Argentina and coming home early….

La Boca barrio in Buenos Aires, the birth place of Tango.

I landed in Argentina on the 13th June from Bolivia, into Buenos Aires, not realising that this would be the last country on my round the world trip. One thing I never foresaw when I was travelling was the prospect of having to come back home early, especially due to my health. I had planned to travel another few months, onto Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba and the US with New York being my last stop. Sadly the pain in my back was becoming a lot worse and once I arrived in to Argentina I knew I would have to sort this out before continuing anymore travelling.

Snapping photos of the Argentinian flag.

Looking back on all this now, it makes me realise how I probably would have spotted this all a lot earlier if this had happened in the UK. I guess with travelling, you’re moving from place to place and in countries with very different environments to what you’re used to so maybe it’s harder to spot. I had also spent the last few months in some very high altitude countries which had affected my breathing and tiredness levels, so it was difficult to spot something else might be the cause.

So here we go, after 10 and a half months of amazing travels to 14 beautiful countries, here is my last country blog from this trip.

I had taken a flight from Sucre via Santa Cruz in Bolivia, onto Buenos Aires, internal flights in South America are super expensive and this cost around 拢240. I had met a friend previously in Chile, called Helene, who had been travelling long term as well. We had decided to meet up again, as luckily we were both wanting to see Buenos Aires and Helene was already in Argentina. 聽We rented an Airbnb apartment which was really cool, especially to have our own space and time to chat and catch up, we ended up spending 10 days together in Buenos Aires.

Me, Helene and Chiary in BA.

I found Argentina fascinating, along with many other South American countries is has had a long and sometimes tumultuous history. However what I noticed most about Argentinians was their passion for their culture and history, I guess this is similar in most South American countries but the mix of so many different cultures was very apparent here. 聽Buenos Aires was such a cool, trendy city, with lots of attitude, culture, beautiful architecture and museums. I found most Argentinians spoke english too which made it a little easier compared to other South America countries. It was also quite a culture shock from Bolivia as Buenos Aires has a much more European feel about it due to its early Spanish and Italian settlers, influencing the food, music, culture and architecture. The city has lots of amazing buildings such as the famous old theatre, the El Ateneo Grand Splendid which is now a beautiful library.

El Ateneo Grand Splendid, magnificent library in Buenos Aires.

Frida Kahlo at the Malba museum.

We did lots of walking and exploring in Buenos Aires and also met a friend of Helene’s, who lived in Buenos Aires so it was great to have a ‘guide’ in the city. I visited a few museums such as the聽Museo de Arte Latinoamericano聽de Buenos Aires or Malba, which is the modern art museum and holds work from artists all over Latin America, such as Frida Kahlo. Another highlight for me was visiting La Recoleta cemetery in the Recoleta neighbourhood. It’s a beautiful cemetery right in the centre of Buenos Aires, which contains the graves of Eva Per贸n and various presidents of Argentina. It was even named one of the worlds best cemeteries and named by CNN as one of the top 10 most beautiful in the world.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires.

Tango dancers.

We also of course couldn’t miss out on visiting a Tango hall in the neighbourhood San Telmo.聽Tango was born on the streets of Buenos Aires and Montevideo in Uruguay. It apparently originated in the 1880s in the lower-class districts and has slowly spread through-out the world. It is believed to have started on the streets of La Boca a famous neighbourhood in Buenos Aires. Of course trying to find a good Tango hall was a little daunting as there are so many of them, but we managed to find one which included our wine and dinner (most of them seemed to offer this). It was beautiful to watch the show and see these amazing dancers and hear Tango music.

Our tour guide around La Boca with a Boca Juniors football shirt.

Another highlight of mine in Buenos Aires was taking a 3 hour walking tour in the barrio or neighbourhood of La Boca, I did this with Free Tours in Buenos Aires聽who were fantastic. The guy who lead the tour was very passionate, it was his last tour, so at the end we all got to try some of the famous Fernet and coke (a very popular spirit drank in Argentina brought over by early Italian settlers). He also spoke passionately of his love of La Boca the local football team, who are world famous. He told us Argentinian men love football more than anything else in life and spoke of the passion they have of the game (as with many other South American countries). There is also a fierce rivalry between La Boca and River Plate the other Buenos Aires well renowned football club. It is seen as one of the fiercest and most enduring rivalries in football teams in South America. It was one of the best walking tours I had done!

Amazing street art in La Boca.

Republica de La Boca.

La Boca is also famous for its colourful streets, the Caminito street (where Tango is supposed to have been born), La Boca football stadium, and its strong Italian influences from early settles from the city of Genoa. It was also good to do a walking tour through La Boca as its still a fairly poor neighbourhood and there is still apparently a lot of petty crime in the area, so it was great to have a guide.

La Boca restaurant.

It has become a little touristy this area, but it’s definitely still worth visiting and really was my Buenos Aires highlight. It really gives you a true sense of Argentina and the real heritage of Buenos Aires.

Colourful La Boca streets.

Argentinian and C贸rdoba city flag.

From Buenos Aires, I flew onto C贸rdoba which is about 700km away and is the second most populous city in Argentina. I ended up staying here until the end of my trip and stayed with a friend, Mauro, who I had met in Chile at the same time as Helene, he studied and now works in C贸rdoba. C贸rdoba is such a fun city, it has a huge student population and is home to the second oldest university in South America. I relaxed here as聽there is great nightlife, cool cafes, cinemas, shopping, nice parks and museums to visit. I also visited a town outside the city called Villa Carlos Paz, which is a tourist destination for locals.

Villa Carlos La Paz.

So going back to the saga of my back, in Buenos Aires I had been to hospital and again been told it seemed to be a muscular problem so was given different muscle relaxants to take for a week. However this hadn’t helped with the pain and once I arrived into C贸rdoba I knew I would have to look into this all more deeply as it was starting to affect me carrying my bags and I was feeling tired and in pain…not so good for my further planned 6 more weeks of travelling! Luckily I had really good travel insurance and looking back on it, I was very lucky to be in this situation and with someone who spoke spanish when I was going through this.聽After a few weeks of going back and forth to a private hospital (which my insurance company paid for) I finally found out I had something called a pleural effusion which is a build up of liquid underneath the lungs. I had mentioned before of having a chest infection in Asia and feeling unwell in Bolivia so they started to piece it all together and realised it was a problem with my chest and lungs and not muscular.

Views of C贸rdoba, Argentina.

Even though I knew someone in C贸rdoba, it was a weird situation to go through without family and friends around me. The language barrier and different culture was hard and at times I found it hard not knowing exactly what doctors were talking about, even though they did exactly what a doctor would have done in the UK. But I guess being so far away from home felt lonely, especially as initially I didn’t want to worry my family or friends. To cut a long story short, I was finally deemed ‘medically unfit’ to travel further which meant my insurance company would pay to send me home and get this all figured out properly.聽I went through a lot of different emotions over this, I think mainly because I wasn’t ready to come home and it felt hard to accept my trip would end like this. However in the end, I was spending my precious travel money and the doctors didn’t really know for sure why I had this and were worried I may carry on travelling and something worse could happen.

Mate beverage famous in South America.

I left C贸rdoba on the 14th July and it felt really strange and sad to leave South America and Argentina and finish my ‘big’ trip! It also felt weird to leave C贸rdoba, as it had become a little bit like home, I had been taking spanish lessons, going out to music festivals and of course drinking a lot of Mate ( a traditional caffeine enriched drink), good Argentinian wine and food (Empanada’s had become a favourite). I had been here for 3 weeks which is the longest time I had been in one place on my whole trip. So leaving it all, felt sudden and strange, but I was excited to go home and catch up with my family and friends.

It was a pretty big culture shock coming back to the UK, especially still being ill as well. I have lived and worked abroad before so I knew some of the highs and lows I would go through. It was hard though coming back and having to go in and out of hospital.

I was later diagnosed with something called Legionnaires Disease, which the doctors think I picked up somewhere along my travels and had caused my chest infection and pleural effusion. It’s quite rare and is found in water sources, usually in bad air conditioning units. I have no idea where I picked it up from, however I knew I was so lucky to have been home and to have the NHS to come back to who were superb.

I have now been back for 2 months now and of course I miss travelling, especially that feeling of complete freedom and independence. But being home of course has many highlights, apart from seeing family/friends there are the little things like a comfy bed and not having to plan every day, share a room with 8 people or spend hours on night buses! I look back on my travels with complete happiness and no regrets, it was undoubtably one of the best things I have ever done. I have learnt a lot about myself but mainly been lucky enough to visit some amazing countries and meet some truly unique people with inspiring lives and stories to tell.

I have been given the ‘all clear’ from the doctors, there is still a little way to go but my health should be back to normal soon. So now its time for me to start thinking about what’s next (…or start planning my next travel adventure!). Thanks for reading…xx

“Adi贸s a Argentina mi amigo”

All photographs copyright Jemma Nicholson.

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Extreme but beautiful Bolivia…

The famous Salt Flats, 聽Bolivia.

I arrived into Bolivia on the 31st May by bus from Peru via Peru Hop (a relatively new ‘hop on/hop off’ bus company). They were excellent and I would recommend them for going across the Peru and Bolivian border. I shopped around a lot of bus companies for this journey after reading about bad experiences of strikes and crossing the Bolivian land borders and immigration. So in the end I decided to try Peru Hop and they ended up being pretty good, very efficient and on time and really helpful local guides who helped us all with visas and crossing the border. I heard a lot of people complaining about the efficiency and punctuality of travelling in South America, but after travelling on buses in South East Asia, I found Chile, Peru and Bolivia to be a breeze, but maybe I was just lucky.

Bolivian immigration at the border between Peru and Bolivia.

It cost me $49 (USD) to get from Puno in Peru to La Paz, and with the help from the bus guides at immigration the price did feel worth (even though I knew I could have got it cheaper). It felt safe as I had also heard stories of La Paz being a little dangerous so I was glad to use this company to arrive into La Paz as well.

We left Puno around 9am and drove across the Peru border into Bolivia arriving into the small town of 聽Copacabana around 1.30pm. The border crossing was pretty easy in the end, we had to change buses at the border and walk about 10 minutes across into Bolivia with our luggage, the altitude was still pretty hard for me even though I had started altitude sickness tablets, so it felt like a bit of a long slog.

One girl on our bus did have a problem with her Peru visa, which I had heard about from a guy I met in Puno in Peru so luckily I was aware of it and had checked my visa before leaving Peru. Apparently its common, where some people enter Peru and are given shorter entry visas and don’t realise. So when they get to immigration at the border, they have usually overstayed their visas so have to go back into Peru and pay a fine at a bank. It was all a bit confusing and for one girl she was really shocked as hadn’t realised she had even overstayed her visa. Our guide told us that Peru immigration seems to do this more and more regularly and they were not sure why some people were given shorter visas (my stamp was for 90 days as with most other UK travellers I met).

Isla del Sol, Lake Titicaca.

Anyway once this was all sorted for this girl, we hopped back onto another bus and drove onto Copacabana, this is the nearest town to Lake Titicaca 聽on the Bolivian side. Also this company allowed us to get off (or hop off…) the bus for 4 hours to check out Copacabana or even get a boat to one of the Bolivian islands on Lake Titicaca.聽I decided to do this and had 4 hours to get a boat and explore Isla del Sol, which is a beautiful island with amazing remnants of Inca ruins. We ended up having about 2 hours on the island so managed to fit a walk around some of the island. There are about 800 inhabitants, so it’s very tranquil and peaceful and has amazing views of the lake and across to mainland Bolivia.

Views from Isla del Sol, Lake Titicaca.

Boats across the Tiquina Strait

From Copacabana I got back on the bus (meeting some great people on this bus trip) and went onto La Paz, we left Copacabana at 6pm and arrived into La Paz at 10.30pm. Taking this route into La Paz means you also do a show boat crossing across the Tiquina Strait which is about a 45 minute drive from Copacabana. We had to all get off the bus, taking any valuables with us, and then get on a very small (and dubious looking) speed boat. It was quite funny in the end, but getting on some rickety speed boats, and being crammed in, in the dark, with our bus on a barge being sent across separately seemed a little strange at the time.

I ended up spending two weeks in Bolivia, I really would love to go back as sadly I wasn’t feeling so well with the altitude and the cold, so I hope to come back one day, to explore more of this beautiful country, as there is so much more to see.

My Bolivia highlights –

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Peruvian love!

Views of the surrounding volcanoes in Arequipa, Peru.

I arrived into Peru at the beginning of May overland via two buses and a ‘collectivo’ (taxi) 聽from San Pedro, Chile arriving into the city Arequipa. I was a bit worried about this journey, I think because it would take so long (almost 24 hours) and also being on my own with no spanish was proving a little harder than I thought. I took an overnight bus from San Pedro to Arica (just on the Chilean border) which took about 19 hours, then from Arica I took a 鈥榗ollectivo鈥 or taxi across the border into Tacna in Peru.

Julie and me at the Beer Festival.

Luckily I had met two lovely American girls on the night bus from San Pedro, who also spoke some spanish, so we did the crossing into Peru together, it took about 45 minutes to cross the border by effectively paying a ‘collectivo’ to take us across the border. One of the American girls had lost an entry form you get when going into Chile which you need to leave the country and the passport control guy took great delight in pretending he wouldn’t let her into Peru, apart from this is was all pretty easy. From Tacna we then all took another 8 or so hour bus to Arequipa, the second largest city in Peru, this journey was beautiful arriving into Peru and seeing some spectacular mountainous terrain and the andean mountains.

Shayla, Julie and me watching Peruvian rock band.

I sadly was still having a few issues with my back which had started in Chile. At the time I put it down to doing so many uncomfortable night buses, lugging around my backpack and generally jumping around countries! So due to this I ended up spending nearly 2 weeks in Arequipa, which is a beautiful city to just chill out in, I took some spanish lessons and met some lovely friends to hang out with in cafes and restaurants! I even ended up at a beer festival one weekend, which felt a bit like being in London and also managed to see a ‘famous’ Peruvian rock band one night.

The historical center of Arequipa is a UNESCO World Heritage site, it really is a charming city with beautiful white washed buildings similar to European styles. I did a great walking tour here which took us to some beautiful spots in the city.

Arequipa ‘White city’, Peru.

There are lovely views of three volcanoes around the city as well making for some stunning scenery. I also visited the amazing ‘Mummy Juanita’ in Museo Santuarios Andinos. She is a well preserved frozen Inca girl who was killed as an offering to the Inca Gods between 1450 and 1480. She was found on Mount Ampato part of the Andes Cordillera in southern Peru. Pretty amazing (and kind of spooky) to see, as her body is very well preserved.

I ended up spending a month in Peru, it was finally time for me to ‘slow’ down my travels a bit! I feel like I left out a lot in Peru, but at the same time my travelling needed to slow down a bit, I had been moving around on average every 3 days in the last 7 months, so it was not surprising I was craving sometime in one place! For the first time in a while, I decided to get a nice hotel in Arequipa and treat myself to my own room and bathroom (it was heaven!!) and looking back on it now, the hotel cost about 拢15 a night which doesn’t seem so much now.

Arequipa known as the ‘White city’, Peru.

Here are the rest of my Peru highlights –

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Next stop South America, first stop Chile.

Valparaiso street art in Chile.

Cerro San Cristobal hill, Santiago.

After 7 months of travelling I was excited but also apprehensive to reach a new continent and get to South America for the first time. I left Auckland and some lovely family and friends there and to be honest was pretty terrified of going to a new continent and to a place where I didn’t know anyone…oh and didn’t speak a word of Spanish (my anxious streak was in over drive!!).

I landed in Santiago on the 10th April, the capital of Chile and spent 3 days there staying in an Airbnb with a Chilean lady. I always think it’s funny arriving into a new country and being at the airport, when I arrived into Santiago airport I was approached by two men asking me where I was going and did I need a airport taxi, they kept flashing me security badges to reassure me that they worked there. It’s funny looking back on this now, they then wanted to help me with my luggage and when I said I was fine but just needed a cash machine, they took me over to one and proceeded to stand right behind me whilst I tried to get money out.

Yep…my nerves were now in overdrive, but after telling them to move away slightly from me as they were making me a little nervous, they did and finally took me over to a reputable shared taxi service who got me to my Airbnb apartment safely. I realised that this was just their way of trying to help me but it’s funny how we can take some friendliness as a threat. I think that sometimes travelling on your own means you constantly have to have your wits about you, which can be tiring.

Views from Airbnb apartment, Santiago.

I should also mention that after 7 months of travelling, I was getting pretty tired of hosteling! It wasn’t that I had had any real issues (except for some very loud snorers) but I was just finding it hard sharing a room and repeating to people 聽over and over again…. ‘where are you from?’ and ‘how long are you travelling for?’. I think this was totally normal after spending 7 months away from my home comforts and family and friends. So Airbnb was a nice change, nice for a few days and in a big city where there was lots to do! Unfortunately I ended up staying in an Airbnb with a even louder dog to contend with who was also the owners pride and job…oh the joys of travel (I am not a big dog person either).

I was also a bit nervous about travelling solo as a women in South America, you hear so many stories and even before I left New Zealand, people kept saying I was so ‘brave’ to travel alone to South America…..I certainly didn’t feel brave! I think New Zealand had given me a glance back to my life in the UK and I had fallen back into a kind of normality, so landing in Chile felt like me leaving the UK all over again.

Not to help matters, on my first day in Santiago, I witnessed a boy on a bike trying to steal a mobile phone out of someones hand who was right next to me on the pavement. This did nothing to calm my worries and made me feel a little anxious however it also made me think about how this happens all the time in London and that I just had to be sensible with my belongings.

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Road tripping around the South Island – Part 2

Beautiful sunset arriving into the Marlborough Sounds聽and Picton on the ferry from Wellington.

After spending 3 weeks on the north island, I caught the Interislander Ferry from Wellington over to the south island and landed in Picton for 3 days. The ferry was a beautiful way to see the Marlborough Sounds on the northern most point of the South Island and took about 3 hours.

My ride for one month.

I ended up spending over a month on the South Island and decided to hire a car on my own for a month and do a road trip from Picton and down the West Coast, then back up to Christchurch. Driving gave me so much more freedom as there are some places which can be difficult to get to by public transport. I would highly recommend a camper van or car if exploring the South Island. I also ended up purchasing a cheap tent and managed to do some camping in some of the National Parks and towns, which worked out a bit cheaper and was lots of fun! However it did get cold at night, but it was amazing to be able to make use to the great campsites dotted around the South Island.

Here are just a few of my South Island highlights…

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6 months of travels…

So I have been rubbish at keeping my blog up to date! It’s now almost (will be on the 1st March 2017) officially 6 months since I have been away from home and I am going to do some short blog posts on my favourite spots/countries so far…so watch this space.

So far it has all been an adventure and massive learning curb and I am still learning (but loving) every minute of each day I continue to travel. So please keep reading and I will try to post a bit more…

In the meantime this is me feeling content and happy on a beach on Urupukapuka Island (what a name!) which is the largest island of the Bay of Islands on the North Island in New Zealand.

Urupukapuka Island, Bay of Islands, New Zealand.

 

All photographs copyright Jemma Nicholson.

Road tripping round New Zealand – Part 1

I spent two months travelling around New Zealand’s north and south island. Someone told聽me before I arrived that every corner you turn in New Zealand you say ‘WOW’ and it was so true! I landed in Auckland at the beginning of February and even though it was going into Autumn, I was lucky enough to have spectacular weather in my time visiting this beautiful country.

I am lucky enough to have friends and family on the North Island, so I stayed with them when I first arrived, which was so lovely and made me feel at home immediately. Although I was suffering a little bit from culture shock after聽spending 5 months in Southeast Asia, it was made easier by seeing some friends and familiar faces.

As there is so much to mention in regards to New Zealand, I am going to do two blog posts, the first one on the North Island and the second on the South Island. So here are my highlights of the North Island where I spent just under a month.

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