31 October 2008

Friday Photo - Catfish and Anaconda on the Rio Bobonaza in Ecuador

Today I'm joining in the Friday Photo at Delicious Baby to bring you a photo from my travels with a story behind it.

This is the picture I took of Ingaro Gualinga, who was one of our guides from the rainforest community of Sarayaku, on the river trip I took in Ecuador last October. We had stopped on a sandbank to camp for the night, when a local fisherman approached to show us the two enormous catfish he had caught on that stretch of the river.

Our guide Ingaro with catfish, Rio Bobonaza

The man told us the story of how he had been fishing from that very sandbank, when he had been attacked by an Anaconda, the large boas that live on the water's edge and coil themselves round their prey and crush them to death. Luckily, his wife heard the barking of his dogs and came to rescue him by shooting the snake in the head.

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28 October 2008

My top three beaches on Zakynthos

If you're looking for beautiful beaches on the Greek island of Zakynthos, you'll be spoilt for choice, but I'm only going to share with you my personal top three. Even at the end of the season when it may not be hot enough to swim, it's great to walk along them and feel the sun on your face and the sand between your toes.

Bear in mind that I normally visit the island in low season and this October I practically had the beaches to myself. If you're there in July and August you'll get a different experience, as all the beaches are busy, but some are more packed than others.

Gerakas beach
At the south-east tip of the island, this beach is part of the Marine park of Zakynthos and is known for the Carretta Carretta turtles that nest there. No building is allowed above the beach and sun-loungers are kept well away from the nesting sites. If you're lucky you may see turtles while swimming from the beach. There's a nice taverna nearby and an information centre for the turtles next door, run by the Earth, Sea and Sky conservation network.

Gerakas beach

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26 October 2008

How to find a real Greek taverna - on Zakynthos

If you're on the Greek island of Zakynthos and Yiayia's not cooking the Sunday lunch (that's Greek for Granny) then you'll be looking for a traditional taverna for your meal out with the family.

Sunday lunch in a Greek Taverna

You'll want somewhere that serves the Greek specialities, not just the versions of Moussaka that they serve up for the tourists. When I picked up the business card at To Kartoutso , where we ate today and saw not a word of English on it, I knew this was the real deal.

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Sunday morning Greek coffee and glika - in Zakynthos

This morning we drove into Zante town, the capital of the Greek island of Zakynthos, to look at the boats and have a coffee.

Sailing boat in Zante harbour

My husband was craving for a cheese pie or Tiropita, made with filo pastry and soft goat's cheese, while I was hoping for some of those ultra sweet, syrup drenched cakes or Glika that the Greeks specialise in.

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24 October 2008

Friday photo - a hunter's view in Zakynthos

Today I'm joining in with the Friday Photo at Delicious Baby, from my sunbed on the Greek island of Zakynthos, to bring you a photo with a story behind it.

This morning I walked up with my husband, through the olive groves behind my sister's house on the island of Zante to admire the view over the bay. Every so often we would find a chair positioned somewhat incongruously in a clearing. At first I thought that someone had left them there so they could pause and admire the view. But then the spent shotgun cartridges in the vicinity gave me a clue.

Admiring the view over the sea and olive groves near Argassi

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22 October 2008

Camping at Cala Gonone - in Sardinia

First let me explain how I came to choose Camping Cala Gonone as the place to base our family holiday in Sardinia.

We had hoped to go to Ethiopia but when the plans fell through I needed to quickly find an alternative destination. As I didn't want to splash out on a long haul destination at such short notice, I headed for the Easyjet website, looking for cheap flights within Europe. We settled on Sardinia as it had been recommended by my sister and as we would be flying into Olbia, I started looking for a suitable resort within an hour or two's drive of the airport.

Town beach in Cala Gonone

Heading north would take us onto the picturesque Costa Esmarelda, the St Tropez of Sardinia where supermodels and Russian millionaires hang out on their sleek yachts. I feared that this would not be the place for a budget holiday in August, when prices are generally are sky high. So we looked south to Cala Gonone, an old fishing village which has now grown into a small resort, the sort where Italians and Sardinians come on holiday for a month with their extended families.

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20 October 2008

Where are all the female travel presenters?

Ok, I'm not normally the sort of person to rant. But after having watched yet another TV travel documentary hosted by a middle-aged male presenter, I feel I must nail my colours to the mast on behalf of womankind.

This autumn the UK screens seem to be awash with travel documentaries. Last night it was writer and comedian Stephen Fry tootling around America in his oh so very British London taxi. Then writer and comedian Paul Merton was in India trying out his batting at a cricket club for the blind. Competing with him on the same night was writer and comedian Gryff Rhys Jones trying to sing Gospel in New York as part of his Greatest cities of the World series. Can you see a pattern emerging? Is there a conspiracy out there to get all the aging male comedians on our screens in one week and then flog us their coffee table book for Christmas?

I blame Michael Palin, the grand-daddy of them all for starting the trend. I'll even admit to having his videos and books on my shelf.

But where are all the female TV travel presenters? I'm longing to see some attractive and intrepid gal getting up to something adventurous in somewhere exotic. My husband is getting fed up of hearing me moan about it too. The closest we've got recently is Tribal Wives, where the formula is to take an English women in need of a life change to stay with a remote community and then line them up for a prospective romance with some unfortunate local. No stereotypes there then!

I'll make an exception of course for Bruce Parry, who brings a charming if slightly mad brand of enthusiasm to everything he does. I can't forget the sight of him leaping naked over a row of cattle in an initiation ceremony in Ethiopia. And at the prospect of taking the halucinogenic drug Ayahuasca, which will make him vomit uncontrollably before giving him wierd dreams, he can't wait!

When I was in Ecuador our guide told us a fairy tale of two travellers who mysteriously disappeared into the rainforest. But unlike Hansel and Gretel there was no happy ending. Eventually it was discovered that they had died after overdosing on Ayahuasca but the locals had hidden their bodies for fear of the trouble they'd be in. After that I decided to pass on the Ayahuasca.

Then there are those Medicine Men, the identical twins Chris and Xand, with such a lovely bedside manner. They agonise over whether they should treat sick children using western medicine or leave them to the herbal remedies of the local shaman. The scene where they found a tapeworm in a piece of roasted monkey was especially appetising.

But there's something missing for me - where are all the adventurous female TV travel presenters? I know the women travellers are out there because I read their blogs. But why aren't they on TV?

Here's my vision for the next hit TV travel series.

Intrepid lady sets off to explore the unspoiled wildernesses, penetrate into the deepest rainforest, stay with the nomadic peoples of the desert and bring us her stories from a woman's point of view. No powerful motorbikes or other boys toys will be involved!

Or how about this scenario?

Hip and gorgeous babe scours cities from Istanbul to Marakesh, Berlin to Beijing, searching out the most secret and cool haunts with the help of the local blogger in each location. By the way, I'm past thinking of myself as that hip and gorgeous babe, but I could always be her fixer.

What do you think? Any collaborators out there?

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18 October 2008

My blogging journey

It's nearly a year since I started blogging after an amazing trip to Ecuador last October re-awakened my long held love of travel and I started looking for ways to share my travel experiences.

In the real world (as opposed to the parallel internet universe) I am a project manager, working on contracts of 3-9 months. Recently some down time between contracts has given me the opportunity to think about where I want to go with this travel writing/blogging thing. A chance encounter with some excellent videos from Yaro Starak on becomeablogger.com has made me think that I ought to put a bit more effort into professionalising my blog and perhaps recoup some financial rewards from my efforts.

Although I already have a good day job, I've alternated in the past between steady employment and running my own business. I could see myself in the future as a portfolio worker with one steady income stream and other projects building up to become the income streams of the future. Ten years from now I'd like to be writing this from a cool ecolodge or sunny hotel terrace rather than my kitchen table with the dishwasher humming in the background.

In order to achieve this goal I plan to explore how my blog can become an income stream for me over time. The first steps I believe are to;

  • Move from my Blogger format to a professional looking website at heatheronhertravels.com

  • Invest some time and energy in building up my readership

  • Introduce advertising to my website

If your first reaction is No No please no Google ads!, then that was my starting point too. But most serious bloggers who don't try out this route are making money in other ways such as showcasing their work as a writer or promoting their guest house.

It all sounds so straightforward but after an hour spent puzzling over Wordpress themes I realise it will be a steep learning curve and take lots of hard work. I'm not setting any timescales, as if I get a 9 to 5 contract next week the project will probably grind to a temporary halt.

In the longer term, I'm hoping that having a successful travel blog will give me opportunities to explore my love of travel in ways I haven't even thought of yet.

If you've made this blogging journey before me, I'd really appreciate your help and tips. If you've found some great resources and articles, or even written them yourself, please let me know through the comments or by e-mail. And if you have any do's and don'ts that were learned the hard way, I'd love to hear them. Thanks a million!

P.S. Don't worry, I'll continue to post as often as I can about my travels and adventures wherever I go.

Blogging resources I've found so far

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17 October 2008

Friday photo - my Indian sponsor child

Today I'm joining in with the Friday photo over at Delicious Baby to bring you a picture with a story behind it.

I've also picked up on the theme of Blog Action Day which this year was on the theme of poverty. I believe that our individual actions can make a tremendous differerence to families across the world and have a ripple effect in inspiring others to do the same. What goes around, comes around as they say and sometimes the difference it makes can be to you too.

With my Indian Sponsor child

This is how I began sponsoring a child in India. An Indian priest, Father Pratap Reddy, visited my church some years ago and made an appeal for people to sponsor the education of children in his parish. We had been blessed with three children and wanted to spread our happiness around a little. We offered to become sponsors and over the years we received pictures and news of Thirumula Sagar and saw him growing up just as our children were too.

Read more of this article on my new travel blog at Heatheronhertravels.com

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15 October 2008

Let me introduce you to Zakynthos - in Greece

In a week's time I'll be off with the family to visit my sister who lives on the Greek Island of Zakynthos (also known as Zante). We normally manage to visit at least once a year, and because we've been there so often we've stopped doing all the touristy things and generally spend our time relaxing by the pool and catching up with the family news.

But this year will be the first time I've visited since I started blogging, so I'll be making a bit more effort to seek out interesting things to share with you.

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13 October 2008

How to eat well in Sardinia

I know that there are plenty of food-loving (or should I say greedy) folk out there, as any time I've written something on food I get lots of Yum Yum comments. So I thought I'd give you the low down on what we ate in Sardinia, remembering that Sardinia is actually a province of Italy, so this is also about eating Italian in general.

Before I went to Rome earlier this year, I have to admit I didn't really get it about eating out in Italy. What I couldn't work out is how you could stuff yourself with all those courses - I mean antipasto, then pasta, then a full main course! If I was at home a plate of pasta would be plenty.

Eating out in Sardinia

But then I realised that;

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11 October 2008

Medieval frescos at Orosei - in Sardinia

There are still a couple more things I want to share from my holiday in Sardinia. In fact, I'm trying to complete my Sardinia postings before I head to the Greek island of Zakynthos in a couple of weeks and make you all jealous with more photos of sparkling blue water and (lets hope) sun-kissed beaches.

In medieval times the town of Orosei was a prosporous and thriving port, but over the years the river silted up and the town is now marooned inland from the sea.

Chiesa Sant' Antonio in Orosei

We visited the small medieval church of Sant'Antonio which is a hotch potch of 15th century exterior and restored modern interior. Is sits within a large courtyard lined by small dwellings which were once the place for pilgrims and travellers to rest, and a tower in the centre.

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10 October 2008

Friday photo - sleeping in a canoe in Ecuador

Today I'm joining in the Friday photo with Debbie at Delicious Baby, to bring you a photo from my travels with a story behind it. I spent three weeks last October travelling with friends in Ecuador and one of the highlights was our stay in the rainforest village of Sarayaku.

Children sleeping in a canoe in Sarayaku

We were invited to a Minga one evening, a kind of reciprocal arrangement where a family asks the community to help them with some building or farming work, in return for hosting a big party in the evening.

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4 October 2008

A free day out in Greenwich - in London

I wrote in an earlier post about how I arrived by river at Greenwich with a friend, on one of the commuter ferries that ply up and down the Thames, giving us a great sightseeing tour en route.

We stepped off onto the ferry pier just as kings and queens of England had done before us, for here was the site of Greenwich Palace, favourite residence of the Tudor monarchs and birthplace of Henry VIII and his daughters Queen Mary I and Queen Elizabeth I. By the 1660s the palace had fallen into disrepair and Charles II ordered it to be demolished and a new palace was started which was eventually incorporated into the Old Royal Naval College, now a University Campus.

Read more of this article on my new travel blog at Heatheronhertravels.com

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3 October 2008

The blogging girl's tale of Rwanda

Usually I travel because it makes me happy. I'm curious to experience different ways of looking at the world, to taste the food, take in the scents and sounds and soak up the sunshine and warmth of friendship and hospitality.

But sometimes we travel to dark, dark places where unimaginable things happen. One such place is Rwanda.

Maryam's blog My Marakesh is usually the place where I go to find gorgeous design, textiles, food and entertaining tales of her setbacks as she builds her Guest House in Marakesh. But lately Maryam's in Rwanda and reminding us that there are some places in the world are evil has been done while the world turned and looked the other way.

I read about Vestine, a lady close to me in age, to whom terrible things were done. Vestine is only one of many men, women and children who suffered in unspeakable ways, but her story reminds us that every victim has a face and their own story to tell. In another life that could have been me, or you.

Even though it may move you to tears I know you'll want to head over to My Marakesh and read Vestine's story and I'm sure you'll want to help, as I do, by sending a Paypal donation to Maryam to help survivors of the Rwandan genocide, like Vestine.

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2 October 2008

Friday photo - a toffee seller in Banos, Ecuador

Today I'm bringing you a photo with a story behind it for the Friday photo hosted by Debbie of Delicious Baby.

Toffee maker at Banos

Last October I spent three weeks travelling in Ecuador and one of the nicest places we stayed was the town of Banos. It's in the lowlands between the Andean highlands and the steamy jungle where the river tributaries start their journey to meet the Amazon.

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