Greece 2021 – On Holiday At Last

They make a spectacular sight against a blue sky.

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.

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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Log-tailed tyrant

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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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New Zealand Murals 2019 Napier

Earlier this year during our travels to New Zealand, we came across lots of murals.

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Plastic Pollution / Ocean health by Pat Perry at Willix Legal, Vautier Street, Napier

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.

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.

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Climate Change / Ocean Acidification by James Bullough at the back of Quest Hotel, Station Street, Napier

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.

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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.

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NZ Endangered Seabirds by Celeste Byers in the car park off Dickens Street, Napier

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Detail from NZ Endangered Seabirds by Celeste Byers in the car park off Dickens Street, Napier

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Plastic Pollution by Kelly Spencer in Theatre Lane, Napier

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Ocean Health and Wellbeing by Cryptik on the front of Napier City Council building in Hastings Street

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Shark Conservation by Noelle Anderson, on the corner of Routledge Street and Nelson Quay, Napier

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Detail from NZ Endangered Marine Animals by Morag Shaw, on corner of Waghorne and Routledge Streets, Napier

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NZ Endangered Marine Animals by Morag Shaw, on corner of Waghorne and Routledge Streets, Napier

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Ghost nets / Marine Debris by Mica Still, on wall on corner of Waghorne and Bridge Streets, Napier

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NZ Endangered Sea birds by Vexta, at back car park behind Speights Ale House, West Quay, Napier

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Plastic Pollution Affecting Sea Turtles, by Phibs, in the Herschell Street private car park, next to Byron Street

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NZ Endangered Seabirds by Twoone, in the Spreights Ale House car park at West Quay, Napier

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Hammerhead Data Translation by Lauren Ys, at West Quay, Napier

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Ocean pollution by Elliot Francis Stewart, at West Quay, Napier

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Global warming and Rising sea levels by Carly Ealey, in alleyway by Shed 2 in Lever Street at West Quay, Napier

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Ocean Acidification by Leanne Culy, at back of Shed 2, West Quay, Napier

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Global warming and Rising sea levels by Carly Ealey, in alleyway by Shed 2 in Lever Street at West Quay, Napier

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NZ Marine Animals, by Flox, at the Bach cafe, Marine Parade, Napier

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Plastic Pollution, by Rustam QBIC, at MTG Hawke’s Bay, Browning Street

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Shark Conservation by Faith 47, on the far wall in the Te Pania Scenic Circle car park off Byron Street

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Climate Change by Onur, at the back of Kitchen Thing, Vautier Street, Napier

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Shark Conservation by Freeman White on Raffles/Bower Street in Napier City Council Car Park

I hope you enjoyed these, but if you get the chance, go to Napier and see them full siz.

I will try to blog the Gisborne murals soon.

mural map