The March foxhunt was run by the OW/BLI/FVXN/Pierre team and started in the car park at the eastern end of Ruffey Park Lake.
The first hunt was on 10 metres with the transmitter hidden in a park off the end of Orchard Grove in Warrandyte. Melway 34 G3. First in was Darrien followed 7 minutes later by the CI, FOX and BLN teams with MZ a minute later. BLN may have done better if Marta had been shown how to use the OW sniffer before she had to use it. We ran carrier for this event, from an old valve transmitter I’d built decades ago for testing 10m loops. It seemed a pity not to use it in an actual hunt. The need to carry a 100AH battery to drive the genemotor high tension supply limited how far we would carry it into the bush!
The second hunt was also 10M but this time it was SSB to make things a bit more like Mt Gambier. Location was in the general area of Laughlin avenue in Nunawading. 48 E10. First in again was the FAST team, followed 3 minutes later by 3CI, then MZ 2 mins later, then BLN 4 minutes later and then FOX 15 minutes after FAST.
The 3rd hunt on 10M was in a small fairly clear area between Aurum Cr and Hygeia Pde in Ringwood North 49E6. Fox was first in very closely followed by FAST, MZ and CI. BLN were unfortunately outside the 10min time limit. Vacuum tubes and the genemotor once again supplied the 5 watts of RF. I promise to build something more modern to use the next time I run a 10m hunt.
The 4th hunt was in a fenced off area off Reilly St in Ringwood. 49H11. This looked like a good spot when we checked earlier in the week but when Henk and Di got there they found the soccer field next door ablaze with lights which spoilt things a bit. VK’s 3CI and 3FOX arrived at much the same time so started the clock, with Fast +3, MZ, +6 and BLN +7 minutes later.
The next hunt was a 3 legged affair using foxO TX’s for the second and third legs. The location was Ringwood Lake Park, 49 J/K8. We let this event run until all the hounds had found all transmitters, some more than once, so considerable normalizing was done to arrive at the final score which was FAST with 0 points, BLN with 1 point, FOX and MZ both with 6 points and CI with 10.
The last hunt was not at a planned spot but as we were a bit later than hoped for at this stage of the night I drove back to somewhere in the vicinity of supper and found a high spot. I must have dozed off a little at this point as the next thing I was aware of was a loud banging on the roof of the car. Bug… I thought, must have parked under tree which has dropped a branch in the roof. How am I going to explain a second occurrence of this to the insurance company? Actually it was Bruce trying to tell me he’d found the fox. I made him convince me this was the case which a bit mean of me considering it was about 2m in front of the car and raining. He was very closely followed Roger I think from the MZ team with FOX +3 and FAST and BLN +4 mins. These are the correct times. The ones I read out initially at supper were actually the scores for the first leg of the previous ,multileg, hunt. As a result the final scores are slightly different to those quoted at supper. Positions remain the same.
Thanks to all for coming and particularly to Di who did most of the supper preparation. I should also thank Pierre who did most of the heavy battery transport.
The night was dark and stormy and the street lights were ……………………….
Well not quite but it was wet as 3 of 4 teams assembled at VK3OW’s for the start of the nights fox hunts.
For the first hunt the 2 metre transmitter was hidden in a mature cypress tree in a small plantation about 800 metres from the start. I used an XG3 signal generator as the fox set at -33 Dbm output level. As nobody could hear this I generously increased the level to 0 Dbm. First in was Darian from the FAST team who found the fox after about 3 circumnavigations of the tree. Next was Bruce from the CI team. After first finding the decoy transmitter and than crawling around the base of the tree several times he decided to try higher up and found the fox, 6 minutes after Darian. I probably should have reduced Bruce’s score by a point for finding the decoy but I’m not good a complex maths when I’m wet. Next in was the MZ team, just outside time.
While the teams collected runners and moved to the meeting spot the BLN team arrived. We knew they were coming but unfortunately they didn’t make the start in time for the first hunt.
The next hunt was a distance based hunt, ie the hound who travelled the shortest distance to the fox was the winner. There was no particular time element to this hunt although if two teams had come in with the same distance we would probably have used time to separate them. As it turned out we didn’t need to. We also ran the hunt on 6 metres to add a degree of complexity. Actual points scores were determined as follows. The team with the shortest distance were awarded 0 points and the team with the longest distance the max 10. FAST, who were a close second got 2 points and BLN who were a long 3rd got 7. If we do this again perhaps we’ll try a point for each additional Km.
The MZ team won this one with the FAST team only 0.5Km longer. They were followed by the BLN and CI teams with rather longer distances. Perhaps the Subaru is a bit too fast David?!
The third hunt was in what is probably a power line easement and not shown in street directories. Stephen and I entered this via a gate in the back fence of Ernie VK3FMs and enjoyed a coffee with him while we waited for the hounds. Thanks Ernie. The throb of the BLN Subaru was soon heard out the front of Ernie’s and it paused briefly when the team discovered my car. Reasoning that the fox was close (it was) they were then heard investigating all the Courts in the general area and also the small park west of the easement. The actual “public’ access was 2-3 km away. In the meantime Darian arrived and found the fox. Next in was the MZ team closely followed by BLN. We stopped the clock at 15 minutes. Incidently the modulation on the TX was deliberate. The intention had been to AM modulate the carrier with a half hertz sinewave. The time available to achieve this however was very limited with the resulting waveform remotely resembling a lopsided peaky triangle.
The next hunt was run by Henk and Dianne. First in was the FAST team followed by CI, BLN and closely MZ.
The final hunt was a straight forward 2 metre hunt in Candlebark park. MZ were first in for this one, followed by CI, BLN and FAST, not being so fast for this one.
The hounds then retired for a well earned supper. My thanks to Jenelle for the soup and sandwidges, Dianne for the upside down cakes, icecream and caramel sauce and Henk for the party pies, cocktail franks etc.
The scores are as follows.
Hunts 1 and 3 were timed with a stop watch with hunts 4 and 5 using actual time.
Thanks to you all for coming on a not so pleasant night weather wise.
At sea. Conditions deteriorating. Lots of napping. Some eating and meds.
If you bought a ticket to support the eradication of the rats on South Georgia island you were entered in a raffle for a beautifully illustrated chart of our Spirit of Shackleton trip. No such luck. But I did managed to outbid Ian from Qld for a book on Whaling in South Georgia which Ewen really wanted. Last second bid but managed to secure it. Must have been all that practice on Ebay.
Another dinner holding onto the table as we sailed down the Bransfield Strait.
Tuesday 29 January
Very rough overnight. No early morning wake up call, but now confined to cabins.
Report at 9,45am. Winds 60 knots. Gusting to 89 knots. Waves 8-9 metres.
Breakfast in bed. Yoghurt, apple, bun and cake. Delivered by Kirsten the assistant Expedition leader
A little later Sam dropped by with water bottles. Good left hand catch pitched from the door way.
We had a visit from Dmitri and Josephine , the most visitors we have had all trip. Lunch duly arrived about 12.30, wait for it, meat pattie in bun with lettuce and cucumber, cheese sandwich, and cold chips plus a can of drink. We were lucky to be on the third level which meant at least we could watch the waves as they rose and then sprayed against the side of the ship. More entertainment for us than those on the deck below who had their metal covers placed on their port holes. All in all a very relaxing day, and about 3pm when we eventually got in the lee of the Cape of Horn we could venture out and relieve the symptoms of cabin fever.
Wednesday 30 January
Disembarkment today. We spent most of the morning saying goodbye to new friends, at breakfast, on the bus to the airport, at the coffee shop, in the departure lounge, even on the flight back to Buenos Aires. We were hoping to meet up with a couple from London for dinner, but Ewen succumbed to a migraine. I expect it was the result of another case of inflight food of chocolate biscuits and apple juice.
We actually met up with the “Odd Man In” team downtown in Buenos Aires when we eventually stepped out for a quick bite to eat later that night. We were quite hungry by then.
PS Need to call it a night. Early morning flight to Lima
Fabulous sunny afternoon onboard. Checked out the sundeck and the sun lounges and as it was Australia day we did our Aussie thing and donned the bathers to sunbake. Yes we have photos to prove it.
This chart is included for fellow meteorologists – just conditions for sunning yourself.
Visit to Port Lockroy. Museum with lots is f quaint old stuff, from workshop, kitchen, comms room, met room, bedroom and gift shop.
Headed for our camping spot at Damoy Bay. Perfect weather for setting up tent and radio, photo with flag (note the wind is starting to pick up). It took a good 20 minutes to walk through the snow to top of hill (good exercise). The snow was soft around edge of cravass (only a narrow one), (Ewen checked this out accidently) Seem to have lost this photo.
Glad to make it back down in one piece. Checked out the loo with a view.
Probably should have checked out the penguin colony, but opted for the sleeping bag instead, -12 deg c rating so the cold not a problem. Floor just rather hard, and then the wind really picked up and the tent flapping started in earnest! About 3 hours sleep
Sunday 27 January
Really windy breaking camp. Managed to get the tent back in the bag without it blowing away, trip back in zodiac was more adrenalin rush than Space Mountain, glad to be back on the board, not so happy about the water in places it shouldn’t be. Exit my old Ricoh camera. Don’t have the final outcome on Ewen’s new radio but the brown smell is not a good sign.
Headed to the calmer waters of Paradise Bay for a short landing followed by a zodiac cruise. We again challenged ourselves aerobically with climb through the snow to the top of the nearest hill for the mandatory photo on the Antarctic mainland. We took the quick route down – tobogganing most of the way down. Cool Runnings eat your heart out. We were rather reluctant to leave to the take Zodiac back to the boat as our time had been cut short due to the additional time taken to wend our way down the Lumiere Channel avoiding the icebergs.
Tango lessons with the Captain. The less said about this the better, needless to say if there was a test for this I would have failed. Rather interesting though trying to do the steps and stay balanced as they ship moved.
Dinner with girls. Ewen had mobile phone with roll and pitch application. Recorded a total roll of 30 degrees (18 degrees one way+12 degrees the other way), 2 people fell off chairs, soup spilt.
We were still searching for Macaroni penguins, but managed to find more chin strap penguins and some feeding their baby chicks.
There is a very sheltered bay in the middle of this island, called Whalers Bay where there are the remains of an old whaling station and a research base that had been destroyed by a volcano in the early 1960s. The old buildings were filled with mud from the ash. The sand on the beach was black and you could actually see steam coming off the beach. This was the site for the Polar Plunge. The water on the edge here was positively warm (abt 3 deg) compared to the ocean, we chickened out and left it to the more foolhardy to brave the water.
We walked to one of the high points for the view and checked out the melting glacier on the return to the zodiac. If no one believes that the glaciers are melting they would after they see the continuous drops of water coming off them.
The sea started to become much rougher as we entered the Gerlache strait.
Robbie burns night, just as the bagpipes started to pipe in the haggis the ship began to lurch violently. The wait staff were amazing as they balanced all the trays and the haggis was saved.
Saturday 26 January
Early start today –
View of sunrise, then for Petermann island ( the furtherest south that we went nearly 66 degrees, not quite to the Antarctic Circle) We needed to climb up a rocky hill before descending to the bay on the other side to the landing site. This high spot was a good vantage point to watch the albatroses soaring on the updrafts near the cliff. Further along there was a Gentoo penguin nursery. Here there were more baby penguins. Lot of the Gentoo penguins had two chicks and it was rather special seeing them at such close range. Also Adelie penguins as well.
We took to the zodiacs once more and nothing could have prepared us for what happened next. There were humpback whales about 2-3 metres away from zodiac, breathtaking. Ozzie cut the motor on the zodiac and the whales came to us, some breaching others spouting. (Could have spent a lot more time here too). Eventually found a solitary penguin on an iceberg. Even managed to collect some ice for the bar. On our returning to boat I managed to get a photo of the tails of two whales as they made their dive.
Today started quite calm, but during breakfast the wind really picked up and at one point was gusting up to 60 knots. Susan our expedition leader kept making announcements for us to standby for further information about the landing at Cooper Bay in the morning and Drygalsky Sound in the afternoon. We spent the morning drinking tea and venturing out onto the bow of the ship to view the wild life. The wind was fairly howling, at one point the wind just about blew me across the deck. Found a spot to wedge myself in and lasted about 20 minutes outside. We saw a light mantel sooty albatross and a few macaroni penguins, also lots of unidentifiable little birds.
Scobie gave a talk about his time in South Georgia and Antarctica. This gave us some time to wait out the wind but this was to no avail and we had to cut our losses and head for the Antarctic Peninsula. Ewen headed out to the rear deck, but it was nice and cosy in the cabin. The sea was looking pretty rough.
Good view of some of the glaciers along the south eastern end of South Georgia.
By late afternoon, the sea was still fairly rough. Abandoned listening to one talk and headed for the cabin to find the ”travel calm”. Enjoyed dinner and the conversation, Lee and Wren(nicknamed “bird man” from Seattle, Scobie (a seasoned expeditioner) and Kathryn (geologist turned singer with a passion for boats and the outdoors. Resorted to more heavy duty meds at bedtime and slept like a top.
Tuesday 22 January
No call from Susan the expedition leader this morning, apparently there is none on sea days. The only way I can keep track of the days is by writing the diary.
This morning’s lectures, one by Alex on the geology of the region and the movement of the tectonic plates, the second on Cetaceans by John. Both were very good but again started to doze off in the middle of the second one. We have been trying to walk after meals; there are several levels on the boat, so we are convincing ourselves if the climb as many steps as we can find and investigate all the corridors we can claim to have done some exercise. Ewen has now taken a nap.
Movie after dinner and then down to the Polar Bear Bar
Wednesday 23 January
Another day at sea. Lectures, more movies and food, and lots of fog and ice
Geology lecture by Alex, Movie contrasting Scott and Shackleton.
Mid expedition test. We named our team “Odd man in”, Ewen and his female dinner companions from our night in Ushuaia. We were quite pleased with our win and the 2 bottles of champagne,( not everyone was happy with our result.)
Thursday 24 January
It was good to get off the boat today. Zodiac cruise around the end of Elephant Island (Point Wild) where Shackleton’s men spent 4 months waiting for him to return to rescue them.
Had to rug up well today -1 deg C and snowing. Three layers of wool, a polar fleece and heavy duty waterproof. It was quite an exercise boarding the zodiacs due to a heavy swell. Alex took us out the island, chin strap penguins, macaronis, fur seals and Weddell seals. Broken ice on top of the water, steep rock escarpment and glacier with cracks, blue iceberg.
Lunch was most welcome, needed hot food to warm up. Lunched with the engineers from Queensland. They belonged to the slide rule generation too.
Tabular iceberg competition (guess the weight of the iceberg) – Ewen just missed out on another bottle of champagne.
The day didn’t start very well as Ewen was not happy with his cold shower, but improved with perfect weather for a zodiac landing. Much drier underfoot and not so many fur seals pups. Spent quite some time watching the king penguin juvenile birds (last year’s chicks covered in brown feathers) demanding food from their mothers. Lots of photo opportunities.
We meandered our way up to the top of the ridge where some large birds were nesting. It provided a good view of the colony, especially the striations of colour from the brown fluff balls and the adult king penguins. At the top we could see the glacier with its cracks forming. Apparently a large chunk of ice cascaded down the mountain. Did not see this, but luckily there were no kayakers in the water below. We also caught sight of the skuas making light work of a dead reindeer. Saw some amusing moments in the training pool for the junior penguins as they tried to swim across the creek and stagger out of the water onto the slippery rocks. Back to the boat for lunch, really need to downsize the meals. The food is really good.
The afternoon zodiac the beach left later than originally planned due to a sighting of a large pod humpback whales. (About 30 in total) After some time on deck the old Sony camera battery threw the towel in due to the cold so I went down to the cabin to retrieve the Ricoh. No sooner than I had picked up the camera I looked out the window and there was a whale outside the window. Lousy photo but a good experience to see it breeching.
Eventually set off in the zodiac to Gold Harbour about 6pm. Very aggressive young male fur seals. They must have liked red as they kept following me around. Very uneasy with this, the rocks you are supposed to bang together were pretty ineffective, they are lucky they didn’t get one in the head. More king penguins here and also some gentoos. Some king penguins were still on eggs, but no baby chicks in sight. Huge elephant seals all huddled up together, making disgusting farting noises. The really big one had another pinned underneath the upper part of its body, while the trapped one was flailing around trying to escape. Felt much better when we left here and returned to the boat.
Shared some of Jennifer’s bubbly she won for guessing the time of the sighting of the first iceberg. Another really good meal.
PS All apologies of the penguin overload, it was very difficult to choose just a few.
Museum – This was the manager’s cottage, it even contained the original piano. In the Shackleton room there was a copy of Worsley’s Almanac. Apparently there was even a cinema at Grytvikken and they still have the original movie projector. In another room there was a display of stuffed birds, eggs and whale bones. Samples of penguin skin and seal fur for people to touch. The fur seal skins were particularly soft.
Replica James Caird boat – the one that Shackleton sailed from Elephant Island to South Georgia. Wouldn’t have liked to have been on that boat; six men in a leaky wooden boat for all that time.
Thought I should send some post cards. The queue in the post office was quite long, but the salesperson was doing a sterling job given the demands of some of the customers. Hopefully those cards will have a special stamp on them when they eventually arrive at their final destination
Little church – solid wooden pews, organ, and the story was told that the pastor was only here for 18 months, sent home as he wasn’t earning his keep. Not a lot of customers at the church. Also in the church were some of the original plaques from the cemetery
It had started snowing and it looked picturesque especially with the rusting ruins of the whaling station. This necessitated a quick sprint through whaling station, avoiding seals and wallows on the way to the cemetery. The elephant seals at the entrance to the cemetery were quite vocal. Shackleton’s grave is quite a grand affair, to its right hand side was the small plaque honouring Wild, Shackleton’s right hand man. Dimitri was there doling out Norwegian Vodka in polystyrene cups as we entered the gate. Good view from up here, but pretty chilly and windy. We made a toast to the Boss with Norwegian vodka before running the gauntlet of the seals yet again. (Ewen was quite adventurous investigating remains of the whaling station) Zodiac back to the boat for yet more food.
Definitely not enough time here
Shackleton walk. There was much discussion before as to how difficult it would be. The thought of clambering down greasy slippery slopes in gum boots was rather off putting. Ewen convinced me otherwise and we set off in a group of about 70 people. The start of the climb out of Fortuna Bay was more slippery than I hoped for. After climbing to the top of the first ridge then the surface became rocky, and we crunched our way through the pieces of slate , careful not to cut the gum boots
The view of the upper lakes with ice ready to collapse into it was quite spectacular. Areas of snow were a little slippery to transverse. We could just hear the boat’s whistle from the top of the mountain. I must admit I was much happier once we made the descent on the gravelly hill. I spent much more time looking at where my feet were than the waterfall. It flowed down to a river that was quite wide and lined with gravel and large stones. (very similar to the rivers in New Zealand.)
John spied a colony of Gentoo penguins on the way back and managed to detour across the vegetation to check them out. They were forming a conga line (or it seemed like one) but really there were three of them chasing the one at the front. It was about 1 km from the beach, which seems like a long way for a penguin to travel on its way in and out of the water .It was a nice flat stroll from here down to the beach to the waiting zodiacs.
I thought the expedition leader Susan was joking when she told us on return from our walk to rug up warmly as dinner was a BBQ on the aft deck.
Absolutely spectacular weather today. Some people even got sunburt.
We have had several briefings today. The bird man, the historical man (he was particularly interesting). We have fitted our gum boots. Also learnt about the zodiac procedures and watched some of David Attenborough’s Frozen Planet.
There was the formal welcome and champagne toast, followed by another excellent meal. Will really need to find to gym.
Met a lovely couple from Cairns, Darcy and Raylee. (she’s a Boulia girl and he’s in the meat trade)
Monday 14 January
Smooth sailing overnight and another perfect day (some cloud building)
Early breakfast at 7am in preparation for our trip to New Island. We are in Ross group so we had to wait until the first two groups (Amundsen and Scott) had left. We reached shore of New Island about 8.45. This place is really remote, beats me why anyone would want to try to make a living out here. There are a few buildings up on the top of the low cliffs. Trekked across island to windward side, there were hundreds of birds – black browed albatross circling above the penguin colony. Climbed down the cliff through the button grass to watch the rock hopper penguins returning from the ocean, avoiding the sea lions lurking just below the landing point. Also saw a fur seal sunning itself; kelp geese eating sea lettuce and a variety of small plants.
Cloud formations over the mountains – sky particularly blue.
The afternoon was spent at West Point Island. It was a brisk 30 minute hike uphill to the other side of the island to view the penguin nursery. Spent ages trying to get the perfect shot of the albatross and parent penguins grooming their chicks. Discovered one diligent penguin build a nest. The best shot of the albatross was the one wandering around the button grass. Nigh impossible to get a decent photo of them in flight.
We were treated to a fine afternoon tea in the cottage. Proper tea and homemade cakes. Very enjoyable sunning oneself on the soft lawn amongst the very “English” flower beds. We are becoming very proficient at getting in and out of the zodiac.
Tuesday 15 Jan
Having great difficulty remembering which day it is. We arrived in Stanley (Faulkland Islands) early today. First stop was Gypsy Cove to see more penguins (magellanic penguins, black night herons, turkey vultures, the odd shag on a rock, little brown birds and some more interesting little plants. The cannon on the point was in quite good condition considering it had been there for quite some time. Would have been a pretty bleak cold place to work. Some of this area has been cleared of mines. Not as clearly marked as we would have liked. From here we took a bus into town to visit the museum, lots of old memorabilia (stuff our grandparents would have used)and some exotic china and silver ware. We walked the length of Ross Road, unfortunately no invitation to tea at Government house, but did find an excellent coffee and cake shop after we visited the Post Office. Was hoping to buy some felted soap at the Pink Shop, but they were closed for lunch. Had to settle for a few bars of chocolate at the Bitter Sweet shop instead. Called into the Globe Hotel to check out the flags on the ceiling and got back to the bus just in time to catch the bus back to the boat.
Spent some time this afternoon on the deck trying to spot whales, but gave up and decided it was time to visit the gym (40 minutes in all); very interesting walking on the treadmill as the ship pitched with each swell. Listened to an interesting talk on Shackleton, we are waiting for the final instalment in the next few days. Enjoyed dinner conversation with Elaine a doctor(nephrologist) from London and her friend Sandy.
Wednesday 16 Jan & Thursday 17 Jan
These two days were spent enroute to South Georgia Island. Suffering from conference room syndrome as I kept falling asleep on a regular basis. Ewen attempted to do some radio work while I tried to get some shots of the birds circling the boat. There was a wind change and consequently the air became too cold to stay outside. We crossed the Antarctic convergence in the early hours of Thursday morning. The temperature dropped quite dramatically, now down to 0-2 deg C. As we haven’t done too much today, I thought I should venture back to the gym after lunch. The sea was becoming a little rougher and it made using the equipment fairly interesting. About 2 pm we approached Shag Rocks. Didn’t see any shags, but the shipped slowed so that we could get a little closer to view the rocks. The sea was very rough and at one point the boat lurched dramatically and most things not anchored down slip across the floor, including people. I’m not sure what was in the room next to the gym but it made a loud continuous rumble of metal and I hoped it would not come through the wall. Fortunately we all survived unharmed, and as soon as we moved away from the rocks the sea settled down to a manageable level. Didn’t need any meds tonight and slept like a top.
This morning our group went out first to Salisbury Plain. More king penguins than you can poke a stick at, in varying degrees of maturity, eggs, brown fluffy chicks, moulting chicks, and parents. We saw a white penguin but did not get a chance to photograph it, managed a black one on the return to the zodiac. I watched a giant petrel swoop down amongst them, but did not see it leave. I was hoping for a picture of it carting its dinner away. Fur seals of all ages, even mothers with their babies suckling. They make a fair noise if you get too close. The elephant seals are huge, scary even if they don’t move all that fast. We saw a giant petrel nesting with her young. After nearly 2 hours wandering around the colony, avoiding the seals, we took to the zodiacs and cruised along the beach. There were penguins and seals swimming quite close to the boat. The birds were quite amazing to watch, giant petrels ripping their prey to pieces, and some smaller birds virtually dancing on the water. The wind had picked up for the ride back to the boat, so I was rather pleased to have my custom made balaclava. (Extremely bumpy ride back)
The afternoon at Prion Island. Nesting giant petrels and albatrosses. Saw some courting dances. There was a very friendly young seal who wanted to follow Ewen home. Good close up shot of a giant petrel. Grey and white penguin. (really just juvenile penguins before their final moulting)
alias Templeton Travel Tales – Spirit of Shackleton
Thursday 10 January 2013
It has taken over a day to get to Buenos Aires with 3 flights, nearly 4 hours to Auckland, close to 11 hours to Santiago, and another 2 hours to Buenos Aires. All flights were unremarkable, very little turbulence, quiet and the food was of a reasonable standard.
We were looking out for our fellow expeditioner Wendy from Melbourne. There were a couple of candidates. We met a couple from Research who were headed on another cruise. Apparently they had the same reaction the announcement asking if there was a doctor on board 2 hours out from Auckland. Luckily did not have to return to Auckland. We endured another stopover, this one in Santiago. Interesting sandwich for lunch, white cheese, tomato, spinach and green beans. We were happy to be on our way again albeit a little late for the 2 hour trip to Buenos Aires. The customs form handed out caused a little concern especially the bit about tax on goods totalling over $us 300. Ewen choose the option to plead noncomprehende and fortunately we were never asked for the form when we arrived. The only issue was the reciprocity fee form; apparently we had entered the wrong expiry date in the online form. Eventually escaped the arrivals hall and found our transfer to the hotel.
Buenos Aires was very warm and humid and it was a relief to eventually settle into our room at Hotel Melia. Dinner at the steakhouse nearby was exceptionally good, only wished we had taken a picture of the food; fantastic Angus steak for Ewen and pork fillet for me, both served with grilled vegetables. Excellent sav blanc from the Mendoza region in Argentina.
Friday 11 January
Early start today, 4am for 4.30am pick up for 6.40am flight. Four hours to Ushuaia. In flight breakfast was a tiny pack of savoury shapes, and two different chocolate biscuits washed down with apple juice and a cup of tea. Waiting for our luggage in Ushuaia I caught the eye of the only person I recognised from our earlier flights and correctly deduced it was Wendy from the blog. The Gap Adventure people were well organised with transport and it wasn’t long before we were checking in at the Hotel Albatros. Wendy joined us to explore the sights of Ushuaia. Found several possibilities for dinner, including the Irish Pub. Temperature was about 11deg c and extremely windy and it was good when we eventually reached the refuge of our rooms. (in the dungeon but quiet.)
6pm briefing. We met up with the other expeditioners and Ewen headed out to dinner with 8 women (including me). Pizza and beer.
Saturday 12 January
Tour this morning to the Tierra del Fuego national park. The mountain range rose steeply above the coastal area and quite striking – grey black rock topped in parts with snow. We visited the park office and collected a special stamp in our passports. Also saw sights of Yamani (indigenous people) middens. Vegetation was similar to the beech forests of South Island of NZ. There was evidence of beaver destruction everywhere. Apparently they build dams and consequently the trees drown as they don’t like their roots in the water. We also saw some upland geese and several varieties of orchids ,as well as snow drops, ferns and mistletoe.
Returned to Ushuaia and time was spent looking for a hardware store as Ewen’s you beaut power board plug did not fit the outlets in the hotel. It was Saturday so they weren’t open. Decided to spend our money at the souvenir shop and bought some penguins (black and pink- special stone in Argentina).
Back at the hotel we waited for buses to take us to the boat. We could have walked as it was only 200metres at the most. Quite happy with our room. We have a large window a whole 450 X 750 mm, although they need to clean the outside a bit more often.
Ewen and I went to check out the mud room after dinner (meals are very good) and saw the crew making preparations for the pilot to disembark – a rope ladder tied to the door frame. I scampered upstairs to see if I could get and outside view. Watched the speed boat come along side and the pilot step off our boat onto it. Hoping to get a copy of Stuart’s photo. He caught the exact moment in time.
We are really pleased with our accommodation here in Trogir. It is just a couple of minutes walk from the main square, away from the night life, it ticks all the boxes, very comfortable and most importantly quiet (double glazing on all windows). I can definitely recommend this one. There is a pomegranate tree just outside our window growing in a stone archway, apart from the drip watering system I’m not sure how it survives.
We thought we might see if there was a day trip to Split today, but that did not eventuate. We revisited the sites from our walking tour last night to take some photos and climb to the top of the bell tower of the main church; at least we managed to achieve this without the bells ringing. It seems the island is on the flight path for the airport not far from here, and around 10 o’clock in the morning, it seems that every few minutes there was another low flying jet on approach to the airport. There is a maze of laneways off the main square, with lots of little shops and restaurants. The one good thing is that if you do get geographically challenged you soon end up on the road around the island and quickly relocate yourself. We have also found Trogir’s Jaycar as well. Ewen has now completed his souvenir shopping.
It became quite hot and windy just after lunch, so we retreated to the cool of our apartment for a siesta. This was interrupted by a text from the tour group who were organising our trip to the Blue Cave and the island of Vis on Thursday; unfortunately the windy conditions make it too rough to view the cave. We have opted for a trip to Hvar and Brac tomorrow instead. Ewen’s solution to this disappointment was to order a banana split. He is now having his second rest of the day, before we head out for dinner. We have found the perfect place for dinner (you would love it Sue and John) – yes it has purple tablecloths. It is just a pity you aren’t here to join us.
Dinner turned out even better than expected, grilled octopus with grilled vegetables for me and steak for Ewen.
Wednesday 26th September
Today’s trip to Hvar and Brac(h) was most enjoyable. There was a strong easterly blowing as we headed from Trogir to Split by speedboat, so it was a fairly rough ride. Our waterproof jackets have not had much use up till now, but were quite effective against the sea spray over the side of the boat. We collected a few more passengers at Split and in another half an hour we arrived at Milna on the island of Brac. Apart from the quaint old buildings, the good coffee and the bakery, what I will remember most about this place was the stunning toilet seat of clear acrylic with floral print – very trendy. (Definitely no photos) The male toilet was not as flash!
More bumpy seas on our way to Hvar, but once inside the harbour the wind had dropped, the clouds had cleared and it became quite hot out in the sun. The local guide was excellent, and provided just enough information to make it interesting without overloading the details. Most notable architectural feature was the shed for repairing galleons in past centuries. Check out the large archway at the end of the building. The equivalent of an aircraft hanger for the big ships of that time. There was another fort to conquer, and the view from top was worth the walk up numerous steps. Like all tourist spots there were numerous shops and stalls selling souvenirs. (lots of lavender and olive oil products)
From here we took a short trip across the bay to one of the Pakleni Islands to enjoy one of the beaches. A little bit of sandy gravel and plenty of slippery rocks. The water temperature was okay, (not chilly like Lorne), but it still took Ewen some time to take the plunge. We spent about half an hour swimming out to the buoys and back to the “beach”.
Meal times are totally different here. Breakfast seems to be about 10 am, then there is a snack around midday, and lunch happens around 3-4 o’clock. A new experience today – green pea dip/spread – surprisingly tasty, and an amazing fresh tomato soup. The bitter orange and lemon tart was okay too as were the jam crepes.
Our return trip to Trogir was even more invigorating. Forget the microderm abrasion at the beauty salon, I feel like I have been sand blasted with salt spray. Totally saturated and salt encrusted eyebrows. The trip was topped off with a view of the sunset just as we returned to Trogir. All in all a good day, even though it wasn’t the trip we had wanted to do.
Thursday 27th September
We have been told that the weather here is either Jugo or Bora. This week is definitely Jugo. The day starts of coolish and a little cloud and by midday it is hot and humid with a clear sky, and high chance of sunburn. Our plan was an early start to head to Split for the day. We decided to take the local bus No 37, firstly because it was the next one to depart and secondly to check out how long it would take to get to the airport for tomorrow’s departure. Ewen’s comment, “this bus was built for neither speed nor comfort”; so after an hour or so of rocking and rolling we arrived at the local bus stop in Split. The local bus stop is further from the waterfront and not to be confused with the intercity coach stop near the ferry terminal.
We negotiated a price for a walking tour of the Diocletian Palace scheduled for about 10.30am. This left us with sufficient time to do something totally uncharacteristic for me – indulge in a jam donut for breakfast. The Diocletian Palace was originally built by a local ruler as his retirement home in 3rd century AD. He even built himself a mausoleum so that the locals could worship him when he died. He didn’t take to kindly to the Christians even though his wife and daughter were Christian. Any person (namely Christians) who did not bow down to him was put to death. It seems ironic that when the area became under Christian control the mausoleum was converted to a catholic church (bell tower added) and the pagan statues disposed of or had their heads removed.
The architecture shows a range of influences from Roman right through to the Hungarians, Venetians and the Austrians. There seemed very little respect for previous buildings over the years with the open forum area built on, and archways chopped off so that another building could fit in the space.
Entertainment today was provided by an a’capella group singing in the dome near the Peristyle. They were particularly good, no doubt enhanced by the acoustics of the dome.
It would seem that the plants around Croatia are extremely hardy. Today we saw caper bushes growing out of the stone work around the palace. Yesterday there were small daisies in crevices on the Hvar fort, and as well as the pomegranate tree just outside our apartment window and the numerous fruiting olive trees by the road side.
We opted for the comfortable ride home in one of the intercity coaches for only additional 3 kuna each and returned to Trogir in just under 45 minutes. The market near the Trogir bus stop has some interesting and very tasty merchandise. Sampled some local cherry brandy; alas no bottle of suitable size to fit in my case.
Now comes the difficult task of packing (under the weight limit) for tomorrow’s flight home and then time to enjoy our final night in Trogir.
I don’t think you are meant to sleep in Zadar on Saturday nights. They know how to party long and hard till late and then the street cleaners come through just on day break.
Today’s excursion took us far away to the Plitvice Lakes, halfway between Zadar and Zagreb, about 2 hours drive. We found out today that the limestone escarpment here called Velebit extends all the way down to Dubrovnik, but here it is further inland. There is an extensive freeway network and what is most amazing is the 5.75 km tunnel through the mountains to the central area of Croatia.
The national park we visited had series of 16 lakes, numerous waterfalls and board walks. Obviously the lack of rain has had some impact on the water volumes, but the colour and clarity of the water were particularly noticeable. In the shallower lakes there were most unusual orange finned trout. In most of the lakes you could see fallen branches from trees that have been petrified by the high content of calcium in the water. We walked around a couple of the upper lakes and had our packed lunch at the edge of one of them. A 20 minute ferry (all electric) ride took us to the lower lakes and from here we walked to the Velebit Slap (78metres) the highest waterfall in Croatia. Probably the most disconcerting of the walk was the smaller waterfalls flowing under lots of the board walks with many with no side railings. There were a few native cyclamen growing in crevices in the rock face. After about 4 ½ hours of walking our bus collected us from the other end of the park and headed back to Zadar. We broke the return journey with a meal stop, and checked out a few bears as well.
We are now back in our apartment. It seems rather quiet at present but that could be quite deceiving.
…….. Spoke too soon. Another broken night’s sleep!
Monday 24th September
Not in a great hurry this morning as our bus to Trogir didn’t depart until 11am. Breakfasted on whatever left overs we had, apples, shortbread biscuits and apple burek and later joined the locals for coffee in the main square and then Ewen had a bright idea. As we had passed the equivalent of Zadar’s Jaycar on Saturday morning, he decided he needed to purchase a European plug so that he could make up his own power board for future trips to ARDF championships. (I should be used to this by now.)
It was only a short trip today (just under 3 hours). The road followed the coast line most of the way, so on our right the views of the coast were good and helped pass the time. While on the left, there were a number of churches built on the peaks of the Velebit escarpment. We had no trouble finding our accommodation at Trogir, another rectangular grid of streets. We have enjoyed some of the local cuisine and polished off the remainder of our Serbian white wine.
The local tour guide told us that Trogir has had 25 centuries of continuous habitation, from pre Roman times in 500 BC. There was so much information it is a shame I can’t remember it. The buildings are incredible, not only in design, but the fact they have stood for so many years.
We awoke this morning to thunder, lightning and heavy rain, which meant the breakfast needed to be inside. Slight problem – only one table inside. As we had a tour at 9am, we got the first sitting. The English couple staying here said it was no different to England and so they wiped down one of the tables on the terrace so they could eat outside.
We were picked up from our accommodation and driven to Trsteno to visit an Arboretum which was first established in 1492. It contained a Summer Residence, hedged garden areas and the most amazing irrigation system still in use today. Water flows from a spring higher on the slope, through an aqueduct to a water garden and fountain, and then through channels throughout the garden. The wealthy family that owned the garden had contacts with those sailing abroad and planted exotics from all around the world. At the entrance were two plane trees over 150 years old. There was even a large Manna gum and palm trees and tree ferns of several varieties. Part of the garden had been destroyed in the homeland wars and also bushfires in more recent times. As we were walking past the Summer House a voice in English said “don’t bother about photographing the flowers they’re all artificial” and sure enough close inspection revieled many were plastic. Apparently all the real flowers had been and gone and as someone was coming to do a photo shoot of the gardens they’d decided to spruce the place up a bit!
From here we headed to the Peljesac Peninsular to Ston, another old walled town established by the Venetians. Ston is known for its salt processing pans. We wandered around this area and then climbed part of the wall, just enough to work up an appetite for lunch at Mali Ston (Little Ston) nearby. We were encouraged to take a 30 minute tour of the oyster and mussel farm, showing the old and new methods of farming seafood. We even got to taste the freshly shucked oysters straight off the boat, and then it was time for lunch; a few more oysters, black risotto, grilled fish and even the Croatian version of Crème Caramel and a traditional Ston dessert made with pasta, ground walnuts and chocolate. No more food required for the remainder of the day.
On our return to Dubrovnik the driver stopped at a vantage point so we could photograph the new bridge in Dubrovnik. We have been trying to get a photo of it several times earlier this week, but from a moving bus it is impossible.
We took one last stroll through the old town and then returned home to House Boninovo to pack for Friday’s very early departure.
Friday 21 September
Today started much earlier than the expected 4.30am alarm. Woke up about 1.30am to discover it was pretty dark outside, not the usual lights that shine through the shutters all night. Yes, the power was out, and given the very short time we had allowed to get out the door, I had to try to find the torch in my luggage with the aid of the light of my mobile phone. Even when I eventually found it, I spent quite some time convincing myself that we had allowed enough time to catch the local bus to the main bus station, and finally went back to sleep. Fortunately the power was back on at 4.30.
We did make it to the bus on time for the 6am departure. It was a long haul to Zadar and although the scenery was spectacular we were glad to get here by 2pm. Our apartment is on the 3rd floor again, so we are getting plenty of exercise.
Enjoyed a walking tour of the old town of Zadar late in the afternoon. Yes the Romans were here, as well as the Hungarians, who sold it to the Venetians when the Hungarian king was a bit short of cash (shades of Australian state governments here), and the Austrians. The old town is on the peninsular about 1km x 400m with the streets set in a rectangular grid; much better than Belgrade to navigate around. The tourist map is very good as tourist maps go, but my cut and paste (actual paper and sticky tape) brought from home has been extremely useful even though it gets some strange looks.
There are lots of little eateries and food shops around our apartment, so it is quite economical to purchase something to take back to here and put our feet up.
Saturday 22nd September
The apartment grows on you after a while. There is some noise at night from the street below and thankfully the bells just outside our bedroom window don’t ring. The main bell tower at the other end of the street did however start to ring at about 7.45am, an acceptable time. It’s a bit tired inside but we have a kitchen, bedroom and a lounge room.
A very leisurely start to today and even had a chance to speak to family via skype before heading out. It is a casual 20 minute walk to the main bus station where we purchased our tickets for Monday’s trip to Trogir. After being stung 10 Euros for a taxi to the wrong church(our meeting point yesterday) we figure we can walk there on Monday without too much effort as it is fairly flat. So as they say, seeking for further amusement we struck out to find the business centre of Zadar. We happened upon a large cinema complex with a market at the front. For about $1 AUD we bought more grapes than we actually needed. We then ended up in the port area and joined the locals for their Saturday morning coffee ritual. (Actually the best coffee that I have had since we left home.)
The highlight today would have to be the Museum of Ancient Glass displaying objects found the local area made in the second half of the first century AD. We were amazed as to the quality (extremely thin) and design of the miniature bottles, jewellery and food containers, plates, jugs, glasses etc. This museum if you only do one museum in Zadar is the pick; it’s well set out and not particularly crowded. I’ve never thought too much about when glass started to be used but it seems from the first century BC and probably much earlier, first from natural glass, there were a few lumps of this in the museum recovered from shipwrecks, and then man made glass.
We bought some lunch at a nearby bakery and took it to our room to eat. As you can imagine the nearby bakeries are getting a fair bit of patronage from Ewen. After lunch we went for a walk around the outside of the old town, checking out the gardens (several wedding parties were having photographs taken). We spent a few minutes listening to the sea organ on the way and then climbed the bell tower (totally deafened when it struck the half hour – good job it wasn’t 12 o’clock) and finished with the mandatory ice-cream. I was a bit disappointed that we did not make it to Pag to the lace museum (only open irregular hours out of season), but there were women selling genuine hand-made craft (crotchet and knitting). It took me a while to realise they knit the opposite direction to the way I was taught.
At present Ewen is indulging in another of the local customs – yes he is taking his siesta now! (no photo I am afraid!) The other plus side to this apartment is the corkscrew I found in the drawer, so I will indulge in yet another local custom very shortly too.
We took a very pleasant evening stroll down to the other end of the peninsular tonight to view the Solar powered light display. Would have loved to put a short video on the blog, but unfortunately the size of the file is too big.
Today’s tour was to Mostar in Herzegovina. Again another early start. This bus trip heads north from Dubrovnik along the coast road. The views to the Elaphite islands are spectacular. In the channel between the peninsular and mainland there are countless fish farms for oysters and mussels. The delta region of one of the rivers in now converted to market gardens. There were several border crossings today, nothing interesting to report. Because of the bus size and the road conditions it was necessary to drive through Herzegovena and back into Croatia before re entering Herzegovena to get to Mostar. To explain further, Herzegovena has a narrow strip on land going to the coast which cuts Croatia into two parts.
We stopped at a little town called Poticeljia with Turkish architecture, domed roofs and again more steps leading up to a wall and fort. I have a feeling this was more a retail opportunity for the locals than anything else.
The road leading into the central area of Bosnia Herzegovina is flanked on the western side by the river and beyond that steep granite escarpment on a massive scale.
We were taken on a walking tour of Mostar old town, over the famous bridge (first completed in 1566, destroyed in 1993, and finally rebuilt around 2005-6). The old town is very commercialised. The locals supplement, or perhaps earn, their living by jumping from the bridge, at 25 euro per jump from any person or group willing to pay. The drop is about 20 metres.
We also saw a private mosque, and visited a Turkish house. I particularly liked the carved furniture and fine cross-stitch hanging on the walls.
Some of the modern buildings are quite a contrast to the old 0nes.
We have resisted purchasing any souvenirs this trip, especially when it all looks mass produced and on a closer look there is a “made in China” sticker inside.
While there are some interesting things to see in Mostar a day trip from Dubrovnick is probably not the best use of time. Half a day is enough particularly if you’ve already seen a walled town so it would be better to see it as part of a through trip to somewhere
Today we met a lovely couple from Perth. We lunched together and rather enjoyed a good dose of Aussie humour. We eventually made it back to our accommodation in Dubrovnik about 6.00pm and were greeted with a nice cup of tea by the owner. She left us to go shopping and soon another couple from Canada joined us on the terrace. We had a rather limited conversation in English as their native language is French. At this point a lady from Switzerland arrived and wanted accommodation. She spoke only Italian and German; so with my limited school German I explained the situation and told her to come back later. Ewen and I decided to go to find some dinner, and left the French speaking couple to deal with her if she came back. Not sure if she came back but the Canadian couple made some comment about appreciating our humour.
Wednesday 19th September 2012
Breakfast on the terrace this morning was a wonderfully relaxed way to start the day. Ewen was keen to ride the chair lift to top of the mountain above Dubrovnik and from here we planned to walk back to the old town. Ewen disappeared through a laneway behind the fort on the hill going to check out the technology on top of the tower and it took me about 20 minutes to find him. The start of the track down was somewhat elusive as well but eventually Ewen found it and we zigzagged our way down. Thanks for the use of your runners Bruce. The view was worth the walk. We enjoyed a sandwich and iced tea before heading to the maritime museum.
The maritime museum contained pieces of glass dishes and objects from ships that have sunk in the 9th and 10th century. Dubrovnik has been a port on the Adriatic coast for centuries. What was of particular interest were the navigation charts and instruments used by the sailors. They also claimed it was the skilled sailors from this area that lead the Spanish Armada to their victories.
Our attempt to take a trip in a glass bottom boat was aborted, as when the time came only an ordinary boat was available. We used the time to visit the Franciscan monastery and the church and garden nearby. Rather enjoyed sitting in the cool courtyard.
We took a chance with the local buses and managed to get down the main bus station to purchase our tickets to Zadar for Friday. Mission accomplished we returned to our wonderful accommodation and have been refreshed with a beer.
The other highlight of the day was hearing the Dubrovnik String Quartet who played in the small St Saviours Church. There were only seats for about 30 people. A very intimate performance indeed and wonderful music.