Costa Rica, 2011, final part

As we travel on, we are now approaching the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica.

Our next adventure was as exciting as the zip-wire and far wetter, white water rafting down the Reventazon River.

Since we visited a hydro-electric dam has been built, but this has not stopped the fun, if fact the dam now provides a steady flow down the river.

We were kitted out in life belts and helmets, and met our trainer, a lady who was part of Costa Ricas’ national team and had won several medals, so we were in safe hands.

And off we set, in two rafts, down the bubbling river. Luckily we all managed to stay onboard our raft, while a couple fell overboard on the other, but were quickly retrieved from the waves.

This didn’t mean we stayed dry by any means.

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And safely back on shore.

Once we had dried off, we continued on to Puerto Viejo, on the Caribbean coast.

We stayed in the Totem Hotel, set on the coast road right opposite the beach, backed by jungle.

To show how close to the jungle it is, I pointed out this Iguana from our bedroom window, it was so close that Ian looked past it and couldn’t see it, it was about 2 meters away

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The grounds were planted with a wonderous array of flowers and foliage.

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The swimming pool had a waterfall, and great statues.

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It was a wonderful place to relax and recover from the busy weeks before.

The following day we visited the Jaguar Rescue centre,  where we met some delightful baby sloths, and saw snakes and birds and other wildlife they had rescued.

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This caterpillar was walking along a handrail, and is Very poisonous

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I later went for a swim in the warm Caribbean, but nearly got caught out by the rip tides.

Our last day took us back to San Jose.

The next day was Sunday, and the mayor of San Jose had decreed that one Sunday a month was Family Day, so the main road into town was closed and filled with activities for children and their families.

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P1030538Climbing walls, music stages, mini zip wire, face painting, stunt biking and lots more.

The road carried on to a huge park, with footballs and many other sports going on.

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It was heartwarming to see so many families out enjoying their time together, but sadly it was time to return to the airport and leave this wonderful country.

I would say this was a once in a lifetime holiday, but fingers crossed we shall return.

One last sloth to keep you going.

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Costa Rica 2011 part 4

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Binoculars in hand

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.

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Bananaquit
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Bananas
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The grounds of the lodges

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a little bird that flew into the restaurant and landed on our guide’s shirt.

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the bird tableP1030410

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Woodpeckers trying to take over

The lawn was home to dozens of tiny strawberry, or blue jean frogs, that chirruped constantly.

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a blue jean or Strawberry frog

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.

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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.

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I think you can tell we enjoyed that.

Costa Rica 2011 Part 3

spread warm volcanic mud over ourselves with paint brushes

Back to our Costa Rica travels, following on from Part 2

Our next days adventure included a stop in the Carara National Park for a Crocodile cruise.

We set off along the river in a smallish boat similar to this.

P1030231We caught sight of lots of wildlife as we motored along this wide river,  as this is a Biological Reserve known for its birdlife.

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Then we stopped at the side of our river where our skipper had seen a large crocodile, and he proceeded to jump ashore and feed this 4 meter croc some chicken.

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Rather him than me, but I presume this is a daily occurrence, and they know the croc well, and he is well fed.

More bird spotting on the return trip

 

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and I spotted this turtle on the bank

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I decided not to use the facilities onshore!

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Back on the minibus and onwards to the Rincon de la Vieja national Park and volcano. This is part of the Cordillera de Guanacaste, a great central volcanic massif made up of 5 active volcanoes.

Our residence here was the Hotel Hacienda Guachipelin,  an acrtve cattle ranch,with stables housing the horses nearby.

The first evening we were taken out to a Rodeo, which was just an entertainment, with no harm to any beasts, showing off the skills of the cowboys.

 

The first days we walked around the flank of the volcano, seeing where their geothermal power station was, and checking out the wildlife.

In the afternoon, I took the option activity of tubing down a nearby canyon, while Ian relaxed in the hammock strung across the hassienda supports.

The next day we had a horse ride up the volcano to a mud spa. Ian had not ridden horses before, so I arranged for him to have a few lessons during the autumn, to give him more confidence for this.

First we visited the Oropendola waterfall, 25 metre high, and a chance to swim in the cold water below.

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The ride gave us great scenery, and took us up to the spa, where we could see mud bubbling away

 

and lots of wildlife

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Hummingbird

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Leaving our steeds at the gate, we walked up to the spa.

For the spa, we had a sauna, then spread warm volcanic mud over ourselves with paint brushes, and laid down in the sun to dry.

Then after a shower, we sat in thermal pools, dipping our toes in each to find one of a suitable temperature.

Relaxed and freshened, if still a little muddy, we returned to the horses for the ride back down, and to dinner, and a stunning sunset over the volcano.

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Buxton and The Roaches 2020

I will drag you away from exotic travels for a quick trip to the Peak District, while its fresh in my mind. Having had a busy Christmas and start to New year 2020 with appointments etc, we decided to escape for a couple of days before my granddaughter arrives on the scene.

As the weather has been very wet, we opted to leave Connie campervan at home, and go Airbnb. After a busy day, we arrived in the dark, and settled in with an Indian takeaway. The cottage was very cosy, and quiet despite being on a busy junction, but had no garden or yard to let the dogs out.

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The following morning was bright and sunny, so we set out to investigate the town, starting with the park.

Next to this splendid park is the Pavillion Gardens. Sadly, dogs couldn’t go in, but the shop was full of goodies, arts, crafts and food I would have loved to buy, but I restricted myself to a souvenir pencil.

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DSC_5184and we continued through the park

 

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and on up to town.

There are lots of elegant sandstone buildings, all very gentile and lovely, with interesting shops.

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DSC_5194We found an arcade with bright stained glass roof and a little cafe up the steps that allowed dogs in.

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DSC_5200Having warmed up with a Baileys Hot chocolate, we wandered round to the Crescent, which is a full semi-circle, unlike Baths’ Crescent, and is currently being converted into a  spa hotel.

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It should be very splendid when complete, Buxton is a spa town, as warm waters rise here.

After taking advantage of the bread and scones kindly left by the cottage owner, we set off to the Monsal trail for a walk. This is a 8.5 mile walking and riding track made from a railway that closed in 1968, and it is well surfaced and almost flat, so a good walk for soggy days.

 

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We started at the Buxton end, where a pay and display car park starts the walk along the river, then up some steps to the viaduct above and the start of the trail. In summer there is a cafe and cycle hire shop near the start.

The Pulis enjoyed the chance to run around, and we saw a dipper and some mandarin ducks in the river.

There are several tunnels along the route, some short, others longer and lit during daylight hours, so check your time before you go in winter. This photo is a long exposure, and I’m not that steady, but it gives the idea.

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Look away now if you are scared of heights, as the path goes over some impressive viaducts, crossing the river and road many times.

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Millers Dale station has a cafe if you need a break along the way. We turned around not far after this, and retraced our path back to the start.

We had planned to dine out in Buxton that evening, but eventually decided to fetch fish and chips, a rare treat for us, and sit by the fire with a glass of wine.

Wednesday was leaving day, so up and packed. Ian wanted to visit the marvelous Scriveners bookstore just around the corner, and they allowed myself and the dogs to sit in a cosy chair while he browsed the 5 floors.

We then set off for The Roaches, a prominent rocky ridge above Tittesworth Reservoir. The weather was putting on a great show, with sunshine interspersed with cloud and mist and fog. On the way there I had to stop to catch the wide scene.

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DSC_5218At first we thought this might be a waste of views due the fog dropping, but were relieved when it lifted.

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There is a moderately steep climb up to the ridge, and it was muddy and rocky, which made some of it hard going, as we kept the dogs on lead for safety. But the views were awesome.

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View down to Tittesworth reservoir

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Along the top there are pools and views across the moors, as well as the rock structures.

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a red grouse
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Rita posing by the pool.

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The walk down involved a climb down steps carved into a sunken path between the cliff rocks. There were a couple of school parties enjoying the climb too, but from the size of the laybys, it must get very busy in summer.

There is a private house set against the cliffs near the bootm, and the path goes through old larch woods.

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We finished our visit with a rest at Tittesworth reservoir visitor centre, where it was luckily warm enough to sit outside as dogs were not allowed in. We had a tasty bacon bap, and set off for home after a good break.

 

 

Costa Rica 2011 Part 2

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.

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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!

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Ginger bushes
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Pelicans
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Fungii

The scarlet macaws are very noisy, but you wouldn’t believe how well they hide in trees.

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Frigate bird
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Sloth
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Sloth

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White-nosed Coati

After all that adventure, Ian decided to try the sloth way of life

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And another sunset to end day 2 here

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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

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A few other boats were visiting the reef, but it was very organised, and I was soon enjoying the sea life

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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.

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Iguana
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Bird of paradise Flower

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Scarlet Rumped Tanager

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.

On Friday we moved on again, this time to Manuel Antonio National Park.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Costa Rica 2011 Part 1

This is a throwback special. A friend has said they have booked flights to Costa Rica, and wanted to know if I had blogged my trip. This was before my blogging days, so lets do one now!

The trip was Ian and my main honeymoon, we got married the year before, but wanted to miss the rainy season, so chose February 2011 for our trip.

We had no idea where we wanted to go, and I didn’t know where Costa Rica was exactly, but this trip stood out in the travel brochures. It was also an activity trip, whereas we wanted to see the wildlife, but it turned out the best option.

CIMG1949Our holiday began with flights into San José, the capital, and an overnight stay at the Rosa Del Paseo Hotel on the main road through the city. It is a quaint Victorian building, within easy walking of the centre, and here we met the rest of our party and our tour guide.

CIMG1950The second day began with a flight from San José out to Palma Sur airport in  a tiny plane, where they had to weigh us as well as our luggage, and they decided that our bags had to follow on the next plane out.

The flight was not going high, so was not pressurized – this meant it could have huge windows, giving us a great view of the scenery as we travelled.CIMG1953

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Soon we reached a Palma Sur airport, and transferred to a coach, and then travelled down to the river Sierpe, where we were loaded onto a barge like boat, and set off towards the sea.

P1030010However, we had noticed that this boat had rather impressive outboard engines, and once out of the town, the gentle trip turned into a  white water ride! Wheee.

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After an hour we reached the sea, and then went down the coast to reach our next stay – the Danta Corcavoda Eco Lodge, on the Pacific Coast of the Corcadavo National Park.

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First sight of the lodges at Corcavado Lodge

There are few roads in the park, so boat is the best way to arrive, even if this meant paddling ashore from the dingy to the beach.

CIMG1969We carried our bags up the hill to find our lodge, a wooden building with mesh windows, and a balcony facing the ocean.

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The view from our balcony.

We still had some daylight left so wandered down to the exquisite beach.

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The beach was covered in tiny hermit crabs, making it appear as if the sand was alive.

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Back to the lodges for dinner, and then time to relax on our balcony. My one ‘must see’ on this trip were Macaws, and on our first evening we saw several fly across the jungle between us and the sea – Wow.

Sunset across this peaceful corner of our planet – bliss.

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USA Part 1, New York, New York

Around this time last year, my oldest son announced that his wedding was going to be in New England in October 2019, so the family set about organising our trip.

First stop was New York. We had a good flight, as we booked early and got seats with heaps of leg room.

A minibus took us to near our Airbnb, where we dropped our bags at a Bagbnb – brilliant idea, saved us lugging them around until we could check in.

DSC_4722So, free from luggage, but a bit weary, we strolled over to Central Park.

We fed the squirrels and saw American robins and Blue Jays, and stopped for Bagels.

Revived a little, we then headed back and checked into our apartment, before setting off for an evening wander.

 

We found a great Italian restaurant, Pasta Lovers, for great pasta, salad and pizza, and taking our leftovers, we paid a quick visit to see Times Square, which was along the same street to our Airbnb, then headed back for some rest.

The next morning we decided on a good American breakfast of pancakes, yummm.

Some sights along our walks, I love the small old buildings huddled between huge skyscrapers.

 

We then caught the subway to the 911 memorial, where we were awed by the beautiful and touching memorial.

A white rose is placed in the names of each person on their birthday

The entrance to the World Trade center.

This image would have reflected the twin towers, a very sobering thought. Image result for white rose icon

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The day was very warm, around 30°C, and muggy, so we decided to take the Staten Island ferry for some fresh air, while Pete and Jess visited the Museum.

So we walked down to Battery Park, and caught the ferry to Staten and back.

Some great views of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, then just off the ferry, run round and back on for the return journey.

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Back at Battery Park, we spotted some Monarch butterflies in the gardens.

After a cool beer, we set off back towards the 911 museum.

The museum is a startling timeline of events that day, something that our internet world allows in amazing detail now, but it is also very personal, showing glimpses of the lives affected that day.

After a sobering and thought invoking visit, we decided to take a short section of the High Line, an old raised rail line that was converted to walkway and garden after it had fallen into dis-repair, despite our feet hurting from all of our walking. A lovely patch of greenery above the city..

There were also sights and art work to be seen from this raised walkway.

We had booked tickets for the Rockerfeller Top of the Rock the previous day, so we caught the subway there for our sunset trip.

This is set at the top of the Comcast building, allowing you to walk around the top 2 stages of the roof. We did this trip rather than the Empire State building, as our tour book suggested it was quieter, less queues, and good views of Central Park. We were not disappointed, but some bad weather was closing in, removing the views as the sun set.

 

In the rain, we walked back to the apartment.

Thursday was forecast to rain all day, and with blisters on our feet, we decided to visit the American Museum of Natural History, catching the subway directly there. These mosaics are along the subway tunnel to the Museum entrance.

The museum is huge, so we started with dinosaurs,

and then some human history to follow

To end the day, we dined at West Side Steak House, for some delicious steaks, then we had tickets for The Jersey Boys Show, at New World Stages, an underground theatre with 5 stages.

The show was incredible, and we left singing Four Seasons songs…. Sherry, Sherry baby ♪♪♪ which were to be the sound track for the rest of our American trip, back soon…

 

Scotland NC500 and more, week 1

We found one of the most incredible beaches, almost deserted

With the weather forecast for Scotland looking warm and sunny, yes, that’s right, we decided to make our desired trip to Scotland in May, when the midges are not yet in their thousands.

So we sat down and planned a route, as since the North Coast Road has been turned into a must-do drive, the campsites can be busy.

After spending our first night at Lytham St Annes for a family visit, our next site was Hoddom castle a beautiful site near Lockerbie, set in the grounds of the castle, and with facilities inside the castle. It was special to take a shower inside a castle.

There are also lovely walks around, including up to Repentance Tower, and along the river. They also have cute pods if you don’t have your own accommodation.

After a lovely quiet night and a morning walk along the river we set off north, stopping briefly at Lochmaben Castle, very much a ruin, and most of it closed off due to crumbling masonry.

This part of the journey took us past Glasgow on mainly motorways, but there were still lovely sights to see.

Our next night was spent near Oban at a site set within a walled garden. You can walk down to the loch shore, but there is a Fish farm factory alongside. However from the back of the site there is the delightful balcadine walk through the woods, with fascinating iron railing down steps to an enchanting chasm.

From here we stopped in Fort William, a fairly drab town, for some supplies, then detoured a little off our track to visit Fort Augustus and the bottom of Loch Ness.

While the town is small and mainly filled with tourists, it is charming and the locks on the canal are worth a walk up, and then walk down to Loch Ness. Of course, everywhere we go Reggie and Rita create a stir.

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The obligatory Loch Ness selfie

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We set off on the A87, enjoying the mountains and lochs, and crossed the bridge to the Isle of Skye. However, we didn’t find Skye as enchanting or picturesque as other places, and our site, though lochside, was a bit bleak, but did provide a colourful sunset and a bright start to Thursday .

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Our next stop was Applecross, the the faithful among you will travel the famous Bealach na Ba road, with hairpin bends and steep hills, but we decided Connie was a bit big for the road, so we took the alternate road up to Sheildaig.

En route we stopped by a loch for lunch, and I walked down with the Puli to the lochside, started taking photos, when 3 deer appeared and calmly walked towards us.

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The road from here becomes single lane, but with plenty of passing places. The road is popular with not only campervans, but motorcyclists and flash cars, but was not too busy to enjoy the drive.

Shortly before arriving in Applecross, as we were early, we stopped at a small car park, and found one of the most incredible beaches, almost deserted, with a vast stretch of clean soft sand.

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The pulis has a wonderful time, and we even caught a glimpse of a seal in the bay.

 

The site at Applecross had been in a list of top 10 site on NC500, but as they were building a new shower block, the existing facilities were very poor, with insufficient showers, and the field we were on did not have much view. Hopefully this will improve later this year.

For dinner we walked down into Applecross and had a delicious meal at The Junction, where they allowed the dogs upstairs, and there was a great view across the shore to Skye.

As we had 2 nights here, on Friday we took the walk to Applecross walled garden and beyond, a lovely walk with forest, rivers, hills, and the sweet gardens where we also stopped for lunch and both had Haggis and Cheese melts – mmm.

On our way there we met 10 red deer, just standing by the public footpath that goes along the roadside. They didn’t care about Reggie barking at them, and just stood grazing and watching us pass within a few metres of them.

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Showing how close people were passing the deer
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deer and more wild deer

On Saturday, after revisiting the wonderful beach just up the road to gather more sand into the van, we swapped driver and set off towards Ullapool, passing many pretty fishing towns and lochs.

One pit-stop was to Inverewe Gardens, a lovely sub tropical garden, kept warm by the Gulf Stream. The azaleas were in bloom, and the lovely handkerchief tree.

Luckily, the weather had stayed warm and sunny, reaching 22 degrees some days, and not too many midges had found us.

Stay tuned for week 2, as we head further North and around the top of Scotland.

 

Safari of a different kind

if you get a chance, go

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Last weekend we released our inner child, and went to Twycross Zoo for the Lego Safari.

There were over 70 Lego models scattered through the zoo, each had a sign saying how many bricks they took, and how much time. I need more bricks!

As you would expect, there were real animals too.

and lots for Lego – this safari is travelling round the country, so if you get a chance, go to visit it.

And still more

Tanzanian Serengeti

Thompson gazelles, impala, wildebeest, water buffalo, eland…

DSC_9387Grab your passport, camera and anti malaria tablets, we’re off to Tanzania for the next adventure.

As Ian and I have significant birthdays this year and next, we finally booked a safari trip to Tanzania. As part of my presents, I bought a nice new camera, a Nikon D7200, and some decent lenses, and boy! I’m so glad I did.

Our entry to Tanzania was Mwanza airport, a shabby dis-organised affair, and then we were met by our guide, Mbasha, from Explore! and met the rest of our party, Robert, Ann and Amanda, and set off along the road to our first camp. This was a 2 hour drive, and the road is lined almost all of the way with stalls and huts selling assorted produce. If Britain is a nation of shopkeepers, Tanzania is a nation of stall holders.

We arrived at the camp, which is set at the edge of the marshes on the Speke Bay in Lake Victoria.

Our accommodation was a tented banda, one of 5, with a comfortable bed, set under trees full of weaver bird nests.

As we had all had a long day, we chilled out in the camp, started some bird watching and enjoyed a beautiful sunset. Ian spotted a monitor lizard enjoying a frog for lunch.

The next morning we were up before sunrise for coffee, then set off to visit a local fishing village for the morning market.

The fishermen are out on the lake through the night, with lamps to attract the fish, and then return at dawn to sell their fish. Even if they are married, their fish are sold to the highest buyer among the women, who then sell on smaller bundles of the fish to local people and traders. Most of the catch are whitebait, but also some lungfish, catfish and their favourite, tilapia. The small fish are either cooked in a stew, or dried.

The fishermen have an assortment of boat, some with sails, a few with motors and the rest rowing boats, all painted bright colours.

We returned to camp for a lazy afternoon, then set off in a handmade canoe for a trip along the canals cut into the reeds by the fishermen.

Lots of birds to see, as we paddled between the reed and papyrus.

As the sun set back at camp a pair of grey crowned cranes settled in nearby trees.

Our sleep was again disturbed by the sound of nearby farmers scaring elephants from their plots with whistles and shouting, but we never saw the elephants around.

On Wednesday, we were again up at dawn for breakfast, then set off in the jeep to Serengeti Park.

We saw lots of animals and birds, including Thompson gazelles, impala, wildebeest, water buffalo, eland, topi, Hippo, crocodiles, tortoise, baboon, Vervet monkey, giraffe, zebra, warthog, dwarf mongoose, banded mongoose, black backed jackal, hyena and a hare.

We also saw many many beautiful birds, and decided that as they are all so colourful, they are names for any monochrome part they might have, so a kingfisher with bright turquoise wings is called a grey headed kingfisher.

Our luckiest siting was as we watched Hippos from a bridge over a watering hole, and Amanda noticed a leopard resting on the bank the other side of the jeep. It crept away once we had seen it, but not before i got a quick shot of it.

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Leopard creeping up the bank

As we travelled on, we came into a large open area with a clear watering hole, full of all types of animal, zebra, giraffe, wildebeest, impala etc, plus storks, cranes and geese.

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As time was passing we set off back for camp, saying we were still missing a few animals, like Lion, Rhino and Cheetah, but as we approached the gate, I spotted a female lion and 2 cubs by the road. We quickly stopped the jeep and reversed, but she took the cubs into the bush. However Mbasha noticed a young male lion hiding in the bushes.

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So we left the park happy, and returned to camp just before a thunderstorm.

Next morning we set off after coffee for a boat trip on the Lake.

Our brunch was served at the top of the lookout tower, with a view to the camp and across the Serengeti Park in the distance.

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An afternoon walk gave more bird watching opportunity before the dark clouds and rainbow sent us back to camp for our last dinner in this camp, ready for our travel to the Selous Park. Back soon for that adventure.