Friday, 24 October 2014

Plane, Trains.....2 1/2 weeks in Hong Kong & a ship!

Back in Feb Simon and I set off on a bit of an adventure: we travelled overland to Hong Kong before returning home by sea. Well, almost. Although we had hoped to go all the way by train, getting from Exmouth to Moscow was so convoluted & expensive we gave up on that idea & flew with Easyjet to Moscow.  After a few days in Moscow we took the train across Siberia, which was pretty amazing, stopping off at Yekaterinberg & Lake Baikal en route. We then headed South through Mongolia, where we spent several nights at a ger camp in the middle of nowhere & Ulaan Bator before getting back on the train to Beijing. After 3 days we caught our last train to Hong Kong. That part of the trip took about 3 weeks and was a real experience.... the temperature went down to below -30 degrees; the food was 'interesting' (I wouldn't really recommend the mutton for breakfast, dinner & tea in Mongolia, but the native Omul fish from Lake Baikal was delicious!) & we met some really interesting people on the train. We then spent 2 1/2 weeks in Hong Kong. Simon's brother & family have lived there for over 20 years & we'd never been before. We had a great time with Shane & Julie, visited the touristy places & I added quite a few Lifers to my List! Then the final leg of our adventure...which really wasn't very adventurous! We came back in luxury on P&O's cruise ship Adonia, which took 6 weeks to get us back to Southampton via another 14 countries. The cruise was a real eye-opener as we'd never been to Asia before & again we met some really interesting people.  I took thousands of photos...hence the delay in posting - it's taken me this long to go through them! Here are just a few photos of the places we visited & the birds we saw...


St Basil's in Red Square. We loved Moscow, one of our favourite places on the trip.
One of the Russian trains that pulled us across Siberia

At Lake Baikal. I was worried about the camera with temperatures  below -25 degrees but managed to get my first Lifer of the trip, an Azure Tit.
Leaving the new Chengis Khan monument
Home for 3 nights....freezing outside, toasty inside. A man came in every 4 hrs night & day to stoke the fire.
My only Mongolian Lifer....a Mongolian Lark, taken through the dirty window of a moving train 
A very smoggy Forbidden City, Beijing. 
Spotted Chinese Lifer
Hong Kong:

I managed to add 40 Lifers to my list, which I'm very happy with as this wasn't a birding holiday.... I just took my bins most places, and had an outing to the Wetland Centre & Long Valley.
Hong Kong
The Murphys on a day out at the Big Buddha....Shane, Julie & Simon
Common Tailorbird
Fork-tailed Sunbird
Japanese White-eye
The Wetland Centre amidst the tower blocks. 
The endangered Black-faced Spoonbill. Luckily numbers are increasing.
Oriental Magpie Robin
Hair-crested Drongo
Then off on the next phase...

Heading for 6 weeks of luxury on Adonia
Halong Bay, Nha Trang & Ho Chi Minh City

Halong Bay in the mist
Striated Heron....not what I expected way out at sea!
Asian Brown Flycatcher

It's a man's world. Dad has safety helmet, son has gun. The most we saw on a scooter! Only noticed the gun afterwards.....hope it was a toy!
Collared Kingfisher
Laem Chebang

Shuttle to Pattaya....the pits! Found a park to bird/paint, then back to bird at the port. Got 13 Lifers.
Asian Openbill
Green Bee-eater
Thick-billed Warbler

Black-naped Oriole

Kuala Lumpur, Penang & Langkawi

Kualar Lumpur from the KL Tower
Asian Glossy Starling
Pacific Reef Egret
Red-wattled Lapwing
Sri Lanka:

Pulling in the fishing nets
School or prison?
Southern Common Babbler
Brown-headed Barbet
Cochin, Mangalore & Mumbai

Fishing nets in Cochin
The workshop!  
Laundrette in Mumbai
Blue-tailed Bee-eaters
Brahminy Kite: we'd been seeing them since Singapore, but not as many as here
Indian Pond Heron
Coppersmith Barbet
At Sea….

Flying fish…they travelled an incredible distance

Lots of sand…..
Tristram's Starling
Cinnamon-breasted Bunting
Sooty Gull
At sea…

Masked Booby…..I only saw this one & it was only in view for seconds!
This White-throated Bee-eater hitched a lift for a few days

It took the whole day to traverse the Suez Canal
It was quite narrow in places
Spur-winged Lapwing

Looking over the city across the Bahai Gardens
Part of the impressive Caesarea Aqueduct
Palestine Sunbird
Pied Kingfisher

Thought I'd better put Adonia in somewhere!
This kind trucker gave us a lift to the wetlands….he was worried we may get bitten by snakes on the verge!
 Made Simon's day!!
Marsh Sandpiper…I think! The waders were all distant & I'm still trying to ID some of them.
We went on an open bus tour of the city
I had a quick birding session in a couple of trees at the port…Subalpine Warbler
Monk's Parakeet

We were hustled into a carpet shop, but at least it had a good view from the roof
There were some great old buildings & alleyways
Pallid Swift
Common Bulbul
At sea...
This Whitethroat hitched a lift & hoovered crumbs from the deck

Port Mahon, Menorca
An amazing mooring in the second deepest natural harbour in the world!
Audouin's Gull
The view from the top of the Elevador de Santa Justa, an impressive but expensive lift!
No birds in Lisbon….but a human 'statue'
A walk to the train station & then back to Exmouth….
…..and finally, after 12 weeks away, the bus home!

It really was an amazing trip….18 countries,  -30 to +35 degrees, over 100 Lifers (and still quite a few mysteries to ID)….and the worst that happened was that I lost my iPhone in week 2, I had mutton poisoning in Mongolia & Simon had food poisoning from a burger in Murphy's Bar in HK - not bad in three months of adventuring!

Summary: Retirement is FAB!!