The time had come to expand my world some. I daydream of travel all the time, and I’ve done my best to poke around the southwestern U.S. on my own. I’ve also been lucky enough to explore several cities when I went to SuperComputing conferences when I was with CHPC at the University of Utah. Several years ago Debbie, Kayla, and I went on a cruise to Hawaii, and I learned that while a cruise is not really great for experiencing a location, it’s really good for getting a taste of places so you can see if you want to come back. My friend Jack and his family invited us to tag along with them on a cruise to the Western Caribbean and it sounded like just the right medicine for me.
The cruise was on the Norwegian Cruise Line ship Getaway, a monster of a floating hotel. It set sail for the seven day cruise from Miami and headed to the furthest south point of the trip, the Honduran island of Roatan. I think this was my favorite stop. We had booked an excursion of snorkeling and sea kayaking.
The sea was a little murky because of some storms that had come through the last few days, but we did see a lot of cool fish and corals. Kayla got an up-close experience with the reef, but didn’t get too scraped up. When we headed out to go kayaking, Debbie wasn’t too sure she wanted any part of it, but we had a really cool tour guide named Christopher Flores who convinced her to give it a go. In fact he told her to go on the front of his Kayak and he’d make sure it was ok. She did, in her zealous paddling, dump them both out into the drink just a bit out of the gate, but Christopher talked her into continuing on. He did take away her paddle, though. The water was really warm, more than I remember from even Hawaii, which was nice and seemed too warm to be real.
Christopher Flores and Debbie
Christopher, at the end of our Kayaking destination took us into the fringe of the jungle and showed us a lot of things like how to dig up a crab in its hole and bush remedies from the plants growing along the beach. He climbed up a tree and grabbed a coconut and showed how to husk it and grate it and get some of the milk from the coconut meat. He also gave us a method for the way the Hondurans cook rice and beans in the coconut milk that I really want to try.
As we were sitting on the ship as it was getting ready to sail from Roatan I suddenly had the urge to jump ship and go native. It passed quickly enough, but I had to actually pull out my pencils and try to capture this view in my sketchbook before the sun went down.
The next stop was Belize, which was somewhat of a disappointment as far as the city went. It was a run-down kind of sad, and lots of the buildings were leaning and sunk in the earth up to the first floor windows because of improper foundations in the swamp it’s built on. We were headed to the Mayan ruins at Lamanai. We needed to be the first ones off the ship because we had a long bus ride followed by a long river trip before getting to the site. The river jumping off point is significant in that next door to the cafe is the house that once belonged to John McAfee before he fled into the jungle to evade the federales.
McAfee’s former property.
The river trip took us up past Belize’s Amish country and through several rain squalls. There was abundant life along the river including termite nests in the tops of trees and the aptly named Jesus Bird that walks on water. One fellow cruiser in the boat ahead of us showed me a picture of a river crocodile he took.
The rains let up just as we reached the ruins to hear the most horrible sound. It turned out to be just Howler Monkeys, but they sound just like a broken bone chainsaw. The amazing thing, to me, about the ruins is that people are just allowed to climb all over them. It’s probably a point of view particular to people raised around U.S. national parks. I could post pictures of this place all evening, but I’ll spare you and just pick a few of the best.
Jack and his family atop the pyramid
I think I need to mock up something like this for my yard.
The next day we got to Costa Maya, Mexico and went on our second ruins trip. The ruins at Kohunlich were a little more diverse than the Belize ruins in that there were more buildings and common areas preserved.
And just a little proof we were there and that this isn’t just a fabrication, unless it’s a really good photoshop.
Our last stop was in Cozumel, Mexico for another round of snorkeling and a stingray encounter. Debbie was fairly adamant that there would be no stingray touching, or stingray kissing, or possibly going in the water. But she proved to be more daring than her predictions. A few minutes cab ride from the port was the stingray preserve where they let us snorkel in the fenced-in area where they’re protecting and breeding the stingrays. The fish here were of the petting-zoo variety in that they clustered around the person that was going to feed them, but it was still pretty cool.
Snorkeling with a wedgie.
There were even some Mexican Pokemon.
I didn’t explore the ship much like I did on the Hawaiian cruise, but we had fewer days at sea. I never went through the ropes course, or on the several water slides. I just wanted to relax and sat on the shady side of the boat watching the water slide by. I wish this kind of trip was doable every year, there’s so much out there I want to see, but when I think about what few opportunities my forbears had in experiencing things like this I have to count myself very lucky.