It all begins… again.
Melbourne Highlights – Melbourne is the sports capital of Australia so I visited a few of the large stadiums within walking distance of the city. Saw the Rod Laver arena where they hold the Aussie Open tennis, for which I (attempted to) sell tickets when I worked at Ticketek in Sydney. As I stood there I actually wondered how many people sat in the stadium cursing the stupid Pom who sold them tickets to the wrong match… Just a few minutes walk from there was the (probably) spectacular MCG. I say probably because at the time of my visit the place was basically a building site as it´s currently being redeveloped. Still, the part of the ground that remained in tact was very impressive. Luckily the afternoon I turned up was PURA Cup final day (kind of a 5 day version of the Nat West trophy final back home… I think). It was near the end of play so I was able to wander in for free and watch the last half a dozen overs as Victoria reached 300-1 against Queensland… Victoria as you might have guessed were favourites to win!
Melbourne, as the Brits reading this may well know, is home to that ´oh so true to Aussie life´ soap opera masterpiece, Neighbours. So I made my pilgramige to Pin Oak Crescent, better known as Ramsay Street. I quite enjoyed the place. It´s much smaller than I imagined it to be – it took maybe 30 seconds to walk from the bottom to the top, but i´m sure I remember long, drawn out car chases and suchlike down that street… Got the obligatory photo of me in front of Harold Bishop´s house etc. Heard some funny stories about the antics of some people on that street – people shagging on Harold´s lawn etc. Nice.
Anyway, my overall impression of Melbourne is that it´s a decent enough city, perhaps easier to live in than Sydney as it´s more compact, although I still prefer Sydney. I thought St. Kilda was a bit over-rated, although there are some tasty rollergirls shooting along the promenade which is as good a reason to go there as any.
So I made my way back to Sydney. It really did feel like going home. Quite a nice feeling, stolling along streets and through parks that felt very familiar. I spent 5 days sorting bits and pieces out before my departure, but still managed to do a couple of things in that time. I popped up the coast to picturesque Palm Beach, where they film Home and Away – shit, this is starting to sound a bit sad isn´t it! Also made one last stop-off at Manly beach (where I did most of my surfing), my favourite suburb of Sydney and a place I felt quite sad to leave for the last time.
The day before I left Sydney (and Australia) was fittingly a great one. The sun shone bright as I spent the day walking around the Blue Mountains. Some awe-inspiring scenery – the famous 3 Sisters were great, but the real highlight was a walk around Wentworth falls – a series of waterfalls down a huge, dramatic rock face. And that excellent day concluded my travels in the wonderful country that is Australia.
The following day, it all began… again. I said a sad farewell to Australia and boarded a plane pointed in the direction of South America.
That day was an incredibly long one… literally. Due to time zones and date lines my 24th March lasted 39 hours. I landed in Santiago airport one hour after I left Sydney, but having endured a 16 hour journey! Fortunately I met some people who, like me, have a fondness for the ol´ amber nectar and after sinking a few that evening no signs of jet lag materialised!
Santiago is quite a nice city. I didn´t think it was quite as European as i´d read it was, but it was quite a charming place in parts. Took a cable car up a steep hill and enjoyed the magnificent, if slightly smoggy, view of the city and the surrounding mountains, some of which were snow-topped, which felt a bit odd as Santiago itself was absolutely baking!
The group of us met a nice Chilean lad who offered to take us to, and show us around Valparaiso, an interesting port city built onto the coastal slopes. From Santiago we headed south to Pucon, where we gazed at the magnificent, snow-topped volcano. Unfortunately gaze is all we could do as weather conditions prohibited us from climbing it. Quite gutted about that as I´d heard great reports about the climb. The next day we left a place called Puerto Montt on a 3 day ferry trip through the Patagonian islands along the west coast. It was a relaxing 3 days spent watching the spectacular scenery drift past us, with some boozing and sea-sickness (possibly connected) thrown in for good measure.
We arrived in Puerto Natales and organised a tour into the Torres del Paine National Park. The tour involved taking in some incredible sights; a couple of waterfalls, a trek to the Grey Glacier and the dominating towers (torres) at the centre of the national park. A great day.
We left Puerto Natales and weaved our way south through the barren, windswept landscape of Tierra del Fuego to Ushuaia, Argentina – ´the city at the end of the world´. A very pleasant town, with steaks to die for and an enjoyable climb up to the ´Martial Glacier´, a mere ice cube compared to the Grey Glacier, but the view from near the top looking down at Ushuaia and the end of mainland South America was spectacular.
Short of going to Antarctica (which we all agreed would have been cool if it wasn´t for the small matter of a few thousand quid) the only way was north. So after an annoyingly long bus journey taking around 20 hours and crossing the Chile- Argentina border twice, I arrived in El Calafate, gateway to the Los Glaciers National Park and in particular the Moreno Glacier…
I think i´ve used every possible superlative about 10 times in the course of this email, but I can honestly say that the Moreno Glacier is one of the most amazing natural sights i´ve ever seen. The glacier is larger in area than Buenos Airies city. It is around 50-60 metres high. My tour group was standing maybe 600 metres away when a huge chuck of it crashed into the lake! Every so often you can hear the ice roar as it slowly crawls along the valley. It sounds like a clap of thunder. We all spent several hours just staring at it from various angles. It really is quite incredible.
Following another all-you-can-eat steak buffet dinner that night (a huge dinner and a couple of beers for just a few quid!) we made our way the next day up along the east coast to Puerto Madryn. Of the 6 of us travelling together at this point 3 of us were lucky enough to hitch a lift with a German lad who was driving into the National Park at Peninsula Valdes where there exists the possibility of seeing orcas (killer whales). There are seal colonies along the beach and every so often tourists are treated to the sight of an orca coming right into shore and enjoying it´s own all-you-can-eat seal buffet. Sadly, despite standing there staring at the sea for 4 hours(!) the orcas obviously had better things to do with themselves that day and so stood us up. The seals themselves were great to see, but it was really all about the orcas and the untimely death of one of those lovely seals. I wonder how i´d feel if a bunch of people turned up with cameras hoping to catch a nice shot of my gruesome death…
You´ll be pleased to know that brings me to the here and now. In a small place called San Antonio. Had a decent night here last night shooting pool with some of the locals over some cervesas til 5:30am. Am feeling it now! So anyway, i´m off to Buenos Airies tonight, arriving tomorrow (thurs) morning.
Chao for now.