Category Archives: travel

Maryland

Pretty house built around a lighthouse

Monday 2nd October there was no wind as usual so we motored south. We had a day in hand so decided to stop in Magothy bay overnight and dropped our anchor just after 5pm. The waypoint was

39°04.916N

076°27.623W

There were the usual ‘cottages’ around the water’s edge. One of them was set on an island and built around a lighthouse. I can’t imagine it ever being used for navigation that far inside the bay but it looked pretty.

Tuesday 3rd, after taking my turn on the OCC net on the SSB radio, we got underway again.

Big double bridge crossing right over the Chesapeake

This bridge is one of the few possible ways of crossing the Chesapeake from Maryland to Delaware. It was enormous and disappeared off towards the horizon.

Approaching Crab creek

It was a shame we didn’t have more time to explore the bay but October was heavily planned with events and our holiday. I had contacted an OCC member and asked if we could leave Camomile on the jetty at the end of her garden, as advertised on the OCC website. It’s an amazing feature the OCC offer and well worth the membership fee. The marinas in the U.S. are way beyond our budget at over $100 a day. Gemma’s place is just south of Annapolis in Crab creek.

One of Gemma’s neighbours

The jetty is just across from the boathouse on the left of the photo.

There were several other OCC boats anchored in the creek as Gemma allows them to use her jetty to tie up their dinghies.

The jetty is at

38°57.522N

076°31.811W

Gemma is the port officer for Annapolis and her contact details are on the OCC website if you are members.

Bill tying Camomile securely to the jetty.

Screenshot of our position on the chart

The OCC end of season dinner

Gemma moved to the U.S. from the Netherlands many years ago. It was very generous of her to allow us to use her jetty, we were very grateful. It was so nice to be able to  step ashore. Gemma’s house is set up a steep bank which we walked up to look for the supermarket to buy a few supplies.

Wednesday 4th was the day of the OCC US east coast end of season dinner. Gemma and other OCC members did a wonderful job of arranging lifts for everyone. It was nice to dress up for a change.  Some of the cruisers we had met on the Maine rally in August were there along with Dick and Moira from the Westerly called Equinox.  It was nice to see them again.

The lady speaker

Dinner was chicken Cesar salad and a very nice tortellini in a creamy sauce with prawns followed by some chocolate dipped thingys. It was all delicious.

The speaker was a lady from the Chesapeake bay program who spoke about their restoration of the bay and the control of the environment protection they are undertaking.

 

 

Visiting the Annapolis boat show

 

Thursday 5th I spent a very frustrating day trying to book a car for our holiday and kept hitting brick walls! The problem in the U.S. is that everyone carries their own insurance but as we don’t we would have to take out the car hire’s CDW (they insist). This would only cover the hire car if any one hit us or if we damaged it so we needed a second insurance that was a third party insurance that would cover us if we damaged anyone else’s car or, more importantly, them.  I spent all day trying to find cheaper options but gave up in frustration.

The Annapolis boat show

Bill next to the Gin tent – the equivalent of the Guinness tent

Friday 6th again the OCC members arranged for the cruisers to be picked up and taken to the boat show. The Annapolis boat show is almost as big as the Southampton boat show but is divided into two shows, sailboats the first weekend then there’s a 2 day change around with the motor boat show the following weekend.  It was great to see some old friends. We were just standing by the Gin tent when who should wander by but Jason of YOLO and Karen. Haven’t seen them since Malaysia. There were also a number of new friends recently made.

 

Meeting Jimmy Cornell

It was nice to speak to some old friends on the supplier stands. We finally met the guy who organised our new Staylok fittings when we had our rig failure on the way to the Galapagos. Also Will Curry was on the Hydrovane stand. We almost helped him with a sale by telling his client how good our Hydrovane was and how we wouldn’t be without it. Will had a guest on his stand later in the afternoon and that was Jimmy Cornell.  We last met Jimmy at the Cruising Association in London many years ago when he had inspired us to go sailing. It was great to meet him again.

Bill on Solstice

Jake and Jackie of Hokule’a

After the boat show we made our way to Solstice in the marina for the reunion we had been looking forward to. Bill on Solstice had invited our lovely friends Jake and Jackie of Hokule’a, now based in California, to stay with him, also Jack and Zdenka of Kite drove down from Portland where we met in the summer. Neil and Ruth had Rutea across the way and were invited and Behan of Totem joined us later in the evening. It was wonderful to all be together again and catch up on everyone’s news.

Ruth, Zdenka, Jackie and Sue

On Saturday 7th I looked at the hire car situation again including working out if it would be cheaper to fly to Boston and hire a car from there but it was more expensive. I looked at trains but they were also expensive plus public transport isn’t so regular in the States. Buses aren’t so good either so eventually I booked a car at a cost of $25 a day plus over $40 a day for the 2 insurances. Crazy!

Sunday 8th I spent the day cleaning the boat and packing and getting excited.

May update

I can now continue with my blogs. This is long overdue but this is the May update.

Monday 1st May we checked into America. It took all morning. The biggest problem was not having an American phone and the satellite phone wouldn’t call the number the coastguard gave me. It’s necessary to have a check in number, which you get calling the phone number, before the customs will even speak to you. For yachties following us, the custom’s have an internal phone you can use when you get there. We spent several hours establishing that! We also assumed they would want to inspect Camomile and tried to obtain a marina berth for a few hours but that was unnecessary because they decided they didn’t want to inspect so we stayed at anchor.

Very clean American mall

The next day was my birthday and I decided I wanted to go a real American mall, Bill’s idea of purgatory but off we went. While there we got a new phone for me on an American contract so I can facebook and message as much as I want. The number is 561 301 6266. I had a wonderful time browsing around the shops.

Yum yum yum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had lunch out, which was delicious, but the best was the strawberry shortcake for dessert. The first of the ‘Everything is big in America’ pictures.

The next day on the 3rd we headed north leaving at 6.30am going back out through the Lake Worth inlet at

26˚46.348N

80˚01.719W

The wind was from the east and gave us a good push with the sails hoisted. We entered back into the ICW (inter coastal waterway) at

27˚28.537N

80˚16.137W

and then into Harbourtown marina at Fort Pierce.

Camomile in Harbourtown marina

The entrance waypoint is

27˚28.030N

80˚19.569W

The space is the marina was very tight. As you can see Camomile is way over the edge of the berth but the marina weren’t concerned. It will be fun getting out but we’ll work that out later.  This would be Camomile’s home for the next month. The cost was $623 for the month working out to a little over 55c per foot per day. We were later to realise what a bargain this was. In the US you pay by the foot for a day or a month. The monthly rates are a lot cheaper than the daily rates.

As many of you know the purpose of the beginning of our stay was to fly back to the UK but the first job was to clean Camomile inside and out, which took most of the next day.  I had spent several hours cleaning Camomile’s decks then it started to rain!! Should I have bothered. The couple on the motorboat next to us were very friendly along with most of the other boat owners.  Word got round there were a couple of Brits in town and everyone was ‘Just stopping by to say Hello and welcome’.

The smallest car available to hire.

Spent the rest of the week sorting out the boat, washing and packing.

Monday 8th we picked up our hire car. A one way car hire worked out the cheapest way to get to Orlando airport which was only a 4 hour drive away but America doesn’t really do public transport. When we arrived at the office in town and had completed the paperwork we were shown to our car. I pointed out that I thought they had given us the wrong car. I had booked a small compact car. ‘No’ he said ‘this is a small compact car’!

Selfie by the fountain

 

 

Tuesday 9th we drove to Orlando airport. I was really excited. We were flying to Miami and then to Heathrow. Orlando airport is huge and full of shops selling Micky Mouse hats. There was a beautiful fountain in the middle of the building.

 

Getting our flight ready

 

 

Our flight was delayed twice and was transferred to Philadelphia where we had to take a later flight to Heathrow. All good in the end.

It was wonderful to see Thomas at the airport. All the planning for this event and finally we were in the UK.

 

Logan is such a cutie

 

Had a busy first week. On the Friday Bill went off on the stag weekend to Barcelona to the F1, with James, Will the best man and some others. Thomas had a great time. I spent 3 days with my younger sister shopping for my wedding outfit then 3 days with my middle sister enjoying chatting with her and my niece Kirsty and my great nephew Logan, who is adorable now. It’s a year since I’ve seen him and he isn’t a baby any more.  Bill and James were back from the stag and working on James’s van.

Thank you to my sisters for having us.

We then returned to Kent to stay with Sonal’s mum Meena. Thank you for having us Meena.

Working in the cookie kitchen, do you like my hair net?

 

 

 

 

 

During our second week James was back at work so Bill helped Thomas put some finishing touches to their house, which ended up taking quite a time. I had a day in the cookie kitchen making cookies. I didn’t eat many……

Kate and Bill catching up.

 

 

 

A week before the wedding on the 20th we were invited to a family party of Bill’s relatives at cousin Sally and Rob’s. It was wonderful to see everyone. Bill’s sister Kate was there who had flown in for the wedding and Bill and she had a lovely catch up. It was also the first time we’d seen our nephew Will in almost 5 year, he had grown very tall.

 

3 delicious cakes

Bronwyn blowing out her candles

 

 

There were 3 cakes for 3 celebrations Mike and Angie’s 25th wedding anniversary, Bronwyn’s 80th birthday and cousin Wendie’s 60th birthday. We had a wonderful day.

 

 

The Chilston park hotel

Amanda and I with the Ferrari

 

Our third and last week was spent shopping for boat bits, of course, clothes to take back, more visiting, hair dressers, nail painting, more last minute bits for the wedding that it just flew by.  Finally on 27th the big day arrived. A group of us had stayed at the Chilston Park hotel which served the most amazing breakfast. James and Thomas were there and we had had one last family evening together – when everything was finally completed.

On the morning of the wedding Thomas’s friend arrived in his Ferrari to take Thomas to the venue. My sister and I had a pose in front of it.

My two sisters-in-law Claire and Kate, the very tall nephew Will, Uncle John and Auntie Hilary

 

 

 

 

Guests were arriving at the venue when Thomas’s party arrived.  Everyone looked beautiful in their wedding outfits. It was a glorious day, they were so lucky with the weather.

My favorite photo. My sisters Angela and Amanda

 

 

 

Sonal’s mum Meena. Our babies were getting married.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bill and I outside Bradbourne house, the wedding venue.

Thomas and his best man Will

Thomas leads his bride up the steps.

 

 

 

Finally the bride arrived and looked absolutely stunning. The wedding was outside on the steps that made a stunning setting. Sonals’s dress was exquisite.  She had done a wonderful job of blending Indian style accessories with the traditional English wedding theme.

 

Slinky the ring bearer

 

 

 

 

Their little dog Slinky was a ring bearer. They were attached to his collar. Will led him up the steps to Thomas so he could receive the rings.

Thomas had asked Bill to do a reading but instead Bill wrote a poem and read it to them at the end of the service. Here it is

Welcome

And so I am called – to give sage advice
It’s a special occasion – so I’ll try hard to be nice
All things considered – I really feel I oughter
Because today – I gain a beautiful daughter

It is a brave step – to be husband and wife
One that’s at least – for the rest of your life
So be a friend and an ally – as well as a lover
Be tough be gentle – care for each other

Be quick to unsay – the wrong things you said
You can’t always know – what’s going on in their head
Compassion and compromise – tolerance too
Strive always to see – another point of view

Share fair the burden – of everyday chores
You both work so hard – but make time that is yours
Show respect and interest – for each other’s dreams
Be fast to forgive – however tricky it seems

Put up with the in laws – when they get you upset
They love you and care – so sometimes will fret
Are they smarter than you? very probably not
do they know useful stuff – well they’ve been round the block

All these good things – in plentiful measure
Will build you a life – you’ll both love and treasure

Did I hear you say – is that right are you sure?
It can’t be that simple – there must be some more
After near 40 years – of matrimonial bliss
I’m pleased to say – we’re still working on this
So
A talented woman – a beautiful bride
How lucky is Tom – to have you at his side
And how lucky am I – that it now falls to me
To welcome you Sonal – to my family

Bill reading his poem

Signing the register

We all moved into the grounds for the photos. Everyone has hundreds but this one is one of my favourites.

Claire, chief bridesmaid, Sonal, my beautiful daughter-in-law, Jasmine, my beautiful niece, Jen, Sonal’s sister-in-law

The beautiful bouquets

Lovely photo

Thomas giving his speech

Cutting the cake

and of course there were cookies

Amazing photo. I’m going to have this framed.

This was the first Indian style dance then it was followed by a first English dance

The girls looked beautiful dancing together.

My wonderful flowers

It was a fabulous day and one of the nicest things was the wonderful mix of cultures.

So now I’m no longer Mrs Redgrove – I’m Mrs Redgrove senior.

The following day Thomas and Sonal had invited any one who had stayed in the area over night to join them for a drink at a lovely village pub near where they live.  It also gave us a chance to say our goodbyes to everyone as our time in the UK was coming to an end again.

Bill with his award for writing the best technical article for the Westerly magazine

 

We spent our last two days in the country with our old neighbours in Teston. Relaxing and going for walks in our old neighbourhood. James was able to join us for a day. Thank you Gill and Nigel for having us.

Also Bill had won an award at the Westerly AGM earlier in the year and we were able to unpack it and photograph it before leaving it with my sister.

 

 

Our plane awaits

 

Tuesday 30th May it was back to the airport where our plane was waiting for us. Sorry to all the many people we didn’t get a chance to see this visit but we plan to return April next year for 6 months so we’ll see everyone then. Thank you to everyone we were able to see for making our visit very special and to Thomas and Sonal for allowing us to share your special day.

Despite being on 3 different flights we managed to meet up with Kate and her partner Mark in Orlando airport. Their journey will be in the June update.

xxxx

 

South Africa to the Caribbean – day 57 we made it.

This is the same blog but I’ve added some photos.

Our position at 16.30(19.30 GMT) Saturday 18th March was
14 26.39N
060 53.38W
The anchor is down, thank God, literally as we’ve arrived safely in Martinique after completing our circumnavigation.

Our last 30 hours was fairly uneventful except for the mini drama of nearly using the Hydrovane rudder. Bill had noticed the steering was behaving oddly on his night watch and put the autohelm on. In the daylight he looked over the stern to see the Hydrovane rudder looking bent. We hove to (stopped the boat) to look at it and discovered the pin clipping it into position had broken. Fortunately Bill always ties it on as well so we hadn’t lost the rudder. It was brought back on board and was a passenger for the rest of the journey. Incredibly Bill doesn’t have a spare, he had already used it, so we’ll have to get one along the way. That was our only breakage on the whole trip which is pretty incredible considering the miles we have covered.

Barbados in the distance

We continued to sail through the day although the wind started dropped in the afternoon and we motored for 2 hours because we (I) didn’t want to slow down, until it picked up again. Barbados came into view about 4pm as we sailed past the north coast with the lights from the resorts twinkling in the dusk. I watched a cruise liner leave Barbados on the AIS and was SOOOO tempted to call them up and ask for a lift! I ate my last 4 squares of chocolate during my last night watch.

I awoke to 100% cloud cover and a line of squalls matching across the skyline. Bill went back to bed for his second sleep while I sat in the cockpit with the umbrella up because it was also raining. The wind disappeared so the engine was on again. The cloud and mist continued through the morning and Martinique was hiding behind it. St Lucia appeared about 8am, which is the island south of us, and Martinique about 8.20, but disappeared again. When Bill got up I made pancakes for our last breakfast at sea because we seem to have missed pancake day while we’ve been out here.

Camomile right on the line

I started to come out of my chrysalis like a butterfly and began to sing again, I haven’t been singing for a while and although Bill says it’s nice to hear me singing again I think he’s just being kind because he prefers it to the silence! As we were about an hour away from our finishing line the sun appeared along with a pod of spinner dolphins jumping out of the Caribbean blue sea to welcome us. The wind started to blow and the engine went off. As Martinique emerged from the cloud we were quite close and able to see the lovely houses built into it’s verdant green hills. As we’ve already written we crossed ‘the line’ at 1.30pm Bill and I hugged each other with me in tears and Bill pretty close. It’s just amazes me we actually managed to do it.

Turning Camomile back to Le Marin, Martinique

We turned Camomile back towards the marina and had to motor quite hard against the wind to get there. Even though it was only 4pm when we got to the channel we decided not to go into the marina but anchor in the bay in front of St Annes for the first night to ‘wind down’ slowly from the journey. Once we go into the marina my feet won’t touch the ground with washing, cleaning, shopping, etc.

Heading into the anchorage

 

 

 

Once anchored I felt an enormous sense of relief that we were safe and could relax. We spent a short time sorting out the boat then the bottle of bubbles came out. We didn’t have posh Boli like someone we know (!) but a nice South African sparkling wine that was very nice along with some cool white wine too. I had intended cooking lemon chicken and apple crumble but I put some Pringles and cheese and biscuits out to have with our drink and dinner got forgotten.

The celebrations begin

I spoke to Sara on Norsa for the last time on the net (the SSB doesn’t work very well in the marina) and said an emotional farewell, they have another 7 or 8 days out there but they aren’t coming in our direction. Not sure when we’ll see them again – the down side of cruising. 😦
So to sum up the journey we left Simonstown 9 weeks ago and spent 3 days in Cape town before leaving on 19th January. The journey from Cape Town to here was 5634 miles altogether but we stopped in St Helena for 2 weeks and 2 days. The passage just from St Helena to here was 3857 miles that took 27 days 9 hours or 657 hours giving us an average speed of 5.8kts which isn’t bad considering we’ve had anything from 3kts to over 8kts along the way. It has become our longest passage and, as I’ve already said, it won’t be beaten. Of those 657 hours the engine was only on for 77 hours, half of those were for charging the batteries when the day was cloudy. The solar panels and wind generator kept the batteries going for the rest of the time.

So we go into the marina later today for 5 or 6 days then we will start to make our way north to complete the rest of the 1500 miles or so to get us to Florida. We’ve got 6 weeks or so to do it which, hopefully, will be enough time. The plan is Martinique this week
Antigua next week
St Martin first week in April
BVIs second week in April
Sail to Turks and Caicos third week in April
Sail the last 700 miles or so to Florida (on the inside route) during the last week in April If there’s anyone on that route that we know we would love to meet up.

All well on board.

The blog goes through to facebook but we can’t see facebook or your comments. I’ll catch up with them all in the Caribbean. If you wish to email us please use mdqf6 @ sailmail.com (take out the gaps) Stay safe everyone.

Camomile completes her circumnavigation

This is the same post but I’ve added some photos.

WHOOP WHOOP WHOOP We’ve done it!!

Bill and Sue on the bow of Camomile

At 13.30 this afternoon Camomile crossed the ‘finishing line’. We have sailed around the world traversing all meridians of longitude, the equator and then met our outgoing track here. Eventually we’ll complete our journey and head back to the UK but for now we feel we can call ourselves circumnavigators. Very emotional moment. Can’t believe we’ve actually done it, just Bill and I on our own but that’s basically how its been for the last 8 years. We’ve joined rallies and cruising groups but once you leave port, particularly on ocean passages, you are on your own; completely unassisted.

The line between the green crosses was our track from 2010

From the UK we’ve traveled 58525 miles so far on the worlds oceans and our circumnavigation from this spot on the 11th January 2010 and back to it today was 52365 sea miles or to put it in another context, two times around the earth’s equator.
This voyage has taken us 7 years 2 months and 7 days visiting 44 countries, some more than once, and more islands then we could keep count of – maybe we rushed it!

We haven’t arrived back with a tatty worn out boat either, Camomile is in better shape than ever. During our circumnavigation Bill has kept her well maintained and she has had new electronics including new autopilot, vhf and ssb radios and a new dinghy and outboard as a result of insurance claims from storm damage. Bill has replaced the standing rigging and most of the running rigging (ropes), she has had new sails, stackpack, cockpit cover and bimini, a new cooker and I’ve replaced the kettle three times. Bill also repainted Camomile and replaced all the woodwork (grab handles, toe rails, etc) and the propshaft. So I say to all you yachties working on your boats getting ready to leave, like Bill’s rhyme says JUST GO, there’ll be plenty of opportunity to finish your boat on the way round.

Back stooped and shoulders sagging
Soul and body really flagging
Worn out and weary, time to retreat
Before this daily grindstone has me beat

Cast your mind to a white sand shore
Green palm fronds over sea azure
Trade winds there cool a simpler life
And roaring breakers mute that strife

Above blackest night and pin prick stars
Milky way and meteors
Beneath glowing wake eats up the miles
as mast and deck heel to the sails

Go cruising now my friend don’t wait
’till fatty fare ‘n stress slow up your gait
Real loved ones will support you swim or sink
Life’s hour is later than you think

exert from the Rhyme of the Middle Aged Mariner by Bill Redgrove

South Africa to the Caribbean – Day 11 back in the western hemishere

Our position at 10.00 (09.00 GMT)Monday 30th January
19 59S
001 10 WEST
We have 354 miles to go to St Helena and our 24 hour run from 10.00 yesterday to 10.00 this morning was an even worse 110 miles.

Our big news is that at 3.15 yesterday afternoon we crossed the Greenwich meridian line and are now in the western hemisphere. The last time we crossed from east to west was in 2008 on our way back to the Solent from The Netherlands. The other side of the world we crossed from west to east the first time in 2010 with the Blue Water rally and then crisscrossed it a couple of times in 2012, which was our last time in the wonderful country of Fiji. We’ll stay in the western hemisphere for a few years and won’t cross back to the eastern side until we are back in the English channel possibly heading to Norway….but knows when that will be.

East of the meridian

East of the meridian

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seconds after crossing the meridian

Seconds after crossing the meridian

Camomile crossing the line

Camomile crossing the line

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The wind finally died yesterday at 5.30pm and we started motoring. Luckily the wind picked up again at 1.30 in the morning and Bill put the sails out and started sailing again. We passed our three quarters of the way last night.
This morning our speed is anything from 3 1/2 to 6kts as the wind comes and goes.

I gave the Indian takeaway a go last night with chicken in Massaman sauce with basmati rice and Bill ordered a nan bread – how lucky is he. I am too because I had a glass of wine with mine to celebrate the crossing of the meridian.

One of a number of fabulous sunsets

One of a number of fabulous sunsets

I drank it at dusk watching the sun go down and light up the sky with a magnificent golden hue. Later, as it was the dark moon night, the stars were simply stunning with planets and galaxies visible without the ambient light of the land. I know I don’t like passage making but we are privileged to see some of the most amazing sights.

Enjoy your Monday …. and yes he did have a shave he was looking too shaggy!

So the journey continues. These blogs go through to our facebook page but remember we can’t see facebook or your kind comments but thank you for them, I look forward to reading them when we arrive. If you wish to contact us on passage please use mdqf6 @ sailmail.com (but take the gaps out) I love to hear from you. xx

Safari in the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi park

Sue in the jeep

Sue in the jeep

After our rainy boat trip to see the hippos we awoke the next morning to a better day – although at 4am it was still dark! We packed up the car and waited for the safari jeep to arrive. We didn’t want to stay in St Lucia for a second night and had booked a place near the northern gate of Hluhluwe. The plan was to follow the jeep to the eastern gate, leave the car inside, rejoin the jeep for our safari after which we could drive ourselves through the park to the northern gate. Our jeep arrived with Steve our guide. We had booked an elite safari with Euro Zulu safaris.  This meant there were only 6 in our jeep and the middle seats weren’t filled. We had our friends Davina and Antony with us and a couple called Andy and Emma also joined us. At 6.15 the sun was out and we were ready to see some animals. I’ve been wanting to do this since I was a little girl.

Our first head of Impala

Our first head of Impala

Hluhluwe-iMofolozi (pronounced shloo-shloo-wee-im-for-lozi) park covers 960 sq km (3 times the size of the Isle of Wight) a lot of which is mountainous landscape so unlike ‘safari parks’ (read zoos) back home it’s quite difficult to spot the animals. Its possible to drive yourself but you’re much higher in the jeep. The first animals we came across were impala, pretty little things, as common a sight as sheep in our countryside, but Steve said their tails form a letter M on their bottoms which he said stands for MacDonalds, yes these dear little creatures are the fast food of the game park. All of the big cats eat them.

SONY DSC

A male impala

A giraffe in the distance

A giraffe in the distance

I had already told Steve my favourite animal was the giraffe and I really wanted to see one so as we continued along the road several were spotted in the distance grazing with some zebra. Their long graceful necks were very distinctive. There was a 4×4 track heading off towards them which Steve took.  It was a bit rough but the jeeps are built to take it, a hire car wouldn’t have been able to use the track.

A crash of rhinos

A crash of rhinos

As luck would have it as we were driving along the track a crash of rhinos were spotted (sounds like a Camomile quiz question to me!) the collective name for a group of rhinos. They were white rhinos, black rhinos are smaller and very hard to spot, sadly we didn’t see any of those. Despite the parks best efforts these creatures are still hunted for their horns. As we watched the rhinos helicopters were circling in the distance watching out for poachers from Mozambique. Steve said there is zero tolerance towards poachers and they are shot on sight. No beating about the bush in South Africa These were our first sighting of one of the big 5.

The first of the Big 5

The first of the Big 5

The Big 5 are Lion, Leopard, Elephant, Rhino and Buffalo. I asked why those particular animals and its because they are the ones most difficult and dangerous to hunt, in other words they are the ones that bite back! This group were all female with one male rhino standing on his own close by. One of the ladies was particularly attractive to him and he wanted his way with her but her sisters were having none of it and wouldn’t let him near her despite several charges. We sat and watched them for about a quarter of an hour before they ambled away with the big fella following them.

A herd of buffalo

A herd of buffalo

A closer shot of the buffalo

A closer shot of the buffalo

In the distance Steve spotted a herd of buffalo – our second of the Big 5, and he drove closer to them.  Even though there are quite a few roads around the park there aren’t a lot and it’s difficult to get close to some of the animals. Remember none of these animals are fed in any way, it’s not a ‘safari park’ but part of the wilds of south Africa. The outer fence (which we didn’t get any where near) is to protect them and keep poachers out.

There're behind you!

They’re behind you!

A dazzle of Zebra

A dazzle of Zebra

As we got closer a dazzle of zebra (hope my sailing buddies are taking notes) appeared. They didn’t seem to be worried about the buffalo behind them. Zebra really are the most striking animals. Their makings are unique to each animal. Many of the females were pregnant. These ungulates (hoofed animals) weigh between 230 – 380kgs and their length is 260 – 300cms but they are not ruminants (haha, look it up)

Handsome boy

Handsome boy

Zebra and wildebeest

Zebra and wildebeest

 

 

In amongst the zebra were some wildebeest.  Another ungulate and these ruminate, and as they have horns they are bovine. Wildebeest also find themselves on dinner menus of the big cats.

Wildebeest

Wildebeest

SONY DSC

A herd of buffalo

We were doing really well for animal sightings and we hadn’t even had breakfast yet. Steve drove to the top of the track where we were all allowed to get out and stretch our legs while he laid out a breakfast for us on the little drop down shelf on the back of the jeep.  We had yogurt and cereal, fruit, muffins, rusks and tea or coffee while we were busy looking out on the surrounding area. The buffalo heard were getting closer. My camera was in the jeep but suddenly we turned round and we were being stared at by several hundred buffalo no more than 50 meters away from us. Steve wanted us to quietly and slowly get back in the jeep, just in case, but fortunately they crossed the path and went down the other side of the hill and melted into the undergrowth.

The Black Umfolozi river

The Black Umfolozi river, see the debris in the foreground

Steve packed up the picnic and we continued on our journey. After returning to the main road our journey took us over the Black Umfolozi river which was very swollen after the rains of the previous couple of days. A lot of debris had floated down the river and was caught up by the bridge. The water was only a few inches below the bridge. Once on the other side the scenery flattened out a bit and many of the smaller trees had been bent over and snapped as though a storm had gone through.

'I'm hiding'

‘I’m hiding’

Steve explained it was the elephants, the males were ‘in must’ and wanted to mate. As some of the lady elephants have other ideas the males get frustrated and go stamping around the bush. Steve was certain there were some males close by. You think it would be difficult to hide elephants but we spotted this big boy hiding.

Stunning sight

Stunning sight

A second one appeared

A second one appeared

A second elephant appeared and they both started moving closer to us, so lucky. The third of the big 5.  You can see the elephant on the right was definitely looking to mate but these two were both males.  Oddly enough they both had a tusk missing. We sat and watched them for ages while they were tearing us grasses and pulling leaves off trees. They looked so much bigger than the ones we had seen in Sri Lanka. Male African elephants can weigh between 4000-6300kg and are 3-4m in height. Often referred to as King of the Beasts but it’s actually the elder females that rule in elephant society – can’t argue with that.

So handsome (taken with the zoom lens, we weren't that close)

So handsome (taken with the zoom lens, we weren’t that close)

'What big ears you have'.

‘What big ears you have’.

His ears were so big. The Asian elephants have smaller ears but the African elephant’s ears are much larger.

 

 

A pair of giraffes

Mum and Dad and 2 baby giraffes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we drove on we came across a family of giraffes, a little closer this time.

 

A male lion

A male lion

 

We drove for about an hour without any sightings then suddenly Steve stopped the jeep and started reversing. ‘What’s he seen’ we were all thinking. Steve said to look through the bush to see what we could see. It was a lion – A REAL LION our 4th Big 5. A wonderfully handsome male lion. How Steve saw it from the cab I don’t know but that’s why we had paid for a guide. We watched him for a while through the bush then realised there were two of them.

 A pair of lions

A pair of lions

Starting to look around

Starting to look around

Steve said they were probably a mating pair the way the female was behaving, she kept rolling around and putting her legs in the air.  It was difficult to photograph them because we just had a shielded view through the bush. Sadly some cars came along and stopped to see what we were looking at but didn’t turn their engines off, an absolute golden rule. So the lions got suspicious and started looking around. Steve said they mate every 20 minutes when the female is season!! But there were too many cars and they were getting distracted so we carried on.

Magnificent beast

Magnificent beast

A magnificent male impala

A magnificent male impala

All we needed now was the leopard to complete the 5 but Steve was doubtful because it was coming up to midday and although it wasn’t that hot it was sunny and the leopards go for shade that time of day. There were lots more impala with their stunning horns….

A wonderful giraffe

A wonderful giraffe

 

 

 

 

 

 

…. and an even closer giraffe. They are such elegant creature. They walk like solders – both the left feet forward followed by both the right feet.  This one is a female because she’s got little pom poms on her mini antlers.

Our last rhino of the day

Our last rhino of the day

We had completed our circuit and it was time for lunch. Steve cooked a delicious braai (bbq) with steak, sausages, salad and a bottle of wine.  We were so lucky because right next to our braai site by the river there were a pair of rhinos grazing completely ignoring us although Steve warned against going any where near them. As we drove back towards the gate Steve was scanning the trees for a leopard but sadly we didn’t spot on. Maybe another day.

Our group Emma, Sue, Antony, Davina, Bill and Andy

Our group Emma, Sue, Antony, Davina, Bill and Andy

St Lucia in the iSimangaliso wetland park.

Great excitement, we were going on a mini holiday. Having been in South Africa for 2 weeks and just spending it working on the boat, it was now time for some fun! Richards bay is only an hours drive from the wonderful game parks of Hluhluwe and iMfolozi and I had planned a safari trip.

The southern end of the iSimangaliso wetland park

The southern end of the iSimangaliso wetland park

Monday 7th November was a poignant date because it would have been my Dad’s 85th birthday but as I feel he’s traveling with me I was taking him to see the hippos at the iSimangaliso wetland park. A UNESCO world heritage site it stretches for 220 kms from the Mozambique border to the white iMfolozi river at the southern end. It’s bordered by the Indian ocean on its eastern side and the park protects five distinct ecosystems. St Lucia is the main settlement. We left Camomile first thing in the morning and were taken by taxi to the Richards bay airport to pick up a hire car. It’s only R100 by taxi and the airport was the cheapest place to hire a car here.

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Bill standing beside one of the many warning signs

 

 

After a short trip to the mall to sort out a few bits we were on the road north. Our first night was to be spent in St Lucia, a pleasant village and a useful base for exploring the southern are of the park. We were too early to check into our accommodation so decided to have lunch at the ski boat club restaurant that had been recommend to us. The restaurant garden overlooked the southern end of the St Lucia estuary and croc island in the middle. After a delicious lunch it was recommended we take a stroll along the boardwalk  that leads through the sand dunes to the beach. The Indian ocean looked very wild that day.

The wild Indian ocean

The wild Indian ocean

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As we walked back along the boardwalk we saw this snake on the ground below. It was about a metre and a half long and could possibly have been a black mamba but we kept our distance and just watched it slither along. We also managed to spot a crocodile swimming in the water and it’s in the middle of this photo but difficult to see.

The southern estuary with a croc in the foreground

The southern estuary with a croc in the middle of the photo

Striped mongoose

Striped mongoose

 

As we made our way back to the car park this little group of striped mongoose were sitting on the side of the road.

 

 

 

backpackers accommodation

backpackers accommodation

 

 

We drove back to the main road of McKenzie street to the Monzi Safaris Tented lodge. It’s behind the Monzi Safaris backpackers although they share the same reception and car park. The backpackers is basically the old dormitory area that has been cleared and a series of ‘tents’ erected about a foot apart from each other on a ‘shelf’ with bathroom facilities downstairs. They looked ok but not sure what happens at night when someone starts snoring.

Our 'tent'

Our ‘tent’

The bathroom built on the back

The bathroom built on the back

 

Our ‘tent’ was very nice and had a proper bed that was very comfotable with a two seater settee in the main section. There was a shower room with toilet and handbasin built on the back in a log cabin section which also housed a full sized fridge and a sink and the wardrobe. They were well designed.

 

 

A comfy bed

A comfy bed

The lovely pool in the rain

The lovely pool in the rain

 

The ‘tents’ were arranged around a lovely pool but by the time we checked in it had started raining and I didn’t feel like standing in a cold pool in the rain! There were also 2 lovely kitchen areas, one for our section and one for the backpacker tents, so it was possible to cook your own meals if you wanted to.

 

 

The main bar

The main bar

 

I would recommend either of these accommodations.  Our main problem was we were staying in hut 1 which had the path to the other huts right next to us and we backed onto this nice bar area which also had tented sides and was about 6ft away from our hut.  It had music playing until 10pm which I don’t usually mind but we had to get up at 4am to join the safari and had planned to go to bed early but after 10pm it did become very quiet.

 

 

Standing on the top deck with hippos all around us.

Standing on the top deck with hippos all around us.

Although Monzi do safaris we had booked our safari with Eurozulu who had their offices next door. Earlier we had visited them to pick up our safari tickets plus our tickets for the 2 hour hippo and croc that was booked for 4pm. This would normally be a good time because as the sun goes down it shows the colours of the hippos nicely – the problem was there wasn’t any sunshine and it was still raining. It would have been a nice walk from Monzi to the sunset jetty but it wouldn’t have been very nice sitting soaking wet so we drove the short distance to the jetty. Once there we were shown to one of four boats waiting for its passengers. Our friends Antony and Davina were already aboard. We set off north along the St Lucia estuary.  At first I didn’t think we were going to see anything but then the hippos started bobbing up and appearing all around us.

A hippos yawning.

A hippos yawning.

 

 

 

This group were tucked under the greenery. One of them gave an enormous yawn. It had very big teeth.

 

They had lovely little faces

They had lovely little faces

These ones were having a bit of a fight

These ones were having a bit of a fight

 

Apparently they can’t really swim but push themselves off from the edge and glide along. Most of them were along the edge of the estuary.

These two didn’t seem very happy with each other. Although the hippos looked quite friendly they are vicious and shouldn’t be approached.

 

Getting out of the water

Getting out of the water

Grazing

Grazing

Further up the river the land flattened out and a couple of the hippos had got out of the water to stretch their legs. It was fairly swampy but there was a bit of grass for them to graze on. The rain had been drizzling on and off but it didn’t seem to matter to the hippos they were enjoying the mud. After an hour or so our boat turned round and motored back to the jetty. We didn’t see any crocs on the tour because it was mating season and they were all in the swamps further north. Once along side we returned to our hut to get ready for our safari the next day.

One more hippo for you.

One more hippo for you.

 

The Island of Praslin, Seychelles

Photo taken from Ile Longue looking back towards Victoria

Photo taken from Ile Longue looking back towards Victoria

Before I continue on our journey I want to take it back to Seychelles and tell you about the island of Praslin, 28 miles northeast of Mahe.  Praslin is Seychelles second-largest granitic island in both size and population.  The highest point is 367m, the roads are quieter and the pace of life slower.

We finally left Victoria harbour on 20th July for a short stay off the island group in the St Anne’s national park.  The stop was mainly to clean the bottom of the boat that had got pretty slimy after sitting not moving for 5 weeks but also the islands were very pretty.  To stay in the NP normally it’s 200 SR per person per night which is about GBP10 each (and you don’t get anything for that) but I managed to sweet talk the park ranger who comes out in a little dory, to let us have 2 nights for the price of 1 “because we aren’t on holiday like the rest of these charter yachts”, he fell for it!

 

The beach at Lazio

The beach at Lazio

Friday 22nd we raised the anchor and had a wonderful sail over to Praslin, F3 on the beam, no swell, my kind of sailing, and dropped our anchor at Anse Lazio mid afternoon. As luck would have it our friends Davina and Antony on Divanty were in the bay and kindly invited us on for drinks in the evening as they were leaving the next day.

We anchored at

04 17.50S

055 41.90E

The bay is stunning and has won many polls as the ‘Best Beach in the World’ we’ve seen some wonderful beaches and I have to say it’s pretty near the top. (Note my computer has died with all my best photos of the beach on it, I still had some on my camera although they aren’t my best ones they will have to do until my computer is mended).

The granite islands of Seychelles are unique, they are the world’s only oceanic granite islands and they are also the world’s oldest ocean islands . They were formed three-quarters of a billion years ago and have never been submerged.  As recently as 10,000 years ago they were still a single landmass during the last ice age when sea levels were lower. Today, we just see the tips of the mountains which forms the islands of the Seychelles.

The granite boulders

The granite boulders

Pink granite boulders - guess why I like them!

Pink granite boulders – guess why I like them!

 

The centre of Lazio beach is pure white sand with a brilliant azure blue sea breaking onto it but around the edges are the huge pink granite boulders of all shapes and sizes the islands are known for. Absolutely stunning. Photos don’t do it justice you need to go there and it would be perfect for a honeymoon…….

 

Landing the dinghy

Landing the dinghy

 

 

Our first night at anchor was quite refreshing, it was still hot because we are only 4 degrees from equator but with a light wind blowing over the anchorage it kept the boat a little cooler. The anchorage is on the north west side of the island and the wind comes from the south east at the moment so it’s quite calm there although you have to be careful when landing the dinghy because there’s a bit of swell and it’s enough to give you a wet landing. One of our sources of amusement is watching the charter yachts trying to land their dinghies!

Just follow the track

Just follow the track

On the Sunday we decided to go exploring. We had been told of a nice walk over the hills to the south side of the island, continue to walk to anse Georgette and back across the hills on the ridge walk to our anchorage. We needed some exercise so off we went. For future cruisers as you look at the beach the entrance to the track is at the end of the right hand side of the beach. There’s an arrow painted on the rock.

It started to rise quite steeply after about 10 minutes and became really hot out of the wind shadow of the island.

The track rises steeply

The track rises steeply

Pretty house

Pretty house

 

You pass one little house then you reach a plateau which had a really pretty house surrounded by beautiful gardens. This was the start of the road but only for 4x4s because it was still very rough. Allegedly this is where the path divides and leads to the ridge walk to Georgette but we couldn’t find it and decided to stay on the track we were on and come back on the ridge walk.  The scenery was amazing with many different types of trees on our journey.

Many different trees and palms

Many different trees and palms

Wonderful views

Wonderful views

 

 

We continued up another hot steep section without any shelter from the sun.  The earth was also very red which seemed to attract the heat. Finally we got to the top and looked back to the anchorage. The views were astounding.

 

 

Astounding views back to the anchorage

Astounding views back to the anchorage

An old Leyland bus originally from India

An old Leyland bus originally from India

 

The walk on the other side was under trees allowing us to cool down a little.  The road starts at the bottom of the gravel track and this is where you can catch the bus that’s takes you right round the island to the other end of Lazio beach and many points in between. Any ride is 5SR which is about 30p so if you get off after one stop or go to the other side it’s 5 SR. We were walking today so just watched as it passed. This dear little cemetery was half way down the hill …..

Little cemetery

Little cemetery

Bananas growing like apples in the trees

Bananas growing like apples

 

 

 

… and there were bananas growing in the trees every where.

 

Looking back down the fairway

Looking back down the fairway

 

 

Once you reach the bottom of the hill turn right towards the big posh Lemuria resort.  There’s a security guard on the gate but it he was allowing people through because it’s the only way to Georgette beach. The resort has the only 18 hole golf course in the Seychelles and very nice grounds.  Stick to the path and after about 200 metres you’ll see a sign to anse Georgette on the right hand side.  The path leads up past one of the fairways.  Looking back down the fairway the path was along the other side of the lake. We’d been walking for an hour or so by now.

What a beach

What a beach

 

 

Follow the signs alongside another fairway and then you come to the beach.

WOW

Now that’s a beach!

 

WOW

WOW

Very similar to Lazio but a bit more surf. We sat and ate our picnic to the sounds of crystal clear water crashing against the majestic granite boulders then rising up the soft white powdery sand leaving little bubbles by our feet. It doesn’t get much better than that. Magical!

Amazing views .....

Amazing views …..

 

With your back to the sea walk to the left hand side of the beach and you’ll find a narrow path leading up. This is the entrance to the ridge walk. A little note here, this turned out to be a very difficult walk and only anyone with mountain goat qualities should attempt it – unfortunately we didn’t know this at the time!

The views were amazing as we started to climb.

 

.... from the top

…. from the top

The view to the other side.

The view to the other side.

 

From this height you could see the swell coming in and even the catamaran was bobbing around quite a bit. The golf course comes right to edge of the beach.  If you are a golfer this must be one of the most scenic golf courses in the world. Once on the ridge the views over both sides were stunning; looking over to the other direction we could see the sea on the south coast.

 

 

Lovely view of the anchorage

Lovely view of the anchorage

The path continued along the ridge then started going down but giving us an amazing view of the anchorage first.  At this point it became almost vertical and we both really struggled to get down. It wasn’t until we were half way down that Bill suddenly asked if I thought this was the right path because we were descending too much although I think it would have been just as hard to go back up and it was to continue down. The path then came out onto someone’s vegetable garden and we thought we must have gone wrong.  We started to move towards the little dwelling (tin shed) we could see when suddenly 4 dogs came running out barking at us. I just froze but Bill was in front and was surrounded. One of the little devils then bit him on the ankle. We started shouting at them when the owner appeared. We apologised for being on his land and asked if he could show us the path which he happily did after beating the poor dogs away although I found it difficult to feel sorry for them. (When we got to the bottom of the hill we should have skirted around the edge of his land to rejoin the path.)

Busy anchorage

Busy anchorage

Once clear of his settlement we stopped to look at the bite, it was only a little nip thankfully and I cleaned it and put a plaster on it. The path started going up again really steeply but we had no choice but to follow it and eventually it came out by the pretty house on the plateau but even when we knew where it was it really wasn’t obvious.  We stumbled back down the hill onto the beach quite exhausted but both agreed it had been a difficult but good walk and had taken us about 4 hours in total. The anchorage was full of charter boats when we got back to the dinghy. There’s a circuit they all seem to do and Sunday is Lazio. Little tip for future cruisers.

 

The little church of St Matthew

The little church of St Matthew

The next morning, gluttons for punishment, we walked back over the hill again but only as far as the bus stop. We took the bus to Grand Anse which is the largest settlement on Praslin. There are several hotels and restaurants, not to mention a very nice coffee shop, as well as a branch of the STC supermarket chain.

87% of the Seychelles is catholic and this little church was right in the middle of the village.

We had a very nice lunch before getting back on the bus to do the bus ride around the island. This was not for the fainthearted!

 

Very low brick wall

Very low brick wall

 

This little bit of wall was all that separated the old Leyland bus from going over the side on the narrow mountain roads, there wasn’t any thing at all in places. I wouldn’t mind but he was driving as though he had the devil in his tail. I’m sure he knew every bend and crevice in the road but it felt very scary.  The views were amazing though. Difficult to take photos on the move but I managed a few.

Nice villa

Nice villa

More boulders

More boulders

 

The bus continued to Anse Boudin where we got off to walk over the hill to the other end of Lazio beach. An easier walk in that it’s smooth road but still just as steep. If you have a car you can drive right to the beach but we walked. The view from the brow of the hill showed that all the charter cats had gone but there were a couple of bigger boats there instead.

 

Little Camomile in the middle

Little Camomile in the middle

Bill up the mast

Bill up the mast

On Tuesday, having had 2 walks in 2 days, we decided to stay on the boat and do some jobs.  Bill had bought a new aerial and cable in the UK for the VHF.  This is the second aerial and cable in 2 years but tests had indicated that the reason the VHF wasn’t working was the aerial.  The old aerial had been changed in Victoria and Bill discovered it had been leaking and had some corrosion on the inside, he hoped that had been the problem. While performing a radio check with a couple of other boats they reported our radio was still crackly so Bill wanted to go ahead and change the cable too as the top foot or two had also suffered from corrosion. That entailed him sitting at the top of the mast, joining the new cable to the old and pushing it into the mast while I was at the bottom pulling it through.  Sounds easy? Nothing is ever easy on a boat; after an hour an a half it eventually came though.  Poor Bill’s legs had gone to sleep.

Bundle of cable at the bottom of the mast

Bundle of cable at the bottom of the mast

Taking the ceiling panels down

Taking the ceiling panels down

 

Now it just needed connecting to the back of the VHF – simples! Bill spent the rest of the day running the cable to the back of the VHF – again nothing is easy.  To do that he had to take the headlining down, before that dismantle the lights. My cupboard had to be emptied and the new cable pulled right through so it could be connected. Took the rest of the day.

 

Wiring in the cable

Wiring in the cable

Bill's replacement handle

Bill’s replacement handle

 

As many of you know Bill is very versatile. Some time ago I had broken one of the handles on our Oceanair hatch blind and we haven’t been able to get a replacement. So on Wednesday Bill was pondering about this then started borrowing into his ‘it’s all rubbish’ locker and out came an old chopping board. Half an hour later – a new handle. How clever is that!

Later that day Tintin arrived but I don’t seem to have any photos of them and they were right next to us.

hairpin bends

hairpin bends

 

 

On Thursday we did our third walk up the hill with Kevin and Jacqui and caught the bus for the island trip but this time we got off in St Anne’s bay. The last bit of the bus ride down into the bay is really scary with some really tight bends but the driver went just as fast as on the straight, we were all hanging on tight.

 

Beautiful St Anne's bay

Beautiful St Anne’s bay

St Anne's bay marina

St Anne’s bay marina

 

 

The bay is very pretty with a small marina there but it’s reserved for charter boats.  The end of the jetty is where the inter island ferries land.

 

 

Beautiful St Anne's church

Beautiful St Anne’s church

Inside the church

Inside the church

We walked along the waterfront and came across the most beautiful church. I think it had been prepared for a wedding. It was so light and airy inside. Enjoyed a lovely walk around inside.

A bit further round the bay we found a lovely little cafe selling the most delicious food for a reasonable price for a change.

After a leisurely lunch we continued on our bus journey back to Lazio.

After a lovely day Jacqui and Kevin came on board Camomile for drinks that evening.

 

Friday was boat job day and Bill helped Kevin scrub Tintin’s hull while Jacqui and I went for a coffee. Before you say anything hull scraping is a blue job and there are plenty of pink jobs that I do on board. In the evening Bill and I took the dinghy for a tour of the beautiful granite rocks that surround the bay. They are very similar to the ones on Cote de Granit Rose on the northern coast of France. I’ll post a few of my favourite photos.

Beautiful rocks

Beautiful rocks

more rocks

more rocks

The water was rising and falling over these ones

The water was rising and falling over these ones

After perusing along the rocks for about half an hour we motored down to the Georgette beach to take a look at it from sea.  Yep, just as beautiful and even better with no one on it.

Georgette beach form the sea

Georgette beach form the sea

If you look carefully at this photo you can see the path we took up to the top. It’s just to the left of center.

Path up the hill

Path up the hill

The start of the sunset

The start of the sunset

We were back on board just in time to see the sun go down. We’ve seen some amazing sunsets from this anchorage. I don’t have a filter on my camera these are the actual colours.

 

The sunset became more and more vivid

The sunset became more and more vivid

 

 

 

 

Magical

Magical

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The world's biggest nut!

The world’s biggest nut!

 

 

 

 

On our last day on Praslin we visited the Vallee de Mai which is home to the worlds largest forest of the iconic Coco de Mer palm.  The British general Charles Gordon visited the valley in 1881 and decided that the valley was the Garden of Eden and the coco de mer the Tree of Knowledge.  The female Coco de Mer trees bear the world’s largest nut that has the uncanny resemblance to the female pelvis. We were given one of these to handle on the way in but not to take home, they sell for US$200 +/- and are all numbered and certified.

The huge male catkin

The huge male catkin

 

The male trees have huge phallic catkins several feet long.

Several nature trails run through the valley and we opted for the middle one.  About a quarter of the trees in the valley are coco de mer palms and almost half the remainder are other palms found only in Seychelles.

 

Coco de Mer nuts growing in the trees.

Coco de Mer nuts growing in the trees.

Bulbul birds sitting on top of the brown palm

Bulbul birds sitting on top of the brown palm

 

 

The silence of the valley was broken several times by the piercing whistle of the famous black parrots, which only breeds on Praslin, but alas the forest was very dense and we couldn’t see them, just these two Bulbul birds.

 

 

Giant spiders

Giant spiders

 

 

I wouldn’t normally post photos of spiders but these female spiders were huge, easily the size of my palm.  The male of the species is much much smaller and sits on the edge of the nest waiting until she is distracted by eating before he ventures forward to mate with her. If he’s not careful she’ll eat him too – what more can I say!

 

 

St Anne'sbay

St Anne’sbay

 

 

After spending an hour or two in the park we caught the bus back to St Anne’s bay for another delicious lunch in the little cafe before catching another bus back to anse Boudin and doing our final walk over the hill.

 

 

 

Beautiful tortoise

Beautiful tortoise

In the gardens of one of the restaurants at Lazio they have some giant tortoises.  They are lovely old things moving slowly to the next piece of food. Their shells are the size of a good sized dustbin lid. There were about a dozen of them. Not sure how old they are but there’re another things Seychelles is famous for.

The next day, Sunday, we headed back to Victoria with Tintin to get ready to leave Seychelles.  On the way back Bill performed a radio check with several other boats and was ‘slightly cross’ when he discovered the radio STILL wasn’t working.  All that work.  The new aerial was now working but all the tests indicated it’s the 2 year old Raymarine radio that was replaced after the lightening strike.  Lucky we still have an old one on board as a back up. The Raymarine will have to wait to South Africa to sort out now. Grrrrr!

One of the lovely old tortoises having his neck stroked

One of the lovely old tortoises having his neck stroked

 

Our first week back in the Seychelles

We arrived back on Camomile Saturday 9th July after a wonderful 3 weeks in the UK. As usual we hit the ground running and I spent the first day unpacking, putting away my nicely washed and ironed clothes, disentangling Bill’s bits from all 4 bags and repacking winter clothes back in the bags so they could go back under the bed.

Camomile out in the bay

Camomile out in the bay

Sunday we started cleaning because the marina is under the flight path and the deck was covered in fuel particles from the plane’s engines.   Unusually I also had mildew growing in some areas of the boat which, in all our time in the tropics, we haven’t had before. We then moved Camomile out of the expensive marina to Victoria bay which is right by the town. There are a number of buoys there and we picked one up at

04˚37.51S

055˚27.48E

They don’t cost anything but you need to ask the locals if it belongs to anyone or you could find yourself being asked to move. Anchoring isn’t very good here although we managed to get our anchor to stick on the first night.

The Seychelles yacht club

The Seychelles yacht club

Monday morning we went ashore to join the yacht club. For 125rupees (about £7) for the week you can use the (hot!) shower, dump your rubbish, use their water to fill water jugs or do washing and leave your dinghy safely on their pontoon, good value really. The next job was shopping because there wasn’t anything on the boat to eat after our time in Chagos and the UK and its very expensive eating out here, although the YC does some reasonably priced meals. The big supermarket is a 10 minute walk out of town so with a trolley each we went to stock up.

 

Overlooking the park

Overlooking the park

 

Tuesday I decided to restart my joggy trots.  I haven’t been able to run for months because I’ve had a ‘planters’ heal which was very painful although it’s finally stopped hurting but mainly because it’s been too hot. There’s a little park overlooking the boats so I did a couple of circuits of that. We spent the rest of the day on board because we’ve both developed colds, probably from the plane, and Bill’s is developing into man flu with an infected eye and ear. That evening Jacqui and Kevin of Tintin moored next to us invited us on board for drinks to welcome us back. It was nice to relax and chat for a few hours.

Wednesday we played tourist for the day and did the walking tour around Victoria. It was founded on this spot by the French in 1778 and called L’Etablissement because of its excellent natural harbour with shelter provided by St Anne and neighbouring islands.  After the British captured the Seychelles in 1812 the little capital was given its English name in 1841 in honour of Queen Victoria. Many of the population today is trilingual with French being the main language but English and Creole is widely spoken too.

The clock tower

The clock tower

The clock tower in the centre is the very symbol of Victoria. It was erected as a memorial to Queen Victoria who died in 1901 but it took until 1903 to reach the Seychelles.  The clock arrived in kit form and, in a mishap during unloading, the pendulum was dropped over the side of the ship. Despite a makeshift substitute being made locally the chime was disabled.

 

Kenwyn house

Kenwyn house

 

 

 

 

 

Most of Victoria east of the clock tower has been built on reclaimed land.  We walked down Francis Rachel street which was once the waterfront and many of the old buildings still survive here. One such building is Kenwyn house.  It is one of the best preserved 19th century buildings in Victoria. Apart from the architecture of the building itself it contains some beautiful art work from local artists. There were several pieces Bill and I liked but the price tags were way beyond our budget. This lovely little fountain was in the garden.

Pretty fountain

Pretty fountain

The Trwa Zwazo monument

The Trwa Zwazo monument

The Seychelles gained independence from the British in 1976 and the road built on reclaimed land leading from the clock tower is named Independence avenue. At the end of the road is a roundabout with the Bicentennial Monument known as Trwa Zwazo (three birds) erected in 1978 to celebrate 200 years of human settlement in Seychelles. Each ‘bird’ represents one of the continents in the blood of the Seychellois: Europe, Africa and Asia. Do they look like birds?

Back to the clock tower again and a walk north on Albert street, also part of the original sea front, to find this very colourful building on the corner of Market street.

Colourful buildings

Colourful buildings

Sir Selwyn Selwyn-Clarke market

Sir Selwyn Selwyn-Clarke market

 

 

 

Market street, part of the old town and pedestrianised, leads to the Sir Selwyn Selwyn-Clarke market named in honour of a former governor. We had a quick look around but weren’t shopping today.

 

Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception

Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception

 

Church street leads from Market street to the roman catholic cathedral named Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.  Little remains of the original building dating from 1874, having been rebuilt in granite is 1933.

One of the original doors

One of the original doors

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the original doors has been fitted to a side entrance.

 

The inside was striking

The inside was striking

 

I love old churches and this one was beautifully kept. The stain glassed windows were striking. It was wonderfully cool inside.

 

Part of the original clock tower was set on the hill behind the cathedral.

 

The old bell tower

The old bell tower

 

Capuchin house

Capuchin house

 

One of Victoria’s most impressive buildings, the Catholic priests’ Residence, Capuchin House stands beside the cathedral.  That was the end of the walk but on the other side of the cathedral is an orphanage and these dear little ones were sitting outside the cathedral with their house mother. Their ages range from 18 months to 3 years, I just wanted to take them all home they were adorable.

 

The church orphans

The church orphans

 

The view from the Mission

The view from the Mission

On Thursday we had another tourist day with Tintin and got on a bus. Public transport is very reasonable here. It costs 5 rupees (about 30p) a ride whether you go one stop or all around the island. We headed out of town on the Bel Air road passing the oldest cemetery in the Seychelles.  Here lie some of the pioneers of the settlement of Seychelles. Leading onto the Sans Souci road it twists and turns upward. We got off by the Mission historical ruins to visit the viewpoint erected for the state visit of Queen Elizabeth II in 1972 on her tour of the Commonwealth Nations. Often there are misty clouds shrouding the mountain tops but today we were lucky and had a good view out across the islands, although the trees have grown a bit in 44 years.

Stunning scenery

Stunning scenery

 

We all walked back down the road to the Copolia walk which took us about half an hour. The scenery was stunning as we walked passed endemic palms, trees and screwpines. The traffic was very infrequent so it was a pleasant walk.

 

 

 

Beautiful flowers

Beautiful flowers

 

The Copolia is only about a mile in length but is uphill using tree roots as steps along with steps cut out of the granite. There were many wild flowers growing along the way, not unlike Scotland although about 20C warmer!

We were told it was a 45 minute walk but it took us a good hour and a half but we finally made it to the top and what a stunning view.

 

 

View from the top

View from the top

Nepenthes

Nepenthes

 

One of the reasons to come to the top, apart from the view, was to see the Nepenthes genus of pitcher plants.  Of 70 species in total all but two are in south east Asia.  The exceptions are in Seychelles and Madagascar. They were quite small and grew in clumps on top of the mountain.

As we looked down to the north we could see Camomile and Tintin in the harbour.

Looking down on Camomile

Looking down on Camomile

Eden marina

Eden marina

 

In front of us to the east was Eden island with Norsa sitting in the marina.

In this panoramic shot the airport is off to the south (right of the photo) and the islands of the St Anne national marine park beyond the marina.

 

 

The east coast of Mahe island

The east coast of Mahe island

The hilltop we were standing on

The hilltop we were standing on

That was where we headed the following week and took this photo. The peak we were standing on is in the middle of the photo.

 

A poignant cairn

A poignant cairn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My final photo taken on the mountain is of one of the many cairns that have been built in memory of loved ones. The walk back down wasn’t as difficult but still took us nearly an hour.

School children on the bus

School children on the bus

 

Unfortunately the bus stop was another 20 minutes down the road so we had to walk to that before our poor feet and knees had a rest. These dear little school children joined us on the journey back down the hill.

We spent the rest of the week trying to shake off our colds.

Three weeks in the UK

Father's day breakfast in the garden

Father’s day breakfast in the garden

 

and oh my goodness didn’t those three weeks go quickly but we managed to do quite a lot.  The party was a huge success and to see the look on the boys faces was worth the effort to get back on time. The next day was Father’s day and Bill hasn’t had Father’s day with the boys for years so we celebrated with a wonderful breakfast cooked by Thomas.  I even took my coat off for a few hours!

 

 

The new headquarters of the Thomas Cookie co

The new headquarters of the Thomas Cookie co

We hired a car Monday morning and drove to the other side of Maidstone to see Thomas’s new unit, the new headquarters of the Thomas Cookie co.  Bill and I had very proud of what Thomas has achieved in just over a year and with Sonal’s help. It turned out to be a good time to arrive because Thomas was grateful for Bill’s help with sorting out some shelving and other bits.  After making some plans the four of us drove into Maidstone for a coffee and a chat. It felt so strange walking around the town together after so long. Sadly James had to leave in the afternoon to fly back to Scotland.  Had he known we were coming he would have stayed longer but we planned to go to Scotland the following week.

Logan with Bill's shoe on

Logan with Bill’s shoe on

 

Tuesday we got onto the motorway to drive to Basingstoke to see my sister.  There’s so much traffic here and after travelling everywhere at 6kts it felt strange going so fast.  Angela looks after her grandson Logan, my great nephew 3 days a week and it was good to see him again.  When I was in the UK last May he was a babe in arms but now he’s walking around very cheekily including in Uncle Bill’s trainers!

We spent 2 days there but after we left I realised I didn’t get a photo of me with him but I love this one of Bill in training to be a Grandpa!

Great Uncle Bill in training to be a Grandpa

Great Uncle Bill in training to be a Grandpa

We had a lovely meal out with Angela and Terry on the Tuesday evening and a nice meal in on Wednesday with my niece Kirsty too.

Thursday was a busy day. After laying some flowers on my Mum’s grave we drove to Pitton to see Bill’s Auntie Hilary and Uncle John for a lovely chat and a delicious lunch. After leaving in the afternoon we drove to our sister-in-law Claire and Gordon for a light supper, more chatting and a comfy bed.

Friday we paid a quick visit to our lock-up to leave a few bits there (there really isn’t any more room).  I always feel sad when I see our ‘treasures’ stacked floor to ceiling – I wonder when they will all come out one day into a home? We continued onto Port Solent and the marine superstore to start buying the many items needed to take back. Another grave in the afternoon, Dad is buried in Littlehampton and doesn’t get visited very often so it needed a bit of TLC.

Finally we completed the loop and ended back in Maidstone in Thomas’s unit and I helped make some cookies. I was paid in cookies too, yum yum.

Saturday saw us visiting the chandleries of Gillingham and Chatham for more bits as well as some clothes shopping.

20+ sausage dogs going for a walk

20+ sausage dogs going for a walk

 

Sunday was market day but while Bill went to help Thomas on the stall I went with Sonal to walk my ‘grand-fur-baby’ Slinky with the other dogs of the ‘Sausage dog club’ at Cobtree park north of the town.  It brought back fond memories because I used to walk Nike there.  Slinky is only 4 months old so can’t walk far but he enjoyed meeting his buddies.  It was wonderful to spend time with Sonal and enjoyed our walk together.

Middle of summer and we all had coats on again.

Sonal with Slinky meeting his brother

Sonal with Slinky meeting his brother

 

This is Slinky’s brother and is the first time he’s seen him since leaving the litter, I wonder if he remembered him.

After our walk Sonal and I drove to West Malling to see Thomas on his market stall.  Also my other sister Amanda, my brother-in-law Alan and nephew and niece Tristan and Jasmine came to see us. After the stall was packed up we drove to the Kings Arms in Meopham and all enjoyed a delicious Sunday lunch together.  In the afternoon back at Thomas and Sonal’s house Jasmine was asked to be one of Sonal’s bridesmaids so the talk turned to weddings.

Sonal, Sue, Bill, Thomas, Alan, Tristan, Jasmine and Amanda

Sonal, Sue, Bill, Thomas, Alan, Tristan, Jasmine and Amanda

my selfie outside Sainsburys

my selfie outside Sainsburys

 

Monday 27th Bill and Thomas headed off to Ikea to get some shelving and other bits for the unit and I did something so normal for everyone but I was thrilled – I walked to Sainsburys! I took this selfie in the entrance and the other shoppers probably thought I was a bit daft but there you go. I had a great time buying all the stuff I can’t normally buy like nice decaff filter coffee, nescafe cappuccino sachets, t bags, stirfry sauces, best jam, oxo cubes, birthday number candles, as well as some strawberries and raspberries to just eat.

 

Tuesday was spent packing as much as possible in just 2 cabin bags for the Easyjet flight to Scotland. To take hold luggage on easyjet was £32 a piece each way! Thomas drove us to Gatwick for the flight to Inverness. Goodness it was cold when we landed. Another layer went on, Bill walked around with 4 layers including his jacket and I’ve had 3 with my coat. James was excited to have us in Scotland. We hadn’t been there for 2 1/2 years.

Coffee in the Walled garden cafe

Coffee in the Walled garden cafe

 

Wednesday morning we all went for a beautiful walk. It may be cold but at least it’s sunny. We walked to Gordon’s castle and had coffee in the tea rooms in the walled garden. It was a lovely start to our stay.  www.gordoncastlescotland.com

The area around the castle is stunning and it’s only a mile or so from James’s house.

Out walking

Out walking

Stunning scenery

Stunning scenery

 

 

In the afternoon we went into Elgin to get some shopping so I could make some of James’s favourite dinners.  That evening I started with a big lasagne and salad. James made the garlic bread.

 

 

 

Pretty foxgloves

Pretty foxgloves

 

Thursday was big excitement because James was offered a job in Saudi Arabia.  A great opportunity, we are very proud of him. So we went out for another walk to celebrate!

I love the wildflowers in Scotland, these foxgloves were every where, so rare in England.

 

The salmon staircase

The salmon staircase

 

 

 

We crossed a burn (a tributary of the river Spey) by the ford which also had a salmon staircase leading up the river.  Unfortunately it isn’t salmon season so there wasn’t any to catch.

 

 

The ford

The ford

The drone

The drone

 

 

Our destination was the cricket field so James and Bill could fly James’s drone, otherwise known as his pet!

Bill was given very strict instructions on how to fly it after James had launched it but he wasn’t allowed to land it. Now Bill wants one.

 

 

Bill in charge

Bill in charge

 

Beautiful countryside either side of the river Spey

Beautiful countryside either side of the river Spey

The old toll gate house

The old toll gate house

 

 

 

We continued our walk towards the Baxters coffee shop crossing the river Spey. This little cottage was once the tollgate for the old bridge, which is now a footpath and the new bridge lies alongside it and Baxters is the other side. Perfect.

 

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The new road lying alongside the old road

James wanted Bill to help him put some windows in his van so that afternoon was spent working out what was needed and shopping for tools.  I had a nice walk around Elgin instead. Made Chicken and chickpea curry for dinner

Beautiful countryside

Beautiful countryside

 

 

On Friday Bill and James were waiting for some parts to be delivered so James drove us all a bit further out to see more of the surrounding countryside. We were lucky with the weather.  It was normally sunny in the mornings for our walk or drive then clouded over later with the odd shower.  What we really enjoyed was the light evenings.  It didn’t get dark until 10.30 or even 11.00pm in Scotland.

 

Rolling hills

Rolling hills

James and the drone

James and the drone

 

 

and James took his drone.

 

Bill cutting out the window

Bill cutting out the window

 

 

 

In the afternoon the rubber seal arrived they had been waiting for and the installation of the van windows began. Bill started with the new reciprocating saw they had bought.  I could hear the noise from inside the house as Bill made a huge hole in the side of the van. James did the fileing and clipped on the rubber seal.

Working on the van

Working on the van

Cutting the other side

Cutting the other side

 

With Bill giving him the confidence he cut the other side himself.  It was quite brave of both of them cutting 2 big holes in the side of the van. Once the rubber edging was clipped in place on both sides it was left for the day.

I had my hair cut and Hailey arrived in the evening.

 

 

The windows in place.

The windows in place.

 

 

In the morning Hailey and I went to the garden centre for coffee while Bill and James put the windows in.  It was a two man job with one on the inside and one on the outside.  They looked really good when they were finished but I forgot to take a final photo.

Watching the seals

Watching the seals

 

 

 

 

In the afternoon we all went for a drive and saw these seals playing on the beach.

 

 

James and Hailey

James and Hailey

Findochty harbour

Findochty harbour

 

We continued onto Findochty to see the little harbour there. When we get back to the UK hopefully we’ll sail up to Scotland so it was good to look around first. The sea was really calm on that day. I wonder how often it’s like that. It was beautiful scenery.

Bill looking across the inside of the harbour.

 

 

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Cullen

Cullen

 

Further along the road we stopped at Cullen which had another small harbour but we wouldn’t have been able to get Camomile in there. The town was overlooked by this beautiful old railway viaduct.

All the little towns were very pretty.

 

 

 

Bow Fiddle rock

Bow Fiddle rock

Bow fiddle rock

Bow fiddle rock

 

 

The last place we stopped was Bow Fiddle rock. An amazing piece of sedimentary rock that had had a hole worn through it over millions of years. A very beautiful rock. We climbed down to get a closer look. It was covered in seabirds.

 

Gordon Arms hotel

Gordon Arms hotel

 

 

 

On the sunday we enjoyed another drive across to Lossiemouth that had a small marina that would be good for us but I left my camera behind.  For Sunday lunch we went to the Gordon Arms hotel for their delicious carvery.

 

James, Hailey, Bill and Nichola her mum.

James, Hailey, Bill and Nichola her mum.

 

 

Monday 4th July we packed our bags and left James’s house but the four of us continued together and drove for about 3 hours south to Broughty ferry near Dundee where Hailey lives. Hailey’s parents own a beautifully restored old mill. We were made very welcome and enjoyed a lovely dinner with all the family. It felt warmer now we were further south.

 

Broughty ferry castle

Broughty ferry castle

On Tuesday we went to explore the beautiful Broughty ferry castle built on the northern shore of the River Tay.  This 15th century coastal fort has faced many battles and sieges, and was rebuilt in the 19th century as part of the River Tay’s coastal defence system.

James and Hailey being big kids. Haha

James and Hailey being big kids. Haha

 

 

 

 

The new bridge

The new bridge

 

 

 

 

In the afternoon we continued further south to Edinburgh passing the new bridge being built over the Forth river.

 

 

The Grassmarket area

Victoria street

 

 

 

Wednesday 6th was Bill’s birthday. We had stayed the night in an AirB&B (we stayed in someone’s apartment) and James and Hailey had cooked Bill a wonderful steak dinner.  In the morning we all had eggy bread and bacon before exploring the city.  Edinburgh is a beautiful city.   In the centre all the old buildings have been wonderfully preserved.

 

The walls of Edinburgh castle

The walls of Edinburgh castle

This amazing structure has been erected up over the outer walls of Edinburgh castle for the military tattoo that would be taking place the following week. Once the festivities are over the whole thing is taken back down again.

We’ve been into the castle before so this time we went into St Giles cathedral.   There’s so much history in Edinburgh, it’s a wonderful place.

 

St Giles cathedral

St Giles cathedral

Bill in the VR headset

Bill in the VR headset

We walked down the hill into the shopping area to look around the shops.  James decided Bill needed to try a virtual reality headset.  To demonstrate it’s use it was showing some off piste skiing and a roller coaster.

All too soon it was time to drive to Edinburgh airport and say goodbye to James and Hailey.  We had enjoyed our holiday within our holiday.

We arrived at Gatwick and Thomas picked us up.  Most of Bill’s birthday was gone but the next day Thomas cooked him a delicious egg and bacon birthday breakfast.  I spent the day packing our bags which wasn’t easy with all the bits we had bought for the boat and ourselves but eventually it all fitted.  Bill spent one last day with Thomas in the unit. Thomas cooked our final meal which was a delicious roast pork dinner with crackling that melted in your mouth and scrummy roast potatoes. Sonal’s mum Meena joined us and we gave her a beautiful orchid for letting us stay with her (she lives 6 doors away from Thomas).

On Friday morning with a heavy heart it was time to say goodbye to Sonal, Meena and little Slinky. Thomas drove us to Heathrow after cooking us another wonderful breakfast.

We had so enjoyed the quality time we had spent with both the boys and Sonal and Hailey.

Thank you to everyone who we stayed with and apologies for those we didn’t get to see this time.

Islands of the Seychelles

Islands of the Seychelles

 

As we came into land at Mahe in the Seychelles I could see the islands from the window.

Our journey home continues.

 

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