Sunday 24 December 2006

A Dutch Island off the coast of Venezuela

During the big 2007 cruise we had a very brief stop in Aruba. This Island is wonderful, great beaches, great sand, great visiability in the ocean. Andrew and I spent the day snorkelling, and seeing so many different types of fish it isn't funny. Also there was a sunken submarine from one of the world wars there which had much bigger less brightly colored fish but still incredible to look at due to the numbers of them. 

 After finishing one of the best days snorkeling I have had in a very long time, I explored the island a bit. In the middle of this place is a Dutch windmill, which mixes in randomly with the South American music and peoples that are lucky enough to live here. 

 Definitely a place worth getting to if you can.

Friday 22 December 2006

Panama canal

With my family in 2007, we cruised through the Panama canal. Going through the locks was quite an amazing experience, in no time the water filled up and we moved onto the next level. After passing through the 3 locks on the Western side of Panama we sailed through into the largest man made lake where we got off for a while and explored the jungle.

A little boat tour began showing the different vegetation types of the area and we encountered some howler monkeys which were very excited by our presence =). Headed into the jungle for a 1 hour brisk walk along the old railway that was constructed for the building of the canal. It was amazing to see that parts of it were still there!! Along the way the chorus of birds entertained our ears, and marvelous plant life stunned our eyes. Of particular coolness was the leaf cutter ants. I was exceptionally excited to see these little guys and truly loved watching them at work! 

Headed back to the cruise boat after the walk ended and watched it pass through the locks. There is nothing like driving along the countryside and just randomly seeing a boat in the middle of the field (with the water hidden behind a wee hill). That night on the cruise we also tasted the local cuisine which was picked up especially for the trip. Mmmmmmmm.

Sunday 17 December 2006

An excursion through the jungle

ust a quick 4 hour hike through the jungle in Costa Rica was an amazing experience, especially when walking across the bridges between valleys that gave you an impressive view of the area from above. Sadly I didn't see a sloth during my walks but did learn about different types of trees and vines and other things I had never seen before.

At the end of the jungle walk was a Hummingbird sanctuary. Here I had the pleasure of being hit in the head by one of these birds that obviously misjudged by movements. The noise that they make is incredible! They are a spectacular creature. Also had the time to visit a butterfly house but sadly there were not many as it was between the breeding sessions, but the colors were still amazing.
Enjoyed a slice of the local cuisine before having to head back to the cruise ship. During this journey we covered many a country.

Sunday 10 December 2006

Mexico cruising

 After leaving San Diego for the start of an amazing cruise we ended up in Cabo San Lucas as our first stop in Mexico. This place is informally known as the end of the world as its the end of the tip that comes off Mexico. Here the air is dry as is the land, but the ocean is clear and wonderful. We kayaked around the end of lands end, and then parked the kayaks on lovers beach and went snorkeling. Here I saw my very first stone fish (the worlds most poisonous fish). Did a bit of boudlering as the rocks/cliffs are perfect for it before kayaking back and doing a quick shop. Then back on board.

The next stop was onto Ixtapa/Puerto Vallata. Here we did a city tour and learned a bit about the history of the place. Wasn't a big fan of the constant congestion and feeling crowded all the time. Was quite gutted that we missed the big flower festival by a day, but the churches that we saw still had a lot of the remains left out for display. The most important building in town had the remainders of the flower day. The reason it is the most important is that it is believed to be blessed above that of a normal church. As during a major earthquake in the towns history, the whole place was flattened apart from the church. Which then provided shelter for the people as they rebuilt their homes.  

For the life of me, I cannot remember what the name of the town we visited next was called but here we visited a coconut farm and a mud brick factory. The coconut plantation was very interesting. Learnt about the cultivation of coconuts and that a 1/4 of the worlds coconut needs are meet by Mexico.  Had a drunk from the local produce and enjoyed the unique taste of coconut juice for the first time in years (since leaving Indonesia). 

After finishing up at the plantation we headed to a nearby local village that had a mud brick fabrication place that was out the back of someones home. The home made kiln and just the amount of effort involved was impressive!They hand mix the clay soil with the right additives, such as straw, to keep the bricks together. They then leave them to harden and dry in the sun for 2 weeks. The final part of creating these mud bricks is to heat/set them in the specially designed kiln. They are then sold locally to build houses with. 

Next stop along the way was Hartulco, which is in Southern Mexico and fantastic. Andrew and I did some river rafting here and saw  a lot of the different vegetation. It was quite different to northern mexico which is much more barren and dry. The river was a refreshing treat and the area was not as crowded as previous places we had been to when we were in town.