Holidays 4

We had a lovely but exhausting time. I’m afraid I opted out altogether one day and read at home(!) for the sake of being sociable on the others. We went to the beach and for a day to a well-done hot pools area and went to see a Bond film among other things. Good fun. The hot pools area was very good. They had 12 different pools of varying heat from sauna (which I could hardly put a toe into but saw one boy swim underwater in!) to fairly tepid ones for the end of some slides. We went down that several times, the 3 kids trying standing up. X got really good, Y could do it to half way down and Z seemed somehow to keep stopping and sort of hopped half way down before finally sitting down, much to the amusement of those waiting!

[Postcard from Ibiza] The old city is really lovely, up on a hill behind great fortifications of a lovely pinky-yellow rock. But the part down by the bay where all the hotels are is being terribly ‘developed’ and will soon be solid concrete! Our hotel is so nice with its own swimming pool (I haven’t been in yet but today is very warm and tempting). Tomorrow we are taking a coach tour all over the island and then we plan to hire bicycles!

I had a long letter here when we got back 2 days ago ago. I’ve written re dates and said to make all arrangements as I don’t mind what I do or when. I’m getting so used to making no decisions and just going around where I’m told and loving it! X and I had a marvellous car trip together and stayed in some wonderful places. I think I really enjoyed the little self-contained lodges in National Park where you looked after yourself re feeding but fires lit and place cleaned by the boy and washing up done! We cooked on a wood stove – made a gorgeous milk pudding as the fire slowly went out after supper and the oven lasted warm for a long time. On the way to the mountains we are staying again in a little lodge on a great lake with X and daughter who is my god-daughter. After all this grand living I shall be quite happy to sit for a bit. It has been extremely interesting and I’ve met some very nice people. Anyway I’m so glad I came and it’s all so easy now. Gosh how I fussed!

X and I left last Saturday from Salisbury and stayed 2 nights with her eldest son and family in their married quarters. Chaotic family – various relatives there too as there was a big dance in the mess that night. Then on to Bulawayo. Very comfortable and Bulawayo biggish pleasant town. Went to a drive-in cinema to see film about Ahmed the Largest African Elephant and masses of other game. Hadn’t been to a drive-in since Jamaica. Then on to the Ruins near Kyle Lake where we are staying in a little round thatched chalet. Communal lavs and bathrooms with wonderful hot water. We do all our cooking on a wood stove that is lit for us by an African and he does all washing up. Luxury camping. The ruins are quite extensive and consist of walls made entirely of granite ‘bricks’ – some still 20 feet high and about 15 ft wide. Also on top of nearby hill more ruins like the others – stiff climb up but magnificent views from the top – the whole thing is set in the middle of bush and no one knows why or when they were built but as it must have been done by primitive people it’s an incredible feat. These camp sites are all in National Parks and very well maintained – you can also have cottages or lodges with more accommodation – the chalet we have costs about £1 per night inclusive of sheets, cooking equipment, light, wood and baths – very comfortable and snug. Going on tomorrow to a hotel at Hot Springs where you can swim in the baths and drive through the nearby mountains. We’ve another 2 stops after than and back to Salisbury.

Lap of Luxury – Am certainly living it up and shall have to live on bread and water when I leave X both for the sake of my purse and my figure. Never mind it is all enormous fun. We have had 2 nights in a very pretty hotel looking out over Kariba Lake which is vast and one looks across the lake to a lovely mountain range. Visited the dam, crocodile farm and a delightful quiet trip on the Ark which was a ship from which Operation Noah was organised when they rescued so many animals when the valley was being flooded. A middle-aged couple bought it and turned it into cabin cruiser and live there all the time. We anchored in a quiet backwater and watched birds and natives fishing – all v. peaceful and pleasant.

Operation Noah

We flew up here to the National Game Park – over 5000 acres and have been out in little buses seeing the game. That has been very exciting and we’ve seen masses and some gorgeous birds – lovely bright colours, very decorative. Lots of baby elephants and zebra. We saw the perfect picture of a young leopard sitting in a tree – just looking straight at us but too far to get a photograph with my camera I thought but very clear with the binoculars – and even without. There is a water hole just in front of the hotel and about 3 lots of elephants came down at lunchtime and were so funny chasing the wart hogs off. Lots of ear flapping and trumpeting and showing off – only a ditch between us and them so it looked as if they were right in the garden. This is an interesting new hotel only built in 1972 – central main area with 2 large bedroom wings – 2 floors only. The central area has a dome open to the sky with a fountain and plants growing up. The walls are covered with large pieces of local stones all varnished. We’ve seen loads of game and even get up in the freezing cold at 5.30 a.m. to go out and see them. Soon gets warm when the sun gets up.

Have had a very extravagant tour last week with X – such gracious living as I’ve never known but it’s been marvellous. It’s been a wonderful holiday – I got quite brown at the Victoria Falls but it’s colder here out of the sun. I freeze until the sun gets really hot. I never want to be really cold again it is so marvellous to have sun.

 

On Wednesday we went to Orakei Korako which is a thermal reserve. The reserve itself was most impressive. It was mostly around several acres of large flat ground with numerous bubbly ponds breaking through the crusty surface and having a long wall of very white silica as backdrop. The whole thing was made more effective by the vivid orangy greeny algae that live on the rocks over which the hot streams pass. On Thursday we spent the morning in the hot pools in Taupo. They’re fantastic. At 98 F they reduced my desire to swim to nil in about half a length and thereafter I just lay, occasionally opening one eye to make sure the kids hadn’t drowned – exhausted by my morning exertions, I slept all afternoon.

 

Coming through Belgium, Germany, Austria, Yugoslavia, it was thick snow, just like fairyland. With all the Christmas tree forests shimmering in the sun. Greece was a bit warmer and we camped by the sea and the pine forests. Istanbul was a great place, really interesting, the Bazaars were a sprawling honeycomb of dimly lit passages laden with merchandise. We went to the Blue Mosque and explored the waterfront and ate fish steaks down by the Bosphorus.

 

We spent three days in Toronto, staying with some kids we’d met on the train. It was grey and snowy and cold, but we had fun. Went to Niagara Falls one day. Then we went up to Montreal and stayed a few days there. I loved it there. Such a change to be in an old city again, with winding, cobbly streets (in the old quarters), and the whole city has got such a good spirit. Can’t really define it, but it’s a great place. We were staying with some kids in the French district, and although the whole city was under hundreds of feet of snow, it was all lovely.

 

We drove through the pine forests to Troy and explored the ruins, then we went on to see the ancient city of Ephesus. We drove along the coast and we saw the Dardanelles and Greek islands. The scenery was very beautiful.

 

After we left Denizli we drove high up into the mountains over 8,000 ft, and it was thick snow and freezing cold. We saw wolves, eagles, and tribesmen galloping on horseback across the snowy plains. On the Russian border, near Mount Ararat, we saw a bear. The country was really wild. When we drove across the border into Iran it was snowing. The roads were really bad. Tehran was fun, Isfahan was beautiful, the mosques are wonderful, all green, gold and blues mosaic work. There was a very old palace there, and some fabulous wall paintings, still being restored. The Shah Abbas hotel was wonderful, all the best craftsmen in Iran have contributed their skills, it is a national showpiece. The ceilings and walls have lovely paintings and mosaic work. They did beautiful engravings and jewelry, and the carpet factories are very interesting. They make the most intricate patterns and lovely colours. We went on to see the ancient city of Persepolis which was very interesting.

 

The desert was a wonderful place – so peaceful and still. Great plains of stony ground covered with little silvery and yellow bushes. We climbed up and down mountain ranges, saw mirages, and eagles. Once we came out upon a high plateau and saw before a great blue lake in the middle of a plain, surrounded by shimmering salt flats and there was a little mud village beside it. In the mornings and evenings it was really freezing cold, we used to burn the bushes for camp fires and cook potatoes in the ashes. We used to come across the odd primitive mud village and a couple of shepherds and flock of goats, and little donkeys laden with firewood.

Foreign parts

We are not far from the Limpopo physically, but centuries away from Kipling’s (?) description (in a manner of speaking). That’s what is so disappointing after my other trips and stays in Africa.

You seem set to come to Portugal but I wonder if you realise it’s gloomier here in winter than at home. Although it’s a bit warmer, people don’t have heating in their homes, and this high-rise flat in the suburbs is obviously built with the heat of summer in mind (i.e. lots of outside walls, no carpets). It rains lots too and is very windy. If you think you don’t mind all that, do bring umbrella, waterproof shoes and a couple of sweaters, but most of all don’t forget a sleeping bag. [This did not prove – with further off-putting remarks – to be an irresistible invitation!]

Last weekend our class hired a car and went to Sesimbra and then to Evora. It’s there that they have the Chapel of Bones that X talked about. My friends couldn’t understand why I was so keen to see this gruesome room with walls made of thigh bones and skulls.

There was a gale blowing and high waves, so, with coral reefs on each side of the entrance and the most vicious sharks to be found anywhere, we decided to head up north and try to land on the lee side of Madagascar.

The two other people who’ve arrived came from Zamboanga on one of the regular boats which nearly sank because it was overloaded. (One sank a couple of weeks ago and 100 people were drowned or eaten by sharks.) After that our journey seems safe by comparison. 

pet parrot

 

 

I do have a separated ‘room’ to myself in the house at the moment which is very nice. The pet parrot is demolishing the straw divide little by little.