Apparently, according to some ‘Bucket Lists’, the backwaters of Kerala are a must-see before dying. Indeed, the National Geographic Traveller places the backwaters in the ‘top 50 destinations of a lifetime’. Having now ticked this off my own bucket list I can honestly say I agree with the sentiment. This log entry counts as a proper log entry, what with it being a two-day trip on a boat, so in old school style I’ve put together a words-and-pictures account of this most incredible place, which includes video clips and a link to Google Earth so you can put it all in perspective.
My favourite season is captured here in just five photographs, taken on one of my favourite walks around my home town of Saffron Walden. This is Audley End, the mansion and gardens to the west of Walden, captured on a bright but chilly October Sunday morning. They’re actually hand-held HDR images, which helps accentuate those wonderful autumnal colours.
We’ve been sitting pretty in Cochin for a couple of months now, but we’ve still got some catching up to do on the blog. Yep, some more snaps, this time of a beautiful, remote fishing village 110 miles south of Mumbai. The village was called Jaigarh and it was spectacular.
It was spectacular in part because of its location. Tucked up inside the mouth of a wide river that meets the sea the entrance into the natural harbour had the depth gauge nervously displaying less than 2m under the keel. The village, hidden behind an old fort wall and a big hill with a solitary temple on it, sits at the foot of an extremely lush palm forest. Aside from the parks of Mumbai this was the first time we had seen vegetation on this scale since the journey to Asmara in Eritrea, some 2,000 miles away. This was a real novelty after the deserts of Arabia, so come check out the pictures of this wonderful village…
We spent three days in Luxor with Terry and Fiona of Roam II, taking in as many sights as possible before we left Hurghada. We’ll post up some pictures and related podcasts at a later date. To give you a little taster, however, we thought we’d post up this little podcast, recorded on our third day in Luxor aboard a traditional felucca. A felucca is a traditional sailing boat used on the Nile. We’re unsure exactly how old these modes of transport are but they are still used to get up and down Egypt’s great river. We get to chat to the skipper, a young Nubian, and also get Terry and Fiona’s take on life on the Nile.
As we approached the Essex coast we ran out of fuel. Well, we didn’t run out of fuel, the second tank wasn’t feeding fuel to the engine for some reason. With this in mind the skipper wasn’t happy sailing all the way back to Burnham with no diesel so we made a detour up the Orwell with the aim of pulling in to Levington to refuel. It was closer and the wind was in our favour. Or so we thought. Are you ready for this?
It’s funny how one can sail the Atlantic, around the Caribbean, through the Pacific – even across the English channel to France and the Netherlands, to Portugal and Spain, and completely forget that some of the prettiest sailing territory is around the Essex and Suffolk coast. Our quick 12 mile trip from Felixstowe Ferry down the River Deben took us briefly into open waters and then back up the River Orwell.
We stayed on the boat and didn’t go anywhere today. The weather was miserable and by the time we had stocked up with provisions it wasn’t worth going anywhere anyway, so we remained tied to the mooring. I made myself comfortable in the forward cabin, though it was a little tight. Barnacle Bill was, after all, built as a racing boat so the designers, Sparkman and Stephens, had clearly prioritised speed over sleeping comfort. The saloon, however, was very accommodating and was begging us to get through a couple of bottles of red.
You can tell from the crew photos that this trip was a bit of a giggle. In fact it was a complete scream, but the emphasis, for me at least, was to learn much about navigation. This was due to Jon’s methodical and considered approach to passage planning and sailing, but when you own a boat like Barnacle Bill then you’re going to be a proper sailor, aren’t you? This boat is a real head-turner!
And then we entered the Algarve. If ever a country demonstrated a distinction between the north and the south then Portugal must surely be the most extreme. The north, mountainous, green and lush is dominated by tradition and culture. It’s very poor.
Porto blew me away. It is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever visited, from it’s opulent architecture to the river side promenades. The city of 263,000 people is stacked up either side of the Rio Douro, with the huge Ponte de Dom Louis 1 joining the main city centre with the port distillery lodges on the south side. This is echoed by another five huge bridges that continue to straddle the river in land.