Swimming the Pond at Hampstead Heath

Today it’s catch up day with friends made through our swim trek in Montenegro several years ago.

Somehow swimming is a social sport- something I didn’t realise until I took it up several years ago.

We’ve now been on about six Swim Trek holidays. They involve a week of swimming with like minded people. We’re there for fun, exercise a holiday.

This group from Montenegro: 6 came from England, 1 each from France, Germany, Switzerland and Australia. And us!

We’ve kept in touch and the ones from England, France and Switzerland have all caught up and swum together. So when we said we’d be visiting London we organised a catch up.

And where better than the pond / lido ( as pools are called here in England) at Hampstead Heath. You may have been there so let me know if you have. This area has featured in a few movies including one last year starting Diane Keaton. It looked great so I was keen to visit The Heath.

We caught a bus there. I prefer a bus if the traffic is flowing as you can see where you are going. We arrived at Hampstead for coffee then walked down some charming streets towards the Heath.

It’s a beautiful area to visit. Both the village and the Heath.

There were lots of people out walking, most with dogs, as we made our way along the track leading up the mixed pond. There are three bathing areas: a mixed pond, a women’s pond and a men’s. We were meeting at the mixed pond in case Steve wanted a swim. He didn’t!

I’ve heard the women’s pond is amazing and I bought a book in a book store which is a collection of women writers writing about their swimming experience st the Ladies Pond. Anyone read it?

Well the two brave girls, Lucy and Catherine jumped in ! not a problem. Water temperature was 18! Yeeks.

When they got out they had to have a cold shower !

Brrr. We must be soft Qld swimmers.

We then went to the nearby pub – the Freemasons Arms , where we were joined by Ellie, Rosie and Lexie. And that’s where we stayed all afternoon.

Steve was the only guy there – Chris couldn’t make it today so we’re seeing him tomorrow.

What a great group.

Day 5. Last day in Turkish Paradise

The heat was fierce as we walked to the boat on our last morning. We were a little later than usual and we felt it.

Ten minutes on the boat and we were ready to jump in.

We swam a short distance and came to a cave opening. Eoin went in with the torch. Five at a time we followed. It was dark, eerie somewhat scary. But looking back out the water was blue.

The water colours here are amazing aqua, turquoise, cerulean, aquamarine, azure. When they invented paint charts they got the blue colours from the waters here.

We swam along as a group and found a tunnel. Diver Diana was the only one to swim down and through. She has the scratches to prove it.

Nearly 3 km later we swam into a gorgeous blue bay and boarded the boat for our usual tea ceremony.

Waiting for lunch gives a chance to relax and chat but some, notably B1 & B2, got back in the water for more swimming. A few butterfly strokes, a bit of backstroke a dive or two. Boundless energy.

Once again a delicious lunch. And then siesta time. After lunch activities include Noirin giving Eoin some Pilates instruction. Some muscle work. It was interesting to watch that’s for sure. Eoin is a Brad Pitt type ( in his younger days) and was putting on quite a show. Sweetie Helen, fish spotter Ali and I watched. Mmmm

The energetic took to diving – off the top of the boat, the walkway, the front of the boats. Screams of laughter and encouragement led to a competition and videoing session. All was good until ‘they broke the boat’.

The ropes holding the walkway with the shower pulled away. Mustafa, Zeynap and Effie came running and the show was over. No more silly antics!

The last swim on a trek is always rather special. We cruised along. Everyone was very pleased they had made it to the end.

The traditional swim trek awards were made. Each swimmer gets a tailor made comment on something noticed about them during the week. I got the ‘Blogtastic’ award, Steve the Jolly Swagman, Betty the American Nightingale, B1 the Clown Prince, B2 the arrow ( swims so straight!) Noirin Drama, Rachel the most improved , Pam the Mother, And so it went. Lots of laughs. Steve spoke for everyone to thank the boat crew, Mustafa, Zeynap and Effie. He did it in Turkish!

And we all sang Happy Birthday to Zeynap.

It was bittersweet saying goodbye after a week of fun swimming and making new friends.

We did the ‘fit the smallest person into a bathing cap trick!’ Poor Betty was lifted into a water filled cap. Then it broke!

The last afternoon saw us having a cocktail, visiting room 211 for a G & T and finally heading to Pebble Beach for dinner.

With our singing nightingale Betty.

Sunset at Pebble Beach Steve, George and Vanessa

What a way to finish! Magical.

Special thanks to our wonderful guides Eoin and John. They made a team from 16 swimmers from different places with different abilities.

And to our fellow swimmers – thank you.

Sunday in London

We woke to grey skies. Well hello London! Where is the blue sky of yesterday.

The man on the door assured me that there was just going to be a sprinkle.

I took his advice and left without an umbrella just a light jacket. Mmm

We walked to Hyde Park and strolled whilst others cycled and ran.

We passed the new Queens Gates.

We passed the Australian Memorial and walked toward Buckingham Palace. The crowds were out and so were the umbrellas! But not for us!

It started to rain. There were only trees to shelter under so on I went getting wet.

We headed for Guards’ Chapel for the Sunday morning service. It has beautiful singing and a band who look as good as they sound. Beautiful red uniforms!

I sat and dried out and shivered. Steve kindly gave me his jacket to warm me up.

By the time we left the sun was out so we made our way across to St James Park and wandered along in the sun looking left toward Buckingham Palace and right towards Horse Guards.

Coffee at the cafe in the park warmed us and gave plenty of opportunity to people watch. There are many tourists from all over the world all strolling peacefully through the beautiful gardens.

We then zig-zagged our way back to the hotel passing some familiar sights.

The sun was out but it was time to catch a train to the airport for our next adventure. A swim trek in Kas, Turkey.

The train was fine, the airport busy but our flight was something else.

I have never been on such a noisy flight. English families going on a beach holiday. Steve likened it to a school excursion! The noise!

Two rows in front of us were two big guys with more tattoos than teeth. They and another mate and children, the odd wife, and newly made friends stood in the aisles or knelt on their seats facing the rows behind telling jokes that only they thought were funny.

It went on and on for four hours. There was a wedding announcement which everyone applauded. There were multiple drinks and crisps purchased, a baby being passed around like a parcel and constant loud chatting! It was funny and awful all at once.

Four hours later we landed in Dalaman (to applause from the passengers!) and one of the men – Mr Yellow t-shirt –  gets up while the plane is still taxiing in and starts handing out luggage from the lockers. The hostess asked him over the loudspeaker to sit down and put his belt on so he joked around and sat in the aisle!

When we finally were allowed off, he pushed and ran to immigration and then called all 12 members of the group to jump the queue to be with him. What happened next was just and fair!

He went up to the immigration window. Next thing the officer is on the phone. The last we saw he was standing on the side waiting for someone to let him into Turkey! . Hopefully they sent him home!

We met up with Lesley, another swimmer, and Betty our friend and found our driver and made it down the coast to Kas by 2am!

A big sleep-in is called for before swimming starts!

First stop Sydney

Welcome back to my travel tales.

We’re off again!

This time London , Turkey and back to London.

But first a mini stay in Sydney as Steve has a board meeting before our flight tonight.

Last night we met up with my sister Catherine and David, nephew George and niece Helen.

Today a gorgeous ferry ride to Double Bay to visit my sister at her school, Double Bay Primary, where she works as a teacher librarian. So no lunch with her!

Then lunch with nieces Pip and Clare and little Max. We were so busy talking I forgot to take a photo.

But the ferry ride was wonderful so lots of photos. It’s a world beater ride. The views in the sunshine are breathtaking.

I haven’t been to Double Bay in years. It’s still has it’s Village feel but there are as many Beauty bars as espresso bars.

The little beach next to the ferry wharf is a beautiful place to chill.

The public Library is another place to spend time. It’s so inviting. Libraries are not dead!

I’m waiting on the ferry back to Circular Quay , meet up with Steve then out the airport. A Qatar flight to London.

So follow along for the next few weeks as we rediscover London and swim along the coastline of Turkey. Another swim trek based in Kas.

Not long till the next Swim Trek

To get you in the mood I have included this to tell you how I got into swimming!

Life is going swimmingly!

“You do realise this swim trek is a swift swim?”

That sentence leapt from the email. What have I done I asked myself?

My husband, a keen swimmer was wanting to go on a swim trek holiday. Some people choose walking holidays , some choose to cycle (activities I enjoy)  but my husband wanted to swim! “I don’t swim” I said. “You’ll love it!” replied my husband!

I did think it sounded great,  puttering around on a boat in the blue waters of Sardinia, enjoying the scenery whilst my husband swam.  Then I found out I couldn’t go on the boat unless I was a swimmer! I’d be left at the hotel on a small island all day by myself.

So I decided to take up swimming.


To start with, I couldn’t swim the length of a 50 metre pool, so I quickly switched to a 25 metre pool and took a few lessons. I’d recently retired so had time to get to the pool each day and swim. Slowly. Up and down.

I was slow. So I added fins. I persisted. I started to enjoy it.

I counted down the days till we left. I checked the website describing the swims we would be doing – 2-3km a day. Each day. Every day for 6 days!

Then we had to email our swim times over 1km. Proudly I entered 32 mins. I was quite chuffed that I could even swim a kilometre. Then that email arrived. A Swift Swim. As opposed to their usual leisurely slow swims – let’s enjoy the scenery type swim. I was the slowest by far.  Longer distances for more experienced swimmers.

I replied quickly saying I would wear fins , would improve daily, and know when to get out of the water. They agreed. I’m not sure if I was pleased or not.

We arrived on the beautiful island of La Maddalena  and I felt physically ill during the orientation chat,  when meeting our fellow swimmers  and telling “our swim story”. I was the least experienced swimmer, and despite my husband’s constant encouragement started to wonder about my stupidity at joining the swim.

On the first day I hyperventilated during the orientation 300 metre swim. It was only our beautiful, caring, encouraging guide, Italian Francesco, my fellow swimmers and my husband who kept encouraging me that I did some of the afternoon swim.



Then slowly and surely I got in to swim a little after the other swimmers had started. About 3 km after! Then on day two I swam about 2 1/2 km. The next day I jumped in earlier and sure enough covered about 3 1/2 km. And each day it increased and as it did so did my confidence and my enjoyment. The swims were challenging, safe, but most of all fun. The waters were clear and beautiful and I would hate to have missed out.

At the end of the week’s fantastic farewell dinner I was presented with Francesco’s ‘Capo Bianco’ for the most improved swimmer. What an honour! The friends we made on that first trek have remained friends and we have swum together several times, included a crossing of the Strait of Gibraltar – from Spain to Morocco. No I didn’t do that!

Who would have guessed that 3 years later with 2 more swim treks to Sardinia and gorgeous Greece I would become a very keen swimmer. I’ve joined a local squad and though still not very fast and still sometimes using fins, I actually love swimming.

July 2nd we start our week-long swim trek in Montenegro. I’ll keep you posted on my swim journey. I’ll be sending in a post to this blog. Read along as I swim!


Who said you were too old to take up a new sport?




Never too late to start a new career

Am I too old?

Am I able to learn something new?

Sure I can……..

Over the past two days I’ve had the opportunity to write two applications.

Both involve blogging and I’m excited.

The first one is with Swim Trek. As you know Steve and I do swimming holidays and I usually blog about it.

Swim trek recently advertised for a guest blogger to submit daily blog posts about the trek.

I shot off an application and have just heard they have accepted me.

How exciting. They will publish my posts from our July swim trek in Montenegro, on their website  – so lots more readers.

The second application is for Luxury Escape Travel. They are looking to give a  Senior Internship ( a little like the movie The Intern).They train you up for a few days then send you off to Luxury resorts to both blog and vblog about the experiences.

Pick me I say.

Not feeling as confident about this one. There are so many talented people out there. But I’ll give it a go.

Fingers xxxxx It would be great fun and give me great experience.

I’ll let you know how I go.

Wish me luck – in the comments box.






Last night on the swim trek

Our last day (and night) of Swimtrek

A big swim (3km) including some great caves

… to here …
Sarah, Jill and Fran in fetching pink caps
… via here …
…. Pause here …

A smaller swim (2km) to finish off

Sarah’s 30th birthday map
… the last leg

“Presentation Ceremony” and final dinner

Our guides, Ricky and Emma – well done!
Steve graduates
Fran graduates
The Crew



Great night last night on this gorgeous little island Koufonissi.. The little restuarant in a laneway back from the small port was really very good. The lamb! The salads! All delicious.
It was all drama though, with Tracey (another pink group member) really not well and had to see a doctor in town. Ricky, our lovely guide, took her and had to make a decision about what to do. She has some health problems and really needs to see a specialist. Poor lady has been trying to cope (and swimming quite well) but it really has to be dealt with. We the pink group members will miss her. Her friend Maryanne has stayed as travel  insurance wouldn’t cover her leaving.

After dinner some of the group headed home – sensible people – and others went to a nearby bar for one last drink. It belonged to a man we met on the beach this afternoon – nude – who was introduced to us as Arki’s brother! Turns out he is not Arkie’s brother but another very smooth talking Greek man. You know the type – beachy leathery, longish hair in a ponytail, think they are God’s gift to women. Lots of fun!

The next  morning we were slow to start. Tracey had left on the ferry at 6am and there was much discussion on where the swim would be. I decided it was too windy for me, and Jill agreed, so here we are doing our blog while the others are off sailing and swimming. Might regret it, but a day off from those distances is a treat …

We are having the afternoon off as a group. So a nice lunch coming up and an afternoon siesta.

Steve and the swimmers had a very rough, windy passage under sail back across to the Eastern coast of Naxos to find a sheltered swim. It worked well – about 3 km in the warmest and bluest of waters doing a coastal passage which was just great. More high speed, spray and  sailing back to port for the siesta!

Alas, no photos!

Swimming from Island to island


Weather came up during the night which meant a change of plan. 
We packed the bus with bags and headed for the other side of the island. 
Most had to walk and myself, Dave from NZ and James went in the bus with Ricky to help with the luggage. Well I’m sure the men wouldn’t have volunteered if they had seen how far they had to carry everyone’s bags. That wasn’t in the brochure! 



 We loaded Ari’s boat carefully – he is very strict on this boat –  then we motored over to another island, stopped along the coast and swam from there, finishing with a small crossing. We  swam up to the most beautiful sandy  beach had morning tea and walked to our hotel.  Lovely morning swim.


Settled into our new hotel was easy . It’s really lovely, in a good position by the water, has a pool, coloured chairs and decorating ideas straight from a Greek magazine! 



A lovely lunch by the pool , followed by a bus ride across the island to a long beach with gorgeous turquoise water. Quite a number of people at the beach had unfortunately forgotten their togs – very European! We had found the nude beach. It was funny as we were putting on all our swimming gear. Wet shirt, wet suits, fins, goggles etc.
The water looked better than it was to  swim! We swam and swam to get around the majestic headlands and found the best caves to swim into. It was more challenging than it looked. But Ricky and Emma were there encouraging us all the way and we made it. Such a great feeling.



Back to the beach for a coffee before the bus arrived to drive us back.


Looking forward to dinner tonight.
We walked into the charming village and found the restaurant Ricky had arranged for us.
Great night, great food and a great nights sleep.






The 3 islands swim

Biggest swim today -for me!

We motored off on Marco’s boat and arrived at the first island, admired the “pink” beach then moved a little down the coast and off we went.

The first swim was 5 km and I started a little behind the first group, swam the channel, had a little break then finished with the group at the most gorgeous  bay – Santa Maria. I must have swum about 3.5 km . I can hardly believe it. A week ago the furthest I had ever swum was 1km.

We stopped for lunch and rest time and swam a little in the crystal waters then set off at 2.30 for the next 2km along the coast to the lighthouse. I did more than half – so all up around 4. 5km! 
There I go

Lunch was a gorgeous pasta dish with salad. Francesco with his bandana prepares a pretty good lunch.

Francesco making lunch

The ride back was just a little rough as the wind has come up a little. 

Now in the hotel having a coffee followed by a Aperol Spritz. Dinner out with the group tonight. They are such a fun group. All starting to bond.

Tony, Kerrie, Chicca, Steve, Isabelle, Liz and Peter