Archive for the ‘flora and fauna’ Category

Tracking cards

January 6, 2020

Firstly, thank you to Marilyn (NB Waka Huia) for asking the very good question….what are tracking cards?

To give a bit of background information, Shakespear Park is a pest free sanctuary at the end of the Whangaparaoa Peninsular.

Map of the Park

Together with New Zealand Defence Force land to the north, most of the Park lies within the Shakespear Open Sanctuary. Although Okoromai Bay and Army Bay are situated within the park realm they are not within the sanctuary.

A 1.7km pest/predator-proof fence (completed March 2011) goes across the peninsular and protects the park’s wildlife which includes resident invertebrates and lizards, along with birds migrating from nearby Tiritiri island sanctuary and many reintroduced species.  

Poison airdrops were conducted in July 2011 to eradicate mammalian pests and the park reopened to the public three months later, pest free.

Access to the park for visitors is by road, through the pest proof fence with automated gates opening for vehicles and cyclists with pedestrian access through a side gate.

Entrance gates

To ensure that the park is kept free of pests and predators such as possums, cats, dogs, ferrets, rats and the like, extensive monitoring takes place. This is done with a variety means by the way of traps, cameras, lures, and tracking cards.

Tracking cards are basically inked cards which are set into small tunnels with some form of enticement or lure (usually peanut butter with rabbit meat used in every 4th or 5th card) so that when an animal or insect walks across the card, it’s footprints are left behind. Many places use these cards to check on biodiversity and range of animals within their area but at Shakespear they are mainly used to monitor pests.

The front of the card

The card opened up showing the ink pad with some peanut butter in the middle

The cards are set out once a month then collected the following week for analysis, and with over 200 cards being set out in the park you can imagine it is a mammoth job which is done with the aid of a myriad of volunteers. Each volunteer is responsible for a particular line of cards with the Rangers doing the Navy land and any other lines that need to be done.

How do they know where the tunnels are placed? If you have been into the park you will have noticed bits of coloured tape tied to trees or fences. Orange and blue tape is used and these denote either a tracking tunnel or a trap.

Tape fluttering in the breeze

Once collected, they are read and species identified by their footprints, then any pests can be targeted in the specific area that they were detected. The following are examples of some of the tracking cards:

Hedgehog footprints, and yes, they are a pest, they raid nests and eat eggs.

Skink footprint and tail print

rat prints

Possum prints

Frog prints

Weta (NZ native insect)

Gecko

Skink, mice, birds and cockroaches

Of course not all prints are of pests and from the last set of prints you will see that you really have to know what you are looking for to sort out what is what.

The Rangers are ably assisted by a great group of dedicated volunteers who not only ensure the Sanctuary is thriving for flora and fauna with an on-site tree nursery as well as monitoring of the many birds that thrive here, but also a safe environment for people to visit as it is also a working farm and open to the public for all sorts of recreational activities from picnicking to windsurfing, swimming, fishing, mountain biking and walking as well as a place for people to camp. We really enjoy being part of the great group of friendly volunteers on the park.

I hope that goes someway to explaining what tracking cards are and the reason why I was driving the ATV from the start to finish of some of the lines last week whilst Bruce put out the cards. The volunteers have a well deserved break over the Christmas/New Year period so I was doing my bit to help out.

We’re back!

December 12, 2019

Time to head back to Shakespear for the summer and our stint as Camp Hosts. We planned to arrive in time for the volunteer Christmas party which, this year, was being held at the Navy Base here at the end of the Whangaparaoa Peninsular. The Navy base is also behind the Pest Proof Fence and they share common goals to keep the land predator free. There was also the enticement of a tour of some of the gun emplacements tunnels, some of which we have been in before but the opportunity to see some different tunnels as well as the naval base itself was a good enough reason for us to head down to participate.

Shakespear Park at the end of the Peninsular, the camp ground is at the far right of Te Haruhi Bay and the Naval Base is on the Northside of the Peninsular.

As you would expect, I did not take a single photo at the Christmas Party not of the base nor the tunnels, I was too busy meeting lots of other volunteers who we hadn’t met before plus catching up with lots of familiar faces. It was very interesting to hear of the work that the Navy do on their part of the sanctuary, and also great talks were given by the Rangers updating us on happenings over the past year as well as future plans for the Park. All I will say is that they all work incredibly hard protecting the flora and fauna and are all passionate about their work.

We have settled back into Camp Host mode, setting ourselves up in our usual position in the park.

Parked in the park

The view from the welcome shade of the awning

Pohutakawa starting to flower

Panoramic view

Of course all the above photos were taken in the fleeting moments that there was no one else in the camp. Keith & Deb relaxed with us for a week or so until it was time for them to carry on with their travels. And it hasn’t all been sunshine either, later during the day that they left we had torrential rain and thunderstorms.

The damp view from inside the van

We’ve had a couple of visitors already; Antony came for a visit, delivering all our mail, bringing with him is mate Andrew whom we haven’t seen in a while. The same day our long time friends Wade & Lindsay came for a visit. It’s lovely to catch up with friends and family and hear what’s happening in their lives.

I have been and had xrays on my (fractured) left hip and on my left knee as I’ve been still getting terrible pain in the hip but it turns out that is referred pain from my knee, with the hip healing nicely, but guess what the upshot of that means? Yep, the left knee is the next to be replaced, just have to plan when this will be done to fit in with our busy schedule!

We have set ourselves up comfortably in the camp and will be putting up our tent in the next few days for those visitors who wish to stay. We are taking things quietly and trying to keep away from the madness of Christmas and the need to shop for the sake of shopping.

The end of the year also means school camp, this is what it looks like when parents deliver little Johnny/Jane bringing with them everything imaginable for a two night stay

Car yard

….and when I mean everything, I mean everything, I even saw innersprung mattresses being put into tents for the darlings to sleep on!

Narrowboating

June 25, 2019

Before we left New Zealand I was in contact with Marilyn & David who;

a) had read our blog and contacted us regarding a place we had stayed

b) live in NZ and also motorhome extensively

c) have a Narrowboat called Waka Huia which they travel the English canals during NZ winter/English summer (ok, we won’t talk about the weather).

I have also been a follower of their blog for some time. I must add here that I found their blog through following another nz blog, Romany Rambler, so thank you Jenny & Robin for you may not know it but it’s how I ended up following Marilyn & David’s travels through the links on your blog!! And no we haven’t met Jenny & Robin either as yet however we have communicated many times and I’m sure our paths will cross sooner rather than later.

Through a multitude of emails back and forth with David & Marilyn, ok lets be honest, between Bernice and Marilyn, we finally sorted a time to meet up which suited us both and they graciously, or should that be with great trust?, invited us to stay with them on their boat for the night.

With plans in place, we arranged to meet them at Alvechurch Marina where they were moored on Thursday. You will have to read their recent blog entries to gain an understanding of the serious issues David has recently had with his eyes and the surgery he is about to undergo. With that in mind we arrived on Thursday afternoon and met Marilyn & David for the first time.

Waka Huia

Their narrowboat is named Waka Huia which is Maori meaning treasure box. The weather by now looked like it was going to play ball for a day, so with that in mind the decision was made to go for a little cruise up to the next set of locks called the Tardebigge flight. The Tardebigge set of locks are the longest set of locks on the UK canal system and two long tunnels to get through before the start of the flight. We were not going to go through any of the locks as there are 30 (yes, you read that right], 30 locks in succession that requires you to go through all of them before you can turn around and return. Just to go one way would take us many hours and by this time it was late afternoon plus David had a hospital appointment to attend on Friday night, another reason that we did not have time to do the locks.

Picturesque waterways

Off we set being expertly guided out of the mooring and set off on a leisurely cruise. This is the life, meandering through the picturesque waterways with sunshine dappling on the waters as we made our way along the tree and hedgerow lined canal.

Roy at the helm on the way to Tardebigge.

David tying up

Roy took over as helmsman for most of the journey until we reached the top of the Tardebigge flight where there is a winding hole so we could turn around in the morning. You can read Marilyns version of events here.

Tying up on the side of the canal, we first had a few drinks and nibbles with some friends of M&D before Roy, David and I took a walk down to the first set of locks to see just how close together they are placed before returning to the boat for a delicious dinner that Marilyn had prepared.

Looking down the first flight of locks

Church spire along canal

We spent the rest of the evening playing cards until late, a new game for us, called Five Crowns, a good fun game and evening was had by us all, especially by moi as I did win!

Roy doing the dishes

After a good nights sleep it was time to head back to the marina so D&M could head off for the first of David’s appointments on Friday evening and we could continue on our travels.

Entering a tunnel

I had my turn at the helm on the return journey including negotiating a couple of long tunnels.

Another boat coming toward us

Bernice at the helm

Cruising down the river

Halfway through the tunnel

Countryside

We returned to the marina where Marilyn expertly manoeuvred us into our mooring.

Interesting boat name

Marilyn & David then offered us the boat to stay on for a few more nights including a couple of nights by ourselves whilst they head into Birmingham for David’s surgery on Sunday morning. Of course we accepted their wonderful offer, you don’t want to miss out on these opportunities, sometimes they come along so rarely in life.

But first we all went to the local pub at the marina for lunch.

Checking out the options

What about this brew?

David & Bernice

Ploughmans platter, the remainder returned with us to have for dinner

Mediterranean platter

The meals were generous, so generous in fact that the remnants were packed up to take back to the boat for our dinner later that evening.

But not before David showed off his best side!

David’s best side???

D&M we’re away for just a few hours on Friday evening before returning. We then set about having a cards rematch.

David’s surgery was scheduled for early Sunday morning, however they are going into Birmingham by train on Saturday afternoon to stay the evening and will also stay over Sunday evening as well which means we will be home alone! I can’t reiterate enough how generous they have been toward us, it really does restore ones faith in humanity.

And not to be outdone…

Not to be outdone, Marilyn showing her other side!!!!

We explored the local area including the shopping centre in Redditch to get a few essentials but mainly spent our time relaxing on the boat.

Sometimes in life you meet up with people whom you instantly get on with, have lots in common, enjoy their company immensely and this is exactly the case with Marilyn & David. We are so fortunate to have met them and I’m sure we will meet up again either back in NZ or in the UK. We cannot thank Marilyn & David enough for their hospitality, kindness, and sharing their lovely narrowboat with us. It will remain a special memory for us.

Welshpool & Shrewsbury

June 23, 2019

We set our next destination as Welshpool which is near the border with England.

The planned route

We both agreed that we would take a route less travelled rather than sticking to major motorways and A roads, so with this programmed into the sat nav, off we went. Initially it went well, we were quietly enjoying the scenery and countryside when all of a sudden we were on what I could only describe as a track/lane.

Narrow windy road

It was definitely becoming more and more narrow the further along we went with the hedge rows and trees becoming closer and closer the further we travelled. With absolutely no opportunity to turn around, we continued on with thoughts of should we have a hedge trimmer with us? Should we pull the side mirrors in?

Oops!

That was until we met a car coming in the opposite direction. Luckily for us, they reversed along the road until we had the opportunity to inch past each other at snails pace.

We were soon back on slightly wider roads/lanes but when “she” – the Sat Nav – told us to turn off again, we ignored her and continued on until she had worked out a new route on a major road.

All was back on track, until we came to the brow of a hill, we had obviously climbed up a lot higher than we initially thought and spectacular views down over the valleys. However, the navigator decided this wasn’t the best place for him to be and he just wanted it over with as quickly as possible, we were in fact going over the hills of Snowdonia. Due to the photographers lack of desire to take pictures, these few are from later on and will have to suffice.

Rolling hills

Waterfall

Sheep

Our arrival into the outskirts of Welshpool was a welcoming sight, now we started to look for somewhere to stay. Our first choice of hotel was unfortunately it was fully booked but the very helpful receptionist rang a couple of other places for us and we were soon booked into a lovely B& B a few hundred metres up the road.

Buildings across the street from the B&B dating from around the 16th Century.

The Royal Oak

Canal through the town

Stones in a circle

These circles are called Gorstedd Stones and used for the celebration of Eisteddfod, a welsh tradition of celebrating literature, music and performance. Some stone circles are very old, dating back centuries, but we suspect this may be a later one, dating from when there was a revival of the celebrations in the 1800’s.

The Mermaid Inn was just a few doors away from our B&B

The Stone House B&B where we were staying had parts of its building dating back to the 1200’s, amazing stuff.

We had a little time to explore the town and get some washing done before we went back to our original choice of lodgings, the Royal Oak Hotel, where we had a wonderful evening meal.

Yummm, liver and bacon!

Again we had great service from the friendly staff, before we returned to our B&B for a good nights sleep.

The following morning we decided to have a day off driving, instead taking the train into Shrewsbury. We had read about a scenic boat trip on the River Severn which we thought would be a fun way to see the sights.

View from the train

The train trip was quick and pleasant, and we were there in no time at all. It was a short walk to the river where we were told the boats would be leaving. However, in usual fashion our luck was not on our side and we were greeted with this sign.

The sign says it all

Oh never mind, instead, we found a very nice looking pub across the road that looked very busy with lots of happy punters, so we headed off to drown our sorrows. The food looked fabulous too so instead of a boat trip we stayed on for a late lunch, which again was amazingly good fare.

The following are a few sights from around Shrewsbury.

River Severn

Street view

This sculpture, named Quantum Leap, was erected on the banks of the Severn to celebrate the the bicentenary of the birth of Charles Darwin, who was born in the town in 1809. It also celebrates Shropshire’s diverse geological history which covers 10 of the 12 geological eras. Soon it was time to retrace our steps and return to Welshpool.

Allotments along the train tracks, on the return journey

Our time in Welshpool was coming to and end, but the next adventure is all rather exciting!!

Onto North Wales

June 19, 2019
We left Selby on Saturday morning, heading somewhere into North Wales, although we weren’t really sure where. After travelling for a while, trying to avoid the main roads and motorways as much as possible, it was time for a rest break and a bite to eat. We found a pub near Penistone and Hoylandswaine where we stopped for lunch. Pie, mushy peas and chips were on the menu, but why do they insist on putting everything into little dishes, you then have to empty them onto your plate to eat them!

Pea, pie and chips

It filled the gap quite successfully and we were soon on our way again, this time with a destination in mind – Colwyn Bay in North Wales. It was an unadventurous drive but a good way to get used to the car and the controls – think lights, windscreen wipers, sat nav, indicators etc.

Colwyn Bay

Our first task was to find somewhere to stay the night, we settled on a hotel within a short walk to shops and the beach etc.

Wind farm out in Colwyn Bay

By the time we got into our room and settled ourselves in, neither of us were particularly hungry so we had a quick trip across the road to the supermarket for a bit of cheese, fruit and crackers as a light snack. The following morning we walked up the road a little to a local cafe for breakfast. Nothing flash, but good honest food with very friendly and helpful staff. So far we have found Welsh folk to be friendly and helpful, many going out of their way to assist and partake of some good banter. We were soon on our way again, this time we decided to head inland a little, just to see what we can see and find.

First stop was not too far away, Bodnant Gardens, we had fun reading the sign!

We had fun trying to pronounce Welsh!

Lovely gardens, cafe, bee displays and farm shop complete with more helpful staff. We asked at the shop if we could buy some ice as we had a few bits and pieces in a chiller bag we needed to keep cool. No, sorry no ice we were told but just a moment sir, soon he was back with a frozen ice pack perfect for our needs, and no there wasn’t a charge.

As an interesting aside, we noted that one of the plaques on the main buildings noted that the complex was established with assistance from the European Union Regional Development Fund, we were to find a number of these properties along our travels.

EU plaque

We wonder if those who voted for Brexit realise that a number of these developments would not be flourishing without funding from the EU.

Along our route we spied a familiarly named hotel – this is the name of the Lodge we owned in Oamaru – so we just had to stop for a photo.

Another Pen-y-bryn

That’s where we are heading.

View from the B&B

Once settled in, we went for a walk into the village following a path along the rivers edge

Walk into Betws-y-coed

Before crossing over the railway line where locals also run a children’s train.

Child sized train

Looking across from the main station to the small gauge track

On the station platform we came across this metal formed rhino which you are asked to place plastic bottle caps. Apparently this raises funds for a rhino sanctuary in Africa.

Roy and the rhino

We had no sooner begun our exploration of the village when the skies darkened and the heavens opened. Sheltering in a shop doorway for a while as by now most shops were closed for the day, we waited to see if it was a passing shower. It soon became evident that it wasn’t so what were we to do? Oh ok, head into the local hotel for a very late afternoon tea.

Afternoon tea or early dinner?

It was delicious. By the time we had enjoyed our afternoon tea the rain had dissipated a little so we made the dash back to our abode for the evening.

Oh and did I mention we were staying at the old Courthouse?

The Courthouse

We were in the Handcuff Room 😱.

D Day

June 6, 2019

Today is the 6th June, 75 years since the D Day landings on the Normandy beaches and both here in the UK and in France, commemorations are taking place with people from all over the Commonwealth and USA (including the orange blimp) are attending.

Here in Erith, it’s D Day plus 5.

What will be, will be.

Meanwhile, we are still keeping ourselves busy in the garden. We have put in trellis on top of the back fence. One; for a bit more privacy and two; for the climbing plants to clamber along.

Regular readers will know that when we were here 18 months ago, Alex and Ian had the back garden landscaped which included removing a stand of very large conifers and having two terraces built.

Before and after the landscaping

Now with plants planted and the trellis work up plus a small wooden fence around the top level hiding the raised vegetable beds, it’s all coming together.

Two trellis panels in place

The completed work

it’s all looking rather good, so much so we had a BBQ the other day.

Alex and Ian inspecting the BBQ

We have planted up the veggie raised planter boxes but then realised we needed to protect the seeds and plants from birds having a nice time eating all the seeds and the foxes digging up our hard work. So at the moment we do have bird netting in place but I am about to make cloches to cover the planters. However I am just awaiting for some supplies to be delivered so I can make a good job of them, otherwise I may get fired!!

Planters

Bloomin’ lovely

December 15, 2018

It’s Christmas and the trees are all decorated, I mean the New Zealand native Christmas trees aka Pohutakawas, and they are particularly magnificent this year.

The pohutukawa tree (Metrosideros excelsa) with its crimson flower has become an established part of the New Zealand Christmas tradition. This iconic Kiwi Christmas tree, which often features on greeting cards and in poems and songs, has become an important symbol for New Zealanders at home and abroad.

Pohutukawa and its cousin rata also hold a prominent place in Maori tradition. Legends tell of Tawhaki, a young Maori warrior, who attempted to find heaven to seek help in avenging the death of his father. He fell to earth and the crimson flowers are said to represent his blood.

A gnarled, twisted pohutukawa on the windswept cliff top at Cape Reinga, the northern tip of New Zealand, has become of great significance to many New Zealanders. For Maori this small, venerated pohutukawa is known as ‘the place of leaping’. It is from here that the spirits of the dead begin their journey to their traditional homeland of Hawaiki. From this point the spirits leap off the headland and climb down the roots of the 800-year-old tree, descending into the underworld on their return journey.

Colours vary as well with the flowers ranging from pink to red to crimson to a bronze red. There are also yellow pohutakawa, which I like to think of as my Christmas tree decked out in golden decorations.

I love the long twisting branches and the way the tree clings improbably to cliffs. Kids love playing amongst its branches and we all love to camp or picnic beneath their arching limbs providing much needed shade from the summer sun.

In times past, I was known for my elaborately decorated Christmas trees, always colour themed, and never the same colours repeated.

Now I am just happy to see nature’s best decorated trees in all their glory.

Singapore

March 3, 2018

There were emotional farewells at Heathrow, it does not get any easier to say farewell no matter how many times we experience it however with tissues deployed we were soon on the plane ready for our journey home. This time we were breaking the journey with a three night stop over in Singapore.

We were met at Changi Airport by our driver who took us into the city and our hotel, giving us a great running commentary along the way pointing out interesting views, buildings and facts.

first glimpse of the Singapore Wheel and Marina Bay Sands

Along one section of road he pointed out that the road was in fact very straight, had we noticed this? No, we hadn’t, then he pointed out that the median barrier between the dual carriageway were in fact large planters, which are in fact removable. It turns out that Lim Chu Kang Road can be used as an emergency runway if required in case of disaster. The large trees lining each side of the 6km motorway can be removed, as can lamp posts as well as the centre planters by the Army in hours to create a large runway. It was used in 2016 as part of a military exercise and as a practise.

Now that is clever.

After settling into our hotel, we found our way to one of the many hawker markets for a bite to eat before heading back for a good nights sleep.

The following morning we were off and out for a tour around the city taking in some of the many highlights and attractions.

the famous Raffles Hotel, closed and completely covered whilst major renovations are undertaken so no Singapore Sling here for us this time.

looking across to the Marina Bay Sands shopping and hotel complex with its rooftop gardens and pools and the lotus flower shaped building in the foreground.

and to prove I was there.

a selection of interesting sculptures on the road sides

plant covered sculpture to hide these vents

this one shows the vent, which is for underground parking, with the plants just starting to climb up the framework.

Next was a visit to the National Orchid Garden with its impressive collection of orchids, I’ll let the pictures tell the story

Then it was off to see the Merlion, the National symbol of Singapore, it’s a mythical creature with a lion’s head and the body of a fish.

To prove that our selfie skills are not getting any better

There was visits to markets, Chinatown, and Little India where we neglected to take photos, and also a visit to Changi Prison to the museum located there. This required a trip on the MRT, Singapore’s excellent (and cheap) train and underground.

Changi prison was built in the mid 1930’s by the British and was designed to house around 600 prisoners. However, during the Second World War the Japanese took control of the island and prison. Following the fall of Singapore in February 1942, the Japanese military detained about 3,000 civilians in Changi Prison. The Japanese used the British Army’s Selarang Barracks, near the prison, as a POW camp, holding some 50,000 Allied soldiers, predominantly British and Australian; and from 1943, Dutch civilians brought over by the Japanese from the islands in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia). POWs were in fact rarely, if ever, held in the civilian prison. Nevertheless, in the UK, Australia, The Netherlands and elsewhere, the name “Changi” became synonymous with the infamous POW camp nearby.

Photography is not allowed at the museum and prison area.

Back at our hotel, these impressive glass art works were displayed in the lobby

Soon enough our time in Singapore came to an end, and to be honest, we just wanted to get home. Our flight home was uneventful and we arrived in the early hours of the morning NZ time, where Antony was waiting to pick us up. Although he had left London a day after us he took a more direct route home and arrived the day before us.

It was nice to be back in NZ again after our four months away. Looking back we did manage to pack a fair bit into our time away and we can now look forward to planning the next trip.

Back in old Blighty

December 20, 2017

We arrived back in London after having had a fantastic trip through Portugal and southern Spain although the temperature change was a little bit of a surprise but it didn’t take us long to get our winter gear out and dress appropriately for the conditions. We have been back a few weeks now and I have to admit that blog writing has not been high on the priority list with most days fairly busy however I shall endeavour to do a bit of a catch up and get back on track, although there will be a a couple of entries out of sequence for Roy’s musings on a few places of interest.

The major happening has been Alex and Ian have had their back garden landscaped and transformed and that meant a group of men were here working for the past two weeks. I was kept busy making cups of tea and doing the odd bit of baking.

This is the before picture

The garden sloped up quite steeply to the back fence which had a line of conifers that blocked out the winter sun and also drew any goodness out of the soil plus they took up quite a bit of space. How much space we were unsure as it was impossible to tell until they cut them down.

The start of the tree removal. We could now see that once the trees were gone they had gained over 3m in their garden.

By the end of the first day all the trees were down and they had started digging out the first level.

Start of the new fence going in….and what’s this? Neighbours? Where were they before?!

Progress was swift over the first few days with plenty of workers on site. By the end of the first week things were looking great.

We had been very lucky with the weather although temperatures were very chilly at least there was no rain however that was about to change with a cold snap due. We woke on Sunday morning to snow falling.

Ian’s parents and 2 brothers Matt & Mike were coming round to visit as well as Mikes partner Sam(antha) and their children Olivia and the new addition to their family 10 day old Beth. Ian took Olivia out to play on the little yellow digger, although we are not sure who wanted to play on it more!!

Then it was Alex’s turn to help Olivia make a snowman on the front lawn

Then it was time to put together a gingerbread house kit with Olivia, although we are not sure that all the decorations made it onto the house.

but she had heaps of fun, as did Alex and I helping her, and she took it home to share with her friends.

Meanwhile, the garden progress slowed somewhat after the snow but by the end of the second week it was all done.

And just to compare, here are the before and after pictures

A great result with lots of usable space, now just to get the neighbours on the right hand side to put in a decent fence. We have learned that here in the UK, the fence on the left hand side of the property is yours to put in and maintain.

It hasn’t all been gardens though, Roy and Ian went to a couple of local football matches….although I think the after match functions are more of a highlight!

Roy with a couple of the players after the game.

Not to be left out of the fun, Alex and I went off for afternoon tea

Roy went out with Ian, father Barry and brother Matt for an afternoon of bowling, although I’m pretty sure a visit to another pub was also on the programme.

Roy in action with Matt and Barry watching on.

And Roy and I went out one evening for a change and had a lovely meal out and we also managed to sneak in a bit of Christmas shopping.

There have been visits to museums and libraries which Roy will be filling in accounts of at some stage. We also met up with Barry & Christine one day for a nice lunch out at a little local pub.

The other news is that our son Antony arrived safely on Friday night, but that update is for another post.

Faro

November 21, 2017

A big day in Faro as we tried to fit in as much as possible in our short time here. As we arrived at nightfall there was only the opportunity to have dinner before heading to bed for the night. Again, we have been very lucky with our accommodation, in Faro it’s just a short walk from the train station and our host Vera was waiting for us to show us around the gorgeous apartment before sitting us down and telling us of places to see and what to do.

After a great nights sleep we were off into town to walk around the old town and to get our bearings. Roy had already been off to the market early in the morning so he roughly knew where we were heading. The following are a few scenes from the market, Roy got there just as they were setting up.

Plenty of fresh, fresh fish of all shapes sizes and species.

Plenty of fresh and dried fruits and vegetables as well.

Into town and the marina area first.

we did not have too far to walk to the outskirts of the old town alongside the marina (checking out boats for you Steve!!).

Just outside the old town walls we came across a tuk-tuk, we thought it was a good oppportunity us to have a quick tour of the old town and parts further afield to orient ourselves.

Church inside the old town walls

the outside wall of the old town

After our short history filled tour with guide Ernesto, we walked along the outside old town wall to our next stop, which was to have a boat trip around the National Park wetland area called Ria Formosa.

There are five barrier islands that protect the wetland area from the ocean. Our boat trip took us throughout the low tidal flats that are home to many bird species, many of which we also have similar species in New Zealand, including the pukeko!

the old town walls as seen from the boat.

There are fish farms located within the waterways and we saw a few small boats out with men fishing. It seems as though there is no size limit and they catch and keep everything.

A flock of spoonbills grazing amongst the growth

Once back on land we went back into the old town to have some lunch at one of the restaurants that had been pointed out to us during our tour. We were keen to try the local dish of Cataplana, a fish dish in various forms that is cooked in a covered dish, similar to a Tagine. As this region was once settled by the Moors, it is no surprise that some of their traditions remain.

It was rather delicious and surprisingly light. And included shellfish and fish such as monkfish, bacalhau, clams, mussels and shrimps.

We even decided to try the local desserts, one of us had a portugese tart (rather like a creme caramel) and the other had a portugese cake which is made of almonds, orange and figs. Both were rather delicious as well.

Now very much replete, we headed back to the main square where we had arranged to meet Ernesto again, this time for a tour through the National Park and out to Faro Beach. Again, we learnt lots of the history of the area and also about local agricultural practises, as we passed many farms growing crops of raspberries, oranges and tomatoes to name a few as well as goat farms. This region also produces a large proportion of the worlds cork. Ernesto explained that you can only remove the cork from the tree once every 9 years, with the best cork for wine bottles taken at the third cut. The men that perform this task are very skilled and in high demand.

Tree with cork removed from its lower trunk.

As well as cork and olive trees there are also acres and acres of pine nut trees.

Also within the park are salt pans, all dried naturally in the hot sun.

Salt pans

The salt is settling around the edge of the pans as evaporation does its thing

and once collected, it ends up in large mounds.

There are a large number of birds that call this area home, including spoonbills and flamingoes, however, the flamingoes were too far away for us to get a decent photo of them, besides they were wearing mostly grey feathers today.

We rounded off the day watching the sun set at Faro Beach

with the knowledge that as it dipped down over our horizon it would be popping up over the horizon in New Zealand. Cheers and good health to friends and family at home 🍹.