Tuesday, 16 September 2008

...and then there was 4


And now there are four!!!
Colin and Kate arrived late last Wednesday, necessitating a trip to and a wait in Francisco’s bar until midnight! PHEW!!!
Anyway we’ve done lots since. Been to Punyetes, Ramon’s, and a Paella in Bodega D’Es Port. We’ve been out for day trips, and stayed out overnight in Formentor, but there’s been some uncomfortable swell, caused by big winds from E France, N Italy.

Ian’s been bursting to get back at the first sign of a cloud, so that he could drag, sorry, I mean lead us on a bike ride into foothills of Pollensa. Took Colin and Kate too. Kate came dressed in that most appropriate of cycling outfits- flip-flops, bikini and short skirt! After two and a half hours and twenty miles later, things were beginning to chafe!! We all made appreciative noises about the countryside, ate figs straight off the trees, had lunch overlooking the Bay of Pollensa and then complained of sore bums all the way home!

Tonight Colin’s treating us to a slap-up meal at our favourite steak restaurant, and tomorrow it’s on Ian, so I guess it’ll be Punyetes again!

Been on the beach today sun-bathing, whilst the boys have been on another bike ride. Kate’s got repetitive strain injury in her neck from checking her tan in the mirrior! Also managed to visit Mango a few times for early birthday presents!

Weather’s lovely and warm. Sunny with a bit of cloud and not as oppressively hot at night as it has been. Still got a few days left for some last sailing, swimming and tapas eating before back home late on Thursday. Hear that you’re having some improved weather back home. About time!!!

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Especially for you

Especially for you, Florence!
Sorry about this, but it’s absolutely roasting. Not particularly sunny today. Majorcan “neighbours” on the boat came out Friday, spent a windy Saturday night at sea, and then left Sunday, saying that they might not return at least until Wednesday, which I supposed should have told us we were in for a few unsettled days. Weather has been windy but really warm and sunny, until today. 28deg!!!!
Our neighbour is a character. Majorcan. Flies a Catalan flag from the rigging and the tiniest Spanish flag from the back of his boat. Now most boats you can tell what kind of personal statement they are making by the size of their flags! The bigger the flag, the bigger the ego and, one can only guess as to the associated personal attributes! Usually less guess-work is involved when Ian says “What a di******” when he sees the size of some German banderas!! But our mate next door has the reverse attitude. Come to think of it, he’s a Majorcan Ian. Do you remember that time when Rab C meets his Spanish counterpart, complete with bandage and Spanish drunken cursing, well…..
Having assumed he was a bit of a recluse, who’d taken to sailing as a means of getting away from jo-public, he turned up with “Maria”. After months of only a passing association with a hose-pipe, red rain clay having thickly encrusted his deck, and no sign of repairs carried out, suddenly, the local chandlers are fitting a new hatch and advising on other ways of screwing money out of him! The love (and focus) of a good woman! However it was wonderful to witness him leaving port. Maria was at the front of the boat looking gorgeous and slim (there the similarity breaks down!), and Ianito throws both mooring lines straight into the water, and chucks the gang-plank haphazardly on the pontoon, for the marineros to tidy up after! He sails off leaving a mess behind him, and shooting up in Ian’s estimations even more, “What a Guy!!”
He returns in the early hours of the following morning, decked out in shabby cagoule, girlfriend looking gorgeous off the port-side, and the remnants of last night’s wine in the cock-pit, and a mass of half-burnt candles!!! On arriving back in the berth with fairly brisk winds, Ianito backs into us and demolishes his tiny excuse for a Spanish flag, complete with flag-pole! So it will be interesting to see what he replaces it with, if anything. Mucho viento, he says! You don’t say!!!
Meanwhile, we’ve hired bikes and had lovely reccies into the foot-hills of Pollensa, finding “camis” or little roads which lead to trees full of ripe figs and carob beans. Driving over Lemons as Chris Stewarts book was called about Andalucia. Well cycling over almonds and figs is the Mallorcan version! Why are figs in UK sooooo expensive, when they’re being driven over in droves out here, and left to rot on the trees!!! Planned a great two and a half hour route for Colin and Kate when they come out next week. “What do you mean you’re on holiday!”
Just had a fantastic Menu del Dia at Casa Gallega--- 10Euros each for Langostine and Avocado starter, then mixed fish with mixture of potatoes and peppers and carrots in a lovely sauce, then fresh fruit and ice-cream, a bottle of house wine and a strong coffee. Absolutely amazing! A siesta and then a cheese butty for tea!!!!! Buen Provecho!!!!

Lots of lovexxxxxx
Any news from Los Trabajadores, Nanny Ogg, the fell-running contingent of the Webbies, Jack Rafter et al?????

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Warning

Warning of Force 8 Gale Imminent!!! Oh No!! A quick check outside. Beautiful blue skies. No clouds. A gentle breeze. Checked the Navtex again to find that the forecast was for Plymouth!!!! Poor old UK!! Came out here after a shocking summer. The worst one in 45 years according to the papers, and more personally, the first one for us in UK for about four years. What a disappointment!! Great to see family and friends, but otherwise sh**””!!!
Anyway back to God’s own Country! Beautiful weather all week so far. Motored to Menorca and stayed in the beautiful bay of Fornells, which is even more idyllic because you can park for free! A sun-kissed Menorcan Adonis motors up to you in his dinghy, labels telling you that he is employed by the Portuaria de Menorca, and instead of demanding payment the minute you’ve tied up to one of his buoys, he offers to help you, so that you don’t have to lean over the side too much, and says you can stay as long as you like for free!! Only problem is you get some local scallywags who, rather than pay expensive marina fees, leave their boats crumbling away on the buoys gratis. As you can imagine, Ian enjoys a good old British whinge about such dishonest practice!
A lovely overnight stay in Cala Santandria, on Ciutadella’s doorstep. Beautiful spot. You have to put down an anchor in the middle of the channel, making sure you don’t hook it under the disused power cable, which we so adeptly did several years ago. Then to stop yourself drifting into a neighbours boat, you have to take a rope from the back of the boat and tie it to some rocks on the shore. This we did in the customary mountain- out- of- a -molehill way!! Shortly after our neighbours arrived and Ian let them know in a clear British-we-are-masters-of-the-waves-and-have-the-medals-to-prove-it way!! They pretended they didn’t understand a word and carried on regardless. Just to hammer the point home, they tried to prove that Russian, loosely described a “pop music” was better than British we-invented-good-music! After an hour or so of trying to read Kate Mosse’s blockbuster “Sepulchre”, to the mind-numbing oom-pah crap from the Ruskies, we got in our dinghy and paddled up the creek for a hearty cheap meal. I felt quite smug as our paddles silently dipped into the water, in contrast to the racket which was coming from the Ruskies 50’ Sun Oddysey. It might be bigger than ours but at least we remembered to put our anchor light on!!
Interesting to see what will happen to all these nouveau-riche Russians with all their new-found Western toys, when Putin and Nedvedhev say that they’re not afraid of another Cold War!!
Cracking sail back to Alcudia. Really hot. Off to Ramon’s Tapas Bar, cos Punyetes is closed for descanso on Tuesday. I suppose they must have a rest sometime!!
Hasta Luego Pobres!

Saturday, 28 June 2008

Fiesta time in Pt Alcudia


And now there are three of us! Kate joined us a couple of days ago. We’ve seen plenty of her as she works on a tan- “Will you put some lotion on my back please?” We’ve caught up on the stunning set of exam results, the conversations with Bryony, Hannah, Laura, Emma etc. We’ve inquisitioned her about the state of the house/Autumn/garden/shower tray that has a knack of blocking! But after all that there was nothing for it but to pull her into our cryptic crossword fetish!
She made various excuses like “I’m no good at this kind of thing”, “Can I do it lying down”, “I can’t find a pen”. But we had her hooked in the end and begging us to put it away a couple of hours later! “Novel about going after old mandolin. 7 letters!!!!!”

It’s been quite windy, but we’ve been out into the Bay for a magical sail and a swim in Alcanada. We’ve watched Spain beat Russia 3-0, with fire crackers going off each time they scored. Great atmosphere. Mum and Dad- Sorry to hear that Turkey didn’t get thru, but that means that Spain play Germany on Sunday. Given that Mallorca’s Germany’s Mediterranean state- officially there are 30,000 Germans living in Mallorca- it should be a great match.

Last night and all this weekend, in fact for most of this week!, there have been celebrations for San Pere, with fairs, market stalls, summer feasts for 6euros, traditional and modern music and dancing. Tonight they all go out in anything that floats to have their vessels blessed by the local priest, who is waiting for them out in the Bay. Apparently last year, the priest had one too many and nearly fell off his boat, mid-blessing! Judging by the amount of beers, with the odd half-dozen 7-up thrown in to make them look less alcoholic, this year promises to be an equally rowdy affair!

I watched the music and dancing last night. Young and old danced the sardine, bending and weaving, circling their arms, dancing close then spinning away. The younger ones are athletic leaping up and continuing until another contender runs across the floor to take over from him. Then the female is chased off for a rest to be supplanted by another “flirt” who makes a play for the guy, who is then pushed off by another, and so it continues. So the dancing for each person is brief and frenetic and totally mesmerising, unless you’re called Ian or Kate, who watched in the bar, from a distance, coming to join me just as one folk group swapped over to another. So there was then a pause of fifteen or so minutes filled with the usual sarcasm!!!

Really hot and settled today. Kate’s achieving a nice golden glow. We’ve got to hang around until 2pm for someone who’s coming to look at the boat, with agent. Should have come yesterday. Waited in. Boat as clean as a whistle inside and out. No-one allowed to park their bums on the toilet, clean teeth, stick their sun-lotioned elbows on my polished table, teak cleaned, chrome-work polished. No message! “Did Christine not ring you. She was supposed to ring you.”!!!

So we’ve/I’ve got to do it all again today. “Don’t worry we’ve got a set of keys” Yes you dummy but we’re here and we might be out of the berth doing something called sailing! I think our agent thinks we’re like a lot of these yachties who have an apartment here and a boat on the berth for jollies, but don’t actually sleep on it or go out in it!!!! Anyway as soon as they’ve had a nosey round, assuming they turn up, we’re off. Sorry San Pere but there’s only so much fiesta even I can take. We went to bed about 1am and they were still dancing and singing! Need to visit a nice quiet anchorage and watch the fireworks tonight, due to go off at 12.30, from a distance. Cos we’re definitely back here for the match.

PPPS Anj- BBQing the pimientos worked a treat. Boiled for 4 mins and then fried on Barbie in oil in a foil tray. Off to get some more today, as Kate is hooked as well!

Laura- How’s the exams going? How’s the fish tank going? How’s your garden growing?

Gran Marnier- Thanks for the message. Seems that you and Jack Rafter have started up a conversation! Hope all is well.

All- May be time for one more blog, but we’ll be home soon and looking forward to seeing you allXXXXXXX

Monday, 23 June 2008

BlueSky Blue Water Blue Washing OR Harry got a call re messin about on boats(9 letters)




So. What’s been happening here. The weather has been like Summer- really warm/hot and unbroken sunshine. Very little wind so we’ve been able to stay overnight in anchorages you wouldn’t touch if it was breezy. Picked up a buoy on two nights running in Formentor. They normally charge about 30 euros per night but haven’t got going yet, so we can sneak in and out unnoticed! BBQd on board both nights and spent the day swimming, cooling off, reading and doing cryptic crosswords! It’s so beautiful here and yet it’s just on the door-step.
Then on to Cala Molta for an overnight stay in heaven! Turquoise sea, the smell of pines, all self-sufficient with food for a BBQ supplemented with rice and peppers. The reason why BBQs are so popular on a boat is because it’s too hot down below to cook food comfortably.
Cala Molta has been adopted by mainly German naturists, so there are lots of little, and not so little, pink bottoms toasting in the heat! 5 Letters- Goes out with, to gather fruit- peaches and plums spring to mind!
We have a lovely calm evening, watching the sun go down, and all the little day boats are making their way back home now, so it’s getting much quieter. After a reasonable night’s sleep we waken to an idyllic, calm morning. Early morning swim, wash the sheets, to save on laundry bill later, and another look at the dratted crossword- “And, splashing in the bowl is sweet”- 7 letters. No idea!!
Off for a walk whilst it’s still cool. Over the hill to Cala Mesquida. Beautiful pine smells, with wild flowers and birds.
Off back to Alcudia, because Andrew’s reminded us of the Spain v Italy match. Great sail in the bay of Alcudia with the wind picking up in sea breezes.
Then onto our fav place, Can Punyetes. A young guy is trying to set himself up to play the guitar and sing for us. Seems like his problems go much deeper than the fact that he needs to entirely re-string his guitar before he starts. The waiters are extremely kind and helpful, but we can’t help noticing that he is using one of the restaurant tables opposite. Now this is really rubbing salt into the wounds! To put you in the picture- Opposite Punyetes, which is THE most successful tapas restaurant/ restaurant in the whole of Alcudia, there is another tapas restaurant. There are never any customers there. A few days ago, they tried employing someone to intercept passers-by and drag them in, and now he’s been replaced by not one, but eight menu boards outside. Sad but desperate. Ian’s trying to stop me from giving them some advice. Change to an English bar and sell fish and chips. You’d have a much better chance of success!
Anyway back to the poor unfortunate who has used one of their several empty tables to string his guitar on. With the help of the waiters and refreshed by a free bottle of water, he is on his way. I think another bottle of wine is called for! It’s very real and that’s the best you can say about it. The follow- up to this, is that two nights later we went back to Punyetes. Same guy appears but he’s looking much calmer. Checho, the waiter tells me in Spanish that the guy had had his guitar robbed, and when the waiter sympathised with him that he must have been very sad, he says “Es Igual” and promptly buys another one in Inca, far superior to the other. Busking obviously pays, and maybe he doesn’t have as many problems as it seems!!
Checho came to Mallorca when he was a little boy. He comes from Galicia, same as Hugo, yes Anj? When we say to him that we have been to this restaurant for 10 years but we don’t know his name, he corrects us and says it’s been 12 years, and he’s right, it has been 12 years and he’s noticed!
Once again Ian has spent his day familiarising himself with the fine details of the bog, not blog! After some suspicious-looking brown liquid seeped out of the base of the loo, it was clear that Ian’s hopeful efforts several days ago were just hopeful. 60euros later, he has replaced both valves and we seem to be up and running!
Spain won on penalties. Waiters tense. Then car horns sounding into the night. You’d think they’d won the trophy itself! I bet there was a good atmos where you were Anj and Laura. We tried to ring you but you seemed to be busy!!!
Off to Alcudia Market again, tomorrow, to buy more supplies and to see if we can cook pimientos de padron on the BBQ, cos it makes too much mess in the galley!

Messages-
Saw you running in the official photo Anj- looked great! Hope you had a great night with Laura and Spanish mates watching the Match. Will keep you posted with the results of the pimmies! Simmer in water for 4 mins and then fry for about 10mins. Hugo might be from Galicia but us webbies know how to cook pimientos!!
Laura – Lovely to hear that you had a bonding moment with Anj helping you with fish tank. Can’t wait to see the progress! Plants still alive? Multi-task!!
Kate- FANTASTIC RESULTS. ALL-ROUND STAR!! Looking forward to seeing you tomorrow.
Doctor- Must be losing you soon! Have a great time in Barbados.
Ma and Pa – Glad you had a super holiday , lots of love and see you soonxxxxxxx.
Gran Marnier- Lots of Love and see you soonxxxxx

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Unashamed Mincing



Right, so what’s happened since we last spoke! Well those of you who are expecting to hear of new destinations, long hours spent at sea, ploughing into the waves, may as well turn off now and get back to work/ fitting out aquariums/taking part in fun runs/digging footings/tending allotments!
We’re still here in Alcudia. The “minutiae” of life here has suddenly becoming really interesting! Yesterday was the hottest day yet, just like an unbearably hot Summer’s day. Hard to believe that only a couple of weeks ago, I was scratching around looking for something warm to wear!!! But today with strong winds blowing down from Tarragona, later to be followed by a pinzcher wind from, yet again, the Golf of Lyon, we settle for staying in Alcudia.
I go off for a walk to the Market again, whilst Ian goes on his fav cami walk. The market is full of locals all buying incredibly cheap, incredibly fresh veg by the kilo, whilst me, worried that things won’t keep, am buying a cuarto kilo and medio kilo of potatoes for 50p and beans for 30p!
Father’s Day and two photos. One before and one after! Ian at our fav tapas bar Punyetes-“Where’s mi scran. It’s 7.01pm!” and later with a table full of food. Our favourite foods, and this is where I’ve managed to gain Andrew’s attention, are -Salpicon, a cold mix of peppers, onions, olive oil, vinegar, octopus and prawns
Pimientos de Padron, little harmless-looking peppers that you have to test with your lips first, ‘cos now and then you get a rogue one which blows your mouth away and ruins the rest of your meal!
Montadito de Lomo, pork loin on tomato and garlic-smeared bread, called Pa amb oli
Sepia a la Plancha, grilled cuttle-fish , which twice, different waiters have put it down and waited for us to complain that it’s not what we ordered, because it’s beyond the usual gambas al ajillo that most adventurous Brits order, and they’re sure we’ve got it wrong! But we have n’t and it tastes great! We came out here in April and were lucky enough to witness the Fira de Sepia, or Sepia Festival in Alcudia. Whole stalls given over to sepia cooked by a local restaurant, and nothing but sepia for sale, cooked in a variety of ways at other restaurants. At the end of the two day fira, the participating restaurants are awarded the treasured, annual ceramic plate which they then display, and you guessed it, it has arty pictures of sepia on the plate!
Ian’s just worked out that it’s a year this weekend since they cleaned up his ankle. Still seems to be a lot of crap in there though! Maybe he just has to be patient! Talking of patience- It seems that someone you wouldn’t normally think of as being endowed with that quality managed an amazing three and a half hours queueing to get Terry Pratchett’s autograph in a new novel. All for the woman he loves! WOW!!! Well Done Anj!!
Also on the subject of Patience- how much longer will Laura have to wait to have her aquarium inhabited!!
PPPS Thought you might like the sweet photo, below, of someone’s gran catching their supper. Thought we might send Gran Web off to Whitby to do the same!

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Home safe and sound in Alcudia


Safe and sound in our favourite place- our home port of Alcudia. Back to Punyetes last night- Great meal with pud and coffee- 33E. And Mum Florence- they do something for pud called Hojaldre con Salsa de Chocolate and it’s almost as good as Bertwistle’s Excellent Vanilla Slice!! Then back to the boat to watch the next DVD of Spooks- Ian’s favourite. We’ve still got something about Wild China to watch on BBC i-player. Wish Apprentice had been on BBC then I could have kept up with it. Our friend Richard off Sail la Vie texted us to tell us Lee had won. It was very considerate of him. Expecting to see them at the end of July, when we return after having been at home for most of that month. Just to remind you that we return with Kate on July 2nd.
Spain have just beaten Sweden 2-1 and we couldn’t have been more pleased than if we’d been Spanish ourselves! Incidentally, Ian’s just read about someone else’s plans ruined by the storms in Sardinia. Rooney is thinking of diverting to the Caribbean for his honeymoon, whereas we went to Barcelona!! So we don’t feel that we “gibbed” too badly, because Rooney “said so”!!
Having been couped up on the boat for 14days, looking forward to a walk today into the old town of Alcudia, where it is Market Day..
Laura- Thanks for the message. At least word gets thru to one of our kids! Yes I know my e-mails are a bit long but you have read at least one novel when you were at school- Pride and Prejudice! Re; Sunflowers. Water copiously and feed with fertiliser. In absence of real stuff- Liquid fertiliser will do. To make sure that you have the edge over Alma’s mum/ surrogate mummy, pay her an impromptu visit one night and wee on her nurtured sunflowers! It’s fantastic that you’re getting into growing stuff. My prayers have been answered! Next step- renting an allotment and growing your own veg! PS Hope the garden’s going well, and the lilies and clematis (ie vigorous mobster your mum gave you) are doing well. Have you ever read The Day of the Triffids by HGWells?
Grandma, your last missive was successful. Keep them coming!
Jack Rafter. You’ve gone mighty quiet. Busy with your footings!
Anj- Any chance of a message if you can be ars…d reading the blog?
Lizzie- Just read both Terry Pratchett books. Great!! Any chance of borrowing some. Will bring back Wyrd Sisters and Maskerade to give to you. “This week have been mostly reading “A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian” by Marina Lewycka!!!!
Ian chuckling away to Jeremy Clarkson’s “And Another Thing”.
Kate- =Kitten. Keep watering the potatoes- ie the green things that grow in the veg patch that look nothing like potatoes! How’s the job going? Paid off your overdraft yet?
Doctor- Don’t be intimidated by all these familial missives. Join in whenever you feel like it!
Dad- HAPPY FATHER’S DAY. ALL MY LOVE. Hope Crete was wonderful. See You SoonXXXXXXXX Give My Love to MumXXXXXX

Oh and weather’s picking up now. We’ve had two sunny days together, and they’re forecasting more to come. But the sea’s still a bit chilly for swimming!

Friday, 13 June 2008

Rocking and Rolling 2 - Thank Heavens for Dolphins




We woke up at 4am, even though we had decided not to set off then, then at 6am,cos we were nervous, and at 6.30am, thought let’s get going, and by 6.45am we were pulling away form Tarragona, not sorry to be saying goodbye, and not expecting to go back there. But on the way there, the day before, we did spot a beautiful campsite right down by the beach, nestled under a striking tower, with several campervans parked along it. A place called Tamarit. We made a note to look in on it one day, and by the end of today I think we both wished we could swap the boat for a campervan, and the busy roads for the empty, endless, swelly, choppy, miserable, boring sea!!!!
Steering 150deg all the way, with wind gradually increasing form 12k to 16k to a consistent 20k most of the way, and that’s about as interesting as it got for 9 hours!. Fortunately the wind was on our beam, so we were getting up a good speed of 6-7k all the way. It’s also not so scary because you’re being chased by the waves. But, and it’s a very big BUT, the swell was horrible. There’d been some terrible gales in the Gulf of Lyon, blowing F7-9 for a few days. An American couple we met in Tarragona, who I’d asked to join us when he said that he was relieved to hear English voices, recounted the tale of how people had been sick, as the cruise-ship they were on, had swayed around in the swell. (We felt quite smug that our decision to go nowhere near the place had proven to be the right one!)

Only trouble is the Med is just a dirty big pond, with the water sloshing around. A big wind 200 miles away can make the sea very uncomfortable. Not unsafe, but just very unpleasant for a very, very long time. “When I get back to Mallorca, I’m not going anywhere for a long time”, “If it calms down a little bit, we’ll make a cuppa in shifts!”, “Oh, I’ve really had enough now. I thought this wind was supposed to calm down!”, “Have we really only been sailing for 4 hours!”. Just some of the thoughts that spring to mind during our 18hours at sea!

Just as we were reaching a complete state of misery, only half way, at 55mls, after NINE HOURS, we saw bouncing towards us at speed, a pod of 6-8 dolphins, splashing about in the surf, gliding to and fro across our bow, almost touching the sides. Absolutely wonderful! The rougher sea seems to make them more athletic and frisky, shame I can’t say the same for me! They stayed with us for a good ten minutes. I sat at the bow of the boat, getting absolutely soaked as the boat ploughed into the waves. This was followed by another 4 sightings and close encounters with other pods of dolphins, and holding on tight, I managed to snap some photos of these lovely, playful mammals. Other than that, NOTHING TO SEE. Two distant tankers, a rig of some sort, Balearia ferry, but no other yachts, because they’ve all had the sense to stay in the Balearics. Don’t get me wrong. Barcelona was wonderful, and it was great to get there under our own steam, but next time we’ll go on Easyjet!! In our most fed up moment, Ian chirped up with “It takes Easyjet” half an hour to do what we’re doing in 18 hours!

Giving Isla Dragonera a wide berth, we finally arrived in Port Andraitx at 11.30pm. We’ve been here twice in total darkness, so we knew what to expect and where to go. Without this knowledge, you’d never come into this spot at night. But “seeing” places in the dark though a bit scary at first, is quite comforting after a long passage. Counting the flashes of lighthouses- 1 flash every 7 seconds- that’s Dragonera, 1 flash 5secs and then 3flashes- that’s the entrance to Andraitx. Red lights to port and green flashing lights to starboard coming in. We’re nearly there, and not a moment too soon, with the wind getting up in yet another thunderstorm, lightning flashes over in the West! Anchor down and plenty of chain out. All we’d eaten all day was biscuits, crisps, sweets, KitKats, and one of those wonderful stick-in-the-pan-and-leave-for-ten-minutes- tortillas (remember those Anj!). Whilst I had a wonderful shower, we made pre-cooked, partly-thawed paella with some added cooked chicken left over from the day before. Great meal at 12.15am!!! Both of us with our inner ears telling us we’re still on the move and rolling around! Slept really well and glad to be back on our favourite island again.

Woke up to heavy rain and thunderstorm with the prospect of more of the same tomorrow, with associated indigestion, aching and lethargy! Actually the rain’s past over now and it’s warming up nicely. Better make the most of it. Thought I’d attach photo of me at the helm, having a “bad hair day”, just to show my kids that life at sea isn’t all G&T and Skittles!

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Viva Catalunya!




Tarragona, formerly known as Tarraco, was the Roman base in Spain, housing 150,000 Romans. There are ruins dating back to two centuries before Christ. I would be able to tell you more but the best museum was closed on Mondays!! An amphitheatre, circus, governor’s (praetor) stronghold, forum, and remains of the city walls.. But let’s be honest, it’s not the spruced up, restored and cherished set of buildings that we’re used to in Mallorca and even Barcelona! It’s all a bit dark and depressing for all its historic realness.

On arrival at the marina, we called in on VHF Channel 9 to let “them” know we were here. We’d previously booked a berth over the phone. The marina receptionist said we would be met at D52 by someone who sounded like “the cleaner”! Surely I must have misheard! Surely it must have been a Spanish word that sounded like “cleaner”! I had asked for help getting off the fuel/waiting quay, as there was a fresh wind blowing us onto the quay. None came. It was a Sunday and we realised that the same “cleaner” couldn’t be helping us off the fuel quay, helping us into the berth, and no doubt sticking a brush up his posterior and cleaning the loos at the same time. As Ian calmly put it, “There’s a lesson in this, and that’s not to plan to come into marinas out of season on a Sunday”. It turned out that there were only two staff on, one on reception (who finished work at 3pm on Sunday) and one to berth all the boats. Not that it was busy and that should have told us something. Knees jumping up and down with nervousness, we successfully got the boat away from the fuel quay, and berthed, thanks to my umph pushing the boat off the quay, Ian’s super docking skills and, as it turned out, a Spanish cleaner, who was good at multi-tasking!

To walk into the city we had to cross a main railway line, sorry, railway highway! Bizarre! Cars, trains and pedestrians, all trying to stay out of each others way. The marina is in effect cut off from the rest of the city. There are a few struggling restaurants, and several closed, badly maintained, sixties monstrosities bars and discos, graffiti-covered stairways, and a sad, dilapidated look to the whole place. We needed a chandlery to repair a compass which wouldn’t light up in the dark, and was told by a very friendly German neighbour that you wouldn’t get anything like that there, because they only sold cushions and crockery, nothing technical. He said he was planning to move on because this marina was a “disaster”! I remembered reading somewhere that the mainland Spanish were not keen on you doing your own maintenance on your own boat, because it took away work from the local Spanish labourers, so maybe that’s why they only stocked “fluffy” things rather than serious hardware. The “old” days when yachties went out for a jolly day’s sailing and left all the grubby maintenance to some local Juan or Pedro!! Hang on a minute, that’s still happens now, but not with the Webbies!!

One fascinating aspect of this city, which is clearly not a regular tourist destination, is the total lack of information in anything other than Catalan, on Castillian Spanish, which we’re used to, and certainly no English or German. Road signs, restaurant menu signs and all public info signs. Fortunately I’d given myself a crash course in Catalan on the journey over. It seems a bit like Portuguese to me, in that when it’s written down you can spot a pattern and recognose some words, but when spoken you haven’t got a chance!
Anyway back to Mallorca tomorrow. Were thinking of setting off at 4am to make landfall just as its going dark, but the forecast is for some fresh winds to settle as the day goes on both here but particularly in Mallorca, so planning on leaving it to a little bit later. Showing next few days as thundery and showery, whilst I hear from Kate that you’re having lovely weather back home. O, Joy!!

Monday, 9 June 2008

Sauntering to Sitges and super sail to Tarragona




Yesterday we set off from Barcelona at 10am and had to motor all the way to our destination, Sitges, 18 miles down the Costa Daurada, which stretches from Barcelona to Tarragona and beyond. Sunny but cool wind at sea, so you arrive with thick jackets to blazing sunshine in a sheltered marina. Marina berth right under the torre blanco of the Capitanaria. Later had a lovely walk around a rather classy Sitges.
The Lonely Planet guide to Spain says that Sitges became established as a holiday town in the 1960s, and its loose attitudes openly challenged the rigidity of Franco’s Spain. Good on’em. It has lots of interesting art galleries, a Baroque parish church high on a hill overlooking the beaches, and a street full of white-washed old mansions. The narrow, traffic-free streets overlooking the sea made me think of Cornish villages.
Main drawback- the Spanish here eat lunch until 5pm, so restaurants are n’t open again until 9pm., so we grabbed an indifferent pizza! Suitably refreshed after a siesta, the Spanish have their evening meal from 9pm to midnight and then we could hear them, from our too-close berth, clubbing in the local bar until 3am!!!! Great music, so I found myself dozing and then wanting to stay awake and listen!!
So after a really crap night’s sleep, we set off for Tarragona, 30 miles further down the coast. Had a fantastic sail down right up to its “front door”, averaging a stonking 6-7knots all the way. Hardly a drop of diesel was used! Still took us 5hours! On the way, we had the opportunity of practising our “man-over-board” skills, for the second time this trip! First time we dropped the seat off the crappy dinghy in the drink. The temptation was to say “Sod it let’s not bother”, as the seat shortens what must be the shortest dinghy it’s possible to buy! This time it was something far more precious and greatly-loved! No, it was n’t me, it was Ian’s Tilley hat. He will insist on perching it on the back of his head “Clampit”-style, and refusing to do anything as sensible as wearing the straps under his chin like it says to on the “destructions”! So there it is in the water, disappearing at speed off to our stern, as we cream through the sea. “Quick, point to it and don’t let it out of your sight!” “No we haven’t got time to take the sails down, and you wouldn’t if this was a real emergency, which this is!” Motor on, and we turned around with the sails set in a disturbing way around the rigging. Ten minutes later a delighted owner and his soggy hat were happily reunited and we set off again, reassured that if a person fell over, who weighed approx 250g, either of us would have no problem at all in hauling him/her on board and giving them a quick shower!
Adventures of a Tilley Hat- jungles of Borneo, steaming heat of Aussie Outback, freezing temperature of Kilimanjaro, and bobbing along in the sun-kissed Med.!
We planning to be hear for two nights before we do the marathon 110miles back home to Mallorca, depending on the forecast here and there. At the moment things look better than they’ve done since we got here.
PS On the subject of forecasts, one of several that we use is a Navtex onboard, but it’s been unreliable lately. Latest message- “Weather General Shines Upon Then Becoming Veil and Stormy In Evening”. What on earth’s that about! Needless to say we’ve had no messages since and we’ve decided to ignore it!

Friday, 6 June 2008

Rocking and Rolling to Barcelona




After a beautiful day, the best yet, we decided to “go for it” and set off for Barcelona. The weather was benign and forecast was quiet. F6-7 in Sardinia and S France, so I guess that adventure’s out of the question, so Barca’s not a bad back-up, with a chance to go on the Gaudi tour. Set off at 4pm, with a good sail for the first couple of hours. As the evening drew on the winds dropped and we motorred. Sounds idyllic, but there was a confused sea for about six hours that eventually settled into a slightly sickening swell which kept going amazingly all the way to the port of Barcelona, a total of 18 hours. Totally safe but totally uncomfortable passage. The chicken, pepper and pasta meal only added to the nausea, and a packet of sweeties at 6 a.m. did n’t help much. Apart from that it was so damned cold. Waterproof bottoms on, Laura’s jacket, wind-surfing gloves, anything I could find to put on to keep warm! Flaming June, flaming cold. Never mind we landed in Barca at 10a.m and booked a berth for two nights, cheap at 90euros, for a prime position in the centre of Barca. A hot drink, egg butty and straight to bed for a couple of hours!!
A lovely sunny afternoon, so we walked into town, booked the Gaudi tour, ate tapas, and wandered around the Ramblas and the Gothic quarter. It’s five years since we were last here with Laura and Kate, on a journey from St Raphael, S France, when we collected the boat. It’s still one of the most beautiful cities in the world, but it must have one of the highest per capita for drug addicts, vagrants and poor souls with mental problems. Picture this, sitting in an edifying placa, drinking a coffee, still rocking from the journey over, when a woman walks past berating the waiters and anybody who pays attention. She’s Spanish but shouting in English which is weird in itself. Every now and again she flashes a harmless-looking black velvet heart-shaped purse strapped to her waist, which she hides under a very fetching, saggy black cardy! It seems that this “emblem” says that she is a” lady of the night”, or in this instance 5pm..
The waiters tease her and she shouts at them in English, “I am not rich, I am not beautiful, but I am an honest working woman”. After this a well-meaning young guy, cycling with one of these people-carrying banquettes in front, pulls up. She falls into it nonchalantly, happy that she’s stirred a few people up and got a reaction, and is driven off. A few hours later we are eating tapas again, and outside a nearby boutique, a shop-owner has apprehended a guy who is shouting indignantly that he hasn’t taken those “f…..ing jeans” or the Spanish equivalent. His protestations fell flat when he open his jacket to reveal two trouser hangers! His girlfriend pulls out the jeans and hands them back. Meanwhile they’re joined by two policemen, and when the guy starts the old indignant routine with them, one of the police smacks his face!! Can you imagine it? In England, the blackest villain would be screaming assault and harassment from the rafters!! Meanwhile his girlfriend sneaks off down a nearby escalator!!!
In spite of all this, I still think it’s a relatively safe city, although Anj might beg to differ, when he got robbed here several years ago!! There are police everywhere!!

Today we went to see one of the architectural wonders OF THE WORLD!! Gaudi’s buildings- the most weird and wonderful constructions. The best thing about Barcelona. Covered in brilliant, colourful ceramic mosaics, often using recycled crockery, and glass bottles, built in the 1920s, long before recycling became popular!!
Casa Pedrera, Casa Battlo, Parc Gruell, and the awe-inspiring Segrada Familia- still under construction, due to be finished in about thirty years. Tops of spires covered in huge groups of oranges, bright fruits, golden crosses, a bright green tree of life covered in white doves, and so much more. Check it out on’t t’internet, or wait till I get back with my massive collection of photos. It was worth more than Ian’s life to try and stop me!!

Monday, 2 June 2008

Alles klar in Mahon


Needing fuel and water, we headed for Mao (Mahon), which actually IS the capital of Menorca, and not Ciutadella, as previously stated. Woke to a beautiful blue sky day with a gentle wind, and motor-sailed down to Mao, three to four hours away.
The last time we were here we couldn’t get in anyway and were glared at and gesticulated at all the way out of the port again, having to take shelter in a crummy little area just inside the channel. But today a choice of several dozen moorings. Eventually pulled up onto the main town quay, close to shops, traffic and numerous English people sauntering up and down. “What’s that boat from Poole doing in Mahon!”. Surrounded by massive new yachts and cruisers. Obviously the credit crunch is n’t biting here yet!
Heard from little Laura today, who’d just landed returning from Costa Rica, to a quick shower and off to work as normal. Good to see that she’s keeping up the family tradition of screwing up timetables and going for it! Incidentally I was really cold on the journey down from Fornells and was scratching around for something warm to wear (having left my only piece of warm clothing on a Costa cafĂ© chair in East Mids airport!), Anyway I managed to come across a Chilli Peppers ski-jacket that Laura used to wear when she was about 14. Silver grey and cream with a woolly grey collar. Remember that one Laura?. A bit snug but fits quite well. It must have been that era when you liked to hide in massive clothing or were you a lot chubbier than you looked?
Anyway lovely and warm now, but only problem is surrounded by large groups of wealthy Germans on amazingly huge boats!! I wonder when Germany will be hit by recession!!
You’ll be glad to hear that Ian’s unbroken record of spending at least 10% of the stay on the boat with his arm up the u-bend remains unbroken! With 2 heads or toilets he’s got plenty to keep him occupied. We’ve sprung a leak and as yet not plugged it!!! And in the course of repair I heard the classic line “Oh shit, no really!!!”. I did offer him a cloth from the safety of the cockpit!!

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Here we go again 2


Forget Soller. For those of you in the know (and for those of you who were n’t, because we were too embarassed to admit it), with the prospect of six unsettled days, four of which were rain all day), we booked a cheap flight home, going against the half-term traffic flow in both directions, and went home for six days of wet weather instead.
Anyway, flew back with twenty or so guys on a stag do, drinking the inflight service dry of, would-you-believe-it, rose wine, and after one sunny day spent sailing in the Bay, checking that everything was in working order, set off for Menorca. With a weekend of cloudy, wet and unsettled weather, we decided that that was as far as we dare go with a crap forecast!
As it was we had a cracking over 7knot all the way sail, right up to Ciutadella’s door-step. Ciutadella is the capital of Menorca, and prone to “resurgens” or mini tidal waves in SW winds. Today it was NW. About three miles off shore, we were escorted by a mother and baby dolphin who stayed with us for ten minutes or so, rocking and rolling up against our speeding bow, swimming away and then coming back again for more, and as they turned you could see their pale bellies. When they surfaced you could hear them click. We’ve seen them dozens of times and it’s still always wonderful. On arrival at Cala Santandria after five and a half hours, we put our anchor down in the middle of the channel, and tied a stern line to the rocky shoreline.. You’ll remember this one, Colin and childer. It’s the one where we picked up a disused metal power cable! Then the wind got up a bit during the night and Ian had to let go of the stern line because it was holding us across the wind.
In search of a better night’s sleep and a good, safe anchorage we motor-sailed, again over 7knots all the way to Cala Fornells, about three hourts. About as big as Porto Colom on Mallorca. We tied up to a choice of a dozen or so free buoys, whereas in the Summr you’re scratching around for the remaining few. One good thing about coming out of season. We’re here now and it’s raining again, that red rain that sets like clay and makes a terrific mess of the boat, the one which spent ages trying to remove red rain from when we landed the second time!
No fresh meat left so we might have to eat out tonight. What a shame! A chance for me to wear something remotely reasonable and then cover it up with big waterproof bottoms so that I don’t get soaked in our minute dinghy. Remember, Colin, and I think Alma, Tara and Melvyn have all experienced this bottom-soaking phenomenon,(“Who’s the heaviest?”, “God, you’ve put weight on since last Summer!”)
Better weather forecast for tomorrow, and then we can decide where to go next---- Port Vendres (SW France), Barcelona, Sardinia …. Who knows! One thing’s for certain it won’t be Luton this time!!!

Saturday, 24 May 2008

Here we go again


Right. Well. Been here a few days now. Went out for a speedy trip across the bay with our new-found friends, Carrie and Richard, for a lovely day out yesterday. Got up to an amazing 30knots on the way back to the berth. Averaging 5-7knots, as we do on Blue Crush, is a very different way to travel.,
Hired a car the day before and collected a serviced life-raft from Palma. £450!!!! And it’s supposed to be done again same time next year. No apologies, no grovelling, just a-very-matter-of-fact-that’ll be £450, senor!!!!! Then off to Alcampo superstore to stock up on provisions- so much easier in a hire-car than several trips to our friendly SYP up the street.
So now we’ve filled up with water, serviced the loos AGAIN, stocked up with beer ,water and wine, done a few last bits of washing, topped up with water again, made the compulsory visit to the bricolage (ironmongers), just in case there’s a few screws we might need, had a last drink with Carrie and Richard, with lots of envious remarks about our endless, sun-filled weeks languishing in the Mediterranean Sea, and tomorrow we would set sail for Soller on the North coast of Mallorca.
We get up early this morning ready to do some last-minute fresh meat shopping and check the forecast and top up with water again!! By now you’ll realise I’m really keen to have both water tanks full to max! We’d heard and decided to ignore some earlier long-range forecast of bad weather for the weekend, but unfortunately they were spot on. Low pressure over the western med, low pressure over Mallorca, with showers, occasional storms, and winds F3-4, increasing to 5, for Sat,Sun and into the beginning of next week*. Richard’s just been past. “Why are you still here?”!!! Ian’s sitting reading the log book –“Did you know that 10 years this week we went on our first journey from Alcudia in Coral Quay”. It was with Colin, who developed a nasty reaction to sun tan lotion and had to be brought back to port from Porto Colom for emergency treatment with steroids!! Remember that one, Col. (Wind outside is increasing steadily, howling in the rigging, and Ian’s gone up on deck to tighten halyards that are banging around in the wind). What a shame! Once again, sheltering down below with the wind screaming up top and the “showers” now changing to heavy rain! Oh Joy!!. At least we made the right decision to stay put. Would n’t want to have to use the expensively- serviced life-raft. Would probably cost a fortune to have it put back in its nice little box!!
No sign of improvement in the weather for a few days, so god knows when we’ll ever set off!! Hopefully when I’m next in touch, it will be from a place other than Port d’Alcudia, as much as I love it here!! Never mind, off for a walk this afternoon!!
Feel free to send in comments, but don’t forget to tell me who they’re from, if you can be bothered(Anj, Bea and Kate, and “the workers”), and if you can remember,(senior family members!!!).

Just a little re-cap on wind speeds-
F2-3 Hardly ever encountered outside the heady days of August. My favourite wind speed. Crap for sailing. Very conducive to reading, sun-bathing, drinking G&T……
F3-4 Still very pleasant. May have to put book/glass/suntan-lotion down to adjust sails. The best sailing wind. Encountered for about half an hour prior to wind picking up to…..
F4-5 Laura’s favourite wind speed. Exciting sailing. Crap for reading/drinking/sun-lounging
F5-6 “Where’s my walking boots? I need some exercise!”

Friday, 7 March 2008

Looking forward to seeing you all soon!

Counting down to going home now. Back in a very comfortable hotel, close to Kota Kinabalu. Went into KK last night. Food's much cheaper than in the hotal and much more interesting. Malays are very welcoming and friendly, and we've never felt uncomfortable or intimidated. Ate at a local place last night. Sabah veggies in a shrimpy sauce, singapore noodles, tom yam noodle soup, all 3 dishes for 21 ringit ie 3pounds fifty. Then on to Irish Bar next door, honest that was local too!!. Total food bill 21 ringits, and total drinks bill 80 ringits!!! Typical!!!!
Anyway not much else to tell you about, so it's probably best to sign off now until the next lump of travelling on the boat this summer.
I'll finish with 2 more words, but you'll have to say these out loud to get a real feel for the hang-over from colonial times. Malaysia became independent in 1957 (2 years after I was born!!)
--- Teksi Taxi
--- Bas Bus
Were n't the ex-pats posh!!!

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Say Goodbye to Danum Valley, the Jungle, and our special guide Andy!



Four hours drive in a 4x4 along a dirt track into the Borneo jungle (the Borneo Massage), and we were in the Borneo Rainforest Resort. An exclusive resort for the slightly squeamish! By day you pick off leeches by the dozen, tough your way through the jungle and then come back to lovely cuisine, extremely comfortable accommodation, fantastically helpful staff who'll let you use their sat phone to ring mum's to wish them Happy Mums Day, outside tub overlooking the Danum River, with the sounds of the jungle ringing in your ears. Seeing the orang utans in Sepilok was good. Their desire to touch base with their friends at the rehab centre is rewarded with forest food, and they are easily observed by the tourists. But seeing them in the Danum Valley is superb.
The jungle here is primary, in that it has never been logged or reforested, so it's pristine. Every time we went out with our guide, another Andy, we saw Sambah Deer, Flying Squirrels and Slow Loris on our night ride. We saw Orang Utan mother, baby and juvenile and a solitary gibbon calling out his territory on another walk. All the animal and birdlife are out there in this very inaccessible place, but you might have to pick your way through leech valley, and crane your neck and train your eyes to see it. But Ian and I felt this was a far better way than the spectacles at Sepilok and Sandakan. This is Borneo for those who want adventure but comfort!!
Last day of our trip with Andy , our guide. As we flew into Kota Kinabalu from Lahad Datu, Andy became more and more quiet. Clearly not happy about being back in "civilisation". He is at his best macheting his way through the jungle, informing of what you can eat, what you might get bitten by, and how best to deal with snakebites. Poor guy was completely fed up about being back in KK last night!! We were missing him within a few minutes, and kept looking around expecting to see him with his Billabong hat on and his combats, stretching his neck!!
Anyway, Andy honoured Ian by giving him his machete. We were both very touched and surprised by this personal gesture.
Nice to be back in a lovely hotel room again, but felt really strange not seeing jungle and hearing cicadas and night noises. Gone from being the only non-Asians, to being surrounded by Brits, in a typical holiday destination. Brits are all talking about the weather!! and yes it is raining again. Torrentially. But the mornings are usually sunny if you get up at about 6am to make the most of it!!
I miss everything about the jungle already, apart from the leeches. I feel so lucky to have had such a fantastic experience in Borneo, completely different to the usual tourist stuff.

Monday, 3 March 2008

More Rumbles in the Jungle!




Two days ago went to see Orang Utans at Sepilok Rehab Centre, where they rescue, protect and rehabilitate injured or orphaned orangs. Mainly as a result of logging. Less of a need for this now because of restrictions on logging, and creation of National Parks sanctuaries. Logging companies also involved in reforestation programmes (but it still takes 30-40 years to produce a tree).
At Sepilok too many noisy tourists! But lovely to see mother, baby and juvenile orangs coming back for food.
Following day laid in the sun on the quiet beach of Seligan Island, one of three Turtle Islands, 2hr boat ride from Sandakan, on the SE coast of Sabah. That evening we and 40 others were on "turtle watch". At 8pm the ranger told us that a turtle had arrived ashore, and as she was coming to the end of her laying at 9.30 we were ushered into a noisy, crowded circle around this large, magnificent green turtle. She was new to the island because she had n't been tagged. Group too large and too noisy!
The ranger collected 77 eggs from the one mother and then we followed him to where he buried them in the sand in the hatchery. In the sun, to create females, and the shady area to create males!!
They stay there for about 40-50 days. Then saw the wonderful spectacle of a bucketful of about 30 newly-hatched turtles being released into the sea. Tiny, weany things scuttling as if their lives depended on it (which it did).
The Borneans do the conservation bit very well, but there are more chalets being built and signs of an increase in tourism, and they do n't seem to be great at managing large groups of them. What ought to have been a quiet, respectful, natural spectacle, was marred by the ranger himself loudly and repeatedly checking whether everyone had paid their 10 ringits for the use of their camera. Now bearing in mind that 10RM is about 1 pound 70p, wouldn't you think that most people, even the stingiest, would have paid their 10RM!! But there's always one, or maybe a dozen or so in this case!!!
Left Selingan Island at 7am. Speedboat, 2hr van drive to Lahad Datu and then 4hr off-road 4x4 drive into the Danum Valley. Got seriously stuck in the mud churned up by about 30 lorries laden with 6-8 trees each. Had to be towed out by caterpillar-tracked, heavy machinery!!
Arrived exhausted to the best accommodation so far. Up to now, cheap huts,longhouses, beach chalet, in pretty poor or basic state. But this is wonderful. Internet, outside tub overlooking the Danum river and Jungle canopy, birds and wildlife, comfort, good food and lovely staff!!
More about what we do here later!
Impossible to keep it brief, and no time to edit, so this is as concise as you're going to get. Sorry Laura and Anj!!!

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Back in touch! Borneo




Been incommunicado and in search of the "Wild Man of Borneo". Came across a few strong contenders- see photo!

Been in some of the most isolated spots in the world, and strangely there is n't an internet cafe in the jungle!
"Brief" summary of events, you'll be pleased to hear Anj!
. living out of a day-sack for seven days, because of a luggage cock-up.
. soaked through with either sweat or rain. The usual pattern is a spell of dry weather a.m. and then torrential rain which sometimes lasts all night.
. you don't see anything in the jungle, but you can hear lots.
. been in a few of the biggest known caves in the world. Sat and watched the mass exodus of bats from the Deer Cave.
. the walking around here is tough because the terrain is relentlessly steep. You're either climbing like your grandma, or descending like a small child (backwards and painfully slowly, in case you cut your legs on sharp rocks.
. Seen "The Pinnacles". WOW!! Jagged, teeth-like rocks that shoot up from the jungle slopes. Wonderful sight, but exhausting scary climb. Free-climbing in some placesd with ladders and ropes.
. Managed to make it to the top of Mt Kinabalu, the highest peak in SE Asia. Amazing views and geology. Hardest thing I've ever done or want to do again.
. Stayed in a traditional longhouse- built from bamboo with roof covered in palm leaves. Stayed with the chief of the Iban community and his wife. He took us for a memorable moonlit early am canoe-ride in his boat. Travelled for 14hours that day starting off in the jungles of Sarawak and ending up in Kota Kinabalu. KK being the biggest town in Sabah.
. Visited Sabah Tea Plantation, the only organic tea producer. Observed the process from picking to drying and eventually packaging. Then enjoyed a good cuppa overlooking the beautiful plantation, with the evening mists swirling in. Seems it doesn't matter if its t-bags or loose, as long as it's organic!
. Visited War Memorial at Kundersang. 3 gardens dedicated to the Australian, British and local Borneans who were killed. 2300 of them were marched from Sanderkan to Ranau, 236k. Called the Death March, because the Japanese were ordered to ensure that no-one survived. All died apart from 6 who manged to escape. The local villagers risked their own lives trying to help them. Very moving and very sad.
Enough for now but will be back soon with more about orang-utans, turtles and more LEECHES!!!

Monday, 25 February 2008

Lambuan-Borneo




Just got a bit of time in a cafe in Lambuan. Overnight in a "longhouse" in Sarawak, with the chief's family. Really lovely, gentle people. Shared a slug of rice wine with Tomasamai and his friend overlooking the Mendalem River, with him anxious to learn a few words of English. We'd just finished the Headhunters Trail (11.3k) which took us 5 hours! Walking through waterflooded tracks(yes I know we're on an alluvial plain, Andy!), picking leeches off legs, wrists etc. Horrible things! They crawl up your socks, boots, trousers, shirt-sleeves and attach themselves! I got one the first day out and it bled for hours! They inject an anticoagulant to maintain the blood-flow. God how horrible! Andy the guide walked in just his shorts so that he could see the leeches more easily and deal with them, and I thought it was so I could marvel at his tribal family tattoos! He is from the Iban native tribe, and ex-military, so we have "briefings" and "operational requirements"!
After 5 long, rain-sodden, boot-soaked hours we were collected by a friendly, smiley chief who took us to the longhouse in his boat, where 15 families lived 100 people. Women weaving baskets, children playing with old prams, and others laying basket-ball. After 2 nights fitfull "sleeping" in the walking camp, we slept like babies. We even had pillows- fancy that.
Anyway back to Lambuan. Arrived here after 2 hours on a ferry from Limbang-very much busy. its hard to believe we set off from the jungle in such isolation at 6am, again in the chief's boat and now we're here. From here 3hr journey to Kota Kinabalu, where we set off to climb Mt Kinabalu. I'm feeling quietly confident, having climbed, and I mean CLIMBED the Pinnacles. Have to be one of the natural wonders of the world. Truly amazing. Pics to follow, we have plenty! Hardest physical challenge I have ever done! Had to come back down on all fours, (was thinking of you Florence) wet limestone rock, ladders, ropes, roots , and anything you could lay your hands on. It was very hard. I'm told Mt K is much easier underfoot!
Also seen 4 fantastic caves, one of which is considered to be the largest in the world! Marvellous!
Makes it all worth while. But have been living out of a daysack for 5 days (crap advice from Walks Worldwide) so we smell and all our clothes are wet or damp!
Hoping to get dry before Mt K. Sun is shining again like a furnace.
Lovely to hear from you Keith and Mum(yes, receiving you loud and clear!) xxxxx

Monday, 18 February 2008

Cameron Highlands







After a long, four hour taxi ride (350 Ringits/58pounds!), we arrived at the Strawberry Park "Resort". to say that it had seen better days would be an understatement, a bit like staying in an old youth hostel, with a strange smell! Much cooler up here at 5500ft and stunning scenery. Winding roads zigzaging all the way up, with taxi-driver complaining all the way, a Pakistani Malay with a great sense of humour. Among his pet-hates-- driving into the Cameron Highlands, vegetable lorries coming back down the hills at speed, Arabs and protesters against the government. Yesterday, the police had to suppress a protest that became violent. Elections are about to be held.

On the way up we saw little wooden shacks inhabited by the indigenous people, called the orang asli. Beats me how they live so far away from civilisation. Taxi-driver explained, a little bitterly I thought, that they are supported by the government, in every way possible, but they do not want to leave their hillsides. They were just sitting in the shade trying to sell their vegetables to anyone who would risk life and limb on these twisty roads and pull up.

Apparently, during the war, the British built "stations" or outposts up here, where their soldires could come if they were ill with T.B. or suffering from the heat. Then a Scot, William Cameron, and an Englishman developed the tea plantations. The tea camellia is a shrub, and is pruned in such a way as to create a table for picking. Like the grapes in Australia, the vintage or special tea is hand-picked, and the cheaper variety is machine-trimmed, using something similar to a large strimmer. Went on a trip to the plantations, which look like a lush green rug has been pulled over the hill-side. Makes a lovely change from the mile after mile of palm trees, that are grown for their oil!

Also part of trip, for some wierd reason it is very popular over here (probably more so with our Chinese brethren!), we were held captive and taken to- the rose gardens(OK ), the butterfly farm(OK but please let them out of these little cages!), Chinese Buddhist temple(beautiful, smelling of incense) and last and definitely for Ian enough, the Insect tour(YUK,I'm right behind you, Ian). I gazed in amazement, whilst Ian had scorpion, snake, and rhino-horned beetle placed on him by a very enthusiastic guide. The most wierd thing was a mantis which looked like a large leaf, they can disguise themselves as orchid flowers, dry dead leaves, green leaves. In the end, persuaded by the rest of our group (Norwegian, Danish, Dutch), I allowed two creepy things to be placed on me. Ian adds that they were n't on long but long enough for this photo!

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Hamilton Island







Arrived in torrential rain, very hot and sticky! Managed to find a few patches of blue during the following few days. Sulphur-crested cockatoos and rainbow lorikeets in abundance. Lush palms and tropical shrubs only seen in Kew Gardens.
13.2.08 Sorry Day in Australia, when an official apology was made to the "stolen generation" of Aboriginal children, now in their 50s, who had been taken from their parents and placed with white foster parents, in the name of social engineering.
14.2,08 ,yesterday, we had a great day on the Reef, by-passed the crowds on the Fantasea trip, and opted for the much smaller boat trip, with about 30 others, which went to a much smaller, much-less-visited reef. After a 2 hour trip, landed on the reef and began snorkelling, also a group of guys went scuba=diving. Dark, leaden sky and brief thunderstorm gave way to a beautiful day, blue sky and sun. Donned anti-stinger suits and began snorkelling, but didn't see many fish, mainly stunning coral. Back to the boat for a light lunch and then we moved to a much better site. Just as well, as there were mutinous whispers from the disappointed diving team!!
This time we saw lots of fish-blue tangs, yellow butterfly fish, large groupers, blue-green-purple parrot fish, striped angel fish and shoals of smaller fish swimming against the current. Saw a large turtle gliding by. Loads of coral, hard and soft, brain coral, giant clam, and some coral had beautiful green
and blue buds on the end, like a marine garden.
Wanted to stay in the water for ages, but I could see Ian waving at me to return to boat. Not wanting to waste a moment, I continued snorkelling back to boat, and was so pleased that I did, because at that moment I saw a big ray "flying" past below me. About 3-4 foot span, with same legth spiky tail.
Set off back past some of the islands which we visited when we were here 13 years ago- Andrew 13, Laura 12, and Kate 6. Aaaarh!!!!
That evening there was an almighty torrential storm! Similar forecast and received the following day. Radio announced power and phone lines down, and declared a disaster zone. McKay, just down the road had a third of its annual rainfall in one hour(600ml)!
Great to get back to Sydney Travellodge if only for one night, a morning spent watching dragon-boat racing in the Harbour, 20 in each boat. A bit like Varsity boat racing but with prettier boats. Part of the celebrations for the Chinese New Year. Then went on to walk around the Chinese Friendship Gardens, which the Chinese community bequeathed to Sydney. Stunning gardens with lakes full of huge Koi.
Now waiting for 8 hour flight back to KL and the fantastic Mandarin Oriental Hotel, slap bang up against the Petronas Towers, remember them! Only one night but we're going to hang around a bit in the morning, before the 3 hour bus/taxi journey up to the tea plantations of the Cameron Highlands where we stay for 3 nights.

For Mrs Miggins and her short attention span/busy work-life--
. went snorkelling
.rained a lot and then it didnt
.back to Sydney and saw boat race
.walked around some gardens
.fly out to KL
Can't do bullet points at speed, but at least I can spell!!

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Khancoban to Mittagong 300k




Saturday-- Stopped at Jindabyne, at the eastern end of the Snowies. Situated down by lake, internet access, great restaurant nearby, and , would-you-believe-it, never-before-seen-on-a-campsite, just-when-I-was-bginning-to-long-for-one, A BATH WITH TONS OF HOT WATER!!!


Clean and refreshed, we headed out of the cold, wet Snowies(9deg could see your breath), to the cool-not-qite-so-wet Southern Highlands! Great drive across to Cooma, Goulburn, by-pass capital city of Canberra, and ending at Mittagong.A A quiet little town on a busy road. Busy because of a camcelled Joe Cocker concert at nearby Berrima. Cancelled because of the bad weather. We'd escaped it but it had been raining here for the past two weeks. They needed it because they'd been suffering from a drought.


To the mournful tunes of "Delta Lady" and "With a little help from my friends" we parked our van. All around us Joe Cocker fans were drowning their sorrows and having their own concert!!


We called in at Tourist Info and picked up maps for nearby bush walks, and I found a patchwork material shop,picking up pieces of material with Koalas, booerangs and the Sturt Pea (South Aust floral emblem) on them to incorporate in a quilt back home! Swore I spotted a dead-ringer of Joe Cocker- does he have a young Oriental wife, and drive a beat-up 4x4 wagon?!


During our travels we've come across several of what Ray and Kerryn told us are called "Grey Nomads". These guys sell up their homes, buy a hefty touring van plus trailer and tour their country, sometimes going around the whole of Aus in sections or even all at once, and we thought we were mad!


Sunday--Walk into the Bush-lots of it! Woke at 6am to a beautiful sunny morning, sun rising about 5.30 and setting about8.30 in their Summer. By 8.30 we were off on our Naatai River gorge walk. It was described as being hard but they must be tough out her. In the UK this walk would have carried medical advice and insurance provisos! Started off lovely, easy walk along an old narrow-guage railway track, and then descended steeply into the gorge. We had to use a steel wire which ran down the incline for support. After that 3k through thick bush and crossing the swollen river, water up to your knees, three times and then a steep climb back up and a long trek back--5 hrs later arrived back ot the van for a shower and 2hour drive on to Ramsgate, south of Sydney! Absolutely knac.....Supposed to be teeming with wildlife, echidna, wombat, roos, parrots, snakes and lizards. never saw a thing- all busy cleaning all the floodwater out of their homes!


Typing this in airport now, having dropped our home for the last 12 days off nearby. Spent last night at Ramsgate in Botany Bay! I'm quite sorry to leave it. Its been a great way of touring the wild open spaces of South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales. Off to Hamilton Island, Queensland now for four days. no need for soggy walking boots, just snorkels and sandals!

Friday, 8 February 2008

The Snowies- Thredbo via Glenrowan, Wodonga, Khancoban......




Visited McLaren Vale and Hardys vineyards with Ray and Kerryn- great to spot so many "old friends" on the signs approaching- Chapel Hill, Rosemount etc!!
Travelled an amazing 500k that day, only overtaken twice and passed by about 100 vehicles! Incredibly straight roads and no traffic, so easy to cover huge distances quickly. Drove on Mallee Highway then Murray Valley highway to overnight camp at Swan Hills Pioneer City caravan site. sat and watched an amazing lightning show all around but no rain as yet and still in the upper 30s.
Following day Murray Valley highway through Kerang, Echuca, Glenrowan,Wodonga and overnight on a little site at Khancoban- another 538k
Glenrowan was where Ned Kelly made his last stand against the Victoria Police in 1880. Wearing his home-made "suit of armour", he came out shooting and was hit by 28 bullets, before being over-powered. In spite of public sympathy, he was hanged at Melboourne jail. A local told me that he was a young Irishman, living in hard times, and unfairly dealt with by the English law-enforcers, a bit of a "local hero".
Really friendly people (as usual) at the Khancoban campsite plus friendly Kookaburras who fly down to eat mince beef from the hand of the park owner, Tony Ellis.
80k journey to Thredbo, Ngarigo campsite, in the Snowy mountains. Pay a park fee and you can stay overnight in several designated camping areas- only a loo but really quiet and unspoilt. Ngarigo was a tribe of Aborigines who annually migrated here from the plains in the Summer months to get away from the heat-I know how they felt! they used to follow the bogong moths into the mountains and eat them like a delicacy. We passed on the moths, and ate Tasmanian salmon, and Moroccan lamb!
Climbed the top of Australia today, Mt Kosciuszko, at 2200m. 4deg on top! The lengths you've got to go to to cool off in this place!!!!!

Monday, 4 February 2008

Wilpena Pound


880km round trip to the Flinders Ranges and Wilpena Pound, the home of some unpronouncable and writtable Aborigonal tribe. A huge range of mountains that forms a circle around a "pound" where the early inhabitants used to hunt. Saw Emus and plenty of roos, but no sign of anything or anyone else. Mad dogs and Englishmen as the saying goes. Very true. Set off with overcast but hot weather up the Outside Trail (7.7k) and then took the scenic very hot route back through the pound(20k). By this time the sun was up and it was very hot. Fortunately took plenty of water with us, but had bitten off more than we could chew-6 hours of dry, parched land, eucalyptus trees and flies! Had the presence of mind to buy some very fetching nets to go over our hats- would have been impossible without them!
Back to the red-hot van and downed pint after pint of water, followed by iced coffees, followed by beers, and then sat with up to our necks in cool water in the pool.
Van experience is working well- great loo, shower, fridge, air-con, cooker, wardrobe. Mind you it's amazing to travel on dead straight roads with no-one on them!
Back to civilistaion now, mobile phone transmissin and internet access!
Met up with other rellies(Ray and Kerryn pictured) who live just outside Adelaide, in a lovely area in the Eden Hills, called Happy Valley! going around McClaren Vale and Hardys vineyards tomorrow, cos we're running low on stock!

Saturday, 2 February 2008

outback!


Picked up van in Adelaide and spent 2days with rellies! Van is like a small artic!! Travelled 440km up to the Flinders Ranges, Wilpena Pound and in the middle of nowhere- no mobile signal for most of journey. Oldest landscape on the planet. Cost of internet access is prohibitive out here, so you'll have to talk between yourselves for a couple of days until we're back with t'other rellies for a day, and can contact again. Back to campervan cos we've got 16mins! Air-con really important in 38deg, loo and shower and fridge, Mercedes diesel engine just for you Col! Rellies all looking older and well, after 3 years and they send you their luvxxxx

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Sydney Bridge Walk


G'Day Poms!

Another hot, sunny day in Sydney, New South Wales! Arrived at Travellodge in centre of city, all relaxed and massaged, to find we'd arrived on the busiest day of the Australian calendar, Australia Day! Place was absolutely heaving!!!

Currently sitting in the shade of a bottle-brush tree in Watsons Bay overlooking Sydney Harbour. Foreground- seagulls, sailing boats and calm, blue water. Background- city skyscrapers and Harbour Bridge. Went on a sunset walk up to top of bridge last night. Sunset at about 7.30pm. Walked as far as Australian flags on top, whilst our guide gave us brief history of the construction of the bridge. 90% steel stucture came from Middlesborough U.K. Built in 1932 when there were only 11 cars northside, wanting to travel across the bridge. Even so they had the foresight to build it wide enough to accommodate 8 lanes of traffic and 2 rail lines today! Also been to Manly Beach, my favourite in the area- baysude and ocean-side. Ian compared it to Blackpool, but as far as I know you don't get the lifeguards warning you that a shark has been sighted in the vicinity and you should get out of the water. Some hard-core dudes are obviously used to such warnings and, much to the annoyance of the lifeguards, continued surfing!

Also been to Chinatown at night and ate one of our cheapest meals, sizzling chicken and noodles served on a greasy tray but tasted great. Washed down with my fav drink- ginger and lemon infusion sweetened with natural palm sugar.

Anyway off for something more upmarket- fish and chips and a glass of wine at the world-famous Doyles on Watsons Bay and then back to Circular Quay on the fantastic ferry, 20 minutes later you're back in heart of the city!

One more night and then off to pick up campervan in Adelaide, to visit the rellies and a brief trip to the Sniwy Mountains and Flinders Rangers of South Australia. Could be averaging 80-100 miles a day!!!

Sorry if there's spelling mistakes but no time to edit at $2 for 20 minutes!

luvya!!!

Saturday, 26 January 2008

byeee from Langkawi




Last full day and evening here. Since we last wrote, we've seen much more of the island, learnt how to cook fried rice in a cookery lesson at the hotel (34deg outside and I'm back in the kitchen!), watched a traditional dancing and fire-eating show,explored Chenang beach (the "sunset strip" of Langkawi), where there were lots of restaurants, some chic and some shabby! The rule of thumb around here seems to be that the places to eat may vary a lot but the food's always good and if you stay away from the hotels, it can be extremely cheap. Yesterday we went up in a cable car to one of the highest mountains on Langkawi, with a high-tech walkway beween two mountains. Totally covered in jungle-like trees and unclimbable, even if you were mad enough to consider it! Looking down you could see all the 99+ islands off Langkawi, and a massive breakwater, built after the tsunami to protect the people who live at sea-level on the plains. Unfortunately though they seem to be regenerating with big shopping malls, selling the ubiquitous duty-free, which is apparently what the tourists come here to buy But not these two tourists!!


Now we've managed to buy ourselves a card-reader for the great price of 5pounds in one of these shops I've just said we dont go into, we can prove that we are actually where we say we are, for some of you doubting Thomass! So we're sending you some of our photos of our experiences in Langkawi and closer to home in the hotel! We'd definitely come back here, and in fact we are returning to this general area when we travel to Sabah and Sarawak (or Borneo for those using old money).


Last bit of Malay lesson for now---


Selamat datang--- Welcome


Selamat pagi----- Good Morning


Terima Kasih----- Thankyou


"Selimat kasit Madam bang bang"---- "How was your swim this morning, Madam?"


Goodbye from Langkawixxxxx








Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Westin Hotel Langkawi Malaysia


Great hotel, beautiful scenery, really hot (34deg), but you can tell you're in a muslim country because the alcohol, particularly wine is very expensive, approx 40pounds per bottle! As you know, Ian and I like a drink or four, so in the interests of the budget spinning out a bit further, we've taken this opportunity to cut down, and even cut out !!! Good news is we both feel so much better for it!! Honestly!! We've even taken to returning to the gym for about an hour each day, and doing lengths of the pool!!

Today we went on a trip to see some of the natural wonders of Langkawi- saw thousands of stupified fruit bats, disturbed by flash lights in a 400 million year old cave, fed wild monkeys with the peanuts we had left!, saw limestone cliffs and mountains that tumbled down to dense mangrove swamps and zoomed up and down sea-water inlets in a high-powered long-tail boat. But the highlight had to be seeing beautiful sea-eagles and red-coloured eagles (Babu, the guide gave them a name but I couldn't make it out in his strong Indian-Malay accent). Soaring and diving near the boat, they were a wonderful sight. But even they were fed chicken skin by our guide. Later went to see sting-rays, massive groupers, archer fish(which spit at their prey to drop them into the water) and horseshoe crabs, all caught by local fisherman and kept in large fish farm style enclosures, so that tourists can come to pay and gawp at them. It seems like even in this Kilim Geopark they have no qualms about feeding wild animals, if a living has to be made.

Nevertheless an interesting tour with a small group of Chinese Malay, Indian Malay and South Africans, whose company only added to the interesting day. Travel certainly does broaden the mind.

Anyway off for a glass of wine- notice I said glass and not bottle!

More Malay- Seripatan na banda - Please move my sunshade a little more to the left.

No Gracian, ni dan bang bang - No,make mine a glass of water, thankyou!


Adios amigos, any chance of you tearing your poor little selves away from work to send a comment!!!!

Saturday, 19 January 2008

Kuala Lumpur-Twin Towers


Hi everyone. Hope you're all well. 12 hours flight from Heathrow- although the BA plane had come off the runway that same day, miraculously only delayed by one hour! Hotel smack bang up against the Petronas Towers, until recently the tallest building in the world. Lovely arriving at night to the towers all lit up like silver rings. Woke up at 5am after little sleep to the muslim equivalent to church bells calling the faithful to worship. After a two hour queue, we went on the ten minute Petronas towers experience and walked across the sky-bridge between the two towers. Can't include a photo yet but hope to in next blog. The pre-tour advice told us to adopt "modest behaviour" during our visit! Mixture of cultures and religions- hindu, buddhist, muslim and christian, all seemingly living harmoniously together. Mind you, as we saw at the airport, with the death penalty for smuggling drugs, you get the impression that there's a zero tolerance of deviant behaviour. So I guess we'll have to wait till we get to good ol' Oz!!!

Learn Malay the "Marie"-way!
Keluar - Exit
Tandas di mana - Where are the toilets?

More invaluable phrases to follow!

Off to Langkawi tomorrow, one hour's flight north, up the coast, to soak up the sun and do a bit of snorkelling. If I can tear myself away from the sun-bed will send a note from there!

All my love
Mariexxxxx

Monday, 14 January 2008

Australasia tour

Monday 14 Jan 2008
Getting ready for trip (without Blue Crush this time) with a mixture of waterproofs and t-shirts, pills for every form of problem, walking gear and "mincing"gear! I think we can safely say we completed our apprenticeship in "mincing" last autumn, and those who require further explanation of this peculiar condition should refer to Andrew Webster! Now read on...or back up actually!!