Tag Archives: kayaking

Turning on the Autumn heat in Lagos

If you love water sports and beach chill time then Lagos, in the beautiful Algarve region of Portugal, is the perfect place to hang out. Especially when the Autumn temperature feels a lot like summer.

First on the list for us was a Days of Adventure cruisy kayaking trip, where a catamaran took us to the kayaking spot… no hardcore paddling involved (poor EB!).

We paddled along the coastline, past the most stunning beaches and into eerie grottos and sea caves.


2016-09-27-12-47-12Along the way, we passed towering cliffs that looked like they would completely crumble at the slightest puff of wind, and rock stacks crafted by tides and time into shapes like elephants, camels and even the Titanic.

The perfect end to the trip for me was diving off the boat into the deep, chilly aqua-blue waters.

It was sheer bliss to swim away from the boat, relax in the water… and not have the theme music to Jaws playing in my head.


EB all at sea…

In Australia, the whole shark thing always lurks in the back of your mind (or the front, if you’re a tiny bit neurotic like me), but here you just go with the flow…

Are you up for dolphin watching, snorkelling, surfing lessons or paddle boarding? There’s so many options for getting wet or awestruck here and all easily booked in town or at the marina.

Soaking up the sun at the beach is also de rigueur here – with not a sun-smart slip, slop, slap routine in sight.

Of course, people-watching is endlessly entertaining too.

streets-of-lagos-1All that activity definitely works up an appetite (and a thirst).

It’s time to stop at one of the beach or marina restaurants, or head to the historic town centre.

Inside the town’s ancient Moorish walls you can meander along narrow streets passed a charming patchwork of crumbling, life-worn and revamped buildings and some incredible street art, to chill at one of the many great eating places and bars there.


The Garden

We loved The Garden, a bohemian-style bar and restaurant with delicious barbequed meat (EB assures me) and great choices for pescatarians and pure veggos.

A short stroll away is the fascinating Mar D’Estórias, where it’s easy to get caught up in the arty retail area and galleries as you wind up each narrow staircase until you reach the Terraço Bar.


Quick snap from the Terraco Bar

Here you’ll find great food and wine, a relaxed atmosphere and views stretching along historic streets to the ocean.

With only one more day here, we’re off explore more of this delightful town – which will possibly involve me annoying EB as I stop to take more photos of street art.

Assim é a vida.



Born to be wild…

Copyright: Louise RalphI first thought of the title for this post when we were riding on our Vespa into Yamba, in northern NSW, from our camp spot on the Clarence River.

There we were in our very Italian helmets, leather jackets …and shorts. Born to be wild and all that.

But then we went for a relaxed Sunday paddle – in gale force winds, against an outgoing tide, on an expanse of choppy water that was more like a harbour than a river! It all seemed a little too hard really, until…

As we paddled along in the welcome shelter of an island, two fins emerged near our kayak. Then another baby-sized fin popped up. Then a big, darker fin. Copyright: Louise Ralph We edged in closer to watch the four dolphins cruising and playing in the pristine water…so close, we could hear them communicating with their distinctive whistles, chirps and clicks. Copyright: Louise Ralph Copyright: Louise RalphAs we approached a fishing boat, the dolphins sank below the surface and disappeared.

Later we passed dozens of darters roosting in the trees and, even though we tried to be silent, they weren’t about to stick around as a highly-suspect yellow beast passed nearby.

On the island’s beach, a pair of stone curlews – one snuggled in a hollow on its eggs and one standing guard – watched warily as we passed in the distance.

A challenging, but brilliant day on the water, watching creatures born to be wild. No leather jacket required.

Find out more about the pristine coastline, magic Clarence River, and village charm of Yamba here

Heaven’s here on Earth… at Black Rocks

Copyright: Louise Ralph

We went back to Black Rocks in Bundjalung National Park this weekend…I meant it when I said we love this place.

This time we took our kayak and paddled up Jerusalem Creek. It was a gorgeous, although not exactly leisurely, paddle.

While I practice my zen paddling technique upfront, EB makes like an outboard motor in the back.

Somehow it works… well, having a rudder stops us turning circles at least.

Copyright: Louise RalphAnd I get to take photos along the way (with my trusty iPhone in its LifeProof case – and no, this isn’t some dodgy promo!).

The isolation, where the creek meets the sea, is simply sensational.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Copyright: Louise RalphAnd then there are those endless walks along Ten Mile Beach… where paw prints reveal the nightly wanderings of wild dogs in search of shorebird eggs, and huge bluebottles – some with four-metre stingers – are strewn along the tideline.

We weigh up the odds of getting stung, figure they’re all stranded on the beach, and plunge into the icy water.

Luckily we escape unharmed, in time to spot a mother and baby whale making their way down the coastline along the whale ‘super highway’.

Closer in, three dolphins glide in and out of the waves.

Later, along the walking tracks, wildflowers are bloomin’ fabulous, grass trees raise their flower spikes to the sky and a bee homes in on a solitary flower.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Back in our campground, tiny birds feast on grass seeds and a goanna wanders through our camp, tasting the air with a flick of its tongue.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

It reminds me of the words of a Tracy Chapman song…

“I’ve touched creations beautiful and wondrous
I’ve been places where I question all I think I know
But I believe, I believe, I believe this could be heaven…
The world is our temple
The world is our church
Heaven’s here on earth…”

Copyright: Louise Ralph


It’s a wild life in the Scenic Rim

Fruit bats and termites aren’t your usual cute and furry tourist magnets, but they’re still pretty amazing creatures.

Last night, we stopped at the local info centre in Boonah to fill up our water tanks – and we weren’t short of company. Thousands of squawking, squeaking fruit bats were roosting in the trees nearby. Here’s a few just hanging around…

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Going batty in Boonah

But the thing that fascinated me were the hundreds of termite mounds dotted across the paddocks along the road from Beaudesert to Boonah.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Termite mounds near Boonah

Termites may be a No.1 pest on the urban hit list, but they play a vital role in balancing Australian ecosystems.

What do they do? Apart from building architectural mud masterpieces, these busy little creatures help to decompose dead plant matter and quickly turn it into nutritious soil (clearly not something you want in your woodwork at home).

They are also on the menu for wildlife like lizards, birds, spiders, ants, echidnas and other small marsupials. Some don’t just eat the termites, they nest in ‘the pantry’ or shelter from fire in the mounds.

From weird and wonderful to some dam fine scenery…

On the way home, we swung by Wyaralong Dam and the Mt Joyce Recreation Park, a fantastic place for kayaking, camping, fishing, waterbird watching and more.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

In Queensland’s January 2011 floods, the new Wyaralong Dam filled overnight. Pretty spectacular since, when it’s full, it covers 1,230 hectares!

We also encountered wild life here, of the dusty, sweaty cyclist kind. These creatures are a clue to the fun to be had on kilometres of mountain bike trails in the surrounding hills. They assured us the trails were better than our favourites at Daisy Hill in Brisbane – and not as busy.

Of course, EB immediately decided it was time to dust off our trusty mountain bikes so we can come back here to test the trails ourselves…

Back to bird watching. Gotta hang onto the serenity while you can, hey?

Copyright: Louise Ralph

going fishing, egret style

Copyright: Louise Ralph

making ripples…

Hanging out around Sydney Harbour

We arrive in Sydney on Friday and walk out of the airport into a wall of dry heat. At 46 degrees celsius, it’s the hottest day on record. But that doesn’t stop us taking to the scorching pavements…

Copyright: Louise Ralph

I see a photo opportunity… a seagull poses in front of a giant, world-travelled rubber duck, the mascot for the Sydney Festival

It’s my real ‘new year’ and EB likes to make sure I grow old disgracefully.

This means my birthdays usually involve things like jumping out of a plane, driving a racing car, hanging doughnuts around an oil-slicked track at a defensive driving course, or whatever crazy thing EB can think of…and that I might actually agree to.

So far he hasn’t convinced me to go bungy jumping.

This year, we’re hitting the water for something a little more relaxing. So, after a scorcher on Friday, we’re up early to join our Sydney Harbour Kayaks eco-tour of Middle Harbour – and it’s 20 degrees cooler than yesterday. Of course.

Sydney Harbour is awe-inspiring, whether you’re walking around it, sitting beside it, driving over the Harbour Bridge, or taking a ferry ride. From a kayak, it takes on a whole new perspective.

We weave between moored yachts and cruisers and past affluent harbourside residences, glide past stunning sandstone formations and remnant bushland, and stop at a tiny secluded beach fringed with oyster-clad rocks.

The hours drift by too quickly and soon we’re taking on a fiesty headwind to make it back to the Spit. It’s so beautiful out on the water, even when it’s choppy, and we’d happily keep paddling all day…

Back to reality, and EB’s plan to do another section of Sydney’s stunning coastal walk is thwarted. Too much good wine and conversation with friends on Saturday night makes waking up at dawn the next day an impossibility.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Balmoral Beach

Instead we have a lazy morning walking around Darling Harbour, before meeting up with family and heading to beautiful Balmoral Beach. The cool change evolves to threatening grey and we watch the sheets of rain cross the harbour towards us.

Soon everyone is scrambling for shelter and the beach is deserted, except for a couple of teenagers and a jogger who shakes off the rain as he splashes along the pathway.

We shake the rain off too and frock-up for dinner at the iconic (and rather posh) Bather’s Pavilion.

Mais oui, there are worse ways to welcome in another year… Bungy jumping springs to mind.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

The Bather’s Pavilion at Balmoral Beach

Paddling the Noosa River

On the day the world was ‘officially’ supposed to end, EB and I took off up the Noosa River on Australia’s Sunshine Coast for some paddling.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Past paddling days along the upper reaches of the Noosa River

There’s nothing like camping and paddling along a gorgeous river, far from the silly-season crowds, to bring back a little perspective. That was the plan, anyway.

Our intention was to camp at Harry’s Hut on Noosa River’s upper reaches, which is only accessible by 4WD or on  foot. But height became our undoing.

We’ve been here many times, but this was the first time we’d negotiated the rough track in the Douglas Albert – and with our double kayak on top. We laughed at the distinct possibility that we’d almost get there, then not be able to get under or around a thick low-hanging branch.

Try a fallen tree, propped in the fork of a tree on the opposite side of the road, just low enough to shave the roof of our motorhome (and the kayak with it).

With shallow gullies either side and dusk settling around us, we had no choice but to shrug, do a 25-point turn (okay, slight exaggeration) and head back to the more accessible Boreen Point camping area, on the edge Lake Cootharaba.

We found some privacy beside a paperbark forest, far enough from the camping hordes settled in for the long holidays.

Copyright: Louise RalphWaking to a chorus of crickets the next morning, we set off to paddle across the lake towards the lower reaches of the Noosa River – and into a haze of smoke from bushfires on both river banks.

Along the sheltered edge of the lake, a sting ray nestled on the sandy bottom, its white-spotted brown body just visible.

Flashes of silver surrounded us as fish leapt out of the water. Now if we’d been fisher-folks…

Copyright: Louise RalphThe egrets we usually see here had evacuated, but a brahminy kite circled above us and darters extended their snake-like necks from safe perches to watch us passing.

The world didn’t end, and Christmas is upon us. Time to eat, drink, be merry – and plan our next trip or three.

Oh and to see if Santa will deliver a light-weight, waterproof, smashproof camera for our paddling, hiking and cycling adventures.

Cheers reindeers, and happy travels,

Lou and EB

Copyright: Louise Ralph

A river somewhere: paddling the Dordogne

After three duck-weather days, the sun peeps out from behind the clouds this morning and gives us a wink and a nudge.

It’s a sign. We jump in the car and head to Couleurs Périgord, one of the 23 canoe hiring places along the Dordogne.*

They are open, and we’re soon on our way to our drop-off point in Carsac, 22 kilometres up-river.

Apparently there can be up to 6,000 canoes on the river on summer days.

The Dordogne is slightly wider than a four-lane carriageway, so I’m guessing it would feel a bit like a freeway at peak hour. Joy.

Today, the air has a distinct chill and the sun is weak so, for us, this is the best time to be on the river. We are alone out here, just the way we like it.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

…the Dordogne from the Château féudal de Beynac

Like every hire kayak, this one is built tough. And heavy. It weighs at least 56 and a half kilos. Well, maybe not, but it moves like a slug and we’re happy we’re going with the flow…

We paddle past delightful stone villages and under bridges, past castles high on the cliffs, and chateaux nestled in amongst the trees.

The river is flanked by lush green forests, splashed with Autumn reds and golds. The water is so clear, we can see fish of all shapes and sizes darting beneath us.

Every now and then, we catch a flash of cobalt blue as a tiny kingfisher swoops down from the trees to snatch les poissons du jour.

The trip is supposed to take four hours, but that doesn’t account for the outboard motor in the back of our kayak. That’s EB, who has no off-button.

So two-and-a-half hours later, we round the last bend of the Dordogne to face the incredible view of Beynac and the Château féudal de Beynac towering above it.

Yesterday, we were up there looking out across the valley (pictured). The river view is so much more impressive.

Ahead, between our landing place and us, is a small flock of rather large ducks. More like a gaggle of geese.

These things are enormous, and stretch out to appear even bigger when they spot two dangerous and slightly soggy intruders.

Three of them swim towards us, necks outstretched, furious and protective of their young. The leader opens his bright orange beak and lets out a powerful hiss.

There’s no giving them a wide berth. They paddle faster than us, especially when we’re laughing too hard to paddle at all.

Luckily their hiss is worse than their bite, and a couple of waving paddles keeps them at bay until they’re satisfied they’ve put the fear of le canards in us.

It’s times like this I wish had a waterproof camera. Damn.

At the end of our paddle, we are slightly chilled but ridiculously happy – and we feel one of those leisurely people-watching afternoons in a Sarlat café coming on.

As soon as we peel ourselves out of these wet clothes…

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

*Couleurs Perigord are fabulous – friendly, helpful and they also offer de l’escalade et de la spéléologie (caving and rock climbing).