May 25, 2022

November 1, 2017 - Sumidero Canyon

The tour group left San Cristobal to go for a boat ride on the river in Sumidero Canyon. The actual ride took two hours and we boarded the boat where the river goes through the major town of Tuxtla Gutiérrez. Although it was quite hot and we we were in the direct sun, the air was cool enough when the boat was moving.
We saw crocodiles, egrets (both grey and white) and two spider monkeys. The monkeys had just been released into the wild and wore tracking collars. Also there were lots of pelicans.

The trip finished at the hydro dam associated with Chicoasen power station. We came back at high-speed making a path through the flotsam, of which there was a lot, mostly bottles and other plastic rubbish. There was also a shrine to the lady of Guatemala in a rock grotto facing the river.

We left for Chiapa de Corzo where we walked around the square and markets. The square had an interesting Moorish fountain or rotunda but it had been fenced off due to the pervasive earthquake damage.

19:10 in the Maya Restaurant for tea. We had just returned from the Pantheon Municipal (the city cemetery) where we spent an hour or so as the sun went down. Lots of activity by people cleaning and painting graves. There were some candles left burning, although not as many as usually seen in countryside Styria. The cemetery was patrolled by police in a group of five. I saw them collect one old drunk guy but there was no significant disturbance otherwise. There was at least one group of musicians, young guys playing at a grave which I assume was one of their friends.

Posted on May 25, 2022 03:43 AM by kittsw kittsw | 14 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

October 18, 2019 - Kumakougen

Leaving the accommodation before 07:00, the weather is humid. Misty and cool with the threat of rain to come. The road heads up hill for 45 minutes. A reasonably tough go, which makes me glad I didn’t try this the previous afternoon. I’m sweating again like a snowman locked in a sauna. As the valley narrows the road narrows as wel till it is effectively one lane width. The cars come whizzing past. Not frequently, but enough to make you stop and think. One semi trailer went past, luckily not going terribly fast but he only cleared me by a foot or so.

The valley is tight and there aren't as many indications of people as usual along the path. Virtually the only sign of life I see is an old chap walking along the road. He was picking up big sticks from the retaining wall side of the road, obviously fallen down from trees higher up the slope, and then he was taking them and dumping them down into the river valley side of the road. I cant work out why.

After a couple of hours I come to a rest hut, just before the Mayumi Tunnel. In the hut is a visitors book which I idly flick through while I take the weight off my feet. In it I see the remarks left by the two Australian ladies on bikes that went whizzing past me 16 days ago outside Saga. They comment that the hill was so steep for their bikes. They were lucky. The road took a series of switchbacks here. My path lead straight up the side of the hill, cutting across the road a number of times. My distance was surely less, but the grade was significantly worse. I’ve started to occasionally use the phone to track my course, when I go off the beaten path. It shows an ascent of 101 metres over a distance of just less than 800 metres. A 13% grade on average, but obviously it varied and was far worse in patches. I know from Facebook that the two were flying back to Australia about the time I was sitting in the hut. Maybe next time I’ll go by bike too.

Through the tunnel, out of the darkness. The road is wider the air feels different this side of the mountain. I’m glad I didn’t have to climb over them. In the tunnel I thought I could hear voices. Eventually I worked out it was the faint voices of workmen setting up their road blocks at the far end of the tunnel about 700 m away. Interesting how their voices could be carried on the breeze here moving through the tunnel.

Mid morning it looks like it’s threatening to rain. I can hear the occasional tap, tap of raindrops on my hat but the ground is still dry in places so I don’t get my raincoat out yet. By late morning the rain starts and I find a rest hut for shelter. It’s in the little village of Tsuyumine, the first place I have seen with more than two houses together since leaving Oda first thing in the morning. The rain isn’t heavy but it doesn’t stop.

A little later and wetter, resting in the bus stop on the corner of highways 380 and 33 the council chimes starts up. “Edelweiss” from the “Sound of Music”. How utterly surreal.

The afternoon unravels as I walk along the left hand edge of Highway 33. No footpath. In the rain. Heading for Kumakougen, which isn’t that far away, to find a place to stay. Ultimately when I booked into a hotel I lay on the bed for a while and drifted off for a gentle snooze. It was too late to visit temple 44 anyway. I plan on visiting both Taihoji (T44) and Iwayaji (T45) tomorrow and returning to Kumakogen. I had hoped to get back to this hotel, but they tell me they are fully booked. I can leave my pack at the hotel which will be nice, but I must find a another place to stay in the evening.

Posted on May 25, 2022 03:30 AM by kittsw kittsw | 6 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

October 5, 2019 - Cape Ashizuri, Western Side

Cape Ashizuri is a fairly remote part of Japan, and the distance to Temple 38, Kongofukuji, is the longest to any single temple on the pilgrimage. In fact it is also one of the very few places where a Henro must backtrack over, more or less, the exact path they walked to get there. Rather than retrace exactly my path of the previous day, I had decided to initially go up the western side of the cape, before cutting across the peninsula to Shimonokae, where I had stayed the night before and then strike inland for Temple 39. There is an option of going all the way along the western coast, but that leads to either 8 extra kilometres and an inland trail or about 15 extra road kilometres. The western coastal road might be nice scenery, but it would mean the best part of an extra day walking for me.

However, first thing in the morning, Kongofukuji, Temple 38, was so nice I went back for a second visit with rested body and the day’s early light, just as a tourist. I didn't regret this at all.

After that, as I left Ashizuri township proper I heard some music and drumming. Being a bit nosy I went in and stood around under some temporary tarp awnings and watched some little kids play Taiko drums. They did very well. It turned out to be some sort of sports/presentation day given by the local primary school.
They had about a dozen kids ageing from, I guess, about three years old to maybe six or seven who put on different acts for all the parents who were under the shelters. It was quite cute, in an off the wall sort of way. First, after the older kids did the drumming, the whole student complement did a combined dance to Disney songs although the words were in Japanese, then they did some sports activities. They had pole climbing for the oldest, races on stilts for all, then they had a really odd basketball like game.
In the stilt races the very youngest kids had wooden blocks with rope loops, just like we made from jam tins when we were young. But the older ones were on stilts of various sizes, some were only about 4 inches off the ground but the very oldest ones were maybe one and a half or 2 feet above the ground and they could use their stilts quite skilfully.
In the basketball game all the children broke up into two teams of mixed ages. There were two baskets about 2 m tall and the children had to throw a whole lot of red or white beanbags into each net, depending on the colour of the beanbag and the team and the net. Which was all fairly straightforward, until two blokes dressed as Demons came out. While the Demons were running around, rolling a great big ball and banging a gong, the kids had to stop. The Demons came out twice during the competition. And then the third time the Demons grabbed the baskets and started throwing the beanbags out as everybody counted. By the time they had thrown all the beanbags out it turned out that one team has scored 42, the other team only scored 40.
I think it was the complete complement of children from the primary school because it was such a big age range.

As I started to leave they began doing some running races where the children ran around marked lines on the playing field. The older ones did okay but a tiny boy did the smart thing. He just cut across the racetrack. Then after that the teachers had to go out and hold their arms out to make the small children run the long way around the track rather than take the logical shortcut.

At least one of the grandfathers who was also under the shelter took a sneaky picture of me. I spotted him and gave him a smile.
My walk up the western coast took me to John Manjiro’s house. A non descript old Japanese house in the small village of Nakanohama. The village is down in a valley that the coast road skirts then passes over by a bridge. When I came up out of the village back on to the coast road I met a young Irishman called W.. He was not Henro, the only walking European non-Henro I met. He was just walking because he wanted to. He told me he had been working in Japan for three months, I think doing some sort of care taker role at a camp somewhere. Apparently he had seen me in the distance a few days ago. We walked together and talked until we reached the larger town of Tosa-Shimizu where we parted ways. I had a business hotel lined up but I arrived before check in time, so I had to sit outside on the steps till a guy came and opened the reception office.
The reception guy showed me the way to a nearby, backstreet laundromat. In the early evening I took all my dirty clothes there and spent half an hour thumbing through a pile of manga that had obviously been left for the amusement of the laundromat patrons. One particular one was called “Sho-Comi” It was printed in pink ink, had lots of pictures of girls in the adds and seemed to have an inordinately large number of people kissing in it. Maybe the ink colour alone should have been a warning. Shojo is manga for teenage girls.

Leaving the laundromat I stumbled across a small eatery. I tried my luck, though it looked like the owner’s front room. I couldn’t speak any meaningful Japanese and he couldn't speak any English. We got by. There were three big bowls of food on the counter. From one I asked for something which looked like a stew of potato and glass noodles. It was nice and I had a second serve. He also had lots of bottles of spirits on the shelves behind him, so I assume it was also a little bar.

That night I pondered how fairly odd it was that just about no places on this part of the island had Wi-Fi, or at least working Wi-Fi. For a place that’s supposedly as technically advanced as Japan I found it a bit surprising. I could understand the small mum and dad accommodations not having it but some places I stayed at advertised they had it though it didn’t work. This night’s business hotel didn’t have anything at all. You would think it would be a requirement for “business people”.

Posted on May 25, 2022 03:20 AM by kittsw kittsw | 5 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

October 4, 2019 - Temple 38, Kongofukuji

Because of the rain of the previous day I had left Shimanto quite late. Almost lunchtime. Despite this I did manage to complete nearly 20 km but that meant I had push myself so hard in the last couple of hours. I think that was why I was worn out at the end of the day. After resting and just before going to bed, I went to the urinal but there was not much to come out. Normally I don’t like tea, especially the green matcha types. The iced tea that the accommodation people had provided was really quite lovely to taste. I woke around midnight but slept again till 06:00

I had an early breakfast and left the accommodation just after 07:00, walking over the bridge to begin potentially 25 km on highway 321 to Kongofukuji, temple 38. I had been having a little trouble with the weight of the pack the previous few days. I think it was because when the shoulder straps get wet the buckles slip. And I’ve been sweating a lot in the humid heat.

As I walked through the morning my brain is awake enough to notice things:
There are some roadworks happening at the top of a gentle hill approaching a little coastal town. One of the workers is there holding his orange flag, dressed in his helmet and his road safety gear. Bored out of his mind when I first saw him as he was kicking branches into the scrub by the roadside.
Whenever I see buses coming toward me there always seems to be a young man in the front passenger seat, arms crossed, asleep.
I am starting to see more Henro on the path as the flow is two way in some places here. Kongofukuji is one of the few places where the pilgrimage path makes a spur off the general loop around Shikoku so becomes a two way path.

At 10:00 I find a bus stop in Iburi and take my shoes and socks off, to lay down for a rest. As usual I am soaked from the mornings exertions. While I lay there a local guy comes up and asks to take a photo of me. I don’t think its because I’m ungraciously taking up all of the only bench seat in the bus stop. I think its just because I'm an oddity.

Not far from the bus stop is the start of the beach road. As I stand looking across the little river flats in the shade it is lovely and cool. The water is clear, not very deep, flowing fairly fast. There are lots of fish swimming up and down the river and there is a paved section which seems to act as a sort of a weir. I cross the little river to a short piece of shingle beach. The beach is incredibly littered with flotsam. Mounds of driftwood, with a sadly large proportion of plastics. It doesn't seem that this could be the path but at the end of the beach I find a Jizo statue and some other signs. Crossing a bridge made of two large, rusted pieces of angle iron thrown across a creek and I am away from the sea and following a trail through a forest again. The book says less than a kilometre till I meet the eastern coast road, but it seems a lot longer till I break out onto local road 27. Following this for another eight or so kilometres should lead me to the door of Kongofukuji. Which also means I’ve already covered more than 15 kilometres, good going for me.
The rest of the afternoon unrolled as I walked along the small local road on the eastern side of Cape Ashizuri. With stops at various places. Kubotsu, the little sea side town with a fishing boat marina and pungent fish sheds is where I stopped for lunch. Sitting on a concrete block foundation, a good distance from the sheds, I ate the salty onigiri which the people at Anshuku accommodation had given me. It had a umiboshi plum in its centre, very sour, but a taste I am acquiring.
A few kilometres past Kubotsu is a locally constructed Henro hut. I explored it for a bit, but it was too damp and mossy for an extended stay for me. If it had been drier I think it would have been a fine place to rest. Now not much more than an hour away from Kongofukuji, I pushed on, reaching it with an hour to spare before closing time. I wasted a little of that hour reporting to the information centre who were able to book me a place at a “Youth Hostel” nearby.

So, in the late afternoon of the fourth day of walking since visiting temple 37, I was now at temple 38.
In the last hour of the day before the temple closed, I simply sat and took in the peace and beauty of the temple grounds. I felt it was one of the best temples I had seen so far and was such a reward at the end of such a long period of templeless walking. This opinion could have been coloured by the relief of getting to such a remote location, though I think not by a lot.
During the hour I was there, no less than three loaded Henro buses turned up! The Henro cargo of one of those buses were a serious cut above the average of similar groups I had seen. Almost everyone from the bus was wearing an outfit of entirely white, head to toe. Their prayers were done in a more formal way and included much more than the usual Heart Sutra that I was used to hear groups chanting. When I followed up the stairs of the temple behind them I saw, rather than a sprinkling of coloured osamefude amongst a sea of the usual white, a large proportion of the ones they left behind were red. Meaning they were mostly veterans of at least eight pilgrimages.

As I left the temple to find my accommodation I met Mimi. She was very friendly and let me scratch her ears. Her mistress said she was a temple dog. I’m not sure what elevates her to the rank of temple dog, other than visiting a lot. Going west from the temple the township of Ashizuri cant be missed and the youth hostel was one of the first buildings I saw. I was thankful I didn’t have to walk much further. Once again I was pretty tired. After I had my shower I laid down on the futons which I had to lay out of the cupboard myself. I read a little bit, had an energy jelly and small tin of chicken for tea then I fell asleep almost straight away, waking up after 20:00 to message U.. back in Australia with my daily report and the news I had passed the 500km mark measured from temple 1, Back in Tokushima.

Posted on May 25, 2022 03:10 AM by kittsw kittsw | 5 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 24, 2019 - Minami-awa Sun Line

Walking on the road in the misty rain of the morning. The visibility was only about 20 metres. There were no footpaths and I wondered if I would hear a car before seeing it. And would that give me enough time to get out of the way…

The owner of the guest house had given me some reasonably clear instructions on how to get to Mugi ferry terminal where I was to catch the ferry to my nights accommodation “on an island”. I had breakfast of a piece of chicken and a sandwich and said hello to some Japanese Henro as I was procrastinating and waiting for the rain to stop. The three Japanese guys who were getting ready to go, out of the rain in the combini, weren’t a group, just three individuals sheltering, like me, for a short time before stepping out into the wet. I left the combini in the early morning rain.
Once outside I realised all my maps and books tucked away in my back pack would be very difficult to get to under my rain poncho which covered everything. If I got lost I would be buggered, but then I thought I could use my phone for guidance instead. Unfortunately this plan fell apart too as my phone case filled up with water, not from the rain, but from the steamy condensation under my poncho. Luckily the guest house owners directions were clear and once I’d taken the correct turning past the cement works, it was a road with no turn offs, even I couldn’t go wrong this time. Really. Almost couldn't go wrong.

For the first half a kilometre or so I walked, my feet seemed to be holding up and the rain wasn't as hard as I feared it might have been, so I was pretty happy. Fifteen kilometres to go with a deadline for the ferry. I knew G.., following the same instructions, would be along this road somewhere too, but I didn’t know where the three Japanese guys were. I never saw them again. They must have taken the main road

It remained a tiny bit drizzly until I got through a tunnel three kilometres from town. The coastal air was being funneled into the tunnel and it was slightly difficult to walk against the draft, but then it calmed down as I came out of the tunnel and it was only misty. This was the Minami-awa Sun Line. A scenic coastal road. I thought it would be a nice walk if it was just misty and damp, however for the rest of the walk it drizzled and for the last three or 4 kilometres to Mugi it rained quite hard.

Because of the rain I really saw very little of the coast. Just once or twice I caught glimpses of the sea below. Otherwise for almost all of the four hours I was walking I could only hear the sea. The compensation was that many creatures had come out. The first odd thing, I saw a small crab on the road. Unusual to see a crab away from water I thought. I had not walked twenty metres when I saw a second crab and then another 20 metres I saw maybe six or ten altogether. That was the biggest concentration of the little crabs I saw, however I did see them continuously all the way into Mugi. I also saw three very large worms. The second one was a lovely dark aqua blue colour. I saw two frogs, one which sat still long enough for me to photograph and a smaller one which jumped away before I could get my camera out. G.. later told me she had seen some monkeys she originally mistook for dogs. I found out she had been behind me so the monkeys must have come down to the road after I passed by, so I missed them.

It was almost exactly 4 hours from the combini to Mugi town ship. About not getting lost, of course when I got to the township its self I took a wrong through the fishing village and found myself at some sheds on a wharf, the wrong side of the river to the ferry terminal. Four hours was enough to be on my feet so sitting down I had a rest and a drink in the cover of the sheds. I hadn’t had a drink up till that time as, through lack of foresight, I couldn’t get at my water tube under my poncho, and was never able to take the poncho of due to the rain.

A short walk along the fishing wharf and I found the bridge across the river. This lead almost straight to the ferry terminal, which was a small, concrete room with a sliding door. I let myself in and spread all my wet things liberally around the room. I had plenty of time to spare, since, other than the fishing sheds, I never stopped on my walk. There was still 90 minutes to go till the ferry was scheduled to leave. Neither it nor G.. were there. The time allowed me to eat a rice ball for lunch and to dry out a little. I was drenched. My shirt was wet up to the elbows, my dress was wet to the knees and the socks inside my boots were so damp they were squelchy. The most surprising thing was that my fingers were all wrinkled from being exposed to the rain for so long. This was probably the longest I have ever been continuously in rain in my life.

When the ferry left the harbour and started to pitch a little, G.. said something like “fook”. The crewman smiled, as I think he must have been able to speak a little Irish. On the other hand, I don’t know what she meant at all.

Posted on May 25, 2022 02:58 AM by kittsw kittsw | 5 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 25, 2022

October 8, 2019 - Temple 39, Enkōji

There are spiders everywhere so it is quite easy to get pictures of them. The dragonflies I saw in the early morning were really interesting. They were resting on the handrails by the foot path. I don’t know what was attractive to them about the rails but even when I disturbed them getting too close taking photos, they would only fly half a metre away and settle on the handrails again.

Starting about 7:30, I walked a slow kilometre and a half with stops for photos and Coke machines. There was a shrine where I rested. A couple of kids were running around there and I wondered what was going on but soon worked out it was the pick up spot for the school bus. After having walked for an hour who should I pass but the guy from the guest house. He was messing about in front of what looks like a cross between a small transportable building and a laundromat. I had already seen a small number of these while walking. I didn’t know what they were but subsequently found out that they are coin operated rice polishing machines.
When I left the Farm Guest House it was cool and misty in the valley. I was mostly in shadow while walking. It wasn’t really much cooler than previous days, but I think it was slightly less humid up in the mountains and perhaps a bit more breezy. Once out in the sun again it becomes sticky and sweaty just as it has been for almost the whole of my walk so far. I think maybe because I drank lots of water while at the guest house I felt considerably better today. My pack is less bothersome. Maybe I’m getting used to it hanging more comfortably. But I think I’m losing some weight and it fits me better. At the end of the first walk I did in April I felt a lot better in myself than at the start of it. I hope I can get back to that mental/physical state this time as well.

At 12:00 I stopped and talked to a bunch of westerners on bicycles. I had seen them come past me one at a time as I was walking toward Hiratacho. I didn’t think it remarkable when one or two lycra clads whizzed past me, but as the numbers increased I wondered if there was some sort of race. There were probably a dozen of them. When I got to the Lawsons they were all sitting around a folding table having their lunch in the car park. They were mostly Americans and some of them wanted their picture taken with me. There was one English man and we talked for a long time.
It was one of those types of tours where they had a van which followed them and set up things like the table. It also carried their suitcases and other traveling stuff while they rode their bikes. They had been to Temple 38 the previous day and were heading somewhere further north, I don’t think they went to Temple 39. They all probably thought I was some nutter.

Just before I arrived at Enkōji (T39) I booked in and dropped my gear at guest house Shimaya which was only a couple of hundred metres from the temple gates. It was four days since I left the previous temple, Kongōfukuji (T38).

Enkoji is more of an average looking temple compared to the the jewel of Kongōfukuji. Still, it is very calming. After my rituals I sit quietly in the quadrangle. It is cool and pleasant, it’s been a very much more comfortable day. There is a steady trickle of Henro arriving, but no buses turn up, so no turbulent crowds come through. Before I know it, two hours have slipped by.

In the evening I find that the guest house owner hasn't accounted for me to have tea. There are only two of us staying. The other guy is Hideto. He said he was 70 years old. He also said, I think he said, he was going to go to temple 48, which seems a long way away from here. Hideto is happy in the dining room drinking beer.

When the lady from the previous accommodation rang up to arrange this guest house she might have omitted to ask for a meal. I ask if there’s a bike or something I could borrow, to get back to Hiratacho but the man who runs the place quickly whipped up a curry sauce which he put on some rice. They always have plenty of rice. And I am more than happy with that.

If I can get to a decently built hotel in the next day or two that will leave me at least a day spare before the typhoon is predicted to hit. From there I could also hop on a train to one of the big cities, if it looks really bad.

Posted on March 25, 2022 01:33 PM by kittsw kittsw | 6 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

February 11, 2022

December 6, 2017 - La Fortuna Wanderings


The view from our hotel and also where we had breakfast was the Arenal Volcano. It sticks up into the clear air in the early morning, but by breakfast time the humidity has increased until its slopes are covered in cloud. Ursula and I chose not to go with the tour group who seemed most intent on visiting the local hot springs for bathing. We planned to walk around the small town and try to find a private walking trail which we heard about from the staff where we had breakfast. We met Kaikai there as he had independently found the small restaurant too.

By 11:00 we walked from the restaurant on Calle 468 to the main square, in keeping with the streets, imaginatively named Parque de La Fortuna. Then we spent about a quarter of an hour in Parroquia San Juan Bosco La Fortuna, the towns major church, just off the square. The church had a normal open gable roof but the ceiling inside had a cylindrical vault made of wooden boards running the length of the cylinder. I had seen this style of “fake” vault in before in Suchitoto so I assumed it must be a thing in Central America.

Our next task was to find the private walking trail. We headed off a road we thought was the right one, and found ourselves in the north western corner of La Fortuna, with no roads which went any further. I tried to get some video of some small fish I could see in a channel by the side of the road by lowering the GoPro into the water on a piece of string. We also found a shop which sold almost every type of kitchen need and hardware. Luckily they also sold drinks as we were both getting quite parched by this time.

Eventually working out where we had gone wrong we went back out onto the main road heading west. We came to an offshoot, Calle 480, down which we finally found Sendero Bogarin. After paying our fees we sat for a while under a lean to where the owners had constructed an area to attract birds. They put out fruit to tempt them in. They told us there was a sloth on the property and showed us its location, but it was high up and hard to see. We took a walk around the perimeter of the property. It was hot and humid and threatening to rain. we didn’t see any big animal, but saw a lot of interesting smaller things. A large number of leaf cutter ants in trails as well as a number of butterflies, including the Glass Wing (Greta oto). The Glass Wing is near impossible to take a picture of as there isn’t much to focus on. There were also purple bananas and all sorts of fungus. The walk took about fifty minutes. when we got back, the owner told us the sloth was in a better position so we went back and took fifty pictures trying to get a good shot of it. As it was still rainy, we decided to stay under the lean to and we watched the birds for another hour. During this time a couple from the UK turned up who were serious bird watchers. They had hired their own personal guide to take them to bird spots on their holiday. The husband was also sporting a camera with a telephoto lens which I estimated was worth about 10k$AU.

Posted on February 11, 2022 04:57 AM by kittsw kittsw | 37 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

December 4, 2017 - La Fortuna


… started the first tour of the cloud forest at 08:00. Amongst other things Ursula was very pleased that we saw, finally, a Resplendent Quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno), or rather a couple of them, though they were a little far away for me to get a good picture of with out a telephoto lens. The guides all carry spotting scopes on tripods, which, when a smart phone is held up to it, will take a quite passable picture. The guides who took us around seemed to know the locations of some fairly interesting plants or animals, so if there are no big drawcards found, they can reliably point out the interesting smaller things. We also saw some White Headed Capuchins (Cebus capucinus), a well hidden sloth (probably Bradypus variegatus), various fungi, butterfly chrysalis and a wasp with, reputedly, the nastiest sting in Central America.

After three hours walking through the cloud forest we sat down in the Hummingbird Cafe and I shared a pineapple cake with Ursula. The café is so called due to the large number of nectar feeders hung around under its verandas. The hummingbirds come up in droves to get the nectar and fly around amongst the people who are here. They make a quite loud whirring sound. I had seen a single hummingbird at our hotel just on sunset the previous evening, but there were literally dozens of them from the forest near the cafe. It is very difficult to take a good picture of them due to their high speed in everything they do.

In the afternoon we took the “free” bus up to the Selvatura Park skywalks, but when we got there it didn’t look too promising to see much wildlife as the day was warm and there was so much noise from the zip lines and other park attractions. We went back down to rest at the hotel for our night walk. Because it looked like rain we spent some time wandering around the town to try to find some rain protection. Our temporary ponchos which we had earlier in the trip hadn’t survived this far. After dropping in at a few of the tourist places we were directed to, all sold out, we finally found a good selection in the little general shop not too far from the hotel. The night tour organisers had ponchos anyway!

The night walk started at 18:00, and though it was windy and rainy, we saw a very good selection of creatures, despite the dark. The guide was very well versed in places to find things. Even including small scorpions in an old abandoned shed. There was a sloth with a baby swinging in one of the high wind blown trees. Some of the others on the night walk were a bit upset when the guide said that if the baby fell the mother would not go to retrieve it. In any event it never fell, even though it climbed a small distance away from its mother. We saw:

Emerald Toucanette (Aulacorhynchus prasinus)
Summer Tanager (Piranga rubra)
Swinson Thrush (Catharus ustulatus)
Wood Thrush (Hylocichla musteline)
Tennessee Warbler (Oreothlypis peregrine)
Katydid – leaf mimic and a green one
Yellow Throated Vireo (Vireo flavifrons)
Kentucky Warbler (Geothlypis Formosa)
Crab spider
Sloth (probably Bradypus variegatus),
Side Striped Palm Pit Viper (Bothriechis lateralis)
Golden Browed Chlorophonia (Chlorophonia callophrys)
White Throated Thrush (Turdus assimilis)
Blue Headed Motmot (Momotus coeruliceps)
Chachalaca (most likely Ortalis vetula)

Posted on February 11, 2022 04:37 AM by kittsw kittsw | 31 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

February 10, 2022

November 11, 2017 - Hol Chan Reserve

Today we did an organised snorkel tour. We left at 09:30 and went to a number of sites.

The first one was an impromptu stop with the manatees. Although it is out of season for them and we were advised there might be none, the boat stopped when they saw one, and after we had entered the water we saw there was a group of five or six. I filmed the group, including bubbles from one particular beast with flatulence. Due to the rules in the reserve, none of the group approached more than five metres to the animals.

The second place we went was a short swim in the local area above what was known as a wreck but appeared to be purposefully sunk pontoon barge.

The third place was a conch shell heap in comparatively shallow water. Apparently, the local fishermen had, for years, been cleaning their catch of conch in this area and dumping the shells.

Fourth. The channel on the reef in the Hol Chan reserve. we were able to swim in the shallower water on the circumference of the channel. In the channel itself it was about nine metres deep. The tour leader from the boat showed us a few special things, including a green moray eel which he seemed to have a familiarity with. I chased it at a distance for a little to get some pictures.

Shark Gully was the fifth location. Where there were a large number of nurse sharks. During this dive the go pro battery went flat. The water was shallow and there were other creatures such as rays and larger boney fish.

The sixth and final swimming stop was an area known as the coral garden. This was the best site for small fish life and it was a pity I didn’t have a good camera to use as there were many of them, as colourful as any found in aquariums.

After that the two guys of the crew gave out rum punch and took us for a slow extended cruise around the island including a spot where Tarpon live. Apparently the Tarpon will leap for items held just above the water surface, including hands. I saw them leap up to 40 cm and they took a couple of nips of my hand. One even took Ursulas fingers up to the palm, luckily they don’t have proper teeth.

Posted on February 10, 2022 12:05 AM by kittsw kittsw | 26 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment