Category Archives: Nature

Rio Lagartos

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Rio Lagartos is really all about the birds.  It’s a small fishing village in a quiet location, with a few hotels and restaurants.  Day trippers come in from all around to hire a boatmen to take them out to see the flamingos.  You really do need to AdolescentBrownPelicanhire a boat to get to see the flamingos.  All the way along the estuary we saw ospreys flying overhead.  And, of course, crocodiles (the Spanish invaders made a mistake as Rio Lagartos is not a river and contains crocodiles, not alligators).  Just strolling by the harbour we saw two kinds of pelicans (brown and white), including this youngster who had bitten off more than it could chew.  Apparently the fish do go down eventually!  There are royal terns all over the boats and cormorants everywhere.

One bar/restaurant where we took to hanging out feeds the humming birds which can be seen coming and going whilst the humans enjoy a beer.  Sadly none of the many photos we took of the hummingbirds came out very well.  It was a very relaxing few days at the end of our trip and the birding was wonderful.

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Rio Dulce

After Copan we took a series of buses to Rio Dulce.  It is, I think, impossible to describe the beauty of Rio Dulce.  It was hard enough to get good photographs. We spent the first night in a lodge called ‘Kangaroo’.  This failed to impress.  It was set up for tourists, expelled sewage straight into the river and was generally tacky.  We got the lancha up to Hotelito Perdido the next morning.  We’ve been to Hotelito Perdido before.  I would love to go there again.  It is incredibly tranquil.  The situation is sensational and it’s run mostly by volunteers who work for the privilege of staying there.  The meals are all vegetarian and it is, I guess, a bit newagey for some tastes, but I love it there.

What did we do?  Well we took out a kayak on the first day and managed not to sink it.  We had no particular destination, we just paddled up and down the river, enjoying the views and the birdwatching.  The river is full of fish and herons of many sorts.  There are also pelicans, Montezuma’s Oropendola, some frigate birds, flycatchers of many sorts, banded kingfishers…. it’s quite a long list.

We booked a jungle hike for the second day but it was cancelled due to a great deal of rain.  Proving that it’s called rainforest for a reason.  We took the kayak out again when the rain cleared.  The third day we hiked to Livingstone.  A sort of medium difficulty hike but very interesting.  A boat bought us back to the hotel.

Mostly, though, we just lay around the jungle lodge, enjoying the view, lazing in a hammock and reading.  The dog is called Rasta and he likes canoes.

 

 

Tikal

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We organised a trip to Tikal via our hotel.  It was just not possible for us to stay in Flores without visiting Tikal.  We had been there before, in 2010 when Ashley had his arm in a cast.  But Tikal is very, very special.  Yes, it’s a popular site, never devoid of tourists, but it’s also huge with widely separated plazas and some excellent chances for wildlife spotting.

We were there all day and nearly managed to miss visiting the grand plaza with the temple of the Jaguar.  Quite how that happened  I am not quite sure – we left it till last then took a wrong turning.  We ran most of the way there and got back in time for our collectivo back to Flores.

I don’t think anything I can say would do this site justice.  There are a great many really lovely plazas.  My personal favourite is the plaza of the seven temples.

I mentioned the wildlife.  We did see monkeys but no monkey pictures here (we got better monkey pictures on other sites).  We did not manage to get a photo of the dead monkey being eaten by a vulture.  Those vultures do a great job of keeping the forests clean.  What we did see was a trogon.  This was the only sighting of a trogon we got the whole time we were in Central America.  We also saw a motmot but it had lost half of its tail (and therefore could be described as a mot)…  The tree in the picture is a Ceiba tree, sacred to the Maya people it represents the underworld, the real world and the heavens.

 

Flying into Mexico

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I think it’s about time I began to write this as we have now been home well over a month….

On 12th January this year we flew from Izmir to Stansted.  There was snow on the ground on the way to Adnan Menderes.  Our flight was direct and trouble-free and we had booked our National Express bus from Stansted to Luton where we planned to stay with family.  We arrived in Luton in a blizzard that, although short-lived, coincided with our getting off the coach and into a taxi for the short ride to Ashley’s mother’s house.  Next day we went to London to spend time with my family and, Saturday 14th we flew from Gatwick to Cancun.

A ten hour flight is never the best way to spend a day but we had excellent service on our flight with Virgin Atlantic.  The flight was not full and we had a row of 4 seats to ourselves.  The seat back entertainment system was excellent and varied (we watched the first episode of Westworld, amongst other things), the food was fine, there was free alcohol in moderation and the staff were helpful and friendly.  We landed in Cancun and got through immigration feeling reasonably relaxed, then a taxi to our hotel near the bus station.

The hotel was OK and the staff were sweet.  We had a problem with the aircon which was fixed almost instantly.  It felt very late at night though, in Cancun, it was early, so we didn’t do a lot.  We took a stroll to the local square.  This was not the touristy part of Cancun, so it was full of locals enjoying Saturday night.  There were folk dancers and stalls selling street food, balloons and that kind of thing.  I particularly remember the bats.  There were lots of them, large ones (probably fruit bats of some sort) hanging from one of the trees in the zocolo like black handkerchiefs.

We had a few beers in the bar attached to the hotel.  I got bitten.  Lots.  One of the worst mosquito attacks I experienced in the whole 5 weeks we were in the tropics.

Valladolid1Next morning we wandered around, back to a square where we listened to birds and watched those brave enough to show themselves in a crowded area.  Basically we were waiting for a bus to take us to Valladolid.  An easy ride (first class bus, it had movies, including one about Turkey).

I really like Valladolid.  It’s not too touristy, though it does have some pleasant pensions and a couple of decent restaurants.  It has a cenote where we watched loud tourists and a family of black vultures.  It has a lovely, green square full of ground doves and… grackles.  I really do like grackles.  And, of course, it’s convenient for Cichen Itza.

There had been some debate around whether to go to Chichen Itza.  Ashley has been several times, I had only been once.  It was the first Mayan site I visited and I wanted to refresh my memory.  We went on a collective (the Mexican equivalent of a Dolumuş).  We saw a mot mot sitting on a wire on the way, though the vehicle was pretty full and it was hard to see much from the window.  The first thing we saw upon arrival was the queue.  Although we had arrived quite early, the crowds are such that there is a 20 minute queue just to pay to get into the site.

Sadly, from my point of view, they allow people to set up souvenier stalls inside the site itself.  I suppose that is better than having them wander around accosting tourists, but it does little for the atmosphere.  Also they sell these vile noisemakers which are supposed to imitate jaguars (I think they sound more like howler monkeys) and, unsurprisingly, these are very popular with children.

Nothing can really spoil Chichen Itza.  The site is large and most tourists go to a very limited part of it (I think that a lot of the tour buses don’t allow you time to get around the whole site, particularly not if you like to take your sites slowly).  There are two cenotes, both of them very beautiful (though I do have my favourite).  There are some wonderful reliefs.  And we spent quite a long time standing on one of the slightly out of the way paths watching a mot mot hunt butterflies.  Well, mostly it was sitting pretty still so Ashely got some good shots.

 

Back to Valladolid for dinner (yes we did get the cochinita pibil) and a bit of sleep before catching the 5 a.m. bus to Chetumal……

Dimitsana

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We left Methoni and rode through spectacular scenery in rapidly worsening weather. We managed to take shelter in a village during the first downpour and took the opportunity to eat a spot of lunch. We managed to take shelter in a garage cafe during the second downpour and had a coffee whilst waiting for the worst to pass. The final downpour occurred just as we got to Dimitisana. We parked the bike under a tree and took refuge under an overhanging roof. About half an hour later, a charming gentleman (Jordan) came out of his hotel and asked if we needed somewhere to stay. We had parked the bike right outside!  As you can see above (in better weather).

Cold and dripping wet we inspected the gorgeous rooms of a genuine boutique hotel.  We really could not turn it down after leaving puddles on the floor and water soaking into rugs, apart from which the rain was still torrential and being out in it was not high on our agenda.  We decided to stay two nights and, after a hot shower and dry clothes, enjoyed a beer in the bar which has the most amazing view.  With the weather clearing we strolled into town past the Roman bridge and found plenty of choices for dinner.  We ate well in Dimitsana.

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Next morning we had a huge homemade breakfast, including fried nettle leaves and morel mushrooms that Jordan had foraged from the forest.  Then we set off on a walk.  The trail was reasonably well marked and our first stop was a surprisingly interesting outdoor water power museum.  The whole area was famous for water powered industry right up to the middle of last century.  There was a fulling tub that resembles a huge top loading washing machine, a flour mill, gunpowder mill, raki still and a tannery.  All with very informative videos.

This is the fulling tub:

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We walked on down the trail but turned around after a few hours and came back by road.  It was all down on the way out to the bottom of the gorge, and all up on the way back!  We should have taken more water with us, we didn’t, but there was an abundance of fast flowing streams on the way down.

The walking was quite hard so we didn’t get too many views of the scenery.  There were frequent stops to try and capture photographs of butterflies!  We do want to go back to Dimitsana and do a bit more exploring – there is quite a lot to see in that part of Arcadia but, this year, we didn’t really have time.

Next day we headed back to Nafplio for a relaxing evening before catching the ferry to Chios then on to home via Çeşme.

Lake Prespa

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We left Kerkini in very windy weather.  For this part of the journey we were glad not to be on the bike.  The wind was pushing the car around and trees were falling into the road ahead of us.  We went by a scenic route – bits of highway and bits of very windy mountain roads.  Something to repeat on the bike at some point in the future as the scenery was spectacular.

We were headed for Lake Prespa through which run borders between Greece, Macedonia and Albania.  We did not encounter any snow but there was plenty to be seen on the mountains that surround the lake.

On our first evening we walked from our hotel in Psarides along the shore of the lake.  We saw caves that belonged to hermits, we saw lizards and we had to crawl through a cave to get around a headland.

On our first full day we drove out to various sites where we hoped to see many Prespa-wildcatbirds.  We were not very lucky when it came to taking photographs though we did hear nightingales and cuckoos and Ashley saw an oriole.  We saw more lizards.  We then went across a causeway to an island that used to be attached to the mainland.  There was some very pleasant walking there and we encountered a wild cat.  Well, it was wild about tummy rubs and ear scritches…  It followed us for quite a long way.  Using our monoscope we were able to see the many, many pelicans on their islands in micra Prespa but we have no means of taking photographs at that sort of distance.  It is a pretty island though!

Wildcat-island

 

 

On the last day we went walking upwards through an ancient Greek Juniper grove.  The flora were spectacular.  Fields full of flowers including quite a lot of orchids.   The views out over the lake were amazing.

 

 

Traveling season

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We were in the UK and Ireland in February then, in April, at Hilary’s father’s 90th birthday party in London.  Pretty well as soon as we got back we took of on the ferry to Kavala, hired a car (with some difficulty, as it was a Sunday and everywhere was shut) and drove straight to Lake Kerkini.

Kerkini village is a delightful place.  On this occasion there was a (very well behaved) school party staying in the hotel so we were treated to three nights in a beautifully restored house.  Beers were taken at our favourite bar in the village and meals at the Oikoperigitis where our friend Vasilis is a guide.

black-kite-2On our first day we traveled around the lake, visiting favourite places and taking photographs of birds.  The next day we went up to the monastery, above which is a small reservoir where we were lucky enough to see a black kite perched, motionless in a tree for about twenty minutes. We went on to a spot near the Bulgarian border where rollers are often found but we can’t honestly say that we found any.  It was only a short drive on some extremely good roads.  We did see a very long line of trucks waiting to cross the border.

We also went out on Vasilis’ boat.  This is always a magical experience and different every time.  This year the level of the lake has been kept low to avoid flooding of the villages.  This has not been a totally good thing for the wildlife.  We were not able to enter the drowned forest (which is, sadly, slowly dying) though we did get quite close.

It was, of course, perfect biking weather (we left the bike at home).  But the next part of the trip was very windy so we were, eventually, glad of the hired car.