Madagascar: Parc National des Tsingy de Bemaraha


The National Park is a Unesco World Heritage- listed site with jagged limestone pinnacles known as tsingy. There are two options for visitors: The Grands and Petits Tsingys. The Grands Tsingys has vertiginous bridges and involves climbing and scrambling over rocks while in a harness clipped to the via ferrata and is around a 90 minute trip in a FWD from Bekopaka. Pulling yourself up rock walls and also crawling through caves is all supposed to be part of the fun. I am not one for huge drops or scrambling and crawling through caves so most of us opted for the Petits Tsingys. There are six routes ranging from 90 minutes to a six hour one with a 30m climb. We opted for the two hour hike and as it was close to Bekopaka which we left at 7.30am, we saw no other tourists until we were leaving. Some of the gaps the path squeezes through are tight

Tree roots hang down the cracks.

We saw several parrots who flew past too quick to photograph them in contrast to the galahs perched on the rocks in The Pinnacles National Park in Western Australia that we visited last year. We also heard a Madagascan Cuckoo. There are 11 species of lemur in the park but the only one we saw was a nocturnal one who peeped at as from his perch in a tree.

We spotted a millipede on the path and a few lizards.

There are a few viewpoints that you can walk up for a wider perspective.

A gorge can be visited but this was going to be in an open boat and it was now midday and very hot. We opted for a quiet afternoon back at the hotel with a dip in the pool to cool off and relaxing on the verandah of our bungalow. Mid-way through the afternoon it began to rain but at least we felt rested for the following day which would be much longer.

Diversions on the road to Edinburgh


Something we had been thinking about for a while was a slight diversion on our route to Edinburgh. This week we finally got around to it. After topping up the caffeine levels in Moffat we took the A708 towards Selkirk from the south end of the High Street. It is a quieter road than the A701 Edinburgh road but there are a lot of forests on the hillsides so large forestry trucks laden with wood are not uncommon. There are passing places where the road is narrow. The road follows the Moffat Water and then the Little Yarrow rivers through the valley. Our first stop was 10 miles up the road at The Grey Mare’s Tail Nature Reserve. It is one of the highest waterfalls in the UK, dropping 60m from Loch Skeen which is the home of a rare fish, the vendace. It is apparently a relic from the ice age only found in a few freshwater lakes in southern Scotland and Cumbria. There is a 2.75 mile walk up to and around the loch but it began to rain heavily so we contented ourselves with looking at the waterfall (while I tried to remember when I had last been here), views of the valley and the heather which was flowering.


There are a number of ancient sites along the valley including, at Chapelhope, the site of Rodono Chapel. Further on the road reaches the Loch of the Lowes and following a short stretch of river under the bridge lies St Mary’s Loch. At one point there was only one loch but stones and gravel washing down from the hills separated them.

There is a café next to the Loch of the Lowes car park and a sailing club on St Mary’s Loch. Nearby is the Tibbie Shiels Inn which used to provide accommodation for walkers, including those on the nearby Southern Upland Way and was named after a widow who ran it between 1824 and 1878. Sir Walter Scott was a regular visitor. The inn closed in 2015. A statue on the hillside is of James Hogg born in 1770: the Ettrick Shepherd who became a writer. His work was admired by Thomas Carlyle and Walter Scott who introduced him to Edinburgh publishers but he never really left his work of sheep farming.

There is a circular walk round St Mary’s Loch which we might do at some point in the future.

A minor road to Tweedsmuir leaves the A708 at Cappercleuch.

It passes two reservoirs. The first, Megget Reservoir was finished in 1983 and supplies Edinburgh with water.

A mile from Tweedsmuir is Talla Reservoir which was opened in 1905. Construction began in 1899 and a railway was built to transport the materials. It is still possible to see some of the rail route and some of the bridges alongside the A701. The railway was dismantled in 1912.

Along the roadside were rowan trees laden with berries and many wildflowers including rosebay willow herb. Talla and Gameshope along with two other sites nearby are restoring the landscape to its previous wilderness state and providing a haven for wildlife. Where the forests are being regenerated, grazing sheep are excluded. The 4.500 acres includes blanket bog, moor, heath, rocky screes, lochs and burns.

At Tweedsmuir we re-joined the A701 and were soon in a very busy Edinburgh.

Round Britain: Nairn to Inverness


After the morning rush on the A96, we left Delnies Wood and returned to the coast near Ardesier, a former fishing village. On the other side of the promontory is a platform construction yard for the oil industry. The tip of the promontory is occupied by Fort George. Construction began in 1746 after the Jacobite rebellion to aid in the government suppression of them. It is still a forces base. In late 1984 when I was working in Inverness, a friend in the army brought a platoon of Gurkhas for tea. The fort took 22 years to complete and it is more than 1km in circumference. It is now the home of the Black Watch.

We were told that the entrance doors were original

and that the bridge we walked over was once a drawbridge.

There are views over to Chanonry Point from the ramparts. We hope to explore it more closely when we continue our coastal journey in September and cross over to the Black Isle.

The fort contains the Highlanders Regimental Museum and a magazine whose 2,672 barrels contained gun powder, not whisky.

There was a small photographic exhibition ‘Scotland from the Air’ with photographs taken between the early 20th century

and the last couple of years.

Aerial photography started with crews taking shots for military planning. The RAF have 750,000 photographs of Scotland. Aerial surveys have been carried out in Scotland since 1976. Many were used in a TV programme ‘Scotland From the Sky’. The Historic Environment Scotland’s archives of more than 1.6 million photographs can be accessed via the following websites:
http://www.Canmore.org.uk and http://www.ncap.org.uk

On the way back along the old military road to rejoin the A96 into Inverness, we passed Inverness Caledonian Thistle FC training in Ardesier. There was a shop, so James popped in to get a newspaper. He was offered a free copy of the Sun which he declined. The woman in the shop had never heard of the boycott of paper in Liverpool after it published inaccurate accusations about Liverpool FC fans at Hillsborough in 1989. They were accused of being drunk and urinating on and assaulting emergency workers; and pick-pocketing the dead bodies, all of which was unsubstantiated. The A96 passes Inverness Airport and Culloden. We had to get an oil change done on the van before heading to our campsite.

Situated close to the river Ness, there were riverside walks into town via Ness Islands or along the northern bank. In the evening we stuck to the south bank and met some friends for dinner.

In the morning we walked along the north bank and passed one of several statues in an Oor Wullie series. This one was based on Scottish flora.

I had a look in Inverness Cathedral. It is the most northern Anglican Cathedral in the UK and the first stone was laid in 1866 by the then Archbishop of Canterbury. From the reformation the Episcopal church was proscribed and clergy were imprisoned for carrying out public worship. This was the first time an archbishop had performed any actions in the city since then. The cathedral was completed in 1869. I was unable to spend any quiet time in there as shortly after we entered, two bus loads of tourists marched in.

Crossing the river to the south side and city centre, we passed a man with a Liverpool FC shirt on. I asked him if he was from Liverpool and he said no, the United States and proceeded to show me his Donald Trump socks! The City Museum and Art Gallery has been created out of part of an old shopping centre next to the castle. In the art gallery section upstairs was an exhibition on immigration which aims to promote dialogue and understanding. I had seen it in Edinburgh beforehand but there were some newer items.

There was also a small exhibition based on a collaboration between makers in Scotland and Iceland in 2017 and 2018 with some of the Scottish makers displaying work done subsequently. We had seen some of the Icelandic work when we were there in early 2017.

The last time we were at Inverness Castle was in 2010 when we had completed walking the Great Glen Way from Fort William.

We had lunch with a friend and then walked back to the Botanic Garden near our campsite. I was inspired to do more with my cacti, succulents and orchids.

We were happy to leave before the weekend as the park next to the campsite was gearing up for the European Pipe Band Championship. We headed off down the A9 where I notice lots of garden escapees on the roadside near Kingussie: lupins. Further on we popped into Pitlochry for a coffee. Green Park Hotel before the town with great views of Loch Faskally and sculptures in the garden did not have a café but gave us some free coffees.


So far, our mileage for this leg is 196 bringing the total to 534. We will not continue round the coast in July and August as it is very busy especially since the North Coast 500 was created. We have other trips planned and will return to the coast route in September.

Around Australia: Adelaide to Kangaroo Island

We left Adelaide southbound down the Fleurieu Peninsula. The Mount Lofty Range runs down the centre with vineyards along the roadside. We passed McLaren Vale and then took a detour to Sellick Beach where we grabbed a coffee from the store that sold everything.

The beach was quite busy with people walking, driving and cycling as the tide was out. A little further down the coast is the Nan Hai Pu Tuo Buddhist Temple with a large statue. There was a major building project underway, I don’t know whether they are extending the temple or building retreat accommodation.

Before we reached Cape Jervis to catch the ferry, we stopped at the Hobart Memorial Lookout.

Part of the 1200km Heysen Trail runs from Cape Jervis to Victor Harbor (70km). To do this section you need to be self-reliant and only camp at approved sites. I noticed from the map that there is a Balquhidder River and campsite so someone from Perthshire has been round here. The ferry journey across Backstairs Passage to Kangaroo Island only takes 45 minutes, so we were soon on our way to our accommodation in Emu Bay.

We passed a sign to Brownlow, so I could have been almost home. Our cabin had distant views of Emu Bay so the first thing we did the next morning was to go for a walk on the 5km of white sand. Some of the area above the high tide mark was fenced off to protect the nesting plovers.

The next part of our exploration of Kangaroo Island, the third largest island in Australia, was to take the South Coast Road. There was a cycling event on and most were travelling in the opposite direction to us. We stopped for a coffee at the junction for Seal Bay and two cyclists were in the café. They told us that they were all members of ‘Cycling South Australia’ and were on the last of seven days on the island. Just as we were leaving I noticed Kylie the local koala who lives in the trees around the café. I saw another in the trees by the road going down to the bay.

Down at Seal Bay Conservation Area is a Australian Sea Lion colony of around 100 animals. About 40 were on the beach when we visited.


We also spotted an Echidna on the slopes above the bay, but it was in the bush and I did not get a good shot. I saw one on the road near Port Campbell 14 years ago but do not have that picture with me. On our way to Flinders Chase National Park we passed Little Sahara where you can go sand boarding on the dunes. At the National Park we first drove down to Cape du Couedic, where there is a lighthouse

and a coastal walk to Admirals Arch which has stalactites hanging from the roof and where there is a fur seal colony.


Back on the road there is a turnoff to Remarkable Rocks: granite rocks that have been shaped by the weather and sit 75m above the ocean. The orange colour comes from lichens growing on them.


The National Park has several trails, campgrounds, more remote lighthouses and some other accommodation. It covers most of the western end of the island and the roads are unsealed. We would have liked to explore more but completed our circuit of the island so that we could get organised for our departure the next day. We covered 174 miles today. Our trip total is now 9,871.

Around Australia: Noosa to Hervey Bay


Waking early and not having too far to drive today meant we could spend a little more time exploring Noosa before we left. There are so many things to do and ways to explore (boat trips, horse riding etc) but we stuck to walking. The coastal boardwalk to Noosa Heads National Park begins at the southern end of the main beach just off Hastings Street. A few people were already on the beach.

You can also drive to the park if you wish but we were trying to keep up some exercise on this long drive. The path is being renovated so there are some diversions and as it was Sunday there were lots of runners. We reached the park and continued along the coastal path. It goes all the way round to Sunshine Beach which takes about four hours, so we just did a small section. The first part looks over Laguna Bay to Cooloola sandmass which has been building up for 500,000 years and is one of the biggest accumulations of wind-blown sand on the Queensland Coast

continuing past the Boiling Pot

until we reached Tea Tree Bay

It was then time to return to the town, leave Noosa and head back to the Pacific Highway which we joined near Cooroy. Before we did this, we visited Noosa Botanic Garden which is on the shores of Lake Macdonald. It is free to visit, owned by the council and much of the work is done by volunteers. 80% of the plants and trees are native. There were also quite a few birds around.

Back on the highway we had a brief rest and cold drink at the Golden Nugget Road House. There are many signs on the highway exhorting you to stop and rest every two hours, but things have got to a new level up here. A sign said that playing trivia could keep you awake. A little further on was the question: What is Rockhampton famous for? We knew the answer: beef cattle. This was on the next sign. The landscape was getting drier and large cattle farms could be seem as well as pineapples and sugar cane. More traffic was heading south than north. At Maryborough we turned off towards Hervey Bay and found a shady corner in their Botanic Garden for lunch. A white ibis came to see us

and there were several turtles sunning themselves on rocks alongside the water.

Finally, we reached the esplanade and our motel. The beach here is sheltered from the ocean by Fraser Island so the sea is very shallow. Today’s mileage was 131 bringing the total so far to 1214 miles and the temperature reached 28 degrees. Tomorrow the car will be going nowhere.

Around Australia: The Glass House Mountains


The Glass House Mountains acquired their current name because on 17th May 1770 Captain Cook (who was a Lieutenant at the time) noticed three hills and thought they resembled glass-making kilns in Yorkshire. Of course, they have been highly significant ancestral homes of the Jinibara and Kabi Kabi people for much longer. They request that the mountains are not climbed as they are sacred, but they remain popular with rock climbers and have been since the early 20th century. We arrived in the afternoon of our first night here and settled into our accommodation at the Ecolodge which sits under Mount Tibrogargan. We stayed in the restored 120 year old church building which was previously at Wivenhoe and re-located here when it closed in 1990. The owner bought a World War One settler block in 1982 and after acquiring the church began to plan the Eco-Lodge and opened in 2004. Breakfast is served in some renovated rail carriages with the birdsong all around.

There is so much to see and do here but with limited time we had to be selective. Fortunately, it remained dry, so we made our way to the Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve which is situated on Mountain View Road. The reserve is a remnant of rainforest which has survived the surrounding farming and there are circular trails around it.

The visitors’ centre has a display of birds and their calls. We heard many, had fleeting glimpses of some including a Roufous Fantail, Brush Turkey and others, all too fast to photograph. We also spotted some wallabies.

Back at the centre we had a coffee closely observed by a magpie and a Brush Turkey.


There is a lookout with views over the mountains

and an exhibition area which on this occasion had a selection of works by local artists based on the nightlife of the reserve. I had to look up what a reduction linocut was as I plan to do some more at some point. It is where all the colours are added using the same block. After coffee we drove down Old Glympian Road to the Glass House Mountains Lookout which has views from the opposite direction.

Then it was back to Mount Tibrogargan to walk one of the trails around the mountain.

There is also a summit path from here which is for experienced climbers only, but we saw a young couple head up it without any equipment at all. There are views of Mount Beerwah and Mount Coonowrin from the trail.

and of Tibrogargan itself.

When we got back to the car park and sat having our lunch at a picnic table we had a kookaburra try to steal some of it and other birds hovering hopefully. One managed to find a small sip of water on the table.



Our mileage today was only 74 making the total to date 989.

Walking to Edinburgh: Preston to Lancaster and then disaster strikes


I left my accommodation before eight this morning, picked up some lunch supplies and set off through Preston to join the A6. It was sunny and warm so I soon shed my layers and donned the sunglasses. Near the hospital was a sign announcing that next Sunday the road would be closed for the Carnival. I was so glad that I did not have to do a diversion today. After 2.8 miles I had my first brief rest before crossing the M55 intersection. Unlike the others, this one had a subway for pedestrians and cyclists. There are many villages strung out along the road. My first milestone today was this one:

At one point the A6 was again parallel with the M6 and West Coast Mainline. I even saw a Northern train. This was a surprise as it was a: Sunday and b: they have so many problems with cancellations since they introduced their new timetables. The M6 soon diverts east of Lancaster while the railway enters the city. Several Virgin trains passed me. The old road is now a B road to Garstang while the A6 bypasses it to the west. Just south of Garstang I got my first glimpse of the Pennines.

I was looking forward to seeing the Cumbrian Hills and the Southern Uplands later in my journey. The road crosses the Lancaster Canal and then the River Wyre before entering Garstang, the first Fair Trade town in the world.

I had a cold drink near the market square before finding a bench to eat my lunch on. This was about halfway on today’s walk. After rejoining the A6, I passed through another community known for its service station on the M6: Forton with its Grade II listed tower. It was the second one opened after Charnock Richard. This is not my photo:

What got my attention on this hot day was Hugo’s Ice Cream Parlour which also does breakfast, coffees and light bites. Needless to say, they had 22 flavours but I had vanilla. The walls were decorated with old vinyl LP covers which was a great blast from the past.

After that I had to keep plodding on, resting when there was somewhere to sit down on. Most folks had donned shorts but it was not quite hot enough for the Glaswegian ‘taps aff’. After passing through Galgate and past the University, I popped into a pub for a cold beer. We had a few years ago been driving up to Edinburgh on Hogmanay after James finished work when an accident closed the M6 and we spent three hours crawling through the city before we could rejoin the M6 and get to Edinburgh too late to go out to any festivities. At that point, I remember thinking this would probably be a city to explore but not in this fashion. Sadly, it was not to be on this occasion either. I had only one mile further to walk, downhill to the canal where I was to meet up with James and stay at the Toll House Inn. A historic building that has been renovated two years ago. Disaster struck when suddenly my left ankle became painful and I hobbled down the hill ironically past the Infirmary. I have psoriatic arthritis but have not had an inflamed ankle for 15 years and have been on several walking trips since then so this was a shock. I know that it usually takes 2-3 months for a big joint to settle down (small ones take a few days) so I have had to cancel the remainder of this trip and go home. I must return at some point both to explore Lancaster and finish my walk. I had to content myself with a brief glimpse of the canal and the interior of the hotel.