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Miami & the Keys

The flight from Grand Cayman to Miami only took an hour or so, we landed mid-afternoon and we went to pick our car up from ‘inside the airport’. What ‘inside the airport’ means at Miami airport is; a 2 kilometer walk, then down a ramp, back up a set of stairs, then to a lift for three floors, then a train, then three escalators, and there was the car hire desk of our choice.

It didn’t take more than five minutes, before the friendly guy behind the desk gave us some paperwork and said go to row 11 in the car park. This is the part where I tell you, that we’d decided to treat ourselves, by being as cliche as possible, and booking a convertible Mustang to cruise around Miami in. Row 11 was all the convertibles, five or six Mustangs and one Camaro, that had just been taken, so we chose which mustang we wanted, and hit the road.

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Grand Cayman

We landed in Grand Cayman on the Wednesday afternoon, we were going to be staying for 11 days and staying with family here; Dawn, Rich and their daughter Chloe. To be honest, Stac was really nervous, we hadn’t stayed in any one  place for 11 days on this trip, so the thought of staying in somebody else home, somebody who she’d only met once before, and I had never met, actually petrified her. It didn’t bother me, we’re used to getting to know strangers, it’s part of the fun of travelling.

Within a couple of hours, all her nerves and angst had disappeared, it turned out that Dawn was exactly the same, pacing up and down waiting for us to arrive because she was just as nervous as Stac, but we got to know each other, all get on well, and became the best of friends. Over the next week and a half, we explored everywhere together, we snorkeled most days, swam with turtles, went to pristine stunning beaches and got to see some stunning spots on what is an amazing island.

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Cuba

We’re currently sat in the airport in La Habana, Cuba, waiting to fly to Grand Cayman, I thought this might be a good time to write this post, whilst the roller coaster of travelling in Cuba is still fresh in our memories. We’ve both been trying for two weeks to come up with adjectives to describe how we have felt whilst travelling here, it’s been up and down for the whole journey, Cuba, in every sense, is unique.

Today, we’ve been on the road for eleven months, and we just can’t really compare Cuba to anywhere else we’ve been so far. When we leave a country, almost every time we summarise it based on the people, there’s the other important things like the food, the costs, the ease of travelling and meeting new friends, but the people are always the lasting memory.

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Mexico Road Trip

The flight from Mexico city to Cancun was only one and a half hours, and we had soon landed, got out of the airport, and went to pick up our hire car. It wasn’t exactly a smooth process, but an hour later, we’d got a decent, couple of years old Seat Toledo, definitely comfortable enough for driving around here for a couple of weeks.

We didn’t want to stay in Cancun, so we drove straight south to Playa del Carmen. This is obviously a very touristy part of Mexico, but until you see it for your self, you don’t really know just how big tourism is here. The hotels that we drove past on the Riviera Maya, which is the coast from Cancun going South, are insanely big, the biggest, grandest resorts you could imagine, with hundreds of rooms in each, and there are dozens of these hotels.

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Mexico City

We flew in the afternoon from Lima to Mexico City, but the flight takes six hours, so we didn’t arrive until almost midnight, we got to our hotel in the centre around 1am and just went to sleep ready to explore the city for the next few days.

Our first day, we got up and I was excited to try the street tacos and show Stac some of the Mexican food, Mexico city is a fantastic city, full of food, music and activity. It didn’t take more than five minutes of walking before we found our first amazingly tasty and spicy street food tacos, they were epic.

Later on, we ate a full set menu lunch with Chicken Mole, soups, drinks etc for just a few pounds each, the Mexican food might not be the healthiest, but its some of the tastiest food in the world. Washed down with an ice-cold beer for £1, it’s perfect.

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Lima

We left Santiago about 3am to go to the Airport, and flew at 6am to Lima, the capital city of Peru. We had always planned to go to Peru on this trip, but we had considered going to Cusco and Machu Pichu, unfortunately we had missed the chance to book the trek, and probably didn’t have the right gear with us to do it anyway, so we just had to settle for a few days in Lima, as a stop between South America and Mexico.

We landed in Lima around 8am, and went straight to the city centre to our hostel. We knew nothing about Lima really as a city, but I knew it was one of the biggest cities in South America, I was a little confused when on the drive to the city, we hardly saw another car.

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Mendoza & Patagonia – Bariloche & Villa La Angostura

Mendoza

Our first overnight bus in South America actually went much quicker and easier than expected, it was due to leave Rosario around 8pm, but it didn’t arrive until an hour later. Within five minutes, it was fully loaded and we were setting off towards Mendoza for the twelve-hour journey.

We got on, immediately they started a game of bingo and the winner got themselves a bottle of cheap Argentinian wine, after this, a Spanish film came on, that was actually an American film, dubbed in Spanish and then with Spanish subtitles also.

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Buenos Aires

We flew from Auckland, for twelve hours, direct to Buenos Aires, Argentina, and experienced the strange sensation of arriving in Buenos Aires before we actually set off. Because we had passed the international date line, we flew at 8pm on the 8th of September and landed in Argentina at 5pm on the same day, now that is efficient travelling.

We had fortunately managed to land ourselves the business lounge in Auckland airport for free with Air NZ, so we had a few relaxed drinks before the long flight, but we were so excited for South America, we barely slept at all overnight.

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New Zealand – North Island

Wellington

The ferry ride to Wellington was, in a word; horrific.

“Better than Milford Sound” they said. “Incredible scenery” they said. “One of the best boat journeys on earth” they said. What they didn’t mention is, that’s only on a good weather day, and unfortunately we had a bad weather day, very bad.

It had rained relentlessly all night, and wasn’t showing any signs of stopping on the morning of the boat, we drove to Picton, boarded the HUGE ferry ship with the car, alongside a few hundred others and set off in to the bay. We’d heard all the superlatives about the Marlborough Sound and how beautiful they were, we just couldn’t see more than about 50 metres away because of the rain and fog.

As soon as we left the Marlborough Sound, and got in to the ocean, we were thrown around like rag dolls for the next two hours. You know it’s not going to be a good morning, when one hour in to your three and a half hour boat ride they’re already coming round with cups of ice and more sick bags.

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New Zealand – South Island

Christchurch

We landed in Christchurch in the afternoon, it was throwing it down with rain, but we went straight to pick up the car that we would be driving for the next 24 days, and we weren’t too impressed at what we were given, it was an old Mazda, with over 100k already on the clock, and didn’t even have central locking, it certainly wasn’t what we imagined driving for 5,000 km around New Zealand, and definitely not what we had paid for.

Because of the bad weather, and the fact that the office was about to close, we put up with it for now and headed for our apartment. The apartment was tiny, but nice, they then charged us an extra $10 to park the car which we weren’t too happy with but we just put up with it and walked down to the supermarket, for a bottle of wine, in the pouring rain.

We picked up a bottle of wine and some snacks, but when we got to the checkout, the staff and even the store manager refused to serve us without our passports, which were ten-minutes walk away in the rain. Even though we had multiple other forms of ID on us, and hadn’t needed ID once in the week we spent in Auckland. Christchurch wasn’t going great so far.

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