Biking from the Andes to the Amazon, watching political riots in Bolivia and finding a life-long aversion to scrambled eggs are a few things Queenstowner Honor Mathieson experienced on a global jaunt, she tells Louise Scott
Queenstowner Honor Mathieson is no newbie to travel.
The Kiwi has done the obligatory OE in the United Kingdom, spent time in Australia and notched up a fair few air miles.
But when she was offered a new job or redundancy as part of a restructure at SBS, she decided to swap banking for her backpack.
Mathieson, 41, who is originally from Bluff, spent seven months globetrotting.
She started off in Argentina in January and has ticked off Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras – take a breath – Guatemala, Belize, Mexico, Cuba, New York, the UK, Ireland, Germany and Bali.
“Not a bad stint,” she laughs.
Mathieson arrived back in Queenstown last month and is enjoying her home comforts.
“I felt very lucky every day I was travelling. It really was the trip of a lifetime.
“Not everyone has that opportunity or that much leave to take at one time. Most people have a mortgage and are tied.”
Partner Andrew Papuni is also given kudos for supporting her decision to hit the road.
While it’s hard to pick a favourite spot, Mathieson says the Galapagos Islands stand out.
“It is somewhere I never thought I would get to, as it is just so far away and so expensive – it was amazing.”
The volume of wildlife spotted was a dream come true – the local bus even stops for iguanas crossing the road.
“There are 100-year-old tortoises sunbathing in the fields, pelicans swooping by the ferry and then waiting for fish in the main street, lazy seals taking up seats at the boat docks, a swarm of rays cruising under the planks competing with the turtles for photographs.”
A four-day hike in Torres del Paine, Patagonia, was another highlight.
“We got up at 3.45am to watch the sunrise. Climbing up at altitude over rocks – we were huffing and puffing to get to see it in time.”
During the walk she and her buddies were convinced they’d spotted the elusive puma. It wasn’t the case.
They realised in the morning pumas don’t have brown, bushy tails.
“It was a fox – it was kind of funny.”
Mathieson travelled with fellow Kiwis Leah and Steve McCormack.
She isn’t sure she’d have done the trip on her own, given the unrest in some countries.
There were political riots in Bolivia. Police were on the streets and tear gas was used to control crowds.
People ran past a restaurant while they were on a food tour.
The trio decided to cut the trip short.
“The cocoa farmers were protesting against the government because it was trying to make them pay more taxes and not letting them grow as much cocoa as they wanted.”
It was the only serious drama.
Surprisingly they had no trouble in crime-ridden Colombia, which she describes as the “scary place that you shouldn’t visit”.
It was probably her favourite, down to salsa dancing, friendly locals and great coffee.
In Peru, they got excited when they discovered there was a Kiwi pub.
They put on their glad rags – Mathieson even put on makeup for the first time in seven weeks.
They jumped in a taxi but, to their extreme disappointment, the pub was closed.
A taxi took them to other places which were also closed, including an English pub – “the street was like a river and it was also closed”.
“We finally found a pub, ordered a burger and got the last drinks call at 7.45pm.
“That was our first big night out,” she laughs.
The trio were joined by a couple of other Queenstowners – Mathieson’s partner Papuni and Steve Robb – to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and take a four-day boat trip down the Amazon River.
The list of wow moments is long, Mathieson says.
The only downside was the repetition of scrambled eggs and omelette for breakfast every day.
“By the end I was trying to show people how to poach them.”