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ALS ICE BUCKET CHALLENGE

Yup, you guessed it, I was nominated by a good friend from the UK who I met in Wellington, New Zealand, during the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

I nominated 4 friends and also made a donation not only to the ALS Foundation but also to the MS Society, as MS affects a family member. Hope all of you are getting in on the act, just remember to donate to a worthy cause.

So here goes, with the assistance of my dad who decided a slow pour would be infinitely more tortureous than a gush….

 
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Posted by on August 31, 2014 in Travel

 

Taking a Semi-Submarine in Curacao

Under ‘da Sea

Visiting Aruba was fantastic but the very next day we went to another of the Dutch Antille Islands, Curacao. This time I got the opportunity to do the Semi-Submarine excursion, my first time experiencing one of these.

Driving through the island we finally stopped at this beautiful resort and walked over to the boat.
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Stairs led down to a fairly cramped “submarine” area with windows along the side. Being the escort also meant I was an extra person and there was no space for me on the seats, so I squeezed into the stairwell and leaned forward to get a view.
Curacao

Even being a scuba diver I was amazed at the great views and the fish. There was so much to see, of course it also made me wish I could toss on some gear and jump in.

Coral formations

Coral formations

We were saddened by a net that was draped over some of hte coral, turns out some of the locals sneak in and fish at night, but often lose their nets. Turtles have been seen tangled in them in the past. The guests suggested a petition be started and have visitors sign it and write to the government to prevent or at least limit this beahviour. I felt rather proud of them for wanting to take a stand.
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Feeding Time

Heading upstairs to get some air I saw one of our deckhands gearing up to feed the fish, unfortunately they didn’t have an extra tank but did invite me to come diving if we were ever back in the area.
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Then it was time to feed all the pretty fishies…

preparing the food

preparing the food


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Curacao (10)

After a great morning of staring at fishes we headed off to explore more of the island, in particular it’s contribution to Alcohol, free tasting included….
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Mmmmm Curaçao Liqueur

My favorite was the chocolate and coffee flavor

My favorite was the chocolate and coffee flavor

Curaçao is a liqueur flavored with the dried peel of the laraha citrus fruit, grown on the island of Curaçao. A non-native plant similar to an orange, the laraha developed from the sweet Valencia orange transplanted by Spanish explorers. The nutrient-poor soil and arid climate of Curaçao proved unsuitable to Valencia cultivation, resulting in small, bitter fruit of the trees. Although the bitter flesh of the Laraha is all but inedible, the peels are aromatic and flavorful, maintaining much of the essence of the Valencia orange.

Curaçao liqueur was first developed and marketed by the Senior family in the 19th century. To create the liqueur the laraha peel is dried, bringing out the sweetly fragranced oils. After soaking in a still with alcohol and water for several days, the peel is removed and other spices are added.

The liqueur has an orange-like flavor with varying degrees of bitterness. It is naturally colorless, but is often given artificial coloring, most commonly blue or orange, which confers an exotic appearance to cocktails and other mixed drinks.

Some other liqueurs are also sold as Curaçaos with different flavors added, such as coffee, chocolate, and rum and raisin.
(Courtesy of Wikipedia)

Time to Stroll through Willemstad

Luckily I even had time for a stroll through the port of Willemstad. I really liked this port, more so than Aruba. The multi-colored buildings and small streets felt like I was wondering the lanes of a Delft or Amsterdam.

On the bridge to Willemstad

On the bridge to Willemstad

I think I would enjoy visiting Curacao again, perhaps even a little more than Aruba…..

 
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Posted by on August 15, 2014 in Cruise, Cruise Ship, Travel

 

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Aruba…ooohhh I wanna take ya

Theme Song While You Read

Every time I hear “Aruba” I break out into this song, I can’t help it, it’s automatic. It never crossed my mind that one day I might have the chance to do a tour of this stunning Island.

We docked at Oranjestad (Orange State) and I was excited to hear Dutch, giving me a chance to practice my Afrikaans (South African dialect of Dutch).

Wild Coasts

We drove round most of the island from the calmer more populated side to the wild northern coasts.

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Even a land bridge, although erosion makes it unsafe to get much closer than this

And yes I am wearing antlers, it was Christmas week afterall

And yes I am wearing antlers, it was Christmas week afterall

Butterflies

To truly explore a place you must know where to look for the smaller things in life, so a stop at the Butterfly Garden was a must. Focusing mostly on native butterflies they also had a few exotics that were brightly colored. I spent a lot of my time chasing a particularly stunning blue one, but am pretty certain the only pic any of got was the postcard from the gift shop. I did however, catch a few others on film…

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We also learnt about metamorphosis, where a caterpillar
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Becomes a stunning butterfly
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All in all it was a great tour, the island was a lot flatter than I expected but wild and beautiful all the same…

So when you visit Aruba
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And remember to look for the little things that will truly make your visit there spectacular
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Posted by on August 15, 2014 in Cruise, Cruise Ship, Travel

 

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Perusing Panama

Panama City

During our crossing last year in November from Europe we stopped off in Panama. It was a gloriously cloudy muggy day with humidity bordering on 99% and the temperature hovering around 40C/104F, give or take a degree or two.
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The sunrise over the port was quite stunning…
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I had drawn the Panama City Tour exursion, around 6hrs of exploring and a chance to see some of the locks of the canal for which Panama is so famous for.

Panama City is a place of divergence, from the Old City to the New City to the Ruined City of Panama Viejo….vast differences from a central point.

Panama Viejo

Our first stop was the old capital of the country and part of the Old City, located in the suburbs of the Modern New City, it is a World Heritage Site.
panama ruins

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A settlement was founded here on the 19th August 1519, making it the first permanent European settlement on the Pacific Ocean.
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Now you can see the New City on the skyline….
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The New City

After exploring some of it’s history we headed through Panama City’s modern quarter, with it’s stunning architecture.
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Some that defies imagination…
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Old City

Making our way to the Old City we walked the streets and enjoyed a market, listened to a bugler under and umbrella and marvelled at the old colonial architecture.
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Gatun Locks

The driver almost forgot to take us to the canal and the locks, truly the highlight that everyone had been waiting for. Most of us were feeling hte heat and humidity and more than a few of the guests were getting grumpy and agitated, so I was much relieved when we changed direction and headed for the locks.

It was a sight to behold, truly a marvel of modern engineering, even being 100yrs old. I only wished my dad (an electrical engineer) could be there with me. We were also lucky enough to have a Korean Cargo ship proceeding through the locks right as we arrived.
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After filling with water to even out the level the first lock opens to accept the cargo ship, which just barely squeezes through.
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The “mules” that pull the ships through
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I wonder how many times they scratch the paint work….

Farewell Panama

All in all a fantastic opportunity to explore part of a country that always seemed slightly mysterious to me, I always imagined the canal with small cities along the edge… but discovered a complex place with stunning buildings and a rich history… just wish I had bought a hat!

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reflections in Panamanian Christmas Balls

reflections in Panamanian Christmas Balls

 
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Posted by on August 14, 2014 in Cruise, Cruise Ship, Travel

 

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Touring Tortola

BVI

We had explored numerous islands in the US Virgin Islands but finally we were stopping at the stunning British Virgin Islands, BVI.

Our port of call was in Road Town, Tortola, the largest and most populated of the islands. Legend has it that when Christopher Columbus originally named it Tortola, meaning “Island of the Turtle Doves”. (according to Wikipedia).

Either way the island was stunning. Blue waters, rich history and rolling hills.

View of cruise port

View of cruise port

House with a View

A lot of the places we saw were stunning houses with breathtaking views. I hate to imagine what one of these would cost but we all estimated a million or more.

Island Views

Island Views

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Virgin Beach

Finally we got to the place the tour was waiting for, the virgin beach. We were the first ones there, absolutely no one else, we walked to the water line and for a moment everyone just stared, perhaps sighed a little, a stunning caribbean beach with NO ONE else!!! Woohoo!!!
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Now, usually, when I go on tours that have beach time I just sit and wait for the tour to be over. The beaches are super crowded, people are fighting for sun beds…. it’s just safer to be out of the way.
But here, it was so glorious and I had brought my snorkel equipment. So wading in I found myself faced by thousands of tiny silvery fish in a huge bait ball, sea anemones, coral and as I turned around….a rather large barracuda that looked hungrily at the bait ball. I decided to explore a little bit closer to the beach. In scuba gear I have no fear of staring down a barracuda, but with basic snorkel gear….

Time to Go

All too soon our beach time came to an end, rallying the troops normally involves walking around looking for folks trying to get them to the bus…. This time I stood waist deep in the water and encouraged them from there, it was very hard to leave.
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The drive back was as stunning as the drive there, with more views and even some turtles we could spot from up high.
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There is Always One…

It was a perfect day, with perfect weather and great guests. Back at the ship you would expect everyone to rave about it, and recommend it left, right and center… but there is always one!

A couple came and complained that there were no palm trees, and in their opinion a virgin beach should have palm trees.. they wanted a refund. I have no idea how the tour manager kept a straight face…

 
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Posted by on August 6, 2014 in Cruise, Cruise Ship

 

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Lunch at Good Hope Estate

History

Good Hope Estate, located about an hours scenic drive from Falmouth port in Jamaica, is steeped in the rich colonial history found through out Jamaica.

“Good Hope began in 1774 as a sugar estate and grew into a village to support the workers after emancipation. In the 18th century, the Good Hope Estate belonged to John Tharpe, then the largest land and slave owner in Jamaica. Aside from Good Hope, Windsor Estate, the extensive Long Pond Estate and a number of other smaller sugar plantations in Trelawny belonged to Tharpe, who had as many as 3,000 slaves to run the plantations. The small village has some of the best examples of Georgian architecture in the island, and the churchyard has many old and interesting tombstones. At dawn, the Cockpit Country comes alive, and the energetic songs of wild birds float gently on the morning mists.

Although John Tharpe had a choice of four sons from which to name an heir, all four displeased him, and upon his death in 1804, he named his grandson sole executor of his massive holdings. His grandson, however, was rather feeble minded, but then, as is the case now, a feeble minded man with an immense fortune was just as desirable as a smart man with an immense fortune! Several of the colony’s most eligible young ladies vied for his attention, and eventually a marriage to a woman of titled lineage was arranged. Unfortunately, it is said that poor young Tharpe was overwhelmed by the situation, and on his wedding night he became hysterical and practically lost his mind. He was never the same, and although he lived to nearly ninety years old, he never had much to do with the operation of the estates. His sad state plunged the family into a hotly contested battle over his grandfather’s “dead-lef”, and over the years the various properties fell into disrepair and decline.”
(Courtesy of Visit Jamaica)

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Lunch Glorious Lunch

Now I know I must say this about a lot of my excursions, but honestly this one was so peaceful and relaxing, I loved it. The best part was… it came with food, all sorts of local Jamaican delicacies. From Jerk Chicken, to curry, to plantain, to ginger cake…. amazing

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Birds and Flowers

If the food and the charm of the local folks weren’t unique enough the birdlife and garden at Good Hope Estate was a nature lovers Paradise.

I am going to make this a short entry and leave you with all these amazing memories:

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Swallow Tail Hummingbird

Swallow Tail Hummingbird


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Beautiful art work

Beautiful art work


Look carefully for the little lizard on the knee of the goat statue

Look carefully for the little lizard on the knee of the goat statue


There it is

There it is


One final orchid

One final orchid

 
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Posted by on July 26, 2014 in Cruise, Cruise Ship, Travel

 

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No Problem Mon’… Chillaxing on Red Stripe Beach

Where to Go, What to Do?

When we first pulled into Falmouth Port in Jamaica the everyone was soooo excited. It was JAMAICA after all, an island we had heard of since childhood, the birth place of Bob Marley and Reggae, Rasta and so much more…So where do we go on our first time here… Why the BEACH of course!!!!

But how to get there? Falmouth port is not in the easiest location, an hour away from all the usual hangouts to the north like Montego Bay and Ocho Rios…. We were certain there must be a beach somewhere with reach of crew with only a couple hours free. At the information booth they encouraged us to go to Red Stripe Beach (Red Stripe is a local and very good Jamaican beer). There was a shuttle, for only $10 crew price (half the guest price), leaving in a few minutes. So a group of us grabbed tickets and headed that way.

It’s All Irie Mon’

Piled in the van, with all of us drinking beers (yup open containers are allowed in Jamaica), heading about 10min down the road we turned into what appeared to be a fenced off swamp. The gate was locked and barred and I had a flashback to South Africa… but the driver hopped out unlocked everything and off we went. The swamp area filled with mangroves and brackish water (salt and fresh mixed) had the look of a bad bayou movie… thank heavens it was the middle of the day.
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Turning the corner we knew we had arrived…

Got to love Jamaica

Got to love Jamaica

They had a bar, and a place to have to buy some famous jerk chicken right off the grill… Delish!!!
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The beach turned out to be a little piece of heaven. There were only about 5 other people there so it was pretty much a beach to ourselves.
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They also had a DJ,
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so it was party time as you got us up and dancing, much to the amusement of all involved.
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All to soon it was time to go back to the real world, so we waved goodbye to our new friends and hopped on the shuttle… Farewell till next time!
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Posted by on July 5, 2014 in Cruise, Cruise Ship, Travel

 

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