Quiet, remote, windswept and stark but indubitably prepossessing. This ancient island tenuously linked to the mainland, sometimes, is a haven from the world, at least until tourists flock like ravenous vultures.

The castle was sadly under wraps. However the sheep were welcoming and the remains of the old priory were beautiful. The true wonder of Lindisfarne is its bracing bleakness. Just remember to check the table of tides before venturing out or back.


“”Is the hotel far”? Said the fly to the spider. Or in this case the exhausted traveler to the taxi driver. With multiple assurances and much arm gesticulating the point was made. No, not far. 

A few minutes later we pulled up outside Be One Yogia. Handing over too much money we clambered out to be met by a Cheshire Cat of a smile. Paid and keys in hand we bid a goodnight with offers to Prambanan and Borobudur singing in our ears to help us into the land of nod.

We shared a room with the children which was relaxing! The room was clean and comfortable and quiet at night. We also got to hear the planes landing, which was lovely. In a perverse manner. Breakfast was super sweet coffee. Lesson. Order milk, real milk not tinned super sweet, separately or be diagnosed with diabetes within seconds.  The food was fried and not too healthy, so off we went. Food the destination. 
The only people walking along a broken up pavement next to a main road into the heart of Yogykarta. Amazing. So many mopeds and scooters weaving around each other. Whole families on machines. Dad drove and in from of him stood an infant holding onto the steering column. Behind dad sat mum, and between a baby was squashed, held in mums arms. Super!

Mini-market. Cakes and processed pre-packed salty and sweet gooey things. Now that’s food;-) replete we headed back and enquired about trips to Prambanan and Borobudur. Having inferred that we wanted to rent the vehicle, not purchase it, a price was settled on. We had a lovely fellow who gamely communicated in English and gave a running commentary as we sped to Prambanan.

Spice Islands

Eastwards Ho! Equipment purchased, 10 flights booked and off we toddled to Indonesia. We stayed overnight in Warsaw before our flight to Istanbul in a super little hostel in the new old town of Warsaw. Bunk-beds with all the ensuing claims to sleep up or downstairs. The Cannon was perfect for us.

Flight number one. We flew Turkish Airlines to Istanbul where we had a seven hour lay over. I determined to reduce DVT by walking every part of it, and I can attest to the fact that it is big! Very big!! Then we had an 11 hour flight to Jakarta. The flight was great and the service excellent. Never have so few lavatories been serviced so often, by so few, for so many.

Jakarta. Tired and hung down like overdecorated Christmas trees we trundled into full view of the cab touts. Shouts of Hey Mister, Hey Boss and simply hey assailed our ears. We had originally planned to take  a bus from the airport to the station at Gambir. I had travelled down to Bandung many years ago by train and enjoyed the experience. Sadly our visit coincided with Ramadan and so there was not even room for a slimmed down cockroach. This meant we had to book a hotel, the illustrious Dreamtel Jakarta. Thus a taxi, and the first of many haggles. But to haggle one needs an idea of the going rate. We paid 300,000 IDR for a taxi across town. The lovely people at Dreamtel told us later that it should have been 200,000IDR maximum. Guard up! The hotel was clean with a funky glass elevator that Will Wonka would approve of. The room was good, a double shared with the children. Aghhh…The view was a little less pleasing. A brick wall, although painted off white, about 30cm from our window. Breakfast was very good and the guys behind the counter helpful and a couple spoke good English. Heads up with the Bluedird taxis with meters and asking suitable questions about tolls being included in prices and off we went from Jakarta the next day by plane. The flight was about 3 hours late. About 10 staff behind the counter could giggle flirt with each other beautifully, but giving information was not their forte. We flew up to Sumatra, landed, which was eventful and bumpy, waited 20 minutes and set off for Yogykarta. The flight attendant pointed out a few general facts and asked us to pray to God for a safe flight. That was reassuring for one and all. Yogykarta. Little did we know but we were close to the airport. The taxi driver again charged over the odds. The place we stayed was clean and again we shared with the kids. Breakfast was a greasy mess and the coffee so sweet one shot of it would have given a whale diabetes. We valiantly strolled down the side of the dual carriageway in search of munchies. Amazing to watch whole families, babies included, all perched on weaving mopeds and scooters. Grabbing a taxi, with the meter agreed as arbiter of cost, we set off down town. We spent the evening on Maliobor Street. Locals looked at us as though they hadn’t seen foriegners before!

Memories of Flying in Cuba

Off to Cuba in 1999.  Flew one day late due to engine problems. Should of seen it as a sign. Arrived in Havana and mooched around. For me it was a delight. For the locals a nightmare stuck in time. Remember one shop, a chemists, with only vinegar for sale.

Onwards and another flight. Driven out to an airport that an Estate Agent/Realtor would call ‘’well lived in.’’ There was a plane, shiny and modern. A list of names tramped out and boarded the gleam machine. I waited. Next airplane. Older but relatively new and smaller. Another list, but not for me. Then I spied a relic being towed to  museum or knackers yard. No, wait a minute, it’s stopping. It stopped outside the departure lounge. Departure seemed to take on a new meaning. Everyone left was beckoned onto the relic. An ancient Antonov, probably from the 1950s love festival between Castro and the U.S.S.R.

As we approached the Wright brothers reject an engineer was tapping the nose cone with a mallet. Nervous laughter. On we climbed. The seats gently in their brackets and Russian accompanied Spanish instructions. Gunning the engine outrageously, the pilot got us airborne.

As we straightened out the cabin began to fill with smoke. The steward ran up the aisle to assure us it was harmless and from the old air conditioning  system. More nervous laughter, and a large rum, please. As I sat in the window seat I decided to watch and pray. Then to my dismay a flame shot back out of the engine. A couple of people said, ooh and one person screamed. The steward tried allay our fears by stating that on these engines, ‘’it was normal.’’ He needed to try harder. Well we landed and it was time for a large rum..Return flight to Havana was at night, in a thunderstorm on the same aircraft. It was a very, very quite flight.