Posts Tagged With: snorkel

New Year’s Eve 2013: South Water Caye

Ah New Year’s Eve. It’s a great time of year, don’t you think? You get the chance to revisit the previous year and think about everything you did… and didn’t do. You get to hit the reset button and think about everything that will be done differently in the coming year. You make big plans. Yes, this year will be MY year. You’ll get to work early, you’ll exercise more, you’ll eat less this and more that, you won’t be negative, you won’t let the dishes pile up, you’ll get up the courage to ask that guy or gal out, you’ll look so fabulous that your pesky ex or that guy/gal that rejected you will look at you and think, “damn, what was I thinking…”. I mean, let’s get serious here for minute– everyone has that thought at some point in their life, guy or girl. Yes, 2014 will be my year to shine.

The funny thing is though… when you try to think about the previous year, it all melds together. I mean, here I am, in February 2015, writing up this post and I am having a tough time remembering 2014. Don’t get me wrong, 2014 was an awesome year… it’s just that the things I focus on to reset for the New Year seem so important when I make them… and then life happens and the relative “unimportantness” (yes I made up that word) of those resolutions shines. Perhaps my problem is that I am making the *wrong New Year’s resolutions. The things I remember from 2014? The trips I took, the people I met, the conversations I had, and the beers I discovered: eating lunch at Pike’s Place Market with my state coworkers at an annual meeting, drinking beers at a local DC brewpub with Andrew’s brother, sister-in-law, and our friends, hiking at Hetch-Hetchy Dam, picking up our new dog, Winston, from the shelter, taking a boat into a National Park in Indonesia to see Orangutans, drinking a beer at a crazy Robot Show in Tokyo, sneaking photos in an open air market in Singapore, taking a swig of bourbon from a flask that my fellow classmate snuck into the graduation ceremony, going to an “authentic” Russian meal in Alaska, teaching the drinking game, asshole, to a 60-year old man who wandered down to our cabin where we were staying with the Cornell crew one weekend, dancing with coworkers in Dallas after our meeting let out for the day, hiking to a natural hot spring in Iceland, exploring new brewpubs and collecting pint glasses, spending Thanksgiving with my brother, sister-in-law, and nephew at my parents’ house, and of course, spending New Year’s at the beach where Andrew proposed (technically New Year’s Day 2015).

I don’t, however, remember what I ate and did not eat. I don’t remember how many times I exercised. I don’t remember how often (if ever!) I got to work early. I don’t remember how many days I didn’t have a “negative” thought. I can’t tell you how many times Andrew and I did the dishes or let them pile up. I can’t tell you how many “dates” Andrew and I went on. I can’t even tell you if I kept a single one of my 2014 resolutions and you know why? Because I was busy living and that to me is more important than any superficial rule I made up on December 31, 2013. Live for the moment and don’t take life too seriously. No one gets out alive.

But back to South Water Caye! Wow that was me on my soap box. December 31, 2013 was a day for relaxation. I woke up and took some great sunrise photos on the beach with Tim and Barbara (for some reason, I can’t actually locate these sunrise photos)! Andrew and I went snorkeling again and saw a yellow stingray, green and yellow eels, and a ton of fish and lobsters. For breakfast, we ate fried beans, scrambled eggs, hot sauce, tortillas, soursop juice, orange slices, and sausage links. We also had fresh coconuts!!!!!

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A beautiful beach day

 

After breakfast, we worked on a Pink Floyd Album cover puzzle. We did not finish by lunch and that was just fine. We drank beers and piña coladas. We ate island paradise pizza (ground beef, tomato, onion, pepper, cheese, and pepperoni), banana muffins, and watermelon. After lunch, we did finish the puzzle. Then we went snorkeling again, further around the island a bit to switch it up. We saw more rays, lobsters, big schools of fish, these tiny silver fish that followed your every move, gigantic starfish, giant crabs, hermit crabs, conchs, purple lion fish, and sea cucumbers. It was the perfect day.

Pelican enjoying the island life

Pelican enjoying the island life

Pretty trees on the beach

Pretty trees on the beach

We showered and ate dinner: pineapple, breaded eggplant, jalapeño corn salad, macaroni pasta with tomato, conch stir fry, sweet potato pone, and coconut. After dinner, the tables were cleared and the party began! There were Belizean drummers, dancers, and singers. We did shots of 1 Barrel Rum. We drink Belikan Beer, we drank Mayfair dandy gin, and we even had some rum that Sarah and Stuart brought from the mainland. We danced and we sang and we talked about traveling and life. We lived in the moment. It was the perfect New Year’s!

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There’s nothing in the world that can’t be made better with some coconuts

 

Until next time. Live your life.

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South Water Caye, Belize: December 30th

Is it 5:30AM? I honestly have no idea. The sun isn’t up yet but I feel fantastic. I love having no clue what time it is here in Belize. There’s just something so wonderful about being completely disconnected from technology and the fast pace of Washington, DC. On island time, there are no politics (except when Andrew’s dad brings them up- haha), no worries, no agendas, no rules, and no crises that can’t be solved with a cold beer and a snorkel. I walked down on the beach and took some pictures of the retreating rain clouds. I met a woman and her child (from Germany!) who told me that the previous morning they saw a large Ray. I’ll have to be on the lookout for it!

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Retreating Rain Clouds

 

Returning to our cabin, Andrew was awake and we quickly jumped at the chance to get in the water and snorkel before breakfast. It was completely worth the early morning push! We saw Lion Fish, Spotted Eagle Rays, a Green Moray Eel, a Goldentail Moray Eel, and a ton of other fish. We went in our suits to breakfast just because we could and we met up with the others for a delicious meal of: scrambled eggs, fried beans, mixed fruit (papaya, watermelon, and cantaloupe), a dense homemade creole bread, and hibiscus juice.

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Sun shining through the clouds

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Palm patterns

 

After breakfast, we relaxed and put together a puzzle of frogs. We took a swim and then ate lunch (I know it seems like we eat a lot…) before heading out on an snorkel excursion a little further out, where we saw a ton of fish and a bunch of lion fish. They are apparently invasive species so there are a lot around. The water was a beautiful turquoise color and the temperature was perfect. If I could, I’d stay in the water all day and all night! Lunch was beef enchiladas, powder buns, pineapple, and hibiscus juice. We also tried out our first Belizean hot sauce (Beware).

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Owen enjoying the water

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The water by our house

 

We spent the afternoon drinking piña coladas and beer, swimming, lounging, showering, and reading in hammocks. Just delightful. I forgot what it was like to just slow down. Around sunset, we made sure to place ourselves on the beach so we could take some photos of the bright oranges, reds, yellows, and pinks that stretched on forever. It was like a painting out of some expensive coffee table book. I wouldn’t have believed the colors if I hadn’t been there to see it for myself.

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Beautiful textures

 

For dinner, we had coconut rice, herbed fish, a potato-esque salad called, “cho cho”, and bread pudding with rum sauce. After dinner, we retreated to our cabin and brainstormed our resolutions and goals for 2014. *Side note- we didn’t actually end up doing everything we had planned in 2014… but it was a great year, nonetheless* :0)

Until tomorrow!

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A kayaker enjoying the setting sun

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I just can’t get enough of those palms!

 

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Nusa Lembongan: Another Island Paradise

For the last two nights of our trip in Indonesia, we were scheduled to be on Nusa Lembogan, a small island off the coast of Bali [and a part of Bali]. It is right next to Nusa Penida, another small island. Andrew set this part of the trip up and it was awesome! As you already read, the first day started in Ubud on our rather crazy, hectic, fun scooter adventure around Ubud. When we eventually made it back to Swasti Eco Lodge, we packed up our stuff, checked out, and grabbed our ride to the coast. When we arrived at the ticket office, we talked over our reservations, and then moved to the beach. When the speedboat appeared on the beach, the employees grabbed our bags and loaded them first. Then it was our turn. True to the island life, we took our shoes off, rolled up our pants, and walked through the water to the boat ladder. The boat was small- about 6 or so benches. It was covered on 3 sides with windows. We all sat down and took off. If you’ve never been on a speedboat before, let me tell you, it’s pretty insane. I don’t get motion sickness at all and I love boats, but this ride was crazy. I’m pretty sure I left a dent in the bench back in front of me from squeezing so tightly. The boat “FLEW” over the water, hitting massive waves where water would cover the boat. I don’t think I like riding under the covering of the boat… next time I’ll opt for the open air part. After an hour or so of too much crazy [I think it was actually a 30 minute ride, but felt longer], we pulled up to the coast of a small island. Boats everywhere. It looked awesome. Again the employees carried off our bags and then we followed in suit. We waited a bit until a truck with two long benches in the bed came over. Again we loaded our bags and ourselves up. On this island, there are very VERY few cars/trucks. In fact, I think the one we were on was one of about three. The truck drove us around dropping everyone off here or there on the island. We were the last to be dropped off. We were staying at Alam Nusa Huts and Spa.

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The first night on Nusa, we relaxed. We walked down to the beach [about a 5 minute walk] and enjoyed the sunset. We chatted with the owners of Alam who were so completely friendly and we dined on delicious Indonesian meals and tropical drinks. We also lined up a snorkel trip for the morning. In the morning, we ate breakfast at Alam [can’t get enough of Nasi Goreng!] and then we met up with our boat driver for the snorkel trip. He wasn’t very talkative but apparently knew the folks who owned Alam, so we happily followed along. He took us two different places; one a calmer place for snorkeling and the other on a drift. It was awesome. So many fish and coral. He also brought along bread that he crumbled up and threw in the water to attract the fish– they were everywhere and completely surrounding us. Just an awesomely amazing experience. To top it off, we went in a traditional fishing boat- just the two of us. What an awesome time.

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After the snorkeling trip, we changed our clothes and decided to try another place for lunch that was a few buildings down from where we were staying. Ah island time. We were the only ones in an open-air restaurant that had darts and pool tables. We ordered and were served and then the person working disappeared. As in, we could have gotten up, left, and never returned and no one would have even noticed. It was relaxing and fantastic, but we had sights to see! We paid our bill and then grabbed a scooter to explore the island. We drove all the way to one end and sat amongst mangrove trees, sipping out of a fresh coconut… then we turned around and crossed the bridge between the two parts of the island– only accessible by scooters and walkers. We watched on as workers farmed seaweed [the big economic focus of the island]. We  took pictures of seaweed drying and looked at plots set-up just off the beach using bamboo stakes. We drove by a cemetery where a large platform used for cremations was still smoking from the previous day. We walked through the small road-side shops, talked with locals, and purchased bamboo goods and batik fabrics. We explored every edge of the island under the beautiful sun, shaking our heads and laughing at what an amazingly awesome time we had on the trip. We finished our day with a delicious dinner at Alam. It was starting to sink in that we were leaving. But really, our adventure was just beginning– we were getting ready to fly to San Francisco, California, to embark on an 8-day, 525 mile bike ride from San Francisco to Santa Monica to raise awareness of Arthritis. A bike ride, that we hadn’t even trained for.

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Indonesia is a place of awesome culture and bountiful beauty. It is colorful and vibrant and full of love and passion. I would spend so much more time there if I had the chance. There is so much to see and do. I would recommend it to anyone craving adventure and one hell of a time. Andrew summed it up perfectly– “Never have I felt closer to death… and never have I felt more alive.”

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Until next time, my friends…

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Categories: Indonesia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

In Search of the Great Komodo Dragon: Part II

Missed out on Part I of the trip? Check in out here.

Arriving on Rinca Island is like arriving on a deserted island. The boat pulls up and the boatmen secure it to the single small dock jutting out into the water. A park ranger or two stands at the end of the dock with a large stick [for scaring snakes and other animals, we find out later]. One of the park rangers welcomes us to the island and walks along with us to the entrance way. We had arrived. Komodo National Park. Awesome. Just Awesome.

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When you arrive, you are shown a map and asked how long of a loop/walk you want to do– we of course, selected the longest walk. Literally about 2 minutes into leaving the sign, we saw a baby Komodo dragon. SO AWESOME. We also saw a group of Komodos hanging out in the shade under the “kitchen building”. Apparently they hang out there because it smells good and is cooler. Sometimes, they will wander into the kitchen itself to check things out. See how massive they are? Some of them get up to 300 pounds!!!

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On our hike through the hot woods and open to sunlight route, we saw monkeys, jungle turkeys, bees [literally a SWARM], and komodo dragons [including some protecting nests– two females] as well as giant ox. We learned that the komodo dragons have poison in their saliva. One adult komodo dragon will attack an ox and bite it once and then leave. The ox will slowly die– it will be unable to move and over the course of perhaps a week, it will lose its life. Once it dies, a pack of komodo dragons will come out and consume the ox. We did see an ox that had been bitten a few days prior. It was really sad because the ox couldn’t move at all– it was stuck in a mud pit. Circle of life, I suppose. The hike was phenomenal and seeing so many komodo dragons in their natural habitat was a true dream come true. We snagged a patch from the little store on our way out so that we could add it to our collection. This was a trip that I will never EVER forget.

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After our time on Rinca, we took a small snorkel off the island– most of the coral was dead from dynamite fishing and a number of other factors… but there were still a lot of fish and it felt great to get in the water. We then re-boarded for dinner and beer as we made our way over to another mangrove island to “see some bats” as our guide told us. We said, sure of course, we like bats. We parked our boat a bit off the island and saw a gorgeous sunset. There were a few other boats around us and we laughed to ourselves about the bats we were about to see– wondering why folks seemed to make a big deal out of some bats. A little while later, right as the sun went down, we saw a few bats take off from the mangrove island. Within about 5 minutes, there were literally THOUSANDS of bats taking flight from the island. The guys on our boat explained that they do this every day– going to search for food. The endless stream of bats must have lasted more than a half hour. We took as many photos as we can even though lightening and the fast beating of wings didn’t help. After a truly phenomenal show, we retired to our beds to get some sleep.

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In the morning, we ate breakfast before hopping back into the water for some more snorkeling. After what seemed 30 seconds [really over an hour], we hopped back on boat and packed up our goodies– heading back to the airport for our flight back to Bali. We arrived at the airport and the security line consisted of 3 woman asking us to put our bags on a belt, while they stared at their phones. We walked through the door frame, picked up our bags on the other side, and waited for our plane. We were delayed but eventually boarded and made our way back to Denpasar and Ubud. This trip was absolutely indescribable. It was crazy. It was awesome. It was a whirlwind. We spent a decent chunk of money on the trip, but the fact that we were by ourselves and we crammed in so many awesome things made it worth it 10 times over. If we had it to do all over again, I wouldn’t have changed a thing.

 

Categories: Indonesia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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