The Witches Market of La Paz

El Mercado de las Brujas… the name just rolls off the tongue and straight into the cauldron. For some, it conjures up images of elderly ladies with sun-withered skin and charms strung around their neck who beckon you into their small, gritty stall decorated with shriveled animal parts for fortunes told.

la paz bolivia witches market 4Alas, it’s a little more touristy but fortunately, there’s still plenty of interesting sights to see at Bolivia’s Witches Market in La Paz.

You’ll know you’re in the right area when you spot the tiny herds of dried, llama fetuses hanging out the front that are sure to startle a few wide-eyed tourists.

While you might cry, Whyyy, what did those lil unfortunates do to deserve that?!’ keep in mind that llamas have a high natural abort rate due to genetically fragile wombs and with the animal being common livestock in Bolivia, the desiccated carcasses in varying stages of development, aren’t exactly hard to come by.  Continue reading

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Fremantle Fishing Boat Harbour

Backyard Tourist – Welcome to My Fremantle

 

Sometimes when your next big trip is too far away but the travel itch is compelling you to do something, anything! It might pay to look at your hometown through the eyes of a visitor.

The port city of Fremantle, lies 22kms south-west of Western Australia’s capital, Perth. Initially a separate town, suburban sprawl has connected the two in the past few decades.

Young by European or even US standards, but old in Anglo-Australian years, it was settled only because they didn’t want those cheese-eating surrender monkeys (the French), to colonise part of Australia. They’d been hanging around the coasts and the British, who’d been a bit blasé about the west,  finally gave in to Captain Stirling who was lobbying for a free settlement here.
Two years later in 1830, my 3rd great grandfather arrived at the new Swan River Colony which is why I feel such a connection with the place.

There are three main reasons for visiting Fremantle, the history, the café culture and the art scene. Continue reading

Top Tips for Tokyo

Tokyo has got to be one of my favourite cities in the world. It has everything you want in a destination; it’s ultra modern but peppered with pockets of old Edo, the food is amazing, it’s easy to get around and the city is one of the safest in the world.

If you’re heading to Japan and not really sure what to expect, here’s a couple of tips to get the ball rolling!

Public Transport

Tokyo has an excellent rail system and should definitely be your first choice in getting around, so make sure your accommodation has a station within walking distance.
One thing that is a bit confusing when you first arrive in the city is the trains and this confusion is mainly caused by the fact that there are separate rail companies, each with their own network. If you intend to travel around Japan and have a JR Pass, you can use this for JR’s local stations but you can’t use it on the other networks.

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Tokyo train coming into a station

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Best Places to see Cherry Blossoms in Japan

There are many icons of Japan; sumo’s, sushi, weird sex robots, but my favourite would have to be cherry blossoms. Sakura, as they’re known in Japan, bloom once a year all over the country and the Japanese go mad for it! There’s festivals, decorations everywhere, sakura themed food and everyone flocks to their nearest park to sit under the trees to admire the blossoms, often with a picnic known as Hanami, with little plates to share and lots of sake!

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People enjoying Hanami in Maruyama Park, Kyoto

The blooms progress is reported nightly on the news as it builds up from the first opening to peak bloom, when the whole tree is covered in tiny flowers in hues of white, pink, magenta and even red. The peak only lasts around a week or two before the wind blows them away in what is known as a hanafubuki, a cherry blossom storm.

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Hanafubuki at the Imperial Palace, Tokyo

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The Great Australian Game

 

If you follow any Australian’s on social media, you’ll probably see mentions of ‘footy’, ‘Aussie Rules’, ‘speccies’ and a host of other foreign words. They’re talking about football, Australian Rules football and… well a speccie’s a speccie but we’ll talk more of that shortly! Here’s a quick run down of the sport which is a lot different to any other contact sport with a ball!

You never know, one day you might find yourself visiting Australia during footy season and may wish to partake in this traditional local custom, whether it be watching the game at a pub (relaxed bar) with a mob (group) of sport enthusiasts over pints of beer, or if you’re really lucky, you can head to a game to experience the electric atmosphere of this great sport of aerial ping-pong.

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A perfect weekend involves beer + pub + footy, if you can’t get to a game

The game was first codified in Victoria in 1859, so it is actually one of the oldest sports of the modern era. It is commonly thought that Australian Rules is an offshoot of Gaelic Football, but while there are similarities, Gaelic football was codified 30 years after the Australian game. More likely is that the sport was influenced by the indigenous game of Marn Grook which involved large teams over an even larger playing area, kicking a stuffed, possum skin ball and punt kicking it to other players. There weren’t many rules in the game but individual players who exhibited outstanding skills such as leaping high over others, were celebrated and this is probably the skill which eventually turned into the ‘mark’ in Australian Rules. This is where a player catches the ball from a kick where the ball otherwise hasn’t been interfered with by other players. Sometimes the player will launch themselves from another players back to gain extra height and if they complete the mark, without dropping the ball, this is known as a speccie (from spectacular).

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Example of a speccy (high-skill, high-altitude mark)

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Going Bush…

East Woody Point

The little, tin boat I’m in is starting to feel even smaller as I spot another giant Tuna jumping through the water, chasing a school of bait fish. Hundreds of birds hover above taking turns to dive head first into the turquoise waters hoping to surface with a meal in their beak just as a dozen sea eagles swoop in and fly off with a tasty silver fish in their claws. The top of the waters bubble as the bait fish scramble to get away, but my eyes cannot see the larger fish below herding them towards the shallower waters.
Nearby, a large white crane stands stoically on a flooded sandbank, passively watching the scene around him. Dugongs, dolphins and sea turtles glide through the waters beneath, unseen today, but I know they’re there.

One more creature to spot and then I’ve finally ticked off ‘The Big Five’ out of the wildlife found in this hot and humid, sunkissed land.
Scanning the edge of the water as we potter past slowly in the little, tin boat, I’m hoping to see the fifth or at least the flick of its giant tail as the beast scatters back into the jungle-like foliage.

It’s a pretty remote place here, I’ll give you that, the majority of visitors fly here and even the local people prefer a plane over enduring the very long and very bumpy 10 hour drive down a corrugated bush track to get to the nearest town. For six months of the year, the whole community and surrounding tribal lands are cut off from civilisation by the rising banks of the rivers that flow through the area. Fresh supplies to the community have to be shipped in weekly and heaven forbid if the seas are too rough for the barge to dock in what are normally some of the brightest aqua waters you’ve ever seen!  Continue reading

The Day Machu Picchu Was Mine

In a mountain jungle high above the clouds, I can look down upon a sprawling puzzle of stone, combined  like an ancient God’s lego stash. Most pieces resemble the walls of houses or terraces with loose stones lying in the emerald green grass waiting to find their place in the rocky mosaic. The only sound floating in the breeze is the fossicking of llamas keeping the lawns trim, the scurry of furry chinchillas enjoying an evening dust bath and my mate yelling from a ledge above, “This is fucking awesome! I can’t believe we have the whole place to ourselves!”

Machu Picchu…for most young, modern explorers, it is the epitome of any South American backpacking trip, but the majority will have to share this once-in-a-lifetime experience with about 500 other tourists. This can remove some of the majestic vibe of the ancient Incan ruins, which only had its first set of foreign eyes look upon it just over 100 years ago. But imagine having the whole place to yourself! Not even a park employee looking over your shoulder! See, while most people train in and out on the same day, thus ensuring they have to leave the mountain in the late afternoon to get the last train back to Cusco, not many people stay overnight.
This is how we came to have one of the Seven Modern Wonders of the World…all..to..ourselves. Continue reading