From Torres del Paine we traveled back to Puerto Natales and after one night we took the bus back to El Calafate. There we mainly relaxed and prepared ourselves for further travelling. In fact we had more days in El Calafate than originally planned since the weather was mostly in our favour in Patagonia and so we didn’t need our spare days to sit out bad weather.
We left El Calafate on a rainy day to fly further south to Ushuaia on Tierra del Fuego (aka Feuerland). Ushuaia is the southermost town in the world (“la ciudad más austral del mundo”). Further south there only are a few small chilean villages and beyond that, the next human settlements are research stations in Antarctica. Ushuaia’s location and infrastructure made it the number one place to start a cruise to Antarctica. We would have loved to do that, but 6000 USD per person for a 10 day trip is nothing that I would call a bargain. Instead we enjoyed the long days just looking at the marvellous landscape with the high snow-capped mountains, the deep blue sea and the fast changing weather. The first two nights we stayed in town, then we moved to another place a bit outside of Ushuaia on top of a hill by the sea. There we had a great view, a beautiful room, a good breakfast and the possibility to hike a bit in the mountainside. What a nice end to our world-trip! 🙂
Galapagos is something special – let’s list some of the reasons why:
First of all, this archipelago was the reason why Darwin started to think about evolution. Before that, everything was believed to be made by god in the way it is.
Next thing: until modern days, the islands were never inhabitated by man, there are no aborigines of Galapagos. Even after the first discovery of their existence in 1535, the main visitors to the islands were pirates and whalers for a long long time. The islands remained a myth or a forgotten place to the world, because they were described in a not very inviting way by their first visitors. But after Darwin published his book “The origin of Species” more and more scientists came to the islands. These so called scientists, nowadays we would rather call them hunters and gatherers, eliminated some species and brought others to the edge of extinction by “collecting” samples. Some sciencific voyages took several thousand specimens back to their home port.
Another special thing is that Galapagos is a nationalpark and a UNESCO World Heritage site – only a few inhabited sites are excluded. There have already been some attempts to reduce the impacts of humans to the islands – such as the elimination of plants that don’t belong to the islands originally.
Flights to Galapagos depart solely from Guayaquil or from Quito (mostly via Guayaquil).
To enter the nationalpark you have to pay a fee – 100 US$ for adults that are not from South America. This money has to be paid in cash upon arrival at the airport in Galapagos. Now the best: there are no cash machines at the airport, so you have to cash the money before you arrive there. I don’t know what they do if you don’t have the money – sending you back where you came from is a real possible option?!
The main airport of Galapagos is Baltra – a former US military outpost during WW2. But no worries, the airport buildings and the landing strip are not from this time. Actually they are brand new. First thing that is a bit strange is that you have to take a ferry from the island Baltra to the main island of Santa Cruz. And the ferries there look totally self made. The buses that await you on the other side are not selfmade, but still you instantly start to hope that they are able to make it to the town Puerto Ayora, which is a 1 hour ride away.
After three months we had to say good-bye to North America – special thanks to US immigration, we won’t forget that. At least we could save money this way because North America gave our budget a hard time.
As a last gift of this continent we could see Mt. Rainier unclouded from the plane.
At the end of the Stewart-Cassiar-Hwy we entered the Yukon. Also a quite big territory of Canada and so it took us 2 days to reach our next target, the Kluane/Mt. St. Elias Nationalparks. On the way we stopped in Whitehorse to stock up because most towns in this region only have small grocery stores. Whitehorse is by far the biggest town around – with about 27.000 inhabitants. And it is also the gate to Yukon and Alaska for a lot of tourists – even a plane of Condor airlines is flying directly from Germany once a week to Whitehorse.
We stayed in the area of the nationalparks for 4 nights in three different locations. The nationalparks represent the largest non-polar icefield in the world. To get a better look at these icefields we took a scenic flight, but the weather allowed us only to explore one of the huge glaciers – in this case it was 60km long and max. 5km wide. Even though we didn’t see the core area of the icefield, with the Mt. Logan and Mt. St. Elias ranges, the flight was absolutely worth every dollar we paid.
We had a quite nice flight from Alice Springs to Perth, because the weather was good to permit a good view of the ground. The plane also passed Uluru and the Kata Tjuta as an extra. Later on the surface beneath us really started to look like the surface of Mars. Once in a while a mine was in sight. Working here must be a tough job – but a very well paid one as we heard. That is the reason why the cost of living is high in Western Australia. You can compare it with Norway, where the oil industry is the reason for the high cost of living.
This time Sydney was only a stop to switch to an other plane and proceed towards Melbourne. This time the plane had a nice route to the airport and so we got some good pictures from downtown as a free bonus.
In Sydney it had around 26 °C – without some wind and sitting or walking direct in the sun it felt like 30 at least.
Our flight to New Zealand was planned to be at 9:30 with Virgin Australia, but carried out by Air New Zealand. So we left the loft were we stayed quite early, but still it was no very cold outside. Specially Walking with our luggage kept us very warm.
At the airport at the check-in we figured out that with our booking through the opodo website was something wrong. We paid Opodo extra Money to book the luggage for us but they didn´t. The room temperature dropped a bit while the bloodpressure rose a bit.
At the service desk they asked us for the flight ticket out of New Zealand. We were wondering why because we were still in the negotiation Phase with the travel agency for Tahiti and the travel Information site of the Austrian ministry for foreign relations aka. “Außenministerium” didn´t say something about that. The woman at the service desk stated clearly, when we don´t have a ticket out of NZ then they are not taking us on this flight. She gave us 45 min and the direction to a travel agency. Room temperature equal to Zero; bloodpressure to the maximum.
We booked hastily a flight from Auckland to Sydney for a more or less suitable time. So, no Tahiti anymore 🙁
At least we could join this flight – temperatures at the plane: too low as always
At least Christchurch welcomed us with sunshine and about 22 °C.
So, what did we learn:
– First of all: do the booking yourself and don´t wait ages until a travel agency is doing something, even if they seem professional.
– Second – check and cross-check info even when it comes from a source that seems reliable
Today we gave our rental car back (the car carried us 1892km through Tasmania) at the lovely Hobart International Airport and checked in for the flight to Sydney. Flight was nice – carrying or heavy luggage and the fact that the airport trains were out of service was not so nice. At least the busses, that drove instead, were for free 🙂
We are staying again in such an airbnb-found private accomodation. To be honest, the first few hours showed already that a loft, besides that it looks great, has quite some drawbacks……
.. we arrived in Hobart. Amazing airport – the airport of Linz is at least tripple the size. Overall flights were good, even without extra space for the legs. Right now I’m fighting the tiredness. The longer I manage to fight the tiredness the better I can cope with the jetlag.