BillAndVal.com - Outside US Travels
Trips Taken - Our Travels - International
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Peru [December 2018]
Off we went, all 4 of us, and did the 50 mile Salkantay pass hike (over 15,000 feet!!!)... ending up at Machu Pichu! The Inca Ruins were incredible. What an awesome 10 day adventure to Peru.
Princess Cay, Half Moon Cay, Grand Turk, Dominican Republic [November 2017]
We headed off on an 7 night cruise aboard Carnival's Glory ship. Originally we were supposed to hit Puerto Rico, but with the hurricane damage the port wasn't available so we did a diviation to the Dominican Republic. All good though because in the Dominican Republic, we got to do a full swim with Dolphins!! Amazing life experience for all of us! We were literally pushed through the water by these amazing creatures.
Puerto Rico [July 2017]
Val and I took a couples week long vacation in Puerto Rico. We enjoyed the El Yunque rainforrest, took trips out to Flamenco beach, and even did Kayaking in a bioluminessence bay. AMAZING trip!!
Aruba, Cauracao, and Grand Turk [April 2017]
We headed off on an 8 night cruise aboard Carnival's Sunshine ship going to Aruba, Cauracao, and Grand Turk. Carnvial Sunshine is a kids giant playground with awesome, long, and twisty water slides, a climbing rope nativation course above the decks, basketball court, and a kids camp all on the SHIP! Lots of fun while the boat was at sea. Our first stop was Aruba, an island we've not visited in 16 years. It felt run down. However, our most favorite steak restaurant in the entire world (El Gaucho) is still in business and we had an awesome meal. Curacao turned out to be a pleasant surprise, with its easily walkable town right by the port. We did schedule a Tuk Tuk ride but there was a service failure on the part of the operator so it didn't happen. The big winner was Grand Turk. WOW!! We will be back. So much, so convienent, so beautiful. We were even able to take the girls SNUBA diving, which is a modified form of SCUBA wherein the airtank sits on the surface rather than your back. It was the Big Win Event!
Cairo, Luxor, Aswan, Giza, Abu Simbel Egypt [July 2016]
10 days, All 4 of us, 7 flights, 2 transfer boats, 1 sleep aboard boat for 5 days sailing down the Nile, 4 camels around the Pyramids, 2 drawn carriages through markets in Luxor, 5 mini-vans, 2 hotels, 3 armed guards, 4 different tour guides, 17 distinct historical sites, and 1 armed convoy resulted in 1607 pictures, 3 videos, and 3 funny private stories.
Roatan Honduras, Xunantunich San Jose Succotz Belize, Coasta Maya Mexico [December 2014]
Another wonderful cruise on Carnival Cruise Lines. Roatan was wonderful, but it was the Xunantunich Mayan Ruins that was the highlight of the trip. The multi-hour bus trip (each way!) was well worth it. These types of places remind one how young the USA is. Climbing the ruins was easy business for the girls.
Prague Czech Republic, London England, Paris France, Dresden and Frankfurt Germany[June 2014]
All four of us went backpacking in Europe! for 2 weeks Yes, each of us only carried one backpack each. We traveled on foot, by train, bus, and plane. It was an awesome experience!!
Bangalore India[April 2014]
Another Solo trip back out to India. This multi-week trip took me to Bangalore, the headquarters of my employeer. I did make it out to the Big Banyan, a very old Banyan tree. I also visited Sathya Sai Baba's ashram, quite a neat experience.
Kilimanjaro Tanzania [March 2013]
To the top of the highest mountain in Africa! Talk about an incredible experience!!!
Grand Cayman [December 2011]
Awesome!!! We will be going back for sure! Beautiful water, never felt a single bit of worry about physical safety, and found the people welcoming.
Jamaica [December 2011]
Sucked, with a capital S. Don't go.
St. Martin, St. Lucia, St. Kitts [November 2011]
St. Martin had a super vibe, loved St. Lucia, and St. Kitts was okay.
Freeport : Bahamas [July 2011]
Total waste of time. Go somewhere else.
Siem Reap : Cambodia [May 2011]
Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples are everything you dream about. Wow!
Phuket, Bangkok, Chang Mai, Mai Sai : Thailand [May 2011]
Water is beautiful turquoise blue in Phuket with the most amazing rock formations and beaches. Bangkok is a giant fast city. Changmai is a real jewel.
Shanghai : China [August 2010]
Remarkable, powerful, crowded city. Rode the Maglev from the airport (which is HUGE) to Shanghai, rolling along at 250 MPH!
Manila : Philippines [August 2010]
Second trip to Manila. The Filipino people are fantastic. Did make it back to the US/Philippine World War II memorial again. Definitely worth visiting if in Manila.
Winchester : England [June 2010]
Made it down to Stonehenge, remarkable place. Did enjoy the great hall in the City of Winchester.
St. Petersburg, Moscow, and Vladivostock Russia [November 2009]
Russia is a definite must visit country. Having hit 3 different types of Russia, the recommendation would be to home base out of St. Petersburg. Stay there a week or 2, and ride the train down to Moscow for 1 day or 2 at most. You can hit the critical Moscow must sees, like the Kremlin and Red Square, in a day. St. Petersburg, with its rich history, architecture, and amazing nightlife can be enjoyed over a period of weeks. The Hermitage rivals the finest museums of the world and can take days to get its full effect. The Peter and Paul fortress is everything it is said to be and absolutely must not be missed. The palaces are so incredible, and the architecture of the city is stunning. You will be staring up in awe everywhere you go. Vladivostock, well, that is a place that you need never spend your tourist dollars. At the far East end of Russia, it boarders North Korea and China. There are both North Koreas and Chinese roaming the streets, although my ruff estimation would be that they compose only 20% of the population (this is based on what I saw, not some official demographics data). My experience indicates that about 50% of the population in these cities speak some English, but by some I'm talking very rudimentary single words. Of that 50%, maybe 10% speak English fluently enough that you can hold a conversation. I found the Russians to be very inquisitive about American culture and views. They were very friendly towards me. One of the biggest shocks about Russians was how beautiful their women are. The American media has done a fine job of portraying them as harsh, large, brooding, head covering women. Sure, those exist, but they are in the minority. Their facial bone structure and absolutely perfectly proportioned bodies were stunning. You will also find that they are very sensual in their dress and eye contact. Two other interesting things of note, all their hot water and building heat is created and controlled from a central facility. That is, in a given city, there is a place where the heat is created (steam) and pumped to every single building and dwelling. People do not have individual heaters! As a consequence, every place you go is heated to an extreme and you are to open a window to cool off the place! It was shared, although I don't know how true this is, that Russia wastes more energy than the entire country of France consumes. Finally, Russia does indeed have lots of adult beverages being consumed. You will see young and old, men and women, destitute and well off, carrying around bottles of alcohol and drinking it at all hours of the day.
Melbourne, Australia [August 2009]
Beautiful in terms of people and country. Their no BS attitude was very refreshing. The concept of Political Correctness doesn't exist!
Barcelona, Spain [June 2009]
Rome, Italy [November 2008]
The Colosseum is everything it is touted to be.
Shenzhen : China [November 2008]
Abu Dhabi : Dubai : United Arab Emirates [November 2008]
Cairo : Giza : Egypt [November 2008]
Vienna, Austria [November 2008]
Basel, Switzerland [October 2008]
This year's Basel trip had Bill flying out of Zurich. The train ride from Basel to Zurich took just over an hour. Trains depart Basel for Zurich every hour, with about every third one not requiring a transfer along the way. If you are flying out of Zuirch from anywhere in Europe, be very sure to get a ticket to Zuirch's airport (Zurich Fughafen), not Zuirch's main station. Bill visited the Tinguely museum
this trip and was floored by the motion art. The museum is on the Rhine river.
Windsor : London : England [July 2008]
Bills trip to London was a rude awakening. The country possessed all of the marvels of an old country, with buildings hundreds of years older than his native country (USA), but what wasnt expected was the dour mood of the citizenry. The economy of this once powerful nation has crippled the people. Alcoholism is rampant, and murder by stabbings is at an all time high. Dine and dash is so problematic that it isnt uncommon to be eating and watch it happen (as Bill did). Socialized medicine is a joke as only the lowest skilled physicians enter the government ranks, while the gifted ones create private services. All this wasnt expected. The amazing historical sights are still there though. The most impressive was Big Ben. That clock is absolutely amazing. It is larger than life. The queens garden in Windsor was far larger than Bill expected, with miles of paved walking paths. While jogging on the main path, Bill could mentally transport into an Alice in Wonderland setting of yore. England is a must stop place for any world traveler.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia [May 2008]
The main hub for this trip was Kuala Lumpur. Other cities visited include Cyberjaya (Malaysias Silicon Valley) and Putrajaya (Malaysias Washington DC). Bills experience in Malaysia indicates that this country is to be skipped if the traveler is visiting as a tourist. That is, dont spend your money visiting Malaysia in a pure tourist capacity
. Other than the Petronas towers, there isnt anything of true interest for the traveler. The other surrounding countries offer more interesting touristy stuff.
Amsterdam, Netherlands [November 2007]
It's as it is described. If you can remember it, you didn't visit it.
Basel, Switzerland [November 2007]
Beautiful. Easy to get around as the mass transit here is magnificent.
Mexico City, Mexico [November 2007]
Not nearly as dirty as expected. Since it is the worlds second largest metropolitan area in the world (at 19.2 million folks as of 2005), Bill expected to feel crowded and dirty, but this did not happen at any time. In fact, Bill was even so bold as to eat tacos sold by street vendors. With no ill effects!
Montreal, Canada [September 2007]
Seems like France! Except closer to home.
Mumbai (Bombay): Bangalore : New Delhi : Agra : India [October 2006]
Country of contrasts: World class medical facilities surrounded by Typhoid, Malarya, and Polio; Bentleys surrounded by Ox powered carts; Armani clad business men surrounded by children half dressed in dirty rag clothes; lavish pools with rock waterfalls surrounded by people bathing in puddles, five star gyms with top of the line equipment surrounded by people urinating and defecating right on the street; spicy food complemented with sweets; beautiful flowers with incredible bouquets competing with open sewers and animal aromas; Monkey gods competing with Fire gods; so goes India
everything is a contrast, which highlights the whole place.
Mumbai/Bombay India is a blend of many cultures and the Indians tout it as their version of New York
. with New York being quite small in comparison in regards to the number of actual residents (there are 13 million living in Mumbai, plus all those go in and out of the city each day). Mumbai also serves as the Hollywood of India (known as Bollywood) with India cinema being far more important to Indians than Hollywood is to Americans. Bill stayed at the beautiful Intercontinental Hotel on Marine drive with a room overlooking the Arabian Sea. As an added bonus, Bill was in Mumbai during Diwali! This festival quite literally makes even the grandest 4th of July celebration in the USA look like a single firecracker. Bill visited many places as his hosts tried to show him why he should relocate to Mumbai to include the Gateway to India (the departure point for the British when they left), the Haji Ali dargah (Haji Ali is the name of a Muslim saint; a dargah is a mosque and tomb all in one), and a local (e.g. not touristy) popular temple to be blessed (our offering simply consisted of flowers).
Bangalore is Indias Silicon Valley. The weather is remarkable and apparently stays a nice 80 degrees F all year long. What struck me during this visit was how entrepreneurial the city was regarding IT. At nearly every corner there was some Tech company, large and small. There are a ton of ExPats living in Bangalore with residences covering the gamut of US-ness. Some places were so sterile that you would never know you were in India!, you would swear that you were on the set of Leave It To Beaver along with every modern amenity you could imagine.
If the ass had an armpit, New Delhi would be it. Any American who has their first experience in India in New Delhi would be jaded forever regarding India. Delhi, the formally defined city, has 15.3 million people while the Delhi metropolitan area (called the National Capital Region or NCR) has 20 million, making it the sixth most populous agglomeration in the world. This is why it would be the armpit of the ass. There is so much pollution, people, and smell that it chokes every sense you have. Be forwarded, when you stop at an intersection, you will have beggars, freaks, and those physically mutilated come up to the car, tap on the wind, and beg for money. Regarding the later type, be ready to view their particular physical aliment as they believe if they show it to you, you will be more inclined to give them money. Dont, dont give them anything
that just encourages the behavior and you run the risk of being surrounded by hoards of them. Within the Delhi area you will find the Lotus Temple, a place for those who follow the Bahai faith. It is an incredible structure that reminds one of the opera house in Australia. The Red Fort is also worth a visit, as is (if you have the guts) the shopping area of Old Delhi just out side the Red Fort. Shopping in Old Delhi is people, people, and more people.
Driving from New Delhi to the Taj Mahal you will see many interesting animals such as bears, monkeys, cobras, camels, elephants, and more along the way as this route is known for tourist travel. If you take pictures of these creatures keep in mind that the person who is tending them will demand money and you dont have to pay but they do get aggressive.
Of all the places in India, the one that absolutely must been seen at all costs in ones lifetime is the famous Taj Mahal. Calling this structure incredible beyond imagination would be an understatement of enormous proportions. The Taj Mahal is made completely out of Marble and looks like a 2-D structure floating on air. It is designed such that as you approach it new details emerge. The fine work and embedded precious and semi-precious stones can only be appreciated close up. Bill has never ever seen anything done by mankind more remarkable.
Dont believe you can drive any distance in India in a reasonable amount of time. The drive from Bangalore to New Delhi is about 36 hours, while the drive from New Delhi to Agra (Taj Mahal) took 3.5 hours covering 80 miles. Unless you really want to bounce along the roads, go from 0-60-0 MPH in bursts for the entire drive, and nearly clip cattle and cars, take a plane whenever possible.
The most interesting part of India for an American will be the people. Dont skimp on that part of a trip to India. Go out and just stand on a corner
what you will see pass by will amaze you.
The service from Indians is beyond reproach. Bill has never received better service anywhere. The people literally stumbled over chairs to provide him service.
Everything is extremely cheap here. Food, gifts, you name it, is very inexpensive. I would suggest that if you are traveling to India for 5 days, when you land in country, visit one of those money exchange places and give them $100 dollars. You will receive enough Rupees to last you the entire time. Exchange rates when Bill was visiting was around 45 Rupees to a dollar. For ease of conversion, Bill followed the formula of moving the decimal two places to the left and multiplying by 2 to get the approximate USD value. So, if something was listed as 250 Rupees, Bill would simply take 2.5 and multiple by 2 to give a value of $5 USDs. Not perfect, but close enough especially for things you are doing on the streets.
Suggested way to visit India:
Given what was seen, Bill would recommend that unless you are doing some sort of pilgrimage or a business trip, you swing by India rather than make a trip just for it. That is, if you find yourself in the region and you have the time, take three days out and visit. Hit New Delhi for a day, then start out early the next day (around 6:00 AM) and have a car drive you to Agra to visit the Taj Mahal. Stay until around 1PM (this gives you about 2.5 hours there, and that is all you really need), head back having lunch at one of the chain hotels (no need getting sick on local food), and you will get back into New Delhi around 7 PM. Sleep in the last morning, go have an Indian breakfast, and head to the airport about 3 hours early allowing for traffic issues.
Uploaded Photos From India Trip
Cancun Mexico [April 2005]
Cancun is one of those places that make you think of Spring Break and all those crazy, drunk kids. While I'm sure that if you go to Cancun at the peak of the party season you will see some wild stuff, during our visit the most wild person we saw was a shirtless Mexican bum who jumped out at us yelling "ahhhhhhhh ahhhhhhhhh." (unfortunately for this bold bum, his attempt to scare us only ended up with Val laughing at him).
Cancun rests in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, on a peninsula. It is on this peninsula that you will find all the party touristy type stuff. Every kind of club and bar you can imagine. There is a plethora of hotels here too. We stayed at the JW Marriott Resort. This beautiful hotel has a Spa, wonderful beach and infinity pool, as well as four restaurants and mini-mall right on site.
During this trip we ended up taking the bus a lot. The buses are cheap, safe, and frequent. The buses run about one every five minutes and cost only about 60 cents. We found that the drivers and locals on the buses were extremely helpful. As one told me, "tourism gives him a job."
A real life explorer cannot go to Cancun and not take the time to see Chitzin Itza. This amazing complex represents years and years of Mayan culture. We hired a private professional, certified guide and he walked us through the entire complex, answering all our questions. Our walking tour lasted nearly three hours. An additional side benefit was that all the street vendors that we passed left us alone. We noticed, once our Chitzin Itza guide left us, the peddlers were vocal in making you aware of their goods. One thing that surprised us about the most famous pyramid of Chitzin Itza (the one you see in pictures) is how steep the stairs are. Going up, no problem. Coming down, however, found many folks frightened. Fortunately, there is a rope that one can hold on to coming back down. While I don't know if it is true or not, we were told multiple times that the Chitzin Itza pyramid would be closed to tourists soon due to the damage being inflicted upon this ruin. We climbed both in and on this amazing structure. If you go, keep in mind that it is really hot inside of the structure. It is a definite to do in you are in this part of Mexico.
The journey from Cancun to Chitzin Itza is long. Many folks take tour buses. Others rent cars and drive out themselves. We elected to hire a car and driver for the trip right from our Hotel. Expense? Yep. Worth it. Every penny. We headed out before 8AM, got to the site before the bus loads of tourists, and had a fantastic time. Once we were done with our tours and self exploration, we met our driver at the entrance. He whipped out some cold towels for us to enjoy. It was fantastic! There is no better way to do this. As he drove us back to the hotel, we couldn't help and admire the jungles we were passing through. Plus, there were millions and millions of butterflies!
An unexpected treat during our trip occurred as our driver was bringing us back from Chitzin Itza. He offered to take us to a "Cenote." Sure, what the hell ... I don't know what a Cenote is, but this guy was saying it was worth doing. It turned out that a Cenote is a sink hole full of water. We had brought our backpacks on this outing and we always bring swimsuits (you never know!). The Cenote was beautiful. From the Earth surface to the water level was about 150 feet. The water was, from what we could understand, another 80 feet below that. We walked down the carved out stairs and went it! It was fantastic. You could look up the 150 feet and see sky. Birds were flying down and in then back up. Roots from the trees above were reaching for the water. It was super. A perfect way to relax after a hot time at Chitzin Itza.
During this trip, Val and I went and saw an actual bullfight. Twice a year, the best bullfighters from Spain and Mexico go to Cancun to perform their craft. We bought ringside seats. I ordered some cerveza and popcorn .... and was ready to enjoy the show. All the typical stuff that you see on a TV show was going on. The Mexican band, the chanting and yelling Mexican spectators encircling the ring. Folks were yelling, "Musica! Musica! Musica!" to get the band to pipe up. It was a surreal event. Val even had some flowers so when the Matadors did their cock walk, she threw some of them flowers! Fun Fun Fun. A word of warning: Bullfights are violent. The element of danger is real here. Not only do people get stuck, but every (and I mean every) bull that enters the ring is slaughtered. The blood spirts, bubbles, streaks, and streams out of the bulls. After the third bull, we could understand how and what they were doing and we could appreciate when a Matador did a good job and when he didn't. It was an experience!
Chuuck (Truk) Lagoon Micronesia [August 2003]
There are some trips you do once in your life. This was one of those trips. Literally on the other side of the globe and nearly 24 hours of flight time to get to this, the Mecca of all wreck SCUBA diving, Truk Lagoon.
Truk (also known as Chuuck) is a small group of islands way out in the Pacific Ocean where, in 1944, US Aircraft bombed the hell out of the Japanese Fleet, sinking over 40 ships. While there are a couple of dive shops in Truk, your best bet is to do a live-aboard. Some of the wrecks are so far out that the boat ride time will burn too much daylight. We stayed on the Aggressor and had a magnificent time.
Each day, the Aggressor would anchor right above a wreck, and you simply slipped into your gear and rolled off the boat into awesome, clean, clear water ... descending onto a wreck. On each dive there would be a couple of different dive guides and you could hook up with one to tour you, or you could go without one. We made it a point to always go with one of the native guides. He had been diving these wrecks for 20 years, and knew the ins and outs. Were communications a bit rough? Sure, but underwater you don't talk. Tip: Use native divemasters. They are the real deal. Our guide (Peter) took us to places within the ships that no one else had been to. When we would come up, the other divemasters would ask where we were in the wreck because they wanted to learn the secret locations our divemaster had.
I'll note that not all the "Live-Aboards" in Truk anchor right above the wrecks. We saw a number of other divers being ferried around on inflatables. That sucks. Be sure, before you go, your boat actually sits above the wrecks.
If you have a choice, take the direct flight from Hawaii. We didn't, thinking that it wouldn't be so bad to do the 3 intermediate hops. Not only would we save $150 each, but it would be neat to see these other islands on the way. Boy were we wrong. The three extra hops suck. We did, however get off the plan at all but one stop (there was a US Army base island stop where we were not allowed to disembark) and check out the terrain near the airport. Walking around you really feel isolated. These islands are way way way out there and you are all alone.
Another mistake we made was to get to Chuuck the day before we were to get on the boat and stay a day after. Our thinking was two fold: 1) if the plane got delayed (with only one flight a day), then we could still make the boats departure time and 2) we may be exhausted after 7 days of diving and need a day to rest plus we wanted to have a layover so that we could dive all the way to the last day on the boat. Alas, the island of Truk sucks. Absolutely positively sucks for white tourists. The local males are rude assholes, and treat women very poorly. Sure, it is a cultural thing but when it makes the females in your party nervous, you can't really do anything. We've been to many places around the world and in some bad situations, but this place made us both feel constantly uneasy. As far as things to do on the island, besides trying to hook up with a local dive shop, there is a two hour tour that takes you to a gun position on a hill. Don't fool yourself .. there really isn't any reason to stay on Truk any more than you have to.
We got another unexpected treat during this trip. Every single day we saw a rainbow! It almost became a joke. Rainbows every day!
To summarize a day on the Aggressor: wake up, eat breakfast, dive, see a rainbow, eat lunch, dive, take a nap, dive, eat dinner, do a night dive, sleep. Repeat the next day!
Mallorca Barcelona Spain [May 2003]
Barcelona is, by far, the best European city destination that we have ever been to. It is beautiful ... the people are friendly ... and there are lots of things to see and do. If you have never been, put this place at the top of your European destination list. We are definitely going back.
Barcelona has wonderful markets, restaurants, history, and architecture. One of the things we learned was about the artist, Gaudi. The term "gaudy" is used all the time to indicate something is ostentatiously or tastelessly ornamented. But did you know that it is actually the name of an artist? The word gaudy is derived from Gaudi's architecture! While in Barcelona, you absolutely must walk the streets and look for his work (and work inspired by him). They are incredible.
One negative thing about Barcelona ... the gypsies. Watch out. There are genuine gypsies here and they are conning people. For example, they have baby dolls in their arms, all wrapped up like it is real, asking for money to help the baby. Ugh.
This trip we also stayed in Mallocra ... a resort island off the coast of Spain. We stayed at the Marriott golf resort. We rented a car and explored the heck out of this island. We hit a number of places to include a monastery and some caverns. As far as caverns go, we experienced something new. In one of the cavern explorations, we actually got on a boat in the cavern and floated down a ways. Not too far, but the neatness of being on a boat way down in a cavern was cool. The other cavern notable was that we went into the caverns that inspired Jules Verne to write Journey to the Center of the Earth.
The diving in Mallocra was horrible. The few places you can go require long rides in an inflatable. Not fun after a day of diving. Plus, the sea life was scarce. We sure saw lots of grass though. I was also totally unimpressed with the diving outfit that we went with. While on a 50 foot dive, the "divemaster" panicked, and I had to clam him down ... under the water! He bolted to the surface. I then took over the dive and the group of other folks (Germans, Japanese, American, and Spaniards) followed me. When we broke the surface, I complained to the inflatable captain and he just shrugged his shoulders. Note, this was a case where paying close attention to the predive briefing paid off. Had I not, I would not have been able to lead the group on the remainder of the dive. I knew the distances and course the other "divemaster" was to follow. While we won't say what the name of the dive company was, you sure as hell will never catch us diving with "Centro De Buecero" again.
Honduras [November 2002]
Want an inexpensive, all inclusive, exotic diving trip? Go to Anthony's Key resort on the Bay Islands of Honduras.
We took a flight down to Miami, then hopped on a South American based airline called "Taca" for the remainder of the trip. One of the "oh shit" moments came when we landed in our nice jet and had to catch another flight. This other plane, well ... was a vintage 1950s propeller type. The portly "pilot" comes out, boards the plane .... shakes a few hands, slaps some back, like he is some football star ... and climbs into the cockpit. Yeah, climbs. There is no door between the passengers and the cockpit, just a short latter. You can see everything. He puts on his goggles and headset, punches a few buttons and we can see a few puffs of smoke come out of one of the engines. This was like we were in some Indiana Jones movie. Eventually, but engines were running ... but I swear I saw him tap a light a few times and it went out. Over the jungle we went to our destination ... no other excitement.
Anthony's Key is a super place for a beginning diver to collect lots of safe bottom time. Plus the convenience of the boats and dive guides is hard to beat. You sleep in your own wood bungalow. I highly suggest the ones outfitted with air conditioning ... not because it is hot, but because they are air sealed and it is harder for the bugs to come in.
One of the critters you have to watch out for is called the "No-see-ums." These little suckers wait on the sandy beach for divers who don't have any type of protection. We bought Sawyers insect repellant. Both the body spray, and the clothing spay. What we did was spray our "diving dry off clothes" with the Sawyers stuff, per the instructions on the bottle, a week before we left. Then, after we were done with a dive and dried off, we would switch into these clothes before the boat made it back to the dock. Our technique worked! We saw lots of guests with horrible red spots and rashes, while we didn't have ANY!
We had a hammock outside our quarters and used it a number of times. Afternoon siestas are super! One time, we woke up and saw Monkey LaLa lizards fighting! It was amazing, they would puff out their necks and square off. The song lyric, "They were kung fu fighting" kept popping into our heads.
The food variety at Anthony's Key has a lot to be desired. However, we were not there for the food ... only the diving. Food was a fuel, nothing more. Eat, dive, sleep. :)
The dives themselves were very tame. We did wrecks, eel gardens, reefs, etc. One dive we were able to get VERY close to a Moray eel. It literally wrapped my body. It was amazing!
Aruba [April 2002]
Arctic Circle Inuvik Yellowknife Canada [November 2001]
Bill's mother had a life long dream of viewing the Aurora Borealis with her own eyes. So we set up a trip to go to the most prominent, civilized place on the globe to view the Northern Lights. The place where the Earth's magnetic field lines wrap back into the globe: Yellowknife, Canada. We also coordinated the dates of the trip to optimize the chance of seeing them (no guarantees) and so that we would have a New Moon. It turned out that the date we picked also happened to be the peak time of the Leonid Meteor shower! Upon the night of our arrival we were graced by the most amazing natural display any of us had ever seen. Beautiful Green Emerald swirls of light were raining down upon us. Twisting into nearly circular shapes and flowing light water. You could almost feel the drips of the Aurora Borealis it was so close. This was a fantastic sign of the incredible views we were to have over the week. Our fantastic light show was accentuated by the streaks of random meteors that grazed the sky every few minutes. When you see the beautiful still shots, you never get to appreciate how quickly the lines of green dance. Incredible. Incredible to say the least.
Our trip to the Arctic circle wouldn't be complete without some dogsledding time. So, we traveled to Inuvik, in the Northwest Territory in Canada and homebased out of The Arctic Chalet.
This place was outstanding! The hospitality we received from the owner/operator Judi was incredible. Her place not only provides a clean, safe environment, but it is home to some awesome all-white Siberian/Malamute huskies that are raised to pull dog sleds! After some basics, you help Judi hook up the teams and away you go! Val spent hours driving her dog sledding team and Judi drive another team while I, well ... had one hell of a crash and had to stop for the day. Do not underestimate the power of these dogs. They are incredible! If you go to the Arctic Chalet, tell her the guy who dislocated his shoulder back in November, 2001 says "Hi!" I'm sure she will remember me! :)
France Italy [December 2000]
Germany [May 1990, May 2000]
Canada [July 1986]