Archive for turtles

Small Bucket’s Big Adventure

Posted in Fun, Photographs, Sailing, Walking, Wildlife with tags , , , on June 24, 2010 by maidofmettle

The sun has come out and it’s pretty hot here.  We’ve had a few swims in various places and seen some slightly scary wildlife on our travels up and down the river.

About a week ago we all went to a festival in Alcoutim.  They had 2 days of music and traditional crafts on show.  The traditional American-style marching band was a bit of a puzzle with its jazz clarinet, cornet and sousaphone (big brass bass instrument that the player literally wears) and it sounded surprisingly good when combined with a medieval pipe and drum ensemble.   The food was equally interesting…Not exactly knowing a great deal of Portugese (might have to learn a few more words) we decided to go for a surprise tapas selection which comprised of some salads, dried salted fish and some kind of yellow gloop, otherwise known as papas de mihlo, which it turned out was something like corn semolina when we found it somewhere else.

I’d been looking around at a stall where they had made various instruments out of bamboo.  I wasn’t too sure how to play one of them so didn’t buy one.  When I later saw one of the festival’s organisers playing one I went over and asked how it worked.  Turned out to be a castanet made out of a big piece of bamboo that you have to strike with 2 bits of your hand.  I went back to where we were all sat and thought nothing more of it until about 20 minutes later someone walked over and said in Portugese English “here this is for you”.  He then proceeded to give me a lesson on my newly aquired bamboo castanet!  I am going to need a bit more practise before being able to play it I think.

Learning to play the bamboo castanet

Alcoutim random tapas

Can you guess who it is yet?

Since I last wrote we travelled up to a small village called Puerto de la Laja, about an hour or so up from Alcoutim and stopped there for a day or so.  Chris and I took the inflatable kayak out to the Rio Vascao for a mini expedition.  We took a tent, cooker and some food and camped out a couple of kilometres up the river. We tried to take some photos of the turtles/terrapins (we’re still not sure but a few people tell us they’re terrapins) with the camera Chris aquired from home that he is specifically aiming to use for catching animal footage.

teenage non-mutant probably non-ninja hero terrapins?

The kayak was perfect for sneaking up on them as you could be almost completely silent.  The terrapins are really quite easily disturbed and jump into the water at even the smallest sound.  One even kamikazeed into the water from about a metre high up the bank.  In fact we hadn’t even seen it before it threw itself in the water making a rather horrible clonking sound on its way down.

The day was lovely and warm and there were plenty of chances to have a swim in the river.  We decided to try and find where the river started properly and were sucessful twice in fact…The first time we thought we’d found the end of the tidal bit, went up the bank a little way to look at the view and then found that there was more river and the tide was still coming in and filling the originally completely dry river bed!

Hellllooo

The 'end' of the river

After a further paddle along the now much clearer water of the river we got to another dead end; a narrow stream that was clearly running into the tidal river.  Ah haa we thought, this is as far as we can go.  This again turned out to be not the end of it as a little walk along some stones revealed yet more river.  This time the carrying (portage) would have been too far and it was getting a little late so we took the obligatory ‘end of the river’ picture and then turned back and made our way back to the camp site with swimming pool.

Indiana Chris

We had to do a fair bit of carrying on the way up the river because the tide was fairly low.  It was on one of these portages that I think we picked up an unwelcome visitor.

Portage up the Rio Vascao

Quite often you could just get out and drag the boat when it got a bit shallow but a few times we needed to unload all our things, carry them over to the next bit of water, empty the boat of water (it has water ballast underneath the bottom section) and then carry the boat to the next bit of paddleable water.  On one of these portages, I thought I saw a wasp had got in underneath one of the bags…Now, I really hate wasps.  They’re horrible things despite the fact people tell me they’re useful in some way…especially when they decide to creep up on you and sting you.  It’s almost as if they think ‘oh well, you know, I might have been creeping around and crawling on you…but you moved so I thought I’d sting you because I was scaaared’.  Anyway, I thought I’d be brave about this time, especially as I thought the chances were that it had been squashed by the falling bag behind my seat, so once the bags were all back in I got back in my seat and we paddled on.

Paddling up to our intended camp site we stopped at the pebbly beach.  With the rising tide there were loads of little spiders crawling away from us and the water and strange small scorpion-like insects which were a bit scary to be honest.  Once out of the boat we began unpacking all the bags and tent etc.  The wasp that was behind my seat turned out to be a big brown spider with thick legs.  Unfortunately it was still alive and didn’t seem to want to leave the boat.  Chris managed to convince it to go onto the beach, possibly by throwing it (I can’t remember) out but after that I started looking out for them.  It was only then that I noticed the even larger (about 2 inches with its legs), more stripey and more menacing looking one right by my foot.  Yes Dad, it was what would be described as a Girl Eater.  We were not impressed.

The spider thing was made worse by the fact that we knew that there are some poisonous ones around here but we hadn’t really had any idea what they look like…therefore, every spider had become a potential girl eater.  Since then we have done our research and have a bit more of an idea what to look out for. So we pitched our tent, heated up the chicken casserole and watched the evening’s entertainment…jumping fish.  There were quite a few fish literally leaping out of the water attempting to catch flies.

Chateau £9.99 (that's how much the tent cost)

It had been warm all day and we didn’t think it would get that cold at night.  Unfortunately we were wrong.  Mental note: always take a sleeping bag.  We had an IKEA blanket which wasn’t quite enough. Next day we took a slow trip back on the high tide.  This meant we practically didn’t have to carry the boat at all and then had a bit of a walk and lunch (chicken casserole again) on the bank of the main river (Guadiana). Once back at the main boat (that really sounds far posher than it should) we made our way back to Alcoutim as Pete was visiting another Pete (who was on a band tour of Portugal) the next day.

The next few days were spent back up the river (in the main boat darling) just below a small mining village called Pomerao.  There we had a couple of walks, both of which involved a fair bit of scrambling through the scrub (armed with various snake sticks to fend off any nasties. Especially good since we’ve seen our first swimming snake).   One of these was along the old railway line that used to run all the way to the mines, the other to a large reservoir behind the town.  Both really good short walks.

Pomerao dam

not sure what these are

Spikey things in feet, ouch

Dinner at the local social club bar was really good.  You have to order one day in advance with someone called Maria.  We went along to the bar the day before and were not disappointed…our sign language and very broken Portugese managed to get us a fabulous pork casserole, salad and homemade chips…mmm

Dinner, thanks Maria

I was a bit annoyed at myself when I managed to let go of our bucket and watched it float away with the river one evening.  Chris and Pete were quite fond of it having originally found it in the Rio Vascao, hanging from a tree.  They had adopted it as one of the family.   Bye bye bucket, I thought. However on our way back from Pomerao what did I see but our good friend bucket…It had obviously gone up the river over night and turned back and sailed straight past us

Where's the bucket...?

There it is