Month: April 2023

A long time coming.

Well, this year started at 100 miles an hour.

I’ve been so busy, I just haven’t had time to update this blog. Sorry about that.

First thing to talk about, was my amazing trip to Costa Rica. Our first long haul “proper” trip since Covid (you might remember at the beginning of Covid, Nikki and I were in Sri Lanka for exactly a day, before our trip was cancelled and we had to come home !.

So the title of this blog, is meant to reflect the 3 years I’ve waited to go on a far away adventure trip.

Shortly after we arrived, we visited a rescue centre. There were loads of injured and maltreated creatures. It was sad to hear some of the stories, but great to see that the animals and birds were now being treated so well.

One thing that surprised me, was the number of animals that had been “handed in” after they’ve been raised domestically as pets, and it hadn’t worked out. Above, this beautiful Ocelot, had been living in someone’s home as a domestic cat.

Except it isn’t, is it !. It’s a wild animal. Although well fed, other pets had attempted to attack and intimidate it. Neighbours of the owner had complained that their dogs had gone missing…

We spent a lot of time travelling around in our air-conditioned minibus.

On one occasion we were passing a checkpoint, and something amazing happened.

The police had pulled over a woman in a Range Rover. The sniffer dog was called over and in a few seconds, the dog sat up straight. We were shocked (just shows how many people on our trip watched Breaking Bad).

The police searched the car and found this lot in the boot.

One must-do activity of the trip, was the search for a Quetzal (which involved getting up at 4am, when you were already jet-lagged).

It’s perfectly possible to stand around for 3 hours and see nothing, but we were lucky enough, to see 2.

A few people on our trip had “big” cameras (think lenses the size of a small fire extinguisher) and were able to take the picture above.

We spent 3 days at the Tortuguero National Park which can only be reached by boat.

In the mornings, we went out looking for wildlife (which must have seen us from a long way away, considering our brightly coloured life jackets.

In Savagre, we explored the Jungle around San Gerardo de Dota by Jeep.

But my favourite, was our numerous trips and walks around the Jungle.

I’ll remember them as some of the happiest times of my life.

But it wasn’t just countryside and animals.

We got to learn about the country (did you know that Costa Rica disbanded it’s army in 1948 and put all the money into education. It now has a 97% literacy rate).

Although not religious myself, I enjoyed wandering around the Basilica Virgen de los Angeles.

There are luxurious beaches for holiday makers (and we did give it a try on our last day, swimming in the sea and stuff like that)

This beach near Tortuguero national park.

It was like something from Robinson Crusoe, completely untouched and they even have volunteers to clear the beach each day of plastic bottles and things that are washed up.

We spent an evening being shown local cookery at a traditional Finca (Farm). We got to take part and make our own Empanada.

But we didn’t just have to survive on that, after we finished our cookery course, the family laid on a 3 course evening meal, which we really enjoyed.

I think the thing most people come to see in Costa Rica are the animals and birds and we weren’t disappointed.

Another of the “big” camera photos, this <name> snake.

Our guide explained that sometimes he can lead 3 groups over 6 weeks and not see single snake, but we managed to see 3.

We parked on Puente de cocodrilo (crocodile bridge) overlooking the Tarcoles river and saw these amazing Crocodiles.

At one point, there were 5 or 6 of them, but it was hard to photograph them all, and keep the detail in the picture.

The wild animals weren’t the only things with interesting habits.

At La Baula Lodge hotel, one of the cleaners had left a box out.

It started to rain and the hotel cat (who’s name I don’t know) thought on his feet and sheltered in the box.

One of the nicest things that happened on our trip.

As we drove along, our guide Izi asked if it would be OK to stop for a minute. Obviously, we didn’t’ mind.

Turns out, his father was working on the road and we were all introduced.

The people, the countryside and the animals. Go on the internet and book a trip there now!.

My old mate Kev (who I met through Bushcraft and organised a Survival Course in the Desert) was organising an Outdoor cookery course.

Quite a long drive to Bedford, but it was worth it.

The first day was about cooking on Dutch ovens and the 2nd on campfires.

Fantastic to spend time outdoors learning stuff like that and making some new friends.

You can see a really good video of it here.

I was inspired, although it will take a while for many of the skills and techniques to sink in.

So when I got home, I thought I’d start small.

I’ve made Beef and Guinness pies from a Jamie Oliver recipe before. It was some time ago, but I thought it would be a good first step.

The finished Pies…

And they taste delicious.

So now something more adventurous, to make my own bread.

I’d seen this done at the Dutch oven course by Turan and I can only say he made it look a lot easier than it is.

At one point, the kitchen was awash with dough and I had more of it on my clothes, hands and face than on the work surface.

But I don’t give up easily, so I persevered.

An out they come, the 2 rustic looking large bread rolls.

I sliced them up and I’ve had them for lunch 3 days this week with some soup (I’m no baker, but they taste fine to me)

Nikki and I have been together for over 10 years.

One interesting hobby she introduced me to was wine, and wine tasting.

I’ve often sat in Vin Santo or Paysan drinking wine and being told about different regions of the world where it’s made.

Bordeaux is the world capital of wine so inspired, we decided to get out on the ground and see what it was like.

On the first morning, we did a “free” walking tour.

Bordeaux really is an amazing place, everywhere was clean, the people were friendly and the weather was superb.

We spent quite a lot of time, wandering around the old town.

Above is the Grosse Clocke (interesting, as it’s name sounds German to me !)

As it’s the world capital of wine, it has an amazing museum with the history of wine, how it’s made and stuff like that.

Unfortunately, their website is appalling, so we ended up on a sort of pretentious wine tasting encounter with music and poetry reading !, and never got to see the actual museum.

No matter, the next day we’d booked a trip to visit one of the appellations.

Saint Emilion. There are very strict rules about wine having Bordeaux on it’s label.

We were going to visit 2 Chateaux, see the vineyards and get to taste some wine.

Our first stop was Chateaux Rol Valentin. As we stood outside looking at the vineyards I commented to our host how lucky they were with the local weather.

I said we’d be looking to get 15 days like that in a year in the UK 🙂

We got to visit the actual town of Saint Emilion and the church built to honour him.

Chateaux D’Aiguilhe. Part of the Chateaux dates back to the 12th century and the 100 years war.

And here we are. After hearing so much about it, were sitting at a table in a Saint Emilion Chateaux drinking wine.

I’ve amassed quite a few new books and I need to catch up.

I’ve always enjoyed interesting books, and I got the inspiration from my mum. We didn’t have lots of luxury in our house, but there was a book case of interesting books and mum would buy additional books whenever she could.

I didn’t have a great time at school. A lot of the time, I educated myself and learned things from books in the house.

One one occasion mum bought the readers digest encyclopaedia of modern knowledge. It had everything in it in short order (think book version of Wikipedia) I read it every evening and learned about science, politics, geography. I was engrossed.

Those books are long gone, but just for nostalgia, I recently bought a set to keep in my house.

I know lots more things now and I’m a lot better informed. But I was reading them the other evening and it’s every bit as interesting as it was all those years ago.

I never give money to beggars. If you just give money to people, what message does that send.

I remember travelling when I was in Cambodia and a man with serious facioul burns was begging us to give him some money. It was heartbreaking, the cost of a UK Newspaper would have fed him for 2 days.

The solution. I asked our guide and driver to translate and ask him where the nearest cashpoint was. They explained that they both already knew where the cashpoint was. I told them to ask him anyway. He looked puzzled, then replied with directions. So I gave him some money.

In Chester, in the weeks around and before the races, we have a deluge of beggars, literally in every doorway.

I was passing one on Frodsham street, a few weeks ago. She had some paper and felt pens and was selling her “art”.

I really liked this one, so I bought it. She wanted a fiver, so I gave her a tenner. It’s a really nice picture and I look forward to putting it up at home.

My love of OO gauge trains is well known, and my collection continues to increase.

When I say OO gauge, most people say “oh, you mean Hornby”. Well, many of my trains have been made by Hornby, but another company called Bachman, in my opinion make more detailed trains and offer superior value for money.

A good case in point, the train above, my newest addition. A Class 150/2 Arriva train by Bachman.

Interesting thing about it, a few years ago, when I worked at Moneypenny, this was the train I got to work ! (the full size one, not this little thing).

The “tree” in the background isn’t part of a model railway installation, it’s one of the plants our receptionist has put into the lunch room.

In an attempt to add a bit of badly needed culture into my life, I arranged to see the Northern Jazz orchestra. They were performing at Alexander’s in Chester.

Tony came with me, so I wasn’t standing around on my own. Honestly, I had a fantastic time, and It’s definitely something I’d do again.

Well, plans in place for my Birthday.

This year, I’m having a long weekend in Jersey (and hoping to hop across to Guernsey while there).

I’ve booked a nice hotel with a pool (which I’ve no intention of using) and dinner for Saturday night.

I’ve found a website with a list of beautiful locations in Jersey to have a picnic, so that’s my plan for my actual birthday on Sunday.

Lots of trips planned for this year. The post Covid bounce-back is happening in earnest.

I’m presently planning a trip to Florida for Christmas (there are dozens of interesting things to do there, and at a time when it’s cold and wet in the UK, the weather will be superb).

On thing I am please about, is there’s an option of a day trip to the Bahamas. If that comes off, I’ll have completed 99 countries by the 1st of January 2024.

I’m fully intending to join the travellers century club in 2024 (group for people who’ve been to 100 countries) The question will be, where shall I pick for my 100th country !.

I’m in a walking club called the Chester and District Walking Group.

I first joined 12 years ago, and the activities of the group and the companionship of it’s members helped get me out of the darkness of a year of unemployment and low income.

I’ve always loved walking. In fact I used to joke, if a won a million quid, I don’t know what I’d be doing, but the day after, I know I’d go out walking.

Unfortunately, my arthritis has got progressively worse. I can’t walk much more than about 3 miles, so I’m unable to join the group on it’s weekly walks. A fact I find deeply disappointing.

But life is about opportunity and re-inventing yourself when you need to. So I’m now on the committee of the group as social events/activities co-ordinator.

One event we did recently, was a trip to Shrewsbury (about an hour by train from Chester). We had a really good time, looking around the town and a fascinating tour of Shrewsbury prison (now closed down, but frequently used as a tv/film location). A retired Prison officer showed is around and told us all about it’s history.

I’ve always loved going to the cinema. There was a time in my life when my brother and I went every Saturday for several years. Sadly, we live a fair distance apart, The Manchester Odeon has been knocked down and the ABC Deansgate has been converted to a Witherspoon.

Also, a lot of films I watch now, are not very good. I asked my brother what he thought. Have I just got older, and have I lost the ability to suspend belief. David thinks not. He said there are a lot more films made now, Netflix and stuff like that, and like cakes, the more you make the lower the general quality.

Two films I really enjoyed last year were No time to die and Top Gun Maverick. In both cases, they’d spent years getting the film right and it showed.

A few years ago, there was a 4th Indian Jones. It wasn’t very good, because it had been rushed and “appealing to fans” without an interesting story or believable characters (apart from Indie) just didn’t work.

Now, I’m enthusiastically looking forward to Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (5th instalment of the “trilogy”). I feel like they’ve taken time to make this film properly and settled for nothing less than excellence.

See what happens, but it’s out on the 30th of June, if your interested.

You can see a preview here and here.

Speaking of things I’m looking forward to watching.

Star Trek – The Next Generation finished in 1994. It was one of the best and most popular science fiction tv series off all time (and I loved it).

In the 3rd series of Picard (named after the captain from the Next Generation) the original crew get back together on a brand new adventure. There are 2 episodes left and I can’t wait to watch them (along with the season finale of the Mandalorian).

Well, in 8 days, I’m off for a long weekend in Porto, Portugal.

No specific plans, just relaxing, possibly a boat trip, and a day tour of the valley and wine regions.

I’m especially looking forward to getting a picture from the multi-level bridge.

This blog entry started with a picture of a beautiful animal – The Ocelot (well actually it didn’t it started with a picture of me on a rope bridge, but, the one bellow it is the Ocelot).

I’ve never been very interested in any kind of gambling. Although going back to my youth and the excuse for a human being, my stepfather I’ve always put a bet or joined a sweep for the Grand National, as I did last week.

The horse I picked out was Hill 16, which tragically died falling at the first fence. I’m not an activist and I’m not going to cause trouble, but quite simply, I can’t justify doing this anymore. So from now on, I simply won’t be taking part in the Grand National.

Well, that’s all for this time, thanks for taking the time to read this. The search for adventure continues…