Mark and I are finally aboard a flight home, and I have time to reflect on the last few days.
Saturday was still hectic as we stowed equipment, cleaned and polished, and in the end didn't finish until sunset. However I did manage to rent a car from EconoCars, and very ramshackle it was for £15/day. Bald tyres, doors about to fall off, and a limp drivers mirror. However the boot opened OK, and enabled me to load my two heavy bags in, but then refused to ever open again! We had to take the back seat off and just managed to squeeze the bags out through a hole.
So Sunday was our one day off, and we drove along the North Coast with steep cliffs and deeply indented bays to Maracas Beach, and then onwards through little communities until we came to an incongruously large road sign and junction, where we turned right to climb over the mountains towards Acarina. The road was really only single track, winding up through gorgeous dense tropical forest. However it was tarred, although some sections were badly in need of patching. We stopped under one tree which had carpeted the forest floor with vivid pink from fallen flowers.
An hour later we arrived at the Asa Wright Conservation Centre, established high in the mountains with a large area of forest under protection. The rather grand 110 year old colonial style buildings welcomed us to grand high ceilings dining and sitting rooms, and a long verandah overlooking the steeply sloping forest below. The centre is famous for its bird life, and there are 17 species of humming bird to be seen. There are humming bird feeders hanging just outside the verandah, and we spent a long time watching many different humming birds darting up within a foot or two of us to hover absolutely stationary whilst they dipped beaks into the sugar syrup. Later we joined a guided walk in the forest, being introduced to extraordinary birds such as the white bearded manikin, which perched on a slender stick above his "lek" where he tries to attract a mate by proudly displaying his nicely cleared circle of forest floor. Of course he chucks leaves and twigs into his neighbour's lek, and has to spend lots of time clearing all the stuff they chuck back. We also saw a yellow headed mannikin, a black bird with bright yellow crest, which does his display in a shaft of sunshine up in a favoured lek high In the trees. Then there's an astonishingly loud wattled bird, which produces deafening calls up in the canopy. Deeper into the forest are caves where the Oil Birds live. Apparently they only fly at night and, like bats, live in caves and use echo location to find their prey. Locals used to collect the fat chicks from the nest, to extract the oil used for lamps and cooking. They are now a protected species and we weren't allowed to see them unless we stayed for 3 nights at the Centre.
Monday dawned and we got all the laundry done. Mark rigged an awning across the cockpit, and we raised the dinghy and tied it down on deck. There was a final flurry of contractors to chase, dealing with spray hood repairs, windlass servicing, sails and Outboards. Before leaving the boat I had to get special letters produced by the boat yard and authorised by Customs and Immigration, and I was also pleased to find a Pharmacy which took charge of a big bag of out of date drugs. Then with everything at last in good order we closed up at 6pm had a couple of beers andd a light supper and off to bed for a few hours before rising at 03:00 to drive to the airport.