Category Archives: Nature

Flying into Mexico

ChichenItza6

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Pamucak Wetlands

Pamucak Mar 1610On Sunday we went walking in Pamucak wetlands.  This is about 20 minutes by Dolmuş from Selçuk and a place of stunning natural beauty.  It seems to be constantly under threat from industrial waste, development and tourism but, for the moment, it remains protected.  Jeep ‘safaris’ and quad bikes run through it as well as horse back tours.  None of those happening at the moment, though we did see a couple of guys working out quad bike routes.

We were fortunate to see three adult and two sub adult flamingos.  They pass here (stopping off for lunch) on their migration to places further north.

The asphodel is flowering right now – well, beginning to flower in our area.  We saw black bees gathering the pollen.  And butterflies.  We saw quite a few butterflies and two large tortoises, quite awake.  We heard a lot of frogs.  We saw buzzards and larks (lots of larks) and sparrows, goldfinches and masses of magpies.  Not to mention the Kentish plovers.

 

Today we saw storks flying high and several swallows.  So spring is definitely in swing here in Selçuk.

Snow Walk

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A couple of years ago we wrote about our trip to Boz Dağ with Zirve Club.  On that occasion we hoped to find snow but failed.  This time we found rather a lot of snow.  We think we arrived in the village later than anticipated partly because we stopped off for breakfast before we even got to Tire and partly because the road was snowy and slippery.  After a brief stop in the village we headed up the mountain.  Knee deep in snow much of the way.  One group stopped just below the tree line.  We went up quite a bit further and a third group went right to one of the lower peaks.

Boz Dag19Going up was easier than coming down.  Hilary needed a lot of help and still fell over (snow makes for a soft landing).  There was then a longish stop to appreciate the snowman, fail to light a fire and to wait for the final group to rejoin us.

There was another break in the village for lunch (and warming up by the tea room soba) before we headed back for the bus.  We were supposed to go to Gölçük but that part of the trip was cancelled, due to a combination of the late hour and the poor road conditions (not to mention the traffic jam) and we headed down to Birgi where we had a wander for half an hour before heading home.

We have seen a travel site that insists that Turkey always has ‘bikini weather’.  Beautiful this was, but…. not bikini weather.

Walking in Dilek Millipark – October 2015

Millipark Oct 1501

This was our first walk with Zirve this year.  They have been on two outings but we were in Lesvos for the first one and Bodrum for the second.

Millipark Oct 1511This walk started in Guzelcamli, up, over part of a hill then down to the coastline. Along the shore to Aydinkoy (which is the second beach and one much favoured by wild boar).  The weather was absolutely perfect for walking.  I think the high was around 26 degrees, the sky was blue and the sun shone upon us.

We started with a minute’s silence for those affected by the bombs in Ankara last weekend.  We then walked a marked trail – it was mostly very easy going with a few steep bits.  There were a total of 170 of us.  Rather too many for our liking though, as ever, there was a great sense of camaradie, our Turkish was practiced and new friends were made.  There were about 25 of us on the bus from Selcuk, plus the Mugla, Izmir and Soke branches and a busload from Kusadasi.

Millipark Oct 1508All along the way we came across indications that refugees had also taken this path.  We found discarded clothing, bags, certificates, ID papers, exercises in English for Arabic speakers, water bottles, juice cartons, medicine packaging, food packaging, cigarette packs.  On the shoreline we found a pump, clearly used to inflate a boat.  Several life jackets were retrieved.  Yes, it makes a mess in a National Park, but people are people and people are more important.

Millipark Oct 1517

After lunch at Aydinkoy (with the boars) some swam and others didn’t.  We then walked up, mostly along paths and road, back to Guzelcamli where we had a chance to visit Zeus’ cave before getting the bus back home.