Why it’s called adventures of an ordinary person.

A selfie I took, walking in the Dolomites

Welcome to the first Friday morning blog post.

I thought this week, I’d start at the beginning by talking about the website’s origins and why it’s tag-lined: the adventures of an ordinary person…

I guess it’s pretty obvious why the web address is johnsunter.com 🙂


Originally from Manchester, I’ve lived in Chester for 20 years (choosing to move here is one of the best decisions I ever made).

When I first arrived in Chester, Facebook didn’t exist. I wanted my mum (who sadly has now passed) to be able to see pictures and read about my exploration of my new home town.

A chap I worked with called John Lyons gave me the domain name johnsunter.com as gift and I learned html so I could do my own pages (which more often than not, featured the inside of a new pub 🙂

I put up random stuff like pictures of the lawn I’d mowed, my office at work and stuff like that.

About 18 months later, my life fell apart and I lost almost everything (no sob story, this is the good part).

Sleeping bag on the floor, my life in tatters, 2002.

With my life in tatters, I was sleeping on the floor in a practically empty flat. I decided I’d dedicate myself to the pursuit of adventure and I drew up a list of activities to complete which I called my blue list (I dislike bucket list).

Around  3000 activities, 1000 of these, we’re place specific (if you want to read the New York Times in Central Park, or Drink Chinese beer on the Great Wall of China, you need to be there, whereas learning 6 ways to tie  a tie can be done anywhere 🙂

I’d write about my experiences good and bad and explain how I organised and executed those adventures.


Later, I joined a community of miscreants that drank in the Fortress and Firkin (which then became the famous Frog & Nightingale). It became the focal point of my evenings and weekends while at home. As a sideline I posted stuff about this on johnsunter.com in between adventures with things like scores from a pool match and this week’s featured drinker !.

My first Bluelist was completed in 2009.

Sir Ranulph Fiennes, one of my heroes.

As my travel adventures continued, it struck me, that as an ordinary person, I was doing the kind of things that “experts” normally did.

My reasoning was that off course, Ray Mears can trek through a jungle, and Chris Bonington can cross a glacier. They are my heroes.

However, I’ve done both those things and lots more.  I thought others, frightened off or nervous of some trips and activities might gain inspiration from my adventures. After all, I’m an ordinary person, if I can do it, and explain how, then anyone can do it can’t they ?

That’s where the tag-line originally came from, but there’s more.


We all know someone who inherited money or sold a house or whatever and travelled around the world.

What about living a life of adventure while maintaining a relatively normal life as well. Thing’s like buying and maintaining a house, spending time with friends and family, meeting someone special and finding a job you enjoy doing. Plus still having time for hobby’s, going to the pub, cinema etc.


Friend’s might consider it disrespectful if you missed their birthday in Liverpool so you could live in the woods for a week with just a knife and a fire-steel.

How would a partner feel that you couldn’t’ see her that weekend because you were watching Swan Lake in Moscow ?

Would your boss be happy that you were taking your 4th short holiday of the year to stand on the Great Wall of China ?

Financially, could you do all those things and still pay for upgrades/repairs to your house.

It is possible and this whole website is proof of it !.


Don’t forget, you can’t see the world and be in the countryside all the time, so I usually have a picture of somewhere exciting on my desk at work. I also fill my house with nice pictures like these.

Two organisations that have helped immensely on my journey are The Chester and District Walking Group and the Chester Globetrotters.

In terms of goals, I’m 15 countries away from 100 and membership of The Travellers Century Club.

Once again, thanks for reading. Near and far, the search for adventure continues…

Re-launch of johnsunter.com


Today, I’m re-launching johnsunter.com

Lots of out of date and incomplete pages going back almost 3 years have been fix during the lockdown (a marathon project that’s taken over 150 hours) – details of these pages can be found here.

From now on, I’ll be updating the blog every 7 days, with a new blog entry to read every Friday morning.

I know a lot of people have told me they get a lot out of my blog. I’d like to thank you for coming back again and again, and hope that you’ll continue to do so.

Near and far, the search for adventure continues…

Summary of new/updated pages.


This is a list of the pages that have been updated during lockdown. The website has needed a major update for the past two and a half years and it’s finally complete (to illustrate, it takes 4 – 8 hours to do a page correctly).

I’ve been to other places as well, Athens, Meteora, the Dolomites and loads of places in the UK., but these are the significant trips that fell by the wayside due to work commitments, and busy evenings and weekends.

Sri Lanka – Feb 2020

 Sri Lanka Sri Lanka – Long weekend.

Ukraine – Kiev and Chernobyl – Aug 2019

 Kiev on Indepdendence day.  Kiev – On Independence Day.
 Chernobyl 1 Chernobyl 1 & the ghost city of Pripyat (1/2).
 Chernobyl 2. Chernobyl 2 & the ghost city of Pripyat (2/2).

Northern Ireland by overnight ferry – May 2019

 Northern Ireland 1 – Troubles, Game of Thrones & Ulster Fry (1/2).
Northern Ireland 2 – Troubles, Game of Thrones & Ulster Fry (2/2).

South America Tour – Feb 2019

 Santiago Santiago – First trip to Chile and the Andes.
 Easter Island 1 Easter Island 1 – Somewhere I really thought I’d never see (1/2).
 ea2_sml Easter Island 2 – Somewhere I really thought I’d never see (2/2).
 Life on a cruise ship. Life on a cruise ship – Backpacker in the lap of luxury.
 Patagonia 1. Patagonia 1 – Adventure wilderness (1/2).
 Patagonia 2. Patagonia 2 – Adventure wilderness (2/2).
 Falkland Islands 1. Falkland Islands 1 – Small Island in the middle of nowhere (1/2).
 Falkland Islands 2. Falkland Islands 2 – Small Island in the middle of nowhere (2/2).
 Montevideo. Montevideo – The birthplace of corned beef.
 Buenos Aires 1. Buenos Aires 1 – First trip to Argentina (1/2).
 Buenos Aires 2. Buenos Aires 2 – First trip to Argentina (2/2).

Indonesia – Sept 2018

 Indonesia by train 1. Indonesia by train 1 – Jakarta & Pangadaran (1/3).
 Indonesia by train 2. Indonesia by train 2 – Yogyakarta & Seloliman nature reserve (2/3).
 Indonesia by train 3. Indonesia by train 3 – Mnt Bromo, Permuteran & Ubud (3/3).

India – Dec 2017

 Delhi & Agra 2017 Delhi & Agra 2017.
 kr_sml Karauli & Ranthambore.
 Jaipur. Jaipur – Pink city and Sharpe’s Fort.
 Udaipur. Udaipur – The home of Octopussy.
 Mumbai. Mumbai – New Years Eve.

Namibia – Nov 2017

 Namibia 1. Namibia 1 – Windhoek, rain, into the Sand Dunes and old cars (1/3).
 Namibia 2. Namibia 2 – Tropic of Capricorn, the living desert, the Skeleton coast & wild elephants (2/3).
 Namibia 3. Namibia 3  – Lion, Cheetah & small animal spotting. Incredible day trips to Europe (3/3).

Myanmar & SEA – Nov 2016

 Bangkok catch up with Frank. Bangkok 2017 – Start SEA trip and catch up with Frank.
 Luang Prabang 1. Luan Prabang 1 – Adventure playground (1/2).
 Luang Prabang 2. Luan Prabang 2 – Adventure playground (2/2).
 Yangon. Yangon – Myanmar.
 Bagan. Bagan – Myanmar.
 Mandalay. Mandalay – Myanmar.
 Inle Lake. Inle Lake – Myanmar.

Life on a Cruise ship – Backpacker in the lap of luxury


To celebrate a joint 50th birthday, we were looking for a special trip.

I normally do overland trips, but we decided on cruise around South America.


It offered several advantages:

1. As the cruise started in Santiago, it would allow us to see Easter Island before the cruise started (one of the most incredible places on earth).

2. We’d be able to visit the Falkland Islands, which is practically impossible otherwise.

3. Multiple stop off’s in Patagonia.

4. Chance to follow the footsteps of great explorers with things like the Beagle Channel and the Magellan straits.

But how would this work, I’m a backpacker at heart (although I do wear Rohan and carry state of the art technology, it’s where my roots are).

Would a poncy G&T cruise ship work out, or would I feel out of place and just hide in my cabin ?. Time to find out.


After visiting Santiago, spending a few days in Easter Island and back to Santiago, it’s time to join our ship.

The ship leaves from Valparaiso, which is 120k from Santiago. Princess cruises offered to do a pickup, but it was £100.

Instead, we got 2 local buses and it was about £3.


Arriving at Valparaiso port, it felt quite industrial, and lacked a certain romanticism I was expecting.

With plenty of time to kill, we head up the hill. It gave a commanding view of the harbour and there was a superstore selling everything from soap to electric drills in case you’d forgotten anything for your trip.

Back down the hill, we found a nice cafe and I relaxed with a cold beer.


We arrive to be checked in. None of the “party at Buckingham palace” I’d expected.

We queued like refugees, the only positive thing is it had a roof so we were in the shade.


Sensibly, all bags are scanned through security, we’d be re-united with ours later.

We got to the check in desk. Our passports were handed over and we were photographed.

Then we each got a special card. I was really impressed. The whole boat is cash free, if you want something, you use the card and its put on your bill to be paid when you disembark.

Not just that, but when you leave or enter the boat, you swipe the card and it knows if you’re onboard or not. Also security see your picture on a monitor when you swipe, so if someone has stolen your card while ashore, they won’t get far.


At the dockside, some of the 900 balconies.

I’d done lots of research/reading on the Crown Princess, but to see it up-close was incredible.


I found a picture of our ship in dry dock before commissioning.

The Crown class cruise ship, Crown Princess.

Maiden voyage in 2006, a complete refit in 2018.

With 18 decks and a length of 290 metres, she’s bigger than the Titanic.


Were shown to our our cabin and our bags are already inside. Not massive accommodation, but plenty big enough for us and very comfortable.

It would also allow for an entirely different kind of travel. Instead of sitting on a bus for 4 hours, we’d travel while we slept.


Quite a large storage area, a spotlessly clean bathroom, a small sitting area, a desk and chair , and a balcony, I thought they’d done really well with the space available.

We like each other’s company, but it was a long trip. Sometimes, with 1 of us on the balcony reading and the other working at the desk it felt like we had 2 rooms.

Our concierge Geordie introduced himself. he’d take care of our room and provide room service etc.

He told us we would need to attend a safety brief in 30 mins. He was charming and friendly, but the safety brief clearly wasn’t optional.


There are 8 muster point on the ship and we presented ourselves at the Explorers lounge.

A demonstration of how to put on a life jacket and what to do in an emergency, then a quick chat about cruising for those that hadn’t done it before. The ships compliment is 3080 passengers and 1200 crew.

There were guests from lots of different countries (we put up our hand for UK) and staff on the boat are from 54 countries.

Our compère said I’m from Brazil, my colleague is from Argentina but we all get on fine. Why ? because we never discuss politics onboard.

You’re on holiday and free to do as you wish, but our advise is worth considering seriously for the well-being of all onboard.


With the briefing over, the launch party begins by the pool on the top deck.

I’m really excited to see what this floating city has to offer, so I head off exploring.


The Piazza, a 3-story atrium is the main hub of the ship. All the hustle and bustle of the ship can be experience as well as various shops, a coffee house and a wine bar we would come to know well.


A pool at the back of the boat, showing the wake. Most of the pools were open to everyone, but this was 1 of 2 that were for adults only.


We had a balcony, but the view from the top deck was incredible (your 165 feet above the water), especially when we were travelling around Patagonia.

In terms of preparation and equipment, it was the strangest sort of trip. On Easter Island, were were wearing shorts and T Shirts, travelling around the Cape Horne, softshell trousers and a down jacket.


One surprise for me was the massive up-selling philosophy I wasn’t prepared for.

It seemed to me, we’d paid a small fortune to be on this boat, in the lap of luxury and all that remained was to enjoy it.

In reality, the money you’ve paid for the cruise is just the start so far that they’re concerned. Here’s one examples, the shop sells chocolate bars, deodorant & sea sickness tablets.

There is nowhere to buy books and internet is expensive, so you might almost think they want you to be bored and spend money 🙂


The Calypso reef and pool on the top deck.

In the evening, they would show films. We’d normally wander around the top deck once it got dark, but to watch films, we normally went back to our cabin.


I’m always open to new idea’s and it’s strange some of the new things youre prepared to try on holiday.

On sailing days – when we were at sea all day (there were 5), I’d go to Horizon court (all day buffet dining), get a mid-morning coffee and sit with it in the Crooners Piano bar.

He played every day/evening for 14 days and I really enjoyed his music.


The Neptune’s reef and pool had nothing of interest to me from a water perspective, but as a culinary experience, the complete opposite.

On one side, Prego Pizza station, that cooked fresh pizza right in front of you. You could choose from one he’d just made, or he’d make exactly the pizza you wanted.

On the other side, The Salty Dog grill, serving burgers, hot dogs and chicken burgers just to your liking with every kind of sauce.

OK, certainly not health food, but I’m on holiday, this stuff is completely free, so why the hell not.


A map was posted and updated each day by the pool which showed a nautical chart and our progress.

I visited it each morning, to see where we were/where we’d been. I’m not sailor, but this was adventure on the high sea’s and I was totally engaged.


On sailing days, they were big on activities. But these activities usualy involved trying to sell you something.

So there would be 20% off all jewellry, an art auction and special promotions at Gatsby’s Casino. All of no interest to me, so I just did my own thing (and I really regret not taking more books, see stuff bellow, advice for cruising).

But where it did get on my nerves, was when I visited the gym. I just wanted to have a go on an exercise bike and as soon as I walked in they started selling me a personal trainer or acupuncture. I just got sick of the hassle and left.

But there were lots of other things to do as well like quiz’s and Spanish lessons, Motown afternoon and nightly Cabaret.


In the Princess theatre, there were talks and lectures about the destinations we’d visit.

The talks were top notch, with humour, relevance and the genuine charisma of the speakers.

One of the talks, showed the difference between cruise ships and ocean liners. It mentioned the average age of cruise ship guests was 47 (with number of mobility scooters on board I thought they should try adding 25 years to that number :).


One talk I really enjoyed was about Charles Darwin.

Darwinss discoveries – How a voyage to the Galapagos shocked the Victorians by Angela Kelly.

Later, I got to follow in his footsteps on my tour of the Beagle channel.


In the evening, lots of Cabaret, singing and othe activities. One I really enjoyed was a Tango demonstration by Fernando and Cecilia.

I was also a bit surprised at the evening dress code. Each evening was either formal or informal and the dress code was as follows.


Women: evening gown, cocktail dress or elegant pant suit.

Men: Tuxedo, dark suit or dinner jacket and slacks.


Women: Skirts, dress, slacks and sweaters.

Men: Pants and open-neck shirts.

Generally though, they were pretty relaxed about dress, and common sense prevailed, people didn’t walk into the restaurant in swimming trunks or anything silly like that. I was just frustrated that the one time my Rohan evening jacket would have been useful, I’d left it at home.


In the evening relaxing on our balcony.


Dining options were to say the least, extensive. We spent most evening in the Michelangelo dining room.

Sometimes on a shared table with a chance to meet new people, other times just the 2 of us.

In terms of quality, it was the sort excellent food I’d normally eat as a special treat on my birthday. But every night!.

Baked potato soup was my favourite starter.


Although all food was included with the cruise, some speciality dining options were available at additional cost.

We decided to try the Sabatini Italian restaurant, which was £30 extra for both of us.

An incredible experience, 5 courses, our table had its own exclusive waiter with an assistant for drinks.

Across the room we saw that Captain Manfuso and his wife were there as well. We enjoyed it that much, that we did it again a few nights later.


The Crown Grill steak house was another speciality option we tried.

It was £50 this time for both of us. They had a vegetarian option for Nikki, my steak was superb as I’d expected and the sommelier recommended a nice red to go with it.

This was living like James Bond.


We had an interesting talk and tour on the ship’s kitchen.

Suffice to say, it can cater for over 4000 people so it was enormous.

Broken down into small teams and units, every kind of cooking utility and spotlessly clean.

Here, a cake with an ice sculpture prepared for a guests wedding anniversary.


So where did we drink. I found the Wheelhouse bar to be quiet most of the time with plenty of space, so I sat with my kindle and a bottle of Bud.

At £8.50 a bottle, it was expensive but I wasn’t there to get drunk, just to relax after all.


Any trip with Nikki is going to involve a winebar.

We spent most of our evening here trying nearly every wine they had. The staff were very friendly and we soon settled in.


We saw the winestore on our tour of the kitchen.

It’s value is never less and $1,000,000.


The last night of our cruise.

Sat at the wine bar at 10:30pm, most of the Piazza is empty.


The following morning, watching the sunrise from our cabin.

My final memory of our cruise. Although sceptical at first, I really enjoyed that trip.

Conclusions: my recommendations for cruising, what would I do differently.


  • Get active – With loads of food options and every opportunity to relax, you need to get organised. Dismiss the sales people and spend at least an hour in the gym each morning. Alternatively, there is a running track on the top deck, or just go for a long walk.
  • Treats – If you like chocolates or sweets, take your own, they are fantasticaly expensive onboard.
  • Kettle – Hot drinks can be delivered to your room, but a better option is to take your own travel kettle, some plastic cups and in my case lots of sachets of nice hot chocolate.
  • Coffee – You normaly have to pay for coffee from the coffee shop, but in the buffet, it’s free. If you take one of those cups that keeps coffee warm, a fill-up at the buffet will set you up for mid morning.
  • Books/Films –  When you’re collecting firewood, work out how much you think you’ll need and double it. Take a kindle loaded with books and use the same forumula (and at least 1 paper book, technology can fail). A laptop loaded up with tv & films you’ve not seen is also usefull.
  • TV – One thing to note, is that the tv in your room is “locked”. The old trick of connecting your laptop to a hotel TV with HDMI lead won’t work here. They had some excelent films for free that we really enjoyed.
  • Plan each day. “Patter” magazine is delivered each evening. It has “news” and the following days activities and talks. Lots of stuff going on so go through it and mark the things your interested in. Take it with you the next day when your wandering around the ship.
  • Formal clothing – Next time I’d take a formal jacket and some darker shoes (the shirt and polo shirt I had was fine, but desert boots didn’t work that well in evenings.
  • Lectures/Talks – Attend every lecture you get the chance too. No matter how much you’ve researched your destinations, there’s going to be something interesting in there.
  • Find your place – Initialy, cruise traveling is amazing but Cabin fever can set in. Find somewhere you are comfortable and make that your place.
  • Go ashore – Not to sate the obvious, but some people like cruising for the boat expirience alone (we met people doing their 32nd cruise). Try to remember it’s a vehicle for adventure travel so spend as much time onshore as you can.
  • Where to cruise – Some places are well suited to cruising like South America and the Caribean, but remember you usualy you get 1 day in each and you only get to see the outside of a place.
  • Stairs/Lifts – Try to use the stairs and burn some calories. Be carefull of lifts, when the doors open, people can fly out on mobility carts and if they hit you, it will really hurt.
  • Wifi – Expensive @£1 per minute. Each morning I’d connect and quickly read bbc news, while email, whatsapp and facebook were downloading. Disconnect, read and send replies. If you do this each day, it will keep costs down.  Best wifi options are bars in Port.
  • Comunication –  They have an app you can install on your phone that allows you to message friends onboard for free. It also has a map of the ship and lists activities for the day.
  • Calls/Texting – Unlikely to get a phone signal for most of the trip. Don’t be  too connected anyway you’r on holiday.
  • Health/Medical Care – Don’t get on the ship, without insurance. Sick bay has an operating theatre and everything you’d expect to find in a hospital – but it’s all chargable so only use in a crisis. For non urgent, use your first aid kit and local pharmacies when in Port.
  • Laundry – They offer a pickup and return laundry service, but we used the coin operated washing machines, which were much cheaper.
  • Flowers – A bit of a daft one this, but the first night of our trip was valentines. The cheapest flowers I could find were £120. So I got a magician’s wand think that turned into flowers. It went down quite well, and entertained the other guest’s at our table. Cost £7

Buenos Aires – First trip to Argentina (1/2)


Our cruise comes to an end in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

When I was 13, the UK was at war with Argentina over the Falkland Islands.

In the community I grew up in, “Argentina” was mostly footballers with std’s and everyone else was looked a villain from a cowboy film.

30 years later, my common sense told me this couldn’t all be true, so I was quite excited to arrive to see what the place was really like.


After a well organised disembarkation from our boat at 7am and were wheeling our bags from the port towards our hotel.

On the way we see the Torre Monumental clock. Originally named the Tower of the English, it was a gift from the British Government using imported British “Red” brick.

After the 1982 war, the name Tower of the English was changed and everyone refers to it as the Torre.


Arriving at our hotel, our hosts are friendly and helpful and we’re shown to our room.

We’d left the boat quite early, so decided to dump our bags and head out for some breakfast.


We find somewhere for breakfast and tuck in.

But what’s this on the tv ? There seemed to be some sort of March with horses going on somewhere.


We realised to our surprise that at that moment, the horses, security and all the regalia were passing the cafe outside where we were sitting !


We carried on exploring and could see a number of protests taking place. Something was happening and this part of the city was being locked down.

Various road and streets were closed by the police and security services with barriers being erected. People with riot shields started appearing!.

I won’t lie I was a bit nervous, and we briefly considered going back to our hotel.

But if we headed in the other direction, I reasoned we could carry on exploring and keep out of trouble.


We had planned to join a free walking tour that started at The National Congress Building.

We worked our way around various closed road and eventually to our destination.


Only to realise, that the horses etc, were all converging on the Congress Building (it was the final destination of their Parade, we found later that the President was addressing the occupants of the building in some sort of capacity).

With our tour cancelled, time for plan B. My guidebook to Buenos Aires listed 10 must see sights. Theatre Colon was one of them so off we went.


Constructed 1908 it symbolises the Golden era or Buenos Aires.

A time when “wealthy as an Argentine” was a phrase often used in Paris and New York.


Tours have to be booked well in advance normally, but we were lucky and booked onto one starting an hour later.

It was quite expensive, but they had a nice wine bar in the waiting area, so we tried some Argentine Merlot.


The tour begins, and we head upstairs for our 90-minute tour.

Nothing short of Palatial (as you’d expect, it ranks among the worlds top 10 opera houses).

Italian marble, French stained glass, Venetian mosaics.


Inside the main auditorium.

Performances are pre-booked months into the future. It fills up every night, as it has done for over 100 years.


The view with the stage behind me.

I was struck by the lighting and how atmospheric it was.


In the ceiling, what looks like a light actually contains a powerful speaker.

This contributes to its world renowned,  near perfect acoustics.


I got to hear them first hand, as some joiners were preparing the stage and the sound of hammering and sawing reverberated throughout the arena.


We wander towards Plaza de Mayo, the Political, spiritual and cultural centre of Buenos Aires.

It’s here that the people danced after World Cup victory in 1986.


Casa Rosada – The Pink house, the President’s official offices (unlike the White House, the President doesn’t actually live here.

Eva Peron addressed the people from its Balcony’s.


The Cabilda, in its classic colonial style.

Once used as a local town hall, but today used as a museum of the May revolution.


La Catedral Metropolitana, the main Catholic church in Buenos Aires.


There were queues for everything, but we were able to get inside the Cathedral and that choice was rewarded.


Further inside, the Mausoleum of General San Martin.

Guarded by statues representing Argentina, Peru and Chile.


Banco. Well, it’s a big bank.

More seriously, its associated with the economic riots in 2001 which were part of the “Argentine great depression from 1998 – 2002.

Corral policies were instituted which stopped people withdrawing cash from banks and pensions were not paid.

Rioting and protests started almost immediately, President Fernando de la Rua resigned, replaced by President Adolfo Rodriguez Saa who resigned less than 12 days later.

In total it cost 39 civilian lives, 9 of which were minors.


Monument to General Belgrano.

It’s a name that’s well known in the UK as the Argentine flagship, sunk in the Falklands War (controversially at the time, but Prime Minister Thatcher has since been vindicated by a book written by it’s Captain Hector Bonzo).

But actually was General Belgrano. Described as an economist, politician and military leader, he was involved in the independence of Argentina.


Les Madres – The mothers. I borrowed this image from a Guardian article.

Between 1976 and 1982 many people were “disappeared” by the Military Junta.

Their mothers and other relatives protest peacefully in the square, seeking information about their loved ones.


Piramide de Mayo – constructed in 1811, it’s the oldest monument in Buenos Aires.

We leave Plaza de Mayo and head for another of the top 10 tights.


Cementerio de la recoleta.

Nicknamed city of the dead, it houses mausoleums and graves of generals, presidents, celebrity and Eva Peron.


It’s so large and elaborate that there’s even a map to find your way around.


You can see why it’s called the city of the dead. Everything is in rows side by side in streets and avenues.


One of the more elaborate mausoleums, but it has to be said, there are hundreds just like it.


The thing that most people come to see – the family mausoleum of Eva Duarte de Peron.

She died of Cervical cancer in 1952. Even in death she was a threat to some people. Her body disappeared for 3 years, afterwards she spent time buried under a false name in Milan.

She was finally returned to Argentina and interned in her family mausoleum in 1976 , but not with her believed husband Juan Peron.


She was (and still is) revered by the working class people of Argentina, who she called the Descamisados – The Shirtless ones.

I remember some of the people visiting were playing Evita on their phones. Up to the individual how they deal with grief, but I found it intrusive.

The inscription translates to: Eternal in the soul of your fire.


A sobering morning.
Many of the mausoleums date back to the 1800’s but this one is dated 1970 and it caught my eye.
Iliana Crociati de Szaszak was only 26 when she died in an avalanche in Innsbruck, while on her honeymoon. Shown with her beloved dog, Sabu.

Buenos Aires – First trip to Argentina (2/2)


After the seriousness of the Cementario, it’s time to remember that were actually on holiday.

A nice cold  beer and a snack in glorious sunshine.


Nearby, the famous Jacaranda tree.

A bit difficult to see in this picture, but this thing is enormous.

A strategically positioned statue appears to carry the tree.


We wander down this street. Looks perfectly normal to me.

Turns out, it has more plastic surgery’s than any other street anywhere in the world. Buenos Aires is the world capital of plastic surgery.

In many countries, it’s not uncommon for some company’s to offer private healthcare, inclusive in your employment contract.

In Buenos Aires its highly common to have a plastic surgery allowance in your contract of employment !.


Buenos Aires is an enormous city so travelling around is easier on the underground.


With upto 7 lanes in each direction, the Avenida 9 de Julie is probably the largest single road of any big city in the world.

An entire city block wide, pedestrians need to cross 3 sets of lights to get from one side to the other.

The main spectacular sights of the city are either on or next to the Avenida (including theatre Colon, which we’ve seen already).


The Obelisk. Constructed in 1936, by German company Siemens in just 31 days.

On the site there had previously been a church where the Argentine flag had been raised for the first time.

It has Inscriptions on all 4 of its sides,and you can actually go inside (there are windows at the top).


The famous French Embassy.

Said to be one of the most beautiful buildings in Buenos Aires, construction of the Avenida required it to be demolished and rebuilt elsewhere.

The French government refused. So the Avenida was move to facilitate this.


Ministry of Public Works is the only major building positioned directly on the Avenida.

It’s famous for this picture of Eva Peron.


Museo de la Dueda Extema, museum of foreign debt. My guidebook described it as:

“Tucked in the basement of the city university’s economics building, this sober yet absolutely vital mini-museum tracks Argentina’s roller-coaster 20th century economy through 2001 loan default with sensational montages”.

It did indeed explained the financial crisis but was all in Spanish so we left after 3 minutes.


Palacio de las Aguas Corrientes – The Palace of running water.

It’s literally a water pumping station, but it’s elaborate beauty, marks it out, even in a city of amazing buildings.


Plaza San Martin.

A popular square where local people go to relax and have lunch.


The Kavanagh building built in 1936.

Considered a pinnacle of modernist architecture, and my favourite building in the whole city.

Wandering further around Lavelle square and the green space around it.


General Juan Lavelle who the road is named after.


Palace of justice, where the supreme court sits.


In 1992 a suicide bomb ripped through the Israeli embassy, killing 27 people.

One wall of the building still remains as a backdrop. The rest of the site has been converted into a memorial park.


The Evita museum.

Although not very large it had many artefacts and possession and told the story from the young girl in the countryside to the wife of the President of Argentina.


Unfortunately, you weren’t allowed to take pictures in the museum, but I found these on the internet.

The show her evolving dress style throughout her life and career.

Other parts of the museum carry on her legacy, and help women in trouble, across the world. There was a room with harowing anonymous essays written by people who’d been helped by the initiative.


I like to buy small souvenirs when I travel. I put them in my house to remind me of the places I’ve been.

I purchased this small music device (you turn the wheel and it plays the music to Evita).

As we sat in the cafe for coffee I started to play it, Nikki thought it was a bit naf but I really liked it.


Time to get outside.

The 860-acre Reserva Ecológica Costanera Sur, hidden behind Puerto Madero’s glitzy skyscrapers, is an abandoned development that’s been left to “rewild”.


It stretches for miles with these rough tracks and paths with tree’s everywhere. After wandering around a big city for days, just what I needed.


Thousands of different types of tree’s and plants.


Considering the size of the area, this map wasn’t the most detailed I’ve every used, but we managed to see everything we wanted to.


Next to the park, the River plate, famous from the battle.


Great to be out in the open air, but really warm and I was exhausted.

We stopped briefly for a sit down. I fell asleep and had to be woken up by Nikki.


The wetlands and swamps within the park.


I don’t speak any Spanish, but this sign in the window of a small museum was pretty clearly saying watch out for snakes.

Daft thing is, it tells you how to identify the snake by it’s pattern.

Surely a better strategy is to avoid “all” snakes 🙂


Lots of locals visit the park, here some children were playing with a ball while their parents prepared a barbecue.


As we leave the park we get this “Crocodile Dundee” shot featuring Puerto Madero in the background.


Puerto Madero is a newly developed area with lots of skyscrapers housing multinationals companies.

It also has exclusive apartments.


But on the other side, has this docklands style front with nice cafe’s and bars.


Out in the dock, we admire this classic sailing ship.


We relax next to the water with some nice wine.

Were due to fly home early the next day, and there’s just one thing left of on my must do list.

I’d already done my research on the internet so I know which restaurant to go to.


Our final meal of the trip at estaurant Ill Gatto (which in Italian, means The Cat)

No expense spared on 3 courses and wine.

Just what I wanted, a perfect Argentine steak eaten in Argentina.


We wander along the waterfront.

We’ve been away for 3 whole weeks and now it’s time to head home.

Patagonia – Adventure wilderness (1/2)


Still on our cruise around Cape Horn, we visit Patagonia.

But when you’re on a cruise ship, you stop at destinations and you usually only get to spend a day there. Not to state the obvious, but it would be hard to see much of Patagonia in 1 day.


So, I’ve taken several day trips and put them into 1 section. What you’re about to read is made up of day visits to Puerto Montt, Puerto Chacacabuco and Ushuaia (Tierra del fuego). I’ve also included the Amalia Glacier, cruising around Cape Horne and a catamaran trip through the Beagle Chanel.

We had been deliberating a 1-day trip to Antarctica that they offered for £3000 each from Punta Arenas. In the end we decided not too. Not only expense, but I really want to see Antarctica, and when I do it will be for at least a week, so its on the special AHP (after house paid for) list.

As it was, it worked out for the best, as we didn’t visit Punta Arena due to bad weather.


In Puerto Montt, we signed up for an official tour, organised by Princess Cruises. They are expensive (comparatively) but the argument is always made that on an official tour, if something goes wrong, the cruise ship will wait. We found later, that this is flawed for 2 reasons.

1. Independent tours, know how important it is to be back on time, they’ve been doing this for years, have backup vehicles etc so the odds of getting stuck are pretty slight.

2. The idea that a cruise ship with 3000 guests and 1000 crew will wait in port and pay 100’s of thousands of pounds to delay the trip and stay overnight for a coach with 40 people on it is a fallacy (the staff told us this). If the coach breaks down, they’ll just put you on a plane to the next destination anyway.

We did both official and independent tours and found them all to be informative, interesting and very professionally run.


Our first stop is to visit the Petrohue waterfalls. We arrive at the Vicente Peres Rosales National Park and  are taken to a sort of museum. You could book canoeing trips and treks. They also sold souvenirs, but best of all coffee, so I had a look around and drank some coffee.


We head outside to explore the park.


They have obviously staggered coach parties so for about half an hour, there were only our group there.

There were lots of well-worn trails to explore.


Once out of the trees I got to see the kind of beautiful untouched wilderness that makes Patagonia so popular as an adventure travel destination.


We cross a bridge and getter a better view of the canyon and the Petrohue river.


And the main thing we’ve come to see, the Petrohue waterfall.

Nothing like as powerful as the things I’ve seen in Iceland but impressive all the same.

The other thing that needs to be said is how clean the water was. If you’re good enough at bushcraft, you could live out here indefinitely.

space building

Heading to Osorno Volcano, up the V-613 highway we see this sort of  bar/restaurant with a space age feel to it (and unfortunately closed).


Considering your driving up a mountain, the journey is very comfortable.


A sort of Ski resort at the top.

And then the big reveal. Were not actually going to visit Volcano Osorno.

We’re going to visit Mnt. Calbuco, which offers the optimal viewing point of Volcano Osorno.


You have the option to walk to the cable car and stand on the top of Calbuco, but with the time we had, that didn’t seem a good idea

Instead, we wandered around exploring. The peaceful country air and the mountain silence were a welcome change from a busy cruise ship shared with thousands of people.


After an hour, we’ve still got 45 minutes, so we head to the restaurant and have some glasses of Chilean Merlot while looking at the view.


The view.  Across a sea of clouds, Osorno volcano. A spectacular sight.


The final stop on our trip, Puerto Varas on the shores of lake Llanquihue.


Puerto Varas was colonized by German settlers and is known for it’s German traditions, beer, seafood, natural scenery and luxurious hotels.


We’d seen a talk the previous day on Puerto Varas and been told about this fire station.

Now disused, it’s the oldest building in the town.


Much had been made of traditional German beer, and I was looking forward to trying some, but the town was full with coach parties so at that moment, every pub was packed.

I managed to find somewhere with free space at the bar. I couldn’t really relax in a pub that busy, so I only stayed 10 minutes. I still can’t remember which beer I had, but it was very nice.


Nikki wanted some coffee, and we found that the coach station sold café and it practically empty.

I took this picture of the waiting room. In these times, when everyone throws things away, they had re-used old coach seats as waiting room benches!.


From the shore of the lake, the perfect cone of Osorno Volcano and the snow-capped peak of Mnt. Calbuco

Back to our boat, another day of exploring complete.


Our next destination – Puerto Chacabuco on the Aysen Fyord.

This time we’d chosen an independent trip and glad we did. It was nice to meet the local people and know that we’d contributed in some small way to their livelihood.

The port was busy and noisy (as I suppose ports are) so we decided explore.


We were told to walk up the hill and meet our tour group at the “white domes”. Although they look like they’re for farming or suchlike, they are put there by the town council and stalls inside sell local arts and crafts. It was still an hour before the tour was due to start, so we went in search of refreshments.


There is only 1 hotel in Puerto Chacabuco (and it’s 5 star !).  The Loberias Del Sur is where a lot of science and research expeditions begin and end. Nothing so “David Attenborough” for us, we had some coffee and bagels.


Our tour begins (2 comfortable mini-buses) and we visit the town of Puerto Aysen.

We stop at the town. We told to have a look inside the visitors centre and it’s possible to get a free map.


I have a look around the visitors centre and collect my map (picture above) and then we just drive off. To this day, I’m unsure what the point of that exercise actually was.


As we drive along, we get this incredible view of the Simpson River.


A highlight of the day was the Cascada Velo La Nova waterfall.


The great thing was, with 2 minibuses we were able to stop in a lot of places where a coach couldn’t.

We disembark and have an hour wildlife trek in the Parque Alken del sur by the Simpson river.


The Presidente Ibáñez Bridge. At 210 metres, it’s the longest suspension bridge in Chile.


It’s getting to late afternoon. To see how the locals actually live, we visit this working farm (where they grow all their own vegetables).


We all sit down for our Pangal lunch. The atmosphere is amazing and all the food is grown on the farm or localy sourced.

It’s 1 bottle of delicious Chilean Merlot between 2. But once it’s gone, a replacement is only £5 a bottle !.


The pork barbecue in the outhouse, where our food was cooked (although there was lots of other stuff and vegetarian options).


Traditional Chilean Huasos dancing performed by a farmer and his daughter.

Huasos are Chilean cowboys. I’m not normally big on traditional dancing, but it was a really relaxing environment and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.


After 2 hours of fun, we head outside to see the Lama farm.

Not at all what I’d expected, but an amazing day when I got to experience what it would be like to live in Puerto Chacabuco.

Patagonia – Adventure wilderness (2/2)


Phase 3 of our Patagonia adventures and we visit Ushuaia and Tuera del Fuego.


As our boat pulled into the port, you could see the Patagonia mountains in the distance.


Ushuaia is the closest port to the Islands Argentina call the Malvina’s and which they claim as occupied unlawfully by the British. The staff on the cruise ship very diplomatically referred to location to Port Stanley, avoiding causing offence to either nation.

As we pulled into port, the ships tannoy said not to wear any overtly British clothing or symbols so as not to cause offence to the local population.

I don’t normally travel with a bowler hat, so that presented no problem for me. I’m proud of my country, but I’m an adventure traveller, I don’t go to other people’s countries looking to make a point.

This sign was the first thing you saw as you walked along the causeway (I’ve put it up, as I’ve shown similar signs with the opposite view on my section on the Falkland Islands). It was also obvious, that someone had tried to vandalise it.


On a more adventure travel note, this is the main port for ships visiting Antarctica, so the harbour was completely full.


Wandering around, it felt a bit like Blackpool.


And looking out to Sea, superb views of the Beagle Channel and the mountains beyond.


We found this sign, about the sinking of the Argentine ship General Belgrano on the 2nd of May 1982.

323 men died after a torpedo attack by HMS Conqueror. The site is now designated a war grave.


We carry on wandering, the place is quite colourful and the people were certainly friendly, even though they could tell we were English.


A remembrance garden to people who were “disappeared” by the Argentine Junta, and in the corner a section dedicated to the beloved Eva Peron.


Finally, this memorial to people killed during the Falklands conflict.

After a sobering moment of reflection, we head to the meeting point to join our first tour of the day Tierra del Fuego National Park.


Our first stop is the Rio Lapataia river.


Overlooking it, the Alakush visitors centre – the familair museum, cafe & souvenir format.


Our guide spots this rare, Black Necked Swan on the river outside.


In Zaratiegui bay, the post office at the end of the world.

They call Ushuaia the town at the end of the world, as its the most southern place in South America.


On the bank of the Acigami lake.


The lake was very popular, and even had this “1 way” system to reduce congestion.


A 40 minute countryside walk with our guide.

Not many animals to see, but she tells us about the history of Yaghan people, the original indigenous people of the region.


We stand at the end of the Pan American highway.

Running 19,000 miles from Prudhoe bay in the United States to Ushuaia.


A 45 min walk through a sub Antarctic forest.


With views across the beagle channel.

More of a fast hit tour than the ones were used to with lots of “see for 10 minute” sights. But I suppose that’s the only way a half day tour of all these things can work.

Main reason we’d picked the half day tour, was to fit in a boat trip to the Beagle channel. So back on our bus heading for Ushuaia docks .


What we call The Beagle Channel is basically, the straits between Chile and Argentina its 150 miles long and 3 miles wide. It was made famous by Charles Darwin is something I’ve wanted to experience all my life and I could hardly contain my enthusiasm.


We board our Catamaran.

A group of older Americans were sat near us. One chap in particular was really loud. I realised his hearing aids hadn’t been configure properly.

He couldn’t hear himself accurately, so was shouting all the time. I thought for a moment about offering advice, and then thought better of it.


In Nao Victoria Museum in Punta Arena, they have an actual size replica of HMS Beagle.

Their exploratory mission was so isolated, that the first captain committed suicide. He was replaced by Robert FitzRoy on the 2nd voyage of the Beagle, but this time took Charles Darwin who had funded his own passage.


A recreation of Darwin’s tiny cabin, which he shared with 2 other people.

It was so small that he had to remove a draw from one of the cupboards so he could lie down to rest and recover from sea sickness (which affected him frequently).

It’s in this cabin where the ideas of Evolution through natural selection and his first book On the origin of species were formed.

And his most famous quote (which has inspired me throughout my life) “It is not the strongest of the species, nor the most intelligent  that survives, but the one that is the most adaptable to change” must have been coined.


We cast off. At this point, I’m very conscious, that were in the “footsteps” of Charles Darwin.

The Beagle Channel, the Straits of Magellan and the Drake Passage are the three navigable passages around South America between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.


Nikki prepares her binoculars and I get a glass of red wine (ok, were embarking on an adventure, but no reason not to enjoy ourselves while were doing it).


One of the little islands (which actually, are just rocks) and the mountains in the background.


Les Eclaireurs lighthouse. Sometimes called the lighthouse at the end of the world, an iconic symbol.


We visited so many Islands, that I lost track. The one I do remember, is this one, Sea Lion island.


We pull up on an island loaded with wildlife.

Nikki decides to leave the sanctity of cabin and the smell is atrocious.


Time for our Catamaran to head back. Retracing the steps of one of the definitive explorations of all time.

My lasting memory, this Island with just 1 seagull on it.


Some parts of Patagonia, we were able to see from our Cruise Ship. As we sailed through the Bernardo O’Higgins national park we got to see this incredible sight.


But it came at a cost -we had been told the night before, that we would pass by the Glacier around 6am in the morning.

I’ve never known a trip where one minute I’m wearing shorts and next a -10 down jacket. But it was that cold !.


A bit closer, the Amalia Glacier up close.


Another famous location, the Cape Horn, located 56 deg south and 67 deg west, the meeting of the Atlantic an Pacific Oceans.

But there’s not actualy anything there, we only knew it’s significance, as the bridge (using GPS) were able to tell us where we were.


That’s what causes most of the confusion. Next outcrop along, there are buildings and the like.

This is actually a Chilean Naval Station and Lighthouse, manned all year round. But, even though you can visit it, it’s not the Cape Horne.


Elsewhere on the rock, is an  albatross shaped monument to the 800 ships and 10,000 mariners lost at sea in this region.

I’d love to get a Land Rover and spend 2 weeks exploring Patagonia. But since I haven’t won the Lottery, nor sold a Kidney, I think I’ve seen a lot off cool stuff, in 3 days 🙂

Indonesia by train 1 – Jakarta & Pangandaran


For only the 2nd time in my life (the other one ending in a fantastic trip to Namibia) I found myself with time and resources for a trip, but I just couldn’t decide where to go.

To be more specific, I’ve always had lists (if you saw my bedroom wall as a small boy, there were lists of things everywhere).

In this case, many of the places on travel lists, were either already booked, in hand for future years or I’d costed them AHP (after house paid for !).

So, I resorted to reading through a brochure. A train trip across Indonesia looked interesting. I’d had no previous plans to visit the place and since I knew so little about it, seemed quite exciting.


The 1500k journey would take us from Jakarta, by train and minibus to Kalilbaru, where a boat would take us on to the Island of Bali.

As usual on tours like this, we arrived a day early. You need to be rested and ready to go, when a trip like this starts, so the obvious options are:

  1. Fly business class, and arrive 3 hours before the tour starts
  2. Arrive 24 or 48 hours early, to acclimatise and get some rest

1 or 2 extra nights in a budget hotel are far cheaper than business class, so we always pick option 2.


We arrive in Jakarta, get some rest and then visit the National Museum.

It had too many interesting things to show here (ranging from canoes to dinosaur bones).


Three wheelers (or Tuc Tuc’s as they were originally known in Bangkok, and now practically everywhere else) are a cheap and quick way to get around.


The National monument.

A symbol of Indonesian independence from the Dutch.

The park it’s in was enormous.


We wander around the old town.

Our organised tour included formal visits to all these places, so we just used the time to relax and find somewhere nice for coffee (were on an Island called Java after all :).


At 6pm, our tour begins in the hotel reception.

Although I’ve already filled in my insurance and NOK details onto the web portal I end up being handed a form and told to fill them all in again (this happens on every trip).

Although everyone in the group has been told how much the tip kitty is and in what currency, half the people have to go back to their rooms to collet the money etc. (this also happens on every trip).

Enough of my moaning, our guide introduces himself, gives an overview of the trip, and then takes us to a local restaurant to try a local version of Thali (which washed down with cold beer, is quite delicious).


Up early the next morning, and we start our city tour with a trip to the local antique market.

None of the antiques are too my liking, but I find a useful knife sharpener in the hardware stall.


After an uprising against the Dutch by the Chinese, they were moved to an area just outside the city call Glodok.

Here we visited the Dharma Jaya Toase bio temple.


Wandering into Fatahillah Square in old town Batavia.

The Si Jagur is an old Portuguese canon with a sort of rude thumb arrangement at the back.


Across the square, the exclusive Batavia café where we have lunch in Colonial surroundings.


Cafe Batavia had this strange urinal in the gents toilets with a full length mirror.


Sunda Kelapa port.

They only allow smaller ships now, which travel between local Islands.


Standards of health and safety fall a bit short of what we’d expect in the UK, as shown by this “ladder”.


And this unusual way of transferring people from dock to boat !.


One of the most incredible sights I’ve ever seen, the Istiqlal Mosque.

As the largest Mosque in South East Asia its 4 stories has and the size of a football pitch.


And just for religious balance, a picture of the Cathedral Church.


Jakarta was quite a modern city. Although our hotel wasn’t in the centre of town, we managed to find this nice Italian Restaurant with an excellent selection of wine.


The following morning, and it’s time to leave Jakarta.

The train is spotless, the seats comfortable and there’s even a film on the screen for those who don’t have anything to watch on their tablets or phones.

Best thing about it ?. It’s a train, so I can read without getting motion sickness as I would in a car or minibus.


And the view out of the window.


After an easy five and a half hours on the train, the next leg of our journey to Pangandaran is by minibus.

Although air-conditioned it was another three and a half hours and very tiring.

Moral lifted briefly, with this amusing scene of a man on a bicycle, holding onto the back of a lorry and being towed home.


We finally arrive. The peninsula is beautiful, but we’ve arrived late and its about to turn dark.

So we go straight to our first activity a tour of the Penanjung Nature Reserve.



Pangandaran is 80% secondary rain forest and I’m really looking forward to a couple of hours in “proper” nature.

The park was about to close, but they let us in all the same.


Near the entrance, these beautiful friendly animals introduce themselves to Tina.


A bit deeper inside the secondary rainforest, I see the sort of tree’s common to the Daintree rainforest in Australia.


Trekking along through the trails. After hours in a minibus the sense of exploration and adventure was a welcome relief.


We wander into the mouth of a cave, where lots of bats and small creatures live (quite difficult to photograph in the dark unless you work with David Attenborough).

As we continue through the cave, there is an opening at the other end, which leads out onto the beach.


We wander back along the beach to our hotel.


After getting changed and having dinner, Nikki and I wander around the town.

Not much going on unfortunately, but lots of local tourists, were driving around in these pedal cars with music “blasting” from phones.



In the morning before breakfast, we go for a walk along this beautiful beach.


But all around were these Tsunami Signs – our guide said to make sure at any given time, we knew which direction to run to reach high ground.

Didn’t seem particularly dangerous to me, but thousands had died during the Tsunami so it made sense to take it seriously.


A visit to the village to see local culture and commerce.

The vegetable market. I only really like potatoes and I’m frequently criticised for my lack of variety.

A stall holder took his through her entire selection. There were over 30 kinds of vegetable. I’d lost interest after 4, but I kept quiet so others on the trip could immerse themselves in the experience.


In the fish market, they even have Shark.


We wander into the main village.

There’s a special celebration today ! Several young boys are being circumcised.

Were asked if we’d like to join in. Err, no.


Away from the disfigurement, were shown how palm sugar is made and see these rice crackers drying in the sunshine.


Wayan Golek puppetry is very popular in Indonesia.

The puppeteers have to make their own puppets, and this chap gave us a demonstration (he even had 2 apprentices).

He gave a brief demo of a scene from the Ramayana. In a “fight scene” he made a loud clicking sound, did some background music with symbols (while still operating the puppets).


A school in the village where nurses were trained.

The nurses were thrilled to meet visitors, but unfortunately, only females were allowed inside the school.

Also, the nurses weren’t allowed to be photographed, so our womenfolk got this picture with the Director of nursing.


The final excursion of the day, a bot trip up Green Canyon.


As we got further into the canyon it was right out of Dr Livingston.

We finally stopped and people were allowed to disembark the boat and swim the remaining 200 metres up the canyon.


It sounded like a fool’s errand to me, so I relaxed in the boat.

People sometimes see pictures of me relaxing and think I look bored. I’m not, its just when I relax, I relax my face as well.


Meanwhile, the swimmers reached the top of the canyon and took this picture.

Daft buggers.

Indonesia by train 2 – Yogyakarta & Seloliman nature reserve


Leaving Pangandaran, we head to the next destination on our journey across Indonesia.

Yogyakarta is described by Explore.com as the hidden gem of Indonesia, so I’m really looking forward to seeing it.

We get taxis from the train station to our hotel. Quickly checked in and then headed out for some sight seeing.


The opulent Sultans palace.

I really enjoyed it there, there were loads of interesting things to see and the present Sultan still lives there.


Next the Taman Sari bathing complex with loads of areas like this one.

After a couple of hours, we head back to the hotel and get a couple of hours rest (were all exhausted).

Delighted I find a steak house in the town for dinner.


The next day, were off out to see Candi Borobudur, the largest Buddhist structure on earth.


Our local guide follows route of the ancient pilgrims, through the mandala shaped structure from the early realms towards nirvana.


We’re given a chance to relax in a place of enlightenment.


We’d arrived at 7am, so about 10:30am we headed back to the hotel.

Time for a soak in the pool.


Later, we visit the Prambanan temple complex.


The area suffered during the 2006 Yogyakarta earthquake. It had caused all kinds of damage, and hundreds of researchers had worked to put many of artefacts back together.

But a lot of work still remained to be done and our guide showed us piles of hundreds of stones that were being catalogued.

Machine learning computers were trying lots of permutations to see how the blocks could fit back together.


Some of the amazing frescos. This one is a scene from the famous Ramayana.


Inside one of the temples, this Ganesh statue.


Wandering around, you can see the size of the site.


That evening, Nikki attended performance of the Ramayana (I’d already seen it, so I went out for a few drinks in Yogyakarta).

After the performance, Nikki was able to take this photo of the sun setting over Prambanan.


But later that afternoon, we pedal out of the city on a 6k bicycle tour visiting local villages.

One of our group didn’t fancy cycling himself, so he had a sit down cyclo and got to see the place at leisure.


A small “factory” where Tofu is made.


A typical paddy field you can see the houses in the background where the people who tend it live.


A break on the trail to enjoy the beautiful countryside.


Bricks made of clay. Placed into moulds then dried in the sun.

Back to our hotel and our final evening in Yogyakarta. Being quite international, we were able to find an Italian Restaurant for dinner that served Moretti beer.


In the morning we’re back on the train.


Leaving the train and travelling by minibus, we see some of the countryside that will make up our next stay.


The Seloliman nature reserve is located on sacred slopes of Penanggungan volcano.

It is run by the Seloliman Environmental education centre and it’s volunteers.


We’re shown to our chalets and our bathroom although private, is actually outdoors !.


One of the centre volunteers shows us around the garden.

All the food consumed at the centre is grown here along with various herbs and local medicine.


Income is generated for the reserve by tourists (like me) staying in nice accommodation and eating and drinking at their restaurant.

For the volunteers, its simple dormitory accommodation and were shown around one.

I thought these stairs (in a house built by volunteers) were particularly clever in their design.


Wandering out of the camp, we go into the village to find out about local life.


Tours of the village are done each day from the Nature Research at 9:30am.

… And the local Ice cream “van” isn’t daft. He knows the route so is able to tout for business (and seemed to do quite well out of it).


A woman in the local village makes her own coffee.

She runs a small business with her daughter (who is 70, she is 90 and still going strong).


Were offered a cup. It tastes like mud.

But she’s a simple woman, and very kind, so purely to reward her enterprise, I buy some coffee to take away (and give to someone I don’t like).


The main trade in the area is rice production, so we begin wandering through the rice terrace’s.

Local people are working hard to harvest the rice. We don’t want to interrupt them, so were on our way.


 All the electricity in the area is provided by this Mini hydroelectricity plant.


The rice terraces are that rare thing, completely practical and beautiful at the same time.

We head back to the Nature reserve and this picture is my lasting memory of that place, which I’ll never forget.


We have lunch and then a short lesson on Javanese herbal medicine.

Were shown how the herbs are crushed and prepared. At the end, this concoction will help with cold and flu symptoms.

I’ve no idea if it works, but when I took a sip of it, it certainly tasted like medicine!”.