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

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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 about that shortly!

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.
Here’s a quick rundown of the sport which is a lot different to any other contact sport with a ball!

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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 player’s 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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Bolivia’s Death Road

Nearly five kilometres above sea level, travelling 60 kmh+ down a highway in the Bolivian Andes, on a mountain bike competing with trucks, buses and cars, a solid rock cliff-face to my left and a 600m drop to certain death on my right, racing around hairpin turns and surrounded by the most beautiful scenery when I take the risk to look… I have never felt more exhilarated or had so much fun in all my life!
This is mind-blowing excitement at its best and I haven’t even hit the really dangerous section yet!

The Camino de las Yungas or going by its infamous name of Camino de la Muerte (Death Road) or The Worlds Most Dangerous Road, runs from La Paz through the mountains to the town of Coroico, 70kms away and drops from a cold and often snowy 4650m above sea level to a steamy, rainforest at 1200m.
Prior to building the newly paved highway, the North Yungas road served as the main road between the two towns, with high amounts of two-way traffic travelling its narrow, muddy and often unstable path.
Many cars, trucks, buses and cyclists have plunged to their death over the side of the cliffs with the worst tragedy occurring in 1983 when a bus travelling with 100 people aboard succumbed to gravity, everyone perished. Continue reading