Shanghai, the Last Stop

February 15, 2018

Writing all these blogs about our amazing trip to China has taken a lot longer than the actual journey, but the overwhelming kaleidoscope of colours, sights, smells, tastes and experiences warranted a bit of time and thought.  The rollercoaster eventually came to rest with a final fling in Shanghai.

We had no organised tours booked here so were delighted to find that our hotel had a ‘back door’ directly onto the infamous Bund and our room on the sixteenth floor had a sweeping view of the Pudong area across the Huangpo River.

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Pudong, Shanghai

At night this view became a fairyland of twinkling lights – even the small tourist boats looked as if they had sailed directly out of a fairy grotto.

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View from our hotel room.

We had almost two whole days to explore this vibrant, buzzing city and, of course, started right on our doorstep by strolling the length of the Bund.

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A bit bigger than Rothesay’s Esplanade

This photograph was taken fairly early in the morning but by late afternoon there were tens of thousands of visitors strolling up and down, of course providing me with exquisite people watching opportunities.

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On the street side of the walkway, the vertical wall was planted very tightly with flowering plants.  In all our time in China we had never been aware of what might be called a local police presence – serious military security in Beijing and at airports and stations, but, I suppose, police  might be needed sometimes even in this very controlled society.

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The juxtaposition of very beautiful art deco, early 20th century buildings and the marbled, gilded and glazed more recent skyscrapers worked surprisingly well.  The dreadful history of the origins of the Bund, the British, French and American Concessions and the Opium Wars is easily glossed over.

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Two eras shoulder to shoulder.

It is hard to believe that only a twenty minute walk away from the Bund took us through a totally different area of Shanghai – washing hanging to dry on the railings of a park, a ‘postman’ with scores of parcels all tied in festoons around his scooter, even a Pound Shop (All the 10 Yuan) and generally people just going about their daily lives.

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We were heading for Yu Yuan – a classical Chinese garden created in the 16th century by a high ranking official in the Imperial Court in memory of his father.  Just before the entrance to the garden is the Huxin Ting teahouse.

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Huxin Ting Teahouse, Shanghai

This is very picturesque with its zig zag bridge across the little lake in front.  I have deliberately not chosen the photograph which shows a very prominent Starbucks incongruously positioned in this ancient scene.  I was also surprised that the great tubs in the water had plastic plants – perhaps to go with the plastic fisherman in his boat.

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The golden carp were real.

It was very, very crowded both here and in the Yu Yuan garden so we gave the chance of a cup of tea in Huxin Ting a miss because of the enormous queue.

Inside the garden huge crowds of Chinese visitors were squeezing along the narrow walkways.  Each of the six ‘areas’ are meant to be viewed from all angles from a well-placed hall or pavilion.  Tourists resting on the low walls or jostling to take selfies or group photos rather spoiled the effect.  In spite of this I could see it was a very beautiful place, just not easy to photograph.

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This beautiful young woman was having photographs taken in a quieter corner – no idea why.  As you can see she is dressed in some form of Chinese ‘dress’.  Everywhere we visited in China the people out on the streets were all dressed in rather drab western clothes (apart from the chic city girls in Xi’an, Beijing and Chengdu).  Then, of course, there were the amazing, colourful costumes at the Shanxi Chinese Opera.  The older lady in the centre of the next photograph was just spotted as she waited to cross the road.  I have searched on the internet to find where she was from.  No success – it may not even be a Chinese costume, but there are about 56 recognised ethnic groupings in China so she is probably from one of them.

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A smaller tributary river runs into the Huangpo and it was lined with mature trees and more, interesting buildings – both modern and art deco.

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Wusung Creek, Shanghai

It was also here and around the corner on the Bund that we came across the wedding photographs phenomena.  I was entranced to find that a Monday afternoon was very popular for brides to have ‘photo shoot’ type photographs taken – we saw about ten or so.

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I don’t think the slightly obscene view of her knickers or the background of ‘Boris’ bikes really added to the glamour or romanticism of the occasion.  There were no family or friends with any of the couples, only a photographer and his assistant.

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Waibaidu Bridge, Shanghai

There was a lot of activity at this heavy, steel bridge (the first one to be built in China) as the girders created a frame with the iconic Pudong skyscrapers in the background.  This was the only one of the brides we saw smiling.

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Not all of the brides wore white dresses, some were in scarlet red.  I am sorry to go on so much and include so many wedding photographs but it was such a surreal and totally unexpected experience.  In some ways it sums up my response to the entire visit to China – by turns I was awed, puzzled, incredulous, intrigued and delighted.

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The sun rising behind Pudong, Shanghai

I would be very, very happy to visit China again – our journey provided only a very light scrape on the surface of this country.


The Three Gorges on the Yangtse

February 8, 2018

We were up early the next morning to be on deck for our first experience of sailing through the Three Gorges. The first, Qutang Gorge, is only 5 miles long but was awesome in the grey early light of dawn. This was followed by Wu Gorge, the largest, and finally Xiling Gorge.

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The sheer soaring vertical limestone cliffs were amazing and gave a very enclosed feeling at first.  It was quite difficult to get my head around the numbers attached to this whole concept of building a dam downstream and flooding these valleys with the river water to a depth that had never previously occurred, even in flood years.  The next photo has been ‘borrowed’ from the internet to give an example of how the river looked in pre dam days.

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There were occasional markers on the banks indicating how high the water is now in the Gorges.

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175 metres deeper

Where there were slopes these were thickly forested – a glimpse of what would have been the pandas’ natural habitat.

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The sun did come out later in the day.  As well as the natural scenery there were a number of towns and villages dotted along the shore line.  It is a bit mind bending that almost all of the built scenery (towns and bridges etc) have only been constructed in the last 20 years – everything is new, and much more building work is continuing.

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A new town

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The Goddess Peak disappearing in the cloud.

Some of the mountains and side valleys had lovely names and intriguing stories attached to them.  At the mouth of Wu Gorge the goddess Yao Ji and her eleven sisters quelled some unruly river dragons and then turned themselves into mountains, thoughtfully positioned to help guide ships downriver.

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We couldn’t see what these fishermen were catching.

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Side valley

As well as the beautiful scenery there was the life of the river to watch too.  Mixed in with the tourist cruise boats were many commercial barges carrying building materials, cars and lorries.

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A load of huge lorries.

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Part way through Wu Gorge is a tributary called Shennong Stream and this is where we had another ‘shore’ trip, although we never set foot on terra firma.  We docked at the ‘relocated’ city of Badong and transferred directly onto a ferry.

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The Sanctuary Yangtse Explorer at Badong

The scenery was very pretty sailing up this ever narrowing tributary of the great Yangtse  – very pleasant on deck in the warm sunshine.  The local guides, very pretty girls in red Chinese dresses, were very friendly and chatty, and very enthusiastic about, of all things, ‘hanging coffins’.  They went to a great deal of trouble to make sure that everyone could see the coffins very high up in clefts in the sheer rock face.

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Hanging Coffin

It is puzzling to know why and how these came to be placed here.  There are many more examples scattered throughout Sichuan and Yunnan provinces.  The oldest coffins can date back 3,000 years and the more recent ones to about 1500 AD.  The one we saw certainly seemed to be in a totally inaccessible spot.

At the end of the Shennong Stream we transferred, a dozen at a time, into small sampans to be rowed and poled up and down.  It wasn’t terribly well explained at the time but from my research I now know that they were trying to replicate how difficult and treacherous it once was to travel in this area before the Gorges were flooded.  Boats had to be hauled and man-handled through shallows and rapids.

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Being ‘pulled’ along from the bank

I found the following photograph on the internet to give you an idea of what it once would have been like.

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I loved our little mini cruise through the Three Gorges, comfortable accommodation, excellent food, friendly and fun companions (if you avoided loud Americans) and it got me to places I couldn’t otherwise have reached.

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On our way to the farewell dinner.

After the wonderful Farewell Dinner we went up on deck to watch the ship entering the first lock for the five step journey to get around the Great Dam.  This was quite awesome and the scale of it all made me feel very small.

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As it takes about three hours to go through the five locks, each a 22 metre drop, we retired to bed.  Again, I add an internet picture to help with the scale.

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We had an early start the next morning to be whisked to the airport for our flight to Shanghai, the last stop on this great China odyssey.  Only one more blog to go.



The End of Another Year

December 27, 2016

It is the few quiet days between Christmas, with its weeks of anticipation and preparation, and Hogmanay with its reflections and shenanigans.  I realise I haven’t blogged as much this year and posted nothing at all in the last three months – no real reason but lots of excuses – so I will, as tradition dictates, finish 2016 with a quick review of September to December.

Three times we had ‘little’ holidays – two within a few hours driving time and one a short haul flight.  When we visit family or friends in the south of England we usually just shoot past the Lake District en route for somewhere else but in late September we stayed on Ullswater for a few days of glorious autumn sunshine.



MV Balmoral

The sister ship of the PS Waverley came to visit in Rothesay, so of course we had a wee sail on a rather chilly, grey day.  A nice ship but in my eyes without the personality of her sister.

Another weekend at the end of October we had reason to visit Pitlochry for a few days  when the autumn colours of the trees was quite spectacular.


In amongst all the trips away life on Bute continued in its fascinating way – the dwindling numbers of tourists and the starting of winter activities underlining this time of transition between the seasons.  There was a good dry spell of weather and the farmers gathered their harvest in.  We celebrated at church with a service and a scrumptious lunch.


He didn’t have to do all the dishes by himself!

At the beginning of November we jetted off seeking some winter sun – and found it very pleasantly warm in the south of Tenerife.  The Hotel Bahia del Duque was beautiful, peaceful and with a choice of restaurants.


The perfect terrace for breakfast and afternoon tea.

There were a number of swimming ‘pools’ scattered down the hillside, all beautifully set in the landscaped gardens.


There never seemed to be anyone in the water when we strolled past en route for our daily amble along the esplanade to the next village along the coast.  It was a very luxurious place and we even had our own wee plunge pool – I could manage three strokes from corner to corner.


The young lady in the next photograph had gone to a lot of trouble to get comfy whilst she sunbathed.


This short break set us up nicely for the whirl of activities that arrive with December.  Each of the organisations we are members of holds a Christmas party or dinner ( I try to avoid turkey until Christmas day, while Colin chooses it every time) – lots of fun and laughter and good company.  There were also concerts and special church services.

The Fundraising Committee at the United Church of Bute held a Cake and Coffee morning in mid December and I helped mount a display of Nativity Sets in the sanctuary at the same time.  It was amazing – 18  depictions of the well known story but each one different and having its own story to tell (bought in different countries, some very old and some fairly new etc).


My sister brought this set from Russia many years ago.


Beautifully carved; hand knitted by various members of the congregation; very old.

The whole church was beautifully decorated.


…. and even some cakes were suitably festive.


Would I be tempting fate by making a New Year Resolution four days before 2017?  I’m not promising but I will try not to leave such long gaps between my blogs next year.

The weather has been very wild for the last ten days – storm Barbara followed swiftly by storm Connor.  The inevitable disruption to the ferry services over the whole of the west coast of Scotland has been immense.  We personally were not affected as fortunately none of our family’s comings and goings were scheduled for ‘no service’ days but many folk around us suffered  anxiety and the last minute rearranging of already complex travel arrangements.  I hope my readers have had a joyful and Happy Christmas.


Christmas Day 2016 on Ettrick Bay

Rothesay Raft Race 2016

August 18, 2016

On Sunday we had another of the Island’s fun filled charity events.  No rain at this one but a lot of people got wet anyway.  The Sailing Club organise this race of home made rafts from the beach at Children’s Corner to in front of the Yacht Club.  Nine teams entered on this overcast but warm, calm day.


There are strict rules about wearing life jackets plus official encouragement of sabotage equipment – flour, eggs and pump action water pistols.


They’re off.

Teams of more than four adults have a one minute time delay so the hardy folks from Stand Up to Cancer had a bit of catching up to do.


Ballerinas tentatively tiptoeing through the seaweed. 


The Co-op being not quite so elegant.

A lot of effort had gone into the building of the rafts, decorating them and creating the costumes.


A wetsuit, a lifejacket and then a bikini on top.

The sea conditions and the weather were so benign that the safety boat took to zooming very fast through the fleet to create waves.


Man made waves.

I think it was gravity and balance that did for this team rather than waves.



They look as though they are chasing after the ferry.

I wonder if any of the paddlers will make the GB Team for the next Olympics.  According to the Buteman report all nine teams finished the course although the last home, with only two oarsmen remaining, took two hours – that’s the kind of grit and determination that wins gold medals (all they would get would be a beer and a beef burger).  A great afternoon’s entertainment.

Storm Bound in Crinan – VIC32

August 13, 2015

We were looking forward to a wee holiday on VIC32 this year as we had not managed to the infamous Work Party Week earlier in the spring.  As I may have mentioned once or twice before this summer, we have not really enjoyed balmy weather and last week’s forecast was predicting gale force winds. Oh jolly good.  The copious amounts of rain have left the countryside looking very lush.

Crinan Basin

Crinan Basin

Our fellow passengers seemed very amenable and the crew were a jolly bunch.  Just as well as Monday morning saw the ritual loading of five tonnes of coal – in the rain.

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Because of the forecast we knew we couldn’t venture too far and would need shelter on Monday night but we did enjoy a cruise part way up the Sound of Jura past the Dorus Mor nearly to Ardfern before turning south again to berth at the pier in Crinan Boatyard.

This is why we were sheltering.

This is why we were sheltering.

It was really interesting to be tied up a few yards from VIC27 (aka Auld Reekie) who is on the slip having a reportedly half a million pounds refurbishment.

Auld Reekie

Auld Reekie

VIC32 on Crinan Boatyard pier

VIC32 on Crinan Boatyard pier

It all looks very calm and pleasant out there – but only as far as the eye can see.  It was dry so we enjoyed a very pleasant ramble around Crinan in the afternoon.  Although tied up very firmly there was a bit of bumping and swinging when the storm arrived.  I didn’t hear it but seemingly the Skipper was up at 3.00am disconnecting the gangway.

In the morning the plan was to put our nose out of Crinan Bay and try to go up Loch Melfort.  There was great hilarity just after breakfast when the Oban lifeboat arrived beside us – was the weather so bad we would need to be escorted up into Loch Melfort?

Oban Lifeboat at Crinan Boatyard

Oban Lifeboat at Crinan Boatyard

It was fascinating to watch how they gently manoeuvred her onto a ‘cradle’ and she was winched up out of the water onto the slip.  It was a routine survey and only half an hour later she was back in the water and roaring away.

We set off shortly afterwards but within half an hour we hit the stormy sea conditions and wild squally weather and it was easy for the Skipper to make the decision to return to port – again!

Not quite Caribbean blue

Not quite Caribbean blue

We weren’t out long enough for me to feel I needed to be lashed to the mast for safety.  The sea was not being kind to us so after another delicious lunch we packed into three cars and went to visit Kilmartin Museum and some of the ancient prehistoric sites scattered throughout the glen.  It was really quite a pleasant day on land.

Temple Wood Stone Circle

Temple Wood Stone Circle

We also climbed Dunadd to enjoy the spectacular 360 degree view and, of course, try standing in the footprint of the kings of Dal Riata.

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They must have been quite wee fellas – my size 4 trainers just fitted exactly, so do I get to marry the Prince or is that a different story?

Windswept but dry.

Windswept but dry.

It was still quite blowy out in the Sound of Jura but the forecast was becoming less doom laden.  Our second night on the boatyard pier started with a beautiful sunset.

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By Wednesday morning it was still grey and windy and the forecast was still not all that promising.  None of the passengers were actually complaining, just a bit disappointed, especially for first time voyagers, so to avert any rumblings of mutiny we set out again.  Plan A was to puff south down the coast and, if the wind turned enough, nip straight across to Jura.  It was bearable on deck – not too cold, with drizzle, rain and dry spells alternating.  Unfortunately we were soon on Plan B and going up Loch Sween to Tayvalich to where we could find a sheltered mooring for the night.

The trusty galley slave rowed us all ashore in small groups where we stoically enjoyed a walk in the heaviest rain I have ever experienced.

The laughter was just a bit hysterical.

The laughter was just a bit hysterical.

The downpour lessened off a bit and we climbed over the peninsula and down to Carsaig Bay.  Some of the group chose to visit a beautiful garden but I went with the breakaway party to visit a young artist, Susan Berry.  I fell instantly in love with her work, especially the watercolours of otters.  I may save up my pocket money and make a trip round by road.  I also loved her garden.

Now when did he get here?

Now when did he get here?

The sun finally decided to shine on the second last day so we wasted no time in popping back out of Loch Sween and making the three hour crossing to Craighouse on Jura.

A Home Made Selfie Stick

A Home Made Selfie Stick

In case you hadn’t spotted it, that is an expensive camera attached to the deck brush with sellotape – the Puffer paparazzi will try anything for a good photograph (see David Hawson).

Leaving Tayvallich

Leaving Tayvallich

We really enjoyed perfect weather on Thursday and Friday – Jura was looking stunning.

On Craighouse Pier, Jura

On Craighouse Pier, Jura

A charming gentleman with a minibus took us on a short tour.  He was an excellent guide, full of information and stories.  As usual for me the highlight was probably the photographic local history display in Jura church but for others it was the imposing stag in a roadside field or the otter swimming and feeding just a bit off shore.  After supper we were entertained by a piper who came marching along the pier – very evocative sound in the setting of dusk and sunset surrounded by the sea and the Paps of Jura.

Craighouse, Jura

Craighouse, Jura

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A good blether on the way back to Crinan.

A good blether on the way back to Crinan.

This excellent wee holiday finished at Crinan with the magical steam driven record player being set up to play some new records kindly donated by one of our Irish shipmates.  The passengers and crew had all been good company, the food was delicious and the weather …. improved.

Steam driven record player on VIC32.

Steam driven record player on VIC32.

Roy Rogers singing ‘A Four Legged Friend’ has now become an ear worm.

The Adventure on St Helena Continues

May 16, 2015

St Helena is one of the most isolated places on earth – at the moment only accessible by a five day sea voyage from Cape Town, South Africa, or by RAF to Ascension and then a two day sea voyage, or by the occasional cruise ship.  While we were there two of the latter dropped in.  An Italian cruise ship visited for a few hours one day and then over the Easter weekend the ‘World’ visited.  Correction – the latter is not a cruise ship but a floating luxury apartment block.  Her stay in Jamestown made very little impact as it was rumoured there were only about sixty residents aboard.

The 'World' in Jamestown Bay

The ‘World’ in Jamestown Bay

While visiting the Empty Tomb – Napoleon’s original burial place – we met a small group of ‘World’ residents with their guide.  Her name badge proclaimed she was the “Enrichment Manager” – says it all.

Napoleon's Tomb, Geranium Valley

Napoleon’s Tomb, Geranium Valley

After his defeat at the Battle of Waterloo and surrender to the English, Napoleon Bonaparte was sent on the ten week sail to St Helena where he was ‘imprisoned’ from the 15th October 1815 until his death on the 5th May 1821.  For the whole five years Napoleon and his entourage complained bitterly about everything, including his accommodation at Longwood House.

Longwood House, St Helena

Longwood House, St Helena

On the day we visited it was idyllic. It was so lovely in the warm sunshine that on the tour the guides felt obliged to keep pointing out how damp, dismal and rat infested it had been 200 years ago.  I read a couple of books on the topic before we visited (the two diametrically opposing versions of the story) so it was such a privilege to actually see the real thing.

Napoleon’s ferociously hated jailer, Sir Hudson Lowe, Governor of St Helena, lived in the very beautiful Plantation House, which continues to be the residence of the Governor today.

Plantation House, St Helena

Plantation House, St Helena

The inside is absolutely exquisite – I could happily live there, especially if the nine staff were part of the deal.  Photography was not allowed inside and I’ve fruitlessly searched the internet for any images.  The house is also renowned for the giant tortoises living on the lawn.  The notices pertaining to these are a bit shouty.

Visiting George

Visiting Jonathon

Napoleon wasn’t the only prisoner to do his time on St Helena.  During the Boer War (1899 – 1902) nearly 6,000 prisoners of war were transported to St Helena from South Africa.  We visited the immaculately kept grave site and memorial.

Boer War Prisoners Cemetery, St Helena

Boer War Prisoners Cemetery, St Helena

On the voyage both to and from St Helena I had the privilege of a number of conversations with a lovely South African gentleman who was visiting the island specifically to honour two of his Boer ancestors.  Both his great grandfather and his grandfather had been prisoners.  The elder died of dysentry a few weeks before the end of the war and his son returned to SA and lived well into his sixties.

The names of the soldiers are recorded on the two obelisks at the bottom of the very steep slope.  I also found fascinating gravestones and wall plaques in other graveyards and churches on the island.  The following one caught my eye in St Paul’s Cathedral no less.

St Paul's Cathedral, St Helena

St Paul’s Cathedral, St Helena

When asked why we had chosen to visit St Helena our standard response was, ‘because of its isolation, the long sea voyage and Napoleon’.  I had no idea of the rich and important history of the island.  A short list of interesting visitors gives some indication – 1676 Edmund Halley (astronomer), 1775 Captain Cook, 1792 Captain Bligh, 1805 the Duke of Wellington, 1836 Charles Darwin, etc etc.

As well as dramatic scenery and fascinating history there was also wildlife to see.  We spent a wonderful morning with a National Trust expert on the endangered endemic Wire Birds.  Because there are only about 400 individuals left in the world (i.e. here on St Helena) I had expected them to be very difficult to find.  But our guide visits them every day and took us straight to the nesting area.  Fortunately the little birds are not disturbed by well behaved humans so we had a wonderful time having every aspect of their behaviour explained to us.

Wire Bird and Eggs

Wire Bird and Eggs

We also spent a glorious morning at sea viewing the island from a different angle and being thrilled by the joyous antics of a great pod of dolphins.  I didn’t even try to take photographs but happily stood with a  grin on my face, mesmerised by the graceful leaping creatures on all sides of the boat.

Dolphin watching, St Helena

Dolphin watching, St Helena

I had another insight into how isolated this island is when our local guide, Basil, explained that families living here rarely get the opportunity to ‘go on holiday’ as we understand the term – five days each way to get off and on the island and the not inconsiderable cost of that journey before any regular time and money considerations come into play.  As a result the long Easter weekend has become a very important ritual of camping with family and friends – a time to relax with loved ones, let the kids run wild, eat and drink, and generally have fun.  Each extended family/friends group always returns to the same camping place year after year and even to the exact same spot.


We had the privilege of joining Basil’s family’s encampment at Thompson’s Wood for lunch – a total of 24 happy, relaxed folk who welcomed us and shared food while half a dozen small children clambered happily and precariously through a tree above our heads.  A simple and delightful way to have a mini holiday.  Other island families each have their own regular place to camp.  We saw the following group ensconced on a rock shelf near the mouth of one of the many inaccessible valleys.  They had arrived by sea and instead of pitching tents would shelter in the shallow caves.

Happy Campers

Happy Campers

Life is going to change dramatically for the Saints in the next year with the opening of the Airport scheduled for February 2016.  Every one we spoke to wanted to talk about this immense event, and they held very mixed views – something had to be done to stimulate the stagnant economy, make opportunities for the younger people, and stop, or at least slow the rate of immigration away from the island, but with all huge changes like this there is also a great fear of the unknown – will their idyllic, slow, informal lifestyle be overwhelmed by an influx of incomers and demanding mass tourism?  Only time will tell but I think the resilience of living in such an isolated place will give the Saints a good start in embracing and managing the changes to come.

The Runway, St Helena

The Runway, St Helena

The photograph above was taken from the Millennium Gum Tree Forest. The young trees in the middle distance are about ten years old and we did our bit by planting some more in this attempt to reforest part of the island.  It was rather strange having to use a pick axe rather than a wee trowel to dig a hole for the baby tree.

Planting Gum Trees

Planting Gum Trees

Someone has a good sense of humour – you will find yourself reading the following notice a few times.

Castle Gardens, Jamestown, St Helena

Castle Gardens, Jamestown, St Helena

Last episode to follow.

Where on Earth is That?

April 25, 2015

We’ve been travelling again and when we told friends where we were off to the response was often as in the title.  I’ll keep the destination under raps for a bit longer as we had some lovely experiences on the 10 day outward journey.  We had the privilege of spending a few days in and around the beautiful city of Cape Town.  The weather was gloriously warm and sunny.

Windswept surf at Camps Bay

Windswept surf at Camps Bay

Because it was very clear early in the morning our first trip was to Table Mountain – using my second favourite method of transport.

Cable car on Table Mountain

Cable car on Table Mountain

The views from the top were stunning and I was very impressed by the layout of the paths and the information boards provided.  There were, of course, lots of visitors but the ‘natives’ took this in their stride and continued to nonchalantly pose in the sunshine.

Dassie on Table Mountain

Dassie on Table Mountain

Our guide, and the signs, were very keen to point out that these little hamster like creatures (proper name Rock Hyrax) are genetically the nearest living relative of the elephant.  After an hour or so gazing at the wonderful scenery I decided to give the abseiling option of descending a miss and opted for a return trip in the wonderful revolving cable car.

Option 1 - no thank you

Option 1 – no thank you

Option 2 - yes please - even with 40 rude, pushy Indians!

Option 2 – yes please – even with 40 rude, pushy Indians!

You can see Robben Island in the top right of the photo above.  Unfortunately we did not have enough time to fit in a visit to that particular island.  What we did do was have a couple of hours enjoying the delights of the Kirstenbosch Botanical gardens. This was very beautiful and peaceful.  You will no doubt recognise the flowers in the next photograph but these are particularly special strelitzias – not the usual bright orange but a new yellow form being propagated at Kirstenbosch and named Mandela.

Mandela Strelitzia

Mandela Strelitzia

Among the many interesting features in the Garden was the striking modern Centenary Skywalk Trail – a minimalist and elegant structure suspended high above ground level amongst the treetops.

Kirstenbosch Gardens

Kirstenbosch Gardens

Other features were equally beautiful and fascinating –

A Golden Orb Spider and a Brave Finger

A Golden Orb Spider and a Brave Finger

I would happily have stayed all day in the gardens but our next treat was waiting – and what a treat, afternoon tea at the old colonial Lord Nelson Hotel.  This was what I call a proper afternoon tea – linen cloths, silver cutlery, fine china, cake stands groaning with tempting cakes, minute sandwiches with no crusts, fresh baked scones with cream and jam.  I did reveal my roots somewhat by opting for ordinary English Breakfast (builder’s) tea from the extensive tea menu.  We ate so much we nearly  had no need for dinner that night.

Even the teapot was intriguing and classy.

Even the teapot was intriguing and classy.

Another ‘tablecloth’ featured often over our few days in and around Cape Town – the fascinating cloud formation which drapes itself over Table Mountain.

The 'cloth' over the 'table'

The ‘cloth’ over the ‘table’

Another day we spent driving around the Cape Peninsula.  The scenery was wonderful and at times very atmospheric as the mist alternated from being swirled around to being swept away out to sea.  We were delighted to encounter some African penguins near Simonstown.

African Penguins

African Penguins

The next photograph needs no explanation but I will add that we had to ‘queue’ for our turn at the iconic sign.

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Although we were not on a Big Game holiday we did see plenty of wild life, including lots of ostriches.  Unfortunately in the dozens of photographs we took there is not one with a male looking at the camera – they were always too busy eating.

Ostriches near Cape Town

Ostriches near Cape Town

In Simonstown we had the pleasure / pain of sharing a crowded cafe with South African cricket fans as they watched the nail biting last few overs of the semi final of the One Day World Cup between South Africa and New Zealand – sadly lost on the second last ball.

Unlike the ostriches the bonteboks very tentatively watched our every move with the camera.



The new Waterfront complex in Cape Town reminded me a bit of Singapore with all its shopping malls, restaurants and entertainment

Cape Town Waterfront

Cape Town Waterfront

We were getting ready for the next leg of our journey – but it wasn’t to be a bus ride to Dunoon!

From Cape Town to Dunoon

From Cape Town to Dunoon

We were going to catch a ferry, albeit a very special ferry.

Not a Calmac red funnel

Not a Calmac red funnel

Leaving Cape Town

Leaving Cape Town

Sailing away to the BIG adventure

Sailing away to the BIG adventure

Off into the sunset for the next five days.

Off into the sunset for the next five days.

Next episode in a few days time – ‘St Helena by Royal Mail’