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.

Connie the Campervan

So begins our adventure with Connie

 

Having taken early retirement. and needing a new project to fill our time, we finally decided to take our son-in-laws advice and buy a van, and convert it to a camper.

With Jason’s help – he works in the motor trade, we found a silver Peugeot Boxer L3H2 van, with side and back windows, and a gas heater and decent mileage. We had decided that a retro cramped van was not our style, and wanted comfort and space, and room for the men to stand up.

So begins our adventure with Connie.

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Our first step to the conversion was a trip to the Camping and caravan show at the NEC, Birmingham, to get ideas. This helped enormously in our final design.

We opted for a bed/settee across the back, kitchen down passenger side in front of side door, and shower room and fridge etc along the drivers side.

So we now had ideas and a van, and we hit Ebay to get stuff, and I mean LOTS of stuff.

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So now we had to start work, so we could reclaim the spare bedroom.

First step was to fit a reversing camera, and Jason and Kirsty replaced the side door window with an opening window as the kitchen would be along that side.

Second step was to remove the existing tatty ply boarding, and start over again with good insulation.

First we put up Dead Mat sound insulation, and this proved worth every penny, as the previously rattly van was now quiet to drive.

Next we put in 2 layers of Celotex insulation, and used recycled Plastic Bottle loft insulation in the small spaces.

At this point the wiring plan had to be completed, and first fix wires installed, making sure wires were fed through struts rather than just behind insulation. Extra wires were also fed through in case the design changed.

We then cut new side panels from 9mm ply and carpeted the panels with light grey carpet lining.

Next step was to fit a bed – we had planned to build one from wood, but when we saw this ready made metal bed we opted for that instead. As we like our comfort, we left space at the back to extend the width of the bed to King size.

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This was firmly bolted to the side panels and to the floor.

Our plan allowed some room for a small hanging space next to the bed and then the shower room. As we had bought a Thetford C402 Cassette toilet, we had to work out where the door would go, and work around that to position the shower room.

Once we knew roughly where it was going, we put up the back wall against the driver side wall of the van, and covered it with white PVC sheeting ( it has a protective blue film at this stage) cut to size.

Then we checked the toilet fitted, and bravely cut a hole in the van for the door.

Well done Jason!

A timber frame was then built around the toilet and shower base, the PVC fitted inside, heating gently with heat gun to bend the top to fit, a ceiling put in place and the walls insulated (for sound!).

Next was fitting the opening roof fan. These are NOT designed for van roofs, but we got there in the end, after our first try leaked. While we were working on the roof, we fitted a Solar panel, so we would not be reliant on mains power.

Wiring for the fan and bathroom light was also fitted at this stage.

Next we had to fit the 15mm lightweight 5 ply laminate boarding outside the shower room.

I had chosen some fabric for the seats, and we were planning on a light grey wood effect panel, but when we viewed the sample I didn’t like the shade as it was too beige, and instead opted for ‘Blue metal’, a duck egg blue laminate with a metallic sheen.

The board is in large 2500 x 1220 mm boards and was not cheap, so first we cut a cardboard template, then transferred that to hardboard, before cutting the board. I found that my circular saw was too rough for the job and resorted to a jigsaw, with good narrow laminate blades.

Then we laid Wood effect laminate flooring for a tough, easy clean finish.

We had bought the recommended drill blade for fitting the t-strip, but found it hard to work with, and it wouldn’t fit into corners, so got a new small router and special t-strip blade. This worked brilliantly, and most of the t-strip did not need gluing.

The light fitting in the shower has 2 settings, bright and dim, so mid night trips to the loo don’t wake the whole site. A standard shower is fitted, with plumbing going out the back wall into the wardrobe.

Next we decided to fit the fridge and microwave, as they were the largest objects lying around. We planned to put the microwave at head height, but once we saw it could fit above the fridge we went with that design. The fridge is electric low powered, so doesn’t need gas, and had a removable ice-box. The solar panel will run the fridge on sunny days.

The microwave can be removed, and the space down the side was made into a 2ltr bottle store, topped off with 18mm worktop in grey.

Ian fitted the electrics for both mains and 12V. This includes 230V sockets for the water heater, microwave and kettle. 12V for the fridge, TV and Bluetooth amp. The lights are all LED, with a colour changing strip light in the ceiling. The leisure battery has a solar charger a mains charger and a B2B charger so we can use powered and un-powered pitches.

Jason fitted the clean and waste waters tanks underneath the van and drilled the holes for the plumbing.

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Next we built the kitchen units, and fitted the sink and double hob into the worktop.

The gas bottle has a door at the back which can be accessed from the side van door when open.

The cupboards have shelves for food, and space for a bin.

Little touches like the spice rack on the back of the sink for washing up liquid etc really make a difference and use wasted space.

The wall cupboards have holes for the crockery and mugs, and a magnetic knife strip holds knives when not in transit.

We then built around the bed base and put in the side extension, and ordered the bed foam, 4″ of hard foam laminated to 2″ memory foam, cut to size. I covered these in the fabrics I had bought.

Jason fitted the table base and we made the table and a storage space for it in the wardrobe.

He also put the stickers on the sides, to comply with DVLA requirements.

Getting near to finishing, we built the wall cupboards either side, and fitted the TV.

I sewed the curtains, adding small magnets to the edges so they stay in place, and lining them with blackout fabric.

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As we had now all the requirements for the DVLA we sent off the registration and it quickly came back declaring Connie to be a motor caravan. Success!

We were now ready to give Connie her first trip out – just a one night stay not too far from home.

 

I’m sure I have missed some of the process, but we have enjoyed 3 months of labour, and are delighted with the results, she is warm and quiet and comfortable, so look forward to our trips out in Connie.

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PS – One addition I needed was a G&T shelf on the back door – success!

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And back again

Galaxidi is as gorgeous as ever

As I never got around to finishing the second half of my last blog on our sailing trip from Nidri to Corfu, I thought the best thing to do would be make the return trip, and more.

So this blog covers a flotilla placement trip from Corfu to Epidavros.

We start by waking at 02:30 for a 06:00 flight to Corfu, this had better be worth it.

We arrive in Corfu late morning, and travel the short distance to Gouvier marina to pick up our yacht Kanoni.

After settling in, we dine in a marina cafe, and settle for an early night.

Next morning, we set off (hopefully before the other 160 Sailing Holiday yachts) for Corfu yacht club. We found some light wind in the morning to sail, then stopped on Nisida Vido, the island outside Corfu town, for me to take a swim, and collect sea glass on the beach. Refreshed, we made our way into the yacht club, with the help of the harbour master.

We stayed here last October and fell in love with the quirky place. The marina is set right below the high imposing walls of Corfu citadel, and below the music college.

The citadel is lit at night, and snatches of music can be heard drifting down to the boats.

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The lead crew organised a punch party for us to get to know the flotilla members, then we wandered off to dine in Corfu town, an odd mix of regency British architecture, with twisty lane climbing the hill. While here last year we heard brass band playing in an upper storey.  Research found that Corfu has 3 brass bands.

Tuesday morning is the Greek labour day holiday, and we set off southwards and over to the mainland. The wind was not existent all morning, but after lunch on the go, it picked up and we sailed most of the way to Sivota Mourtos.

Ian is sure we have stayed here before and we both recognise a hotel on the way in, but the town itself doesn’t ring many bells. However we moor on the town quay, facing a busy taverna packed with local and holidaymakers enjoying the sunny labour day.

Next day we head off back over to the island, to Gaios on Paxos. A good windy sail, with our sails well reefed.

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Due to encroaching bad weather we stayed another night in Gaios, giving us a relaxing day for reading and walking, and meeting the local cats.

Friday we set off early towards Prevesa, planning a swim in Emerald bay, but large waves and jelly fish kibosh that idea, so I will have to resort to last years photos, when it was calm and sunny, it really does live up to its name.

We then motor sailed onward. This stretch is my least favourite, large swell and no scenery. Last year it was so tedious we played Eye-Spy, ‘S is for……’ should have been the title to the second blog

Eventually we arrived at Prevesa, which is off the tourist track and is popular with the locals who promenade along the front. On our previous trip this was our laundry stop, as you can see from the washing strung around the boat.

We had another lovely meal in the Mermaid taverna, if you ever travel there, we recommend you visit.

Saturday, after a thundery briefing the rain stopped and we set off out of Prevesa. A good wind allowed us to sail to the Lefkas canal.

After motoring through, we again sailed towards Sivota. We made a brief detour at Skorpios to meet Robin and David who had been sailing in the south Ionian while Robin passed her ICC. Having eventually found them, we had a short chat, then set off again, motoring down to Sivota.

Thunder and heavy rain rattled through during the night, and the next morning.

Sunday was a free sail day, but due to the bad weather many of the flotilla decided to stay put in Sivota. We looked at the weather maps and planned to go to the bays on the north of Meganissi, which looked a bit more promising.

We left the harbour in heavy rain and thunder, but after half an hour, it started to brighten up, and while it still drizzled, it was far better that in Sivota. We sailed around the foot of Meganissi, and up the east side, and finally anchored in Kapoli Bay on the north, with just a small yacht and a cruiser for company. I swam ashore and tied a long line to a tree as wind was blowing down the bay.

This photo is taken by AllWinner's v3-sdv

Eventually the cruiser left, and we spent a quiet if lumpy night, as the wind turned and we were side to to the waves with our line to shore. It alternated between sun and showers all evening.

Next morning we woke to a gorgeous sunrise, and after a swim, in undid the line and we sailed around the north of Meganissi. As we passed Nidri we saw some dolphins who came a played for a few minutes, including a youngster.

We continued down to Big Vathi to rejoin the flotilla, where, despite our longer trip, we arrived first after the lead crew. We strolled into Vathi from Dimitris quay, and had the best ice cream ever from the bakery on the front.

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Next morning,Tuesday we set off by 08:30, as we were rafted in behind 3 yachts, and we had a longer trip today.

We motor sailed across the inland sea to Messalongi. going further than our Autumn trip this time.

This is another town not visited by tourists, and the approach is along a long shallow sandy canal, bordered by wooden houses, some on stilts, that gives the place a very Southern American feel.

Wednesday we strolled around the harbour at Messalongi then set sail before 10:00.

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Once out of the channel, and lots of photos, we raised our sails for a while, but soon gave up. The flotilla congregated by a cardinal marker for sand banks, and one yacht had quick repairs, then we set of for Rion-Antirion bridge which we could see through the haze. The wind picked up a little, and we goose-winged with engine power towards the bridge.

After the bridge the channel narrows, and the wind picked up and we were able to goose-wing all the way to Trezonia, reaching 8.8 knots a few points, as the wind was behind us and the waves travelling our direction and speed. Yeeha!

It was sad to find thaT Trezonia has become a yacht graveyard, with an examples of how NOT to park side to.

We wandered round the quay, comparing sailing notes with the flot, then ate on board as the wind died down.

Thursday, we set off for Galaxidi, getting good sailing under a genoa, until we turned the corner, when it died down. Galaxidi is as gorgeous as ever, a real refreshing treat after Trizonia, it even smells delightful, with rosemary and other herb bushes along the quay.

We wandered into town to dine, only to find the whole of the flotilla had chosen the same restaurant.

We were up early on Friday for a coach trip up to Delphi. We had been before, but due to renewing the paths and step, part of this ancient site was shut. This time we wandered up to the stadium.

Saturday we had an early start towards Corinth. After a short bit of wind, it died down and we motored across, but did see dolphins for a short while. Corinth has cleaned up its act and the yacht marina is now clean and tidy. In the evening it is a meeting point for the youngsters of Corinth, and also a standard walk for young and old alike. Later it became busier as a club ashore had loud music, but we still got a good nights sleep.

IMG_2744We were booked to traverse the Corinth canal at 9:00, so we’re up bright and early again, but we were them delayed to the 10:30 slot so I took the chance for a swim while we loitered. The canal is as marvelous as ever. We saw sparrow hawks nesting on the walls this time.

For lunch we stopped in a bay with a very steep beach, which meant the boat was only a few feet off the shore. I had a great swim, it looked almost like we were on the edge of a reef. A couple of other flotilla boats came and looked, but only one managed to anchor beside us.

After lunch we saw a boat well under sail, so set off. After an hours very good sailing, we realised we didn’t have time to continue so motored on to Angistri, a new harbour for us.

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A team meal in Milos Jamaica bar, a lovely hotel with an incredible view, and live music and they even got us up dancing.

Monday we had a good sail round to Poros. A beautiful sunset over the lady as usual.

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Next day was a free day so we first walked round the end island of Poros and up to the clock tower, then after lunch walked along the large island coast and I had 2 swims, and collected more sea glass.

Early start on Wednesday, to Hydra, as it is always busy. Despite a short sail and arriving 11:15, it was full, so the flot headed round to Mandraki bay, where we rafted and most had a good swim. We then walked into Hydra, for ice cream and shopping, and got water taxi back.

I tried out my GoPro while swimming, and dined onboard, sat looking at stars.

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Thursday, after a morning swim, we headed over to frog rock for another swim,

CIMG0037 then motor sailed to the bay next to Perdika for yet another swim, but didn’t take camera, then on  to Perdika, where we fought off catamarans for a space.

Next we travelled to the third Vathi of the trip, this one is a tiny pretty little harbour next to a few tavernas.

As we had arrived early, we decided to walk up to the volcano, which is a cave formed when the hills behind Vathi last erupted. It was very hot and a long way, but we made it, and the views were spectacular.

Sadly the next day was our last as we sailed on to Epidavros and returned home, but we enjoyed our 3 week adventure, visiting places new and old to us.

Lighthouses and Windmills

We sailed in the North and South Ionian this October.

Despite a few days worrying about our Monarch flight out, when they went bust, Sailing Holidays soon sorted us a new flight, and we arrived in Nidri late on Sunday and were shown to our yacht, and then enjoyed a quick drink at the bar to get into holiday mood.

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On Monday morning, we had our boat briefing and set off for Sivota. winds were light so we stopped in a bay for break, and Mary-Ann and Colin, friends from previous flotillas met us for a quick chat.

That evening we enjoyed a meal with the rest of the flotilla crews.

We made the most of light winds the next morning, but as i needed my first swim we motored to One House Bay on Atoko island.

The sea was blue, and warmish, and lots of fish for me to enjoy

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Light winds took us to the nights port of Kioni, a pretty village we first visited in 2006.

Destination for Wednesday was Fiskardo, the setting for ‘Captain Corelli’s Mandolin’.

It is a very pretty village, but maybe too popular with tourists. On the plus side, it had old Venetian lighthouse and other ruins in the hillside, and as we had to arrive early we had the chance for a walk around the hillside.

Next stop was Ay. Euphemia

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The next day was a free sailing day, and despite the distance, and our yacht having a very poor engine/prop, we decided to head for Kalamos.

George, the owner of the taverna at the end of the harbour, helps everyone moor, and can always find more space. Luckily it wasn’t busy and we also had time for a stroll around town, which is so steep the locals drive golf buggies.

The next morning, as winds were light again, we headed over the hill to see the windmills, and for a swim.

This lighthouse would make a wonderful holiday let.

While there is an air of decay about the place it still charms us.

We even found a project for Jason on the end of the pier

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After our stroll, we headed off for Little Vathi, but not before we were approached by ‘pirates’, OK, crew asking for our spare diesel for another yacht in our flot who had engine problems.

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Little Vathi was our last harbour in the South Ionian, so the next morning we set off under sail for the Lefkas canal

This canal separates Kefkas Island from the mainland and runs between swamps.

There is a boat bridge at the top end that only opens for 10 minutes each hour, but good timing meant our 2 flotillas all safely got through and headed on to Prevesa.

This town is off the tourist trail, but is now loved by locals who promenade along the seafront in the evening. We enjoyed a pleasant meal in the Mermaid and Crepes in the Tram Cafe.IMG_2379

That brings us to the end of week one, and the start of our North Ionian sailing – be back soon

♫ Ferry ‘cross the Mersey ♫

has to make you want to burst into song

In July, we decided we needed a weekend away, and picked Liverpool as our destination, as we hadn’t been for many years.

We arrived on Friday morning, and after finding our hotel, went for a walk down towards the docks.

I love the mix of old and new buildings around the river, and we got our first glimpse of the ferries in the docks.

P1070546There is no mistaking which city you are in with this statue

 

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The Beatles statue

And of course, the Liver Bird.

IMG_2157We came across other sculptures on our walk, this one was a crazy telescope

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All along the seafront, the tradition of attaching love padlocks continues

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At last we saw the wonderful Dazzle Ferry coming across, which has to make you want to burst into song

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Rather than see everything the first day, we wandered back to the hotel, and found The Underground Gin Society bar nearby, which had to be investigated.

Next day we continued our wanders, venturing around the docks

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Lunch just had to be Fish and Chips with this lovely view

We visited a few of the museums along the waterfront,

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P1070549and then ventured into the city towards the Cathedrals.

En-route we found this water feature that we stood and watched for ages

We were unable to visit the Cathedral, as they were holding degree ceremonies, so we entered the Chinese Quarter via this ornate archway, the largest ceremonial arch outside China, I believe

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More walking took us down to the shopping areas, and these umbrellas over one road

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Ian was amused that the new Shopping Centre is called Liverpool One, and has a Liverpool FC store, but next door is the Everton store, called Everton 2, making the score 2:1 to Everton.

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In the docks, the cruise ship Disney Magic was moored and the streets were busy with princes going for a visit.

The majestic building were begging for more shots as we visited the Museum of Liverpool Life. There were stalls and fair rides along the dockside.

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Later on we passed the big wheel

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After checking out the Gin Society for a few more samplings, we rested our weary legs for the night.

On our last day we strolled to the World Museum for our last bit of culture

and a last view of the sites of Liverpool

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Finally , could these be the next big band, playing in front of a Beatles mural?

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Dolphin delights

And sailed gracefully out of the bay

Finally got around to adding the second part of our Sporades blog.

After un-tangling our anchor we set off for Planitis Bay, a secure bay set in the north end of Panagia Island, away from civilisation.

Once you reach the top of the island, you can see the secluded inlet, and we motored in and anchored in the bay.IMG_2488

It is a very quite and natural part of the island, the only downside is that the currents wash rubbish into the inlet, so the beach is littered with debris.

Nevetheless, the water was clear and I had a lovely swim in the bay.

As there is no taverna we dined on board, then say on deck into the evening to watch the stars as there were no steet lights to dim the view.

The next morning we had a fairly early departure as a thunder storm was forecast for that evening and we had a long sail to get back to a safer harbour, so we set off with a light breeze back down the north coast of Panagia and Alonissos Islands. The wind gave up fairly soon after departure so we motored on, thinking it would be a boring day, but we were proved very wrong.

We sighted a  pod of dolphins of our port bow, about 50 meters ahead, and were delighted when they started turning to join us, and we realised there were at least 20 dolphins including mother with babies. The sea was by now very flat, and we enjoyed half an hour watching them play in our bow wave, taking turns to stand at the bow. My video taken with my iphone turned out brilliant, here are some stills from it.

Eventually they left us to visit the rest of the flotilla behind us, and we motored on for a return visit to the Mama Mia Church – Church of Agios. This time the weather was in our favour.

Once we’d had our fill of this lovely church we noticed the wind had risen, and we set off around the north tip of Skopelos for a good sail. The wind got stronger as we progessed, so we reefed our sails and wizzed down the West coast at great speed (in a yacht this means about 7 mph).

Our stop for the night was Loutraki, a pretty village providing protection from the impending weather. Everyone (but me) wrapped up in waterprooks to walk to the taverna for the team meal, and we were entertained by the thunder and heavy downpour to accompany our delicious meal.

Luckily the rain stopped when the meal was over, so I didn’t get drenched.

Mondays trip was just a short hop down the coast, but as we were ready fairly early, and we’d seen dolphins in the bay before, we took the long route around Tsoungria Island, anchoring in the far bay for lunch and my best swim so far – lots of fish.

We sailed back over to Skopelos and rafted up in a beautiful bay of Panormos. The peace and solitude of this bay was broken by a loud crew on a nearby catamaran, and then into the evening by a taverna on the shore, but when we woke up all was quiet, so I slipped into the water for a quiet swim.

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Another long sail beckoned, so we set off under motor back to the mainland.

As I had enjoyed Koukounaris Bay on our first visit, we stopped off again for lunch and I had another wonderful swim. The beach was busier today as more holidaymakers had arrived, so we had an audience.

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Once we had lunched, the wind finally put in an appearance, and as soon as the anchor was up we hoisted the sails (not showing off at all, honest) and sailed gracefully out of the bay. Well, we have to provide them with photo opportunities.

A good sail took us to Kiriaki, a very pretty fishing town, not touched by tourism.

When we passed this harbour on our way out, we were intregued by masts aparently in midair on the shoreline. As we came into the bay we could see the Boat Building yard, with the boats up on metal ramps.

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As we had a smaller yacht, we were moored between the fishing boats at the far right end of the bay, along with Robin and David, which meant we had a pleasant walk through the village to the shops and tavernas.

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After a cocktail party on the largest yacht and dinner in the fish taverna, we had a quiet night in our corner of the harbour, while the sea rocked the boats in the main quay overnight.

Next morning, Mary Ann, Colin, Robin and David and ourselves decided to walk up the (steep) hill to the village of Trikeri. There is a lovely cobbled path up the hill, through flower filled countryside, with views down into the bay, and lots of butterflies enjoying the valerian.P1070531.JPG

The village at the top was charming, and provided us with a shady bar to enjoy a Frappe and Ice cream, and some group shots before working our way back down.

The lead crew had left Jake and his rib in the bay to ensure we didn’t have crossed anchors, as the fishing boat area had lazy lines galore. Lucky they did, as Robin and David required his assistance. But when he came to join us, the cord on his motor broke, so we took him onboard to taxi him to Trikeri Village round the headland.

As there was good wind, we then went out and sailed around Palio Trikeri, capturing some good shots of fellow flotilla.

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Thats a good angle!

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On our last day we motored back to Orei, and enjoyed the last team meal and award presentations.

I’d like to give a big Thank You to our Sailing Holidays lead Crew, Jake, Becky and Tom, who helped us have a wonderful holiday – we will be back (next 2 flots already booked).

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Sporades Sailing

There is a delightful walk up the hill in the old town

We travel further afield for my next blog – a 2 week flotilla sail around the Greece Sporades.

Late on Friday evening we arrived at our Beneteau 331 yacht to join the flotilla of 10 boats , 30 crew and lead boat Athina and her crew of Jake, Tom and Becky, in Orei harbour. After our first night onboard, we woke to a beautiful morning, and the first trip was from Orei to Ahilio. We managed a good 2.5 hours of sailing, and after the customary Ouzo and lemon, or beer, met for a team meal, and were blessed with a stunning sunset.

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After a swim in the harbour, our trip the next day would take us from the mainland over to Skiathos island, and the perfect Koukounaries beach. This beach is rightly classed as one the top beaches in Greece.

En-route we spied our first dolphins, but they didn’t come close.

The flotilla anchored in the bay, and the turquoise waters tempted me in for swim. The sand is white and water crystal clear.

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The bay is home to 3 swans, 2 white and one black, who visited each yacht in turn.

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Many of the crew decided to row ashore and dine in the village, but we stayed aboard and made a salad – Greek of course, and then sat on the deck watching the stars.

The next leg takes us across to Skopelos Island, and a new harbour of Nea Klima. As the trip was short, and we were eager for more sailing, we went to long way around the North of  Skiathos Island, but as we approached Skopelos the wind died, and we started motoring along, until we spied several dolphins. We slowed our motor and gently followed a pod of around 12 or more dolphins, who, while not coming to play around the boat, were happy to stay close by and put on a great show for us. Eventually we alerted the flotilla, and Tom from the lead crew zoomed out in his rib, only for the pod to disappear, but luckily, just after we decided they had gone, they returned and amused us for a while longer. I missed a great shot when Tom created a large bow wave, and 4 dolphins surfed it right next to his rib. After an hours bliss we motored into Neo Klima, a pretty and quiet village.

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I ventured for a swim in the harbour despite a few jellyfish.

We were entertained the following morning by this gentleman fixing his boat – first he used his main halyard to raise his ladder, then proceeded to fix something at the top of his mast – where are Health and Safety when you need them?

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This cute boat sat next to the quay. It looks like a boat a child would draw.P1070473

The weather forecast for Tuesday was for strong winds, and due to issues with our mainsail, we motored around the top of Skopelos to the town of the same name. On our way we passed the church where Mamma Mia was filmed, but dull weather and high waves meant photos were not good, so we hastened into the safety of the town quay, where were remained for 3 nights.

The sea wall was large and constructed of huge rock, then a wide concrete pier where cars could drive, and our yachts safely tucked behind, but the winds were able to send waves crashing over and reach the deck.

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There is a delightful walk up the hill in the old town, with incredible views down over the bay, if you could catch your breath from the wind.

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Luckily Skopelos had quaint shops and many tavernas to entertain us during our enforced stay. The lead crew organised a quiz one afternoon, and helped by Mick and Tash from yacht Eirini, our team won the prize of a bottle of gin.

At last the winds died and we travelled on to Steni Vala, on the South of Alenissos island.

This finally felt like real Greece, no tourists, and not many other yachts in the small fishing quay.

I had a great swim, and we had a team meal in the sea front taverna.

 

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I’m sure we have new member to the flotillaIMG_1925

Lets have a closer look:

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Hm, not sure the red fishing boat is one of us. Our yacht, Aristi is to the right, with the England flag, and I’m offering a prize if you can identify our second flag.

We had a pleasant stroll up the hills surrounding the bay and watched large ants, and lizards basking in the sun.

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As this marked the end of our first week, I shall leave here, back soon.

Quintessentially English

What can be more English than a cricket match by the canal?

I have been thinking about doing a blog closer to home, but never got round to it, until we decided to take a good walk along a local canal, nothing unusual, and found a section nearby we had missed before, and couldn’t stop taking photos.

We often take the dogs along the network of local canals and have been to Fradley Junction many times, and normally turn towards Rugeley, but decided to head the opposite direction this day. As we had already had a good walk that morning, we left Tez dog at home, as her old legs cannot take 2 walks a day now.

We parked up near a bridge over the Coventry Canal and walked the short distance to the Junction where it meets the Trent and Mersey Canal. There is a wonderful signpost just for us there, but we forgot to take a new shot of the the sign, so here is one I took about 10 years ago.

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We were greeted by the beautiful Cherry blossom cascading over the tow path. We crossed over the canal and turned right towards Alrewas.

The sun came out for us, and we started enjoying the views of fields and countryside.

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After a couple of miles we reached Alrewas, and were enchanted. This village sits mainly alongside the A38 road, and so we only see that side which isn’t the prettiest, but it was saving its best for canal visitors.

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First a wonderful graffiti to welcome us as we passed under the road.IMG_2069

Ian spotted the reflections on the roof.

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Reggie says hurry up!

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There are several pretty locks along this stretch

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and what can be more English than a cricket match by the canal?

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We then discovered the pretty thatched cottages and gorgeous gardens

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I love this old shed in an overgrown garden

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The village church was visible over the hedgerows and old oaks tree

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We carried on walking past the village to where the River Trent flows across the canal – you don’t see signs like this very often on a canal (photobombed by Reggie)

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This bridge is the canal tow-path crossing the riverIMG_2079IMG_1793

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Mummy duck posing for a family photo shootIMG_1792

As we had been walking for well over an hour, it was time to retrace our steps, but we still found new views to share

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Reggie wasn’t too happy going onto this bridge, but got there with some encouragement

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Couldn’t resist this groundsel clinging between the bricks of a bridgeIMG_1785

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And finally we returned to Fradley Junction for a well deserved and delicious ice cream.

We will remember to walk this section again!

Mountain, coast and wildlife

I’ll pick up our travels, and fill in the gaps to Kelseys last post as we continue on our trip through New Zealand North Island.

You left us as we arrived in New Plymouth. We stayed in an apartment with a view of the sea to one side, and Mount Taranaki the other. We took a gentle stroll into town along the coast walkway.

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A selfie in one of the sculptures.

 

New Plymouth likes reflections, seen here in the Len Lye Centre/Govett-Brewster Art Gallery

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The contrast between old and new architecture was striking, but charming.

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I loved the low sunlight through the clock tower

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If you ever in New Plymouth, and want to eat try PaNKaWaLLa for an incredible Indian meal. We shared the buffet and couldn’t finish it, despite our best efforts

We decided to take the Surf Route the next day, with lovely clear views of the mountain we were driving around.

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No mistaking Taranaki for the active volcano it is.

The road doesn’t actually follow the coast, but has lots of side roads to surf beaches. We ventured down a couple, trying to find Cape Egmont Lighthouse, but chose the wrong road and found the new lighthouse instead, still beautiful against the blue sky.

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The wild coast from Opunake View point.p1070229

Carrying on down the coast, we just had to visit Bulls, after Kelsey had blogged about it.

I’ll resist the puns, but we loved this shop

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Eventually we reached Wellington and met up with Andy and Kelsey again, and met my other grand-doggy Higgs.

The following day Andy and Kelsey went to work for the morning, so we walked round to Zealandia, a fully fenced urban ecosanctuary. We had already met some of the birds flying around the area, but got a chance for more up close sightings here, despite the wet weather.

 

 

 

Later that day we ventured off to Martinborough, and enjoyed great food and wine and company for Christmas.

This window was above our bed.

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p1070277Higgs enjoyed his presents, while we enjoyed the spread at Poppies Vineyard

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Kelsey’s blog has covered the visit to the Pinnacles and Cape Palliser – we were getting our step count in every day.

We returned to Wellington after a super break, and decided to visit Wellington Zoo for a morning.

A lovely zoo set on the hills over Wellington, we got to see most of the animals relaxingimg_1548

As the holiday neared its end we still found time for some walks around upper Wellington, with the awesome panoramas.

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And I shall leave you with views of this land, and our transport home, but New Zealand gave us a true goodbye – the earth moved for us as we felt a 5.5 earthquake while in  Wellington Airport. And true to Kiwi form, no-one batted an eyelid.

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Goodbye New Zealand, Kia Ora, we will be back.

Coromandel, Lakes and Forgotten World Highway

The Highway hugs the contours of the native forests like a roller coaster

If you’ve missed the adventure in New Zealand so far, visit https://flyallover.net/, thanks to Kelsey.

After we parted company with Andy and Kelsey, we picked up our rental car for the next adventures. Andy had suggested we visit the Coromandel Peninsula, so we made our way down and around the Firth of Thames, and then up the wonderful coastal road up the Coromandel, stopping here and there to enjoy the views.

Our stop for the night was a cabin at Long Bay Motor Camp, at the end of the road to the Long Bay Reserve.

Our cabin at first appeared to be a garage, but once inside, all we could say was WOW.

This is the view from the bed, bliss.img_1425

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We were treated to the view of the sun sinking into the sea, and some sea-glass collecting on the beach.

Of course, we had to have wine..

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The next morning, after a visit to town, we drove over the peninsula and down the East Coast road, again with superb views.

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Next stop was Rotirua, for a second fix at the Luge. We arrived too late for the planned 5 runs, so made do with 3, and once again had huge fun.

Do I need to tell you the views were incredible?img_1438We spent the night at Taupo. Who can fail to be impressed by the snow-topped volcano Tongariro behind a lake with black swans.

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Next adventure was the Forgotten World Highway, a twisty road through native forests, a real feel of the wild. A sign at the start of the highways tells you there is no fuel for 155km.

First stop was Nevins Lookout, up a steep hill (close the gate), but with 360 degree views forever.

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While waiting for me to catch up, Ian spotted this wasp making her nest on an old fence post.img_0368

From here, the road leaves grassy hills behind and hugs the contours of the native forests like a roller coaster. We stopped at Josh Morgan’s Grave, the surveyor who created this road.

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We ended the Highway at Stratford, names after Stratford-on-Avon, with its glockenspiel clock tower.

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and on to New Plymouth for the night, were my next blog will pick up the story