Posted by: travelrat | November 19, 2017

Vicente Perez Rosales National Park: Video


Our visit to Chile’s Lake District and the Vicente Perez Rosales National Park left me with one question. Who was Vicente Perez Rosales? I hit Google when I got home, scrolled through the entries about the National Park, and stuff offering me cheap flights and hotels if I wanted to go there, and finally found the Wikipedia entry.

Wikipedia usually tells you more about any subject than you could ever possibly want to know, but, in this case, poor Señor Perez got just one solitary line, even though the Chileans thought enough of him to name their first National Park after him.

So, in essence … he was born in 1807, died in 1886 and was a miner, a merchant, a diplomat, a politician and a traveller. And, he organised the colonisation of the Llanquihue area by Chileans and German immigrants.

Beyond that, all we can gather, from his photograph, was that he had a truly magnificent set of side-whiskers. Maybe the Park named after him is more widely known about, then? Here’s some video, to wrap it up.


“River Valley Breakdown” Kevin MacLeod (
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License

Posted by: travelrat | November 16, 2017

Travel Theme: Frozen

When icicles hang by the wall

and Dick, the shepherd blows his nail

and Tom bears logs into the hall

and milk comes frozen home in pail.  (W, Shakespeare)


Now that I’m retired, I can watch Dick the Shepherd blowing his nail … or, these days, defrosting his windscreen … from the comfort of my living room, or even my bed. Even when I worked for a pay-packet, it wasn’t much of a hassle, for I lived within walking distance of my workplace, and didn’t have to scrape the ice off my windscreen; I hope I wasn’t too smug about it.


While there’s a great temptation when Jack Frost comes calling to toss another virtual log on the virtual fire, there’s something to be said for grabbing your camera and getting out there. Remembering, of course, the wise words of Captain Helly Hansen … ‘There’s no such thing as bad weather, only inadequate clothing’

Unfortunately much ‘development’ has taken place around here lately, and I have a choice between a housing estate, a building site and a business park in which to take the air.

Vicki & Ron 1

So, I must go further afield in search of the work of Mr. Frost’s icy fingers. I still can’t believe I’m seeking out cold places for some holidays! Places like Norway, where we stood on a bridge, contemplating the silence of a frozen river.

The guide told us: ‘In summer, there’s a waterfall here. You wouldn’t be able to hear me over its noise!’

I remembered reading an account of how Hardraw Force, in Yorkshire, froze into a column of ice in the 19th Century, while the local people: ‘ … danced around it, delighted at so novel an appearance …’  Back in those days, ‘so novel an appearance’ would have had me licking my lips, and reaching for the ice-axe and crampons.


I’m past that stage now, but still enjoyed a dog sled ride and a reindeer ride. And heard about the Northern Lights.

‘When it’s still, if you’re very quiet, you can hear them talking’  said a Sami reindeer herdsman. Unfortunately, there was complete cloud cover for most of our visit, so we never heard, or even saw them.

Maybe next time?


‘Better the chill blast of winter than the hot breath of a pursuing elephant’ (Chinese proverb)

‘It’s so cold that I saw a politician with his hands in his own pockets’ (Bob Hope)

This week’s contribution to the Travel Theme. More at


Posted by: travelrat | November 14, 2017

Getting Around Corfu

HoHo Bus

As I’ve said many times, one of the best ways to orient yourself anywhere is to look for the familiar livery of the City Sightseeing  ‘hop on/hop off’ open-top bus tours ( ) . They operate in most places where people like to holiday, and Corfu is no exception. There are two routes; ‘Line 1’ tours the Old Town before going down to Kanoni and Mon Repos, and ’Line 2’ runs to the Achilleion … more about these places later.

And, the Anemomylos  (windmill) stop on Line 1 was right outside our hotel.

Round the corner from this is where the KEM ‘blue bus’ stops; Service No. 2, which, because of a one-way system, plies a circular route between the Old Fort and Kanoni. These buses are the way to get around once you’ve used the ‘hop on/hop off’ service to familiarise yourself where everything is.

You can buy a ticket at the nearby kiosk for the princely sum of €1.20; if you buy it from the driver, it will cost €1.50. But, this ticket is only good for the No, 2 service; if you want to use any other service, you can buy a ticket at the KEM kiosk in San Rocco Square, where all the buses call. Better still, you can buy a ‘day ticket’ here for €5, with which you can ride the whole network, between Ipsos in the north and Benitses in the south, all day, hopping on and hopping off as you will.

If you wish to journey further afield, you’ll need the ‘Green Bus’ (so called because of its colour, not its environment-friendliness) The ‘Green Bus’ station is a little way from the centre of things … but, it’s on the 6, 10 and 15 routes. However, I can’t comment on these buses, because we haven’t ridden them. Maybe, if we revisit Corfu, and wish to journey further afield?

Other ways of getting around, which we didn’t try, are the ‘land train’ and the ubiquitous horse-drawn carriages. And, I wonder why, when you’re trying to photograph or video them, the occupants almost always feel a need to wave?


Posted by: travelrat | November 12, 2017

Mount Osorno

2017-02-13 14.37.45

Mount Osorno, Chile 13th February 2017

Mount Osorno is an active volcano, although it hasn’t erupted since 1869. There are many other volcanos in the area, which have erupted since, but Osorno is a favourite with visitors, for it’s a beautiful conical, symmetrical peak, reminiscent of Japan’s Mount Fuji.

With a height of 2652 metres (8701 feet) it’s permanently snow-capped, which makes it most photogenic, and a great favourite with skiers.

Mount Osorno

The coach took us up a winding, zig-zag mountain road to the bottom station of the chairlift. It was possible to ride the chairlift almost up to the summit, but we declined. Even from the bottom stations, we were able to enjoy the aspect of the peak, and a stunning panorama of the valley below and its surrounding mountains.

Mount Osorno 2


Posted by: travelrat | November 9, 2017

Travel Theme: Branches


I was very small when I saw an ad for a well-known chain store which claimed to have ‘branches everywhere’. How can that be? I wondered. They don’t have a branch in our town! Well, it was a small town, and, although it was pretty well supplied with shops, if I remember rightly, the only organisation of any size that had a branch there was the Midland Bank.

That was a long time ago, and it’s a long time since a visitor to Australia was heard to remark

‘You have a Woolworths here! Wow!’

But, these days, it’s not uncommon to be stopped on the streets of Athens, Copenhagen or even Bangkok, and asked for directions to the Kentucky Fried Chicken or somewhere. It’s called Globalisation.  For those who seek the familiar in strange surroundings, I suppose it’s a good thing; I’d guess the coffee in Starbuck’s tastes the same in Vancouver or Vienna? But, I’d rather try the local stuff, even if it does, rarely, turn out to be pretty grim.

There was the time I had my pocket picked in Madrid. The only thing of real value they got was one of my cards. (I have two, always in separate places) Almost immediately on discovering the loss, I spotted the familiar logo of a branch of my bank, where I was able to report the loss, and have the card stopped. They asked if I needed any cash, and even contacted the police for me.

‘The police station is just around the corner. Ask for Sergeant Robles; he has your details!’

Finally, a familiar story … an urban myth, really …we’ve all heard. A visitor to a certain city (most versions say Dubai, but there are variations) hailed a taxi, and said:

‘Take me to where the locals eat!’

So, the taxi took him to … Macdonalds!

This week’s contribution to the Travel Theme. More at 

Posted by: travelrat | November 7, 2017

More Wattle and Daub


Long ago, in (it seems!) a galaxy far away, I posted about the ‘wattle and daub’ construction of some of our older houses. And, indeed, it’s a technique still in use in some parts of the world.

The replica ‘Neolithic Huts’ at the Stonehenge Visitor Centre employ the same techniques; woven hazel twigs, liberally plastered with good old Wiltshire mud. From time to time, the huts need maintenance; probably more so than the ‘originals’ at Durrington, which were in a more sheltered site.

So, the call goes out to volunteers for all those interested to gather, and have a good game of mud pies. That, essentially, is all it involves. Crushing the local chalk soil to a powder-like consistency, mixing it with water and a little straw to hold it together, mounding it into a ball and splat it on the area you want to repair.

Some authorities say a little animal dung should be added, but we don’t go there. I wonder if we’d get as many volunteers if we did?


Posted by: travelrat | November 5, 2017

Houses on Corfu


Corfu: 12th October 2017

My first impression of Corfu was that it didn’t look particularly Greek. That’s because most ‘typically Greek’ pictures you see are usually taken on the islands of the Aegean Sea, where the houses are predominantly blue and white. One of many reasons suggested for this was that it was a demonstration against the occupying Ottoman Turks. They wouldn’t allow the flying of the Greek flag, so they painted their houses in its colours instead.

Corfu was never occupied by the Ottomans, though, although they did have one or two tries at it … one of which was said to have been frustrated by a storm conjured up by St. Spiridon, the island’s patron saint.

Yellow House

If you’ve read Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals, you’ll find that, during his stay on Corfu, he lived in The Strawberry Pink Villa, The Daffodil Yellow Villa  and The Snow White Villa. And the houses we’ve seen so far range from the deepest umber, through pink and terra-cotta to the palest yellow, or even white.

Pink House

Posted by: travelrat | November 2, 2017

Salto de Petrohue

Salto de Petrohue

Salto de Petrohue, Chile 13th February 2017

The Vicente Perez Rosales National Park contains two sites the Chileans are proud of. The Salto de Petrohue, the guide pointed out, was not a waterfall but a rapid, where the river was squeezed between pillars of basaltic rock.

Whence came the basalt? We are in a volcanic area, and some of the volcanoes are active … indeed, some of them are extremely active. However, none chose to pop its top while we were there. Would they have charged us extra if it did, I wondered, or would they just cancel the tour?

I’ve come across ‘a waterfall that isn’t really a waterfall’ before. The Falls of Lora, near Oban, in Scotland are at the mouth of a river … and they disappear completely when the tide comes in. Not quite the same sort of thing, though. I’d guess a similar sight to this are the Horizontal Falls, in Western Australia … which I have yet to visit. They’re on the list, but some way down it.

Whatever they call it, it’s something I wouldn’t care to ride in an old inner tube. Several people from our ship had visited the Iguazu Falls with us, but we agreed that this was in no way a let-down. A spectacular sight, even with the crowds milling around, making decent photography extremely difficult.

Salto de Petrohue-1

Posted by: travelrat | October 31, 2017

Food at Stonehenge


Stonehenge: October 2017

Over the half-term holiday, they changed the temporary exhibition in the Stonehenge Gallery to a new theme. Based on archaeological evidence from bones found at Durrington Walls, where it’s thought the builders of Stonehenge lived, it was possible to gain a good idea of what they ate in those days.

We already have, of course, a good idea of what they didn’t eat, for we know roughly when the more exotic foods were introduced from the Far East and the New World. ( I know we don’t regard, for instance, potatoes as ‘exotic’ these days, but they were when they were first introduced)  In fact, there’s a time-line in the exhibition which shows just this. Careful analysis of the bones, and of the residue found in pieces of pottery gives a very good idea of what they did eat. The archaeologists found, for instance, that their meat came mainly from pigs, with a few cows, some of which had been driven down from as far as Scotland.

They established, also, that Neolithic Man was lactose intolerant, and couldn’t drink raw cows’ milk. But he (or, more probably, she) could make cheese, which got rid of most of the lactose. Some of our volunteers tried their hand at cheesemaking … I wondered if six months down Wookey Hole might improve it.


Unfortunately, photography isn’t permitted in the exhibition … but, over the holiday, re-enactors from ‘Tastes of History’ set up shop to demonstrate how the fare might have been cooked. One of the things they produced was grilled pork, which they served with unleavened wholemeal bread … not a thousand miles from what I bought at the kebab shop a couple of weeks ago!


Posted by: travelrat | October 29, 2017

Travel Theme: Windy

‘On stern Blencathra’s perilous heights

The winds are tyrannous and strong …’ (William Wordsworth)

County Boundary

I think old ‘Wordy Wordsmith’ exaggerated just a little bit. I’ve climbed Blencathra a few times, but never found its heights all that perilous, Mind you, if ‘tyrannous and strong’ winds are forecast, I usually stay on lower ground, or even spend the afternoon in the pub.

Formerly, the Met Office would say something like ‘The isobars are close together, and it’s going to be windy tomorrow’. Nowadays, they say ‘Storm Cuthbert is on its (sometimes ‘his’) way’ which makes it sound a lot more friendly and … personal.

It’s when we’re travelling that the wind affects us most. I remember when I went to Ireland in 2012. We travelled through the remains of Hurricane Katia … which is a misnomer if ever I heard one. One of the shyest, quietest people I ever met is called Katia. But, all the way, I was worrying … will the Severn Bridge be closed? Will the ferry sail as normal?

In the event, they just applied a speed limit on the bridge, and the crossing went ahead, although it was rather sporting. The ship had to deal with high winds and rough seas, but we didn’t feel too much discomfort, although moving around the ship was a bit of a problem. Not that there’s much to see, anyway. We found comfortable seats, in which to play with the free wifi and the MP3 player, read and go to sleep … after videoing the rough sea, and the rainbow caused in the spray thrown up by the ship.

I was listening to my MP3 player, when (it probably seemed I must have lost it to anyone watching) I burst out laughing. My player was playing the classic old ballad ‘What Now, My Love’, and Caterina Valente (I’m showing my age here!) had just reached the words ‘I see the sky/Where the sea should be …’

Maybe Stena take all this in their stride, for I didn’t see the little plastic bags draped over every railing, as some cruise lines do when they encounter heavy seas. They appeared, though, when we cruised around Pentland Firth the following winter. They were of German origin, and carried the word: SPUCKBEUTEL … does it really need translation?. So, I learnt a new German word; the difficulty would be fitting it into an everyday conversation.

I could, if time permitted, write forever about the wind. But, although you can feel and hear it, you can’t see it, so it’s rather difficult to photograph. But, I’ll have a try!

Kite Festival, Semaphore


This week’s contribution to the Travel Theme. More at

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