I have never seen a critic mention this…



The changing of the seasons; hot and sunny, warm and sunny, cool and sunny bring about those primal changes in us. Exciting summer adventures to be had, overseas trips to enjoy, winter breaks to plan for – so much to do, so little time to do  it.

The kick-start to this year’s warm spring, to be hastily followed by a scorching summer, comes by way of the annual Muscat Festival – which is not unlike a county show really. This is our third visit and although one might expect it to be a bit same(ish), which of course it is, there are still enough new things to keep us interested and delighted at the local bash. Unusually, this year we made a number of purchases from the ‘Around the World’ exhibitions of arts, crafts and all things fancy. We came away with a kite on a stick which, though it might sound a tad dull, is in fact an extremely good toy and it cost us no more than the loose change you might find at the bottom of a pocket where fluff is made. After this initial purchase from ‘China’, we went crazy with a rather gaudy necklace from “Tanzania’ and a make-up/pencil case from “Uzbekistan’; the latter being beautifully embroidered and the former very much a matter of taste. The child, we decided, should be tattooed – as a mark of ownership and just in case we needed to identify her should she ever get lost. Job done!




We enjoyed a cup of sweetcorn kernels with lemon and salt, which is a hugely popular fast-food snack in these parts, followed by a large swirl of candy-floss on a stick (cotton-candy as we now call it) which caused the uncontrollable urge, for those susceptible to a sugar rush, to run amok for fifteen minutes before collapsing into a sorry pile and moaning about everything and nothing. Such is a kid’s life. Cleverly, we arrived just before opening time at around 4pm and left as the crowds were pouring in, thus avoiding the five hour traffic queue that was reported when the world and his dog decided to head home at the same time. If only all life was like that.

Domesticity, shudder at the mere mention of it, still takes precedence and it seems an age since we embarked on any meaningful, mad-cap adventures where we risk life, limb or even a child. As much as the intention is there, there is always something more pressing that prevents us from getting out and about. Have we lost our adventure mojo? One would think so but were you to witness our feverish activity whilst planning this year’s summer hols (and a winter extravaganza too), you would indeed be praising our spirit. This may well be our last chance to pass off myth as reality before someone gets too old and wise to know better. How long will it be before the axe of stark realisation falls to inflict the gaping wound of awareness and those seasonal presents that are left under the tree are surely courtesy of Mum and Dad and not the rotund chap, all beardy and dressed in red with a ho, bloody ho, ho, ho!? We have it in mind to head north, way north, to see the certain gentleman before it’s too late.

Hanging about the house does have certain advantages; you manage to get around to all those niggly little jobs that always seem to be put off until later – like buying a live crab and cooking it, for example.

Not so happy crab

Not so happy crab


Having researched the issue on the internet (well it all looked so easy at the time), things never quite turned out as planned. That’s the problem with your celebrity chefs’ cooking shows and Christmas books – everything always turns out so bloody perfect! Well not mine, matey! People need to know this sort of stuff. People need to know that they are not perfect and that it’s okay to cock it up in the kitchen (move along now, no euphemism here). Maybe a new TV series is needed – ‘REAL COOKING’ – fly on the wall stuff with the good, the bad and the downright dangerous. Masterchef has had its day, it’s too nice, too normal; we need something new that we can all relate to, something REAL LIFE. This immediately brings to mind a past attempt at reality TV. A pilot episode of ‘Nude Men Fishing’ was filmed but never quite made it to the editing suite. Could have been a hit, me thinks. This was to be followed by a second series of ‘Nude Men Sailing’ but that one didn’t even get passed the pub door. Only one other old man could testify to this being absolutely true – name and address supplied. Anyway, I digress. If you would like to spend 29 minutes of your valuable lives watching a silly old codger try to kill, cook and eat a mud crab then this is definitely for you.


If not, then here is a synopsis of events; buy crab, realise it’s alive, put  in freezer to ‘sleep’, stab in the eyeball to make sure it’s dead (genuine error as it should have been the mouth but which hole is which?), back in the freezer as he’s obviously still alive’ (the stabbing sparked him into action, I can tell you!), tie him up, put it into boiling water but pot is too small, procure industrial size pot from canteen, boil him, cool him in ice, break off his claws and legs, eat the contents of his head and the meat from claws, make a small sandwich with remainder, retire for a nap. A certain spider-crab caught off the Isle of Wight and immediately cooked onboard the good ship Tom B’ aside, this was the finest, tastiest crab ever consumed. It will certainly be repeated but for now, there is a lobster giving it large at the fishmongers. It really was absolutely brilliant! Astonishing! Bit like a good book I know.


As the first chapter of a much anticipated novel nears completion, the job now at hand is to find a literary agent who is willing (or stupid enough) to take it on to punt around for a publication deal. Rave reviews accompany the opening chapter; ‘The new Harry Potter for the next generation’, ‘an exciting and devilish good read’, ‘a breath of fresh air in a stale world of clap-trap fiction’ “I couldn’t put it down, I still can’t, I carry it around with me everywhere’, and ‘an exciting new writer of sheer brilliance with a blinding talent for writing best-sellers that simply rakes in the dosh’. Admittedly all self-acclaimed but that should make those publishers sit up and take a bit of notice, eh? Maybe an anonymous benefactor will raise some funding on a ‘fund me’ website and get this literary masterpiece into print. Maybe not? Suffice to say, it’s a ‘rollicking good read’, based on many a true story gained from twenty-five miserable years in the casino industry; ‘a revelation with laugh out loud anecdotes’ (author’s acclaim again). Get in touch publishers and agents but only if you want to strike it rich with ‘a genius of the pen’ (I really must stop it now). For your delectation, a short extract from ‘Slugs, Snails and Casino Tales’.

Chapter 1 – Business as Usual


“Get his money!”


Sheer Brilliance!

How do you top that?

Until the next time,

Run fast and stay low,

Yalla Hiyak!

“Time has changed the magical to mundane”


It really was a matter of time before we exhausted all the good things to do, only to be left with the mundane. Work takes precedence these days, just as much as it does and would anywhere else we were to find ourselves. The advantage of that is, of course, it pays just enough to procure one or two of life’s luxuries and the odd trip overseas once or twice a year.

In the interim, between adventures that is, we have taken to amusing ourselves with a Japanese Fighting Fish named ‘George’. For the ‘a-fish-ionados’ out there, it is a Betta fish. Unfortunately, this breed has been bred to fight so he lives alone, less he kills or gets killed. George? Well, he is rather curious.

Georgie Boy

Georgie Boy

As for work, one has to be forever mindful that one is only a small explosion away from meeting one’s maker. Work in the crude oil business is often very rewarding but very, very dangerous!

Watch where you drop that lighted fag butt...

Watch where you drop that lighted fag butt Colin…

As I stood at the source of the smoke and flames, I considered my lot; I evacuated as per my own policies and procedures and thereby live to tell this sorry tale.

With little else to amuse us during these cold, winter months, we often perambulate about the mall to find warmth, amusement and the weekly shop. Sad that we are, we delight in a new pastime with our new friends. It is a fad that will catch on and you heard it here first – the worldwide phenomenon that will be DigiBirds. We have two that we are somewhat fond of and sing along with every day. What fun, what joy…


Birds of a feather plastic

If you haven’t had the pleasure yet, check out our two friends at:


Blimey! Have we really become so sad that we have resorted to a couple of mechanical, plastic toys to entertain us? Too right we have, SING ALONG NOW…

Apologies to one and all for such an appalling blog post but that’s what boredom and idle hands will do for you.

Happy New Year!

P.S. When is the cut-off date for saying that?


“Happiness is part of who we are. Joy is the feeling”


Minutes roll into hours, hours into days, days into weeks, weeks into months, so on and so forth. It seems an age since anything of note happened. The sun continues to shine, warm rays easing the pain of ageing bones and joints and were we to become any more laid back than we already are, we would probably fall over.

Courtesy of this year’s National Day, we were all granted a four day weekend to do with as we wished. The prospect of facing another period of ‘house-arrest’ by staying at home was to be avoided at all costs so, we hopped into the Ferrari and headed for the world’s fastest rollercoaster. (Yes – a Ferrari!) We embarked upon the usual decision making process, sleep in the dirt (camping) for a few days or relax in the warm embrace of a five star hotel somewhere in the United Arab Emirates – it really was a no-brainer. We motored in the Ferrari – (YES! – A FERRARI – GET OVER IT!!) towards clean sheets and a regular, buffet breakfast. The UAE border is some three hours or so away, followed by a short(ish) delay at a seemingly organised but quite chaotic border crossing, then a couple of hours more on empty roads to our latest, most favourite destination, wonderful Abu Dhabi. What we particularly like about this place is the feel of it all, the openness, clean lines, modern ways, attitudes, relaxed lifestyle, sumptuous wealth, modern cultural interests, things to do and see and the chance to shop, shop, SHOP! During our last visit, we barely had time to take any meaningful photographs and sadly, it was pretty much the same this time around. Far too much time was spent gawking at architecture that defied gravity, if not belief, to remember to lift the camera and immortalise the image by pressing a button. Maybe that’s just an excuse for us to return again soon?



The world’s fastest roller coaster accelerates to a staggering 240 kph in 4.9 seconds. That’s 0-100kph in 2 seconds! It pulls an acceleration of 1.7Gs with a maximum of 4.8Gs so your eyeballs gravitate to the back of your head and last night’s meal is ushered into making an unwanted appearance in your trouser seat. As an aficionado of roller-coasting activity, Disney World, Disney Land, Mammoth Mountain, Dreamland Margate, I can attest to this particular roller coaster, the world’s fastest, as being pretty dammed quick. Swim goggles are issued to protect your eyes as you hurtle around 2.07 kilometres of track; how we marvelled at the money that is spent on entertaining those who have, when those who do not, are literally starving. There, I’ve said my bit and if that puts me in the same league as Sir Bob, then I humbly accept my knighthood. But I digress. We parked up in front of the rollercoaster and set the camera upon a fence post to capture this enduring image of the pre-apocalyptic family who has everything.

Ferrari California

Ferrari California

We checked into our hotel next door to the Yas Marina Grand Prix circuit where we could watch the Formula 1 Grand Prix in style. I distinctly remember asking Lewis if it was this weekend…

It was last weekend that the Abu Dhabi Formula 1 Grand Prix was won by Lewis Hamilton. In lieu of the fact that we would not see state of the art ‘rocket ships on wheels’ hurtling around a track, we spent the day at Ferrari world next door where we could do all manner of things Ferrari. We had a Ferrari lunch, rode on a Ferrari roller-coaster, drooled over the new ‘La Ferrari’, had a Ferrari ice-cream, rode in some Ferrari tyres (just like a spinning tea-cup ride I suppose), pretended to be winners on the Ferrari podium, raced Ferrari go-karts, watched Ferrari movies, rode in Ferrari simulators and finally bought some Ferrari souvenirs. If nothing else, we lived and breathed Ferrari. The building itself was also a spectacular piece of design engineering shaped, unsurprisingly, in the Ferrari marque. At the end of the day, a lot of Ferrari fun was had by one and all.

Or maybe not?

Well, almost!

Being who we are, we were immediately upgraded to Premium visitors and handed complimentary tickets to Waterworld, where we took full advantage of this freebie the very next day.

A frenzied collection of brightly painted tubes, slides and enema inducing ducts, spouts and conduits welcomed us to Yas Waterworld; the UAE’s first MEGA waterpark. Hordes of families, mainly of Indian origin, swept through the park with their Premium wristbands visibly proud upon skinny, brown wrists. An overt display of superiority, deriding us ‘’regular’ guests, as we watched them parade along their designated access to the front of the queue. Now don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t busy like a ‘Sunny Summer Bank Holiday weekend in Brighton – Phew! What a Scorcher!’ sort of busy, just busier than we have been used to of late. There were more foreigners than you could point a stick at and anyone who is not us, must be the foreigner, right?

slides galore

slides galore

We managed an early white-knuckle water ride, before crowd domination set in, and it scared the little one senseless. In some parts of the world this might be considered abuse but out here, it’s all considered a part of the growing up experience. Not to be deterred or persuaded by incessant grizzling or the gripping of fence posts and stamping of feet, we embarked upon a strict regime of challenging experiences for the child that would serve her well into adult life. Not being exactly sure how this was to be achieved, we duly signed her up for the ‘Pearl Diving’ experience. In a 5 metre deep water tank, cunningly designed to look like the bottom of an ocean with fake treasure chest, discarded anchor and some very convincing rocks, an audience would watch through the vast expanse of glass frontage as the ‘Pearl Diver’ risked asphyxiation for a pearl oyster. With very brief instructions to don mask, hold breath, dive down to the bottom and grab an oyster, we ushered the kid to the front of the queue by means of poking one or two fingers into the middle of her shoulder blades and employing a firm, rapid jabbing motion. In the end, the whimpering and whining became an embarrassment so the head of the household had to forsake his front row seat and chilled Pepsi to go and get wet in order to procure the oyster that seemed so desirous at the time.

Dive, dive, dive!

Dive, dive, dive!

Down, down, deeper 'n' down

Down, down, deeper ‘n’ down

I, the Master Pearl Diver, earnestly began rummaging around in the sand at the bottom of the huge tank then finally held aloft, for approval, a small, brown shell. By this time, ageing lungs that have suffered so many years of mistreatment and neglect, gave out and it’s a bloody long way up when your oxygen supply has been depleted, I can tell you. Nevertheless, there remained a personal requirement to surface with a contrived air of theatrical grace! Gingerly we all waited whilst the attendant cut open the oyster to reveal…

Sliced open to reveal...

a, a…

…a squidgy mess resembling the contents of someone’s congested, nasal cavity. But wait! There inside the slime was a shiny white pearl the size of a Birdseye frozen, garden pea. At this point it all got ugly as the family fought over possession. Finders-keepers did not apply in this instance, apparently, so having risked life and limb to get the enamel covered grit, I was not allowed to keep it. Also, one pearl does not a pair of earrings make. Having been carefully cleaned with table salt and set into a silver cage flanked by two dolphins, the pearl was finally delivered to the sprog to love, cherish and remind her of this moment in her life. Whilst some things are best forgotten, this picture will serve as an eternal reminder.



Waterworld was a lot of fun but the intolerable wait for the best rides was too much to bear. Instead, we enjoyed the lazy rivers and many of the other attractions that are less attractive to those teenagers and adult kids that frequent such places of watery fun. As the sun began to set, the chill set in and the crowds thinned out. We emerged from our private cabana (tent) to make one final tour of the park before leaving, only to find that some of the best rides were unexpectedly available. Yeeha! We took a few turns on the snake tubes, cleverly securing the offspring with a tight grip of adult shins under her armpits (because her bum was too small to wedge in the innertube raft). An unusual position for rafting granted, however it served its purpose and if you cared or dared to ask her opinion, she would undoubtedly say, “It was AWESOME!”

Snakes ahoy!

Snakes ahoy!

Fortune continued to favour the brave as we found out that the country’s second largest mall had just recently opened. With no particular purchases in mind, we aimlessly wandered around the many, many, many shops that make up the Yas Mall. Anything and everything a shopaholic might desire appeared to be available here. Interestingly, I found that I could not, if I had the penchant for doing so, buy a Rolex! I may have missed a few shops but it seemed to me that my particular taste in luxury goods was not being catered for here. The mall, large though it is, seems to be missing something that the Dubai Mall has definitely got – an attraction, a centrepiece, a focus! Remember the fish tank in the Dubai Mall? The Yas Mall doesn’t have the same WOW! factor. Admittedly, there was a waterfall with some coloured lights and some arty stuff hanging from the ceiling but nothing to knock your socks off. It’s still new so maybe we’ll expect something extravagant in the near future.

There are two brands that are easily recognisable throughout the world; one being the yellow ‘M’ of McDonalds and the other the blue and yellow of IKEA. We saw both but were hypnotically drawn to the home of household goodies. Why, we only popped in to see if we could find a table light! As is so often the case in these circumstances, we finally emerged from the store with a trolley full of soft furnishings, kitchen gadgets, glassware, flat-pack furniture and several packs of paper napkins (plus holder with integrated weight – very innovative). The one thing we didn’t get was the table light!

As you can imagine, it was a fun few days in Abu Dhabi and exhausted as one is after such a break, we began to ponder the idea of making it a permanent feature…

Disclaimer: Just to put the record straight, not everything written here is exactly the way it happened or indeed, the whole truth. A large amount of literary licence has been employed for no other reason than ‘because we can’. Please bear in mind that no little ones, kids, children, sprogs or any other fluffy creatures were actually harmed, cajoled, abused, coerced, forced or anything else detrimental, into doing anything they did not want to, during this actual event or any other event, expedition, adventure ever spoken or written about, implied or intended. Anyway, the kid knows better than to complain!

And, as for the Ferrari…



So long!

“Life’s a beach. Just roll with it.”


Hey Diddley-Ho There!

Our planned trip to the mountains did not happen.  We mulled over the idea and settled for a postponement.

Sometime soon, I expect, someone will be asking me to take them up the North mountain again and who am I to refuse?

Heavy rain was forecast and the mountain track, as previously blogged, is treacherous to the extreme with many a reported death to its name. Heavy rain meant the track would be turned into a giant waterfall and as much as our truck could probably cope, we are a little dubious about our own abilities after the last escapade. Instead, we headed for the local beach. Referred to as such because it is just up the road and is the place where the locals hang-out. Some of the very best beaches have, sadly, now been ‘acquired’ and are predominately for the use of the ex-pat. community. (I recall the signs on the beach in Durban, South Africa back in 1987 where segregation was still rife – a ‘whites only’ beach sitting alongside a ‘non-whites’ area and there being a substantial difference between the two. Segregation – the shape of things to come, perhaps? But I digress). Knowing us as you do; not being ones to socialise with the likes of our own, we drove the car down onto the ‘local’ sand, right upto the sea edge, decamped and set about constructing a recently purchased kite; not too expensive you understand, about 60 of your English pennies.

Up, up, up she flies...

Up, up, up she flies…

‘Let’s go fly a kite, up to the highest height, let’s go fly a kite and send it soaring…’ It brought back fond memories of box kites constructed from brown wrapping paper and sticks tied together with some parcel string; the hardship, the poverty, food rations, the war, doodle-bugs at night and the fear of not knowing whether father would ever come home.

But I digress, again.

Personally, I am far to young to have lived through the war years but I thought it would add to the mood of what we were doing if I gave it a little, nostalgic atmosphere. No? Win some, lose some.

The tide was out, the wind was warm and it was a great place to be. Waves lapped at our knee-caps as we paddled in the warm, Arabian Sea and marvelled at the worm casts that were spewed out as soon as the salt water receded.

About 10 inches high and 18 inches across - BIG worms then?

About 10 inches high and 18 inches across – BIG worms then?


The sun began to set and the evening temperature steadied to it’s night-time level, around 28 degrees Celsius, where it would remain constant until sunrise the next day. We ambled along the sand, content with our lot, watching the early evening arrivals who began to light their barbecues and wood fires. There are no restrictions as to what you are allowed to do on the beaches in this fabulous country; barbecue, camp, open fires, football, kites, cars and motorbikes – the space is for using and it really does get used (and abused!) to the max. Often to the annoyance of others, but let’s not spoil our day out.

We headed back to the car, decision already made to eat out at our favourite Italiano restaurant, then home to bed. Well, it was work the next day and although it may sound like something quite exciting and exceptional, it’s just another work night here in the land of dreams.

Sweet dreams!

“Things in Oman don’t just die; they bake and fry in the heat until there is nothing left.”


Eid Mubarak!

The festival of Eid holiday is drawing to a close. A brief overview of this celebration includes the traditional sacrifice of a four-legged animal, the family gathering together and a great feast being shared. Many a fatted calf can be seen swaying to and fro in the back of a well worn Toyota pick-up as they are transported to their particular demise. At this time, we are bombarded by notifications from the Ministry of Health, via our mobiles, not to slaughter said animals at home and if we really must avoid the local abattoir, then we should don both rubber gloves and aprons to prevent the gush of blood from spoiling our clothes or spreading disease. I believe there is much concern over the health risks relating to the slitting of animal throats whilst at home but I cannot be sure as to what they are exactly. One just wonders at the whole process; the family gathered from far and wide, the cow brought forth, the frenzy as it is despatched and the grim task of skinning, gutting and hacking, only to find that it won’t fit in the oven. Anyway, it is a long held tradition in these parts and one that we have yet to witness or be invited to. Maybe next time?

Our return from merry old England also meant a return to the mundane. Work and domestic stuff has taken far too much of our time recently so, with these holidays to enjoy, we headed out into the countryside to explore and further wreck our once ‘immaculate’ vehicle. As an aside, we have, so far, had new sets of wheel bearings and countless new shock absorbers. We have an annoying squeal that cannot be rectified as it cannot be located and a most disconcerting ‘clunk’ on every left turn of the wheel. A strange vibration reverberates up through the steering column along with an unnerving bounce even when on totally flat surfaces. A matter of time we believe. Working from the official ‘Off Road Book of Oman’ ticking off every completed trail as we go, we found that we had yet to discover Wadi Abyad.

The good book

The good book – neatly held together with duct-tape

In fact, there are only three such unexplored routes that we have yet to undertake. One reads “for the off-road aficionados only” so we’ll leave that one ’til last (as the final nail in the coffin for the car). The other one quotes “one of the most steepest climbs – and we mean STEEP” so that should be a giggle and perhaps sort out all those annoying problems we are experiencing vehicle wise. Kill or cure!

For the adventure at hand, we headed to the vast expanse of the dry river bed that is Wadi Abyad. Only an hour or so away, the drive would be challenging as the river bed is either loose pebbles or very loose shale/gravel. We expected to find some water even though it had been dry for some time. There were promises (written in the guide book) of oleanders (flowers), butterflies and wild birds. A grab for the binoculars and the trusty ‘Birds of Oman’ book and we were off. At 09:30 in the morning, the outside temperature, as per the vehicle reading, was a worrying 38 degrees Celsius. We had enough provisions, water, crisps and my signature dish home-made mackerel pasties (remember those beauties?) to sustain us but the weather was not as cool as we had hoped for. This excursion included a four hour return hike to a remote village nestled in the canyon.

It wasn’t too long before we arrived at the tricky driving conditions that are the dry river bed and the car swayed wildly left and right as it sought traction and to free itself from the ruts of previous vehicles. In such a secluded area and with such difficult driving conditions, we were almost assured of complete privacy and that in itself presented one or two possible problems. Such as, should we get stuck in the loose shale or break down, we could not rely on any passing traffic to assist us. It is most unlikely that vehicle breakdown recovery will come to rescue us and we had, as usual, omitted to let anyone know where we were going and what time we ought to return. Ah well, fortune favours the brave, as they say. Who exactly are they?

Some water remained in large pools and some trickled it’s way from the mountains down to the lower levels. It was just too tempting so we headed for the wettest water crossing we could find but then soon despaired, all four wheels began to loose traction and the pedal was definitely down to the metal. Curiously, there wasn’t any wheel spinning, the vehicle just sank. Worrying though it might have been, this was not to be our demise; we headed deeper and deeper into the canyon, driving, nay sliding, along the brilliant white pebbles of the wadi bed.

We parked up on the only piece of firm ground we could find at the end of the wadi. Driving further would require a specialist 4×4 vehicle (now there’s an idea!) with a higher ground clearance, rugged tyres and a high lift jack just in case. We were alone and the heat was scorching. We splashed the sun block all over, filled three cans with water, packed in the pasties and horseradish sauce (oh yes. horseradish!) and set off.

Wadi Abyad

Wadi Abyad

Immediately, two things happened. One, the heat of the sun stunned us where we stood and two, the world and his dog descended upon us. As if we had paved the way for the entire population, vehicles with extended families slid in behind us, parking in front of us and creating merry-hell as they unloaded their cargo of people, barbecues, gazebos and all manner of glamping (glamorous-camping) equipment. We were not alone. In one respect, we felt a little safer in the company of others, should anything untoward happen to the car but then again, we also felt the intrusion was an invasion of our privacy.

March of the populas

March of the populace

We continued on our journey.

The loose ground was not too dissimilar to walking upon very soft sand, in as much as it strained the calf muscles and took much effort to progress.The heat sapped our strength and with only a few hundred metres covered, we had already consumed half of our water ration. Steep rocks either side of the canyon meant little or no shade and it was approaching the hottest part of the day. The smooth white rocks, that were much easier to walk on but treacherous to negotiate safely, soon gave way to water and we waded down river and through the red and white calcite coloured pools.

Looking cool but feeling hot

Looking cool but feeling hot

We stopped under the overhang of a rock, had lunch, watch fish dart about in the receding pools, spotted a solitary wading bird and an oleander bush or two. We finished off our water and considered our lot; we were no more than an hour into our journey, having left the crowd way behind, finished all of our water and were definitely feeling the adverse effects of the heat. Besides, someone was constantly moaning about the giant hornets that appeared to like my pasties as much as she did. Saying, that said hornets will not bother you if you do not bother them, had little calming effect so we removed ourselves from the shade and nuisance of the flying insects (not to mention the moaning nuisance) and stood in the brilliant sun. As creatures go, the hornets were the least of our problems. There are numerous venomous snakes in the area and should you wish to walk along in the cool waters, you should also be very wary of water snakes. Just like the pink one that was snapping at the ankles; or was it after that frog that sat solemnly upon a small rock at the water’s edge? Either way, they darted in opposite directions as the chaos ensued upon spotting the pink swimming serpente. Splish, splash, splosh and all were gone.Unfortunately, it was all too quick for a photo but we believe it to be one of either two snakes that are known to be in the area. One is the harmless thread snake and the other is also harmless(ish) being the very rare mole snake. Whatever, we survived to tell the tale. What did concern us was whether we should carry on.

As you are well aware, we often put our heads into the lion’s mouth, just to see what is inside but we are not totally stupid. When the danger signs truly present themselves, we take appropriate action. A slight breeze was like a furnace on our skin, the temperature, we estimated from later readings, to be somewhere in the region of 50 degrees Celsius (that’s 122 F) without the heat index (the opposite of wind chill and also known as the summer simmer index). We took the disappointing but very sensible decision to cut short our journey and return to the car where cool water was stored and the a/c would cool us down. On our return journey, we paused a while to look at the flowers that we had come to see and get that family photo, just for the album.



Our decision to return had been the right one. By the time we got back, we were suffering heat exhaustion and dehydration. The dangers of mother nature were quickly revealed to us in the few hours that we were exposed to the elements. How much more serious it all could have been had we not the sense to read the warning signs. We dragged eachother back, both physically and psychologically, cajoling and manhandling where the need dictated.

Heave Ho!

Ally up!

Liberal amounts of cool water and a long blast of the a/c did the job although to the outsider, we probably did look a lot worse that we actually were. We even told eachother just how bad we looked. The least affected, discerned by the continual expression of her dislike of hornets, was the smallest of us who appeared unaffected by it all.

Finally on an even keel once again, we drove away to negotiate the pebbles and shale but this time knowing help was at hand if an emergency arose. Vehicles continued to make there way to the place we had just left. Traversing the river once again found us axle deep in sinking gravel and it was only the full torque of our 5.7 litre monster that we were able to make enough headway to get ourselves free. A diversion, to park in the shade of a tree, saw us face to face with another local creature. Sat inches from our window, we watched it, watching us, watching it.

Yellow Spotted Agama, perhaps?

Yellow Spotted Agama, perhaps?

We saw other species of lizard on route, globe skimmer dragonflies, a frog, the highly suspect snake, little fishes and a wading bird that we were to hot to identify. All was not lost and we would return once the weather was cooler.

With a few days left before the end of the holidays, we will revisit one of our mountain favourites, to take in the cooler air and maybe break something else to add to our car catastrophes. Until then, the album shot to prove that all’s well that ends well.

Ta da!

Ta da!

We shall return…


“Happiness is part of who we are. Joy is the feeling”



Back to normal. Work calls and there is no ignoring it. Nose to the grindstone, elbow grease, best foot forward…

But, just before all that malarky, there was just time to squeeze in a birthday celebration so we headed off for a couple of nights at our favourite hotel. It was here we could partake of that which is not ordinarily allowed, like alcohol. Not to excess, of course, just enough to know we’ve had a drop and feel the pleasant effects. There was much feasting on the fruits of the sea, fish and shell fish in abundance and it all kicked off with a crab-fest starter. There was some lazing by the pool, some lazing by the sea, some lazing on the beach and some lazing on the lawn. A pleasant little man attended to our every whim, cold flannels, iced water, iced watermelon and some cold, cold beer with a slice of lime stuffed in the bottle neck. There was some continued lazing on the lazy river, in the pool, in the splash pad and under the fountain. Soaking up the sun, skin red raw and beginning to blister, we supped every ounce from this last, summer holiday moment.



Even as the sun set, the warm evenings kept us poolside with scant regard for any biting insects that may, or may not, wish to feast on us. It was just like the last day of a glorious British summer, recognisable as the very last chance to be outside in the warm sunshine where it would remain light until a reasonable evening hour. Of course, none of that applied to us because we know it will always be about 30 degrees Celsius and daylight until bedtime – but we knew it was time to say goodbye to our ‘holiday heads’ for this year. It was getting dark but we swam and swam until we could swim no more.

Night swimming

Night swimming

We sang the familiar ‘Happy Birthday’ tune, ate a little cake, drank a little wine, stuffed ourselves on some really great food, then headed off to be transported by sleep into yet another day, where the reality of life and busy work schedules were waiting.

It was time.


“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”


Day 12-15 (maybe more, I’ve lost count),

Strap in, it’s going to be a long one!

Journey’s end was in sight, not so much a chore but more of a relief. It was the final few days of travelling, to cram in as many temples and palaces as we could (or the guide felt we could!) and suck in all that we could of this exotic land.

To get things on track, we got ourselves to Kollam railway station where we hoped to travel 3rd Class (standing room only, squashed in cattle style) and experience life as a local.

Why use a bridge?

Why use a bridge?

Unfortunately, there were no tickets available at the cheaper end of the class system so we opted to travel in style, in seated class, leather recliners that were magnificent  by any standards, comfortable and wide enough to accommodate the largest of posteriors.

We rumbled along taking in the scenery, the lush, green countryside and the villages where time had seemingly stood still.

In a few hours we reached our destination and disembarked to make our way to a temple where, barefooted, bare-chested (men only of course), and with loin cloth covering the lower regions, we desperately tried to appreciate the richness, history and sheer magnitude of yet another temple.

There was little time to fully explore this wonderful temple, we had to get a move on as, on the way to our hotel, we had the opportunity to stop off at… another temple.

In pretty much the same style as all previous temples, expecting to be less than overawed, we were pleasantly surprised. We were not allowed entry into this particular temple. Home to the most recent of the Maharajahs, he had died without leaving any successor so the government had taken control of all assets which included his place of private worship. Immediately opened up for public devotees to pay homage to their particular deities, it was discovered, somewhere in the bowels of the temple, there was a huge stash of gold. Furniture, icons, statues, coins, bars and anything else that glitters was found, in quantities so we were told, that defy description. Heavily armed guards were posted outside, inside and all over the grounds, photographs are prohibited and the government, many months after the discovery, continue to discover hidden caches of gold and precious gems. Into the government coffers it flows, however its removal with the sheer tonnage of the stuff is taking considerably longer than expected and just when they think it’s nearing the end, another store gets discovered. This enormous wealth, accumulated over hundreds of years through the Maharajah dynasties, their descendants, marriages, taxes, gifts and probably some questionable procurement, leaves no doubt as to how royalty lived and the peasants suffered. None too dissimilar to today’s society.

There's gold in them, there temples.

There’s gold in them, there temples.

Not to be outdone, a hasty snapshot was taken before the big boys at the entrance spotted me. There is some nervousness and paranoia as the government doesn’t really want their find taken from them when they’ve barely had time to stash it away themselves. As robberies go, this would be a world record beater if someone pulled it off. Anyhow, we weren’t allowed in as we are not Hindus so we trotted off to find…

Another palace:


Padmanabhapuram Palace

Built almost entirely from teak, this vast palatial home to the Maharajahs of Southern India was another example of the ‘haves’ having the best deal in life. A stunningly smooth floor made from ash and egg whites covered the entire interior and one could only estimate at the hundreds of thousands of eggs that were used merely to have a nice, smooth floor. Built over several floors, the palace was a maze of rooms with original features, fixtures and fittings still in place with little or no restrictions on visitors handling and trying everything for size. As usual, we wondered just for how long these priceless items would remain, most hangings showed sunlight bleaching to a greater extent and too many hands rubbing the same pieces of  furniture does, eventually, cause lasting damage. We duly went around touching everything we could get our sticky mitts on and rubbing lots of wood, feeling back to an age when Maharajahs were supreme rulers and owners of just about everybody and everything. Often hidden from public view, the wives, consorts, family members, children and anyone else in the palace household, could wander the vast corridors peering through the hardwood slats to gaze upon an outside world that they might never experience. Such was the slatted design, they could not be seen in the dark hallways as they spied on the minions below.

Peeping out, or in?

Peeping out, or in?

We hadn’t yet made it to our final destination so we continued on, hoping against all hope that there were no more temples or palaces to visit. We wanted, we needed to be at Kovalam Beach where we could check into our hotel and rest, maybe even have a beer. We finally arrived but there was no time to lose, there was a temple to see that was quite extraordinary by all accounts. Oh dear! Kovalam is a resort where, once upon a time, the hippie trail ended for most. Local growers would cultivate and sell marijuana to any long-haired layabout who asked for it. Nowadays, such things are illegal but there is still a psychedelic atmposphere about the place, where gap students come to be a part of something different, to find themselves, before settling down to study or embark upon a meaningful career back home. Stalls selling seventies style  paintings, nick-naks, tie die clothing and all manner of tourist bits and bobs, ply for your trade as this low season brings in little and most retailers are desperate to make a sale. Haggling, obviously, is ideal at this time and bargains can be had if you have no scruples about paying next to nothing for that ‘must-have’ souvenir. We bargained very hard and came away with just a souvenir for less than loose change. Still, in a land of little, a little goes a long way and we reckoned we were spreading the wealth nonetheless. We meandered the seafront.



Along the way, we pretty much invited every hawker to ply their trade with us and we beat their prices down to almost nothing just for the challenge. In the end we didn’t but anything anyway but it’s not the purchase that’s important, it’s the haggling that counts. Once we were done, we formulated a plan to ensure we would no longer be bothered by any more sellers of their ‘finest Indian silk’. The secret was…don’t make eye contact and never, ever talk to them for once they know what language you speak and which country you are from it’ll be, “Manchester United, you like the queen?, Prince Philip came here, London is best and finally; do you know David Beckenham?(sic).

Don't make eye contact

Don’t make eye contact . We actually bought this piece of cloth though!

Enough! We needed to go South, to Kanyakumari (Cape Comorin), so we could see if you could actually see Antarctica from India – which of course you can’t. This is the southernmost point, the ‘V’ of the subcontinent where, at certain times of the year, you can see the breathtaking sight of the sun setting and the moon rising simultaneously over the three seas that meet here: the Bay of Bengal, the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea.

There was a temple and a palace to see so it was down to the harbour to catch the ferry to the two islands.

Palace to left, temple to right, both  out at sea

Palace to left, temple to right, both out at sea

Four hundred metres offshore is where the famous Hindu apostle Swami Vivekananda (yeah, we never heard of him either) meditated from the 25th to the 27th December 1892, deciding to take his moral message beyond India’s shores. In fact, I have ‘meditated’ for far longer than that, over a Christmas period, stuffed with food and alcohol. I have not moved for four days or more at such times. In 1970 a two-‘mandapa’ memorial was built in Vivekananda’s memory. The huge statue on the smaller island is of the ancient Tamil poet Thiruvalluvar (nope, can’t say we’ve heard of him either). The work of some 5000 sculptors, it was erected in the year 2000 and honours the poet’s 133 -chapter work ‘Thirukural’, (that’s lost on us too), hence the statue is exactly 133 metres high. Ferries shuttle visitors out to both islands and we were not going to miss this opportunity to see another temple and palace, now were we?






We wandered about a bit and tried to remain enthusiastic about the history, the architecture and the colossal size of the thing. The Statue of Liberty by comparison, is only 93 metres high. It was jolly windy aloft we can tell you that much. We looked out to sea and there, on the horizon, we saw some low cloud and pollution. No Antarctica ice but we knew she was out there somewhere, beckoning us to visit, to lure us to wilder shores with cold bitter winds to nip at our extremities. Maybe our next adventure, perhaps..?

Don’t forget, you can see all these modes of transport on youtube, should you wish to relive our journey by car, bus, train, rickshaw, ferry and various boats:


Surely now it was time to relax. A trip down the river would do it, a trip amongst the mangroves in a boat, chugging along checking out the wildlife. Unlike the canals of the Malabar Backwaters, these waterways were not inhabited but are a nature reserve and home to an abundance of bird life and aquatic creatures. At times like these, you begin to yearn for the clever camera with a long lens but then you can’t fit all that stuff in your pocket like you can the faithful old snappy-snap-snap Nikon Coolpix. Not quite the quality but still a memory of where we went and the critters we saw.

a bird with a fish in it's beak

a bird with a fish in it’s beak

There were an awful lot of these Kingfisher things, different sorts apparently, some big and some small and a huge one who had a very long beak. Someone was eagerly referring to a newly acquired book entitled ‘Birds of the Indian Subcontinent’. In my eyes that’s called ‘twitching’ an totally unacceptable on every level. Not really, each to their own and though I say it myself, I have never seen so many exotic birds and Kingfishers all in one place. The photo here is without any zoom lens and the bird was no more than a few feet away. We cruised the narrow lanes between creeping mangrove roots, stopping here and there to gaze upon water-snakes, birds and the surrounding scenery.

peace at last

peace at last

It has to be said, this was a highlight of our trip. Not a palace nor a temple, not even a museum. Bliss! We chugged along for the best part of four hours, stopping occasionally to spot birds and to take a short break on a sand bank where giant waves crashed in from the Arabian Sea. As the sun began to set, we headed back, satisfied with our lot.

Amongst the mangroves

Amongst the mangroves

An evening meal, taken locally so as to avoid the risk of posh restaurant food poisoning, then a bedtime story and into the land of nod. The hectic pace was taking its toll so we decided to venture off locally and explore, maybe even engage a hawker or two in some amiable haggling. We came across a lighthouse, just about as traditional as they come, where it was possible to climb up into it and out onto the top parapet. And I’ll tell you now, it was blooming windy up there!

looking up

looking up

For a couple of pence we climbed the inner, circular staircase to find ourselves before an iron rung ladder, completely vertical, going up onto the roof. It was no place for the safety conscious, so we cajoled the kid into going first.


Frightening really.








A splendid view was the reward and a gust or two blew away any cobwebs that remained.

With a descent that was even more precarious than the climb, we finally made it to the bottom, somewhat dizzy but elated at having achieved the climbing challenge and to have been inside a real, working lighthouse. Up top we polished the glass with our handkerchiefs, doing our little bit to ensure another ship stays safe out at sea. We called into a local ‘waterhole’ to take some light refreshment. Remeber what I said about eating and drinking locally?

don't judge by appearances

don’t judge by appearances


We partook of some odd looking fruit, sliced and mixed with a syrup. Like a giant mangoustein, it was sweet and jelly like in texture, refreshing and costing no more than a couple of pence. Drank and also eaten with a spoon, served in a chunky pint beer glass, it was an interesting experience and by way of gratitude, we photographed the proprietor in order that his image be immortalised for an eternity. In amongst all of this mayhem, we took rickshaw rides, we visited a zoo, wandered towns and villages, dipped in and out of shops and restaurants, saw the sights and breathed in every ounce of atmosphere. We saw amazing things along the way; elephants moving as part of daily traffic, their mahouts riding up top, steering with skinny legs and a long stick. Rare species of birds, so I am told, were dotted along the way, as colourfully clothed manual workers toiled away in fields, locals filled the shops, the roads, and every piece of dry land available and there was chaos, organised mayhem, where people lived their lives with big smiles on their faces.

Not once, not even once, was any of us ill with an upset tum-tum. We did not bother with touristy vaccinations neither. We were bitten only a couple of times by mosquitoes. We never felt oppressed, in danger, threatened or an encumbrance. The Indian people were always courteous, kind, very inquisitive, seemingly content, clean and always well presented. Even the beggars, hawkers and the not so well off, were always clean and tidy. Plastic bags are banned in these parts and it made a huge difference to the environment. Forget the tourists spots and head for the sweet South, where a traditional India is alive and well.

That was our sixteen or so days touring Southern India. Full of wonder, a million memories and over two thousand snap-shots to sort through.

Sit back, and take a deep breath; signing off…