A Travelogue

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Coyote Snow

It's a wintry day. Unahppily,I'm home sick with a cold. Happily, I'm basking by a blazing fire which wards off not only the chill, but also perfumes the air with a light touch of woodsmoke. I love it.

I'm watching the snow continue to fall. Last night with the temperature just around zero huge flakes floated from the sky, clumping together at times to look like bits of Kleenex torn and drifing on the wind. Today they're tiny but relentless and little snowy peaks have capped each fence post. Across the ravine I can just make out the shape of a coyote gliding across the landscape, his mate trailing close behind.

It's a good day to be inside.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Beautiful Horses



Beautiful horses painted by Favourite Dotter for our spare bedroom.



Beautiful Favourite Dotter

Head shot


I asked Hans to take a head shot of me for Rotary and I prepared him for the fact that it wasn't going to be just snap one shot and that's it. But even I wasn't prepared for how many it took to make me look reasonable (four!) I'm not thrilled with it but evidently my mirror lies. I seem to look better there than on photos. Or are those just the rose coloured glasses I wear?

Friday, February 03, 2006

My Heroes!

I love the colourful parrot fish that were so abundant in the waters of Bonaire and I was busy watching one of them when something shiny flashed at me from the bottom. There was one of my earrings winking back at me! I couldn't reach it, but Clark and Rocco were snorkeling close to me so I waved them over for some help. They both dived for it after examining my other earring so they'd know what they were looking for. When you looked at it just right, the sun caught its reflection and it glittered merrily. Otherwise, it was just another lump on the bottom.

Clark reached it first and brought it to me, tighty clutched in his fist.

I had meant to take them off before swimming but completely forgot. Not very good, since glittery earrings could attract other fish... They do make lures out of shiny metal, don't they?

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Last Day at Sea, then Home

In the wee hours of the morning Hans fell in our cabin and badly hurt his back. See my earlier post about the hospital.

Luckily, we had a full day at sea during which he could rest and he never left the cabin. That evening I went alone to dinner and our 4 friends came back with me, Clark poised at my back with his camera ready as I opened the door.

"If you read this posting Clark, email me the photo and I'll put it up".

__________________

These are the hours of lead.

Waiting in the cabin until 8:00 a.m. when we had to vacate. Then waiting to disembark. However, the line actually moved very, very quickly. The hardest part was for Hans to have to stand while we waited for our colour to be called. As soon as we were in the warehouse we saw all the luggage stacked according to colour . I flagged a porter to give us a hand, identified our bags and then we lined up for the bus.

The only downside is that we had 4 hours to kill at the Ft. Lauderdale airport, and we couldn't check our bags until 3 hours prior to takeoff.

On our second flight a lady asked me if I would switch with her husband, who had a fear of flying phobia.

"I'm eternally grateful" he said at the endof the flight.

"You're welcome but you can do me a favour. I have a very heavy bag in the overhead which has 6 bottles of rum. And their twins are up there too." Debt repaid.

Jewellry in Grand Cayman

Walked around town after our earlier snorkel and on one street we counted 16 jewellery shops one beside the other. And that was just on one side of the street. The other side looked the same.

Despite this, there were deals to be had. Rocco bought Pat, his wife of 30+ years, a new wedding ring set with a gorgeous oval stone nearly 1.4 carats. It sparkled brilliantly at dinner that evening under the halogen lights.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Grand Cayman

There were taxis everywhere listing the various beaches and fares to get you there.

"Which one has snorkeling?" we asked, and she points to one on her sign. $5 each. "Fine, take us there."

She has a minivan full of customers and we're the first to get off.

"Here you are," she says as we exit and hand her the money. "Just swim out about 100 yards to the reef."

Oops.


It's a public beach and there is nothing here but sand and a few trees for shade. Specifically, there are no lounge chairs. We've become used to them but hey, it's no problem to spread one towel on the sand and use the other to dry off. We decide we should take turns swimming since there's no one else around that we know who can keep an eye on our things, so off I go.

I can see the darker area in the water where I'll find the reef and well, it looks a little further out than 100 yards. Oh. And because in some of the other areas where we snorkeled we found we didn't really need our fins, we didn't bring them to this beach. Too bad. This is the one place where we could really have used them.

I swim out for awhile and see nothing but sandy bottom. I take my bearings from shore so I know I'm heading in the right direction, but I can't see the darker reef from where I'm swimming. I also can't see Hans but that's because my swimming goggles, while they have some prescription in them, aren't nearly strong enough to focus that far away. I swim on a bit but I lose my nerve and decide to head back.

Hans heads out and I watch him carefully from shore. He's heading right for the reef and eventually, I see he's reached it. Since he stays there for awhile I figure there must be something worth seeing. A few other snorkellers head out his way and for awhile I see several bobbing heads in the distance. They are smarter - they have fins.

When he gets back I decide to try again, encouraged by the fact that there is actually a reef out there and that he saw some interesting fish.

I've swum much further doing laps in swimming pools, but it's different in the ocean where there's no real way to gauge your distance. Eventually I see the ocean bottom gradually change and I know I'm getting closer. It's funny, when I get there the water seems so shallow but it's not. It's way over my head but it's so clear it brings everything much closer. There was beautiful coral and colourful fish but in the end, the snorkelling was better in Bonaire.

Cute Sign in Aruba

Couldn't resist this sign in Aruba



"No parking on any street during snow emergency."

Mr. and Mrs. Jones

"Our last 2 passengers have just boarded. Lucky for them."

The Captain's voice boomed over the loudspeaker. Everyone was supposed to be on board at 4:30 with the ship due to leave at 5:00. At 4:40 the Captain's first announcement came over the intercom: "Would Mr. and Mrs. Jones of cabin Caribe 406 please call the purser's office immediately." This was repeated twice at 5 minute intervals.

We all knew Mr. and Mrs. Jones hadn't come back yet.

Finally, about 1 minute to 5:00, a pickup truck pulls up in front of the gangplank and a middle aged couple gets out. Hundreds of passengers are lined up on deck 7 and applaud loudly as a ship's officer approaches them and obviously speaks a few sharp words.

Mr. Jones doesn't even wait for his wife but stalks off in a huff onto the gangplank. What a gentleman.

Exercise on Ship

On the first day of the cruise, Hans woke up early and got to the gym shortly after 8:00 a.m. when they opened. It was already full of people and all the treadmills were taken so he worked for a bit on an elliptical machine.

Next day he got there earlier and got a treadmill.

Thereafter, he slept in in the mornings and instead walked and jogged around the deck in the afternoon or early evening before dinner.

The laps worked well for him - he started out doing 3 miles and by the end of the cruise, just before he got injured, he was doing 5 miles and mostly jogging.

I went to the gym only once and did a bit on the exercise bike and the elliptical. I didn't want to do the treadmills as they faced the windows which meant you had your butt to all the other people in the gym. Not nice.

Mainly, my exercise consisted of taking the stairs everywhere, as did Hans. The ship has elevators but, on the first cruise we ever took (13 years ago now) I decided if I wanted to indulge in the delicious food and drink on the ship I would have to use the stairs to make up for it. That's my penance and I stick to it.

It was only hard after a long day at the beach snorkeling then hauling gear up 5 flights of stairs that I could feel a searing in my lungs as though I had swallowed fire.

The Grinch

Sometimes I'm mean. Even Grinchlike.

Hans and I are sunbathing by the pools in the adult section and I can hear two very young voices coming from the hot tub. They were getting noisy and annoying so I went down, told them you have to be 16 to be here, and pointed to the sign that said so to emphasize my point.

They didn't say anything and left the hot tub. Since I was down there anyway, I decided to dip into the cool pool and joined 3 other ladies already there.

"Thank you." they said, virtually in unison.

I shrugged and said that I found them to be annoying, and the reason we come to this area of the ship is that we don't want to be around kids. Emphatic nods and agreement all around.

Then I see the boys come back down and prepare to step into the cool pool. With us!

"This pool is also for adults only," I said, pointing to a second sign. They smirked shrugged their shoulders and prepared to ignore me. Then I see dad coming down the stairs.

"Are these your boys?" I ask. He nods. "This area is reserved for people over 16," I say, sweeping my arm to encompass all 4 signs which boldy proclaim this to be true. He says nothing, reads the signs, and finally motions to his boys to follow him. Meanwhile, mom is now also downstairs and mutters about how the other pool is in full sun with no shade as she leads her family away. True, but hey. If I wanted to vacation with kids, I'd take a Disney cruise.

Bonaire

Bon Bini, as the locals say. Welcome to Bonaire!

Lo and Pat on the beach at Bonaire. I had to wear a t-shirt to snorkel since I already had a sunburn on my back from the previous day's snorkeling.

This stop was a surprise to us as the ship was schedled to go to La Guaira, Venezuela. However, the road between La Guaira and Caracas is in a very bad state and so the captain substituted Bonaire, one of the ABC islands: Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao.

To our great delight we learned that not only does Bonaire have world class snorkeling, it also has more flamingos than humans. We even saw a flock of flamingoes flying over our beach, their vivid pink colour a brilliant jewel against the sky.

Quite by chance once of the crew was with us earlier when we swam with the turtles, and she told us that we could walk to the beach at Plaza Resort. They evidently have a reef just off the beach so the snorkelig's good there. Perfect!

We met up with our 4 table-mates on the beach who kindly shared their lounges with us because there were none left when we arrived. We were still practicing Extreme Relaxation: slept late, lunched in the dining room (definitely our preferred place) and then sauntered over to the beach.

Is there anything more inviting on a hot day than a crystalline turquoise sea? I don't think so. Hans and I were in the water just as fast as we could get there and the fish were glorious. As promised, the reef was very close to shore. We could have seen our fill without even lifting our feet, but there was more to see if we ventured out a bit further.

We saw our first sea snake! It was really quite cute, a pale grey with white polka dots covering its length. It wasn't very big, maybe 2 feet long and curled up in some rocky outcroppings. And it showed no interest in us at all.

I also saw a woman stand right at the edge of the water, legs spread and pulling the bottom of her bathing suit aside to pee in the water. Yuck. I'm sure most of us have peed in the ocean but at least we're more discreet about it.

We loved Bonaire. It's clean, with colourful pastel buildings like in Curacao. Definitely a place to visit again.