A Travellerspoint blog

December 2014



"If you are lucky enough to find a way of life you love,
you have to find the courage to live it."
~John Irving

Posted by woa 14:39 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

Ik Kil Cenote

by Andrea

sunny 83 °F
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We are having a great stay here in Chichen Itza. Today was spent at the Ik Kil Cenote. I had never heard of a 'cenote' until we arrived in Chichen Itza and George said we would visit this Blue Sacred Cenote, which happens to be across the street from our hotel.

This morning we entered the sacred pool which is surrounded by limestone and plants on the walls. We were the first visitors in the pool and had it all to ourselves for a little while! In the water it was quiet, and felt kind of sacred.
Eventually more people started arriving. Many of them were holding cell phones, cameras, video recorders, and those 'selife poles' with their cameras attached. I wondered, are we (meaning a ll of us) trying to have experiences, or just capture them to share online?

Of course we took lots of pictures too. Of course, the tours have limited time to spend and people want to capture their memories, while having fun. On one hand, it's good people are getting out and doing active things while supporting tourism . On the other hand, there is a lack of etiquette when someone stops right in front of you (blocking your view) to take their selfies.
I tried to embrace my time in the water by noticing how silky, pure, and refreshing it felt as I was enveloped in it made a stronger tactile impression. By looking up to the Mayan sky and feeling the 'rain' where water falls from rock crevices above. By seeing all the small black catfish that swim in this water as well. And no scent of chlorine whatsoever. Obviously using more of our senses enhance the experience. This, by far, was the best, most amazing water I have ever swam in (second best is the warm, turquoise Caribbean Sea).

Even though people who are constantly glued to their devices, snapping photos of everything, annoy me, I think the answer is both - being present while having the experience, and capturing it in photos to share...as long as you are not spending the whole time looking at the experience through your device, and seeing where you are with our own eyes. For example, 13 years ago in Paris I remember vividly, viewing the Mona Lisa at the Lourve where tourists were crowded around the painting holding up cameras, snapping away. Maybe society has become too instant-everything, to take the necessary time to view art and nature in a slower, meaningful, way. You decide.

Posted by woa 03:09 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)


George "The Scourge of Barbados" Reporting...

82 °F
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I was fortunate enough to have a few interesting thoughts while swimming in an inviting, blue
pool beneath Blackbeard's Castle on the island of St. Thomas in the Caribbean. Some of these
thoughts were conjured up thanks to a few magic elixirs of 'Blackbeard's (a rum drink) mixed with
warm blue sky and topped off with bright, spring-like flowers surrounding the pool.
One interesting thing, I learned, was that fearsome Blackbeard the Pirate (real name Edward Teach)
used to place two, long entwined cannon fuses made of hemp underneath his big hat. The 6' 4"
pirate would then light them before going into battle, creating a swirling vortex of smoke about
his face that would both scare the beejeezus out of his enemies while, maybe, inducing a unique
state-of-mind for Blackbeard. Let me be clear, Blackbeard was a terrible, awful person who
killed many innocent people and had 16 wives, which he killed after every honeymoon.
But his whole 'smoking head for battle' showed a high level of creativity in my opinion. Blackbeard
understood well how evocative and unique presentation methods enhanced his performance. You might
even compare him to Lady Gaga or Madonna or any dance performer her used smoke and mirrors to
dazzle the audience. It was not too surprising to learn that his real last name was 'Teach', and
that he originally came from England. In those days, one's last name was very closely related
to the family occupations such as 'Blacksmith' or 'Gardener'. I don't think there is evidence
out there that proves Blackbeard came from a family of teachers but it wouldn't surprise me a bit.
Some of the brightest and most creative minds I know of happen to be teachers. And if they ever
went 'bad', I would hate to think what damage they would do to the world. In fact, you might consider the main
character in the TV series 'Breaking Bad' as a modern day Blackbeard, an example of another teacher going "bad".

Ganda Excursion on St. Thomas Island, Caribbean $200
You probably already know that cruises offer various excursions costing anywhere from $50-$100 or
more. The cost mostly covers transportation, tour guides and perhaps snorkeling rentals and other
one-time uses.

At our first island in St. Thomas, we bypassed the first series of excursions and created our
own for a cost of about $200.
This is what you get:
1. 1.5 mile walking tour from the boat to Charlotte Amalie city where you can window shop
at stores you won't buy anything. Stop about midway on the beautiful pathway and access free
wi-fi for up to 2 hours. Wifi on the ship is prohibitively expensive so now is a great time
to check that email and such.
2. Stroll through the center of Amalie and marvel at the beautiful old Victorian era homes
mixed with a centuries old fort and various more affordable shops where you can buy a pair of
men's shorts and a women's bikini set for about $60.
3. Stroll on through 'Little Switzerland' which is just like 'Little Chinatown' or 'Little
Mexico' exccept, you know, it's Swiss. Spend time (pun intended) looking for the ideal
travel watch because, you know, you need one and we didn't have one if you can believe that.
Find two solar-powered, water-proof Casio watches for a duty-free, tax-free grand total of $101.
4. Continue a hiking tour to the famous '99 Steps' up to Blackbeard's Castle. Cost: Free
5. Enter the grounds of Blackbeard's Castle and take the short, very interesting tour of his
castle/tour made out of brick and sugar-mortar. Yes, that's right. You can make mortar out of
sand, water and sugar. Cost: $20 for two.
6. Included in the tour is an opportunity to swim in the beautiful pool beneath the Castle/Tower
for as long as you like. Now aren't you glad you bought that swimming wear in town?
7. Purchase two glasses of the fearsome rum drink called 'Blackbeard's Revenge' and alternate
sips and pool dives. Cost of all drinks $16
8. Tour also includes entrance to two Victorian homes that are beautifully furnished and
reminded us terribly of our past home in Oakland. The main house on this tour is the ideal
floor plan Andrea said. And the balcony view of the entire port area was a knockout.
9. After finishing your walking tour, which includes gardens, pirate statuary, some history and
even a waterfall made entirely of amber, continue back down the 99 Steps to the heart of town.
10. Stop here and purchase two bottles of wine and a bottle of spiced Bacardi rum for a grand total
of $30. Oh, and pick up a $10 pair of sunglasses for your sunglasses-losing prone wife.
11. Take the 30 minute hike back to your ship and arrive about an hour before it sails off.
Total excursion time: 5 hours approx. Total Excursion Cost: $237
Sounds expensive except you get to keep the bathing suits, and bottles of wine and rum and sunglasses
to use on your continuing voyage! Sign up on the Lido Deck Now! Just ask for Ganda. :)

The value of cruising
So initially this Caribbean cruise was a spontaneous gift for my wife. I felt like we needed
a little break from carrying around our big backpacks from town to town and a little vacation
from our traveling if you can swallow that.

It had been about 7 years since the last time we cruised and I don't recall having the best
time then. Cruising seemed to limiting to our anxious minds and bodies then, however, it
now seemed like an ideal time to relax a bit from our hectic travel schedule. But I've learned that
there is quite a lot of value to cruising much like the post I did about the value of
living hotel to hotel.

The entire 7-day cruise for two cost approx. $800 not including airfare. That's just a little
bit over $100 per day that covers the cabin suite, all meals, all non-alcoholic drinks, on board
entertainment, all-you-can-eat ice cream, daily maid service (very important), gym, use of board
games, access to books and literally transport to a different island nearly everyday. There is
quite a bit of "savings" in there from the usual way we travel and food is accessible 24 hours
a day. The meals alone are a pretty good value. There is the usual Lido deck food court food,
which isn't bad, and you can make healthy or unhealthy choices. However, if you choose to use
the dining room, you get treated to excellent, restaurant quality meals which includes dessert
and in most cases, a bottle of wine. Tips are not required. We figured that the nice brunch
we had this morning which included bagel and locks, steak and eggs, various pastries and unlimited
coffee probably would have cost a minimum of $40 (not including tip) anywhere else. Brunch like
that every day of the cruise comes out to over 1/4 of the cost of the entire cruise. Lunch and
Dinner are equally luxurious and over great value.

Carnival will hit you with an $84 per person gratuity fee to cover all room service for the week which seem high but they clean TWICE
a day and put up with various slobs no doubt. But if you get lucky at the roulette table, like I did, then it's covered!

Mostly, if you can figure out a fairly inexpensive way to get to a cruise port, you should give the Caribbean a try. The pirate
history here is pretty cool and I'm always on the hunt for buried treasure. If you have
a secret map, please email me at your earliest convenience and I'll split the booty with you...
maybe. ahahahahahhah
Aaargh me mateys!


Posted by woa 03:38 Archived in Barbados Comments (0)

Where are We?

George Reporting

sunny 72 °F
View WOA: GANDA TRAVEL 2014 on woa's travel map.

Howdy All!

Gosh, I've never thought of blogging while swinging in a hammock just a stone's throw from ancient Mayan ruins but, here I am doing just that.

It seemed like a whirlwind the past 10 days but really the cruise in the Caribbean was great and we enjoyed a nice long break from dragging our bags around from hotel to hotel. One day we walked in the warm rain to our hotel in Cancun and the next day we were snorkeling among sunken pirate ships an sea turtles. Then a night of dining and entertainment followed by a day of swimming in warm pools of water or hiking to historical landmarks.

We've taken some pictures but haven't had the time to process them and put them up along with a post. Also, the cruise Internet is very expensive and connections on the island is spotty. In addition, I feel like it's just 'wrong' to open up a connection when the sights and sounds of a new adventure are just steps away.

However, we understand and are grateful that we have so many people who care about us that it is important we let them know that we are still around. Thankfully this blog helps in this regard. So I am giving advance knowledge of where we will be over the next several days and weeks.

Tomorrow, we are taking the 5 min. taxi ride from our nice Hotel Dolores Alba to see the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza. A sacred site similar to the Inca stronghold in Macchu Picchu. After that, we are heading across the street from our hotel to swim in the Ik Kil cenote, a personal dream of mine.
Here we will swim in fresh rain water surrounded by a cavern and lush jungle. If we are eaten by a crocodile, oh well, what a great way to go I say...

Afterwards we will be going to the town of Merida in the NW part of the Yucatan. Merida is a large urban city with many advantages and great places to stay for the holidays. Most likely, we will be hunkering down there for several weeks.

After that? Your guess is as good as ours....



more blog update to follow once we settle in Merida.

Posted by woa 14:20 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

Timeshare: Pirate

Why I would become a Pirate by George

semi-overcast 80 °F
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Okay. I had this feeling that I could have become a pirate had I lived between the 15th and 17th centuries.
Sure, this feeling came to me while I was swimming in the blue warm bath, known as the Caribbean Sea, about 50 yards from the fine white sands off the coast of Isla Mujeres or 'Island of Women', but let me explain...

First, the morning began with an early morning jog, through the warm, sunny moist air, within the Puerto Juarez area just north of the main Cancun hotel district. I passed by what looked like a brand new hotel/resort and decided to go inside and have a look around. One of the attendants showed me around but before long, I was escorted into a luxurious suite with a bar and well-dressed folks ambling about. My attendant asked me if I liked Tequila and I said, "No, not really." He replied with, Well, here you go!" and he slapped an unopened bottle of tequila into my hands and told me it was mine for free. Very soon after I realized I had stepped into some kind of timeshare sales zone which they said "really wasn't a timeshare". But I had some time and I enjoyed the coffee they gave me and was intrigued to hear their sales pitch while gazing out over the smooth rolling blue ocean near my feet.

After about 20 minutes I realized I needed to get back to the hotel or else my wife might think I've run off with a local girl or encountered a band of ruthless banditos. In reality, escaping a band of timeshare salesmen is a little bit harder than either of those.

I was able to finally make my escape, jogging down the street back to the hotel with a bottle of tequila in my hand and the occasional Policia passing by me on the road. I decided to hand off my tequila to an old blind man seated near the banos adjacent to the beach access. I hope he likes it.

Later, we water-taxied over to Isla Mujeres at the far end of the North Playa where we enjoyed a few Mojitos while alternating between swimming and lounging on our mojito-bed (basically a futon type thing with a table) right on the beach about 5 feet from the water.

After some time, I waded further away from the shore while Andrea read and I found a nice quiet spot to speculate on the whole pirate-lifestyle thing. I realized that, had I lived 400-500 years ago, this is how I would have become a pirate...
First, I had to be somehow abused by the Spanish Empire in some way. Pretty easy since Spain, as a world power then, brutalized everybody under the sun for a variety of reasons. If I were a Jew living in Spain, my family and I could have been forced to convert or face death or exile. If I were in Peru, living under Incan rule, my country would have been raped and pillaged to excess by the Conquistadors. In either case, I could have found myself quite angry at Spanish foreign policy and it would have been a very simple thing for a local pirate to basically "timeshare" me into becoming one. He could have easily slapped a jug of rum into my hand, walked me along the warm, white sandy beaches, pointing to the blue warm waters and the various naked women running loose on the Isla Mujeres, and said, "All this could be yours! All you need to do is occasionally attack the gold laden ships of the damned Spanish Empire!" "Well..", I would start to say, "they did kill my family in Spain for not converting or they did kill my Inca king and abuse my people and rape and pillage my country in Peru so why the hell not! Where do I sign??"
And that, ladies and gentleman, is the story of how I would have become a pirate had I lived many centuries ago. But for now, I think I'll just float in these crystal clear blue waters and gaze far into the horizon, with the clouds above me complicit in my meanderings.

Now we are off to San Juan, Puerto Rico to catch a cruise ship stopping at several islands in the Caribbean. Maybe I will become a pirate during that
voyage?? AARRGGHH!

Posted by woa 19:39 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

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