Golden Gate & George Michael

The flight to San Francisco was delayed due to a storm in the US midwest, but this just resulted in us arriving at the same time our family did. The plan was that we would stay in San Francisco for two nights to ease their jet lag and then journey on to Hawaii to spend 10 days on 2 of the islands. They would finish off their holiday back in San Francisco and we would carry on across the Pacific on our journey to New Zealand for the Rugby World Cup.

 

Open up your Golden Gate California, the gang's all here

All luggage picked up, we boarded the shuttle for the hotel, and some welcome food and drinks to start our time together. Next day it was an early start to catch the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) system train to the Embarcadero station of the San Francisco’s bay area.

Honest Richie you'll love San Francisco's public transport

The plan was to show them some of the highlights of San Francisco and to familiarise them with how to get around the city. Richard would agree, by the end of the day, we  had certainly taught them how to wait for local buses!!

View of Alcatraz from the Embarcadero Bay front area in San Francisco

From the Embarcadero we walked along the bay front to the Pier that the trips to Alcatraz left from and then on to Pier 39, to see the seals that spent a lot of the year here, and where we could also take in some open air entertainment. On that day live auditions we being held for people who would sing the national anthem at the opening home game of the San Franciscan 49ers 2011 NFL season which would start in early September. Some great voices were heard plus some not so great!! Then it was off to buy a day city transport pass, which could be used on the famous ‘Trolley Car’ system as well as local buses. First call on the bus system was the Golden Gate bridge.

A San Francisco icon...the Golden Gate Bridge

It took a while to get there, but finally we made it and walked up on to the first part of the famous Californian iconic structure.

See Rich it didn't take a long time to get here....well not too long

A bit of a wait in the unbelievably small car and bus parking area at the end of the bridge, and we dispatched the ladies and Michael (or is it ‘George’?*) in a taxi to the Top of the Mark Hotel, to arrange for some drinks in a well known San Franciscan bar on the top floor which also had great views of the city.

Great view of the city from Top of the Mark hotel bar

In the meantime myself and Richard managed to squeeze ourselves on the next bus to start what turned out to be a marathon journey back to the centre of the city. Leaving the bus behind we then had to climb some of the famous steep roads up the hotel, which were, to say the least testing!! Richards views cannot be published here as they were removed by the censors. He was still recovering from knee surgery though to be fair.

The ladies had done a good job going ahead to get the drinks in ready for us

The very welcome drinks were consumed and then we took the short journey to a Trolley Car stop for our journey to a restaurant. The previous trip to San Francisco, had taught Linz and I, that it would be best to make a reservation at any restaurant in the city. Thank goodness Linz had taken care of this earlier in the day, as 2 Trolley Car journeys later we arrived at our very, very busy restaurant, to be shown to our table ahead of a long line of speculative visitors.

On our way back to the hotel for a well earned kip....we just had to take a San Francisco trolley car

We ha a great meal to round off our day in the city. Then it was back to the Embarcadero to take the BART back to the Airport hotel for some well earned kip before our early flights to Hawaii the next morning.

 

Jet lag takes its toll on Mick and Richie

[*Michael, had been registered as 'George' on his Birth Certificate when he was born, but a mishap at his christening, had resulted in him being called Michael for his whole life........later in the trip it would come back to haunt him!!]

Jet to Jersey & Wag’s Wedding

Caught the shuttle, just, the next morning and headed out to Terminal 5, for the BA flight to Newark, New Jersey. We’d had a bit of a hitch the previous night while checking in online and as we arrived the booked seats had us at opposite ends of the Economy section of the plane. After a little help from the BA crew at the gate we were back to sitting together right at the back of the Economy section, but it did allow some more leg room for Colin, so a result all round.

We arrived on time in Newark, New Jersey but had to wait over an hour in the passport control queue, before picking up our luggage, the wait was made better by us running into David Gower (a famous English cricketer) and his wife, especially as he signed Lindsey’s boarding card for her Dad. Customs cleared we were met by Colin’s cousin Tony and his wife Kathy, who had been waiting patiently. Then it was off south via the New Jersey Turnpike and the Garden State Parkway (‘Garden State’ being New Jersey’s nickname – all 50 states have them), to South Jersey and Linwood, where they lived. Including a brief diversion when the navigation slipped a little we arrived at their home 3 hours later. The plan was a total of 8 nights here split by 2 nights in Florida for a friends wedding.

Really enjoyed being back in South Jersey

Visiting Kathy & Tony and their family is something Colin has been doing since 1978, and the welcome is always warm.

Linz and Kathy enjoying a good read on the beach...welcome as warm as ever

After a relaxing first night it’s off to one of the fabulous local beaches, this one in Ventnor, the city just south of Atlantic City.

Enjoying time on Ventnor Beach

The weather was hot and the ocean great fun. We were introduced to one of Atlantic City’s newest dining venues, Harry’s Bar, owned by Kathy’s Brother-in-Law and his Brother. It was a great evening meeting up with some old friends. Good food and good company, always a blessing.

We decided we would visit one of South Jersey’s oldest communities, Cape May at the most southern end of the state of New Jersey, could trace its history back to the start of the colonisation of this part of the USA.

Congress Hall....one of the oldest sites in Cape May....not you Linz

It was a 40 minute ride down the Garden State Parkway, followed by a wander around the town. The architecture is really attractive, and it’s a nice relaxing place to spend time, which makes it a popular weekend haunt.

One of the fabulous old buildings in Cape May New Jersey

We visited Colin’s Great Aunty, and Tony’s Mum, Freda in her convalescent home in Linwood, and it was good to see her looking so well at 92, after a recent bout of pneumonia had been fought off successfully. She had formed the main link between the UK and the USA for Colin’s family after marrying Art Eaton during World War 2. We have covered this before during our visit to Plymouth Massechusets, but at the risk of boring our readers…..Art’s ancestors can be traced to a Francis Eaton who had been a passenger on the Mayflower, and Freda’s maiden name was Francis…..some coincidence!

After another day at the beach, it was an early night before our 6.30am flight to Orlando Florida.

 

Linz really enjoyed her first visit to a water park

The hire car pick up is followed by a quick dash to take Linz to ‘Wet & Wild’, as she’s never been to a water park. A few hours of splashing around and reverting to kids on fun slides later, and we were off on Interstates 4 & 75 for the drive to Englewood in mid Florida for our friends wedding. Calvin had been a friend of Colin’s for over 10 years, and had been an usher at our wedding.

 

As he and Naomi had chosen to get married in Florida and we had planned to be in the States at the same time, we really wanted to help them celebrate their special day. Having checked in to our motel, it was a quick (well slow after getting lost) dash to their house on the nearby Rotonda development, to meet them and the other guests and to hear the timetable for the wedding day.

 

The Wedding party of family & friends

We received a great welcome from Calvin & Naomi and their friends and family. Next morning and we were the first to arrive at the Beach wedding venue. Yes it is worth making a clear note here for posterity (Calvin and others take note), that we were not only early but were the first guests to arrive, see miracles are possible!!

Not a bad spot for the nuptials....and we're here early

Colin even had time to help with setting up the Arch for the ceremony.

Do you get extra drinks for this?

Wedding ceremony completed, on a gorgeous beach venue, we adjourned for some welcome cold drinks and the wedding breakfast, Florida style in a nearby restaurant.

Calvin...you may kiss the Bride...aaaahh

Formalities over and we had a great chilling afternoon, with one slight drawback. Linz had been fighting off a cold, but it had finally hit with a vengence the night before. Colin had gone on a mission for drugs and vitamins, but they had yet to take effect. So apologies given, she spent the evening after the wedding in bed to try and sweat it out.

Colin was up on UK time on Sunday morning, watching the start of final round of The (British) Open Golf championship. Darren Clarke was in the lead after 3 rounds and he really hoped it could be a British winner. Later in the day after our flight back to New Jersey, we were informed he had done it in style. Linz was feeling a bit better as the drugs had started to work.

 

Colin and his cousin Tony....just chilling

Back in New Jersey, we were picked up by Tony at the Atlantic City airport, which is only 15 minutes from Linwood…….fabulous! Once back at their home we helped Kathy & Tony prepare for a barbecue they had planned to coincide with our visit. It was great to meet so many old friends and relatives of theirs and some new ones too. It was also good to meet up with Kathy’s brother Richie and his fiancé Michelle, who would be getting married later in July. It was a real pity that the plans for our ongoing journey did not allow us time to be at their ceremony, but we hoped their special day would be brilliant, and we pray for a long and fruitful married life to both of them.

Siting on the dock of the Bay....just fabulous with family & friends

We were invited to a barbecue at Kathy’s Sister, Bernadette & Joe, her husband’s new home on the Bay in Ventnor. It is a fabulous location, with a large deck bordering the Bay, just right for some safe swimming for their kids Maddy & Kat. One of their toys was a large floating trampoline, tethered to the deck, and the biggest kid of all……yes you’ve guessed it……Colin was out playing on it. First though we had to assist in relocating it closer to the deck as it had drifted out in to the middle of the bay and had attracted some complaints from passing boat traffic. Relocation complete it was enjoyed by all. The barbecue was a very chilling evening in good company. Plans were made for us to reciprocate the hospitality in Italy in 2012.

Missy and Colin putting the world to right

The rest of the week was great fun just chilling in sunny South Jersey with Kathy & Tony, daughter Missy (not forgetting her son Anthony of course), daughter Jen and her boyfriend Charlie.

Enjoying evening time in Ventnor with Kathy, Tony, Jen & Charlie

We missed being able to see Chris, their son, his wife Danielle and their son Christopher, but we hope to catch up with them on out next trip, God willing.

Kathy, Jen and Missy enjoying the beach

The finale of the visit was another barbecue at Bernadette & Joe’s home, with us doing the cooking. Shrimp and Pork kebabs were the order of the evening, and we hope all enjoyed the food as much as we enjoyed the cooking, the evening, and our whole visit. The next morning we were chauffeured up the New Jersey coast to Longbranch, where we caught the train to Manhattan’s Penn Station. From there it was another train to Jamaica station on Long Island and then the Airtrain out to JFK Airport for our flight to San Francisco. There we would meet up with Colin’s sister Liz, her financee Richard, Colin’s Uncle Michael and his girlfriend Karen.

Vive Visitors

The first set of visitors were Colin’s Sister and his Dad George. We were actually on time to pick them up from Malpensa airport, which was a good start to their trip, based on our past reputation. It was great to see they had been able to make the trip. Less than two hours later and we were back in Treiso, showing them around the house.

Liz settled down to relax on the back patio

It wasn’t long before George’s years of working in the dangerous coal mining industry, alerted him to the lack of a bannister on the stairs down to the basement. It prompted the first of a few reminders during the visit that we had to make this safer…..especially for potential visits by kids in the future!!

We had planned to cook the main meals on the days they were with us at the house, so we spent the days visiting the surrounding areas and the nearby town of Alba. The visit also helped us both to become more familiar with our local area. The first stop as with all visitors we had received to date was to Alba, the Duomo and its lively street cafe life.

Dad relaxing in the sun with Daughter & Daughter-in-Law

Lunch was back in Treiso at the Profumi de Vino restaurant run by our friend Memo and his girlfriend Sara. Good food great weather and a really enjoyable, relaxing time had by all. Then it was off to Cantina Rizzi for some wine tasting to get Dad and Liz up close and personal with the main industry of the region….wine production. The next venue was Neviglie, the village across the valley at the back of our home for a visit to the memorial remembering local people who had fought as partisans against the nazis and Italian fascists in the second World War.

The memorial in Neviglie

Back to the house and after a dusk viewing of the alps, and a glass of Moscato d’Asti on the upper balcony watching the sunset. After we settled down to dinner followed by a good old fashioned John Wayne Western in the basement den.

Sunday breakfast was followed by a car drive along the Strada Romantica. We had wanted to follow this scenic route for a while before they arrived, but as yet had not done it. Some of the route appeared difficult to follow and after a close call with another car on a blind bend we set off for a refreshment break at one of the main towns along the route called Strada Romantica.

One of our local information spots near the strada romantica

After some good cool drinks in the sun accompanied by a picnic we’d brought with us, we rounded it off with some excellent Italian Gelato and headed back to the house. After dinner we decided Linz should be introduced to the noble game of crib. Dad & Linz lost to Colin & Liz, but a good evening was had by all and Linz had added another game to her list.

The ladies planning our afternoon activities

The plan for Monday was to go on a trip up to Lago Maggiore, before taking Dad & Liz back to Malpensa airport for their journey home. The lake is in a fabulous location surrounded by the foothills of the Alps with the higher mountains rising up behind them.

Lake Maggiore....nice spot for some lunch together

Stresa is one of the main towns alongside the lake and we chose here to stop and enjoy some refreshments together. Then it was off to the airport in good time for them to catch their plane back to the UK.

The next visitors were our friends David & Laura. They arrived late Friday evening on 08/07/11. We had never thought of it, but it was Laura who asked us why the Italians had called an airport “Bad thought’ (Malpensa), we had to admit we didn’t know but would find out!!

The stay was a quick whistle stop so fairly early the next morning headed into Alba, for a walk through the main Saturday morning market, the Duomo, the main street of Vitorio Emanuele, a quick stop for liquid refreshment on a schorching hot day, then back to the house for lunch.

 

David & Laura sampling local wares....very refreshing

After lunch we set an ambitious agenda. First off to Barberesco for one of the recommended scenic walks.

Stunning views of the local vineyards greeted our walk in the country

After the walk down, along and back up one of the nearby valleys, past the renowned Marchesi di Gresy wine producing estate, it was off into the village itself for a wine tasting. After sampling 5 of the local wines we headed back to the house for a rest and to get ready for dinner.

Rest time in the shade, before completing our walk

It was becoming a bit of a habit to start a Saturday evening on the upper balcony with a glass of Moscato d’Asti (low alcohol sweet sparkling wine from a local producer), watching the sunset. So it seemed natural to keep this going with David & Laura.

Dinner had been booked at La Ciau di Tornavento, a very well known restaurant in our village. Nadia, Marco, Mauriglio, Annette and Luca all made us very welcome as usual, and ensured David & Laura remembered their first meal at the restaurant.  As well as arranging a ‘sampling’ menu, Nadia instructed Luca to provide the best wines for each of the varied courses. Including the prosecco at the start of the meal, we were subjected to 7 different types of wine, with the traditional shot of grappa to complete the night. Good job we were walking!! It was a fabulous night all round.

We love spending time with friends.....good company

Recalling the day now makes us all sound like we may have a drink problem, but the measures were small and the wines taken with food over a very civilised 4 hour meal duration. So not really a problem, especially as we could all have a nice lie in the next morning!!

Next morning we all chilled in the sunshine, before we prepared a barbecue meal on the patio prior to starting the journey back to the airport. As we had done with Dad & Liz, we decided to go to the airport via Lago Maggiore. This time we opted to visit the lakeside town of Arona, for a walk and some gelato.

Lake Maggiore was fun...now how about some ice cream?

All too quickly it was time to take them to catch their plane. We really enjoyed hosting our family and friends over two weekends, and hoped they had enjoyed their time as well. We looked forward to more of the same in the future. First though it was back to the house to finish packing for our mammoth 5 month trip to the Pacific and the Rugby World Cup

Watchet Week

We left Stoke on Saturday morning in good time to arrive at Lindsey’s parents at 9.30am, to prepare for the journey down to Somerset. They had booked a week in a static caravan in the small village of Blue Anchor, near to the town of Watchet in Somerset, for a break and to aid Colin’s (Lindsey’s Dad……..confusing isn’t it?) convalesence.

Blue Anchor Caravan & camping Park on the Somerset coast

After a good drive down we arrived at the town of Watchet in good time to sort out some groceries, get to the site and unpack and prepare dinner. The van was a good spec and the first night was very relaxing, except for the minor disruption of Colin turning over in bed and trying to rearrange the caravan walls with his (much too) long legs and arms.

The week was a really relaxing time with a mix of chilling in the village and visiting some fabulous English countryside venues. First off was to find a local church service to attend the following morning. After a false start in the wrong direction, we found the school the service was being held in on Sunday morning. It seemed to be a very lively Christian church with a growing congregation. So much so they had just bought a building in the centre of Watchet in which to establish a more permanent base from which to continue their growth.  The afternoon involved some traditional Sunday lunch preparation by Colin & Shirley, follow by a walk to the nearby Station of the West Somerset Railway.

The West Somerset Railway...a real blast from the past

Then back to the van for some very traditional post lunch napping and to introduce Lindsey’s parents to Colin’s full range of snoring!!

The next activity was fossil hunting on a beach just outside Watchet. Lindsey and her parents and been here before and knew it was a fossil hunter’s dream. It seemed like everywhere you looked in the cliff or in the rock’s which lined the beach, you could find fossils. Colin being the geology geek he can be, took some to add to the weight of our rucksacks………oh and yes he totally forgot to tell Linz!!

Tuesday we set off to visit Dunster Castle, but the chilling was being taken so seriously, we did not leave enough time to take in the full tour and so settled for a walk around this fabulous Somerset village. The biggest town nearby is Minehead, which was probably best known for the large Butlins camp on it’s outskirts. The camp had been one of his first sites and was still an important source of income and employment for the area. You would be wrong if you thought this was all Minehead had to offer. It only took a walk along the seafront and through one of the local churches to find out it was a town with a really rich historic past, with some fabulous scenery around it.

We bought our tickets for a trip on the Steam train and headed off to Washford.

Colin & Colin ready for the trip to Washford

 

Arriving in Washford...next stop Cleave Abbey

From the village it was a pleasant walk to Cleeve Abbey, for some very interesting history of the lives of monks in middle ages England, just prior to the antics of Henry VIII.

The hall which housed the Monks in the 1500's

We moved on, but before returning for the return trip on the train, we couldn’t be in Somerset and not sample some cider from a local producer.

Think this one's more interested in eating the apples than drinking the cider

A film on cider production and it’s resurgence in the UK was followed by some tasting, which was a little lacking in the wow factor in regard to taste but it was free.

The cider tasting was done in moderation.....honest!

Straight lines were walked back to the train and a relaxing evening in front of the telly (a real novelty for us). Well relaxing until the episode of the new series of Luther sent Linz scurrying for the safety of a pillow in front of her face. It took a bit longer for her to settle down to some quality kip that night.

We took some time away from the van and left Colin & Shirley to relax away from Colin’s snoring. We set off for Dartmoor and the well trodden walk around the punchbowl and in the hope that Linz would see some of the local wild horses. As soon as we had parked the car at the start of the walk, as if on cue a group of the horses appeared.

As if on cue, the Dartmoor ponies appeared

We tried to complete the circuit of the punchbowl with a shortcut through a farm, but had to abort this plan and retrace our steps back to the top of the walk and back to the car. Still it was some well needed exercise in one of England’s most scenic areas.

Honest Col, the Punchbowl is around here somewhere

 

There you are...the Punchbowl......just beautiful

 

We all went for a walk in the woods next to see the tallest tree in England.

Well it was the tallest in 2009...

It was great to see an unspoilt natural forest and the large trees were as ever, stunning. As we travel the world we should always remember the backyard we grew up in is just fabulous.

Is this fun or what Mr D?

It was time for exploring around Watchet itself on the Friday so we set off for a walk round the village. It was great to see the local kids getting involve with their community with contributions one of the local museums. A local artist was also showing visitors and local youngsters alike the intricacies of working with alabaster stone found in the local cliffs. The day was finished off with a meal funded by us as an early Father’s day present to Linz’s Dad, Colin, in the Smugglers Rest Pub just walking distance from the caravan.

The week had been very peaceful and it was great to spend some quality time with Linz’ Mum & Dad. We even manged some ‘sport’ as Colin was introduced to the art of Jacari (sorry you’ll just have to google it!!). Saturday saw us pack up and head off back to Birmingham and Nottingham.

We had agreed to meet up with Chloe, one of Linz’s university mates to help celebrate her birthday with a meal and some drinks in Nottingham. it was a really good night out, finished off with some live blues music, before retiring to Karen’s house for some welcome sleep.

Sunday saw us back in Stoke to meet up with Colin’s Sisters, Richard & David, his brothers-in-law, and his nephew James to celebrate Father’s Day with his Dad George. Later in the day we were able to met the latest addition to Colin’s enormous family. His niece Michelle had given birth to Jack Robert  a few days earlier, and it was a real bonus to be able to see him on this quick visit to Stoke.Richard did us proud with a very tasty Sunday lunch and we were finally able to let George have the Alpaca Jumper we had brought for him in Peru. We had a message from Colin & Shirley in the day to thank us for the same gift we had brought for Lindsey’s Dad, Colin.  Linz’s Mum however, had some comments to share about our card to her Dad which had the picture of a monkey that Linz claimed to be a picture of her Mum, just for her Dad’s delectation!! She’s a brave girl.

All visits and events complete, the next day we set off for our return to Treiso in Italy, to get the house ready for two sets of visitors.

UK & Euro Trotting

We had arrive back in the UK and again fell on the hospitality of Bryan & Jen at their home in Raynes Park, London. The next couple of days in London helped us to catch up with Rob & Helen and Lisa our other good friends based in the capital.

Then it was a train tour of England, taking in Birmingham, Stoke-on-Trent and Nottingham. We caught up with Linz’s parents, Colin & Shirley, in Brum to see how they were both doing.  Especially her Dad, who had recently been in hospital for a few weeks, while Doctors tried to find the source of the illness that was afflicting him. Strong antibiotics had started to clear up the infection sufficiently for him to go home, but there was no clear diagnosis as to the cause. More tests were planned, but he appeared better than we had seen on the screen when we skyped them from South America. We helped them to choose a new computer and arranged for a better wifi system in their home before we set off to Stoke to see Colin’s family.

George, Colin’s Dad, met us at Stoke Station and It was good to see him looking better after a chest infection he had recently been suffering from. Liz & Richard (Colin’s Sister and her Fiancee), opened up their home to us again! We had a great family party which allowed us to see a lot of people we had not seen in a while. The it was off to Nottingham to see more friends, visit our Church (St Nics) and for us to take care of some travel arrangement issues. Chris & Julie Bignall, friends and fellow Christians from St Nics congregation very kindly made us at home with them for a few days, while we stayed in Nottingham. Friends seen and tasks done, it was off to Italy to reinject life into the house building project.

After arranging the start of work on the garden of the property and ordering the garage door, we chilled for a few days in Treiso. Then we arranged to fly back direct to Edinburgh, instead of two flights via London, to spend a couple of nights with Colin’s son Paul and his girlfriend  Christina.

Visiting Paul & Christina in Edinburgh

We always enjoy visiting Edinburgh, and they are really good fun to be with. After a walk through the city that afternoon we had a nice home cooked Thai meal of prawns and rice and saw some of the ‘LA Noir’  computer game that the company Paul works with (Rockstar), had released a few weeks earlier.

The next day, based on the forecast of potential rain, we all caught the bus to the small village of Roslyn to see the famous chapel. Most people will know the church from it’s inclusion in the film ‘the Da Vinci Code’, but it’s history is much more interesting than that portrayed in the film. The church didn’t seem to mind though, because in the year before the film was released they had 35,000 visitors. In the year after the release they had 110,000 visitors.

Roslyn Church....hope they got planning permission for the extension!!

As a direct result of the increased interest and the extra revenue generated, the trust managing the church was able to bring forward much needed restoration work. The chapel itself is a fabulously ornate building, and has the unusual feature of a carved stone ceiling. We would definitely recommend visitors to Edinburgh include Roslyn on their itinerary.

Back at their flat we changed and took a walk past the base of Arthur’s seat to the village of Duddingston. For a meal at the Sheep’s Heid Pub. The place is one of those real Pub’s that are slowly dying out in the UK, with a good restaurant section upstairs. Good meal, good company and a steady walk back to the flat…..great night.

Next morning brought an early alarm call, and we were soon saying goodbye to Paul & Christina, so we could take the taxi to Waverley Station for the train to London’s Kings Cross station. Four hours later and we’re dragging our tired selves around the corner to St Pancras station to connect with the express train to Ebbsfleet. It all seemed like a very smooth military operation, and six hours after leaving Edinburgh, we were at the house of Mike & Wendy Breton to meet up with friends to help celebrate their son Neil’s 30th and Wendy’s 60th Birthdays. Another good day in great company which finished all too soon. Then we were throwing ourselves back on the hospitality of Bryan and Jen at their flat in Raines Park. We made ourselves useful, cooking while they sorted the flat for a Landlord’s inspection. We headed out to see Lisa again, meeting up for lunch and a relaxing afternoon. Then we were off back to Raines Park to cook the Charter’s dinner and get ready for some ‘ultimate frisbee’, or ballet for Linz……yes ballet! (insert your own caption here).

Both fed and exercised, we had a final night with Bryan & Jen. Then next morning it was off to the British museum for a bit of culture and lunch with Rob Quail so we could return some of his DVD’s and ask him to deliver a gift from us to Julia, another of our friends we’d seen at Neil’s do but had not delivered her pressies. Lunch over, and Elgin’s marbles inspected fully we then set off for Norwich from Liverpool Street Station. We were on a mission to visit Colin’s eldest son Alun and his wife Tamara. They are both closing in on completing their PhD’s at the university of East Anglia. Unfortunately their and our  diaries had only allowed us one night together on this trip. We had a really great evening with them at a local restaurant. It was good to see them so upbeat about completing their studies later in the year, especially in the face of restricted funding brought on the university by the troubled economic times. We are proud of their commitment to seeing it through and to their research subjects.

All too soon we were leaving Norwich on our way to complete the journey back in Nottingham. Colin had arranged to meet up with his friend Calvin, who had been an usher at our wedding. He was in the middle of plans for his own wedding to Naomi, and Colin was able to see them both together, while Lindsey was wined and dined by her very good friend Karen, in lieu of her birthday which would happen while we away on the next stage of our travels. Next day Colin caught up with more friends at Ruddington Golf club, while Linz was off to Birmingham to help her parents with their new computer and it’s Internet connection. Noah was going to be really happy to get his gas powered computer back!!

Friday saw us packing up again and moving to Liz and Richard’s before we left on Saturday morning for a week of chilling in Somerset with Linz’s Mum & Dad.

Amazonian Adventures – Part 2

After lunch it was time to pack up our stuff ready for a night camping outside in the jungle. We decided the essentials we needed and bundled the rest of our stuff up in the lodge. We then had a bit of a wait as the heavens decided to open.

Alan was very reluctant to head out until it was completely dry as he didn’t want to get our hammocks or any of the supplies wet. Eventually it dried out and we were off. We travelled through the rainforest to an area that had been set up to allow camping outside.

Basic accomodation was waiting for us out in the Jungle!

The tour company had built an open sided shelter and it was under this that we needed to set up our hammocks. We took the equipment out of the canoes and built our camp. Alan showed us how to thread the hammocks through the mosquito nets and wedge a stick above where our heads would go to give us some breathing space. Holes in the mosquito nets were then filled with toilet paper.

Linz inspecting the repair work in the mosquito nets at our jungle shelter

We just finished setting up before it went dark. Alan then prepared a basic meal of chicken and rice for us in the jungle, throwing the scraps outside the edge of the camp area, where a large cayman appeared to lay clim to the leftover chicken bone scraps. apparently it was the same caymen that had come to the site a few times earlier and Alan had affectonately named it Buster. We then headed out for a bit more cayman hunting, smaller ones though than Buster who was lurking around and a night paddle to adjust to the sounds around us.

Going back to our hammocks Colin discovered a ginormous  spider on the top of his mosquito net, thankfully outside the net. He enquired with Alan who confirmed, that yes it was poisonous and the best thing you could do would be to find a stick and flick it off. Ok. So it was flicked off. James tried to kill it on the floor but it was just too quick and disappeared into the undergrowth. But it had found its way on to the net once, sooo…….

It was time then time to use the jungle loo – the ground behind a tree – and climb into our hammocks. By this time an extremely annoying Pakistani couple had joined us who kept us all awake talking in to the night. Eventually they went to sleep and so did the rest of us. They then woke us all up in the night, trying to get a torch off the guide for a nocturnal toilet visit and then next thing we knew it was morning.

Morning Campers.......breakfast is served...hi de hi!!

A bit cramped up from the cold night air on our sweaty skin and clothes and aching from our exertions but in one piece. Breakfast was served and then we were back in the canoes.

Beautiful morning in the Amazonian rainforest....canoes waiting for their crews...us

On the way back to the camp we went through some more rainforest, not seeing a lot as the Pakistani’s were very noisy and adverse to pulling there own weight with the paddling. Alan sorted them out though, positioning them at the front of the canoe and steering them into all kinds of trees and branches. Well, if they don’t listen they needed some greater instruction!!!

We then stopped at a traditional Amazonian family home. We were showed around their pineapple plantation which formed the family’s main source of income.

Pineapple plants are one of the Amazonian cash crops

They also grew manioc. This is a root crop, found all over Brazil that has to be washed pulped, cooked, sun dried and crumbled to be edible. Quite an industry for what is essentially a bland, tasteless food. Worse than boiled potatoes! Their life was very plain and simple, living off the land and staying together as a family. It reinforced for us that you don’t need a lot of material goods to be happy.

A local bug hung up to warn off nosey tourists!!

Then it was back to camp for a much, much needed shower. Getting as clean as we could we changed, and ended up binning the extremely sweaty clothes we’d slept out in and that had been soaked in the rain on our way back. We then packed up once again and boarded the speed boat for the start of the journey back to Manaus. Our Amazon adventure was over.

The hostel in Manaus just seemed grim after our time in the jungle so we headed out for some sustenance, found a pizza place in the main square, and stayed out till we had to sleep.

The main square in Manaus on our last evening in the Amazon

Next morning was the FA Cup Final and we really wanted to watch the game. The places the hostel were recommending weren’t showing it so we wandered around a bit aimlessly. Eventually we came across a little cafe on a back street who had it on. Fantastic! We watched the last few minutes of the first half and all the second half. We were a bit gutted when Stoke didn’t really turn up and just gave the trophy to Manchester City, but at least we got to see it. The rest of the day we spent hunting for a Brazil shirt for Linz and then it was time for our plane ride back to Sao Paulo. We were extremely sweaty yet again, poor people next to us on the plane!!

We recovered our belongings at the airport hotel. Had yet another deep cleaning shower, a good nights sleep and got ready for our flight back to the UK. See you later, South America!

 

Amazonian Adventures – Part 1

Manaus is a sprawling city of 2 million people in Northern Brazil, and is used as the gateway to the Amazon region. Early the next morning David came and picked us up from our hostel and took us to the tour company offices. We met the owner, Gerry, signed the necessary paperwork, handed over the cash and we were on our way to the Amazon. We were going to be based on Juma Lake, a tributary of the Amazon river where we could access the flooded rainforest and hopefully see some of the Amazon’s wildlife, including freshwater dolphins.

Landing in sprawling Manaus

To start with we were transfered from Manaus to the port, passing by a number of factories. Manaus used to be the world centre of the rubber industry and still a large number of tyres are manufactured there. it is also a major centre for the manufacture of Japanese cars (Toyota and Honda). From Ceasa port we then hopped in the first boat of the day, out onto the Amazon to cross ‘the meeting of the waters’.

Off we go on our Amazon adventure

This is the point at which the Negro river (a black inky looking river) and the Solimões (mud coloured) river meet.

The point where the two rivers meet as seen from the air....very impressive as they don't merge for 6km!

They actually flow separately but next to each other for 6km, they take this long to mix due to the difference in temperature, speed and water density of the two rivers. Putting our hands in the water either side of the boat you could actually feel the temperature change.

We could definitely feel a difference in the two rivers as they met...

We went across the river pulling in at the village of Careiro. From here we took a very smart car for about one hour, bouncing around a little bit over the dirt roads till we hit the river Parana do Mamori.

Car trip ends here....everyone out

Here we stopped for a comfort break and drank coconut juice directly from the nuts themselves, a first for Linz!

Wow this is fabulous..........very tasty

From here we had a fantastic ride in a speed boat, really going fast through flooded rainforests, and slowly across wider lake sections.

this is fast....... I hope he knows this river!!

 

The wider sections were often just mirrors of crystal clear water

Everywhere around us was the flooded forest with various brightly coloured birds appearing and disappearing from all directions.

Fabulous birds all around us

Then we finally arrived at the Juma camp house, our base for the next few days, located on the river just at the edge of Juma Lake.We hopped out and were shown to our cabin. We were staying in a fairly rustic hut, still, they provided mosquito nets and we had a little ensuite, admittedly with only cold water and an a temperamental flush but we weren’t after luxury, we were after some authentic Amazon living.

All the comforts of home....plus small frogs you can't see

A quick splash down and we were ready for lunch. The message that Linz doesn’t eat fish hadn’t quite made it so an omelette was rustled up and we were sorted. Straight after lunch our activities began.

Pick a canoe, any canoe and then grab your paddlesAlan our guide proved to be very knowledgeable and spoke excellent English

We met our guide for the week, Alan and our fellow guests. We were sharing the first days activities with a couple from the Czech Republic and a guy called James from the USA.

Our USA friend James keeps a close eye on our guide, Alan's best friend!!

We set off in a large wooden dugout canoe. It had a motor on the back but as soon as we entered the narrow channels through the rainforest Alan shut off the engine and it was over to us to paddle. We were instructed to paddle as quietly as possible so that we wouldn’t disturb the wildlife, giving us the best opportunities to see what we’d come to see. We were obedient students and the guide, Alan, was incredibly knowledgeable. From various calls and sounds in the bushes he was able to identify all sorts of birds. We saw our first jacana’s, who seemed to act as the alarm bell for the jungle, rising up and squawking every time something strange approached.

Jacana birds raise the alarm as we approach

We also saw saw macaws flying very high over head, we were only able to tell what they were because of the way they fly. We saw loads of Snowy and Small Egrits, a few herons and a couple of hawks circling around. Most excitingly though we caught our first glimpses of some monkeys. We saw movements in trees very high up and then there they were, running from tree to tree way above us but clearly visible.

Hope you can see the Monkey jumping between branches...

After 3 hours paddling in the heat we were ready for dinner and our bums were crying out for us to move off the hard wooden bench seats. After dinner we were back in the canoes again though, cayman hunting. Cayman are the Amazon’s alligators and we were out to ‘hunt’ some. We were told to put our head torches on and shine them on the banks of the river. Before long we saw red eyes glinting in the darkness back at us. To catch the cayman, Alan shined his torch directly into the animals eyes, it has a similar effect to a rabbit in the headlights scenario and then he was able to lean forward out of the canoe and grab the beast!

OK Colin...this is how you hold him....OK?

He was only going for animals no more than a metre long. A safe size apparently. Once caught he brought it in the canoe for us all to touch and look at. It was then thrown back in and we watched it make a quick escape.

Very glad your daddy isn't here!!

At one point Alan was part way through the repeat exercise when he suddenly leaned back very quickly. He had found the Cayman he had chosen for the second capture of the night was a metre long alright, from its snout to its front legs, overall it was  four metres long, a tad too big to grab!!

I don't know what all the fuss is about Colin :-)

Excitement over we headed back to the camp, snuggled up under our mosquito net and adjusted to the sounds of the amazon all around us as we fell asleep.

Next morning we were woken just before dawn so that we could see the sunrise on the amazon and hopefully see some dolphins. The light made the reflections of the jungle really amazing and we were rewarded for our early start by seeing some grey dolphins swimming all around our canoe.

 

Gorgeous early morning light....did you see the Dolphin Linz?

Linz even managed to glimpse a pink one but before Colin could turn to look it had gone. Pink dolphins are an amazonian phenomenon, and of the five freshwater dolphin species they are widely recognised as the smartest…..hence why they were more difficult to see than their grey cousins

After breakfast we were told to put on long trousers and a long sleeved top. We were going for a trek in the jungle. To get to the particular part of the jungle we were trekking through we had to take the canoes and paddle there. By the time we were done in the Amazon we were going to have arms of steel and our bums would hate us. Those wooden benches were numbing on the glutimus maximus!

Off to the flooded forest for a walk in the woods

We hiked, doing our best David Attenborough impressions and trying to take in as much information as possible from Alan our guide. He introduced us to the ‘Vick’s’ tree. The sap from which goes to make the Vick’s cold and flu medicine but has been used by Amazonian’s for centuries.

Linz visiting the Amazonian 'Boots' on our walk in the woods

He also showed us a type of ant that when crushed were a natural insect repellent. We also learnt about “Telegraph Trees” naturally hollow trees that when you hit them made a resounding sound that echoed for miles. This was how you stayed in touch in the Amazon and signaled for help if you need it.

Welcome to the Jungle Drums tree wrapping itself around Colin

We could go on, but it really was an interesting experience and we learnt a lot about how our ‘modern medicine’ is very often derived from plants and animals that the local tribes have been using for donkeys years. Maybe we’re not as advanced as we think we are! On the way back to the lodge we saw a very rare three toed Sloath. It was resting in the high branches of a tree and it took Alan’s keen syses to spot it first and then binoculars to clearly identify it.

In the afternoon we headed out in the canoes again, this time for some piranha fishing. Something that Linz was approaching with a great deal of trepidation. There is no way that Linz wanted a flapping fish anywhere near her, let alone one with teeth and a penchant for human flesh.

First Piranha caught...wrong type for the plate though

When the fishing rods were handed out she was not in line to get one. Colin, however was keen. Alan put us in a canoe on our own for this expedition and we headed off directly across the river from our lodge. We secured the canoes and then it was time for the lines to go in the water. Agitating the waters surface attracted the piranhas so there was a lot of splashing going on. Linz tried to make herself very small in the canoe! Colin eventually caught 4 piranhas, none were eating size though so Linz was spared having to sit in the canoe with the piranha looking up at her. The Czech couple caught an edible one and so did James, thankfully their’s stayed in their canoe! Activity over we then went for another paddle through the flooded forest.

A la carte fresh Amazonian Pirahna....Linz dinner's ready.....Linz??

Only having the two of us in the canoe we really struggled to keep up with the other four man boat and our guiding skills needed a bit of honing. We crashed into a few trees and had an assortment of scrapes by the time we got back. Not too much in the way of wildlife seen either, might have had something to do with our scraping and bumping about. however we were finally rewarded with the sight of our first Howler Monkeys.

Dinner and then we were out cayman hunting again. James from the US wanted to have a go at catching one himself. Alan went for one too, then very quickly backed off when he realised that the metre he’d been looking at was just the animals head. Not one to bring into the boat. After that we decided we were worn out from our activities and more than ready for bed.

Next morning we elected not to get up at dawn and were grateful we hadn’t as the morning was grey and rainy. We split up to do activities for the morning and we headed off with the guide for a bit more wildlife viewing. Yes, you’ve guessed it, out on the canoes yet again. Our paddling this morning was more than rewarded. We had wanted to see Toucans whilst we were in the Amazon. Not a minute after saying that, we saw two flying really high above us.

Honest they really are Toucans

A minute after that they swooped lower and buzzed the front of our canoe. We were amazed. Even more so when we heard a crash to our right and discovered that one of the Toucan’s had flown directly into a tree. It was like something out of a cartoon. It turned it’s head to look at us and thwacked the tree, it was hilarious as it struggled and fluttered to get itself out of the water. Alan thought maybe it was a young bird still learning the flying ropes. We just thought that God had answered our prayers.

Plodding in Sao Paolo

We arrived in Sao Paulo late at night and caught a local bus to our hotel. We got off where the driver told us to but then had no idea where we should go. After wandering around and getting a bit nervous as we negotiated quiet back streets we eventually got in a taxi that took us around the block to our hotel. At the hotel it was all a bit confusing when we thought we’d prepaid and they thought we hadn’t then they told us the kitchen was still open for dinner when it turned out it was closed. Not a good start!

The next morning we woke up with the idea to relax and to research our trip to the Amazon. We’d already booked flights that got us to Manaus (the biggest city in the Amazon region) on Monday night. Today was Sunday. Our flight back to Sao Paulo was on the following Saturday and our flight to England on Sunday. We had a small window of opportunity and we planned to use it!

We read loads of reviews, finally narrowed down exactly what we wanted to see and do in the Amazon and found three or four companies that matched our requirements. Emails sent we then headed out to see what Sao Paulo was like. We didn’t get very far. We followed the directions the hotel had given us to the nearest sports bar where we could have a snack and watch the football but couldn’t locate it. Fed up of wandering we headed back to the hotel and just settled in for the game there.

We were able to pick a tour company too. We’d had replies back and from what they put on their emails and costs quoted we decided to go with Iguana Tours. We just hoped now they were everything they said they’d be.

That night we headed out to try and see a bit more of Sao Paolo, Brazil’s largest city. Lonely Planet had recommended a restaurant in a particular part of the city. We caught a taxi there to find, not for the first time, that the information was out of date. Instead we found an Italian restaurant where the owner, came from Piemonte. The food was great and was just what the doctor ordered

Following our mammoth traveling we still had wet clothes to dry and a whole pile of washing to clean but we quickly found out that Sunday was not a day to get any laundry done. Instead we occupied ourselves  for the day preparing some more for the next stage of the trip. Net morning, before our flight we trailed around Sao Paulo desperately trying to find a laundrette and get everything washed and dried before we had to go and catch our plane! Task complete, it was back to the hotel and packing.

We had booked to stay in a hotel on Sao Paulo airport for the final night before our flight home to the UK and managed to do a deal with the hotel there that we could leave our big bags in storage for the 5 days we were in the Amazon free of charge. Bonus!! That meant all we had to carry was our small hand luggage bags with just the clothes we needed, and a lot of insect repellent.

David from Iguana Tours met us at the airport and took us to the hostel we’d booked in Manaus. It saved us the fare and from there point of view I guess they were now more sure that we were going to turn up and pay them! Our journey to the Amazon would start the following morning. The hostel was very basic but we were so excited about the trip to come we didn’t notice too much and just got on with anticipating the next day.

Amazing Iguazu

Getting off the bus we were relieved and grateful to discover that our hostel was directly opposite the bus station. Thankfully the taxi driver we asked told us this rather than take our fare and drive us around for a few minutes!

Our room wasn’t ready as it was only mid morning but we were able to use a shower room and finally get that clean up we desperately needed. Feeling refreshed after a good wash & change of clothes we went back to the hostel reception to get some more information. Iguazu Falls is actually at the tri-nation meeting point between Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina. Incidentally as Paraguay is very malarial this means you have to take anti-malarials here! The falls are best viewed with paths and platforms set up for the views from the Brazilian and Argentinean sides.

Welcome to the fabulous Iguacu falls......Brazilian side first

We had one and a half days to do the falls and after some consultation decided to do the Brazilian side first with the remainder of the day we had and spend all the following day exploring the Argentinean side. This would mean some border hoping but what’s a few more stamps in the passport?? We were just in time to catch another bus, this time a fairly short journey with a stop for passport control to the Brazilian side of the falls. I’m not sure what we were expecting exactly but they were stunning.

Just stunning and this is just one section of the falls!!

The main fall that you can see from the Brazilian side is called Devil’s throat. It was amazing how they had constructed the platforms to let you get really up close and personal with it.

Any closer and Linz will get a free hair wash

The butterflies that were everywhere were just amazing too. They kept landing on us to get the salt from our sweat. They were as tame as anything and posed fairly happily to have their pictures taken.

Come on leave the salt alone...pose for the camera..

We also saw some more coati. We’d seen these raccoon like creatures on our honeymoon in Costa Rica, and are found in most Latin American and Southern American countries. They can be a bit of a pest though as they scavenge for food like very badly behaved dogs!

 

Cute, but annoying!

We had to walk back all too quickly though and catch our bus back to the Argentinean side before it went without us. Still we would have plenty to see the following day. Back in the town on the Argentinean side of the border we had a great meal in a roof top restaurant, then headed for a kip in a real bed for the first time in 3 days.

Everywhere we look...... there are waterfalls

The next morning we got up bright and early. We had the full day to see the falls but then we had to grab a taxi and head over to the Brazilian side again to get the plane to Sao Paulo. We left our luggage with the hostel and set off, desperate to see as much as we could. We’d also booked, through the hostel, a boat trip to the falls which we thought would be a bit like the “Maid in the Mist” trip that you can go on at Niagara falls.

Linz just about managed to look over this!

When we saw the map of the amount of falls we could see on the Argentinean side and the amount of viewing platforms and walkways we could get to, we realised we would have to prioritise. The park is so big there is a little train that takes you to various areas which means you get to see more than you could ever hope to cover on foot in a day. We went to the furthest point first and were rewarded with some great views. We were stood at the top of the Devil’s throat that we’d stood at the bottom of on the previous day.

Yes we were stood at the bottom of this....

Heading back from there we were just blown away by the sheer size of the area. The number of falls and the volume and force of the water tumbling over them. It was just awe insipiring. After taking in a few more areas we headed off on our boat ride. We were expecting to get a bit wet, especially when they gave you a special waterproof bag to put your belongings in. We weren’t expecting however to be repeatedly taken right under the waterfalls, on both the Brazilian and Argentinean sides. We couldn’t have got wetter if we’d dived in the river!! It was exhilerating and a little bit frightening to be up so close with that volume of water. The engine on the boat really had to pull to drag us away from each fall. It really was just incredible.

See that cloud of water, we went into that!!!!!

After our soaking we only had a couple of hours left to dry out before we had to start thinking about heading back. We wandered further into the falls areas, just unable to stop marvelling at the beauty of the water and the setting. Surrounded by a tropical rainforest and all sorts of birds and butterflies, and even the odd alligator, it felt truly magical. We tried to dry ourselves out as best as we could. Colin carrying his t-shirt on his arm trying to coax it to dry in the breeze!

Come on sun, where are you when I need you?

Eventually we decided we’d seen as much as we could and ended up having to jog back to the entrance to get our bus back.

Just stunning!

We made it and grabbed our luggage from the hostel. We piled everything into the taxi, apologising that we were still soaking and crossed once again into Brazil. We arrived at the airport, still wet and getting cold in the air conditioning when we realised that we had some clothes in our hand luggage. Relieved we dried off and changed in the toilets. Just as we were about to board though, Linz realised she hadn’t got her sun glasses! A quick run round the airport and she found them. She’d left them in the ladies loo when she was changing but thankfully some kind soul had handed them in. We were on our way with all our belongings. Ready to organise our next adventure. We’d given ourselves 3 nights in Sao Paulo to organise a trip to the Amazon. Our last hurrah before leaving South America for a visit back in the UK.

Lima Lights, Camera, Action

After our time in Ecuador we had decided to visit Iguazu falls. Getting there, however was a bit of a marathon. First of all our flight from Guayaquil to Lima was early in the morning, leaving us all day in Lima before our night flight to Argentina. We arrived in Lima to a bit of a scare as we could see billows of black smoke through our plane windows where we thought the airport should be. We landed safely but could still see the smoke when we were picking up our bags. Turns out the cargo terminal next to the airport had gone up in a massive fire. We just hoped no-one had been hurt.

Thank goodness it was not a plane!

We had a full day in Lima to fill before our next flight so first off we caught up on texts, emails and a bit of the blog at a Starbucks in Lima airport, interrupted occasionally by the fire alarm going off from the smoke next door (we didn’t have to evacuate though!). Eventually we decided to venture out leaving our bags in the left luggage area. Thankfully, this time we would be in a Lima on a day when the fountain park would be open, but it didn’t open until 5pm so we still had a day to fill!

We took a taxi to the fountain park area though, in the hope that there would be bars and restaurants there where we could catch some Champions League football we knew was on that day and just chill out till there was something better to do. A walk around that area led to us realising there was nothing to do there so we walked into the city centre, getting a few curious looks as we passed through neighbourhoods not usually ventured into by tourists.

They even rolled out the red carpet for us!

In the city centre we found ourselves a mall and an all you can eat buffet lunch which included our Peruvian favourite, Lomo Saltado!! More importantly the football was on too. Perfect! We took our time there and stopped in a shopping mall to buy Colin a new watch. No, he’d not lost his old one, it had just died! We then went on a hunt for a post office to send some postcards and wandered into some beautiful squares, Lima has some lovely architecture.

Clearly the Spanish had an influence in Lima's city centre

We also managed to find the Presidential Palace, but for some reason they would not let us in?? Day filled it was then time for the fountain park.

They weren't up for letting us in for a look around!

Linz however, did get the royal treatment!

The park was amazing.

You would never have expected this in Lima - better than Vegas?!

Really something special. The fountains were brought to life with music and lights and were just stunning.

Even the Panama hat got to see the fountains!

That's Lindsey, in the blur of water (yes, she did get wet)

They were interactive too, they’d created a maze with fountains that came on and off as you wound your way to the centre.

Can you time it.....

You just had to guess when they’d shoot up. Something that Linz badly mistimed as she hurdled a spout. You can guess where the water went!!!!

Colin can!

The piece d’ resistance however was a show projected onto the fountains. Figures dancing in the fountains to various types of music, as the fountains changed colour was just magical.

After a lovely day out in Lima city, we went back to the airport for our next flight. We’d had to book return flights to Cordoba to get the cheapest deal but the flight went via Buenos Aires. Thankfully we were able this time to collect our bags in Buenos Aires and not have to get on the next flight to Cordoba, shortening our next trip to Iguazu! We tried to sleep on the Lima to Buenos Aires flight but without much success so we arrived in BA pretty tired. First stop was the bus station. We’d decided the cheapest, best way to get to Iguazu would be by bus.

Eventually we found where the operators were that went to Iguazu falls then it was time for Linz to guard the bags whilst Colin, using his by now pretty good Spanish found out who went there, when, how long they took and of course what the cost was. We discovered quickly it was an 18 hour journey and nobody was leaving Buenos Aires until around 7pm that evening. We booked with ??, stored our bags with them and then we had another day to fill.

After our unpleasant stay in Guayaquil, our day in Lima which included getting wet in the fountains, and an overnight flight we were in need of a shower. So we went to the local starbucks and searched, and searched for a leisure centre, for a spa for a hotel that let you use its facilities but found nothing. We knew where the Sheraton was and we knew they had a spa so we went there. £30 a person for a shower was a no go. However we had lunch there and hovered around in one of their lounges. Used their internet and stank out there lobby for a day. Then we solved our camera problem finally finding a police station where we could report that we’d lost our camera so that we could claim for it on the insurance. Chores done we went back to the bus station and bought a few snacks ready for our journey. This time we’d really gone for it in terms of luxury.

Is it time to get up yet?

We’d booked ‘full cama’ seats on the bus, which meant we had seats that reclined fully horizontal. Also we’d have meals, champagne amongst a bar service and entertainment for the journey!!

I'll try and stay awake.....honest!!

It was even better than we’d expected. Linz managed to stay awake for one film and her dinner but was fast asleep by the time the whiskey got offered round. Colin had his then quickly followed Lindsey’s lead. We were in Iguazu in no time. Just after 50 something hours of travel!