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To the land of smugglers and wreckers

Life is not just about the bike……just in case you had wondered. A journey to the south west to deepest Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, those remote islands so long associated with smuggling, shipwrecks, Augustus Smith (founder of Tresco Abbey Gardens), dramatic sunsets, pristine white sandy beaches, and the endless blue of the ocean as it meets the sky on the horizon.

No bikes (the longest stretch of road is only 3 miles), but a walker’s and nature lover’s paradise…..and if a bit of ancient history attracts you, they have found burial chambers and villages that go back to the Mesolithic age (6000 years ago?).

This is probably Jenny’s favourite place in the whole of the British Isles……it would be mine but for the danger of succumbing to ‘cabin fever’ after a few weeks.

Enjoy the photos.

Sunset at Land's End.....Jenny attempting to keep the sun from setting!

Sunset at Land’s End…..Jenny attempting to keep the sun from setting!

St Mary's

St Mary’s

Looking down over Cromwell's Castle from King Charles' Castle, Tresco

Looking down over Cromwell’s Castle from King Charles’ Castle, Tresco

Chilling on Tresco

Chilling on Tresco

Straining against the south westerly....

Straining against the south westerly….

One of the many ancient entrance graves

One of the many ancient entrance graves

St Michael's Mount in Cornwall....place where they first spotted the approaching Armada

St Michael’s Mount in Cornwall….place where they first spotted the approaching Armada

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Deep in a caldera…

With the sinking of the Costa Concordia still fresh in our memories, we boarded a sister ship, the Costa Magica, to roam around the Eastern Mediterranean. Filled with the illogical faith that convinces all of us that, in the light of a tragedy, important lessons will have been learned, and remedial action will have been taken to correct wayward captains, we set off optimistically until, one day, we arrived at the stunning volcanic island of Santorini, where (in the absence of a harbour) we had to be tendered off the ship.

Costa Magica

Costa Magica

Unlike the “crowd”, we eschewed the use of cable car or donkey to get to the top of the island, and we slowly tramped our way up the steep inclines, through several layers of donkey ‘poop’ of varying degrees of freshness. When we reached the top, we were feasted by panoramic views in every direction, including of our own ship anchored above a deep caldera.

MS Sea Diamond

But stunning as the view might have been, it was unnerving to discover that almost directly beneath our own ship, was another, the MS Sea Diamond, which had come to grief on rocks and sunk on April 5th 2007. All but two passengers were saved, and only a handful of those suffered any kind of injury (unlike the Concordia). The sinking of the Sea Diamond was such a protracted affair, that it was caught on film by someone with a video camera. Had it been a few years later, it would have been captured a thousand times on smartphones.

But it is a salutary thought before you board your next cruise ship: they do sink, and sometimes with surprising frequency and ease. View the sinking of the MS Sea Diamond:

Stewart Island

Like many off-shore islands. Stewart Island seems to have its own rhythm of life. Like St Mary’s in the Scillies, the centre of community life revolves around one small township, Oban, and the few roads that exist, radiate no more than 6km from the town centre. In other words, everything of importance should be within walking distance……but you would be amazed at the number of cars on the island.

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There is even a bus service, a bike hire business, and a car rental service!!

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I cycled most of the sealed roads on the island, and I still only clocked up 14km

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but the quality was in the climbs and descents…sharp and unforgiving, but with ‘stop-in-your-tracks’ views over every crest.

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Despite the beautiful bays and beaches, this is not a bucket-and-spade destination. Reason? The water is cold, even in summer, and it rains for 265 days in the year…but not today :0)

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This is an old wind-up telephone from the 1920s, still seemingly functional, by the roadside. I tried calling the operator, but it must have been her lunch break……..

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Stewart Island is a microcosm of the principal environmental problems challenging NZ. Its native population of flightless birds including the kiwi, has been decimated to the point of extinction by predator mammals introduced by emigrants and settlers in the last 150 years. Stoats were introduced to control the rabbit population, but they got distracted by bird’s eggs and chicks. Possums were introduced from Australia for their fur,  but their predation is destructive. So too is the presence of domestic dogs and cats, all of which causes heated debate as to where to find a solution. One thing I can say, following my ride the length of the country: there is a worrying widespread silence, where there should be a cacophony of birdsong. One press article maintained that over 21 million eggs and chicks are lost to predators every year,

which is sending some species into a downward spiral.

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Flowers on road cones are an expression of solidarity with the people of Christchurch, who are remembering and commemorating the second anniversary of the earthquake that destroyed their city.

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Tomorrow, back to Invercargill to prepare the bike for its flight to Sydney. Oz, here we come!
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