From Santiago, Chile to Mendoza, Argentina: Border Delays, Snow and Beautiful Andes Scenery

I planned to leave Santiago on the 1st of May and take a bus to Mendoza, Argentina. The only problem was the high altitude Andes Mountains border crossing’s exposure to snow storms, landslides and other road-closing events.

On the 1st I caught the metro and eventually found the correct bus station (Santiago has several). There I was told the border was closed. As I had bought my ticket online, I could not change it at the bus station and needed to telephone the website operator for a refund.

The next day the border remained closed.

The border reopened on the 3rd of May so I packed up again and took the metro with Noe and Santiago (the person) who were returning to Cordoba, Argentina. At the bus station we met Aivy, a Lithuanian materials scientist going home via Rio. Aivy had accepted a post-doctorate position in the USA researching adhesives for climbing robots on a project funded by NASA. Together the four of us bought tickets, visited a nearby supermarket and waited to catch our van.

From Santiago, Chile to Mendoza, Argentina

Andes Mountains on the Chilean side Continue reading

A Birthday Gift to Remember

A few weeks ago my sister Shannon turned 40. Last year I knew I was going to be away for the birthday so to make up for it, I thought, what would be a dream gift for this wonderful sister, daughter, mother, cousin, niece, colleague and friend? As Shannon is yet to experience the joy of overseas travel, a holiday abroad would be an amazing present for her to remember forever.

I told family about the holiday gift idea and they were very supportive so I developed a plan to enable this gift without Shannon knowing. A protected OzCrowd fund-raising page, a secret Facebook event and complicit family and friends were key aspects of this plan.

Random Title (Medium)

As the campaign title and main image were publicly visible I chose a generic title and image

Private Ozcrowd Campaign (Medium)

Accessing the fund-raising campaign page required a password

Continue reading

Perth to Sao Paulo via Abu Dhabi

I’m writing this from the friendly Hostel Alice in Sao Paulo, the Southern Hemisphere’s largest city and Brazil’s business and transportation centre. Although it’s obvious in hindsight, I didn’t realise Sao Paulo was named after St Paul from Tarsus in modern day Turkey, a town nearby my former hometown Mersin.

My journey from Perth to Sao Paulo took only two flights but an indirect route and long duration (36 hours). Cara kindly dropped my off at Perth Airport and there I boarded the 11.5 hour Etihad flight to Abu Dhabi. Etihad plane at Perth Airport

The Etihad plane taxiing to the gate, Perth Airport

Etihad’s service and modern plane impressed me although their food was average. I loved the provision of noise-cancelling headphones, particularly since I left mine home in the interests of reducing baggage weight and space.

Abu Dhabi International Airport

After touching down at Abu Dhabi International Airport

With 10 hours overnight in between flights, sleep was key. I knew Abu Dhabi Airport had sleeping pods and I went to find them. I guess I already gave off a backpacker vibe because, when asked about the pods, the information desk man showed me a price list to check if I could afford one before pointing me in the right direction.

Interior of Abu Dhabi Airport Sleeping Pod

My sleeping pod interior with the cover closed, Terminal 3, Abu Dhabi International Airport

After eventually finding GoSleep Sleeping Pods, the woman kindly offered eight hours for the price of seven. At AUD 95 (they accepted multiple currencies) for seven hours, I bet many backpackers do indeed choose a bench instead.

Abu Dhabi Airport Sleeping Pod

The open sleeping pod

The sleeping pod room was dark and somewhat noisy but the combination of earplugs and my excellent Hibermate Sleep Mask with Ear Muffs blocked out all noise and light. The six hours of sleep was golden and made this long journey manageable. Although expensive for what it is, I recommend the sleeping pods for anyone who needs a sleep and isn’t claustrophobic.

The view shortly after departing Abu Dhabi

The view shortly after departure from Abu Dhabi

Rivers near the West African coast

Rivers near the West African coastline

The 14.5 hour Jet Airways operated flight for Etihad from Abu Dhabi to Sao Paulo flew over a significant chunk of Africa and the Atlantic Ocean, both firsts for me. The African mountains, rivers and plains looked attractive from the sky and the continent is definitely on my future places to visit list.

When not looking out the window, I spent most of my time playing an addictive arcade game on Etihad’s E-Box entertainment system causing the system to crash twice from overuse.

Waters offshore Brazil contain some of the world’s deepest, most technically-difficult to extract and largest reserves of oil and gas. From the plane I was surprised at number and density of the drill ships, production platforms and support vessels.

First sight of the South American continent

My first ever view of the South American continent (and continental Brazil)

The South American continent came into view indicating my journey end and South American adventures start.

Sao Paulo from the air

This photo provides an indication of how massive Sao Paulo is

Jet Airways plane at Sao Paulo Airport

The Jet Airways plane after landing at Sao Paulo’s Guarulhos International Airport

After landing and going through Brazilian immigration, I was thankful to have prearranged a transfer through the hostel. Luckily Sao Paulo’s infamous traffic behaved itself and the journey into this mega city went smoothly.