Archive for Uncategorized

21 Jan 2013

And then it went pear-shaped

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This was going to be one of those long rambling posts about our wonderful few days in Hwange – a national park the size of Belgium, but alas without the chocolate shops – but the contents of this post, along with the photos were lost.

The Isuzu fared well over the muddy tracks, slipping and sliding until it finally became stuck in thick mud. It could have been a long day, just us, much to the amusement of nearby lion and leopard I’m sure, watching on while we cautiously exited the vehicle and nervously dug around the wheels lining the tracks with branches and small rocks. We were lucky. A convoy or crazy Poles came to the rescue; four burly Poles and Paul pushing, a pushy Pole driving. Soon we were on the road again.

We left Hwange looking forward to Vic Falls – terra firma.

Along the way we bitched and moaned about the Zimbabwean Police; the countless roadblocks and their various successful attempts to extract (extort) cash out of us along the way.
Disobeying a police officer.
No radio licence.
Not displaying large safety triangles on dashboard. But no one else does, including police vehicles.Arguing is pointless and it is all done with a smile of course.

And then it went pear-shaped. We checked into the fancy Gorges Lodge. Our secluded remote chalet perched precariously right on the edge of a sheer 250 metre cliff. Directly below the Zambesi River rushed by and on the other side of the gorge, Zambia. Spectacular.

At three in the morning, fast asleep, Gill was startled by a noise and woke up. I heard her standing in the darkness talking.

“Excuse me, can I help you?” She is prone to saying the strangest things.

I thought she was talking to Paul, but no. Two tall dark men had entered our room through a small window in the hall and were ushering Gill back into bed, waving a knife.

“Lie in bed, do not look at us or we will stab you.” One of them commanded.

And for the next twenty minutes we lay face down while they went through all our stuff taking their pick.

There was a moment, a frightening moment; I almost dropped a thread. I saw them coming for me, and then there was a disturbance, a gleaming shiny new camera caught their attention. We breathed a collective sigh of relief.

When it was over, they left telling us no lights, no movement or they will be back to stab us. So for a while we waited in the darkness in silence – shocked.

With no watches, no phone (not to mention cameras, computers, jewellery, jeans, shoes, jackets – virtually everything gone), we had no idea of the time.

There was no point screaming or yelling – no one to hear. And they had hidden the car keys, so we had nothing to do but wait until daylight before raising the alarm.

And then a day of police and trackers. Paperwork in duplicate, hand written, no photocopiers … and nothing.

It is a side of Africa (South Africa mainly) we had heard so much about, but not one we particularly wanted to experience first-hand.

Still, we are fine and the Isuzu no longer groans under the weight of all our luggage!


PS: No more photos. Back in Perth next week. Yay

05 Jun 2010

The Great Aussie Barbecue

Comments Off on The Great Aussie Barbecue Granada, Spain, Uncategorized

It is a well known fact that Aussies are the world experts on barbecue although many a Texan may disagree …. and then there is the great Spanish barbecue. Let’s not kid ourselves!

Katrin and Paul emerged from the ‘Supermercado’ armed with plastic bags of lamb chops and chicken, and assorted vegetables, and a couple of tiny, tinny Spanish portable “one use only” throw away aluminium foil barbecues. Really!

So we put them to the test – ripped off the wrappers, struck a match and voila instant barbecue. Magic! The surrounds: a quiet nature reserve in the Heutor Sierra region, where in true Spanish style our neighbouring picnickers have a stereo blasting so loud it hurts. Feel the serenity!

Give me a six-burner, auxillary wok, range hood, built in temperature gauge stainless steel number any day!

First you chop everything up and have a beer – Gillian and Katrin


Then you get Alex to unpack the barbecue. Trust him, he has done this before


Paul cooks up a storm despite the circumstances and everyone agrees, Aussies do cook up the best barbecues


Alex and Paul waiting for the coals to heat
14 May 2010

Viva La España – PART 2

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I hope you weren’t holding your breath because it has been a long time between posts.
Here we go again. A few weeks of sangria and sun, tapas and talking stacatto. Yes, we’re off to Spain again – doing our bit to boost an ailing European economy!
22 Oct 2009

Tick Tick Tick – Welcome To Pucon

Comments Off on Tick Tick Tick – Welcome To Pucon Chile, Pucon, Uncategorized

Views of Volcano Villarrica smoking away across Lake

The hypnosis – the sweet whispers at bedtime – worked. I finally shocked them out of their slothful city existences and back to the mountains. We arrived at Pucon early in the morning and a taxi whisked us to Antumalal Hotel, an oasis on the banks of the spectacular Lake Villarrica.

Antumalal Hotel gardens overlooking Lake Villarrica

Antumalal Hotel gardens – view from our bedroom

Waiting for the first Pisco Sour to arrive

Antumalal is surrounded by well tended colourful exotic gardens. It is a small hotel with a history. Architecturally it is very beautiful – timeless even – each of the 22 rooms has windows the entire width of the room that overlook the lake. It was built in 1945 and has changed little since. The corridor walls are lined with photographs of famous people who have stayed here.

I was sitting on a comfy sofa in the hotel lounge, the open fire blazing, the last light of day rippling across the lake, sipping my Pisco Sour, when I heard hushed voices behind me.

“Did you hear there’s a celebrity staying here?”

I listened to their conversation for a while, pushing myself further into the cushion so as not to be seen.

“He’s a lot smaller in real life”

It piqued my curiosity until I could stand it no more. I peered over the cushion. There was a rustle and a bit of a commotion, then lots of shouting, “There he is. Quick.”

In an instant I was seeing stars as a barrage of camera flashes went off all around me.

“It’s Al. Cool. Hey Al …”

I spent the next hour signing autographs and then walked down the corridors with the hotel management deciding which photos should come down so mine could go up – there were some old black and whites of Queen Elizabeth, a couple of James Stewart and one or two of Neil Armstrong. I think I’d like to be next to Emma Thompson I said.

Antumalal is a cool hotel – when you ask for a queen room, you can actually have the room Queen Elizabeth stayed in!

Pucon Volcano Warning System. When this light goes red … RUN!

Pucon is in the shadow of the mighty Volcano Villarrica. On a clear day you can see the Volcano smoking away. It is one of Chile’s most active volcanos and has regularly erupted several times in recent history. It erupted in 1999, and also in 1984 and 1971. It is a time-bomb waiting to go off – tick, tick, tick. The town has a safety plan and in the main street a set of Green, Orange, Red lights warn if you should “Get The Hell Out Of Here”.

Ponchos, chaps and spurs, hanging over the “Rock of Depression”

We have spent the last few days being energetic while keeping a watchful eye on the volcano, just in case:

  • horse riding in nearby valleys, saddled up in traditional Chilean cowboy/girl gear, chaps and spurs and thick wool ponchos
  • hiking in Huerquehue National Park, climbing steep muddy and snow covered trails in search of Monkey Puzzle trees (Chile’s National Tree), volcanoes and pristine lakes;

And now we are kicking back in the hotel, awaiting our masseur and hoping these aches will go away.

Monkey Puzzle tree – puzzled!

22 Oct 2009

Cama Premium

Comments Off on Cama Premium Chile, Pucon, Uncategorized, Valparaiso

The only way to travel.

There would be an interior photo if some ^%&* hadn’t stolen our camera.

Short of chartering your own airplane, there is no quick way to get from Valparaiso to Pucon. The best way, however, is by bus. Bus travel in Argentina and Chile takes on a whole new meaning especially if you book cama premium. It is the height of luxury and ridiculously good value.

An attendant welcomed us on board and ushered us into a private cabin – cama premium – first class. The seats are broad and comfortable. A box of food is handed to each of us. We watch a movie. After dinner the attendant does his magic and turns our seats into fully flat beds, covers us in blankets, tucks us in, switches off the lights and wishes us dulces sueños.

In the morning he wakes us to bring us our breakfast, unmake our beds and welcome us to Pucon.

If only all travel was this good!