Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Bus Pass

Great News!  I'm not actually old enough for a bus pass after all.  I'm not sure if I should be pleased about this news or somewhat miffed.

After a rather cold and windy walk round Brayford Pool to City Hall this afternoon, I was rather surprised to be ushered straight in to see a consultant in Customer Services.  I handed over my completed bus pass application form, my passport to prove my age and a Council Tax bill to prove my address.   I thought it was all too easy!

It seems that since April 2011, the age you need to be to get a bus pass has increased in line with decision to change the starting age for womens pensions, quite how the two are linked, I'm not sure.  Seems that I have to wait until I am 61 years 7 months and 8 days old before I qualify.

Methinks its time to get my bicycle serviced.......

Monday, December 12, 2011


12 December 2011

Hey-ho, back in Lincoln again after a 4 week sojourn to South America.  There is a mound of dirty laundry now, so the washing-machine is going to earning its keep this week!  The bags are back in the attic and the pictures down-loaded from the camera onto the computer.  Now all we have to do is start planning the next adventure!

The weather is distinctly cool and damp, so walking into town didn't appeal to me this afternoon.  Having got on the bus and payed for a return fare, I suddenly remembered that I no longer needed to pay - I'm off down to City-Hall tomorrow to acquire my much joked about bus pass!  I down-loaded a form entitled, 'Elderly Person' and realised that it referred to me.  Clearly, in Lincolnshire, being aged 60 is officially to be elderly.  On one hand, I'm not an OAP as a state pension is still some five years in the future, however, in terms of transport, I qualify as a doddery old git.  I'm just looking forward to 'young people' giving up their seats on the bus for me.

The best thing today was a visit to the dentist which lasted approximately 30 seconds.  The dentist and I parted amiably, me with cheque-book still in pocket and the dentist with an unexpected 15 minute coffee-break!

Having composed a considerable travel journal over the past weeks, of questionable quality,  is it satisfying to see that several people have read my scribblings.  I don't feel that I am ever going to challenge the Bill Brysons of this world, but I have enjoyed recording our travels.  If you have any constructive comments to help me improve my efforts, I'd be very happy to receive them.

Friday, December 9, 2011

London - Bristol

09 December 2011

We woke up at 9.45 - what a great nights sleep!  Shortly afterwards, we were heading west down the M4 for Bristol.  Traffic was fairly light, so it didn't take long.

Back in Bristol, we found a small white dog sound asleep!  He didn't stay asleep for long though.  I think he was pleased to see us!

We had a great holiday in South America and would love to go back to see some more of the continent.  We thoroughly enjoyed what we had seen of Ecuador, but our highlights were probably the jungle and cloudforest despite the fact that we were expecting the Galapagos to be the best.

In the Galapagos, we saw just about every bird that you can, with the exception of the Flightless Cormorant (which is only seen on one island that we didn't visit), we saw just about every mammal and amphibian and reptile that inhabits the islands so there were no suprise sightings.  This was contrasted in the Jungle and Cloudforest where you never knew what you were going to see each day.

Nonetheless, it was a wonderful experience and now we are back, Christmas is looming, so no time for rest!

Quito - Amsterdam - London

08 December 2011

Unsuprisingly, I managed to sleep quite well on the flight, whilst Lynn didn't!  I woke up about 2 hours before we were due to land feeling fairly refreshed.

The weather over UK and at Amsterdam was very overcast so we didn't see much until we were about to touch down.  After a very long taxi, the aircraft arrived at the terminal and we all got off.  The airport was decorated for Christmas and very busy.  We managed to get some Euros and went to get a coffee.

Our next flight to London was due to leave 1 hour and 45 minutes later, so we didn't have long to hang around.  We were taken to the aircraft on a bus, and once out of the bus could feel how windy it was.  Once on the flight, the captain informed us that there were delays at Heathrow and we would have to sit in the aircraft at Schipol for 30 minutes.  Some passengers were clearly unhappy with this news!

Finally, we took off and headed out across the North Sea to London.  Once in the London area, the captain came back on the intercom and said that we would have to circle for about 30 minutes before we could land.  It was a shame the cloud was so low as we were over the city by then.  Apparently, when the weather is poor at Heathrow, including very windy, the number of flights that can land every minute is decreased.  Usually, a flight lands every 20 seconds, but today it was every 40 seconds.

Once we had landed we were quickly off the aircraft and went to immigration and baggage collection.  At immigration, we were able to use the new automatic machines and then went off to collect our baggage.  One of the bags was damaged, so we stopped to report it the airline representative.  Hopefully, we will get a replacement bag later.

We grabbed a taxi from the airport to the hotel, and despite the heavy traffic, the cabbie managed to get us there quite quickly.  We checked in and then I went to find the car, but it had been moved whilst we had been away!  With the help of the staff, I found the car and loaded one of our bags into it.

We both had a shower and freshed up, what a great feeling!  After our long flight, my teeth felt as if they were furry too - urgh! After over three weeks of not being able to use tapwater to clean our teeth, it was a great to be able to do so in UK.  A beer and a small meal later saw us heading for bed after a very long day/night.

Quito - Amsterdam

07 Dec 2011

Fantastic news, Lynn is feeling considerably better than yesterday, so, following breakfast, the first job was to pack our bags for home.were getting good at packing now, so it didn't take long to fill all three bags.  That done, we decided to take a taxi up to the Mariscal area of the city.  The Mariscal, the shopping centre of the newer part of the city, straddles a road called Amazonas and is full of small shops and an artisan market.  It took the taxi driver some while to get us there, but the fare was still less than $2!

We wandered around the shops and then the artisan market before stopping for a coffee.  The coffee in Ecuador is very good, which is hardly suprising as it is grown and processed in the country.  A good cup will set you back about a dollar.  Chocolate, another Ecuadorian export, is also very, very good!

We were back in the taxi to the hotel by 12.00 and I then popped out for some cash, last minute shopping and lunch from Subway!

We checked out sometime after 2.00 and sat in the hotel lobby and waited for our transport to the airport.  It was somewhat delayed as traffic was particularly heavy.

Quito airport was a revelation today as we were at International departures!  This was an area of calm compared with our previous encounters at the Domestic part of the airport and we quickly checked in and made our way through security.  There were lots of shops to browse, but all very really very expensive.

Our aircraft arrived from Amsterdam on time and we boarded quite quickly onto a half empty aircraft.  Soon we were leaving Quito and heading in the opposite direct to Amsterdam to the Pacific coast city of Guayaquil.  Here the remaining passengers left the flight whilst we remained on board.

An army of cleaners then descended on the aircraft and started tidying up from the flight from Amsterdam.  Meanwhile, the aircraft was refuelled for the flight home.  With the aircraft doors all open, it was easy to feel how warm it was, 85 degrees at 6.00 in the evening!

The aircraft left on time, at around 8.00 in the evening local time, and we started heading back towards Amsterdam.  Our route was to take us up the Ecuadorian Coast, then across Columbia and Venezuela, over the Dutch Antilles and out in the Atlantic Ocean.  Later it would next cross land in West Wales, overfly London and finally descend into Amsterdam with a flight time of 10 hours 45 minutes.

The flight was fairly empty, so we occupied two rows of seats at the back of the aircraft, in order to be able to stretch out overnight!


06 December 2011

Quitos Birthday today - public holiday

Well after three weeks of being fit and healthy, Lynn woke up feeling very grotty this morning, grotty enough to stay in bed.  I felt fine and went down to a solitary breakfast.  The city is very quiet this morning, presumably sleeping off the partying from last night.  It is also a Public Holiday to celebrate 'Navidad de Quito'.

Back in the room, Lynn tried to sleep in order to feel better, the healing process wasn't helped by the music from Carolina Park which appeared to start at 11.00 with some 'Heavy Metal' bands screeching at full volume.

By lunchtime, it was clear that Lynn still wasn't feeling any better, although her temperature had gone down a little, so we asked the hotel for a doctor.  When I enquired about charges, so I could go to the cash machine, the hotel informed me it was free, all part of the hotel service.  How good is that?

A female doctor eventually appeared and prescribed a couple of drugs and also gave a free injection to ease the fever.  Hotel staff then offered to go to the pharmacy, but when they said that they were going just across the street, I went myself.  Despite the Public Holiday, the chemist was open and fearing the worse financially, I got the presciption.  Much to my suprise, the bill only came to $7 - I think I'm living in the wrong country!  Cheap prescriptions, fuel at $1 a gallon, this is the place to be!

I managed to catch up with the backlog of blogging that had built up.  The backlog had built up because there was no internet access in the jungle, none on the boat and none in the cloudforest, which accounted for 11 days.

Lynn continued to rest, but managed to eat a ham sandwich from Subway for lunch.

Later in the evening, I walked to TGI Friday for dinner by myself as it was the closest and easiest option.

At around 9.00 in the evening, there was a tremendous firework display in Carolina Park, and although we couldn't see the display, we could certainly hear it.  We caught glimpses of it reflected in the windows of the building behind the hotel, and the echoes made it very noisy.

Fingers crossed, Lynn is showing signs of improvement, so hopefully after a good nights sleep, she will be fit enough for the long flight home tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Bellavista Cloud Forest - Quito

05 Dec 2011

After a very peaceful nights sleep, I was up just before 6.00 just as it was getting light.We had arranged for an early morning bird walk and everyone was ready by 6.15.  We didn't get far initially, just the car park where we found several Masked Trogon and Toucan Barbet.

View at dawn from our room at Bellavista Lodge

Walking around the grounds of the lodge, we also saw two types of Woodcreepers, Cinnamon Flycatchers, Blue-winged Mountain Tanagers and White-sided Flowerpiercers.  We also briefly climbed up a track to a viewpoint which turned out to be the lodge campsite!  The view over the mountains was outstanding.

A rather blurry Masked Trogon

Back at the lodge, it was time for a shower and breakfast.

A very handsome Toucan Barbet

After breakfast,  Lynn and I walked up the road for a while.  We didn't see any birds, but did photograph several very pretty butterflies and some flowers.  At the lodge, there are lots of hummingbird feeders, so there is a constant flow of these beautiful birds coming in to feed.  The smallest, a bee hummingbird, never even lands at the feeder.

Bee Hummingbird

We then went back to the lodge where Lynn set up tripod and camera in our room with the windows wide open, whilst I went for a more adventurous walk by myself.  I walked about 2 kilometres up the road, and then turned off onto a track.  I followed the most obvious track which took me onto the top of a ridge in a grassy sort of field where cows had clearly been grazing recently.  The views from here were magnificent.

View from the top of the mountain

After a while, I found a new signpost which showed that I was on the wrong path, so I had to backtrack all the way back to the road.  After hunting around, I found the 'Yumbo' trail and headed into deep primary rainforest.  There were lots of birds around, but mostly very difficult to see.  After about 20 minutes, I branched off down another path heading toward a waterfall.  The path was marked as difficult and was steep, slippery and all downhill.  Toward the bottom of the path rope handrails had been installed as the path was near vertical.  Finally, at the bottom, I found a beautiful waterfall and took the chance to splash some icy-cold water on my face as I was somewhat warm and sweaty.

Cloudforest waterfall

After a few photos, I set up back up the path.  I hauled myself up the ropes and then started uphill.  Even though the altitude was a bit less than Quito, it was still hard on the lungs.  Rounding one steep corner, I came face-to-face with a Chesnut-crowned Antpitta, it quickly scuttled off into the undergrowth.  As the path was so poor, I had but my camera away - shame!  Shortly afterwards, I was very pleased to see the road as I knew it was an easy 2 kilometres downhill from there.

Blue-winged Mountain Tanager

After lunch at the lodge, we packed again and got ready to leave.  Our small party of 'Brits' had managed to persuade the drivers that we wanted to travel together so that we could consign the noisy Americans to a different minibus!

The journey back down the mountain dirt track wasn't too unpleasant and we eventually reached the main road again and started wind back uphill.  We encountered some major roadworks at one stage and sat outide a very basic restaurant for about 15 minutes.  I couldn't (and probably wouldn't want to) tell you what was being cooked up right in front of us.  Certainly the cut of meat was unidentifiable, suffice it say that it was probably pork.

Back in Quito it was rush hour and fiesta was still ongoing, so traffic was a nightmare.  We finally got back to the hotel after 5.00.

Neither of us was feeling particularly hungry, so we went to the nearby Japanese restaurant again.  The noise from the music in Carolina Park was spectacular again.  We also saw several more 'party buses'cruising around.