Our next stop was Caye Caulker, a ‘barefoot’ island in the Caribbean. Sadly we have no photos from there. It’s a laid back island with some excellent snorkeling. We snorkeled. We snorkeled over coral reefs and with nurse sharks and rays. We saw seahorses. It was a great day out but Ashley got too much sun which meant a quiet day the next day. We ate lion fish. Lion fish are an invasive species which are damaging the corals and the general marine ecology of the area. Tourists are encouraged to eat them. They are delicious, especially when stuffed with lobster tail. Reggae is everywhere on Caye Caulker.
After three nights on Caye Caulker we headed for Orange Walk (where we took lots of photographs). The journey was interesting as the bus conductor (on the run between Belize City and Orange Walk) decided we didn’t actually want to do into Orange Walk but to a tourist lodge about ten miles outside of Orange Walk itself. He would not be dissuaded so we ended up having to get another bus. Orange Walk has a handful of hotels but is not really set up for big tourism. We stayed in a beautiful lodge by the side of the river. The view from just outside our bungalow is in the picture at the top of this post. The river is rich in wildlife.
Apart from the crocodiles (we saw many, two different species), we saw all sorts of herons and egrets, cormorants, bitterns, a wood stork, anhinga, wood rail, kingfishers, spider monkeys, the ubiquitous Montezuma’s oropendolas, iguanas and an osprey. Many could be seen from the hotel grounds but we saw more when we took the boat trip to Laminai.
The boat trip to Laminai was fantastic – one of the highlights of the trip. We had a very knowledgeable guide who was able to ensure that we didn’t miss any wildlife or any aspect of the important Maya site. We had all taken bananas for the monkey but the monkey was only interested in chocolate. None of us had any chocolate. On the way back we viewed a molasses factory and some of the people on the boat bought molasses. Most of which, of course, is used in rum production.
The site itself has some extraordinary reliefs, though many have been carefully restored and preserved using fibreglass. Laminai is interesting as it was one of the sites that was still occupied by Maya when the Spanish arrived.
And, finally, here are some of the best bird pictures from this part of the trip!
Little blue heron
Russet Naped Woodrail
This was a complicated walk, though not all of it was walking. We set off from Selçuk at 8:30 in the morning and drove to Pinar Köyu where we stopped for breakfast of gözleme, domates ve zeytin. It was a fairly brief stop and soon we were back on our buses for the drive to Çomakdağ köyu where we ended up staying for longer than I think was originally intended.
First we climbed up with some other people, above the village where there was a fantastic view.
We were back in the village at the appointed time, but everyone else was behind by half an hour then we went strolling off with a gentleman from the village who showed us several traditional houses (many of them somewhat ruined), his pygmy cows and an olive barrel. He ended up taking us home for lunch. Which was delicious but had to be cut short as the buses were revving up and we were keeping them waiting.
Our next stop was Euromos – we’ve been there before and our visit was all too brief as we were running late. It’s a really impressive site and I would love to go back on our own, with more time to explore (and less people….. There were 75 in our group!)
We drove onwards towards Bafa Lake where we finally got our walk! Only about 7 Km the Yediler Manastriri and back.
And finally, onto the beach at Heraklia (no time to explore the ancient city) where we watched a beautiful sunset and enjoyed an ice cold beer with friends.
It took a couple of hours to drive back to Selçuk. A very full day, but extremely worthwhile
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 birds. 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!
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.
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.
On 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.
On 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.
For Hilary’s birthday we decided to visit Lesvos again. This was not a mistake. It is an easy three hour ride to Ayvalik where Hilary discovered that her watch had stopped. Ashley sat in the customs house cafe and drank tea whilst Hilary walked into town and found a place to fit a new watch battery.
Very little hassle getting the bike through customs and onto the ferry and a very pleasant 90 minutes cruise to Mytilene. We stayed in Nikos Motel again. He is very hospitable and the place is excellent value, convenient but far enough from the Centre to be very quiet.
Not that it was quiet anywhere on the Island the Friday before the Referendum. We dined on the harbour side to the sounds of a political rally. The rally was very much Oxi, as were most of the electioneering loud speakers mounted on cars cruising up and down…
After breakfast next morning we headed to Skala Sikaminia which is a tiny fishing village with two hotels. Our hotel was lovely and whilst the room became hot in the early mornings, the smell of bread from the baker below made up for the discomfort. Maria, who runs the rooms, noticed from Hilary’s passport that it was her birthday on Monday and left a lovely present hanging from the doorknob!
The first night we were there we got swept up in a huge Christening party which was taking place in the restaurant along with some live music.
We may publish flocks of corvids sitting on buildings, in trees, on wall, watching humans and muttering nevermore….. But we can do most of that here at home in Selcuk with the vast flock of jackdaws. Oh and a shower scene, or am I getting fiction and film mixed up?
Poe and Hitchcock aside……
We will say more on Kerkini soon, but for now, the bird photos.
Some people may have gathered we went to Greece for a few days. Our first stop in Greece after a leisurely ride north via Ayvalik and Canakkale was Dadia. Dadia is a small village to the south of Soufli (nearest cash machine) with a couple of eateries and hotels. More on those later. Our reason for going to Dadia Forest was to see birds of prey. It is one of only two mainland sites in Europe where it is possible to see Black Vultures and Gryphon Vultures. It is also very good for other large raptors. As such the forest is carefully managed and the birds protected. Just outside the village of Dadia is the visitor centre www.dadia-np.gr from where it is possible to get up to date information on the forest, details of walking trails and more. On our first day we took a walk up to the hide by one trail, and back by another, both clearly marked, rated as easy, and very pleasant. On our walk up we saw Buzzards and a Gryphon Vulture in flight. We spent ages up at the hide, there was an Egyptian Vulture, a Black Kite and an eagle, almost certainly Lesser Spotted Eagle, Schoolchildren were being brought into the hide, given access to telescopes, given the eco drill in Greek, noisy at times but the hide is well away from the birds and none were bothered. When the children were not there we got to use the telescopes. One or second day we took the harder trails, one up to Gibrena Peak and another down. These were graded as medium as indeed they turned out to be. We were good and followed the rules, left our details and walking plans at the visitor centre, checked back in with them on return. Again both trails we were marked and easy to follow, giving great views at times. There was lots of wild flowers, would have been more a month or so earlier, something to maybe bear in mind for the future. Near the peak we came across an eagle sat in a small tree, unfortunately it did not hang around for photographs. We would recommend decent walking shoes for the climb to Gibrena Peak which Ashley did not have so took the risk with sport sandals, the only real risk being snakes, and well, not really a big risk. Back to Dadia village. The village appears to have two hotels, but one seemed closed. The other is next to the visitor centre www.forestinn.eu It is a lovely place, we think it used to be part of the visitor centre, but is now being run privately. Our room was lovely, and we spent ages sat on the sunny balcony watching Hoopoes flying back and forth. One morning when we were leaving the accommodation block to get breakfast there was a Sparrow Hawk in the garden, though most of the time it was populated by Swallows. Breakfast was good. The cafeteria also provided us with a steady supply of frappe, the occasional beer and did some snacks and ice cream. Sitting in the café garden, at times a vulture passed overhead and further in the distance there were storks in flight. At the time we were there the hotel was not doing meals, but there are a couple of eateries in the village, one inexpensive Taverna, and a take out souvlaki place that needless to say did excellent take out souvlaki. Being Greece, neither opens much before 9pm, so we relaxed in the hotel garden and had another beer. It is a lovely place, we will go again.
After what has been a cold March, cold in the UK, then cold here, the weather is finally warming up. The storks have arrived, the first of the swallows have arrived, but as the say, one Swallow does not make spring.
So, on the first warm and sunny day, we decided to take a stroll around some of the local archaeological sites. Ephesus on a Sunday is never going to be empty, but it is nice to stroll through, laugh at some of the tours and, well we have Muze Kart so it costs nothing.
The Artemis Temple is now as deeply flooded as it ever gets. There are a few guys selling post cards, guide books, and dodgy coins. Mostly it is a quiet place, the tours rarely stop and those which do move on pretty quickly. So we were left with the geese, the turtles, frogs, a snake, storks, and a visiting heron.
Confirmed by a friend and others as a Night Heron, this one clearly did not know is was early afternoon.
The day after our roof was finished we went walking with Zirve. There are many ways to walk from the Kuşadası road up to Meryemana. Some of them are easy. This one wasn’t. We were aching for days afterwards.
It was, however, a very good walk in perfect weather. We cooked and ate suçuk but we didn’t actually get as far as Meryemana. This walk was done on 25th January and we saw some early wildflowers.