Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Woodland Walk, Not Concrete Jungle

First of all my apologies for no post during the past 32 hours or so. Not through lack of Internet access, but more a desire to get on with the traveling and get some ground covered, even resorting to moving overnight (another hotel bill saved).

After a brief stop in Kosovo, I reached Skopje capital of Macedonia early Sunday morning and with buses running about every hour onward to Sofia, Bulgaria decided to take a look at the most tempting wood-covered slopes on the edge of the city. Walking seemed like an option but I soon tired of plodding a series of tiresome streets, so got a cab half way up the hill. I was not disappointed as the very first thing I heard was a Nightingale in full song, which soon showed itself in an Aspen tree allowing a couple of reasonable shots for this usual skulking bird. In all I saw or heard no fewer than c14 Nightingales during the day!

Butterflies were certainly on the wing, as were a few diurnal moths most of which I have no chance of identifying. Those that I could included Wood White, Orange-Tip and one of the Swallowtails, the latter 2 evading my photo attempts. The other things in numbers were Tortoises, Tree Sparrows and a few Sub-Alpine Warblers, while single sightings included a (Great Spotted) Woodpecker of sorts, Common and Lesser Whitethroat, Greenfinch, Wren all additions to the trip list, while now usual contenders such as Hooded Crow, Starling, Jackdaw and White Stork were also seen.


Tortoise number 1

Sub-Alpine Warbler

Small Bracket Fungi Sp?

Thought to be Wood White Butterfly?

Tree Sparrow - most birds were making the most of the emergence of these small green caterpillars.

A 'Skipper' Butterfly of sorts.

A view from above Skopje city, with the last of th Balkans in the distance.

The same showing the football stadium.

Tortoise number 2

Time was soon upon me to cross Bulgaria, and having seen much of this country during 3 other visits, there was no plan to stay. With continuing luck my bus met another departing in just a toilet stops time for Chisinau, capital of Moldova. Thus far in Bulgaria the terrain had consisted of mainly mixed wooded hillsides, fast flowing streams with a few patches of arable land. Within a very short time of leaving the bus station we were in a completely different environment of open plains and mile after mile of rich, fertile farmland. Surely this country must be self sufficient for food, which includes its neighbour to the north (Moldova) as things seemed to be even more green here. This continued right across the country, in every direction as far as the eye could see. The only incident worthy of report was when we stopped at a small town just north of the border in the dead of night. The driver usually announces how long the stay will be, with everyone so far coming to me personally to make sure I understood. It is my usual practice to get off at every stop even if only to check my bag. On this occasion it's a good job I did as on of the locals was happily taking my bag for a walk. Soon stopped by myself and the driver, he still didn't realise he had the wrong bag despite his being about twice the size of mine and black rather than my beige. While I did raise my voice, I'm sure there was no intent with this and the man simply collected his case from the hold, nodded an appology and left. Let that be a lesson to us all - keep your eye on the ball, or have you bag stollen as I once did in La Paz, Bolivia!

By now (Tuesday 11th May) I have to admit to feeling a little travel weary, and most of my thoughts were for a well appointed and comfortable little apartment I know in the Estonian capital of Tallinn. Feeling I will get a warm welcome there, I looked at the geography and it looked like a bus to Lviv (pronounce Lavov I was told), much closer to my destination, then a flight from there. The 18 hours on the coach passed very quickly with good thoughts and the back seat to myself a decent nights sleep was had. Unfortunately, it was a case of "best laid plans of mice and men, I was in the sh*te again", there are no direct, or sensible flights from there with the best suggestion being a taxi to Kiev (capital of Ukraine) and a flight from there. It's 600Km and 200 Euros in a cab, but the alternative wasn't worth pondering, so biting the bullet off we went. Luckily I got a most helpful taxi driver, helping me in more ways than one, and this too was a fairly quick, comfortable and interesting ride.

A couple of shots from a fast moving taxi,

of typical Ukrainian roadside buildings.

Turn right for Odessa, left for the Airport.

A timely reminder, at this spot we were just 20 miles from Chernobyl!

Main road bridge over the Dnieper River entering Kiev.

A typical appartment block in Kiev, Ukraine.

These are a couple of posters which line all major routes here in Ukraine,

supporting Russia's celebration of 65 years since the end of World War II.

I am now at Kiev airport awaiting the 20-10 flight to Riga, Latvia then on to Tallinn where I should arrive at 00-50 tomorrow, I know there will be someone waiting for me, but more about Ille tomorrow I hope!

Once again this has been a little rush, so please overlook the mistakes, thanks to all new readers, some of whom have sent e-mails (will get around to then in due course) and hope to talk again soon