Clark Expediciones part 1

October 24, 2018

We set the alarm for 6:45 am, and breakfast was at 7 am. It was buffet style so we had cereal, toast, and juice plus some really tasty almond cookies.
Ricardo picked us up at about 7:45 am and we went to the Reserva del Huaico, which is a cloud forest just at the top of the village of San Lorenzo. It’s a fairly large reserve which protects a section of yungas forest, and the plan was to walk some of the trails in the reserve.

Mountain Wren

Mountain Wren

We spent the morning slowly walking through the forest. There were a lot of birds calling but many of them were difficult and frustrating to see because of the dense undergrowth. However the big Cream-backed Woodpeckers were easy to see, as were the turkey-like Dusky-legged Guans. And with some hard work we even managed to see skulking little birds like the Buff-browed Spinetail. It was a good walk and the morning went by quickly.

Golden-billed Saltator

Golden-billed Saltator

Rufous-bellied Thrush

Rufous-bellied Thrush

We had lunch at a restaurant in Quebrada del Toro, which served us very good empanadas. While sitting outside we watched a pair of Black Phoebes collecting insects to feed their young. But Ricardo got a phone call and he had to dash home because he had forgotten his scope. That would have been a disaster!

Andean Condor

Andean Condor

Plush-crested Jay

Plush-crested Jay

Once finished our meal we started our journey north to Yala. We stopped at several places along the way to look for birds, such as the Andean Condor which was circling over the road. Highway 9 was the old road, a winding two-lane road through the mountains. And when we reached the pass Ricardo stopped and announced that he had heard a Giant Antshrike singing. So we walked in to the clearing behind the parking are (which was clearly the preferred toilet site) and he played a recording of the bird. And the singer responded! Eventually it flew right over us and then hopped up into a big tree right next to us. Rosemary got a really good picture of it.

Red-legged Seriema

Red-legged Seriema

Giant Antshrike

Giant Antshrike

We made our way up the Rio Yala to the place where you can find Rufous-throated Dippers. We searched the river for quite a while but didn’t find any, and the light was beginning to fade so we headed down to our hotel in Reyes. We were the only guests at the Pura Vida Hosteria and our room was large and clean. For dinner we had chicken empanadas for the starter, cheese ravioli with meat sauce for the main, and canned peaches with dulce de leche for dessert. With the exception of the peaches everything was homemade and very tasty.

Greyish Baywing

Greyish Baywing

October 25, 2018

The alarm went off at 6:30 am but it took us a while to realize we needed to turn it off. We definitely could have used more sleep. Breakfast was at 7 am again, a simple affair of scrambled eggs, toasted French bread, and a Danish, and we were soon on our way.

View down the Rio Yala

View down the Rio Yala

Today we were heading to Abra Pampa, but the first stop, of course, was back at the Rio Yala. Today we were lucky and Rosemary spotted the dipper pretty promptly. We watched it for a while and then realized that there were actually two dippers. The second one had been banded, with red and yellow bands on one leg and a silver band on the other.

Tropical Kingbird

Tropical Kingbird

Rufous-throated Dipper

Rufous-throated Dipper

Blue-and-yellow Tanager

Blue-and-yellow Tanager

We birded around Yala for another hour before heading north again on Highway 9. We stopped several times along the way, finding lots of birds which we hadn’t seen before. Then at Purmamarca we took a respite from birding and took a detour to see the famous Hill of Seven Colours. It was a nice diversion and even in the middle of the day the scenery was spectacular. We had noticed fancy geological strata elsewhere but Purmamarca is the place to go for that.

Cerro de los Siete Colores (Hill of Seven Colours)

Cerro de los Siete Colores (Hill of Seven Colours)

Trail near Purmamarca

Trail near Purmamarca

We continued north and stopped at a smart-looking restaurant in Tilcara. There was a tour group there, about 25 high school students from Buenos Aires (said Ricardo). But they were all well-behaved and no bother at all. The food at the restaurant was plentiful and very tasty.

Cardon flowers

Cardon flowers

A bit north of Tilcara we stopped at a place which Ricardo said was usually good for ground doves. We saw some very interesting birds, including the Plain-mantled Tit-Spinetail, a cute little bird which came to the bush right in front of us! But no ground doves.

Plain-mantled Tit-Spinetail

Plain-mantled Tit-Spinetail

Creamy-breasted Canastero

Creamy-breasted Canastero

The road went steadily up into the puna, which is grassland where the cardon cactuses and scrubby bushes can’t grow. The road didn’t look like it was climbing, but eventually we went over the pass near Tres Cruces at 3,780 meters before descending to Abra Pampa at 3,484 meters. We would be staying here for the next two nights.

Our hotel, Hotel Cesarito, was not very fancy but it seemed reasonably clean. For dinner we all had chicken, Andean potatoes, and salad. It was basic home cooking but very tasty. But just as we were finishing, all of the lights went out! There was a huge electrical storm on its way, with hail and heavy rain. Apparently our power was controlled by the substation in La Quiaca, up near Bolivia, so when the storm reached us the power had been turned back on. The lighting was amazing and at one point we could hear and feel the thunder; the whole storm lasted over two hours.

We finally went to bed at 10:15 pm, after getting all the sightings uploaded to eBird (Paul) and a few hundred photos edited (Rosemary).

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Flying to Salta

October 22 and 23, 2018

It was a very long trip from Vancouver to Salta, Argentina. We left home at 9 am, and our Air Canada flight departed on time at 11 am. Rosemary had found a good deal on Premium Economy seats, which were very comfortable, and we had a meal en route to Toronto which was quite tasty.

Arriving in Toronto at 6:30 pm local time, we hurried over to the gate where our flight to Buenos Aires would depart from. The walk was good exercise and took us at least 15 minutes, and by the time we reached the gate people were lined up to begin boarding. The flight to Buenos Aires was 11 hours long; we had dinner and then we went to sleep.

Upon arrival in BA we went through immigration and then collected our bags. Our first order of business was changing money, since our currency exchange in Vancouver couldn’t provide Argentine pesos. In exchange for 600 US dollars we got 23,100 Argentine pesos. This included a lot of 100-peso bills so needless to say we had a big wad of cash.

The next step was to order a taxi and travel across the city to Jorge Newbery Aeroparque, from where our flight to Salta would depart. The traffic on the way was horrible, bumper to bumper for most of the way. Once in the Aeroparque we found the food court and bought some juice and a muffin. However it was only 9 am and our flight to Salta wasn’t leaving until 2:30 pm, so we had a while to wait.

As it turned out the flight to Salta left half an hour late, but once in the air it only took two hours to reach our destination. That all added up to 28 hours of travelling. But Ricardo, from Clark Expediciones, was waiting for us at the airport. He would be our tour guide for the next four days. After we had collected our bags he took us to La Selva Montana in San Lorenzo, where we would stay the night, and made sure everything was OK.

View from our room at La Selva Montana

View from our room at La Selva Montana

Our room was lovely had a view over the gardens and mountains, which were very pretty although the skies were cloudy. There were a lot of birds singing, but we couldn’t identify most of them. Still, it was a good start for our tour.

However we hadn’t had much for lunch so now he had to find a restaurant which would serve us dinner at 7 pm—not an easy thing to do in Argentina! So we walked down the road from the hotel and luckily found a restaurant which actually had other customers. We shared an Especial pizza, which was ham and cheese with a few olives on top, and a one-litre jug of really good lemonade.
Back at the hotel we were quite tired, so we decided to get to bed early. The bed was really comfy and we slept well.

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Our quest for 250 species

It wasn’t really meant to be a “quest for 250 species”. At the end of 2017 we said “Let’s see how many species we can see in Metro Vancouver next year.”

So the first order of business was to find the rare species which had shown up in 2017 and were still here, and which weren’t likely to show up again in 2018. The Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches at the Seabus terminal, the Blue Jay at Woodward’s Landing, the Summer Tanager on the Arbutus Greenway, and the Northern Goshawk which had been at Maplewood for over a month. That only took us a couple of days as the birds were very reliable.

Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch

Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch

Then we were on our own. At White Rock Pier on 4 January we were astonished as an Eared Grebe swam by, almost close enough for us to touch it. Then we headed over to 104th Street on Boundary bay where a Willet had been reported; Keith was there and found it while we were still looking. The Willet would turn out to be a nemesis bird for some birders this year.

Townsend’s Solitaire and Pine Grosbeak had been reported from Van Dusen Gardens, and on 6 January we found both of them there in the same tree! We headed over to Acadia Beach, where White-winged Crossbill had been reported; Rob was there and pointed out the flock just seconds before they all flew away. We were off to a good start.

Townsend’s Solitaire

Townsend’s Solitaire

Pine Grosbeak

Pine Grosbeak

Later in January Grant had a Mountain Chickadee coming to his feeder, so he allowed birders to come and see it. We sat in our car in his driveway and within half an hour there it was. Along with Chestnut-backed Chickadees!

Early in February some very early warblers showed up at Waterfront Park in North Vancouver—an Orange-crowned and a Nashville. Those are species which are regular in summer but we went over there to see them anyway. Just in case.

And also in early February there was a Green Heron being seen regularly in Langley, at Brydon Lagoon. Another species which isn’t all that uncommon, but we decided to go out there to see it anyway, just in case. It took us four trips before we finally found the bird, and even then it was mostly hidden in the reeds!

Green Heron

Green Heron

By the end of February we were up to 147 species, which seemed pretty good to us. So we could take some time off and go skiing. On 11 March we were driving down the Upper Levels Highway and saw a Turkey Vulture flying over the highway, just ahead of us. But no, it looked a bit wrong for a TV… and as we passed under it we looked up through the car’s moon-roof and could clearly see that it was a juvenile Golden Eagle! Sometimes you don’t have to chase the birds, they come to you.

On 17 April George found a Sage Thrasher at Piper Spit in Burnaby, so we duly went out to look for it. We were looking the wrong way while Larry was waving his arms at us so we missed it and went home. But then we decided to go back to look for it on our own, and almost unbelievably we saw it skulking through the bushes! We texted Melissa, who hadn’t seen it yet, and we were able to keep it in sight until she arrived half an hour later.

The very next day a Great-tailed Grackle was reported at Fourth and Highbury in Vancouver. Finally a bird which wasn’t that far from our house—but even so there were a dozen other birders there by the time we arrived. The bird had flown across the street so we hustled across Fourth Avenue to the lawn where it was sitting. It wasn’t hard to get a good view. But then we were accosted by a police officer who was unimpressed by rare birds and told us that he would be giving out jaywalking tickets to people who didn’t cross the road properly. He didn’t give us a ticket, though.

Great-tailed Grackle

Great-tailed Grackle

Then on 25 April we went off to Spain, for a Rockjumper birding tour. (There’s a story behind why we decided to do that, but it’s too long to go into here.) What with the birding tour and our own trip around Spanish cultural sites we didn’t get back to Vancouver until 1 June. Now, you might think that would cause us to miss out on a lot of species. But by 10 June we had gone out and found almost all of the species which regularly breed here in May and we were up to 204 species. We didn’t find a Nashville Warbler but that was all right, we’d chased one in February.

On the other hand, while we were away there were about ten rare species seen which we never did see in 2018. Ruffed Grouse, Lark Sparrow, Common Grackle, and more which we would have liked to see.

By 16 June we were back to routine birding again. It was a nice day so we decided to go out after dinner for a walk on the Boundary Bay dike. And as soon as we got up on the dike we saw a Western Kingbird out in the field! That was one of our missing species. And as we were about to leave a strange-looking bird flew straight towards us, and as it flew over we realized it was a Common Nighthawk! Another of our missing species.

Western Kingbird

Western Kingbird

From here on there were two categories of birds for us to find: shorebirds and rarities. The shorebirds required a lot of trudging up and down the Boundary Bay dikes and learning how to interpret the tide tables, and eventually we found most of them. We even walked out onto the mud, where Ilya and Melissa showed us a Ruddy Turnstone. But we didn’t find all of them: we absolutely had to go up to Hollyburn to paint the trim on our cabin before it got too cold for painting. And while we were up there we got a text from Melissa: “Where ARE you guys?” They had a Little Stint, which was a big miss for us.

Black-bellied Plover

Black-bellied Plover

As for the rarities: Cole found a Chestnut-sided Warbler at Jericho on 22 June. Liron found a Northern Waterthrush at Reifel on 17 August. A Franklin’s Gull was seen at Beach Grove in late August and Pete pointed it out to us. Cole found an American Redstart in Queen Elizabeth Park on 24 August and waited there to show it to us, and to Melissa who also hadn’t seen one yet in 2018. Bridget found a Clay-colored Sparrow at Celtic Slough on 29 August and an Arctic Tern was found at the end of the Iona south jetty on 2 September. Fortunately it was just sitting there so it was easy to check off the field marks.

Clay-colored Sparrow

Clay-colored Sparrow

Arctic Tern

Arctic Tern

The best of the rarities was the Red Phalarope which arrived at Iona on 5 September. Melissa managed to relocate it on an obscure mudflat and only six or seven of us were able to get there and have bad looks at it before it got too dark. It was never seen again.

At this point of time we went out of town for a couple of weeks. We went to a BC Nature camp at Tatlayoko Lake in the West Chilcotin, where incredibly we saw another Red Phalarope on the lake, then to Vernon and to Yoho Park. We kept getting e-mails from eBird telling us there was an American White Pelican at Boundary Bay—a species we hadn’t seen yet. So we planned to swing by the Mansion instead of going straight home. And when we got there, there was no pelican. It had been there for over a week, right up to the day before, and now it was gone forever.

Red Phalarope on Tatlayoko Lake

Red Phalarope on Tatlayoko Lake

Back to the rarities: there was a Harris’s Sparrow reported at Iona, and we got there on 30 September in the pouring rain. Keith pointed the bird out a few seconds before it flew into the bushes and couldn’t be found again. The next day Quentin found some Lapland Longspurs at Inter River Park in North Vancouver, so we went over and found them.

On 19 October Kevin reported a Tropical Kingbird way out by 112th Street on Boundary Bay. We couldn’t chase that one but two days later one was reported at Iona. Perhaps the same one? Probably, although late October is the best time to find vagrant TK’s here. Anyway we dashed over to look for it. It wasn’t by the toilet block as advertised, but Daniele showed us where it had flown to.

It was a good thing we got the bird then because the very next day we were off to Argentina for nearly six weeks of mostly birding. But the TK had been species number 245, much to our surprise. Maybe 250 was a reasonable target after all!

While we were away a Ruff was found at Beach Grove, Neill found a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker at Queen Elizabeth Park, and Quentin found a Philadelphia Vireo at the Hastings Park Conservatory. All of them were great finds but by the time we got back (at 1 a.m. on 2 December) they were old news and nobody was reporting them any more. But we figured we ought to chase them down anyway.

We made many fruitless trips looking for the Ruff and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. However on 3 December we went to Hastings Park to look for the Philadelphia Vireo and met a group of birders who had just seen the bird a few minutes earlier. We walked around the area with Quentin for about an hour but didn’t see the bird. So we came back the next morning and found Quentin and Rob there. They had just seen the bird a few minutes earlier. And then Rob said “There, I think that’s our bird.” And it was! It foraged in the branches above us for a few minutes and then suddenly flew away, out into the PNE grounds. As far as we know it was never seen again.

Philadelphia Vireo

Philadelphia Vireo

After we found a Prairie Falcon and a Glaucous Gull we were at 248 species. But the supply of new species had dried up and our kids were coming to visit us for Christmas. So we were reduced to hunting the Ruff, which was now being reported again.

But then on 21 December a Great Egret was reported. This was great news, except that its location was about as far as you could get from our house and still be in Metro Vancouver. So the next day we abandoned our son (he didn’t mind, he had plenty of journal articles to read) and drove out there. As we went down the hill on 272nd Street we could see a big white bird in a farm field. A drive-by bird, almost, but we stopped to take pictures. The round trip, with very little traffic, was two and a half hours.

Great Egret

Great Egret

We hadn’t given up on the Ruff, but with visitors in the house and Christmas events going on we didn’t have much time to look for it. On 23 December we were visiting friends in Beach Grove so naturally we spent a few minutes looking for the bird. No luck. And then on the afternoon of 26 December we managed another trip—and finally there it was, hiding in a flock of Green-winged Teal. Bird number 250!

Well, as the Beatles said “I get by with a little help from my friends”, but this year we got a lot of help. Including these people and others:

  • Keith Riding
  • Rob Lyske
  • Grant Edwards
  • George Clulow
  • Larry Cowan
  • Ilya Povalyaev
  • Cole Gaerber
  • Liron Gertsman
  • Pete Davidson
  • Bridget Spencer
  • Quentin Brown
  • Kevin Louth
  • Daniele Mitchell
  • Neill Vanhinsberg

And especially Melissa Hafting, who coordinates the Rare Bird Alert system and for whom 250 species in a year is a walk in the park.cole

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Lizard to Falmouth

July 7, 2018

We were woken up at 7:30 am by the gardener using a weed-whacker outside, but we were tired from yesterday’s long walk so we slept in for a bit longer. So when we went downstairs for breakfast, much to our surprise Caroline was sitting there waiting for us! She had taken the night train from London and then a taxi from Redruth to the hostel to meet up with us. Her plan was to walk the next two days (the weekend) with us and then take the night train back to London.

So we packed up, adding some of her stuff to our luggage transfer bags, and headed out into the usual hot and sunny weather. The first thing we did was to stop in Lizard to buy some lunch food, especially pasties from Ann’s Pasties. From there we headed through some fields to the coast path, joining it near Church Cove.

Lizard lighthouse

Lizard lighthouse

The first part was easy, as we passed along the cliff tops with their serpentine outcrops, although there were a few downs and ups to deal with. Our first main landmark was the small village of Cadgwith, a very pretty village where a few houses had thatched roofs. And soon after that there was Kennack Sands, where we stopped for lunch at the Beach Café and bought drinks to go with our pasties.

Cadgwith houses

Cadgwith houses

From here it was a steep climb to the next headland, and then along paths through gorse which never seemed to reach the cliff top. The area seemed rather remote, with no villages and very few farms. And the afternoon was very hot and Caroline didn’t have enough water, so we shared some of ours with her, hoping it would last until we got to Coverack.

Caroline on the coast path

Caroline on the coast path

But as we neared the village we came across a trail diversion. Oh no! we thought, but it wasn’t a long diversion. As it turned out the cliff collapse had taken out the rocky version of the trail, leaving the version which was much nicer, with some sections through threes.

Horses managing the vegetation

Horses managing the vegetation

We caught up with Caroline at the hostel after a very steep climb up School Hill. Check-in wasn’t until 5 pm, so we had an hour to wait, so we sat on the lounge chairs outside, out of the sun. And their wi-fi was accessible from there.

Both of our rooms were on the top floor of the hostel; Caroline’s room faced the ocean and ours looked out over the village. After showers, dinner was at 7 pm. We had booked dinner at the hostel, which meant that we didn’t have to go down the hill to look for places to eat. We had Angus beef burgers with chips and treacle cake with ice cream for dessert. A very good deal for £9.95!

July 8, 2018

We decided to not get up too early this morning, but we were woken up by the sound of the extractor fan from the bathroom downstairs. Oh well, we got up anyway, packed our bags, and went downstairs for our breakfast. The menu was Full English Breakfast so we helped ourselves, and we were ready to leave by about 9:30 am.

Today we had two inlet crossings to make, one across a stream which can only be crossed on foot at low tide on dodgy rocks, and the other across an inlet where the boat doesn’t run near low tide. However the tide appeared to be on our side in both places and the boats would be running.

Coverack harbour

Coverack harbour

We headed down the hill into Coverack first. The village is quite lovely, with many of its buildings having thatched roofs. As it was Sunday the streets were very quiet, and our plan of buying some food for lunch was foiled. But we hoped to find a pub or café along the way.

A lot of today’s walk was actually at sea level, which meant that we didn’t have the steep downs and ups to negotiate. Soon we came to the part of the walk which went through a big rock quarry. Our book said there would be a path through the quarry and we should watch out for working vehicles. But that was written a few years ago; now the quarry appeared to be long closed and the path ran safely along the outside. (There was a sign warning about unexploded munitions.)

European Stonechat

European Stonechat

From there the trail ran up and over a headland and then up through a farm field, where we came to the back of a barricade! We scrambled over the barrier and read the sign, which said the path had been diverted. So we’d been walking on a closed path. And now that we thought about it, we had noticed a red plastic barrier at the start of the path through the quarry. But it had been leaning on a picnic table and didn’t have any signs on it, so we didn’t think much about it.

So we arrived in the village of Porthallow at 11:50 am, just before the pub’s scheduled Sunday opening time. But did we stop there to get lunch? No, we decided there would be some sort of café at the Gillan Creek crossing and carried on along the coast.

Coast near Porthallow

Coast near Porthallow

From here the track went up and down but it was still easy walking. There was also a forested section which made a nice change from being out in the full sun. Soon we arrived at Gillan Creek, where there were already four people waiting to cross in the little boat. It didn’t take long for the boat to ferry us all over, but we found that our hoped-for café consisted of an ice cream freezer in the marina office. So we had ice cream for lunch.

Gillan Creek

Gillan Creek

Onward to Helford, which was only two and half miles away. We had heard someone at Gillan Creek say that the temperature in their back yard was 31°C, so we were glad that a lot of the walk was in the trees. At Helford we waited again, for a larger boat which crossed a larger inlet. On the other side was Helford Passage, where we stopped at the Ferryboat Inn for snacks and drinks. But we weren’t staying there; our hosts at the Trengilly Wartha pub in Nancenoy had given us the phone number of a local taxi service.

Helford Passage ferry boat

Helford Passage ferry boat

So we used Caroline’s phone to call Clive from the bar and he said he’d pick us up at the car park at 4:25 pm. The ride to Nancenoy took about 20 minutes along narrow shaded roads. During the drive we arranged our other trips: Caroline would go to Truro at 5:50 pm to catch the night train and then we would be picked up at 9:30 tomorrow to return to Helford Passage.

Caroline had a shower and then headed off to Truro, and we had showers too and then went down to the bar after it opened for dinner at 6:30 pm. Rosemary had lamb chops, which she didn’t think much of, and Paul had the local mussels as per Caroline’s suggestion. They were very tasty but they were also very labour-intensive to eat.

July 9, 2018

It seemed like an anticlimax, but we still had one more day of walking on the coast path. And it wouldn’t even be a full day! We packed up our bags and then had breakfast; Clive was already there, having done his regular school bus gig, and he took us back to Helford Passage.

Once again the day was sunny and hot. It seemed hotter today than other days so we were glad we had a shorter walk. And we could walk a little bit slower, too. The trail was easy to walk on and went through fields and woods as usual.

Durgan village

Durgan village

We passed a National Trust site named Durgan, with a few houses and lovely gardens. We reached the beach at Maenporth around noon, but that was too early for lunch so we carried on for about an hour, to Swanpool. Here there was a beach café, where we had a garlic ciabatta and a fruit smoothie for lunch. Luckily we were able to sit at a table with a shade umbrella, which was very pleasant. We weren’t in any hurry so we lingered over our meal.

It turned out that Swanpool was a suburb of Falmouth and it was only a matter of minutes before we arrived at our hostel, at 2 pm. Check-in wasn’t until 5 pm but there were some other guests sitting outside and the front door was open so we went in and sat in the lounge.

View towards Falmouth

View towards Falmouth

The hostel owner, Judi, was definitely surprised to find strangers sitting in her lounge and also somewhat annoyed that the other guests let somebody walk in. But she checked us in and showed us our room at the top of the house. This was good because we could have showers and get into “clean” clothes.

We went out to have a look around Falmouth before dinner. The harbour was full of boats, from small pleasure boats all the way up to two hulking grey naval-looking ships. And surprisingly there were people swimming at the dock! The town looked quite prosperous compared to Penzance, with a variety of shops.

Rosemary had checked out the reviews of local fish-and-chip shops and we decided on the Harbour Lights shop, which overlooked the harbour. Rosemary had cod and chips and Paul had haddock and chips, which were both good but we thought the Balancing Eel in St Ives had better fish and chips.

And that was the end of our South West Coastal Path for now. No doubt we’ll come back some time and start the next section by taking the ferry to St Mawes. When we reach Portsmouth, which isn’t very far, we will have walked the whole coast of Cornwall.

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Penzance to Lizard

July 5, 2018

We set the alarm for 7:30 to get an early start, because our walk today was rather long. Our free breakfast was self-service and was really quite good: cereal, fruit, toast and jam. And the kitchen was quite empty so we didn’t have to wait for people to make room.

Looking back to Penzance

Looking back to Penzance

We were on our way a bit before 9 am; the first section was along the dead-flat cycle path from Penzance to Marazion and St Michael’s Mount. Our feet and legs were feeling better now and we could stride along at a good pace. The morning started off overcast but as the day progressed the sun came out and the temperature rose. Periodically we had cooling breezes but the sweat was still pouring off us.

St Michael’s Mount under clouds

St Michael’s Mount under clouds

At Marazion the buses were already arriving and the tourists were being ferried across to St Michael’s Mount. We kept on going, although we had to slow down to find the route out of the town. We were now back on the regular path, with occasional dubious signage and overgrown sections. The hedge-trimmers were working on a bushy part of the path and then we had to push our way through head-high ferns for a couple of minutes. We met another couple coming the other way who asked us how much more bushwhacking they would have to do!

Secluded beach near Praa Sands

Secluded beach near Praa Sands

The views from the headlands were really good in all directions and we stopped at one of the headlands before Praa Sands to have some tea and a snack. We chatted with a couple from Exmouth before heading off again.

When we reached Praa Sands we stopped for lunch at the Sandbar Café. Rather than ordering individual lunches we shared a pizza and each had a fruit smoothie.

Sand Martin/Bank Swallow

Sand Martin/Bank Swallow

We had already done two thirds of our day’s walk so it wasn’t that far to Porthleven. But this section had quite a few downs and ups to negotiate, some much deeper than others. Surprisingly, though, it didn’t take us all that long. By just after 4 pm we were walking along one side of their deep harbour, where the tide was out and the boats were sitting in the mud on their keels.

Porthleven harbour entrance

Porthleven harbour entrance

A few days ago our arrival time would have been more like 5:30 pm—we’re definitely getting stronger. We could see our B&B, the Kota Restaurant, at the head of the harbour so we made our way there. Our room was lovely, with a large double bed and a window set, as well as a wicker chair to sit in. But being mostly a restaurant, the owners couldn’t provide breakfast until 9 am. So instead we arranged for them to provide a tray of breakfast food, which they put into the closet and fridge.

By 6 pm we decided it was time to head out to dinner. There were a lot of restaurants around the harbour to choose from, and after checking out various menus we finally decided to eat at the Harbour Inn. Both of us had the piri-piri chicken (not fish and chips this time) and our meal was really good with the chicken breast grilled perfectly. No room for dessert, though.

July 6, 2018

The alarm clock went off at 7:30 am, as usual, and we got up for another day of coast-walking. Our breakfast tray had muesli and cereal, milk and yogurt, fruit and orange juice. Not a bad breakfast to start our day.

Porthleven harbour

Porthleven harbour

A few minutes after 9 am we headed out into the streets of Porthleven, into yet another day which promised to be hot and sunny. For the first part the path went along the road, past some interesting houses, and then beside some fields. But we hadn’t gone far before we came to a barrier. This was our first diversion; the cliff had eroded a lot and so the trail was closed and rerouted.

But much to our surprise and dismay the sign said that the diversion would be four kilometers long! Our day was already going to be a long one. On the diversion we walked uphill through some fields, around some other fields, and then downhill through some pretty woods to rejoin the path beside the Loe. It had taken us well over an hour to do the diversion.

Loe Bar maintenance project

Loe Bar maintenance project

Once we got back to the coast we crossed the shingle bar between the Loe and the sea and then went along grassy slopes and cow pastures between headlands. Soon there was another minor diversion, much shorter, but with inadequate signs so that we walked out to the main road before realizing we had gone the wrong way.

Another diversion!

Another diversion!

All along the coast there were prominent buildings on the headlands. The most prominent of all was not a hotel or holiday apartment building, it was a nursing home! We had our lunch behind that, at the Marconi Monument. The monument commemorates the first transatlantic radio signal, which was sent from here to Signal Hill in Newfoundland in 1901. The “lunch” was actually a couple of oranges and some of the breakfast that we hadn’t eaten; it wasn’t much but we figured we would buy something to eat later in the afternoon.

The Marconi monument

The Marconi monument

After Mullion the path went along cliff tops with almost no gullies to break our stride. Some parts of the area were a National Nature Reserve to protect certain special types of vegetation, and the views were quite spectacular. But it was 5 pm before we finally reached Kynance Cove, the first place since lunch which had a café. We were just about out of steam and needed something, but the only food they had left was cream teas. The scones were pretty stale but with plenty of jam and clotted cream they became edible, and they provided the energy we needed.

Kynance Cove

Kynance Cove

Once we were finished we climbed up to the headland again and walked through more cow pastures. It wasn’t that long until we finally descended to the Lizard Point—the end was in sight! The hostel was conveniently located on the Coast Path and our room was a large one with a bay window overlooking the Atlantic. What a view we had! And beside the bed we had two sitting chairs and a small table.

Lizard Point

Lizard Point

The shops were a 15-minute walk up the road and neither of us felt like walking any more, so we just bought some crackers and packaged soup from the hostel shop. The soup was actually good! And after showers and laundry it was just about time for bed. Tomorrow would be a shorter walk but not necessarily an easier one.

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Zennor to Sennen Cove

July 3, 2018

We were up at 7:30 am today, even though we had a shorter walk planned. Last time we were here we walked the section from St Ives to Zennor, so we didn’t need to do that again. Instead we would catch the 9:13 am bus and take it to Zennor, from where we would walk on to Pendeen Watch.

After we packed up we made our breakfast, porridge with fresh strawberries, and then headed to the Warren Bakery, where we bought two beef and tomato sandwiches for our lunch. At the bus station we found that the A3 bus stop had been moved, but luckily we had plenty of time to go over to the new location. When the bus arrived we asked the driver to let us know when we arrived at Zennor, and he said we couldn’t miss it because the church was out in the middle of nowhere!

The bus ride took about 15 minutes and we did recognize Zennor as we got closer. We had been here before, after all. Once off the bus we headed down the narrow road into Zennor then continued down to join up with the coastal path.

Coastal Path near Zennor

Coastal Path near Zennor

The path was quite rocky and of course the first thing we did was to go downhill and back up the other side to reach the cliff-top. It was hot today, as predicted, but there was a fairly good wind to cool us down. After a week of hiking you might think our legs would be in shape, but they still felt tired on the uphills.

The rocks along this part of the coast are granite with very interesting rock formations. There are no really steep cliffs and no long sandy beaches here. The trail continued to be rocky and overgrown in some sections and we also encountered some muddy sections for the first time. Later on we had some level walking, and today Rosemary’s feet were much less sore. So we could get along quickly.

Old mining ruins

Old mining ruins

We met a German woman with her young son going our way. They had been walking for only a couple of days and she looked very tired. The boy was doing fine, though.

We ate lunch at Bosigran Castle, which wasn’t actually a castle but a series of rounded granite boulders. From this vantage point we could see our destination, which wasn’t too far away. Our sandwiches from Warren Bakery in St Ives were very good.

Common Buzzard

There was a pair of Common Buzzards on a cliff

After our lunch we headed along the trail, doing a few more downs and ups before reaching Pendeen Lighthouse at around 2 pm. From here we headed inland to Pendeen, where we would be staying at the North Inn for the night. We had hoped to be able to visit the Geevor Tin Mine but we found out that it would be closing for the day soon, so we didn’t have time.

Geevor Tin Mine

Geevor Tin Mine

We had just managed to book the last available room at the North Inn, and it was very spacious—easily four times the size of our airless cell at the Cohort Hostel. And it had a balcony with a view, and a bathroom with a tub and a shower! (Of course it cost a bit more than our airless cell, too.)

The North Inn, Pendeen

The North Inn, Pendeen

We were warned that the pub would be busy tonight because of the football, England vs Colombia, so after showers we got there right at 6 pm. We got a table in front of the large-screen TV and waited for our meals to arrive. Rosemary ordered beef and mushroom pie with potatoes and vegetables, and Paul had a chicken curry, one of a long list of curries on the menu. Both meals were very good and the serving sizes large. We watched the first half of the game (England 1, Colombia 0) in the pub and then returned to our room.

North Inn pub

North Inn pub

Back in the room we turned on the TV to watch the game, and after quite a while we noticed that we were watching the first half over again! The TV in the pub was getting live transmissions and our TV was getting a delayed version. We soon turned it off because the internet told us the final score. (England 1, Colombia 1, England wins on penalties.)

July 4, 2018

We woke up to wind and rain, which didn’t bode well for our walk. We organized our packs and went over for breakfast; no porridge today but we did have toast with jam as well as fried egg and bacon.
Before setting out on the walk we put on rain pants and jackets, although the rain had diminished to mist. We had hoped we could visit the Geevor Tin Mine this morning, but it didn’t open until 10 am so we decided to push on instead. The first part of the walk took us through the tin-mining area anyway, past the Levant mine which is a National Trust property. So we could at least see the old mine buildings and read the informational signs.

Levant Mine site

Levant Mine site

All along the coast were remnants of the mining era, and we finally came to the buildings that Rosemary recognized from the Poldark shows. This section of our walk, past Cape Cornwall, was quite easy with a lot of cliff-top walking. And the downs and ups weren’t very steep. And besides, our legs were starting to get into shape and Rosemary’s blisters were dying down.

Cape Cornwall

Cape Cornwall

In the distance we could see Land’s End, quite a long way off, and the trail was a bit rockier. But there were long stretches of smooth trail so we made good time. We walked along the beach for the last part before Sennen, arriving there at about 2:10 pm.

Adder breeding area

We were very willing to keep out of this area!

Great Black-backed and Herring Gulls

Great Black-backed and Herring Gulls

We had 15 minutes to spare before our bus was scheduled to arrive, so we just took off our rain pants and ate a Tunnock’s biscuit. But then the bus was half an hour late. It claimed to accept contactless cards, but it wouldn’t accept ours. (We had used it as contactless in many other places in England already.) And the driver didn’t have change for a £20 note. By now the driver was getting grumpy and told us to get off, but Paul asked the other passengers if they had change. Fortunately a confused-looking group of Japanese tourists did, so we paid our fare and the driver started off.

Approaching Sennen Cove

Approaching Sennen Cove

The route to Penzance was along narrow and winding local roads, and sitting upstairs at the front was interesting. There was a lot of backing up and squeezing into bushes at the side of the road. Our driver’s skill was quite impressive!

In Penzance we were staying at the Easy-PZ Backpackers, not far from the bus depot and train station. Our room was quite nice, with a view over the houses towards the sea and the city, and it even had a little sitting area. After having showers and getting a bit organized we went out to dinner to celebrate our successful completion of Phase 1 of our South West Coast Path walk.

We had decided on the Turks Head pub, reputed to be the oldest pub in Penzance. We didn’t have a reservation but they found us a place in the cellar. Surprisingly it didn’t take that long for us to get our meals. Rosemary had a lamb shoulder chop and Paul had plaice, and both of them were really good.
Bedtime was earlier than usual as we were both tired.

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Portreath to St Ives

July 1, 2018

We woke to overcast skies and drizzle today; we had been warned that the weather would change, and so it did. We packed up our bags and then had porridge and fresh strawberries for breakfast. By the time we were ready to leave, the rain had stopped.

Rosemary revamped her blister patches, and found it a bit easier to walk down through the Illogan Woods to Portreath. Then we headed uphill (as usual!) on the Coastal Path, and the rain started again so we put on our jackets. It was still quite warm, so it was like walking in a sauna. For most of the morning we walked the cliff-tops again, and the rain went away.

Looking back to Portreath

Looking back to Portreath

Since it was Sunday and there was a lot of vehicle access to the path, we met a lot of trail runners. We were getting stronger and speeding up, but we certainly couldn’t keep up with them!
By noon we arrived at Hell’s Mouth, where conveniently there was a café. Both of us ordered the soup of the day, which was chunky vegetable. The soup was very tasty and perfect for the type of day. And after lunch it was uphill again and then along the cliffs.

We sat on a bench at Godrevy Head to have tea and a snack and to enjoy the view. Just offshore there was a very pretty lighthouse which was the inspiration for Virginia Woolf’s book “To the Lighthouse”. The lighthouse is still operating, although it is not as important to mariners as it used to be. It was quite refreshing for us to sit there, since the day was now becoming hot and sunny.

Beach at Gwithian and Godrevy Head lighthouse

Beach at Gwithian and Godrevy Head lighthouse

After passing through some car parks and beaches we reached Gwithian. There was a long series of dunes there and for the most part we were able to follow the signposts through them, but periodically we found ourselves off-course. After about an hour of dune-scrambling we suddenly ran into Marjory and Teresa again! They were staying in a nearby caravan site and just happened to be on their way down to the beach.

European Goldfinch

European Goldfinch

Finally we walked down into Hayle and agreed that was enough walking for today. We made our way to the train station, only to find that the train almost never stops in Hayle and we would have to wait until 7 pm. So then we headed down to the bus stop, where luckily we only had 15 minutes to wait for the T2 bus going to St Ives. It was also lucky that we had arrived at that moment; because today was Sunday we would be catching the last T2 of the day!

St Ives harbour

St Ives harbour

Our hostel in St Ives was the Cohort Hostel, a bright and recently-updated place, and it was easy to find once we had made a couple of mis-turns on the way from the bus stop. Our room was quite small, with only one window admitting light from the hallway, but it did have its own sink. After unpacking and having showers we headed out to find a place to eat. The hostel clerk had recommended the Balancing Eel, and their fish and chips were really good. Even better was the jug of blackcurrant cordial which we ordered for our drink. (No beer at the Balancing Eel!)

After finishing our fish and chips we went outside and found the Moomaid of Zennor, so we bought ice cream there. It had been hot today after all.

July 2, 2018

Today was our rest day, so we took our time getting organized and having breakfast. But “rest day” didn’t mean “no walking”, it just meant we would walk the part of the path we had left out yesterday. So at 10:15 am we caught the T2 bus back to Hayle, where we had stopped yesterday.

From Hayle we headed off along a busy road past the Asda; at least we had a sidewalk to walk on. Soon we came to the Hayle Estuary, where from the road we could see Curlews and Black-headed Gulls, both adults and young. On the far shore were a couple of swans, but we couldn’t see any cygnets. And we saw a big family of Shelducks—we had never seen shelducklings before!

Shelduck family and friends

Shelduck family and friends

There was also a group of birders with scopes looking out over the mudflats. They were looking for a Pacific Golden-Plover, which is rather rare in Britain. We see them regularly in late July at home, but this bird would have been in breeding plumage and therefore easier to identify.

St Ives branch line

St Ives branch line

At the end of the estuary we entered a quiet street lined with lovely houses and gardens, a nice change from the busy A3074. Once through the houses and past the park-and-ride station we came out into the dunes, which were surprisingly easy to walk through. After that the trail was quite narrow in some spots, so meeting people and their dogs coming towards us was quite challenging.

Churchyard of St Uny, Lelant

Churchyard of St Uny, Lelant

We stopped and had lunch at the Porthminster Beach Café, a friendly takeaway where we bought a 10-inch Hawaiian pizza and Fanta to drink. And from there it was just a short walk, about half an hour, back into St Ives.

View towards St Ives

View towards St Ives

Since we had half of our rest day still available, we had things to do. Rosemary’s little Merrell shoes, which had been on several trips, were not very comfortable with the blisters which were still there on the soles of her feet. So we went looking for a pair of lace-up running shoes. Walking through the streets of St Ives we came across a shoe shop called Heavenly Feet, which had a pair of shoes which looked suitable. Surprisingly they had a pair which fitted her, and for a very reasonable price.

After that we headed to the Co-op to buy food for our dinner and breakfast, and then back to the hostel, where we collected our dirty clothes and went down to the laundry room. However the machine was already in use, with 52 minutes on the timer. And when that time had finally elapsed we loaded our stuff in and started the machine—but there was some other timer which hadn’t expired, so the machine locked up. We had to wait for the hostel guy to come down and reboot the machine, which took another half an hour. He told us that this happens quite regularly.

Once the washer was running we made our dinners in the microwave and then sat outside at the picnic table to eat them. For dessert we walked over to the ice cream shop to have a scoop of ice cream—we debated whether we should have a sundae but decided not to when we saw the price.

The news today said that Southwest England had a weather heat alert one level below National Emergency. It advised us to keep out of the sun (ha ha) and drink plenty of water.

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