Delhi & Agra 2017

Comming towards the end of my sabatical, I’d just returned from an amazing trip to Namibia.

So what next…

Well, Nikki and I like to get a way at Christmas (although usualy places close to home like Cyprus or Malta). India looked a good fit, but its somewhere I’d been before and Nikki hadnt.

But with a bit of tweaking, I could create a trip that would suit us both.


I found a trip called Mughal Highlights with the adventure travel company Explore. It looked a perfect fit.

On my previous trip, I’d travelled west to east from Delhi to Varanasi (and ultimately Kathmandu).

I found a trip with loads of new things to see, yet lots of must see sights for Nikki.

Delhi and Agra would be duplicated from my original trip, but I saw almost nothing of Delhi the first time and Agra, and the Taj Mahal are always worth a 2nd visit.

Packed and ready to go, with my “new” sandals (which, due to it being winter I never got to wear), Tilly hat, first aid kit and emergency repair kit. Last but not least, the ubiqitous chocolate limes.

Off all the trips I’ve been on, the flying expirience was the worst by far, due to a series of what I can only call bad luck.

We arrive at the excelent Manchester airport at 5am. Drop our bags and then we can get some coffee and nice breakfast. But whats this, theres a problem with the “machines” we have to stand up and queue for an hour and 40 mins.

The delay means we have to rush through to get our plane. Some nugget in security has tried to bring an iron through security which holds things up further.

We get to the plane, which is delayed. On landing in France, we run to get our flight to Delhi, desperate not to miss it. Then once on the plane, the pilot keeps us on the ground for 2.5 hours to give other people a chance.

Ok, so at least now were on our way to India.

We land, have the farcial thing of some sort of annoying paper imigration form (that could have been issued with our visa. We have to find all sorts of details, find something to lean on and write it out (and its midnight and were exausted).

Then some sort of amatuer security thing with finger prints. Which meant from Landing it took nearly 3 hours to get out of the airport.

Which meant that the transfer we’d booked had already left and we had to get a taxi. The taxi drive gave us some rubbish about a big tip to feed his family. I threw the money at him and went into our hotel.

Oh, did I mention I had a really bad cold ?


No matter, we’ve arrived. A hot shower, comfortable bed and some sleep.

In the morning, we had some breakfast and then decided to go out exploring (the tour didnt officialy start until late afternoon and sitting around isnt for me).

New neighourhoods are sprouting up all the time in India. In this case, the New Friends colony, split into areas like zone G where we were staying.

On our orientation walk, we come across this sign.

Later, our tour begins and first thing is our guide Abi. I won’t bore you with the details, but simply put, he was an amzing guide.

An early introduction to the contrasts of India.

We travel on the underground, and I see the woman only carriages I’d heard about.

The platform and carriage are bright, in good working order and spotlessly clean.

We ascend into the old town.

You can see the difference, it was filthy and squalid.


The best way to see this part of the town, is by cyclo.


Abi pointed out that the technology boom in India was great, but getting hold of a good electrician was still a challenge (as you can see from the high quality electrical work in this picture).

The Jama Masjid mosque.

You can see a lot of smog in the background, but the building itself was spectacular.

I had to pay a bit to borrow some flip flops (and pay someone to keep an eye on my shoes).

Nikki had to wear this sort of dressing gown thing.


Walking from the mosque, we pass the famous Red Fort.

A Mughal fort, befitting a tour called Mughal highlights. A world heritage site, the Prime Minister hoists a flag here every year on indipendence day.

And then onto our air conditioned bus.

The Airforce building has aeroplanes mounted outside.

I imagine it’s so people can find it more easily and if they arrive at the wrong place and find tanks, they know theyre in the wrong place.

The Qutb complex.

<say something historic about it>

Quwwat-ul-islam arch. All thats left of the building constructed in 1193 and in the background the Qutb Minar tower.

Driving around once it goes dark, we get to see the Governement building from a distance and The India gate, a momorial to 70,000 Indian soldiers who died in the first world war.

We finish off the evening with a few beers and a delicious curry.

It was the most expensive meal we ate on the whole trip and cost about a tenner.

I guessed it would be expensive, as it was above a Lexus dealership.

The next day we do a quick visit to Hamayans tomb.

Another Mughal building, it was spectacular to look at, I just wish there had been some sunshine.

Like the Taj Mahal, it was symetricaly perfect.


And then were off on our way to Agra.

We passed these 2 people sat on the top of a truck, with a quilt over them to fend of the cold.

They were really friendly and waved at us.


Get cleaned up in our hotel, then its out to see the Taj Mahal.


I’d seen it before, but just like last time, I was left speachless.


In the evening we eat some Thali food and are entertained by musicians.


The following day, up bright and early and were off to see the Agra fort.

I was really looking forward to this. Thing is, the Taj is amazing, but all you can really do is look at it.

This thing is A FORT and I’m basicaly a boy in a mans body.


Inside, were introduced to a local guide and expert who talks us through the various parts of the fort and their history.


Half of the fort is closed off, as it’s still used by the Indian army (Parachute Brigade), even to this day.


Diwan – I Kas, the hall of private audience. Originaly used by Akbar and great and later by several of his descendents.


The Throne of Jahangir. Made from Belgian marble.

When the “British” attacked, they fired a canonball, which hit the throne, bounced off and made a hole in the wall nearby.


Shah Jahan Mosque.


The battlements of the fort, showing high walls, a moat and a gap between the outer in and inner walls where Tigers roamed.


And were off on the road again.

Namibia 1

Standing on the Waterberg Plateau

Early in my life, I was inspired by the Adventure fiction novels of Wilbur Smith.

One of my favourites, The Burning Shore, takes place in Namibia.

Namibia is quite an expensive place, and would require 3 planes just to get to it, and 3000km driving in a truck to see it all, but I knew it would be worth it.

Above, I’m standing in front of the Waterberg Plateau in the mustard coloured Rohan jumper I’ve been wearing a lot this year.

Arriving at Namibia airport

We arrive at Hosea Kutako International Airport after travelling for nearly 30 hours.

The airport is 45km from our first stop, the capital Windhoek.

We needed to change money and buy sims for our phones. I would have preferred to do it later, but these sorts of things are best sorted out at the airport and I was pleasantly surprised by the professionalism of everyone who worked there.

A taxi ride, and we arrive at the Safari Hotel, a really large hotel complex that was used as the start and end point for expeditions run by several companies like Explore (who we went with).

It was a bit out of town, so we decided to have a dip in the pool and relax at the bar for a few pints (you can guess which one of us did which).

I tried to stay awake as long as I could to combat jet lag, then off to bed around 11pm Namibia time and a deep sleep.

View from the Independence Memorial Museum, looking down on the Alte Feste (Old Fort)

We’d arrived early and our tour was due to start at 6pm that evening, so we decided to head into town and do some exploring.

The Alte Festa (or Old Fort) is the oldest surviving building in Windhoek and built by the Germans during colonial times.

Inside is a statue called The Rider. Quite controversially, it is a symbol of German victory during the Herero/Namaqua war in 1904.

Outside the Independence museum

The newer Independence museum, has a statue of Sam Nujoma, Namibia’s first president, holding a copy of the constitution.

I thought the building looked a bit like a coffee machine. It was built by North Korea and stands on Robert Mugabe avenue.

Revolutionary propaganda

Inside, lots of propaganda stuff.

Reasonably interesting, but mostly pictures of people and some shocking paintings of massacres.

Only thing was, if you didn’t actually know what event it referred to, there was no text there to tell you.

A major visual display, didn’t work and I found the section about life before colonialism, where everyone lived in peace and harmony a little bit unlikely.

But otherwise, an interesting museum which focused more on politics than facts.

Bow and arrow and other San artifacts

Far more interesting to me, was the Owela museum, which had details about different tribes and how they lived.

Of special interest was a section on the San people. Up until something like 1940, people were not only allowed, but actively encouraged to “shoot Bushmen and wild dogs on sight”.

They can live comfortably in a desert where most people would be dead in 10 hours and have lived the same way for the last 20,000 years.

A wikiup inside a museum

I find shelter building fascinating, and in the past I’ve had a go at building a Wikiup.

This one in the museum was built by 2 local woman who were featured in the exhibit.

Fallen Meteorites outside the shopping centre

We continue wandering around, and find the Gibeon meteorites.

In any other country, they would probably be in a museum. In Namibia, they’re next to a shopping mall on Post Street.

We decide to get a taxi back. Our driver (a young man) invites us back to his car. It has no seat belts, I sit in the front, Nikki sits in the back with his 2 “girlfriends”.

As the car careers off at speed there is some sort of African rap screaming out of a cd player and an open pocket knife on the dashboard (no keys are used to start the car …)

But, despite a terrifying journey, he gets us back to our hotel and says a smiling thank you as we pay him. You don’t get things like that happening when you travel with Thomas Cook.

Later, once the official tour begins, our guide points to the area where we got the tax and said “don’t go walking around there”.

An itinerary map of our Namibia trip

Our tour meeting begins at 6pm sharp and were introduced to our Explore guide. Wendy was South African, very tall and incredibly well organised.

Our driver Shepherd from Zimbabwe, was quietly spoken but having driven across deserts and mountains for 20 years new his job inside and out.

A detailed itinerary is supplied. We’ll travel over 3000km by the end of the trip.

We have dinner, get a few drinks and retire to bed.

Inside our bus with Wendy at the front

In the morning we see the bus that will take us across Namibia. The seating was raised so we could see things more easily and underneath in the hold, were tables, chairs, shovels and just about everything you’d need for an adventure.

At the front of the upstairs cabin, it even had a freezer and places to charge phones and laptops.

And with that, we load our bags, stock up on water and head for the Zebra River Lodge.

Truck stop, preparing for lunch

We travelled 284km on our first day. Driving on tarmac roads for part of it was fine, but once we got onto the open tracks, it was really hard going.

We had lunch on the trail most days.

Typically, Wendy would cook an amazing lunch, served on a big table near a tree to provide shade.

The food was excellent (vegan and lactose intolerance aren’t widely acknowledged in Africa, so she did really well to cook for everyone without incident).

It was nice to sit on a comfortable chair in the bush and have a can of lager afterwards.

Our room at the Zebra lodge

We arrived at the Zebra River Lodge around 3:30pm and are shown to our rooms.

Our accommodation on the trip notes had been described as basic, but I found them all to be the lap of luxury like the one above.

Zebra lodge weaver bird at its nest

In the afternoon, I sit on the terrace and watch this Weaver bird construct its nest. I’m not normally into Ornithology, but some of the birds I saw in Namibia really were fascinating.

I’d see something even more fascinating the following day.

Zebra Canyon at Sunset

There were a number of interesting trails and hills nearby.

We went walking for a couple of hours.

Pouring rain outside the Zebra lodge

But this is Africa after all.

Twenty minutes after we get back, the gorgeous sunny day is transformed as torrential rain and then hail batter the hotel terrace.

Nikki celebrating her birthday with the Zebra lodge staff singing

We had dinner on the terrace later that evening. Wendy had realised it was Nikki’s birthday from her passport and laid on a really nice cake. All the kitchen staff came out and sang happy birthday 🙂

Enormous birds nest

Today we’d be doing a 360km round trip to a place called Sesriem and the start of our real adventure.

We stop at the Sesriem gate and get some coffee. With time to wander around, I find this.

Believe it or not, this is also a Weaver nest.

A bit of a sort of apartment block idea, it has multiple nests inside. It’s possible for a chick to grow up, find a mate, find a chamber inside the nest and have her own chicks without ever leaving the nest.

Walking through the desert

We have to use local jeaps once we get to the main area. Not well organised at all, and we are standing in baking heat.

After much faf, and superb organisation by Wendy, were off careering through the soft desert sand.

Were going to see one of the worlds most incredible sights – The Deadvlei in the Namib desert, the oldest desert on earth.

Sossusvlei sand dunes

As we disembark, some people decide to go off climbing sand dunes. I enjoy a flat walk-in and get my camera ready.

Deadvlei salt pan

Deadvlei is a salt pan surrounded by the tallest sand dunes in the world.

Inside it’s really quiet and serene, and the dead trees growing everywhere make it quite spooky.

After 40 minutes, we head back. A pretty amazing experience.

High sand dune with an Oryx sheltering under a tree

As we drive back along the desert highway, we visit “Dune 45” although that sounds like the name of a local nightclub in Newton Heath, it actually relates to a very popular sand dune which is 45km from the Sesriem gate.

It’s very popular with Japanese tourists as its right next to the road and easy to get too.

I took this picture of the dune, with a tree at the foot and an Oryx relaxing in the shade. I think it’s probably the best photo I’ve ever taken and I’ve even had it framed and put up at home.

Inside Sesriem canyon

We wander around in the Sesriem canyon.

Sesriem means six thongs. Six thongs of rawhide rope would be tied together and a bucket fastened to the end.

It would then be lowered down into the canyon to collect water.

Our accomodation at the Zebra River Lodge

Back to the Zebra River Lodge.

It had been a really long day, so something to eat, bottle of wine and off to bed.

The open desert

Up early today and were heading for Swakopmund where we’ll be staying for 2 nights.

I just put this picture up to show you the view we saw for most of the day.

Honestly, in a whole hour you’d see nothing but desert.

The small town of Solitaire

We stop off at the famous “town” of Solitaire.

A bloke and his wife bought some land, built a cottage and then a few other things. The wife’s brother joined them, but then the wife left.

The two of them ran the “town” together. It’s on a main highway, so the bakery is very popular (I had a Viennese whirl, I really didn’t think I’d get to eat one while I was in Africa!)

They also have old farming equipment and cars (like the one above) which are painted in nice colours.

Best thing I liked about it was they actually have an air strip, and wealthy people can fly in and get cakes.

Namibia 2

Me standing next to the Tropic of Capicorn

We stop briefly at the Tropic of Capricorn.

People had put loads of stickers and rubbish on the sign, so it was a bit difficult to read.

Kuiseb Canyon, where the heroe's of sheltering desert lived for 2 and a half years

As we drove through the desert we reached this interesting area.

Many of the people on the trip had been reading The Sheltering Desert by Heno Martin.

In the book, 2 pacifist geologists refuse to fight in the 2nd world war. Faced with the option of internment, they run away and live a Robinson Crusoe existance for the next 2 and a half years.

This is where they lived.

Dolphins at Walvis Bay

We arrive at Walvis bay where Manfred De la ray and Shasa Courtney have their first fight. Neither realising the other is his brother.

Although that didn’t happen in real life, like many of the places I saw, it featured in the stories I’ve read, and they brought books read 30 years earlier to life.

Flamingo’s are fairly common in this area and as a special treat, there was a family of Dolphins as well.

Swakopmund beach with a confusing sign,

We continue on to Swakopmund (in what was German south west Africa).

We’re staying in a sort of hostel called the Dunedin Star (a ship quite famous to the area).

The beach has this interesting sign, that says “swimming at your own risk” and then 6 things you aren’t allowed to do (one of which is shooting!) but most interesting is no swimming. A contradiction?

Staying here for the next 2 nights, we have a free day the following day and there’s loads to do here.

Our guide with a map of Namibia drawn in the sand

The next day starts early with The living desert tour.

About 30 of us piled into 4 off road vehicles. There were 4 staff who rooted around in the desert to find interesting things to show us.

The basic idea is to show that although the desert looks like a dead place, it’s thriving with plant and animal life, with a wealth of interesting rocks and minerals.

A brief explanation with a sand drawing of Namibia and the places it borders.

Our guide explained that although Africa is known for the big 5, in the desert, we look for the little 5.

Originally the little 5 were Chameleon, Sidewinder snake, Lizard, Cartwheeling spider and Gecko.

The challenge was to see if we could find all 5 during our morning in the desert.

The tour was very environmentally concious and they had stopped seeking out the cartwheeling spider, as it takes 3 days for it to rebuild its home in the sand.

A Chameleon

Instead, it was substituted with a Scorpion. We got to see them all including the Chameleon above.

Railway line leading off into the distance

An absolutely brilliant experience I’d highly recommend if you’re visiting.

As we drive back, we pass this disused railway line, that seems to go on for ever.

Animals in the Swakopmund museum

Back in town, we get some lunch (one thing I love about Africa, is they are unapologetic meat eaters).

Then we look around the Swakopmund museum.

Loads of interesting things including lots of stuffed animals (not to everyone’s taste, but I found them fascinating).

They also had some old equipment that the early settlers would have used. Once again I’m reminded of the burning shore and a cart of the type Lothar De La Ray used in the desert and a Mauser carbine used in a major plot development.

Landrover from the 1950's

I read once, that 85% of all the Land Rovers ever built were still driving.

This one had been donated to the museum, originally shipped from the UK in the late 40’s.

It still works.

Model ship built by a POW

This 1:6000 model of the German cruiser “Nurnberg” was built by Konny Zander whilst imprisoned in an internment camp.

Built from jam and other food tins with melted down toothpaste tubes as solder.

It took him 7 months to make, and all the parts are moveable.

Inside the Tug restaurant

We had intended to visit the Snake museum, but after so much travelling in the truck, decided just to wander around and explore in the sunshine.

We reached the pier and walked to the end. Nikki’s birthday “event” had been fab, but we hadn’t really celebrated on our own.

One of the best restaurants in the town is called The Tug and located at the start of the pier. We decide to have dinner there.

An artistic Pate "installation"

The food and service are superb and the building itself amazing.

Above is a fish pate I had as a starter. A simple dish, turned into this visually stunning creation.


The Burning Shore, takes its title from when Centain (the main character) is washed ashore on the Namib Desert. When I read the book the first time, I never thought for a single moment that one day I’d stand there.

And it was amazing, a place doesn’t earn the name Skeleton Coast by accident, the normal odds of survival here with no equipment and water are practically none existent (but it would have made a pretty dull book if she’d died 🙂

Here we arrive at Henties bay, on the skeleton coast and see the Ziela, a fishing boat run aground in 2008 and left for scrap like so many other here.

Cape Cross Seal Colony

This website is named, The adventures of an ordinary person.

So, I tell it like it is. I think it’s perfectly ok to tell the truth and not everything is for every traveller.

In my case, I found the Cape Cross Seal Colony rather boring. Once you’d seen the first 5 seals, the others were rather mundane and they smelled horrendous.

Walking in the Brandberg mountains

Our next destination is Damaraland where we’ll be staying at the White Lady lodge hotel.

But first, we’ll be doing a bush walk, to see the famous white lady cave painting.

A scorching hot day, but trekking through the Brandberg mountain range was one of the highlights of the trip for me.

White lady paintings. Bushmen paintings dating back at least 2000 years

There are over 1000 cave paintings in the area, but the main one to see is the White Lady (probably because its the most accessible).

Considered academic opinion is that the White Lady is actually a male shamen panted in ritual white, carrying a bow.

Opinions vary on the age of the painting, but the consensus is around 2000 years old.

Our cottage in Brandberg

Our cottage at the White Lady lodge. Typical of the kind of amazing accommodation we used on the trip.

The area was quite spread out and it was possible to rent golf carts and go exploring.

Unfortunately we didn’t have time to do that, so we headed for the main hotel complex to relax.

The swimming pool at our hotel

Although I shy away from “beach holidays” that doesn’t mean I don’t like to sit out in the sunshine at the end of the day.

It’s normally Nikki who goes for a swim, I usually find somewhere with lager.

Our food this evening was a barbecue that Wendy and Shepherd cooked by the pool. The steak was cooked just right and one of the nicest I’ve ever eaten.

Have a steak barbecue while watching the sun set.

As the evening progresses, we wander off in small groups to watch the sun set.

Warning about feeding animals

Once it got dark, we headed indoors. I saw this interesting sign on the bar.

Reading with Alan

We’re now moving to the safari part of our trip and the next morning drive to the Etosha Safari Lodge.

Extremely comfortable. So comfortable in fact, that instead of joining an afternoon visit to a Himba village, I decide to stay behind and relax.

I was assisted by the hotel’s cat, Alan.

I had been re-reading The Burning Shore (I’d read it 4 times previously). As I sat there, I came to the end of the book. Quite a special moment, that’s a bit difficult to describe.

Some Himba tribal ladies

As it was, I’d see some Herero ladies the next day, in their spectacular clothes.

They were selling souvenirs and crafts.

Horendous carved animal

I stupidly purchased some sort of hyena/leopard/giraffe carving of Frankenstein design.

As our truck left, they must have howled laughing at the stupid westerner who’d paid good money for this monstrous thing!.

Desert Elephant

We head out towards the Etosha national park (one of the highlights of the trip, considering the trip itself is a travel highlight in its own right).

Before we get there, we see this desert elephant at the side of the road.

Namibia 3

A pictorial book of animals in the Etosha national park

Nikki got me a book with pictures of all the animals in the Etosha national park and I had great fun ticking off all the one’s I saw.


Although all African animals are special, it’s the cats you really go there to see (and that means getting up early).

The park rules around viewing the animals were very strict.

The truck was only allowed to go a certain distance from the animals and when an American group in their own vehicle got too close the park rangers intervened.

The waterhole viewing point at Etosha National Park

After the luxury of our previous accommodation, we’d now be staying for 2 nights in the state run Safari Lodge in the park.

The surroundings were superb and it was an excellent base to explore the park.

The service levels however were another matter. They didn’t cater for vegetarians for example, and simply buying tickets for a night safari was like getting tickets to the FA cup!

I visited this waterhole to view animals and didn’t see a single thing (although it was a nice place to sit).

Cape Starling, Etosha

Another lunch cooked at the camp by Wendy and while relaxing (which means while I was having a beer) I saw this colourful Starling waiting to snack on our leftover food.

In our jeep on night safari

We head out on a night Safari.

A lion at night

We saw loads of animals on the night safari, my favourite was this Leopard.

A jeep with built in accomodation

Breakfast time in the camp the following morning and I go for a walk around.

Some people were unlucky enough to have tents, but we had a chalet.

I would have traded a night in our chalet for a night in this vehicle I saw, which had a sort of roof top shelter for sleeping in.

A group of Zebra

During one of several game drives in the park, a dazzle of Zebra (yes, that really is the collective noun for Zebras).

Giraffe, Etosha

And the ubiquitous Giraffe – the lighthouse of the bush.


Not as exciting as the cats we saw, but the Oryx really is a beautiful animal.

After an amazing few days in Etosha, it’s time (sadly) to leave.

But we haven’t seen the end of wild animals.

Cheetah Conservation Foundation.

We visit the world respected Cheetah conservation fund, a sanctuary with literally dozens of Cheetahs.

The park is run mostly by volunteers and their main source of income is providing dogs for local vilages who bark at Cheetahs to make them leave the livestock alone.

This means the local villagers don’t need to shoot the Cheetahs and the system works for everyone.

Cheetah Sanctuary

The Cheetahs were spectacularly beautiful animals.

Cheetah Sanctuary

Unfortunately, if a cat finds its way to the centre, before its parents have taught it too hunt, the professionals there are unable to assist.

So in this case, the Cheetah will be fed raw meet which it will eat in a bowl.

Nikki standing next to a giant termite nest

We head to the final stop on our journey, the strangely named Waterberg rest camp.

Here Nikki finds the largest termite mound we’ve ever seen.


Great thing about the park was the area was full of trails and it was nice to wander around on my own exploring.

Exploring the Waterberg Plateau 2

A sort of overgrown rain forest, with wait-a-while vines.

Dik DIk at the Waterberg Restcamp

A Dik Dik.

A fully grown antelope, that’s the size of a dog. They were wandering around the camp and weren’t frightened of me at all.

They have one central area where we all congregated for drinks and later dinner.

The climb up to the Waterberg Plateau

In the morning, were up early and heading up to the Waterberg Plateau.

It took 45 mins to an hour to get up there, but it was well worth it.

A view of the actual Waterberg Plateau

The famous waterberg Plateau.

The view from the Waterberg Plateu

The view from the top, all the way to the Kalahari desert.

The Waterberg Plateau and German Graveyard.

In the morning, more exploring of trails around the park, then breakfast and were heading back to Windhoek.

Joe's beer house - a popular bar

Back at our hotel, we get cleaned up and head out for the groups final evening together at the famous Joe’s Beerhouse.

The beautiful government gardens

Nikki and I have an extra day booked, so the following afternoon, we have an organised tour of the town.

Above are the government gardens, with statues of various revolutionary leaders.

Corrugated steel buildings

The tour included a visit to a township.

I was surprised that most of the building were made of brick and had schools and hospitals nearby.

I realised that my idea of a township had come from a book based on townships in the 1930’s and 40’s. Our guide explained that things arent like that now and what I was talking about was more like a refugee camp.

But actually recently migrants to the area only have houses made of tin and a stand pipe for water when they first arrive.

Dinner on our last night in a place called 'NICE', Windhoek

Our final evening in Namibia and we decide on a top notch meal and wine.

A place called NICE – Namibian institute for culinary excellence, which trains young chefs

Inside, the service food and wine were superb. An evening for reflection and a lovely end to an amazing trip.

Tour advert showing Ronda bridge (which is actualy in Spain !)

But I had to end with the picture above.

As we got into a taxi to go to the airport, I saw this sign on a tour bus, offering all sorts of day trips.

I almost asked him to take us to that bridge 🙂 except I knew his couldn’t, as its in Andalusia in Spain and a bit far away from Southern Africa.

Still, top marks for marketing.

I’ve been to a lot of places, but Namibia really was amazing.

No update for 2 months !.


Late last year, I had 2 months off to work on my house/repair bikes/maintain Nikki’s car/work with Nikki’s dad on the garden and Travel (I was lucky enough to do numerous trips in the UK and visit Andalucia, Namibia and India).

I spent Christmas day in a jeep looking for tigers in India and actually flew home on New Years eve. Once home, I had 1 day to get organised, then started my new job.

My new job involves me working for a software company in Liverpools famous Liverbuilding. Superb, as 3 years ago, I sat in All Bar one, with Steve from Phonak and I remember thinking how much I’d love to work in Liverpool.

The rewards as you can imagine are significant, but people dont give those away for nothing.

Loads of exciting new things to learn, but no free early mornings or lunch houres and when I’m home, I’m desperately trying to set up my old routine and get my house in order/meet up with friends and stuff like that.

I’ve turned the corner, but I just wanted to take a moment and thank the readers of this website.

Each year, I try and make it better then the one before. Last year I succeeded, I must have done at least 1000 exciting things, but the irony is, while your doing those things, you don’t have time to write about them.

For the first time in it’s 17 year history, hasn’t been updated in a whole 2 months. I’m working to fix that and updating pages on Namibia and other adventures as we speak, but in the meantime thanks for your patience.

Near and far, the search for adventure continues…

Seeking adventure in Andalucia

Me standing in front of the bridge at Ronda

After receiving a brochure from Inntravel, I’d been reading about adventure holidays in Andalucia Spain.

Then I realised Nikki’s sister and brother in law have just bought a new house there which they’re doing up.

So, a chance to catch up with family, see their new house and find some adventure.

The Rock of Gibraltar

Lyn and Vic work out of Gibraltar, so we flew there, and I was delighted to see the rock once again.

Having lunch in La Linea

We cross the border into Spain and have lunch at La Linea.

It’s late October and the difference in weather from Chester is obvious. Warm with lots of sunshine.

Driving on the motorway with the roof down

From here, we jump in the car and drive to Algodonales where Lyn and Vic live.

I dont think I’ve ever driven on a motorway, with the roof down, so this was a first for me.

Outside Lyn and Vic's house in the Andalucian mountains

We arrive at their house, which is high in the mountains.

They also own a camper van (I hope to own one one day and explore the UK and Europe, once I’ve retired – see what happens).

View throug living room showing mountains and a reservoir

Inside the house, there are spectacular views of the hill side and the Zahara El Gastor, a reservoir where water sports are popular.

Its late afternoon by now, so we spend the evening having a barbecue on the balcony and I get to see Saturn through a telescope.

Pa Yoyo cafe and cheese shop

In the morning, were heading out for adventure, but first stop off for some essential supplies.

Tasting different sheep and goat's cheese inside the shop

In the UK, we normally have sandwiches when we go out walking, but for this trip, its been decided that well have picnics.

We stop at the excellent Payoyo cheese shop and purchase some sheep and goats cheese (which I’d never tasted before).

Overlooking the town of Grazalema

We arrive at the town of Grazalema. One of the famous white villages of the area.

It’s a sort of Chamonix of the Grazalema national park and the first point on the days mountain walk.

Map of the Grazalema national park

As you’d imagine, in a country the size of Spain, the national park is proportionally massive compared to the UK.


But before we head into the mountains, we have a stop for coffee.

Walking in mountains with perfect weather

This mornings amazing walk, is only about 4 miles, but starting off high, has spectacular views and scenery.

Mountain view, down through a forest

The highest point on the trail, looking back.

View down a valley

After we reach the top, we loop back around and get this view down the Puerto del Boyar.

One of Andalucia's white villages

With our first walk complete, its time to relax (it is a holiday after all !).

Andalucia is famous for its white villages and we were delighted to visit our 2nd one of the day, Zahara de la Sierra.


Not only that, but when we arrived, there was a medieval festival taking place.

The whole town had been transported back in time to 1483 to celebrate the Moros Y Christianos (the reconquest of the Kingdom of Granada by Castilla.

I like to be festive, so couldn’t resist joining in (when I say joining in, I dont mean costumes or any of that rubbish, I found a table and had a drink).

Map of the Via Verdi bike trails

After breakfast on our 2nd day, It’s been decided that we’ll rent some mountain bikes and do a section of the Via Verde trail.

There are over 6000 km of trails in Spain. Originally planned as a railway that would link even the smallest village, it ground to a halt during the civil war.

But the actual route’s are mostly complete and with tunnels and viaducts make superb cycling trails.

A car parked over 2 spaces

I read once, that a patriot is someone who loves his country, and a nationalist is someone who hates everyone else’s!.

I’m neither, though I do sensibly recognise differences between European nationality like Germans who are organised etc.

I’d been told that “Spanish parking” was among the worst in the world. I can’t comment on that, but the picture above says a lot.

Holiday bicycles

We arrived to pick up our bikes.

The bikes were modern, in excellent condition and they had a full workshop to effect any repairs.

Other thing I noticed was the 4wheel bicycle “things” of the kind I’d not seen since a family holiday in Rhyl when I was 10!.

A cycling trail

We were issued with bikes, a simple map (pictured above) and to my surprise, no helmets.

I asked about tools and spare inner-tubes. They explained that the trail is fairly flat and interspersed with roads. If we have a puncture, just call them from our mobiles and they’d send someone to help.

Thankfully, not needed the whole day.

We set off and the scenery and weather, quite the nicest I’ve ever cycled in.

One of the long tunnels on the trail

The route has lots of tunnels. Quite exciting and reminiscent of the Monsal trail.

Having a picnic on the trail

There were a few cafe’s and nature exhibitions along the way. I stopped a few times, as the heat was baking hot (but that didn’t take away from the fun)

After a few hours, we stop for our picnic. A civilised affair, with red wine.

Me on a bike with wearing cycling gear

As well as tunnels, the route features some viaducts and I was able to stop and get this picture.

I was glad I took my specialist cycling clothes. It was baking hot and jeans and suchlike would have had me heading for home within an hour.

The days cycling complete, we head for home (we gave the bikes back, obviously 🙂


On the third day, an injection of culture is needed, so we head to an amazing place called Ronda.

A very popular tourist attraction, the bridge is an iconic symbol of the area.

Originally founded in the 6th century, Ronda has a population of 35000.

Spectacular bridge in Ronda

I’m neither geologist nor architect, but basically, Ronda was a town split between 2 sides of the El Tajo Gorge.

To make day to day living even viable, they built the spectacular Puente Nuevo bridge.

Bridges and walkways leading down to the lower levels of Ronda

We wander around the old town. It really was a fantastic place and due to its hight, had multiple levels.

Having lunch outside in a busy street

After lots of exploring, we decide to stop and have lunch.

Ronda's ancient Arab baths

Although the town was packed with tourists, there were a few places where you could find peace and quiet.

The Arab baths were such a place, and had a fascinating video explaining the many rooms in the baths and what they were used for.

Ronda also features a bull fighting ring – we didn’t care to visit.

Steps leading down

Casa del rey moro was fascinating.

It had a nice garden with Peacocks, but a walkway that led down to the bottom of the Gorge.

Dark wall with light showing through openings

Further down the steps, this room with amazing lighting effects.

Bottom of the steps on the waters edge with some other tourists

And at the bottom, the place where people could collect water or catch a boat somewhere.

Some houses and shops underneath a rocky overhang

We leave Ronda and drive to a place called Setenil.

Faced with a similar problem to the people of Ronda, the people of Setenil chose an alternative and simply built their town inside the Gorge.

Some houses on each side with a rock "roof"

We walked around the town and had coffee.

This was my favourite spot. Houses had literally been built around the rocks.

We head home and in the evening have dinner in Agodonales.

The Vinyard at Chinchilla wine

Day 5 of our trip, and in the morning we visit a local Bodega.

Chinchilla wine’s had been widely recommended so we decided to go along.

The owner of Chinchilla wine giving a talk on wine production

They showed us the vineyard, how the wine was made and then a wine tasting session with some Tapas.

We met an interesting chap from Finland. A wine importer, he’d brought his family along for a holiday.

A long, windy road heading high into the mountains

In the afternoon, we head for Sera de la Lijar.

You can see from the roads we drove on just how high up it was.

Paragliders launching from high in the mountains

The top of Siera de la Lijar is popular with Paragliders.

View showing hills and a lake from high in the mountains

Lyn had worked out a route for us to walk.

It was late afternoon and I was feeling a bit tired so I just sat and enjoyed the view.

Train stopped at Ronda

Our last day, and its sadly time to head home (but adventure can be added to any scenario).

A train runs from Ronda back to La Linea near Gibraltar.

Inside a Spanish train

It’s a 2 hour journey. There’s a monitor showing the progress of the train, and very comfortable seats.

A storks nest on top of a telegraph pole

The telephone lines running next to the trainline have become a home for local storks.

Back at La Linea, were picked up by Lyn and head across the border to Gibraltar.

Enormous floating hotel and small yellow "dolphin" boat

Back in Gibraltar I get a look at the famous (or infamous to the locals) Sunborn hotel and Casino.

Next to it, something I intend to do next time I’m there. The Dolphin boat, where you can go out and see Dolphins.

Inside Bianca's having drinks and dinner

I saw most of Gibraltar, last time I was here, on a superbly organised tour by Lyn.

On that occasion, eccentric thing I wanted to do was a have a drink in the famous Bianca’s, a sort of expat Mecca.

But it was closed for refurbishment.

This time, it was open, and we were able to relax and meet some of the people who’ve made Gibraltar their home.

Overall, a fantastic trip and I hope this provides inspiration for anyone thinking of going there. And special thanks to Lyn and Vic for providing accommodation and acting as tour guides.

Mountains, nostalgia and Jack the Ripper.

Me standing in the mountains.

Loads of cool and interesting things have happened over the last month.

Among, them an amazing achievement I set my sights on in my 20’s. It’s had extra focus over the last 2 years and with the assistance of a real friend I was able to complete it (more about that later).

I’ve also met up with an old friend from Fairbridge Drake and anther from IBM.

Three characters from Ripper street standing in a dark alley.

I’ve mentioned before the advantage of being on the virgin train mailing list and why everyone should be on it, so I was delighted once again to get a return journey to London for £22.

I always try to have a theme to my adventure projects and a simple list of objectives to add focus.

The theme for the early part of the day was a tv program (which has now finished) called Ripper Street.

The entire cast of Ripper Street, standing in an old fashioned street in Ireland.

Featuring 3 amazing characters and the work of “H” division, it was set around the streets of “Whitechapel” at a time after Jack the Ripper.

It dealt with many relevant topics of the era and showed the harsh grim reality of life in that place and time.

The main plot “meet up” area’s were Leman Street station house (the old name for police station) and the local public house, The Brown Bear.

Studio set showing the front of an old pub.

But of course that part of London no longer looks that way and instead the whole thing was filmed in Ireland (the pub above is just the frontage of the Brown Bear, its only about 5 feet deep).

But the actual historical places still exist in London. I enjoy walking anyway, so worked out a 2 hour route that would allow me to soak up the atmosphere of London on the way.

A 70's building which is now a closed down police station.

After a wander along the Thames I arrived at Leman Street Police station.

It seems to be closed down now, and at the entrance, it says “If you need a police officer call -xxx”.

Outside the Brown Bear pub in Whitechapel.

More disturbing the nearby pub.

I had set my heart on posting a picture of me drinking a pint in the Brown Bear.

It appeared to have closed down, although a first floor window was open so someone obviously lives there.

Disappointed, but loads of other stuff to do, so I’m off on my way.

Outside the Anchor pub on the bank of the river Thames.

To cheer myself up, I head for the south bank and have a pint at the Anchor.

This pub has special significance as it’s featured in the original Mission Impossible film (at the end where Ethan and Luther have a pint by the Thames and Luther tries to talk Ethan into staying in the IMF).

A view across the river thames.

I head back to St Pancras station to meet up with my friend Nadiah. I’m quite excited, as although we communicate regularly, we haven’t met face to face for some time.

We originally met on the Fairbridge Drake Hambros Cruise (FD had 12 centres across the UK and each centre got to pick 2 trainee adventurers to take part in a month long trip that involved sailing, mountaineering and canoeing across France and Spain).

The world felt so small and limited to me when I was 20. Nadiah was an incredible woman who never seemed fazed by anything and capable of doing whatever she put her mind too.

Someone who showed me what the world could be and quite simply, I dont think I would have achieved half the things I have without meeting her.

After some quick refreshments at the station, we wander to the British Museum and see the Elgin Marbles and the Rosseta stone (I consider it a privilege to be able to see these things and its great to be able to share those experiences).

But there’s so much to talk about and the time flies. Before I realise it, I’m quite hungry.

We wander down to the bank of the Thames where we find a quiet spot and have a picnic.

OK, this is and we always tell the truth here. It wasn’t actually a picnic, I bought some sandwiches and stuff from Phillpots.

Me sitting with my friend Nadiah.

We find an atmospheric London pub called the George. A chance to escape the hustle and bustle of London and relax.

It was great chatting to a someone who new me such a long time ago and surprising how little we’ve changed.

Reflecting on life in my 20’s and comparing all the things I said I’d do to how my life actually is :).

Nadiah heads home and I wander back to Euston, get a bottle of red wine for the journey and with a sense of nostalgia, listen to 80’s music all the way back to Chester.

A hospital scene on stage from the production "The Royal" in Liverpool.

Although obviously proud of Chester’s new Storyhouse theatre, Nikki and I still love to go out for the evening to Liverpool (if you can just block the train home out of your mind).

The Royal court theatre is somewhere we visit a lot and this time. They were showing a production called the Royal, about Liverpool Royal hospital, which is being closed down and moving to a new more modern hospital.

The play is very topical, as the real Royal hospital is closing down at the time of the production.

A crass comedy, but really connected emotionally with the audience and and incredible scene with a wrecking ball.

Oliver, Jess, Dale and I sat at a table having dinner at Mogli in Liverpool.

A few evenings later, and I’m back in Liverpool again.

I meet up with my old friend Oliver (who I worked with at IBM), his lovely wife Jess and his brother Dale.

Their wedding in Las Vegas some years ago was my first trip outside Europe. They now live in Chicago, so I try to catch up with them whenever they’re in the UK.

Instead of our usual meet up destination in Manchester, we decide on something different and I suggest Liverpool. He’s due to arrive before me, so I recommended a visit to Liverpool museum.

I could use lines and lines of text describing the museum, what’s in it and how superb it is. Instead I’ll simply say this: As a Mancunian, I’m embarrassed we dont have a museum as good as that. Go and see it if you get the chance.

After a few drinks in All Bar One, we went for a curry. I’ve always enjoyed modern fusion food, but Mogli was on another planet altogether, with small dishes served in a Tapas style and names like “Gunpowder” Chicken.

Work the next day, wished them a safe journey home and I promise I’ll get to Chicago at some point even if its only to taste authentic Pizza and have a go on your boat.

My friend Matt, walking up a hill in Snowdonia.

Years ago another girl I met through Fairbridge Drake (Jane Smith) gave me a picture of a place called Crib Goch in Snowdonia.

My mum took a liking to it, and had it framed where it hung in the living room for over a decade. When I got my first and subsiquent houses it came with me and hung in a place where I’d see it every day.

Crib Goch is one of the most challenging walk/scramble routes in Europe. A knife edge ridge, that rises 700m in the first mile. An iconic challenge for any young adventurer.

Problem is, I’m not so young any more. As Jon Lennon wrote, life is what happens while your busy making other plans. The picture stayed on the wall and CG drifted down the to do list.

Well, I was still mad keen to do it, I just needed near perfect weather and someone daft enough to come with me.

Enter “millennial” Matt from work. It would be his 3rd Crib Goch ascent this year alone !.

The view looking back from Crib Goch, high in the mountains.

We set off and in no time at all, were really up high with some of the most spectacular views I’ve ever seen in Snowdonia.

Me eating a sausage roll.

A very “seat of the pants” project, so in all the excitement forgot to take a packed lunch.

I did however have my emergency sausage roll. I offered half of it to Matt. He declined.

Climbing up the craggy path to Crib Goch.

Open and craggy.

Overtaken by the moment, at one point I’m climbing 20 feet up a rock face un-roped.

From the H&S courses I’ve taken recently, I realise I’m taking an unnecessary risk.

I resolve to take it easy, most accidents on this mountain occur either due to ice or people climbing “steps”, becoming complacent and then getting injured.

Looking across the ridge at Crib Goch.

And up across the tops. What an incredible experience.

Lots of people on the top. A queue was forming. I was surprised to find that many people were much  slower than me.

We head back, and the anticlimax is walking back, down the Llanberis path (perhaps the dullest mountain trek in Europe).

Connecting with my inner “yoof” I took Matt and I for a slap up, all you can eat Macdonalds.

My Trekk bike, parked in my living room.

A few random things now.

You can see I bought this really cool rug to park my bike on.

It even has a bicycle logo at the bottom in case you didn’t know what it was for.

My friend Monika holding up a trophy.

My friend Monika on the left.

A fab girl from the Czech republic who spent time in the UK looking after Children and learning English.

We met through the Chester and District walking group and are still in touch on Facebook.

She won a prize in some sort of competition (probably running or cycling, I dont know which as it wasn’t in English, but congratulations anyway Monika 🙂

A forest scene in the Snowdonia national park.

A weekend later and were back in Snowdonia.

It amazes me that you can get a private twin room, in a perfect spot In Llanberis for only £32. We had booked 2 nights and dinner reservations at the Peak restaurant.

The picture above is what it should have looked like on Saturday and Sunday when we went out walking.

Unfortunately, it didn’t look like that at all. It was the worse weather I’ve ever seen in that part of Wales.

The battlements of Cearnarfon castle.

So bad in fact, that we had to do the tourist thing and head for Caernarfon castle.

As castles go, its one of my favourites.

Caernarfon castle viewed from high on the battlements.

And from a higher vantage point looking the other way.

A display in the Welsh Fuseliers museum, showing a Parang, some medals and some hats.

After wandering around for an hour or 2, we visited the Welsh Fusiliers museum contained in the castle.

I couldn’t believe how many theatres of war the regiment had fought in – everywhere from Burma and Bosnia.

A notebook on my desk with a to-do list on it.

Speaking of military things and history.

I was sat at my desk at home the other evening, planning some things to do (with obviously a glass of wine in attendance).

An old page or writting, showing Monty's plan for D Day.

I glanced at the daily Telegraph website and read this article about Monty’s plan for D Day, which was written on one page of A4.

I’m not pretentious enough to compare them, but I was struck by the co-incidence.

Me giving a travel talk at the Globetrotters.

Nikki and I were at Chester Globetrotters again on the 16th of October.

This time, instead of compering, we gave a talk about our trip to Burma.

The Grosvenor museum lecture theatre had over 60 people there and our talk ended to rapturous applause.

I still haven’t completed the Burma pages for, I hope to have it done in the next week if you interested in the content of the talk.

Inside the Albion pub, showing memorabilia from the 2nd World War.

Afterwards we went for lunch to a place I haven’t been in years.

If you’ve never visited the Albion pub in Chester, your in for a treat.

It is literally a snapshot of how a pub would have looked during the 2nd world war.

Pam and Dave with drinks, sitting on a leather settee.

Speaking of eating and drinking, I’ve started going to a pub nearby called the Cornerhouse.

The picture above is my 2 friends Dave and Pam, after they’d been to see the film: A man called Ove.

I’ve always said, my 2 favourite films of all time are Gattaca and The Counterfeiters. I’ve now added A man called Ove to that list and the Chester film society are showing it on April 10th next year.

The Cornerhouse did a wine tasting the other evening and Nikki and I attended. The wine was nice but they did an amazing platter with different kinds of cheese and meat which was even better.

Overall, a smart new venue and like the films, Cornerhouse has been added to Brewhouse and The Coach house as my 3 favourite pubs in the city (and they all contain the word house in them 🙂

Some brand new Merrell trainers in a box just opened.

If you’ve met me in the last 10 years on any kind of adventure, I’ll probably have been wearing a pair of Merrell cross trainers.

For hills, there’s no substitute for proper walking boots (I prefer Saloman Quest 4D).

For every other environment Merrell Moab Ventilator, are in my opinion the best outdoor footwear you can get, from pub to canal towpath to forest and desert.

Recently, Merrell have launched Moab 2. The jury is still out on the new addition, but the brilliant news is that the “normal” ones have fallen in price.

I had 2 pairs delivered from Amazon for £100 (almost half price).

If your on the lookout for cross trainers, now is the time to buy.

A Fray Bentos steak and kidney pie, straight out of the oven.

Just for nostalgia, I recently bought a Fray Bentos pie.

For lazy cooking, they can’t be beaten.

Inside an art gallery showing a display of Pop art.

Wandering around Chester recently, I visited the Pop art exhibition in the old library.

If you haven’t been I highly recommend it.

A re-creation of wartime trenches.

In advance of my trip to Namibia, I’m reading The burning shore by Wilbur Smith.

A book I originally read almost 30 years ago and I imagined myself in the Kalahari desert.

But then I realised at the time that it was somewhere I would never see – well I’ll be standing there in 3 weeks time, so the lesson is never give up on your dreams.

The book begins on the Western front during the first world war.

I recently went to visit Cheshire military museum. They have all sorts of interesting things there, but this recreation of the trenches, brought some of the scenes I’d read about in the book to life.

A man sitting on a chair with 2 children. Looking thoughtfull as they ask him "Daddy, what did YOU do in the great war"

Another interesting thing was some propaganda pictures they had on display.

Article titled "what Germany said in 1914" describing what Great Britain will be like after they lose the war.

I should mention that I wanted to remain in the European Union and I’m proud to say I voted to to stay (In the words of Mal Reynolds from Firefly: I may have been on the losing side, but I’m still not convinced it was the wrong side).

Anyway, on the subject of our European neighbours, I saw this critique of Britain from 1914 !.

A parody showing how to draw pictures of Owl's.

Finally, I thought I’d finish with something a bit funny.

I had a book a few years ago, that showed how to draw animals (and which after a dozen attempts proved to me, that I’d never be any good at drawing).

My friend Andrew Ganley (a psychologist I met while working at Prestwich hospital and who I’ve always called “Ganders”) posted this on facebook.

Thanks once again for taking the time to read this. Near and far, the search for adventure continues…


Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight.

Me standing in front of a Hovercraft

I’d wanted to visit Portsmouth Historic dockyard and see many of the museums and ships there.

The Isle of Wight lies just across the water from Portsmouth and has Europe’s only regularly running Hovercraft service (and I’d never been on a Hovercraft).

Finally, HMS Elizabeth had docked in Portsmouth and there was a chance to see it up close.

Well, one of those would be enough reason to go, but with all that going on, I arranged a 4 day trip and off we went.

An old country churchyard in Droxford

While visiting that part of the world, it seemed crazy not to do some walking in the South Downs (a National Park I’d not visited before).

We stayed at a nice pub called The Roebuck in a place called Droxford. We arrived in the evening, had a nice pie and mash and a few drinks before retiring to bed.

In the morning, we set of on an 8 mile circular walk, beginning at the church above, where a wedding was taking place.

Nikki standing in a field

The route we chose was from walking world, a website I can’t recommend more highly.

With their route’s, most of the works is done for you, with a simple map and a series of pictures and descriptions showing the route in an ABC format. All we had to do was walk.

If we were looking for high mountains, we’d be unlucky, but the endless rolling fields were spectacular.

We’d found England’s green and pleasant land.

A signpost on the South Downs way

At one point we join a section of the South Downs way.

A long open road with fields on each side

And follow a long windy road back into town.

The walking world notes had mentioned a really nice pub that had recently opened and on such a beautiful day it seemed daft not to visit.

When we got there unfortunately, it had closed down.

An old railway station at Droxford thats been converted into a private residence

What we did find, was the original train station, which is now a private residence.

It has significance from the first world war as Churchill and many of Britain’s allies, met here in secret to plan D Day.

Back at the car, the wedding had just finished and we cheered the happy couple on their new life together.

The waterfront in Portsmouth

Driving to Portsmouth, our home for the next 3 nights, we walk along the water front and I’m amazed to find there’s a sort of seaside thing going on with bumper cars and slot machines.

Further along is the old port, where we can look out to sea. The Royal Navy is based here, and throughout its history ships have sailed from here on various missions.

Portsmouth has a historic dockyard, a modern military port and a thriving commercial port, so there’s plenty going on.

After a bit more exploring we head to our planned dinner destination.

Tables laid out for dinner at Abarbistro restaurant

The Abarbistro restaurant was superb.

It also incorporated a wine merchant so we had a wide selection to go with our meal.

Some excited people boarding a Hovercraft

In the morning, were up bright and early and head to the Hovercraft Port (its £22 per person for a return journey).

You select the specific time you want to go, but if you want to go or come back at an alternative time and there’s space available then they will let you switch.

Poeple inside the cabin of the Hovercraft

Having never been on a Hovercraft before, I really enjoyed it (and the people around me seemed to as well).

As it was early in the day, the Sea had receded quite far and the Hovercraft glided from the ocean to the sand and cruised up to the hoverport in Ryde.

Nikki sitting at a picnick table with a map open

We had a day in the Isle of Wight and exploring by bicycle seemed like the thing to do.

We rented 2 bikes from Tackt Isle adventures (who were extremely professional and very friendly) based 6 miles from Ryde, in a lovely spot called the Duver.

They also taught sailing, rented out sea canoes and offered all sorts of other adventure importunities.

I was a bit disappointed as on this occasion we only had time to do mountain biking, but I’ll go back for a week next time 🙂

Setting off, we stop for some coffee near the beach, spread out our map and choose our cycle route.

Mountain bike riding across the beach

We cycle around the coast for most of the day, occasionally heading inland and seeing various sights along the way.

As we’d chosen mountain bikes, we were  able to do an occasional beach ride which was really exciting.

Walking next to the sea

Late in the day, with our cycling complete we head back to Ryde.

Since its such nice weather we’ll walk back.

A path running through the forest

We occasionally leave the coast and head inland following trails through forests like this one.

Nikki and I resting on the beach

And obviously having an occasional rest on the beach to relax.

Back in Ryde we have a dinner reservation at Olivo. Its then I realise how far up the hill it is.

Olivo was a superb restaurant, and just like everything else I saw in the Isle of Wight, I’ll be going back to visit it again.

We get the 10pm Hovercraft home. This time the sea is right up to the harbour and the hovercraft glides straight onto it.

Nikki at the harbour standing in front of an old ship

Our 3rd day, and this time were visiting the Historic dockyard to see some of the museums and ships on display.

This ship, HMS Warrior was the most advanced warship of her kind when she was built in Victorian times, complete with an Iron clad hull and a a steam engine to compliment her sails.

Inside the gun bay of an old warship with tables set for lunch

Inside the gun deck, 18 men to a gun which would fire a cannonball weighing 5 stone.

They also slept and ate here in teams, but during combat could fire one cannonball every 55 seconds, 3 times faster than the French or the Dutch.

Our guide was a friendly type and even asked if there were any French or Dutch people there so he could “ribg” them !.

Interestingly, its guns were never fired in anger.

The inside of the captains cabin on an old warship. Spacious and oppulent

In contrast to smaller ships like HMS Victory which I’d see later, this thing was opulent.

This is the captains cabin, which has a desk, dining table and sleeping quarters.

The gun crew slept in hammocks above their guns.

Some tactical military canoes

We visited a warehouse where young people are taught how to make boats in the traditional style from wood.

While there, we had some excellent coffee in a place called the Midships Cookhouse.

As I left I saw these military canoes typical of the kind used in Cockleshell heroes.

A grey and black metal warship from the 1st world war

The M33 was used in the first world war and an example of “modern” ships made of steal.

She had a galley, where bacon and things like that were cooked.

Inside a first world war warship

She was called the “lucky ship” and we found out why.

Inside was a video about the ill feted Gallipoli campaign.

The M33 was constructed in 7 weeks with a thin bow, so it could sail in close and bombard the coast.

During the whole time, the ship didn’t sustain a single hit (not even a bullet).

Amazing when you think that the Turkish army who were “dug in” (by military standards, the safe bet in an exchange like this) lost 83,000 men. A tragedy which I hope will never be repeated.

Some memorabilia from the Falklands conflict including the front page of the Sun newspaper "It's War!"

Inside the Royal Navy museum, there was far too many interesting things to write about here.

Instead I’ve just picked one section, which talked about the Falklands conflict (I remember being 13 and watching updates on it each evening when I got home from school. I’ll be going there on a cruise next year).

Newly painted HMS Victory

HMS Victory, probably the most famous ship in the historic dockyard.

If your expecting it to be painted gold or yellow, they’ve actually re-painted it in the colours that Admiral Nelson would recognise.

Bellow decks on HMS Victory where Admiral Nelson died

There’s an entire museum about Admiral Nelson and his life.

Suffice to say, when he sailed the fleet to Trafalgar, Britain’s national heritage was at stake.

When the flag message “England expects…” was sent out, he knew if he failed to beat the combined French and Spanish Navies, Britain would become a French colony.

He was shot by a French sniper and taken bellow decks. As he lay dying he was told that the battle was over and Britain had been victorious. This is the spot where he died..

It’s interesting to think how the quality of British food might have improved if he’d failed. I guess we’ll never know.

Futuristic "flying saucer" building housing the Mary Rose exibition.

The Mary Rose museum is quite new and from the outside has the sort of UFO appearance.

Some of the old timbers from the 500 year old Mary Rose

Henry the 8th founded the Royal Navy. He watched the Mary Rose capsize and sink in Portsmouth harbour.

Many will remember (and there’s a video of it, for those that don’t) when it was re-floated floated in 1982. While watching it on tv, I was a bit disappointed as I was expecting a “proper” boat and it was just a pile of old wood.

What looked at the time to be the flat bottom of the deck, was actually 1 side of the boat. The other side had rotted away.

For years the museum was just some old wood with water being pored over it constantly.

The new one, has the remaining side mounted upright on one side and various artefacts from the boat mounted on the other.

In this way its possible to walk through the middle on 3 different levels and imagine what it would have been like to stand inside the belly of this ship.

A brick oven and some old cooking equipment

Various research had been done of the years and they had even re-constructed the brick oven that would have fed all of those onboard the ship.

The old timbers, and the glass viewing area

Inside the main room at ground level.

It really is a spectacular exhibit and if you’ve seen it before in its previous form (as Nikki had) I’d urge you to go back, its well worth it.

The Spinnaker tower at night. A viewing platform that overlooks the harbour

We wander back to the harbour for dinner (its a fab atmosphere there with lots of nice bars and restaurants).

As we head back to our hotel, I get a look at the Spinnaker, where were booked to visit the next day at 9:30am.

The modern aircraft carrier HMS Elizabeth at dock

And from the top of the Spinnaker, an amazing view of HMS Elizabeth, Britain’s newest aircraft carrier.

View accross portsmouth harbour taken from the Spinnaker

Looking out across the Solent, a final picture to remember Portsmouth.

An incredible trip – like Arnold Schwarzenegger famously said “I’ll be back”.

Trip to Cardiff and the Dr Who Experience

Me standing next to the "war Dr" Tardis

For a while I’d wanted to visit Cardiff and especially visit the Dr Who experience.

I got an email 6 weeks ago explaining the Dr Who experience was closing for good.

With that piece of information, I got organised and booked my tickets.


After a 3 and a half hour train journey, I arrived in Cardiff. I hadn’t realised, that Cardiff Bay is actually about 30 minutes walk from the centre of Cardiff.

In no time at all, I was standing in front of the iconic Cardiff Bay heritage centre. I’d see more of it later.

BBC Studios in Cardiff where Dr Who is made

As I wandered towards “The Experience”, I passed this expanse of water.

In the background is BBC Roath Lock, where Dr Who is made. Half of the building you can see is taken up by the “new” Tardis interior.


As I arrive, I’m surprised at just how big this place is.

Its the size of several large warehouses.


The Experience is split into 2 parts. An interactive session and then a museum of artefacts from the series.

We were asked not to take pictures of the interactive part, so that new people could enjoy it.

What I can say, is that it ended in the entrance to the museum, with a re-creation of scrapyard at 76 Totters lane where the very first episode “an unearthly child” started in 1963.


And inside the museum.

This was incredible. I’d expected to see a lot of things considering the time and energy put into it, but this was much more than that, it must have taken years of planning to put all of this together.

It featured 4 different Tardis interiors including a massive re-creation of 9th Dr’s Tardis which was destroyed at the end of his tenure.

It was put back together by the museum. Interestingly, in a later series when they wanted to bring back David Tenant and his Tardis, they had to film at the Dr Who experience with the re-created one.


The Dr Who theme is considered by many to be the first piece of electronic music.

They had all the original instruments from the sound department where it was created by Ron Grainer. They also had some of the tools used to create noises like the Tardis.


A green screen arrangement allowed people to be photographed with Daleks and stuff like that.

It looked like fun, but there was a large queue and I was keen to get on.


And there was so much to see.

The costumes of the Paternoster gang.


The Dr’s outfits.

I couldn’t photograph everything, so I got this shot of Christopher Ecllestons leather jacket and jumper (the first Mancunian Dr, a matter of personal pride).


And old favourites, like 3 generations of Daleks.

The information next to each artefact was really good as it could be read by laymen who knew nothing of the series, whilst having interesting insights for people who know the series well.


And a 4th generation of Daleks in nice colours.


A picture of the Brigadier from UNIT.


Some of monsters costumes from the original series.

The Ice warrior’s, The Sontaran’s, K1 robot and the Zygon’s.


And some more contemporary monsters and a better manufactured Zygon suit.


On the left, the gown of the Gallifrayan time-lords (who I’ve always found quite dull if I’m honest)

Next to it a picture of Clara Oswald, the Dr’s previous assistant and above the Raven that’s significant in her story line.


Although everyone raves about the Daleks, the Cybermen are my favourite’s.

On the left, the “newly designed” ones that remained the same for the 80’s.

In the middle, Cybershades made from stray dogs and cats and on the right, Human 2.0 from the new series.


Even newer developments, on the left the latest modern version, and on the right one made of wood.


In season 10 of Dr Who, the Dr is stationed at a University to act as a lecturer.

While there he meets his new assistant, Bill Potts (her costume is on the left of the picture).

In the background is a re-creation of the Dr’s study.


And the latest version of the Cybermen, is actually the original.

The Mondasian Cybermen were made with bits of tin and latex rubber, but they were really scary.

In the final episodes of season 10 they are brought back to life, in a heartbreaking finale.


With my visit to the museum over, I had 40 minutes before the filming locations walking tour started, so I went to get a drink at this nice pub.

I’d find out later that like just about everything in the local area, it had been used as a filming location.


The tour begins.

At the back of the museum, we see this view across Cardiff Bay.

Our guide explained that much of the work in Dr Who, is done post production.

In the first episode of season 10 – Pilot, the Dr takes Bill to Sydney harbour.

They were actually standing here, and the background altered to make Cardiff Bay look like Sydney harbour.


There were 20 of us on the tour of all ages.

The girl on the left had a t shirt with the names of all the people who’d  played the Dr.

In the background is the staircase from runaway bride.

There were about 60 locations we saw in total, I’ve just put up photo’s from the ones I thought were interesting.


The Welsh Assembly building has been used multiple times.

Our guide explained that Cardiff council were always incredibly helpful and supportive with filming of the show.

He said it was a shame the same couldn’t be said of the Welsh weather 🙂


Back inside the heritage centre, these wooden balcony’s look familiar.

Turns out this was the hospital used in the episode New Earth.


Our guide Connor was very friendly and well informed (which was significant considering the 20 people on the tour were borderline fanatics themselves).

One minor disappointment was the talk was normally given in pairs. He would speak, and his assistant would show a section of film from Dr Who or Torchwood to compliment the place we were seeing.

As the attraction is closing in 3 weeks, they are so short of staff that they are no longer able to do it.


These stairs were where the Master (played by John Simm) been elected as Prime Minister with his famous line “What this country needs is a Dr”.


Outside, the Torchwood Hub had a sort of seaside event going on.

But you could still see the water tower, which local estate agents call the Torchwood tower.


There were a few “wow” moments on the tour.

We were taken to a hotel called the Coal exchange.

Inside the guide asked if anyone recognised it. We didn’t…

Turns out, this is the vault where Missy is locked up in the early parts of season 10.

Once we’d been told that we instantly recognised it.


And best of all, the American Diner.

With post production help, its the place where the Dr says goodbye to Clara in the finale of season 9.

It was incredible to think that this could be re-rendered to look like its in the Utah desert, but that’s exactly what had happened.


Upstairs, the fine restaurant where Blon Slitheen asks the Dr not to report her and spare her life.

Realising that she has killed someone and taken their body. He replies “your begging for your life through a dead woman’s lips”.


In Torchwood season 3, a key character called Ianto dies.

This area is where (in the series) Ianto opened the door when pizza’s were delivered.

After his “death”, fans put up messages and pictures and setup Ianto’s memorial.

The council took it down, the fans put it back up, rinse and repeat.

Council message Ianto Jones not being real

In the end, the council gave up, but insisted a sign be put up to explain that Ianto isn’t actually a real person and the actor who plays him is alive and well.

The tour ended here. It felt quite sad, as the Dr Who experience would end 3 weeks later. I say my farewells to Connor and the other Dr Who fans.


But, it’s a beautiful day and I’m in Cardiff bay.

I wander around, get a few drinks and a bite to eat and celebrate.

Hill walking, old friends, old phones and dealing with disappointment.

Frank and Na come to visit me in Chester

Frank and Na standing outside Chester Cathedral.

After last months meet up with Julie and Nick in Manchester, my oldest friend Frank and his lovely wife Na came to visit me in Chester.

I took them to the remembrance garden. It features a flower display which renders as the medal of the Cheshire regiment.  Every time Frank’s been before it was winter and there was nothing to see. On this day, all the flowers were out and he finally got to see it.

Inside Chester Cahedral showing the massive open spaces.

Speaking of things to see, I’d worked out an interesting itinerary of things to do including the newly re-opened castle, Chester’s amazing Storyhouse theatre/library/cinema and a visit to the official Liverpool football club merchandise shop, as Na had a number of requests from friends back in Thailand.

The main event, was the Ark exhibition in Chester Cathedral. As you can see above, the Cathedral is spectacular in its own right, but with the addition of some spectacular exhibits, it came to life.

Wallboard showing list of attractions at Ark exhibition.

Featuring 90 works of art, by 50 world renowned sculptures, the exhibition is free (although obviously, we bought the optional map and made a donation).

Damien Hurst sculpture showing an animal in a tank of formalyehyde.

Most interesting to me was “False Gods” by Damien Hurst.

Frank had always wanted to see this and was quite delighted (I remember commenting, that I never thought I’d get to see it, but definitely not in Chester Cathedral !).

Frank and Na are back home safe in Thailand now, and I look forward to catching up with them the next time one of us is in the others country.

Peak district walking: Bleaklow

Brian standing on some rocks.

The following day, we head off to the Peak District, to go hill walking with the Chester and District Walking Group.

Bleaklow is an iconic hill in the peaks. I was looking forward to returning as the last time we were here, the weather was appalling.

Nikki standing on a path on a hillside.

An early start, we drove there with a full car of keen participants and parked at the Mill (which once made textiles and is now filled with web developers).

Some of the path was muddy, but there were clear trails throughout the day.

Group of walkers stopping on a hillside for a rest.

After a morning of trekking and friendly conversation we stop on the hill side for lunch.


One of our group, Brian is an excellent navigator.

He had worked out where an American plane had crashed nearby and he had worked out a route to the site.

Amazingly, after all these years, some wreckage still remained.

Steel plaque fastened to a rock.

A plaque to the crew of the Superfortress, nicknamed Overexposed.

Large aeroplane engine parts.

Some of the larger engine parts from the plane.

We wander back down the hill, have a pint in the Bulls Head, Glossop. We like to contribute to the local economy (and we like pints as well).

Another fab day out with the walking group then its the usual routine, drive home, bath and dinner at Artichoke.

New First aid and safety equipment

The classic Nokia 3310 redesigned.

I’ve been upgrading some of my equipment recently (you may remember a new hard torch and duffel bag).

I’ve actually bought a new first aid kit by Ortlieb. When I say first aid kit, its actually just a bag, as I’m going to fill it with my standard travel first aid kit supplies anyway,

The Ortlieb bag is a lot more hard wearing than the Life venture one I have at the moment and is fully waterproof.

While researching first aid kits I was delighted to discover the Nokia 3310 has been relaunched.

Time was, when you saw a police officer or a fireman, they always had a Nokia.

With a weeks worth of charge available and amazing signal strength, this is the ideal emergency phone.

A new experience at Urbano 32.

Menu and drink list for the Urbano 32 Gin tasting evening.

Urbano 32 in Chester is somewhere I go frequently, and I’m a regular attendee of their wine testing hosted by their supplier Rodney Densem wines.

It normally involves 5 wines and 4 food courses (food and wine are matched to make for an amazing experience).

Table filled with contemporary food and drink.

One this occasion, they had the same format, but decided to opt for a Gin tasting evening.

I like to try different things.

I enjoyed myself, but the joys of Gin are lost on me, as it felt like eating a 4 course meal, with lemonade in between every course 🙂

Crib Goch – a date with destiny.

Climber walking the Crib Goch ridge.

Crib Goch near Snowdon, is one of the most spectacular ridge walks in Europe.

A girl called Jane Smith gave me a framed picture of it 30 years ago, it’s hung on my wall ever since and for reasons I can’t explain, I’ve never gotten around to doing it.

Probably because, this isn’t easy, requires perfect weather and planning (and a suspension of a persons fear of heights!).

I’ve been talking to a few friends at work and we’ve got a date set to go and do it.

A mixture of health trepidation and immense enthusiasm. I’ll post updates when its completed.

The other side of my day at work.

Merseyrail train at Chester railway station.

I was asked the other day what I do at work, when I’m not working. So, for no particular reason, I thought I’d write a bit about it.

Amazingly, it takes 2 trains to travel the 7 miles from Chester to Ellesmere Port where I work.

Instead, I get on this train with my bike, get off 9 minutes later at Capenhurst then ride for 20 minutes to my office at EP.

I usually do the same in reverse on the way home, but if the weather is nice, I join the canal and peddle the 10 miles along the towpath, where I get to see fishermen, people walking dogs and other people smoking Marijuana.

A bench in Overpool cemetery.

At lunchtime, if its raining, I find a quiet corner in the warehouse and read.

If not, I go out for a walk.

A circuit I do, takes me through some quiet industrial places, some forested areas and on the way back, I get to sit on this bench in the graveyard where I usually eat my lunch and drink mineral water.

As I’m walking, I usually listen to the Smiths or the Happy Mondays.

A plate with Fish and Chips and a pint of San Miguel.

Occasionally, I don’t cycle to work and just do the 2 train combination.

Because of the way the train times fall, I usually have 28 minutes to wait, so I pop to a pub across the road.

It’s full of balloons (the human kind) but I find a quiet corner and relax with my tablet or notebook before getting the train.

Sometimes, I treat myself to dinner in the pub and the tasty Fish and chips above cost only £3.99

One of the most advanced laboratories in the country help me out with a personal problem.

Scales with a gas canister on it.

Speaking of work, some of my friends in the lab have been helping me with a conundrum.

How do I know, how much is left in the gas canister for my camping stove ?

The answer, weigh a full one and then weigh the one you’ve been using.

Obviously for the full scientific solution we’ll need an empty one as well.

For the time being its a great little solution, so thanks for that Alison.

The Beggars Opera and humble pie on the menu.

Upper aisle looking down at the stage.

I’ve been to Chester Storyhouse several times to watch films, get coffee and study in the library.

I recently got my first chance to watch something in the theatre.

A reworking of the Beggars opera with the musicians on the stage joining in, some incredible vocal work by the actors and instead of the tragic ending, the audience are invited to choose an ending just like Wayne’s World.

Great day out in the Ogwen Valley.

Hill walker at a shop buying coffee.

Following day, were back in the Ogwen valley, Snowdonia, in further pursuit of the Welsh 3000’s.

One of my favourite people: Tracy, who seems like a typical mum with grown up daughters who likes to bake cakes.

Which gives little clue to the amazing adventure life she’s lived.  She was stationed all over the world with the British army and spent 2 years in northern Ireland.

These are the kind of people you meet when you go hill walking 🙂

We got coffee before setting off, but when we got back, the kiosk was closed so we missed out on the sausage rolls I’d been dreaming about all day.

Some mountains and a lake.

The mountains and lakes around here are stunning to look at.

Some people sitting on a mountain side.

We stop for a breather.

Dave E in the front of the picture and Andy in the back.

The woman in blue standing up, is a Russian lawyer who lives in London. She’d travelled up for the weekend but got lost.

We invited her to join us and we spent the day on the hill together (she had come on the trip straight from work, so was carrying her work laptop and other unnecessary stuff for the whole day).

A valley with a lake in the middle and mountains all around it.

Our goal’s for the day Foel Grach and Foel-fras (2 more Welsh 3000’s to tick off the list). Our task finished and a day of interesting conversation complete, we head for home.

Disappointing start to my sailing career.

Some small yachts sailing in a row.

But not everything goes to plan.

For ages, I’ve wanted to have a go at sailing. I’ve been on bigger boats in the past, but the idea of having a relaxing afternoon sailing up and down in your own little boat seems pretty attractive to me.

A training centre that was highly recommended was the Wirral Sailing Centre at West Kirby, where they have a large marine lake.

I’d signed up and had been looking forward to it for weeks (they only run 4 courses a year).

Showing how to tie a round turn and 2 half hitches.

I was so enthusiastic that Nikki’s sister Lyn got me a book and DVD from the Royal Yachting association and I’d been learning theory and practising knots for weeks before.

An then, the night before I wake up and start being sick (I’m still unsure why) and with that, my sailing hopes for this year are dashed (the next and only other course this year is on the same day that Nikki and I are due to give a talk at the Chester Globetrotters).

After calling the centre and telling them I couldn’t attend I was overtaken by despondency. Why do I set my sights high. It only means when something goes wrong, I’m miserable.

Why don’t I do what many of the masses do, watch x factor, tidy the garage , sit in the garden and just goe through the motions of life. I doubt they feel much dissatisfaction.

But then it hits me, I couldn’t live that way, even if I wanted to. I’ve booked to do it next year and I should have a tidy compliment of sailing attire to wear when I do it.

Enemy’s become friends

A domestic pigeon sitting on a nest.

For a long time, Pigeons caused me all kinds of problems in my garden (back yard).

They had a nest on my Sky dish and since its a 3 story house, I couldn’t move them and they would poo in the garden which required frequently cleaning up.

Over time, the dish was removed and the problem went away.

The other day, I noticed that the pigeons had built a nest on the ground, next to my storage cupboard (oh the cliche of motivational speaking) and were using my garden chair as a sort of porch.

Having read up on it, I know that both parents will take turns to incubate their 2 eggs. It will take 17 days and then another 30 for the young chicks to learn to fly, find food and annoy me.

In the meantime, since I was responsible for them being homeless, I’ve let them stay and I put a little bowl of water and some bread out for them each night.

But once the chicks are grown, as Americans say, “your outta here!”.

Counting down the days to the Dr Who experience in Cardiff.

Building at Cardiff bay.

Well, one more weekend at home, and then I’m off to Cardiff to see the Dr Who experience.

I’ve even signed up for the walking tour. I’m only sorry there isnt more time, as I’ve found out there are other Dr Who filming locations that are a bus ride away and I won’t have enough time.

I’m sure I’ll go back, Cardiff looks like a fab place. I’ve even found a nice bar featured in Torchwood where I can get a drink before I head for home.

Don’t forget that Nikki and I are giving a talk on Burma on Saturday the 16th of of September at Chester Museum.

Near and far, the search for adventure continues…