Monday, February 27, 2012

Fin del Mundo, principio de todo

Ushuaia – End of the World, down in Patagonia is the Southern most city in the world. Lying at the latitude of 54’ 38’0”s, 68’18’0”W and 1471 flying miles south west of Buenos Aires, its beauty is outstanding, snow capped mountains surround and enclose a small town on the Argentinian side. Chile also owns land in Tierra del Fuego and the Beagle Channel is split down the middle for ownership. The Beagle channel is long and will take us most of the evening to motor through before the famous Drake Passage.

Our trip to Antarctica is one of the trips where the vessel goes as far South as it can, there was no email (or cheap internet access) so my postings will come after we have returned. The night we spent in Ushuaia before boarding the vessel, we found the Dublin Bar, the most southerly Irish pub in the world and enjoyed a few Guinness.

Antarctica has been a dream of mine for many years, I longed in my youth to work in Antarctica studying whales. Now a little while later and maybe somewhat wiser, I am off to see the most magical place on earth. Sometimes it can be hard when a dream becomes a reality, will you feel let down?, will it be better than what you have dreamed and witnessed on tv and in media. I am slightly nervous and extremely excited to see what Antarctica is about and how very personal this place is to me.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Argentina and Brazil

we have just spent the last four nights at Iguazu on the Argentinian side however took a one day trip to visit the falls on the Brazilian side. Both sides are stunning and breath taking and give completely different views and access to the falls. The Misiones province is one of 23 in Argentina and is where Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina come together at the Iguazu river.

Orange farms have replaced some of the natural rainforest
Prior to the falls we went to an Eco-tourism lodge called Yacutinga, situated about 120km away from the falls, Yacutinga is trying to preserve the natural species of the jungle. The surrounding area of Yacutinga reserve has been capitalized for pine forests, orchards and different manners of export business. This has destroyed a lot of the corridors for species integration between the jungle areas and has found it slow in some ways to develop the natural jungle without complete hands on conservation maneuvers. Yacutinga has been slowly developing for 15years and the forest is aged somewhere around 30 years, they have a long way to go, but the preservation is something I wholeheartedly agree with and the conservation efforts alongside tourism are working very well. Whilst we were there we sponsored an Orchid, Epiphyte that have been wiped out in recent years. The species I sponsored was Octomeria pinicola, which should if successful flower in July and will send us updates and photos.

One of the current issues that both the National Park of Iguazu and the Yacutinga reserve are facing at present is a lack of rain, the last day we were at Yacutinga was the first rain they had seen in over a month and the area immediate to Iguazu has not seen rain for nearly 5 weeks. This for a jungle has huge issues for the wildlife and flora and fauna of the area. The disappearance of butterflies is one of the first indicators of stress on the jungle, many of the species regularly seen were hiding or have moved to another area that has more moisture. It was however still amazing, and though a little quiet on the species front we had a great time and would recommend the lodge to many people.

The National Park around Iguazu actually had many different species in it, seemingly undisturbed and perhaps utilizing the thousands of tourists that come to the falls each week. The falls provide a lot more moisture to the surrounding jungle and therefor allow the species to continue somewhat normality despite the flock of tourists. Many of the animals that are commonly seen around the national park are so due to the cafes for the tourists, these animals will come steal food, beg and generally annoy the tourists, but only due to the tourists taking over and changing the way they would normally behave.

The two photos below depict well the behavioural change. The first photo was a very brief glimpse at Yacutinga, where the Coati were extremely shy. Though not a great photo due to the distance and lighting in the rain forest it shows the natural behaviour. The second photo from Iguazu National Park, shows the Coati again, this time taken with a 12mm lens wide open.

Nasua nasua solitaria, South American Coati, Yacutinga Lodge
Nasua nasua solitaria, South American Coati, Iguazu National Park

Mazam americana, Red Brocket Deer,  Yacutinga Lodge

Reptile, Iguazu National Park
There is a lot more I would like to say about the area and will be coming in future blog posts as I work through more pictures. Tomorrow we fly to Buenos Aires to connect through to Ushuaia, the southern most part of Argentina.

Thursday, February 9, 2012


after a long flight from Auckland our first stop was Santiago, Chile. Having lived on boats or small Pacific Islands for over 12 years, cities are not our first choice for places to visit. Santiago, I have to say, though big and bustling had a very nice feel to it. We were only there for 2 nights but enough to taste the wonderful red wine and local foods.

Speaking Spanish even to an extremely basic level is very necessary to travel well through South America, not known for our language skills we are actually managing for quite a bit and the rest comes from our handy Spanish translator program on the Itouch!!!! Sai, 'io and malo do not go a long way here, though do get a lot of strange looks.

On the Sunday, we visited the famous Port of Valparaiso, Chile. This was the first Port that Europeans came to before the Panama Canal was opened. The impact of Europeans is very noticeable in South America, through the food, styles and manors. However there are also some very interesting cultural areas once you can get out of the Cities.

Valparaiso, for us was disappointing, the pictures show a wonderful place full of life and colour, where in fact the stark contrast between the shanty town and the tourist area are very apparent and the depth of poverty is very sad to see. Coming from Tonga, where though a very poor nation, there is not the begging on the street corners or car windows when stopped at traffic lights. The community support in Tonga is something very special and we take for granted how the economy is really affecting more and more families in Tonga.

 From Santiago we flew to Buenos Aires and stayed just one night, the difference in feeling to us was very apparent however we will explore Buenos Aires again on our way back so will write more then.

One issues that is very noticeable is the amount of graffiti in both Cities, many building are defaced, this to us was strange, maybe we are just out of touch, however this to us shows that the youths are restless, even in countries that offer so much for them to do compared to places we have lived. 

Here are some pictures from our "City Tours", currently we just finished a 2 day stay at Yacutinga Lodge and are settled in at Iguazu Falls for the next 3 days.

Vava'u since we left has had one unexpected storm and some further issues which we hope we can deal with quickly, to those that are looking after things for us, malo lahi or muchos gracias. 


Valparaiso (UNESCO) if the existing walls remain you can build whatever behind!!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

And finally we are off...........

seems for so long I have been waiting for this date and now it is here it does not seem real. We decided to leave Vava'u a day earlier than planned due to some lurking yucky weather. So now we are sitting in Auckland, enjoying the view and the summer temperatures. Tomorrow, off to Santiago and then on to the adventures Paul has planned.

Packing for this trip was interesting with half our time in tropical rainforests and the other half on the ice and snow...... Packing the camera bag was also hard, limiting myself to half the lenses I would loved to have taken I went with the following

2 bodies D7000 and D200

I have also packed Polarising and ND filters and my tripod is strapped to my bag. My husband obviously a lot smarter has 5 lenses his camera body and ipad in a bag that weighs about the same as my one body and lens!!!!

Well, excitement is coming, off to see a movie and have some dinner now whilst we have our first taste of civilization