I have not written any blogs for a long while as we moved house, and I’ve just not found the time, but our recent trip to Mersea, a small island on the south Essex coast, deserved a blog, so I’m back.
With moving house, most of the trips Connie the van made this year were to carry large purchases, like sheds, green houses and wardrobes. The bulk of her trips were to Ikea, so having got most of the big jobs out of the way, and with a new grandson to visit, we needed a holiday.
We wanted to combine a final campervan trip of the year with a visit to my son and family. A browse of available sites found Waldergraves on West Mersea, somewhere neither of us had previously visited.
The forecasts had been dire the previous week, but improved day by day, and in the end we had lovely weather for mid October.
Mersea has a causeway that floods at high tides, and the day we arrived was such a tide, but we got there shortly after the sea had subsided, and settled in for a G&T before checking out the beach.
It was only a short walk from our plot on the edge of the large site to the beach.
The sun was dropping as we walked towards the town of West Mersea.
If you google West Mersea you will find lots of photos of the beach huts, and they didn’t disappoint. There are around 400, and a large section are identical huts painted in soft pastel shades.
The beach has very large tidal ranges, so can be very narrow, or stretch away into the distance.
While the background was not the most scenic, with a disused Nuclear power station, and many wind turbines, the sun on the water, and the groynes and seabirds was very pleasant.
The following day we ventured further along the beach, which the Puligans enjoyed.
As we approached the town, the huts became random, many different styles and paint palets.
I could have spent all day taking photos!
A few yachts were enjoying the fine weather
As we rounded the end of the island, there were many houseboats, all appearing stranded but on closer inspection each had a channel in the shore.
A boardwalk took us into the small town, and then a slow walk back to camp.
As it was Ians birthday we later walked to a local pub with the dogs for a mid week roast.
On Thursday the weather was forecast to be rainy, so we only took a short walk then, finding the weather was actually very warm and sunny, spent the rest of the day sitting in the sun and reading and relaxing.
On Friday we decided to walk the other direction towards East Mersea, but the coastal path has eroded making it unpassable. So we took the diversion inland and found ourselves at a vinyard, which we had to visit for morning cake and drink.
Our route then took us past the back of the site and onto a neighbouring campsite, where we dined on fish and chips, our holiday tradition.
It was then time to continue on to Dartford, but we will probably return as we thoroughly enjoyed our autumn break here.
We first booked a trip to Greece, to sail the Faraway Islands, north of Corfu, for spring 2020.
Of course, Covid-19 scuppered those plans, so we rearranged the trip for spring 2021. Then we realised a May holiday could clash with my sons’ rearranged wedding, leaving us no time to isolate if that was the current rules, so we moved it forward a couple of weeks.
Then COVID came back with a vengeance and we asked Sailing Holidays to just find us a sailing trip in Greece for October. We had to avoid the 13th as that was Barbara’s 90th birthday party, so we booked the delivery trip from Nidri to Gouvie for the following weekend.
As the pandemic is still very much with us, we had to be tested, and fill in lots of forms.
Eventually it was time, and off we flew, after an early departure from Pete’s on Sunday, we arrived mid afternoon at the Hotel Iris and were shown our yacht, Elara, a Beneteau 331.
After welcomes, and more testing and forms, we settled on the boat and dined in the restaurant. The weather was a bit glum, but we had a rainbow to give us hope.
The following day, after briefing and shopping, we left Nidri for Spartakhori.
We were delighted to get our sails up, and as we headed into a bay for a swim, we spotted a few dolphins a short distance away.
We have visited Spartakhori a few times before, and as it was a team meal, I forgot to take any new photos.
Next day we set off for Kamalos. the sun was shining but not much wind. We had hoped to meet up with Mary-Ann and Colin, as they were also sailing in the area, but our plans didn’t match up, so we motored down the Meganissi chanel and stopped in Port Leone for a swim.
We anchored just outside the old windmill, before setting off up to Kalamos.
Goerge, who owns the tavern on the quay, is renown for getting any boats into his harbour, even if it seems full. Luckily it was fairly quiet as this was approaching the end of season.
Wednesday we set off to Sivota, with a bit of early wind, and we were delighted to see 3 dolphins swim past our yacht. We kept sailing all the way across the top of Meganissi and downto Sivota.
There is a beach near to the marina so todays swim was sorted on arrival. We also had a punch party on the beach as dusk set.
Sailing this late in the year means we were up before dawn most mornings, and we had some spectacular sunrises.
Thursday started with little wind so we motored most of the way to Little Vathi on Meganissi, only getting the sails up after a stop in Abeliki bay, where a flash new house was being built. This was a feature of the holiday we had not seen before, lots of modern buildings arising everywhere.
We did mange a short stretch sailing Goose wing, which is always a delight.
After an evening briefing, we slept ready for an early start.
The next trip was through the Lefkas Canal, all the way to Gaios, so we had to set off at 07:30.
Another sunrise rose behind us as we set off north to Lefkas.
The morning had a surreal feel to it, as it was so calm and still, with only our 2 flotillas out on the water.
A bit of chaos ensued at the canal, as first one boat had rushed across under full speed and had overheated their engine, then another boat ran aground in the mud in the canal. Then a third yacht had its anchor drop mid canal, meaning the lead crews had to haul it back up while we dodged the obstruction.
So when the horn blasted for the bridge to open, for 5 minutes, it was a crazy dash to get through, and the horn to signal its closing blasted as we motored past. Our lead crew failed to get past and had to wait an hour for the next opening.
We motor sailed part of the way, then dropped the sails and carried on under engine. It’s a long trip, with Paxos only becoming visible after a couple of hours, but luckily the weather was good and not too much swell, as this is my least favourite part of the trip.
After that long trip, we only had to get to Lakka the next day. The wind was stronger and we reefed our sails and had a good play, with more goosewinging.
We enjoyed a delicious dinner at NioNios of Pork Hock, then we wandered round the town, finding a children’s clothes shop that had to be visited. That’s 2 Christmas presents sorted.
Next we returned to the mainland, to Sivota Mourtos, stopping on the pontoon in the next bay. Our yacht was moored nearest to the land, and I had my best swim yet along the rocky shore, with many different types of fish.
There is a fancy new taverna in the bay, but other people weren’t impressed, so we dined on board, then as dusk started we walked into town, which is a steep 1. We do werer arround 5km walk. we treated ourselves to a great ice-cream and walked back in the dark.
Monday we sailed up to Plataria, having a good tack with reefed sails before mooring uplowed them orarouhalfnd h on the town quay.
We dined in Olgas fish restaurant and I shared the fish platter with Phil, yum.
A new port for us the next day, Sayiadha. It sits behind mud flats which are very shallow, and we were lucky to spot a turtle just before it disappeared, then some dolphins came swimming nearby, with one of them coming within a couple of meters of us. We were able to follow them for about half an hour.
The tavernas here specialise in local caught prawn, which I had with spaghetti.
A few pelicans were floating just outside the harbour the next morning, and another turtle passed us on our way out.
We finally reach Corfu on Wednesday, stopping in Petitri.
Due to a river entering behind the marina, this bay is very atmospheric.
On a previous trip here I had photographed the dawn, and this year we had a similar experience, with thick mist rolling out from the bay.
Thursday was a trip up the coast, stopping in a bay enroute for a lovely swim, and into Corfu Yacht Club. We were lucky to get a spot on the quay side, but it proved a rocky night.
We walked into town late afternoon, and smelt a great curry cooking in the Yacht Club taverna, so rather than return to town, we dined there.
I found this amazing fruit on the quay.
We still had a couple of days before returning to base, so we now venture to a new area, visiting Kassiopi, which is very close to the Albanian shores.
We had a lot of spare time today, so had a swim and sat and read for a while.
Our last day was a gentle trip back round to Gouvia, with a bay stop for my last swim.
We had a team cocktail party and prize giving, we got the ‘David Attenborough’ award for our wildlife spotting.
The following day we didn’t have to leave the marina until 16:00. The staff had already started work on readying the yachts for winter, opening up the genoas to dry.
They make a spectacular sight against a blue sky.
That sadly is the end of a wonderful trip, lots of sunshine, wildlife, swimming, great food and company, but short of good wind.
‘the sea had just scattered the remains across the beach’
2020 has been a very strange year, and sometimes we just needed to escape, and for me that means the seaside.
Our campervan has not been used much this year, so we decided on a few days trip mid September. Our normal breaks take us westward, so for a change we opted to go North Easterly to the Yorkshire coast, to places we had not been to before.
As we were booking late, and due to Coronavirus, many more people were holidaying in the UK, we couldn’t get the first night where we wanted, and opted to stop in Snaith, on the way there. The site was small, and we were the only guests when we arrived, sharing the field with some chickens who soon departed once the dogs were let out.
The site had caught my eye as the pillars from an old bridge remained in the river behind the site. So we went to have a look, but as the banks were overgrown and fenced off, we only got distant views.
This used to be a toll bridge, charging an awful lot of money to cross when it was built. The 2 small church like building across the river are the toll booths.
We carried on our walk with a visit to Snaith town. To get to the town we passed underneath the road bridge, and a Barn Owl flew out, too quick for a photo.
We found a wonderful cake shop, so took a couple of huge yummy cakes back with us for afternoon tea.
The next morning we continued on to Spurn Head, and the Yorkshire coast.
Our campsite was a small tidy site with around 8 other vans. We quickly realised that Spurn Head is a great venue for Bird Watching, as everyone else there seemed to be in Camouflaged clothing carrying huge binoculars and cameras.
A quick check of Google told us that a rare sighting of a Rosy Starling was todays excitement, but as we only had small binoculars with us, we left that to the twitchers.
If you don’t know the area, Spurn Head is the long strip of sand and dunes the curves around the end of the Humber estuary, and is one of the most easterly points on this part of the coast, which is why random birds appear here, having been blown across the North Sea.
As we had arrived early, we set of for a stroll by the sea, after all, that’s why we were here. Dogs are not allowed on the main Headland as it is a nature reserve, but we stopped at the cafe for a quick drink, no ice-creams! Then we set off along the beach.
The sea is constantly eroding this part of the coast, moving it ever Westwards. As a result, the beach is now scattered with the ruins of war time lookout building, and the static caravan park is slowly being reclaimed by the sea.
The dogs were glad to be free on the beach, with Rita making sure she collected lots of sand to take back to the van.
Lookin gout to sea there is a large Wind farm, gently spinning turbines making pretty patterns as they lined up.
I never imaged lumps of old brickwork could be so beautiful, eroded by sea and sand.
The large concrete blocks are part of the sea defenses. Further along we came to the ruins of WW2 gun turrets.
The first sight of them has a shape that resembles a huge bird, until you venture closer.
These make for a very dystopian lands scape, and truly show the power of the sea. They were very solidly built to withstand bombing, but the sea had just scattered the remains across the beach, at crazy angles.
It is an almost alien scene, with crooked staircases going nowhere, and weird round shapes like UFOs.
Eventually I was dragged away to continue our walk, knowing we would return the next day for more photo opportunities.
We booked ourselves a meal at the nearby pub, which overlooks the Estuary, facing West, towards Grimsby .
The meal was delicious, and we were treated to their ‘cabaret’ – the sun setting into the water. As I have usually visited the west coast, this feel right – I’m never comfortable with the sun sinking behind me as I look out to sea.
The next day, still hot and sunny, we set off from where we left off along the beach.
There is a Sound mirror inland a short way, but we didnt find the footpath to it, so only got a distant shot.
The signs of erosion are everywhere, the caravan site had lost a row of plots, and the road hangs over the edge.
On the dunes we found a ‘sculpture’ of several lobster pots and some rubbish, with a poem written on.
At one point the dogs started barking when they were close to the sea defenses, and I soon realized they had come across a young seal.
It wasn’t too concerned by them, as I called them away, and it flopped back into the sea.
I grabbed a shot of the starlings on the telegraph wires, one of them might be a rosy Starling, but I doubt it.
After another good night, despite me finding a wasp in my cider, and getting stung on my lip, we set off to our next stay. I was for once glad to wear a mask, as my lip and cheek swelled from the sting.
First we called in at Bridlington, a very typical seaside town, all rocks shops, arcades and tacky souvernirs.
We just had to stop on the prom for fish’n’chips, and took a stroll around town. It was busy due to the lovely weather, but the breeze was a bit brisk.
Our final site was on Flamborough Head, just round the coast.
The next day we walked from our site to the lighthouse on the Head, passing the old Chalk tower, which was the first lighthouse here. But the charges for this service were voluntary, so it quickly fell into disrepair.
The Greenwich Meridian crosses the head and is marked by a plaque. This can be confusing, as many maps of Britain are tilted, so you would imagine it passed further inland than this.
The modern lighthouse is now a popular destination for more bird watchers and has a small cafe. It also has a shop where I found a souvenir pencil for my collection and a badge for my camera bag – result.
From here we set off round the Southern side of the head, where we could sea bird strewn cliffs.
Part of the route passed through a Sculpture park, but is seems most of the sculptures have gone, leaving only a totem pole and a wonderful Whale Bone bridge
The final part of the walk we dropped down to the beach below the chalk cliffs, and then back to the campsite, warmed by the sun, and tired from our great walks.
We were so glad we decided on tis trip, adding new locations to our travels.
Following on from Part 3, we travelled over to the Arenal volcano, the most active cone in Costa Rica and one of the world’s most active volcanoes. The last major eruption was in 1968.
We stopped at a checkpoint hut, where we changed for a cycle ride, but the cloud was low, and rain was threatening, so we didn’t get any decent photos of the volcano, and after a wet ride, returned to the hut to get dry and changed.
Our stop this evening was in Sarapiqui region where they grow banana, pineapple and palms.
I realise I haven’t mentioned much about Costa Rica in general – it is very progressive in its Environmental policies, and hopes to become carbon neutral next year.
It doesn’t have an army, USA looks after its security, and has spent the money on education instead.
The lodge is next to the Sarapiqui river, and they feed the birds in the central lawn, so the afternoon was spent with out binoculars in hand.
a little bird that flew into the restaurant and landed on our guide’s shirt.
the bird table
Woodpeckers trying to take over
The lawn was home to dozens of tiny strawberry, or blue jean frogs, that chirruped constantly.
That evening there was an optional bat viewing trip, which we decided to miss, but when we strolled around the cabins, found our own bats in plain view, roosting under the roof of one of our huts.
The second day started with a jungle walk, where we saw lots of creepy crawlies, and birds of course. We stopped for lunch next to a pineapple plantation, and our guide cut fresh pineapples for us to eat – you’ve not tasted real pineapple until you have one that fresh.
That afternoon we had the best activity of the trip – a zip wire through the rain forest.
After a climb up through the forest, and then up ladders up the trees, we then travelled down a series of zip wires, ending with a long wire across the river.
After a tranquil nights sleep, we were woken by the sounds of the jungle, and some cheeky white faced Capuchin monkeys crawling around the site.
Any food we took into our cabin had to be shut away in the lockable cupboard, as these monkeys happily climb in and raid the cabins.
Todays activity was a Nature walk, and boy, did we see nature!
The scarlet macaws are very noisy, but you wouldn’t believe how well they hide in trees.
After all that adventure, Ian decided to try the sloth way of life
And another sunset to end day 2 here
Day 3 activity was snorkeling on the reef, one of my favourite activities, but Ian is not a great swimmer, so was not as excited.
Off we set in a small boat to the island of Cano would could see from camp.
En-route, our guide spotted a sea snake swimming along – these are deadly, and can jump from the water, so after a quick look we moved on
A few other boats were visiting the reef, but it was very organised, and I was soon enjoying the sea life
Eventually I had to end this adventure and head back to the lodge.
This was our last night here, but we ended with a night nature walk – no photos, as it really was dark, but very interesting – we saw a tarantula hiding in a log, and narrowly avoided a venomous Fer-de-lance snake resting in a branch we crept under.
We left Corcavado Lodge by boat again, and picked up our van for the rest of the trip, plus the remainder of our luggage, as the small plane couldn’t take it all, they had arranged for some bags to be left behind.
First stop was at Canta De Ballenas Hotel, in Bahia, a short distance from the Marina Bellina National park.
I don’t seem to have many photos of this park – I think I might have forgotten to take the camera. The park is shaped like a whales tail, jutting out into the ocean.
This park has a split personallity – it has stupendous wildlife all through it, but it also hosts some of the worlds best beaches. In order to maintain the park, there is a limit on the number of people in the park at any time. Despite this, I felt some resentment to people there just to sunbathe, with no interest in the scenery or wildlife.
As soon as we walked into the park, we saw sloths, weird insects, tree frogs and spiders.
However, when we took a rest on the beach, the raccoons soon appeared, and more monkeys, all very cheeky and unafraid of the people.
You can see why the beach is so popular – Ian even had a swim – this is almost unheard of, but the water was bath temperature.
One animal we hoped to see in the park was the squirrel monkey, but none appeared. But at breakfast at our hotel Manuel Antonio the next morning, this pair turned up, sat on the kitchen roof, so we didn’t leave disappointed.
Earlier this year during our travels to New Zealand, we came across lots of murals.
Some were just random art works, but a lot of them had been created by Sea Walls – Artists for Oceans. These are projects that bring together internationally renowned artists to paint large scale murals.
Shark Conservation by Freeman White on Raffles/Bower Street in Napier City Council Car Park
Their purpose is not only to highlight the enhance town they are in, but to highlight the beauty of the oceans, and address pressing issues relevant to local and global communities.
In Napier we were lucky enough to find a copy of the map, listing the murals there with a brief description of each, and we followed the map to find many. In Gisborne they had run out of maps, so we found many by chance, others by using Pokemon Go! as many are Pokestops.
We have adjusted my photos to allow for the positions we had to photograph them from, so this has removed a lot of the building and cars around them, so you can see almost their full beauty. However this has possibly diminished their sense of scale.
Some are small paintings on street furniture, or just a couple on a blank wall, while others covered the whole of a car park wall, but I will post them in a random order.
Global warming and Rising sea levels by Carly Ealey, in alleyway by Shed 2 in Lever Street at West Quay, Napier
NZ Marine Animals, by Flox, at the Bach cafe, Marine Parade, Napier
I hope you enjoyed these, but if you get the chance, go to Napier and see them full siz.