A trip to Costa Rica

This Christmas we decided to push the boat out and take advantage of the extended break for a big trip! Costa Rica was our destination. We had a fabulous trip to this wonderful country, below a few highlights and a few hints if you are planning a trip yourself.

Rafting – La Fortuna

La Fortuna is brimming with companies which will take you rafting however we struggled to find someone who would allow our Holly (13) to do anything approaching grade 4 rapids. In the end (booked from the UK) we used Wave Expeditions. It took us well over an hour to reach our river but it was worth it with over 15km of continuous rapids with very little respite. All three of us ended up in the water (all very exciting) and one of the other boats in our group ended up capsized…. twice !!

Although clichéd we did find out first experience of rafting excellent fun and at times a proper challenge. As with most orgainsed ours we finished with a ‘traditional’ meal, however this one was the best of them all by a long way. We also experienced here some ‘proper’ rain with it coming down in stair-rods.

Hot springs and river – La Fortuna

Just up the road between La Fortuna and Arenal is a random bridge over a small river near the Tabacon Resort. The great thing is if you find somewhere to park and follow your nose is you end up in a series of gravel and rock pools with lovely hot volcanic water to lounge in! and all for free!

Original Canopy Zip Lines – Monteverde

Another clichéd activity, although originating in Costa Rica! We opted for the ‘original canopy tour’ apparently the first one ever, conceived originally for ecologists to explore the canopy. Again this activity was brilliant, commencing with a huge tarzan swing out over a valley and then a series of some 15 zip lines we spent a fantastic morning zooming through the forest, culminating in an 800m long zip line which started in a tunnel of trees before launching out into space across a large valley!! Also included if you want is a rapel to the forest floor and a climb back up, first up through the heart of the tree and then out on to a very exposed ladder!

We had seen several zip line companies on our way out too ‘original’ and found our trip to be much less busy, commercial and had a great feel to it.


Cath fell in love with Montezuma! This ex-hippie community on the south tip of the Nicoya peninsula is very remote and unspoilt with the rainforest tumbling down to the beach. The only downside is the dust kicked up by the various 4x4s and quadbikes on the gravel roads but away from these are amazing beaches and of course the warm ocean, great for swimming and surfing. A highlight for Beer lovers is a nearby microbrewery La Selva– served UK style on tap in the La Cascada ‘B’ Bar just across the bridge from the hotel Amor de Mar.


Night Tours

In Monteverde and Quepos / Manuel Antonio we went on organised guided night tours around the cloud and rain forest. With a guide we slowly mooched around trails which by day could be walked very quickly but with 10 pairs of eyes and the guides knowledge we spotted all sorts of creatutes: Snakes, Frogs, Sleeping birds (balls of fluff) spiders and larger mammals. Without the guide we just would not have seen what we saw!

La Paz Waterfalls

On the way from Poas to La Fortuna La Paz waterfall gardens are great. We arrived early and had the gardens to ourselves. Getting past the standard zoo like enclosures which contain various rescue animals which although interesting the highlights are the waterfalls themselves which are spectacular and the humming birds. We were given small plastic ‘flowers’ to hold which contained a nectar like solution and the wild birds queued up to feed from our hands – amazing. At the end of the waterfalls walk there is a café which serves the largest portions of yummy cake we have ever encountered!

Travel, Beds and Munchies

The food and drink at this establishment is fine but the real attraction is the bird table out back next to the terrace. As long as the local cat is not prowling there is an abundance and variety of wild birds attracted of all colours, shapes and sizes.

The food at this roadside Soda is excellent but they also have a fantastic terrace view looking out over lake Arenal with a bird table which again attracts lots of colourful wild birds.

Montezuma has its share of low end backpacker accommodation. We however were in the beautiful Hotel Amor de Mar. Great location fantastic breakfasts and comfortable rooms.

This place is very cool – an old american transport plane converted to a bar…..

  • Sloth’s and Monkeys

‘Have you seen a sloth yet’ was the standard conversation between travellers with kids. We were lucky enough to see a sloth on the first morning but then did not see one until down in Manuel Antonio when we saw a few. We spent days in the middle of the trip eyes peeled for the elusive sloth and were getting worried we might not get to see one.

Monkeys seemed to be everywhere and if you couldn’t see them you could certainly hear them!

  • Getting up early.

With darkness coming at 17.30 and a dose of jetlag we found going to bed early and  getting up early (by 7 most days) was rewarding with attractions and beaches being quieter and packing more into the available daylight.

  • Cars and Roads.

We took a chance and hired a ‘normal’ car not a 4×4 and travelled independently. We found the driving to be challenging but fine. There are a lot of gravel roads which vary in condition and at times have huuuge pot holes and are sometimes very steep. The roads into and around Monteverde and the Nicoya Peninsula are particularly challenging. We found however that out Toyota Yaris sedan (ie with a boot) was perfectly OK and although some more ground clearance would have been useful did not stop us. The roads in general do require care and concentration and in the towns requires very defensive driving with eyes in the back of your head to avoid small collisions of which we saw quite a few. (we didn’t take out the extra insurance).

Holidays on Heb

We have been meaning to go to the Outer Hebrides for years, the sheer distance and logistics of ferries kept putting it off but this year we planned early and headed north.

We took the ferry from Uig to Lochmaddy after an over-night pit stop in Perth on the Friday, all told a journey of some 550 miles.

13412935_10155446863933084_3811463039576072842_nOur accommodation was a fantastic traditional cottage on South Uist near Daliburgh, Lochboisdale run by an enthusiastic Angus and his wife and we could not have asked for anything more from it. There was a bottle of red wine, some local cheese, oatcakes and pate and lots of staples all waiting for us. They were attentive all week and I am sure if we had asked for some strange kitchen implement such as a Norwegian Egg Slicer they would have somehow produced one with a flourish. He even offered to wash my car on the last night!

We spent a great week on the islands of South Uist, North Usit, Benbecula, Eriskay and Barra. The weather was frankly well beyond expectations and sunny all week. Below a few highlights:

Ben Mhor

13343112_10155446865538084_7481571936716905606_nLeaving the car on the roadside we headed up lightweight, in trail shoes, intending to run the loop of Ben Mhor and Hecler. The going was easy over short grass with the odd bog and open rock, from time to time we were able to follow a minor path or sheep track. As we ascended the wind speed increased and although we were on top in just over an hour the sheer force of the wind had us unfortunately backtracking and cutting short our loop.

The views off the top were splendid, out to Barra and Eriskay to the South, over the water to Skye in the East and all the way to Harris and Lewis in the north.

After a brief munch in the lee of the ridge we ran off enjoying the springy grassy slopes back to the car.

Note: This walk should not be undertaken without sound navigational knowledge as there are no tracks….

Swimming in Loch Eynort

13393990_10155446876413084_8851274029686831032_nThe difference between the East and West coasts of South Uist is very marked, the sand dunes or the West giving way to rocky inlets and sea lochs to the East.

Loch Eynort in the east is a sea loch that winds its way in to the island, almost bisecting it. In a couple of different places near the road head on the south side of the loch we donned wetsuits and mooched about swimming in the shallows, the mountains surrounding us and seals playing in the distance or hauled out on little islets.

After some time the seals became interested and came over to see us. Although always keeping their ‘safe’ distance of approx 10 – 25 meters or so they kept bobbing up giving us eyeball for over an hour, a brilliant encounter.

Cycling the West coast beaches and dunes

13417411_10155446865618084_7275598147069183354_nMany cyclists pootle up through the Uists on laden touring bikes on the main road but we headed out to the extensive dunes and long stretches of white sand on the West side of the island. Using mountain bikes we cruised the grassy slopes of the dunes, catching some cracking views along the way before dropping the bikes down onto the beach itself. You have to be careful with the piles of seaweed which slowly rot away on the tide line in places which, when disturbed, emit a fairly unpleasant odour and are very slippery, but once over these we zoomed along on the firm sand with Holly and Cath riding through the shallows whilst I tackled the small rocky outcrops on my full sus bike (also not wanting to get seawater in my bearings!)


Cycling round Barra.

13346746_10155446864938084_1636429088625449414_nWe took the ferry over to Barra on bikes, and after watching some planes land and take off at Barra Airport (the Beach at low tide) met up with some friends and pootled around the road circuit of Barra, stopping off at a couple of the again bright white sandy beaches with the kids. Before heading back to the ferry we stopped in Castlebay at ‘the deck’ for tea and cake.


Some other great days out included:

  • Sea Kayaking from Barra’s Castlebay
  • Evening walk up Ben Scrien on Eriskay
  • Benbecula Half Marathon (Cath not me)
  • Walk up Ben Langais (North Uist) followed by dinner at the Langais Hotel
  • Meeting Danny McAskill on the way home




I broke my E5 :-(


Gutted. Getting my White E5 out of the garage the other day (it was clean for a change) I noticed a huge crack in the frame on the down tube 🙁  it’s a shame but the frame is 10 years old and I bought it second hand in 2011.
Trouble is the rest of the bike is mint – but all old specs…. 26 inch wheels, straight 1/8th headtube,  traditional bottom bracket etc….
So what to do. A new bike would be at least £2700 for anything getting near as good or as light as the E5…..

In the end mooching around eBay looking for second hand frames – orange st4s, whyte e120s, superlights, sparks, anthems and the like the E5s slightly heavier American cousin jumped out at me….. A Marin Mount Vision frame from 2010.


Well I bought it (£230 delivered) and it is immaculate.
Moving everything over from the E5 was a doddle, I just needed a new full length cable outer.

The frame even came with an upgraded shock – an x-fusion

I’ve only ridden it once so far but at present although a pound heavier prefer it to the E5 🙂

Pimping the Brompton for racing

I’ve now sorted the Brompton into racing spec 🙂


Longer seatpost
Lightweight saddle
SPD pedals
Hard compound suspension rubber.

I’ve left on the rack and mudguards until a little closer to the race.
Having ridden it I think the nice Brooks leather grips will also have to go for something more grippy and I am still wondering about putting on some kojak slicks…
I was worried about the fact it’s only a two speed and that essentialy on the flat means it’s a singlespeed but on my little training course (more about that later) the one gear is fine, makes you work hard….

Cancer Research – Holly’s Challenge

My Daughter Holly will be raising money for Cancer Research this week – read her story below.

I will be climbing the 15 highest Wainwrights in the May holiday in memory of Sue Hawker, who lost her battle earlier this year. We are doing this because Sue loved to walk, loved the Lakes, loved to go on adventures, but she also took me up my first Munro when I was 3 months old. Sue lived in the Lake District and loved the fells and the May holiday was her traditional walking holiday week.

This will be a big challenge for me, as, although I am an outdoorsy, adventure girl, I was 12 in March, and I have never done any of the Lakes peaks. The challenge of climbing the 15 highest mountains is a little scary!!

All of the money I raise will go towards cancer research because we all want to be able to beat cancer.


Cycling on Lantau – Hong Kong

Hong Kong is a bonkers place, and to be honest the mad rush of the high rise, completely crammed with people gives me the eebie-jeebies. So with a weekend to recover from jetlag on a business trip and with a whole week of high pressure M+ Museum BIM meetings (what I do for a living, BIM – Building Information Modelling Consultancy) ahead of me I decided to see what biking opportunities there were in the New Territories (the more rural islands that surround Hong Kong Island)
I got some advice from some local expats and did a fair bit of Googling which resulted in catching the ferry across to the Island of Lantau (where the new Hong Kong Airport is) to the village of Mui Wo and hiring a bike from the “Friendly Bicycle Shop”
From what I can tell, you need a permit to use the official mountain bike tracks on Lantau and that they are not quite what a UK rider would expect, (either perfect concrete tracks or almost un-ridable) and the permits take a couple of weeks to get hold of, so I just decided to stay on the roads, head out along the coast and see how far I got.
The first thing to point out is that although no that hot – 30ish, the humidity was horrendous, with any activity at all resulting in rivers of sweat falling from my nose and chin….
The roads were great, well surfaced and lots of up and down and in a silly sort of way similar to Arran in Scotland (except for the heat and vegetation). There is very little traffic except for buses and coaches. The drivers were very good at giving lots of room, unless they came across me around a blind bend and there was a bus coming the other way, so I, after one near miss, used my ears and made sure I wasn’t on a blind corner when the buses were approaching.
I stopped for some lunch at a seaside cafe and then carried on with the intention of riding up to the ‘Big Buddha’ at Ngong Ping
The climb was punishing, particularly in the midday sun and to be honest I nearly binned it, lack or water and food taking its toll. Eventually I rolled into the surreal world of the theme parked tourist trap which is Ngong Ping 360 at the top of the cable car. I downed two ice creams and a couple of cans of coke, took in the view and then headed off back down the mountain.
I had a bit of time to spare before the bike had to be back at the hire company so took the MTB track back around to Mui Wo from Pui O Wan. This track was great in places, bringing me right into the rural idol that still can be found, including water buffalo mooching about.
All too soon I was back at the ‘Friendly Bike Shop’ to hand back the bike and then try and find some air conditioning for the journey back to HK Island.


Mansty Woods

DSC_1579Walton Chasers held its first competition on an area never before orienteer’d on this weekend – a rare occasion nowadays in the UK. Its’ a small forest called Mansty Wood, recently back under private management after years as a FC leasehold woodland.

As I knew it was flast (flat and fast) I decided to bite the bullet and enter the Blue course (2nd longest behind Brown in the colour coded structure) rather than green and try and jog a bit more and walk a bit less and see how it went.
I started a little eagerly enjoying the bluebells underfoot and the complex ditch networks in otherwise fairly vague terrain. After 7 or so controls my hip started to complain so I backed off and walked a little more and ran a little less. The area was much better than the map would suggest and I know many people struggled and made costly mistakes.

A Pilates session in the evening got rid of any post race niggles so I seem definitely on the mend!