Category Archives: Travel

Tagbilaran to Bohol – A dance with danger

Bohol is connected to Panglao by a bridge so I needed a lift over. This part of my trip did not go well.

The only issue with visiting The Philippines is that whilst it feels quite safe, as a tourist you might as well be a walking wallet. A minority of locals take great pleasure in trying to con you or fleece you. It’s a lucrative business and tired travellers are easy prey.

I was collected from Mithi Resort and Spa by their free transfer van. I had pre-booked a connecting taxi from the port of Tagbilaran, over on Bohol, once we got there. You do this on social media, it’s cheaper as you can haggle and ask a few companies to get the best price.

When we got to the port, none of the taxis were marked. I asked the van man to tell me where the Valleroso and Ralle taxi was (a reputable taxi company based on Panglao). He started having a chat with a driver that I presumed was from that company and told me that this was my guy.

Wrong.

As soon as I got in the taxi and he showed me a price list and tried to charge me three times what I had already agreed. We had arranged a price in advance I told him, you’re not from Valleroso and Ralle are you?

But I was tired and it was so hot, I couldn’t be bothered to look for the driver I’d booked. He should’ve been standing there waiting.

So I took a chance.

Bad decision.

The man was in his thirties with a greasy face and a leering grin. He started flirting with me and seemed to enjoy it, despite my obvious discomfort.

Come swimming with me, he said. I’ll have to wear just my boxers but I can show you all the best coral. And after I can give you a massage.

No thanks.

But it’ll be fun! Come on. It’s ok, it’s ok, don’t worry!

He kept saying that but it didn’t help.

After what seemed like forever, we were finally at my waterfront hotel, two hours later.

I wait for you and we go swimming yes?

Maybe, I said, I’ll think about it.

I was hot and tired. It would be so nice to go for a swim. But was it safe? Probably not. As much as I wanted to see the coral, I wasn’t an idiot.

The hotel staff scrunched their nose up at this rogue and did not seem impressed. Another sign.

I came out again. Sorry I’m not interested I said. He deserved stronger words than that. He then aggressively demanded twice the price I had agreed with Valleroso and Ralle and I reluctantly parted with more cash.

I was distressed and went back to my room fuming. Anything could have happened. I had been so stupid, I had to be careful, I had to remember that as a lone female I was an attractive target. Too attractive clearly. I wondered whether he had tried that before.

At least the hotel, Dive Star, was nice. It was right next to the sea and you could hear it singing you to sleep at night. In the evening you could see all the traditional fishing boats motoring by, a pleasant hum.

I had arrived just in time for the sunset through the palm trees. I sat on a bamboo chair on the balcony and drank iced water. It was perfect.

The room was made in the local style with bamboo and rattan. There was even a small lizard scurrying about, but he kept out of the way. He’d left me a poo present on the bed. Charming.

The next day, I wondered whether I could trust the local tour guides.

I would go with the hotel’s list. Hopefully they would be reliable.

A tall, smiling local turned up and said he would take me wherever I wanted to go. I said I would trust his suggestions.

He was friendly and good company and we eventually started to have a good chat. I told him my taxi experience and he frowned and said there were not many people like that on the island but it did happen around the port of Tagbilaran because it was a hub for tourists.

He reassured me that I could trust him and anyway, he was happily married with a wife and two year old son. His second marriage he laughed, the first one didn’t work out.

I breathed a sigh of relief. His name was Peter and he was new to the business, having spent several years shipping scrap metal around the world. He was gregarious and lively, chatting to everyone we met and making them as happy as he was.

We were going to have fun!

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Panglao’s Princess Retreat: Mithi Hotel and Spa

I don’t normally do reviews but this slice of heaven had to have a special mention.

Imagine individual cabins sprinkled next to the sea like stardust. You can hear the waves lapping from your balcony and feel the sea breeze cool your face.

Out to sea there is a small man-made island for picturesque weddings. To one side is the wooden platform where you enjoy meals with a sea view.

It was a world away from the hectic streets of Cebu. Here life was slower and more beautiful.

Sparrows chirped in the palm trees and in the day you were dazzled by the aquamarine ocean. From their private beach you could have a tour of the local sardine sanctuary and swim in the middle of their vortex. You could stroke a giant clam as they closed gently, poke anemones and admire a rainbow kaleidoscope of coral waving their little fingers at you.

The staff were kind, helpful and attentive. The room was spacious with a luxuriously comfortable bed and there was a rain shower in the walk-in bathroom.

You could book yourself into the traditional wooden spa for rejuvenating massages.

If you’re staying in Panglao and you’re looking for rest and relaxation, look no further than Mithi Hotel and Spa.

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June 30, 2020 · 8:51 pm

Panglao Paradise

Panglao was the best island I visited in the Philippines.

Why?

Fewer tourists and the local lifestyle did not appear to have changed as a result of them. A lot of rainforest was intact, though it was rapidly being sold off and cut down and stone houses were springing up. There were still some traditional ones made of bamboo, flax and rattan.

The hotel I stayed in there was the best – Mithi Resort and Spa, a peaceful secluded spot right next to the sea, with a small private beach, incredible snorkelling and luxury accommodation. It was so popular that the standard room had sold out when I paid for it, but the upgrade was worth it. Although I had not paid for a sea view I could see it from my balcony. The staff were so attentive and friendly.

I got there from Cebu by taking an Ocean Jet ferry to Tagbilaran and then the hotel picked me up and drove me over the bridge. It took a few hours.

I made the most of my time there. I found a great private driver hire company, Valleroso and Ralle. You gave them your itinerary and the driver would take you wherever you wanted for a reasonable price, just £30 a day. I asked different companies on Facebook (their companies are all run from social media) until I got the best price, as I was on a budget and kept going over it.

At 10am (I am not a fan of early starts) I went first to the Hinagdanan cave. It was not worth the visit, being small and already busy with tourists.You literally just stand on a ledge once you descended, there is nowhere to go.

The water looked a bit dirty too, I could see grease on it. The tide was out, so we could not enjoy the water. I saw a much better cave in Bohol where you can swim. I will write a post on that soon.

We went to the Blood Compact monument near the port. This commemorated the moment when the local tribe signed a peace deal with the Spanish, drinking drops of each other’s blood in wine in the traditional Cebuano style.

Next up was the pentagonal Spanish watch tower, built so the new settlers could be alert to local attack on all sides, and a church with a pretty painted ceiling.

I was able to get cash out at an ATM without being charged. They had a guard for safety, although the driver told me that they rarely had crime. Everyone knew each other.

I had read about a restaurant with panoramic views on social media, appropriately called Le Panorama, over on Bohol. I went there for lunch and had the best fresh prawns I had ever tasted, in a very tasty tomato sauce, with rice. It was midday but being on holiday, I had to wash it down with a pina colada!

After lunch I had asked the company where a good beach was that locals used, I avoided Alona beach as I had heard that it was packed with tourists and had litter. I won’t name the beach as it is secret, so it doesn’t deteriorate too.

There were palm trees all the way along the shore, only two other tourists and lots of locals fishing in one corner, swimming and snorkelling. One of them came up to me and said I should stay at his brother’s apartments and like everyone around there, said I should live on the island.

On the way back I wanted to try some traditional food so I stopped at a street stall selling fried chicken. I hadn’t seen any cafes or restaurants. The islanders seemed to eat at home. I asked for two pieces. The man went to the back of the stall and started hacking up chicken. People around gawped, even looking back from their scooters. I asked my guide what was happening and he said “you wanted two chickens didn’t you?”.

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May 19, 2020 · 9:54 pm

My First Pandemic

coronavirus

scientificanimations.com

If you want a break from continuous Covid-19, I have an article coming soon about my Philippines adventures. The photos and memories are an escape from the chaos.

The threat emerged in China. It was awful but far away.

“Don’t go” my aunt begged. But there were few cases in the Philippines. I was going via Singapore. People had spread it at their airport and a London airport shortly before I arrived back, but it was not a common event.

Someone on the plane has a fever.

A poster at a bus stop, beside a nurse who was coughing profusely.

We were hovering over Heathrow when cabin crew marched quickly up the plane, one wheeling a suitcase. There was a flurry of activity up the aisles and a curtain was yanked shut.

“Just to let you know, someone on the plane has a fever” announced the captain. There was stifled anxiety and a father was explaining the situation to his child.

We landed and a health visitor distributed forms. Unlike the cabin crew, reassuringly, he was not wearing a mask, just gloves. Waiting outside the plane a medical professional stood wide-eyed, wearing a hazmat outfit with a clear visor covering her face.

Days passed and I heard nothing, so I forgot about the pesky plague.

Then it came to Italy and coronavirus contaminated my newsfeed.

I’ve got a temperature.

My boyfriend had gone skiing in the North Italian Alps in February and there was a good offer for the Austrian mountains, in Tirol.

“Do you need another ski holiday?”

“It’s not for long” he replied.

I said goodbye on the 1st of March.

“I’ve got a temperature so I’ve come back from work early” the text read, on Wednesday 11th.

He phoned NHS111.

“You haven’t been to an affected area so you don’t need a test” they responded. No mention of infection control.

The first UK nationals returning with the virus had been on holiday to Europe. A friend who had dared to enjoy the Sagrada Familia and Sangria in Barcelona was now cuddling her cat in bed.

sagrada familia

We never get ill. Not like this.

Worried, I text my boyfriend. “What are your symptoms?”

“Headache, aches, sore throat, cough and my chest feels tight”.

“You must isolate.”

“I’ll go back to work when I’m feeling better.”

Day 3:

“How are you?”

“Temp going up and down now. Woke up last night with the heat, had some really weird dreams. It’s strange how a fever affects you.”

loo roll lockdown

On Saturday 14th March the panic started.

It was day 4 of my boyfriend’s fever but it was finally dropping. I wanted to be sure.

I desperately visited every shop in a five mile radius.

Boots nearby? sold out.

Boots in town? sold out.

Superdrug? sold out.

Argos? sold out.

John Lewis? didn’t sell them.

Online? sold out all over England.

This could have put his life in danger. Why were they so selfish? Why didn’t they have thermometers? Why didn’t we have thermometers?

Because we never get ill. Not like this.

The media started announcing a daily coronavirus count. There would be bulk-buying. But to my surprise it was business as usual in the pharmacy that morning. There was still a sense of calm. Everything was in stock apart from most of the paracetamol. I bought two lots of products to ease flu. One for me, one for my boyfriend.

A man in the queue turned and looked at my basket, whispered to his wife and walked to the side to wait for his prescription, staring at me nervously as I purchased the items.

“Is this just for you?” the retailer asked.

“No, it’s for someone else as well” I said smiling, as the shop went silent and people gawped.

I was in Waitrose looking for snacks. The bread shelf was empty. The flour shelf (to make bread) was nearly empty. The pasta shelf? empty. The soap shelf? empty. The medicine shelf? empty. The Vitamin C shelf? empty. The toilet roll shelf? empty. Why? “Well at least there’s still beer” someone joked.

star wars corona 1

A nurse was crying in her car after trying to get food. She has now come down with it too, possibly. My brother came back from an A and E shift in Wales to find his supermarket almost empty. My sister found the same in London.

I was going to see a friend that night when she messaged. “Sorry, I have discussed it and we don’t think it’s a good idea”, explaining that her boyfriend had asthma and sending a link to government advice on social distancing. I don’t know when I can visit her again.

Some people have had to make the heartbreaking decision not to see grandparents,parents, partners or even their own children.star wars corona 2

Only £94 sick pay.

The Prime Minister’s announcement came on Sunday 15th. All those with symptoms were to isolate for seven days. My boyfriend now needed to stay home for another four days.

“Great, that’s only £94 sick pay.”

“Think of the vulnerable and older people you’ll be protecting.”

I went swimming with a friend and we went in the steam room, with no steam. I had not wanted to go in but there was only one other person.

My friend is a cancer survivor and had been told she was “medium” risk. She has now received a letter telling her she was one of the 1.5 million English nationals that could end up in hospital from the virus. She had been out on the town until midnight, should she worry about it? she asked. No, I replied. Better to go out now than at the peak of the epidemic in mid-April or May. I sent her a flowers and wine delivery with some of the last Merlot left in the city. Yesterday I won the last sour cream in my neighbourhood and last week I bought the last two packets of chicken in the supermarket. Yet I was frustrated one day when I forgot to buy the vegetables for dinner and couldn’t make another trip for a single cabbage.

Her colleagues got coronavirus taking blood.

I later read that the virus was easily spread in Chinese gyms. But again the source was not revealed, so could not be verified. Fake news and “medical” advice began to infect social media, including gargling with salt water for “protection” and holding your breath for ten seconds meant you had “virus-free” lungs. You could “wash the virus away from your lungs” by drinking tea and “kill the virus” by sunbathing.

I informed my friend that the “e-mail circulated in a hospital” was  actually government guidelines with a smattering of lunacy.

The only way to avoid contagion is to keep your distance and wash your hands.

But the public think that does not apply if you are outdoors, so now, as of Monday 23rd we are all on lockdown and gatherings of more than two people are banned. Countryside car parks are shut and the roads are almost empty, perfect for cycling. Meanwhile, our heroic key workers are keeping the country going, including my siblings. My sister worked on the “front line” for two weeks without adequate Personal Protective Equipment and four staff at her hospital tragically died. Her colleague got coronavirus taking blood with only gloves on, and survived.

My brother got infected from his girlfriend who worked on a coronavirus ward. Luckily they got off with a cough and fatigue.

From day 4 onwards my boyfriend started to get better.  His sore throat eased and he no longer had a temperature.

A week later, his only irritation was an inflamed nose and a reduced sense of smell. His housemates did not get infected as he kept his distance, wiping kitchen and bathroom surfaces after touching them.

The Guardian has recently reported that around 70% of infectious people have few or no symptoms. With that figure it is easy to understand why numbers are increasing rapidly. This is from a reputable source, a microbiology professor.

Help others more and read the news less.

Now, every time I get home I wash my hands and wipe down anything I have touched before that. I have even started spraying my shopping in case it has been touched by someone who has coughed coronavirus onto their hands. It is so unlikely, but why take that chance.

People suffering from anxiety have told me that the worry around them has made theirs worse.

The most effective way I have found of dealing with the apocalypse is to help others and to read the news less.

One useful story referred to Mutual Aid groups mobilising volunteers on social media. I joined one and bought some items for a local family.

Do you think she’ll get worse?

A family of four was isolating due to their daughter having a cough. She would give me money. I gave her my details for an online transfer instead. The money could have the virus on it. “I will stand three steps away” I replied.

There was the patter of little feet running to the door. A toddler peered up at me with bright eyes.

“She doesn’t seem to have a temperature” I remarked.

“No, she just has a cough” her mother replied.

“She probably doesn’t have it then” I said, hoping to reassure her.

“But children aren’t as badly affected are they.”

“Well no, that’s true.”

“Do you think she’ll get worse?” she asked.

“No, if she’s only got a cough she should be ok, and like you say, children aren’t as badly affected.”

“Will I get it?”

“I don’t know.”

“What if I get it? Will I get it worse?”

“Well have you got a good immune system?”

“Yes.”

“Do you have any underlying health conditions?”

“No.”

“You should be fine then.”

She thanked me and I left, assuring her that I’d message her if I needed anything. I delivered more bread and milk a few days later.

A board read “GO HOME, COUNTRYSIDE OUT OF BOUNDS.”

Last weekend we went on a walk with my boyfriend’s mother. As we expect that he is immune, we were not worried about him spreading it. He will not be able to see them now until the non-essential travel ban is lifted. Roadblocks have begun to spring up on local motorways.

A fast-tracked emergency bill is ensuring that new infection control laws can be enforced.

Walk with Jonny's mum

The beautiful Pigeon Tower above Upper Rivington Reservoir in Lancashire. Copyright literarylydi

I tried to keep my distance from in case I was asymptomatic (infectious but with no symptoms). We also tried to create some distance with groups walking past. It was only a problem if they coughed or sneezed the virus, but better safe than sorry. Irritatingly we ended up sandwiched in between groups of people and sharing narrow paths with them.

No one was willing to keep their distance. We wiped our hands before eating and at the car before we went home, as we had been touching gates.

corona chaos 1

That land is now shut.

On the way home in the Peak District, we saw a board that read

“GO HOME, COUNTRYSIDE OUT OF BOUNDS.”

The streets were nearly empty and older people were all inside, isolating for 3 months.

At least we don’t live in fear of nuclear attack.

But there were people sitting in parks, walking and cycling. I doubt we will see icecream vans for a long time, maybe not even in the warmer months.

I have been watching “Summer of Rockets” on the BBC recently and it has reminded me that things could be worse. At least we don’t live in fear of nuclear attack.

Audio poems are soothing, those who are creative can find comfort in the arts. Those who are practical are doing more D.I.Y, the drilling disturbing my work. But at least I could cook myself lunch and spend the rest of the break shooting hoops.

There are entertaining videos and memes doing the rounds. An unemployed sports commentator has done commentary for everyday events, such as the “South East halloumi-buying champions” frequenting Waitrose.

There was a video of the actor Antony Hopkins playing the piano with his cat on his lap.

corona cuteness

Classic FM/Instagram / @AnthonyHopkins

I have also found it helpful to try not talking about it, to absorb yourself in escapist programmes and do what you can, instead of fretting about what you can’t.

No, we can’t go to schools, universities, gyms, pubs, clubs, cafes, clothes shops or restaurants (as of Saturday). We might not be able to see our family, friends or colleagues in person, maybe even our children.

But we can see them online, as long as the Internet withstands the increased demand.

We can do so many things in our homes or individually to entertain ourselves and exercise, so we must enjoy that.

Stay three steps away from others, don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth and wash your hands when you get home.

The poem If by Rudyard Kipling is good to keep in mind: “if you can keep your head, when all about you. Are losing theirs[…]you’ll be a Man, my son”.

My favourite is Warning, by Jenny Joseph.

As they said in another war: “Keep calm and carry on.”

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Philippines Planning

 

Writing without inspiration is like chips without vinegar. Pointless.Loboc-River-Cruise

I haven’t been writing for some time due to a lack of inspiration, probably because of work sapping creative energy.

I only usually post on here when I am inspired as I think it improves the quality of my material.

The less I work, the more inspired I get. Hundreds of years ago artists had the time and luxury to express themselves thanks to their wealthy patrons. Now you have to squeeze out your craft whilst doing your day job, or live in penury unless you are really lucky. So when I retire, if I can ever afford to or if I must due to ill health, I will finally be able to finish writing that novel.

I am not inspired now but I do not want to neglect you readers, as I usually have an offering each month. I write not for the figures, but because I must.

Inspiration is a peculiar beast. When you want it you can’t find it. But when you are in that flow state you have to harness it and make the most of it.

After pitching my novel idea for a documentary, audience and in front of a panel of literary agents and publishers, I was so motivated that I rewrote my entire 16 chapters.

I will not tell you about the plot because hopefully one day you will read it and find out for yourselves. But that is a long way away because I do about a page a year, if that. Again I can only attend to that when I am inspired. I never know when I will get that creative spark, or how long it will last.

We nearly died

Writing without inspiration is like chips without vinegar. Pointless. And that isn’t even a good analogy because my brain is currently tired after a long trip back from my boyfriend’s parents’, in which we nearly died because someone moved into our lane instead of going off at the wrong junction. Luckily my boyfriend has speedy reactions.

Bohol

Bohol’s “chocolate” hills

Anyway, the Philippines. I am going solo in 2020.

I have never been on holiday by myself before.

Mum’s reaction was “you’ll get raped and murdered”, so if I live to tell the tale, I will let you know.

Why did I choose it? Because it’s one of the cheapest holiday destinations with beaches, it will be warm and it isn’t Europe, so if Brexit makes things expensive it does not matter.

Alona-beach-panglao-island-bohol

It ended up being more pricey than expected because I hadn’t factored in hotels (£60-70 a night) and the amount of taxis, car hire and ferries I will need to get about. I would love to be sustainable but unfortunately their buses takes twice as long as a car.

I arrive in Cebu city, across to Bohol and then down to Siquior. The Philippines has more than 7000 islands so there were plenty to choose from.

Did you hear about the British man and his wife that got abducted whilst sunbathing on a beach? and returned after a gun battle? That’s the island below where I’ll be staying. That is obviously a no-go zone according to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The places I am visiting are not marked as risky. Not yet.

I managed to get vaccines of Hepatitis A, diptheria, tetatnus and polio this month and previously tuberculosis, measles, mumps and rubella ones. So at least I won’t die of those.

Possible hazards other than rape and murder include earthquakes, tsunami, kidnapping, mugging, typhoid, cholera, Hepatitis B, Japanese Encephalitis, dengue fever, rabies, and an aquatic parasite that lives in snails and under human skin.

More minor hazards include missing the last ferry or what happened in Vietnam, where a taxi driver refused to let us out until we had paid more than the meter.

Wish me luck.

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Rapa Nui – An Isolated Island

Rano Raku mine2

I have been fortunate enough to travel around the world. Nowhere was as uniquely beautiful as Easter Island, also known as Rapa Nui.

The tiny spec on the world map was finally discovered by the Dutch in 1722.

Named after the day of its discovery, the island may have been spotted as early as 1686, by Captain Davis, an English explorer.

Originally named “Davis” island, this was the land mass the Dutch were seeking. It was later visited briefly by James Cook in 1744. He soon continued on his way, declaring that the island had nothing substantial to offer. He noted that there weren’t any trees or animals and few birds. You can read the fascinating diary of the experience here.

indigenous statue

The indigenous people would have looked something like this.

Some twenty years before, the Dutch had killed 12 islanders for coming too close. Perhaps when Cook visited, the natives thought that appeasing these powerful people would enable survival, so they hoisted a bunch of bananas up to the boat as a peace offering.

Polynesian painting

Those courageous seafarers must have been glad to arrive – Easter Island is one of the most remote locations in the world. Accessible from just Tahiti or Chile, it is a five hour flight. The tiny airport usually operates one flight each day. If you want to go the old-fashioned way, a journey by boat takes a week and only two operate annually.

We flew business class because it was the same price as standard and it was a pleasant experience, with fully extendable seats. Our flight was as cheap as it gets at £400 return, as we went out of season in June when it is cooler and wetter. However, it was still warm, with temperatures between 18-20 degrees celcius. We were lucky enough not to get rain during the day. 

fish

Winter is the best season to visit, as there were only a few small groups of tourists at key sites and it did not seem to get hot enough for there to be any mosquitoes.

fisherman

The fish was lovely and fresh, with a choice of large tuna, reinata and merluza to name a few, along with squid, prawns and other crustaceans.

beach

On the last day we swam in the sea, which was luke warm and very pleasant. The island only has one sandy beach and you can admire a row of “moai” statues as you swim. This area of the Pacific must be one of the least polluted in the world, owing to its isolation.

The best way to see the statues is to cycle. This means you can go at your own pace and avoid any pesky tour buses. Most of the sites close at 4pm. We hired electric bikes from a great shop off the main street for about 17 000 pesos, £20 a day. Don’t bother with the bike shops on the main street, most of them are broken and you get ripped off.

Beach statues

All photos on this page copyright literarylydi

It was this isolation that caused at least three near extinctions of its indigenous population. The Polynesians are believed to have arrived in 700-800 A.D and settled there permanently 100-200 years later. They are believed to have travelled thousands of miles, from the Marquesa Islands.

Those ancient voyagers looked for islands after studying the migration patterns and habits of birds and then navigated using the position of stars. With their large double-hulled wooden canoes, they travelled with basic foodstuffs to help them farm the new land. From 1000-1100 A.D. they also brought sweet potato, perhaps from contact with South America.

painted moai

Copyright literarylydi

Its Polynesian name is Rapa Nui. From the 1400s, the island was so successfully cultivated and well-populated that the tribes started building the famous megaliths with smooth expressionless faces. To this day, no one knows what they symbolise. They have a dramatic and haunting beauty. They tower above you, silently watching over the farmed fields, undulating hills and red rocky cliffs. Built from around 1400 until 1650, they have watched generation after generation flourish and fail.

Rano Raku mine3

Archaeologists found that the islanders all worked together to build and enlarge them, until the tallest statue reached over 20 metres high. They called them moai, which means to exist, and each one is carved with slightly different features. Perhaps they were self portraits of their chiefs. This would explain why only one group of statues face outwards to the sea, the last group to be built. The Rapa Nui tribes had realised that they needed protection from outsiders. The joint effort to build them must have encouraged peace and harmony between the tribes, essential when resources and land were scarce. But the islanders paid a high price for this dedication – they had cut down all their tall trees for monument transportation.

moai facing sea

Popular myth tells a story of self-sabotage, where the people cut down all the trees and then starved, as they had nothing to build or cook with. However, a recent study refutes this. Scientific analysis such as carbon dating showed that the islanders ate a diet rich in fish and that they knew how to sustainably manage their environment, even though the soil was poor. The study’s authors suggest that it was the island’s visitors who were to blame for the lack of trees, as rats could have wiped out the remaining slow-growing palm trees. They had to import them from Tahiti in the 1960s.

beach3

As the islanders could no longer transport their impressive monoliths, they started a new “Bird Man” cult. There is a cave on the island that is faintly painted with bands of colour, honouring their new belief system. They would have competitions to get bird eggs, often laid in precarious places on the cliffs. This shows that they were using initiative to survive.

tribal face

Legend has it that deforestation led to starvation and even resorted to cannibalism in the late 1700s. This myth has also been debunked with evidence that the population used innovative techniques to ensure that they could continue growing crops in the dryer soil.

In 1862 outsiders once again brought death and despair. A ship from Peru took half the island there as slaves, some 1 500 men. Disease was rife, and eventually 100 were allowed to return, after pressure from the English and French. However, smallpox spread during the return voyage, and the 15 survivors spread this disease to the remaining islanders, most of whom died.

Those who survived were then forced to give up their indigenous beliefs and convert to Catholicism, which was completed in 1866. In 1870, a French explorer arrived, Dutroux Bornier. He was detested by the inhabitants and most left with a missionary for a nearby island, Mangareva. It was only after he was killed that some returned.

After these waves of foreign interference, just over 100 of the original islanders remained in 1877.

In 1888 the Rapa Nui King was given a deed to sign, giving the Chilean government control of the island. The document was translated for the indigenous people to mean “protection” and “friendship”. Sensing deceit, the King Atamu Tekena bent to the ground and took a handful of dirt in one hand and a handful of grass in the other. He gave the Chilean representative grass and kept the dirt. The land would always belong to his people.

Almost 80 years passed before the Chilean government recognised the indigenous population as Chilean citizens, following a rebellion. In 2014 they submitted a petition for independence which they continue to pursue. Tensions between Chileans and Polynesians was evident in an eco hotel development on the coast, which had graffiti on its fence and black flags obstructing the view.

Easter-Islands

Polynesian descendants look after the moai statue sites, ensuring that their spiritual past is respected. They now have a flag which was first flown in 2006, a red “Reimiro” ornament that was worn by chiefs and others of high status.

Now the population is back to its original size of around 7,000, almost all concentrated in the small settlement of Hanga Roa.

Sadly, locals appear to be making the myth of self-sabotage a reality. It takes three hours to walk to the other side of the island, yet everyone goes everywhere in battered Nissan pick ups and Jeeps. With these excessive and unnecessary emissions, they are contributing to climate change which could eventually submerge the whole island. It has already resulted in coastal erosion which threatens the existence of the mighty Moai statues.

To this day, outsiders continue to damage the island. Seas of selfie-sticks, star jumps and shouting ruin the quiet reflective impact of the moai and some even risk damaging them in their vain pursuit of the “perfect” picture. 

Hundreds of years ago, Easter Island needed protection from visitors bringing death and disease, leading to the creation of the only set of Moai to face the sea.

Now the island is under threat once more.

 

moai by the sea

sunset statues

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July 16, 2019 · 9:23 pm

The Picturesque Pyrenees

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There is something sublime about walking in the mountains.

Once you get up there, that is.

It was a long, hot ascent to the summit. The summer heat made our clothes stick to us as we stumbled up the winding fir tree forest path. The unforgiving ascent seemed endless.

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At one point, the path disappeared and we were launched into ferns.

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Another path had eroded partly off the mountain, and we had to lean into it to avoid sliding off.

But it was all worth it when we spotted a Griffin vulture soar out of the clouds, low above us. It flew serenely on the thermals, surveying us scrambling about on the peak.

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A brightly coloured patchwork of alpine flowers decorated the ground and the mountains in the distance were blue and green. You felt like all the city stress was slipping away down the slopes as you inhaled the fresh air and became absorbed in sounds of nature.

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One day we had a wild swim. The water was not particularly cold. The lake was encircled by pine trees and reflected the blue sky like a mirror. When we stood on the bottom, little fish came and nibbled at the dead skin on our feet. A complimentary pedicure.

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We walked away from the heat of the valley and up into the Pyrenees over two days, each route lasting around 7 hours. We walked slowly on GR tracks – French for big walk, taking plenty of photographs of the breathtaking scenery. We were staying near the picturesque French village of Seix, where we saw an impressive firework and kayak flare display for their festival.

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When we got down, hot, sticky and weary, we enjoyed tasty French food, full of flavour. Even their tinned beans were perfectly edible.

Our Air B’n’B host had friends round one night. They shared pineapple-infused rum with us from La Reunion, an island that is a French colony, and invited us to go on a traditional morning walk up a mountain with them. They were meeting the Spanish at 9am at the summit border. The French were bringing cheese and the Spanish were bringing wine!

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September 4, 2018 · 2:57 am

Kos, Pserimos and Bodrum

It is five years since I went to Greece and Turkey and I have been enjoying the photos and memories recently.

We had a lovely girls holiday. apart from the night when I half carried, half dragged my friend to the hotel. We went when it was cheap and the holiday season had wound down, so there were no taxis to be found.

I stopped at the third shot of absinthe and told her to. She stopped after five. I danced around the room, giddy.

She was fine until we left the hotel to party in the centre of Kos.

She gradually got more intoxicated. By the time we arrived 20 minutes later, she was falling asleep.

The bar staff were worried and I didn’t want her to pass out, so I woke her up after I’d enjoyed my cocktail and we set off.

She said she wanted to sit on a wall and stay there and I reasoned with her. After a while she let me help her. It was a long walk back. She threw up the next afternoon.

We always say I’m never drinking again but how often is that true? The last time I was sick from alcohol was as a student. I liked to test how much I could drink. I could stomach 8-10 shots. I was usually sick after 10. I didn’t like the lack of control, so it didn’t happen often.

One time I got escorted home by some chivalrous students. They didn’t realise how long the walk was but they were men of their word. It’s dangerous getting drunk as a woman unless you have friends that are sober enough to look after you. Students think that getting drunk is a game but it can have lasting consequences.

These days I hardly drink at all. I’ve never liked alcohol unless it is a quality spirit or doesn’t taste of it. I used to make the odd pina colada. I used to have cocktail parties until a friend told my parents how amazing they were. They have been around every birthday since.

Anyway, back to Kos, Pserimos and Bodrum. Popular tourist destinations. There are castles at the ports of Kos and Bodrum and there is a lot of history between the two countries. We didn’t absorb much of that as we didn’t have time for the audio guide. However, the internet informs me that the Byzantines ruled after the Greeks until their empire crumbled. Istanbul fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453 followed by Greece, as that was part of the same Byzantine kingdom. The sultans ruled Greece for 400 years, until the Greek War of Independence lasting from 1822-1831.

 

Pserimos

Bodrum

Kos

Bodrum

balalaika

All the world’s a stage

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September 10, 2017 · 6:35 pm

Housemate Heaven

Moving out of my parents’ house was the best decision I ever made.

I have now settled in to my new abode. The rent is reasonable at £375 a month. For that I pink-new-home-cards-simple-new-house-classic-ideas-wonderful-sample-animal-love-spread-doorget the run of the whole house, next day service on any repairs, a TV with two channels, all bills included and the perfect housemate.

Helen is my age, a lovely, bubbly, tidy, respectful and relaxed tenant with shoulder-length dark brown hair and blue eyes. She works at a local hospital organising heart operations, but she aspires to work in PR.

She should really be a counsellor, she is so good at listening. Her brother is a psychiatrist so it must run in the family. She will patiently listen to any drivel I spout and look like she is interested. We both like rugby, drum and bass (minus illicit substances) and watching crap on TV (First Dates). That was until my boyfriend “fixed” it. We lost Channel 4 and 5 and now we just have BBC 1 and 2.

Repairs are done very quickly. The landlord’s mum has provided a brand new toaster the day after the old one blew the electrics. I thought I would need to replace the fuse but thankfully it was as easy as switching it back on (thanks Google and the flashlight on my phone). She also does all the washing up and the dishwasher whenever she pops round (once every couple of weeks).  What more could you want?

Leaking-Washing-Machine

Credit: Chic On A Shoestring

Well there is one thing, a washing machine that you can use on any setting. Currently it only works on 40 degrees, delicate cycle and a quick spin. But I am being fussy. The household appliances are a strange combination of 80’s retro (literally from that decade if not older) and brand new, with the “replace it when it’s broken” philosophy. The dishwasher is safe enough but put the washing machine on the wrong setting and you get water all over the floor when you open it. Without a mop it took about an hour to sponge it all up…

But it is a sanctuary of peace and positivity here. No nagging from my mother (which was constant and actually caused headaches), just freedom. I can do no wrong in Helen’s eyes except when I half finish chores (a bad habit).

I have yet to use the complimentary garden herbs – rosemary and lemon thyme. I cooked a meal for Helen the first Friday. I got a discounted pork shoulder joint (only £3.50) and roasted it for an hour with white wine and potatoes. It was delicious if I may say so myself.

The landlord is about my age, chatty and excitable with dark brown curly hair and bright eyes. She is a primary school teacher who lives in Bristol. Her parents help her manage the house they helped her buy (worth about £250,000 with a mortgage of just over £500 a month). They hoped she would stay in in the city but she went about four hours away to live with a boyfriend. That did not work out and she ended up staying there because she enjoyed the school she was teaching in.

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Credit: Cardiff Caerdidi Tours courtesy of TripAdvisor.

I spent some quality time with her this weekend. She is also interested in rugby because her father was in a local team. Unfortunately rugby is a risky sport and he broke his ankle, shattering the bones in his leg. He never played again but kept it in his life by being the Chairman of the club and the ticketing association. We watched the Cardiff Blues lose narrowly to Munster (Ireland). I also went round the castle in Cardiff (Wales) and the National Museum. Apparently there isn’t much else to do in Cardiff.

In other news I failed my automatic driving test for the second time. I failed the first one in February and the second one two days ago. The first time was because I had not had enough practice at parallel parking on a hill and was so shaken up after doing it correctly that I tried to get closer to the kerb. I forgot to put the car back into forward gear and then turned the wheel the wrong way, reversing out into the road without looking. I also got three minors (for going 40 in a 60 on undulating hills, for not being far enough into the middle of the road when turning right and for not looking ahead through the window before setting off).

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Credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The second time I was nearly back at the test centre (at that stage I had passed) when I lost concentration and thought it would only be a minor if I followed a van round a parked car. The man in the car opposite was livid, gesticulating wildly. Of course it was a major – I should have waited. I got 7 minors including speeding (30 instead of 20), steering (not passing the wheel through my hands correctly) and going through an amber traffic light instead of stopping. If you are preparing for the test please click on this link for some advice.

As for my accommodation, it will probably be sold in a year or so but for now I am more than happy with it.

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Filed under Days out/nights out, Driving, Life of Lydia, Travel, Uncategorized

How To Avoid Mosquitoes This Summer

images (1)Fed up of feeling like a piece of meat on your holidays? Want to stick to blood donation for people?

Here is a bite-sized guide to mozzie magnets and the precautions you can take to get them to buzz off.

What are mozzies attracted to?

Carbon Dioxide

We can’t help attracting mosquitoes as they hone in on the carbon dioxide plumes we exhale. So we have to take steps to defend ourselves.

Please do not bother with citronella though, research have found it is less effective than DEET – the active incredient in most bug repellant products – protecting for merely 3 hours or less.

Hot Skin

Common areas include the forehead, wrists, elbows and neck. You can protect your head and neck with a buff, a versatile scarf that can be worn in a variety of ways.

According to research published in 2000 in medical journal the Lancet, pregnant women are twice as likely to be bitten due to being hotter and exhaling more carbon dioxide.

Dark clothing

Some mosquitoes are visual hunters that search people out from their outline against the horizon. No need to break out the camouflage from that army surplus store – there is a range of bug repellant clothing.

Scented perfumes, colognes and lotions

Unless the perfume is bug-repellant deodorant.

Cholesterol

A reason to exercise before that tropical holiday.

Lactic acid

A good excuse not to exercise once abroad.

Movement

Unless you are a statue impersonator you won’t have much luck with this, so cover up. You may feel like strutting in your Speedoes/bronzing in your bikini but you won’t look so good covered in bites.

Type “O” blood

A 2004 study published in the Journal of Medical Entomology found mosquitoes landed on people with type O blood nearly twice as often as those with type A. O well, you will just have to follow the above advice.

Avoid going out at dawn or dusk as this is when mosquitoes are particularly active.

Mosquito1

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