movie in Spanish on the bus and understood (most) of it and listened to some Spanish music and understood (most) of it. That is an exciting feeling! and one last thing interestingly enough there is a huge German influence in Santiago and some people even speak it (a good thing for Ben) in Chile they love hotdogs,sandwiches,loads of salt,usually they dont provide butter or black pepper and sometimes you have to ask for Servicio (silverware) just some general observations I thought I would throw in here :)

Friday, April 08, 2011

My first blog in South America!

Well let me start this first blog in South America out by saying I have paid my debts to the travel God's by surviving the worst flight ever! Some people believe that Saint Christopher is the patron saint of travel but he sure didn't save me from 13 hours of pure hell haha. I just got bad luck of the draw though, in the multiple thousands maybe even millions of miles this was bound to happen at least once and I guess I am lucky I have lasted this long without it happening. Want to know what it was?d
Ben and I were stuck in between not one baby but TWO babies! One directly in front of me and the other directly across from me. The one in front of me generally wasn't so bad and slept most of the time but the one directly across from me was the baby from hell. He would NOT stop crying almost the entire flight and he would sometimes set the baby off in front of me! So they would both be screaming and there I was stuck with nowhere to go.

I considered drinking myself to such a state of drunkeness that I would pass out but in the end figured it would make me need to pee too much. I was going to listen to my music but of course I had just recently lost the cable for my Ipod and no matter how loud I turned up the volume on their crappy plane radio thing I could still hear those kids. In the end I slept maybe an hour if that out of 13. Our flight was so delayed that we missed our connecting flight so they ended up having to rebook us on another flight to Santiago.

After getting ripped off on a taxi ride as per usual in a new country we finally got to our couch surfer's place and had to wake him up at 1am. He and his roommate have been awesome so far though and it has been great. I shouldn't complain too much now that we are here alive and in one piece and only the flights were rough. We did meet a couple of cool people on our last flight though which was nice and we will be hanging out with them and exploring the city with them soon. Our new host has taken us on a great city/food tour and we have really enjoyed the local knowledge. My budget will be tight for Chile though as I had to pay 140 American Dollars just to enter the country which sucks but nothing I can do about being American. They don't charge Ben since he is German.

I have had a lot of fun so far though and our first day sure has been interesting. Everyone including my host tells us that Spanish in Chile is the hardest Spanish dialect in all of South America due to their pronunciation and speed they talk along with the slang they use and unfortunately for us we don't speak Spanish. I speak a LITTLE from high school but not much Ben speaks none. A lot has flooded back to me but not close to enough. The percentage of people who speak passable English is just about 20%. I won't be able to take that immersion course for about a month until we get to Argentina. :(

Then after our hosts left for work we decided to check out the local equivalent of Walmart here (even though it isn't called that) and I wanted to break my large bills I got at the airport. A 20,000 peso note here is fairly rare and I wanted to break it. (it equals about 40 American dollars). So I went to the cashier and tried to pay for my stuff only she gave me the incorrect change (I was owed about 18,000 peso's or about 38 dollars) I tried to even begin to explain to her what happened but she just didn't understand and the line was huge. She thought I had given her a 2000 peso note and not a 20,000 peso not.

Since I wasn't getting anywhere with her I went to the customer service desk and said “habla inglas?” I wanted to know if anyone spoke English. I quickly came to realise how badly I need a functional conversational grasp on Spanish and how difficult it is when you want something and no one around you can understand you. One of the workers said poquito Ingles and I said poquito Espanol. So we both established that we both knew a little bit of each other's languages lol. I was trying to explain to them what had happened and they just weren't getting it. Luckily a customer was there who spoke English and he translated for me. (by this time a cashier,a security guard and some form of manager were involved) they told me to wait for my correct change. To their credit they were very nice and they even gave me cookies and something to drink while I waited. But I waited and waited.... it took them over 30 minutes for me to get my change! I finally did get it though. After that we went for some dinner and and I somehow managed to order some form of breakfast for dinner you know toast,eggs etc. But, the toast came out VERY dry and my eggs (which I would have asked to have scrambled if I knew how were over easy) so there was no butter for my toast or no salt and pepper for anything but I ate it.

For lunch we went out with our host and he ordered for us so we got some amazing sandwich's and empanada's too. Our sandwich's had mayo and avocado and other crazy stuff along with lettuce all of which what I hate but, the sandwich was actually really really good and I quite enjoyed it. Then we went out with Jordan later and we had yet another amazing dish it was French Fries with an egg on top and onions and cheese and it was pretty good after we washed it all down with some good beers and called it a night. Tomorrow is our big day of sightseeing around the city but so far so good here in Santiago other than the language barrier but we are learning functional Spanish quickly!

Our last night spent with our awesome host Jordan in Santiago involved us going a birthday party of his friend and her parents were quite wealthy so this party was catered and it was all you could drink and we had a beautiful view of Santiago. Pablo Neruda was a famous south American poet and he had three houses all in Chile. So far we have seen one of them and taken a really interesting tour of it. We are actually in the city (Valapariso) where he built his second house and we plan on taking the tour there. I have been eating all kinds of food I would never touch at home at all. Stuff with mayo and guacamole and onions and much more but only because I have no choice. I don't speak enough Spanish to tell them how to take it all off haha.

Spanish really is super needed in South America the English speaking percentage just isn't that high at all. But, I have been learning quickly as has Ben. I can ask for directions and buy bus tickets and just basic basic stuff. I probably speak like a child but I am learning! Oh ya I forgot to mention they pack the buses here like you wouldn't believe! literally like 100 people on a bus it sure seems like! Then they have people come on and try and sell stuff and even play live music on the bus. Riding public transport in 3rd world countries is always exciting haha

Today after we bought our bus tickets we arrived in Valaparaiso for the weekend and apparently they have great seafood here. It looks like a good city and our new host Peter is really cool. We look forward to hanging out and having a good time. We have had some amazing food thus far (even though it is a little salty, Chileans love salt!) and tomorrow we are going to try Ceviche (fish cooked in lemon juice) so I am looking forward to it. Thus far we have had an amazing time and I loving learning espanol and the South American culture in general. Until next time yall take care. Bolivia is our next stop after Chile. -Tyler

P.S. Besides all my amazing friends in New Zealand that I miss a ton I also miss the meat pie so so much! Chile is full of sandwiches so I have eaten a lot of those but also had some good Chilean food :) 

Monday, April 04, 2011

Goodbye New Zealand

Well this is really it. I leave for the airport in less than 3 hours. I have seen almost all of my friends and really been made to feel special. I have some amazing friends here so it really has been hard for me to leave I am actually quite sad. Such is life though, Ben and I are on to the next adventure and I am really excited. As we speak I am sitting next to some of my friends and I am wearing a shirt that one of my friends got me for my birthday.
I have had tons of birthday parties to go too and leaving parties and farewell dinners and everything. I usually just cut the cord and leave straight away but it has been different here. I really will miss everyone. I hope the weather is really hot and good in South America! I am looking forward to getting away from this weather here haha.

The other major thing I want to mention is that I never wanted to make this a "friends list" or a competition between my friends because all my friends are amazing but I really feel that two of my friends deserve a special mention. I just randomly met Debs and Nadia via their flatmate. I didn't end up actually having a lasting friendship with him but those two girls are some of the most special people to me in all of New Zealand. for only knowing them five or six months it is amazing how close we have become.

You have probably heard me mention my Auckland girlfriends and those two are it. They have been there for me thru everything and listened to be complain about whatever I wanted to bitch about and also listened to me have the good times in my life. They have really helped me more than they will ever know. I am totally going to miss Tayla,Tailya,Tyle,Taylor,Tylor nights. The movies and pizza nights I won't ever forget nor will I forget our date nights or the CS drinks nights. There is alot I will miss. But, these two girls I KNOW I will see again so this isn't goodbye forever. We did have some great times together.

But, I do have so many Couch Surfing hosts,friends,randoms,good friends to thank everyone has been amazing and I will be back in New Zealand for the people and the places! So thanks to everyone and I had a great time here! Now onto the next adventure! Next time I write I will be in Santiago Chile! and it continues..... -Tyler

Sunday, April 03, 2011

It is finally over

Six months sure did go fast! by tomorrow I will be in Santiago Chile! I am really excited for my next part of the adventure yet at the same time I really sad to be leaving New Zealand. Last night I had a farewell dinner/drinks and just the amount of people that actually showed up really showed me how much I do have amazing friends here. I was totally blown away by the turn out. It was a good night but also sad to be saying the final goodbyes. But I know it wont be goodbye forever just see ya later because I WILL come back here for a visit!

Today Ben is back from Sydney and we have to do our taxes and a few loose ends and that is it. I have dinner plans with friends and just getting everything done before tomorrow.  All good things must come to an end as they say... I shall miss you New Zealand... but get ready South America! -Tyler

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Only 2 days left

Today I got to work on the boat owned by my friend's dad. This was my first experience actively working on a sail boat and really only my second time on a sail boat (the first was our free sailing trip Ben and I did in Oz) but the work was just basic maintenance stuff. I did some sanding and priming and just general clean up. As I have now officially stopped working this was good to do something a little different and more relaxed. I enjoyed working and his dad is a really cool guy not only did he pay me well but he also bought me lunch!

Last night was my last Wednesday night drinks ever :( There was a huge turn out of people and I was really blown away I will miss everyone for sure and it was sad. One of my friends even made me a chocolate chip muffin (my favourite!) it was so good :) I was really happy to see everyone but sad to be leaving soon. I have also had my last pizza/movie night (we saw Limitless) so the “lasts” will continue :(

From here on out I am just wrapping up my final things here. I have my passport back in my hot little hands (thank God) and have all the money owed to me (minus my New Zealand tax return) I will do my taxes before I leave. I still have that Aussie bank card to sort out but I am confident it will get here before I leave. I have my medicine and hopefully enough contacts and all that other boring but necessary stuff. I actually am covered by some travel/health insurance now as well so that is a good thing I guess.

I booked a week here at a hostel and this is the first time I have stayed in a hostel in six months! It is a strange feeling but I have some good roommates here. Two German girls and two Canadian guys so it is good to hang out with them as now really all I am doing is killing time before I leave and waiting for Ben to get back from Sydney. My only complaint is that damn male flutist! Today I went down there before work and I was going to tell him off but for some weird reason he stopped and left before I could get down there I think it was because the police were there. I was going to report him actually but they were actively arresting someone so I decided not to bother. I only have to put up with it for a bit longer and maybe I will just scream at him from the window lol.

Seriously it is ridiculous that I have to put up with this crap for the money I pay! He isn't even good! I needed to research the number for the noise complaint people, everyone in my room hates his noise I really should have done something days ago I just haven't so I guess that's my fault huh? My only other complaint is that the water in the showers here only stays on for ten seconds and then you have to push the button to turn it on again its annoying and it doesn't stay hot. But whatever enough of my complaining at least I am not homeless, soon I will be out of here!

We have done our research for our trip and have a rough budget (I hope I will have enough money for all this, the visa fees I have to pay to get into countries is going to kill me!) Ben is so lucky he doesn’t have to pay ANY visa fees but I do :( Over this weekend I have hung out with some friends and caught up for some goodbye drinks then on Saturday I have two parties to go too and I will just have a busy weekend! Monday and Tuesday I will just be wrapping up my final loose ends. Today I had a good catch up lunch with an old friend and hopefully I will get to see everyone I want to see before I leave.

I have lots of parties to go too before I leave. Leaving parties,birthday parties just parties galore so it should be a good time and I am going to try and not to spend too much money haha. I really will miss it here and I really do have great friends here that I will be coming back to visit for sure! Last night at Nadia's birthday party I did manage to have a really quite deep extremely enlightening conversation with a guy there. He was really cool actually we talked about the meaning of life and why we are here. Way to deep for most birthday parties haha but I really enjoyed it. You know the other day I had a few moments in time where I just let everything go. I mean everything. I was just living for that exact moment in time and nothing else. There was a busker playing some Jimi Hendrix on his guitar on Queen Street. I just stood next to him and listened to him play. I didn't say a word and neither did he. All the background noise of the street just faded away as did everything else in my mind. I was just living for that exact moment and it is really rare something like that happens but I won't ever forget that feeling.

Nadia's cake turned out great and she loved it which is good because I slaved over that thing for hours (with the help of my wonderful friend Agamit because I have never baked anything in my life haha) and we made it from scratch not even out of a box! Nadia's party was also really fun and I had a great time. Before that I stopped off at my friend Rach's party and had fun there too. I am just about all partied out haha. Today (Sunday) I am supposed to see another friend and tonight is my leaving dinner with all my friends. I still have to do my taxes and hope that pin number gets here but I wont stress about it because everything else is done. Ben gets back today at some point too.

Hopefully everything works out according to plan for us and even if it doesn't I know it will be ok, its all an experience as it always is for me in every country I visit and I always have a good time no matter what. Also hopefully I can leave South America with an active knowledge of conversational Spanish that is one of my big goals. Well I guess that is it for now. Until next time.-Tyler