Aeeshah’s Passage to Bermuda

 

PHOTO LINK —->>>   https://goo.gl/photos/kB4Luroc3zWj5gycA 

Boot Key, Marathon to …..

The time arrived for us to start to head to Bermuda,

so on the morning of May 5th we left Boot Key. We had heard over the radio the warning of some approaching showers, possible squalls, but John was confident all was fine. Once outside Boot Key Harbour we could see large black clouds approaching, then we could hear the distant sound of thunder.

We were heading downwind with the main and jib out, but as the wind increased we brought in the jib, just in case…About an hour into our trip the black clouds had caught us and were right on top when WHAM! The wind just blew hard out of the opposing direction sending the main slamming kablam into a jibe, thank goodness for the preventer! This was short lasted as the wind came around again to behind us and just blew hard from downwind. There wasn’t much rain but the wind reached 42 knots and there was still distant thunder rumbeling, we really only just had a glancing blow from this “front” that passed over.

The winds decreased and we motor sailed to the Key Largo area, 49 miles in 8 hours. We anchored on the north side of the key in gusty conditions. During that night we were awakened twice by the anchor alarm, once was a false alarm with just a wind shift. The second time was the real alarm, our anchor was dragging and we were heading towards the shallows. So we attempted to re-anchor and finally found a spot on the south side of the key where it was more sheltered.

The next day the 6th May we really did every imaginable job on the boat in order to make her ready for the up-co0ming crossing to Bermuda. I basically stripped any loose items and packed them snugly into the bow cabin. The wind changed again so we moved once again into the inside – north side of the key, finally finding another spot to anchor.

May 7th the wind was still blowing with too much north, so we delayed leaving, until noon. Then we set off for Bermuda.

It was a really lovely day, the waters were beautiful, the breeze was perfect, we saw dolphins jumping around the boat, the colours were just wonderful blues, turquoise and greens.

Off towards the North Bahamas coast we sailed due to the direction of the winds. However as the afternoon progressed so did the wind increase and as we were by this time in the Gulf Stream, the wave size mounted higher and higher as the wind was against the current of the Gulf Stream. It became quite rough so we altered our course to head more towards Bimini and out of the main flow of the Gulf Stream.

Sometime around 11:30pm when I was “sleeping” in the aft cabin, I was awakened by John who was exiting the engine room with a cup, which he said was oil, but not to worry as he had everything under control. About 20 minutes later there he was again, this time with a full pint cup of oil, but again John reassured me all was fine. However just a short while after that he was again in the engine compartment the entrance that opens into the shower and he said I’d better go up top to help out as we had a big problem.

Well it turned out that an oil pipe had broken/cracked and we had an oil leak. As the wind had died we had been motor sailing, but now we turned off the engine while John attempted to fix the leak. Another problem was we were just off Fort Lauderdale, the second busiest cruise ship port in the world, and yes, there were cruise ships all around us. We had to contact several cruise ships to warn them of our position.

John was in the engine room with the stinking hot engine trying to fix a leak while I was in the cockpit keeping watch and starting the engine when instructed, with a large swell rolling the boat all over, and cruise ships stalking us.

Wellll, the pipe then broke right off and the engine sprayed oil all over the engine room and into the shower area….what a mess!! So now John had to try to rig a fix of this pipe. He tried plugging it with various homemade plugs, but they all blew out again spaying oil everywhere each time. Nothing was working, and then John saw we did not have any oil pressure! No oil pressure means no working engine. It was nearly 4 in the morning by then, so with nothing we could do we gave up and drifted along in the Gulf Stream.

By morning we had contacted home using our sat phone, to tell one and all we thought the trip was cancelled. We contacted some friends in Florida to ask about the best place to make for to get engine repairers or as John thought a new engine. We were very sad, so depressed. We rested and drifted in the Gulf Stream trying to head for the Florida coast.

Around lunchtime, after some sleep,  John decided to have one last go. As the engine was cold he took off the whole piece which the pipe was on, plugged the hole with some epoxy we had, let it dry, filled the engine with a whole lot of oil we had on board and crossed our fingers it would work. Turning on the engine there was a slight flutter in the oil gauge, which told us we did actually have oil pressure, which was excellent news. John fed the engine as much oil as needed, started her up and voila we had oil pressure, the plug held and we were back on course. All we didn’t have was an engine alarm as it had been dismantled, so we had to constantly watch the oil pressure if the engine was running, while on watch. It was such a relief to be back underway!

By this time it was May 8th, late afternoon, we had lost about 18 hours, but never mind, we were on the way again.

The following days and nights had winds of 10 – 15 knots or less, the seas were rolling swells, the skies were beautiful blue with white fluffy clouds, just lovely weather. At times the sea was so calm it was glassy and the sky and ocean blended together with no horizon being seen. We were just averaging about 5 knots, which meant we would take longer to get to Bermuda, but as it was so comfortable, we didn’t care.

There then followed a couple of days with semi overcast conditions, it was misty at night, the wind did increase and with it the seas and it became quite rough making moving below deck or trying to stay in bed quite challenging, however, we didn’t really mind as we were over halfway home.

While out we had a wonderful full moon, saw dolphins, had Longtails – Bermuda tropic Birds flying around Aeeshah, saw Portuguese Men Of War and lots of seaweed, life was very peaceful each day just blending through the night into the next day. At night we found there were a surprising number of ships, several we had to contact, one of which we couldn’t see his lights but knew from the radar was close.

Bermuda…..

On the morning of May 16th, 9 days after we started I saw Bermuda in the distance. It was just a wonderful feeling to actually be heading home. Both John and I were overjoyed and very proud of our achievement.

We sailed along the Southshore, our daughter Kate saw us from just below Gibbs Hill Lighthouse. We had been in contact with Bermuda Radio and welcomed home.

As we approached the Eastern end we could see other sailboats approaching too, we had not seen even 1 when we were crossing, now we could see over 8 others arriving too on slightly different courses. Through the Towne Cut we went and over to HMS Customs at Ordinance Island to check in.

After 9 days, 2 hours, we had arrived…. From Key Largo, Florida we had travelled 955.2 miles at an average speed of 4.3 knots, very slow, but we arrived!

That evening we just rested, enjoying being at anchor where the boat was steady and not rolling, we crashed out and slept for nearly 12 hours.

Gavin our son, visited the next morning bringing us some odds and ends we needed. We wandered around St Georges enjoying walking on land. We got our data set up and started the huge tidy up. Everything that had been packed away needed to be unpacked, the boat needed cleaning inside out and we had a huge amount of laundry.

Our daughter Kate with baby May and partner Jae visited that evening having dinner with us. It was lovely to see May who was now over a year old, walking and starting to talk. We had a very nice, simple barbeque dinner.

The following day was again another of cleaning, sorting and unpacking. Our daughter Chrissie visited us for lunch and a few hours aboard, she is now 5 month pregnant. Again we enjoyed walking around St. Georges. It is such a scenic, historic, town.

Then it was time to move to Hamilton, so off we set along the Northshore to find an anchorage in the vicinity of Hamilton.

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end” – Ursula K. Le Guin

Like all explorers, we are drawn to discover what’s waiting out there without knowing yet if we have the courage to face it. – Pema Chodron

 

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The last of Isla Mujeres, the passage north and Key West followed by Marathon

 

PHOTOS link–>>     https://goo.gl/photos/9qm7JVAo3ukqLc4u6 

The last of Isla Mujeres, the passage north and Key West followed by Marathon

We had waited and waited for fair winds to sail to Cuba, but time passed and we decided to make a change of plans. The new plans had us going to the USA east coast to get ready for our sail to Bermuda. Our Cuba visit was delayed until later in the year after the hurricane season and then we can spend a good 2 months in Cuba. Our buddy boat Mikiai was still set on sailing to Cuba, as they were not pressed for time.

Meanwhile, while we waited for the weather we continued to go for walks ashore and enjoying the Isla. We dingied along the shoreline and found that towards the southern end there was an amazing zip line set up. We both would have loved to ride the zip line along the cliffs, across the bay and back to shore – maybe next time. Chico had his final vet check for his medical travel cert; we had many social evenings and prepped the boat for our passage.

Finally the weather cooperated and we knew we would be underway. Setting off on March 29th we had several hundred miles and nights at sea. From the beginning the passage was not the one hoped for, on the way out when I faced the wind for John to hoist the main sail, the mainsheet slide all the way out of the blocks. This was while the seas were starting to roughen up, for me it was an anxiety spike that left me unsettled. The seas on leaving northern Isla were nasty. As there was a fairly strong wind blowing – up to 25knots, the seas were up and due to the shallows surrounding Isla Mujeres it was out right rough! We were going right into the large seas which started rolling over the bow. John did wonder if we should head back, but I felt we would then have to go through it all over again so we continued…..

 

The 1st day was really unpleasant, constantly rough with higher winds than expected, gusts up to 30knots, the seas had the regular swell, but a heavy chop on top. Neither of us ate anything except saltine crackers, by later afternoon I was seasick and really feeling like hell. I wasn’t any good as crew. John was then faced with the whole night watch, which loomed ahead. I had to go below and passed out between being thrown about. Thank goodness that near midnight the seas and wind calmed to moderate and the passage improved.

Day 2 John slept on and off most of the day, while I was on watch, but the wind and seas were up and down all day. Plus we had an unexpected current pushing us into the Gulf of Mexico. This meant we had to sail quite close to the wind and with the swell and seas broadside it was again rough and uncomfortable. However my seasickness had gone and I could even read! So keeping watch wasn’t quite as boring and tedious.

The second night was dreadfully challenging. After John took over that night the Gulf Stream current was opposing the wind, which made for dreadfully rough conditions. We had waves crashing over the boat; it was dangerous to try to maneuver through the boat. One wave crashed down on the aft starboard side, ran down into the lazarette, through it and swamped the aft head. It was a dreadful night passage. As the sun rose we decided to cut up between the Dry Tortugas towards the inside passage towards the keys. Reason being it was easier and calmer. Finally once on the inside of the Cays the seas settled and we sailed nicely.

By the time we were off of the Marquises Cays we had decided to stop there and rest for the night. We couldn’t make it rest of the way to Key West by nightfall anyway. So there we stopped and crashed out for the night. Even Chico was mightily relieved. He climbed up onto the arch on the solar panels and looked out.

Continuing the next day to Key West we arrived by lunchtime, stopped at the mooring field, took the dingy in to the town, caught a taxi to the airport and checked in to the USA.

Key West

Key West is just as it was 6 years ago, maybe a bit busier, it is a fun town. We went the mooring field at Garrison Bite where we tied up to a buoy.

Being in the mooring field gives us access to the secure dinghy dock in Garrison Bite, plus the laundry facility and showers. If we had used the anchorage we would not have had these facilities and still would have had to pay to use the public dingy dock. From the Garrison Bite dingy dock it is only a 10 minutes walk to West Marine and then along the boardwalk into the front of Key West.

We also have access to the grocery stores by securing our dingy under a highway 1 bridge and climbing up the bank there before us are 2 shopping plazas! All the stores we need for supplies, foods, and services.

 

We have purchased our sat phone – an Iridium – It arrived a few days ago and we are very pleased with it. It does, texting, emails, SOS, calls, and even facebook.

Next to arrive to was our water maker – a Rainman. We now can make water at a rate of 18 gallons an hour.

Everyday we go for walks checking out the sites/sights along the roads. Key West has many interesting storefronts, bars/saloons, quiet homes and makes for great people watching. There is a large interesting cemetery too, which we wandered around.

Another fun activity is to take the dingy along the many mangrove canals. There you can weaver along behind homes, under bridges and roads while enjoying the scenery.

Due to the weather we were in Key West for longer than we had planned. The wind just kept blowing from the east exactly where we needed to head. Finally, we had a break and we headed off to Marathon.

In Key West John and I celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary! We took the day off, went for a nice long walk and had food at the raw bar that we both enjoyed before.

Marathon

It was excellent weather to have a slow sail to Marathon. We saw dolphins along the way, it was so smooth, a real but rare treat. Again we are quite familiar with Marathon having spent time there before we set off over 5 years ago. There were plenty of mooring balls in Boot Key City Marina, so once again we are attached to a mooring.

Boot Key Harbour Marina is excellent! It has all the necessary facilities plus bikes you can borrow for free. Each day we borrow a bike and ride to the various shops to get what we need. I do love riding a bike. We have stocked up on everything we need, Chico was vetted, we made the boat ready for the possible 10 day passage and are just set to leave!

We met up with our neighbours in the mooring field, Joe and Ginny. They saw we were from Bermuda and came over to chat as they had sailed there back in the 80s. They have been cruising for 35 years! What was just astonishing was that after chatting Ginny told us their ages, she is in late 80s and Joe is an astonishing 92! They only look to be in their 70s! We had several pleasant evenings out with them enjoying the local seafood. 

Finally we were leaving on our passage back to Bermuda!

There is no chance, no destiny, no fate,

Can circumvent or hinder or control

The firm resolve of a determined soul.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox

 

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A road trip in Mexico

 

Road trip in Mexico

 

PHOTO LINK–>>  https://goo.gl/photos/rEA8fjiVT2P2HQpr8   

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John and I planned to do a short road trip to see just a little part of mainland Mexico. We set off on the ferry to Puerto Juarez, then a taxi to where we had arranged to hire a car at “American car hire”, In Cancun.

Once on the road we followed the M180 towards our 1st destination Izamal, 200 or so kilometers away. The “motorway” was quite unexpected being very well maintained, straight and empty of much traffic. We guessed the reason being most of the Mexicans couldn’t afford a car. We stopped for lunch at a service area and had tacos for lunch. Then off again to:IMG_3679


Izamal, (Mayan for “Dew of Heaven”).

IMG_3691Izamal is simply lovely! It is known as the “Yellow City” as all the buildings within it are painted yellow or gold, this indicates religious symbolism. (However nobody seems to remember when this 1st started or why).

 

 

 

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Driving in you are struck by the beautiful architecture of the quaint town. We had not reserved any place to stay and so chose to ask at a lovely hotel right on the town square, San Miguel Arcangel. There we got a room for an amazing $35, plus it was with everything we could wish for, AC, wifi, etc.


Convento de San Antonio de Padua

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Was the first site we visited. This is an amazing enormous golden yellow structure that is found off the town square commanding the view over the town. This convento sits atop the Maya Temple Ppal-Hol-Chac, (House of Heads and Lightning), which was taken down to its base in 1533 by the Spanish Franciscan order. The original stones from the Maya temple were used to build the first monastery in the New World, completed in 1561.

We climbed the stone steps of the IMG_3769convent that lead to an massive arcade with 75 arches. There a covered court way encloses the grand courtyard, the Atrium, which is 8,000 square meters, the largest in Mexico and second only in size to the Vatican. It is quite awe inspiring to see.

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We walked the long arcade and then ventured inside the church looking at the different statues, the altar and the frescoes, which are reputed to be some of the most beautiful and well preserved.


IMG_3742Victoria cab carriages

We could see from the top of the arcade the Victoria cab carriages, which lined the square next to the convent. They apparently were named after Queen Victoria. They are all gaily decorated and had horses wearing matching hats.


IMG_3824Kinich Kakmo, (Fire Macaw with face of the Sun)

We next went looking for the pyramids that surrounded the town plaza. From the arcade of the convent we could see 2 of the remaining 3. We eventually found the sides/base of Kinich Kakmo, not seeing any other way up we scaled the side.

 

 

IMG_3831It was quite a steep climb up the first layer of the sides of this pyramid, from there we could walk around the sides to the front of Kinich Kakmo where there were further steps to the very top. This pyramid stands at 115-feet and from the top we could see right across Izamal to the countryside beyond. We decended via the proper access rather than down the side we scaled.

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That evening we had a lovely meal and the next morning we again wandered the streets of Izamal. We explored the market and tiny shops all of which are named individually above their entrances. Then we were off to …….


Chichen Itza.

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IMG_4016This ancient Mayan site dating back to 879 AD covers 15 square kilometers and I can honestly say we explored the entire restored site, 4 square miles. Chichen Itza was a great center for the teaching of philosophy, science and art. Each building had a function related to those subjects. The city had two sections the first is the religious part and the second was the science section.

 

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We started at the Ball Game court; the court is large with high walls along the sides and at each end the North Temple/Temple of the Bearded man and the South Temple. Next there is the Temple of the Jaguars, the Temple of the Eagles and the Temple of Venus.

 

IMG_4001Pyramid of Kukulcan

This pyramid stands at 24 meters – over 75ft right in the middle of the site. It has nine platforms each smaller than the one below. There is a staircase of 91 steps on each of its four sides that represent the cardinal points. The dimensions of the pyramid represent the 365 solar days of the year. The 91 stairs also represent the number of days between the solstices, just so clever! An absolutely amazing pyramid.

Temple of the Warriors – Group of a Thousand ColumnsIMG_4069

Which is east of the Pyramid of Kukulcan was our next stop, again architecturally very impressive to see all the rows columns that had been made by the hands of Mayans hundreds of years ago. From there we saw the steam bath area and the market. The Temple of the Aged, the Ossuary Pyramid, Temple of the Nuns and Akab-Dzib, (monument to philosophy) were a few of the other spectacular Mayan ruins we saw on our Chichen Itza visit.

IMG_4121I must say that there were dozens and dozens of venders selling their wares around the site. It was the place to find absolutely everything locally made by Mayans.

 

 

 

 

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The woodwork and ceramics were of excellent quality and workmanship. They told us that they came from the surrounding villages. As the site was without many trees for shade it was extremely hot walking around I wished I had an umbrella.


IMG_4173Valladolid

Was our next destination. Again we had not made reservations at a hotel and again we lucked out with Hotel Zaci, a lovely, inexpensive hotel not far from the town square. We checked in and then walked around Valladoid.

 

 

San Servacio Cathedral and Central PlazaIMG_4186

In Valladolid the town square/Central Plaza is large and very pretty. There is a water fountain in the middle with a statue of a Mayan woman pouring water from a ceramic jug and in front of it there were some “mayan” dancers performing for the tourists off of the many tour busses. It was interesting to see the costumes are made with dozens of beautiful feathers.

 

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Around the outside of the plaza was an arcade walkway lined with arches with the little shops. It was lovely strolling around before we went to dinner.

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San Servacio Cathedral sits at one end of the town square. It was originally constructed in 1545. Again it was historically interesting  to look at and to see the religious artifacts inside.

 

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Calle 41A and Ex Convent of Sisal

In the morning we followed Calle 41A, which is reputed to be the prettiest Calle/street in the whole of Yucatan, to Convent Sisal.

 

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There were very few people around and it was a pleasant early morning walk. Neither of us found the Calle to be anything special, but it was lined by many very old buildings. The convent was quite plain, but maybe that is the beauty of it.

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IMG_4407Coba

It was off to Coba next. There we found a large Mayan site spread out under the shade of trees, shade at last. Coba means Ruffled Waters and is belied to be one of the oldest Mayan sites dating back to 300 – 900 AD. It actually started growing a few centuries before Christ until it reached a population of about 50,000 inhabitants on the 80 square kilometer site. There were causeways/sacbeob that radiated from Coba towards other Mayan cities. Coba was a storage center that traded with other Mayan cities.

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We really enjoy walking around the site. It is a very large spread out site consisting of groups or areas, as shaded it was not terribly hot to walk the several kilometers between the groups of ruins.

 

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Grupo Coba

was the 1st area we visited. Located between the Coba and Macanxoc lagoons, the large buildings outlined a plaza divided by three sacbeob/white roads and has the structure know as “the church”. Next we headed to Grupo Las Pinturas, here the structures are named after the wall paintings that were found within the main temple.

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The highlight was Grupo Nohoch Mul.IMG_4406

The Mayan architects built the highest structures of the city on this area as there was a slight inline. At 42 meters the tallest pyramid in the Yucatan is found here and you can climb to the top. At first we were both hesitant to climb, it was fully exposed to the harsh sunlight and very steep. However John headed off and so I thought, well if he’s climbing so will I.

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It is a steep, long climb up all of the slippery, uneven 120 “steps” to the top. From up there we could see for miles and miles around, what a view! The climb was well worth it, in fact getting down was far harder as the worn steps are very polished from all the wear over hundreds of years, they shine and are slick with narrow edges. We both really enjoyed Coba.

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IMG_4485Tulum

Off Tulum we headed driving along the regular country roads past all the interesting villages and settlements.

 

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Tulum is perched on the high limestone cliffs of the Caribbean Sea below. It was not a particularly important site for archeologists. It is thought to have been inhabited for a relatively long time and at even the time of the “conquest”.

 

 

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Tulum faces east; the Mayan called it Zama, (City of the Dawn) and was the port for the area. Trading with the Mayan as far away as Rio Dulce, Guatemala, the dugouts would follow the shoreline inside the reefs. Today it is the most visited site in Mexico due to its scenic location.

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We enjoyed wandering the cliff tops looking at the ruins and seeing the wonderful views. However clouds were hanging above and out at sea so it was not as spectacular as I imagine it usually appears.

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That evening spent the night at a hotel close by which again was very economical. In the morning we started to head back to Cancun. We did stop along the way at:

 

 

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IMG_4585Puerto Morales

This town is on the coast and actually port that we could have pulled into on our way from Belize.

 

 

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From the drive through and the stroll on the front Puerto Morales is quiet, pretty and quite sheltered. Maybe one day we will pull into the anchorage.

 

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Back in Cancun we dropped off the car, get the ferry back to Isla Mureles and before we knew were back on Aeeshah. It was an excellent land tour!

Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious and adding the meaningful. – John Maeda

Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars and see yourself running with them. – Marcus Aurelius

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Isla Mujeres, Mexico

 

PHOTO LINK —>>  https://goo.gl/photos/r4eYR8hPXncRXxV87  

It’s off to Mexico

 

IMG_2731The passage:

We set off for Isla Mujeres on Tuesday the 7th with 3 other boats from the anchorage. Leaving Cay Caulker at 9:00am our plan was to sail for 48 hours the 240 miles to arrive in the morning of the 9th. Out through Long Cay pass we went finding it quite rough with seas bigger than expected, the predicted calmer weather was not yet a reality.

I resolved myself to just sitting in the cockpit and hanging on, as long as I don’t get ill I am reasonably happily but bored. However this boredom soon turned into action stations. Both fishing rods were ziggggiiinnngggg!!!! OMG so we had rough seas of up to 8 foot two rods going, we are sailing at a good 6+ knots, Chico is going stir crazy as he thinks of the taste of fresh fish.

So, I take the wheel, head up 10, then 20, then 30 degrees to slow us down. This of course means we IMG_2739bounce about even more. Plus I hang on the Chico by his harness to stop him from launching him self at the rods too. John is at the stern trying to reel in the biggest fish. It fights him as he slips about on the wet deck, finally settling himself next to the cockpit to try and launch the fish, but then the 2 lines have crossed! Now the real problem is how to untangle the 2 lines while the fish fight to be free. John recruits me to, hold the rod with the biggest fish while it fights, while managing the wheel and Chico in the other hand. Let me just state……this was not easy!

 

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However I managed and John managed to untangle the lines/rods plus get the smaller Mahi Mahi on the deck. He placed it in our large cooler while he came to rescue me, but the fish managed to jump out and flip the cooler. So back he went, killed the fish on the deck and secured it. Finally John took over the rod from me and landed the large bull Mahi Mahi. I got the boat back on course and up to speed while still wrestling Chico.  John managed to kill and gut the fish, but as he was by this time sliding around in the blood bath on the stern. He stabbed his foot and got covered in his own blood and fish blood. He was exhausted afterwards and had to rinse off at the stern. That was a great distraction from the rough seas.

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The rest of the passage was incredible; we sped along at a record-breaking speed, up to 10 Knots. The result was we arrived in Isla Mujeres at 5:00pm February 8th, we had travelled 247.9 nautical miles in 32 hours average speed of 7.6 knots for us it was just incredible. The other boats, 2 of which left at 7:00 am 2 hours ahead of us pulled in around 8:00pm. Our friends on Mekaia arrived the next day close to noon; they had stopped over night to rest at Isla Cozumel.

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Checking into Isla Mujeres:

WOW what an ordeal, check in was an all day event. We arrived around 10:00am and sort of finished at 4:00pm, no lunch, many photo copies and trips to the bank later.

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1st we went to Port Captain, who informed us we needed 5 copies of everything, all paperwork, passports and boat papers. Off we go then back to find he never gave us the crew list to fill out and copy, off to photocopy again. Then saw a health personal that check our temperatures, asked questions and stated we should have had the boat “sprayed” in Belize for bugs..??? Off to pay at bank, then it’s back to Port Captain, then off to immigration, off to bank back to Immigration, off to Port Captain to see Customs and another department of health, more paperwork, off to bank back to Port Captain on and on!! Plus that was not the end of it we still had 5 days to go to Cancun to purchase a temporary boat import license.

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CancunIMG_2998

We headed to Cancun two days later with Jack and Christine off of Mekaia to do the boat import. Arriving there after waiting a while we were informed we needed copies of everything all over again, just crazy, plus they all had to be a certain size, AND we needed the serial numbers of our engines! Well long story short: we made up the serial numbers, got a taxi to the closest photo copy place, back to the import office and finally managed the final step just taking a morning to do so.

IMG_2992Off to find the shops we then headed. After getting a taxi into downtown Cancun we wandered the streets basically getting lost. Lunch was next, we went into a small Mexican restaurant and had a wonderful Mexican lunch which we all enjoyed. After which we got a taxi to Plaza Los Americanos. This turned out to be a huge mall. Jack and Christine set off one direction and John and I another, meeting up later. It was quite confusing after not having seen any real civilization for months, in fact John and I found the stimulation quite exhausting.

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Isla Mujeres

Is a lovely island. It is far more developed than anywhere we have been recently, but at the same time it is still quaint and has an atmosphere of its own. Being a tourist destination the fast ferries arrive all day bringing and taking tourists back and forth to the mainland.

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The buildings are colourful and attractive in the true Mexican style. The Mexican food is excellent! The prices are wonderfully inexpensive. There are 20 pesos to the $, a meal and drinks is usually around $10 – $15 US$.

 

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IMG_2738We are anchored in the anchorage, where the water is turquoise and clear, but chilly. The town is across from us and so it is easy to access. The town lies on the northeastern side of Isla Mujeres. We have enjoyed roaming the colourful streets and looking at all the wares for sale. The grocery store is a treat!

The western shore is wonderful, having a long stretch of boardwalk, which makes for wonderful walking. The views over the rocky shoreline are beautiful. At the northern end is a wonderful shelter beach and a long palm lined, sandy beach with calm shallow waters perfect for a relaxing day at the beach. (As long as you don’t mind sharing with all the other tourists).

Graveyard

The little graveyard that is hidden in El Centro/Downtown Isla Mujeres is a delight to visit and wander around.

 

 

 

The graves are actually shrines commemorating the dearly departed, each tells a different story. The pirate and slave trader Fermin Mundaca de Marechaja ‘s grave is found there. However it took us two visits to locate the gravesite.

IMG_3019Cancun again

We visited Cancun again. The main attraction this time was the shops. We caught the fast ferry over and then visited a Wall mart – same as any, but very inexpensive, and then The Plaza Los Americanos.  As mentioned this is a huge mall where there is an over-whelming amount of shops of any type needed, but not as inexpensive as in regular shops. We enjoyed strolling around getting a commercial fix the highlight was the grocery store.

The lagoon, Laguna Makax,

We volunteered to watch our friend Jack and Christine’s boat Mekaia while they were visiting friends. We were both anchored in the main anchorage, which is very pretty but notorious for dragging anchor. After only a few days of watching Mekaia she dragged. We were both below deck when we received this call on the radio, “The boat Mekaia is dragging into your bow!!” Well it was action stations, I had the wheel of Aeeshah avoiding Mekaias stern as she dragged down on our bow. John was in the dingy over to Mekaia, onboard and starting her engine, 5 other dinghies with fellows from other boats came to help too. So all turned out ok, her 2 anchors were reset, we were all ok, but it was very stressful, with winds blowing 30 plus, rough water and Mekaia misbehaving.

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2 days later more bad weather was expected, this time we moved both boats and re-anchored both boats in the lagoon, which is totally protected. It was a fortunate we did as when the northerly came through we could hear on the VHF all these boats in the anchorage dragging and needing help, one ended up aground having also hit 3 boats.

The lagoon is perfectly enclosed by mangroves, not the prettiest of anchorages, but protected. We have now visited the anchorage in the lagoon 3 times for the northers that keep blowing through. From the anchorage we can get ashore at Oscars, which is a very nice restaurant, plus we can use their free wifi and have enjoyed several evening get togethers with other cruisers.

Punta Sur/South Point and Templo MayaIMG_3186

After getting a taxi to the Lighthouse we explored the South Point and Maya temple located there. The views from the cliffs above the South Point are stunning. The colours of the sea are just unbelievable. All along the point are pathways, they follow the top and then trail down under the cliff and follow the shoreline in each direction. We enjoyed walking along looking out over the water. There were iguanas sunning themselves on many of the rocks of the over hanging cliffs.

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The Maya Temple is very small, built there as it faces east and so being the point to get the 1st rays of the sun light in the morning.

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John and I walked back to the boat. We jumped the wall next to the lighthouse and followed a pathway along the cliff top towards the western end. The walk was wonderful along the cliff tops and then the shoreline. However it was also very hot. Again there were iguanas all over the rocks sunning themselves. We walked a good 2 miles and then cut across the island back to the dingy. A great walk, but oh so hot.

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 Isla Mujeres Carnival

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It just so happened the carnival was happening while we were in Isla Mujeres. A large stage was set up in El Centro and one day while wandering to the store we saw the children practicing on the stage. So it was decided that a group of us would attend the evening performance. We arrived for the 8:00 pm start chose our table and get our food and drinks from the many stands set up around the square.

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Well the performance actually started at 9:00ish. The 1st act was quite an odd one as it consisted of many quite large ladies in glistening, bright costumes doing a sort of jig and waving their arms to music. The second act was the children dancing and from there on there were different groups of dancers many of which were very good. The best act to me was a man who had multiple silver hooler-hoops he was spinning at a terrific speed from all parts of his body while he stood in all sorts of poses and did some amazing jumps while still spinning. We all had a fun night.

IMG_3625Hacienda Mundaca

This is the house that the pirate Fermin Mundaca de Marechaja built for the girl he loved. The story goes: For many years he plied the seas from Cuba to Africa with human cargo getting rich at the expense of others. When the British Navy made his piracy and slave trading no longer easy he furled his sails and settled in Isla Mujeres.

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He saw a beautiful 18-year-old young woman called La Triguena and fell in love. He built a whimsical hacienda with exotic gardens, entered by arches carved with her name. She however loved and married a local fisherman.

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Fermin Mundaca de Marechaja went slowly insane due to “love’s labour lost” We went with Jack and Christine one day to visit the hacienda. It must have been very nice in its prime, but now is just a sad ruins of what was once there.

 

“The essence of wisdom is to see that there is always a solution once you realize that the mind, which seems to create so much suffering, has infinite potential to create fulfillment instead.” – Deepak Chopra

“The great thing to remember is we can do whatever we wish to do provided our wish is strong enough.”  – Katherine Mansfield

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Belize … Cay Cauker, Turneffe atoll, Long Cay and the Drowned Cays

 

PHOTOS here–>> https://goo.gl/photos/etG9dmmcWmw7NZj26   

John and I spent January in Belize and just love it there.

 

IMG_2674Cay Caulker

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In the dingy we rounded both islands finding hidden coves and canals. The water is very shallow close to shore as much of the shoreline is mangrove, but there are accessible bays. On the southern end of Cay Cauker we found a canal that led to abandoned boats and what looked like the beginnings of a marina? There were IMG_2716water birds all around, from Egrets to hawks. The second island to the north is mainly untouched and so mainly mangrove swamp, however from the water we could see where new development is starting.

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We roamed on long walks around Cay Caulker from one end to the other. Finding a pathway that took us along the shoreline on the outside of the island all the way past the airport to where new homes have been built on the border of what mangroves still survive. The airport is a strip of sandy runway in a long field where you can actually cut across to get to the other side, very rustic.

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The homes look to be very nice, but to get there must be quite a challenge as there are really only pathways that you could just about get a golf cart along. (Golf carts are the only motorized transport). However further along this walk, which is called “The Trail” and is sporadically sign posted, the construction crew has completely destroyed the pathway. It seemed a shame to us that they are developing this wonderful island by destroying the only open land they have left.

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However the walk was excellent, we saw lots for birds and the views from the bays are beautiful. In some mangrove areas there were schools of dozens of huge We did this walk a few times, as it was good exercise in the heat.

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IMG_2561Turneffe atoll

We set out for the atolls outside the reef and our first stop was the northern part of Turneffe – to Rendezvous. To get there from Cay Cauker we went out of a cut in the reefs next to the northern Drowned Cays. This meant we avoided Porto Stuck, but we had to be very careful heading out over the barrier reef. It really is quite scary seeing the reef just below the bottom!

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John was very happy as we had a good strike on one of our lines and it was a Mai Mai of about 30lbs. Chico was able to enjoy eating a load of fresh fish off the stern as John cleaned the fish so did Chico. We also had a pod of dolphins follow us and play along side and in front of the boat for miles and miles. They are wonderful to watch.

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Arriving in Turneffe, we were again amazed by the size of the atoll. It is 30 miles long north to South and 10 miles wide, which is 300 square miles! Inside there are hundreds of islands, ranging from just sandy mounds to mangrove isles to complete islands. You could really take years to explore the whole of the area. At Rendezvous we were the only cruising boat, there was nobody around. We spent the rest of the afternoon dingying past the closest shoreline where we could see fishing camps, with huts where the fishermen stay/camp when out for days gathering conch and fishing. The shoreline is lovely, but going ashore we found too many no-see-ums to make staying long an option.IMG_2408

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Instead of heading straight off the next morning we went snorkeling off the reefs that surrounded us. The snorkeling was very impressive, beautiful corals and many fish of all types. It was then off to the southern Turneffe, several hours away. Arriving later in the afternoon at Joe’s Bay, which isn’t really a bay, just an area where we could enter through the reefs and anchor for the night. There we again lowered the dingy and dingied around. Again there was one fishing shack on the shore, but nobody, nor any other boats around just mangroves along the shoreline and many birds.

IMG_2444Lighthouse Atoll, Long Cay

Long Cay is the southern most islands on the Lighthouse atoll it is the easiest of the cays to anchor near as Half Moon Cay is a ways inside and it means motoring and navigating very shallow water with many reefs to avoid. So we anchored in the anchorage to the west of Long Cay. It was absolutely beautiful there. The water is as clear as glass, the colours are just amazing and around us there was nobody except our friend’s boat, Mekeia in the distance. We had actually met them along the way while sailing across. That afternoon we went to the reef that acts as the barrier to most of the atoll and snorkeled. It was absolutely glorious! The best snorkeling we have ever had, we both agreed.

 

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The water is just incredibly clear and as the reef has an abundant population of fish of all types. The corals were stunning. It was a very pleasant afternoon. That evening we enjoyed drinks while aboard Mekeia with Jack and Christine while we had another glorious sunset.

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IMG_2479The following morning we found out that the weather was closing in again ….. another front was approaching, so we had to leave the following day. We went ashore onto Long Cay where we explored along the islands trails. There is a diving resort – just a small rustic 8-room place, but they offer diving and that was what Jack was off to do.

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We followed wooden walkways through the mangroves to see a bit more of the island. It is quite amazing the length of these wooden walkways, they must have been built at some expense. However they IMG_2523are deteriorating from lack of maintenance, the same as the other “resort” on the island – Itsy – it is in an idyllic location but looked empty and in need of some repair, we were told it is for sale. The walk was wonderful and we saw many handsome iguanas sunning themselves along the wooden walkway. The walkway ended at a wooden home in the middle of the mangroves, it looked to have been abandoned many years prior. To return we cut off to walk back along the shoreline.

Again in the afternoon we snorkeled in the magnificent reefs. Jack had re-anchored just near us and found on the reef off his stern a huge nurse shark. It was peacefully asleep on the side of the reef.

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He also told us that he dove the Blue Hole, going to 140ft. Then later did another dive off of Half Moon Cay where they were off the edge of the reef and surrounded by large reef sharks that were circling them. So interested were the sharks that the dive leader signaled them out of the water. In the beginning of the dive they were surrounded by groupers, which would allow them to pet their tummies, even roll to the side to accommodate the diver’s petting. It sounded amazing to both John and I.

IMG_2653Drowned Cays

From Lighthouse atoll we sailed most of the day back into the inner cays arriving at Shag Cay Broge, in the group of Cays called the Drowned Cays. This is a large group of Cays that are mainly mangroves or surrounded by mangroves. It sounds boring, but it was again very a beautiful area.

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We explored using the dingy following long broges, as they are called through the mangroves. Broges we found are canals that the current has swept clear through the mangroves. There were many, many birds wading in the shallows and apparently there are many manatees, but we didn’t see any.

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The colours were beautiful with the reflections on the calm water. Turquoises, greens and blues of all hues just gorgeous! A friendly dolphin visited us daily and the birds flew all around. It was very peaceful. We enjoyed riding in the dingy for miles around the mangrove cays and stopping to walk on the ones that were accessible to our dingy.

Cay Caulker againIMG_2106

 

Once again we went through Porto Stuck, but with far less stress as we had managed to skim over the bottom before. Back in Cay Caulker we enjoyed daily walks all over the island. We stocked up, had several lovely evenings with friends and set off on Tuesday February 7th for Isla Mujeres, Mexico.

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We have to live life with a sense of urgency so not a minute is wasted. –Les Brown

 

Happiness is not a station you arrive at, but a manner of traveling. –Margaret Lee

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Posted in Noonsite, Weather | Leave a comment

Leaving the Rio and onto Placencia, Belize

 

 

PHOTO ALBUM—>> https://goo.gl/photos/AKdLJpMBtqAiKW7g9

 

IMG_1441Leaving the Rio, on to Placencia,

John and I were away from Catamaran Marina and out at the anchorage as we were awaiting work to be done to the engine by RAM. Our transmission on the engine was dying and so John had ordered a new transmission to arrive any day, we hoped. Our time for crossing the bar at the entrance to the Rio was limited to the days around the full moon, we basically only had the few days prior and few days after the full moon when the tide would be at its highest. Finally on the Friday before the full moon on the Tuesday our transmission arrived. We were ecstatic! Karen at RAM told us the mechanic could work on it that Monday. Well Monday arrived and he was still busy with another job, we were promised Tuesday. Tuesday – Full moon day – arrived and he was still busy working on a powerboat. Wednesday was his day off, so we were told Thursday for sure, definitely without a doubt Thursday it will be. We were not hopeful…..

On the Wednesday we were in the “grocery” store optimistically buying last minute necessities like beer, snacks, bread, etc when we met up with David off of Expectations. He asked me what were our plans, I recounted to him our wows and worries, and he then said he knew the perfect mechanic for the job, his friend Johnny Diesel! We followed David to his boat, which was on Johnny’s dock and ashore to where his “workshop” was to be found. He was not busy, was very happy to take a look at what had to be done and by 1:30 was at Aeeshah stripping the engine. Long story short: Johnny worked from Wednesday pm till 2:00pm on Saturday, he fixed not only the transmission, but also replaced the engine seal and engine mounts as John had wanted done for a long time. And we never heard back from Karen at RAM!

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By 2:30 Saturday we were headed down river to Texas Bay with the plan to head out that evening. However, I called Raoul our agent and he advised me that the shrimp nets would be across the river mouth. He then asked our draft and informed me that the high tide of 10:30am Sunday would be fine for us to get over the bar. Plus he would have help standing by if necessary. That was great news!

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The next morning we arose at 5am and by 8am were in Livingstone at Raoul’s office and checking out!

 

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We had wonderful weather as we headed over the bar. Although the depth sounder did read 0:00 – nothing under the keel – we made it out of the Rio!

Belize

It was off towards Belize…..we headed to the cays offshore arriving at West Snake Cay in the afternoon. There was a lovely, calm, anchorage, with beautiful clear water and nobody else around.

PlancenciaIMG_1613

The next morning we headed for Placencia, arriving in the afternoon we could see by the other yellow flags that others too had just arrived. Placencia is really just a huge sand bar at the end of a peninsular. It is very flat, sandy and laid back. We had been there 10 years previously and really from the boat it looked much the same as then.

Checking in the next day we headed off to check in with 2 other boats to save transport costs. To check in we had to go to the Texaco gas station to catch the Hoity Toity water taxi.

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Well we had missed the 7:45am. Instead we begged a ride from a fisherman at the dock. So for just a bit more $$ we were taken across Mango Creek to the shore of Independence, close to where the offices of the officials were located in Big Creek. Once ashore we had to get a taxi to the offices. There we had quite a drawn out process of checking in, plus several expenses too. By 10:00 we were on the Hoity Toity heading back to Placencia.

 

Christmas in PlacenciaIMG_1663

We had a lovely impromptu Christmas in Placencia. John and I shopped for each other in the local pharmacy and grocery store, as there is nowhere else to shop for Christmas gifts.

Christmas morning David off s.v.Expectations had invited many of us to his boat for cinnamon buns. We all took something to add to the 8:30am breakfast. Altogether there were about a dozen of us there. We enjoyed sharing stories and generally chatting for several hours. There was one fellow – Rob – that had sailed to Bermuda years before with a co-worker and friend of mine. In fact Rob and his wife had just visited with him too. – Small world!

 

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Back at Aeeshah we had a relaxing quiet day. Then we met a group of friends ashore for a Christmas meal in the Paradise Hotel. The meal was traditional Christmas fare and excellent! It was as said a lovely Christmas in Placencia, Belize.IMG_1681

 

On Boxing Day we found out that our daughter – Chrissie – was coming to visit on New Year’s Eve. That meant we needed to ready the boat for a guest. This requires moving all our stored items from the bow cabin to else where on the boat. Plus stocking up with foods of all types. Bad weather arrived in the form of heavy rain and wind and the dingy engine decided to pack up.

So during the next week we explored Placentia, taking daily walks looking for mechanics and any help. Around, up and down all the lanes and byways of Placencia we walked.

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The village really is tiny, quaint, colourful and populated with very friendly people. However mechanics were not easy to find. Meanwhile John along with a friend Chris off of s.v.Aolus worked on our outboard. Plus Chris kindly

IMG_1637towed us everywhere and even lent us his dingy! We still owe him big time.

John and Chris had a carb cleaning morning aboard Aeeshah.

Sigrid another friend off s.v.Lucky Bitch came and cleaned her carb too. But no luck our engine was dead and needed professional help. Sigrid’s was up and running again.

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David off s.v.Expectations, found a fellow – Hero – was his name who was the only local outboard mechanic. Plus John found a second hand, but newish Tohatsu outboard engine for sale from a fellow called Elvis at the Peninsular store, out near past the airport. John decided to buy the engine, as he always had wanted a second engine.

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The engine was delivered and bingo! It did not work! So we had 2 dead engines. Chris towed John in our dingy with the “new” dead engine, plus the old dead engine to Hero. He only had time to work on our “new” engine and believe it or not – found water in the carb plus fuel tank….. Well all that rain we had just had, rainwater had leaked via the air vent in the fuel tank into the fuel and had been sucked into the “new” engine. Our old engine we didn’t have time to get Hero to work on as our daughter was arriving the next day! So it sits on the back rail of Aeeshah awaiting a mechanic in Mexico.IMG_1606

 

Goodbye 2016

Chrissie in Belize

PHOTO ALBUM —->> https://goo.gl/photos/eATJzhy4kFuUgLco8

IMG_1733 Chrissie arrived on the 4:30 Mayan airlines flight on New Years Eve. This is just an 8-seater plane landing on a strip of concrete in outback Belize. She survived!

In Chrissie’s words:

“On the very last day of 2016 I found myself on a last minute flight out to Belize … well 3 fights to be exact …. the 3rd a little hair-raising I have to admit. From Bermuda to Miami, to Belize City, to Placencia ….. however Mom and dad both failed to mention the fact that my flight from Belize City to Placencia would be on a little putt putt plane!!!!!!!!! To my great relief I landed safely to what almost looked like someone’s house with a really long driveway ….. nope …. that was the airport!!IMG_1803

Anyway with a short cab ride, walk through a back yard, a beach bar and a dinghy ride I had finally made it aboard Aeeshah, just in time to celebrate NYE!!!”

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As it was New Years Eve we had made arrangements with friends to go out to dinner at the Tipsy Tuna. We all met at Yollis Bar. Our friends off Moonstone had arrived the day before, they came, plus Chris and Sigrid. At the Tipsy Tuna we enjoyed dinner, drinks and fireworks at mid-night. Plus John let off his huge fireworks that he had bought on the Rio. They created a huge bang and much smoke, and had people running for cover. It was a great New Years!

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So with ‘no rest for the wicked’ as they say…we quickly freshen up and hopped back in the dinghy to ‘hit the town’. We all had an awesome night; I got to meet some of my parent’s fellow cruising friends and together we brought in 2017 with a bang!!!!!! Ha! Ha! Ha! well thanks to dad because he insisted on setting off these dynamite looking sticks that he was convinced were fireworks….. I’m still not convinced!!!! So back to the boat for 1:30am I am very impressed with everyone’s stamina that evening.

The next morning I was amazed to wake up and see what a beautiful place I was in and on top of that….. No hangover, yay!!

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New Year’s Day we “toured” Placencia with Chrissie, did a dingy tour through the mangrove canals past the hidden homes and waterways. Huge iguanas were sunning themselves on the banks and gardens.

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That day we went for a lovely dinghy ride and Dad showed me iguanas…that was really cool, especially the 2 that were ‘getting busy’ in someone’s back yard! 😉IMG_1760

We then did a bit of exploring and back to the boat for a bit of a chilly swim…first one for 2017. 

 

 

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Monday it was off to explore the cays. Our first stop was:

IMG_1834Ranguana Cay

For the next week we explored a few of the Cays, starting with a very beautiful one called Ranguana, very small, lush and the glistening waters were full of life… We had a wonderful time snorkeling the reef. 

 

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We had a wonderfully sunny day to travel to Ranguana. Along the way John had caught a fish, a type of mackerel, being too small for all of us it became Chico’s dinner for several days. We arrived by midday and we spent the afternoon snorkeling.

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The snorkeling was excellent along the outside of the reef. Chrissie was at first a bit nervous of snorkeling the outside, being fearful of sharks. But she soon relaxed and was lost in the wonderful underwater scenery. After our snorkel we went ashore and wandered around the beach. The sunset was lovely.

IMG_1887Silk Cays or Queen’s Cays

Tuesday we headed via the inside passage to the Silk Cays or Queen’s Cays as they are also called. Again the scenery was amazing, the day just wonderfully sunny and relaxing. At the Silk Cays we anchored off of a tiny, tiny cay and went snorkeling. Here we again snorkeled the outside of the reef which ran all around the sand bar and tiny cay.

 

The underwater scenery was amazing, the number of fish was impressive, plus the coral of all types was beautiful. We agreed it was some of the best reef we had seen.

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Again we explored ashore. This time the island being so small it took minutes. That evening there was another divine sunset.

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The next day we set sail…or set motor (due to traveling IMG_1889head to wind) for the Most amazing place I think I have ever seen, Silk Cays…. if you have a bucket list this place must be on it!! The crystal clear turquoise waters that surround three flawless tiny islands is something that you would think you would only see in the movies. Such an abundance of fish and coral. We even saw hatched turtle eggs on the beach. (I think this is probably my favourite place we went to) However we had one rocky night!!! Oh yea, we all woke up to the boat making all sorts of boat noise and feeling like you were in a washing machine…and I was the only one concerned I think

….. The parents are trying to tell me it’s all quite normal!!!! No, normal is not having your bed moving in the middle of the night thank you very much! 

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Blue Ground Range

Our next stop was still on the inside of the reef at a group of cays called Blue Ground Range. These are a group of cays that consist of mangroves and a resort property. The inner lagoon area where we anchored was as flat as a pond. Arriving here in the later afternoon we swam and enjoyed the evening light and had a peacefull night’s sleep.

 

Turneffe atollIMG_1899

The following day we had decided to head out of the barrier reef and to sail to the southern end of Turneffe atoll. There was great wind for a sail, our 1st real sail since leaving the Rio! John again didn’t have much luck with the fishing, one strike and then just seaweed. We arrived and tried to go in via the Southeast Pass.

 

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Well going through the pass between the reefs was intimidating, but then motoring very slowly over 6 foot depth of water with reef below and with a 5ft 8ins depth of hull was just too risky. We carefully navigated our way out. Looking again at our information we could see that there was another anchorage behind the end of the reef at Big Cay Bokel. Once there we found the water to be again on the shallow side, but we were outside the reef and the bottom was all sand and grass. We anchored for the night and set off in the dingy to snorkel the reef next to the Southeast Pass.

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Through the next couple of days we stopped at Turneffe Atoll…. now yes it looks like a lot of mangroves, with a lovely resort, but after being somewhere like the Silks my standards now are pretty height and I’m like hmmmmm…

 

But let me tell you when I was in that water….. It was like a whole different world!!! The clarity of the water there was breathtaking, my mind was officially blown!!!…. Well that was until the dinghy decided to make a run for in and broke loose…. so then my mind really was blown and it was a mad dash swim…. first one to catch the dinghy wins!

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Turneffe is made up of small islands many of which are just mangroves or mounds of sand. The area is heavily populated by birds of all types, from sea to wading birds, to ospreys, there are manatees and crocodiles around the mangrove cays. The atoll is renowned for its diving, however it was snorkeling for us and we were all amazed by the excellent reef we saw. The water clarity was incredible; we saw fish 34that we had never seen before. Also beautiful corals and reef creatures that we had again never seen. Turneffe atoll southern reef is just spectacular! And the dingy did somehow drift off leaving us to swim for it….quite scary for a few minutes, being way off from land and see the dingy taking off without us!

We were incredibly smart to have not anchored inside the atoll and to go with our instinctive sense that it was just not safe, because that evening and night the weather came in. We had wind and rain along with rougher seas. Chrissie felt the worse of it being in the bow cabin, another rough night for her.

Cay Caulker

IMG_2008The morning came and we sailed for the Eastern passage back inside the barrier reef. We were headed for the Drowned Cays.

The sail again was a great one, however coming over and through the reef the seas were large. Heading towards our destination the water depth got increasingly shallow. We knew that there was little water, but to see a constant warning on the depth sounder is not reassuring. We followed the waypoints and arrived at Mapps Cay amongst the Drowned Cays. These cays are all mangrove cays, known for the number of manatees inhabiting them the area is protected.

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We went slowly to our proposed anchorage, but decided against staying. John felt strongly we needed to get to Cay Caulker. He was not happy with the situation; being alone in this mangrove channel between the cays did not sit right with him.

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So off we went towards Cay Caulker. Now to get to Cay Caulker one must follow a very shallow stretch of water with the head of it being Porto Stuck. Why Porto Stuck – because many boats get stuck, aground in this shallow narrow part. For us we had the depth sounder shrieking its alarm the whole way. We had no room to maneuver, it was straight on and in or else we were in IMG_1939trouble. John followed the way points we had, he had to make way for a tug towing 4 barges that were also going in our direction. Plus other boats moving towards us. But we made it!! At one point we believe we were nearly stuck but were pushed over by our engine as we had disturbed even a greater amount of sand than we had previously been leaving in our wake. So it was into Cay Caulker we went for our final anchorage with Chrissie.

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So for the last part of my wonderful adventure we arrive at Cay Caulker…just before the bad weather hits dad insisted…I wasn’t so sure…everything seemed IMG_1994fine…. that’s until a wall of wind hit like seriously out of nowhere, ok so now I’m getting a little worried, firstly about the storm secondly about the chicken dad had cooking on the bbq…. I was really hungry and thought for sure it might be a gunner…. but the champ that he is, clipped on his trusty head torch and battled the winds in the name of dinner!!!!!! Now let me tell you…this was not a comfortable night to be at sea! Captain Dad was up almost all night making sure the anchor didn’t drag, and mom and I were getting tousled around our cabins…. even when morning broke the winds were still licking us. I must say the I was very impressed with Cay Caulker…. what a beautiful place with a whole lot going on for such a small island. Loved the bright coloured buildings, sandy streets and the barefooted laid back atmosphere.

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Cay Caulker is quite an amazing destination. We were anchored on the west side – inside – and we found a small area of dock space next to a dive shop to leave the dingy. Ashore the lanes are sandy, the homes are gaily-painted wooden structures. The shops are small and again quaint. Most locals walk around bare foot, many visitors are backpackers or day-trippers. Along the front – eastern shore – there is the sandy main street with vendors selling all types of Belizean crafts and souvenirs, many made from conch.

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The beach runs all along this shore and is lined with palm trees and many eateries beneath them. It has a lovely laid-back atmosphere, everyone is happy and friendly. We enjoyed our days there wandering all the lanes, exploring all the quaint stores, enjoying drinks, lunches and dinners in the various eateries and chatting to the locals.

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Our first night the weather started to turn, a front was approaching from the north. When it arrived the next day it came in with tremendous force of wind and drop in temperature. We were blasted for a good 24 hours and never left Aeeshah, couldn’t anyway. The water went milky with all the disturbed sand, waves were large, but we were safely dug into the sand by the anchor. Chrissie saw her 1st bad weather on Aeeshah.IMG_2074

After the passing of the front we had another day of enjoying Cay Caulker with Chrissie and then it was off to Belize City.

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The day before I had to leave Mom and I took a ferry to IMG_2078Belize City, and overnighter at a hotel…just us girls. Was a fun lil adventure and Mom was very close to smuggling a stray kitten back to the boat with her…. she has a soft spot for little furry things that go meow! However she settled for finding a shop to buy 2 cans of cat food and sneaking out in the evening to make sure it wouldn’t go hungry instead. 

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I must say it was very sad saying goodbye…had such an amazing time, in such a very special place. 

Oh and my parents are the coolest kids on the block!!! They are so brave, a have wicked sense of adventure…always on the go and happy with just going with the flow…

I will be back!!xoxxo

I caught the water taxi with Chrissie to Belize City where we stayed in a hotel over night before her early morning flight home.

It had been a fun holiday for us all.

“I claimed myself and remade my life.” –  Dorothy Allison

“Above all be the heroine of your life, not the victim” – Nora Ephron

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Tijax and Tikal

 

PHOTOS link –>> https://goo.gl/photos/ZdpgwM4NZr3NJMYy5  

img_0707Back in Guatamala

On the 9th November, the day after my birthday, we travelled back to Guatemala. Within 20 minutes of arriving in Guatemala City airport we were off to the hotel. Nice and quick compared to when we left! One night in Guatemala City was necessary so we could get the 9:00am Litegua bus back to the Rio. The bus ride wasn’t bad, just a little over an hour of hold ups and delays on the road. However I still find 6+ hours on a bus draining, dreadfully boring.

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All was great back at Aeeshah. Chico looked fit, and Kevin was there with him to greet us.  There had been no problems and so life was back to normal.

Visit to Hacienda Tijax Hotel and Marina.img_0712

Ever since arriving at Rio Dulce we had been intending to visit Tijax, not for the marina or hotel but for a nature walk they supposedly had. Really expecting it to be not much more than a nice stroll around gardens we went there for a morning meander.

What we found was a really pleasant hike.

Starting off there was a series of hanging walkways through the mangroves where the rental cabanas are located, followed by a couple of long hanging walkways till you reach the land entrance/parking area for Tijax.

img_0715The next part starts with a small hanging bridge followed by a walkway between fields that gradually wind uphill to the Museo. At the museum we saw info about the different birds and trees found on the walk ahead.img_0757

From there it is downhill to the virgin rainforest where you follow pathways and a series of longer hanging bridges that are in the treetops looking down into the jungle below.

 

 

 

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After these you find a track that leads up hill to the pool/pisca. This is a natural pool formed from a small stream that flows down into it.

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Across the pool the track continues uphill to the rubber plantation. John and I both found the rubber plantation fascinating. The trees are growing in rows, they each have a diagonal slash across the trunk, which leads and “bleeds” down to a cup where the rubber is caught. The rubber is white, solid but supple sitting in the bottom of the cup.

img_0793The Mayans started collecting rubber by this method in the BCs. They made very large rubber balls for their ball games at their festivities. It’s amazing that rubber production still continues using the same method. At Tikal the ancient Mayan city you can see the massive rubber trees with the diagonal slash – scars – along their trunks.

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This Tijax rubber plantation is huge some 500 acres, we only walked a small corner of it and then emerged at the hill below the lookout tower.

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Atop the tower we climbed and really enjoyed the view across the Rio and all the surrounding countryside as far away as Lake Isobel and Belize. The view is spectacular and the breeze divine! After the tower it’s basically downhill where the path meets up with the hanging bridges through the rain forest to return by. It was an excellent walk and we highly recommend it.


Off to Tikal and Floresimg_1008

Transportation:

I arranged for us to spend a few days in Tikal and then Flores. I chose the FDN bus that runs from Guatemala City through Rio Dulce to St Elena. Well that was a big mistake. We got onto a full bus and more and more people were crammed in with us. The bus was the size of a coach, it had 4 people wedged into double seats, the entire aisle full of us standing with our bags so tightly jammed together you could not move your feet and then off he zooms. And he would stop for more people along the way. In the driver’s compartment there were 8 people, John being one, sacks of produce and buckets. Periodically the driver would scoop a large cup of water out of a bucket and pour it into a funnel in the dash-board. We guessed this was for the radiator? This was while he was driving flat out…he also chatted away on his phone, ate a full chicken lunch, throwing all his trash out the window all while driving with his elbows and/or knees along a single lane roadway over-taking any vehicles in the bus’s way. John caught some video footage and wishes he had caught more, as it’s a scream. Guess he is either very talented or lucky as we got there in one piece.

Arriving in St Elena after 4 hours of standing on the crazy uncomfortable bus ride we got a taxi to Tikal. I had thought we would get a collective, but we both needed a bit of luxury. From the taxi we were lucky to see a Red Brocket deer and fawn grazing on the roadside.

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At Tikal we were staying in the National Park at Tikal Inn. This was a very nice place to stay in our own small bungalow. Peten Turkeys and Central American Agouti, (like giant guinea pigs) would wander across the lawn in front of our bungalow.

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 Sunrise tour

We were up the next morning at 3:30 to go for the sunrise tour. The tour starts at 4:00 in the dark as you hike through the ruins with the rain forest all around, you can’t see anything as it’s by torchlight. We did come across a snake coiled in the pathway blinded by our torchlight. Apparently it was a poisonous snake too. After a fast hike of about an hour we arrived at the foot of a staircase.

We were told to climb up and find a seat on the “pyramid” – which was actually Temple 1V. We were asked to sit quietly and enjoy the jungle sounds while the birds and animals wake up. So up we climbed, at the top we were lucky to be able to sit along the top row of Temple 1V as many other groups arrived and so were below us.

img_0941The sky was still dark, but we could see that there was cloud cover too. As the dawn neared, we heard the birds chirping and the light started filling the skies, however ahead was a low cover of misty cloud so we just make out the other temples – pyramids. It was lovely and peaceful even if not a colourful img_0928sunrise.

Temple 1V where we sat is also called the Two Headed Snake Temple. It is the tallest temple in Tikal and the whole of Mesoamerica. It was built in 740AD and stands at 70 meters. The famous Star Wars clip was filmed from the top of this temple.

At the bottom our guide took us on a tour through the park showing and explaining the Mayan ruins to us, plus telling us about the plants and animals of the area. We saw a Coati, (looks like a small ant eater with a long tail), that walked just by us not bothered at all by our presence. This is because all the animals within the park are protected and not hunted. The wild Peten turkeys were everywhere. They are beautifully feathered in wonderful patterns almost like a peacock. The highlight for me was seeing and following a Tucancillo Collarejo toucan. I was thrilled. We also had spider monkeys swinging and climbing in the treetops above us.

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The ruins were spectacular. As said we climbed Temple 1V the Two Headed Snake Temple then the 1st stop was Complex N it is an example of a twin temple, was built in 710AD, by Ah Cacao to mark the 14th katun, or 20-year cycle of baktun 9. (a baktun equals about 4 centuries), is not fully restored, but had a stele and an altar. This is stele 16 and is like a news-sheet telling all that happened in that complex by hieroglyphs. The king himself is depicted on the stele. The altar – circular stone depicts the same king accompanied by a priest in the process of exhuming the skeleton of a female ruler.

We next visited a pyramid referred to as Palace windows, also as the Bat Palace, which was as its name says, a palace and had been occupied.

 

 

 

 

We stopped at Templo 111 also know as the Great Priest Temple. It stands at 60m and is under restoration.

Next was Plaza de los Siete (7) Templos – the name came from the 7 small temples. It was to the east of the main plaza and is also under restoration. To the south were the three larger palaces and opposite was also the Triple Ball playing field, which is unique in the whole Mayan area. As mentioned the Mayans made their own rubber balls, these were large hard rubber balls, which they used for their unique game of Triple Ball that was played at ceremonial times.

In the Gran Plaza at one end was Temple 11 – The Mascarones Temple/Temple of the Masks. It is 38m and faces the Gran plaza built by Mr. Cocoa – governor Jasaw Chan Kawil 1.

At the other end we looked up at Temple 1 – The Big Jaguar it was built in 700AD by the son of governor Jasaw Chan Kawil 1 – Mr. Cocoa, to honor his father, whose tomb was discovered inside/under the temple. His rich burial goods included stingray spins – for bloodletting, jade objects, pearls and carved bone with hieroglyphs. Again standing at 47m it is a majestic pyramid.

Passing Acropolis Central, where Tikal’s nobles lived, we made our way back for breakfast at 9ish. It had been an excellent tour.

 

 

 

 

 

Later after a nap, John and I went back into the Tikal ruins to return to where we had been and to see more of the ruins. As we started out we saw and heard howler monkeys high in the branches of the trees.

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This time we visited Temple 1V – the Two Headed Snake Temple again to see the view in the midday light. The view was excellent even if the weather was dull. From above the treetops we could see the temples of the Gran Plaza – Temple 111 Temple V and the great pyramid of the Mundo Perdido poking through the treetops.

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We then headed off towards the Main Plaza but ended up at “The Lost World” – Mundo Perdido a img_1044complex of 38 structures with the huge pyramid in its midst. This pyramid at 32m is 80m along the base.

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It has 4 eroded staircases with huge masks flanking each one. It is believed they were for observing the sun’s trajectory against the trio of structures to its east. Tunnels dug under this pyramid have found 4 similar pyramids beneath the outer surface. This dates back AS FAR AS 700BC!!

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On we went through drizzle to Templo V. It is the second highest temple at 57m and was built between 550 and 650 AD.

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From there we did make our way to the Gran Plaza, but then what had been showers turned into out right rain. The pathways that have been worn to bare rock with time and use became very slick, soil turned into mud and we decided it was time to head out. We were starving as we had long before missed lunch so stopped off at the park’s tienda and restaurante facilities where we had a delicious sandwich, especially made as we had missed lunch.

We planned to return to revisit the Gran Plaza early the next morning before the buses arrived, but unfortunately we were not permitted to as our 24-hour park pass was expired and it was not worth purchasing for 150Q each 2 tickets for just a few hours.


img_1082Flores & Santa Elena

Transportation:

When we left we walked out the hotel entrance and were met by some fellows who said they were the 11:00am collective to Santa Elena. Following them, we boarded a touristo autobus and feeling very lucky to have it to ourselves, we relaxed. The bus headed towards the entrance where the driver and helper got off to gather more customers. However they only came back with 5 others and then announced to us all they were not leaving until 12:30 now, as they did not have enough of us. Of course everyone was royally pissed off. It felt like we had been kidnapped.

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Everyone, except myself, got off to argue with the men. Next thing I knew the driver gets back in the bus and takes off with our bags and me! Then I really was feeling kidnapped. He zoomed down the road and around the car park pulling up between other busses. It was just crazy! He had gotten fed up with the others telling him he was not being honest and so he had a Trump melt down, took off with the bags and me. Anyway everyone followed the bus and the result was we agreed to go for a cup of tea and to return when the driver felt he might leave. Off to the cafe we go, barely getting served when our driver appears, he has a bus for us. So back we go get on a smaller collective and head to St Elena and Flores. What a crazy early morning.

Arriving in St Elena our driver continued on over the causeway and drove up the tiny Flores lanes right to our hostel – Los Amigos, it was a very pleasant surprise to get door-to-door service.

img_1416Flores and Santa Elena

Our hostel – Los Amigos – was a unique place to stay. The building where our little private room with shower was located was around the corner from the main building where the lounge, bar, and hostel real was located. Our building was a converted home that had been very colorfully decorated.

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It was small but very comfortable, plus you could go to the roof to lounge if you wanted. The main building was a place that was quite unique. The lounge area was really like a big doss area or chill out place for backpackers. There were couches, cushions, swings, all kinds of seating and tables for eating at too. Then there was the bar area that was really uniquely decorated, very reminiscent of the hippy generation time when we had both grown up. John’s opinion was that it was like an enormous playpen for young folk. Well we had 2 dinners and a breakfast there and the food was great and the drinks a good price, so it was an excellent playpen.

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We enjoyed walking the lanes and alleyways of Flores in the afternoon, but wished for sunshine. It is a quaint island, just jammed with homes many of which are hotels, tiny stores and restaurants of all types. Flores has a colourful history. It had been the last independent Mayan kingdom, but the Spanish annihilated all trace of the pyramids, and Mayan structures so now all you see is built on the ruins of Itazaes of Tayasal.

 

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The next day dawned with rain and cloud again, but as we had breakfast in a restaurant by the lakeside the cloud cover started to break. We spent the morning walking across the causeway and into St Elena where we stumbled upon the local market.

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There we had an excellent time wandering around looking at just everything that was displayed for sale. The locals were so friendly even cooperating with my picture taking of all that I found interesting. I even found loquats for sale.

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The day had brightened significantly by then as we made our way back across the causeway it was a completely different landscape we saw looking out across the lake.

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After a lovely but too large lunch we again walked all the lanes and alleys of Flores, this time in the blazing sun. It is a very, peaceful, picturesque island town.

 

 

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Eat healthily, sleep well, breathe deeply, move harmoniously. – Jean-Pierre Barral

Some people grumble that roses have thorns; I am grateful that thorns have roses. – Alphonse Karr

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Bermuda, visiting home

 

PHOTOS LINK –>>   https://goo.gl/photos/Wort8FkdT9Bq165b7 

img_1617Bermuda

On 19th October we were off to Bermuda via a short stay in Miami. The plan was to spend a day shopping for all our boat gear before heading off home. However our flight was late leaving Guatemala City, we didn’t arrive at our Miami hotel until late in the evening. So we only had the morning and until 3:00pm to shop, when we needed to check in for our flight. Next we found out that President Obama was in Miami and there would be road closures. It was a mad dash from West Marine, to 2 different malls and Wal-Mart, back to pack our purchases and to the airport. However we managed to get most items.

Back in Bermuda:img_0621

It was great to see the family and especially the two babies, Lily and May.

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Lily, Gavin and Katie’s daughter was turning 1 and that was part of the reason we were back, for her 1st Birthday.

May, Kate and Jae’s babe was 7 months and had grown by 6 months since we had last seen her. May was another reason for being home.

img_0416Incredible amount of workimg_0414

However this turned into real working visit. We found an incredible amount of work to get through:

Gavin was moving into my Dad’s house, as the tenants were moving out and Gavin and Katie’s lease was up on theirs. Plus the downstairs area/basement img_0423of my Dad’s house was getting a major upgrade: floors, doors in and out, windows, walls finished, electrical, plumbing, just everything upgraded and redone. So we volunteered and were recruited to help with the big move.

John started with the repainting of where Gavin was img_0406moving out of and then of my Dad’s place too. Plus he also helped with some electrical, construction, etc, etc. He was away at my Dad’s old house most days.

I had to move all boxes and boxes of my Dad and Mom’s and Grandparents’ gear/heirlooms from the storage at my Dad’s. Transport everything (about 6 car loads and 1 van load), lug the lot up to our porch, sort it and repack and store it in our storage room. Thankfully most days Kate or Jae helped lug boxes up for me. It was quite a task for everyone. (The Barn, a charity, received quite a few treasures)

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Meanwhile I visited each day with my Dad at his “home”.

img_0556Lily’s 1st Birthday!

It was Lily’s 1st Birthday! Gavin and Katie had a party for her in a Kid’s party place. It was actually a large area set up just for children with age appropriate activities. All the children partied happily by playing on different activities, parents hovered nearby.

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As they were all so young it was the best kind of party. Lily is walking and talking, just a wonderful little girl, very, very active. She keeps her parents and nanny on their toes.

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img_0606May “cut” her first pumpkin at Halloween

We had fun seeing May “cut” her first pumpkin at img_0615Halloween. She looked amazed by the whole experience. Then all dressed up to go out trick or treating she was such a cutie!

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Babysitting

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We were babysitting and helping with May, (Kate and Jae’s baby), who is now 7 months and just amazing. img_0480Kate would go to the stable to ride or teach a lesson, or go for a run and I would take May for a walk or stay home watching her. Gavin dropped Lily off one morning and she and May had a kind of play-date. It was very sweet to watch the two cousins interacting together. Plus we babysat for Lily one evening, while Gavin and Katie were out with friends. This gave us a few hours of bath-time and play with Lily. She is so switched on for a one year old. Also we babysat in the evenings so Jae and Kate could get to go out and enjoy adult times. May became so attached to us it was tough leaving.

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Family dinnersimg_0458

For the 1st two Sundays we had family dinners in Chrissie and Ivan’s area upstairs. Then on the day before we left we had a Birthday celebration for me.

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The whole family came; again it was a wonderful evening.

 

Jae had caught a few large lobsters and he made Lobster Tempura, it was img_1614excellent!

img_0673Kate made me a big cake! And she and Jae gave me a miniature bullet to make smoothies on the boat. Gavin and Katie gave me a pair of beautiful Bermuda pink sand earrings shaped as starfish. Chrissie and Ivan spoilt me with a much-needed trip to the hairdressers and Chrissie wrote me a very special memory book.

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 Few hours out in Gavin’s boat

We managed a few hours out in Gavin’s boat. We went towards what used to be the old Canadian base, where we used to go to explored the abandoned buildings and found it is now completely stripped. The new Artemis base for the America’s Cup is stationed there too.

Across from there we found our old mooring was still in place. Then we cruised through the islands in the Sound. They too have all changed from when as a family we used to spend many a day having fun roaming the wild islands of the Sound. Hawkins has been stripped of many trees, homes built and it has been tamed. Long Island looks manicured, not at all how it was when the children were young. Our island, Fern Island, looked much the same. We all have many wonderful memories from our camping days on Fern Island.

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Construction is and was well underway

Meanwhile at my Dad’s house where Gavin and Katie had moved, construction is and was well underway. The lower story, is being turned into new rooms. The electrical were being laid, the floors being readied, the plumbing redone. It will be a brand new home when finished.

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Chico is quite the man now, when we travelled home we had a worker here at Catamaran watch and feed him. So he had his own personal cat minder. The guy Kevin is a local and just thrilled with the extra money. Anyway when we got back, Chico looked great, and Kevin was there with him to greet us.  We were told that Chico would make his rounds of all the boats visiting with all the folks aboard. Kevin would also be around throughout the day looking for Chico to make sure he was OK. Chico has made friends with all the workers, many guests and visits most parts of the island/hotel. He is going to be one angry cat when we leave!

 

 

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Short visit to Antigua

 

PHOTO LINK–>>  https://goo.gl/photos/ngq8AQcbc7S72Dvg6 

img_0017Antigua:

Before we travelled home to Bermuda John and I spent a couple of days in Antigua.

We travelled from the Rio on the same and only bus, this time only taking 6 hours, phew! Then taking another bus to Antigua, arriving we got a taxi to take us to our hotel.

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Believe it or not when we got there the hotel was shut! Yes, as in closed and so we had nowhere to stay. Not speaking the best of Spanish, this was a problem. The taxi took us back to the main square, Parque Central, where we decided to walk to the hotel we had previously stayed in. Walking there dragging our bags was not fun, plus the wheels on one bag gave out due to the cobblestones.

img_0373Casa Cristina

Once there we were told they were fully booked, but recommended Casa Cristina, around the corner. Casa Christina turned out to be a wonderful hotel. We had a room at the top looking out towards the volcano: Volcan Agua, there was a small lounge just down the corridor where we could get tea, for free. Plus just above was a beautiful rooftop patio that looked out over Antigua. So things turned out better in the end.

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For the rest of the day we wandered around Antigua and had an excellent  chicken curry for dinner.

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img_0148The next day we had breakfast at Cafe Condessa in the main plaza, img_0100 Parque Central – and set off exploring.

Our first stop was the craft shops to buy some crafts to take home as gifts. Second stop was:

 The cathedral, – Catedral de Santiago

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– off the main square. Antigua’s cathedral was first built in 1545, but wrecked by the earthquake of 1773. John and I explored the intact still functional, interior and then ventured into the original’s ruins.

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The ruins are impressive, there are massive chunks of pillars img_0076beneath the brick arches, partial walls stand all lending an atmosphere of what had been at one time an impressive structure. The original stonework, tiles and murals can still be seen in places. There are restorations underway, but much of the building is in ruins and will stay that way.

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 The Marketimg_0123

Around the square and off to the market we went. Both of us had enjoyed the market on our previous visit and my feet were killing me as all I had on were flip-flops and walking on cobblestones in them was crippling me. At the market I picked up some colorful plastic clogs – crocks in orange and blue, which would enable me to walk.

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The market is an amazing place; absolutely everything is for sale, from meat, vegetables, fruits, flowers, clothes, accessories, animals, etc, plus all kinds of services too. We had a totally fascinating wander around the market.

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After a great lunch at Cafe Condessa, – breakfast was so good we went back!

 Cerro De Cruz

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We left to hike to the Cerro De Cruz on the slope above Antigua. From Cerro De Cruz there is a great view looking out towards the Volcan Agua, the actual volcano that caused the destruction of much of Antigua hundreds of years ago, – it is still active.

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Iglesia y Convento de Santa Domingo

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Back down the steps we headed towards Iglesia y Convento de Santa Domingo. This was a monastery founded by Dominican friars in 1542. It became the biggest and richest monastery in Antigua. After 3 earthquakes in the 18th century the building was pillaged for the building materials.

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In 1970 an American archaeologist acquired the site as his private residence and site for digging. After extensive excavations the site was taken over by Casa Domingo Hotel. It is part of the cultural route now as major restorations have taken place.

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While being an excellent hotel it also includes the wonderfully restored monastery, plus underground crypts with original works from 1683, there are 6 different museum displays, artwork from Guatemala, examples of local clothing, and craft, a workshop for Guatemalan tile making and a candle making workshop.

 

 

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Needless to say John and I were in Iglesia y Convento de Santa Domingo for the rest of the afternoon. It was a fascinating place to visit and there were English explanations to most of the displays.

John and I both find Antigua a beautiful, fascinating place to visit.

“There are times when we stop. We sit still…We listen and breezes from a whole other world begin to whisper.” —  James Carroll

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Aeeshah splashed and Semuc Champey visited.

PHOTOS LINK –>>  https://goo.gl/photos/6KT4oi7vWSS3ob3W7 

Sunrise across the RioOur plan: was to splash Aeeshah at the beginning of October and then travel with our friends Diana and Lane to Semuc Champey on Sunday October 9th. The beginning of the month came and still we had the rudder to be adjusted and returned to the boat, the new boot lines had to be painted and the sides seen to.

Early morning visitors

 

 

 

 

Work was progressing slowly; I was feeling a bit frantic and frustrated. Then on the 3rd and 4th the lines got sanded, by the 5th the rudder was adjusted and affixed to the hull, the name redone and the painting of the of the boot lines completed. We made it back into the water by the 7th, moved out of India – the cabana and back on Aeeshah with a day to spare.

Aeeshah

Aeeshah looks fabulous! We are both very happy with the work and Aeeshah splashedworkers at RAM. By far the best we’ve ever had and much less expensive that anywhere else. Plus staying at India was a real luxury.

 

Semuc ChampeyTurquoise pools of Semuc Champey

When doing research of Guatemala, I saw what looked to me one of the most beautiful of rivers. The waters were turquoise and the rapids in a series of natural steps. This was a must see and experience place! However there was very little information about the area, other than it was a remote park of great natural beauty, with many adventurous expeditions available, but the down side was it was very challenging to get there. After speaking to Lane and Diana we agreed to try to travel there together. Lane had found a hostel called Utopia that was in the immediate area, looked great and had an option for transport. John and I were still in RAM working on Aeeshah so Lane and Diana kindly made the arrangements for all of us. We were set to leave on Sunday 9th, October.

img_9438Semuc Champey consists of a natural 300m limestone bridge, under which passes the Cahabon River. On top of the natural bridge is a series of stepped, turquoise pools that are fed pure water from the limestone cliffs that flank them. The whole area is reputed for its natural beauty. There are also many caves in this area due to the limestone; some are cave systems that are many miles long.

Getting there:

Diana, Lane, John and I left Catamaran on the launcha – Sledge Hammer – around noon and had an excellent lunch at Sundog. The mini bus that runs to Semac Champey area arrives between 1:00 and img_94422:00; well for us it arrived just after 2:00pm.

We climbed aboard with 2 other travelers and set off for Semuc Champey. The driver took the route that headed towards El Estor at the end of Lake Isabal. This stretch of 20 odd miles was really quite comfortable and we began to wonder why previous travelers had complained of such an uncomfortable, wild journey.

 

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The driver turned off onto a track and headed up a steep uphill. From then on it was one of the roughest rides imaginable. The track was a rocky, bolder strewn lane that wound its way uphill for miles. There was really only enough width for one vehicle, but we still met large trucks and other vehicles coming the other way.

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However the countryside and views were stunning. The entire journey on this track up and through the mountains took just over 5 hours, with 1 stop to use the loo in the wild outdoor banjos. I must say it was an exciting journey but the best was yet to come.

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We arrived in Lanquin after dark, off loaded and had a short wait for our next stage of the journey. What arrived was a small open truck with the bars across the top for an awning, but in our case they were there to hang onto. Off into the night we went steeply up and downhill. It really was a very bumpy roller coaster ride along the tracks leading to Utopia our hostel/hotel. After an hour we succeeded in arriving. We all piled into the bar and restaurant area in much need of a few drinks and a meal.

 

Utopia:

 

Utopia is a wonderful hostel/hotel hidden away in the national forest where Semuc Champey is located. It is a place where free spirits feel at home. It has a vegetarian family meal every evening, but if necessary one can order from the menu. We were very happy to sit, enjoy our alcoholic beverages and the family style meal.

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All the folks there were much younger than our group. Guessing I’d say they were all in their twenties, maybe early thirties, but we felt well at home chatting with them.

img_9545Utopia is located above the Cahabon River looking out over the river and the mountain slopes opposite; it is a very lovely location. The main building is an open large veranda with a bar, relaxation area, seating in the form if hammocks and swings, plus a few long tables. One table had a planter of herbs, (some of which is “herb”) growing down the center.

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A very casual and relaxed atmosphere is the norm there. The hostel area was above while the cabanas were throughout the property. The gardens have many flower-bordered paths that lead to the cabanas. Our cabanas were above the river, and rustically but adequately furnished. We were shattered from our full day of travel and by the time we got to bed we needed our sleep.

cavesDay one:

Caving, swinging into the river, bridge jumping, hiking, Semuc Champey and tubing down the river were our activities.

We set off in the “truck”, all 14 of us, plus backpacks hanging onto the crossbars. The area we went to is only 8 miles away, but it is a wild ride up and down very steep rough tracks.

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Arriving at a yellow bridge we unloaded and followed our guide along the banks of the Cahabon River to where we were going caving in the K’anba Caves. We were all prepared, wearing bathing suits and shorts with good outdoor shoes. Our guide distributed candles, as lights, (yes home-made candles) and led us to the entrance, which was up the cliffside. Once there we had our candles lit and proceeded in a line to enter the cave.

 

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This cave system is not a dry one, a river runs through the cave, and it is not a slow moving river, it is rapid and in areas disappears underground, yes, dangerous. In the beginning the guide allowed us to look over a ledge down to where the river disappeared deep into the earth. We had to swim holding our candles above our heads, there were guidelines, which you could grasp, but as most of our group were grasping them they were not very effective. The affect of following a line of candles underground in a river was thrilling! Our guide used dark mud from along the cave’s side, mixed I suspect with bat poops and painted our faces with crazy designs.

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The water depth ranged from quite shallow to deep, we wove around rocks and navigated the dark tunnel. When we reached the waterfall we climbed up some rocks out of the river. At the waterfall one had to climb up it and the cliff it while the river was crashing down.

The next part of the journey was drier and wound around large boulders and up steep metal ladders. There was an area where you could jump off a cliff into the dark for a 15 foot drop into the river.

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At the top, and end of the journey, the guide directed us to sit where there was only a hole and where the river was shooting down. He then basically lets you go …. down, down you fall, under and under you go in the river.

I was thinking I’d never get to the surface when I started to rise. Another guide handed me a lit candle. John who followed me and was really disorientated he came up nearly under the cliff with no light he was completely lost. As we were behind in the group we followed a couple towards where we thought our group had gone. We climbed up a ladder instead of remaining in the river. At the top we had to squeeze 12through a small gap and then walk around and over some deep holes. That was when we heard our guides calling us. John quickly about faced and promptly fell hard, into one of the deep holes! I was so scared he was badly hurt and here we were deep underground, hours and hours from any help. He staggered to his feet, climbed out and I helped him to get moving again. He felt really busted up and was worried about his ribs and hip. As it turned out he most likely did crack ribs and deeply bruised his back, upper and lower back. John suffered for weeks with the results of that fall.

Back with the group we carefully made our way out of the cave system. It had been a thrilling and exciting journey underground.

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Our guide then took us to where a swing had been rigged to img_9603swing out over the river. There we could swing 45 odd degrees over the river then drop into the river about 15 foot below and swim to shore. Only a few of the group tried, I was tempted as I love swings, but after seeing John’s accident I declined the opportunity.

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From the riverbank we went to the bridge where we were shown how we could jump off the bridge into the river way down below. This time the fall was a good 20-foot. Again we just watched while others took up the challenge, jumped and swam to the shore.

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Then it was lunchtime. So off we hiked uphill to a small eatery run by locals. Many of our group bought the lunch, but the four of us had brought a packed lunch. John was in much pain and really finding it difficult to get comfortable. Luckily some of the group had Advil, which he happily took.

Off we headed to see Semuc Champey the real attraction of the area. We hiked along a path which img_9644img_9650then broke off uphill steeply. Much of the path was straight up a cliff via wooden stairs; it was a tough, hot climb. I was very pleased with my effort and was not last to the top although being one of the oldest. At the top the path led through the rain forest to an out look over the Cahabon River and Semuc Champey.

 

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Semuc Champey consists of turquoise river pools. It must be one of the most beautiful sites in the world. The river gorge is steeply sided, the Cahabon River flows aggressivly down, and then disappears underground to reappear as a series of waterfalls some 300 odd meters away.img_9693

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Above the Cahabon River are the turquoise rock pools that are fed from the cliff walls. Thus you have a river bridge, a river over a river. The pools are turquoise due to the water being fed from the limestone cliff and due to the algae living in them. An amazing area. We all enjoyed the award of the climb, the stunning view.

Then it was down by another route to the river pools below. There we had a closer look of the river disappearing under the river bridge, of the pools and the river emerging from the other end.

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The whole group took to the pools to swim. We all ended up following each other from the top 

img_9738pools and down the series of pools above the river. We swam, slid down the channels, climbed out and slid down again until we had enjoyed every pool and many natural slides. The water was very refreshing, just wonderful!!

By then it was time to hike back to the bridge and go tubing.

 

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Tubing to me was to plonk oneself in a tube, relax and slowly drift down the river. Not so, here we were helped into our tubes, with our beers we had purchased from the persistent local venders. Then we were off down a quickly moving river. Before long we were faced with rapids!

img_9555Yes, rapids where we were told to lift our bums in order to avoid getting smashed by the rocks below. img_9743Now the rapids were not for the faint of heart. I consider myself very fortunate, as I did not get smashed; others were not so fortunate some even crashed into the shore! The wild river tubing ride lasted an hour the end stop being Utopia. It really was great fun and an exhilarating ride. Unfortunately, taking pictures was not an option.

Again the evening we were exhausted, but enjoyed drinks, vegetarian dinner and the company of each other.

Day 2:

Diana and Lane opted to do the Chocolate tour, which consisted of learning the whole process from the growth to the actual making of chocolate. They really had a great time with the owner of Utopia who owns the coca “farm” and they learned a tremendous amount about chocolate. Plus we got to sample their results, which were delicious.

John and I revisited Semuc Champey.

We took a packed lunch, got a ride in the back of the truck and set out to explore further. The truck ride was as rough as before, but I was getting the hang of how to hang on by then.

 

 

Once there we walked up the river leading to the pools, but branched off on a walk that went down river. There you could see the waterfalls from the pools dropping into the river and joining the main river. We walked down river a short way and enjoyed the scenery.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After which we walked back up river to where the river pools were I went swimming while John 

read, resting his injured back.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For lunch we walked to where the bridge starts and found a lovely place, which was by the side of the pools for our lunch. By the time we had lunch and walked towards the yellow bridge we were told the truck would be leaving shortly. So we enjoyed a slow walk back and piled into the truck back to Utopia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back at Utopia we set out to walk the surrounding lanes and countryside.

 

 

 

 

The views were beautiful! The slopes are seriously steep, so you get a good cardio workout too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our last evening was again lovely, good food, great company and wonderful surroundings at Utopia.

Back to Rio Dulce

The next morning we again climbed into the back of the truck with our gear and set off to get our collective from Lanquin.

 

 

 

The day was a cloudy one, but the scenery was stunning. This time around the driver took the rough, rough route about halfway, then headed northward to join the northern road leading back to the Rio.

 

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When the driver hit the smooth tarmac his foot hit the metal and we went like a bat out of hell all the way back.

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 It was an amazing few days spent at Semuc Champey and Utopia!

 

The purpose of life, after all, is to love it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience – Eleanor Roosevelt

“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.” –  Anaïs Nin

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