Ravensdale, Co. Louth

I spent the weekend with Carmel’s parents in Dundalk and had a very good time. While there we took on a small walk in the Cooley mountains up to the TV mast that serves the Dundalk area. At 510m this wasn’t quite the highest peak in the Cooleys, which would be Slieve Foye at 588m. Still, not much in it and since by the time we got to the top it was completely covered in cloud it didn’t really bother us that there was a higher peak nearby.

Here’s a photo of the TV mast in thick cloud – exciting, hey?

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And here’s a photo on the way down overlooking Dundalk bay.

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The route we took was loosley based on a sign we saw when we parked the car at the start of the walk. However a better and more formalised version can be found here http://www.restawyle.com/walk4.html.

I think next we’ll take on the Tain Way.

Ravensdale
Duration 2:28 hours
Distance 9.9 miles
Total ascent 991 m
Path (Google Earth)

More garden plants

I thought for ages whether or not I should spend the time painting our fence. Painting it would take ages – a couple of afternoons – but it could do with a lick of paint in a few spots. Then one sunny afternoon I wanted to be outside enjoying the sun and doing something half useful, so painting the fence it was.

However while doing this painting, very annoyingly the bit of the garden I was standing on collapsed beneath my feet. This meant that I had to fix this as well as paint the fence. I shouldn’t have started any of this and instead just got a beer and read the paper in the sun.

Here’s a photo of the old fence. I thought I should treat it before the winter.

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And here’s the fence painted, but with part of the garden collapsed (bottom of the photo).

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The large chunks of concrete rubble were removed and a box built to contain the soil.

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And finally, Carmel put a few plants into it.

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Some plants of note, from left to right, a Choisya ‘Aztec Pearl’, a Hebes, an Astrantia ‘Snowstar’, a Verbena ‘Hastata Pink Spires’, a Californian Lilac, a Mahonia ‘Charity’, lavendar and thyme. I’ve probably missed a few…

And one last thing. The Red Arrows were very visible from our garden today. They were performing at Cambridge airport to celebrate Marshall’s 100th Anniversary (the owner of the airport). Here’s a photo from our garden.

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Kalymnos day 8

On our last day I managed breakfast for just the second time of the week. The evening meals were not exactly light snacks so I just could rarely face a breakfast. Anyhow, I enjoyed a boiled egg and cheese sandwich – which now sounds fairly unappetising so perhaps that is the reason I frequently skipped breakfast?

We were due to be picked up at 12pm for a 1pm ferry over to Kos. Before then we found time to sit by pool and have a last couple of swims. I also ready a few pages of my holiday book. I bought the Hitch Hiker’s Guide collection a few years ago and read it on every holiday I have been on since. I am now over half way, but I think the book may disintegrate (the cover is already half off) before I find the time to finish reading it.

It was a beautiful day for the ferry crossing. And to cheer us up on our departure the ferry was the slow, car-carrying one, which allowed us to sunbathe on the top deck and enjoy a few beers.

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In Kos, we had a couple of hours to kill before we needed to be at the airport, so we had lunch at Kali Kardia (Good Heart). Not to be considered too daring I went for pork souvlaki, and was outdone by Carmel as she chose octopus again. This time her octopus came attached with part of the head and body linking the three tentacles together.

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I polished off some wine while Carmel went souvenir shopping – some plastic toys and some herbs were bought.

The rest of the day went to plan. The Monarch plane left Kos on time and landed on time in Gatwick at about 8pm. Immigration was fairly busy but nothing compared to the nightmare that Stansted frequently is. We were out of the airport and in our car on the M23 by 9pm and were home around 10:30pm. And that was that – up for work at 6am the following day…

Kalymnos day 6

Got up at 9am, a whole hour’s extra lie-in, and went for breakfast. This was my first breakfast of the week. The buffet was very simple, boiled eggs, cheese, bread, orange juice and coffee. Suited us.

A day without diving. Felt weird. And quite a relief. We had breakfast overlooking the pool and were late enough to watch Tiia and Michaelis teaching 4 people of varying ages the one day Discover Scuba course that I did last year. The weather was beautiful so we decided not to be lazy and to walk from Chora to Vathys via the highest point on the island, Profitis Ilias (676m).

We bought bus tickets and then got bored waiting for a bus so took a taxi to the old capital town of Chora (built 4km inland to reduce the threat of pirate attacks) and started our walk. It was the same first leg that we had done the year earlier so was quite straightforward. An hour after starting and we had climbed to the monastery at the summit. With sweat dripping off us we had short break and admired the views covering three sides of the island (could not quite see the northern tip). We saw Vathys in the distance and started our descent.

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There were two paths to Vathys, a large one and a small one according to the map. We chose the small one and lost it within 20 metres. After looking for it for 5 mins we turned back and started on the large one. This itself we were barely able to follow. The path was so underused that it was overgrown and very unclear in many sections. The saving grace was the little red dots there were painted on rocks every 25-50 metres that reassured us we were on the same path as someone who was accidentally dripping paint. We hoped this person both made it to the bottom and also made it with enough of his paint dripping all the way.

By the time we got off the mountain path about an hour later our legs were torn to shreds by the vicious, sharp little bushes line up on either side of the path at shin height. I had walked it in trainers and had sworn at the lose rocks under foot being worried that I would twist my ankle. My trainers had not absorbed the sharp and pointy rocks either so my feet were fairly bruised. Carmel walked it in silver slip-on smart shoes from Jones. So I had no sympathy from her.

The walk into Vathys was quite long as the various roads winded their way down the most fertile valley on the island to the little port at the bottom. We got lost a few times and considered jumping over a wall into a field of bee hives before we found a different route. At one point we walked past a foursome of older Brits (at least one a Scouser) who were looking red-faced, worn out and clutching their nearly empty bottle of water like it was very important to them. We don’t know why they were there as there really was no reason for them being down that road unless they had walked the route we had – which they didn’t look fit for, but then again would explain the state they were in. We walked past with a spring in our step just to annoy them.

Eventually we arrived at Vathys harbour and found a taverna in the sun and grabbed ourselves some beers and fresh orange.

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After our lunch had arrived we saw the other Brits stagger into the port. They sat in the first taverna they got to and ordered the largest bottles of water the taverna would serve them – each. Poor guys.

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Due to remote nature of Vathys we had to ask the restaurant to order us a taxi back to Elies. While we were waiting we tried the island speciality of local yoghurt with local honey – this was very good. The taxi back took about 20 mins and Carmel slept for most of it.

For dinner I thought I’d fancy pizza so we went to the one taverna which offered a selection of pizzas as well as Greek dishes. However, upon ordering, pizzas were not on offer that night so I stuck to pork souvlaki (again). We didn’t choose a particularly exciting restaurant, especially apparent since all of the customers were Brits. The food was ok, but the waiter was again a huge mammoth of a man this time with a more charming manner.

The music was a bit of a problem. After playing some nondescript and therefore acceptable Greek music, they put on a collection of English/American love ballads from the late 80s and early 90s. Annoyingly they changed the music shortly after we had ordered so there was little chance of us escaping.

Kalymnos 3 Chora to Vathys

Duration 3:01 hours
Distance 8.5 miles
Path (Google Earth)

Kalymnos day 5

Another full night’s sleep. Which went down very well.

Carmel awoke for breakfast again while I woke up just in time for a quick shower. Then it was on to diving at 9am.

This was to be our last planned day doing our PADI Open Water Diver qualification so the pressure was on. The few exercises that Carmel and I hadn’t done up until now had to be completed on these last two dives. But Carmel’s cold hadn’t gone and if anything she was more bunged up than ever. So she had it set in her mind that she was going to suffer from massive ear ache.

We were the only guest divers this day and Tiia and Michaelis took us out to the same spot as the previous day. Although the sun seemed to be out  more, the wind had got up and the waves were quite vicious as we ducked and dived over them back to the dive spot about 15 mins from the harbour. The dive spot was fairly well sheltered though and by the time we stopped the waves had calmed and everything seemed much more serene.

We did two dives. The first dive was really to test out Carmel. We did a few simple exercises including my least favourite of ones involving the mask – although just filling it with water and clearing it, rather than total mask removal underwater. Carmel was suffering though and could not dive below 2 metres. We swam around a bit for 30 mins or so and I quite enjoyed myself.

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After a half hour break in the constantly bobbing boat we made our second dive. This was good for me as I felt increasingly seasick being in the boat, but bad for Carmel whose cold had obviously not cleared in the short break. For this session Tiia took her camera with her causing a little bit of camera-envy from myself. She had a Canon A710 and a waterproof housing. The housing cost as much as the camera itself and seemed to be specific to the model of camera meaning that Tiia had bad stories of breaking her camera and not only buying a new camera but also having to buy a new waterproof housing. She took some good pictures of us and we were really grateful. But now I want similar camera equipment.

This second dive was to be our last one of the PADI Open Water course. We had to complete the exercises or only get a partial diving qualification. We did a little bit of underwater compass navigation which was fairly straightforward and then hopefully the final ever mask removal exercise. At about 3m depth we took off our masks, blinked painfully in the sea water and, when our blurred vision saw Tiia indicating ok, we put the masks back on and blew air into them via our noses to clear them. Sounds simple, but for me the problem was keeping my breathing under control as I tended to panic-breathe as soon as my eyes were not protected.

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Eventually we got to the last exercise which was an emergency controlled ascent which had to be done from a minimum 6m depth. Carmel was still suffering from pressure so we went down to exactly the 6m depth and Carmel went straight into her exercise. I don’t know if she had memories of Kilimanjaro, but this time she seemed determined to finish the task and not mark it down as a “very nearly”. So through some serious ear-related agony Carmel did the emergency ascent, followed closely behind by me. And that was that – we now had our PADI Open Water qualifications which meant that we could go diving down to 40m depth with dive centres around the world. Carmel swam back to the boat at this point and I spent 10 mins or so with Tiia having a fun exploratory dive. We saw octopuses, a moray eel, shoals of silver fish, some very colourful fish which were attracted by one of us banging stones against the ground, and a scorpion fish (very poisonous but swam off as soon as we got too close).

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Back in the dive centre we took a copy of the photos from Tiia and took a couple more for our dive licenses. We handed over some money for the course (€900 for the two of us, less €100 for doing the online course, less €60 deposit, less €50 discount for me having done the Discover Scuba course with Tiia last year). After very little consideration we signed up for a further dive on the last day of the holiday. Tiia already had one customer for that day so given that she was doing the dive anyway we were at liberty to decide later if Carmel’s ears had improved in their ability to dive below 2 metres.

We posed for a group photo with Tiia and and Michaelis outside their dive centre office in our hotel.

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There was a dead cat on the roadside by the hotel. This bothered Carmel. The hotel staff were having difficulty deciding whose job it was to remove dead cats. There seemed to be some disagreement.

After a lunch of gyros, a typical Greek pitta bread snack that Carmel lived on when she was in Greece for 3 months over 10 years ago(!), we polished off some wine and then decided to head down to the local beach. The beach stretching from Lineria to Kantouni is only 500m long and is quite narrow. Its main problem and blessing though is that there are no chairs allowed on it. This means that the crowds stay away and go to better catered for beaches, but means that if we want to enjoy the tranquillity we can’t do it from the comfort of a sunbed with a cocktail holder attached. We got a couple of beers from the bar and then took a couple of plastic chairs to the edge of the beach and sat and relaxed for a couple of hours. I followed the Monza Grand Prix on my phone, which was fun and expensive, until Hamilton crashed out on the last lap.

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While on the beach we watched what must have been a hundred people or more walk up the steep zigzag slope to the little monastery dug into the cliff-side that we had visited the day earlier. We asked what the occasion was and it seemed to be a two day celebration of something. Looking on the Web, it seemed to be the Greek Orthodox Faith name day of Ypsosi tos Timios Stauros, Stavros (Steven).

Around 6pm we headed back up the road the 1km or so to the cafe where we had lunch and persuaded them to put on the Fulham v Everton game. We were the only Brits in the place and the only ones watching telly so it seemed ok. Everton had a good first half and were leading 0-1. By the end of the second they had lost 2-1 which was rubbish. They were outplayed in the second half and didn’t have many chances on goal. They remain second to bottom in the Premiership.

We possibly drank a little too much wine during the football and this was blamed for our poor choice of restaurant in the evening. We went inland a bit to try one of the places that advertised home cooked authentic food. Our waiter was a massive, both in height and width, man who was extremely surly. My beef-in-something starter was very chewy and half had to be left, but the lamb chops for the main course were fine. Carmel had mussels followed by kalamari and they also seemed fine. I guess the only problem was that the restaurant seemed to be silent and the big man serving us would sit not quite far enough way and stared at us until we left.