12 Aug
Days adrift.  Click here to see our best and worst experiences so far.
Number of flights.  Click here to go to the itinerary page.
Bus, train and taxi rides.  Click here to see all posts relating to transport. (56 posts)
Miles walked.  Click here to see all posts relating to walking and trekking. (43 posts)
Countries visited.  Click here to see what we think of them. (14 posts)
Number of species spotted.  Click here to go to our wildlife page.
Photos taken.  Click here to go to the photo gallery. (94 posts)
Rainy days.  Click here to find posts relating to the weather. (50 posts)
Number of times scammed.  Click here to read all about it!  (2 posts)
Otters spotted.  Click here to go to our website about otters: amblonyx.com
...two travellers in search of the world's wildlife

28 May 2011

Preparation: South America

25th May 2011

A lot of our few days in Auckland have been spent preparing for our two months in South America.

I don’t know whether this is common to many round-the-world travellers, but our particular interest in seeing wildlife means that we need to do a good chunk of research and booking of some parts of our itinerary in advance. Sometimes it feels like we’re not seeing much of the place we’re currently visiting because we’re stuck indoors planning the next place we’re visiting! Most good wildlife areas around the world are very “out of the way” which means the accommodation options are sparse and specialist; if you don’t book in advance you’re likely to arrive and find they’re (a) fully booked or (b) completely closed because it’s out of season. That would have happened to us on Chiloe Island in Chile except that Fernando at Chepu Wildlife Adventure has kindly opened his doors especially for us “considering that we’re mammal watchers”.

So, lots of web searches, lots of emails, the occasional frustrating phone call (language difficulties exacerbated by the one second time lag on this stupid global SIM card). We’ve sorted out a trip to the Galapagos to put a finale on our year, the trip to Chiloe island in search of the two species of otter we haven’t seen in the Americas, a two week tour in Bolivia and Peru and we’re also trying to find a suitable Amazonian jungle lodge in Ecuador to go looking for monkeys. These seem to be pretty heavily booked – eco-tourism is good business these days. All this is part and parcel of our madcap dash-around-and-see-everywhere approach; our itinerary could just say “arrive Santiago, leave 6 weeks later, let’s see what we see in Chile”. But that leads to blog entries (I’ve seen them) along the lines of “arrived Antofogasta to find the next train to Arica isn’t until Monday, checked into random flea pit and spent two days getting drunk with friendly Chileans”. Which in our philosophy is precious days wasted, hence all the preparation. Any comment or critique of this approach gratefully received and debated!

We did find time today for a saunter around Auckland Museum. I really enjoy a good museum, and if it seems like we haven’t visited many this year that’s probably because the world outside has felt more enticing for being unfamiliar and exotic. The Maori artefacts in here are beautiful and evocative, although they seem to float around in this vast hall without any context. Where’s the timeline explaining Maori history in New Zealand? Where’s the explanation of the beliefs and interactions that led to these wonderful carvings? Another part of the museum, the Volcano hall, was almost the opposite: some really fascinating explanations about volcanoes and their impact on man but (perhaps understandably) not much in the way of physical exhibits.

We skipped the Maori Cultural Performance in the museum, admittedly mostly due to price. I’d actually be more comfortable with a cultural performance in an educational setting like a museum, rather than a more palpably tourist-milking performance out at Rotorua. Anyway, this means the most authentic Maori I met in New Zealand was the big fella with all the swirly tattooes behind the Post Office counter who directed me to the nearest ATM.

Damn. Heather, who is sorting out our Galapagos trip, has just sheepishly emailed to say that our chosen date is actually not possible after all so we’ll have to pick the alternative. Which sucks because now the best jungle lodge we’ve found doesn’t have dates to fit. Back to the internet…

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