Posts Tagged With: travelling the world

Life is never black or white – or even 50 shades of grey for that matter

I half expected the Pearl and Dean music to start as the lights dimmed and changed colour.  We’d just taken off from Auckland in our brand new LAN Airlines Boeing 787-9 “Dreamliner”, the plane seemingly taking an age to get off the ground.

Dream on

Dream on

I’m not a nervous flyer, well not now after 31 flights.  However, the thought of flying 6,000 miles across the South Pacific on two engines to Santiago, Chile with no land in between, did make me briefly think I might not see my beloved Middlesbrough play in the Premiership next season. EDITOR:  Mr B not a happy Blogger after the away defeat at Rotherham United!

But it was a fantastic ambient light show in the plane’s cabin that distracted me from thoughts of death.  We’ve been in a couple of the giant A380 Airbuses on our RTW travels and they have had different lighting states. However our first ever flight in the Dreamliner topped that by some distance.  Firstly, as we boarded, a nice pinky/rose colour helped passengers de-stress as seatbelts were tightened.  Then as we hurtled down the runway, it changed to a bluey crimson colour – which must mean something, although I know not what.

At 34,000 feet, as we flew over the International Dateline, the lights took on an orange glow as dinner was served – in-lieu of candles perhaps?  Then, with people wanting to sleep, the purple hue around the cabin ceiling gradually became a silver/yellow moonlike shimmer, gradually fading to black as the cabin lights dimmed.

Hats off to manufacturer Boeing who are being really clever here as they try to trick our mind and circadian (body) clock through different shades of light.  I think it worked in fairness, particularly as the onboard computer also controlled the 40% larger than normal ‘portal’ windows by dimming and brightening when necessary.  For example, we set off at 1830 for an 11 hour flight, went over the dateline and arrived at 1400 the same day. But despite the sun having “been up” for the last 7 hours of the flight, the windows pretended that it was still night.  Clever.  So we were up for 31 hours and had no jet lag the next day despite very little sleep due to the excessive turbulence.  Maybe that’s the downside of these flexible light-weight carbon fibre planes.

Just wished I had taken some photos – but hey, for once, hope the above prose gives you an idea.

So, Santiago, Chile.  A new country and our first time in South America.  Excited.

Well we were for five minutes as we got in to the taxi, but suddenly we both thought it all looked a bit grey as we sped in to the centre of town.  Situated in a “bowl” haze not heavy smog, enveloped the City.  Something akin to Beijing was in the air, but we could breath.

Not a good start

Not a good start

We quickly dumped our bags in our 1970s throwback hotel, interestingly called The Vegas and headed out to explore, our legs still seized up thanks to the not so generous 30” legroom afforded in LAN Cattle Class. Dream on Dreamliner.

But what was this?  Nobody around. Shutters shut, grey coloured streets with nobody in them. Lots of concrete, randomly mixed with the odd Cubanesque colourful style building. We headed for the central plaza, graffiti everywhere.  The city increasingly looked like a cross between Romania in the height of the cold-war mixed with a down-at-heel part of Birmingham.  More graffiti.  It was sprayed everywhere.  Still nobody around as a piece of “Donald Trump” hair, sorry tumbleweed, blew across the street in-front of us as if we were in some sort of spaghetti western.

Translation please

Translation please

"Back end of beyond perhaps.....?"

“Back end of beyond perhaps…..?”  Look closely

Not open

Not open

Ah yes a BT phone

Ah yes a BT phone and a few more people

Baching Mad

Locals thought I was “Baching Mad” taking a shot of this

Shutter up

Shutter up

No escape from the spray.... not even trees

No escape from the spray…. not even trees

From the beauty of New Zealand to this in the blink of an eye.

We looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders and headed to a rather poor Italian restaurant for a bowl of pasta and a pizza.  It was the only thing we could find open within a half mile walk of the hotel.  In a corner, a hunched up old lady who must have been in her 90s, kept shouting out to her 65+ year old daughter over Sunday/ “Mother’s Day” lunch?  Back to the care home for her, time for bed for us after being up for 31 hours.

Next day, Monday, a different day and a good day.  The sun was shining, an excellent start.  The grey had changed to blue and suddenly there were people everywhere.  The place was alive, nay bustling, a veritable hive of activity in the street surrounding our hotel.  Streets and areas that yesterday had appeared to be reminiscent of a former 1980s Soviet State suddenly looked amazingly capitalist.  With the sun now out to play, temperatures quickly rose into the late 20s.

That's better, old and new

That’s better, old and new in the blue

Flag greets MASTERS arrival

Flag greets MASTERS arrival

Life and soul of the street

Life and sole of the street party

Coffee - ah yes coffee! More of that in a moment

Coffee – ah yes coffee! More of that in a moment

Fidel sadly could not make the free tour

Fidel sadly could not make it in person

Welcome to Santiago proper!

We decided to join the 1000 Free Walking Tour which started in the main Piazza. No hills, but still good exercise and the chance to find out more about the city we were in for 72 hours.

Franco (or El Presidente as I dubbed him), our late 20s tour guide was a real pro’ – he should have been after six years.  But as I said to him, his passion and enthusiasm were infectious.  It was as if this was his first, not 1400th tour.  Fair play and you could see why he lives off tips, he was that good.

Make Franco President

Start point of our tour

Start point of our tour – The Cathedral

Franco's followers, Mrs B at the back

Franco’s followers, Mrs B at the back

So our four hour tour started, taking in at first the historic bits of the central area as one would expect.  But I am delighted to say there was loads of social commentary and background on modern day Santiago and the people of Chile.  It was all fascinating.  So please, let me share some small vignettes from our walk to give you a flavour of this interesting capital.

MORE COFFEE VICAR?

Thirty minutes after we started, Franco stopped the group in the street and began talking about coffee houses… I was so glad he did!  Earlier that morning, I had stumbled in to what I thought was a café selling coffee, only to be met by a couple of men and a rather well-endowed young lady who asked me with a twinkle in her glass eye what I wanted!!!  Franco’s explanation was interesting.  Chile, he explained is not known for its quality of coffee so in the 1980s some bright spark had the notion of selling coffee in cafes with no chairs (just poser tables) served by ladies in short skirts.  The idea was a simple one. Men would be distracted from the poor treacle/stewed coffee by the beauty of the ladies and everybody would be happy. It summed up for me typical male crass thinking.  The irony, that this was International Women’s Day not lost on me or Sarah. We squinted through partially covered frosted window pains and both got eye fulls!  Libidos in check, we continued as history beckoned.

Distracted

Distracted

... It's not difficult to be distracted

… It’s not difficult to be distracted in Santiago

MAGGIE THATCHER’S MATE…. “The Party of Pinochet” – Blair 1999

We stopped, overlooking the Presidential Palace – not particularly ornate or grand as the photo shows.  But interesting because on the 9th September 1973 there was a coup and Margaret Thatcher’s friend General Pinochet strangely came to power after two President’s died in the space of a week. He was third in line. I personally remember Pinochet for a couple of reasons.

The first was his support of the British when we took back the Falklands.  Pinochet had no love for the Argentinians although officially neutral.  But when Margaret needed assistance to bomb the Falkland Islands, General P offered radar support in exchange for some Hawker fighters….  The “friendship” continued into the late 1980’s and early 1990’s and coincided with the second reason I remember this rather nasty Dictator.  Joe, our son once went to a birthday party when he was 3 on the Wentworth Estate.  Not any old party, but the leaving party for the Sultan of Brunei’s two sons who went to the same nursery – Happy Days (yes the real name of the nursery).  It was quite literally a palace, but interestingly close by was General P’s UK residence where he was holed up after being ousted from power in 1990 to evade possible arrest for nasties carried out under his watch.

Presidential Palace, the scene of the coup in 9/11/1973

Presidential Palace, the scene of the coup on the 11/9/1973 – Pinochet died in 2006

POLICE STATE?

Pinochet is long since dead, but one lasting memory I do have of Santiago is the Police presence on the streets.  Those of you who are Facebook friends will have seen a tongue in cheek posting I made a couple of days ago showing water canon units, armed personnel carriers and military police in full riot gear.  This heavy police presence was not as first reports claimed, needed to quell the disquiet of Middlesbrough FC fans in Santiago (me) after their diabolical performance against Rotherham, but was to “observe” what appeared to be a perfectly quiet demonstration involving around 10,000 mainly women who were campaigning for a range of women’s rights, including abortion.

You are conscious of the police

You are conscious of the police

Not always smiling

Not always smiling

COLOURFUL GRAFITI

Pity the police don’t earn their money by nailing people with spray cans in their hands.  I mentioned earlier that graffiti was everywhere and wasn’t a pretty sight.  However on our walking tour we saw examples of much better, even semi-professional “street art” which was actually quite good….

Good G

Good G

Better but not right

Better but not right

ART FOR ARTSAKE?

… but better still were the many artists who worked in the historic streets in the old quarter and in the student side of town close to a myriad of bars and clubs – the latter where a more “free” or should I say “drunk” style of painting prevailed .  I really liked their work, bright vivid colours reminding me in some cases of the great work of Steve Eker and Cate Field, who I hasten to add are both teetotal.

A chap called Bills

A chap called Bills

No pictures of Trump thank goodness

No pictures of Trump thank goodness

View from the top - better than my grey image

View from the top of the big hill – better than my grey image

ARCHITECTURALLY VERY GOOD

The Santiagan artists had some lovely backdrops to paint in-front of and Franco showed us many fine sights, the old buildings mixing with the new quite well except in the case of the Telefonica Tower, which looked like the stupid “brick” that it was in terms of a poor copy of a mobile phone circa 1995.  Judge for yourself.

Side by side

Side by side

The opera house

The opera house

Telefonica Brick circa 1995

Telefonica Brick circa 1995

BAILEY’S POLICE HIT LIKED BY LOCALS

Just round the corner from the Tower, I could hear the clear sounds of a rock band.  Listening to the music I was astounded to see a guy on drums and another on bass guitar “busking” in front of four lanes of cars waiting at traffic lights.  With full amplification, they started each time the traffic stopped giving them around 35 seconds to belt out various tracks before rushing down the sides of the vehicles to receive cash.  I watched these guys completely  fascinated, having broken away  from the walking tour party who were now busy looking at some really, really boring statue of a bloke from 1756.  The drummer stayed with his kit on the pavement whilst the guitarist gyrated big time as the lights turned to red.  Two performances later I heard the Police Number 1 “Don’t stand so close to me” from 1980.  I could not resist singing along from the centre of the dual carriageway much to the pleasure of the band and it would appear cars alike.  Tune over, we nipped down the cars and collected about 500 pesos – around 50P – which my fellow band members seemed pleased with.  I tried to explain that I was from “near Newcastle where Sting comes from” but my Spanish Geordie accent was not good and I think the message (in a bottle) was lost in translation.

No police, just Sting

No police, just Sting

Back to the group, the rest of the international walking tour members just never knew what they missed…

So, next up, Ecuador and our trip to the Amazon Basin and the “Poor Man’s” Galapagos.  Our LAN Airbus 320 has just pulled up on the stand beneath where I am sitting.  The white and blue fuselage shining in the late afternoon sun. We’ve had a really colourful last three days, just wish it had been longer really.

Categories: South America Blog | Tags: , , , , , , ,

A TIDE of SALTY emotion as we WAVE goodbye to the country of….

MARK: If you ask me what the TWO things are that I will remember most from our five weeks in New Zealand, it might surprise you.  What do you reckon?

Beautiful scenery, aqua-marine glacial lakes or incised ‘V’ shaped valleys? Snow-capped mountains, speeding jet boats or little planes affording brilliant views? Wine, wine and more wine?  The un-PC “classless” people, superb weather – only two grey days in 32 – or single lane roads where Chinese drivers cause mayhem?

Just some of the experiences that readily spring to mind. But just what will stay with me forever?

Ladies and Gentlemen, the masters20152016.com Award for Remembrance goes to…….. drum roll Oscar style……..

Big Blue Sky

Big blue sky and bright blue water

… the Sky and the Sea!

Yep I know, that may be a bit random, but let me explain.

The sky here seems so much”bigger” and bluer than any other country in the world we have ever been to.  Quick research on the web suggests this is possibly due to the lack of pollution, reduced ozone in the atmosphere and is linked to the angle of New Zealand in relation to the Sun’s UV rays.  Whatever it is, we have been sooooooo privileged to see so many amazing blue skies each day. And even on the few days it has been grey, the fascinating cloud formations have been just as dramatic.

OK that’s the sky bit over with, so what about the sea?  Good question Mark.

We’ve seen a lot of it during our 4,163 mile road journey around the two islands. From Bluff at the bottom of South Island to near the Cape Reinga Peninsula in the North.  Benign one minute, a tumultuous cauldron the next, it makes you realise just how insignificant you are in the scheme of things.  It is mesmerizing just watching the surf break. The noise can be deafening close up.  I certainly have great respect for those early explorers including Captain Cook who took on the might of the oceans and not always with positive outcomes.

A grain of sand

A grain of sand

The sky and the sea, literally came together during one of our last adventures, when we bounced along on an ex New Zealand Royal Navy rescue boat, owned and run by local Whitianga legend Steve Miller – The Cave Cruzer.  Steve and his lovely wife Vicki also own the bed and breakfast accommodation we stayed in – Absolute Beachview – a great place if you are ever in this neck of the woods.

But back to the legend for a minute who, by the way, drives an aqua-marine 1974 Mustang convertible…

Steve has saved the lives of TWO people in the past few months due to his fantastic CPR skills.  His latest heroics just over a month ago, got a lot of media attention as he saved a lady’s life on Monday, who then married on Friday of that same week. Read all about it for yourselves by clicking on the links below to access the online reports:

http://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/weddings/76594618/Nearly-drowned-on-Monday-married-on-Friday

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11585911

The God that is Steve at Cathedral Cove.

The God that is Steve, at Cathedral Cove.

Heading off on Sunday morning the sun decided to come out and what a 3 hour trip we had!

The sun will come out

The sun will come out

The Rib was able to get really close to so many rock and cliff formations…and wildlife you could literally touch!

Hungry birds

Hungry birds

Tree-mendous stacks

Tree-mendous stacks

S and S

Big sky meets big sea

The Champagne glass

“The Champagne Glass” – sadly upside down and empty

Largest sea cave in the southern hemisphere

The largest sea cave in the southern hemisphere

Inside the cave the fish came out to play

Inside the cave, the fish came out to play

It was such a fun trip….

Smile please

Smile please as we pass through what is known as the “washing machine”

Captain Cook - you know, the bloke from Middlesbrough - named this Cathedral Cove

Captain Cook – the bloke from Middlesbrough – named this Cathedral Cove – Sarah impressed as you can see!

Leaning

Get a shave

And then WOW. Steve got a call to say there was a pod of Bottlenose dolphins in the Bay around the corner.  We sped off.  The first sight we had, came when one of these amazing creatures started jumping over a chap on a kayak nearby. Within minutes there were dolphins everywhere around our boat, heading towards the centre of the main estuary channel.  I decided to get in amongst them as you do – and they decided to move on, so that was the end of my swimming with dolphins bit.  No wet suit Phil W in the north!

Look at the size of the white bull (bottom)

Look at the size of the white bull (bottom)

Everywhere you looked

Everywhere you looked

Side by side

Side by side – two mates out for a swim

Out of focus, but you get the sort of idea

Out of focus, but you get the sort of idea

I frightened them off

I frightened them off – so I hung on the back of the rib as it headed off at speeds of 30 mph, my hair blowing in the wind from the big inboard motors

The two videos I took on my 35mm camera perhaps give a better idea – sorry about the shakes and the poor quality… Click on the link or the video arrow and have a look…

And so we say good-bye to New Zealand.  Only two days in Auckland before we fly over the international date-line to Chile on Sunday.  A few days in Santiago and then another couple of flights up to Ecuador for the start of our tour to the Amazon Jungle and beyond.  Wifi is doubtless going to be harder to access, so we will post when we can. In the meantime, a massive thank you to all those who continue to email, phone, text, Skype, WhatsApp, Viber and post comments on the site.  We are getting on average 200+ unique views from around the World per blog from over 58 countries, excluding the rest of the site.  So a big thank you from us for following us and thanks for the amazing comments – we really appreciate it.

We "wave" goodbye to New Zealand

We “wave” goodbye to New Zealand… next stop somehere that sounds colder but is actually warmer – Chile – another wine producing country.  Get the real reason for this trip?

BIG THANKS TO THE EXCELLENT ALOA SEAVIEW RESORT MOTEL IN PAIHIA WHO HAVE KINDLY HELPED WITH THE UPLOAD OF THESE VIDEOS.  AN EXCELLENT MOTEL IN THE BAY OF ISLANDS – http://www.aloha.co.nz – SPEAK TO JASON AND SAY HI FROM ME FOR A MASSIVE DISCOUNT OR NOT.

Categories: New Zealand Blog | Tags: , , , , ,

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