Paraiso, Isla Mujeres

Throwback Thursday: Ringing in the New Year

Now that we’re sitting in Indiantown Marina and it’s obvious that we’re going to be here for quite a long time while we fix up Daze Off to sail, I don’t want to bore you with stories that are only related to boat work (but don’t worry, they’re still coming).   I know that’s what some of you crave, but if you’re like me, you also need a little fun in there.  A little travel and a little adventure.

So for the foreseeable future while we are doing nothing much more than boat work I will be adding a Throwback Thursday post in every week as well.  Cataloging our trip so far, giving you that needed sense of travel and adventure, and for those of you that haven’t started with us from the beginning, catch you up on some of the most important or memorable parts of our travels.

Still in Isla Mujeres, I couldn’t think of a better place to ring in the New Year.  We love that little island off the coast of Cancun! We also had the benefit that our friends Luki and Elamri were still with us and there were good restaurants with cheap beer not far away. After having spent a few days in the lagoon, which sounds much more magical than it was, we were back out in the main bay of Isla.  With days full of going to the beach or sitting at anchor, watching the overloaded catamarans bring drunken tourists out to the hottest snorkeling spots, it was not taking us long to get back into island time.

Even though most of our days were spent with no more worries than to relax or if we were getting low on beer or cookies, New Years was still a nice occasion to get dressed up and go out.  I wish I could say I partied all night long, but it turns out that spending all your days in the sun and surf can take a lot out of a girl.

You can find the original post here.

Wednesday January 1, 2014

Paraiso, Isla Mujeres

Since we left the Rio so much later than we expected, by about a month, and then had an extra week added to our time in Belize due to bad weather, Mexico was not where we were expecting to ring in the New Year. In fact, I had grand plans in my mind of meeting up with Brian and Stephanie in George Town Bahamas so we could celebrate it all together. With their timely departure for Panama coming up, it looked to be the only place we might ever have to cross paths again. But life, especially a cruisers, never quite goes as planned. I have to admit though, if we couldn’t buddy up Serendipity and Rode Trip in the Bahamas, staying with our other buddy boat Skebenga in Mexico was a very close second. We even threw out one very nice weather window to Florida to stay here and celebrate.

Our plans were not to be grand, just heading out to Marina Paraiso after dinner and enjoying a few beers and cocktails, and seeing if we could make it to the New Year. Luki and Elmari had already mentioned they’d probably be back at their boat long before midnight ever came, but I was hopeful that we’d run into our friend Rum/Ron (seriously, does anyone know how to spell his name) from Rio Dulce, one of the guys that watched Georgie.

It was lucky for me that Matt had been up until 3 or 4 am going into NYE so that he required a nap in the afternoon before going out. Why is this good you might ask? Because I was able to sneak out my flat iron to style my hair. As much as I love the thing, it sucks up about 20 amps while in use, and we’re still not quite at a place yet where we can easily spare it. I haven’t had a fancy cocktail hour in months though, and to me it was worth skipping watching a movie for the next night. By the time 7:00 rolled around and I was all dolled up, getting myself slightly sweaty while trying to prepare a quick dinner though, we were ready to hit the town for the night.

Luki and Elmari were already sitting at the bar when we got there, and we saddled up next to them at a table and enjoyed a couple of cold Pacifico’s (or in Matt’s case, Coke). The bar wasn’t quite as crowded as we thought it would be for NYE, about 10-15 people sitting at the actual bar, and then us and one other couple sitting at the tables just outside of it. Conditions weren’t quite perfect to be outside though, even though the night was warm, there were strong winds whipping through the grounds. The thing we found most strange was that the winds were coming from the east, and that’s where we were sitting protected from. Still, just like the Windy City, they managed to wrap their way around the buildings and find us, taking my perfectly glossy hair and turning it into the beginnings of a rat’s nest.

It was after only two beers and lots of good conversation that most of our group began getting tired and were ready to retreat back to our boats. Since it was a night for celebration, we decided to stay for one more drink, each ordering a fancy cocktail instead of the beers or pops we currently had in hand. Once again in a tribute to Brian and Stephanie, I ordered a gin & tonic, while Matt went with his old classic of Vodka Sour. I had been hoping to finally break out that bottle of champagne we’ve been carrying around in the ‘Dip since we left Michigan, the one that was supposed to celebrate Jackie’s 30th birthday in the Bahamas that we never got to meet up for, but instead the four of us made plans to enjoy a NYE part II the following week, after Skebenga’s company that was coming in the next day, left. It was 10:30 when we all made it back to our boats, and I was quick in bed after stripping off my party dress. Matt tried to wake me at midnight when fireworks began going off in every direction, but unfortunately, three drinks was enough to make me catatonic, and I could only stumble around for a minute to glance at them before falling back in bed.

pool at Paraiso, Isla Mujeres

Matt & Jessica at Paraiso, Isla Mujeres

 The rat’s nest is starting to take shape.

Scuba at Paraiso, Isla Mujeres

Scuba, the resident diving instructor’s dog.

bar at Marina Paraiso, Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Today we decided to take it easy, as if our life has been anything else lately, and make another trip up to Playa Norte. Once again we prepared ourselves with a blanket, drinks and snacks. We exchanged our our e-readers for paperbacks, the digital SLR for a point and shoot, and were ready to leave all belongings unattended should the desire for an afternoon stroll or a frolic in the water come up. Once we entered the sandy passageway, we found that once again the area was packed with tourist and locals from the mainland enjoying their time off work. It was quite unintentional since we couldn’t find an open spot leading up to it, but we ended up at the same exact place that we had just a few days earlier. Taking shade under that same palm tree, we spread out our towel and unwound to the sounds of popular artist playing through the speakers of a nearby bar.

It was looking to be the perfect afternoon…until we smelled the poo. Just as my eyes were drifting shut, as this time I actually was planning on taking a nap, my nose went on high alert as it sensed a smell I’ve unfortunately had to clean out of our litter box many times. The strange thing was, one second it was there, the next second it was gone. I asked Matt if it had wafted past his nose as well, but he could smell nothing unusual. I ignored it and continued to relax. Every few minutes it arose though, and then departed just as quickly. At this point Matt had finally caught on to the scent as well, and although it seemed to be more pungent around me, kept asking if I wanted to move to a different area. Since I couldn’t see anything in eyesight that was available and I didn’t want to pack up all our belongings to search for another open area down the beach, I just went with it.

There were a few checks of all of our belongings just to make sure it was not in fact poo from our cat that we had inadvertently dragged to the beach with us, but quick nose to fabric searches of all of our belongings came up with nothing. I began eyeing the Pomeranian a few towels down. It seemed to be smirking at me. Finally when I was literally about to throw in our towel to find another area of open sand or possibly even evacuate back to the boat, a New Years miracle happened to us. A family of four that had rented out as many chairs and an umbrella for the day, decided to pack it in. Probably through the sheer luck that we were the closest people to them that were stuck in the sand, they offered up their lounges and umbrella to us, ‘since it was already paid through the rest of the day’. I greedily snatched up all our belongs before the offer could be replaced to anyone else. Then, while settling in to my new accommodations next to the other couple next to us in the sand that had been offered the other two seats, I heard some of the sweetest words in the English language. “We’re not going to finish the rest of our beer, would you like it? It’s still cold.” 2014, if you keep treating us like this, I think we may do very well together.

laying out at Playa Norte, Isla Mujeres

lounge chairs on Playa Norte, Isla Mujeres

swimming at Playa Norte, Isla Mujeres

Jessica at Playa Norte, Isla Mujeres, Mexico

decorations on Skebenga

Throwback Thursday: Feliz Navidad

Now that we’re sitting in Indiantown Marina and it’s obvious that we’re going to be here for quite a long time while we fix up Daze Off to sail, I don’t want to bore you with stories that are only related to boat work (but don’t worry, they’re still coming).   I know that’s what some of you crave, but if you’re like me, you also need a little fun in there.  A little travel and a little adventure.

So for the foreseeable future while we are doing nothing much more than boat work I will be adding a Throwback Thursday post in every week as well.  Cataloging our trip so far, giving you that needed sense of travel and adventure, and for those of you that haven’t started with us from the beginning, catch you up on some of the most important or memorable parts of our travels.

Where I last left you off we had just sailed from Belize to Mexico and decided to stop in Cozumel even though we had originally been planning to pass it by. Checking in there was much more of a breeze than we’d anticipated after hearing horror stories of what it can be like to clear in to Mexico. We spent a few days wandering this cruise ship island and enjoyed a few of the finer things in life like real groceries stores with thing we recognized and having meals of beer and tacos.

Trying to get to Isla Mujeres in time to reunite with our friends on Skebenga in time for the holidays, we had a quick overnight sail where we constantly had cruise ships on each side of us and a few that came a little too close for comfort. We ended up needing a full day to catch up on sleep from our overnighter, but the following day we were more than eager to get out and do a little snorkeling with Luki and Elmari. It was the perfect introduction to Mexico, but the fun was nowhere near done.  Christmas had been all planned out too, making sure to do it up Caribbean style with some time pool side and lobster for dinner.

You can find the original post here.

Wednesday December 25, 2013

decorations on Skebenga

If we had a crappy Christmas last year (and we did; think sitting alone in a boat yard on the hard, watching Rambo), this year’s made up for it ten fold.

We woke up to some overcast skies, and I wasn’t sure how our day lounging around the pool would go.   Fixing up some special holiday flavored coffee, I fooled around on the computer for awhile while watching the clouds break up and the sun came shining through.  We had a 1:00 reservation for the six of us at one of the marinas for lunch.  A few good hours were spent here, first sitting at the bar enjoying a few beers, then moving to the pool to soak up some sun, and finally moving to one of the tables to order lunch.  Even though the menu was full of delicious looking items, I went with the fish tacos.  The food was amazing and even came with three different kinds of salsas and sauces for topping.  Add a margarita on the rocks, and it was the perfect Mexican meal.

Dos Equis

Elmari at Paraiso

pool at paraiso

fish tacos at paraiso


 Keeping with our Mexican theme for the day, each group went back to their respective boats after lunch for a little siesta.   After everyone was fully rested we met up once more for dinner on Skebenga.  As is tradition with our little group, we started out with a few cocktails before any of the food came out.  Luki made his world famous mojitos, which would have been enough incentive on it’s own to come over.  We were also pleasantly surprised when we had a visitor stop over for a few minutes, another cruiser that was in Jamaica with us.  Lance of s/v EZ was also in Isla, and popped over for one drink before heading back to his boat for the night.  He told us that there was a window for him to leave the next morning to get all the way to the Bahamas, so he didn’t want to be out too late.  Knowing what a bad influence our group can be (Just stay for one more drink), I couldn’t argue with him.

Shortly after he left, we started in on our Christmas feast.  As if our lunch out wasn’t good enough.  A little grill was pulled out into the cockpit where seasoned and spiced lobsters were placed on it.  Each person got their own tail, accompanied by dipping sauces.  This wasn’t even our dinner though, it was an appetizer.  While dinner was cooking down below in the galley, we enjoyed a great sunset in the cabin while enjoying our shellfish and mojitos.

The rest of our night included steak, wine, and great conversation.  When Jan found out that Matt and I were hoping to do some traveling through South Africa one of the winters that our boat was being held in a marina in the Med, he offered us to come stay at his wildlife preserve.  Matt was completely stoked to hear this since after seeing the pyramids in Egypt (who knows if that will ever happen), going on safari is a close second.  Now I’m almost getting excited to get to the Med as quick as possible so we can start our travels through South Africa.

This Christmas turned out so much better than either of us could have imagined, and we’re so thankful to Luki and Elmari for letting us be a part of it.  It’s hard when you don’t get to see your family this time of year, but being with our cruising family was the next best thing.

dodger on Skebenga

Lance and Matt

grilling lobster

Turkish lamp

Jan on Skebenga


sunset in Mexico

Throwback Thursday: Racing Almost Skebenga

Now that we’re sitting in Indiantown Marina and it’s obvious that we’re going to be here for quite a long time while we fix up Daze Off to sail, I don’t want to bore you with stories that are only related to boat work (but don’t worry, they’re still coming).   I know that’s what some of you crave, but if you’re like me, you also need a little fun in there.  A little travel and a little adventure.

So for the foreseeable future while we are doing nothing much more than boat work I will be adding a Throwback Thursday post in every week as well.  Cataloging our trip so far, giving you that needed sense of travel and adventure, and for those of you that haven’t started with us from the beginning, catch you up on some of the most important or memorable parts of our travels.

For most of our time in Cay Caulker Belize, the weather was not agreeing with us.  Lots of overcast skies and rain which meant no reason to go to shore, and worse, no solar to power our electronic toys on the boat.  I actually had to take to reading Chapman’s for fun.  Those were some dark days.  Literally.

We did brave a few passing showers to make it off the boat and to one of the many restaurants on shore to celebrate our 9 year wedding anniversary.  Some local food was eaten, and even though we should have been paying attention to each other on this special day, we head our heads buried in our computers as it was our first opportunity to charge them and/or get internet in a long time. A few days later we were back on land for one last internet and weather check before departing and unfortunately received some bad news from back home that one of our grandparents had passed away.  It was not sudden, but it was still sad and made us even happier with our decision that we had gone home that summer to see all our family once again.

Then, it was time to leave Belize. After sitting in Guatemala at a marina for five months and then mostly traveling inside the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, this was our first real open water passage in a long time.  It started out a little rough, and there may have been a few jokes about trading in the boat for a RV, but we eventually made it up to Mexico all in one piece.  Minus working navigation lights at our bow and me fit to play a zombie in a movie, but all in one piece nonetheless.

You can find the original post here.

Friday December 20, 2013

beans, Cay Caulker, Belize

This photo has nothing to do with anything, I’m just running out of photos.


Yesterday finally gave us the opportunity to leave Cay Caulker and make our move to Mexico. Conditions out the window still looked slightly rough, but I was tired of sitting in one spot. It had finally gotten to the point that I would have taken an uncomfortable passage (read: not dangerous, just uncomfortable), over sitting still any longer. Plus we had finally gotten an email communication from Skebenga that they were leaving that day as well to head up to Cozumel. There was a little bit of security in knowing that we’d have a buddy boat out there with us. Now our only task was getting Serendipity out of the San Pedro cut at Ambergris Cay, a tricky little thing that we’d heard cautionary tales of from people who’d entered it coming down from Mexico. It has low lying reefs on both sides, a fun little turn in the middle, and apparently is a bitch to try and navigate in anything but calm seas.

Coming up on San Pedro I scanned the anchorage with my binoculars, searching for any sign of Skebenga. I didn’t see their steel hulled boat sitting with all the others, but I did see a few other boats traveling out on the water. One looked like it was headed toward the cut we were about to enter, so once more, I whipped out the binoculars in that direction. From what I could see, this boat had a white hull, dark blue sail covers, and double headsails, just like Skebenga. Handing over the binoculars to Matt, he took a look as well, but didn’t think it was them. We let the debate continue for the next 30 minutes as we watched this other boat, Almost Skebenga, we finally decided on, as they traversed the cut. All morning we had been debating if we should try it ourselves or not, how the weather would affect it, possibly make it harder. Once it was clear that Almost Skebenga was going for it, we watched with desperate intent.

Passing through the boundary of relatively calm water behind the reef, we stared on as they bobbed up and down like a teeter totter through the rough waves coming in, me becoming more panicked each minute. Should we save this for another day? Possibly when the waters were dead calm? But who knew when that day would be. Even though it was a bumpy ride, Almost Skebenga had made it out. If they could do it, so could we. Gathering our wits and triple checking the waypoints we plugged in to the chart plotter, we were ready to attempt this hair raising cut. It was decided that I should be put at the bow to try and guide us through any coral that we might accidentally get acquainted with, so strapping on a harness I clipped on the lifelines and made my way up front.

Before I had gotten up there, when we were back in the cockpit deciding on which person should take what role, I asked Matt, “So, say we should crash…who’s fault would it be? The helmsman or the bowman?” I was trying to save my skin of any burden placed on my shoulders. I did not get the answer I was hoping for. “If any accident happens, it’s the captain’s fault”. “I know maritime law, but I’m saying, in this boat, who would be to blame, you or me?” “The captain.” “So you’re trying to tell me that no matter what, if we crash this boat today, whether I’m at the helm or the bow, it’s going to be all my fault?” “Yup”. And with those words of encouragement I moved myself up front, satisfied by the fact that at least I wouldn’t have the guilt of miscalculating any turns should our hull puncture something hard that day.

It turns out my position at the bow was hardly doing anything for us, the water was choppy enough that I couldn’t clearly see through it, plus anything more than five feet out from the boat was basically just one large mirror, reflecting the clouds on it’s surface. I hoped the waypoints we picked up online were trustworthy. Matt seemed to be doing a good job navigating with them though, and soon we were in line with a large yellow buoy that marks the turn out of the cut. By this point we were also starting to turn into a teeter totter, our protection from the reef gone, and 5-6 foot waves rolling in at us. Normally I’d think this kind of thing would scare the crap out of me, but being right up where the action was turned out to be like a thrilling amusement park ride. Remember these waves from Stocking Island? Picture me standing at the bow going through them. We would shoot up into the air, and then the floor would come out from under us and we’d come crashing back down, a spray of warm sea water crashing over the deck.

As I held on to the head sail with both hands, I had to contain myself from whooping with joy at the sheer exhilaration of it, for fear of scaring Matt into thinking something was wrong. It was a short lived adventure though as, even without screams of delight, he thought I was a risk to myself being up there in those conditions. “JESSICA!!”, I heard a scream from the cockpit, “Get back here now!!!”. Prying myself away and crouching down to lower my center of gravity, I made my way back to the cockpit, my ride getting cut short before it was even finished.

Cay Caulker, Belize

restaurant, Cay Caulker, Belize

 We’d made it safely through the cut, and before we knew it, depths were dropping back into the hundreds of feet before our sounder couldn’t even read them anymore. Sails were raised and the engine was cut, ready to start our 200 miles to Isla Mujeres. If we averaged 4-5 knots, we’d be there just about 48 hours. Our start wasn’t great though, the winds coming directly out of the NE direction we needed to head. Tacking to the SE just to get some distance from shore, we kept an eye on Almost Skebenga, whom was headed the same direction, just a few miles ahead of us. Just like racing nameless boat on Lago Izabal, we followed all the same tacks until we realized one really long tack to the SE was needed to put us on a decent course to keeping us from having to do any tacks in the dark if we could help it. Almost Skebenga shot north and out of our sight as we made our way further out to sea.

I wouldn’t call conditions rough, but they were definitely uncomfortable enough that for the first time, both of us were feeling sick. I had put on a scopalmine patch before leaving, and was even attempting the ‘ear plug in one ear’ trick that was supposed to stave off seasickness, but the only thing it did was make me deaf to the sounds Matt was constantly trying to point out. We had a late lunch of cheesy onion bread and a dinner of Pop Tarts. It was enough effort just for one of us to make it down the companionway to grab something edible from the cupboards, and I was thankful I took 20 minutes that morning to stockpile snacks and canned foods in an easy access area. As the sun was setting we caught sight of Almost Skebenga again in the distance, and it looked like they were going to have to make another tack, while us now on a comfortable course, would totally catch them and kick their ass if they had to take time and run away from the shore.

Even though we were working with a double reefed main plus the headsail, and winds were steady around 20-25 knots, we must have had a pretty hefty current on our side since we were keeping a steady pace of 6.5-7 knots. When darkness grew, Matt decided to catch up on sleep with a short nap, and I kept watch, where an unexpected moon rise made me think that we were about to have a run in with a tanker, a sudden orange light on our port side that hadn’t been there moments before. I also watched us catch up to and pass Almost Skebenga as, just as predicted, they had to tack further away from shore.  When it was my turn to go down I had a surprisingly calm slumber, falling asleep almost immediately and staying that way.  This usually doesn’t happen until my second sleep shift where I pass out from sheer exhaustion.  Matt had somehow found a way to keep the boat from rocking violently back and forth as she normally does, and I was able to nestle into the crook of the boat.  Until I felt water dribbling down my back, but I was too tired to care at that point.

Today was met with the same kind of attitude from both of us as yesterday.  Neither of us was feeling great, and we wanted this passage to be over as quick as possible.  We tried to distract ourselves with talk about how a previous cruising couple just traded in their boat for a RV, and how that seemed to be the right way to go.  The two of us are constantly talking about the countries we’d like to visit and all the things we’d like to see inland, but how limiting it is trying to get there.  Putting the boat in a marina, finding transportation, getting lodging.  Yes, a RV is not a bad idea at all.  But we made a commitment to Serendipity, so we will stick with her.  Plus, you have to sometimes disregard the things you say about your contempt for your boat while on passage.  You’re not thinking clearly.

As the afternoon wore on and we were very sick of traveling and could think of nothing better than a anchorage to stop in, get a good night’s sleep, and regroup ourselves, we talked about our previous plans to go to Cozumel.  Yes, this would mean getting there in the dark, sometime between 7 and 9, but just like Great Inagua and Grand Cayman, there are no channels leading into a harbor.  Just a certain spot on the west side of the island used as a designated anchorage.  All we had to do was sail or motor up and drop anchor.  We also rationalized that 1.  As a cruise ship port, it would probably be much easier to check into the country there since usually they keep all the officials in one place.  As was the case in Nassau and Grand Cayman.  2.  Did we really only want to have one stop in Mexico?  Why not see at least two places, even if one of them might be extremely touristy.

Changing our course to come up on the west side of Cozumel instead of passing by it’s eastern side, moods instantly lifted.  Sure, if we just sucked it up we’d have been in Isla first thing in the morning, but again, this never sounds as intriguing when you’re on passage.  Sailing into the lee of the island just after 7, we lost all wind and our speed diminished to barely 5 knots.  Normally something we’d be quite happy to take, but after keeping a steady 7-8 knots all day (yup, that current just kept getting stronger), it felt like we were crawling along.  It was just past 9 when we made it into the anchorage, the bright lights from shore blinding our virgin eyes.  There were a few tense minutes while coming in where Matt was picking up three images on radar, but we couldn’t see them in the water.  It turns out they were boats at anchor, it’s just that none of them decided to have any kind of anchor light on.  Even though we were only a few hundred feet from a brightly lit shore, we couldn’t make them out until we were right upon them.  I know it’s not illegal to keep themselves from being lit in a marked anchorage, but this is seriously one of my biggest pet peeves.  It just seems like you’d want to make sure that you can be seen by any traveling vessels out there.

I was too tired to be any more upset than a scoff at them though, and we hurriedly put the boat back together so we could rest.  I forced myself awake long enough to make sandwiches for dinner before passing out in a wet bet with wet sheets.  Apparently we have a few leaks that this last passage has now brought to our attention, and everything on the port side of the boat is soaked.  Including our bed and every bit of clean laundry.  That doesn’t happen on RVs, right?  Can anyone tell me where I can sign up for one of those?

sunset in Mexico

palm tree at Cay Caulker

Throwback Thursday: Caye Caulker…Go Slow

Now that we’re sitting in Indiantown Marina and it’s obvious that we’re going to be here for quite a long time while we fix up Daze Off to sail, I don’t want to bore you with stories that are only related to boat work (but don’t worry, they’re still coming).   I know that’s what some of you crave, but if you’re like me, you also need a little fun in there.  A little travel and a little adventure.

So for the foreseeable future while we are doing nothing much more than boat work I will be adding a Throwback Thursday post in every week as well.  Cataloging our trip so far, giving you that needed sense of travel and adventure, and for those of you that haven’t started with us from the beginning, catch you up on some of the most important or memorable parts of our travels.

Getting ourselves out of Guatemala after five months there, we had our sights set on Belize.  Knowing we’d only be quickly passing through the area on our way to Mexico, we aimed our bow for the outer cayes, and after one overnight on the water we were finding ourselves anchored in a private bay just in front of the Colson Cays.  Letting ourselves relax there a few days as well as wait out strong NE winds, we then took one of the few channels outside of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef before cutting back in to a beautiful spot in front of St. George’s Cay.  It was another few days of bad weather there, but once the rain did let up we followed the inside paths to our next destination.  Complete with a dolphin escort for the first few hours of our journey.

Navigating through a few very shallow channels where we thought we’d for sure kiss bottom, we ended up in at Cay Caulker in the early afternoon.  Dropping our anchor we prepped ourselves for our first time of touching land in 7 days.  What we found on this little island just off the coast of Belize was a perfect mix of friendly people and a light Caribbean flair.

Find the original post here.

Wednesday December 11, 2013

palm tree at Cay Caulker

I love when a place has it’s own catchphrase.  Normally you might see it for a whole country or even just a large providence, but we’ve stumbled upon a little island that has it’s own catchphrase.  Everywhere you go on the island you’ll see it posted on boards, painted across buildings, and imprinted on tee shirts.  Cay Caulker…Go Slow.

Today we decided to follow just those rules, to go slow.  In our dinghy that is.  Now that we’ve gotten rid of our Johnson 9.9 hp, all we’re left with is our Mercrury 3.3, which is normally just fine for us.  Before we even sold the Johnson though and had the chance to slip those crisp hundred dollar bills in our pockets, we thought to ourselves, ‘If only we could keep it long enough for Belize’.  The reason being that Belize has a lot of great snorkeling sights, but none of them are usually near anchorages.  Which leaves one with two options. Take your dinghy out there, or pay a fairly hefty price to hop on a tour boat and have them take you the 3-6 miles to a decent dive/snorkel site.  We decided against the latter since we’re cheap and would kick ourselves later for paying money for something we could get to on our own.  Maybe not here, but in general.  Which left us with the dinghy and our little 3.3 hp engine. Oh, and only about two gallons of gasoline.

We never really communicated between each other what the plan was when we left Serendipity, sitting in the west bay of the island.  All I knew is that we had our snorkel gear, the dinghy anchor, a nalgene bottle full of water, and our two gallons of gasoline.  Puttering out through the dinghy cut to the east side of the island and the barrier reef lying a mile out, we passed a popular restaurant situated right on the cut full of already tipsy backpackers and vacationers which were probably wondering where these two people were going in a 9 ft inflatable boat.  Due to the non-communication between the two of us, I assumed that we were planning on motoring the one mile directly out to the barrier reef to see what kind of diving we could find out there.  It’s not like we wouldn’t be able to find it, the thing stretches for hundreds of miles with very few breaks in it.  The reason I assumed this is because all the dedicated snorkeling sites on our charts were at the north and south tips of the island, and we were somewhere in the middle.  Which would have meant about a six mile round trip in the dinghy to get there and back.

Not only was I not sure if we would have time or fuel, for some reason I had a distinct feeling that if we went that far away, something would go terribly wrong and either the dinghy would become untied from the anchor leaving us stranded in the water, or worse, we’d be carried out to sea with it.  Don’t ask me how these thoughts make their way into my head, but once they’re there, it’s 100% certain that it will happen.  I can see into the future, trust me.  So when Matt asked which way he had to turn to make it to the marked snorkeling site, I violently shook my head back and forth.  Not that he usually believes in my fortune telling (although I have frightened him before by being eerily accurate) I told him the more logical reason, that it was a six mile trip, we were moving at about three miles an hour, and it was already mid afternoon.  He bought it, and we continued on a direct path to the barrier reef instead.

Motoring out until we were only about a hundred feet from the reef, we dropped the anchor for t/t ‘Dip in about ten feet of water with a sandy bottom.  It’s surprising how much eel grass is all the way out here even, trying to find a spot to anchor the dinghy was a challenge in itself.  Slipping our gear on and dropping into the water, we were greeted with a large head of brain coral.  Score!  The two of us absently bumped into each other as we tried to explore the one piece of coral together, before finally taking opposite sides.  It definitely wasn’t as impressive as some of the diving we’d seen in the Bahamas or Grand Cayman, but again, we weren’t in a designated snorkeling spot.  We just dropped anchor on the first thing we found.

Dolphin kicking our way to the bottom, we’d drop further in the water and try to get a close up view of the coral without doing anything to disturb it.  When I came to the surface again, Matt was pointing to something off to our side, a few barracuda keeping their eye on us.  The first few times I’d swum with these things I used to get really nervous, but quickly learned they want nothing to do with you.  They may float there with that evil look that says “Watch your back because I’ll devour you in three bites”, but I’ve never actually seen one follow through on that promise.  We went back to our diving until Matt once more motioned for my attention.  Kicking over to his area he pointed at a little opening in the coral and mimed for me to do down and check it out.  Pumping my way down through the water I saw it was a lobster that had caught his attention.  Dinner?  Getting back to the surface, I asked Matt what he was waiting for, go catch it!  Luckily he had brought his diving gloves with him so his hands wouldn’t be sliced open by the shell, and now the chase was on.

Over the next 20 minutes he’d dive down and stick his hand in little nooks trying to capture the crustacean, but it was quick and always ducked just out of reach.  Then we’d both go on scouting missions, trying to find it’s new hiding spot, turning it into an adult version, with very high difficulty, of whac-a-mole.  We never did catch it but instead went back to our business of just admiring the coral and fish.  Matt only took one more opportunity to point something out to me, a lion fish that was lingering near a jagged edge of coral.  As many of these suckers as I’ve enjoyed for dinner after Matt or Brian would spear them, I’d never actually seen one in the water before, and honestly, it kind of scared the hell out of me.  All of it’s stingers were on full guard, and for as small as these things are, it looked pretty damn menacing.  Maybe only because I’ve heard a few first hand accounts of people that had been stung by them, but I knew that with no barrier between my skin and this predator, I didn’t want to get too close.

It was shortly after this that I thought we’d seen enough of that coral head and we went to move on to the next.  Swimming in large circles we discovered that we’d plopped down next to the only decent piece around, and turned our sights to the actual barrier reef to see what it had to offer.  Turns out, not a whole lot.  Once we got up close to it we found that it was literally just one large shelf of coral with no fish floating around it.  The top was only a foot or two under water, with large breakers constantly crashing over them, which meant no snorkeling.  Unless you wanted to put yourself in a human washing machine full of sharp bits to tear you to shreds.  Maybe tomorrow?  I don’t know, I’m just not in the mood for that today.

Once again proving ourselves to be the worst cruisers ever, we decided to throw in the towel.  Sure, we could probably motor around a little longer trying to find more coral heads to dive on, but neither of us were very much in the mood.  We came, we saw, we conquered.  One piece of coral.  Good enough for us.  Now it’s time to get back to Serendipity where there’s beer and sunsets.  That kind of puts us back into the cruiser category, right?  Maybe just a little?

dive shop on Cay Caulker

I’m starting to think forking over the dough might have been worth a real dive tour.

La Cubana restaurant, Cay Caulker, Belize

Hiding out the rain while eating lunch.

inside La Cubana, Cay Caulker, Belize

Serendipity, West Bay, Cay Caulker, Belize

 Serendipity, sitting pretty where we left her.

rain showers, Cay Caulker, Belize

12.3.13 (1)

Throwback Thursday: Goodbye Guatemala

Now that we’re sitting in Indiantown Marina and it’s obvious that we’re going to be here for quite a long time while we fix up Daze Off to sail, I don’t want to bore you with stories that are only related to boat work (but don’t worry, they’re still coming).   I know that’s what some of you crave, but if you’re like me, you also need a little fun in there.  A little travel and a little adventure.

So for the foreseeable future while we are doing nothing much more than boat work I will be adding a Throwback Thursday post in every week as well.  Cataloging our trip so far, giving you that needed sense of travel and adventure, and for those of you that haven’t started with us from the beginning, catch you up on some of the most important or memorable parts of our travels.

November was a bit of a low month for us in the Rio.  Not long after our trip out with Nacho and his friends, we moved the boat out of our slip at Tortugal Marina and enjoyed being on the hook once more.  Not only for the tranquility of it but also to escape a certain neighbor we’d been having issues with.

It was finally time to go though.  After waiting out winds for a week and a half and then quickly replacing an alternator bracket when it broke on us, we were ready to go.  Time to get moving again and time to fill our sails with wind.  On to the Cays of Belize and eventually Mexico where we hoped to meet back up with our friends Luki and Elmari. The best part of it all, was that after arriving in Guatemala with the thought that I was done traveling via sailboat, the excitement once more took over me and I couldn’t wait to get back on the water.

You can find the original post here.

Tuesday December 3, 2013

12.3.13 (1)

This morning we were up with the sun, only to find out that most of the other boats in the bay had already gotten out before us. I swear, I didn’t even think I was sleeping that hard, but I heard no engines running or anchors being weighed. Our only hope is they don’t get to the agent’s office in Livingston before us and clog up his day with paperwork, forcing our departure back until late afternoon. It didn’t matter to me though. Once again, we were moving. And the best part of the Rio was yet to come. The rocky cliffs, the immobilizing thick jungle, and being deposited into the Amatique Bay, leading out the the Gulf of Honduras and Caribbean Sea. We were about to be set free once more.

Reaching the town of Livingston about half past eight in the morning, we dropped the anchor off to the side from the flow of traffic and put the dinghy down to get ourselves to shore. None of the other boats from last nights anchorage were resting in the same place, which means they must had checked out previously, going back up the river for the night and heading back down to catch this mornings high tide. We had contemplated that as well, but since we want to arrive at our destination tomorrow morning, a mid afternoon low tide departure will suit us just fine. We tentatively powered the dinghy up toward shore, scanning the horizon between all the shouting children that were pointing for a spot to go, until we saw the older Rastafarian man that had kept an eye on our dink when we first arrived here, and mentally reminded ourselves to save at least $5 before we spent the rest of our Guatemalan cash so we could tip him when we left.

Rounding the somewhat familiar streets, we walked up the steps to the agent’s office and found out that even though it wasn’t quite 9 am yet, the door was open. Raul, the agent we were used to working with, wasn’t there, but in his seat was a younger man of around 15-20. Maybe his son or a nephew? Just as friendly and outgoing as Raul though, this new guy mentioned Raul would be in shortly and that he could get our paperwork started in the meantime. Going over the fees, he told us what we could expect to pay to check out, and that we should be back in an hour to collect our zarpe. Other than that, we were free to roam the town.

I had been able to sneak my laptop in my bag with me, along with all the necessary boat papers that had to make their way in, and after walking through a few of the backstreets and realizing we didn’t have a need (or want really) for any of the goodies in the thrift shops on the main street, we decided to stop for breakfast at a brightly blue colored restaurant, taking seats in the shade on a covered patio. Proud of myself for speaking only in Spanish, I was able to order a coffee along with some delicious sounding coconut bread and jam I keep hearing about, and procure the password to their wifi signal. While I was doing last minute Facebook updates and assuring both our parents that they we may be out of internet range for the next week and they should not alert the authorities about us if we’re not heard from in the next two days, Matt did some last checks on his email and the weather.

Before we knew it, our hour was up and we were back in Raul’s office, shaking his hand and getting our zarpe, the whole process already completed for us. Man I love dealing with an agent. One stop shopping. What we did realize after checking out though, is that it cost us a good deal less than we thought it would, and we were still left with 300 Q, or about $40, in our pockets. I looked at the pretty sundresses billowing in the wind while resting on mannequins, but Matt just shook his head no. I already have too many dresses, and they never get worn. True. So instead we hiked up the hill to the bank and exchanged our Guatemalan cash for US and began our descent back to the dinghy.

Rio Dulce, Guatemala

Rio Dulce, Guatemala

Getting to Serendipity once more it was still about three hours before our slack tide, but the waters looked so calm that we didn’t think going out against a small opposing current would be a big deal.  The dinghy was quickly hauled up on deck and secured and before we knew it we were motoring out through the bar, following our previous tracks from our entrance back in June, and my heart in my throat until we hit steady depths of 12 feet again, although we only saw under 7 ft once or twice.  The winds were on our nose just enough that we were able to motorsail with the mainsail up, sacrificing just a little speed so that we could point high enough that we didn’t run ashore on the point of land in Guatemala that hooks out at the end of Amatique Bay.

For hours we cruised on like this until just an hour before the sunset when we were able to point more north, prepping ourselves to sneak into the inner channel between mainland Belize and it’s outlying cays.  We found a coordinate that allowed us to take open waters for a great portion of the southern point, and then duck in with ample safety once we reach it in the dark.  Matt took a nap to prepare himself for the first night shift, and when he woke up I heated the chili I had prepared the night before.  Seas were mostly calm and I didn’t even get sick below deck which I was very thankful for.

I have to say, our first day back out, and everything was perfect.  Oh right, except for that one issue.  The issue of a bolt shearing off on the engine, one of three that holds in the new alternator bracket we just had fabricated.  And what’s that?  Oh yeah, we’re in the middle of a channel.  In the dark.  With the wind still on our nose.  Having a running engine is kind of an important thing.  Matt shut the whole thing off for a few moments as we bobbed around, losing all forward momentum, making sure the issue didn’t look like it was going to get worse.  We could survive with 2 out of three bolts, but if either of the others went, we would be fu@%ed.  Thinking quick, he took some wire and wound the bracket on tighter, but now the rest of the passage will consist of 30 minute engine checks to make sure it’s all still running smoothly.  Dear god, do not let anything happen until after my night shift.  I don’t think I could handle sailing through this channel while left to my own devices right now.

Gulf of Honduras at sunset

mountains of Belize at sunset


at Nico's

Throwback Thursday: Guy Co (& Jessica)

Now that we’re sitting in Indiantown Marina and it’s obvious that we’re going to be here for quite a long time while we fix up Daze Off to sail, I don’t want to bore you with stories that are only related to boat work (but don’t worry, they’re still coming).   I know that’s what some of you crave, but if you’re like me, you also need a little fun in there.  A little travel and a little adventure.

So for the foreseeable future while we are doing nothing much more than boat work I will be adding a Throwback Thursday post in every week as well.  Cataloging our trip so far, giving you that needed sense of travel and adventure, and for those of you that haven’t started with us from the beginning, catch you up on some of the most important or memorable parts of our travels.

Still in the Rio Dulce of Guatemala, we had now been left behind by all of our cruising buddies.  Ana Bianca and Alfredo had made their way back to Miami and their off season work; and Luki and Elmari were on their way to Mexico to pick up family for the holidays.  Things were starting to feel a little lonely around the marina.

Before we could get too bummed out though, we received a message from Nacho that he would be at their river house, and although his wife and daughters were back in Guatemala City with other obligations, would we like to join him and his father out on their boat for the day?  Also, his friend Jean Louis that I had already met in Antigua was going to be in the area with their other mutual friend Nico, whom also had a weekend house on the Rio.  After a day speeding around on Hula Girl, Nico had invited the lot of us over for dinner at his place.

It kind of sounded like a guys day out to me, but how could I refuse the offer to come along?  It sounded so fun!  And trust me, this is a day to go down in the record books.  And not just because I most likely drank bat piss at one point.

You can find the original post here.

Saturday November 16, 2013

at Nico's

I swear I’m just one of the guys.

Part I: Un Almuerzo de Langostas

Wherever we go, it seems like good friends are never far away. Although we had to say goodbye to Luki and Elmari on Thursday, which was incredibly sad although we do plan on meeting up with them again in Belize or Mexico, we happened to be sticking around the Rio long enough from another visit from our friend Nacho. With one catch. All the girls were back in Guate City, keeping busy with things like dates with long distance boyfriends or riding competitions, so it was just going to be Nacho coming. Along with his dad, and friends; Jean Louis and Nico. So it was essentially to be a guys weekend. And Jessica. Which is totally fine, since I essentially consider myself one of the guys anyway.

After doing a little bit of communication by means of VHF radio this morning, Nacho sent his lancha to our marina this morning to have us brought out to their river home. When we arrived, Hula Girl was once again being stocked up with soda and beer, ready to start another Saturday on the water. We were also introduced to Nacho’s father, Javier, who thankfully spoke English, because Matt and I wondered if this might turn into a day of charades, something we would have been fine with, but this made things a little easier. Nico and Jean Louis were out duck hunting for the day and were to meet back up with us at Nico’s river house that evening for dinner, so it would just be a small group out on the boat.

Before we knew it the five of us were rushing down the river and into the Golfete, Matt and I getting way too comfortable with these 20 knots speeds, and I’m sure when we take Serendipity down this path shortly it will feel like we’re moving at a standstill. Just like the last time we were taking ourselves into the bay, we made a stop in Livingston for a few provisions and I was given a tip that some of the shops here sell the local beer, Bravah, for 2Q, or $0.25 a can. Did you hear that Matt? We are doing our beer stocking here before we leave!! As soon as the deck hand, Randy, arrived back with the cold cans of beer, I popped one open and watched as a few local kids shyly wandered over asking for spare change. Randy handed them whatever leftover money he had and they excitedly scampered off to buy themselves a cold Coke.

Hurican 1 & 2

Livingston Guatemala

Guatemalan children

Crossing the bar at Livingston, I noticed how we were able to just gun it across the shoals, while other cruisers (like us) who were eager to depart, had to wait for the high tide to come in so they could get at least six feet under their keel. The bay was once again calm and I kept my fingers crossed that it would stay that way for the next week or so, since we’re hoping to make our own departure within that time. Hula Girl found her familiar spot and dropped hook in five feet of brackish salinated water. We barely had time to get ourselves secure before a lancha was headed our way with lunch. Which, let me explain on this.

Since Annica and Maria and Camila were all back in Guatemala City, there had been no one to prepare a tasty little spread for us to enjoy on the boat. Nacho had made a few calls while we were temporarily provisioning in Livingston to have some fresh lobster brought out to Hula Girl, apparently there is a (lobster) farm near the point where we’d anchored the boat. As the kid came out to us we spied a large bucket filled to the brim with lobster inside. Nacho began talking and negotiating with the boy, a scale was hung to weigh the lobster, and before we knew it we had 12 glistening lobsters in our possession. Nacho turned to Matt and I to mention the boy would be back shortly with some tortillas and fried yucca, and that “I’m sorry none of the women were here to prepare us a tasty lunch, so we will just have to survive”. On lobster.

Since Matt and I are somewhat versed in cooking lobster, after all the ones we caught in the Bahamas, we offered to clean and prepare them. First we ripped off the antennas to stick up the lobster’s…you know, maybe I’ll just skip how we cleaned them. Anyway, by the time we had five of them prepared and ready to go on the grill, slathered with a little oil, our tortillas and fried yucca had been shuttled out to us and we were ready to get this lunch going. After the lobsters had gone on the grill and turned a brilliant red we each made ourselves a plate and dug in without any care or even need for utensils. ‘Surviving’ has never tasted so good.

Lunch was followed by a relaxing swim, partially to ward off the early afternoon heat, and partially to cleanse our sticky, lobster laden fingers. When it was time to raise hook we headed back toward the slowly wilting sun, dragging fishing poles for fun, and getting ready to rally ourselves for the evening ahead.

las langostas

Matt with Caribbean lobster

And that’s just one of the small ones.

cleaning lobsterLobster, get ready to meet your maker.  And then get ready to meet the grill.

lobster on grill

‘Let’s put another langosta on the barbie!’

Javier fishingRandy

Part II: Punta Monos

While speeding back up the Rio and watching the sun slip behind the last few hazy clouds of the day, we had a strange phenomenon, something we hadn’t experienced since in Bogota. We got chilly. That’s right, this little town of seemingly endless heat and humidity had actually cooled down enough after the sun had gone down to bring a chill through the air. We honestly never thought we’d see the day where goosebumps would appear on our skin while we were in the Rio Dulce.

Wrapped up in a towel to fight off the cold, we brought Hula Girl to dock in front of Nico’s river house which was just at the end of the Golfete. Him and Jean-Louis were still out duck hunting, but we were just dropping off the remaining lobsters so they could be used for dinner if the duck hunt wasn’t successful. From the text messages we had been let in on earlier, so far it wasn’t.

Pulling into Nacho’s house just as the moon was rising, we were told his lancha would bring us back to the marina to give us time to rest and clean up before dinner that evening. I had just enough time to get a shower and a cup of coffee in before getting a call back on the VHF, notifying us that the lancha was back on it’s way to pick us up. As soon as we arrived back at his place, Nacho was ready to go (Javier was staying behind), and he traded places with the lancha’s driver as we flew toward Nico’s place. (Funny side note, all of the guys had literally flown in from the city for the weekend. Nacho and Javier on a rented plane, and Jean-Louis and Nico on his helicopter. Not a bad life.)

sunset on Rio Dulce

Nico's River home

sunset on the Rio Dulce

As we pulled up in front of the home we noticed the ‘big’ boat was back, which meant that Nico and Jean-Louis were there now as well. It appeared that both men had just gotten back and were in the process of showering and making themselves presentable after spending 12 hours cooped up in duck blinds. It turns out that later in the afternoon, they had been successful. We busied ourselves by the bar behind the open air seating area and as Nacho was taking orders I had a sudden nostelgia for our days on Rode Trip while nestled in the Ragged Islands of the Bahamas and Stephanie would prepare us gin and tonics as a pre-dinner cocktail. I never really drank them before that, and I certainly haven’t had one since then, but for some reason I really wanted one at that moment. Nacho scanned the bar and came across a few kinds of gin, but we ended up pulling out the Hendricks, something that I guess is pretty top shelf although I would have no idea since I’m not normally a gin drinker.

As soon as each of us had a nice cold G&T in our hands we went to sit on the couches just in time for Jean-Louis to come in. I already knew him a little bit from my girls weekend in there when Nacho and Annica joined us we enjoyed both amazing wine and views from Jean-Louis’s home in Antigua. I introduced him and Matt and let them talk about sailing since Jean-Louis also has a history in it, while I helped myself to some crackers on the table. I was probably mid face-stuff when Nico, our host wandered in. Another set of introductions was made and while we complimented him on what we had seen of the house so far, we ask for a tour of the rest of it. The area we had been sitting in had the kitchen, dining room, a seating area, and things like bathrooms and pantries. All of it was open air (ok, not the bathrooms or the pantry) and all of it was beautiful. Next we were taken up the stairs which housed one more open air sitting area and two bedrooms.

Scaling the stairs with my G&T in hand I thought it was strange that my hand had become wet, I didn’t remember sloshing my drink on the way up. I couldn’t have been too tipsy, it was my first drink of the night after all. When we stepped onto the landing at the top Nico looked up and made a comment about a few bats that had nested themselves there, complaining that they had taken a tinkle, pointing to a wet spot on the floor that I had just passed by. Oh, so that wasn’t gin on my hand. It was bat piss. I laughed it off, but Nico promptly led me into one of the bedrooms ensuites so I could wash my hands. He then asked if I wanted a fresh G&T since we no longer knew how ‘fresh’ mine was anymore, but I just waved him off. A little bat pee in my drink? That’s fine, I can handle it.

Next we left the main living area for the private ones. Apparently Jean-Louis is such a frequent guest here at Punta Monos that he has his own cabin here, a spacious room with a four poster bed and an ensuite bathroom. His cabin is even named Monkey Cabin, very fitting seeing as he owns the Monoloco (crazy monkey) chain of restaurants in Guatemala City and Antigua. Nico showed us his cabin which was a very similar layout, only much bigger. Then we were taken on the walkway to a sunning platform and bar area on the water, and finally to the monkey viewing area hidden deep in the trees. I guess howler monkeys are very popular in this area, and Nico had set up an area to watch them in the morning. It’s how the place also got it’s name, Monkey Point, and I was pretty determined to force my welcome there until at least 4 am when the monkeys came out.

Nacho w. Hendricks

 Nacho looks pretty comfortable behind that bar.  I think he’s done this before.

guest room at Punto Monos

I can be ready to move in on Tuesday!!

upstairs open air seating at Nico's

Back down in the main living area we hung out by the grill and swung around in hammock like chairs and freshening our G&Ts while watching Nico start dinner, placing the remaining lobsters on the grill after they had been cleaned and seasoned.  When the table was set and we sat ourselves to dinner I couldn’t help but look at the lobster and steak and salad on my plate and realized that I have never eaten as well as I have in Guatemala.  Then again, I guess it’s all about who you know.  And we seem to know the right people.

Dinner was nothing short of divine and I tried to savor every bite on my plate.  I did happen to make the mistake of getting up mid meal to use the water closet and came back to find my plate had been cleared away.  Before I even had the chance to try the lobster brains, something that Javier had been preaching about all day as the best part of the lobster.  I guess I’ll just have to save that for next time.

Nico grilling

 Nico manning the grill.

surf and turfA little surf and turf for dinner.


Because of the incredibly early morning that he and Jean-Louis had, Nico excused himself shortly after dinner to retire to his cabin for the rest of the night.  Matt and I gave him our most sincere thanks for inviting us into his home for the evening.  It’s sad that we had only met him just before we’re leaving the country, but we were happy just to have the opportunity.  If we had left with Skebenga as originally intended, we wouldn’t have even been here tonight.

The remaining four of us hung around the dinner table, finishing off the bottle of wine that was served with dinner and continued to get inebriated on top shelf gin.  While Matt and Nacho sat on one side of the table talking about, I’m not sure what exactly, I got into a conversation with Jean-Louis about things I had found out about him after the first time we met by doing a little internet stalking.  Like the fact that he started a company called Urban Reclamation that employs Guatemalans and reuses vinyl from billboards and turn it into useful items like totes, messenger bags, and even tee shirts.  It turns out he had just made a stop at the factory the day before and had a few business card holders that he gave me.  They’re so cool looking and our boat cards are going to look awesome in there.  I only wish the items were available to buy online because I’ve already drooling over the unique messenger bags and girl purses but can’t get my hands on one.  Do you hear me Jean-Louis, you need to sell these items online!  People will buy them!!

Before we knew it the clock had gone well past midnight and I’m pretty sure we all were ‘fully drunk’.  A new quote from one of my friends that sounds 100 times better when slightly slurred and with a Spanish accent.  As still determined as I was to stay and see the monkeys, Nacho and Matt and I piled back into the lancha to make our ways home for the night.  Although I’m sad that we didn’t leave with Skebenga since we have some last minute things to finish up in the Rio and we’ll be traveling on our own again instead of an amazing buddy boat group, I’m fully glad that we stayed long enough to spend this day with Nacho, Javier, Jean-Louis and Nico.  Fully happy, and…fully drunk.

Jean-Louis and Jessica

 Fun time with hats for me and Jean-Louis.

Punta Monos



Throwback Thursday: A Slice of Culture

Now that we’re sitting in Indiantown Marina and it’s obvious that we’re going to be here for quite a long time while we fix up Daze Off to sail, I don’t want to bore you with stories that are only related to boat work (but don’t worry, they’re still coming).   I know that’s what some of you crave, but if you’re like me, you also need a little fun in there.  A little travel and a little adventure.

So for the foreseeable future while we are doing nothing much more than boat work I will be adding a Throwback Thursday post in every week as well.  Cataloging our trip so far, giving you that needed sense of travel and adventure, and for those of you that haven’t started with us from the beginning, catch you up on some of the most important or memorable parts of our travels.

After leaving Peru for our next backpacking stop of Colombia, we spent our time in two of it’s major cities before having to fly back to Guatemala where Serendipity was awaiting.  There was still plenty to keep our plates full though.  From our 54 hour bus ride between Colombia and Peru where we took on armed guards to protects us against gurillas that had robbed the two buses ahead of us, to a drunken night wandering the streets of Bogota while meeting up with one of our backpacking friends from Peru.  We enjoyed Botota for a few days although Matt had come down with terrible food poisoning that left him sick in our hostel for 3 days straight.

After Bogota we bused it to the town of Medeillin, known for being the city of eternal summer and also fostering ex-drug lord Pablo Escobar.  We tried to take in as many of the sights as possible by riding the cable cars high above the town and visiting the botanical gardens and checking out the Botero Sculpture Park in the heart of town.  It seems like our backpacking adventure through South America passed us by way to fast, but we still have a million memories from our time there.  Plus if given the chance, I know we’d be back in a heartbeat.

You can find the original post here.

Wednesday September 18, 2013


It was kind of nice having a forced hiatus from backpacking for just a few days. A little time away from the past few weeks of sightseeing, activities, and even the drinking. But after 48 hours of watching reruns of Friends and The Big Bang Theory (those were the only shows offered in English), we realized we needed to get out. The unsavory tablets were working well enough on Matt’s stomach that we thought we might be able to get him out of the hostel for just a few hours. The destination for the day? The historic center of Bogota.

Armed with our over-sized map once more, we stepped onto a collectivo that we were sure would take us at least close to the area we wanted to go this time, with plans to abort if necessary. ‘Ok, we need to stay on Calle 7 until we get to Carrera 13. If the bus diverts past Calle 10, we get off.’ The good thing about the streets here is they are all ascending numbers of Calles and Carreras, so you’re always relatively sure of how far away you are from something. When we did incidentally have to get off at Calle 10, we knew it was only three blocks down back to where we wanted to be on 7. No Martin Luther King Blvds to get lost on here.

My main goal for the day was soley to see the church in the large city square, but as we got off the bus the sky became overcast and a light drizzle fell on us and I didn’t know how long we’d want to be outside for. We have not had one sunny day in Bogota yet and even though we are surrounded by all the modern buildings that both of us had been slightly yearning for since we left the states, I was momentarily left yearning for the sunny beaches and good friends we left in Mancora. But ever since the salad there made Matt sick, the place gets a big black X in his book. He should have listened to me when I told him to get the ceviche…

Upon entering the square we were greeted with about a hundred rickshaws that seemed to be having some kind of protest or rally. Again, because of the language barrier, they could have been there to celebrate Larry’s 50th birthday and I would have had no way of knowing. We tried wandering around the square for a bit while appreciating the architecture, but the rickshaw drivers also had horns they would not stop blowing. Apparently they were very excited about Larry’s 50th. After close to 15 minutes of this we left for quieter side streets.

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Even though we had the luxury of sitting around for the past two days with constant internet access, I had not done much research on the area and so we just walked up and down each street unsure of what we would find. The rain was continuing on and off, and during one rainy session we ducked into an art museum. The art here was focusing mostly on a Colombian artist, Botero, who I had not been familiar with but whom Matt told me was very famous. I guess he had a thing for drawing and painting very voluptuous people. Room after room there were paintings and sketches in this style, and a large focus was on nude women at the beach or in bed, or sometimes, even in the kitchen. I think Sir Mix-a-Lot would have been very impressed.

There were prints from other famous artists as well, and some of our time was also spent enjoying the works of Picasso, Monet, Van Gogh, and Chagall. Which are always nice to admire because, as Julia Robert’s character says in Notting Hill, “Happiness isn’t happiness without a violin playing goat”.

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 We tried our hands at one more museum as well, one on the history of Colombia and Bogota, but everything was in Spanish. Most of it was more than my basic knowledge could piece together and soon it just became annoying trying to figure out what each item meant. I think a grand total of 15 minutes was spent in that museum. The staff may have thought that we’d gotten ourselves lost since we wandered back by the entrance so quickly, trying to point us back to where the exhibits, and us trying to motion that, no, we wanted to leave. At least I got a few cool postcards with the entrance fee. You can expect to get it in about three months Huong!

Having completed a giant circle of the area, we ended up back in the main square where most of the rickshaw drivers had finally departed. And I was hoping to get back there in time for cake….

Taking one more turn down a side street that would point us in the direction of our hostel, even though there was no way we would be walking the 60 blocks back, we knew it was our last day in Bogota and wanted to see as much as we could. The rain had other plans for us though. At this point we were wet, we were cold, and we were hungry. That is exactly when we saw the golden arches of McDonald’s shine down on us like a beacon. And I was finally able to get my Mc Whopper. I mean, Big Mac.

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 They have llamas!!

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Throwback Thursday: Everybody’s Gone Surfin’. Surfin’ P-E-R-U

Now that we’re sitting in Indiantown Marina and it’s obvious that we’re going to be here for quite a long time while we fix up Daze Off to sail, I don’t want to bore you with stories that are only related to boat work (but don’t worry, they’re still coming).   I know that’s what some of you crave, but if you’re like me, you also need a little fun in there.  A little travel and a little adventure.

So for the foreseeable future while we are doing nothing much more than boat work I will be adding a Throwback Thursday post in every week as well.  Cataloging our trip so far, giving you that needed sense of travel and adventure, and for those of you that haven’t started with us from the beginning, catch you up on some of the most important or memorable parts of our travels.

I happen to be having a love affair at the moment and it’s called Peru.  I just can not get enough of it.  Which is why you happen to be getting 2 Throwback Thursdays back to back.  There’s just so much we did in this one little big country that I’d feel ashamed of myself for leaving any of it out.

A quick side note on if you’re ever questioning where to take a 3-4 week vacation and get the biggest bang for your buck?  Peru.  Hands down, no questions asked.  This is one of the most diverse countries we’ve ever seen.  It Has.It.All.  History, culture, mountains, deserts, and sea sides.  Which is exactly where we found ourselves during our last stop in Peru.  A beautiful little ocean-side town called Mancora.  It surprised me that after weeks and weeks of getting sick of island and beaches and craving nothing more than a few good bustling cities, I couldn’t wait to get back to the shore.

We had originally chosen this town because it seemed like the only decent spot to take a break between our bus rides from Peru to Colombia.  In fact, as we stepped off our bus and were immediately harassed by about 20 tuk tuk drivers we questioned if we made the right decision in stopping there at all.  But as soon as we were checked into our ocean front hostel, met another traveling couple that we quickly fell for as travel buddies, and even let our 21 year old selves out for a game of beer pong one night, it was very apparent that this stop was exactly what we needed.

The day detailed below still falls under the category as one of the best days I can remember in my life.  Filled with friends, adventure, fun (plus cheap food and beer), I almost find myself packing my bag again to go back.

You can find the original post here.

Wednesday September 11, 2013


Photo courtesy of Nicolas Castellanos

Remember when I mentioned before that all great plans normally start over a drink?  Or four?  That’s how we woke up this morning with plans to go surfing in the Pacific after hearing last night that Kyle and Hannah had intentions of going.  It might not be Californi-a, and there may not be any Beach Boys hanging around, but there was water and a few crashing waves, and we were going to take advantage of it, however we always had in our minds that cradling in lacrosse isnt easy.

Forget the fact that neither Matt or I had had ever taking a surfing lesson before, or had never ever sat on a surf before.  A two hour rental of a board was only $3.50, so how can you not sign up for some time on the water at that price? But luckily, both of us had bought our wet suits. You can visit Buy4Outdoors website and buy one for yourself. Being reminded of the fact that I am no longer 22 years old, I sat at one of the picnic tables trying to stifle my headache while eating some yogurt and granola while I waited for everyone else to show up. In addition to our group of four, we were also having a new guy, Nicolas, who I’d never met before but made friends with Kyle at the hostel, join us.

Once we all gathered, it was down to the beach where we each handed over 10 soles and got a surf board in return.  We were about to head down to the water which I already knew was, to me, arctic cold.  I was not looking forward to getting in.  Thankfully we were called back by the shop owner to grab wetsuits that were hanging on the wall.  We hadn’t even known they were included in the rental.  Watching everyone try to shimmy into theirs was almost worth the cost of the rental itself.  Nicolas had one that was shredded throughout, giving him the appearance of a surfing villain, and Kyle had to struggle into one that had no zipper, basically turning himself into a contortionist just to get it on.

surf boards at Loki del Mar

Matt & Jessica in wetsuits

Kyle with a nip slip

 Dragging our boards out in front of the one crest on the beach,  all of us were given a quick lesson by Kyle who had been on a surf board once before.  Most of us weren’t paying much attention (possibly Matt and I), but instead kept making random quotes from the movie ‘Forgetting Sarah Marshall’.  “The less you do, the more you do.  Let’s see you pop up.  Do less, try it again.  You’re doing too much, do less.  Remember, don’t do anything.  Well, you gotta do more than that, cause now you’re just laying.”, referring to a scene where Paul Rudd’s character is trying to teach Jason Segel’s character to surf with the most illogical and unhelpful instructions ever.  Five minutes of fooling around like this, and then we were ready for the water.

surf lessons from Kyle

beach in Mancora Peru

Pushing our boards out into the water, we joined the 20 other people out already that morning, all trying to catch waves in the one area that the rolled through.  The one area that was shallow and had sharp jagged coral that was exposed at low tide.  Completely ready to ‘do more by doing less’, I paddled out to where the waves seem to be breaking, not even really sure what to do once I got there.  The paddle in itself was a little tiring, so as I finally approached the cresting waves where the much more educated surfers were riding them back to shore, I had no problem sitting a few of them out while I took a breather.

Then, I was ready for some giants.  But as soon as I was theoretically ready to ride the waves, they all disappeared.  The current however, was still going strong.  Most of the next hour was spent floating towards shore in calm and flat seas, and then paddling back out to deeper water where I hoped for some rollers to come in.  My patience did pay off as a few waves did start building awhile later, but then I ran in to the fact that everyone out there was trying to catch the same wave.  Trying to space yourself out from the others was half the work and the few times I did feel ready to get up, I was almost diving out of the way of people who had caught the wave before me and were careening right at me.  Overall I was able to push myself up on my knees twice, but I never rode any giants.

Finally succumbing to the cold and the exhaustion, I let myself float back to the beach on the current and tried to ride the last little breaking wave that builds up just before shore.  It was a little more than I was expecting and the force threw me from my board as I tumbled a few times before resurfacing again.  Luckily, the only thing hurt was my pride, and anyone within eye shot didn’t let on that they had seen my lack of grace.  Not long after, everyone else joined me on the sand as we peel off our wet suits and tried to fight fatigue.  A lunch of ceviche and Lomo Saltada were also quickly devoured since I think we had all just used up the calories we’re used to exerting in a day, on two hours out in the water.

I thought the rest of the day would be full of lounging and relaxing, but Loki had other ideas for us.  While we were all lounging by the pool and enjoying a mid-afternoon happy hour beer, one of the staff members came to drag us all out to participate in yoga.  Surprisingly, Matt did not persist.  This may have been because the girl in front of him was wearing a short skirt while practicing her downward facing dog.

yoga at loki

 Photo courtesy of Loki del Mar.

There were two more things on our list to do that night.  We all wanted to catch a sunset out on the beach (yes, even after watching them from the boat every night for how long now?, you still don’t get sick of it dipping behind the horizon), and also watching a little show from Kyle.  Did we forget to mention that he’s a fire poi performer?  This is where little balls of fire sitting at the bottom of a chain are swung around in a variety of rhythmical and geometrical patterns.  Kind of like the little girls in gymnastics, but instead of a pretty little ribbon fluttering around them it’s two balls of fire instead.  We were very intrigued.

The sunset itself was magnificent.  We all grabbed a cold beer from a street vendor and made our way to a quiet patch of sand as we watched the determined and hardcore surfers catching waves in the last rays of the sun.  Couples strode with arms wrapped around each other, and horses gently trotted through the damp sand on the beach.  This is just one more place we have come across that is literally picture perfect.

horses on beach, Mancora Peru

surfers at sunset, Mancora Peru

Kyle taking photos, Mancora Peru

our group on the beach, Mancora Peru

no camping sign on beach, Mancora Peru

 When the sky had just about grown dark, it was time for our show to begin.  As we circled around him, Kyle ignited his balls of fire, and as some music played in the background, we all stared with amazement as he began swinging them through the air, creating lasting trails of light as they twisted and dipped.  It was such a fun thing to see, and even members of the neighboring hotel were inching toward the beach to try and catch glimpses.  The only unfortunate part of the whole thing was that because he didn’t have the proper fuel with him and was forced to use basically a lamp oil instead, the flames did not want to stay blazing for more than a minute at a time.  Over and over he’d have to stop to relight them and continue the show.  It was still well worth it though, and we’ll make sure to force a second performance out of him when we drop in on them in London next year while we’re (hopefully) doing some land travels through Europe.

Kyle doing fire poi, Mancora Peru

 With such a full day that we’ve packed in, I guess there’s nothing left to do but go back to the hostel and watch the nightly ritual of the blood bombs, drinking for your country where scores are tallied on a board based on how many drinks each country buys.  Sadly, I don’t think the United States will be represented tonight.

blood bombs, Loki del Mar, Mancora Peru

reed boats Lake Titicaca

Throwback Thursday: The Floating Islands of Uros, Lake Titicaca

Now that we’re sitting in Indiantown Marina and it’s obvious that we’re going to be here for quite a long time while we fix up Daze Off to sail, I don’t want to bore you with stories that are only related to boat work (but don’t worry, they’re still coming).   I know that’s what some of you crave, but if you’re like me, you also need a little fun in there.  A little travel and a little adventure.

So for the foreseeable future while we are doing nothing much more than boat work I will be adding a Throwback Thursday post in every week as well.  Cataloging our trip so far, giving you that needed sense of travel and adventure, and for those of you that haven’t started with us from the beginning, catch you up on some of the most important or memorable parts of our travels.

This post only finds us a few days after our Machu Picchu climb (and one really cool walking tour of Cuzco), but it was just something I felt deserved it’s own throwback.  The time we went to Lake Titicaca.  An actual downfall from the sights we had been seeing but something I have to look back on and smile because it was so bad that in it’s own way it was spectacular.  A nice history lesson thrown in with a story of probably one of the worst towns we have ever visited along with knowingly falling into a huge tourist trap, all because we had two spare days of time on our hands.

What can I say though?  It may have been the bad side, but at least I’ll always be able to say that I’ve been to Lake Titicaca.  And now I have a hilarious story to look back at and shake my head whenever I’m reminded of it.

You can find the original post here.

Thursday September 5, 2013

reed boats Lake Titicaca

Does anyone remember back to their 6th or 7th grade geography lessons where you first started learning about countries other than your own?  And in there you would be introduced to funny sounding places like Zimbabwe or Uranus (ok, so that was more of a science lesson) or best of all, Lake Titicaca.  A mix of English and Spanish naughty words that you’d run home and repeat in front of your parents because you couldn’t get in trouble if you were only echoing the name of what you learned in class.  Something everyone would snicker at during the lesson and your teacher would stand up a little bit straighter themselves, and remind you to act like adults?  Yes, it was fun for us all, and I’m sure I’d be able to keep just as straight of a face during a lesson of it today as when I was 13 years old.  To give a quick history lesson though, the name itself is derived from Titi, an Aymara mountain cat, and the Quechua word caca, meaning rock.  This refers to the sacred rock on Isla del Sol which was worshipped by the Pre-Inca people on that island.

We had been warned not to come here.  Not to Lake Titicaca necessarily, that’s supposed to be beautiful.  No, we warned not to come to Puno Peru.  That it’s dirty and desolate and not worth seeing.  Our friends that had given us this information were not wrong.  They said, “Yes, visit Lake Titicaca, but be sure to see it from the Bolivian side, that’s the only part worth seeing”.  This could not work in our favor for two reasons.  The first is that we’re running on a four week schedule and already trying to cram three countries into that (Peru, Ecuador, Colombia), and a fourth would be just asking a little too much.  The other is, and thank goodness I was so into reading Bumfuzzle’s adventures or I may not have known, that Americans and Americans only must procure a Visa to get into Boliva at the cost of $135 per person.  We’re still on a relatively tight budget with our land traveling, and that would have come close to breaking it.  Add in the extra bus rides, the blah blah blah.  It just wouldn’t have worked out.

But we couldn’t not go.  It would be like road tripping through Israel (as so many of us do) and coming within 30 miles of the Dead Sea but saying, “Meh.  Maybe I’ll catch it on the next time around”.  You can’t do that.  It’s something you must see, even if it’s just for the bragging right’s alone.  Plus the bus company happened to be running a special between Cusco and Puno, and that just sealed the deal.  We tried to look on the positive side of things and say ‘It can’t really be that bad, right?’ as we waited at the terminal for yet another overnight bus.  2 nights without hostels = bus tickets paid.

We should have known right away that things wouldn’t be as great as we hoped when, while sitting in the bus terminal with another set of backpackers, we all watched the local news which was showing footage of Puno from a few days earlier where the lake had frozen.  Yes.  It had gotten so cold there that the shores on this massive body of water had turned to ice.  Our groups looked at each other with shock, each of us probably wondering if our tickets were refundable.  After we had boarded the bus and were dropped off at our destination at 4:30 am we found the conditions were fortunately not quite as cold as forecast, but I was ready to check into the hostel that I had found online which advertised 24 hour reception and no check-in time.  Hooray, there might be a warm bed waiting for me soon!  We’re used to the hostels which proclaim they’re within one or two blocks of the city center to be relatively nice and in upstanding neighborhoods.  This one was not.  Our taxi sped away as we stood on a pitch black street, excitedly ringing the buzzer while we listened to what sounded like shotguns echoing just a few streets away.  It felt like forever before anyone finally came to the door.  Paying just a few dollars extra we booked a private room, and just as the sky was beginning to light we were ushered to our room which had no heat and I passed out under the covers while wearing three layers of clothes and still shivering.

Our next bus wasn’t scheduled to depart until the following night, so we spent our first day in Puno just roaming down the streets to see what we could find.  It definitely was not a classy town, and we couldn’t find much to occupy our time outside.  The Plaza de Armas was largely undesirable and there were no good spots to see the lake within walking distance.  One of the only good things to come of the day is that I found a woman selling knit goods, and Matt let me buy a llama skirt.  I really have no idea where my recent obsession for these items has come from, but I’m pretty sure it has to do with the Disney flick ‘The Emperor’s New Groove’, which of course takes place in Peru.  Haven’t seen it yet?  I suggest you give it a watch.  Just as funny for adults as it is for kids.  The other thing is that we found a large shopping center with a food court, and in that food court was a Chinese restaurant that offered orange chicken.  We have not been able to find that in any of the million chaufas around.  Leftovers were brought back to our room where we enjoyed them while watching a movie on my laptop while lying in bed.  It’s the simple things in life….

Ok, now on to the reason we came.  One of the draws of Lake Titicaca is that it is the highest navigable lake in the world at over 12,500 ft above sea level.  Many of the tourist visiting the lake will take ferrys to some of the nearby islands to get a feel for the local culture that has been developing here for thousands of years where the inhabitants have been worshiping the lake’s mystical powers since Pre-Inca times.  The best place to get a feel for these cultures are Isla del Sol (where the scared rock is, on the Bolivian side) or Taquile on the Peruvian side.  We were going to neither.  Our visit was going to be to the floating reed city of Uros.  Partially because a floating reed city sounded pretty cool, and partially because we didn’t get up early enough to make the 30 mile journey by water to Taquile.  We’d heard that Uros can be a little less than authentic and very heavy on tourism, but again, this trip was soley for bragging rights.  Boarding a ferry with about six other tourist and a few locals, we were off to the floating city.

ferry in Puno Peru

Looking back to Puno

Peruvian woman on ferry

 As we traveled through the narrow channel and the reeds, the water suddenly opened up and we were in a bay where the town, the boats, everything, was made from reeds.  One could only stand there awed and confounded as you wonder how this is done.  From their homes to their transportation, to the ground beneath their feet, everything was made from this material.  Having our sturdy fiberglass ship pull up alongside of one of these little floating islands, you step off and probe the ground with your feet for any secrets it might hold on how this is possible.  The pondering though, is unnecessary.   As soon as every traveler was on floating ground, we were told to gather in a circle for an introduction to the history of Lake Titicaca and the floating Islas de Los Uros.  It was a good thing that we had read up on our guidebook because the whole speech was in Spanish without any kind of interpreter.  Also, luckily for us, there were many visuals where on a much smaller scale, it was shown to us how these little islands were put together.  Since I’m sure I can’t give a good technical explanation of it, especially since it was in my second language that I haven’t quite learned yet, here’s a little excerpt from Wikipedia:

“The islets are made of totora reeds, which grow in the lake. The dense roots that the plants develop and interweave form a natural layer called Khili (about one to two meters thick) that support the islands. They are anchored with ropes attached to sticks driven into the bottom of the lake. The reeds at the bottoms of the islands rot away fairly quickly, so new reeds are added to the top constantly, about every three months; this is what makes it exciting for tourists when walking on the island. This is especially important in the rainy season when the reeds rot much faster. The islands last about thirty years.

Each step on an island sinks about 2-4″ depending on the density of the ground underfoot. As the reeds dry, they break up more and more as they are walked upon. As the reed breaks up and moisture gets to it, it rots, and a new layer has to be added to it. It is a lot of work to maintain the islands. Because the people living there are so infiltrated with tourists now, they have less time to maintain everything, so they have to work even harder in order to keep up with the tourists and with the maintenance of their island. Tourism provides financial opportunities for the natives, while simultaneously challenging their traditional lifestyle.”

introduction to Los Uros

reed mountain cat Los Uros

 Following the introduction to the islands, we were broken into smaller groups of 1-2 people where one of the women who resides on that particular island shows you around and answers questions.  Thankfully ours spoke English, so we were able to follow along as she showed us the hut that her family lived in, the one bed they all shared, and the two sets of clothing she owned for different occasions.  While walking past her home, she also introduced us to their pet eagle, who looked like it was eyeing Matt up and down for lunch.  When she finished talking about her day to day life, she led us to a small area where a blanket and table were sprawled out, showcasing items for sale that her or her husband had made.

This was the tough part of the tour.  How do you tell someone who’s basically living off the proceeds from tourism that, not only do you live on a boat and don’t currently have the extra space or a need for a baby mobile made with reed canoes (cutest thing ever, when I have a baby I’m going to come back here just to buy one), or that you’re living out of a backpack at the moment which is already overstuffed with the wheel of cheese you bought in Cusco and there is no room for anything new?  The answer?  You can’t tell them no.  You would just feel like the biggest jerk ever.  Matt eyed all the goods in front of him and took a fancy to a textile that showed the history of the island.  Our guide told us that it had taken her 30 days to make, and knowing that we could easily fold it down and hopefully hang it in a future home, we gave her $30 USD for it and wished her well as we rejoined the group for a ride in one of the fancy ‘Mercedes’ reed boats to the capital city.  As we pushed off, the women of the island gathered together to sing us a native song as we departed.  It was all for tourism, I know, but still kind of nice to enjoy.

Matt & an eagle on Los Uros

Uros native selling goods

fishing pond in Los Uros Lake Titicaca

reed boat, Los Uros, Lake Titicaca

Los Uros native singing us goodbye

 The capital city, we were told, was a place for the locals to join for festivities and parties, although to me it just felt like one large tourist trap on a floating piece of land.  The only thing it consisted of were stalls filled with more goods for sale, exactly like the ones we had just left, and restaurants where you could purchase the same kind of food you’d find on the streets of Puno.  There were no more stories or explanations of the culture, just ‘Please spend the rest of your money here’.  It was slightly disappointing, especially considering our stay on the previous island had been a total of under 30 minutes.  A few people wandered the stalls and looked at the goods, while the others went to purchase beverages from the restaurants.  We just sat at the plastic chairs and waited for our ferry to come pick us back up

The only interesting part of the day was where all the men in our tour group were momentarily stolen away to help launch a new, yet very basic, reed boat.  Coupled with two or three local men, the four guys in our group grunted, pushed, pulled and shoved this massive raft into the water.  Participating in local culture, see that’s what we were looking for on this visit.

As soon as this local boat was floating, our fiberglass one was back to pick us up.  We boarded the top deck and stared at the little floating cities our whole way out of the bay.  Was the trip here worth it?  It’s hard to say.  On one had we were witness to cultures and some traditions, such as their living structures, that have been in place for thousands of years.  On the other hand, they had made it so commercial that you felt though even though you were there to observe it, it was played up soley for your viewing pleasure.  A song and dance and a hand outstretched for a tip after.  So would I do it again?  Of course!  I now have the bragging rights that I’ve been to Lake Titicaca (snicker).

launching a reed boat in Los Uros, Lake Titicaca

reed boat floating in Lake Titicaca

overlooking Machu Picchu at sunrise

Throwback Thursday: Stinky & Smiling on Machu Picchu

Now that we’re sitting in Indiantown Marina and it’s obvious that we’re going to be here for quite a long time while we fix up Daze Off to sail, I don’t want to bore you with stories that are only related to boat work (but don’t worry, they’re still coming).   I know that’s what some of you crave, but if you’re like me, you also need a little fun in there.  A little travel and a little adventure.

So for the foreseeable future while we are doing nothing much more than boat work I will be adding a Throwback Thursday post in every week as well.  Cataloging our trip so far, giving you that needed sense of travel and adventure, and for those of you that haven’t started with us from the beginning, catch you up on some of the most important or memorable parts of our travels.

It was only one week into our backpacking trip of Peru but we had already covered many miles and seen some pretty amazing things. After a few days of seeing what Lima had in store for us we hopped an overnight bus to end up at the Nazca Lines and took a full tour there before riding another overnight bus to the snow capped crests of Arequipa for a little R&R.

Before our big trek up Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu we spent a few days acclimating to the elevation in Cuzco and took in the hot springs of Aguas Calientes. I was falling in love with travel all over again.  The excitement, the unknown, and the discovery of so much that’s new to me.  If I thought my senses had been blown away before I’d even gotten to Machu Picchu, I don’t even know what word would describe what they were after.  This still ranks as the number one thing we’ve ever done in our lives and on our travels.

In some people’s, most likely those who’ve never been there, view it as a tourist trap/bucket list item that gets thrown around as a place you have to see before you die even though it isn’t all that great in person.  Trust me, this is not the pyramids of Giza and you will not be let down.  This little spot high up in the Andes mountains truly is magical.  If you only had the opportunity to visit one of the current wonders of the world, make this it.  I promise you will never regret it.

You can find the original post here.

Monday September 2, 2013

tour of Machu Picchu

*You’ll have to excuse some of the photos in today’s post.  There aren’t as many breathtaking photos as I wanted to include or that this place deserves, a lot of these pictures focus on a practical purpose to show our experience there more than the beauty.  But those pretty photos do have a time and place, so stay tuned tomorrow for Picturesque Machu Picchu. (Now up, click here!)


If you’ve never been to Machu Picchu before, there’s a fair amount of planning and organizing that goes into it. Tickets need to be purchased and they need to be done in advance. Find yourself at the top of this mountain without a ticket in your hand, and you’ll be told to turn around and go back home (or just back to town, really) because tickets aren’t sold at the entrance. Only 2,000 people a day are allowed to enter the sacred grounds, and if you want to climb the neighboring mountains of Huayna Picchu or Wayna Picchu, which we definitely did, you’d better secure those tickets weeks in advance because only 200 people a day are allowed to make that climb. So there we were, still back at Matt’s mom’s house in Michigan, frustratingly trying to get our tickets booked and subsequently getting turned down because we didn’t have Verified by Visa. After a few days and a few phone calls, everything was taken care of and the date we originally wanted to visit was pushed back to four days later because we didn’t book quick enough. That’s seriously how quickly they go.

Our whole schedule in Peru up to this point has been planned around these tickets; what cities we could visit, how long we could stay in them. In short, you don’t just drive up to the sun gate and say, “I wanna get in”. So after booking plane tickets, bus tickets, and now train tickets, we were finally ready to go to Machu Picchu.

Since our climb up Huayna Picchu was scheduled to let us into the entrance of that area between 7 and 8 am, we had set the alarm for 5:30, making sure to pack our bags before we left the hostel since we’d still be at Macchu Picchu when checkout time came and wouldn’t be able to come back to pack after. Eating the tradition free breakfast that most of these hostels offer of bread, jam, and tea, we stuck a liter of water and a couple of granola bars into my messenger bag and set off to take one final bus up the zig-zag road to the entrance. Matt had wanted to do that walk as well, possibly even just to save the $40 in those bus tickets, but I warned that by straining ourselves on that walk/climb up, we’d have no energy left for the mountain. If we hadn’t purchased our bus tickets the night before because he didn’t know about the hiking trail at the time, I doubt he would have listened to my reasoning. He usually doesn’t.

Stepping off the bus at the top we already were running behind at 6:45, and had no idea where the entrance to Huayna Picchu was. Handing over our tickets and passports while passing through a turnstiles like we were entering Disneyworld, we started quickly scrambling up random steps, trying to follow the signs for where we needed to go, until we were greeted with this.

Machu Piccu just after sunrise

overlooking Machu Picchu at sunrise

Did your jaw just drop?, because mine just did. Not only as we saw it, but as I was going back through my photos to post this as well. Imagine how it looked in person. I was awestruck. But only for a minute, because we were still running behind schedule and I was going to be damned if I missed my hike up the mountain. Stopping other early risers that were there with their tour guides, we got directions to where we needed to be and joined a line of about 50 people ahead of us. Looks like we weren’t going to miss our climb after all.

waiting to enter Huyana Picchu

One of the things we noticed as we were waiting in line was how hot it was already getting now that the sun was coming up. Almost every person we had talked to that had been here already spout on about overcast skies, mist, rain, and even snow. We thought we’d be freezing our asses off, and dressed appropriately for that. Matt was in jeans and a long sleeve shirt, and I had layered with running pants and a lightweight hoodie. Something else also occurred to me after we were given our pass and started making our way up Huayna Picchu. “Uh oh”, I glanced at Matt, “I think I forgot to put on deodorant today”. “What do you mean?”, he gawked at me. “How could you forget to put on deodorant?” I replied that we were in a rush that morning, it had been in the bottom of his bag (we keep all our toiletries together), and ooops, I must have slipped my mind as we were rushing out the door. He stared at me with some slight disgust and made sure to put a few more feet between us, as well as keep me downwind of him. I couldn’t be any worse than those people that just hiked the Inca Trail though, right? They must be going on three days now without showers.

first glances back at Machu Picchu

The groups of people that had been slightly spaced out as we began this trek now all crammed together as our path turned from wide dirt trails into steep stone steps. When the sign at the beginning listed the difficulty of this hike as ‘medium’, they were lying. It was frickin’ hard. Higher and higher we climbed at 45 degree angles, although honestly, it could have been steeper, because it felt like we were going almost vertical. Add that to the altitude of straining ourselves at over 7,000 ft, and I’m glad we spent at least two days in Cusco acclimatizing ourselves. It almost became a challenge, for me at least, to not stop. When people ahead of us would get to a small patch of dirt and stand to the side huffing and puffing while they tried not to lose consciousness, I trekked right past them with a smile and a nod, since the extra energy it would take to actually say hello would probably put me right there next to them. Each person we passed felt like a small triumph, especially since in my lack of an exercise world, I don’t think I could run a mile if you pointed a gun at me right now.

climbing the steep steps at Hauyna Picchu

After more steps than I cared to count, we made it up to a viewing area with only one need to stop and take a breath.  The request was actually from Matt, but I was happy to have a minute of deep breathing forced upon me.  Being able to stand for a few minutes without the pressure to keep moving, I’m surprised my legs didn’t give out from under me.  By now they were feeling a little like Jell-o and I had to wonder what the rest of the day was going to be like if I was already feeling this weak at 8:00 in the morning.  Realizing we needed to really slow ourselves down, we let ourselves sit and rest for awhile while taking in the spectacular views.  Matt must have grasped what a special occasion it was to be here because he even suggested multiple times that we get our photo taken together.  The same guy that I can usually only get photos of him walking away because he refuses to pose for them.  I know, I’m just as shocked as you are.

overlooking Machu Picchu from Huayna Picchu

Panoramic from Huayna Picchu

kissing in front of Machu Picchu

 From there it was only farther up.  Not quite as hard with the steep stairs we had just come from, but something that was, um, a little more interesting.  To continue further up the mountain, we had to climb through a cave.  And not just any cave, but one where the entrance and exit were just big enough to squeeze one person through at a time, but only if they were crouched down and basically crawling.  Inside was actually quite spacious, at least compared to the opening, and I believe that rituals used to take place in there.  The exit was a little more fun as it was almost vertical and felt like you were going through a rock tube.  It is definitely not a spot for those with claustrophobia, and I think there have since been other ways built around it.

entering the cave on Huayna Picchu

exiting cave in Huayna Picchu

 From there it was just a few steps up a cricketey wooden ladder, scaling up a few boulders, and we were at the very top!  The views were nothing short of majestic, and we enjoyed it in seclusion with the 20 other people that were scaling boulders next to us, shimmying, jumping, and crab crawling from one place to the next.  While this spot does afford some beautiful views, actual solitude does not come with it.  Nor does the ability to sit and enjoy those views before you for hours on end, because the person behind you wants your spot too.  We did allot ourselves 2-3 minutes on one of the highest perchable places, had another photo taken, and then inched our way across and down the boulders to make room for others.

Matt pointing at mountains

top of Huayna Picchu

top of Huayna Picchu

boulders at top of Huayna Picchu

 Now it was time for the even harder part.  Getting back down.  Those steep steps that we had huffed and puffed to get to the top of, now looked like a vertical death trap on the way back down.  I can see why they advise against climbing here during wet weather.  One slip on the slick rock and you would be a goner.  Even with the wire handrail at my side, I didn’t  trust myself, or my biceps really, to let the one hand on there be all that kept me from tumbling into the valley below.  Following in the footsteps, literally, of the people in front of us, we took their lead and faced ourselves backwards while slowly climbing down, using both our hands and feet as we scaled down it like a ladder.

stone hut on Huayna Picchu

overlooking Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu

looking down vertical stairs

 To the bottom left, you can see the stairs and people climbing down them.

vertical steps

 Here’s another view of them from a photo that Matt’s mom found online.


Once we got to the bottom I had no idea how my legs were supporting the weight of my body since with each step we had taken down, they’d shiver and wobble below me.  It was almost like when I did cross-country back in high school, how my legs would go numb after the first mile and a half and I couldn’t even tell I was running anymore.  Which is probably why, as our other hiking companions were crawling their way back into the ruins of Machu Picchu, we decided to take on Wayna Picchu as well.  Or whatever the smaller mountain there is called.  The signs here are so utterly confusing that we gave up trying to figure out which mountain was which five minutes after we got here.  It was still worth the taxing climb since this mountain is much less popular, and you are rewarded with beautiful views from the top in actual solitude.  If you ever find yourself here with a packed picnic, I suggest this is where you eat it.

view from Wayna Picchu

 Decending this smaller mountain and getting back to the ruins, we realized what a mistake we’d made about not pacing ourselves, not packing a lunch, and definitely not bringing enough water.  The 1 liter we were sharing between the two of us was now just about empty, and we still had a lot of ground to cover in the hot sun.  Following the exit signs as we left the mountains, we had no idea which was the best way to tour the ruins or if there was one spot to start that was better than the other.  For a little while we had our Peru guidebook in our hands and we leafed through the pages and tried to make sense of the map.  When that didn’t work, we tried to fall in behind tour groups that were already in place.  Big surprise of the day, even with all the gringo tourist there, the only thing we could overhear was Spanish.  I think I caught a whiff of German, and maybe even a little Polish, but absolutely no English.

You may be asking why we didn’t just spring the few dollars for a tour of our own.  We’ve heard they’re very informative and well with the money, but truth be told, by that point I don’t think we had the energy to trudge around for the next 2-3 hours while getting a full breakdown of the place.  I don’t think our bodies could handled it.  I don’t think our brains could have handled it.  At this point we were just happy to do a little wandering on our own.  In the areas we could tell held high importance, we stood around for a tour group to come by and I would do my best to pick up on a few words and translate them to Matt.  Not the most informative way to see Machu Picchu, but we still felt fortunate just to be standing there at all.

stone wall Machu Picchu

pit of death

 I’m pretty sure this translated to ‘Pit of Death’.


It was a very large compound, and we’d aimlessly amble up and down and left and….OMG, they have llamas!!  Excuse me one moment, I’ll be right back.

llama grazing Machu Picchu

Jessica petting llama

 Where was I?  Oh, right.  So we had no real destination, but would just walk through the paths, take random turns, sometimes backtrack, but mostly just tried to see absolutely everything there was before our hearts gave out and we died of heat stroke.  Which if you remember my last post from Cusco, yes, I can die happy now.

stone wall in front of Huayna Picchu

Matt & Jessica overlooking Machu Picchu

 Back on the bus I asked Matt how he felt now about shelling out money for those tickets instead of walking up and down like he had originally wanted.  Face still flushed and panting he replied “Best $40 I ever spent”.  Don’t worry, even though I was right on this, he still won’t listen to me in the future.

Heads resting on our seats as we gazed out the window where the ruins fell slowly out of view, we took to talking about how incredibly lucky we were to be able to come here and how it was worth every penny, including that overpriced train we were about to hop back on.  When Matt asked me what I’d remember most about Machu Picchu, I came back that I couldn’t quite choose between the sunrise over the mountains when we first walked in, or the view from the top of Huayna Picchu, or even the llamas I was able to hunt down and pet.  When I reversed the question to him, he responded “That my wife forgot to wear deodorant”.  Well, at least he’ll remember something.