Archive for May, 2013

Paul_Gauguin_-_Three_Tahitian_WomenI’ve been off air for a while due to having been rather busy and a further series of IT woes that I wont bore you with. However I have lots to catch up on, so my apologies for the number of posts coming your way in quick succession.

As ever I will start with the ladies and in particular the local Tahitian women who are stunning. The artist Paul Gaugain moved to Tahiti and was inspired by the local women, painting them many times.

Mutiny on the BountyThe beautiful ladies here were also responsible for the mutiny on HMS Bounty because the crew did not want to leave after an extended stay in the company of the women on the island. Fletcher Christian and most of the crew took control of the ship and then set Lieutenant William Bligh and the renainder of their shipmates adrift in a small boat.

The story has been made into a movie three times and when Marlon Brando was filming his version in 1965 he too succumbed to the charms of the islands, and bought a thirteen island chain circled by a coral reef, which is known as Tetiaroa. It is located 35 miles from the main island of Tahiti, and in accordance with his will, is in the process of being converted into an eco-tourist venture. http://tetiaroa.pf/ 

Miss Tahiti RightAlthough it is not as common as it used to be, many of the local ladies still follow the tradition of wearing flowers behind their ears, which looks fantastic

However wearing a Tahitian gardenia, also sends a signal to any gentlemen who may be interested. If worn tucked behind the left ear, it means the wearer is taken. If worn tucked behind the right ear, it means the wearer is available. Finally waving the flower behind the head means  they want you to follow! Based on this it would appear that the current Miss Tahiti is available. Any takers?

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Pape'ete

Without my board I have flown into Tahiti and landed at Pape’ete the biggest town on the island.

It is a wonderful place which is similar in geography to Hawaii, but it seems to have retained more of it’s island charm, despite the years of French influence. (It is technically part of the European Union.) 

Pearls

The primary industry of the island for many years was the production of pearls which the locals would dive down to the sea bed to prise from oysters.

Pearls are formed inside the shell as a defense mechanism against a potential threat, which can be as simple as a grain of sand. The mollusc creates a pearl sac to seal off the irritation, which then hardens.

Although tourism has probably overtaken it as a revenue generator on the island, there is still a huge operation here in the city, as well as a museum about the history of the jewel here.Pearl Necklace

I am single so the only pearling I will be doing on the island is likely to be the number of face plants I will be doing as a result of surfing crappy second hand boards thanks to LAN airlines!

I am however going out on the town tonight, and am hoping to meet the sort of girl to whom I could give a pearl necklace to.

Wish me luck!

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LAN Airline

I’m afraid I have some bad news. My surfboard and I are no longer an item.

Once I had handed all my baggage and surfboard over at the check-in for Chile’s LAN airline I was told that they wanted $180 just to take my surfboard to Tahiti. It is a frankly ridiculous amount for something that weighs 9Kg, and given I only paid $500 for the board there was no point paying to get it to the island (and of course a similar expense to get it off again.) I could buy a brand new board whilst here and then throw it away at the end of my stay and not be much worse off!

Broken Heart

When I bought my board I made it clear that we would not be together forever, and for some time now I knew a break up was coming but didn’t want to say anything in case things just worked out.

However I told the staff at the airport to take it off the plane because it was the right thing for me to do. They told me I needed to collect it from the offices downstairs, but I already had my boarding pass and there was no time for me to do anything with it other than just dumping it by a bin, and I didn’t have the heart to do that. Instead I chose to leave it at there office, almost jilting it at the altar, just when we were about to get into something special together here in Tahiti. 

sufboard

So many cliches apply: It’s not you, it’s me; I’d like to stay friends; We’re just at very different points in our lives right now; I need my space; I’m just not ready for this kind of relationship; You deserve better than me; and I think we should see other people.

Given the option I would have preferred to have handed it over to a local grommet in a Big Wednesday style, ‘Perhaps one day it will be big enough for you to ride yourself,’ but I didn’t even get to say goodbye.

Sometimes a clean break is best though. However I think I am going to have to go out and find an ugly board for a surf to try and numb the pain. At least for a little while.volcano

As for the money grabbing bastards at LAN. A volcano is about to explode in their airspace, which will ground all of their aircraft due to the associated dust cloud. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-22684322

They will lose millions in lost revenue. It couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch, and their frantic work in their offices to remedy that situation will be further impeeded by a 7’10” trip hazard which is going to get in everybody’s way. I intend on indefinitely getting a little pleasure from that situation by continually promising to collect it tomorrow. There’s mud in your eye!

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Tahiti FlagTahiti was somewhere I had to make time for on my trip, and I am looking forward to the next week there so much.

Heading for the island that is the largest in French Polynesia marks my return to lands of the people who introduced surfing to the world. 

Tahitian SurfThe break of Tea’hupoo (pronounced cho-poo) at the south of Tahiti makes regular appearances in Billabong’s XXL contest, and is also one of the stops on the world championship tour each year.

The pros will be arriving here in August but the swell season has already started. This picture was taken a few weeks ago and the following link will show you more of what the chargers were surfing: http://www.surfline.com/surf-news/teahupoo-returns-round-two_96196/

Mind The GapNot to be outdone I have timed my visit perfectly just as a swell is arriving. (http://magicseaweed.com/Teahupoo-Surf-Report/619/)

Does this mean it will finally be time for my first ever tube ride?

Mind the gap please!

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Moai Heads 2

Easter Island was discovered by Europeans in 1772, but had been inhabited by the local Rapa Nui people for more than a thousand years.

It is most famous for its 887 statues called Moai created by the early Rapa Nui people, all of which face out towards the horizon from the island which is nearly 1300 miles from the nearest land.

Easter_Island_mapMy flight from Chile, to which the islands belong, is landing here to drop off and pick people up on the way to Tahiti where I will be spending the next week.

It is an overnight flight so sadly like every other ancient monument I have missed so far along my route this means I am not going to get the chance to see any of them.

Moai Heads 3I am genuinely disappointed by that, because they are fascinating. I first learned of the giant heads in the 2000AD comic story Hewligans’s Haircut back in the late eighties.

I can’t imagine I am going to get another chance to be somewhere so remote again so will have to make do with these pictures I found online. Gutted!

I should also point out that the island is widely regarded as a warning of the cultural and environmental dangers of exploitation to the modern world, because the Rapa Nui people completely cleared the island of trees to produce and move the monuments into place, which nearly resulted in their own extermination.

Given the carbon footprint of my own trip it is probably best I don’t say a great deal more at this time!

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The AmericasI have travelled the length and bredth of the Americas since I started this trip back in December, but the time has come for me to move on.

It also means that I will no longer need to keep butchering the Spanish language that I have learned to some degree as I have moved south from the USA.

There have certainly been plenty of highs as well as a few lows to keep me grounded on the road, but as ever it is time to move on because the planet has so many more waves on offer for me to enjoy along the rest of this trip.

Las OlasRather fittingly I saw this road sign next to the pizza place on my last night in Chile.

It translates to The Waves, which is an odd name for a road if you ask me, but the sign was pointing westward towards the east and that is exactly where I am going.

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Division ChampionsWhen I moved to London I played 7-a-side football for a team that used white t-shirts as its playing strip, because most people generally have them and we would at least match. (Of course after the laundry incident in Lima I would now clearly have to go in goal if I wanted to play!)

We eventually bought a kit which was supposed to be the third strip of the football team from Chile’s capital city and renamed ourselves Santiago Saints. The new kit worked wonders and you can see us here proudly lifting our bronzo-plastique trophies for being division champions. 

Santiago Skyline

Other than that I really dont have much connection with the city, but wanted to see how good it looked against it’s Andean backdrop while I was in Chile.

I had time on my way to Santiago airport so called in on the modern city and did a bit of sightseeing. 

Coffee-with-legsNot much to report from there but thought some of you might be interested in the concept of ‘Cafe con Piernas’ which are very popular in Santiago.

It translates as ‘Coffee with Legs’ and is exactly what you get. This was one of the more upmarket versions of the shops

However there are also shops where the miniskirt and heels have been replaced with bikini or lingerie clad waitresses, some of whom offer far more than coffee.

I’m not sure Starbucks or Cafe Nero would ever take this theme on though.

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CarabinerosToday’s surf trip did not start very well. I had not gone more than a mile from the hostel before I had been pulled over by a motorcycle policeman.

It appears that the local carabineros took a dim view of me turning left into a one way street then proceeding to drive the length of it travelling in the wrong direction scattering pedestrians as I went, all of whom had understandably been looking the other way when they tried to cross the road. 

Naval Headquarters

The situation was not aided by me not being in possession of either my passport or driving license at the time, and because of this I thought it best not to explain that I had been taking this picture of the wonderful Chilean Naval Headquarters building during my erroneous manoeuvre!

The policeman then followed me back to my hostel, but after I produced the necessary paperwork he was good enough to let me off with a warning and the suggestion that I be more careful.  

Maintencillo 11On of the locals I have met had suggested I head for Maitencillo, as opposed to the two breaks which are available a short distance north of Valparaiso.

It was a glorious day and I was delighted to arrive and only see a handful of people in the water there, unlike the hundreds I had seen at the beginners beaches on the way past. 

DCIM100GOPRO

This was going to be my last surf in the Americas and I wanted to go out with a bang.

The waves were about chest high and although a bit cold the water was beautifully clear.

I caught loads in the late afternoon sun and this is probably the best picture of the day. 

Humbolt Penguin 1I was about to get out quite pleased with myself when the Americas provided one final surprise for me.

A Humbolt Penguin popped up next to me in the water. Now you know you must be quite far south when that happens!

The little bird then hung out with me in the line up for about five minutes. He was swimming around and underneath me, all the while checking me out, whilst I basically did the same in return. A wonderful experience that I suspect will never happen again in my surfing career!

Surf's UpI knew that no matter how good the waves were I would not top that, so caught a last wave in and got changed.

It was a fabulous way to end my time in the water on this side of the Pacific, and as I drove back to the hostel I couldn’t help thinking about the animated movie about surfing penguins ‘Surf’s Up’.

A quick pitstop to buy pizza and beer on the way home, and I then had a great evening  basking in the days events. I can admit to getting more than a bit wobbly from drinking the Stella Artois and some Jack Daniel’s supplied by Natalia who runs the hostel.

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Atacama Large Milimetre Array

The Atacama desert in the north of Chile is the driest place on earth and as a consequence has clear skies on 360 days a year.

This and the altitude of the desert that is 5000m up in the Andes makes it perfect for Astronomy, and a number of large telescopes are already in place there. 

ALMA

The Atacama Large Millimeter/sub-millimeter Array (ALMA) is an astronomical interferometer of radio telescopes and is the project which has taken away funding from the UK’s Infra Red Telescope that I saw on Hawaii back in December. It consists of 66 12-meter and 7-meter diameter radio telescopes observing at millimeter and sub-millimeter wavelengths.

It is the most expensive ground-based telescope in operation, but ALMA is expected to provide insight on star birth during the early universe and detailed imaging of local star and planet formation.

south_skyI don’t have the time to go and see this science marvel but to be honest would settle for a clear night because since I have arrived in South America it has been overcast everywhere I have been.

The southern sky will be keeping me company for the next five months and I want to try and pick out these constellations.

Maybe tomorrow night!

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Fishing Boats 2

The British owner of the hostel I am staying in here in Valparaiso told me something I should check out out at breakfast this morning, so I went off to see if it is true.

The first thing was an elaborate drive to find the fish market, which is adjacent to where all the local boats come ashore. 

Fishing Boats Pier

The fish are gutted straight off the boats so they are ready for sale, and you can ask the fishermen for a bag of entrails, heads and spines.

Take my word on this, it is at least as grotty as it sounds!

You then take your bag of fish bits along the fishermen’s jetty and then peer over the side at about 11am. 

Sea Lions 2

The local sea lions have long since realised that the fishermen will be throwing their waste over the side when they finish work at this time, and turn up regular as clockwork looking for an easy meal.

As a consequence the whole group of them will then follow you up and down the length of the jetty, all the while barking at you to throw more fish guts their way. Despite ending up with fingers that are not at all pleasant it is so much fun and really worth the effort if you are ever in this part of the world. It is like getting to take part in feeding time at the zoo!

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