Holidays 5

I am temporarily browsing with the dear old aunt – now 85 and as perky as ever. Her memory is so marvellous we both have the urge to strip her brain of any bits of past-family news before she departs this life. She came to the wedding in a borrowed hat (rather too big and stuffed with paper) and thoroughly enjoyed it – everyone always so pleased to see her. It turned out to be such a pretty wedding (fraught with drama to the end!) I gathered up the 18 frozen corpses, banging together like rocks [could they be pheasants I wonder??] , a mountain of branches, buckets, wire, flowers, jam jars, my fur coat and the aunt on the previous Thursday evening and delivered things at the various houses as I went along.

Our trip to X was marvellous. Good times started as soon as we got on the train. There were a nice bunch of people travelling with us. All of us united by ‘third-class coach conditions’ (sleeping curled on the hard seats, three-day picnics because train food is so expensive, suffering discrimination and rude behaviour from train guards and conductors on account of being the lowest economic class on the train). Anyway we had a lot of fun and it was even quite hard to part from a few of them – living with people for three days and nights it seems as if you’ve known them for years. Travelling across Canada is an amazing experience. It is such a vast country and you remember that the railway runs along the southernmost part, and that all the major cities and towns follow the railway – which leaves about 80% of the country sparsely populated, remote and wild: ‘The North’, in fact, – ‘The North’ being also a very romantic almost legendary country, deeply embedded in the collective Canadian conscious, a semi-myth that I can feel somewhere inside me too. As a matter of fact it’s pretty incredible to see how little of Canada is populated even when you travel the main route. You can go for a whole day and night in Ontario just passing the occasional Indian village and for the people who live in those villages the train is often the only means of transport. The train passes once a day. Of course the whole country was deep in winter and snow when we were travelling: the Rockies, days of flat, flat prairies where the sun goes down on a sea of snow like it does on the flat ocean, the vast frozen lakes and forests of Ontario – and then you’re in Montreal one night after days of spaciousness and nature, wham right into Montreal main station and crowds of people milling around and bright lights and noise and speed.

As long as it was fine it really was a gorgeous place for lazing or boating – but the walking was a bit too energetic to be really attractive in spite of the wonderful views to be gained by fighting up through the bush. It really needed a sailing dinghy to be complete! But the old launch with its African Queen chugging diesel engine was useful in a leisurely way – the only trouble being that its throttle-fixing catch was broken so that, if you didn’t keep your hand on it, it gradually slid back to an almost-closed position, and the boat went very slowly indeed – but that meant standing down in the well of the boat, under a rather low roof, and getting the smell of the engine – whereas if the throttle had been alright, one could have stood up on the seat and looked over the top the whole time – and steered with one foot.

Al fresco shower

The holiday home is minute and my heart sank – it’s really rather scruffy but once here 24 hours I feel it’s my ‘scruf’ and don’t mind so much! It’s got all mod cons in quite its own style – the frig is in an outside shed with the loo and the shower is in the garden – lovely hot water – and basin too.

We have an electric fry pan, jug and single ring cooker, radiator that’s left on low all year round to keep it aired and a party line phone for the whole Bay regulated by a form of Morse. We’re one short and one long!!!

 

Having good time in glorious USSR. Still have our noses, but X’s feet keep threatening to fall off!!

Outings 3

This time it was a film called Raiders of the Lost Ark. It was the most awful tosh, and very violent – but with some clever special effects.

I went last Saturday to a ‘Men’s breakfast’ at 7.30 a.m. where to my amazement they had managed to collect well over 50 men. We were promised bacon and eggs, but in fact supplied with two large and pale sausages floating in gravy, which I abhor with sausages – but the talk was quite interesting.

Two pale sausages

 

It was expensive! but good and the plates not so overloaded that they put you off. I think we shall have to go back again sometime to try some of their more exotic dishes particularly one offered among the sweets ‘whole Camembert cheese, deep fried with tamarillo sauce’. The menu board offered ‘coffee (bottomless cup)’ but I’m glad to say ours did actually hold their liquor quite safely.

Did you see the museum? A most incredible hotchpotch of anything and everything that might be interesting! We also saw a diving museum . Very interesting in parts – amazing the amount they salvage – thousands of gold and silver coins. However I suppose it cost thousands too. A stainless steel sink and plastic comb from the ferry that sank looked a little out of place but I suppose their day of interest will come.

We went to a film called Northern Safari. Very good photography but rather stilted commentary, as they ploughed from Perth via Alice Springs to the Gulf of Carpentaria and back round the edge – a man, his wife and his sister in a 1948 Chevrolet or something of the sort, towing a trailer which carried supplies, tents and an 11 ft plywood boat. He was a brave man (and highly ingenious as for instance when he got stuck in a river he made a winch consisting of a young tree propped across the track behind two tree stumps, with a six foot bough lashed across it with wire fishing line – with which he proceeded to pull the car out single handed while the ladies indulged in admiring photography. And since he hadn’t got an axe with him, to save weight, he shot the tree down with about ten rounds from the hip at a foot’s range!)

A funny thing happened. We went to get our visas and the Consul called us in and said he had something to show us. We all sat down and he ordered tea and coffee and showed the other three some photographs, but not me. Then he showed them to me and they were of a girl very like me. Apparently he had been going to marry her 2 years ago but something had gone wrong. On the strength of this he invited me out to dinner and then said the others could come along to chaperone me. We had a really fabulous evening. He took us to one of the best restaurants and we had drinks at a most unusual bar , then went downstairs to eat and watch the floor show. Then we drove on to the Hilton and went up to the top and looked out and saw the whole of the city spread out beneath us. We danced and drank and had a later supper and watched the floor show and then I collected a marriage proposal.

Travel hazards

X has leeches galore I gather – nothing seems to faze her – she loves it all, people and country.

Last stop in view of the volcano who’s been blowing his/her top in a big way and the ski fields are closed and everyone round is losing millions. We came past when it was first starting – mild puffs and black clouds – but later rocks the size of cars and lava streaming down have caused a great mess and the acid from the ash that was thrown up 10,000m has blown far and wide.

We have amazing letters from X. Being a vegetarian must have made her though – the miles she goes through forest and crossing rivers so rough she had to have a man each side to hold her up – and spends all her days covered in mud and sopping and loves it all – up at 3.30 a.m. and in bed by 2.30 p.m. – she’s a wonder at never missing an opportunity.

I arrived with the realisation that I had left the letter with the name of our motel on my desk at home. So I put Avis (‘we try harder’) to the test and they certainly came up trumps. At the fifth telephone call the girl on the desk established where I was booked in, and when I looked helpless and asked how to get there first produced a map and then the offer of a lift when she went to lunch. In fact she got held up and got her boss to take me!

I am housebound. I left asking for a driving test too late – they stopped 18th December and can’t take me until 16th January. As I’m booked in I don’t think the police would mind but I was afraid of the insurance – ‘they’ said if I had an accident and passed my d. test they’d pay up but not if I failed – fair enough but I’d be so jittery I decided not to risk it.

I’m fed up with the travel agency woman who has a horrible nasal voice, and treats me like an imbecile, which annoys me even if I am one.

Please excuse my writing and any mistakes as I am writing in a very dim light, sitting on the floor of a large room, off a typical Persian hotel courtyard. We have broken down yet again, about our 25th breakdown. We have hit 4 cars, 2 lorries and 1 bus so far, it has been a rough trip but adventurous.

The Crash Tally

We broke down for 5 days at Xmas and we had a really swinging time in a small hotel in Turkey. The Turkish hospitality was really overwhelming.

We then took off across the desert, along a camel track. We were warned not to go, and to take a guide – X just laughed! Result, we got bogged down about 12 times and had to dig ourselves out. We got lost many times. We tore off our rear bumper and rear lights and had to tie them on with rope and the lights with sticky tape. We are now 24 days behind schedule because of all the breakdowns..

Without a car of my own it has been a bit restricted as they have quite forbidden me to use the country buses. It is quite a relief really as they are the most crammed vehicles that I have seen and just trucks with sides of boards and board seats inside. There is no gap down the middle for the conductor so he hangs on to the outside on a kind of running board and gets the fares from there and looks in imminent danger of death at every corner.

X is quite terrified of your new motor bike and keeps saying how potty you are, but it must cut own on transport costs tremendously – as long as replacement parts for the pinched bits isn’t more! Did I tell you about our car? Because a part which cost about 40 cents broke and I didn’t take it in the same day another part costing $124.21 broke = total bill $272.50.

If you get a machine do spend a lot on the accompanying ‘gear’. They say that leather is best at avoid painful abrasions if you do have a fall. Don’t ride on ice; it upsets one incredibly quickly once you start sliding – very difficult to correct! Do have your bike fitted with the bars across the front which protect your leg if it falls with you still on it. [Countermanded by instructors as likely to trap your leg and/or break it!!!] Before I had a m/c I spent a lot of my lunch hours reading m/c mags. Their advice was ‘Imagine what might happen and work out what you would do. What, for instance, would you do if your throttle stuck open?’ And when I had a bike it did happen once and with all my forethought I managed not to panic – took the clutch out and turned off the ignition before the engine blew up – and then nearly fell off when I let the clutch in again while still doing about 40, as of course it almost locked the back wheel!

The quote for going to SA or USA en route was staggering, and for both astronomical, so I’ve cut my cloth to the size of my pocket. My only extra frivolity is to book to come back via Tokyo where, if I have any funds left I hope to stay a couple of days. I’ll let you know flight etc. later when I receive the tickets from the Travel Agency. I got so cross, everything they quoted and gave me brochures for, after I’d agonised over them for a day and made up my mind, on going back was told all those prices were now out of date and in one case it was currently 3 times as much.

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.

Holidays (3)

We’ve been talking about a little holiday for so long I got onto that and was all agog to go to Kakadu up in the Northern Territory of Oz – but the rather dubious promoter wanted the earth for the trip – all based on coach trips. We put it off and really I don’t think a coach trip would be any good for X – he’d sleep his way through Australia and hate being woken up to look at aboriginal paintings etc – and the flies!! So I turned to the Islands again but they look v. artificial apart from Norfolk where we’ve been – and where Y and Z went on their honeymoon. The coach tour was organised for hotels and meals – which appealed to me – tho’ usually I hate the vast amount they expect you to eat. Now X says let’s go to the Bay of Islands.

fw 001
asleep on the coach tour

 

X invited Y [younger relative] to stay so he went down on Sunday to come back the Tuesday week. By Saturday X was looking for an early flight! … I gather they went swimming & McDonald’s, hydrosliding & McDonald’s, ice skating & McDonald’s, movies & McDonald’s etc.

8 adults, 6 2/9 grandchildren, 4 cats and 10 bikes, trikes and scooters – a recipe for chaos? We all arrived at a very smart 4 bedroom house … Just at the moment I’m relaxing at the hot pool cafe while the 1st instalment of family change for the pool.

She said X had told her I’d always wanted to go to Georgia and she said it was very handy to Delhi and I must go and stay. I’ve just had a look at my globe and think it must have been Tibet we were talking about, the other place I want to go to! and yes Tibet looks possible.

We think we’ll try and organise ourselves ahead of time and go to Tasmania next year – all the crowd we used to go round with lived there at one time. I don’t think it’s as exciting as some places I’d choose but doesn’t move so fast!

We found a large stand of kauris and found them quite awesome – very odd such huge trunks and funny twiggy branches on top.

Friends just back from there [Cairo] found it dirty and rather frightening – apparently not changed from our time there, except the pyramids are crumbling so much you can’t climb them. I gathered from an article I saw recently ‘they’ had found some new burial places – aren’t we hypocrites? – once the bones are dry or crumbled it’s okay to dig them up – earlier it’s the most heinous crime of body snatching.

Spelling

We went to Harry Potter and the pholpersers stone. It was realy funny because Hadrige kept on saying I souldn’t of told you that. At the end Harry was in the hospital win because he was very badly ingered. He had berty bots every flavour beans and propheser Drubledore had a ear wax flavour.

I liked the friends and relitives we visited. As for the food, I loved it all especialy: the ice cream topping, the cocolate mouse, the picnic’s ect. 

fw 006
making the cocolate mouse

Give up the earnest job and take to dress designing and creating from your eerie! (How on earth is an eagle’s nest spelt? I am sure ‘eerie’ is wrong but can’t think how it should be and I appear to have tidied my dictionary away!)

Funny – now she’s got a spell check cos it doesn’t pick up incorrect usage. It said ‘a bout 6 months’ and ‘little room to spear’!

A real estate office had a notice in the window advertising ‘560 acre’s of land with a calved drive’!

[From dyslexic child, as written, in flowing and beautiful handwriting! – some guesswork required!]

We just went up to X; (hears our ajender) Day one: find camp ground, set up srunk tent, drink coke eat porky bats, go see X (daddys Godmothr) Day Two: go to beach laze around on beack and in shrunk tend. (and go to balhs). Day three; same as day two. Day four; drive to Y lion Safri, and have ago on, the hrydo slide, the mini golf the train (mini) the pedel boot to the tobgan, and we saw a magic show and a star tallin quest. (we also so the lions, tigers, bufflo, deer etc.). Then we went to Pizza hut had dinner went to X’s house and whatched star trek (the motin pitcure).

X was there with Y. Z has a queer decease ?hands, feet and mouth which is evidently rampaging round the preschoolers.

Holidays 2

In April X and I went to the Hong Kong Sevens and really enjoyed the excitement and ‘foreign-ness’ of H.K. X travelled home from there but I went on to Sydney and had 10 days with Y. It was a wonderful holiday and has definitely given me ‘itchy feet’.

X has been on her travels nearly a year now – current trekking in Nepal area – I think – having seen a lot of India and worked with Mother T. in Calcutta. Her money is holding out as she’s been living so cheaply.

I went the real tourist route, and X took me to see Niagara Falls. I was overwhelmed with the immense power and volume of the thing – and it wasn’t over commercialised with hotdog stands and all that – a pleasant surprise.

aching posterior

I finally made a short trip to Lesotho in March, and even then it was quite cold. I went about on a pony for a few days, except when I just had to get down and use my legs to ease the aching posterior…I later went to Madagascar again and met up with my friend who is still living with his Tandroy family in the south… I caught up on the complicated family tree and visited the old man who sacrifices zebu at ceremonies who is now over 100. My Mozambique travels were only in the south… animals sighted included several baboon troops along the road from Chimoio to Tete, and a hippopotamus not much below eye level in the Buzi estuary whilst travelling along it in an overloaded boat.

I have never been to Durham so a friend and I are going to look at the Cathedral and have lunch! In April I’m going back to Skye for a week – before the midges arrive.

Exotic adventures

“We were invited to a Malay wedding. The bride and groom wore beautiful costumes of cotton and gold thread woven. This was called songket. They looked lovely. The whole ceremony took place without the bride! And they only came together after all the vows were taken! And yesterday I went hiking in the forest. I saw lots of weird and wonderful insects and animals.”

“Have just spent a delightful week in Israel – but so busy sightseeing that I got no cards written. This church [on postcard] is relatively modern, but very beautiful. Beneath is the (possible) court of the High Priest with a prison alongside, and in the garden beyond is a street which definitely dates back to the time of Christ. But interesting as Jerusalem is, I found the countryside even more memorable. This year the spring has been wet, and everywhere is carpeted with wild flowers, tiny and delicate – even on the bare rock of the desert. Quite amazing!”

“Up in the Pyrenees – croissants and local apricot jam breakfast – hot sun just over mountains. Taking little local train higher up today.”

croissants & apricot jam

“Inside a pyramid at Cairo was not exactly inspiring, nor was Jesus’ birth place in Bethlehem, but I am glad to have had the experience all the same!”

“So far, so good – in spite of the aborted coup. Now that Gorbachev is back, the Muscovites seem happier. We are leaving on our way to Siberia, 4 nights on the trans-Siberian train. A few of my ‘comrades’ play Scrabble so it should be a very pleasant journey.”

[Ebeltoft] “This is the perfect place for a holiday – delightfully quaint little town bordered by beaches and sheltered by tree covered hills full of flowers – if only they could get the weather right too! It’s wet, windy and cold!”

[Meeru Island, Maldives] “This is certainly a beautiful place (coups apart!). The water is so warm and clear azure blue, perfect for snorkelling with amazing range of coral and fish. The accommodation is fairly basic in bungalows on the beach but it’s very clean.”

[Alghero, Sardinia]So far, so good but today some undesired clouds are lurking here and there. / Have played a few games of Scrabble but concentration is difficult after a pasta meal and plenty of wine, or with the Med. lapping gently at ones feet./ And I, sober, still managed to lose, but consoled myself with plenty of gelati which are grand!/ We went to the hills by coach for a Shepherds’ Picnic consisting of lamb stew, fresh curd cheese, sucking [sic] pig and all the red wine we could drink./ Drank two glasses of unadulterated wine so no complaint, real achievement! On the whole people are helpful as to our pigeon [sic] Italian.”

[Arizona] “I love this [Hopi] pottery, wish I could buy some of the Kachinas too. Never mind – better not to acquire too many material possessions. The Hopi and especially the Navajo weaving is so beautiful that I could buy up all the blankets. They are incredibly expensive though – so no hope.”

“Have seen trees so big you can drive through the middle and even a hollow one where 23 horses were stabled by US Army!”

“… a very hairy drive of about 15km over riverbed stones – the road wove back and forth over the bed, and in a couple of places had water (v. shallow). The map had a thick dotted red line for this section, where it should have been thin – then I never would have attempted it. However we all survived – 2 women + 1 car. Was too preoccupied to even think of photos.”

“As usual I find the beauty of the little chapel overwhelming. We managed to enjoy a minute of peace before a flood of huge Americans in shorts invaded the tranquillity.” [Oh dear – even postcards can be non-PC!]

“One day I went on the big tour that went to the Blue Mountains and some caves… we saw the B. Mts, very beautiful but no time to go on an overhead trolley thing as we had to get on to the caves, like temples. I now know I’ve done caves, they all look the same to me, except these after we’d been in them 10 minutes and gone up 80 steps, and there were some 200 more to come, I felt quite faint, and thought it would be easier to get out now than an hour later…”

The birds, bees and flowers

“We opened the Tea Garden… We get tourist lunches, old folk from Britain once a week which is great fun and they love coming here – last time a snake obliged by nearly climbing onto the veranda from the bougainvillea! and the sun birds are a treat, not to mention the hoopoes nesting in the corner of the roof (instead of a tree!)”

“Now in South of India, tropical flowers, spices and rain. We are in Hill Station of Ooty and we have a fire.”

[The James Iredell House, North Carolina] “Wish you were here to see the wonderful gardens – magnolia plantation had 900 species of azaleas and a wealth of other flowers… We spent 3 days in Charleston.”

“This has been an interesting day-tour into the rain-forest. There have also been beautiful blue and red parrots and birds called whip birds because of their call. They made me think of you.” [I wonder why???!]

“First time I have seen this tree. It is a frassino tree and grows only in Sicily or Calabria. The manna is used in the trade as a laxative and also for other medical purposes???”

“Wow! I have just seen an enormous wasp type thing about 1.5 inches – HUGE. We got attacked by monkeys yesterday! I was holding a banana – I suddenly became surrounded by monkeys. They looked as if they would climb all over me – so I hid the banana down my top and they went away!” [Lucky the monkeys weren’t too determined…]

whiskery fish
whiskery fish

“The garden was all palms and wild orchids and lovely plants with green and pink leaves! And a demented cockerel and a bunch of scatty hens… We went snorkelling about 5 times. We saw amazing blue starfish – their fingers were all sausage-fat and bright blue. And angel-fish and other stripey ones and an amazing thing called a half-beak – almost transparent from the side except for its eye which is halfway along its 2-3 foot body. When you looked down on them they were coloured though. We didn’t see many shoals of fish, which made the one of about 300 we saw on the last day all the more surprising! They were white and whiskery with a yellow streak down the side.”

“X related how they’d had a real gorilla in her youth in S. Africa – its mother had been shot – and they looked after the baby and played with it – until one day her sister teased it and it bit her – it was huge by then, about 5 – and their father said it had to go to the zoo. When they left it, it had tears running down its cheeks – as they all had, including her father – sad.”

“The countryside is so beautiful and all the orange cacci [persimmon] on the trees everywhere. They look like primitive paintings.”

The attraction of camels

“Our camel safari was great – a long way down to fall. Felt very precarious. The worst was when the camel lurched to its feet – or knelt to go down. We had our camel man and a guide – they put up our tent and cooked us breakfast and dinner. Lunch was cold. We needed it after all morning in the saddle under the hot sun. Pushkar Fair and Hindu Festival was marvellous.”

[Morocco] “Surprise, we are here in N. Africa. Decided to come for two weeks of sunshine. All the grey was getting depressing! We are enjoying the different way of life – having to bargain for everything. Of course we have had a camel ride!”

“We are in Broome. It is quite a fascinating place. Our hotel is on the ‘waterfront’, where we can observe the 9 metre tides – quite astounding the difference between high and low. It is still a pearl producing centre and we have visited the town’s jewellers. X worked out that if she sold her house, car and the cat she would be able to afford two of the strands of pearls we saw… We have both bought pearl shell buttons… I am able to report that I have been on an hour’s camel ride, first along the beach at dusk, then into sand dunes under a starry sky. Magic. I think I could easily sit on a camel for several days on a trek, but I will have to win a lottery. The early days here were very rough and ready, I understand, and quite dangerous. There is a Japanese cemetery where 909 Japanese (mostly divers) were buried.”