RSS

Monthly Archives: August 2014

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….

 
Leave a comment

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.
Curacao (13)

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.
Curacao (1)

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.
Curacao (6)

Then it was time to feed all the pretty fishies…

preparing the food

preparing the food


Curacao (9)
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….
Curacao (11)

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…..

 
Leave a comment

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

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

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.

Aruba (3)

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…

DSCN1857

DSCN1855

DSCN1861

DSCN1864

DSCN1880

DSCN1870

We also learnt about metamorphosis, where a caterpillar
DSCN1869

Becomes a stunning butterfly
DSCN1871

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
DSCN1878

And remember to look for the little things that will truly make your visit there spectacular
DSCN1872

 
Leave a comment

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

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

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.
panama port (3)

The sunrise over the port was quite stunning…
panama port (1)

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

panama ruins (5)

A settlement was founded here on the 19th August 1519, making it the first permanent European settlement on the Pacific Ocean.
panama ruins (6)

Now you can see the New City on the skyline….
panama ruins (2)

The New City

After exploring some of it’s history we headed through Panama City’s modern quarter, with it’s stunning architecture.
panama city tour (2)

Some that defies imagination…
panama city tour (1)

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.
panama city tour (6)

panama city tour (5)

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.
panama lockes (1)

After filling with water to even out the level the first lock opens to accept the cargo ship, which just barely squeezes through.
panama lockes (2)

panama lockes (3)

panama lockes (4)

The “mules” that pull the ships through
panama lockes (5)

panama lockes (6)

panama lockes (7)

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!

panama lockes (9)

reflections in Panamanian Christmas Balls

reflections in Panamanian Christmas Balls

 
Leave a comment

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

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

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

Tortola (8)

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!!!
Tortola (11)

Tortola (13)

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.
Tortola (12)

The drive back was as stunning as the drive there, with more views and even some turtles we could spot from up high.
Tortola (17)

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…

 
Leave a comment

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

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: