A Travellerspoint blog

IN MY OWN BACKYARD

PUFFINS AT ELLISTON POINT

sunny 27 °C

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It is almost a cliché. Finding the beauty in your own backyard that is. I am posting today while choking down a bit of crow. I am admittedly a wanna-be mainlander who often complains about my place of residence but one who just experienced a fantastic day in Bonavista and Ellison, Newfoundland, just 2.5 hours from home. To be honest, watching the whales and puffins were on par with seeing the animals in Africa.

Having seen some incredible picture of Puffins by one of the members of my photo club I felt compelled to go out in search of these beautiful birds. Fortunately I have a friend who is always up for an adventure and she just happens to own a beautiful Nissan convertible and loves to drive. I love being a passenger. Thanks Debbie. It didn’t hurt that it was yet another beautiful hot sunny day in the string of unprecedented terrific weather this summer. Newfoundland always looks best under the sun.

Our journey took us on a picturesque ride along the coast to Bonavista. We arrived and decided to check and see if the recommended restaurant was really closed on Mondays and while it was, it was no disappointment since it took us down a road that served as the viewing grounds for a spectacular show by the humpback and fin whales. The humpbacks were jumping out of the water and at one point two shot straight up and seemingly crossed and splashed back into the water. Another waved his tail for 20+ consecutive waves. I didn’t take any pictures because they were really too far away to do justice but I certainly enjoyed the show.

From there it was lunch outside at the Dairy King restaurant. While slow, the food was tasty and we were overlooking the water where there were a few more whales and plenty of sailboats.

Next stop was Elliston Point, home of the puffins. I have seen this little bird before but only from afar. They were amazing. Thousand of them whipping by just overhead and a couple who were close enough to pose for a picture. Sadly, all four of my camera batteries quickly depleted not allowing me to autofocus and I missed the best shots switching to manual focus. An obvious issue with the charger I used last night. Ugh! However I could not be the least bit mad because it was just spectacular and I am sure I will return to try again.

I figure since I share so many of my stories from around the globe, I should offer up this adventure so other might consider the same. I should add that there were next to no people around although we met a nice couple from Ontario who proclaimed Newfoundland to be the most beautiful place on earth and somewhere they might retire and another lady who from Michigan who says when her daughter has finished school, she is moving here. While I appreciate their enthusiasm, I did suggest that they may want to return in February to be sure before making the commitment.

Here is a taste of the beauty in my backyard.

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And me and Debbie enjoying it.

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Posted by curlygirl 18:53 Archived in Canada Tagged point puffins elliston bonavista Comments (2)

PLAYA DEL CARMEN

OUR FINAL DAY ON OUR G ADVENTURE’S MAYAN ENCOUNTER

sunny 37 °C

There wasn’t much to report yesterday given we spent 12 hours traveling! It really wasn’t as bad as expected but at one point we did considering trying to fly. We left Caye Caulker at 7 am by boat back to Belize City. From there it was a 2.5 hour drive in a crowded hot mini van to the Mexican Border, another 30 minutes to the closest town, Chetumal and then a 5 hour ride on a really nice public bus to Playa Del Carmen. From there just a 10 minute taxi ride that should have been 3, if all 3 taxi drivers didn’t get lost looking for our hotel. I felt great upon arrival given that I slept on each of these modes of transportation, except the taxi.

The border crossing was mostly uneventful. At every Mexican border they have a random scanning system. Each person, after clearing the immigration steps must push a button which either turns green for go or red for further inspection. I was towards the end of the line with 13 others having gone ahead, all of which received the green “carry on” light and were waiting in anticipation for the person with the red light. Of course that turned out to be me. I was encouraged however from the cheers by my crew as soon as the red light illuminated and my search was without incident, unless you count the officer questioning my pure cocoa powder and confirming with a taste.

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We arrived in Playa Del Carmen at 7:30 and after a quick clean up, went out for supper. It was also decision time on how we would spend our last day. It was tough because there was an opportunity to swim with the whale sharks, the largest fish in the sea. It sounded really cool but required more time on a bus and not much chill time. We decided instead to spend the day exploring Playa del Carmen.

Although our first impressions did not impress we had a pretty good day. Playa del Carmen is by far the most touristy spot on our tour and if you keep to the main streets downtown you would think you were in any American city with stores like Forever 21 and Victoria Secrets. We did however manage to wander through some side streets and find a little gem for breakfast. We were charmed by George who assured us he could provide a terrific breakfast super cheap. He did not disappoint and the charm of this place, filled only with locals was delightful. The only negative was the instant coffee so I swapped out for tea which turned out to be flower blossom tea. After taking our order the first time we received a free local drink made of the water or milk drained from rice, sugar and a sprinkle of cinnamon. I quite liked it but Gayle wasn’t so fussy so only had a few sips before George finished it off. He then came back apologizing for forgetting our order, explaining it was a bit of a night the previous evening and his memory was hurting. We ended up with a delicious breakfast and lots of entertainment.

George

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His Grand-daughter

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We spent the rest of the morning walking around 5th Avenue poking in and out the shops. The options were typical Mexican junk or overpriced American brands but we managed to find a few little purchases. I really didn’t do any shopping on this trip. Besides not needing a thing, handicrafts were surprisingly quite expensive. It was so outrageously hot today we had to escape the sun and what better solution than a $25 70 minutes massage. Gayle who is not nearly as addicted as I, rarely indulging, decided to join me for a couples massage. It was really terrific. After that, Gayle went on her way and I stayed for a pedicure. It is has been a long time since I had a pedi with so much love and attention. I can’t think of a better way to have avoided the heat although I hear the whale sharks were pretty amazing.
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Cigar Roller

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Street Food

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Lunch involved many of the necessary food groups. Chocolate and coconut frozen banana.

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From then it was back to the hotel for a swim in the pool. While cooling, it was not so relaxing, with a pool full of kids playing ball and a hotel under heavy construction but pleasant and refreshing all the same.

So we are headed out shortly for our final supper with the gang and then it is off to the airport in the morning. Yet another wonderful holiday with another wonderful friend. As always, feeling blessed.

Posted by curlygirl 17:16 Archived in Mexico Tagged del playa g adventures carmen massage Comments (1)

SNAPPERS AT WISH WILLY'S

OUR LAST DAY IN CAYE CAULKER AND BELIZE

sunny 33 °C

We had a completely free day today meaning there were no planned or suggested activities on the schedule. We both keep really busy and enjoyed another great day.

As usual we were up bright and early and were out having breakfast before 8 am. It was nice to relax and drink coffee (again we are missing the Guatemalan stuff) and just surf the net, upload my blog and relax. Gayle decided to rent a bike and explore the island but I couldn’t manage the heat and really felt I need to stay out of the sun after yesterday’s over exposure. I simply sat on the beach under an umbrella and read a book and people watched. I bought a beautiful crocheted bag from this lady who came buy selling her wares. Things are not cheap but I felt so bad for her and her neck. When I asked if her neck got tired, she said “yes, very”. She was with her son, who was delighted to get his picture taken, and a friend. They sat for a while in the shade.

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After wasting away the morning, we went off on our organized tour along with Sam and Marian. On the recommendation of the tour company that took us our yesterday, we decide to go fishing. We had a wonderful time but were a little disappointed that we didn’t get what was advertised. We were promised three types of fishing including the much anticipated spear fishing but only ended up rod fishing. Nevertheless it was fun and the snapper were plentiful. We got lots.

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We also stopped at a Tarpon pool. We feed them and they went nuts!

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There was one mishap when a Friggit bird got caught in our guide’s hook. Thank god it wasn’t mine. He was really good at calming the bird but sadly could not remove the hook. He eventually cut and the bird set off free. These birds were like seagulls, chasing the fish as we were hauling them in.

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After getting back late in the day, our guide cleaned up the fish and we took enough for everyone in our group (17 total) over to the restaurant where we would be eating later. We were told Willy would cook them up. Almost as good as St. Chad’s on fish day. Note the dreadlocks tucked into his back pocket. And a sting ray swam by.

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The fisherpeople bringing the fish to Willy

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We really didn’t know how special this would be until later when Andrew took us as a group to dinner at Wish Willy’s. This place was amazing and reminded me of somewhere Anthony Bourdain would go. It is poked away at the end of a side street and appears to be nothing more than someone’s backyard. As soon as you open the gate the magic begins. From the smell of smoke on the traditional Belizean BBQ to the hammocks in the corner. Not to mention Willy himself who has a presence that instantly welcomes you and making you believe he loves his work. We sat down at a long table and before too long the feast began. Of course it started with huge jugs of rum punch. The first dish to arrive was our fish. They were cooked perfectly in a seasoning that Willy prepared himself in the morning. It was so delicious and fresh everyone was thrilled to be eating our catch. We soon realized there was no need for the extra dish because along came fresh bbqed chicken, pork, lobster, and curried Barracuta, caught today by Willy himself. We had baked potatoes, which delighted the Irish girls, rice, stir fried veggies and I don’t know what else. It was an amazing meal, cooked to perfection in a blissful setting. A perfect ending to our time in Belize.

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Had to try the hammock. This is my view from it.

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Tomorrow begins a 12 journey to Playa Del Carmen, Mexico.

Here are some kids playing soccer with their make shift net.

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Teenagers are the same everywhere.

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My new friend Razda. He is a true Rastafarian. I really wanted the traditional hat not the ones made for tourists so during the time I was off fishing, he found me a locally knit one. Peace and love.

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Posted by curlygirl 22:02 Archived in Belize Comments (0)

HEY DUDE, IT'S ME CRUSH

SWIMMING WITH SHARKS AND RAYS

sunny 35 °C

I am beyond exhausted after a wonderful day on the water.

After a really nice breakfast and a horrible coffee we came back to the room to get ready for our outing. Approaching our room, number 2, we encountered this little friend. They are harmless.

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At 10:30, we met at Raggamuffins for our full day snorkeling trip on the world’s second largest barrier reef. Although it was blowing a gale, it turned out to be a perfect day. We had three stops on our tour. The first was closest to the island and known to be least spectacular however as soon as I jumped in I was right on top of two large nurse sharks. By the time the others got in, the sharks were gone. We spend about an hour there before getting back on the boat for a delicious lunch. Most of us had seafood so our huge plate of food included grouper, snapper and shrimp with rice and pasta salad. Of course we added some of the Belizan favorite, Marie Sharp’s hot sauce.

At our next stop they threw some food over board including some conch shells with sardines pushed inside which attracted a large number of nurse sharks, giant sting rays, and schools of fish. Big fish. We could see them all from the boat but all jumped in to swim with them. Very cool.

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From there we headed out to a spot where we could swim right out to where the reef meets the Caribbean Sea. The snorkeling was great there. We saw 5 sea turtles, including a huge one that was missing a foot. These creatures are majestic. We saw more sharks, barracudas, parrot fish and a huge moray eel that came so close to me! There were tons of other fish as well. It was just like hanging with Nemo and the gang.

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To further add to our joyful day, we had the best crew. Vito, Charles and Shane provided great entertainment. Especially Shane who sang and taught us reggae songs. It was a hoot. Of course no snorkeling trip ends without the booze cruise and as we made our way back the rum punch was flyin’. We also had a delicious shrimp ceviche.

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It is hard to imagine that the day could get any better but it did. After a quick shower I went for the most amazing massage. He even did the inside of my ears.

So I am beat, sunburnt, despite using a full tube of sunscreen, but relaxed and happy. We are both looking forward to a good night’s sleep, a relaxing morning and a very special afternoon tomorrow.

I did forget to mention the significance of the graveyard in the last post. It is so bizarre. Our hotel is literally on top of it and as we walk though the alley to our room we pass lots of headstone. Gayle even finds it necessary to wish them all goodnight in the evenings.

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Posted by curlygirl 06:31 Archived in Belize Comments (1)

LIFE ON CAYE CAULKER

LAND OF THE FREE. WHERE LIFE MOVES SLOW AND ANYTHING GOES

sunny 35 °C

Hey Man. We have arrived at the very cool, very laid back island of Caye Caulker (pronounced Kay Cocker) and it is beautiful. The island is known for its Rastafarian culture with lots of hip hop and reggae music. Has a Jamaican feel. I think it is the accents. We have 3 nights here.

Our day started early with a 7 am departure from the hotel dragging our bag to the highway to catch the local bus to Belize City. When it first pulled up we all chuckled but despite the lack of air conditioning it was a really pleasant, interesting and quick 2.5 hour journey.

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From Belize City we took an hour ride on a very crowded boat but arrived safely.

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First sign we saw

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Making our way to the hotel

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There wasn’t much on the agenda for today except to arrange our snorkelling tour for tomorrow and poke around the island. We did have a wonderful lunch. It is lobster season and here that means the spinney ones. I had a lobster ceviche that was out of this world. Ceviche is very popular here made with the freshest of ingredients. Rum punch seems to flow freely here as well. We have not found food cheap but my big bowl of ceviche, a water and a rum punch was $15. Not bad considering there was a ton of lobster in there.

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We did wander down to the split which is the place where what was once a larger island split into two after a hurricane. This is where everyone swims, drinks and hangs out. It is like spring break and everyone is very young so I think I will just perch myself by the hotel beach in my down time.

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Chocolate or eggs?

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Some snaps from the day including some Interesting locals.

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Posted by curlygirl 17:53 Archived in Belize Comments (1)

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