Galapagos Day 6

October 25th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

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Our last day in the Galapagos, and a rainbow as we arrive at San Cristobal Island. We were meant to fly out just after lunch, so were not expecting to see much today.

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However the place we went to was packed full of breeding birds and sea lions. Here you can see a new born booby under their father or mother (they take turns)

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Here you see Mum, Dad and two chicks.

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And a close up of the two chicks.

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Just five metres from the boobies, were scores of sea lions and cubs.

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The cub on the left having a feed.

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And some play fighting.

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We then headed into the main town, which is also the political capital.

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Had to laugh at this. This was designed as a slide for children into the lagoon, but the sea lions colonised it.

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And they have taken over this bus shelter also.

Now we were meant to leave around now, but our flight was delayed by three hours so a guide took us to a local beach.

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There we saw two iguanas having a fight for domination. They butted heads constantly for ten minutes or so.

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A sea lion cub born that day.

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And this cub is just a couple of hours old.

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I love this shot – people sub bathing at the beach, along with a few dozen sea lions.

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You can see how close you get to them.

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They are quite large, as you can see.

After that we headed to the airport which was five minutes away and flew back to Quito.

Was an amazing six days. Photos can’t do it justice. The variety, the quantity and the closeness of the bird, land and sea life was amazing. The Galapagos have a place in our history helping Darwin On The Origin Of Species, which is the cornerstone of evolution today. But even 185 years on, it is still a unique and incredible place to visit.

 

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Galapagos Day 5

October 25th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

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On Day 5 we sailed around Isabela over to Santiago Island where we did our first wet landing from the zodiacs.

Spent around 90 minutes walking around, including through this area which looked like a movie set.

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We then got this view from higher up.

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Back down below, this is a lagoon during the wet season.

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This is where a sea turtle has dug a hole to lay her 100 to 120 eggs. Once she has laid them she takes off, and they are left to the warm sand to hatch them after 90 days.

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Had a nice walk along the beach, and then went swimming for a while. I had a pelican fishing just three metres from me in the sea.

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Lots of Ghost Crabs around. I love how they scuttle sideways.

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A Galapagos Whimbrel enjoying the sea

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This Galapagos Hawk landed in a tree next to us and stayed there for an hour or so, despite us being metres from it.

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After lunch we went to a different bay and this is where we landed. I love the sea lion, iguana and crabs all in the same picture.

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These sea lions are in a pre-mating ritual. He seems keener than her.

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This picture is from just two metres away. This is the amazing thing in the Galapagos – the birds allow you to get so close.

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A Yellow Crowned Heron.

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American Oystercatchers.

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A Plover

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We saw some fur sea lions also but this is a Galapagos Sea Lion cub.

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I wanted to take him home!

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And a newly born cub feeding off Mum.

After this we went snorkelling again. I saw two white tipped sharks, and also got accidentally (well I think it was an accident) rammed by a large marine iguana.

When I got back on shore after seeing the sharks, I noticed my knee was bleeding from where I had been thrown against some rocks. In hindsight following sharks while bleeding may not have been the best idea!

 

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Galapagos Day 4

October 24th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

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On Day 4 we went to Fernandina Island which is the only major island with no introduced species. This Great Blue Heron greeted us as we came ashore.

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The marine iguanas and sea lions sunbathe next to each other.

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On this island are 250,000 marine iguanas. It is basically their island. They are everywhere  and you have to be careful not to stand on one.

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This is the current alpha male sea lion. He spent quite a bit of time bellowing at us. If you bellowed back he might take it as a challenge and attack.

The alpha male doesn’t eat while he is the alpha, as he spends his time protecting the territory. Hence on average they last only 20 days in the job until they get defeated by someone else.

However not all bad, as once defeated they go to a separate island with all the bachelor males, and single females and enjoy themselves there.

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Cute – a baby iguana looking out on top of an adult.

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The rare Flightless Cormorant. This is their nesting area.

These birds can’t fly but they have adapted as they can dive up to 25 metres under thewater to hunt fish.

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More marine iguanas.

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A lava lizard.

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A baby Flightless Cormorant under his or her mother.

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An Iguana swimming in the water. The next day when I was snorkeling I had one swim into me!

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They look like they are posing for a rugby photo!

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These two baby sea lion cubs playing in a rock pool.

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The Galapagos Hawk, up a tree some distance away.

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We did three water activities today, after the walk. Two lots of snorkeling, and also went kayaking. This is a couple of our shipmates.

The snorkeling was great – in the morning we got to swim with some very playful sea lions. We are told to go no closer than six feet, but no one told the sea lions that. They hovered all around us and followed us for ages.

In the afternoon snorkel, we had some penguins swim past us, barely a metre away. Also a great experience.

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Got this photo of the pelican while out kayaking.

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We then headed up top to go whale watching. No whales, but some rays doing jumps and flips, and lots of sea lions and turtles.

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The sun setting.

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And we crossed the equator from South to North at 7.16 pm, as you can see from this GPS on the Bridge.

 

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Galapagos Day 3

October 24th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

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On Day 3 we sailed to the West of Isla Isabela and went ashore at Punta Moreno.

It is lava basically everwhere.

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A cactus in the lava.

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And slowly life is returning, including this flower.

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Some of the lava. This type is almost in sheets.

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While in other areas it is very rocky.

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Growing in the lava is of course a lava cactus.

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And a Galaneau living in a lava tube.

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And who would have thought, but a family of six flamingos have settled in the middle of the lava, in a little lake that has formed there.

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A close up of a pink flamingo.

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A lava lizard.

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Out on the rocks, the penguins and iguanas happily share.

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A blue footed boobie giving us the stare.

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While in the zodiac, we had some bottled nosed dolphins turn up!

It is quite rare to see them, so we were lucky.

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This pelican guarding his rock.

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This time penguins and crabs on the same rock.

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In the afternoon we did a zodiac (they call them pungas) trip through the mangroves.

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Love these trees.

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A Great Blue Heron.

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That is a sea turtle underneath the water.

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A pelican flying alongside us.

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And back to the boat.

We also did snorkeling in the late morning and that was incredible. I shot some underwater video but don’t have the cord with me to transfer the files. But masses of fish, and a couple of dozen giant sea turtles. Getting to swim alongside or above a majestic sea turtle was so cool.

 

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Galapagos Day 2

October 23rd, 2014 at 4:30 pm by David Farrar

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We moved overnight to Isla Isabela.

The second day was amazing in terms of what we saw, in just the one day.  It started with a zodiac ride out to the White Tipped Reef Shark Canal. On the way there we saw out first sighting of the Blue Footed Booby.

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Waiting for us on shore was a Sally Lightfoot Crab.

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And also on shore were lots of marine iguanas. This one has a young one on its back.

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Down in the water were the white tipped reef sharks.

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A beautiful brown pelican.

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An American Oyster Catcher.

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You may have to look twice here to see the dozens of iguanas!

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This sea lion gave birth not long ago to her cub.

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As we walked back along the beach, the iguanas were everywhere. You had to literally step to get around them.

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Then after lunch we headed back into the main settlement. This sea lion had decided one of the boats makes a good sleeping spot.

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While this sea lion caught a fish.

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We then did a two hour return trek up the Sierra Negra Volcano. The view at the top was fantastic. We were very lucky to manage to do it on a day with no clouds up there.

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The crater (which is active) is 7 kms long and 11 kms wide.

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A typical landscape on Isabela.

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Back at the waterfront, a pelican at home on a roof.

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Some Galapagos Penguins swimming.

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An Eagle Ray under the water.

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This photo is from an amazing scene which lasted 20 minutes or so. A school of fish came into the waterfront area, and the boobies were dive bombing the area like kamikaze pilots. They fly straight down into the water, and can descend to five metres below, to try and catch a fish, and bring it up. They can even steer and swim under there.

Seeing dozens of boobies dive bombing nearly non-stop was amazing.

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Then we went to the lagoons and saw a pink Greater Flamingo.

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After that we went to the second of the three land tortoise breeding centres where we saw Grant Robertson, Andrew Little and David Parker, with David Cunliffe heading off in the background.

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Some of the smaller tortoises all bunched up together, and even walking over each other.

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A Galapagos Yellow Warbler.

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This is a two month old baby tortoise. You can see how vulnerable they would be in the wild to predators.

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A Great Frigatebird overhead.

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We then had a spare hour in the town, with this lovely beach.

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The iguanas are not just on the isolated islands, but these two were just sunbathing in town.

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This sea lion enjoying the park bench.

We saw an incredible variety of creatures, and all in just one day.  Apart from the density and variety of them, what is perhaps unique is how unafraid of humans they are.  Nothing runs away from you – to the contrary many of them come over to you to show off.

 

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Galapagos Day 1

October 23rd, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

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This is Baltra Airport on Isla Baltra, which is the main airport into the Galapagos. Flew from Santiago to Quito the night before, got into out hotel at Quito around 10 pm and had to be up at 3 am to get back to the airport for an early morning flight to Baltra.

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We then took a bus, ferry and another bus (around an hour all up) to the Charles Darwin Station on Isla Santa Cruz. This is the biggest settlement on the Galapagos. We then went out to our catamaran, the Grand Odyssey. The rooms are huge – 25 square metres, and you get a panoramic view from the windows.

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Up on the top deck are two spa pools, a number of double sun beds and a bar.

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Then after lunch we went to the breeding centre for young land tortoises. Here you can see a baby tortoise, not much bigger than the shoots.

Due to introduced species, only 1% of tortoises in the wild make it to 25 (when they can reproduce). 80% die before they are eight years olds. The breeding centres protect them until they are eight, when their carapaces are hard enough to protect them more.

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They have a few older tortoises here also, including Lonesome George who was the last of his species and died just two years ago in 2012. It wasn’t all bad for George though as he shared his enclosure with two female tortoises from another species. They tried to mate them, but there were no eggs before he died. However the female tortoises can store his sperm for up to three years so if one of them gives birth in the next year, his species may partially live on.

This is a saddleback tortoise above.

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A larger male land dome shape tortoise.

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They also breed land iguanas here, to help boost their population. The marine iguanas are plentiful, but not so much the land ones.

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This fatter one looks very happy and content. However they are kept in separate enclosures as they can get aggressive and fight.

 

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DPF out of touch

October 18th, 2014 at 12:16 pm by David Farrar

For the next five days I am in an area with no cellphone coverage and no Internet coverage.  Hence I will be uncontactable, for anyone wanting to contact me.

This also means I will not be blogging obviously!

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Santiago Day 2

October 17th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

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This is the exterior of the boutique hotel we were at.

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A few blocks away was the Cerro Santa Lucía. A great area to visit, and get excellent views from.

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After the initial climb, then some flat park like area.

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We were going to pop into the Castillo Hidalgo, but there were Police everywhere. It seems a meeting of Latin American Finance Ministers was being held there.

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The entrance to the Castillo Hidalgo.

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Then another steep climb to the top.

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A great view of the city from here.

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Sadly there is graffiti everywhere, including on the plants!

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A little ancient church on the hill.

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Many of the Police around this area are on horseback. A majority of the officers are female, or at least the ones we saw.

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Neptune’s Terrace towards the far end. Very beautiful.

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And at the entrance at the far end.

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This park stretches for several blocks, and is a popular place to relax.

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It has one of their many museums and art galleries in it.

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More of the park area.

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A fountain and statue to Rubén Darío. He was a famous Latin American poet.

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And the front of the fountain that is near out hotel. Took around three hours to do both parks, plus an art gallery.

 

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Santiago

October 15th, 2014 at 3:06 pm by David Farrar

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In Santiago for a couple of days. This is Barrio París-Londres, which is a nice cobble-stoned area.

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In this area is a building called London 38. It was a detention and torture centre under Pinochet. Outside the building are the names and ages of those who died inside it. 219 people died or disappeared.

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This is inside the San Francisco Church, which was consecrated in 1622. It is the oldest building in Chile.

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A photo of some of the roof tiles.

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This is the back of La Moneda Palace, the office of the President of Chile. It started construction in 1784.

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Underneath the palace, is the Centro Cultural Palacio de La Moneda.

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Two of the presidential guards. Note they have daggers, not guns!

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Inside the Santiago Metropolitan Cathedral which began construction in 1748. Its predecessors had somehow angered God who destroyed them in earthquakes.

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A view of Santiago from the Santiago Metropolitan Park. It is very smoggy here, but still a great view of the city nestled behind the Andes. I’m told the view in winter is absolutely spectacular.

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In the afternoon we did some wine tasting at Concha y Toro. It is the second largest wine producer in the world.

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The best wine is kept down in the old cellars. Each barrel of wine is worth around $45,000.

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In the old days, the owner spread a rumour that the devil lurked down in the cellar, and it seems this was enough to deter would be thieves. Today it would probably attract them!

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Snakes on a plane!

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This is the wine blackboard at the Bocanariz Restaurant. It is one of the top restaurants in Santiago, and we managed to get in without a booking. Highly recommended. Rated No 4 out of 1,404 on Trip Advisor.

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This is in the Parque Forestal, which is opposite the hotel we are staying at. We’re at the Su Merced Boutique Hotel which has just nine rooms. The rooms are quite spacious and nice, and the location is right in the centre of town.

My first ever time in Latin America. Having a direct flight from Auckland helped.

 

 

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An Unseasonable Fall of Snow

September 26th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

An Unseasonable Fall of Snow, at Circa, is one of those plays that grips you from the first minute and never lets go. It is a play full of mystery. Who is Arthur the interrogator? Is he a police officer? A lawyer? And what exactly is it that young Liam has done?

It is a who dun it, but not in the usual way. For 90 minutes you are intrigued and guessing, and then somewhat stunned and moved as it all comes together.

The play is a fest of Brophys. Well known Geraldine Brophy is the director. The other three Brophys are not related to Geraldine but are father Jed, mother Yolande and son Riley.

Jed and Riley play Arthur and Liam respectively, and both excel. They portray their characters with conviction and you the tension between them is excellent.

Yolande plays Toni, a brief but important character, and she is also the production manager.

For me to enjoy a play, I have to get an emotional connection, and this play not only made the connection but sustained it for 90 minutes. The sense of mystery, the tension between the two leads, the slow revealing of clues, and the, shall we call it,  moment of truth. A simple yet effective set supported by sympathetic lighting all contributed to a great experience.

It’s one of those rare plays I’d quite like to go back and see a second time, to see what clues I didn’t pick up early on.

The play is set in Wellington, which also adds to the enjoyment and familiarity. It is on until Saturday 4 October.

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Farrar v Farrier

September 22nd, 2014 at 3:41 pm by David Farrar

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Poor David Farrier from TV3 has been getting abused on Twitter by angry lefties. To help reduce the confusion we posed for this explanatory photo.

It would be preferable if angry lefties didn’t abuse anyone at all (or just self abused), but if they do have to abuse someone, at least get the right person.

I am @dpfdpf on Twitter and Farrier is @davidfarrier for future reference.

David Farrier writes at 3 News about the confusion:

On Twitter, things were more violent. Left-leaning members of society were less puzzled and more angry:

“Are you happy now you National twat”, and “F**k you and Whaleoil”.

On Sunday morning, no doubt after a rousing night out on the town, I got a message from Farrar:

“So sorry for all the abuse you got, meant for me. If you’re around this pm, I’ll shout you a drink.”

It seemed like a good idea, if only for the chance to figure out a way to spread the message that we are two very different people. The evening rolled around and I was given the address of the private residence where he was staying.

Now, this was all a sort of off-the-record affair, but what I will say is that I walked in to a beaming array of National Party faces: all radiant, all excited, and all victorious.

They were well-groomed and smelt delicious. I was an unkempt mess, dressed in jeans and a hoodie. I felt like I had taken a wrong turn somewhere. I believe I got a small pang of what Goldilocks perhaps felt as she walked over the threshold.

I was welcome with open arms. I wine was put in my hand and a wonderful spread awaited me at the table. It looked like a feast fit for a king. I was later informed it was leftovers.

For me – not particularly well-versed in the intricacies of politics – it was a fascinating insight.

We talked bloggers, TV coverage, left, right, Dotcom, Colin Craig. We all seemed to be having fun. I felt like I had teleported into someone else’s body, sitting at that table. I imagine that to them, I was like an amusing jester who’d arrived for some light relief.

Towards the end of our evening, I got out some post-it notes and a vivid, and then we took a photo in the kitchen.

As you can tell, we are definitely different people. But like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito in Twins, we had a nice time together. Our movie probably wouldn’t do as well at the box office though.

Hopefully there will be less confusion in future!

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A Public Reading of an Unproduced Screenplay about the Death of Walt Disney

September 4th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Circa has put on a production of A Public Reading of an Unproduced Screenplay about the Death of Walt Disney.

The play, written by Lucas Hnath started on Broadway, and I think this is the first time it has been produced in New Zealand.

I was excited to see the play, as it starred David McPhail as Walt Disney. However, despite some very good acting, I found the play overall under-whelming.

The four actors did well. I loved seeing David McPhail on the stage, and he looked and felt the part of a domineering boss. Maybe he was channeling his years spent playing Muldoon.

Nick Blake played Walt’s brother Roy. Roy was CEO of Disney for many years and was portrayed as the guy kept in the shadows by Walt, and even used by Walt as a foil. His depiction of Roy was very sympathetic .

Jessica Robinson played Walt’s daughter (Diane, but not named in the play). She had few lines but they were the best parts, especially when she said she didn’t want to call a son Walt, because “When I say your name, I think all sorts of things I don’t want to think. When I say your name, I think of you, and when I think of you I get all angry, and when I think of you and the way you act, and the way you yell …”

And Richard Falkner played Ron, Walt’s son-in-law. He was portrayed as a bit of a sports focused jock (and looked the part). He wanted a role with the Disney empire, even as a cleaner, but was not seen up to scratch.

The cast did well, and I liked the production details such as having Diane and Ron on stage through all the scenes where they didn’t talk, but reacting with facial expressions. Robinson especially conveyed as much with her expressions as her line.

But overall I found the play hard to get into. It livened up around half way through, but it did not emotionally engage me. There was some dramatic tension and humour, but you never felt particularly warm or repulsed to any of the characters. It almost seemed ordinary, except it was about the family of Walt Disney.

It could have been redeemed (and the fault is with the script, not the local production) if the play was based on real events. I like plays where you learn stuff about someone famous, especially a side not seen before. One could do a very good play about the darker side of Walt Disney. He was on the fringes of the anti-semitic movement, and he had feuds lasting decades with staff.

But the focus on the family didn’t work for me, as it seems to be more speculation than fact. While Disney may have been a difficult father, his daughter actually is very loyal to him, and has attacked other works criticising him. She even set up the family museum in his honour. And one of her sons is named Walter.

The son-in-law actually was CEO of Disney for many years, so wasn’t a thicko. And the stuff on Disney wanting to be cryogenically frozen is a debunked urban legend.

John Smythe at Threatreview commented:

It’s entirely possible A Public Reading of an Unproduced Screenplay about The Death of Walt Disney could work much better in the relative intimacy of Circa Two – and I have a strong feeling Destination Beehive (in Circa Two with its cast of eight) is destined to sell out and leave many punters disappointed. If it was logistically possible for the shows to swap venues, I think they should.

I’d endorse that. This play is unlikely to have mass appeal, but it is still an interesting insight into the Disney empire.

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Destination Beehive

September 1st, 2014 at 4:32 pm by David Farrar

Went to Circa yesterday to see Destination Beehive, and I laughed almost non stop for 80 minutes.

It’s a great production that anyone who has even a small interest in politics will adore. Pinky Agnew and Lorae Perry have combined a topical hilarious script, with some great acting and some mashed up tunes that are very catchy.

The basic premise is that you are in a Meet the Candidates meeting for Port Nicholson. Through a combination of video, and live acting, you meet the ten local candidates, and their party leaders (or senior MPs).

The mixture of video, singing, music, acting and even weather reports are a fabulous combination.

A cast of eight play multiple characters. They all did really well, but the one that I must highlight is Jack Buchanan. His Colin Craig character was side splitting. He also played a leggy Jacinda Ardern and the ALCP candidate. some of the costume changes were done in less than a minute.

The play was updated to keep event of currents events. We went on Sunday, and they had a piece on Judith Collins’ resignation the previous day.

Labour had a secret surprise candidate for Port Nic, who may just turn out to be the next Leader of the Labour Party.

One audience members got dragged up onto stage to get a “political makeover”. What was very funny is that unknown to the cast, the person they chose is a senior ministerial staffer. She took her makeover in good grace!

All parties, leaders and candidates are mercilessly mocked. No on is spared. Kim Dotcom makes an appearance, and his local candidate is a very Bavarian Heidi Dotcodotnz.

Crowd favourite was Dame Kate Harcourt playing the NZ First candidate. She was, as always, just superb.

Whale Oil got more mentions than most MPs. Luckily Kiwiblog was mentioned only once!

There are many great musical parodies, including take off’s of Lorde’s Royals. The crowd really got into it, and started singing along.

There’s also a great dance number at the end that will surprise.

This is one of those plays that I can recommend you see without hesitation. It’s on at Circa until 20 September. You’ll kick yourself if you miss it.

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It seems the feminists work for me!!

August 27th, 2014 at 1:35 pm by David Farrar

Peter Zohrab has done an open letter to the Speaker of the House.

27 August 2014

The Speaker Rt. Hon. David Carter
Parliament
Parliament House
Wellington

Dear Mr. Carter,

On 26 August 2014, Human Rights lawyer, Tony Ellis, said in an interview on Television New Zealand that Human Rights are only paid lip service to. It was not clear whether he was referring to human rights in general in New Zealand, but that may well be the case! 

On August 1st 2014, some Men’s Rights activists, including myself, were mounting a demonstration outside Bowen House, Wellington, which of course houses the offices of many Members of Parliament.  Three security guards who were working inside Bowen House came out — one-by-one and later en masse — to harass us, by questioning us and implying that what we were doing was not allowed and that they had some authority over us, both of which was untrue.  They took our photographs.  I only got rid of them by taking their photographs and starting to phone the Police.  As you know, they have no jurisdiction over the footpath and so were interfering with our Freedom of Expression.

At one stage, an obviously Feminist woman appeared out of nowhere and started arguing with us. I assume that she was deliberately dropped off by car in front of us, because I had not seen her walk towards us from the side along the footpath, and she left by being picked up by car from the footpath in front of us.  She was obviously an agent provocateur, and it was after that that the three security guards appeared together and said that they had received a complaint, which appeared to be from her.  It was a false complaint.

Could you please 

  1. discipline your security guards for this arbitrary and totalitarian behaviour;
  2. find out from them the name and contact details of the woman who complained to them and pass this information on to the Police and to me;
  3. discipline them if they do not have a record of her name and contact details;
  4. ask the Police to investigate if the incident with the agent provocateur was instigated by David Farrar, who passed in front of us twice and is a Feminist.

On 7 April 2013 I wrote to you about another case of Parliamentary staff apparently interfering with my Freedom of Expression — with regard to Select Committee submissions.  On that occasion, you gave no impression of having got to the bottom of the matter.  I hope you achieve a better result this time.  I note that the senior of the three security guards was a woman, and that the [deleted by DPF] does a good impression of being a Lesbian woman.  David Farrar has mentioned that I have called New Zealand a Dykeocracy, so this may be a case in point.

 I attach photographs of the security guards.

Yours sincerely,

 Peter D. Zohrab


http://equality.limewebs.com/?p=1#comments
http://newmalestudies.com/OJS/index.php/nms  

Should I confess that I did indeed send in a feminist provocateur to argue with Peter Zohrab? Will he discover that the Wellington Young Feminists Collective is in fact a wholly owned subsidiary of DPF Group Ltd?

The vast feminist conspiracy claims another victim. Well done girls. Charlie is very pleased with your work.

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Some changes for Kiwiblog

August 19th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Over the last week or so I have seriously considered walking away from Kiwiblog. While some will take huge pleasure in what has happened, let me say that it is genuinely traumatic to have hacked e-mails to and from yourself (even if you were not the one hacked) floating around, and to also realise that because you are a blogger and pollster, it means you and your office is fair game. One of the worst moments was having a senior staff member of mine, who is also a very good friend, tell me that she had been worried that I might think she was the leak, as our politics are different. I hate the impact this is having on so many people.

Some of the revelations coming out, also do not show aspects of the blogosphere in a good light (to put it mildly) and I’ve thought quite a bit about how this impacts the wider blogosphere.

I don’t believe that the book shows me having acted in any way inappropriately. I have  gone out of my way to be open about my background and leanings and relationships, and I follow my own views when I blog – hence why I campaigned against the Government last year on the copper tax (despite being a Chorus shareholder!). I never have taken any form of money or kind for blog posts, and disclose even the mist minor gifts.

There is part of me that wants to walk away so I am no longer a target. Politics is far less important to me than family and friends. I’ve also considered whether to do what Cameron often calls me, and become a travel and arts blogger, and have less or almost no focus on politics. But the trouble is the blog for me is an outlet on what I think – what I like, what annoys me, what amuses me, what appals me. And I can’t imagine it can function as that, if I try and avoid politics. I do genuinely blog because I like having my say – that is my primary motivation.

Also I do like to think, without being immodest, that I do make good contributions to politics in NZ. I can data crunch, I have a 20+ year history of political knowledge which can put things in context, I have good relationships, and I generally get good feedback on my commentary in the mainstream media. I’m far far from irreplaceable, but there are not that many people who have the time, skills and employment situation that allows them to substantively blog.

So after some reflection, I have decided to carry on, but to make some changes. I want to improve trust in myself, Kiwiblog, and perhaps the wider blogosphere. So I’ve decided on the following.

  1. Kiwiblog is sending in an application today to join the Online Media Standards Authority. I’m not doing this so I can be called media. I don’t intend to label myself as media. I’m a blogger. I’m doing it so I can be held accountable to a public code of ethics and standards, and an independent complaint procedure. The code of ethics and standards will apply to both myself, and all guest bloggers here.
  2. I receive up to a dozen unsolicited e-mails a day, suggesting stories to me. Most are from people who are not politicians or staff – just ordinary readers. Some are just links to stories, some make some points on a topical issue. I sometimes quote these e-mails in posts. I have always been very careful to distinguish between content I write, and content people may send me (which I quote as coming from a reader). But I’m going to go a further step and if any content substantially comes from a parliamentary, or political party staffer, source I will state so when using it. I will not name individuals, but if I quote someone I will include information on their affiliations, when relevant. You will find this is very infrequently.
  3. There has been a culture of sharing stories in advance with others who may be interested in the story. Nothing wrong with sharing information. I don’t do it that often, but have when I think I have a particularly relevant story, that others may want to also blog on. This isn’t a conspiracy, it is simply information sharing. However I’m not going to do this in future. Generally no one will gets a heads up on my stories. The exception will be if it is an explicitly co-ordinated campaign such as happened in early 2009 over the pending changes to the Copyright Act, when I contacted blogs from the left and right to take part in the Black Out campaign.
  4. When I have disagreed in the past with stories Cam has run, I’ve tended to say so directly to try and influence him. The joke is my 1% success rate is higher than most.  On the recent case of Tania Billingsley, I said in a phone conversation that I didn’t think speculating on her motives was a wise thing to do. I made contact after a friend of Tania’s asked me to have a word. But I accept that having a direct conversation doesn’t mean I shouldn’t also publicly say when I think something is wrong. So in future I will more often. One can be friends, and say I think you are wrong with what you are doing. And yes we are friends. When I had some health issues a couple of years ago Cam was there for me in a big way, and on a personal note, I know he will remain there for me, and I will for him. But again, it doesn’t mean I can’t say I think you are wrong and shouldn’t do it, just as he regularly calls me out for being a pinko, or the such!
  5. After the election (ie when I have more time) I am going to consult on a tougher moderation policy for the comments. I want them to be robust and forceful, but focused more on issues than people. I have very limited time to read them myself, so probably will ask for some readers to step forward as moderators. We’ll have that discussion in October.

I hope people will appreciate the changes. I welcome feedback on them, and other suggestions. I believe political blogs can play a very valuable role in political discourse, and want to do what I can to be a constructive part of it.

UPDATE: The hone of mainly anonymous bloggers, The Standard, has a go at my decision to have even more transparency than I currently do. And what is hilarious, is the post is anonymous.

Also they print an extract from the book which is totally factually wrong. The party they cite was not organised by me, and I did not even invite anyone to attend. I went to a party in Palmerston North. Around 30 to 40 people attended the party, and they can all attest I was not the organiser. It’s just a smear.

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The Hager book

August 13th, 2014 at 8:13 pm by David Farrar

Rather bemused to find an entire chapter of Nicky Hager’s book is on me, and also how banal it is. Almost everything in there is in the public domain, as I live a pretty open life. But what Hager has done is wave his normal conspiracy theory through everything and make the fact that bloggers and other talk to each other, some sort of sinister thing.

Basically the chapter is a revelation that I am a member of the National Party! I didn’t realise this was a big secret.

He seems to have no curiousity at all over all the bloggers on the left who don’t blog under their real names, and are rumoured to actually work in Parliament. He also doesn’t worry about one blogger who has been on multiple party payrolls and never declared it, until outed.

What is very interesting is that his source is once again stolen e-mails. In The Hollow Men, he claimed they were leaked to him by an insider. In this book they are obviously hacked from Cameron Slater, which to my mind raises huge disbelief over his claims that the previous set of e-mails were leaked.

I’ve had a quick read through the chapter on me, and a few things I’ll point out.

  • Hager thinks my setting Kiwiblog up was due to my involvement in the IDU. That’s nuts. I’ve been debating politics online since 1996, originally through Usenet. I set Kiwiblog up because I like debate. It was not encouraged by anyone, and I was surprised it has turned out influential. In fact in the early days quite a few in National put pressure on for me not to blog.
  • I get e-mails from numerous people, including Jason Ede, pointing stories out to me, or suggesting things I may want to blog on. I get them from lots of ordinary blog readers, from friends, from some staff, and sometmes even an MP. But I decide what I blog, and they always accord with my political views.
  • A tiny proportion of what I blog comes from National sources. Way under 5%. I write Kiwiblog, and people send me ideas – and this is somehow a conspiracy. Very very very occasionally I might proactively ask for some info – maybe every couple of months, if that.
  • Most of what I blog is pro-National, as you would expect. But most weeks there is an issue I disagree with them on. I did multiple posts attacking the Government on the proposed copper tax, and even had Kiwiblog join an aggressive campaign against National on this. I have several times lobbied minor party MPs not to support National on bills or amendments. I recently said I think John Key should have accepted Gerry Brownlee’s resignation.
  • When Curia first set up, it of course had only one client. Since then it has grown nicely. At last count around 60+. The initial staff were mainly people I knew through National, as I took over what had been some internal polling, but today we have well over 100 staff and I don’t think any of them are Young Nats. The 2ic for Curia is a Labour supporter who told me the first time we socialised together that for a right wing bastard, I’m not totally bad. We poll for many clients, whose politics I do not share. I’ve polled for former Labour and Alliance MPs. I’ve polled for Family First, and disagree with them on 90% of their issues.
  • Nicky seems to think it is a secret I am National’s pollster. A bloody badly kept secret. It’s on my website. It is referred to often.
  • He is also excited that my staff do some canvassing work for National candidates or MPs. Yep. It creates extra work for my staff which is great. But we don’t just do it for them. While most of our work is polling, if people want to utilise our call centre, and pay for it, they can. Just last week I had one client contract our call centre to make 18,000 phone calls on their behalf – this is a totally non-political client. I’ll work for pretty much anyone who pays (so long as not a conflict of interest)

Most of the book is on Cam. Cam does some great stuff and he sometimes does some appalling stuff. Cam does not work for anyone, or even take guidance from anyone. He is his own force of nature.

Hager basically doesn’t like the fact the right now have voices. He basically says no media should ever use me as a commentator. He is threatened by the fact we finally have one organisation (Taxpayers Union) arguing for less government spending, to counter the 2,000 or so that argue for more.

My final comment is to note that people thought his book may be on the NSA and GCSB intercepting electronic communications. It would seem the person who is the biggest recipient and publisher of intercepted electronic communications is in fact Nicky Hager. If someone published a book of e-mails between a group of left-wingers, he’d probably call it a police state, and demand an inquiry,

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Best ever thread on The Standard

May 31st, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Someone called Geoff (note not brave enough to use his full name) at The Standard asked:

Why does David Farrar hate Winston Peters so much?

The answer incidentally, which I provide at the end of the 200 comments or so, is:

Best ever thread on The Standard. I love the side-track into astrology.

I guess it would be far too simple to ask me directly why I dislike Winston as a politician.

It goes back to the early 1990s when he defamed numerous people under parliamentary privilege, including several neutral public servants. He once made the mistake of repeating his lie outside Parliament and got done by Selwyn Cushing for defamation.

I was a member of the Young Nationals Executive that in 1992 (off memory) asked the Party’s National Executive to expel Peters from the party. So the conspiracy theories about Brendan Horan and the like are amusing, but rather off the planet.

I could also add on half a dozen other reasons for my dislike of Peters (which is rare – I like most MPs) such as his splitting up the Coalition in 1998, his lies over the Owen Glenn donations, his racist scaremongering against Asians etc. But we don’t have all day. Suffice to say my position on Peters has been rather consistent for 20 years or so.

But what I love are the various comments from the assorted commenters (again none willing to use their actual names) which include:

“Heard Farrar on RNZ today. Confirmed two things – he has a voice best suited to silent movies and he has nothing interesting to add to political debate. “

“yeah well they are all complete arseholes and we’ve all seen far, far too much of those hagged, wrinkled tory scumbags over the years so it’s entirely understandable we’ve ruled them out.
The problem with tories is they’re all psychopaths that hate the idea of people working together. Why would any sane person really care to listen to their stupid opinions??”

“Nah, it’s David Farrar. He’s a bad person. He’s working hard to make most peoples’ lives worse.”

“It is very, very simple and understandable, that David Farrar dislikes Winston and NZ First. They are the most unpredictable factor in the coming election. David Farrar is a Virgo by star sign, that means he likes order, control and such, and that is what leaves him in a situation, where “disorder’ and “unpredictable situations” just cause too much distress to him, he simply cannot cope with that.

So here we go, Winston is anyway the total “enfant terrible” in NZ politics, he may be in the game, he may not be, but for the fact nobody, least Fart(arse) aka Farrar can predict anything, it is an element that causes irritation and disturbance. Farrar better book another trip to climb another mountain, if he cannot bear the unpredictable and insecure situation.”

“Because winston is dashing and debonaire and is a hit with chicks while he farrar is a snivelling little tory kiss ass suckup with zits.”

“Farrar is a grossly over-entitled political parasite, a Wellington courtesan who loves being near power and exercising power and imaging he can manipulate the powerful. As an unelected player, he joins the Gowers and the Garners and the rest of the incestuous parasites on the democratic establishment who are drunk on the idea of being able to exercise their power without fear of any responsibility or of being held accountable by democratic means.”

“David Farrar is John Key’s Mini – Me !”

“Thanks to this thread I now have a disturbing image of Farrar being the court eunuch ‘ Varys’ aka ‘ the spider’, from the Game of Thrones ……….. just out of interest does he get around in silk robes ?”

“farrar hates everyone. thats the nub.”

The suggestion that my dislike of Winston is because I am a Virgo is my personal favourite. I also like the comparison to Varys – I take it as a compliment, even if not intended as such :-)

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A helpful taxi driver

May 26th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

I was in a taxi in Wellington this morning and the taxi driver asks me if my kids are grown up.

I tell her that I don;t have any kids, trying not to panic at the the thought that if I did have kids they could possibly be adults.

She asks if my wife didn’t want any. I reply that I don’t have a wife or partner – that I’m single.

She asks why not, and I reply that I’ve yet to meet the right woman.

She then tells me that I need to pray to God and God will deliver the right woman to me.

While I could take this in a negative light, as suggesting my dating life needs divine intervention, I prefer to see it as a suggestion that my next girlfriend will be an angel :-)

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Trekking the Himalayas

May 8th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Have had quite a few people ask about how to go about doing a trek in the Himalayas, so here’s what we did – for those interested.

Choose a company

Almost everyone sensible uses a company to arrange guides, porters and accommodation. On a personal recommendation we used Himalayan Encounters, and they were excellent. I can recommend them without reservation.

The cost was around US1,500 each and this covered:

  • Three nights accommodation in Kathmandu
  • Flights between Kathmandu and Lukla
  • 16 nights accommodation in tea houses on the trek
  • A guide and two assistant guides (for a party of five)
  • A porter per two people (they can carry up to 30 kgs) so three porters

Our guides were top class. They were incredibly safety focused, and were very helpful to me when I got altitude sickness. They were also informative and a lot of fun. I recall at one stage I had to take a leak on the way back from Everest Base Camp, so went behind a large rock. They yelled out that it was a holy rock, just to freak me out (it wasn’t). Lots of fun chatting to them in the evenings also and playing card games etc.

Airfares

The company covers the internal airfares. We travelled Malaysia Airlines (booked before they lost a plane) to and from Kathmandu. They lost or delayed my luggage both times, and their planes are old and tired. The service was pretty average. I would not use them again.

Other costs

  • Food tends to cost around US$25 a day per person, but we actually ended up around $30 a day. Prices increase the higher you go, but very reasonable for three meals a day.
  • If you want hot showers, electricity, wireless Internet then the cost is around $3 for a shower, $2 an hour for electricity and wireless ranges from $5 flat rate to $12 an hour near the very top.
  • Tips for the porters and guides. We tipped a pretty significant amount because the service was so good. Lonely Planet has some general guidelines.

Route

It takes around 12 days to go to Everest Base Camp and back if you go directly up and down. If you can spare the extra five days, I highly highly recommend the 17 day route via Goyko and the Cho La Pass. It is harder, but the views are even more spectacular – and you get to do a loop, rather than up and down the same way.

Health

I joke that our biggest achievement was none of us got Travelers’ Diarrhea. Nepal has the highest prevalence of this in the world. If you’re trekking up to eight hours a day, you really don’t want this.

We were religious with disinfecting our hands constantly. We used water purification drops or tables on all our water – even for teeth cleaning. We did not eat meat above Namche.

I did get altitude sickness. The rest of the party didn’t. You won’t know if you do, or not, until you get there. Make sure you have a spare day in the schedule, and once above 3,000 metres don’t climb more than 500 metres a day (or technically don’t sleep more than 500 metres higher than the night before).

Generally need to immunise for Hep A, Hep B, Polio, Tetanus, Diptheria and Typhoid. Malaria not a high risk trekking. Rabies is more a risk in Kathmandu than trekking.

General

Some general issues, taken from Lonely Planet guide:

  • Monkeys are holy, but also aggressive and have rabies. Avoid, but do not kill!
  • If a bear attacks, lie face down in the ground
  • Do not give money or food to beggars, but you can donate to schools or monasteries
  • Purify water with iodine – do not buy bottled water. Drink 2l to 4l a day
  • Do not wear leather (shoes or belt) inside Hindu temples and wear long trousers in all temples, and no photos in most temples
  • Always pass on the left of religious objects, not to the right
  • Ask people before taking photos of them
  • PDAs are frowned upon
  • Don’t point soles of feet at people
  • Do not touch children on the head
  • Give or receive money with your right hand and touch left hand to elbow as show of respect
  • Lukla Airport has been rated the most dangerous airport in the world – seven crashes since 2004 with 36 fatalities
  • Nighttime temperatures can be as low as -20 degrees
  • Never get between a yak and the ledge as they may knock you over!
  • Power surges common so voltage guard with spike suppressor recommended
  • Nepali culture uncomfortable with the display of the female leg
  • Viagra every 12 hours can help prevent altitude sickness!

Gear

I’ve included my gear list below after the break, for those interested.

If you don’t plan to tramp or trek a lot, then it will be far cheaper to buy most of your gear in Kathmandu or hire it in Namche. They have absolutely everything and it is exponentially cheaper.

But if you want top quality gear that you can keep using for other treks and tramps, then you end up spending a lot of money at Macpac, Kathmandu, Bivouvac and Mountain Designs.

The one thing you must have in advance are your boots, as you do not want to try out new boots on a 17 day trek.

(more…)

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Bhaktapur

April 27th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

 

 

Headed out early to Bhaktapur on the final full day in Kathmandu. Bhaktapur is a historic city that was capital of Nepal until the 1400s. It’s only 20 kms from Kathmandu and is a must visit. One thing that makes it very nice is that most parts of it are closed to traffic.

By comparison, going through Thamel in a taxi is incredibly scary. You’re driving down narrow streets dodging pedestrians and cyclists every few seconds.

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Just after the main entrance is this museum.

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Durbar Square – one of four major squares in Bhaktapur.

 

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One of many temples.

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Wonderful old sculptures.

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I love the elephants.

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Now that is how I’d like to travel about!

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A pottery maker near Pottery Square.

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Wares being made for later sale.

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This poor goat has lost his horns.

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Some great artwork, even if not quite right for my apartment.

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A typical street in Bhaktapur.

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The sun was too much for these dogs.

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The snake has gone fishing.

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On the way back to Kathmandu, we passed this motorcycle with a very young kid sitting happily at the front of the bike.

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Back in Kathmandu, a typical street in Thamel. What you don’t see in this photo is the cars swerving up and down them.

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For our final evening we went to the Babarmahal Revisited complex in Kathmandu. It’s a former palace that is now a small shopping centre with some very high quality restaurants. Made a change from Dal Bhat (which actually was pretty good).

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Then the next morning it was a quick trip to the bakery for a final breakfast. Thee coffee is what they call a Latte!

Then we flew out of Nepal on Friday. Once again Malaysia Airlines were incapable of having my bags travel with me, so the 36 hour stop over in Kuala Lumpar turned into a quick shopping expedition for emergency clothes for all of us. We were told 25 bags were not flown due to over-loading, but I’m sceptical as the planes should be able to carry a full load of passengers and gear.

We made the Pavilion shopping plaza with just 30 minutes to spare before it closed, so was a very hasty shop.

Saturday saw a bit more shopping, and just enjoying the hotel (Hotel Istana) swimming pool. Then out to the night markets tonight and two flights back to Wellington to arrive Monday.

Loved pretty much every moment of Nepal, and already planning my next trip there in a couple of years. So many mountains to see – or climb!

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Lukla to Kathmandu

April 26th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The final day is arguably the most scary – flying out of Lukla Airport. The runway is just 460 metres long and slopes downwards ending in a massive cliff. We got up at around 5 am to be at the airport by 6 am.

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The sun just emerging on the peaks by Lukla.

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The view from the airport. Planes turn left and head down the sloped runway over the cliff!

We had to wait two hours for our plane (which is about normal) but fortunately it took off with no problems. You achieve lift off around 20 metres before the runway ends, which is somewhat terrifying.

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We got back to Kathmandu Guest House. They have an outdoor library which is a great way to relax in the afternoon.

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Kathmandu Guest House is in the busy Thamel area, but despite that has some real solitude to it.

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In the afternoon, I popped into the Garden of Dreams which is a nice little attraction around ten minutes walk away.

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Quite a few people come here just to enjoy the sun or have a bite or drink.

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The following day decided to head out to Swayambhunath . It’s around a 30 minute walk. Navigating your way out of Thamel can be a bit confusing but once you’re out, it’s very easy to spot!

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Lots of statues and artwork on the way up to the temple.

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But it is a long way up. Around 350 steps.

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A good view of Kathmandu from the top, marred somewhat by the smog.

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The main temple.

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Had a drink at a roof top cafe up there, which also got a good view of the nice parts of Kathmandu. One can even see a swimming pool below!

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And of course there are monkeys.

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Lots of monkeys.

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Walking home, came across these pigs, penned in next to the river.

Have one more day in Kathmandu, before we fly home via Malaysia.

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Everest Base Camp Day 16

April 25th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

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This was the final day of trekking. A pleasant walk through the valleys back up to Lukla.

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Different views to higher up, but still incredibly beautiful. Also nice to be tramping again in shorts and one layer – not in below freezing conditions.

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Again many more crops grown down here.

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But still the odd snow covered peak.

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The final valley.

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The final ascent. I estimate we claimed a total in excess of seven vertical kilometres over the trek.

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Great to have colour back in the bush.

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And after 16 days we are back at Lukla, where we started.

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The English in the local bars can be amusing. See the above “tit bites” instead of tidbits!

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And not sure Coca-Cola appreciates that spelling! I wonder how many people tried to order a cock before they changed it :-)

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We then had the final farewell dinner with the five of us, and the porters and guides. I couldn’t resist ordering a Yak Steak. Yes they’re cute adorable animals – but they also taste quite good.

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And then we drank. To paraphrase, what happens in the tea house says in the tea house, but it was a lot of fun. The fact we had to be up at 5.00 am for an early flight did not deter us. A great 16 days trekking, with views you really won’t get anywhere else in the world.

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Everest Base Camp Day 15

April 24th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

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A wonderful late 10 am departure from Namche and this view as we depart.

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The final view of Mt Everest, partly obscured by clouds.

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We spent around an hour descending around 600 metres from Namche. Very pleasant trail in the woods.

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The view of the valley we head back along, once we descend. Very different to the icy peaks, but still very beautiful.

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The view of the river from the high bridge we cross first.

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What happens if a porter is crossing the bridge, and a mule decides to cross the bridge also? A very tight squeeze for the porter! At least it wasn’t a yak!

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Then we have three hours or so of walking alongside the river.

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At the 4th of five bridges, there’s this kid riding a mule. Very cute.

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The vegetables are growing now we’re lower down.

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Another bridge crossing.

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In the final stages, you pass through a lot of villages, where the path is separated from the homes.

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A blossoming tree near the bottom of a small waterfall.

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And finally Phakding, which can be seen in the distance just beyond the 5th bridge.

A fairly easy four hours of trekking. While we passed through this area 13 days ago, you get quite different views when walking through it in the opposite direction.

Tomorrow is the final trek to Lukla, where we stay overnight before flying to Kathmandu.

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Everest Base Camp Day 14

April 23rd, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

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Day 14 was a rest day in Namche, and for once an actual rest day – no hikes up mountains for a couple of hours. It was also my first shower, shave and non-vegetarian meal in 11 days, and I really can’t say which I enjoyed most!

This is the after photo of me having showered, shaved and changed. You really do not want to see the before photo!

Somewhat amusingly, Namche is probably the area where I came closest to doing myself a serious injury. I walked down a pathway without noticing a yak coming the other direction and almost collided with it! It takes a while to have to get used to look for livestock as you walk out from your lodge.

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Saturday is market day in Namche, so we went along to have a look at the wares. People come from all over the region to trade and sell goods. If it isn’t here, you probably won’t be able to get it anywhere. Managed to buy a few things for nieces and children of friends.

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Later popped into the Everest Bakery (the bakeries in Namche are excellent) and thought Mark Unsworth would be excited that even there they have a Manchester United fan photo.

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During the afternoon we went to one of the local bars for a free film showing. It was Sherpas: True Heroes of Everest. A great documentary on how basically no one would ever make it to the summit of Everest without the Sherpas who go up in advance and lay down the ladders, set up the camps etc.

In relation to the issue John Stringer raised, I don’t think a five year ban of climbing Everest would benefit the Sherpas. In fact some years ago the Nepalese Government did try and restrict the number of expeditions up Everest, and it was the Sherpas who complained that it left so many of them without income.

Also worth noting that even if Nepal tries to ban expeditions, then China can still allow them from the Tibet side – and again this is exactly what did happen when Nepal did restrict them – everyone just started climbing from Tibet.

The best thing that can be done for the Sherpa guides and porters is to place pressure of climbing companies to pay good wages, to have a strong focus on safety and to make sure all Sherpas are insured against accidents or death, so their families are looked after. You can’t however make Mt Everest a non-dangerous mountain.

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Our guide had his 24th birthday today, so we arranged a surprise birthday cake, and the assistant guides made up some drinks which were a combination of whiskey, coke and orange juice. We had a very fun night celebrating.

We’d had a drink or two at the bar earlier , then the drinks over dinner, and then hit another bar after dinner. Was a very good night, and suffice to say that when I had a headache the next morning – for once it wasn’t altitude sickness.

Also very funny was just after we crashed, I heard my room mate’s phone suddenly say in an American female accent “What can I help you with”. This set us both off with a fit of giggles and laughter that could be heard several rooms down.

Was great to have a relaxing recovery day. Much needed. Two more days of trekking to go.

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Everest Base Camp Day 13

April 22nd, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

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We stayed overnight at Orsho. It isn’t on most maps as it basically consists of one sole teahouse. However it was one of the best places we stayed at. The dining room was upstairs so we got a great view of the landscape, and also all the people going past.

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This is the view looking up, from Orsho. Magnificent.

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As we were preparing to leave this man rode past on his horse.

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Our route ahead, along the valley on the path on the right.

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Once again we had a couple of dogs follow us. But this time they were less endearing. On a narrow path, they were darting in and out around our legs and you had to be careful not to trip on them. But worse, yaks will often attack dogs and so what happened is that when yaks turned up, the dogs hid behind us. That had the potential to end badly for us!

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At this stage we’re dropping below 4,000 metres but still lots of snow covered peaks.

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The view as we pas through Pheriche.

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It was a long day trekking. We covered 15 to 20 kms.

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You can see Tengboche in the distance, with peaks behind it.

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The remains of a bridge that collapsed. I think they tried three times to have a bridge here but it kept collapsing on the far side due to the unstable rock. Finally they did an alternate bridge down at river level.

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Getting back into walking through bush and trees.

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We got to Tengboche for morning tea. You can see the famous Buddhist monastery.

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Inside the monastery.

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The front entrance of the monastery.

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The Nepalese porters carry incredible loads. Those working for trekking companies have weight limits of 24 to 30 kgs. Each porter tend to carry two bags or packs. But the independent porters have been known to carry loads of over 100 kgs, as they get paid per kg. Here is the load being carried by a porter up a 600 metre vertical ascent hill.

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The path down from Tengboche to the river was one of the few parts I really did not enjoy. It was hot, dusty and a rocky surface.

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At the bottom we had a bridge to cross. As you can see you really want to let the yaks get off the bridge first, rather than try and squeeze past them!

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Then we had a 400 or so metre ascent, but this was actually more pleasant than the downhill.

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You can see here the path we took down from Tengboche.

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Readers with good memories may recall this from Day 4. This is where we diverted from the main Base Camp route to go up to Gyoko. So the loop was now complete.

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We had a late lunch (2 pm) at Khumjung. Pretty hungry as had been trekking since 7.30 am. This crow decided to help itself to some of the leftovers. What happened next was hilarious. Another crow flew down next to this one, keen to share in the food. This crow then made a sound which everyone one of us heard as “Fuck Off” and the other crow flew away. We were in near hysterics at this.

Then around an hour to Namche Bazaar. Despite being a mainly downhill day, was a reasonably tiring one. We got in around 3.30 pm, so were on the trek for around eight hours.

Tomorrow is a rest day at Namche, and then two more days of trekking back to Lukla.

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